April 11, 2014, - 11:43 am

Wknd Box Office: Draft Day, Oculus, The Face of Love, The Unknown Known

By Debbie Schlussel

Well, it’s mid-April, and as we’re closer to the summer movie season (which starts in May), the selection of movies opening today at theaters is getting better.



* “Draft Day“: This is a two-hour love letter to the NFL or a two-hour commercial for it. Take your pick. The NFL clearly cooperated with and highly massaged the script of this movie to make it come out smelling like a rose. Otherwise, it would not have allowed its logos and team logos all over the place in this movie, along with scenes of the NFL Draft and an appearance by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And a theme of the movie–that NFL teams are extremely interested in drafting pure men of integrity–is pure NFL fantasy, since we know that the National Football League is chock full of criminals from America’s killing fields. That said, the movie–while mostly predictable, formulaic, and somewhat overloaded with synthetic syrup–is entertaining enough and fast-paced.

Kevin Costner plays the washed-up general manager of the Cleveland Browns, who is struggling to keep his job on the eve of NFL Draft Day, the date on which NFL teams choose their new rookie players emerging from college. In addition to a lackluster team and an impatient owner (Frank Langella), Costner has a bad rep for firing his own father, who was the team’s longtime head coach. And his current head coach hates him. On top of all that, his girlfriend–the team’s lawyer–is pregnant with his baby, and he’s still trying to keep their relationship a secret from the team.

Costner is desperate to do something big and build buzz, so he makes a big trade to get the first pick in the draft. But he’s now under attack because he traded a lot of future draft picks in that move. And–in a big storyline in the movie–he’s concerned that the superstar White quarterback he wants to pick is dishonest. Not that the kid committed any crimes, but he may have lied about whether or not he has any friends on the team and why no players were arrested at his birthday party. Costner and other NFL teams agonize over this White player’s possible minor dishonesty and unlikability, while the two Black players Costner is looking at are righteous, worthy, honest heroes. Really?

PUH-LEEZE. Hollywood is telling me that NFL teams are concerned with whether some White player may have no friends and lied about it, when it regularly drafts and/or signs murderers (see Ray Lewis), rapists (see Darren Sharper, Ben Roethlisberger), and other hardened criminals (see Adam “Pacman” Jones), without even a shrug or a sigh? Come on. And Hollywood is telling me that only the star quarterback White guy is the morally defective dude, while the Black players are pure as the driven snow? Yes, there are White cretins (such as Roethlisberger and various others), but most of the criminals in the League are Black (again, see Ray Lewis, Darren Sharper, “Pacman” Jones, etc.) as are the majority of the players.

A couple of casting notes: Costner’s girlfriend is played by Jennifer Garner, whom I don’t get. Her acting is terrible, especially in this movie, and her whole act is speaking in a sing-song high-pitched voice that sounds like it is struggling against a past lisp. Her look reminds me of ET with hair. Phone home. She utters lines like, “I gave my life for football.” Huh? Who says that? And who does that? And then there is Denis Leary, who plays the Browns’ head coach. I like that Leary, an Obama liberal, does at least face reality on Islam and that it is behind 9/11 (he’s famous for sticking it to 9/11 Truthers while raising money for 9/11’s first responder firemen). But have you seen him lately? I kept wondering who the aging lesbian playing the Browns coach was. As he resembles Jane Lynch more and more, I just didn’t see him as an NFL head coach, and his on-screen tantrums seem manufactured and aren’t believable. Add to that Leary’s mullet in off-screen promotions of the movie, and he looks even more like someone’s crazy lesbionic grandma who came out long ago. Just sayin’.

But other than the NFL propaganda and BS, the movie is entertaining and fine for two hours of escapism. It’s not a great movie. Not even close. But it’s decent entertainment and better than I expected it would be. And you will probably enjoy it whether or not you like football and/or sports in general. If you do like those things, you’ll definitely enjoy this.

It’s just not NFL reality. NFL teams don’t care whether or not their draftees are boy scouts. They care only if the players can run with, throw, pass, and catch the ball, score yards, defend, and make tackles and touchdowns. The only time NFL teams seemed to care about an NFL potential draft pick’s criminal activity was when Maurice Clarett was indicted for committing armed robbery. And that was only because it would get in the way of actually attending team practices and playing in games.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Oculus“: This is one of several movies produced in recent years by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) with no-name actors. It’s a horror movie. While it is not a great movie, it was better than I expected. It’s not original, and I feel like I’ve seen several movies very similar to it (some of them better, most of them about the same). It’s definitely been done in one version or another before. It’s a little bit bloody and it’s slightly scarier than many horror movies I’ve seen lately, though the ending is somewhat predictable.

The story: a young son is convicted of murdering his father (who is believed to have murdered his wife, the son’s mother), and is just about to be released from juvenile prison at age 21. His sister wants to help clear him and prove that the crime was caused by a possessed antique mirror her father had in his home office. She takes her brother to the house where the incidents occurred and puts the mirror up. She sets up a system of video cameras, timers, and a kill switch mechanism–all designed to prove the powers of the mirror and capture what really happened in the house all these years ago.

The constant flashbacks and flash forwards in this movie are confusing (especially when present day characters are shown in flashbacks) and make the movie a little herky-jerky. And, like I said, this isn’t a great movie. It’s okay, though, for what it is (a horror thriller), and it’s somewhat entertaining, even if it moves a little slowly.

I don’t think I’d pay ten bucks-plus to see this. But I might watch it on video.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Face of Love“: This is, by far, the best new movie opening this weekend, and one of my favorites so far in a crappy year for movies. Showing mostly in arthouse movie theaters, it stars Annette Benning as a widow who was very in love with her husband (Ed Harris, a far lefty who refused to stand up when the great anti-Communist filmmaker Elia Kazan got a career Oscar), but he dies on a trip they took together in Mexico. Five years later, while at a local art museum, she sees a man who is her late husband’s doppelganger. He looks exactly like him.

Her feelings for her husband are stirred up all over again, and she is determined to meet this man. She stalks the museum and finally sees him again, following him and learning that he’s an art professor at a nearby college. Soon, she inveigles herself into his life and him into hers. The thing is, she knows that others will find it weird, creepy, and sick that this man looks exactly like her late husband, and so she is trying to keep it a secret from them . . . and from this doppelganger, who does not know better.

This is really a great movie and an interesting story that I haven’t seen much of before. There have been many other doppelganger movies, but none like this. And certainly few done as brilliantly and with as much subtle but marked insight as this one. The movie is a combination thriller, drama, and comedy all in one. And it’s weird in a good way–the kind of weird that makes movies interesting and keeps you wanting more. I very much enjoyed it, but the ending was extremely sad and brought tears to my eyes. You cannot help but be moved by this if you have a heart. And that is helped, in good measure, by the top notch acting of all involved.

A few other things I liked about this movie: the leading men (both played by Harris) are good guys who are kind, decent, loving, faithful, and generous, something you generally don’t see in Hollywood much, these days. (Robin Williams plays a creepy, nosy neighbor of Benning’s, but he’s only a minor character.) And the movie involves post-middle-aged characters, who are rarely cast in thrillers and movies involving suspense and mystery, making this movie refreshing in that sense. Finally, it’s rare to see a movie in which Hollywood admits that women are the manipulators with men often the victims.

Guys, if you must go to a chick flick with your significant female other, this is the one. (And it’s really not a chick flick at all, but more of a dramedy thriller.)


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Unknown Known“: Whether you are left-wing or right-wing, you will like this movie and it will be the proverbial beauty in the eyes of the beholder. Though I do think liberals will be slightly disappointed. This is an Errol Morris documentary on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of whom I’m a fan. Morris is a far-left, anti-war liberal but a good documentary maker. Rumsfeld gave him hours of interview footage and willingly cooperated with what he knew was going to be a hatchet job . . . or at least an attempt at one. The movie spends a lot of time telling us the political and career history of Rumsfeld, which was interesting, even for those in the know about this.

Since I have tremendous respect for Rumsfeld and always liked him, I expected to hate this. But I actually liked it because I think Rumsfeld had Morris for lunch (and for dinner). As much as Morris tried to trap Rumsfeld and asked him pointed questions–as much as he tried to make him look bad or contradictory–Rumsfeld shined. He came through sharply as the brilliant man and great patriot that he is. His love for America and doing what’s right was sharply present here. While filmmaker Morris is a smart liberal, the far more brilliant of the two men–Rumsfeld–took over and bested him.

When I picked this movie as one of last year’s best documentaries, I wrote:

A liberal documentary maker tries to make former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld look bad, but fails miserably. Instead, a great picture of the brilliance, integrity, and decency of the great Rummy emerges. I learned a lot about him, and admire him even more after seeing this.

Rumsfeld comes off here as what he is: a great American patriot who loves his country and did his best to do what is right and best for America.


Watch the trailer . . .

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12 Responses

Jameis Winston is still in college. He will not be in the NFL until 2015 at the earliest, and possibly not until 2016. Beyond that everything was pretty much accurate.

G: You are correct, and thanks for pointing this error out. I’ve removed his name, though it will likely be accurate in 2015, as you note. DS

Gerald on April 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Ohhhh I get it now. I was wondering why they were actually able to use real NFL teams instead of the “NY Knights” or whatever. Now I know, it’s because it’s a love-fest for the NFL. Maybe it should be made by NFL Films, with John Facenda narrating! Don’t they know that people who go to see this ALREADY know that the NFL is full of criminals and baby daddies? And wait, in this movie…is Kevin Costner dating Jennifer Garner? Did Hugh Hefner get a script writing credit?

