Dumb and Dumber To

Movie Review #912


Wide release on November 14, 2014. Comedy. This film is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references. Runs 109 minutes. American production. Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Screenplay: Sean Anders, John Morris. Writers: Mike Cerrone, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Bennett Yellin. Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Kathleen Turner, and Brady Bluhm.


By Alexander Diminiano

Harry and Lloyd are back, and though they may have physically aged 20 years since we last encountered them, they’ve aged backward mentally. You only needed one inner child to enjoy “Dumb and Dumber” (1994). You might need as many as seven to enjoy “Dumb and Dumber To”.

What’s good about this from the get-go is that it completely ignores that there already has been a follow up to “Dumb and Dumber”. Remember “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd”, from back in 2003? Yeah, it sucked all right. There’s flashbacks in “Dumb and Dumber To”, but none that pay any sort of mind to that forgettable prequel. “Dumb To” is nothing like that failed attempt to follow the ’90s classic. One thing’s for sure: only Jim Carrey is Lloyd Christmas, only Jeff Daniels is Harry Dunne, and only the Farrelly Bros. have the unexplainable funny power to direct the two of them.

The poor critical reception “Dumb and Dumber To” has received continues to escape me. I laughed my ass off at the movie. Just when I was under the impression that Jim Carrey’s sense of humor was permanently in the dumps, and that I’d never see Jeff Daniels in another movie again, here we are with the two of them doing just what they did twenty years ago. The whole point of “Dumb To” is to make us laugh with whatever stupid antics they can pull, but is that very much different than the first one? All right, this one does kind of slack off on its narrative end. It’s structure seems pretty shallow, once you realize that the movie’s playing out almost exactly as the first movie did.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Movie Review #911


Premiered in London on November 10, 2014. Wide release on November 21, 2014. Adventure/Sci-Fi. This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material. Runs 123 minutes. American production. Director: Francis Lawrence. Screenplay: Peter Craig and Danny Strong. Adaptation: Suzanne Collins. Novel “Mockingjay”: Suzanne Collins. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, and Elizabeth Banks.


By Alexander Diminiano

There’s no point in splitting Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay into two distinct movies–on paper, at least. It works in actuality. Peter Craig and Danny Strong have terrifically translated Suzanne Collins’s novel (excuse me, the first part of it) into a screenplay. They’ve successfully matured this story from an action thriller about televised fights to the death, into a politically influenced parable that documents every bit of tense, fearful preparation for civil war.

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Saw IV

Movie Review #910


Nationwide release on October 26, 2007. Horror/Mystery. This film is rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language. Originally rated NC-17. Runs 93 minutes. American-Canadian co-production. Director: Darren Lynn Bousman. Screenplay: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan. Story: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan and Thomas Fenton. Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Lyriq Bent, Athena Karkanis, Justin Louis, Simon Reynolds, and Donnie Wahlberg.


By Alexander Diminiano

If I had to choose between watching “Saw IV” again and listening to Julia Gillard speak for an hour and a half, I’d pick Miss Gillard in a heartbeat. I have yet to hear a public voice more obnoxious than hers, but “Saw IV” is in and of itself a whole onslaught of annoyances.

The only thing more annoying than director Darren Lynn Bousman’s fascination with splatter is editor Kevin Greutert’s weird, rapid cutting between shots. Or maybe it’s David A. Armstrong’s bizarrely unfocused cinematography. Or maybe it’s the fact that Charlie Clouser has finally run out of ideas, having written scores now for four “Saw” movies, and has resorted to composing nothing new music-wise. Unless you say there’s some newness to arranging twenty different variations to the “Hello Zepp” theme Clouser composed for the very first “Saw”.

It’s hard to imagine that a story can stoop so low after only four movies. Or maybe I should be glad that “Saw” has lasted, though on a thread, for four movies. The script constantly attempts to remind us that Jigsaw wants his victims to appreciate their lives. But if he’s torturing them and giving them no way out, regardless of their desperation to save themselves, I think that motive’s expired.

The good news, I suppose, is that “Saw IV” returns to the detective movie setup used in the first two films. Except this time, it’s all just banal, wishy-washy dialogue during the investigation scenes. Talking, and none that we care about. The film as a whole seems a lot like a really dumbed down version of “The Silence of the Lambs”, with heavy reliance on gore and jump scares. Actually, that’s a description I could have used in my review of “Hannibal”, Ridley Scott’s “Silence of the Lambs” sequel. For those who haven’t seen it, don’t. My review overrates it, and it’s utter trash. But “Saw IV” is even worse.

