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Friday, January 13, 2017

Movie Review: #Silence

Two Jesuit priests seek to find their mentor who has disappeared in hostile 17th Century Japan.

Review by Matt Cummings

It can be argued that Director Martin Scorsese has earned the right to make whatever film he wants. His filmography reads like a mini-AFI list. Unfortunately, his 25-year long passion project Silence emerges as an over-wrought, frustrating, and frankly arrogant middle finger while even eroding its own message with logic that makes all the sense to someone who long abandoned his faith.

After the Portguese first arrived on the Japanese mainland in the mid 16th Century, the leader Tokugawa Ieyasu responded by waging a protectionist holy war against priests and their followers. Widespread evictions and persecutions of Japanese Christians are witnessed by the helpless Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), whose plight stirs the conscience of the kind Jesuit Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield). Together with his fellow Jesuit Father Garrpe (Adam Driver), Ferreria's former students set out on a harrowing journey into the heart of a hostile Japan, unprepared for what they are to experience. Bolstered by their faith, the two will endure unimaginable hardships and see their very reason for living challenged at every turn, all while their captors turn to unlikely allies to break the duo's will and the Christian influence they are trying to spread.

Silence is a gorgeous film to witness. The Japanese brittle and battered coastline comes alive via Cinematographer Rodrigo Pietro's lens, providing the only respite for a film that relishes in how long it takes to tell its story. At 161 minutes, it's entirely too long, sapping its own energy with the at once brilliantly-executed debates between Rodrigues and his Interpreter (Tadanobu Asano) and the ridiculous Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka) who keeps begging Rodrigues for absolution, only to betray him time and time again. It becomes a joke as the character re-appears with little to no reason for committing his sins. Sure, we learn that his family was murdered in front of him after Kichijiro is forced to step on an image of Christ, but his ultimate MO seems only to offer comic relief and not a satisfying character arc.

Based on its name, Silence also offers a window into the frustration many people like myself share about our former faith: god doesn't answer our prayers directly, nor does he or other spirits communicate with us. For literally a dozen scenes throughout, Rodrigues is forced to witness the torture and execution of his followers, all without God stepping in vanquish these Japanese sadists. And when it comes time for him to be tested at the image of Jesus, the reveal here is so unbelievable that it comes off as a plot device rather than a moment of clarity or release.

Silence does wonderfully address the arrogance of Christian dogma in several key scenes; but again, it cuts its own weight from underneath itself with two reveals that include the final scene. I've heard some critics state that this is Scorsese's own personal battles with the faith manifest on screen. Whatever the answer, I think it's an awful way to make a film. Scorsese focuses only mere moments on Kichijiro, The Interpreter, and The Inquisitor (a strange Issei Ogata). The trio provide some of the film's best performances, but they don't appear until the third act, dominated instead by white European actors who hem and haw their way through a diminishing spiritual desert.

I'm not sure Neeson was the right fit for Silence, nor was the shortened performance of Driver. His tough facial features makes him hard to watch, but apparently Scorsese never watched The Phantom Menace, because I couldn't get over Neeson in Japanese robes. All I could think was that a Jedi had sent Spider-man and Kylo Wren on a fool's errand of mercy. Add 161 minutes to the mix, and you get something that at its best is indulgent to the faithful and those on the fence with their faith. At its worst, it reduces the Japanese to sadistic monsters who fail to see the beauty of a religion that is in direct conflict to all others. I didn't think that was the point of religion.

Catholics are sure to be offended by much of Silence's quite accurate arguments against their religion. I was just bored for long stretches, proving that even incredible filmmakers can disappoint when their passion projects get lost at sea. Pick this up only as a streaming rental, and only if you're OK with its unnecessarily long runtime and frustrating means by which it tries to save Japan from itself. Such arrogance is why I bowed out of my faith, and why you might want to skip this one altogether.

Silence is rated R for some disturbing violent content and has a runtime of 161 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Watch The @GleasonMovie Q&A With @TeamGleason

Amazon Studios Original Documentary GLEASON Q&A with subjects Steve Gleason, Michel Varisco and director/writer/co-editor Clay Tweel.



On Amazon Prime Video Now!

The hit documentary from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival goes inside the life of Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints defensive back who, at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to get his relationships in order, build a foundation to provide other ALS patients with purpose, and adapt to his declining physical condition—utilizing medical technologies that offer the means to live as fully as possible.

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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To An Advance Screening For A DOG'S PURPOSE In PHOENIX

Enter for a chance to see A DOG'S PURPOSE on January 24 at 7:00 PM in PHOENIX.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron,  A DOG'S PURPOSE from director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey), shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love. The family film told from the dog’s perspective also stars Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall and Dennis Quaid.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

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Subject- A DOG'S PURPOSE PHOENIX
Name and email address

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#ADogsPurpose
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In Theaters January 27

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability

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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To An Advance Screening For A DOG'S PURPOSE In San Antonio

Enter for a chance to see A DOG'S PURPOSE on January 24 at 7:00 PM in San Antonio.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron,  A DOG'S PURPOSE from director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey), shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love. The family film told from the dog’s perspective also stars Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall and Dennis Quaid.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

Email us at screenings@sandwichjohnfilms.com
Subject- A DOG'S PURPOSE San Antonio
Name and email address

Facebook-https://www.facebook.com/ADogsPurposeMovie
Twitter-https://twitter.com/a_dogs_purpose
Instagram-https://www.instagram.com/adogspurposemovie/
#ADogsPurpose
http://www.adogspurposemovie.com/

In Theaters January 27

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability

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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To An Advance Screening For A DOG'S PURPOSE In Houston

Enter for a chance to see A DOG'S PURPOSE on January 24 at 7:00 PM in Houston.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron,  A DOG'S PURPOSE from director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey), shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love. The family film told from the dog’s perspective also stars Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall and Dennis Quaid.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

Email us at screenings@sandwichjohnfilms.com
Subject- A DOG'S PURPOSE Houston
Name and email address

Facebook-https://www.facebook.com/ADogsPurposeMovie
Twitter-https://twitter.com/a_dogs_purpose
Instagram-https://www.instagram.com/adogspurposemovie/
#ADogsPurpose
http://www.adogspurposemovie.com/

In Theaters January 27

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability

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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To An Advance Screening For THE FOUNDER In Houston

Enter for a chance to see THE FOUNDER on January 17 at 7:30 PM in Houston.

Directed by John Lee Hancock (SAVING MR. BANKS), THE FOUNDER features the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. Writer Robert Siegel (THE WRESTLER) details how Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire. The film also stars Laura Dern as Ray Kroc’s first wife Ethel; John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald and Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

CLICK HERE TO ENTER-

Official site: www.TheFounderFilm.com
Facebook: facebook.com/TheFounderFilm
Twitter: twitter.com/TheFounderFilm
Instagram: instagram.com/TheFounderFilm

In Theaters on January 20th

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability

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Giveaway: Enter For A Chance To Win A Family Four Pack To See @MonsterJam Triple Threat Series on Jan. 20th at 7:00pm in Sacramento

Enter For A Chance To Win A Family Four Pack To See Monster Jam® Triple Threat Series™ presented by AMSOIL on Jan. 20th at 7:00 pm in Sacramento.

Monster Jam® Triple Threat Series™ presented by AMSOIL Roars Into Sacramento For Three Action-Packed Events January 20-22.

Ultimate Showdown of Eight Extreme Monster Jam Teams Going Head-to-Head in Seven Endurance Competitions Driving Three Different Vehicles.

The infamous 2,000 horsepower engines are revving up again and ready to roar full throttle back into the Central Valley as the Monster Jam® Triple Threat Series™ presented by AMSOIL, the most adrenaline charged motorsports experience for families on the planet, makes the first-ever motorsports event appearance in Sacramento’s new downtown venue, Golden 1 Center, for three action-packed events from Friday, January 20th - Sunday, January 22nd.



See how to enter after the Jump...

The Monster Jam Triple Threat Series presented by AMSOIL can only be seen in select cities across the country and features the most extreme athletes of Monster Jam competing against one another in a points-based format that showcases the best lineup of Monster Jam vehicles to deliver what fans want to see most - more trucks, more racing, more freestyle, more donuts, more wheelies, more action!

Unlike any other Monster Jam event, the Monster Jam Triple Threat Series is the definitive test of endurance, versatility and driving skills that showcases these premiere athletes as they go head-to-head in seven unique endurance competitions driving three different vehicles: Monster Jam trucks, Monster Jam Speedsters and Monster Jam ATVs; ultimately battling for points in both racing and freestyle events that push themselves and their machines to the limit.

Monster Jam Triple Threat Series team athletes vying to be Sacramento champions are:
Grave Digger® driven by Cole Venard
Max-D® driven by Jared Eichelberger
El Toro Loco® driven by Mark List
Monster Mutt® Dalmation* driven by Cynthia Gauthier
Zombie™ driven by Tyler Groth
New Earth AuthoritySM (N.E.A.) driven by Travis Groth
Scooby-Doo™ driven by rookie Myranda Cozad
Mohawk Warrior* driven by rookie Bryce Kenny
*Two new Monster Jam teams coming to 2017 Sacramento event (not featured in 2016 event)

Email us at giveaways@sandwichjohnfilms.com
Subject- Monster Jam
Name & email address

Plus, fans are always encouraged to come to the arena early on both Saturday and Sunday for the Monster Jam® Pit Party pre-show experience which provides unprecedented access to the Monster Jam trucks and drivers – you can see the trucks up close, meet the athletes, get their autographs and take photos!

*Pit Pass required for entry; purchase price $10 for all ages.

WHEN: Friday, January 20, 2017
 Event Time – 7:00 PM

Saturday, January 21, 2017
Pit Party open from 4:30 PM–6:00 PM
**Saturday event ticket & Pit Pass required for entry
Event Time – 7:00 PM

Sunday, January 22, 2017
Pit Party open from 10:30 AM–12:00 PM
**Sunday event ticket & Pit Pass required for entry
Event Time – 1:00 PM

WHERE: Golden 1 Center – 500 David J. Stern Walk, Sacramento, CA 95814

TICKETS: Tickets are affordably priced for the whole family with seats starting at just $20 each*
Pit Passes available to purchase for $10 each

Tickets are now available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the Golden 1 Center Box Office.
*ticket prices subject to change – additional venue/ticketing fees may apply

For the die-hard Monster Jam fans, we are now offering the official Monster Jam Collector's ticket featuring stunning 3D graphics! This special souvenir keepsake is your ticket into the show and is the ultimate collectible for Monster Jam fans – available for exclusive purchase online only through Ticketmaster.com.

2017 Season Kickoff presentation video:
https://www.facebook.com/MonsterJam/videos/10154400000030833/

For more information on Monster Jam, please log onto www.MonsterJam.com
Sacramento event information can be found at:
http://www.monsterjam.com/en-US/events/sacramento-ca-0

Or follow us via our social channels below:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MonsterJam
Twitter: www.twitter.com/MonsterJam
Instagram: www.instagram.com/MonsterJamLive
YouTube: www.youtube.com/MonsterJamLive

About Feld Entertainment
Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment's productions have appeared in more than 75 countries and on six continents to date and include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On Ice, Disney Live! and Marvel Universe LIVE! More information about Feld Entertainment is available online at www.feldentertainment.com.



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Movie Review: #LiveByNight

A Prohibition-era gangster battles other organized crime bosses while trying to protect his burgeoning business and family.

