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Hammerle on... 'It Comes at Night,' 'Megan Leavey'

June 28, 2017

bob hammerle movie reviewsSomething is wrong in Hollywood. As I have noted earlier, most of the films released in 2017 are average at best and borderline pathetic at worst. Think of the God-awful “Rough Night” and the horrific new “Transformers” film, and you know exactly what I mean.

However, while two of my reviews follow, let me recommend some movie trailers that you simply have to watch. It begins with what appears to be a spectacular film on the horizon, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson. Directed by Martin McDonagh, who previously brought us the sensational “In Bruges” (2008) and “Seven Psychopaths” (2012), this trailer would win an Oscar if such a category was recognized.

Following that, you must see “The Little Hours,” “The Big Sick” and “Band Aid.” All three appear to be as energetic as they are creative, and hopefully Hollywood has found a way to bring a bit of magic to the big screen.

“It Comes at Night”

hammerle-rating-itcomesatnight.gif“It Comes at Night,” written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, is one of those rare horror films that leaves you completely unnerved from beginning to end. The film concerns a family’s attempt to survive in a world where some unknown plague is destroying mankind.

There are no monsters, only fear and growing apprehension. While our family of three has boarded up their house to protect any infected people from entering and spreading this fatal disease, they reluctantly take in another family of three who are simply trying to find a way to live another day.

Anyone infected with this fatal illness begins to show leprotic sores on parts of their body, and any attempt to care for them only seals your own doom. The central question posed by this intriguing movie is what do you do when a loving family member appears infected?

Joel Edgerton plays the father figure who is dedicated to preserving the safety of his wife (Carmen Ejogo) and 17-year-old son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Mr. Edgerton once again demonstrates his superior acting skills as previously shown in last year’s Oscar nominated film “Loving,” the overlooked “Jane Got a Gun” (2016), the all but ignored film with Johnny Depp, “Black Mass” (2015), the diabolically clever “The Gift” (also 2015) and “Animal Kingdom” (2010), the movie that catapulted him into recognition on the big screen.

As noted, this film grabs you by the throat as you don’t dare look away. On the other hand, given the fact that I only have decent vision in one eye, I was forced to cover it as I looked at a blurry picture in order to hide my fear. Sometimes having amblyopia is an advantage, particularly when you are a movie fan.

“Megan Leavey”

hammerle-rating-meganleavey.gifThis is a year where bad things happen to good dogs. “Megan Leavey” joins “Max” as a story dealing with the fate of spuds (my beloved phrase) trained to help American soldiers locate explosive devices in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In “Max,” our dog’s trainer was killed and he was severely injured in a roadside explosion. Returned to the states where our wonderful government finds many of these dogs to be unfit for adoption, Max is left on a path toward euthanasia. The family of his deceased trainer comes to the rescue, though the plot becomes a bit ridiculous from that point.

“Megan Leavey” is a more intriguing movie. I was determined to see the film as it is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who brought us the devastating documentary “Blackfish” (2013), which changed the approach to the treatment of killer whales at Sea World. Here, she brings us the functional equivalent of a powerful cinematic sausage wrapped in a stale bun.

Based on a true story, Kate Mara plays Leavey, a confused young woman who joins the Marines to escape a life that seemed to have no meaningful future. On top of that, she is forced to endure a caustic, heavy-drinking mother, played, with what I am certain is regret, by the talented Edie Falco. Following a series of mistakes after joining the Marines, she ends up training a dog destined for service in Iraq. The dog’s name is Rex, and the movie is at its best when our duo end up in combat.

The scenes in Iraq have meaning on multiple levels. First, it shows both the value of the services of canines like Rex as well as the close attachment that is developed with their trainer. Unfortunately, it also reveals the caustic, discriminatory practice of American soldiers as they confront civilians of unknown intent, and you are reminded why we never should have gotten into that war in the first place.

Nonetheless, a heavy price was paid by the American participants in that war, and many had a hard time adjusting when returning to the States. In this case, Leavey tries to recover from her psychological trauma while hoping to be reunited with Rex. Despite the movie’s weakness at that point, it will find a way to charm you as you are left wondering how it will end.

My wife and I have six rescue dogs at home, and they have become a central point to our existence. While you know they will reach the inevitable point where you are forced to say goodbye to them, you also realize that you are giving them a life that has tremendous meaning to these little creatures.

Movies like “Megan Leavey” bring that point home, and our government has an obligation to make sure that these service dogs are given a compassionate existence as they age.•

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• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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