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Don’t Miss “Don’t Breathe” or “Don’t Think Twice” This Weekend

Hope Madden Hope Madden Don’t Miss “Don’t Breathe” or “Don’t Think Twice” This Weekend
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August continues to surprise with more fine cinematic options for CBUS moviegoers. Do check out one tense-as-F horror flick and a fine bit of improv. Are there dogs – of course there are! It’s August. For the love of God, avoid the new Jason Statham movie. I cannot articulate what a dumpster fire that thing is. But choose wisely and you can enjoy a surprisingly strong end-of-season movie experience.

Don’t Breathe

Filmmaker Fede Alvarez announced his presence on the horror film scene with authority. His 2013 Evil Dead reboot was not only critically and commercially successful, it was also the bloodiest movie ever made.

For his sophomore effort Don’t Breathe, the director dials down the blood and gore in favor of almost unbearable tension generated through masterful deployment of set design, sound design, cinematography and one sparse but effective premise.

Young thugs systematically robbing the few remaining upscale Detroit homeowners follow their alpha into a surefire hit: a blind man (Stephen Lang) sitting on $300k. Unfortunately for our trio – Rocky (Evil Dead’s Jane Levy), Money (Daniel Zovatto) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) – this blind man is not the easy mark they’d predicted.

This is a scrappy film that gives you very little in the way of character development, backstory or scope. Instead, Alvarez focuses so intently on what’s in front of you that you cannot escape – a tension particularly well suited to this claustrophobic nightmare.

But that’s not all – there are surprises enough to confound and amaze. You may think you have the old man’s secret figured out, but so do our hapless felons. Things get a little nuts as the tale rolls on, but thanks to the film’s breakneck pace and relentless tension, you’ll barely have time to breathe, let alone think.

Grade: B+

Don’t Think Twice

The three rules of improv are as follows:

1. Say yes
2. It’s all about the group
3. Don’t think

The six members of improv troupe The Commune live, bend, and break these rules on stage and in the green room in Don’t Think Twice. The ensemble dramedy pits the dreams of your 20s against the hard realities of your 30s and asks: When is it okay to be about me?

Writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia never lets the drama spiral too low, though, immediately scooping you up again with jokes and laughter. The Commune develops several inside jokes throughout the course of the film, meaning you’re not only in on it, you understand how this sort of family keeps laughing even when life stops being funny.

Don’t Think Twice is a film that takes an honest look at “making it” from all sides. It challenges the notions of success and fame, and suggests that it’s okay to love doing something even if you never want to be famous for it.

If you’re invited to go see Don’t Think Twice this weekend, reply “Yes, and…”

Grade: B+

Hands of Stone

Early in Hands of Stone, legendary boxing trainer Ray Arcel (Robert DeNiro) is schooling future legendary boxer Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) on technique versus strategy. The film tells us there are vital differences, then shows us these differences aren’t just in the ring.

Like a fighter too caught up in the moment to remember the plan, the film boasts solid fundamentals but employs a tired strategy while exploring more openings than it can safely land.

Duran was born in Panama, rising to stardom against a backdrop of poverty and political unrest. So of course his story is told from the old white guy’s point of view. Trainers are a natural element in boxing movies, true, but anchoring this one with Arcel is just bad strategy. I mean, Mickey was great at telling us that women weaken legs, but he never altered the long game: telling Rocky’s story.

Writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz’s respect for Duran is evident, and sincere enough to avoid shying away from the unflattering aspects of Duran’s past. Ramirez excels with a terrific performance, capturing the early hunger and eventual crash of a gifted champion who often seemed plagued by contradictions. Equal confidence that his story could be told on its own terms would have been welcome.

Grade C+

Also opening in Columbus this weekend:

  • EQUITY (R)

Reviews with help from George Wolf and Cat McAlpine.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

Looking for more film events in Columbus? CLICK HERE to visit our Events Calendar.

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