Insidious: Chapter 3

Movie Review #975

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Wide release: June 5, 2015. Horror. Runs 97 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for violence, frightening images, some language and thematic elements. A Canadian-American co-production. Written and directed by Leigh Whannell. Characters by Leigh Whannell. Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, and Hayley Kiyoko.

IT’S FUNNY TO THINK THIS WAS ACTUALLY INTENDED TO BE A HORROR MOVIE.

★½
By Alexander Diminiano

What do you call a cheesy, thoroughly unsubtle drama, where gossip, boyfriends, cell phones, and the rest of the cliché high school lifestyle dominate the first thirty minutes, and demons and ghosts and ghouls and all kinds of spooky shit dominate the last sixty? Seeing how that’s been executed in “Insidious: Chapter 3″, call that a really stupid movie. It makes me laugh that Leigh Whannell is convinced this is the description of a horror movie.

“Insidious: Chapter 3″ is hardly a prequel to “Chapter 2″. The tone is far less grounded here, and most of the characters have nothing to do with anybody we’ve seen in the two previous movies. If this entry trying to explain the origins of the three paranormal experts, then maybe it’d be a prequel, but that explanation amounts to about a minute of screen time. It’s really just another outing with those paranormal folks–Elise Rainier, Specs, and Tucker–and some yuppie family that doesn’t really give us a reason to enjoy their presence onscreen. Seeing that Elise Rainier holds more of a leading role in this “chapter” than in the first two, it feels a bit like a spinoff.

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Aloha

Movie Review #974

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Wide release: May 29, 2015. Comedy/Drama/Romance. Runs 105 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments. An American production. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, Bill Camp, Jaeden Lieberher, and Danielle Rose Russell.

LET’S HAVE A LUAU AND BURN EVERY COPY OF “ALOHA” WITH TIKI TORCHES.


By Alexander Diminiano

Currently, “Aloha” is playing on over 2,000 screens. Movie theater screens, to be certain. Why it wasn’t aired as a television movie, I’m not so sure. “Aloha” is, for the most part, one giant-ass soap opera. Except where “Aloha” differs from a soap opera is that it’s dumber, it’s cheesier, and it’s bloated from a fair length of forty-five minutes, to the intolerable drudgery of two hours. It doesn’t intend to elicit any philosophical reaction from its audience (much less anything emotional or psychological), but at a certain point, we become so fed up with the story that we begin to question our very existence.

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Poltergeist

Movie Review #973

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Premiere: Buenos Aires, May 18, 2015. Wide release: May 22, 2015. Horror/Thriller. Runs 93 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for intense frightening sequences, brief suggestive material, and some language. An American production. Directed by Gil Kenan. Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire. Story by Steven Spielberg. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, and Susan Heyward.

IT WOULD BE MORE FUN TO SIT IN FRONT OF A TV WITH YOUR HANDS PRESSED UP AGAINST THE SCREEN, THEN TO WATCH THE “POLTERGEIST” REMAKE AT THE MOVIE THEATER.


By Alexander Diminiano

As the great Mel Brooks once said, “hope for the best, expect the worst.” I’m not referring to “Poltergeist”, because it’s a hopeless movie, so it’s completely illogical to hope for the best in it. I’m applying the adage to the future of movies, as I foresee it. I can only hope that, three decades from now, there still will exist such a thing as cinematic art. My expectations aren’t so bright. The term “cinema” could very likely feel antiquated thirty years from now. No doubt movies will be 20 bucks a pop, and rest assured, it’ll feel like buying an indulgence, not paying for admission.

I don’t think “Poltergeist” wants to actually scare us. Considering what the seminal ’80s movie did, it doesn’t have a chance, but it’s a letdown seeing it not even try to scare us. The only thing that’ll really frighten you hear is that the dreadful “Poltergeist” remake is that it’s a physical manifestation of the predictions I have listed above. It’s about ninety minutes long, and it doesn’t even have the dramatic depth to warrant that length. Where the 1982 classic felt quick and tense, this version feels amazingly uneventful. And for no particular reason, the movie is in 3-D. I find that even more confusing, now that I’ve seen it. I would have preferred to see that in 2-D, but even more than that, I would have preferred not to see it at all. I guess the purpose of remaking “Poltergeist” in 3-D was for money, but even so, this movie debuted at #4 at the box office. And despite its relatively small budget of $35 million, it has yet to turn a profit.

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Pitch Perfect 2

Movie Review #972

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Premieres: Las Vegas, Nevada, April 20, 2015; Paris, April 28, 2015. Nationwide release: May 15, 2015. Comedy/Music. Runs 115 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for innuendo and language. An American production. Directed by Elizabeth Banks. Written by Kay Cannon. Characters by Mickey Rapkin. Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Katey Sagal, Anna Camp, Ben Platt, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, and Ester Dean.

SINGS A NICER “PITCH” THAN THE FIRST MOVIE, BUT IT COULD STILL BE A LOT FUNNIER.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

My favorite a cappella moment in any movie appears in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”, where Will Ferrell and the gang sing Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”. It always has been that scene, and as far as I’m concerned, it always will be. The original “Pitch Perfect” certainly didn’t change that for me. In fact, it only made me hate a cappella a little. I couldn’t stand that movie. I understand it found a cult following almost immediately, but I found it absolutely obnoxious and extremely derivative.

Clearly, “Pitch Perfect 2″ was made for one reason: to capitalize on the success of the original. And so it did. It made more money in its first three days than the first movie did its entire time in theaters. And so it deserves to, because it’s a far better movie. I’m not saying the “Pitch” story has actually gotten good yet, but it’s a whole heck of a lot better now.

The way the plot progresses here is absurd. It starts off with the Bellas (the fictional sorority from the fictional Barden University) performing a show for President Barack Obama. Yes, they got the President of the United States to do a cameo here. For reals. So in other words, assume this is the first in a long series of cameos that follow throughout the course of the film. Moving on, though, the plot seems to go into motion because of a wardrobe malfunction that occurs while the Bellas are in the middle of their act. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) is being lowered onto the stage by a cord that is apparently fighting with her weight…and apparently losing that battle. The cord rips her dress so as to expose her, uh, unspeakable area.

As you might guess, the Bellas are ostracized because of their Janet Jackson incident. We see several news segments commenting on the disgrace, but I guess Obama declined to deliver a speaking role for the movie, because we don’t get to hear his take on it. Anyway, the sorority is called to the dean’s office for an intervention, and instead of being kicked out, they’re actually given a second chance. If they win the world championship, then they’re off the hook. Of course, don’t we already know that they will win the world championship? It’s obvious that even if they’re shit out of luck by their last few performances, there’ll be some sort of deus ex machina to save them.

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A Most Violent Year

Movie Review #971

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AFI Fest: November 6, 2014. Limited release: December 31, 2014. Nationwide release: January 30, 2015. Action/Crime/Drama. Runs 125 minutes. This film is rated R for language and some violence. An American production, with additional Emirati involvement. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor. Cast: Oscar Isaac, Elyes Gabel, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, and David Oyelowo.

THE FIRST HALF OF THE FILM PROVES THAT J.C. CHANDOR TELL A VERY INTERESTING STORY. THE SECOND HALF PROVES THAT HE DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

The title of “A Most Violent Year” refers to the year 1981, as experienced in New York City. Played by Oscar Isaac is an immigrant who owns an up-and-coming heating oil company called Standard Oil. He’s plagued by the constant highjacking of his trucks, and on top of that, the D.A. (David Oyelowo) is trying to expose his company for tax evasion. I guess we’re supposed to feel bad for this guy’s situation, because he’s getting the boot from criminals as well as someone who works against criminals. He’s supposedly a good guy, but he inexplicably reminds us of Al Pacino in “Scarface”. He’s certainly a toned-down version of that child-in-king’s-clothing character. It’s funny, though, that his name is Abel Morales. What a surname.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Movie Review #970

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Premieres: Hollywood, California, May 7, 2015; Sydney, May 13, 2015. Wide release: May 15, 2015. Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi. This film is rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images. Runs 120 minutes. An Australian-American production. Directed by George Miller. Written by George Miller and Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris. Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, John Howard, Richard Carter, and Megan Gale.

WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER HERO — UNLESS HE’S TOM HARDY.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

As I write this review, I am listening to “Hells Bells” by AC/DC. It was first track off the Australian rock band’s Back in Black, their first (and perhaps best) release following the death of lead singer Bon Scott. The howling vocal sound is definitely different from when the band started with High Voltage and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, but it awesomely corrupts the music.

Tom Hardy does the same for “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Forget that Mel Gibson didn’t want to return for a fourth film, and forget any suggestion that he’s too old for the role by now. Hardy really delivers here. Perhaps I’d have a greater say if I’d seen the first three “Mad Max” films (which, I now realize, is a gigantic mistake), but if Hardy continues to give the same rock n’ roll performance that he does in “Fury Road”, I don’t even want Mel Gibson back in the game.

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America: Imagine the World without Her

Movie Review #969

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Limited release: June 27, 2014. Nationwide release: July 2, 2014. Documentary. This film is rated PG-13 for violent images. Runs 105 minutes. An American production. Directed by Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan. Written by Dinesh D’Souza. Other writers: John Sullivan, Bruce Schooley. Featuring appearances by Dinesh D’Souza, Alan M. Dershowitz, Charmaine Whiteface, Noam Chomsky, Charles Truxillo, Ted Cruz, Michael Eric Dyson, Ward Churchill, Jagadish Bhagwati, Allen Guelzo, Ron Radosh, Niall Ferguson, Stanley Kurtz, Rand Paul, Stanley Fish, Brian Wesbury, Arthur Brooks, Star Parker, Harvey Silvergate, Leslyn Wallace, Dan Robinson, and Temo Muniz. Also featuring performances by Josh Bonzie, Rich Bentz, Don Taylor, Michelle Swink, John Koopman, Caroline Granger, Jodie Moore, Janitta Swain, Rett Terrell, Jennifer Pearson, and Chad A. Baker.

AN INTERESTING CONCEPT, SHALLOWLY EXECUTED.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Dinesh D’Souza has been a figure of controversy (in America, at least) since 2012, when he released his documentary “2016: Obama’s America”, just a few months ahead of the President’s reelection. It became the second-highest grossing documentary of all-time, behind Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11″, from the opposite end of the political spectrum, but founded on the goals: to root the incumbent president out of a reelection.

“2016” was one of few documentaries I actually saw at the theater. Once I saw it, I was quick to back it. D’Souza was under fire from film critics who saw the film as conservative propaganda. Be that as it may, it was an insightful documentary, and D’Souza most certainly deserves points for that. D’Souza had outlined “2016” based on three major predictions about the future of America under the Obama administration, and shockingly, all three have started to run their course since President Obama’s reelection.

D’Souza’s sophomore film “America: Imagine the World without Her”, initially, asks us to do just that, but it’s a question we don’t get much of an answer to by the end of the film. It’s not nearly as insightful as D’Souza’s first work, if the two warrant any comparison. Yes, initially, the film seems to pose the question in its title, but it becomes clear soon enough that the question is virtually irrelevant.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Movie Review #968

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Wide release: April 17, 2015. Action/Comedy. Runs 94 minutes. This film is rated PG for some violence. An American production. Directed by Andy Fickman. Written by Kevin James & Nick Bakay. Characters by Kevin James & Nick Bakay. Cast: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez, Daniella Alonso, David Henrie, and Steffiana De La Cruz.

I LAUGHED VERY HARD. YES, FOR REAL.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ is the latest release from Happy Madison Productions, Adam Sandler’s production company since 1999. That pretty much says everything. “Paul Blart 2″ isn’t the smartest of movies–who am I kidding, it’s high-ranking among the dumbest movies I have ever seen, save for perhaps a select few that were mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But there’s a difference: those were B-movies. “Paul Blart 2″ doesn’t give a flying fatguy about how dumb it is, because it’s joyfully basking in the glory of its idiocy.

