Paper Towns

Movie Review #994

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Premiere: Bueno Aires, July 13, 2015. Wide release: July 24, 2015. Drama/Mystery/Romance. Runs 109 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity – all involving teens. USA.

WHAT’S REALLY “PAPER” HERE IS THE PROTAGONIST.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber seem to have a knack for unconventional romantic dramedies. That’s become more obvious with every movie they’ve made, up to now. “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Spectacular Now” both benefitted from the candid, free-spirited nature of their writing. Ditto last year’s “The Fault in Our Stars”, the duo’s first adaptation of a novel by John Green. it sounded rather promising that the duo had signed on to write another Green adaptation, “Paper Towns”. But I guess the two of them realized that Green has a sizable fanbase who will accept anything that bears his name at face value.

We’ve seen the pattern before in book-based teen dramas. I bet many will recall 1983’s “The Outsiders”, but not its followup “Rumble Fish”. Likewise, I highly doubt “Paper Towns” will be very well remembered 30 years from now. It isn’t a very memorable movie. I often felt like I was watching a watered-down, YA version of last fall’s “Gone Girl”. The only real difference here is that it’s the protagonist’s neighbor that goes missing, not his wife. Clearly, the protagonist, whose name is Q, wants it the other way around, but the neighbor, whose name is Margo, just isn’t interested. After all, she hasn’t spoken to Q in about nine years.

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Mommy

Movie Review #993

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Cannes Film Festival: May 22, 2014. TIFF: September 9, 2014. London Film Festival: October 16, 2014. Philadelphia International Film Festival: October 17, 2014. AFI Fest: November 12, 2014. MoMA – The Contenders: December 1, 2014. Limited release: January 23, 2015. Drama. Runs 139 minutes. This film is rated R for language throughout, sexual references and some violence. Canada.

AS ENGROSSING AS IT IS DISTURBING.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

“Mommy” is one difficult movie to watch—and that’s at the heart of what writer-director Xavier Dolan is trying to do here. He’s a rare breed: a filmmaker who can make a movie that is equally shocking, discomforting, and powerful. The guy is everything that Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier have been in their addictive yet repulsive cinematic journeys. What sets Dolan apart from those two is that he implements moments of calm and sweetness, as if to undermine the film’s harrowing, tense atmosphere. Better yet, these scenes feel so genuinely euphoric that they act as complements to the more brutal scenes in “Mommy”. It only becomes a more aggressive experience to endure.

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Happy 4th Anniversary to Cinemaniac Reviews!

Has it really been four years? I’m kind of amazed. Actually, I’m really amazed, and I’d like to thank you all for making these past four years possible.

As you may or may not have noticed, we’re coming up on Review #1,000, as well. Here’s to four more great years and 1,000 more great (or awful, depending on how you look at my prose) reviews.

Peace, y’all.

— The Cinemaniac

Inside Out

Movie Review #992

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Cannes Film Festival: May 18, 2015. Los Angeles Film Festival: June 9, 2015. Premiere: Buenos Aires, June 17, 2015. Wide release: June 19, 2015. Animation/Adventure/Comedy/Family. Runs 94 minutes. This film is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action. USA.

PIXAR’S MAGNUM OPUS.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Should I scourge myself over the fact that my favorite movie of the summer (and of 2015, thus far) is an animated movie? Absolutely, positively not. If there’s any movie that stands to represent animation as a form of art, rather than a class of kids’ movies, it’s “Inside Out”. The movie is brilliant on so many levels, and it just might be Pixar’s greatest film. It just so happens, too, that it’s the only film of theirs that couldn’t possibly fit into the likeness of a live-action movie. And that’s just a good 5% of what makes this movie so magical.

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While We’re Young

Movie Review #991

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TIFF: September 6, 2014. New York Film Festival: September 28, 2014. Limited release: March 27, 2015. Wide release: April 17, 2015. Comedy/Drama. Runs 97 minutes. This film is rated R for language. USA.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Everything about “While We’re Young” seems to work out perfectly. I went in looking for something to pick at, and found nothing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s flawless, and enjoyably so. You have, first and foremost, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts starring as a pair. That may seem like a radical idea, until you see it come to life. Stiller and Watts are far better together as an onscreen couple than they’d ever deserve to be. Quite honestly, I wish they’d play a married couple more often.

Then you have the script. Writer-director Noah Baumbach speaks the language of the human condition fluently. His words are natural and realistic, and they offer every bit of what the story in “While We’re Young” is trying to say. The film offers a deep and engrossing perspective on life as we know it. You have a story of self-reflection, where a Gen X couple (Stiller and Watts) meets a Gen Y couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) and learns to enjoy life to its fullest, as if they were 25 years old again. They gradually evolve out of their workaholic lifestyle.  They step out of their apartment and finally begin to realize that there’s every opportunity for fulfillment surrounding them in the Big Apple–late-night dinners, hip-hop classes, parties, raves, drug-fueled Egyptian rituals.  The list goes on.

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Pixels

Movie Review #990

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Wide release: July 24, 2015. Action/Comedy/Sci-Fi. Runs 105 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive comments. USA.

BEING EATEN BY PAC-MAN SEEMS LIKE A FAR MORE PLEASANT EXPERIENCE.


By Alexander Diminiano

For a while, Chris Columbus was on a roll. You’ve gotta respect the guy who comes out with “Home Alone”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, and the first two “Harry Potter” movies all within the same span of 12 years. It’s rather impressive, because let’s admit it, all four of those movies are usually considered classics by now. That heyday ended in 2002, though. It’s seems that ever since, he’s been trying to turn his target audiences against him. I’ve heard some of the biggest musical nuts complain about “Rent”; some of the most senseless romcom pushovers complain about “I Love You, Beth Cooper”; some of the most obsessive readers of YA fiction complain about “Percy Jackson & the Olympians”. Up until now, he’s been at DEFCON 2, which I guess is the level at which we pity him. “Pixels” notches Columbus up to DEFCON 1, the level of pure infuriation that might be more clearly described as what-the-f**k-were-you-thinking mode.