Sean M on April 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

This is why I wait for Debbie’s reviews, so I don’t waste my money on junk like DRAFT DAY. The NFL is way to fat and sassy and full of itself, and getting worse every day. Especially that commissioner. What a pig. Thanks DS!

Tommy Thomas on April 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I love that smile on Donald’s face!!

It's just me again on April 11, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Oculus has Karen Gillian who is kind of famous. She starred for several season on DR WHO.

Glen Benjamin on April 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Thanks for the reviews. Re. Draft Day and the NFL….Patriots’ wide receiver, Aaron Hernandez, who isnt White, showed great integrity and philanthropy by donating 50k to Myra Kraft’s charity in 2012, oh, wait, then he went out and (allegedly) murdered his buddy….never mind.

HK on April 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Have always liked Annette Benning and her husband Warren Beatty. Long ago “Heaven Can Wait” is/was one of my favorites, even though she was not in it. She was in “Love Affair” with him.

Thanks for you reviews. Some more good ones to add to my list.

panhandle on April 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

The best thing about Unknown Known is without doubt Rumsfeld.
The film itself in my opinion is notably mediocre. All of the devices have a slightly overused and second hand quality.
One continuously gets the feeling of being lost and adrift chartering the good ship Snowflake but the movable scenery is not very authentic because the people who painted it have never really been at sea.

Morris isn’t interested in attacking Rumsfeld on a personal level. He wants to give him enough rope to float somewhere very far behind the back of the boat where everybody can forget about him.
Maybe that’s why Rumsfeld is talking to him.

A more interesting unknown known that was never pursued is how many unknown weapons of mass destruction wound up in a known country – Syria.
People these days seem a little surprised by how long war in Syria is lasting.
That’s because history is not a dead subject in the Muslim world.
Islam’s first victories were gained in Syria and that war cannot end until the country has returned to the stone age in much the same way that Afghanistan was returned to the goat herders and the stones so that they should have dominion over it.

As Albert Einstein once said, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
That really is an unknown known.

Frankz on April 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm

A guy named Artemus Ward (real name Charles Brown), somewhat of a contemporary of Mark Twain was famous for a saying that went something like this:

“It a’int so much what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we think we know that just ain’t so.”

Rick Geiger on April 11, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Wow! Unusual to have a weekend with films worth seeing! I think Jennifer Garner may have a difficult time speaking normally due to her fake teeth and inflated lips. I’ve noticed a lot of actresses have that problem. Of course, she may also be covering up a speech impediment. As for Dennis Leary, looks like he’s been indulging in plastic surgery and got carried away.

Still not sure I can stand watching Annette Bening. She’s been keeping a fairly low profile recently, but her politics get in the way of my being able to enjoy her work.

As for Rumsfeld, I can’t wait to see that film. I’ve always liked him, and respected his honesty and confidence. Love him or hate him, he is one of the few honest people you’ll ever find in Washington, DC.

MIGirl on April 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

Thanks for the reviews Debbie. The only film out of this bunch that I would even go see would be The Unknown Known. I’ve always like Sec. Rumsfeld. One of the main reasons that the leftist twits in Washington and the LSM hated him is because he could always out talk them. Unlike the dopey an-Israeli retard we have as Sec Def. Rummy could tie the left in vocal knots. You knew that he love the troops and America and you just don’t get that vibe from Sleepy Floyd Hagel. I do think to that Dennis Leary is suffering from the same disease as Michael Douglas. The older he gets the more he’s starting to look like woman. I can’t stand flaming liberal hack Annette Benning. The last movie I saw her in was Under Siege with Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Thankfully she got shot in that one. On well so far it’s been a Red box weekend and I’m glad.

Ken B on April 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I saw Oculus and liked it–probably more than Debbie did. It was very scary. I would call this a “terror film.”

It didn’t have a lot of religious baggage (i.e., cliches)–such as crucifixes, holy water, Ouija boards and priests. It was all about what this old, malevolent mirror was doing. We really didn’t need another Exorcist or Paranormal movie; this was better.

The mirror causes minor hallucinations to protect itself. One critic said this part of the film reminded him of Polanski’s Repulsion, and I agree.

The movie didn’t use a lot of blood and gore to get its point across. Instead, it was atmospheric and creepy. It wasn’t boringly disgusting like so many slasher-horror-zombie films are these days.

I personally didn’t find the flashbacks confusing.

Two young adults were the main characters, but the film didn’t make the mistake of pushing us into teen culture so that this became a teen movie full of teen stupidity and teen narcissism. The daughter was feisty and the son was sort of passive (but good); I liked both and was rooting for them.

Burke on April 14, 2014 at 6:53 am

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