Mini Reviews (December 2016)
He Knows You're Alone, Mickey Blue Eyes, Moana
He Knows You're Alone (December 7/16)
He Knows You're Alone follows bride-to-be Amy Jensen (Caitlin O'Heaney) as she's stalked by a psychotic killer (Tom Rolfing's Ray) with a penchant for murdering engaged women - with the narrative also detailing the efforts of a determined cop (Lewis Arlt's Len Gamble) at stopping Ray before he can kill again. The degree to which He Knows You're Alone wears out its welcome is ultimately rather distressing, as the movie kicks off with an atypically strong pre-credits sequence that seems to promise a superior slasher (and clearly went on to inspire Scream 2's less effective opening). Beyond that point, however, He Knows You're Alone slowly-but-surely morphs into a seriously tedious endeavor that boasts few positive attributes - as scripter Scott Parker offers up a midsection revolving almost entirely around O'Heaney's character's tedious day-to-day exploits (eg Amy goes shopping, Amy runs into an old boyfriend, etc, etc). Filmmaker Armand Mastroianni's decision to employ as deliberate a pace as one could envision certainly doesn't help matters, with the total lack of gore perpetuating the film's increasingly tedious and less-than-involving atmosphere. By the time the endless, set-in-an-abandoned-hospital finale rolls around, He Knows You're Alone has unquestionably confirmed its place as a lesser slasher that would hardly be worth mentioning were it not for Tom Hanks' cameo (which, disappointingly, lasts less than a few minutes).
Mickey Blue Eyes (December 13/16)
An agreeable if forgettable comedy, Mickey Blue Eyes follows Hugh Grant's Michael Felgate, a British auctioneer, as he proposes to his girlfriend (Jeanne Tripplehorn's Gina) and subsequently discovers that her father (James Caan's Frank) is actually a mafia kingpin - with the narrative detailing Michael's increasingly frenetic efforts at placating Frank and his brood of mobsters. It's worth noting that Mickey Blue Eyes, before it delves deeply into its mob-based plot, works surprisingly well as a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, with the palpable chemistry between Grant and Tripplehorn's respective characters going a long way towards perpetuating this vibe. (Grant is unquestionably at his charming best here.) The film's shift to a sort of fish-out-of-water midsection is handled relatively well by director Kelly Makin, and while this portion of the proceedings is somewhat erratic in its pacing, Mickey Blue Eyes benefits greatly from the continuing inclusion of laugh-out-loud funny interludes and sequences - with the most obvious example of this (and the film's high point) the lamentably brief yet utterly hilarious bit involving Frank's efforts at teaching Michael to speak like a gangster. It's only in its third act that Mickey Blue Eyes begins to lose its already-tenuous grip on the viewer, as scripters Adam Scheinman and Robert Kuhn offer up a predictably action-heavy finale that is, to put it mildly, anti-climactic and underwhelming - which confirms the film's place as a watchable little endeavor that is, in the end, rarely as compelling as one might've hoped.
Moana (December 15/16)
Set in Ancient Polynesia, Moana follows the title figure (Auli'i Cravalho) as she attempts to save her dying community by tracking down a feared demigod named Maui (Dwayne Johnson) - with the movie detailing the mismatched pair's efforts to cross the ocean and return the heart of a vengeful goddess (which Maui had stolen years earlier). There's certainly plenty within Moana worth embracing and enjoying - eg both Cravalho and Johnson infuse their respective characters with charisma and warmth - and yet the movie remains pitched at a level of barely-watchable mediocrity for the duration of its overlong running time. The film's inability to wholeheartedly capture the viewer's interest and attention is problematic right from the get-go, essentially, as scripter Jared Bush delivers a first act that spends far too much time exploring the spirituality and mysticism that defines the protagonist's culture - with this less-than-engrossing aspect of the narrative compounded by a distinctive lack of development among the various periphery characters (ie Moana and Maui are the only figures that manage to become more than just one-dimensional archetypes). It doesn't help, either, that the first batch of songs are underwhelming and completely forgettable, and it's not until Johnson's aforementioned demigod arrives on the scene that Moana begins to improve somewhat - with the character's introduction boosted by a showstopping musical number that ultimately stands as the film's high point. From there, the movie proceeds into a dishearteningly erratic road-trip midsection that's rife with ineffective sequences - including a fairly tedious visit with an house-sized crab named Tamatoa (Jermaine Clement). By the time the over-the-top and somewhat interminable climax rolls around, Moana has cemented its place as one of Disney's least entertaining efforts in years - with, at its heart, the film saddled with a central quest that just isn't all that interesting or compelling.