Movie Reviews – Pan, He Named Me Malala and 99 Homes

Today Joe Wright's retelling of Peter Pan opens nationwide, but I hope you'll also check out documentary He Named Me Malala and/or 99 Homes instead.  Click through for my reviews of all three films.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) shows us how Malala, her father Zia and her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide. The film gives us an inside glimpse into this extraordinary young girl’s life – from her close relationship with her father who inspired her love for education, to her impassioned speeches at the UN, to her everyday life with her parents and brothers.

"One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world."
– Malala

He Named Me Malala is a documentary that not only shows the amazing courage of the young symbol of hope, but also allows us to meet her family.  You're invited into her immediate family and get a glimpse of the world directly from her perspective. 

Mixed in with this inviting environment that Malala now lives in is the conflict of leaving her beloved homeland and of the pull from the world to speak out about her incredible story of survival that is so captivating.  Davis Guggenheim's ability to let us into the intimate side of this family and yet also showcase the broad hitting elements of the story are what make him such a wonderful filmmaker.  We see how her voice will allow for more voices to be heard in the future.  The animation in the film is both fluid and beautiful, but also allows for Guggenheim to give us a quick history lesson into Malala's name.  It's Thomas Newman's music though that really seems to fit everything together.  At times it's subtle and soft while other moments are full of emotional power.  Overall this documentary isn't a tripped up masterpiece, but rather an honest and open look into this extraordinary girl.  Her story has enough epic quality that all Davis has to do is simply allow us to witness her journey.  Stand #WithMalala.

PAN – Joe Wright's CGI cluster of a film.

Honestly that trailer encompasses all the over-the-top fun of the PAN experience, but the actual film is a much more jumbled up uninspiring film.  Joe Wright is a quality filmmaker who's task of re-telling Barrie's beloved tale comes up short as it basically is a sappy prequel with no real heart.  The film opens with Peter's orphanage days during WWII in the time when Germany was bombing London almost daily.  This reality to the film could have been an emotional tie in for adults and kids, but is treated like a cheeky fun joyride rather than the horrifying reality it must have been.  There are subtle moments that harp back to Barrie's book, but they lack the real presence of mind to impact the audience.  Instead kids are waiting for the "magic" and parents are wondering why Garrett Hedlund has a cowboy hat.  The Neverland parts are the really disturbing elements.  Rather than a magical world of never aging fun we get a slave driven mine colony where Hugh Jackman's Blackbeard runs with an iron fist. 


If there is a redeeming quality to the film, it's the funny and over-the-top performance by Hugh Jackman.  He is totally immersed into the character and you love every moment he's in, even when he's singing a crappy pop-song we all know (AND HATE!).  But It's the lifeless performances by Hedlund and the weirdly cast Rooney Mara.  Mara's Tiger Lily could have been a proud warrior princess but instead is just eye candy and a doting love interest for the future Mr. Captain Hook (Hedlund).  Hedlund, a quality actor, seems to phone in his "not interested" yet Han Solo savior role.  Overall the film doesn't allow for it's newcomer star, Levi Miller, to actual outshine Hedlund or Mara.  He's almost a forgotten hero, even his heavy CGI flying sequences are boring and don't add to any of the supposed fighting between the Indians and Pirates.  Now if there is a fun character to enjoy it's Adeel Akhtar's witty and brainy "Smee".  He has the best one-liners and his story should have been focused on more then the sad Indians' downfall.  Overall the film does a decent job of using special effects to make the kiddos seem impressed, but I noticed some kids bored in the full story.  HOW CAN KIDS BE BORED IN A PETER PAN MOVIE!!!!  I will say I look forward to seeing how Joe Wright turns Hedlund into evil Captain Hook, but if it's treated with the same sappy and sad slapstick manner of Pan then it'll most likely suck too.  There are much better films to drag your kids to than this over hyped blockbuster that will surely do really well in theaters.  The Martian is PG-13, rather take your kids to that film and enjoy seeing them really believe in what real space travel could be like rather than this sad re-invention of neverland. 

In this timely thriller, charismatic and ruthless businessman, Rick Carver (Academy nominee Michael Shannon), is making a killing by repossessing homes – gaming the real estate market, Wall Street banks and the US government. When he evicts Dennis Nash (Golden Globe nominee Andrew Garfield), a single father trying to care for his mother (Academy Award nominee Laura Dern) and young son (newcomer Noah Lomax), Nash becomes so desperate to provide for his family that he goes to work for Carver – the very man who evicted him in the first place. Carver promises Nash a way to regain his home and earn security for his family, but slyly seduces him into a lifestyle of wealth and glamour. It is a deal-with-the-devil that comes with an increasingly high cost – on Carver's orders, Nash must evict families from their homes. As Nash falls deeper into Carver's web, he finds his situation grows more brutal and dangerous than he ever imagined.

Director Ramin Bahrani has given us one of the year's most brutally devastating honest films.  99 Homes is shocking, scary and a real sensation.  The hypocrisy of a system that helped fail our economy is given new reality with each family's hard luck story.  Andrew Garfield's Dennis Nash is just one cog in a huge machine of destruction.  His flipping sides is fascinating and hard to argue against, but it allows for an intriguing emotional ending.  But the film's real power revolves around the amazing performance of Michael Shannon.  Rick Carver is utterly deplorable and yet Michael's performance is steeped in the reality of the system.  Here is one of my favorite moments of this evil guy!

The film always seems to ask is this all worth it.  As we see Dennis dive deeper into this rabbit's hole of money and greed we gain the ability to see he is still struggling.  His family's reaction is both honest and real.  But overall the film comes down to Shannon's Carver and Garfield's Nash finding ways to justify what they do.  As Carver has not only stopped caring he's completely found ways to cheat even more, the film makes us ask will Nash become that greedy or finally wake up from this nightmare reality?

Easily one of the most powerful films of the year and a real Oscar contender, especially for the mesmerizing Michael Shannon.  If you liked seeing JK Simmons try to destroy a young musician in last year's Whiplash than you'll LOVE Shannon's Rick Carver.  Truly a man bent on ruling the world one lost soul or home at a time. 

For more information on 99 Homes please go, here.

For more info on the wonderful doc He Named Me Malala visit, here.

And even though you can easily find it in any AMC or Cinemark for more info about Pan go, here.

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