Mini Reviews (November 2017)
Happy Death Day, Breathe
Happy Death Day (November 6/17)
A horror spin on Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day follows superficial college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) as she's forced to live the day of her murder over and over again. It's an intriguing yet thoroughly familiar premise that is, for the most part, employed within the context of a fairly run-of-the-mill slasher, as filmmaker Christopher Landon, working from a script by Scott Lobdell, delivers a narrative that's rife with precisely the sort of elements one expects from a PG-13 production (including bloodless kill sequences and a raft of somewhat one-dimensional characters). There's nevertheless little doubt that Happy Death Day, though saddled with a few lulls here and there, manages to keep the viewer entertained throughout its appropriately brief running time, with the movie befitting substantially from a periodic emphasis on far-more-clever-than-anticipated sequences (eg a fun montage of Tree investigating various suspects and subsequently dying). It's equally clear, though, that the limitations of the premise pave the way for a fairly repetitive midsection, and yet it's hard to deny that one's patience is ultimately rewarded with a prolonged but fun (and surprising) final stretch - which does confirm the film's place as a decent effort that hits more than it misses.
Breathe (November 14/17)
Based on true events, Breathe follows Andrew Garfield's Robin Cavendish as he becomes a crusader for handicapped rights after a bout of polio leaves him paralyzed. First-time filmmaker Andy Serkis delivers a film that boasts the feel and atmosphere of any number of similarly-themed inspirational dramas, with the movie's cookie-cutter vibe paving the way for a one-note narrative that suffers from an obvious surfeit of memorable moments. There is, as such, never a point at which the viewer is wholeheartedly drawn into the central character's tragic plight, with the hands-off, surface-level approach compounded by Serkis' decision to generally steer clear of Robin's emotional mindset (ie the narrative is concerned more with his admittedly impressive accomplishments). The movie's failure is especially disappointing given Garfield's tremendous performance and a smattering of striking sequences, with, in terms of the latter, Serkis juicing several key moments with a decidedly eye-catching sense of style (eg Robin visits a disturbingly sterile facility for handicapped patients). The film ultimately concludes on an impressively rousing note as Robin delivers an impassioned speech about his condition, and yet just getting to that point is something of an ordeal due to a massively overlong running time - which ultimately confirms Breathe's place as a well-intentioned, well-acted misfire.