Review of “Suburbicon”

Nicky Lodge (Noah Jupe) is an average kid living in an average house in the average neighborhood of Suburbicon. His father Gardner (Matt Damon) works in insurance. His mother Rose (Julianne Moore) is in a wheelchair after an automobile accident. His Aunt Margaret (also Julianne Moore) is visiting overnight when two men, Ira and Louis (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) enter the home, tie everyone up and kill Rose with an overdose of chloroform. It seems Gardner owes the men money and hasn’t paid it back yet so the murder of Rose was a warning. Aunt Margaret moves into the Lodge home to help Gardner raise Nicky. Officer Hightower (Jack Conley) tells Gardner to come down to the station and look at a lineup based on his description of the robbers. Margaret brings Nicky to the station because he doesn’t want to stay at the house alone. While Ira and Louis are in the lineup neither Gardner nor Margaret tells police who they are. Nicky is confused and wonders what his father and aunt are up to. Meanwhile, the Mayers family has moved into Suburbicon and caused quite a stir with the neighbors as they are black and this is 1959. The Mayers house backs up to the Lodge house and Nicky and Andy Mayers (Tony Espinosa), a boy about Nicky’s age, have become friends. Crowds gather at the Mayers house, making noise, banging drums and yelling at the family inside to move as they don’t want their kind in Suburbicon.

Whenever Joel and Ethan Coen are involved in the making of a movie I get excited. “Suburbicon” is a script the brothers wrote back in 1986 but it has only now been turned into a film by frequent Coen Brothers collaborator George Clooney. Clooney, along with writer Grant Heslov, added some story elements and Clooney directed. Perhaps George and Grant should have left the script alone because “Suburbicon” feels like a two different stories that have been forcefully fused together against their will.

The trailer for “Suburbicon” makes the movie look like a madcap crime caper and parts of the film have that tone; however, much of what is suggested in the trailer misrepresents what happens in the film with clever editing suggesting one thing is in reaction to another when the events are unrelated. Anyone walking into the movie expecting a somewhat more violent version of “Raising Arizona” is going to be disappointed. “Suburbicon” is far darker than the trailer suggests.

It is also uneven with a subplot about the community trying to force a black family to leave feeling very shoehorned into the film. It is a ham-fisted attempt by Clooney to make us see that what is the focus of public anger usually isn’t the real problem. While everyone in the neighborhood believes the black family is bringing in an unsavory element, the nice white family across the way is being terrorized by thugs because of the actions of the father. It screams hypocrisy and intolerance in a very clumsy way. Clooney has proven he is a very good movie director so it puzzles me why this effort is so uneven. I would like to know more about the creative process to put this film together because large parts of it are really good. That’s not to say the sections involving the black family isn’t good; but it just feels like it’s from a different movie.

It’s a shame the film is a bit of a mess since Matt Damon is so good as the morally corrupted Gardner Lodge. Lodge is a man that thinks he’s far smarter than he actually is; however, he quickly shows he’s quite dumb by not paying off the loan shark. Perhaps that is part of a larger plan; but even so, it spectacularly blows up in his face. Lodge is pushed further and further into bad decisions as the story progresses and is always trying to solve problems caused by other efforts to solve problems. Damon plays Lodge constantly seething with anger and on the verge of exploding. Like a good person of the period, he stuffs his rage down deep in his soul and tries to keep it bottled up. Should it be released well, people might talk and think poorly of him down at the lodge or church. Damon is infuriating as Lodge since most of his issues could be solved with one call to the police; but we know he’ll never make that call as he is a coward looking to avoid as much trouble as possible. Damon gives Lodge a boyish charm that gives him at least one redeeming quality, keeping the audience from hating him totally.

Julianne Moore is both Rose and Margaret but since the former is killed early in the film I’ll be talking mostly about her performance as the latter. Moore is stunningly creepy as the surrogate mother and wife. There is a streak of cruelty that runs through the character that turns what could have been a throwaway role into something meaningful and dangerous. Margaret is clearly mentally ill and is teetering on the edge of a breakdown throughout the film. Moore is masterful at portraying damaged characters and this one is clearly broken from almost the first time we see her.

