Guest Review: Patriots Day (2017)

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Directed By: Peter Berg
Written By: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 minutes

Watching Patriots Day is a stressful experience, but not for the reasons I expected. I expected it to be hard to watch because it is a retelling of a violent moment in recent American history, but instead I was just horrified to find that the story of the Boston bombing had been turned into a thinly disguised propaganda piece.

Patriots Day targets two very specific groups of Americans and manipulates them from the beginning of the film to its end. These two groups are Bostonians and conservative white folks. In an effort to cater to Bostonians, the film has an early callout to Dunkin Donuts and there is a scene that features a delightfully brash police officer who verbally spars with the National Guard. There is also a running joke between a young husband and wife about how to pronounce words with a Boston accent. The film’s pandering to conservative white Americans is even more obvious, with moments like the one where Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) implies that Fox News might be more transparent than the US government and overlong scene at Sean Collier’s house when he drinks a beer, rough-houses with his roommates, and then sings a country song in the middle of his living room.

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Of course, just because a movie has a target audience, that doesn’t make it propaganda. What does make it propaganda is 1) it is historically inaccurate, 2) it has a clear agenda, and 3) it manipulates its audience.

Normally I am the first person to claim artists the right to creative license, but a historical piece that systematically populates its universe with real people is different. In Patriots Day, every bombing victim with a speaking part represents a real person and that person is interviewed in a sentimental mini-documentary at the end of the film. The filmmakers want the audience of Patriots Day to be impacted by the realness of the story they tell, even though there is misinformation littered throughout. One of the most notable instances of this is in Katherine Russell Tsarnaev (Melissa Benoist). The movie not only implies that she was aware and supportive of the bombing, but goes so far as to claim that she continues to be under investigation by the FBI, which, based on my research, is untrue.

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Patriots Day has a clear agenda: it aims to inspire fear. And, gosh darn it, it does that. It preys on ignorance about other cultures. One of the most dramatic examples of this was two scenes, played back to back. In the first, DesLauriers and Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), both white men and heroes of our story, deliver loving monologues to their wives. Immediately afterwards the film cuts to the Tsarnaev household, where Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Katherine get into a giant argument because Tamerlan purchased the wrong kind of milk for their child and does not want to fix his mistake. Patriots Day preys on very basic stereotypes about minorities in America as well. Whenever Dhokar’s friends are on screen, they are surrounded by drug paraphernalia and reciting a script that is over-inundated with swear words.

Finally, Patriots Day constantly manipulates its audience. Although there were many moments during the narrative film itself, the primary moment of manipulation was at the end. A mini-documentary featuring every victim portrayed in the film decries the violence of the day and describes Boston’s recovery as one that embraced the American ability to come together in solidarity and love. The speeches were beautiful, but the movie set them up in a way that felt too manipulative to be impactful. I left the theater feeling gross instead of inspired.

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The obvious propaganda of Patriots Day is made all the worse because, from a technical stand point, this is a good movie. The special effects are great. The editing choices are marvelous. The writing – when it’s not moralizing or blatantly catering to its target demographic – is laugh out loud funny, emotionally charged, and keeps the story running at a good pace. Most of the performances were great, with my personal highlights being Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers, Jake Pickling as Officer Sean Collier, and Jimmy Yang as Dun Meng. However, a lot of the artistic choices that contribute to this movie being “good” also make it downright offensive. Sometimes it almost felt okay, but ultimately I don’t think I want to laugh at an anti-smoking joke at the tail-end of a real shootout that ended in a gruesome death. It’s distasteful to ask an audience to laugh at action movie one-liners when the story is real and fresh.

As an aside, Dhokar Tsarnaev’s character doesn’t make sense. Because Dhokar was notoriously very “American”, they couldn’t pigeon-hole him like they had Tamerlan (and I have a whole rant about the latent xenophobia that went into the creation of that character). The resulting mess was a character that swung dramatically between a prejudiced caricature of a Muslim terrorist and a second prejudiced caricature of a troubled, urban teenager. Neither stereotype fit, and they were completely contradictory. The lack of cohesion in Dhokar’s character led to completely baffling moments like when Dhokar makes fun of Dun’s accent – even though half his school friends are foreign students.

