The 33

'The 33' movie poster

Release: Friday, November 13, 2015 (limited)


Written by: Mikko Alanne; Craig Borten; Michael Thomas; Jose Rivera

Directed by: Patricia Riggen

Patricia Riggen’s optimistic, spiritual account of the 2010 San José mining accident in which 33 miners were trapped 2,300 feet below ground for nearly three months collapses under the weight of a feebly written and executed script.

Disaster films aren’t known for their star-making performances nor their Oscar-baiting screenplays, and The 33 is perfectly okay with continuing that trend, rendering everyone whose name isn’t Antonio Banderas cardboard cut-outs of characters. Because disaster films aren’t known for their acting pedigree, it might seem odd that my major complaint with this picture is the abysmal acting on display. And yet, this thing is painful to sit through folks, even despite an outcome that is quite uplifting because, you know . . . it really happened.

Riggen finds herself combatting the odds with a roster the size of two Marvel films put together. There are at least 33 main characters, and those are just the miners trapped beneath the earth — more specifically, under a rock that apparently weighed twice as much as the Empire State Building. Collectively, I suppose, you could consider them one singular character, only one that’s not very exciting to watch. On the surface, both literally and figuratively, we deal with Chilean government officials, concerned more with public image than the safety of those involved and the grieving family members whose desperate requests are often stymied by bureaucratic bullshit.

Speaking of, there’s Bob Gunton as President Piñera, a far cry from his Warden Norton and Rodrigo Santoro as Chilean engineer Laurence Golborne, whose handsome exterior makes him the perfect candidate as a pseudo-public relations manager, a character so ill-defined I don’t think I’m making that title up. He’s meant to be an engineer, although he’s reminded several times by Gabriel Byrne‘s Actual Engineer character that he should start thinking like one. Duh. Isn’t it obvious? People’s lives are in danger, get it together man!

Gunton and Santoro are rendered as puppets, wooden and largely void of charisma in their Suits, the kind you expect to see in films dealing with real lives hanging in the balance, lives dependent upon their political clout to ironically save them. Even more nebulous are the aforementioned family members, though one in particular stands out because she’s played by Juliette Binoche (for some reason). She’s sister to the alcoholic Darío Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba); the pair have more issues communicating than Hellen Keller. Apparently they’ve suffered some sort of trauma in the past.

Clearly, something was going to have to be sacrificed given the extensive roster. But Riggen, along with a quartet of writers, sacrifices the wrong thing, reducing virtually every miner and their corresponding family members to a few lines at most. It’s nigh on impossible to root for these people when we already know the outcome and when we can’t tell Adam from Eve. Fans of The Office will get some mileage out of Oscar Nuñez as Yonni Barrios, one of the miners who is experiencing marital woes and who apparently farts in his sleep. If I weren’t such a fan of his character in that show I’d label this characterization as annoyingly juvenile. Actually, it still is just juvenile, but at least there’s an attempt to shove some humor down into these dank caves.

There are a few positive takeaways, however. What saves this largely uncharismatic cast is the level of diversity in the casting itself. Chilean, Brazilian, Filipino, Mexican, Cuban and Colombian actors congregate to play their Chilean parts, and once again it’s apparent how much Banderas believes in this material. His Mario Sepúlveda is one of an elite few with energy and passion. And quite frankly I was prepared for the religious overtones to be off-putting. Instead this adds weight to proceedings. It’s also one of a few elements that signify the passage of time, lending gravity to the collective despair.

Unfortunately these elements are not enough to qualify The 33 as a natural disaster/biopic worth digging into.

Antonio Banderas inspiring his mining brothers to keep the good faith in 'The 33'

Recommendation: The 33 represents a cinematic treatment of a fairly recent and highly unlikely rescue mission that garnered global attention and support. The optimism is a welcomed attribute, but weak writing and poor acting do a lot of damage here. If you’re looking for basic coverage of the event in cinematic form, I think this is currently your only option (unless there’s a documentary out there somewhere). Inspired by the book ‘Deep Down Dark,’ written by Hector Tobar.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 127 mins.

Quoted: “That’s not a rock, that’s the heart of the mountain. She finally broke.”

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Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher was released June 24 nationwide

Release: Friday, June 24, 2011.


Bad Teacher may be more aptly titled ‘Bad Movie.’

Granted, this was my choice to go see the movie at 12:25 opening night, a showing which effectively puts the audience in a role similar to that of a test screening (ergo the film is already at a disadvantage – we have our own expectations, and no one else’s…). Even so, I feel that the movie fell well short of the excitement and potential gut-busting raunchiness generated in its previews, most notably a scene in which the teacher (Diaz) spikes a student in the crotch with a dodgeball…

Cameron Diaz stars along with Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch and Jason Segel in a motion picture not made for those with a sensitive skin. The movie is rude, crude, and…hell, why not…lewd all at the same time. Foul language and inappropriate jokes are pervasive, and given the backdrop for the movie (a middle school somewhere in Illinois) the dialogue becomes all the more hilarious. Diaz’ character is a burned out schoolteacher who could care as much about her pupils’ performances as she could about her own fiance’s health (in case that reference is confusing, that’s not a whole lot). So long as she is rolling in her hubby’s big bucks, she is detached from everything else. Unfortunately for her, her fiance catches on and soon leaves her behind to deal with her own problems.

And thus, the movie. The ensuing hour and a half remains relatively awkward and joke-free, save for slightly less-than-arousing performances by Punch, Segel and Timberlake. (When did he start making film again, anyway??) Its not that I do not like any of these actors (OK, caught me there with JT……), its just that I agree with many of the reviewers I have come across already: they are given roles and lines that just don’t deliver like they should.

An example may be the stand-off between Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) and Amy Squirrel (Punch), who constantly try to win over the new substitute in town, Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), through various tricks and back-stabbings including a switcharoo with the teachers’ desks, apples doused in poison ivy and leakage of classified information regarding the standardized test examination booklets. These moments are funny in and of themselves, but the acting on the part of Lucy Punch did not have me convinced at all that she knew what she was doing with the script. Or perhaps she was managing her part fine; maybe it was the script that failed.

Seeing that the movie was written by The Office writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, this possibility is somewhat disappointing. While I am a fan of The Office, I was not a fan of the one-liners in Bad Teacher. Some of them, as a good friend of mine put it, were so bad that you feel embarrassed to laugh at them. Half of the things that Timberlake said in the movie fit into this category. About a quarter of the lines belonging to Amy Squirrel were also this way, and the rest….well, I leave to bad acting. However, I cannot rule out the entirety of the cast with such a comment; indeed, The Office‘s Phyllis Smith makes herself known, as a quiet woman with lower self-esteem than Diaz’s character’s self-respect, who only hopes to be half as good a teacher as Ms Squirrel and perhaps a quarter of the flaunt as Ms Halsey.

And Jason Segel plays the gym instructor, Russell Gettis, a friendly, approachable man and arguably the only individual in the film with a head on his shoulders. Segel shines as a good ‘opposite’ to Diaz, though in the end it would be the two who would meet and make amends before the final school bell dismisses us from the theater.

When I first left the theater, I initially thought I was just being a harsh critic (as I feel I always am with movies), especially considering I was watching it at 12:25 the night of its release. “Okay, let’s just see how the movie goes down in the next couple of days,” I thought to myself later on. Well, more than a week has passed and its not looking great for Jake Kasdan and all else who were on board with this half-baked idea of a movie. As I said before, its good to gain perspective from others before deciding for yourself. Now I’m sure of my instincts. The movie was nowhere NEAR as good as the previews made it out to be.

Is Bad Teacher really another casualty of a trailer that reveals the only good parts of a movie? Or are we missing something here….?

Cameron Diaz

Recommendation: See it if you’re a just an unapologetically devoted fan of the guys who wrote The Office. Because this movie and that show are totally not the same thing. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 92 mins.

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