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Happy End • Winchester

February 8, 2018

Happy End (** ½) R

The year 2017 saw several usually reliable filmmakers stumbling a bit with their latest films. In October there was Todd Haynes’ ill-advised adaptation of the YA novel Wonderstruck, a film that was technically superb but strangely inert in the storytelling department. And there was the great Alexander Payne’s first certified misfire, Downsizing, which, while not a total disaster, certainly bit off more than it could successfully chew.

Scene from Happy End

If these types of things come in threes then the third exhibit would have to be the German film director Michael Haneke’s latest picture, Happy End. The film is an intriguing misfire, just now appearing in American theaters, that attempts to juggle multiple story lines without successfully bringing any of them to fruition. Story threads that feel like they have much potential are repeatedly introduced but ultimately wind up going flat before coming anywhere near the finish line. It’s a shame because Happy End has greatness in its grasp but is eventually undone simply by the filmmaker spreading himself too thin. This is a problem that could easily have been solved if Haneke had whittled down his narrative load just a bit. Unfortunately his insistence on going in too many different directions sends the film into lackluster territory.

The Laurents are a well to do family living in Northern France. The film’s story focuses on the problems that the various members of the family are facing. There’s George (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the head of the family and owner of the construction company that is the source of the family’s fortune, whose memory is failing him. Then there is his daughter, Anne (Isabelle Huppert) who’s in the midst of taking over her father’s company. Finally, there’s George’s physician son, Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), whose plate seems to be the fullest as he deals with both his father’s failing health, a new wife and baby and the emotional problems of his daughter from his first marriage. This is what constitutes the film’s narrative thread.

The acting, needless to say, is superb. In particular, the performances by Trintignant and Huppert. Also, the film does manage, from time to time, to have some of the bite found in Haneke’s best work. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough of it. Perhaps it’s just a symptom of being spoiled by watching a director in better days at the top of his game. While Happy End is far from a bad film, it’s simply not Haneke doing what he does best. Every director has a questionable entry on their resume from time to time and Happy End is that mark on a great director’s otherwise impressive resume.
Winchester (* ½) PG-13

I’ll have to give credit where credit is due. The disappointing haunted house flick Winchester is one of the rare instances where a filmmaking team have somehow managed to work an anti-gun PSA into a tale of things that go bump in the night. Say what you will but that’s certainly not something you see every day. In fact, I can’t recall ever having seen anything like that, at least not in recent memory. Fright flicks are usually one type of film that shun politics but not this one. Unfortunately, it’s about the only unique thing you’re likely to find in this otherwise dull tale of a house full of ghosts that refuse to let the heiress at the center of the film have a moment’s peace.

Helen Mirren in Winchester

Following closely on the heels of his last career misstep, the convoluted thriller All I See is You, Jason Clarke stars as Dr. Eric Price. It’s just after the turn of century in the year 1906. Price is one of those world weary skeptic types, albeit with a bit of an opiate addiction, who is sent to prove the mental incompetence of a particular individual. In this case, Sarah Winchester, whose deceased husband William’s family created the Winchester rifle (Ed. note: this movie is based on a true story). The company shareholders want her out of the way as they feel she’s gone cuckoo with her reports of spectral visitors and such. Sarah is played by the usually great Helen Mirren whose participation in this film is a bigger mystery than anything found in the film’s story.

Sarah has built a house in San Jose where the ghosts of those whose fate was met at the end of a smoking Winchester rifle barrel can freely roam. Dr. Price must determine whether the ghosts are real or imagined. Or, in other words, make sure that sufficient reasons are determined in order for Sarah to be carted to the loony bin so that the less scrupulous can get their hands on the company’s income potential. I’ll bet anyone reading this can predict the answer to that probing mystery.

Winchester offers nothing you haven’t seen many times before, and more effectively done elsewhere. The scares, what few they are, never really amount to much and can be telegraphed way in advance. When it’s all said and done, Winchester is just, simply put, a big bore. I kept thinking to myself that the true account of these events has to be more interesting than what’s on display here. I’d be willing to take that bet.

Winchester is playing in Hickory and around the area. Happy End is playing at the Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium 5 in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at




Phantom Thread • Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

Call Me By Your Name • I, Tonya

The Post • Insidious: The Last Key

Molly’s Game

The Darkest Hour,All The Money In The World

Downsizing,The Shape Of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Disaster Artist, Wonder Wheel

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri • Last Flag Flying

Justice League • Lady Bird

Daddy’s Home 2 (**) PG-13

Murder On The Orient Express Thor: Ragnarok

Suburbicon & The Florida Project

All I See Is You & Only The Brave

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House

Blade Runner 2049

Brad’s Status & Battle Of The Sexes

American Made

Kingsman: The Golden Circle


Good Time

Logan Lucky • Crown Heights

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power • Wind River

13 Minutes & In This Corner Of The World

Annabelle: Creation & Detroit

A Ghost Story

Maudie & Atomic Blonde

War For The Planet Of The Apes • Dunkirk

The Big Sick • The Hero

Spiderman: Homecoming

The Beguiled & Baby Driver

All Eyez On Me

It Comes At Night & Paris Can Wait

The Lovers • The Mummy

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Alien: Covenant


Guardians Of The Galaxy & Volume 2

The Lost City Of Z


The Fate Of The Furious & Going In Style

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Life • Wilson

The Sense Of An Ending


Kong: Skull Island

I Am Not Your Negro & Logan

Get Out & The Red Turtle

A Cure For Wellness & Fifty Shades Darker

Rings & John Wick: Chapter 2


Split • The Founder

Silence • Patriots Day

A Monster Calls & Hidden Figures

Paterson & 20th Century Women


Fences • Sing • Rogue One

Nocturnal Animals • La La Land & Collateral Beauty

Why Him?

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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them • Moonlight

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Masterminds • Deep Water Horizon • Birth Of A Nation

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Snowden & The Magnificent Seven

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The Light Between Oceans

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Star Trek Beyond & Jason Bourne

Lights Out


The Purge: Election Year

Independence Day: Resurgence • The BFG

Free State Of Jones & DePalma

Now You See Me 2 & Finding Dory

The Conjuring 2 & Me Before You

X Men: Apocalypse Love And Friendship

The Lobster & The Meddler

Money Monster • The Nice Guys Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Miles Ahead

Elvis And Nixon Green Room

Midnight Special Everybody Wants Some

The Jungle Book

I Saw The Light • The Boss

Hello My Name Is Doris & Krisha

Divergent: Allegiant & Batman v Superman

10 Cloverfield Lane & Brothers Grimsby

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot & London Has Fallen

Triple 9 & 45 Years

Eddie The Eagle• The Witch

Where To Invade Next & Son Of Saul

Deadpool • The Choice • How To Be Single

Hail Caesar & Fifty Shades Of Black

The Finest Hours & The 5th Wave

Mustang & The Lady In The Van

Anomalisa • 13 Hours: The & Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

The Revenant • Youth

Carol • Joy • The Hateful Eight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens • The Big Short • Concussion

Daddy’s Home • Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip

In The Heart Of The Sea • Krampus

Creed • Brooklyn


‘Mockingjay Part 2’ • All Things Must Pass • The Night Before


Spectre & The Peanuts Movie

Steve Jobs & Our Brand Is Crisis

Crimson Peak & Room

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99 Homes

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The Visit & Black Mass

Mistress America

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Ricki And The Flash & The Gift

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation • Southpaw • Vacation

Ant-Man & Trainwreck


Amy • Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys

Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, Ted 2

Inside Out & Dope

Love and Mercy & Jurassic World

Insidious Chapter 3

San Andreas & Aloha

Poltergeist &

Mad Max: Fury Road

Hot Pursuit

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Ex Machina

While We’re Young & Unfriended

The Longest Ride

Fast & Furious 7

It Follows




Focus & The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Fifty Shades Of Grey

Jupiter Ascending

Still Alice

The Imitation Game A Most Violent Year

American Sniper Inherent Vice

Selma & Taken 3


Big Eyes • The Interview

Night At The Museum The Secret of the Tomb • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Top Five • Wild • Annie


Whiplash & The Theory Of Everything

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 • Horrible Bosses 2

Dumb And Dumber To

Birdman & Interstellar




The Judge

Annabelle & Gone Girl

The Equalizer & Happy 75th, GWTW!

The Drop • A Walk Among & The Tombstones

No Good Deed

The Identical

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If I Stay & Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

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Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Jersey Boys

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The Fault Is In Our Stars & Edge Of Tomorrow

A Million Ways To Die In The West

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Maleficent

Godzilla • Summer Preview

Neighbors • Godzilla

The Amazing Spiderman 2 & Belle

The Other Woman & Brick Mansions

A Haunted House 2 & Heaven Is For Real

Oculus & Rio 2

Captain America: The Winter Soldier



The Grand Budapest Hotel & Veronica Mars

300: Rise of the Empire

Non-Stop & Son Of God

Three Days To Kill

Robocop & The Past • About Last Night

The Monuments Men

Labor Day

I, Frankenstein

Inside Llewyn Davis & Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Lone Survivor & August: Osage County

Her • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom & The Wolf Of Wall Street

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The Hobbit: The Desolation & Of Smaug • Nebraska

Dallas Buyers Club & Oldboy & Out Of The Furnace

Philomena & The Book Thief

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Delivery Man

About Time & All Is Lost

Thor: The Dark World & 12 Years A Slave

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Bad Grandpa &The Counselor

Carrie & The Fifth Estate

Captain Phillips, Enough Said & Machete Kills

Gravity & Runner Runner

Metallica: Through The Never , Rush & Don Jon

Prisoners & Rush

Insidious: Chapter 2 • The Family & The Spectacular Now



The World’s End You’re Next

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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters & Elysium

2 Guns

Blue Jasmine • The Wolverine & Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station • The Conjuring & The Way Way Back

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The Heat & White House Down

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The Internship & The Purge

After Earth, Now You See Me & Frances Ha

The Hangover Part III Before Midnight

Star Trek: Into Darkness & Fast and Furious 6

The Great Gatsby & Frances Ha

Iron Man & Peeples

Pain and Gain & Mud

Oblivion & Lords of Salem

42 and Scary Movie 5

Evil Dead & Jurassic Park 3-D

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Tyler Perry’s Temptation

Spring Breakers Admission

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone • The Call

Oz: The Great And Powerful West Of Memphis

Jack the Giant Slayer The Last Exorcism, Part II

Dark Skies & Snitch

A Good Day to Die Hard & Safe Haven

Side Effects & Identity Thief

Bullet To The Head Warm Bodies




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