[Happy 5th Birthday!] Furry Vengeance (2010)

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Director: Roger Kumble

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, Matt Prokop, Ken Jeong, Angela Kinsey

Screenplay: Michael Carnes, Josh Gilbert

92 mins. Rated PG for some rude humor, mild language and brief smoking.

 

In Furry Vengeance, from director Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions, College Road Trip), Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser, The Mummy, The Nut Job) has been brought in to turn a beautiful forest into a dense residential area by his boss Neal (Ken Jeong, TV’s Community, The Hangover). His wife Tammy (Brooke Shields, TV’s Suddenly Susan, The Other Guys) and son Tyler (Matt Prokop, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Struck by Lightning) are not fans of Dan’s new job, by the wildlife in the area prove to be the real problem. The many woodland creatures of the forest are out to stop Dan at all costs.

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I wish there were wildlife trying to stop the completion of this film. This is by far one of the worst pieces of garbage I have ever been forced to watch. Not a great time. These are some truly terrible performances. I think I giggled once at the opening featuring Rob Riggle in a cameo appearance, but then, literally, I think those animals straight up killed that guy. Dark turn for an opener. Later in the film, I would envy Riggle.

Roger Kumble fails on just about every level here. The film comes off as a horrible combination of a film promoting a good message and a crew destroying everything in sight. I’m trying to think of something good here. Someone ask me later, I have to go wash the smell of horseshit off me.

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Honestly, if you have Netflix, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, subject yourself to this. Please, go out and plant a tree and say you watched the film. You’ll be better off. Planet Earth will be better off. See, everyone wins.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

May 2015 Preview

 

Now, we are in the thick of it. It is almost May 2015, and with the release of April’s Furious 7, we have seen the blockbuster season begin in full force. So what else does May have to offer? Avengers: Age of Ultron opened just a couple days ago with a wide release this week.

Keep in mind that these Previews are my estimates of the hits and misses for May. These estimates are based on early buzz, history, and other info I have collected about the films in question. Let’s Begin…

 

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Far from the Madding Crowd

Carey Mulligan leads this film scripted by David Nicholls as the fourth adaptation of the novel by Thomas Hardy about a woman, Mulligan, suited by three vastly different men. I will say this. There have been good and bad adaptations of the book. Do we need another? I don’t think so. Mulligan is aided by the great Michael Sheen here and I feel like it has the chops to be well-put together, but we just don’t really need it.

 

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Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me made waves back in 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival starring Kristen Wiig as a lottery winner who decides to start a cable access talk show in the effort to build her fame. This one seems like a real winner to me, though it is concerning that it would be dumped off when Avengers gets a full release, never a great placement. Perhaps the studio thinks it will draw in a different kind of filmgoer, I’m not so sure.

 

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Hot Pursuit

No. That is how I want to start. No. We’ve seen the “hot girl kicking ass in a buddy cop” formula and I don’t feel like this film, from the trailers and posters, is going to divert from that plan. Stay away. Shame on you, Witherspoon.

 

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Maggie

Schwarzenegger is a dad to a zombie. Sign me up! In Maggie, Ahnold plays a loving father to a young girl who is slowly becoming a bloodthirsty zombie. I’ve seen trailers and this film looks beautifully shot. I’m not expecting top acting from The Governator, but I don’t think anyone really is. I’m feeling like, either way, Maggie is going to be worth the time, adding a new storytelling layer to a genre that could use it.

 

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Now where the hell did Mad Max 4 come from? I heard virtually nothing about it until last year’s Comic-Con when a trailer was released that looked like batshit crazy action to the highest level reminiscent of the later Fast & Furious movies but in a post-apocalyptic setting. Max (now played by Tom Hardy, the actor not the writer of Far from the Madding Crowd) has been recruited to help Furiousa (played by Charlize Theron) who needs his help to cross the vast desert wasteland with some seriously important cargo that could change the future of what is left of mankind. Max looks great, Furiousa looks awesome. The villain is absolutely creepy. The action scenes are of the highest octane. This is a win, plain and simple.

 

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Pitch Perfect 2

In the directorial debut for Elizabeth Banks, Pitch Perfect 2 picks up with the cast of the highly enjoyable original film to regain their glory after mistakes cause the group to lose the respect of their adoring masses. I guess. Sorry, I’m sure I would like this movie but I never really saw the original, so that’s on me. What I can tell you is this. Early reports say that this film is very similar to the first and it sounds like if you like one, you’ll like the other. I leave it to you.

 

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Poltergeist

In this remake of the classic Tobe Hooper film, Poltergeist, is essentially a reimagined look at the same story with newer special effects. It has been brought up to present day, but I’ve heard that this film is pretty damn terrifying. I’m thinking high on the bubble here.

