December52013

Inside Llewyn Davis

 

If there is one thing that Joel and Ethan Coen can do, its tell a story unlike any other, with the most interesting and memorable characters. Their new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, never shy’s away from the interesting plot line, along with its memorable characters and delivers a beautifully crafted love letter to the folk music and the artists who struggle all their lives with their music.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a homeless folk musician, hopping from couch to couch, playing a local cafe a few nights a week in Greenwich Village.

Oscar Isaac is exceptional, such a star making performance. Oscar Isaac has played guitar and sang in one of his previous films, “10 Years” which is also a great film, and how could we forget him in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, where him and Carey Mulligan share the screen as they do in Inside Llewyn Davis. Carey Mulligan is terrific as Irene, a former friend of Llewyn, and girlfriend to Justin Timberlake’s Jim, who is still friends with Llewyn. John Goodman plays Roland Turner, a man who doesn’t seem to stop talking unless he’s asleep, allows Llewyn to hitch a ride to Chicago, with him and his man of few words drive, Johnny Five, played by Garrett Hedlund. 

The music in the film is a character all in its own. Isaac, Mulligan, Timberlake and as well as other performers, performed all of the films music live, which are for the most part old folk songs. The Coen Brothers have stated that Dave Van Ronk’s music inspired them to write the screenplay. Music producer T-Bone Burnett does all of the films music with the help of Marcus Mumford, frontman for Mumford and Sons. 

The Coen Brothers do not have one bad film in my opinion. The Big Lebowski still remains at the top of my all time favorite films, and one of its man quotable lines inspired the title for this film review blog. The brothers flawlessly capture the sixties, from the dull, grey textures, to the costumes and sets. Such a spectacular, simple film. I give Inside Llewyn Davis an “A+” 

December42013

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

At one point in all of our lives, we are bound to question the direction we are taking our lives, and the decisions we’ve made or haven’t made. Some people live extremely sheltered, never getting witness some of the curveballs or left-hooks that life throws at. Thus, is the case of Walter Mitty, a LIFE magazine employee, who has day-dreams of himself performing heroic stunts and living a more adventurous life then he does now.

LIFE Magazine is preparing to put out their last issue while transitioning into LIFE Online. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) has lost a photo negative by legendary photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), which is supped to be the last issues cover. Walter Mitty then sets out on a journey around the world to find Sean and the missing photo.

Ben Stiller is truly at the top of his game. Stiller’s acting is sensational, truly heart-felt and honest, there is not one scene that Stiller isn’t in and he captures you and transports you into this fantastical journey. Kristen Wiig is sweet and relaxed as Walter’s love interest. Wiig, who we all know is hilarious, prospers and glows as Cheryl Melhoff. Stiller and Wiig together are perfect, such great on-screen chemistry. Adam Scott as Walter’s Boss, is irritating and hilarious. Patton Oswalt has a brief role, and has quite a few laughs. Sean Penn is also terrific, even though his character is mostly talked about, when his ten minute scene comes, you truly understand who he is.

Ben Stiller’s directing has never been more intriguing. Still takes an older story and brings it into the modern world, flawlessly. Still and Steve Conrad the films screenwriter, have adapted a film that the whole family can enjoy, even though it’s aimed at an older audience. 

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is sure to garnish up Oscar buzz for directing and adapted screenplay. This is such a fun film, I can’t remember a film with such a whole-hearted story that has done this well in a long time. I give The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty an “A+”

12PM

Dallas Buyers Club

Homophobic, drug-addicted, alcoholic, womanizer, cowboy, diagnosed with AIDS, can all describe Ron Woodruff, the subject of Jean-Marc Vallee’s new bio-pic Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaugnhey plays Woodruff and has one of “Hollywoods” scariest body transformation every caught on film.

It’s 1985 Dallas, Texas in the heart of local rodeo country. Upon being electrocuted on the job, Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) awakens in the hospital to the news of him having contracted the HIV disease. After hearing of his thirty day life expectancy, Ron begins to find ways to procure the AZT drug, but when once his supply is up, Woodruff ventures to Mexico, where a non-licensed physician prescribes him non FDA approved drugs. With these drugs, Ron starts up the Dallas Buyers Club, where there is no fee for the medicine but theres a four hundred dollar monthly fee.         