There’s dumb funny and there’s dumb unfunny. Admittedly, Happy Madison has had some of the latter. There ain’t no hiding my absolute hatred of “Jack and Jill”. It made me want to blind myself with ice picks. You’d think my reaction would at least be similar for “Paul Blart 2″ (and by the way, I have not seen the first movie, though I am now interested). For at least a week, this sequel held a rare 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes, something that hadn’t to a wide release happened since Eddie Murphy had to shut up for an entire movie in 2012’s “A Thousand Words”.

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Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron

Movie Review #967

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Premiere: Los Angeles, California, April 13, 2015. Wide release: May 1, 2015. Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi. Runs 141 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments. An American production. Written and directed by Joss Whedon. Based on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Linda Cardellini, and Stellan Skarsgård.

WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT IF THE MOVIE WERE AS IMPRESSIVE AS ITS BOX OFFICE EARNINGS?

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Does complaining about special effects make me sound 70 years old? Maybe older is wiser. I am sick and tired of seeing movies that feature computer-generated effects so prominently that they end up, at best, looking like video games, and at worst, losing our interest.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is distracting. It hemorrhages special effects like it’s the newest member of the European royalty, and the results are stultifying. This is Marvel Studios’s costliest film to date, and the seventh most expensive production in history, at $250 million. Of course, Disney is guaranteed to make that sum back four times, but do finances really matter in a movie that overdoses on visual effects like it’s Janis Joplin? I’m wagering that at least 70% of the movie’s cost was spent on visual effects alone.

“Ultron” is a mess of unoriginal folklore from the greater days of science fiction. The main story is referenced in the title. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is running out of good ideas, so all of a sudden he decides to build a machine called Ultron (voiced by James Spader) that he’s sure will save the world, because he’s programmed it through a language called Jarvis. His plan seems misguided from the beginning, and moreso when Ultron proceeds to eat Jarvis. So it appears, at least. I personally don’t blame Ultron, though. If the popcorn line were long enough, I would’ve eaten Jarvis, too. Anyhow, once this happens, Ultron proceeds to defy his master and make enemies with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). He still claims his objective is to save the world, but now it’s looking like he’s going to destroy the world.

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Two Days, One Night

Movie Review #966

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Cannes Film Festival: May 20, 2014. Toronto International Film Festival: September 9, 2014. Vancouver International Film Festival: September 26, 2014. New York Film Festival: October 5, 2014. AFI Fest: November 7, 2014. Limited release: December 24, 2014. Drama. Runs 95 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements. A Belgian-French co-production, with additional Italian involvement. Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne. Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione.

YOU’D HAVE TO HAVE A HEART OF STONE NOT TO REACT TO A FILM THIS EMOTIONAL.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

It’s the reality of “Two Days, One Night” that makes it such an emotional movie. Marion Cotillard, in her most dynamic role since Édith Piaf in “La Vie en rose”, offers that intense reality as Sandra, a woman living in an industrial town in Belgium. She has just pulled herself out of a bout of depression, only to find that her boss wants her fired. Sandra is perhaps the most valued at her job, but the man in charge of the company doubts her abilities to work up to her previous standards after her bout of depression.

Sandra begs to differ, and frankly, so do all her coworkers. However, the owner of the company has used them all as pawns to discreetly fire Sandra. It is on a Friday that he hands out ballots to Sandra’s 16 coworkers. He gives them the choice to keep Sandra and lose their bonus (1,000 euros), or to let Sandra go and keep their bonus. The decision, unfortunately, is to let Sandra go, but only because so many of Sandra’s coworkers are in need of their bonuses. Sandra won’t give up, though, because she has a husband and two kids to support. She can’t afford to lose her job. She appeals to her boss, who then agrees to recollect the ballots on Monday. This gives Sandra two days and one night to find a majority of her coworkers (9 of them) who are willing to give up their bonuses to keep her on the team. It’s a question of stabilizing their respective financial situations, versus sparing the hardest worker among them. It’s not an easy decision for any of them to make.

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