“West of Memphis”
It’s important to have the history concerning this movie before we give it a verdict on its watchability. This is the third documentary about three teenagers that were convicted of murdering three little boys in West Memphis back in the early ’90s. For more than 15 years, documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky would film the trial and appeals of the teenagers for the “Paradise Lost” documentary series. Three films, more than six hours of footage, that was as full of drama and intrigue as any Hollywood thriller. They effectively illustrated the prejudice the media uses in the court of public opinion and the incompetence of an unprepared police force. The films incited celebrities and legal hotshots to throw their support behind the teenagers, who were by then imprisoned men. These men became known as The West Memphis Three (WM3), and in 2011, they were released from prison under unusual circumstances. This film doesn’t dive anywhere near as deep as the “Paradise Lost” series. But it’s a nice recap, wrapping up loose ends and discussing how incompetence only snowballs over the years - worth a watch.
I get it, people hate Tom Cruise. Sure, he’s said and done some stupid things. But isn’t that what Hollywood is supposed to be – obliviously kooky movie stars making entertaining films? The Cruise prejudice has carried over to his work. Most of the critics panned this film, and it didn’t draw enough audiences to make budget. It’s a shame because this film does some great things. Director Joseph Kosinski trades up on the neon nightmare of his 2010 film, “TRON: Legacy,” for sterile whites here. When things get dirty, it’s stark and surprising. Michael Arndt co-wrote the script. He’s a writer who can be equally effective with dramas (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and family action films (Disney’s “Brave”). The supporting actors are quality – Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough. Melissa Leo takes a potential phone-it-in role and turns it into something more. The script is smart, even if it borders on unresolved and unnecessarily confusing. But that’s not enough to call this a terrible film. It’s not even enough to call this a bad film. Cruise through Hollyweird and embrace it, because this is worth a watch.
“It’s a Disaster”
This film has five words for you – couples brunch and dirty bombs. The whole movie takes place in a house filled with eight people with relationship issues that they need to resolve quickly because outside the house, it’s a toxic Armageddon. It feels like a set up for an improv or a sketch comedy scene. And it’s played that way, but never over the top. Starring David Cross, Julia Styles, America Ferrera and a smattering of new actors - they all handle sarcasm and wit well. It feels like early Woody Allen when he was still putting together known and unknown actors. There are a handful of forced scenes, none with Cross though. His delivery drives this film out of a disaster zone and makes it worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge