“KIN” movie review

Too little plot spread across too much movie. Although I have not seen the short film Bag Man on which this movie is based, it is clear that there were many good elements in the short but unfortunately not enough plot, character development, nor turning points were added to take this short, and turn it into a feature length science-fiction urban fantasy movie. The pacing is inconsistent. My friend who screened the film with me last night likes to refer to this concept as the accordion dilemma. Long, drawn out boring parts that are quickly pushed together for an exciting moment, then stretched out again. Personally, watching this movie felt like sitting on the I-4 between Orlando and Tampa. There is also the concern that the film is depicting the wrong image for young men. One can easily read this movie as a troubled young man, with an ex-con brother and grieving father, who only feels powerful when he has a firearm at his side. Not the kind of message we want to send to young people. Had the film focussed more on character development, and the relationship between the two brothers, then this may have made a solid drama. As it stands, the film sits at an uncomfortable crossroads between genres that ultimately fails to deliver a memorable movie.

When salvaging one of the hundreds of vacant buildings in run-down Detroit, Elijah (Myles Truitt) stumbles across the remains of a battle between futuristic-looking soldiers. Near the soldiers is a powerful ray gun that he claims as his own. At home, his father (Quaid) is still grieving over the loss of his wife and troubled over the return of his other son, now ex-con Jimmy (Reynor). When Jimmy asks his father for $60K to pay off a gang that protected him in prison ran by Taylor Bolek (Franco), his father tells him to get a job. When Jimmy executes a plan to acquire the money by arranging a heist with the Taylor’s gang, and things go wrong, Jimmy finds himself on the run. Fearful for his brother’s life, Jimmy persuades Elijah to come on a road trip to Lake Tahoe where the plan is to meet their father later on. Soon, both brothers find themselves running for their lives from a sadistic gang and other-worldly soldiers. Fortunately, Elijah has a weapon that will do more than simply protect and destroy.

The Baker brothers have included many effective elements for telling their story in this film; however, proper pacing, a sense of urgency, character and plot development are not connected fluidly. Furthermore, there are many sequences of just driving–endless driving. Much like the Hobbit movies featured lots of scenes of running. My favorite scene in the movie is when Jimmy is teaching Elijah how to drive, and has him doing donuts in the parking lots of a seedy motel. The look on Elijah’s face was priceless, and it was in that moment that a real connection was felt between the brothers. Otherwise, the rest of the scenes in the movie are forgettable. Even the “sci-fi twist” that is referenced in marketing materials feels more like a mechanical explanation than a resolution that packs a punch.

Visually, the film worked. Clearly, the Baker brothers have sufficient experience at communicating messages through imagery–and no mistaking it–that is incredibly important to a motion picture. This is likely due to their experience in directing commercials, which successfully tell stories in 30secs or less. Unlike other science-fiction films that rely almost entirely on digital effects, in a refreshing manner, the Baker brothers pair the practical with the digital to create a sense of realism in the film. Even the futuristic weapons and other technology feel grounded in reality–they play by the same rules of physics we do. The film may suffer from a terrible screenplay; but it excels in areas such as cinematography and editing. Not entirely sure what possessed a studio junior executive to green-light this, but I imagine they won’t be green-lighting projects for a while now. From what I’ve been told about the short film, the ending of this feature adaptation was changed. My guess is that it was changed in order to setup a sequel–a sequel that we will probably never be seen if the film does poorly this weekend at the box office.

If you enjoy science-fiction urban fantasy movies, then you may find some entertainment value in this. The movie works better as the pilot to a limited run series on Netflix, Hulu, or Prime than a feature film. Perhaps that is where this story will wind up. With changes to the screenplay, it could find a life on a streaming service; but as feature film, it did not deliver the simple plot and complex characters needed.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter!

Follow him!

