The Dinner

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The Dinner

Runtime 110 minutes w/o credits
Not for children

Reminiscent of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), this film is a psychological thriller about two couples with a lot of problems. One problem is that Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) is recovering from a debilitating nervous breakdown and is still obviously troubled. The other involves a huge problem with a horrible deed done by their children. This has caused Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), Paul’s brother and a congressman running for governor, to invite his brother and wife, Claire (Laura Linney), to dinner with him and his wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) at a pretentiously posh restaurant. There they eventually come around to confronting the big problem, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Surrounding their conversations is the ridiculous presentation of each course, explained in ostentatiously excruciating detail by their headwaiter, Dylan Heinz (Michael Chernus, who gives a terrific performance). Says writer/director Oren Moverman, “The food is ridiculous and that’s the point. These people’s worlds are falling apart but they’re being presented Pumpernickel Soil. The courses are actually the narrative courses of the story being told.”

In addition to Woolf, the film also reminded me of last year’s Eye in the Sky in the way it handles a controversial problem, attacking it from all sides with each side presenting its case.

Based on Herman Koch’s book, Overman clearly takes no position, which is nice, although I found the ending unsatisfying. Still, the acting is terrific. I can’t single out any of them, although I’m partial to Hall because she continues to give outstanding performance after outstanding performance without getting much credit or any awards (one Golden Globe nomination), because, like Woolf, they all stand out.

They players are aided by a smart script and a wonderful score, for which I can find no credit.

For a fairly long film full of talk, the pace is outstanding; it passed the watch test with flying colors.

Free Fire

Runtime 85 minutes
Not for children

Brie Larson stars in “Free Fire” directed by Ben Wheatley.

Even from film’s outset back in the 1910s it has been a director’s medium. When you have to see as many movies as I do, you begin to learn that some directors have a good record of producing entertaining films and others do not. Top upon the list of the latter are directors like Terrence Malick who was responsible for junk like To the Wonder (2012), which is just one of his many unwatchable dirges. Now, quickly rising to the top of the list is Ben Wheatley whose last effort was High Rise (2015), a movie so bad I walked out on it.

That might sound like it’s not so bad to you, but to a film critic like me, being able to review a bad film is akin to eating a hot fudge sundae. The worse the film the more enjoyable it is to write about. But High Rise was so bad that it was not worth the agony of sitting through it to the end to be able to eat the sundae.

This one was equally bad, if not worse, but I hung in there to the end.

Ostensibly it is about two gangs that meet in a warehouse for a drug deal and end up in a gun battle that made the 85-minute run time seem like eternity.

This film, apparently aimed at the gamer, immature teenage mentality, minimizes the effects of gunshot wounds and death, just another in a long line of Hollywood films that does not appreciate the danger of presenting violence as something unimportant. Just as an example, when these people get shot, and when some of them die, they make a joke out of it. But getting shot is no joke; nor is dying. They are not funny, and people don’t react the way these actors react.

That’s what goes on for most of the 85 minutes—people getting shot and dying but treating the bullet wounds and deaths less seriously than they would a stubbed toe.

Advertised as a comedy, there is nothing remotely humorous in this nihilistic abhorrently violent nonsense whose sole purpose seems to be to desensitize its audience to brutality.

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