Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)Released: November 20, 2015. Directed by: Billy Ray. Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman. Runtime: 1hr., 51 min.

I haven’t seen the original Argentinian film “The Secret in Their Eyes (“El Secreto de sus Ojos”), but the American remake “Secret in Their Eyes” likely doesn’t do it an ounce of justice.

The film concerns Jess, portrayed with raw force by Julia Roberts, a police officer whose daughter is brutally murdered in the height of L.A. counter-terrorism following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

She seeks justice for her daughter and also wants vengeance from a suspect who was able to walk because of political mumbo jumbo that bogs down the plot to a point of frustration.

13 years later, a close friend Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has tirelessly looked at pictures of convicted criminals all this time. Since he has gone to work for the New York Mets – I assume it’s as the director of security – he is unable to scan the photo into the computer or access face recognition technology. Though, it might have been easier to ask a cop buddy help him out.

The film is told in a needlessly confusing, non-linear flow where one can only tell the difference of the characters between 2002 and 2015 is that Dean Norris is bald in 2015, Chiwetel Ejiofor just has grey in her hair, and Julia Roberts’ Jess looks like a 50-year-old trapped in a 90-year-old’s body.

Seriously: If the point was to convey that this weight of emotional distress or focusing on something you can’t change, brings aggressive aging, they did it well. Kudos, make-up department.

As for Nicole Kidman’s Claire, you have to look at her on-screen partner to see if it’s 2002 and 2015. Nicole Kidman doesn’t seem to age… Ever.

Also bogging down the plot is melodrama between Ray and Claire’s characters – with the “will they end up together or won’t they” plot line. It seems that this is a main attribute taken from the original.

But this melodrama felt out-of-place in something that looked billed as a revenge thriller. It borrows themes from successful revenge stories – notably Denis Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” – but no success is emulated in this only sporadically exciting thriller.

Sure, there’s a good set piece at a Dodgers game. And the scene where Jess finds her daughter is heartbreaking. Though: I question if her taking off her gloves and holding her daughter in the dumpster tainted the crime scene. There are good performances here, but they’re just as hatefully written and poorly-crafted characters.

While I fully understand Jess’ grief, she is unlikable. She never shows any gratitude to the one man – Ray – who has been trying to find Caroline’s killer and give Jess peace for 13 long years.

Seriously, she seems angry with him. When a central character bashes on the only person not purely fighting for themselves – it truly makes it hard to root for justice.

Score: 38/100

 

P.s., My apologies for the long hiatus there. I’ve been swamped with J-school and other writing so I will try to be more active on here as the month goes along. 

Just Go With It (2011)

Just Go With ItReleased: February 11, 2011. Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman. Runtime: 117 min.

One can only watch an Adam Sandler flick so many times before it gets worn out. Apparently, one could only watch “Just Go With It” twice before it gets worn out. Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston have a good chemistry that grows better as the movie goes along. They never particularly hate each other, but they have to act like it because the hoax is that they’re divorced after many years of happiness.

The hoax is grown by Sandler’s Danny Maccabee who carries a ring around with him for years. He was left at the alter by the one he loved (his real life wife, Jennifer Sandler), because of his huge nose. He’s never been able to throw the ring away because if he has it, he won’t be hurt again. He meets an extremely attractive young woman, Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), and after she finds his wedding ring in his pocket, he makes up a story about how he is just getting divorced. Of course, she wants to meet her. The successful plastic surgeon Danny enlists the help of his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to help him out with the cause, and her kids (Bailee Madison, Griffin Gluck) get sweeped into the debacle after the kid schemes his way into a Hawaii vacation. There, Danny and Katherine (Aniston) must keep the scheme alive without falling in love in the process.

The movie is watchable, but it isn’t great after multiple viewings. First viewing, it’s okay. By the third viewing, it’s not even good background noise. It’s usually fairly funny, but only if you like predictable humour. And even for a movie like this, it’s too tedious at 117 minutes.

Half of the occurences in the film just happen because they can. Nick Swardson has an irritating German accent, just because he can. He has goofy glasses. There’s no point to it, since Swardson’s character Eddie, Danny’s best friend, wouldn’t have met Palmer prior to the vacation he schemes his way on. Swardson also isn’t very funny, here. One of the only movies he’s been funny in, in all honesty, is “The Benchwarmers.” I also don’t know why Maccabee and Katherine had to tell people they were getting divorced while shopping and preparing for the charade.

Brooklyn Decker certainly isn’t cast for her acting abilities. She’s cast because she fills out a bikini well, but couldn’t we have gotten a young actress with talent and a hot bod? Alice Eve wasn’t available? Decker’s cleavage should have gotten higher billing than Decker herself.

Bailee Madison’s okay. Griffin Gluck’s terrible. His emotionless way about him is seriously depressing. Nicole Kidman has rarely looked less attractive than here. The humour is low-brow and predictable. The only true laugh might only be a “Lord of the Rings” reference. At least after multiple viewings. Even on first viewing, it’s difficult to recommend. This is at least way better than Sandler’s other 2011 release, “Jack and Jill.” But if you’re watching this for Aniston, just watch “Horrible Bosses.”

Score50/100

The Human Stain (2003)

The Human StainThe Human Stain

Release Date: October 31, 2003

,Director: Robert Benton

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris

Runtime: 106 min

Tagline: How far would you go to escape the past?
Did you know? To prepare for her role, Nicole Kidman visited women’s shelters and talked to former victims of abuse for inspiration.

When a disgraced former college professor has a romance with a mysterious younger woman haunted by her dark twisted past, he is forced to confront a shocking secret about his own life that he has kept secret for 50 years.

Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman are really great in this. As is Ed Harris in a petite, but creepy and effective role. Gary Sinise’s chemistry with Hopkins is stellar. Sinise is also good as a reclusive authour who is holed up in his cabin in the woods, but there aren’t any zombies or ‘oh my god’ moments in this flick.

The Human Stain‘s biggest fault is that it’s just a little dull and not very interesting. The best scene in the feature is a charismatic dance shared between Sinise and Hopkins to “Cheek to Cheek”. Or maybe Kidman laying nude on her bed, even though they didn’t do a close-up. Dammit. When the film could have been amazing, it falters. For example, part of the ending is revealed in the beginning, and when that said scene actually happens, it isn’t emotionally hard-hitting in the least.

This film is an absolute mess. It’s all over the place, and some stuff is pretty mind-numbing. However, it is admittedly a well-made mess. It has great performances all around from the cast, but that’s all that’s good about this. And by the time Coleman Silk’s secret gets revealed, it’s like… That’s it? That’s the big secret? Well that’s not as shocking as I was hoping. It’s a little silly.

Here’s one blurb from a review that sums up my thoughts on the film very nicely: “One of those films that makes you say, ‘That was powerful. Now what the hell was it about?'” David Edelstein of Slate.

45/100