Twitter: RLTerry1

Instagram: RL_Terry

“Don’t Breathe” movie review

DontBreatheDon’t visit Detroit. Don’t Breathe is a brilliant horror film that will keep your adrenaline pumping and keep you guessing from the beginning of Act II to the final cut to black. Crossing into different sub-genres of horror, this movie will capture your attention every moment and catch you off guard every chance it gets. Although there is no scientific evidence for the collective belief that when one sense is removed that the others take over, it does make for a fantastic plot device that will greatly heighten your own senses while watching this efficiently ruthless movie. This is definitely a horror film to experience on the big screen–don’t wait for Prime, Play, RedBox, or HBONow. The most terrifying element of this movie is the feeling of being trapped in the dark. Just as the characters are experiencing the labyrinth that is the home of the intended robbery victim, you will also feel helpless as the terror unfolds in front of your eyes and you have nowhere to hide. Going into this film, you may think it simply a new twist on the home invasion sub-genre of horror, but you will soon find out that there is so much more to this movie than meets the eye. While some films–horror or not–are often guilty of wasting time, especially in the first acts respectively, Sony-Screen Gems’ Don’t Breath is a cinematic claustrophobic rollercoaster that includes one terrifying turn after another. In other news, if you’re looking to buy a house, this film includes some great shots of your next neighborhood in Detroit.

With all their friends gone, three young people are desperately trying to leave the city they once called home. Turning to petty theft and larceny, Money (Daniel Zovatto), Rocky (Jane Levy), and Alex (Dylan Minnette) receive a tip from a local crime boss that there is a house with enough money to get them all out the city. After learning that the home is inhabited by a blind old man (Stephen Lang), the small band of thieves conclude that this will be an easy gig. With the aid of security codes and keys from Alex’s father’s security business, who manages the few inhabited homes in Detroit, Alex, Money, and Rocky plan the heist. After the robbery goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction, this supposedly easy target now has them trapped. And a terrifying realization will have them holding their breath as to not get caught or worse. Two parts home invasion, one part heist, and three parts horror, this terrifying movie will have you on the edge of your seat.

For the sake of not giving anything away in the movie, I am going to keep this review on the shorter side. Sometimes the best horror movies are those that have a very simple premise. And this is definitely one of those. The heist genre is one of the oldest in the cinematic handbook. After all The Great Train Robbery (1903) was the first American film to pioneer composite editing, on-location shooting, and dynamic camera movement. Although not the very first motion picture, it is among the first and considered by many to be the first commercially successful motion picture. Early on in the dawn of commercial cinema, horror was quite prominent, thanks to Carl Laemmle who founded Universal Pictures. Don’t Breathe includes elements from many different films in the official sub-genres of horror; but to explore each of those would give away some terrifyingly morbid plot twists in the movie. The point is, this film borrows from both horror and non-horror films that helped to forge the foundation of commercially successful cinema. It’s of no surprise, after watching it, that is will likely do very well this weekend. Given that it has an August release date, I was concerned that–as good as it looked in the trailers–that it would not play out very well because the best horror films, this time of year, are released in latter September and October to make way for Halloween! But, I was totally wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Speaking of Halloween, this movie would make an absolutely perfect addition to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights next year if they can secure the rights from Sony Pictures.

Regarding the location of the film, this is just the latest in horror films (as well as other genres) to use the motor city as the backdrop for a violent story. As a producer, myself, I realize that part of the draw to that location is the simple fact that it is incredibly cheap to shoot there. The other part is that it effortlessly sets up a feeling of uneasiness from an aerial shot of the city or suburbs. Not entirely sure that having horror films and other violent movies set in your city, now in ruins, will do much for inspiring entrepreneurs or other professionals to relocate; but it does showcase the city as a welcoming place for filmmakers who seek to pursue their respective dreams of success at visual storytelling. Ghost towns have often been used in westerns, horror, and treasure hunt movies; and without having to go to a foreign country, there really is a perfect modern ghost town right here in the US. Whether it needs to serve as a location that symbolizes greatness in ruins or to instantly prompt apprehension or unbalance, it is a diverse landscape upon which to build a story.

Just when you think the film is over, it will throw you for a loop! Looking for a fantastic film to watch on a date or with your friends this weekend, then I highly recommend Don’t Breathe. It’s the perfect film to usher in this most macabre time of year. Not defaulting to gore and jump scares, this movie is a beautifully and meticulously crafted work of cinema that will genuinely cause your blood to race and keep your senses on edge.

“The Divergent Series: Allegiant part 1” movie review

AllegiantPossibly a strong finish for the Divergent Games! Of course, we won’t know just how well it finishes until the second part. Surprisingly, The Divergent Series: Allegiant part 1 provides fans with a good start to a well-executed conclusion. After the weak sequel, it was quite unexpected that the series would begin to complete this YA series on such a high note. Unlike the disappointing conclusion of The Hunger GamesAllegiant brings back your favorite characters you love and love to hate in a very satisfying ending in the dystopian adventure to rescue a people from themselves. At the end of the day, the Divergent series will never be as successful or generate the same fandom as The Hunger Games; but simply comparing the last two films in both franchises, this is clearly the superior finish (or should be). Although Roth’s socio-political themes and subtext were fairly clear, all be it still weak, in the first two films, the message is a little vague and incoherent in Allegiant. Two YA franchises down and one to go. We will just have to see what lies in store for the Maze Runner series. Just like the Divergent series has a week middle, hopefully the weak sequel in The Maze Runner will pave the way for a strong conclusion as well. One thing is for sure, Allegiant contains far more action than the previous films which almost makes the weak and still completely explained plot worth the approximate 2-hour run time.

The first part of the final chapter in the Divergent Series takes us beyond the wall into a desolate wasteland. Follow Beatrice/Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Peter (Miles Teller), and Christina (Zoe Kravitz) as they embark on a journey to seek help from the outside in order to stop the civil war in dystopian Chicago (or modern day Detroit). With newly asserted leader of the faction less system Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and Amity turned Allegiant leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer) at odds with one another, war is brewing in the streets and all hell is about to break loose. Barely escaping Evelyn’s security team, Tris and her band are rescued by a team from an organization of pure bloods who oversees the “Chicago Experiment.” This group of researchers and scientists led by David (Jeff Daniels) recruits Tris and her team to develop a plan to save Chicago, or so they think. When Four discovers what is really going on, he must convince Tris and the rest of her band of rebels to make right what is going incredibly wrong.

For me, and I am sure other critics, analyzing this particular series, The Hunger Games, and Maze Runner gets boring. Because, for the most part, they all have the same plot, same fallacies, and similar subtext. They are all extremely socio-political methods to spread the message that only teenagers are special and are capable of saving the world from corrupt adults. Although these movies are aimed at Generation Z (anyone born after 1995), they still attract attention from Y/Millennials (~1982-1994) and Generation Xers (~1965-1981). That is important because Generation Z does not have the spending power that generations X and Y do. In order to maximize the income potential of the films, the studios have to appeal to Generation Zers in such a way that it will also bring their Millennial friends and potentially Generation X parents. Since schools are constantly preaching the message that teenagers are the future, they are special, and uncontaminated by the greed of the world, it makes sense to create films based on books that carry that theme. The negative side effect to this approach is creating a generation(s) that automatically distrust adults and their respective decisions regarding the environment, politics, and society. Just as Allegiant depicts what happens when there is such great division among a people who view the approach to peace so very differently will devolve into a war-like state, it’s entirely possible that reinforcing this division between Generation Z and X/Y could symbolically arrive at the same precipice.

The production value and design in Allegiant definitely outshines the prior two installments. That is important due to the fact that Roth’s political subtext definitely becomes a little muddled in this last chapter. Although there is definitely way too much cheesy CGI, it is far less than the previous film. And other than some of the outlandish technology used in the story, for the most part, the defense, security, and surveillance technology used by the various characters makes sense and is perfectly believable in their universe. There is even a real reference to 21st century earth’s scientists experimenting with the human genome. That helps to create a sense of futuristic realism in the Divergent universe. One of the biggest problems I have with the plot is the still unexplained history of how exactly the Chicago experiment began. Perhaps the director and writers did not feel it was necessary to provide a clear history through character exposition, but I am still a little confused as to how the Pure Bloods and Damaged became so incredibly separate. Another thing, if there are thousands (if not millions) of Pure Bloods in existence, then why use the Chicago Experiment as a method to see if a Pure Blood can be born out of all of it??? I guess that is why it’s not worth overly analyzing films such as this one.

For what it’s worth, Allegiant is an exciting start to the last chapter in the Divergent Series! Far more entertaining than the last one. If you were disappointed by Mockingjay Part 2 than rest assured that you will definitely enjoy the conclusion of this franchise. Not a bad way to spend your Spring Break or an afternoon over the weekend. But, I wouldn’t bother seeing this film in IMAX or 3D. However, I can see some benefit to the experience of this film by watching it in a D-Box auditorium.

It Follows

It_FollowsWhat the??? Most likely, that is what you will be asking yourself. It’s entirely possible that this is either one of the worst horror/suspense films in recent years OR one of the best. At first glance, it looks like something that you may have stumbled across on Netflix; but a closer look will reveal a fantastically orchestrated suspense film with a powerful message. Interestingly, this is one of few movies that actually ticked up on IMDb, RottenTomatoes, and MetaCritic. But, after sitting on this review overnight, I can understand why the rating has gone up and not stayed the same or ticked down. Although the acting is less than adequate and the plot is a little over-the-top at times, the allegorical message is very well written into this YA suspense-thriller.

It Follows is about a group of teenagers who find themselves on the run from an unknown specter that stalks its prey. The movie centers in and around a young lady named Jay (Maika Monroe) who, following a strange sexual encounter with an attractive young man named Hugh (Jake Weary), becomes the focus of an evil entity that slowly stalks her anywhere she is. With all others unable to see the specter, she begins to wonder if she is going mad. After some sleuthing with her best friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Jay finds herself in a tangled web with many moral and ethical dilemmas facing her and her friends.

Reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm StreetIt Follows takes place on a normal nondescript middle-class street with promiscuous teenagers trying to find their places in an adult world. Between the nostalgic set design and old-school score, you will think that Robert Englund is about to appear with his iconic Freddy Kruger razor glove. But, the enemy in this suspense-thriller is one part psychological (like Freddy) and one part physiological. It is very unclear as to the time and space in which this story occurs. You will find personal electronic device technology that we enjoy today along side TVs from the 1980s existing in a city in whose glory days had long-past. Although it isn’t until the height of the crisis that we learn that the nearly-abandoned city that serves as the backdrop is present-day Detroit, hints as to the location are sprinkled throughout the narrative. On that note, all the stories you’ve heard about vacant houses and neighborhoods in gross disrepair in the motor city, are very true–it’s scary.

From a technical perspective, the movie is fairly lacking; however, despite the low-quality lenses, cameras, and lighting that were obviously used, the cinematography is quite good. The balance between objective and subjective shots is used effectively to highlight and advance the plot through the well-structured narrative. Proper pacing is crucial in a horror film, and Writer-Director David Robert Mitchell has proven that even on a small budget (~$2MIL), that a great horror movie can be produced in today’s climate of film competing with TV competing with streaming services. Although this movie will likely find a greater audience once it hits Netflix and Hulu+, it has received a fairly good welcome during its theatrical release, for a film that has been under the radar except in larger cities.

!!CONTAINS SPOILERS!! (skip to the last paragraph for the closing remarks)

Regarding the not-so-subtle allegorical theming of the movie, it is clearly a movie about STD/I’s. On one hand, it comes off as an after-school special or a movie that is shown to Middle/High Schoolers; but on the other, it is an extremely clever way to talk about a touchy and tough subject. Not so contrary to the 80s slasher movies that basically had the message “if you’re a horny teenager and you have sex, you will die,” this movie takes a more realistic approach in dealing with the scary world of not always knowing if someone has something, or if you may have something that could get passed on and “follow” someone. Although the idea of supernatural specters haunting teenagers or young people who have casual or random sex is unrealistic, the entities represent the fact that anyone can have a STD/I and pass it on to someone else. I feel strongly that the 80s feel of the setting is directly related to the fact that the AIDS scare happened during that decade. Even though society has learned a lot about STD/I’s since then, and has come a long way in educating and appropriately mitigating irrational reactions from people, it is vitally important that sexually-active people–especially teenagers and young adults–be very cautious and protect themselves against something that could “follow” you and/or your sexual partner(s) for a very long time, if not forever, or maybe even kill you. The consequences (good and bad) of sexual behavior outside of a relationship are very real. And in many respects, can very well haunt your mind and body.

If you enjoy well-directed and written suspense movies rich with sociological and societal themes, then check out It Follows while it is in theatres. Although you may be inclined to dislike the movie immediately following the close of the story, I can almost guarantee that you will grow to like it because it will undoubtedly prompt you and your friends to think about the message and the creative execution. The longer the movie sits on your mind, the more you will learn to appreciate it. That was the case with me. At first I didn’t care for it, and now I find it to be a remarkable movie that hits all the right sensational and pleasurable-unpleasure marks that a horror film needs to hit in order to become a cult classic.