Tag Archives: Barry Pepper

Enter Sandman


by Hope Madden

There are so few things I enjoy more in this life than sleeping. Sleeping is the best. I love sleeping. This is one of the reasons director Mark Raso’s apocalyptic Awake got under my skin.

But it’s supposed to, after all. It’s not a comedy. It’s a spare, clever idea about some kind of celestial happening that throws off our hard wiring enough that we lose the ability to fall asleep. This power surge affects more than just our own circadian rhythms, though. It also shuts down all electric power, including car engines.

Jill (Gina Rodriguez) was tired already. She just finished the late shift as security at a local hospital when she picked her kids up for their day together—her son Noah (Lucius Hoyos) goes more reluctantly than her young daughter Mathilda (Ariana Greenblatt). By the time Jill understands what’s happening, she realizes the kind of danger her daughter is in—from religious zealots as well as government officials—because Mathilda can sleep.

So, there you have it. There’s a fight against the clock (the film outlines in great detail exactly how this will disorient and then eventually kill you) for this mother to figure out how her daughter will 1) survive the apocalypse and 2) continue to survive once everyone else is dead.

Rodriguez drives the film with a believable mix of savvy, grit and growing brain dysfunction. Several of the population-gone-mad set pieces are eerie and smart, although others are underdeveloped and unsatisfying.

Raso, working from a script he co-wrote with brother Joseph as well as Gregory Poirier, picks at one or two modern-day concerns but truly breaks new ground only rarely. Moments from The Mist, War of the Worlds, and just about every outbreak movie make their way into Jill’s family adventure. Borrowed as much of this is, it still comes together in a way that feels fairly fresh.

Support work from Barry Pepper, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Frances Fisher and Shamier Anderson offers the adventure shape and character while Rodriguez gives it a pulse. And some really heavy eyelids.

Pace that Kills

Running with the Devil

by Hope Madden

A tale told in bathrooms, Running with the Devil travels with The Cook (Nicolas Cage), a high ranking jefe in an international cocaine cartel.

He’s a jefe, but he’s not El Jefe. That’s Barry Pepper, as The Boss, and he has other pressing concerns. El Jefe needs The Cook to travel with his product from the farm where it’s produced through the forests, mountains, backstreets, highways and checkpoints to the hands of the dealers who sell it, so he can determine just where the other problem lies.

So while The Agent in Charge (Leslie Bibb) and Number One (Peter Facinelli) investigate suspicious OD’s stateside, The Cook heads south for his own form of investigation.

A word about character names. Writer/director Jason Cabell offers labels as opposed to your traditional Paul or Paulas. That would be interesting if the labels were fun or even on-the-nose, but The Cook? This isn’t meth. He actually just owns a restaurant on the side, which has nothing to do with anything, but I guess Cartel Middle Manager didn’t have the right zing.

Another word about Number One (Facinelli). This guy. He’s the trusted back up to The Agent in Charge. He’s the guy who gets stuck heading to the border to wait for the shipment. And he is the single most conspicuous person on earth. He’s like a Tom of Finland illustration come to life and dressed in JC Penney’s best.

Anyway, Cabell structures his film to draw tension and excitement from the inevitable collision between The Cook (Cage) and The Man (Lawrence Fishburne).


They may be borderline-geriatric badasses, but both have certainly cut interesting cinematic figures. What can they do together?

Well, in this case, they can disappoint. You can’t lay this on Fishburne’s portrayal. His commitment to the pursuit of cocaine and prostitutes impresses.

Unfortunately, this is one of those Nic Cage movies where he doesn’t cut loose—doesn’t go all Nic Cage on you. This means he has to act, but he more or less chooses not to. You get a flash here, a flutter there, but the naked truth is that Nicolas Cage has no idea how to behave like a regular person. The Cook is too ordinary a man for Nicolas Cage to properly portray.

And without the needed distraction of a Full On Cage, it’s tough not to notice the narrative inconsistencies, trite dialog, stupid character names.

I mean, Facinelli does what he can with that mustache to keep your attention, but when it comes to the school of Glorious Explosive Train Wreck Acting, he’s no Nic Cage.



by George Wolf

Just when you thought it was safe to explore your Florida crawlspaces during a Category 5, here comes Crawl to remind us that while Sharknadoes put tongues in cheeks, Gatorcanes are looking to remove the whole head.

Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is a University of Florida swimmer (a Gator!), which comes in pretty handy when she ignores evacuation orders to look for the father that always challenged her to do better in the pool.

Dave Keller (Barry Pepper) is lying injured in a soggy basement, and even before Haley finds him, she finds that they are not alone.

Director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes remake) utilizes the confines of the flooding house to fine effect. Walls, pipes and tight corners create natural barriers between gator and bait, but as the water level keeps rising, Aja finds plenty of room for simmering tension and effective jump scares.

Plus plenty of bloodletting. Oh, yes, people do get eaten.

This survival tale doesn’t worry too much about suspending disbelief. It just keeps the water rising, the obstacles mounting (Haley’s “You gotta be fucking kidding me” speaks for all of us) and the visual effects nimble and nifty.

Writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen get a bit too enamored with the father/daughter estrangements and swim team parlance (“You’re faster than they are! Swim!”), but Scodelario provides a capable anchor, giving Haley authentic layers of toughness and grit.

Aja and the effects team do the rest, enough to make Crawl an often entertaining creature and bloody fun summer feature.