 

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Tomorrowland

George Clooney and Britt Robertson travel to a mysterious place that exists somewhere in time and space, a place called Tomorrowland. Not much more is known, but director Brad Bird (who previously gave us the splendid Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) has been in the pocket of Disney for a while and continues to impress. Clooney rarely missteps so I really think we are going to get something incredible here.

 

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Aloha

From Cameron Crowe comes Aloha, starring Bradley Cooper as a contractor assigned to a weapons satellite in Hawaii. It also features Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, and a cadre of different diversely fantastic performers. I’m on the bubble, as Crowe hasn’t blown me away in some time, but I’m leaning to the good here.

 

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San Andreas

Hey everyone, I guess they did make a sequel to 2012! Just kidding, but I might not be. In San Andreas, The Rock saves the world when the San Andreas fault line causes massive earthquakes all over the USA. This one really could go either way, as not much has been released other than a few quick teasers. I want to say good, but I don’t want to lie. I’m going to bubble this one with a drag down to skip.

 

There you have it folks, May 2015 in a nutshell. Take a look below for a final tally, and we will see you in June! Happy viewing!

 

Final Tally:

Best Bets: Welcome to Me, Maggie, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland

On the Bubble: Far from the Madding Crowd, Poltergeist, Aloha, San Andreas

Likely Misses: Hot Pursuit

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

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Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, John Malkovitch

Screenplay: Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick

109 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, action and mild language.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was perhaps doomed from the start. A big-budget adaptation of the wackiest space adventure ever conceived could only accidentally succeed or admirably tank.

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Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) is fed up. His home is about to be demolished to form a hyperspace motorway, and he barely escapes thanks to a friend named Ford (Mos Def, The Italian Job, Begin Again) who might not even be human. As the two hitchhike across the galaxy alongside fellow Earthling Trillian (Zooey Deschanel, TV’s New Girl, Elf) and Galactic President-turned-fugitive Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Better Living Through Chemistry) in an attempt to find the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

From a script by original author Douglas Adams aided by Karey Kirkpatrick, the film has everything that made the novel great. The performances are quirky enough to serve the source material while real enough to fit the film. I love that director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow) seamlessly blends the main story with interjecting narration from the talking Guide (voiced by Stephen Fry).

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I think the major problem that people had with this film is that if you hadn’t read the book, you didn’t know what you were getting into. The novel was considered somewhat unfilmable because of its innate sense of insanity. Many thought they would get an interesting sci-fi comedy but they hadn’t expected to see anything like the finished product, because there really is nothing like this finished product. Another example of a film being misrepresented by its marketing. Another example of a great franchise squashed far too early.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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Director: Samuel Bayer

Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

Screenplay: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer

95 mins. Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.

 

Earlier this month, I discussed Platinum Dunes and their remake of The Amityville Horror. In that review, I mentioned that I believe a remake was an unsuitable idea for that franchise and, indeed, the entire horror genre. Most horror fans understand that the endless barrage of sequels boils down to mostly remake material, but we love the thrill of an unstoppable horror that keeps coming back. By hitting the remake switch, we get stuck with a new thread that may not be strong enough to carry a film. I happen to think that, if you want to bring back a franchise, do it like Star Trek did, where the new film could constitute a beginning of a series while being honest to the fans. Easy? No, but did we ever want easy? No. Even Friday the 13th’s remake was a better choice than just the same movie over again. Friday the 13th took the route of rebooting the series by the taking the best parts of remaking the franchise rather than just the inciting film. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, we get a straight remake, so we don’t get scared, because we’ve seen it all before.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

The teenagers in town are dying when they fall asleep, and there’s not much that can be done about it. Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner, American Sniper, Dear White People) and Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) are willing to try anything to stay awake as they attempt to uncover the dark secret about their town, their parents, and the man who haunts their dreams, Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen, RoboCop).

I really enjoy Jackie Earle Haley’s work here. I’ve often found him to be an interesting character actor who specializes in the darkness within humanity. As Freddy Krueger, he found a menacing voice and strong physical performance that adds something new to the character. He even improvised some truly disturbing dialogue to keep the actors unhinged during shooting. I particularly like the unsettling line about the how the brain still functions seven minutes after death. The problem with his character is that his face is half-CGI’d and that lead to a more wooden character than we should have had. The irritating part was that the reason for the CGI (from the same group involved with Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight) was meant to be true to actual burn victims. Then, at the last minute, they scaled it back, hindering Haley’s work without a reason, and effectively crushing the intensity of the film.

As for the teenagers of Springwood, I can’t be as happy about. Gallner and Mara tune in flat work, bolstered by some pretty good (if not completely cheesy) acting from Katie Cassidy (TV’s Arrow, Monte Carlo) and Kellan Lutz (TV’s The Comeback, Twilight).

