Friday, December 18, 2015

Worth Mentioning - The Past Isn't Done With You

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, an awkward reunion and an immortal rocker.

THE GIFT (2015)

This isn't a comment on Jason Bateman as a person, but solely an obeservation of his screen presence - although he tends to appear in comedies, and is quite funny in them, the dark-sided smarmy douchebag he plays in writer/director/co-star Joel Edgerton's The Gift may be the most appropriate role he has ever been cast in. It fits Bateman perfectly, and he shines while making you despise him.

Coming to dislike Bateman's character, Simon, is a gradual thing. Sure, he's always smarmy, but at first it's Edgerton's Gordo who draws our strongest's suspicions.

Simon has just moved back to his hometown with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), and after a chance encounter with former classmate Gordo in a local store, Simon is unnerved when Gordo starts forcing his way into the couple's life. Showing up at their home unannounced, leaving gifts on their doorstep, having awkward dinners with them. Lying to them. Retaliating when they reject him. The stranger Gordo gets, however, the more questionable Simon's behavior becomes as well. It's left to Robyn to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on between Simon and Gordo, and she unearths some dark secrets in the process.

An intriguing mystery and an excellently crafted thriller, The Gift features some great acting from its three leads and keeps the audience wondering and guessing throughout. What happened in the characters' pasts? What are their motives and goals? How far will this situation go? The Gift is well worth watching to find out the answers to these questions.

The following review first appeared on


Writer/director Jason Krawczyk created He Never Died main character Jack with the intention of casting Henry Rollins in the role, and it's difficult to imagine the film working as well as it does with anyone else playing Jack. Rollins carries the film on his shoulders and delivers an incredible performance as the immortal, who has been around for thousands of years and at this point is utterly bored with life, spending his days sleeping, drinking bags of blood, and spicing up the occasional evening with a game of Bingo.

Jack's dull routine is disrupted when 19-year-old Andrea (Jordan Todosey) shows up at his door and is revealed to be his daughter. Not only does Jack have to spend a couple days hanging out with the kid, who is actually pretty adorable, despite having some questionable tendencies, but her presence also opens the door to a bunch of trouble.

You see, a local criminal has a vendetta against Jack, and now that it's discovered that he has a daughter, this is also perceived as him having a weakness to exploit, so soon Andrea has disappeared and Jack is having to deal with all sorts of fisticuffs, gunplay, and ill-advised attempts on his life. Also getting mixed up in all this is Kate Greenhouse as Cara, a down-on-her-luck waitress who displays an interest in Jack... at least until she gets to know a bit more about his history, which stretches all the way back to the early chapters of the Bible.

A fascinating character, Jack has seen and experienced all the world has to offer, so there is very little that gets a rise out of him. Rollins plays almost every line of dialogue in a deadpan manner, as Jack basically meanders through the motions of every encounter he has with another person, violent or otherwise. While this is amusing to watch and makes Jack come off as the coolest of badasses, this low-key mood also has a somewhat negative impact on the film's pace - when the hero is sort of sleepwalking through most of the scenes, it's hard for them to generate much excitement for the viewer. Because of this, He Never Died can come off as being sort of slow and scenes can feel like they go on a bit too long.

Despite dragging a little, He Never Died remains entertaining even in the overlong scenes and leaves a positive impression due to Jack / Rollins. Even if they feel like they could have been trimmed, the scenes are packed with fun, well-written dialogue exchanged between our captivating hero and other interesting characters.

Krawczyk wrote a great script and brought it to the screen in a capable manner with the aid of cinematographer Eric Billman, who captured some beautiful imagery. The standout scene for me was a comedically-slanted altercation Jack has outside on a winter night when the filmmakers were lucky enough to have snowflakes drifting through the frame. More could have been done with the action / fight scenes in general, but I get the feeling that anything they're lacking was mostly due to the film's lower budget.

He Never Died is a much more subdued film than I was anticipating, but it's well worth watching to be introduced to Jack. I was left wanting to see more of him, to spend more time with the character and learn more about him, as he has a lot of potential beyond this one film. Pretty much anything could be done with him, stories involving him could be told in any location and at almost any given point in human history. Luckily, Krawczyk and Rollins are planning to continue delving into Jack's life with an eight episode mini-series, a project that I would love to see come to fruition.

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