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Movie Review #909


Limited release on September 30, 2005. Nationwide release on February 3, 2006. Biography/Crime/Drama. This film is rated R for some violent images and brief strong language. Runs 114 minutes. American-Canadian co-production. Director: Bennett Miller. Screenplay: Dan Futterman. Book: Gerald Clarke. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., and Mark Pellegrino.


By Alexander Diminiano

Perhaps one of the greatest literary curiosities of the 20th century is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Anything we can say about the book, its author, the events, sound like urban legend. Since the 1940’s, Truman Capote had been a revolutionary and wildly successful (if wildly controversial) journalist, author, celebrity, pundit. In 1959, he became fascinated with a homicide that had occurred in Kansas. He declined to write a story about it for the New Yorker and instead decided to write a nonfiction novel about the homicide. (“Nonfiction novel” being a medium he actually invented for the purposes of writing In Cold Blood.) The book took him as much as seven years to write. It was greatly anticipated and extraordinarily successful, but Capote never finished another book after In Cold Blood.

Not much more is known about events that surrounded In Cold Blood. Readers have spent as much as five decades speculating on why the novel was so challenging to write, and why it singlehandedly plagued Capote with writers’ block. Bennett Miller’s “Capote” is, therefore, a highly fictionalized account of the author’s struggle to write his magnum opus. That’s not to say it isn’t a terrific movie. What “Amadeus” was for an enigmatic musician, this is for an equally mysterious writer.

Forget Bennett Miller’s excellent direction of “Capote”.  Forget Dan Futterman’s powerhouse writing (quite impressively, this was his first screenplay), and forget Catherine Keener’s stellar performance as Capote’s longtime friend Harper Lee.  Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the movie.  He becomes the movie.  He overthrows anything and anyone that could possibly get in the way of his performance and takes hold of the role of Truman Capote by the scruff of the neck.  He captures every nuance of Capote’s voice, his attitude.  When the movie is finished with, we see Capote as a more mysterious character than we ever had before.

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Fading Gigolo

Movie Review #908


Limited release on April 18, 2014. Comedy. This film is rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity. Runs 90 minutes. American production. Director: John Turturro. Writer: John Turturro. Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone, and Sofía Vergara.


By Alexander Diminiano

You know Woody Allen’s getting old when his best movie this year isn’t, strictly speaking, his movie. “Fading Gigolo” is John Turturro’s movie, with Turturro directing, writing, and starring alongside Allen. But the spotlight’s completely on Allen, whose distinct style Turturro seems to imitate behind the camera. At the same time that the movie embraces Allen’s narrow genre of comedy, it seems to poke fun of it as well.

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Movie Review #907


Nationwide release on October 27, 2006. Horror/Mystery. This film is unrated. Runs 114 minutes. (Theatrical version: This film is rated R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language. Originally rated NC-17. Runs 108 minutes.) American-Canadian co-production. Director: Darren Lynn Bousman. Story: Leigh Whannell and James Wan. Screenplay: Leigh Whannell. Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, and Donnie Wahlberg.


By Alexander Diminiano

Editor’s Note: This is a review of the Unrated Edition.

Meet Jeff. Jeff is an unhappily married man with a cheating wife and a dead son. His son was 8 years old when he was hit by a car. That was 3 years before the events depicted in “Saw III”. Now Jeff has been brought into the lair of the Jigsaw Killer, who has taken into captivity everyone responsible for his son’s murder and placed each one of them in one of his world-famous “traps.” For those not familiar with the “Saw” series, the Jigsaw Killer puts his victims in situations that require them to endure extreme and inhumane varieties of torture in order to survive. He claims that he does this to test his victims’ will to live, because as he sees it, if they’re willing to keep living, they’ll do anything in their desperation to stay alive. But at this point, it’s pretty obvious that every one of Jigsaw’s victims has died, save for one, and that everyone from here on out will die.

But wait a moment. Let’s back up. Jigsaw has brought all the accomplices to the murder of Jeff’s son into his lair to torture them. Jeff’s son died in a car crash. It wasn’t the JFK assassination. Yet Jigsaw claims (and Jeff believes him) that five or more people were involved in the murder of his son. I don’t know about you, but in my mind, “vehicular manslaughter” and “conspiracy theory” don’t exactly match up.

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Chasing Amy

Movie Review #906


Nationwide release on April 4, 1997. Comedy/Drama/Romance. This film is rated R for strong graphic sex-related dialogue, language, sexuality and drug content. Runs 113 minutes. American production. Director: Kevin Smith. Written by: Kevin Smith. Cast: Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Joey Lauren Adams, Carmen Lee, Jason Mewes, and Kevin Smith.


