The new movie “Stillwater” is one of the few movies I have seen where the trailer makes it look like a high quality blockbuster, but in realty the film is a huge dud. The problem with Stillwater is simple. Its horrendously boring. Why the producer of this bad movie decided to make it run 2 hours and 20 minutes, with the story could be told in 80 minutes is anyone’s guess. The logline of this movie is about a construction worker is living in France while trying to get his daughter out of prison for a murder she did not commit. The problem is there is so little story to tell here, that they decided to add so much filler to stretch the runtime to 260 minutes, that you can actually go into a coma sitting through this incredibly boring waste of way over two hours.
There is a side story where the main character Bill, played by Matt Damon becoming involved with a French actress and her 9 year old daughter, but even this secondary story is another extreme waste of time. Bill’s daughter who is in a French prison is played by Abigaile Breslin. I am actually surprised that both Damon and Breslin read this script and still decided to make this bad movie.
The Rotten Tomatoes rating of 72% is wrong. This movie is 60% at best and should be skipped by all.
The new movie “Joe Bell” is the true story of a father who lost his gay son to suicide all because of high school bullying. To honor his son, Joe Bell decides to walk across the country by himself to raise awareness to the tragedy of bullying.
Bullying has been a problem in schools for many years, and due to social media and other reasons, this issue has gotten even worse over time resulting in extreme anguish, depression and suicide for too many children around the world. Bulling has always been considered a generic human reality, part of the ride of that comes around during childhood. But bullying also exists in adulthood, even during our working lives. In all cases, bulling can cause extreme psychological and physical damage to the victims, ultimately causing all of us to ask why it exists in the first place. What is it within certain people to temporarily feel good about themselves by making someone else feel horrible about themselves? What is the gain here? Do people who bully lack so much empathy, that they just cannot stop relentlessly torturing someone else? Bullying is also an issue not isolated to boys, girls can be just as bad or worse when it comes this tragic problem.
The story of Joe Bell is one of those true events where the movie rights are bought by someone with clout, in this case, Mark Wahlberg who stars as Joe Bell. This story is a very impressive one with a great message and a double tragedy. The problem with this film is there is not enough story to tell to make it an engrossing two hour movie. The screenwriters decided to tell this story backwards, beginning with Joe Bell on his cross country walk, next to his imaginary deceased son intermixed with flashbacks. Sometimes the flashback method of storytelling can work, and other times, it can make the story hard to follow. I thought this story would have been better told in chronological order.
What happens to Joe’s son Jadin, played by Reid Miller, is told well enough with much of the bulling depicted in this movie very hard to watch. Joe Bell gives speeches at high schools during his walk across country and I thought more of these speeches would have resulted in a better movie with less walking scenes and more emotional speeches, trying to educate young people about the damage they are causing too many young people with their cruelty. There are a few good scenes with Wahlberg and actor Gary Sinise who is a local Sheriff who also has a gay son.
Due to the great message and good acting in this movie, I was very surprised at the extremely low 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 5.2 on IMDB. My rating for this movie is about 70%, mainly because the true story and message are both so strong. I give a marginal recommendation to Joe Bell.
In my opinion, the most unusual writer/producer/director career in the history of Hollywood belongs to M. Night Shyamalan.
Shyamalan’s first movie was the “The 6th Sense”, released in 1999. The 6th Sense was a monster hit, with one of the best screenplays and arguably the best ending of any movie ever made. Since then, Shyamalan has been trying to get back to the heights he reached 22 years ago. In 2000 “Unbreakable” was released and I thought this was a very good but not great movie. Another honorable mention was “Devil”, released in 2010 and Split, released in 2016. But these two movies were just good films nowhere near the level of The 6th Sense.
After Unbreakable, Shyamalan has written and directed mostly average movies, with the exception of “The Lady in the Water”, and “After Earth” that were both regarded as bad productions. Unfortunately Shyamalan’s new movie “Old” is once again another average movie. It is easy to understand that due to Shyamalan’s extreme dedication to the craft of movie making and the time it takes him to write, produce, direct and then release a new film – that movie making is one hell of a challenging industry to dedicate your life to. I personally have heard stories of Shyamalan even mortgaging his own home to get the funding to produce a new movie. Despite enormous amounts of work, script rewrites, production problems, there is never any guarantee that any movie will be great or even make money.
After spending years writing, producing and directing and finally releasing Old, I can only imagine how disappointed Shyamalan is now after seeing the relatively poor 50% scores on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.2 score on IMDB. I would rank Old in the low 70% range because it is not a bad movie, just not good enough to be something that will be respected and remembered for a long time. The premise of Old is, “Several people are vacationing on an Island, where they wind up on an ocean cove surrounded by rocks that they not only cannot escape from, but also makes them age extremely fast”. Granted this is a new and very unique idea, but unfortunately watching people age, die and try and escape their confined Island cove, became old as fast as the people were aging.
There is a pretty good and surprising ending, that Shyamalan always tries to put in all of his movies, but not enough to save this film. Once again, Shyamalan himself, just like Alfred Hitchcock did in many of his movies, appears in this film as a van driver.
Finally, I give Old a marginal recommendation, mostly for die hard fans of M. Night Shyamalan.