The performances are somewhat hampered by a plot that moves at a leisurely pace. It takes too long to introduce the meat of the story after the misdirection of the black family’s arrival in town and the full story of what’s going on is never fully explained. We know Lodge owes money to the thugs but we don’t know what he got the money for. Are the thugs small time players or are they more heavily connected? Are Gardner and Margaret involved prior to the events in the film or only after? Gardner was driving the night of the car accident that put Rose in the wheelchair but did he do it on purpose to try and collect on her life insurance? There are a great many loose threads dangling by the end of the film with no satisfactory answers for any of them.

“Suburbicon” is rated R for some sexuality, language and violence. There is poisoning, strangling, stabbing and other violence shown with some of it being very bloody. There is a riot that breaks out at the Mayers’ home with windows shattered and fires set. The sexuality is limited to a scene where Nicky walks in on Gardner and Margaret having a mildly kinky scene. Foul language is scattered.

There’s a really good movie embedded in “Suburbicon” that could have been the dark and violent domestic drama that the Coen’s made famous in “Fargo” and “Blood Simple.” Sadly, the addition of a needless subplot about racism and a languid pace put “Suburbicon” on the lower end of “Best Coen Brothers’ Movies” scale. Great performances from Matt Damon and Julianne Moore almost are wasted. It isn’t the best movie but it does have its redeeming qualities. If you have the patience check it out.

“Suburbicon” gets three stars out of five.

This week, there’s a rare Wednesday opening for a sequel and the arrival of the next Marvel flick. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

A Bad Mom’s Christmas—

Thor: Ragnarok—

Listen to The Fractured Frame podcast where ever you download your podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

Since joining the secret intelligence agency the Kingsman, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has found a purpose to his life, a beautiful girlfriend, Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hanna Alstrom), and a close group of friends from his old days to keep him grounded. He still has strong feelings of sadness over the loss of his mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth) but he focuses on the happy memories. While leaving the Kingsman tailor shop that is the front for spy agency he is approached by former recruit Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft). Eggsy thought Charlie was dead from their last encounter but he survived and is back with a high-tech metal arm and a desire for vengeance. Eggsy and Charlie fight inside a moving car and Charlie’s metal arm comes off. Eggsy is able to escape Charlie and the other bad guys in three SUV’s following him and must use the underwater capabilities of his car to enter a Kingsman secret base. What Eggsy doesn’t know is once he has left the car Charlie’s metal arm comes to life and plugs into the computer terminal. It transmits the locations of all Kingsman offices and addresses of agents to Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a ruthless drug dealer with plans to expand her business. With the information, Poppy launches guided missiles, destroying all Kingsman facilities and killing most of their agents. The only ones that survive are Eggsy and tech wizard Merlin (Mark Strong). Merlin initiates the doomsday protocol and discovers a bottle of Statesman whiskey in a secret safe. The bottle guides them to the Statesman distillery in Kentucky where they run into Tequilla (Channing Tatum) while checking out an overly secure storage facility. It turns out the whiskey factory is a front for an independent investigative organization similar to the Kingsman. Led by Champagne, who prefers to be called Champ (Jeff Bridges), the remaining Kingsman agents are taken in and aided in their mission to stop Poppy Adams from forcing the legalization of all recreational drugs after she has spiked all the drugs she sells with a virus that will kill all users. Unless her demands for legalization are met she won’t release the antidote that will save everyone including Eggsy’s girlfriend. The existence of the Statesman is a surprise but that Harry is still alive and in Statesman custody is an even bigger shock for Eggsy and Merlin.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” doesn’t mess with the formula that worked with the first film ”Kingsman: The Secret Service.” If anything this sequel turns up everything to a proverbial “11” and while that may work in some films it proves to be a bit distracting and a detriment in this case.

The film is a bit all over the place, zipping from one locale and group of characters to another. Just as we get comfortable with one scene it is immediately replaced with another. From mountain vistas to a painfully obvious CGI Statesman headquarters, the movie is a bit like a jittery child that can’t stay in one place for too long before moving somewhere else.

This is the fault of a story that is scattered like a shotgun blast. The script by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn is chock full of plot points that send the characters all over the world on mostly meaningless side missions. Side missions are fun in video games but can feel like an utter waste of time in a movie. With a running time of two hours 20 minutes, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is over stuffed with asides that could easily have been cut out.

The action and gadgets in the movie have been upgraded and made more outlandish in the film. Attaché cases that double as machine guns and bazookas are fairly banal when compared to a car that can convert into submarine or a watch that can hack any device with a microchip. The mechanical arm used by one of the bad guys also seems over the top since it is merely strapped to him with belts and Velcro but can pull down stone columns and propel a bowling ball through a wall. Obeying the laws of physics is probably asking too much of a campy spy movie but giving some thought to how something might work and react in the real world would be nice.

It would be easy to dislike “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” if you give it too much thought; however there is plenty to find enjoyable in the film. First, it doesn’t ask too much of the audience. There is a crazy lady with a crazy plan that just might work unless the super spies can stop her. The story is fairly straight forward even if the script throws in a great deal of needless running around. Second, the characters are all fairly likable. Even Julianne Moore’s Poppy is sweet and charming until she’s not. I enjoyed the way Moore’s character is able to order one of her henchmen to kill another and do it with a smile. It’s a disarming trait that softens the edge of what could have been a shrieking monster. Third is the discovery of how Elton John may be the next elderly action hero. I know this is farfetched but John, playing himself as a captive entertainer in Poppy’s hideout, is very funny in the movie. He is given the opportunity to do both comedy and action and succeeds wildly at both. Of course, his action scenes are largely comprised of CGI (especially when he does a flying karate kick) but they work well within the loose structure of the story. Elton John appears to have been willing to do whatever director Matthew Vaughn asked and what shows up on screen is great.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is rated R for language throughout, drug content, sequences of strong violence and some sexual material. A main part of the story is how everyone’s drugs are spiked with the virus so we are shown people using pot and one person using meth. Other people show up with symptoms of the virus that aren’t shown using drugs but that’s the only way they could get the virus. There are numerous shooting and stabbings throughout the film with some more bloody than others. There is one awkward sex scene that is a little troubling to watch. There is no graphic nudity but there is a suggestion of a sexual act that is done during a mission. It felt like a forced scene that could have been handled another way. Foul language is common throughout the film.

It’s doesn’t live up to its predecessor but “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is a fairly enjoyable spy romp that continues the hyper-action and violence of the first film. There isn’t a jaw-dropping church scene like in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” but the discovery of the Statesman and the reveal of Harry still being alive and how that happened is almost as good.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” gets four stars out of five.

This week there are four new films hitting screens at your local multiplex. I’ll be seeing and reviewing one of the following:

American Made—


A Question of Faith—

Til Death Do Us Part—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan. Listen to, subscribe and review The Fractured Frame podcast available where ever you get podcasts. Follow The Fractured Frame on Twitter @fractured_pod. Send emails to

Review of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Following the near fatal attack by Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is shaken that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has somehow hijacked her friend and lover from the 74th Hunger Games and turned him into an assassin with her as his only target. Katniss’ concern for Peeta complicates her relationship with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). Leader of the resistance Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) wants to use the Mockingjay as a propaganda tool to encourage others to join their cause and keep Katniss off the front lines but her anger at Snow for what was done to Peeta makes Katniss find a way to be a part of the assault force that is moving through the Capital. Their journey through the deserted street is complicated by a series of booby traps set up by the game designers.

I wasn’t a fan of the first “Hunger Games” movie. The whole concept of the poor and oppressed fighting to the death for the entertainment of the rich and powerful left a bad taste in my mouth and a less than favorable opinion of the series in general. Of course, one needs only a tiny bit of historical knowledge to see the parallels to ancient Rome and the gladiators of the coliseum with the “Hunger Games” series of novels and movies. Some could argue the same thing happens today with politicians pitting their constituents against the supports of the rival party. The whole thing is a very dark and depressing look at what can happen when power and revenge run amuck. The second film in the series won me back as the oppressed begin to fight back and the third film sets up what is the final push to the Capital and the fourth movie pays off everything that has come before with a few surprises thrown in. Does it end the franchise in grand style or do the characters and story limp to the finish line?

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is a mixed bag with a tone as dark and depressing as the first film. Characters die, Katniss starts injured and gets more injured along the way, things become bleak then bleaker and lovers are tested. What few moments of happiness are shown are quickly ground into the dirt. It makes one question which would be worse: Losing the war or winning it?

Jennifer Lawrence continues her great work as Katniss. The character’s spirit, determination and bravery are tested by the trials forced upon her by the machinations of both President Snow and Alma Coin. Lawrence is able to breathe some life into a sad character in a dour situation. While the entire situation stretches credibility, Lawrence is able to keep the character grounded and believable. Her work as Katniss Everdeen will likely not win her any major acting awards but it is something of which she can be proud.

The rest of the cast is largely window dressing as nobody is on screen for any significant amount of time; however a couple of performances do deserve some praise. Liam Hemsworth gives a strong performance as Gale. His heartbreak at Katniss’ interest in Peeta’s recovery from brainwashing is etched onto his face. One of his scenes late in the movie (no spoilers) is brief but devastating. Josh Hutcherson is allowed to stretch and be more than “the other guy.” The pain and confusion caused by the mind games played by Snow on him leads to some surprises along the way. Hutcherson has been a part of the films since he was in his late teens. His growth as an actor is clear and this might be considered something of a graduation.

While I enjoyed the film and the performances there were a few things that troubled me. First, the film feels all of its 136 minute running time. With all the effort to give attention to the emotional parts of the story along with the action, there are times when the film seems to come to a complete halt. All narrative momentum is sacrificed so the audience can experience the feels. It seemed forced and an effort to play to the fans of the books instead of the fans of the movies.

It’s time once again for “Thinking about the Details Too Much.” There have been some nagging questions about the logistics of how the world of “The Hunger Games” works that really came to the forefront in this film. First, where do the rebels get all the fuel they need to fly their planes and drive their trucks? I know there was a cache of weapons and equipment they captured earlier but fuel is something that is very difficult to produce in a way that isn’t vulnerable to attack. How they get their food is also something that confuses me. With the disruptions caused by the rebellion, it seems like no one in Panem would be working to make food that might fall in the hands of either side. Perhaps there are stores of rations saved up for emergencies but that wouldn’t last very long in an ongoing war and would also be a target for attack. And that concludes “Thinking about the Details Too Much.” Thanks for listening.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material. There are numerous battles between armed groups. We see one person killed by a landmine. Another couple is killed in various ways by booby traps. There is another death caused by poison and a character is shown coughing up blood. Katniss kills a couple of people with arrows. Various explosions cause more death. There is no gore. We see some of the injuries sustained by Katniss mostly consisting of bruises on her neck and her ribs. I’m not sure what the reference to “thematic material” is other than a character is disfigured after disappointing a person in power.

Some might consider “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” to be more of the same: Characters pitted against a powerful government with only their determination and imagination to help them. That is largely correct; however, this final entry into “The Hunger Games” film series is consistent in tone and style and manages to wrap up the story in an exciting, entertaining but still dark way. While it is probably about 15 minutes too long, fans of the books and the movies should find this a satisfying conclusion.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” gets four stars out of five.

The Thanksgiving holiday means a midweek release of three new films. I’ll see and review at least one of them.


The Good Dinosaur—

Victor Frankenstein—

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