Latest Reviews

Entries in Jeffrey Dean Morgan (2)

Friday
Jun082012

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding aspires to be an indie darling, a movie that is seen by few, but is recognized by critics and indie film fans alike as something special. It will most likely get the first half of the equation right, but I’d be shocked if it got the second. Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is so outrageously bad that even the impressive and talented cast couldn’t pull it anywhere near the point of mediocrity, much less quality. This is one to avoid at all costs.

The plot involves Diane (Catherine Keener), a conservative lawyer who has just been asked for a divorce by her husband. Upon hearing the news, she grabs her two kids, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jake (Nat Wolff) and sets off on a trip to visit her hippie, left wing nut job of a mother, Grace (Jane Fonda), who she hasn’t seen in 20 years. There she meets the hunky Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who looks like he may help her begin her healing process, while her kids find their own romantic interests in Tara (Marissa O’Donnell) and the town butcher, Cole (Chace Crawford).

Peace, Love & Understanding tries to do many things and it fails at all of them. At its core, it’s a movie about the crumbling of a dysfunctional family and the effect that dysfunction has on the growing minds of the kids. It’s like The Squid and the Whale, only without the profundity, subtext or three dimensional characters. It attempts to make statements on a number of things, including war, love, sensationalist infotainment as “news” and the idea of peace being an antithesis to freedom, but these things are said in passing and featured in so few scenes as to have no impact. The one thing it explores in depth is the idea of forgiveness and loving those who love you, different though they may be, but the contrived set-up that throws characters with differing viewpoints into each other is uninteresting and a perfect example of shallow screenwriting. Diane’s conservative attitude is constantly at odds with Grace’s liberal sensibilities, for instance, while Zoe’s love for all life clashes with Cole’s job of cutting up animals for sale. When Grace drags Zoe and Jake to an anti-war protest (which she does every Thursday if for no other reason than because she thinks the government is waiting for her to tire out), Diane freaks and pulls them away, not wanting the hippie mindset to take control of her kids, which is understandable given how bizarrely they act. I would say jokingly that hippies were more realistically represented in this year’s Paul Rodd comedy Wanderlust if my friend and critic Nell Minow hadn’t already said so seriously.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding wants so badly to be interesting. It tries to be profound, but its observations are trite. It tries to be dramatic, but it’s too cheesy to be so. It thinks it’s a deep study on human emotions, motivations and reason, but it’s really no more than another silly romantic comedy. It has a few good messages, like the idea that our deficiencies are really just a state of mind and all we need to succeed in both life and love is a little courage, but it’s portrayed in such an obvious and heavy handed way that its effect is rendered moot. The film’s problem isn’t so much that it lacks substance—even thematically simple movies can be good—but that it tries so hard to be deep yet reaches the cinematic equivalent of a kiddie pool.

From a technical perspective, the film is a mess as well, complete with occasional awkward framing and editing (the movie has such a poor flow that even the filler shots fail to make a convincing transition between moments), but the majority of its deficiencies continually stem from a group of characters that are impossible to root for or care about. Grace, in particular, is beyond annoying and speaks in more prophetic phrases than Robert Duvall in Seven Days in Utopia and their manufactured problems are all resolved so quickly, it’s like they never happened at all.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding has an arrogance about it, as if it’s as thoughtful a movie that has ever come out, but its ignorance knows no bounds. If “thoughtful” is on one end of the spectrum, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is on the other.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding receives 0.5/5

Friday
Apr232010

The Losers

Hollywood ran out of ideas years ago. Movies, a medium heralded for originality and inventiveness, have lost those trademark qualities. The latest craze is to snatch up the rights to as many comic book series as they can and pump them out before the novelty of watching our favorite superheroes onscreen fades away. So what do you do when you run out of your Batmans and Supermans and Iron Mans? You reach way down and bring forth a property nobody has ever heard of or cares about. Such is the case with The Losers.

The Losers (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short and Oscar Jaenada) are a ragtag group of men, soldiers who fight for what’s right, and at the outset of the film they find themselves in Bolivia targeting a man who they think is up to no good. They order an air strike, but then they see a group of 25 children being escorted into the area. They have eight minutes until the bomb drops, so they do what they do best and head down quickly to save the kids. When their rescue helicopter arrives, there isn’t enough room for both them and the kids, so they decide to stay behind and let the children go to safety, but then a rocket comes out of nowhere and blows them all up. It was meant for them, so they fake their deaths and find themselves stuck overseas with no way home. That is until a sexy woman named Aisha (Zoe Saldana) makes a deal with them: she will get them home in exchange for their help in killing Max (Jason Patric). As it turns out, Max is responsible for the helicopter explosion intended for them, so they agree.

The story of The Losers isn’t a case where some issues needed to be resolved because its issue is that the story isn’t even really there. So much is left unexplained that you never truly get a grasp on the situation at hand. Who is Max, really? Is he CIA? Is he working for a corrupt government? Or is he merely an every day evildoer carrying out his own diabolical plan? The former is alluded to, but the latter seemed more applicable given the information shown.

Max wants a highly dangerous weapon that is capable of disintegrating anything in its wake, known only as the snuke, but why? Is the government trying to start a war and the film is trying to make some allegory to current times? I don’t give it that much credit. At its core, it’s another silly comic book adaptation that delivers sporadic thrills and thinks it is way cooler than it really is. For every amusing one liner, there were five terrible jokes carried by its too-cool-for-school hipster attitude.

The only person in the entire film that seems to be having any fun with his character is Jason Patric. He’s one of those seemingly non-threatening bad guys who get by not on their brute strength or keen intellect, but by their cold, soulless disregard for human life, as seen by his brutal (yet hilarious) killing of a woman shading him with an umbrella who, thanks to a sudden burst of wind, accidentally allows the sun to reach his skin.

As far as the actual filmmaking process outside of the performances and poor script development goes, it’s an uneven blend of awesome action and excruciatingly boring exposition. The film opens and ends with a bang, but everything in between fizzles due to a lack of cohesion.

It would be an easy joke to say that The Losers loses, but it’s just not that simple. The movie is neither excellent nor tedious. It’s merely tolerable. Maybe it’s the fact that my expectations going in were low, but it worked for me despite some significant problems and it’s just fun enough to recommend.

The Losers receives 2.5/5