The new addition of micro-dreaming is cool, but it boils down to jumping the shark here. Where does the story go if they can’t even stay awake.

New director Samuel Bayer takes his touch for music videos and applies it well to the cinematography of this film. He absolutely can’t handle using practical effects which result from the over-shiny quality of the picture. Where’s the brooding darkness? Good question.

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There is a lot of good that A Nightmare on Elm Street did (I don’t agree with Rooney Mara speaking out against the film once she “made it” as an actress). There, unfortunately, is too much that this remake did wrong. The entire film comes off as a flimsy reminder that we had better 30 years ago. It can’t carry the weight of a franchise, and now fanboys like me are waiting around to see if we will ever get another tour of Elm Street.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 35th Birthday!] Kagemusha (1980)

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Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken’ichi Hagiwara

Screenplay: Masato Ide, Akira Kurosawa

162 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Foreign Language Film

 

In 1980, Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Seven Samurai) released Kagemusha, but it almost didn’t happen. When the film went way over budget, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola stepped in to executive produce the film and keep it from being shut down. Was it worth it?

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Yes.

When warlord Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai, Ran, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) dies in the middle of his conquest, his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki, Departures, Space Battleship Yamato) replaces him with a criminal who bears a striking resemblance to the former conqueror. Through all his might, the criminal (also played by Nakadai) attempts to protect the ruse under the agreement that he be set free when no longer needed, though forces seek to unmask the lie and possibly topple the balance of power.

I love Kurosawa. His vision sets him apart from many other directors. He had a specific genre and style that surprised viewers his entire life. Kagemusha is huge. This film is glorious and gorgeous and everything that Kurosawa was known for. It also featured one of the biggest battles recorded on film, with 5000 extras. He also knew how to use the footage he had. The battle I just mentioned takes up roughly ten minutes of screen time. Many directors today failed to use restraint to save story, and we get movies like Transformers which focus so much on the battles that they forget the story too often.

The performances from the veteran actors continue to impress. The film also benefits have some amazingly planned out sequences. My favorite Kurosawa moments exist in his surreal sensibilities. There is an incredible dream sequence in Kagemusha, and it happens to be my favorite scene in the film, especially with both roles filled by the same actor.

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Now the film is translated very well into English thanks in part to Lucas and Coppola. Kagemusha is a great piece of cinema that demands to be viewed and experienced. Get your hands on it immediately and be a part of something historic (it is available as part of the Criterion Collection and also on Netflix). The only people who won’t appreciate are those who haven’t seen it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

I Hate Christian Laettner (2015)

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Director: Rory Karpf

Cast: Rob Lowe, Christian Laettner, Dick Vitale

Screenplay: Rory Karpf

90 mins. Not Rated.

 

ESPN’s Documentary Series 30 for 30 documents major events and stories from the world of sports. Today, we are going to cover one of the more recent entries entitled I Hate Christian Laettner.

Christian Laettner is well-known in the world of college basketball…as perhaps the most hated player in the game’s history. In this compelling documentary narrated by Rob Lowe (TV’s The West Wing, Sex Tape), documentarian Rory Karpf searches for the reason why one of the best players in the game was also one of the worst.

This is a great doc, even for someone like myself who doesn’t watch college basketball. Karpf is unbiased as he covers the topic from many biased opinions in attempting to understand exactly why Christian Laettner became such a pariah.

From many viewpoints, like actor and alum Ken Jeong and ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, and Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, we get to see the man known as the “Blue Devil” of Duke for what he really was: a man brought who learned from his surroundings and pushed his teammates to and, often, over the edge.

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I Hate Christian Laettner is one of the more entertaining documentaries in recent memory and a great experience for anyone to be a part of, though perhaps not for the Blue Devil.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

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Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong, Ted Levine

Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.

 

This year, we see the release of Furious 7, the latest in the series of title-jumping action car movies. Most people see the series as essential one long chase scene, but people forget how much these films have evolved in fourteen years. Let’s look back at the original film today.

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When Brian Spilner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) falls for Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Annapolis), the sister to the ferocious street racer Dominic (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick), he enters a world that he may not be able to survive within. What Dom and Mia don’t know, however, is that Brian Spilner is actually Brian O’Connor, undercover cop chasing a lead that some street racers are involved in some major electronics theft. As Brian conceals his true identity, he finds himself getting closer to the Toretto “family” of outcasts and possible outlaws.

There is a term that doesn’t get tossed around much for this film but it really deserves to be mentioned. That term is “Grindhouse.” The Fast and the Furious is fairly Grindhousian in nature. The underground “society” of racers is over-the-top in many ways as a sexier, more dangerous version of the truth. This is an exploitation piece at the most explosive level. There aren’t many films with the budget of The Fast and the Furious that it doesn’t often get associated with this genre, but it is true.

Can Rob Cohen direct the pic? Better than a lot of his other attempts. If you’ve seen The Boy Next Door, I’m sure you can see his low points. I like his stylistic choice as he tries to visual show speed on film, something he really wanted to convey with the picture.

The film is made on the shaky relationship between Brian and Mia, a gorgeous girl who exists in a dangerous world. Diesel’s Toretto is good enough to pass here, but comes off as a one-note antihero. I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, InAPPropriate Comedy) as Letty, Dom’s girlfriend who might just wear the pants in the relationship. We also get a great turn from character actor Ted Levine (TV’s Monk, Little Boy) as Sergeant Tanner, Brian’s supervising officer.

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The Fast and the Furious is a fun, albeit flawed, action spectacle that tries a lot of new things (even if some of them don’t work). You can put the story pieces together a lot faster than I would have liked, but once this film became a franchise, that was going to happen anyway. The script polishing by David Ayer helped this film a lot, but it is far from a masterpiece and far from the best in this series.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

Top Ten of 2014!

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So everyone, the final 2014 releases have come and gone. It is time to button off last year so that we can get a great start to 2015! Here is my Top Ten Films of 2014!

 

  1. Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  2. Boyhood
  3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. Interstellar
  6. The Imitation Game
  7. The Lego Movie
  8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  9. Selma
  10. American Sniper

 

Thank you all so much for taking the ride with me, and let’s enjoy a (hopefully) incredible 2015!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] While You Were Sleeping (1995)

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Director: Jon Turtletaub

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher, Peter Boyle, Glynis Johns, Jack Warden

Screenplay: Daniel G. Sullivan, Fredric LeBow

103 mins. Rated PG for some language.

 

Well, While You Were Sleeping is 20 years old. Has it aged? Yeah, kind of.

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Lucy (Sandra Bullock, Gravity, The Heat) is a ticket collector who is in love with a man she’s never met. His name is Peter (Peter Gallagher, TV’s Covert Affairs, American Beauty), and that’s about all she knows. When Peter falls onto the train tracks and goes comatose, Lucy accidentally gets into a situation where Peter’s entire family thinks she is his fiancé. As Lucy’s story gets deeper and deeper, she gets closer and closer to Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman, Independence Day, The Equalizer), but how will she right the ship?

Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure, Last Vegas) has directed some diverse films. While You Were Sleeping is pretty odd itself. The film was rewritten from a time when Lucy was a man in love with a woman who goes comatose. How sexist is it when a man can’t do it but a woman can? Good question, but I digress.

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Sandra Bullock does fine work as female Lucy here, and it aided by a quirky cast of family members like Peter Boyle (TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond, Taxi Driver) and Jack Warden (12 Angry Men, All the President’s Men) who help to keep the film lighthearted so you don’t realize that Lucy is a glorified stalker. The movie is cutesy enough and actually kind of works even if you do take time to think about it. It mostly comes undone by the end, but for a while, I think While You Were Sleeping is a film that could be enjoyed by both sexes on movie night.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Foxcatcher (2014)

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Director: Bennett Miller

Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller

Screenplay: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

134 mins. Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Steve Carell)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

 

I knew nothing about the actual events of Foxcatcher until Foxcatcher.

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Foxcatcher tells the story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, Jupiter Ascending) and his relationship with millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell, TV’s The Office, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). The true story of these two men, as well as Mark’s brother David (Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers, The Normal Heart), is a powerhouse tale of manipulation, love, and neglect at the infamous Foxcatcher Farms as du Pont plays the brothers for what they can give him as he furthers himself in the world of professional wrestling in the latest film from director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote).

I’m going to bring up my big beef with this movie right now, because there are so few. I don’t like that we spend so little time in du Pont’s head. Carell’s performance is unbelievably incredible, but we don’t get to delve into the man’s psychosis. I also have some trouble with the runtime, which has some definite places to cut.

That being said, these performances are at a level so incredibly powerful that you forget you are watching a film. I already mentioned Carell, but Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo turn in near-perfect work as well, not to mention their amazing chemistry as brothers. Don’t let me forget Sienna Miller (Stardust, Unfinished Business) as Nancy Schultz, David’s wife.

Bennett creates a world in this film, and he has the ability to really get the best work out of his actors. His vision always gives something completely fresh.

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The editing and screenplay could have used a little more development, but Foxcatcher is an intense film that shows a shocking set of events that I didn’t know all that much about. The impact will not wear off soon, that much I can promise.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe