Movie Review #864

“It goes to show that even when he was working on a terrible movie, Robin Williams still had the soulful power to make us laugh.”

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

angriest_man_in_brooklyn

Released May 23, 2014 (nationwide)
Comedy, Drama
Rated R (contains strong language, sexual content)
83 minutes

NOTE: This is my longest review ever. It is 1,220 words long, breaking my previous record of 1,168 words (my “Alice” review) by a matter of 51 words. Which kind of blows my mind, because this is the trimmed-down version; my first draft was 5 sheets, handwritten front-and-back on a legal pad, and most likely close to 1,400 words long.

I am writing this review two days after the passing of the late Robin Williams, a genius on his bad days and a demigod on his good days.

I felt obligated to watch “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” last night because it was released almost three months ago, not two decades ago. I needed to remind myself that Williams didn’t fade out at his ending; that he’s still the Robin Williams we all know and love. Funny, happy…and in this case, extremely angry.

I was worried that “Angriest Man” would not showcase this, that I would end up not laughing at all, that I would find not a moment of enjoyment in it. It’s hard not to expect this when you’re about to watch a movie with a 10% on the Tomatometer, and a Metascore of 21 out of 100. Perhaps the movie is underrated, and perhaps we got precisely what we should have out of Williams’s curtain-closer: a comedy that is absolutely terrible, but made watchable, funny, charming, and enjoyable by Williams’s performance. It reminds us just what a dynamic performer he was. Without him, “Angriest Man” is an aimless, hopeless film, bereft of a single laugh.

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The Counselor

Movie Review #863

“I won’t even bother considering how talented the cast is. Even with a cast of amateurs, ‘The Counselor’ still would have made a very bad movie.”


By Alexander Diminiano

counselor

Premiered October 3, 2013 (London)
Released October 25, 2013 (nationwide)
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R (graphic violence, disturbing content, strong sexual content, profanity)

“It’s not that you’re going down, Counselor. It’s what you’re taking down with you.” – Brad Pitt in “The Counselor”

At one point not too long ago, I tried reading Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay for “The Counselor”. I thought it would be interesting. After all, McCarthy wrote the book that inspired “No Country for Old Men”, one of the best movies of 2007. The screenplay started out like a book that gives bits of story. You have to trust that if you keep reading, everything’s going to come together eventually.

Needless to say, I was too bored to get more than 20 pages into the screenplay, and my first impressions of it were wrong. The sad part about this is that I had to learn this by watching the movie it became. This movie is pure vileness. Every one of its characters is motivated to do the sickest, most terrible things for money. Which is sort of funny, because it reflects Ridley Scott’s effort on the movie: he has directed one of the most confusing movies I have ever seen, and I don’t have the slightest doubts that he’s done it for el dinero.

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The Square

Movie Review #862

“‘The Square’ is truly an achievement. Has a coup d’état ever been captured on camera, until now?”

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

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Released October 25, 2013 (limited)
Documentary, Drama, History, News
Not Rated (contains footage of actual massacre, footage of actual abuse, disturbing content, religious themes, profanity)
108 minutes

Two thoughts cross my mind when I sit down to review “The Square”. One is: How exactly am I supposed to review this? The other comes to me with desperation: I need to review this. “The Square” is not a film. It’s not a documentary. It’s a preservation of the recent past. It will soon become a record of the distant past, and it is as pertinent that we preserve this as it is that we preserve, gosh, “Citizen Kane”. This is not a work of fiction. “The Square” tells the cold, hard, bloody, paralyzing truth.

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Disturbia

Movie Review #861

“A thrilling modernization of ‘Rear Window’, ‘Disturbia’ features Shia LaBeouf at his best.”

★★★½
By Red Stewart

disturbia

Premiered April 4, 2007 (Hollywood, California)
Released April 13, 2007 (nationwide)
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rated PG-13 on appeal (contains disturbing content, violence, mild sexual content)
105 minutes

“Every killer lives next door to someone.”

It’s a scary, true thought if you think about it. Okay, maybe it’s not entirely accurate since some murderers surely live in an isolated area, but it’s close enough to the truth and serves the purpose of the story well-enough.

“Disturbia” acts as a modernized retelling of the classic Hitchcock thriller “Rear Window”, with some obvious changes. Shia LaBeouf plays troubled teen Kale Brecht, who’s placed under house arrest after assaulting his teacher. With his mom cutting off all electronics, Kale’s cabin fever gets the better of him and he turns to spying on his neighbors. When he catches one, Rob Turner, supposedly committing a murder, a dangerous game of wits emerges between the two.

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Enemy

Movie Review #860

“Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the best dual role in any movie since Nicolas Cage in ‘Adaptation.’ As for the rest of ‘Enemy’, be prepared for an unconventional, warped, and terrifically clever action thriller.”

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

enemy

Released February 6, 2014 (internet)
Released March 14, 2014 (New York City, New York)
Mystery, Thriller
Rated R (contains strong sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity)
90 minutes

“Chaos is order yet undeciphered.” – opening title card in “Enemy”

Man’s greatest horror is knowing that his worst enemy is himself–the only human being that he has lived with for his entire life, understood for his whole life, eaten with, drunk with, slept with, thought about, dreamed about, and worked with for his whole life. “Enemy” says a steady “no” to this concept. Perhaps man’s greatest horror is not knowing whether the worst enemy he is facing is indeed himself or someone completely different.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the most complex, the most thought-provoking, the most dynamically performed dual role in a movie since Nicolas Cage starring as twins in “Adaptation.”  I have quoted Alfred Hitchcock as saying that the formula to suspense is basically when the audience knows something that none of the major characters do.  It’s his “bomb under the table” principle, and while this applies to the exposition of “Enemy”, much of the suspense thereafter (or perhaps all of it) comes from our absolute lack of awareness, our curiosity, and from the fact that the “bomb under the table” principle is reversed: often times what makes this a thrilling movie is certain instances when the characters know something that we do not.

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The Big Chill

Movie Review #859: ‘The Big Chill’ is remembered for its soundtrack, and indeed it is far better heard than seen.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano
big_chill_ver2

Comedy, Drama
Rated R (contains mature themes, drug use, sexual content, profanity)
105 minutes

Editor’s Note: This will be the last review before a twelve-day hiatus.  I will return on the 25th of August with reviews as usual, except the schedule will be different.  Red’s reviews will be posted Tuesdays at 1:00 PM, and mine will be posted Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at 1:00 PM.  There will be no new reviews on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Kevin Kline. Glenn Close. Tom Berenger. Mary Kay Place. Jeff Goldblum. William Hurt. JoBeth Williams. Meg Tilly. These are all talented actors and actresses, and they play their characters likably in “The Big Chill”. They’ve gathered into a single house to reunite after the death of their friend, Alex. Actually, he committed suicide, and his death isn’t mourned; instead, it becomes the butt of every joke among them. It’s not until the end of the movie that these thirtysomethings realize that, despite resurrecting the unity they haven’t shared since college, they’re missing someone in their little group.

“The Big Chill” is what you’d call a “dramedy,” and often its comic rhythm gets tangled with its dramatic rhythm. It’s a depressing movie that tries to make room for laughs at awkward times. Half the time it’s funny. Half the time we can’t even try to laugh. I’d have to say that the movie simply struggles with its writing in general. The character development is hardly existent for this group of college friends, and we’re not even given a formal introduction to the recently deceased Alex. It feels strange to hear them all keep mentioning him.

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R.I.P. Robin Williams

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Robin Williams, your name is more than that of an actor. You are more than the Oscar winner, who starred in comedies and dramas, for adults and for kids. Your performances touched me at the age of six as much as they do today; you were a family member to me, even if I never met you face-to-face. Rest in peace, Robin. We miss you.

Julia

Movie Review #858: ‘Julia’ is way too political to call a Hollywood movie.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

julia_xlg

Drama
Rated PG (contains profanity, violence)
117 minutes

The strongest highlight in “Julia” is a very strong one. This is the acting. Meryl Streep debuts here, and she steals her only scene in the movie. Then there’s other greats like Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, and Maximilian Schell in supporting roles. And in the lead roles, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.

Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. That’s a terribly brave combination to cast in a 1970s movie, particularly if that movie is “Julia”, which is diesel fueled by left-wing politics. With certain exceptions, American films don’t really try and overtly sell us their political views. “Julia” is different. If it went any further left, it would seem a Michael Moore documentary. I don’t want to say that its topic of anti-fascism is a good nor a bad thing, but the movie’s rah-rah angle of the cause becomes more important than its story. Alvin Sargent’s screenplay for this 1977 film takes a look back at an anti-fascist operation during WWII, not as a period piece, but through a more political eye that promotes the operation as a Cold War theme.

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The Hours

Movie Review #857: Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Me, after watching ‘The Hours’.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

hours

Drama
Rated PG-13 (contains mature themes, disturbing content, profanity)
114 minutes

The first sound we hear in “The Hours” is the intense, brooding sound of rushing water. What better way could there have been for introducing “The Hours” before even an inkling of its story could do so? The film is nervous and even a bit frantic in its bleak retelling of Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway through the parallel lives of three women.

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Boyz n the Hood

Movie Review #856: As biting and fresh as it was in 1991, ‘Boyz n the Hood’ shows us how misconceptions about socioeconomic and race problems can lead to terrible tragedies.

★★★★
By Red Stewart

boyz_n_the_hood

Crime, Drama
Rated R (contains violence, profanity, mild sexual content)
112 minutes

I recall someone once saying that when a white man commits a crime, he alone is charged, whereas if a black man commits a crime, the entire race is accused. I’m regrettably reminded of a day in my youth when some punks broke a window in the school bus I was riding, causing glass to go into my sister’s eye, and I personally blamed the entire ethnicity of the culprits in a moment of emotional fury.

But “Boyz n the Hood” isn’t really about racism in the mainstream sense. There are almost no white characters, and the ones that do appear don’t play the role of a bigot. It instead focuses on the bigger socioeconomic issues and how overlooking the problems prevalent in these poorer communities lead to the endangerment of many adolescents.

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  • The Grading Scale

    Since November 15, 2013:

    ★★★★
    ★★★½
    ★★★
    ★★½
    ★★
    ★½

    ½
    no stars

    October 5, 2011 – October 31, 2013

    A+
    A
    A-
    B+
    B
    B-
    C+
    C
    C-
    D+
    D
    D-
    F

    July 30, 2011 – October 2, 2011
    A+
    A
    B
    C
    D
    F


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