Horrible Bosses 2


I don’t always need to be “sold” on a movie to see it. Even if the film seems questionable, if a favorite auteur is attached then they’ve probably built up enough cachet for me to patronize the film in spite of a mediocre trailer or tepid reviews. Mind you, this logic only applies if a movie looks at least ok, or average – I’m not willfully seeing a stinker. I’m a self-proclaimed Bond enthusiast, so I’ll pretty much see the latest edition in the franchise, even if it looks rather underwhelming. Spectre looked promising, but I may have just been distracted by the initial excitement of another Bond movie; and while I mostly enjoyed the film, I don’t think it’ll be remembered as one of the better Bond movies.

The 24th installment of the venerable franchise opens with a nail-biting sequence in Mexico City as Bond hotly pursues a man on foot, darting across rooftops before commandeering a chopper. This is what we’ve come to know and love: an action-packed beginning to set the tone, followed by an iconic backdrop of womanly silhouettes as the opening credits spill across the screen. Daniel Craig (Skyfall) was suave as ever, and if there’s a man who looks better in a suit – I haven’t seen him. Bond has always been a bit tongue in cheek in terms of action and relative invincibility, but the casting of Craig seemed to usher in a less campy, grittier approach to the franchise. In Spectre, there were a few times when the action sequences were comical in their implausibility.

Never afraid to defy authority or venture off the beaten path, in Spectre Bond is unsurprisingly on the outs with his superiors at MI6, and his antics in Mexico City don’t win him any favors. The “double 0” program is in jeopardy, and there’s been a new addition to MI6 in the form of C, an official who wants to end the program by merging various intelligence agencies, thereby eliminating the need for agents in the field like James. However, Bond proves his usefulness after following the trail he picked up in Mexico City, which leads him to Spectre. Spectre is a conglomerate of international criminals responsible for various global atrocities and assorted crimes. It’s helmed by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, Horrible Bosses 2), a shadowy figure affiliated with other notorious villains from Bond’s past like Le Chiffre, featured in 2006’s Casino Royale. Oberhauser is very familiar with James, and the true nature of their relationship isn’t readily apparent.

The film follows James Bond as he tries to dismantle Spectre by thwarting Oberhauser, who has strategically engineered terror attacks in key places across the globe in an effort to persuade foreign governments to invest in anti-terrorism measures from which he can profit. Certain plot elements bore similarity to the last Mission: Impossible movie, and while I appreciated the overall simplicity, I found the plot ironically nonsensical. I won’t elaborate by revealing any spoilers, but suffice it to say the movie didn’t coalesce in a satisfying way. The supporting players were capable, but Bond movies are a vehicle for Daniel Craig primarily – and it seemed like maybe his heart wasn’t in it at all times. Upon exiting the theater I overheard some moviegoers discussing Craig’s disdain for the franchise now, and I thought how unfortunate it is that he’s ready to move on from the iconic role. He was a refreshing departure from previous archetypes, but if he’s “over it,” perhaps it is time to move on. That Bond magic was noticeably absent. Grade: B-

The Gift

The best movies make you think about yourself and about life. I enjoy movies that explore some of my personal beliefs and philosophies. For me, what matters most in life is how you treat other people. You can be as wealthy and successful as possible, but if you don’t treat your fellow man with courtesy and respect, your worldly trappings mean nothing. The Gift was an intriguing movie that explored what it means to be a “good person,” and the accountability we must have for our actions.

Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses 2) and Rebecca Hall (Transcendence) star as Simon and Robyn, a thirty-something couple who have recently relocated to California from Chicago. Simon is a successful executive, while Robyn is between jobs. Grieving a recent miscarriage, the couple is looking for a fresh start not far from where Simon grew up. We are introduced to the accomplished couple as they purchase a beautiful new home, and their energy is joyful and expectant. While shopping for furniture, Simon bumps into an old friend from high school, a shy man named Gordon (Joel Edgerton, Exodus: Gods and Kings). We first notice him in the background through the store’s window, watching Simon and Robyn as they shop. He exudes a creepy awkwardness, and it was painful watching him strike up a conversation with Simon, who barely remembers him.

As Simon and Robyn settle into their new digs, “Gordo” (as Simon calls him) begins to subtly intrude into their lives. It starts innocently enough with a housewarming gift left on their doorstep but eventually escalates to unannounced visits and inappropriate gifts. He seems lonely and relatively harmless, but there is something unsettling about his quiet lurking. Robyn is compassionate towards Gordo, but Simon is unnerved by him and mockingly pokes fun at his social ineptitude. It was particularly troublesome that Gordo always seemed to pop up when Robyn was home alone and Simon was working, a detail that foreshadowed the film’s sinister twist.

The film succeeds in evoking sympathy for Gordo, despite his disturbing behavior. There’s sadness in him, a quiet loneliness he hoped to fill by reconnecting with someone from his past. As the film unfolds, we learn just what kind of person Simon was all those years ago when he and Gordo first knew each other. Robyn discovers that Simon isn’t quite the man she married, as he reveals that he hasn’t changed much since high school after all. We don’t know how far Gordo will go to right the wrongs Simon inflicted on him, but when he exacts his revenge it is a cruel masterstroke.

I enjoyed The Gift immensely. It was a quiet movie that arrived in theaters with little fanfare, but deserved more attention than it received. Suspenseful and thought provoking, it was a unique movie that held my interest throughout. Edgerton not only stars as Gordo, but he wrote and directed the film as well. It was an impressive effort and I appreciated the conflicting emotions Gordo inspired. The storyline was strong and original, a testament to Edgerton’s talent and versatility. Hall and Bateman gave emotionally charged performances, and it was good to see Bateman as a flawed character for a change. Make sure you check for this movie when it comes to Redbox and cable. Grade: A