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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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter

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.

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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.

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Caddyshack

Movie Review #850: I could gopher seconds.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano
caddyshack_ver2

Comedy, Sport
Rated R (contains sexual content, nudity, suggestive dialogue)
98 minutes

You know what I miss most about Harold Ramis? It’s the enthusiasm that pervades every movie he directs. It’s pretty obvious that everyone’s having fun acting in the movie, and they’re all eager to please their audience. That’s especially true of “Caddyshack”, Ramis’s first film as a director. There’s Michael O’Keefe, a clueless teenager who’s not planning on going to college, but has no idea what he’ll do with his life instead. There’s Chevy Chase, a classy golfer who thinks he plays well but would rather not compete. There’s Bill Murray, the greenskeeper who has waged war on the evil gophers that burrow beneath the golf course. There’s Ted Knight, a rich snob who owns the golf court and gets pissed off at just about everyone and everything. And there’s Rodney Dangerfield, who walks onto the golf course like a bull in a china shop, who steals every scene he’s in, who wants to buy the golf course from Knight.

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Dredd

Movie Review #849: Adding a sci-fi twist to ‘The Raid”s formula, ‘Dredd’ is a thoroughly engrossing, dystopian blockbuster that makes some sly social commentary along the way.

★★★½
By Red Stewart

dredd_ver2

Action, Sci-Fi
Rated R (contains graphic violence, drug content, sexual content, profanity)
95 minutes

Science fiction has always been the greatest way of making snarky remarks about current problems in society indirectly. It’s why it’s one of the greatest genres ever created; you can entertain the dumb masses whilst providing intellectual fodder for smarter audiences. The original Star Trek television series was famous for doing just this, and numerous movies have also joined the ranks.

In that regard, “Dredd” is one of the most original sci-fi films to come out in recent years. Based on the long-running Judge Dredd comic strip, “Dredd” is set in a dystopian future where a nuclear war has destroyed most of civilization and left the rest of the world in an almost-anarchic state. Keeping order are the Judges, individuals who act as judge, jury, and executioner on the streets. Aiming to join these ranks is rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is assigned under the veteran Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) for evaluation. During his daily tour of the city, Dredd traces the source of a popular street drug called Slo-Mo to a slum tower run by drug kingpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Not wanting her empire to crumble, Ma-Ma traps the two inside her building, forcing them to fight their way out.

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Lucy

Movie Review #848: ‘Lucy’ is a lot of fun, even with its flaws.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

lucy

Action, Sci-Fi
Rated R (contains graphic violence, disturbing content, sexual content, drug content)
90 minutes

I wouldn’t call “Lucy” a “smart” movie, but I wouldn’t exactly say it’s “dumb,” either.  Its intelligence seems irrelevant, because Luc Besson’s script plays out as if writing it took no thought at all.  Not that we asked for character development anyway, but there’s really only three things we can say about the characters in this movie: One, Scarlett Johansson plays a stereotypical dumb blonde who becomes smart, then all-knowing, then as manipulative as a god.  Two, Morgan Freeman’s the other good guy.  Three, everyone else in the story is a bad guy.

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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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