I can give the movie one star, because it is a fun action movie, but I want that admission couched solidly in my horror that anyone thought that it would be a good idea to make a “fun action movie” about the Boston Marathon bombing. I don’t think anyone should watch Patriots Day. It dishonors the victims, trivializes the serious, and despite its insistence to the contrary is, ultimately, un-American.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘Patriots Day’? Well, what did you think? 

NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: TREMORS 1990

This post is part of Cinematic Katzenjammer’s NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP blogathon spearheaded by Nick. When I signed up to do this a month ago, I was a bit nervous what movie I’d end up getting, ahah. Well, it turns out to be a pretty fun movie!

TREMORS (1990)

TREMORSposterA small town gradually becomes aware of a strange creature which picks off people one by one. But what is this creature, and where is it? At the same time, a seismologist is working in the area, she detects _tremors_. The creature lives underground, and can ‘pop up’ without warning. Trapped in their town, the town-folk have no escape.

Director: Ron Underwood
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Reba McEntire


I read on IMDb that although Tremors was not a big hit during its theatrical run, the film became a runaway smash in the home video market, and ultimately tripled its original box office gross with VHS sales and rentals. I’ve actually read a couple of reviews not too long ago and seems that this film is well-loved, some consider it a classic. Well, now that I’ve seen it, I totally see the appeal.

There’s an inherently likable and charming quality about this movie. It starts off with two handymen Valentine Mckee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), two friends who have big dreams that some day they can make something out of themselves and perhaps the key to that is to leave the tiny town Perfection, Nevada. But just as they threw everything in their beat-up truck to get out of town, strange things start to unravel and they soon realize they just might be trapped in Perfection after all.

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The movie poster pretty much gave everything away. We know there’s something lurking beneath the ground, swallowing the town’s sparse residents one by one, but the suspense build-up is pretty good. A grad student Rhonda (Finn Carter) happens to be in town’s desert to study the bizarre seismic activity, which turns out NOT to be volcanic vibrations after all. The three of them ended up teaming up to outsmart the 30-foot giant worms with eel-like tongues. Turns out there are four of them to be exact, and they grow more aggressive with each victim they devour.

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Inspired by 50s monster flicks, Tremors is more humorous than scary. The attack scenes are actually not as gory as I expected, I mean people do get swallowed alive but these monsters are more disgusting and gross than terrifying. What makes the movie so fun are the characters! Kevin Bacon is perhaps the most successful out of the other actors in this movie (not counting Reba’s music career that is). Over two decades and about three-dozen movies later, it’s amazing that Bacon still looks pretty much the same as he was here. In any case, Bacon and Ward have a nice chemistry and their constant banters are amusing. The addition of Rhonda adds a bit of playful sexual tension amongst them. The ‘pole vault’ scene is a fun to watch as Rhonda got a brilliant idea to jump from boulder to boulder as the monsters can’t get to them that way. I include the clip here below:


I feel that this movie is great to watch with a group of friends, as there’s that sense of community where the people all band together to survive. The townsfolk are full of quirky characters as well. There’s Walter Chang (Victor Wong) who owns the only convenience store in town, which ends up becoming one of the hiding place until those monsters are smart enough to rattle the house down to eat them. Then there’s the gun-happy couple Burt & Heather Gummer (Family Ties Michael Gross & Country Music star Reba McEntire), seemingly ready for WW III with their stockpiles of ammunition. The scene of them blasting off one monster with every possible weapon they own is hysterical!! The monsters themselves are kind of goofy looking, well in a gross way, and surprisingly they’re not as dumb as they look.

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So overall it’s quite an enjoyable horror-comedy, so thanks Nick for the movie ‘gift.’ Considering how popular this movie is, now I’m glad to say I’ve seen it. Apparently it’s Ron Underwood‘s feature film debut, which ends up being a rental hit that spawned three sequels and a Syfy network TV series! Underwood is now back doing TV work following the major flop that is The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

Tremors is a perfectly solid, cheesy B movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously nor try to be more than what it is. Not really interested in the sequels though, I’m sure it’s not gonna be as good as the first one anyway.


4 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this movie? Well, let’s hear it!

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: R.I.P.D and interview w/ extra Tim Jacobs

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Summer is a great time for action comedies! When I first saw this trailer earlier this year, I thought this is a crazy mash-up of Men In Black (but with dead people) meets Ghostbusters… with The Dude and Green Lantern, no less.

After Detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is killed by accident, he is recruited into the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.) and partnered with veteran officer Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges). The R.I.P.D. is an organization of dead police officers tasked with protecting the living from arrogant, malevolent, bloodthirsty evil spirits who refuse to move into the afterlife

Apparently the story is based on a comic book by Peter M. Lenkov. The movie’s directed by Robert Schwentke who apparently passed on directing the sequel of another action comedy RED, and also stars Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker. Interestingly, both Reynolds and Parker have two movies coming up in the same weekend, Reynolds lends his voice in the animated feature Turbo and Parker is also in RED 2 (review coming soon).

Check out the latest trailer…

… and featurette w/ the cast:

Today we’ve got a special guest on this post…

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Tim Jacobs, a stage actor who worked as extra on the film – check out his profile on IMDb. Thanks to my friend Ashley (aka Tim’s girlfriend) for introducing us. Tim played one of the evil souls (deados) share some of his experience on the set. Check out our interview below:

1. Tell us what your role is in R.I.P.D and how you ended up getting involved with this project

R.I.P.D. is about of evil souls (deados) that escaped judgement and are hiding out on earth. The R.I.P.D. (Rest In Peace Department) is in charge of finding and arresting these offending souls. In the movie, I was one of the Deados that worked closely with Hayes (Kevin Bacon) to bring about the end of the world as we know it.

 The casting process for this movie was unlike any audition I’d done before. Boston Casting, an incredible casting agency in (you guessed it) Boston contacted me about the audition. They were looking for a very specific type of person. They had to be over 6 feet tall and physically fit. The auditions themselves were incredible! You know you’re going to have fun when they don’t give you specifics, but tell you to wear “clothes you can move in.” The actual audition consisted of push-ups, pull-ups, jumping rope, box jumps, and various other physical activities including showing off some stage combat skills. Things went well and they picked a small group of us that day.

2. Did you get to work with any of the main cast?

The part of the story that I’m a part of is kind of the climax of the movie. It takes place on the roof of a building that was meticulously replicated in a giant warehouse. The set was entirely surrounded by green screen. It felt like we were in a giant green circus tent. The actual set was the exact size of the building it was modeled after, and with all the people on it, you could find yourself next to any number of cast members.

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Reynolds, Bacon and Bridges on set

We worked mostly with the main cast (although the stand ins were used from time to time) but we were instructed to maintain professionalism and not get all googly eyed when they walked by. They were all very nice. Jeff Bridges seemed to be one of the nicest guys around, Ryan Reynolds was very focused on the work, and Kevin Bacon was hilarious! We were with them for a good portion of our shoot and we did chat in between takes or sitting outside.

3. What’s a day on the set like? I learned that you have to wear a certain costume to play one of the dead monsters (Deado)?

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Tim in full costume

I maintain relationships with several of them on Facebook even now. Once the call comes though, we would have to quickly move into position as they set up the shot. When you are actually on set, everything moves very quickly and you always have to be aware of the people, cameras, and your Assistant Director.

Everyone was wicked nice though. The director (Robert Schwentke) was very good at letting the actors know what he wanted and how to better achieve it. The entire crew would help you out and answer any questions you had about anything. It was a wonderful work environment because everyone seemed to be on the same page.

The costume I wore was not much more than somewhat formal street clothes. But on certain CGI shots, we got to wear the “grey suits” (see below). These icons of the fashion world were made of a nice stretchy material and had the one size fits most feel to them. Luckily we didn’t have to wear these very often.

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4. I understand you’ve done a lot of stage work in various Shakespearean plays? Tell us what project you’re working on right now.

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Tim in a stage adaptation of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

The Director (Dan Beaulieu) has taken this show and spun it around much like a DJ remixes a song. In fact, we refer to the show as #Ahranjay (R+J) the remix. The show is a lot more intense and interesting than most of the productions of Romeo and Juliet that I have seen. It features Dubstep and live music as the heartbeat and driving force of the action. Among other things, we will be live tweeting during the shows, and finding all sorts of fun ways to interact with the audience. You can find more information on the show at prescottpark.org or find Seven Stages Shakespeare Company on Facebook. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth the $5 donation. Also, it is outdoors so there’s that.

5. What’s next for you? More stage work or are you looking to venture out into TV or films?

There is nothing like live theatre. There are no second takes when you are onstage in front of hundreds of people. What you do is what you get. The adrenaline (butterflies) I get during a live show can’t be compared with being on a movie set. But movies have their own fun. You don’t get the instant feedback like in theater, but instead there is a long wait to see your art. It is truly a lot of fun, even as an extra, to be part of a movie. I will keep auditioning for all sorts of performing arts, and whoever wants to work with me ultimately decides the steerage of my course.


Thanks again Tim for the interview! Check out Tim on Facebook.


Hope you enjoy the interview. Thoughts on this post, well let’s hear it!

Guest Post – ‘X-Men: First Class’ Review

[WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS]

Despite my high expectations and fear of being disappointed, I really liked X-Men: First Class. Director Matthew Vaughn did serve up the Bond movie/political thriller cocktail that he promised, and, contrary to his own statement, there is no sappy love song to gum up the works [rtm’s note: see comment in this post if you’re curious what this is about].

In case you don’t already know the basic premise: Charles Xavier (James McEvoy) and Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) team up with a young bunch of their fellow mutants (Jennifer Lawrence, Zoë Kravitz, Nicholas Hoult, Lucas Till) to stop Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, making “Six Degrees” even easier to play) and Emma Frost (January Jones) from starting World War III by playing the USA and USSR against each other.

For a first half crammed with exposition, this is a film that moves at a good clip but isn’t too fast-paced to follow. We see Eric’s and Charles’ deeply different childhoods. Later, as Eric smoothly liquidates truly evil ex-Nazis, always looking fine and sometimes in a three-piece suit, the Bond references fly fast and fierce. We are in Cold Wartime as well, so CIA agents and shady Russians abound. When the two founding fathers seek out their fellow mutants, the film gets really funny — probably my favorite sequence in the picture. With the team assembled, they begin their training and the latent conflict begins to develop: the future Magneto runs on anger and defiance; Professor X’s MO is peace and collaboration.

Before I saw the movie, I thought the casting was excellent and it proved to be so. As Xavier, McAvoy has the reserve and steadiness which contrasts perfectly with the restless energy Fassbender gives Lensherr. Jennifer Lawrence has a sadness that is perfect for Raven/Mystique, the girl caught between the two paths. (One of her scenes with Fassbender is a definite homage to the Bond series.) Although the childhoods of the younger X-Men aren’t explored, I thought they all did well with roles that are necessarily supporting. Even January Jones’ cool blank quality works well for Emma Frost.  There are a couple of well-placed cameos but you’ll have to see those for yourself.

The film is really about the conflict between Magneto and Professor X, and the larger question of whether it’s better to fight discrimination with violence or with reason. Possibly this would be overkill for anyone who’s really into the actual comic books. Even as they team up to stop a nuclear war, these two are on different trajectories and we see why and how their split is inevitable. Fassbender and McAvoy have a lot of chemistry and I found myself wanting them to stay together for a whole series of movies, though it was a foregone conclusion that they wouldn’t.

The carefully planned structure of the film falls apart a bit near the end. i don’t want to throw any (more) spoilers out there but the denouement seems a little rushed, though there are some satisfying shocks. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and suggest that if you are at all interested, that you see it on the big screen.

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[rtm’s note: My review will be up later this week, but I’d agree with Paula on the rating.]

So did you see it this past weekend? What did you think of the movie?