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Rapid Reviews: Snowden and Don't Think Twice

Oliver Stone has never been one to shy away from a controversial biopic. As the directing force behind W. and Nixon, it's evident that politically motivated dramatizations are his bread and butter. Enter the publicized actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden who leaked classified information to the press in 2013 revealing the depths of the National Security Agency's global surveillance. Some have lauded the international fugitive as a hero, while others demonize Snowden as a traitor to our country. And if there's a political conundrum in the works, you better believe that Oliver Stone wants in on the action.

As a loyal patriot to the United States, a young Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receives an untimely discharge from the armed services following an injury to his leg. Desperate to discover another way to serve his country, Snowden uses his tech savviness to join the CIA and eventually become a contractor for the NSA. Yet, Snowden's blind loyalty to his government becomes tested when he learns of their unrestricted surveillancing on American citizens and foreign governments.

Sluggish in tempo and detailed to a fault, the natural flow of Oliver Stone's Snowden proves to be an unwelcome experience. However, a fully committed and mirror-like performance from the film's leading star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, eases the audience through an otherwise bitter journey from patriot to global fugitive. One of Stone's trademark qualities is his ability to elicit transcending performances from his actors and actresses. The trend continues here as Gordon-Levitt helps transform a muddled piece of work into a tolerable watch. As expected, Snowden gives an Oliver Stone trademark slant to the politically debated figure and suffers greatly from an anti-climactic third act. Stone pushes hard to generate tense and suspenseful moments, but they never fully develop as intended. Consequently, Snowden comes and goes as yet another mediocre effort from the industry icon.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

I know I sound like an ancient buffoon declaring that everything was better years ago, but I've been very displeased by the recent big budget comedy titles since the turn of the decade. The days of genius writing have been replaced with shock value and vulgarity. Thankfully though, a refreshing new indie dramedy from writer, director and co-star Mike Birbiglia has given me a sense of optimism.

The Commune isn't only a fresh and popular improv comedy group generating laughs in the New York City underground scene, they're a family of diverse and eclectic individuals who are truly greater than the sum of their parts. However, when big wigs from show biz's most notable sketch comedy program arrive at their performance in search of some new talent, a sense of competition overcomes the group and begins tearing them apart.

Don't Think Twice isn't just this year's best comedy entry to date, it's so much more. Through conflicting themes of chasing your dreams verses finding a suitable level of content, we examine these six genuine characters. The laughs interweave their way through a deeper dynamic that effortlessly forms a bond between the characters and audience. To single out any individual performance feels like a disservice to the rest of these fine performers. Rarely does a comedy capture such an authentic and human tone that resonates. Don't Think Twice is a luring tale of the fine line between success and failure and how on you and your perspective can determine which is which. Mike Birbiglia delivers one of the year's finest and most overlooked films. Although you may not have even known the movie existed, but Don't Think Twice is a magnificent and brisk hour and a half of humor and emotion.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B


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