Matthew McConaughey gives the best performance of his career, next to his role in Jeff Nichols, Mud. McConaughey’s transformation is hauntingly exquisite. The stages of weight-less is dominant in the film, from the opening scene of a sickly looking Woodruff having intercourse with two women in a rodeo bull pin, to his disturbingly thin, turkey neck after seven years with the disease. McConaughey will most certainly receive an oscar nomination. There would be no Dallas Buyers Club without Rayon played by Jared Leto. Leto gives his best performance and with no doubt will be nominated for supporting actor. I was wholly absorbed in Leto’s role. His transformation as a transgender male, battling the disease is frighting, note-worthy, and aggressively captivating. Jennifer Garner is also quite good in her role as Ron’s Doctor. Steve Zahn, and Dennis O’Hare also provide fantastic minimal, supporting roles. 

Jean Marc Vallee directs such a fine, touching film about a man with so much hate in his heart who grows, through his disease to learn to have an open heart and mind, which allows him to have true friendships with the unlikeliest of people. Such a remarkable film with so much heart, intuition, and bravery that should be enjoyed by everyone. 

The film comes extremely heavy-handed in its subject matter, there will be the few who will hate the films pacing, but Dallas Buyers Club is one of the best films of the year. I give Dallas Buyers Club an “A+”  

11AM

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Having never read the series of books, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I went into the first film with an open mind, and my expectations were met. Not the biggest fan, but definitely enjoyable. Now with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the budget is nearly doubled, the cast is well rounded, and the costume and set design is award worthy. 

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson)have both miraculously survived The Hunger Games, by both vowing to kill themselves with the poisonous berries. In doing this, Katniss has sparked a rebellion throughout the districts, and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is now in need of help from the over-seer of games, Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour-Hoffman), who has multiple tricks up his sleeve for the special edition of the 75th Hunger Games 

Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely sensational. Such a true, honest, brilliantly layered performance. Lawrence has become one of Hollywood’s hit girls, and quite frankly, she deserves every ounce of it, she’s fantastic. I’ve never been the biggest Josh Hutcherson fan, but I must say he does a fine job in the sequel. Woody Harrelson is always a treat to watch. Harrelson and Lawrence have great on-screen chemistry, few elements of father/daughter, few elements of brother/sister, equalling up to a terrific mentor/protege relationship. You can never go wrong when hiring Phillip Seymour-Hoffman onto your cast, and he steals every scene. Seymour-Hoffman is my personal favorite actor of all time, I’ve always looked up to him since I was child. The film is layered with fantastic supporting roles from Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, and Jenna Malone. 

Francis Lawrence has taken this story and elevated it to another level. The film looks incredibly beautiful, and with its budget it should. Catching Fire is by far Francis Lawrence’s best film. Constantine is still a damn fun and awesome film, but Lawrence’s edition to The Hunger Games series immerses you into this wonderful, oddly unique world. 

Catching Fire is one hell of a fun time at the movies. Every teen girl and fan of the books are sure to be obsessing over the film for years to come. The costume and set design is sure to garnish up Oscar nominations, if not the wins. The film runs slightly to long for me, but it’s not by much, maybe some tighter edits, the film could have been perfect. I give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire an “A” 

November172013

The Best Man Holiday

            

Having just seen the first film The Best Man (1999) a few months ago and having enjoyed it, I was excited to see what director Malcolm D. Lee had in store for his beloved characters in, The Best Man Holiday.

Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) is in the midst of financial problems, with a baby on the way, and no one wants to publish his new novel. Harper starts pondering the idea of writing a biography on his estranged friend and NFL running back Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut). Christmas is around the corner so Lance and his wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) invite the whole gang over for the holidays. 

The whole cast is excellent. Taye Diggs gives another great performance, nice to see him making films again. Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun are remarkable together, such great on-screen chemistry. Nia Long and Regina Hall are both hilarious and both deliver superb dramatic work. Terrence Howard scores eighty percent of the laughs and also has some truly heart felt scenes. This is such a big cast, and everyone plays off of each other extremely well.

Malcolm D. Lee has a few films under his belt, and he can add The Best Man Holiday right near the top. This works on so many levels. Most heavy-handed religious films I try to steer away from, because they are extremely typical and most characters are stereotypes, but this one works. The film does have a few scenes that I believe could have been cut out or rewritten, especially a a child birthing scene that is ludicrous and sucks you right out of the drama that has just unfolded. Overall, the film is worth the time, I give The Best Man Holiday an 8 out of 10.  

