The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Should I cheer that “The Hobbit” trilogy is finally over, or should I cheer that Peter Jackson actually managed to make a worthwhile “Hobbit” movie on his last try? It’s still not quite as good as any of the three “Lord of the Rings” films, though. As far as story, this third installment in the trilogy isn’t the most focused, and Martin Freeman completely misfires in his role as Bilbo Baggins. But Peter Jackson captures “The Battle of the Five Armies” beautifully. The set design offers a gorgeous, epic quality, and it’s all filmed beautifully in a high frame rate.

Note: If you suffer from motion sickness, I highly recommend that you do not see this in the high frame rate (HFR).


Horrible Bosses 2

“Horrible” is the word, I’m afraid.  Sequel is scripted in such a dry, formulaic manner that you’ll swear you’ve seen it already in another, possibly funnier, form. Three main guys (esp. Charlie Day) seem to think they’re funny, which is why this actually more tragic than comedic.  If there’s anything we’re laughing at here, its the fact that what was billed as an A-list cast is really just a series of cameoing actors that the three dudes encounter, much in the same way that Dorothy stopped and met all her comrades on the yellow brick road in “The Wizard of Oz”.  And if you thought the cowardly lion was annoying, get a load of Kevin Spacey, Christoph Waltz, and Jamie Foxx.  Okay maybe Foxx isn’t quite as embarrassing to watch as those other two, but all three are a considerable waste of talent.  You’d think that this one would capitalize on the humor–not to mention, the box office success–of the first film, but you’d be wrong.  It does, however, capitalize on profanity and eyerolling.  If that’s not what you were looking for, then save yourself ten bucks and two hours, and watch the trailer instead.


Lost Highway

Movie Review #923


Nationwide release on February 21, 1997. Drama/Mystery/Thriller. This film is rated R for bizarre violent and sexual content, and for strong language. Runs 134 minutes. French-American co-production. Director: David Lynch. Written by: David Lynch & Barry Gifford. Cast: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Michael Massee, Robert Blake, Giovanni Ribisi, Scott Coffey, Richard Pryor, Robert Loggia, and Jack Nance.


By Alexander Diminiano

You’d think that David Lynch’s weirdest would be his greatest. But even radicals have their limits, don’t they? From square zero, back when he began doing low-budget short films in the late 1960’s, Lynch has always been cinema’s most radical poet. But “Lost Highway” pushes the director’s limits, those for the strange and the bizarre, so much that it’s all too difficult to call it a visual poem. And it doesn’t push these limits with the grace of a fingertip, but rather with the grace of a sledgehammer.

I can’t quite say what this movie’s about. It’s not the awesomely unexplainable Lynchian plot that “Eraserhead” and “Blue Velvet” were. Instead, it’s an engrossingly macabre story that doesn’t take long to collapse into a confusing and nonsensical debacle. You gotta give the movie props for the premise it sets itself up on, though: a man and his wife suddenly discover that they’re being videotaped as they sleep, and there’s absolutely no evidence that leads to who might be the one spying on them. But that exposition proves irrelevant to the rest of the film. Lynch and his co-writer Barry Gifford (who wrote the novel Lynch’s 1990 film “Wild at Heart” is based on) completely abandon that awesome setup. They venture into a story that plays out like a series of randomly selected sequences from 1960’s biker B-movies. And even if you happen to have a collection of biker movies laying around in your basement, you still probably couldn’t care less about the story.

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The Theory of Everything

Powerful, moving drama chronicles the unbreakable bond between Dr. Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Dr. Jane Wilde Hawking (Felicity Jones). Redmayne’s performance is a revelation, developing Stephen not as a diseased man, but as a soulful one. That soulfulness doesn’t one bit go away when Stephen begins to lose his ability to communicate verbally, a tragedy that Redmayne delivers quite impressively. His costar, Jones, adds so much emotion to her role as Stephen’s caring wife, determined to keep him alive at all measures.  These are two of the best performances from any screen actor all year, for sure, and I hereby guarantee not only an Oscar nomination but an Oscar win for Redmayne in the Best Actor category.  A spectacular movie, no doubt.


Saw: The Final Chapter

Movie Review #922


Nationwide release on October 29, 2010. Horror/Mystery. This film is rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, and language. Runs 90 minutes. American-Canadian co-production. Director: Kevin Greutert. Written by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan. Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flanery, Chad Donella, and Gina Holden.


