Bowling for Columbine

Movie Review #954


Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2002. Limited release on October 11, 2002. Nationwide release on November 15, 2002. Limited re-release on February 14, 2003. Documentary. This film is rated R for some violent images and language. Runs 120 minutes. A Canadian-American co-production, with additional German involvement. Written and directed by Michael Moore. Featuring Michael Moore, Mike Bradley, Arthur Busch, Michael Caldwell, Richard Castaldo, Dick Clark, Mike Epstein, Denny Fennell, Prof. Barry Glassner, Dick Herlan, Charlton Heston, Jimmie Hughes, Amanda Lamante, Mary Lorenz, Marilyn Manson, Tom Mauser, Evan McCollum, James Nichols, Sheriff Robert Pickell, Nicole Schlief, Matt Stone, and Mark Taylor.


By Alexander Diminiano

If there’s ever an instance where Michael Moore and I agree on any political matter, it’s probably because one of us has developed a severe psychological disorder. Among the many things we disagree on is gun control, which Moore investigates in “Bowling for Columbine”.

Remarkably, I was fascinated by this documentary. At the same time that he digs deep into a prominent political issue (one that retains every bit of relevance over a decade later), his film places far less value on opinion than on explanation of opinion. Which, particularly for something from an infamously dogmatic director, is incredible.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

Movie Review #953


Premiered in Los Angeles, California on February 9, 2015. Nationwide release on February 13, 2015. Drama/Romance. This film is rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language. Runs 125 minutes. An American-Canadian co-production. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Screenplay by Kelly Marcel. Based on the novel by E.L. James. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Max Martini, and Dylan Neal.


By Alexander Diminiano

E L James’s recent resurrection of erotic literature is without a doubt a cult classic. Though it’s important to note that the Fifty Shades trilogy did not start as three separate novels. In fact, it started as fan fiction about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, posted regularly on a website devoted specifically to Twilight fanfics. Frighteningly, she was nearly 50 years old when she started doing this, but I suppose that’s beside the point. This was until the owners of the site asked James to remove her Twilight fanfic because it was too sexually explicit. At this point, James revised and expanded her story, which we now know as the Fifty Shades trilogy.

This back story effectively foreshadows the written quality of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the eponymously titled cinematic treatment of the first Fifty Shades book. So much of the dialogue seems as if it were written by someone whose talents just don’t reach beyond the grasps of fan fiction. For instance, there’s an entire scene where a supposed “business meeting” escalates into our two protagonists—Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan)—talking dirty to each other. Except that’s not exactly what it sounds like they’re doing. It sounds like they’re reciting steamy poetry written by a lustful college girl. Moments of strange dialogue seem to make “Fifty Shades” a lot more enjoyable than it deserves to be. There’s actually a number of one-liners to pull from the script, but I only dare mention them here.

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The 3rd Annual Cinemaniac Awards – NOMINEES

I’m a little late this time, but better late than never, I suppose. Especially since I’ve been compiling this list since early January, maybe even late December. Anyway, 2014 was a really great year in movies, which is part of the reason why coming up with a full list of nominees for this year’s Cinemaniac Awards has taken me so long.

Please note that any films given a limited release in 2014, and then a wide release in 2015, will be eligible for next year’s ceremony. This includes Selma and American Sniper.

I’m interested to hear what all of you think of the nominees this year. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this post. So now, without further ado, I give you the nominees for the 3rd Annual Cinemaniac Awards:

Outstanding Feature

Outstanding Feature

Under the Skin

Best Screenplay

Best Screenplay

Birdman (Alexander Dinelaris, Nicolás Giacobone, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Armando Bo)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)
Her (Spike Jonze)

Outstanding Director

Outstanding Director

Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
David Fincher (Gone Girl)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Best Ensemble

Best Ensemble

Birdman (Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts)
Boyhood (Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke)
Foxcatcher (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave)
Gone Girl (Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Rona, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori)

Best Actor

Best Actor

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Bill Murray (St. Vincent)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Best Actress

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Shailene Woodley (White Bird in a Blizzard)

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supp Actor

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Neil Patrick Harris (Gone Girl)
Miyavi (Unbroken)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Supporting Actress