4PM

Thor: The Dark World

          

Personally, I feel that all of these superhero movies are getting played out. I was excited and along for the ride just like everyone else when this whole superhero craze started. Now after the Iron Man Trilogy, Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers films have come out out, we can see which hero can truly hold their own movies and which ones should just stay with the group. 

After the events of Thor and The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World picks up two years after Thor (Chris Hemsworth) left Jane (Natalie Portman) in the first film. Loki (Tom Hiddelston) stands trial for his actions on Earth and is imprisoned. The Dark Elf, Malekith, is resurrected when Jane’s body is possessed by the Aether. Thor soon comes back for Jane, bringing her back to Asgard, where Malekith and the Dark Elves wage war to receive the Aether.  

Chris Hemsworth is and interesting actor, Thor is not the superhero to have his own movie. I’m not a fan of 3D, and I’m especially not a fan of 3D when there are multi-colored buildings and rainbow roads popping out at me, it’s brain-numbing. Tom Hiddleston is sensational, I love his character work with Loki, its extremely fascinating and impressive. Natalie Portman, once again is missed place here. She is one of my favorite actresses, but everything falls flat with with her character. I just don’t care. Anthony Hopkins does his usual “Hopkins” soft, mono-tone whisper, then yells at the top of his lungs. 

The film definitely has its flaws, but it has a few perks also, a few great fighting sequences and Loki’s masterful illusions. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first film, I definitely enjoyed it and have watched it a few times since, I think Thor: The Dark World might be slightly better, but not by much. 

Alan Taylor, the films director, does a fine job with some of Thor and Loki’s fighting sequences but for the most part when its dialogue driven, most scenes fall flat, and the CGI is overwhelming. I give Thor: The Dark World a 7 out of 10. 

4PM

Parkland

              

Dallas, Texas-November 22, President Kennedy rides in the backseat with his wife, Jackie, by his side, while his motorcade drives through an overpopulated Dealey Plaza. Multiple gun shots ring out, three bullets fatally strike the thirty-fifth president. It’s a day I’ll never forget, and I wasn’t even there. Hell, I wasn’t even born.

With the fiftieth anniversary of the assignation of JFK approaching rapidly, I decided to watch the new film that takes the doctors and nurses at Parkland Memorial Hospital, who fought rigorously to save John Fitzgearld Kennedy life.

Zac Efron is Dr. Charles James Carrico, one of the residents and Parkland. Efron is not terrible, but for me he’s not interesting to watch, too much dull dialogue delivery. Paul Giamati is Abraham Zapruder, a women’s clothing manufacturer who stood and filmed thirty yards away from where the assignation took place. Giamatti gives the best performance in the film, not to say he is not followed by other strong actors such as Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Colin Hanks, and Ron Livenston. They all do a great job, the film just lacked a certain intensity. Unlike, Oliver Stone’s JFK, Parkland is a calm reserve film that meanders too much in constricted areas.  

Peter Landesman is a first time director who nailed the look and feel of the sixties, but as you may have guessed, the film never really goes anywhere. Truly disappointing. I still say give it a watch, just to see all these terrific actors work side by side. I give Parkland a 7 out of 10.   

November22013

Nebraska

            

Alexander Payne, in my opinion, has never made a bad film. From Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, to The Descendants, Payne has mastered the genre referred to as Dramedies. His new film Nebraska never falls short, and has one of my favorite performances of the year.

Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) believes he has won a million dollars. His wife Kate (June Squibb), and his two sons David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk), all know its a scam. They try to tell Woody but, Woody won’ t listen, and wants to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his winnings. David and Woody then drive from Billings, Montana to Nebraska, while encountering old friends and family. 

Bruce Dern gives his best performance of his career. Dern fully envelops a style, a walk, and mannerisms for Woody, and you can see it in every frame. It’s rare that you can point that stuff out about a performance. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are plenty of exceptional actors, but there is something truly special about Derns performance. He deserves a nomination. June Squibb is annoyingly perfect as the mother and wife, always nit-picking, but she is hilarious, and unlike her brief role in About Schmidt, Squibb soars on screen.

Will Forte is perfect as a the former alcoholic, now straight-laced son. Forte has an off beat way about his acting, but I think he will be extremely successful in the future, if he continues to do more dramas. Bob Odenkirk, although the role is limited, Odenkirk delivers some huge laughs.

Alexander Payne chose to film in black and white, and it looks incredibly beautiful. The black and white contrasts the vast, empty landscape perfectly. Payne has made another fantastic film. Might not do as well as The Descendants did for him a few years ago, but I believe critically this film will do well, might be hard for the general audience though. I give Nebraska a 10 out of 10.       

1PM

The Dirties

         image 

At one point in all our lives we experience or witness an act of bullying. Whether you choose to say or do something about it is up to you. The Dirties writer, director, and lead actor Matt Johnson, takes on the subject of bullying, adds his love of film, and creates one of the most shocking and unsettling films of the year. 

Matt (Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) are two film buffs, who are constantly being picked on by a group they have labeled, The Dirties. Matt and Owen create a video of compilations of scenes from their favorite movies, to show to their film class. The Dirties, being the closed-minded teens that they are, mock Matt and Owen. Matt then schemes up a plan for them to get their revenge, while catching it all on video. The plan grows more extreme by the minute, resulting in one of the most intense endings I’ve seen all year.

Matt Johnson is absolutely terrific. Johnson has created a film, where he adapts himself into his story and creates a truly dark, twisted, complex character. Listening to Matt on Kevin Smith’s SModcast Episode: 273, he explains how he researched the shooters from Columbine High’s home videos. Matt continues to say, and I’m paraphrasing, that these videos were nothing abnormal, and that they were very similar to the videos he made when he was younger. Leading to the point that violence in movies, are not responsible for the deranged actions these shooters took. Growing up making movies with my friends, we have some twisted minds between the collection of us, and I can tell you that none of us have ever been tempted to go shoot up a school. When I was in eighth grade I had written a twenty page screenplay about a man going back to a high school reunion, and starts reminiscing on a kid who was bullied and brought a gun to school, killed the bully, then killed himself. The Dirties has inspired me to go back and re-write that script, just for fun.

Everyone must see this film. It’s haunting, exhilarating, and has a pure love of film that shines on the screen. Kevin Smith and his partners were smart for jumping on this film and giving it the light of a day it deserves. The Dirties will be hard for some to watch, but if you get through it, you’ll be left with one hell of a punch to the gut. I give The Dirties a 9 out of 10.  

October302013

The Book Thief

         

There is always something distinct and unique about opening a new book. The newly bound, crisp page smell, the vivid and detailed wording of sentences waiting for you to mull over and lose yourself in. From the opening scene in The Book Thief, you can smell  and feel the coldness nipping at your nose, unfortunately you can tell the film suffered some major cuts in the adaptation process of the screenplay, but doesn’t harm the film too badly.

On the train to her foster parents, young Liesel Meminger’s (Sophie Nelisse) little brother passes away. Upon arriving to her new home, Liesel butts heads with her new mom Rosa (Emily Watson), while Hans (Geoffrey Rush) teaches Liesel how to read. World War II then breaks out, and their lives cross path with a Jewish run away, Max (Ben Schnetzer). Hans and Rosa then shelter the young man in their basement.

Sophie Melisse gives a terrific first time performance. Her blonde hair, wide blue eyes and ability to speak English and German add for a truly outstanding, and heart-warming performance. Geoffrey Rush gives another fantastic role. Rush and Nelisse have some of the films best scenes. Rush worked extremely well with the new up and coming actress, their chemistry is flawless. Emily Watson is also superb. Her character reminded me a lot of Watson’s character in War Horse. Ben Schentzer gives a breakout performance, hope to see him more films soon. 

Brian Percival, of Downton Abbey fame, paced the film well. His directing was beautifully captured by Florian Ballhaus. But how a book gives you so much detail and lets your imagination fill in the blanks, the film does not. The film felt extremely gutted. Towards the end of the film situations unfolded slightly to fast, but what do you expect when you’re adapting a five hundred and fifty page book into a two hour movie.

Overall, The Book Thief is a terrific, heart-warming film that everyone can enjoy. Not one bad scene. I give The Book Thief an 8 out of 10.  

← Older entries Page 1 of 7