By Alexander Diminiano

“Saw: The Final Chapter” lacks any residue of intrigue from even the worst moments of the six previous films. The first three movies served to tell the story of the first Jigsaw Killer, and the next three stories served to tell the story of the second Jigsaw Killer. You’d think that’d make “The Final Chapter” an epilogue, but it just feels too far out of place to fit that term.

“Saw: The Final Chapter” doesn’t fit that title, which it received upon its home video release, as much as it deserves its theatrical title: “Saw 3D”. Its goal is to pioneer 3-D like an 80’s horror movie, and in fact it tells less of a story than “Friday the 13th Part III in 3-D” or “Jaws 3-D”.

It’s not until the last ten minutes that the movie begins an effort to bring the series to a close. I’ll admit, though, that when it does, the result is a really exciting twist ending.

Continue reading Saw: The Final Chapter

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Could it be–a movie that sucks just as badly as its title, and almost as badly as its use of 3-D?  Quite possibly, I’m afraid.  Period pieces rarely are as unconvincing as this.  The hokey “Gods and Kings” subtitle isn’t your only reminder that this is really a Hollywood production from 2014, because there’s also the fact that everyone looks like an actor rehearsing for maybe the second time on the set of a community play.  Also, why does everybody here have either a fake-British or New York accent?  Egyptians might sound like that today, but certainly not back in the time of the Old Testament.  I’m not gonna hop on that “Egyptians shouldn’t be portrayed by white people” bandwagon, but if that’s your reason not to see it, more power to you.  And I will hop on any existing “Christian Bale looks like a modest tourist among a crowd of unexplainably flashy individuals” bandwagon.  Seriously, enjoying this movie requires that you buy into a theory that everyone in this movie belongs to the upper-class, loves makeup, and has never even heard of the Book of Exodus.  Especially King Ramses.  God, what an annoying fellow that king is.


A Nightmare on Elm Street

Movie Review #921


Premiered in Hollywood, California on April 27, 2010. Wide release on April 30, 2010. Horror/Mystery/Thriller. This film is rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language. Runs 95 minutes. American production. Director: Samuel Bayer. Screenplay: Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. Story: Wesley Strick. Characters: Wes Craven. Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellen Lutz, Clancy Brown, and Lia Mortensen.


By Alexander Diminiano

Rooney Mara’s role as Nancy Holbrook in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010) marks her first leading role in a major motion picture. Often times that can mean a “breakthrough performance,” but I wouldn’t argue that at all. I’d wager that unless you’ve seen the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake, you didn’t even know she was in the movie. And even if you had seen the movie, you wouldn’t have remembered because Rooney Mara practically wasn’t even a name until she appeared in “The Social Network”, later that same year. That, I would bet, was the film that launched her to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Side Effects”, and “Her”. Four years after her breakthrough, though, I still doubt that anybody associates Mara with her performance in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. It might be the only facet of the movie that I could possibly commend without outright lying.

They dare call this a remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. I was genuinely afraid to sleep after I watched the original film just two years ago. So were very many who saw it when it was first released in 1984. Director Samuel Bayer’s remake, released over 25 years later, has no such effect on its audience. If you’re wondering what has happened to the original, well, it appears to have lined up to get shot in the back just like so many other horror classics.

Continue reading A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Last Waltz

Movie Review #920


Nationwide release on April 26, 1978. Limited re-release on April 5, 2002. Documentary/Music. This film is rated PG. Rated R before appeal. Runs 117 minutes. American production. Director: Martin Scorsese. Treatment: Mardik Martin. Cast: The Band, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Ronnie Hawkins, The Staples, Muddy Waters, Ron Wood, Michael Mc Clure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Martin Scorsese.


By Alexander Diminiano

The Last Waltz was held in the Winterland Ballroom (San Francisco) on American Thanksgiving Day, 1976. It was intended to be The Band’s final performance. Martin Scorsese captures that aura in his same-titled documentary account. The movie gets more and more engrossing. Suddenly, it’s been two hours, the final cymbal crashes, the final string is strummed. The Band thanks us, bids us goodnight and tells us to go home. As well as he creates an atmosphere that involves us in the rock n’ roll of the music, Scorsese also effectively paints the bittersweet taste of leaving a concert by the time the credits start rolling.

Though The Band planned The Last Waltz as more of a public “celebration” than it was a concert. And a celebration it was. 42 live performances (about half of which are seen in this two-hour documentary) from The Band along with plenty more faces. This is the It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World of concert films. Eric Clapton. Neil Diamond. Bob Dylan. Joni Mitchell. Van Morrison. Muddy Waters. The Beatles’ Ringo Starr. The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood. Stills. Young. There’s more.

