‘The Final Year’ fills the screen with grace and a ticking clock

“The Final Year” – If a doctor said that you had one year left to live, what would you do?    Just before that moment, you might believe that time is a forever-companion, and after it, realize that it is an extraordinarily precious commodity.  Whether attempting to experience previously-evasive fruits of life, tether distant relationships or write the next great American novel, the clock is ticking.  It is counting down, impossible to ignore. Conversely, a high school student enters a scholastic institution with a clearly-defined, four-year construct, and even though an…

Haneke’s ‘Happy End’ illustrates that money can’t buy happiness

“Happy End” – Money can’t buy happiness. After watching writer/director Michael Haneke’s new movie, one could easily picture the aforementioned, famous saying as the film’s title, because the wealthy family featured – the Laurents – lumber in a constant state of dysfunction.   Most Haneke fans – who appreciate this filmmaker’s frequent and wholehearted dives into cynical, offputting material – will embrace “Happy End” and leave the theatre satisfied, but not necessarily happy. With Haneke, that’s generally the point. Rather than driving home his points through a specific, sweeping story arc,…

‘Forever My Girl’ does not last

“Forever My Girl” – Eight years.  A lot can happen in eight years. A fourth grader will become a high school senior. A U.S. president can spend two terms in office. The French could build four more Eiffel Towers. Americans built a manned rocket that landed on the moon, and actually, it only took seven years from JFK’s famous “Moon Speech” to Apollo 11. The point is a lot can happen in eight years.   For Liam Page (Alex Roe), he left the love of his life, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at…

‘Small Town Crime’ is a middling curiosity

“Small Town Crime” – “Well, I was born in a small town.  And I live in a small town.  Probably die in small town.”  –  John Mellencamp, “Small Town” Mike Kendall (John Hawkes) lives in a small town, out west in the high desert, where blue skies reign, the ground sports varied shades of brown and snowcapped peaks hold court in the distance.  Writers/directors Eshom and Ian Nelms filmed outside Salt Lake City, Utah, but within the movie, the exact locale is not important. Mike’s own well-being is not terribly…

‘The Commuter’ takes too many familiar turns

“The Commuter” – “You have no idea who you are up against.” – Oliver (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith), a train passenger Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), a New York City insurance agent who just lost his job, finds himself mired in two seemingly impossible situations.   He and his wife, Karen (Elizabeth McGovern), are financially struggling, and now, Michael is out of work.  Cutting back on expenses and eating ramen noodles seven days a week will not save enough money to cover their mortgage and son’s upcoming tuition to Syracuse University. (By the way, according to Google,…

‘Hostiles’ is a purposely grim, well-acted but incomplete western

“Hostiles” – “He’s a butcher.” – Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) “Then the two of you should get along just fine.” – Jeremiah Wilks (Bill Camp) For decades, Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Bale) has lived his adult life immersed in violence via his chosen profession in the U.S. Calvary.   After spending a career hunting down and killing Native Americans, he has become hardened and emotionally inhibited – something less than human, without a hint of light or angelic joy – after causing and witnessing so much death. His commanding…