Best Supp Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Jessica Chastain (Interstellar)
Helen Mirren (The Hundred-Foot Journey)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)

Best Cinematography

Best Cinematography

Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Ida (Ryszard Lenczewski, Lukasz Zal)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
Under the Skin (Daniel Landin)
Whiplash (Sharone Meir)

Best Score

Best Score

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat)
Gone Girl (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Under the Skin (Mica Levi)

Best Visual Effects

Best Visual Effects

Under the Skin

Best Costume Design

Best Costume Design

Big Eyes (Colleen Atwood)
Foxcatcher (Kasia Walicka-Maimone)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Milena Canonero)
The Imitation Game (Sammy Sheldon)
Into the Woods (Colleen Atwood)

Best Production Design

Best Production Design

Birdman (Kevin Thompson)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Adam Stockhausen)
Interstellar (Nathan Crowley)
Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner)
Snowpiercer (Ondrej Nekvasil)

Best Film Editing

Best Film Editing

Birdman (Stephen Mirrione, Douglas Crise)
Boyhood (Sandra Adair)
Chef (Robert Leighton)
The Gambler (Peter Beaudreau)
Under the Skin (Paul Watts)

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment below!  And stay tuned…the winners are coming this Saturday.  Happy Oscartide!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Movie Review #952


Limited release on November 30, 2007. Biography/Drama. This film is rated PG-13 for nudity, sexual content and some language. Runs 112 minutes. A French-American co-production. Directed by Julian Schnabel. Screenplay by Ronald Harwood. Based on the book “Le scaphandre et le papillon” by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, and Anne Consigny.


By Alexander Diminiano

Jean-Dominique “Jean-Do” Bauby might be best known as the former editor of France’s Elle magazine. That’s not what “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” shows us, though. There’s two very fleeting references to Jean-Do’s career at Elle. Considering that this movie doesn’t detail him objectively or as a public figure, I think two is a good enough number.

This movie is purely subjective. Not only is it narrated through Jean-Do’s eyes, it’s also filmed, for the most part, from his very perspective. “Diving Bell” opens as Jean-Do wakes up in a hospital room. He tries to speak to the doctors standing over him, but they don’t seem to realize he’s speaking. Then they explain to him that he has locked-in syndrome, a paralysis of all voluntary muscles save for the eyes. Jean-Do refuses to believe it. He tries to talk to the doctors, and when they don’t respond, he tries to yell loudly at them. Then he realizes, all of a sudden, that he’ll never be able to verbalize his thoughts to anyone ever again.

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Best of 2014 – UPDATED

Hey everybody! I’ve seen so many good movies from 2014, and a lot of those I didn’t see until the year had already ended. So I’ve revised my Best of 2014 list just in time for the Oscars (well, a week in advance).

Click here to view my updated picks for the best movies of 2014.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Movie Review #951


Nationwide release on June 17, 1970. Comedy/Music. This film is rated NC-17. Originally rated X. Runs 109 minutes. An American production. Directed by Russ Meyer. Screenplay by Roger Ebert. Story by Roger Ebert and Russ Meyer. Cast: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, and John LaZar.


By Alexander Diminiano

Roger Ebert was never just a film critic. He was always something more, and in this case, he was screenwriter. Ebert collaborated with Russ Meyer on multiple occasions for his signature trash (a word we don’t even think to associate with Ebert, but god is it true).

“Beyond of the Valley Dolls” happens to be the first and the most famous of their collaborations. It’s also quite a revolutionary film, in that it doesn’t exemplify garbage; instead, it redefines it.

“Beyond” is neither a grindhouse flick nor an arthouse picture. It’s a surprisingly fit cross between the two ideals, and I think that’s what makes it such a classic. I don’t have any trouble agreeing to that descriptor, either. This is smut, it’s sleaze, it’s filth, it’s trash, and ironically, the fact that it lacks so much class–in a fashion that’s so damn self-aware–is just why it’s a classic.

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We Are the Best!

Movie Review #950


Limited release on May 30, 2014. Internet release on June 20, 2014. Drama/Music. This film is not rated. Runs 102 minutes. A Swedish-Danish co-production. Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson. Comic book by Coco Moodysson. Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, and Liv Lemoyne.


By Alexander Diminiano

“We Are the Best!” (known as “Vi Är Bäst!” in its native country of Sweden) centers on two 13-year-old girls who refuse to believe that punk music is dead. It’s 1982, and they still dress like Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. Behind their parents’ backs, they form a band between the two of them to create their own punk music. They write their first (and only) song, called “Hate the Sport”, inspired by their disapproval of their phys-ed teacher. They don’t have the slightest clue how to play a musical instrument, so they bring in a third member from their school to teach them. Even with such little musical experience, it’s only a matter of months before they have their first gig to perform “Hate the Sport”.

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Movie Review #949


Limited release on October 24, 2014. Documentary. This film is rated R for language. Runs 114 minutes. A German-American co-production. Directed by Laura Poitras. Featuring Edward Snowden.


By Red Stewart

I’m under the impression that when the NSA leaks first happened, most Americans either had one of two immediate reactions:

1) They weren’t surprised.

2) They didn’t care.

The former no doubt stems from generations of people living through the Cold War Communist paranoia. The latter, however, appears to have grown out of this mindset many people have that “if I’m not doing anything wrong, I have nothing to worry about.”

What I love about “Citizenfour” is how it makes a very compelling case as to why this philosophy is dangerous and why we should take an active interest in the government’s Big Brother-esque programs. While marketed as a biographical look into Edward Snowden’s life, the film goes much deeper than that–transcending its documentary roots into a realistic political thriller that, like “Foxcatcher”, should’ve been distributed wider for everyone to see.

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Jersey Boys

Movie Review #948


Nationwide release on June 20, 2014. Biography/Drama/Music. This film is rated R for language throughout. Runs 134 minutes. An American production. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Screenplay and musical book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice. Cast: Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Christopher Walken, Michael Lomenda, Renée Marino, Joseph Russo, Erich Bergen, Mike Doyle, Grace Kelley, Alexis Krause, Elizabeth Hunter, Troy Grant, and Freya Tingley.


By Alexander Diminiano

Oh what a night. Late January, 2015, I sat down after a long, long day and figured, “Why not watch ‘Jersey Boys’?” I’d heard the mixed reception, and I was just trying to stay optimistic about the fact that this was Clint Eastwood directing a musical. “Jersey Boys” reaffirms that you can be optimistic about absolutely anything, though, and it doesn’t change the result. A more famous example of this useless optimism was once demonstrated by Germans who were sure they were going to win World War I.

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The Loft

Movie Review #947


Nationwide release on January 30, 2015. Thriller. This film is rated R for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use. Runs 108 minutes. A Belgian-American co-production. Directed by Erik Van Looy. Screenplay and story by Bart De Pauw. Screenplay by Wesley Strick. Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Isabel Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Rhona Mitra, Valerie Cruz, Kali Rocha, Elaine Cassidy, and Margarita Levieva.


By Alexander Diminiano

To classify this idiocy as a movie is a major league insult to real movies with real directors who put real efforts into making their movie because they have real passion for their craft, which is not just filmmaking, but real filmmaking. And no, I’m not trying to pun tirelessly on the word “real” because “reel” is a cinematic term. If that was the point, then I’d write slogans for companies that claim to be the next Redbox. I don’t write slogans. I write movie reviews, and I’m hammering down that word “real” simply because “The Loft” isn’t.

Maybe if you’re someone who considers silk roses to be real because they’re real silk, then you’ll consider “The Loft” a real movie simply because you can watch it in a real movie theater. I feel bad for Open Road Films for being the one to raise its hand and offer to distribute “The Loft”. Just so everybody knows, I work at a Cinemark theater, not a Regal theater, and not an AMC theater. I don’t want anybody thinking I work at AMC or Regal, because AMC and Regal co-own Open Road Films, and are therefore in some way responsible for contaminating the public with “The Loft”. I have nothing to do with “The Loft”, other than the fact that I saw it, and the fact that I almost fell asleep in the movie theater. Now I’ve never fallen asleep in a movie theater, but I came so close watching “The Loft”. My eyelids closed for about thirty seconds, and then all of a sudden my head naturally jolted forward and I was awake for the next two hours. It was like my brain was trying to tell me that I needed to watch the rest of this movie, except I still don’t see any logic in doing that.

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Picking a movie has never been this easy.


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