Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Live By Night
Starring: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper, and Brendan Gleeson
Synopsis: This is the latest film written and directed by Affleck, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. It's set in the 1920s, first in Boston and then in Tampa Bay. Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, the son of a police captain and a WWI veteran who turns to a life of crime. After being beaten and nearly killed by the Irish mob, Joe gets out of prison and throws in with the Italian Mob in order to get vengeance. He heads to Florida and helps build a rum empire during the height of Prohibition, finding love along the way. But nothing good lasts forever, especially in gangster films. Affleck is a talented director and a solid actor, and he puts together a good cast here. The source material is decent, as is the setting and the concept. But this just doesn't all come together. The film is plodding and lacks pop. The characters aren't great, and it feels like perhaps there's too much going on here. I've enjoyed Affleck's previous films, the under rated "Gone Baby, Gone," "The Town" and Academy Award winner "Argo." This feels like a noble attempt that comes up short.
Rating: R for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Michelle Monahan, Michael Beach, and J.K. Simmons
Synopsis: For those who didn’t grow up in Boston or live in Boston at some point, Patriots Day might not mean much. But for those who are a part of that city and its rich history, it means a lot. Patriots Day is a holiday in Boston. It’s a day when the Red Sox play early in the morning and the Boston Marathon draws people in droves out for a day in the sun. It’s a Monday in April, but it’s so much more to residents of that city. And on April 15, 2013, that day was marred by tragedy. That was the day two brothers decided to make a statement, detonating bombs at the finish line of the marathon and taking three people’s lives. Of course many more were injured, and others died in the subsequent days until the terrorists were captured. A day that was meant to be a celebration kicked off a week of fear for Boston. The new film, “Patriots Day,” captures that day and the days that followed. It’s a violent, sometimes difficult story to watch. But it’s also a beautiful tribute to those who persevered, and to the city that’s come to be known as Boston Strong. Director Peter Berg is no stranger to doing emotional films based on true stories. He famously adapted “Friday Night Lights” as a film, and also a TV show. And earlier in 2016, Berg teamed with Wahlberg to bring the story of the tragedy on the Deepwater Horizon to life. Here, Berg worked on the script with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, and re-teamed with Wahlberg as a star and producer to bring the events of that fateful week to life. The film got a short release before the end of 2016, but finally went wide last Friday. It’s an emotional and gripping story, and one that in some years might be an Awards Season competitor. Some of the victims and their families were opposed to the telling of the story, believing it to be too soon. Only those who lived through that week in Boston can really say for sure how it feels to see it re-created on screen, but this is a movie that in large part is meant to be a love letter to the people of Boston. While most of characters in the film are real life heroes who played a part in the events, Wahlberg’s Saunders is a composite of the officers who took part in the manhunt to restore a sense of peace and security to a city that badly needed it. This is an emotional film that doesn’t pull any punches. In addition to following the police officers, FBI agents, city and state leaders that led the investigation, the film follows victims of the attack and those who were victimized by the Tsarnaev brothers in the days that followed. It’s a harrowing and emotional journey that is brought to life beautifully by the talented cast and crew. One of the most emotional and touching parts of the film comes at the end — footage of the real life events and interviews with those who survived it. That coda serves as a loving tribute to the people that make up the city, and adds an emotional wallop to all that comes before it. “Patriots Day” isn’t a perfect film. And it’s certainly predictable, especially for those familiar with the event. But it’s a well told story that does a nice job of celebrating and honoring those involved in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative.
Rating: R for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Four stars out of four.
Friday, January 20 -- "The Founder," "Split," "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage"
Friday, January 27 -- "Gold," "A Dog's Purpose," "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter"