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Movie reviews by Justin Hall
Justin at the Movies
2 hearts

2 Hearts

"Life is happening for us." That's a quote from 2 Hearts, a romantic drama that piles on so much syrupy sentimentality that once it's over you may end up with the cinematic equivalent of Type 2 Diabetes.

Based on a true story of two couples from different periods in time, one story deals with a Cuban businessman (Adan Canto) falling  in love with a flight attendant (Radha Mitchell). He always tries to find out her schedule and makes appointments to see her once she lands in her given destination. You can pretty much tell where it's going from there.

The second relationship deals with two college students (Jacob Elordi and Tiera Skovbye) who start out meeting coincidentally, but they end up getting to know each other and are even a part of their campus' safety patrol, giving people rides back to their dorm rooms.

The relationships are pretty straightforward and their interconnect by having the males in each story suffer from a health condition that threatens to end their heavens on earth. One of the stories throws in a plot twist so infuriating that it makes you want to head for the exit and keep walking.

As I mentioned, 2 Hearts refuses to pull back on sweet these relationships are and that wouldn't bother me if the characters weren't so bland and derivative from countless other romantic dramas and the plot developments seem straight out of a made-for-TV movie.

The movie is all about teaching that even under the worst of circumstances that God has a plan. I give the filmmakers credit for not beating us over the head with a Bible with that theme, but the movie is so contrived that we can see how things are going to end that it's another example of spoiling the ending before it's over.

2 Hearts should also be called No-Brainer because that's what this dopey romance sorely lacks.

Grade: D

(Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.)

empty man
The Empty Man

The Empty Man is an unholy mess of a horror movie and that's probably the nicest thing I can say about it.

Let's not beat around the bush. This is one of the dumbest and most incomprehensible movies ever made. It falls under the category of giving the audience a test on it after and they would flunk every question. You know what? I would still pass them if they still sat through it.

Based on a graphic novel, the movie tells the story of an ex-cop (James Badge Dale) who is trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl and his investigation leads him to believe that there might be a supernatural connection.

The cop continues his search and throughout the movie, we get the typical cliches of a mystery such as no one believes the cop even when the evidence is staring them directly in the face. Also, the friends of the victim are largely ignored by everyone in the town even though it's obvious to the audience that the characters will eventually do an about-face.

The cop's investigation ultimately leads him to discover a secret society of sorts that may or may not have been responsible for the disappearing girl. Are they a help or a hinder? You know what? I just answered that question.

There's nothing to remotely enjoy about The Empty Man. It's not scary or smart or clever in the slightest sense. The story runs hither and yarn in the most idiotic fashion. The characters are one-dimensional, the scares are virtually nonexistent, and the attempted plot twists are so illogical and baffling, that they make you want to throw your popcorn and drinks at the screen in absolute anger.

The Empty Man is the most aptly named title of the year because it left me feeling just that: Empty. I could continue to tear this movie apart, but that would be giving it too much credit.

Grade: F

(Rated R for violence, disturbing images, language, some sexuality and nudity.)

come play
Come Play

Come Play is a horror movie that utilizes atmosphere and suspense as well as effective performances at its center instead of cheap thrills or idiotic characters and the result works well even if it's not really memorable.

The movie focuses on an autistic boy named Oliver (Azhy Robertson) who can only communicate with a cell phone. His parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) are trying to get Oliver to become more social, but their efforts prove to be less than successful as Oliver is bullied by other kids.

Oliver has a scary story downloaded into his phone and it tells about a monster named Larry who communicates with Oliver and tells him that he wants to be his friend.

Soon Larry takes on a life his own in which it manifests through multiple electronic devices. Oliver does his best do let others know, but as per usual, no one takes him seriously.

On the surface, Come Play checks off the boxes of this kind of movie such as the aforementioned reasons about the parents and others not believing the kid in order to advance the story.

What it makes it work is the commitment of the actors to their performances as well as genuine atmosphere that doesn't call attention to itself. As a result, the actors are able to easily inhabit the atmosphere.

Come Play should've spent more time on constructing a story with less cliches and more on crafting ways that would make it feel elevated, but it's solid entertainment that knows what it is.

Grade: B

(Rated PG-13 for terror, some language, and frightening images.)

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