By Alexander Diminiano

The concept that actions have consequences is missing here. Which is strange, because that usually comes naturally to a screenplay. As naturally as dialogue comes in “Chasing Amy”, the concept of actions having consequences is there neither unnaturally if at all. Just how does a professional comic book presentation turn into a racial outrage, and then a shooting, and then a casual conversation as if nothing of those two other things had actually happened? And when a comic book artist who is aggravated because someone has taunted him about his profession, how in pluperfect hell does that end in the cops hauling out the guy who’s taunting the comic book artist?

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7 Plus Seven

Movie Review #905


Released in the UK only on December 15, 1970. Documentary/Biography. This film is not rated. Runs 52 minutes. British production. Director: Michael Apted. No writer credited. Cast: Bruce, Jackie, Symon, Andrew, John, Peter, Suzy, Charles, Nicholas, Neil, Lindsay, Paul, Susan, and Tony.


By Alexander Diminiano

As if it were a Hollywood movie, not an independent documentary, Michael Apted’s “7 Plus Seven” (1970) feels every bit like the sequel to Paul Almond’s “Seven Up!” (1964). And if you’d like any sort of proof that sequels are sometimes better the the original movie, well, here you go.

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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Movie Review #904


Nationwide release on February 17, 1989. Adventure/Comedy/Sci-Fi. This film is rated PG. Runs 90 minutes. American production. Director: Stephen Herek. Written by: Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon. Cast: George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Keanu Reeves, Dan Shor, Alex Winter, Tony Steedman, Al Leong, and Jane Wiedlin.


By Alexander Diminiano

Dude! This movie is absolutely bodacious! It’s like “Wayne’s World”, except it came before “Wayne’s World”, and it’s truly excellent. “Wayne’s World” was bogus, man, and particularly in comparison to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, which is…what’s the word I’m looking for? Excellent!!

This is, like, the biography of Misters Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan. (Yeah, a biography. Based on a true story, man.) These two dudes, man, they rock my sox. They’re like bandmates in this band called Wyld Stallyns. And get this. They’re failing school. And if they don’t get an A-plus on their history presentation in a few days, Ted’s dad’s gonna send him to military school. He’s got plans and everything! Dude! Bogus!

But seven-hundred years in the future, the earth is like totally dominated by some bodacious fans of Wyld Stallyns. They know that they won’t have good music if Bill and Ted don’t get that A-plus. (Come on, man, put it in perspective. It’s like the world today without Lady Gaga. Anarchy, dude!) So obviously, since there’s, like, time machines and stuff seven-hundred years in the future, the overlord Mr. George Carlin sends this excellent time machine back to Bill and Ted so they can travel through all the coolness of time and stuff and, like, meet people from all different eras and epochs. George Carlin is so excellent, right!?

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Saw II

Movie Review #903


Nationwide release on October 28, 2005. Horror/Mystery. This film is rated R for grisly violence and gore, terror, language and drug content. Runs 93 minutes. American-Canadian co-production. Director: Darren Lynn Bousman. Written by: Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman. Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, Erik Knudsen, and Franky G.


By Alexander Diminiano

“Saw II” kicks off with a man waking up in a dark room, his head caught in a device that has been nicknamed a “Venus flytrap” by its maker. We all know who the maker is: John Kramer, or “Jigsaw” (Tobin Bell). He tells his victim that if he doesn’t find the key to unlock the trap within a minute, it’ll close on him like an iron maiden. The scene plays out almost shot for shot like the “reverse bear trap” scene in the first “Saw”. Except this time, the victim fails.

But if we’re looking for the scene that’s as great as the “reverse bear trap” scene, it’s not the one that imitates it. Director Darren Lynn Bousman really heightens the tension in a “needles pit trap” scene. Truly the only thing worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack, can be searching frantically for a key somewhere in a pit of needles, all loaded with some sort of drug. Focus on the word frantically. These characters only have one minute to do so. The seeming impossibility of such a task is successfully, thrillingly attained.

The most major compliment I have for “Saw II” is for its editing. I’ll say it: it’s clever. Director Darren Lynn Bousman really has a creative eye for this sequel. His scene-to-scene transitions are as witty as South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s, while his rapid fire mixing and matching of shots mimics James Wan’s style in the first film.

The story hasn’t yet fallen flat. It’s taken a different path, though. In “Saw II”, we find a cop who has been enjoying every moment that he doesn’t have to spend with his son…until his son is locked in a house with several strangers and countless deadly traps. A deadly nerve agent is permeating the house and will kill him and the others within three hours, but as he has been asleep for an hour of this time, he only has two hours to escape. Doing so requires finding a certain code that will unlock a safe, in which he will find an antidote, if he’s lucky enough to make it that far.

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Time is money, and bad movies are never free.


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