Well, it looks like it’s either feast or famine as far as movie releases go.

After an entire month of nonstop new films, with at least four to five new wide releases every weekend in the month of August, this past week didn’t bring any.

Sure, there were a few smaller movies that made their way into a few theaters, but only one of those, “Don’t Let Go,” happened to show up at the theater I usually frequent, the Warren Theatre in Moore. And absolutely no new movies appeared at the new Midwest City Warren Theatre.

So this weekend I ventured out to find a couple smaller releases that kind of flew under the radar. Both of which were suggested by friends of mine.

We have an American remake of a 2006 Danish film starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, a drama following a brilliant high school student dealing with the high expectations placed upon him, and a mystery featuring a detective who has the chance to prevent a murder after it already happened.

Let’s get to the reviews.

***

After the Wedding

First up is “After the Wedding.”

Isabel (Michelle Williams) has dedicated her life to working with the children in an orphanage in Calcutta. Theresa (Julianne Moore) is the multimillionaire head of a media company who lives with her artist husband (Billy Crudup) and their twin boys in New York.

When word comes to Isabel of a mysterious and generous grant for the financially struggling orphanage, she must travel to New York to meet the benefactor, Theresa, in person.

Based on a 2006 Danish film of the same name, this movie definitely flew under the radar for me when it was first released at the beginning of August.

In fact, I probably would have never even heard about the film if it weren’t for a friend of mine asking about it, as they were a fan of the original and were curious if I had plans to see the American remake.

Well now that I’ve seen the movie, I have to admit, I am a little more curious about the original Danish film.

Because while the concept of the movie is compelling, and the main thrust of the narrative does show a lot of potential, the overly sentimental moments in film just didn’t resonate with me at all.

Though for starters I do want to give credit where credit is due.

Both Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore are incredibly talented actresses, and both of them did quite well considering the material they were given. Never once did I believe their performances were a detriment to the film.

And in defense of the narrative, I was quite interested in where the story was headed during the first third or so of the film.

It was a bit of a mystery. The characters would give little hints here and there, but the movie never explicitly spelled anything out. That is until one particular moment where everything snapped into place, and all the bits of information brought up before suddenly made much more sense.

So in that respect, I found the first 30 minutes of the film pretty rewarding. Sadly, the aftermath of that satisfying reveal ended up being far less compelling.

The whole thing just ended up turning into a glorified soap opera.

Sure, the way it played out was probably a little smarter than your average daytime drama, and the performances were certainly better. But like a soap, it was still incredibly emotionally contrived and ridiculously melodramatic.

Despite all the many emotional happenings, I simply never felt a connection with these characters.

Overall, I definitely didn’t hate the movie. Like I said, I enjoyed the first third of it quite well.

I just didn’t find the film as a whole all that engaging, which unfortunately made it a decidedly drawn out movie going experience.

Perhaps if you have a higher tolerance of melodrama than I do, you might get a bit more out of this movie. But to me this seems like yet another remake that would have been better off never seeing the light of day.

“After the Wedding” is rated PG-13.

***

Luce

Next up is “Luce.”

It’s been ten years since Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) adopted their son from a war-torn east African country, and they thought the worst was behind them. Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) has become an all-star student beloved by his school and community.

But when Luce is assigned to write an essay in the voice of a historical twentieth-century figure, he turns in a paper that makes an alarming statement about political violence, worrying his  history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). Concerned by the language used in the paper, Harriet searches Luce’s locker, finding something that confirms her worst fears.

The second of the two movies recommended to me by friends, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into going into this film, beyond that it had good reviews and that it featured Octavia Spencer.

What I discovered though was a film filled with excellent performances and a narrative that kept me guessing all the way until the very end.

I absolutely love characters like Luce. Incredibly brilliant ones, constantly thinking and subtilty manipulating everything, and everyone, around them.

But unlike most narratives revolving around clever schemers, this movie doesn’t solely focus on Luce or the careful planning going on inside his head.

In fact, most of the film plays out from the perspective of Luce’s mother and Luce’s teacher.

So in that respect, Luce almost feels like the movie’s antagonist. To them he’s a bit of an unknown. No one knows how to deal with this well liked, highly intelligent, and potentially dangerous young man.

The whole thing was absolutely fascinating to watch. There’s so much going on with these characters.

Of course you have Luce, with his troubled past, plus the incredibly high expectations placed on him by everyone around him due to his high intelligence, his traumatic childhood, and even his skin color.

Then there’s Luce’s teacher Harriet, who’s not only is dealing with a seemingly antagonistic pupil, but also a sister with a severe personality disorder.

And then you have Luce’s parents, both of whom are afraid to confront Luce’s behavior and in the process potentially ruin years of built up trust.

All of this revolving around a narrative with a strong message about race, expectations, and the American dream.

The whole thing is definitely a lot heavier than your typical high school drama, but the excellent writing and fantastic performances really pull it all together to make one incredibly compelling package.

Every single actor here was spectacular.

Octavia Spencer’s performance was so incredibly powerful, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. really showed his ability in the film as well.

Though I’ve definitely watched Harrison in other films, this is the first time I’ve seen him in a role with this kind of depth. He completely knocked it out of the park though. After this movie I can’t wait to look for him in more films in the future.

“Luce” completely took me off guard. I had no idea what would happen from one moment to the next, and multiple moments left me utterly shocked with my mouth wide open.

It’s a shame this film wasn’t released in more theaters, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s without a doubt one of the year’s best.

Seek it out if you can. Believe me, this movie is worth it.

“Luce” is rated R.

***

Don't Let Go

Last this week is “Don’t Let Go.”

After the brutal murder of his brother, sister-in-law, and beloved niece Ashley (Storm Reid), Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) gets a shocking phone call from his recently-murdered niece. A call from the recent past.

Working together across time, they race to solve her murder before it can happen.

I love the concept of this movie.

It’s a typical murder mystery flick, but with the added sci-fi spice of time travel, or well telephone time travel, letting our detective discover the killer, plus affect the past and changing the future.

Sounds like fun, right?

Well, sadly the execution of this cool idea was horribly fumbled.

For starters, the characters aren’t terribly charismatic, especially our detective friend.

Jack and his niece have absolutely no chemistry, and the movie completely fails to make the two of them seem even remotely close.

The first time we see them together felt so stiff and not the least bit natural. They barely act like they know each other, much less express any kind of feeling of familial love and trust.

Then there’s the story itself, which almost seemed to be missing pieces and felt like it was told out of order.

And it’s not like it’s out of order in a time travel kind of way. It’s like elements of the narrative would have worked much better story wise if they had happened in the first third of the film, instead of near the end.

Granted the movie does have it’s moments, and it picks up a little during the movie’s tense climax. But the journey to that conclusion just wasn’t remotely engaging.

By the time the action filled conclusion came around, I had already stopped caring about the movie. I simply couldn’t wait for it to end because I never started caring about the uninteresting characters residing in this poorly constructed story.

It a shame. I really was looking forward to this movie, but the execution of this fun concept just wasn’t up to snuff.

“Don’t Let Go” is rated R.

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