Locke

Movie Review #867

“‘Locke’ is compelling from beginning to end.”

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

locke_ver2

Released April 25, 2014 (limited)
Drama
Rated R (contains strong language)
85 minutes

“Locke” is an 85-minute movie consisting of one scene, one character, and many, many phone calls. The hero/villain in this one-man show, Ivan Locke, takes a midnight drive on the highway, answering calls from three different individuals: his boss, his wife, and his mistress. All are involved in some way with the drive he is taking. His company needs him back at work the next day, but Locke is miles away. His family wants him back home the next day, but Locke might not be able to get back so soon. And the purpose of the trip is to visit his mistress in the hospital, as she gives birth to their son.

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Movie Review #866

“By the fifth outing, it’s decided that no ‘Halloween’ sequel will ever match the original, but will be adequately enjoyable regardless.”

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

halloween_five

Released October 13, 1989 (nationwide)
Horror, Thriller
Rated R (contains graphic violence, profanity, partial nudity)
Original Rating: X
96 minutes

“Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers”. Now let’s think about that title. “The Revenge of Michael Myers”. Is it too late to use such a title? I certainly think so. Because “Halloween 5″ isn’t the only movie about the revenge of Michael Myers. Every “Halloween” movie is. Except for “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”, because that one did not even feature Myers as a character.

This could have also worked under the previous film’s title: “The Return of Michael Myers”. Because as in “Halloween II”, and then again in “Halloween 4″, this fifth entry opens by telling us that Michael Myers is not dead. He has died momentarily, or maybe faked his death altogether, and then gotten up once his surviving victims have walked away. And of course, he’s going to wreak havoc again. That, my friends, is known in the English language as an act of “returning”, or a “return”, to put it in the noun form.

The plot in “Halloween 5″ is actually identical to that of “Halloween 4″, save for a few adjustments. Jamie Lloyd is still the Shape’s target here, but she’s more fearful of him. It’s an extra fear factor in the film that she can (somehow) sense when he’s coming for her, or when he’s about to kill someone. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) proves an increasingly weak protagonist. Of course evil will conquer all when he can’t seem to get Jamie to tell him of Michael’s whereabouts, and when every sheriff is doubting his fears that Michael is on the loose again.

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Magic in the Moonlight

Movie Review #865

“‘Magic in the Moonlight’ is clever, creative, but inferior to last year’s ‘Blue Jasmine’.”

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

magic_in_the_moonlight_ver2

Released July 25, 2014 (limited)
Released August 15, 2014 (nationwide)
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated PG-13 (contains suggestive dialogue)
97 minutes

“There is no real thing! It’s all phony! From the séance table to the Vatican and beyond!” – Colin Firth as Stanley in “Magic in the Moonlight”

The director’s chair is an opiate to Woody Allen, except it doesn’t kill him; it keeps him alive. Often times he sits up straight in the chair. Sometimes he slouches. “Magic in the Moonlight” came because Allen was tired of sitting up straight. He’s 78 years old, and after last year’s “Blue Jasmine”, the question isn’t “why take a break?”; it’s “why not?” So often the director has used movies as a way of taking a breather. Unless Allen is actually sitting up straight and pouring his heart and soul into the film, he no longer seems to be treating the movies as an art. After nearly half a century in the movie business, during which he’s made 45 movies, filmmaking has instead become a reflex for him.

“Magic in the Moonlight” is only a minor slouch. The one-liners are there. In fact, they’re all over the place. They just don’t fit in with the dialogue that surrounds them. Around halfway through the movie, there’s even a scene that completely trails off into a hollow conversation about the mystery of god, or lack thereof. And while the story is very, very creative, I’m not sure whether Allen’s first step was writing it as a screenplay or as a set of one-liners which he would later fit into the screenplay. There’s so many one-liners dealing with the metaphysical world that much of the film’s midsection is composed of useless and confusing conversations for the sake of fitting them all in. I believe Kant, Nietzsche, and Plato were all name-dropped at one point or another, as well.

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The Angriest Man in Brooklyn

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 (contains 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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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.

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