201-203: Sister, Moonrise, Flynn

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201: Your Sister’s Sister

Mark Duplass is on a roll lately. After directing the excellent drama Jeff, Who Lives at Home and starring in Safety Not Guaranteed he also played one of the leads in Your Sister’s Sister, Lynn Shelton’s newest feature. Duplass again creates a very likable guy, Jack, who has some serious issues to deal with. He decides to retreat to a cabin in the woods owned by his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt). What he doesn’t know is that the sister of his friend, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), is also there to work out her own problems. Hannah and Jack strike up a relationship that culminates in a situation that is extremely uncomfortable for all involved. Your Sister’s Sister is, however, a sweet drama about recognizing each other’s flaws and forgiving them for it, however selfish their behavior might be. Highly recommended if you want a small drama about real people with real feelings.

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202: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is a very divisive director. Ever since his first feature, Bottle Rocket, people have been debating whether his movies are works of art of just exercises in art direction. Anderson’s movies are often clinical manifestations of a very exacting brain. They present delightful worlds in which the characters are allowed to play to their heart’s content. His newest entry, Moonrise Kingdom, is no different and this time Anderson invented an entire island for his characters to play in. Everything revolves around two kids who run away from home to start a new life elsewhere. This puts the entire island on high alert, which results in funny situations and poignant drama. I liked Moonrise Kingdom a lot, but I also felt that it was really hard to get through the highly polished look of the film. Anderson is always a meticulous filmmaker, but this time he has taken his control of, in particular, camera movements to another level and that made the movie feel very artificial in many places. I didn’t get that feeling at all while watching his, in my opinion, best movies The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. I still recommend people seeing Moonrise Kingdom, if only for the top-notch performances of the cast.

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203: Being Flynn

Robert De Niro’s career has in the last decade not been what it once was, but you don’t need me to tell you that. So it is nice to see that once in a while he wants to step outside his safety zone and take on a role that takes a little more effort than Meet the Parents or Analyze This. In Being Flynn he plays Jonathan Flynn, a self-proclaimed genius writer, but in reality nothing more than a con man who has neglected his family. The real main character, however, is Nick Flynn (played by Paul Dano), his son, who he has not seen in years. Nick also wants to be a writer, but struggles with the notion that he is not cut out for the job. One day Jonathan reaches out to Nick, which throws Nick for a loop. Does he want his father in his life, or does he want him to leave him alone. This predicament only worsens when Jonathan shows up at the homeless shelter where Nick works sometimes. Being Flynn is a movie about a very dysfunctional relationship between a father and a son with De Niro playing one of the biggest assholes in his career. Being Flynn could have been a very powerful movie, but it lacks the drive to make us connect more with the main character. Dano is fin as Nick, but the problem is that Nick is not somebody you want to root for. You want to give him a swift kick in the butt to get him to pick up his life and stop whining. While the performances are fine all-round, this casts such a large shadow over it all that just can’t be overcome.

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055: Killer Elite

How do you screw up an action thriller with Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen in the cast? I have no idea, but first-time director Gary McKendry found a way. He manages to make Killer Elite a boring endeavor that hardly ever exhilarates, a deadly trait for an action movie. I was very disappointed.

In Killer Elite Statham plays Danny, a mercenary seemingly with a heart of gold who can’t take it anymore. After his last assignment he decides to quit and retire to the backcountry of Australia. But when his mentor Hunter (played by a suspiciously happy Robert De Niro) is captured, Danny must come out of retirement to start a mission that will not be easy (Rambo III, anyone?). It appears that Hunter is taken captive by a rich sheik from Oman who is hellbent on avenging the death of his three sons. They were, according to him, killed by the British S.A.S. division, who deny having anything to do with these killings. It is up to Danny to kill these men and make it look like accidents.

But… (there is always a but) there is a secret society who dispatches their own professional killer (Clive Owen) to stop Danny and his men. From there on in the story takes more turns than a mountain road and is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Killer Elite is based on supposedly actual events as witnessed by Ranulph Fiennes, one of the targeted S.A.S. men. He has written a memoir of these events that is questionable, to say the least. He even admits to fabricating some of the events to create a story that he qualifies as ‘faction’. This knowledge makes Killer Elite even less exciting.

Usually Jason Statham owns the movies he stars in. Not so with Killer Elite, because he is sorely miscast in this role. It is the year 1979 and while everybody tries to look as if they are from the era, Statham looks exactly the same as in one of his modern movies. The make-up department has done nothing to keep up appearances with him. On the other hand there is Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), who looks more like the caricature of a 1979 porn star. And the others try to look the part by growing a mustache. It is just one big mess. It took me a while to figure out that the year was actually 1979. Go figure.

Killer Elite’s runtime is almost two hours and that is about thirty minutes too many. The story keeps on going and going and going without ever knowing where it should be going. The action set-pieces are nice in their own right, but without any investment in the characters you are left with… nothing, really.

> IMDb