It’s been a long time since anyone took such a radically dumb approach to making a movie. There’s one director that can do it right. He’s dead, and his name is Ed Wood. Though, if you replace Bela Lugosi with classic video games, maybe “Pixels” resembles “Plan 9 from Outer Space” a little. The difference? “Plan 9″ was so bad it was good, but “Pixels” is just plain bad.

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Trainwreck

Movie Review #989

trainwreck

South by Southwest Film Festival: March 16, 2015. Wide release: July 17, 2015. Comedy. Runs 125 minutes. This film is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use. USA.

THIS ONE’S GOT AMY SCHUMER WRITTEN ALL OVER IT.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Meet Amy, our protagonist portrayed by Amy Schumer. Her lifestyle consists of doing whatever pleases her. She drinks like a fish and smokes weed like a lawnmower. She writes for a men’s magazine and never seems to end up with the right articles. Most importantly, she sleeps around. No wait, that’s the wrong terminology. She has sex recreationally and always finds a way to avoid spending the night. But that’s just a technicality. Sex is such a routine for her that it’s difficult to say she’s not sleeping around.

The character isn’t unfamiliar. It’s an extension of the stock character we’ve seen on Amy Schumer’s own variety show. The difference is that “Trainwreck” isn’t a two-hour sketch. Schumer’s character is essentially a mirror to Seth Rogen’s character from “Knocked Up”, except this most recent work from Judd Apatow feels more like a redeeming coming-of-age movie. Schumer’s screenplay transcends the stock characters she portrays on Inside Amy Schumer, and makes her character’s internal conflict is rather apparent. She has lived her entire adulthood (or most of it, to be fair) in the name of having fun. Does she want to commit to the man she loves, give up her sophomoric lifestyle, and live like a proper adult? Or would she rather continue her routine of meaningless sex, heavy drinking, and weed-smoking?

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Dope

Movie Review #988

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Sundance Film Festival: January 24, 2015. Cannes Film Festival, Directors Fortnight: May 22, 2015. Los Angeles Film Festival: June 8, 2015. Wide release: June 19, 2015. Comedy/Crime/Drama. Runs 103 minutes. This film is rated R for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence – all involving teens. USA.

BOTH THE EDITING AND THE ACTING DESERVE AWARDS.  THE SCRIPT?  NOT SO MUCH.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

This review is a loving parody of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”.

Harvard is the ideal place
For the kid with the mousey face,
But his homies are yelling, “No!”
While his teachers all tell him to go
But his friends are no where to be seen.
They’re indulging in sex and weed
The kid joins ’cause he wants to fit in
Even though he’s a nerdy teen.
“Dope” can be such a saddening bore
That you’ve seen thirty times or more.
Though its cast is solid, diverse,
We can’t help but to focus on

Jump cuts,
Hip-hop montages
Oh man!
Look at that editor go.
It’s a stylish show-ow-ow.
Take a look at the characters
So weakly developed.
Oh man!
Wonder if they’d ever know
They’re so two-dimensional-al-al
In this film called “Dope”.

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Terminator Genisys

Movie Review #987

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Premieres: June 21, 2015, Berlin; June 24, 2015, Jakarta. Wide release: July 1, 2015. Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi. Runs 126 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language. USA.

SCHWARZENEGGER IS BACK, JUST AS HE’D PROMISED. NEED I SAY MORE?

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

I don’t know about you, but if I had a T-800 robot, I’d go back to 2009 and erase “Terminator Salvation” from existence. It was a terrible movie, and despite its title, it wasn’t a “Terminator” movie at all. You can have a movie centered around John Connor and Kyle Reese all you want, but if there’s anything “Salvation” proved, it’s that those two characters aren’t the links that bind the series. The title is “Terminator” for a reason. It’s the T-800 that keeps these movies ticking.

One movie later, we have “Terminator Genisys”, which brings the series back up on its feet again, even if its posture is somewhat lacking. We open in 2029, where John Connor (Jason Clarke) is near the end of his war against Skynet. It’s come to his attention that Skynet has sent back in time a T-800 to kill his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), in order to prevent John from being born. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), a member of John Connor’s resistance team, volunteers to go back in time and save Sarah.

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R.I.P. Omar Sharif

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Yesterday, the great actor Omar Sharif passed away in a hospital in Cairo, after suffering a heart attack. He was 83.

Sharif is remembered for his performance as the titular character in “Doctor Zhivago”, for which he received a Golden Globe award. He has also garnered two Golden Globe awards and an Academy Award nomination for his performance as Sherif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia” three years prior; and a César Award for his portrayal of the titular character in the French film “Monsieur Ibrahim” (2003).

Sharif appeared in as many as 70 films throughout his career of more than 60 years. He has performed in films from a variety of countries, including Egypt, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For his final film role, an upcoming, animated, British, educational short called “1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham”, he delivered a voice role as the film’s narrator. His final full-length film was a French-Morroccan drama called “Rock the Casbah”, released in 2013.

Outside of film business, Sharif led a career as a contract bridge player, and was at one point among the top 50 players in the world. He has written about bridge in numerous books, as well as a column for the Chicago Tribune. He remained a regular at French casinos until his death.

Sharif is survived by his son Tarek El-Sharif and his grandsons Omar Sharif, Jr. and Karim Sharif. He continued to work in the film industry until May of 2015, when it was reported that he was suffering Alzheimer’s disease.

Picking a movie has never been this easy.

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