Review by Matt Cummings

If the dozens of trailers for Live By Night convinced you of its supposed merits, you weren't alone. I arrived my screening ready to pin a medal on it and anoint it as the new Godfather, a tall order in hindsight. But it's just another passable but utterly forgettable tale, infused with too many characters who don't have time to shine beyond their fractured existences, and led by an anti-hero who really isn't one.

As Prohibition Chicago shudders under the weight of a monumental gangster blood bath, the tough-minded but opportunistic Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) has other plans: he wants the hardheaded Emma (Sienna Miller) who's currently dating the much older mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister) and the chance to merely rob banks and make his money without interference from the real gangs. But when he's ratted out and learns that Emma has been killed, Coughlin swears vengeance against White by promising his execution to the Italian boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone). Forming an unholy alliance with Pescatore brings Joe into contact with the Cuban rum runners who can bankrupt White, making Joe extremely powerful and Maso very wealthy. Soon, Joe becomes enamored with the Cuban Craciela (Zoe Saldana) whose brother is smuggling the rum into Florida. As the two become close, Joe must decide is White is still worth the effort to execute, but also becomes aware that Maso wants to remove him from the picture after a casino deal dies. The result will see a renewal of Chicago-style violence in Florida, as Joe and his allies wage a war not just to maintain their financial holding but to survive another day.

Live By Night is Affleck's fourth as director, and it's clearly last behind other more recent and far better films. It's clunky, long-winded, and features way too many characters to keep track, none of whom have enough screen time to breathe. In movies like The Town and Argo, Affleck sharply narrowed the amount of storylines to keep those movies moving. Here, we get long scenes of classic autos being driven down long roads as a sort of vehicular transition to the next scene that might look and sound amazing but lack any emotional gravitas. That's the nagging core behind Live By Night: where The Godfather made similar moves, it works far better because the characters are given a chance to breathe. There's few scenes here without Affleck, and when those happen - such as the terrific Chris Cooper as a local sheriff and Elle Fanning as his daughter - are mesmerizing. They need their own movie, which would have been far more compelling than what Affleck crams into 128 minutes. In fact, nearly everyone here needs more screen time - including the nearly unrecognizable Miller - who gets a grand total of 10 minutes, bookended in an almost "forgot you" epilogue.

Plot devices are thrown around like mobster cash in Live By Night, from incriminating pictures that arrive all too conveniently to random acts of violence made to cleanse the screen of unneeded dead weight. There are pseudo cameos as well, such as the excellent Brendan Gleeson as Joe's detective father, which again needed a whole movie to tell its complicated father-son story. But Live By Night couldn't care less about these and several others lines, because this supposed to be Affleck's movie and yet he couldn't be more outplayed in nearly every scene. Saldana is sultry and sophisticated in every way that Joe is violent, and Fanning's still grooving from her fantastic performance in The Neon Demon. Cooper produces the perfect aura of a cop who doesn't think he's corruptible but whose arc is a hidden gem until it too becomes something else for Joe to smash.

And yet I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy a lot of Live By Night. Affleck's script from author Dennis Lehane contains some excellent one-liners, and Affleck's chemistry with Chris Messina as Joe's right-hand man are unexpectedly fun. The set design and use of classic autos give the film an epic DP Robert Richardson bathes every scene in 1920's elegance. But again there's so much going on here - including a small war with the KKK and Saldana's ill-conceived and executed human rights movement to house abandoned Cuban women - that any character center Affleck has almost becomes a distraction. He still features the huge physique of Batman and looks really uncomfortable in the various dapper attire that Costume Designer Jaqueline West has gifted him. More importantly, Joe seems himself as an outlaw that can play both sides but who's only ultimately accountable to himself. That comes off in weird ways, such as the KKK subplot, which he attacks with less than a persuasive resolution. Much like the rest of the film, it's interesting but comes off as a random.

