I Have My Doubts That Anyone Thought ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’ Into Existence

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The Secret: Dare to Dream (CREDIT: Lionsgate)

Starring: Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O’Connell, Celia Weston, Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Brennan, Chloe Lee, Katrina Begin

Director: Andy Tennant

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Life in Debt

Release Date: July 31, 2020 (Premium Video on Demand)

If I follow the advice of Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 best-selling self-help book The Secret, then it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to write a great movie review. All I have to do is think about it and it will surely come to be if I want hard enough. But I’m not sure I want to write a great review about The Secret: Dare to Dream, the thoroughly blah adaptation of Byrne’s book. I’d much rather visualize myself watching any other movie and writing a review about that instead. What does The Secret have to say about how to power yourself through a less-than-inviting obligation? Based on Dare to Dream, I have no idea. But I can tell you for sure that this wasn’t the movie I visualized when I heard they were making another fictional narrative out of an advice book.

There’s one scene early in the film in which a pizza delivery arrives after everyone else imagines it. (It turns out that someone they know sent it as a surprise.) But other than that moment, I don’t see how this adaptation demonstrates the principle of its source material. That’s not necessarily a problem. Even if it fails in that regard, it can still be entertaining. But alas, it fails in that regard as well, as it is a rather mundane story about a down-on-their-luck family who experience a little bit of luck after a stranger (who maybe isn’t a stranger) suddenly arrives in their lives.

That family would be the widowed Miranda (Katie Holmes) and her three kids, who find themselves wondering what the deal is with wandering handyman Bray, who is played by Voice of Home Depot Josh Lucas. Bray carries with him some Very Important Documents that almost definitely have something to do with Miranda’s dead husband. He was planning on showing them to her as soon as they met, but he decides instead to hang around for a bit and fix up her house after a hurricane tears through it. He also stays because he just has a … feeling. You know, one of those “the universe is trying to tell me something” feelings. That contrivance lasts long enough for Miranda to realize that she isn’t in love enough with her boss (Jerry O’Connell) to marry him, even though he’s a swell guy who looks after her and the kids. Then when the truth comes out about why Bray is really there, Miranda feels betrayed, which I guess makes sense, but it also comes off as overwrought and perfunctory. Even more perfunctory is the moment when she sees the whole picture and decides to give Bray another chance.

To make a movie actually come into being, it really does require a lot of believing that it can actually happen. Considering that The Secret: Dare to Dream is based on that very principle, it’s a little sad to see that the result is so thoroughly right-down-the-middle.

The Secret: Dare to Dream is Recommended If You Like: Pretending you’re watching another movie so hard that it actually happens

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Banalities

Ford v Ferrari = Friendship!

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CREDIT: Twentieth Century Fox

I’m not sure what the message of Ford v Ferrari is, and I’m not sure if that’s a mostly good or mostly bad thing. (We could be doing a lot worse in this world!) Is it about how you can’t ever stop American individualism from being as individual as possible? Or is it about how the United States won’t ever stay an underdog for long, even in pursuits usually dominated by the Europeans? If it’s either of those, then why is the main character an Englishman? Maybe it’s about how teammates stick with each other no matter what, and the whole American-ness of it all just be how it be. Certainly what stuck with me the most is the friendship between Christian Bale’s vroom-vroom-goer Ken Miles and Matt Damon’s vroom-vroom-guider Carroll Shelby. It’s an oft-contentious relationship, which only makes sense when you’re gearing up for a race that lasts a full day. Such competition, such support, such politics behind the whole affair – I saw it all!

I give Ford v Ferrari 240 out of 360 Laps.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House’ is a Minor Addition to the Watergate Canon

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CREDIT: Bob Mahoney/Sony Pictures Classics

This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Marton Csokas, Tony Goldwyn, Josh Lucas, Michael C. Hall, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Sizemore, Julian Morris, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kate Walsh, Maika Monroe, Bruce Greenwood, Brian d’Arcy James, Noah Wyle

Director: Peter Landesman

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for FBI Agents Yelling When Suspected of Leaking

Release Date: September 29, 2017 (Limited)

Former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt has been portrayed or parodied in plenty of movies and TV shows, his presence an easy source of tension, frequently cloaked in the shadows of intrigue and mystery. When Hal Holbrook set the template for all Felt performances in All the President’s Men, he literally remained in the shadows. Of course, for decades, the role was not “Mark Felt” but “Deep Throat,” the pseudonym for the informant who provided The Washington Post with key details about the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. Now that Felt (here played by Liam Neeson) has been revealed as Deep Throat, a fascinating film about the man behind the informant is ready to be made, but The Man Who Brought Down the White House is too erratic and overstuffed to be that film.

The story of the Watergate break-in and its fallout is familiar to basically every American who has lived during the last 45 years. It is an ur-scandal, providing a lens through which all governmental scandals – really all public scandals – are interpreted. We don’t need Mark Felt to re-tell that story, and yet it does. To be fair, seeing everything through Felt’s perspective – the channel through which all information in this affair goes through – is fascinating, but not so fascinating to make the familiar exciting again.

As far as I can tell, Mark Felt’s main purpose is to draw back the curtain on all the hoopla that springs up around any person who exists anonymously for so long. There is plenty of material to mine for a rich domestic drama. Felt’s wife Audrey (Diane Lane) is alcoholic and shares much of the stress he’s under, but her story seems like it could be that of any FBI agent’s wife and not Deep Throat’s specifically. The film’s other major point is that for all the good Felt did as an informant, he was not exactly a hero through and through. He was as guilty as (perhaps more so) anyone else in the FBI who violated American citizens’ civil rights. But save for one compelling scene snuck in at the end, that aspect is merely glossed over.

The major shortcoming of Mark Felt is all it attempts to stuff into just a little more than an hour and a half. Every name in the impressively sprawling cast list brings their bona fides, but nobody has the space to carve out a memorable character. Mark and Audrey reunite with their daughter (Maika Monroe) at a hippie commune in a third act twist that plays like it is so supposed to put everything that came before in perspective but mostly feels like it comes out of nowhere. If Mark Felt makes any cogent point, it’s that you always need folks like Woodward and Bernstein to compile everything together cogently and lucidly.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is Recommended If You Like: Watergate completism

Grade: 2 out of 5 (Nonexistent) Secret Files