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Movie Review #919


Released in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on November 14, 2014. Biography/Drama/Sport. Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence. Runs 134 mins. Director: Bennett Miller. Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. Cast: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, and Brett Rice.


By Alexander Diminiano

If you live in Pennsylvania and you are unfamiliar with the name “du Pont,” then shame on you.  It’s as great a sin as living in Florence and having not the faintest idea what a Medici is. Yes, there was William Penn, but if you want something beyond what a history textbook might throw at you on a rudimentary level, then I’ll tell you right now that William Penn did not build PA. Maybe he did to some extent, but it was really the du Pont family who made the state just what it is, at least from my understading. This family is one of America’s answers to Florence’s much older Medici family. They were–and still are–an extremely wealthy and generous family, responsible for the creation of schools, hospitals, institutions, offices, apartments, and houses–and more.

I should rephrase. The du Pont family is an extremely wealthy and generous family, for the most part. “Foxcatcher” picks up with the honest recognition that no family, and nobody, is truly perfect. Certainly not John E. du Pont.  As soon as we see him appear in “Foxcatcher”, we can tell there’s something about him that just isn’t right. John du Pont is an ambitious man, but he’s not exactly the most likable. Not until the third act of the film does the character begin to really twitch in the wrong direction, but there’s something extremely unsavory, if completely unobvious, about him throughout the entire movie.

John du Pont is a fascinating protagonist/antagonist. We’re given glimpses that suggest his insanity through an homage to Hitchcock’s Norman Bates.  John requires his mother’s approval of his choices. He’s given up the career she had dreamt he would pursue (horseracing) and has instead chosen to pursue his own dream (Olympic wrestling). He puts himself to the standards that will make his mother happy with his choice, rather than finding enjoyment in his passion himself.  But one of a few deciding tragedies in “Foxcatcher” is that John doesn’t understand that regardless of how hard he tries to appease his mother, she’ll always remain disappointed in her son.

Steve Carell is amazing in this role. His disappearance into John du Point is creepy, subtle, and unlike any other role he’s ever played. Honest to god, you won’t be able to tell it’s him. Between the prosthetic nose, teeth, and eyebrows (the role required that Carell arrive to the set three hours early each time filming took place, solely for makeup purposes), and the troubled voice and awkward mannerisms that Carell embellishes, he’s entirely unrecognizable as someone who, in any other movie, would be making us laugh.

Continue reading Foxcatcher

Cinemaniac Reviews Proudly Presents: Snippets

Hello peeps,

I’m gonna say it for the umpteenth time: I love ushering at a movie theater.  It’s such a rewarding experience.  You get to be yourself, and for me, that’s someone who loves movies.  I’m always curious how someone liked their movie, what movie someone might be about to see, and I love being able to tell people that they’re about to see a great movie.  Sometimes what I’ll tell them is a great movie is something I’ve actually seen, and really enjoyed.  Or maybe I didn’t enjoy it.  Or maybe I didn’t even see it.

But I’d like to eliminate that last part as much as possible.  I’m certainly not saying that I have time to see every movie in the theater–but I’d like to see as many as possible, of course.  I do, however, have time to watch movies while I’m on my thirty-minute breaks.  Thirty minutes, to me, means that I won’t get enough of the movie to say I actually watched it, or to write a full review on it, but I can take a substantial amount away from what I’ve seen in that amount of time, so I can pretty much tell whether it’s a good movie or not.  It’ll also be feasible to write a paragraph based on my reaction to what I see when I stop in to watch a movie on my breaks.

So now, I present Snippets, my little name for a feature at Cinemaniac Reviews, coming very soon, that will feature my one-paragraph reactions to the thirty minutes I can manage to see of a movie.  Of course, I’ll still be reviewing stuff that’s out on DVD, and I’ll still be writing full reviews for full movies I see in theaters.  In fact, if I see thirty minutes of a movie, but I plan on seeing it that week, I won’t write a Snippet; I’ll wait till I see the full movie, and from there I’ll write the full review.

I’m open to any feedback on this.  I know some of you aren’t wild over the idea over basing an opinion on just part of a movie.  I do agree with you, but in most cases, I’m noticing that movies closer to the mainstream end of the spectrum generally can be enjoyed wherever you drop in at.  Arthouse movies, not so much.

Take care, y’all.

–Alexander “The Cinemaniac” Diminiano

Time is money, and bad movies are never free.


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