Capsule Reviews: "American Honey," "Deepwater Horizon," "Miss Peregrine's School For Peculiar Children," "Masterminds"

American Honey (R)

"Andrea Arnold’s American Honey will be a polarizing film. A 160 minute road trip to Americana hell, if you will. An "On the Road" for and about millennials. Cannes is not the last we’ll hear about this movie and I’m perfectly fine with that. No one should dismiss it, for it has so many great moments in its scattered running time that one might have to look through a bit of rambling incoherence to find them."
"Non-professional actress Sasha Lane plays Star, a lost American soul that decides to hop on-board a bus full of Magazine-selling kids that go cross country to make money and sell magazine subscriptions. On the way they listen to pop radio and have sing alongs. Those sing-alongs end up taking up the full-length of a song. Some are quite exceptionally moving and exciting, whereas others meander. It’s just that kind of a movie, either you go with its flow or you just don’t. I did." 

"It’s not just singalongs. There’s an admirable sense of free-wheeling going on here. Arnold is depicting an American society of millennials that are disconnected and disconcerted with the American way. They’d rather sell their bodies than live in a capitalist-run society trying to live the “American dream”. As the film jogs along we get a fuller sense of the dynamics at play here. The structure, which is infuriating at times, runs constant repetitive circles, and yet we are fully engaged with much of what we see. There’s an overall sense of unimaginable freedom in Arnold’s filmmaking. It’s a vital, great movie that could probably use a trim." [B+]

Deepwater Horizon (PG-13)

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"(Director Peter) Berg is interested in the visceral experience more than the actual post-tragedy consequences. Which is not to take away from the fact that "Deepwater Horizon" does succeed in what it intended in the first place: putting us on the edge of our seats. The action is relentless, with a primal use of special effects to get us smack dab in the middle of a life-or-death situation with these men. Think "Titanic", but with flames instead of water. Lots and lots of flames, but it eventually becomes overkill."
"The Coast Guard gets called in to help out, but the fire seething through every corner of the ship makes it impossible for them to do anything other than set up lifeboats and hope the workers make it out alive. Mike Williams comes to save the day, portrayed as a heroic action figure by Wahlberg. Following the action in "Lone Survivor," Berg reasserts his gift for bracing set-pieces. As the Deepwater Horizon bursts into flames and crumbles into oblivion, Berg’s camera moves furiously, but we are always alert to what’s at stake."
"In a film that has so much going on, action-wise, it would have been nice if Berg slowed down the visceral aspect and tried to build some kind of personality to his characters. Many go on and off screen with little provided background, the likes of which is saved solely for Wahlberg’s Mike and Russell’s Jimmy. If anything, "Deepwater Horizon" reminds us just how talented an action director Berg is and how often substance becomes a second thought for the director." [C]

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children (PG-13)

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"While watching Tim Burton's "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" I couldn't help, but be reminded of Burton's better days as a director. Which is not to say that his new film, based on Ransom Riggs' ultra popular YA novel, is a total bomb. His knack for great visuals is still in tact, but this is not a story that Burton would have undertaken during his peak years. It's a paycheck, but, Burton being Burton, he really does try to make this work."

"That's the problem with his latter-day career. "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" and "Alice in Wonderland" were steps back when they were supposed to be steps forward. He tried to get back to his glory days a few years ago with "Big Eyes" which barely missed the mark, but proved that he does still strive for artistic freedom." 

"Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" is a safe, moderately entertaining film that is meant to rake in the big bucks. You will likely not see his name in the advertisements for the film because there already is a specific fanbase for the film. The visuals are, in some circumstances, stunning, but the story is thin and the auteuristic stamp somewhat nonexistent." [C]


Denial (PG-13)

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"The true story centers around the legal battle David Irving (Timothy Spall) and Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) questioning the historical validity of the holocaust. Yes, the story might sound oddly over-the-top, but it did happen. Irving, a man who considers himself a historian, believed the holocaust was a complete hoax. So much so that he decided to bring Lipstadt to court over her book Denying the Holocaust, which he deemed insulting and filled with lies. Lipstadt decided to hire a top-notch legal team, headed up by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), with the financial help of Steven Spielberg among many other celebrities, to prove that Irving was not just a fraud, but a racist man that was filled with hate and craved public attention."
"Directed by Mick Jackson, from a screenplay by David Hare, the film doesn’t try to reinvent the genre or break new ground, rather telling the story justly without any stylistic interference. The events that occurred were almost too outrageous, with Irving defending himself without a lawyer, that this simple visual style that lets the story speak for itself."

"Spall, a Mike Leigh regular, brings dimension to his role of an evil man that truly believes what he says and seems to soak up all the attention he can get. Weisz, despite a distracting wig, is fantastic with her portrayal of a woman that won’t give up and risks a life’s work for a court case many in the U.K were taking a little too seriously. Both actors make Denial much easier to swallow, even when convention hits and familiar ground is met." [B]


Masterminds (R)


Do I really need to say anything about this movie? It's already a miracle I didn't walk out from last night's screening. This film has been in the can for nearly a year now with delays in release. It's "based on a true story" although that claim should be taken as seriously as the Coen's with "Fargo." Just a terrible mess of a movie. Galifianakis is a goofball that gets suckered by his work crush, as played by Kristen Wiig, into perpetrating a heist at their security job. 17 million dollars. Biggest heist in U.S. history. The actual story is interesting, the film not so much. It feels like an overextended SNL skit. [D]
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