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.

Read the rest of this review…

R.I.P. Robin Williams

IMG_4744.JPG

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.

Read the rest of this review…

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.

Read the rest of this review…

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.

Read the rest of this review…

Sophie’s Choice

Movie Review #855: ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is a persecution of the human heart.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

sophies_choice

Drama, Romance
Rated R (contains mature themes, disturbing content, religious subject matter, violence, strong language, sexual content, suggestive dialogue)
150 minutes

“Sophie’s Choice” is one of the most shocking, most harrowing, most unflinching period pieces I have ever seen. The Sophie in the title refers to Sophie Zawistowski (Meryl Streep), a survivor of the Holocaust who was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camps for trying to steal a ham. A devout Catholic, Sophie suffered greatly during the genocide, as her husband, son, and daughter were all taken from her one by one.

Read the rest of this review…

Waking Life

Movie Review #854: Even where it doesn’t make sense, the animation in this avant-garde is beautiful and unconventional.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano
waking_life

Animation, Drama
Rated R (contains profanity, violence)
99 minutes

Richard Linklater is one of American cinema’s most extravagant chefs, preparing appetizingly different cuisines to the table every time he makes a movie. “Waking Life” may take some warming up to, but in the end, it’s a film we can only be glad we tried, and in fact, we’d take seconds in a heartbeat.

This is Linklater’s seventh film as director, sixth film as writer, and first time working on an animated movie. Though it defies all ground rules and stereotypes that have been laid down for animated movies. I highly doubt kids would get this movie, much less enjoy it. Some adults might not, either. It’s an abstract film for deep thinkers, acting in words, not actions. The entire story takes place in a dream, and the world Linklater has crafted feels entirely like a dream. Every conversation seems impossible, as we watch every kind of mind delve into the most intellectual, philosophical conversations with the lead character, who is trying to wake up from the dream he is experiencing. The animation, created by Bob Sabiston, delivers sensations of dizziness and double-vision to its viewer. There isn’t a moment in this film that isn’t absolutely surreal.

Read the rest of this review…

Twilight

Movie Review #853: The cast does well enough with the flawed writing and source material they’re given.

★★½
By Red Stewart

twilight

Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Rated PG-13 (contains violence, mild sexual content)
Runs 122 minutes

“Twilight” takes the high school romance genre we’re all too familiar with and adds an interesting twist; the male interest is now a vampire. Unfortunately, the film’s need to stay within the bounds of young adult prevents it from reaching the maturity level needed from such a Gothic topic.

Read the rest of this review…

Movie Review #852: The most fascinating and the most brutal documentary my eyes have ever watched.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Gimme Shelter

Documentary, Music
Rated R (contains footage of actual murder, disturbing content, violence, graphic nudity, drug use, strong language)
91 minutes

On December 6, 1969, a free concert was held on the Altamont Speedway in San Francisco, California.  The concert was expected to go down in history as “Woodstock West.”  When talking about the attendance of the concert, that it was indeed.  300,000 people congregated around a scaffold to hear multiple bands perform rock ‘n roll music.  But Altamont wasn’t at all the peaceful gathering that Woodstock was.  Practically everybody at the concert was using hallucinogenic drugs, and by the time the Rolling Stones got on the scaffold to perform the final act, violent outbreaks were beginning to erupt between the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (who acted as security guards during the concert) and the audience.  At multiple times during the concert, Mick Jagger would tell everybody that there would be no more music until everybody calmed down.  In fact, he stopped right in the middle of “Sympathy for the Devil” to ask what all the fighting was about, before completely restarting the song.  During the next number, “Under My Thumb”, a man named Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by Hells Angels member Alan Passaro.

The truth is stranger than fiction.  So much stranger, and we are able to thoroughly understand that adage when watching the documentary “The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter”.  Directors Albert and David Maysles captured unbelievably raw footage from the Altamont Concert on December 6th, and it’s viscerally edited by Charlotte Zwerin (who’s credited as another director).  There’s moments in the film that are as disturbing as they are hypnotizing.  The audience is seen writhing around like animals and thinking nothing of it.  Some audience members clamber up on the stage while the Stones are performing, in an attempt to talk to their frontman Mick Jagger, only to get thrown back out into the crowd by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.  The Stones try and act like they don’t see anything going on.  The sight of this movie is almost too surreal and nightmareish to believe.

Read the rest of this review…

Gimme Shelter

Movie Review #851: ‘Gimme Shelter’ is no classic, but it’s highlighted by a solid performance.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

gimme_shelter

Drama
Rated PG-13 (contains mature themes, depiction of abuse, violence, drug content, profanity)
101 minutes

The film is an independent drama, and for most of the movie, it takes into consideration just how depraved the life of sixteen-year-old Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) is. Her mother has been arrested for drugs, and she’s been from shelter to shelter. Her mother’s just gotten back from jail when the story opens up, and Apple runs away. She hopes to build a better life for herself, but instead discovers that she is pregnant, and now has two lives to support. The cutting, visceral imagery and tour de force performance by Hudgens emphasize just what a horrible life it is the character is living, and it’s more convincingly a true story than most other dramas in recent memory.

But that’s just the first hour of the movie. The rest of the movie just wants to be uplifting, and while I guess it was to some extent, it becomes extremely superficial. The remainder of the movie serves the same purpose as a fundraiser for pregnant teenage girls. It’s not the fact that “Gimme Shelter” is cinema’s most pro-humanitarian movie of the year, but that it tries so damn hard to claim that title, that makes its last forty minutes cloying and unconvincing.

Read the rest of this review…

Next Page »


  • Notice

    Cinemaniac Reviews will be on hiatus starting August 13, 2014. We will be back with reviews as usual on August 25th.
  • 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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,441 other followers

%d bloggers like this: