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Reviews for January 15th, 2016

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Directed by Michael Bay

      Jack Silva (John Krasinski) and Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), former Navy SEALs, work as the CIA's Global Response Staff in Benghazi, Libya during the 11th anniversay of 9/11. Joining their team are Kris 'Tanto' Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave 'Boon' Benton (David Denman), John 'Tig' Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark 'Oz' Geist (Max Martini). They serve as the security team Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) although the Bob (David Costabile), the chief of the CIA, claims that there isn't any impending terroristic threat. When terrorists attack the Ambassador's diplomatic compounds, the security team ignore the CIA's orders and risk their lives to go on a rescue mission.

      Based on the book by Mitchell Zuckoff, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an intense war movie that makes you feel like you're right there with the soldiers. The screenplay by Chuck Hogan focuses more on plot rather than character development, but Hogan does provide you with just enough quieter scenes with the soldiers to get to know their personalities a bit. Jack in particular has a few touching moments involving flashbacks to his wife/daughter back in America and during a video phone call with them as he's in the midst of war in Benghazi. Fortunately, John Krasinski is just the right actor to tackle the emotional complexities of the role of Jack, and he's quite convincingly moving---this just might be the best performance he's ever given.

      If you're an avid Michael Bay fan, worry not because the action sequences are truly exhilarating on a visceral level, and the camera moves around so much that it become a character in itself. Yes, the lengthy action scenes could have been cut down a bit through editing and they do feel exhausting, but the same thing can be said about war. This is the kind of war film that will be a hard to shake off because it's so intense much like The Hurt Locker, American Sniper, Lone Survivor and Black Hawk Down. It doesn't pack the powerful punch of Saving Private Ryan (which should have won the Oscar back in 1998), but 13 Hours manages to be more emotionally-charged than your typical Michael Bay film thereby making it the most mature blockbuster of his career and a step in the right direction.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Paramount Pictures.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Adam Schindler

      Anna (Beth Riesgraf), an agoraphobic young woman, lives with her brother, Conrad (Timothy McKinney), in their family home. When he dies of cancer, she's left all alone and doesn't even attend his funeral. The closest thing that she has to a friend is a delivery guy, Danny (Rory Culkin). A criminal gang, JP (Jack Kesy), Vance (Joshua Mikel), Perry (Martin Starr) break into the house in hopes of robbing it for hidden cash. Little do they know that the house isn't empty, and that Anna's family harbors a dark secret that makes it difficult for their burglary to go as planned.

      Intruders begins as a psychological thriller/drama before morphing into a violent horror/revenge thriller with twists and turns along the way. The suspense gradually builds during the first 30 minutes or so, the production values are quite good given the low budget, and the performance by Anna is pretty solid. This is the kind of film that doesn't reveal crucial backstory details until the third act, but by then the screenplay by T.J. Cimfel and David White becomes so preposterous that it makes it hard to care about or believe what's going on onscreen because too much suspension of disbelief is required---a little is ok, but there's a limit. They're not quite as silly/implausible as the kind of twists found in M. Night Shymalan's films (post-The Sixth Sense), but they do sink the film below mediocrity while the suspense wanes. It's as though the filmmakers had an interesting concept and didn't manage to transform that concept into a well-executed and clever story with a satisfying ending. The ending itself, which won't be spoiled here, feels particularly lazy, uninspired and, like the 2nd half of the film, it fails to pack an emotional punch. You're Next is a much more satisfying horror/thriller about intruders that also piles on twists, but in a way that's fun, clever and inventive.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Momentum Pictures.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Norm of the North

Directed by Trevor Wall


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Lionsgate Films.
Opens nationwide.

Ride Along 2

Directed by Tim Story


Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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