Monster

Movie Review #896

monster

Premiered in the USA on December 17, 2003. Released in New York City, New York on December 24, 2003. Released in Los Angeles, California on December 26, 2003. Limited release on January 9, 2004. Nationwide release on January 30, 2004. Biography/Crime/Drama. This film is rated R for strong violence and sexual content, and for pervasive language. Runs 109 minutes. A co-production of the USA and Germany. Director: Patty Jenkins. Written by: Patty Jenkins. Cast: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, and Lee Tergesen.

THERON’S PERFORMANCE IS AT A LEVEL FEW GREAT ACTORS AND ACTRESSES CAN REACH. THE REST OF THE MOVIE, HOWEVER, ISN’T QUITE SO BRILLIANT.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

“I remember I was just a kid and the 4H club set up this beautiful gigantic wheel and let up to nite sky. We call it the Monster. When I was a kid I thought this was about the coolest thing I ever seen. Then I couldn’t wait to ride it. Sure enough, I finally got my chance, I got so scared and nauseous, I threw up all over myself before it made a full turn.” – Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in “Monster”

Watching Charlize Theron transform into Aileen Wuornos is disturbing, painful, and at the same time, wonderful. Theron leaves no trace of her actual self, or her other characters, in this role. She put on 30 pounds and wore prosthetic teeth for the role, and as a result, she bears endlessly more resemblance to the real Aileen Wuornos than to herself. But that’s just a small part of it. Theron has never given a better performance in a movie. Maybe a dozen actors have given a better performance in all of cinema’s history.

What’s best about this performance is that we’re drawn into the character and the fact that she is a character to this movie. We’re led to immediately ignore the title card that reads “Based on a True Story” and to treat Aileen Wuornos as if she were merely the center of a fable. The story is clearly “Taxi Driver”-inspired, and it follows in those footsteps. Not since Travis Bickle’s incarnation in 1976 has a movie character blurred the lines between hero and villain so well.

Read the rest of this review…

John Wick

Movie Review #895

john_wick_ver3

Premiered in New York City, New York on October 13, 2014. Nationwide release on October 24, 2014. Action/Thriller. This film is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use. Runs 101 minutes. A co-production of China, Canada, and the USA. Directors: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski. Screenplay: Derek Kolstad. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Omer Barnea, Toby Leonard Moore, and Daniel Bernhardt.

Don’t even bother lighting this “Wick”.


By Alexander Diminiano

I don’t very often consider movies to be a waste, but god what a waste “John Wick” was. I spent eight bucks in this movie instead of going to see “St. Vincent”, starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy. It was an innocent decision, in my defense, because I actually felt that “John Wick” might be a decent movie. I wasted over ninety minutes of my life learning just how wrong I was. “Decent” is a huge compliment to this film, and it’s not even worth complimenting in the first place.

On top of that I’ve washed at least thirty trees trying and failing again and again to come up with a satisfactory review, crumpling each attempt up after I deemed it inadequate. I just wish the producers of “John Wick” could have done the same: crumpled up every scrap of the full and throwing it out for the birds to munch away at. I’m sure they’d realized the movie was worth throwing out, but I’m sure they also wanted money, and no matter what I say about “John Wick”, there’s nothing I can say that will change the fact that this movie will turn a profit.

Read the rest of my review…

Scarface

Movie Review #894

scarface_ver2

Premiered in New York City, New York on December 1, 1983. Nationwide release on December 9, 1983. Crime/Drama. This film is rated R. Rated X before appeal. Runs 170 minutes. A production of the USA. Director: Brian De Palma. Screenplay: Oliver Stone. Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Shenar, and Harris Yulin.

“SCARFACE” IS THE TALE OF A CRIMINAL WHOSE WEAKEST SPOT IS CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

It seems like the most common misconception about “Scarface” is that it’s a gangster movie. It’s worth pointing out that Tony Montana, the antihero who is taken off the page into a whole new dimension by Al Pacino’s performance, seems to have some sort of posse in the movie. But it’s not a gang. An easy way to put it is that they’re in a position of authority, but Montana is the totalitarian leader–authority schmauthority, because all they can do in their power is really to carry out his orders.

Montana is a childlike, spontaneous, self-pious, ruthless, and, in all those ways, vengeful human being. He’s no more a priest than he is a gangster. He’s simply a very angry man who has come to America, a political refugee from Cuba during Fidel Castro’s early presidency. No doubt, he is a criminal, whose surprising claim is that he’s never been to jail more than once. He’s brought two kilos of cocaine into the States, he reveals an adoration for firing automatic weapons at people even when he has no motive for doing so, and he finds himself suited in the business of producing counterfeit money. He’s a criminal, and he’s a really, really angry boy, but a boy is in fact all this man is. He’s in love with crime happening as he sees it, but he’s way too sophomoric to handle any organized crime. As if I couldn’t be any more redundant, he is not a gangster.

Read the rest of my review…

Venus in Fur

Movie Review #893

la_venus_a_la_fourrure_ver3

Limited release on June 20, 2014. Drama. This film is not rated. Runs 96 minutes. A co-production of France and Poland. Director: Roman Polanski. Play: David Ives. Screenplay: Roman Polanski & David Ives. Novel: Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Cast: Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric.

STRANGE, DARK, AND ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL, ‘VENUS IN FUR’ IS MORE OF ROMAN POLANSKI AT HIS VERY BEST.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Editor’s Note: Yes sir, I am bringing back my tradition of reviewing French movies in English and French.  I’ve only been a student of the French language for, what, 3 years now, so I figure, why not?  It’s good practice for me, and practice makes perfect.

Review in English:

Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur” is hardly like anything he’s previously directed. It’s got a cinematic flavor that evokes “Blue Velvet” and “Eyes Wide Shut”, not “Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Pianist”. It’s a surreal, atmospheric movie that turns Paris into a city that seems to have emerged from a dream. Everything is plausible here, though; that is, up until the finale, which awesomely turns our anticipations into something twenty-eight times more enjoyable–and disturbing.

Read the rest of this review…

You’re Next

Movie Review #892

ONCE YOU GET PAST THE DUMB WRITING AND UNEVEN ACTING, “YOU’RE NEXT” IS AN EFFECTIVE MIX OF BLOOD, SCARES, AND BLACK HUMOR.

★★½
By Red Stewart

youre_next_ver6

Released August 23, 2013 (nationwide)
Horror, Thriller
Rated R (contains graphic violence, profanity, sexual content, nudity)
95 minutes

In recent decades, horror fans have been treated to an influx of so-called “splatter” films that replace genuine scares with scenes of extensive gore. It’s this flooding of the market with such amateur works that’s made me fear that horror afficiandos will grasp at any new movie that attempts to return to form, no matter how much it fails in doing so.

Such is the case with “You’re Next”, a home invasion thriller that provides some powerful scares but is ultimately brought down by the problems plaguing many low-budget films today; bad writing. The premise is something we’ve seen one too many times already; a rich family get-together turns into a nightmare as everyone is hunted by a pack of killers, no doubt hired by someone to secure their inheritance (a motivation so old, even the Greeks dropped it soon in their folktales).

But of course, no one watching “You’re Next” is here for the story. They want to be frightened by the terror that grips the household as the body count rises and paranoia grips the masses. However, I have to ask these people, is there really a point in getting tensed up if the next scene has as good a chance of ruining the immersion as accentuating it?

Read the rest of this review…

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Movie Review #891

ONE OF THE GREAT FOUNDING FATHERS OF MODERN-DAY INDEPENDENT CINEMA.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

sex_lies_and_videotape_ver1

Released August 4, 1989 (Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York)
Drama
Rated R (contains sexual content, suggestive dialogue, profanity, partial nudity)
100 minutes

The ‘90s was essentially the Reformation Era of independent movies. “Pulp Fiction”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Clerks”, “The English Patient”, “Fargo”, “Shakespeare in Love”, and “Good Will Hunting” were among the John Calvins of that time. Before them, though, was “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”, the Martin Luther who came to fruition in the summer of ’89.

It’s pretty clear in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” why this inspired so many to become independent filmmakers. It effectively deals a plot that isn’t mainstream, and proves entertaining to a Hollywood audience from its methodical storytelling. “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” is a soap opera of a movie, except it’s suspenseful, gripping, and dramatic, not melodramatic.

Read the rest of this review…

Fury

Movie Review #890

THE MOST REALISTIC WAR MOVIE SINCE “SAVING PRIVATE RYAN”.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

fury_ver6

Released October 17, 2014 (nationwide)
Action, Drama, War
Rated R (graphic war violence, disturbing content, frequent profanity)
134 minutes

“Fury” hits pretty darn hard on its audience. Every scene is either exciting, heartbreaking, reassuring, reveling, comforting, or terrifying. The scary part is you never know which one of these the movie’s about to become. “Fury” doesn’t ask you to prepare yourself for what comes next. Director David Ayer wants to come up from behind and attack. He likes to make us think that everything is all right. In an early scene, the American soldiers are seen throwing innuendos back and forth at each other, passing the time as they make their way onto the front. You can never expect when that moment of fun is going to be interrupted by enemy gunfire.

Read the rest of this review…

Halloween II

Movie Review #889

“HALLOWEEN II” IS FAR FROM PERFECT (WILL SUCH SEQUELS EVER CEASE TO BE?), BUT STILL INTRIGUING AND VERY, VERY, VERY BLOODY.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

h_two_ver4

Released August 28, 2009 (nationwide)
Horror
Rated R (contains frequent graphic violence, disturbing content, profanity, strong sexual content, nudity)
105 minutes

Blood. Carnage. “F” words. Nudity. More “f” words. More nudity. Blood on the walls, on the carpets, and all over that guy’s body, this girl’s dress. Oh and don’t forget that other girl’s skirt. It’s soaked in blood, too. More nudity, more “f” words, more carnage…

Do I sound like I’m going crazy? It’s because I’m imitating Rob Zombie. He has a formula for “Halloween II”, as he did with his first “Halloween” remake. And unless it involves Michael Myers confronting his victims without his mask, it’s an enjoyable formula. Because beyond the blood, the carnage, the “f” words, the nudity, and yadda yadda yadda, there’s something more. There’s a psychological approach (as there was last time) and there’s a point (as there was last time). Though I’m sure that at face value, I still would have somewhat enjoyed “Halloween II”.

Why am I honoring such a grisly film? Mainly, because it’s proven that the series is more than just entertaining when rebooted. This sequel to Zombie’s 2007 “Halloween” reboot is better than the 1981 movie called “Halloween II”. And this “Halloween II” (2009) starts out as a remake of that one: Laurie is hospitalized on Halloween night, after receiving the massive injuries seen in the first film. But after she escapes from the hospital, so does Rob Zombie from the source material. Flash forward almost a year, to where PTSD is catching up on Laurie Strode. Yep, it’s Halloween again, and we can’t exactly say that Michael Myers is dead yet.

Read the rest of this review…

Irréversible

Movie Review #888

“IRRÉVERSIBLE” IS A SICKENINGLY VIOLENT PORTRAIT OF HEINOUS CRIME.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

irreversible_ver2

Premiered May 23, 2002 (Cannes Film Festival)
Released March 7, 2003 (limited)
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Not Rated (contains graphic violence, depiction of rape, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, strong language, drug use)
97 minutes

If you’ve heard of “Irréversible”, and have not seen it, but you are aware of any one scene that isn’t the infamous rape scene, consider me surprised. And I must confess that while that scene should never have been filmed in its entirety (let alone shown in its entirety), I am glad that it has given the film a reputation. Because no one wants to watch a movie knowing they’re in for watching a brutal depiction of a brutal, brutal act. Frankly, if a film is going to depict molestation with absolutely nothing to fetter it from doing so, the rest of the movie should at least be watchable.

This infamous scene occurs in the middle of “Irréversible”, and it seems to split the motion picture into two distinct, uneven portions. The first half is clearly a thriller. Two men are seeking revenge for a woman who has just been raped. They are later on revealed to be the woman’s boyfriend and ex-boyfriend, and they know who they’re looking for. It seems like a trend in the early 21st century cinema to tell rape-and-revenge stories out of chronological order. (I’m thinking “Memento” and “Kill Bill”.) But “Irréversible”, quite ironically, would have worked more effectively in chronological order, rather than being pieced together in reverse order. The second half is far less interesting. I think it might be an attempt to establish some character development, but it just seems like a soap opera.

Read the rest of this review…

The Judge

Movie Review #887

I, THE JURY, FIND THE DEFENDANT (“THE JUDGE”) GUILTY ON TWO COUNTS OF UNLIKEABLE CHARACTERS.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

judge

Premiered September 4, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Released October 10, 2014 (nationwide)
Drama
Rated R (contains profanity, suggestive dialogue)
141 minutes

“90% of Americans believe in ghosts, while only 3% believe in evolution. 35% of Americans recognize Homer Simpson, yet less than 1% know the name Thurgood Marshall.”

Roughly paraphrased above is a line spoken by Robert Downey Jr. in one of the final scenes of “The Judge”.  Perhaps the first portion of the quote is a bit of exaggeration, but I believe there may be some truth in the second portion of the truth.  Which is pretty disheartening, but that’s not my point.  My point is that, even if the entire quote were false, those four statistics were perhaps all I got out of “The Judge”, save for a ticket stub, a barely-empty bucket of popcorn, and the ice at the bottom of my soda.

There are two Roberts here.  There’s Downey Jr., and there’s Duvall.  There should only be one Robert, and if hints are allowed here, it’s not Duvall.  Not only is Robert Duvall miscast in this one, it’s plainly obvious who the role was meant for.  Jack Nicholson was offered the role of Joe Palmer opposite Robert Downey Jr. in “The Judge”, and the role screams Jack Nicholson. It doesn’t scream Boo Radley.  It doesn’t even whisper Boo Radley.

Let me break it down for you. Joe Palmer (Duvall) is a judge in Indiana. His son, Hank (Downey), is a lawyer. Joe is a first-class asshole. Hank is also a first-class asshole. Hank’s brothers are played by Vincent “Private Pyle” D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong. D’Onofrio is the older brother who attempts to mentor Hank, but has absolutely no personality. Strong is their intellectually disabled younger brother who ports around an 8mm movie camera.

Their mother, Joe’s wife, drops dead. Joe starts drinking. Hank gets a call at court telling him that his mother’s dropped dead. As if by obligation, Hank goes back to the home he is glad to have moved away from. He’s coming back to visit his estranged father, and he complains the whole way into town about having to pay respects.

While Hank is visiting, Joe kills a man by the gas station. Joe loses his position as the county judge. Hank offers to be his father’s lawyer when he is tried for murder. Joe accepts.

Hank’s thoughts through all of this couldn’t be more clear. They aren’t, “Sure, I’d love to represent my father in a murder trial!” They’re, “God, I’ve paid my respects, can I just go home already?” Downey and Duvall play two children trapped interminably in the bodies of men. They’re ungrateful, unwilling to face reality, and tremendously whiney. I dare say that if “The Judge” had been written by Dr. Seuss, Duvall would be Asshole 1 and Downey would be Asshole 2. Of course, this means Downey’s in his comfort zone (has he ever played anybody that wasn’t full of himself?), but his character is more than self-absorbed.  He’s downright heartless.  While this is occasionally played for humorous effect, I didn’t find the attempted comedy funny at all.  In fact, it only fortified Downey as a thoroughly unlikeable character.

Read the rest of this review…

Next Page »


  • Don't like coming here all the time? Not a problem: we can come to you. Enter your email address to follow the blog and receive notifications of new reviews by email.

    Join 3,858 other followers

  • Schedule

    Mon. 11/24
    SECOND OPINION – THE CRUCIBLE (Review #907)

    Sat. 11/22
    THE LAST WALTZ (Review #906)

    Thurs. 11/20
    CAPOTE (Review #905)

    Sat. 11/15
    HEATHERS (Review #904)

    Fri. 11/14
    7 PLUS SEVEN (Review #903)

    Thurs. 11/13
    CHASING AMY (Review #902)

    Mon. 11/10
    BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (Review #901)

    Fri. 11/7
    SEVEN UP! (Review #900)

    Thurs. 11/6
    THE TRIP (Review #899)

    Mon. 11/3
    SAW 10th ANNIVERSARY (Review #898)

    Sat. 11/1
    GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (Review #897)

    Thurs. 10/30
    MONSTER (Review #896)

    Mon. 10/27
    JOHN WICK (Review #895)

    Sat. 10/25
    SCARFACE (Review #894)

    Thurs. 10/23
    VENUS IN FUR (Review #893)

    Tues. 10/21
    YOU’RE NEXT (Review #892)

    Mon. 10/20
    SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE (Review #891)

    Sun. 10/19
    FURY (Review #890)

    Sat. 10/18
    HALLOWEEN II (Review #889)

    Thurs. 10/16
    IRRÉVERSIBLE (Review #888)

    Mon. 10/13
    THE JUDGE (Review #887)

    Sun. 10/12
    ANNABELLE (Review #886)

    Thurs. 10/9
    HALLOWEEN (Review #885)

    Tues. 10/7
    ADVENTURELAND (Review #884)

    Sun. 10/5
    GONE GIRL (Review #883)

    Sat. 10/4
    THE HANGOVER PART III (Review #882)

    Thurs. 10/2
    SECOND OPINION – CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Review #881)

    Tues. 9/30
    A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (Review #880)

    Mon. 9/29
    DAVID LYNCH’S RABBITS (Review #879)

    Sat. 9/27
    THE BLACK GODFATHER (Review #878)

    Thurs. 9/25
    THE DROP (Review #877)

    Mon. 9/22
    THE FLY (Review #876)

    Sat. 9/20
    THE BIRDCAGE (Review #875)

    Thurs. 9/18
    LA DOLCE VITA (Review #874)

    Tues. 9/16
    BLOOD DIAMOND (Review #873)

    Mon. 9/15
    OUT OF SIGHT (Review #872)

    Sat. 9/13
    AMERICAN GANGSTER (Review #871)

    Tues. 9/9
    SECOND OPINION – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Review #870)

    Mon. 9/8
    CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (Review #869)

    Sat. 9/6
    DUNE (Review #868)

    Thurs. 9/4
    LOCKE (Review #867)

    Mon. 9/1
    MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (Review #865)

    Mon. 9/1
    HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (Review #866)

    Sat. 8/30
    THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN (Review #864)

    Thurs. 8/28
    THE COUNSELOR (Review #863)

    Thurs. 8/28
    THE SQUARE (Review #862)

    Tues. 8/26
    DISTURBIA (Review #861)

    Mon. 8/25
    ENEMY (Review #860)

    Click here for a full list of forthcoming reviews.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,858 other followers

%d bloggers like this: