Author: Matthew

If I Stay

Cliché opening: They say life can change in an instant, and for Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz), life does just that. While off on a road trip on a snowy day, she and her family wind up in a car accident. She awakens seemingly unscathed, but only seemingly. She’s having an out-of-body experience. She’s actually in a coma. Her parents are dead. Her brother is fighting for his life. A nurse whispers to her that she gets to pick whether she survives or dies. It’ll be a fight, but she can live if she wants to. We view many, many, many flashbacks. We get to experience essentially the last year and a half of Mia’s life. We see how she meets Adam (Jamie Blackley), a punk rocker who instantly falls in love with her, a cello player. We see their relationship blossom, falter, and then flounder — and repeat. We watch her become slightly alienated from her family, filled with … more punk rockers. Apparently there are two types of people in Mia’s world: punk rockers and cello players. I wasn’t kidding about the “and repeat” thing I mentioned earlier. If I Stay‘s worst offense is that it’s repetitive. It’s repetitive. It’s repetitive. The same scenes, the same dialogue, the same problems, the same themes — they’re repeated ad nauseam to the point of nausea; I almost wanted to...

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

In case you’ve somehow forgotten, Sin City was a really excellent movie. It looked unlike almost anything before filmed, it had very entertaining stories, its cast was amazing, and it dove into the subject matter like nothing else. It felt like a walking, breathing, comic book. And completely forgetting that The Spirit exists — because you should forget, and probably did before I mentioned it here — it remained as a single entity nothing like anything before or after it. For almost a decade it remained this way. Now, we finally have a sequel. Or, a sidequel. Prequel? Successor? Sure, let’s go with that one. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is another Sin City movie, which is something for the longest time nobody thought would happen. It has a few different stories, and jumps around on the time frame. Characters who died in Sin City are suddenly alive again. Others look different, and will be shaped by events in this movie. The film is technically based on the second comic book in writer/co-director Frank Miller’s series, although certain sections were written specifically for the movie. I feel like it would be pointless to try to detail all of the narratives and characters. By my count, there are four of them. The film begins by jumping back and forth, introducing all of them, before settling on the titular...

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When the Game Stands Tall (2014)

When the Game Stands Tall looks like it’s going to be another inspirational sports movie. Go watch the trailer. I’ll wait. It’s cut from the same cloth as basically any other inspirational sports movie you’ll have either seen or heard of in your life. When you watch the film — and you shouldn’t — you’ll find out that, no, there’s really not much inspiring going on. Almost as importantly, about an hour of the film’s near-unbearable running time is spent doing absolutely nothing whatsoever involving football. The lead is Jim Caviezel, who plays the head coach of a football team. A high school football team. A Christian high school football team. He has his players hold hands as they run out onto the field and tells them that love will conquer all. No, really. As the film begins, his team has won 151 straight games, which is a pretty impressive record. It took over a decade for that to be achieved. Okay, so his methods work. His team wins another championship, and we head into the off-season looking up. And then the “drama” begins. Some players — and former players — deal with troubles, our coach almost dies after smoking a single cigarette (this movie might have the most immediate effects of smoking ever), there’s a death, and it’s all preparing us to see our football team lose its...

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Life After Beth (2014)

Give Life After Beth credit for at least trying to do something more with the overused, worn-out, and otherwise tiresome zombie movie. Here, the zombie apocalypse is used as an analogy for breaking up with someone and moving on from that person. And if you think about the film in that context, that aspect of it is clever and works pretty well. It’s just that, well, most of the rest of the movie just doesn’t work at all, and most of your audience either (1) won’t care about the analogical aspect or (2) won’t even notice. Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is dead. She went hiking, a snake bit her, and she died. The leading character, then, is Zach (Dane DeHaan), her long-term boyfriend. Along with Beth’s parents, Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon), he grieves. He is sad all the time, and his family doesn’t seem to really care. In fact, he winds up spending more time with Beth’s parents than his own in the days following her death. The whole opening of the film is really quite sad, and it captures the tone and mood of a post-funeral house life quite well. But then Maury and Geenie stop answering their telephone and the door. Zach thinks something is up and winds up more or less breaking into their house. What does he find? Beth. Beth, the girl...

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The Giver (2014)

Written in 1993 by Lois Lowry and read across classrooms all across North America, The Giver is a book that has become a mainstay in the school and something that almost all middle schoolers wind up reading at some point in their school career. And it makes sense that they do. Its themes resonate best at that age, it kind of prepares them to read heavier texts like 1984 when they reach high school, and it’s really just a good book, especially for that age group. The film adaptation, directed by Phillip Noyce and written for the screen by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide, gets most of the plot of the book, but it lacks any sort of passion and does very little to draw its audience into what it has to offer. For a production whose main theme is “well, maybe individuality and expression is a good thing,” it lacks all of that. There isn’t a scene or moment in this film that doesn’t feel lifted from any other young adult film adaptation, and very little of the magic from the book made the jump to film. We’re narrated by our protagonist, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), who delivers the backstory of our near-future world. They live in a place surrounded by fog, raised up from the Earth, where everything is identical, everything is controlled, and everything is in...

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