The ending of Live By Night also suffers from this randomness, under cutting what we all know is coming: a final bloody battle where Joe seems to be in the right place at the right time, trapped in a building he doesn't necessarily know and one the audience has never seen. Had Coughlin's trilogy actually gotten a sequel, we might have been treated to something more epic, but instead it's crushed into a single solid but unremarkable film. But a film like this doesn't happen unless a studio thinks it's got an Oscar winner in the mix, and from that perspective, Live By Night could decidely be considered a failure. That's too bad but it's entirely understandable, especially when you consider that an entire arc featuring Bosch's Titus Welliver was cut from the final print.

Live By Night is solid gangster entertainment, but it's wholly unsuited for a deep Oscar run. It lack an emotional heft, crams too many characters into too few scenes, and ignores its supporting actors in favor of a larger and less interesting plot. It proves that sometimes one man running a show - and starring in it - needs more a few more cooks in its kitchen to turn it into something special. Instead, we get a slightly above average meal and not the lavish setting we were promised from its many trailers. Wait for this one on home video, and catch some real Oscar candidates duke it out at your local theater.

Live By Night is rated R for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity and has a runtime of 128 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Movie Review: #MonsterTrucks

Super fun!


Rama is back.

“Monster Trucks” is one of those movies where you may not start out having much expectation about it but boy it proves you wrong. It’s just a good old fashioned super fun action adventure that the entire family can enjoy. The concept may be a bit quirky, I admit, but if the kids laugh and they smile and their parents giggle, I think it’s fair to say that “Monster Trucks” does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

Directed by the guy who gave us “Ice Age,” “Robots,” and “Epic,” “Monster Trucks” is about a high school senior named Tripp (Lucas Till) who builds his own truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. A nearby oil-drilling site’s accident causes subterranean creatures to surface, two get caught by the greedy corporation while one escapes to the junkyard where Tripp works. Tripp encounters the new friend, names him Creech and turns out, Creech has the need for speed.

I think “Monster Trucks” is the most exciting and hilarious feel-good family movie since Disney’s “Alexander And The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” a few years ago. In fact I think those two are quite alike in a lot of ways. Sure “Alexander” didn’t have the melding cutting edge VFX and state of the art CGI that “Monster Trucks” has but in terms of the humor and tone, both movies aim to entertain and bring up good topics for the younger viewers.

Granted, it always cracks me up whenever I see people in their late 20s playing high-schoolers, such is the case with Lucas Till and Jane Levy with their respective characters, but that's not anything new in this business, and the actual star here is really the creature Creech who drinks oil and loves to ride fast. The car chases are also surprisingly inventive for a family movie, they’re no “French Connection” or “Ronin” obviously but they certainly capitalize on Creech’s abilities to make Tripp’s truck do the impossible. The movie even frequently plays with heights which gives you that roller coaster thrill. All in all, “Monster Trucks” is an excellent way to start this new year for your family at the movies.

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Movie Review: The Bye Bye Man

Wave bye-bye to 90 minutes of your precious time.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Though a booming surplus in the 1980s, horror movie icons have becoming a scarce commodity in recent years. The glut of villains such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Chucky, Leatherface, Pinhead and the Tall Man never really found a second generation in the decades since. Ghostface from Scream—more a title than a character, anyway—was the closest thing to come out of the ‘90s. The Aughts had a bit more luck, at least in the form of The Ring’s Samara and Saw’s Jigsaw, but even then, it wasn’t quite the same as the old days. Now, in the present day, horror shingle Blumhouse is breaking their backs trying to generate the next big icon, but the likes of Doris Zander and Bughuul aren’t quite sticking the way they intend them to.

I bring this up because The Bye Bye Man feels like a very self-conscious attempt at filling that void. Its titular monster, a clawed, hooded specter (he sort of resembles a taller version of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi), is clearly intended to emerge onto the scene as instantly iconic. He even has a hook (not literally, like on his hand) in the form of a (very poorly rendered) demonic hound that he keeps as his trusty companion. But as a character, the Bye Bye Man is all surface. He isn’t that spooky in his presentation and he doesn’t have a neat gimmick (that dog is more of a head-scratcher than anything truly intriguing). A proper horror icon doesn’t require both of those traits, but he or she needs to have at least one. You’re not getting on base with neither.

The film opens with a decent jolt in the form of a flashback, as a man pulls up to a house and asks the woman inside if she has mentioned a mysterious name to anyone. Upon hearing that she has told her family the name, he returns to his vehicle, produces a shotgun and proceeds to murder the home’s occupants. That the scene unfolds in quiet, sun-dappled suburbia gives it an unnerving power that the rest of the film will never again summon. From there, we move to the present, where Eliot (Douglas Smith), a fresh-faced young go-getter on a college scholarship, is making plans to move into a somewhat run-down house off-campus with his perfect girlfriend Sasha (the flat-voiced Cressida Bonas) and jock-bro best bud John (Lucien Laviscount). That the trio appear to be the hap-hap-happiest group of pals in existence only portends their doom that much more clearly. After a few bits of scattered spookiness manifest, Eliot finds that the interior of the master bedroom’s nightstand drawer contains furious scribblings of the phrase “Don’t think it, don’t say it,” with the words “The Bye Bye Man” etched beneath the drawer liner.


During an impromptu séance with budding psychic Kim (Jenna Kanell), a coed whose acquaintance the group made at their housewarming party, Eliot blurts out that name that he wasn’t supposed to think or say and events immediately take a perilous turn. Eliot hears dreadful scratching on the exterior of the house at night. Sasha appears to fall ill. John experiences disturbing visions. The entire group beings to see events that are transpiring only in their own minds. This figure, the Bye Bye Man, is attempting to destroy them by driving them insane. Eventually Eliot discovers that the only way to stop this plague is to eliminate everyone who knows the fiend’s moniker, and to prevent anyone else from learning it.

The Bye Bye Man owes many debts, the largest being to A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Ring. As with the former, this concerns a monster who torments the minds of a group of teens, contorting reality to destroy them. With the latter, it borrows the conceit of a curse spread via exposing others to the means of contracting it. The problem is that the film doesn’t have anything clever to add to these ideas. Freddy’s dream haunting was an inventive concept, bending perception by blurring the lines separating the dream world from the real one. This film’s Freddy surrogate doesn’t bring anything that nifty to the table. He just makes people hallucinate horrible things. Similarly, The Ring’s cursed videotape was a fantastic merger of the technological with the metaphysical. Here, it’s just a name being uttered that dooms you. It’s all very prosaic and dull.

Also prosaic and dull is this film’s cast. The characters have no depth even by the historically low standards of the genre. Eliot is a nice boy, Sasha is a nice girl, John is a nice meathead and Eliot’s brother Virgil (Michael Trucco) is protective of his little brother. That’s all there is to know about any of them. As with the villain, these characters are three-sheets-deep pencil shadings of characters from similar, much better movies that came before. Most tragically, as the film goes on, it brings in actual good actors like Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway and then wastes them in bit parts far beneath them.


The film also doesn’t seem to have pieced together the components of its own would-be mythology. Train imagery is a predominate theme in the film, straight away from the opening credits, yet though one character is eventually killed by a train, there is nothing to explain the significance of the motif given how often it recurs throughout. Similarly, mysterious gold coins are also a part of the Bye Bye Man’s signature, without explication. I certainly don’t call for every enigma to be pinned down during a horror film, but given the prominence the film gives these two elements and how intrinsically un-scary trains and gold coins are, to leave them unexamined doesn’t score the film any points.

In the past year, we saw several seemingly unappetizing horror entries emerge as surprisingly decent, if still not instant classics. Lights Out, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Don’t Breathe, The Boy and The Shallows were all fairly solid efforts, despite looking wholly unremarkable at a passing glance. Even last year’s entry in the historically undistinguished early-January horror slot, The Forest, while certainly not very good, wasn’t altogether awful. The Bye Bye Man does not merit entry into even this realm of faint praise. It’s horror at its most slapdash and lazy. If you’re seeking something to watch, don’t think it and don’t see it.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.



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