Side Effects

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Steven Soderberg (Ocean’s Eleven, Contagion) takes the wheel in his latest Directorial effort in this Crime/Drama/Thriller featuring Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Gattaca), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Playing for Keeps, Rock of Ages), and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, Fighting).

Side Effects” follows Emily Taylor (Mara) who is a heavily depressed individual. Her husband, Martin (Tatum) has just been released from prison for some shady business deals he took part in. They are trying to put their lives back together. In the meantime, Emily has an episode of dangerous behavior and begins seeing Dr. Banks (Law) who works through some of the behavior she has been experiencing. He learns that she has had a history with another Psychiatrist, Dr. Siebert (Zeta-Jones). As Emily and Dr. Banks work through some of her issues, he finds it necessary to prescribe some medications so that she can better handle her sleepwalking, and mood swings, which have become an issue big enough to require close attention. What ensues takes all involved by storm, and the side effects of Emily’s medication may cost her her freedom and maybe even her life.

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There are enough twists and turns in this plot to dizzy even the most frequent of movie-goer. Rooney Mara absolutely commands your attention as the secrets of her life unravel, and she deals with the impact of her decisions. She has an intoxicating impact on the viewer as she completely sells the inner workings of the mind of a highly troubled individual. This role reminded me, at moments, of her amazing performance as Lisbeth in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“. Not all actors can hold that kind of control over such a long period of time. There are moments when you don’t believe in what they are going through. That is not the case here.

Emily’s interaction with her Psychiatrists is complicated, to say the least. It makes the viewer question the motive of people who practice this kind of work. I am not suggesting that this film begs the viewer to question their own doctors, but it is nonetheless, an interesting question to pose as we live in a highly medicated society.

The rest of the cast offer something noteworthy, but are most definitely sidelined by Mara’s performance. The story worked well for me, and at times, I was taken by surprise with different twists in the plot. The end of the film is a kind of fireworks show, in that it just doesn’t quit. We get hit with revelation after revelation, which brought some important points forward. Soderbergh does a great job of getting the audience in the mind of the films characters. It brings on a a feeling of being under the influence of medication the way the viewer is never quite sure of what is happening, and what might happen next.

I always look forward to a good movie. This film is not for everybody, but it does offer some solid-enough performances (especially from Mara) and an interesting enough story to keep someone interested in this genre, scratching their head for a couple hours. For those people, this may be what the doctor prescribes.

 

– David B. Harrington

Identity Thief

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Every year promises an array of comedies at the theater. It seems to be a really saturated genre, so it can be hard to know what’s really worth seeing. I am a big fan of both Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, so it was a no-brainer to go check out “Identity Thief“.

Diana (McCarthy) is our identity thief. She lives the high life off of other people’s credit cards and driver licenses. One day it catches up with her when she steals the identity of Sandy Peterson (Bateman). He finds out she has a court appearance she missed, and he is now targeted by the police. Sandy has to bring Diana to the police so that they can take her in, and file her for identity theft.

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Sandy takes a flight out to Florida where Diana is located, and tracks her down and thus the journey begins to bring her back to Colorado so that she can face the authorities and own up to what she has done. What ensues are a series of pretty ridiculous events.

There are more than a few laughs in this film as Diana and Sandy clash as they cross the country. I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but there is a lot of physical comedy by the two leads. It is a weird combination, but it works. They really play well off of one another, creating, in a weird way, almost a buddy comedy, even though one is dragging the other across the country to turn them in to the authorities. Although there are quite a few laughs, the film does seem to be a little self-glorified and repetitive in parts. Diana’s go-to move is to punch people in the throat which was funny the first time, but was definitely overused. I love that Melissa McCarthy is not afraid to put it all out there in terms of her comedic style. She is exhausting to watch, because she goes and goes like the Duracell Bunny Rabbit. She was phenomenal in “Bridesmaids“. Jason Bateman has really made a name for himself with this type of comedy. Seth Gordon (Director) also worked with him in “Horrible Bosses” which is another comedy worth watching. I enjoyed the bit parts from Jon Favreau, Eric Stonestreet, and Robert Patrick. I cannot say the same about T.I. who is an absolutely horrible actor.

Overall, I felt like this falls into the category of “Popcorn Movie”. It’s obvious that you are not going to find any award-winning performances here, but that is definitely not what they are shooting for. This film is a solid addition to the comedy genre. If this genre fits your taste, it is worth a view.

 

– David B. Harrington

Warm Bodies

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Zombie films have held a cult following for a long time. From “Night of the Living Dead” to “Zombieland“, there is a wide variety to choose from. Every once in a while a film comes along that re-imagines a genre in its own unique way. “Warm Bodies” does this for the Zombie brand.

Infused with comedy and romance, Jonathan Levine’s film tries to pull in a bit of Rom Com with the world of the flesh-eating living dead. R (Nicholas Hoult) is a Zombie who is struggling with being a Zombie. He wants more out of his existence than walking around, dead. He has friends that he almost has conversations with, which are more just a series of grunts. There are a band of humans, including Julie (Teresa Palmer) who are out to destroy the zombies. When R gets a look at Julie, he can’t help but actually feel for her. In fact, he develops so much feeling for her that his shouldn’t-be beating heart, starts beating again, and he begins to come back to life. Julie’s dad (John Malkovich) tries to convince her that the Zombie’s can’t feel, and they can’t heal themselves. Julie and R are out to prove him wrong.

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This was one of those films that I went into with low expectations. I love Zombie films, but was unsure of what I was headed into. I was, however, surprised when I came out of the theater discussing the film with my friends, all of us expressing a thumbs up review.

I felt at points that the film really slowed down almost to the point of boredom, but I think it was necessary. The characters of R and Julie develop through these times alone, talking with one another. It picks up in a few key moments when they are trying to escape from the humans as well as the Zombie counterparts (which are even more dead than they are) that are trying to eat the humans as well.

This film really found a niche that can’t be labeled with a genre, and that is part of the appeal. Although there are some scenes that may impact the squeamish, there is a good deal of comedy and romance as well, that will speak more to that audience. I won’t give any spoilers here, but I will say that this film is worth seeing.

 

– David B. Harrington