Tag Archives: Teresa Palmer

God and Country

Hacksaw Ridge

by Hope Madden

Bathing an audience in violence – but violence in service of a noble cause – has become filmmaker Mel Gibson’s stock and trade.

Braveheart was a great movie – thrilling, self-righteous and violent as hell. But Gibson really hit paydirt as a director when he underpinned his gorefests with images of the victimhood of the Christian. (Or, of Christ himself.)

Gibson returns to what works with his latest, Hacksaw Ridge.

There is no question that the story of WWII veteran Desmond Doss not only deserves but requires our attention. A conscientious objector and devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss refused to bear arms and yet he single-handedly carried 75 injured soldiers to safety during a particularly bloody battle in Okinawa.

Screenwriters Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan burden the film with every cliché in the WWII movie arsenal, from the wholesome hometown love to the flatly stereotyped platoon mates to nearly every line in the film.

Yet, between Gibson’s skill behind the camera and Andrew Garfield’s commitment to his character, Hacksaw Ridge always manages to be better than the material. And there is really no denying Gibson’s knack for action, carnage and viscera – all in the service of non-violence, of course.

It was Doss’s faith that kept him strong in his non-violent beliefs, just as it was his faith that kept him courageous in battle. Whether you believe in God or you do not, you will admire Desmond Doss, and Garfield does him justice.

He’s goofy and layered and at no point does Doss’s own explanation of his faith feel like a sermon. Thank God.

Garfield also boasts lovely chemistry with just about every actor onscreen – this is particularly touching in some early scenes with Teresa Palmer, playing Doss’s hometown sweetheart Dorothy.

So, come for the wholesome message, stay for the flaming soldiers who’ll flail in unimaginable agony before your very eyes.

It isn’t tough to shock with violence when you’re re-telling the greatest story ever told, but to one-up the carnage in a war movie? Have you seen Platoon? Saving Private Ryan?

Well, Gibson has, and he won’t be intimidated. But give the man credit, these sequences are breathtakingly choreographed, as full of energy and clarity as they are human entrails. If you’re looking for an opportunity to satisfy your bloodlust while also celebrating pacifism, well, Gibson’s got you covered.


Circuit Breaker

Lights Out

by George Wolf

While fright fans continue to argue about the merits of art house horror vs. torture porn, there is another option in 2016. Make America grab their dates again! And just like a convention speech that sounds awfully familiar, Lights Out limps off as a promising platform derailed by borrowed ideas and intermittent ridiculousness.

There aren’t many phobias more basic than a fear of the dark, and Director David F. Sandberg had nifty fun with it in his Lights Out short film from 2013. He gets a producer assist from James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) for his big screen debut, and though the opening segment does offer the same spark as that original short, expanding the premise to a mere 81 minutes brings more filler, less killer.

Young Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is increasingly scared to stay in his own house, since his mother (Maria Bello) talks to unseen beings and strange things happen whenever the lights go out. Martin’s older sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is contacted by social services, and she’s instantly reminded of similar trauma from her own childhood. Rebecca sets out on a determined quest to finally uncover the truth about what’s hiding in the dark….which ends after opening the first storage box she sees.

Thanks for neatly organizing all this evidence, Mom! Now how do I get rid of it?

For those tired of all the love art house horror has been getting, Lights Out is your anti-Witch. It’s all about the jump scares, in a universe where major plot turns are explained by “something went wrong” and no one seems to have a job. Don’t think about it, just…boo!

It’s all obvious and mildly jolting, with none of the creepy polish evident in Wan’s own catalog. Sandberg does find some authenticity, though, in his cast. The reliable Bello is effectively sympathetic and Palmer, despite a string of lackluster performances, finally shows the promise of a genuine actor.

Though the bloodletting is always minimal in PG-13 horror, these films can still be effective. The Ring showed they can even be great, and screenwriter Eric Heisserer clearly agrees, which becomes increasingly evident as the structure of his backstory is revealed.

The finale is as abrupt as it is unsatisfying, and though Sandberg flashes chops worthy of a better script (he is directing Wan’s Annabelle 2 next year) Lights Out merely flickers.


Isn’t It Bromantic?

Point Break

by Hope Madden

Just like a shiny new toy waiting to be unwrapped, Point Break is available for your viewing pleasure this Christmas Day.

Kathryn Bigelow’s 1992 MTV Award winning surfing/bank robbing/pathway to enlightenment classic wears some new trunks courtesy of director Ericson Core (Invincible).

Johnny Utah (yes, that’s still his name) was a YouTube phenom thanks to some extreme mountain biking and whatnot, but tragedy and guilt motivated him to change his life. One man-bun later, he’s a fledgling FBI agent with a nose for extreme sportsman heists.

Dude, I totally think those bank robbers are trying to perform the Ozaki 8.

That’s right, they’re not common criminals. They are extreme eco-warriors and poly-athletes.
Well now they’re just making words up.

Luke Bracey seems at times to channel Keanu Reeves, his predecessor in the rich and meaty role of Utah. Indeed, he boasts the sun kissed locks of a young Patrick Swayze as well as the utterly wooden acting presence of Reeves – quite a combination.

In the role of Jedi Master Bodhi is Edgar Ramirez, an actor who, in fact, has talent. You won’t see evidence of it here, though, as he struggles through dialog, such as, “All you see is lines. All we see is truth.”


Replacing the spunky Lori Petty in the role of Utah’s love interest is Teresa Palmer as Samsara. Look how adorably enlightened she is! She climbed a rock pile – yay!

But you don’t come to Point Break (either version) for the acting. If you can make it past the insufferable masculine posturing, the film looks great. Yes, the first two set pieces rip off the Mission Impossible franchise, with a little Fight Club robbery thrown in later, but who has time for originality?

The scenery is stunning, the stunts genuinely impressive, and Core is wise enough to limit dialog and plot to a minimum, allowing plenty of time for filling the screen with sky, valley, waterfall, and mountain top – you know, everything a real man conquers. For enlightenment.