Valdosta Daily Times

October 25, 2013

'Fifth Estate' is third-rate entertainment

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times


“Fifth Estate” (Drama: 2 hours, 8 minutes)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl and David Thewlis
Director: Bill Condon
Rated: R (Profanity, violence and sensuality)
Movie Review: “Fifth Estate” is an adaptation of Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s book, “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website,” and David Leigh and Luke Harding’s book, “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.” It follows real-life events in the life of Julian Assange, who plans to expose corruption and misuses of power via the Internet. Assange, played by Cumberbatch, with major assistance from Daniel Berg (Brühl), exposes secrets of governments, banks, corporations and other entities around the world. This revelation of information comes with a price. Many organizations, especially governments, want Assange neutralized.    
The actual Assange, the WikiLeaks’ founder, is one of the most controversial figures of the decade. Some see him as a heroic activist, while others see him as annoying agitator. While this screenplay by Josh Singer (television’s “The West Wing”) is intriguing, it misses an important key variable. It does have characters worth getting to know.
Cumberbatch and Brühl (“Rush,” 2013) are talented actors. Cumberbatch is especially talented here. The problem is that this screenplay does not make them characters you care about in any manner. For most of the film, that unique spark to care about any character is missing.
Even more, “Fifth Estate” just appears uninteresting at moments. It could have used some action. A chase scene or some other close moment would have increased the intrigue.  
Director Condon has helmed some good films. “Dreamgirls” (2006), “Kinsey” (2004), “Gods and Monsters” (1998) are the noteworthy. Those movies are great dramas, but they provide more than just drama. They each offer some new perspective of the world.
“Fifth Estate” does not compare when considering the actual Assange and Berg are alive and available for interviews. A documentary on these men would have been better perhaps with reenactments intermixed.
As a drama, this production entertains, although the aforementioned dampens the enjoyment. It only appeals because it presents a mysterious figure. In this aspect, audiences may look for clues to understanding Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. This is the film’s resounding moment of charm. Disappointingly, it fails to create persuasive characters to maintain that charm.   
Grade: C+ (A tolerable domain.)
“I’m in Love with a Church Girl” (Drama: 1 hour, 58 minutes)
Starring: Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins, Adrienne Bailon and Stephen Baldwin
Director: Steve Race
Rated: PG (Thematic elements, violence, some suggestive content and brief language)
Movie Review: Miles Montego (Atkins) is a wealthy man. He has a past. He was a major drug trafficker who turned legit. The good part is he has left that life behind. One day, he meets Vanessa Leon (Adrienne Bailon), a devout Christian. They fall in love, but an unreligious Montego’s past may interfere with their relationship.
The first rule of casting a movie is having a cast that can actually act. While Atkins and Bailon are passable with respect to the ability to be everyday people, they are far from compelling as lead actors.
“Church Girl” spends a great deal of time being overly preachy. This is primarily through Bailon’s character. She continuously spouts biblical passages during romantic scenes. She is only missing a choir. Atkins attentively listens. Both have little chemistry.
Watching their performances, one can easily become agitated. Director Race should have yelled cut on the first scene and dismissed the cast. He should have also asked for a rewrite. The story and cast are not sound story telling.                
Grade: D (Not in love with this movie.)
“Carrie” (Horror/Science-Fiction: 1 hour, 39 minutes)
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, and Portia Doubleday
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Rated: R (Gory violence, disturbing images, profanity and some sexual content.)
Movie Review: “Carrie” is the third rendering of the tale based on Stephen King’s novel. The first film debuted in 1976. Brian De Palma directed it, and it starred Sissy Spacek as the main character with seasoned actress Piper Laurie. The 1976 version remains the better of the three movies. This latest version entertains but is unconvincing as a horror piece, playing more like science fiction.   
This outing, Moretz is Carrie White, a young high school student. She is a loner. She lives with her over-protective and extremely religious mother, Margaret White (Moore). Carrie realizes she has telekinesis. She can move and manipulate objects with mere thought. All is well until several people, led by disgruntled student Chris Hargensen (Doubleday), play a bloody trick on Carrie at the senior prom. Fueled by anger, Carrie begins using her telekinesis to the fullest ability. She starts killing those teens responsible for tormenting her now and in the past.
Like the previous “Carrie” features, this film clearly misses the mark by not developing characters more before getting to the big finale. The story is clever, yet the film rushes to get to the end because that is what is most interesting about the character of Carrie. The ability to control objects via the mind is a fascinating concept.
Moritz and Moore and are good actresses, but this film does not allow them or their characters time to grow. Very easily, one can watch their lives and feel no attachment. The film concentrates on teenage pranks, feminine catfights and then bloody violence. In between, little happens that is substantial material. 
Grade: C (Audiences will not be carried away.)
“Escape Plan” (Action/Thriller: 1 hour, 55 minutes)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Caviezel
Director: Mikael Håfström
Rated: R (Violence and language)
Movie Review: Stallone and Schwarzenegger are seasoned action stars who are enjoyable to see on the big screen. They remind us of the entertaining films of yesteryear, an era when Hollywood attempted to provide audiences something original other than multiple sequels. “Escape Plan” is a nice escape, but it is not a convincing plot.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) breaks out of prisons for a living. He is an authority on structural security. His skills are put to the test after he is hired to escape a governmental prison that is supposedly an escape-proof facility. Breslin quickly realizes someone does not want him to leave this new prison. Incarcerated with no chance of escape, Breslin devises a plan to flee a prison he helped design. He needs to find the person who incarcerated him, but he will need help. Enter Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), a fellow inmate. The two men must outsmart the prison’s warden, Hobbs (Caviezel), to survive.
Action plots rarely have solid plots, but they try. Few succeed. Add this one to that list.
“Escape Plan” is entertaining, but its plot becomes messy. However, it does provide enough entertainment that many will not care that the plot is unbelievable. In addition, characters’ motives are lacking throughout this screenplay. It entertains, although the motives to see it are not pressing. 
Grade: C (A partial escape.)