Movie Review #881

THIS ONE’S A WEAKER STAR IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

captain_america_the_winter_soldier_ver12

Premiered March 13, 2014 (Hollywood, California)
Premiered March 17, 2014 (Paris)
Released April 4, 2014 (nationwide)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13 (contains frequent sci-fi violence)
136 minutes

Captain America (Chris Evans) wants to retire. He wants to retire so badly that he even moves from New York to Washington, D.C. to live in isolation. That way, he’ll have no need to save the world. Right? Wrong. It’s not very long after he’s retired that he’s entrusted with a hard drive containing classified information. He discovers that a past member of S.H.I.E.L.D. (the CIA-type organization that Cap works for) has become involved in a plan to possibly destroy the world, with aid from a dangerous, but otherwise unknown villain who identifies as the Winter Soldier. With the help of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Cap digs deeper into this conspiracy, in an effort to, you know, save the world.

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Movie Review #880

“A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES” IS BURDENED BY A SLOW PACE AND UNNECESSARY SUBPLOT, BUT ULTIMATELY EXCELS IN LIAM NEESON’S PERFORMANCE AND SOME TRULY SHOCKING MOMENTS.

★★★
By Red Stewart

walk_among_the_tombstones

Released September 19, 2014 (nationwide)
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Rated R (contains graphic violence, disturbing content, profanity, brief nudity)
113 minutes

Ever since “Se7en”, I’ve been waiting for another R-rated crime film that would match the gruesomeness and intensity of that thriller. “L.A. Confidential” and “Road to Perdition” came close, but neither Curtis Hanson nor Sam Mendes seemed as interested in fully exploring the vice of their worlds as David Fincher did with his John Doe character.

First-time director Scott Frank suffers from no such limitations, but it’s his amateur pacing and bloated script that ultimately prevent “A Walk Among the Tombstones” from achieving the heights a Lawrence Block novel adaptation deserves. Here, we have the pitch-perfect casting of Liam Neeson as alcoholic private eye Matt Scudder, who is hired by a drug trafficker to find the men who brutally murdered his wife. As he delves further into the mystery, Scudder realizes that these guys have a long history of killing and aren’t planning on stopping anytime soon.

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David Lynch’s Rabbits

Movie Review #879

“RABBITS” IS ONE OF THE MOST LYNCHIAN PIECES DAVID LYNCH HAS EVER CRAFTED.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

1390292532-038519666ca0d292451842df9bd7fb07

Released 2002 (available on DavidLynch.com w/ subscription)
Re-released November 18, 2008 (David Lynch: The Lime Green Set)
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
No MPAA Rating (contains disturbing content)
43 minutes

I cannot quite tell if “Rabbits” is aesthetically one precise medium. It evokes equal parts of a film, a stage play, a TV show, and a painting. David Lynch describes this as his “sitcom,” which is probably only half-true. It’s not a sitcom, though it’s his sitcom, and yet there’s so much more to it than just that.

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The Black Godfather

Movie Review #878

“THE BLACK GODFATHER” IS A BASIC EXPLOITATION FILM: SOMETIMES ITS FUN, WHILE OTHERS, IT’S OFFENSIVE.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

black_godfather

Released August 15, 1974 (Oakland, California)
Released October 16, 1974 (Los Angeles, California)
Crime, Drama
Rated R (mature themes, graphic violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language)
90 minutes

It’s been forever since I last watched an exploitation film. It’s hard to forget the style of such a genre.  The style’s so much fun because so much of it isn’t intended–it comes generally from an inexperienced producer’s difficulty handling a very low budget.  But even so, I felt when I was watching “The Black Godfather” as if I’d somewhat forgotten how much fun exploitation films are to watch.

I’d also forgotten just how awful they were.

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The Drop

Movie Review #877

“THE DROP” IS SOLID, WELL-ACTED, ENTERTAINING.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

drop_ver5

Released September 12, 2014 (nationwide)
Crime, Drama
Rated R (contains graphic violence, frequent profanity)
106 minutes

“You woke up this morning
Got yourself a gun,
Mama always said you’d be
The Chosen One.”
– Alabama 3, “Woke Up This Morning” (Theme Song from The Sopranos)

Possibly the most satisfying thing about “The Drop” is that its title does not indicate anything about the quality of the film. This is the fourth adaptation from work by crime author Dennis Lehane, following in the clever footsteps of “Mystic River” (2003), “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), and “Shutter Island” (2010). I have yet to see “River”, but “Gone” and “Island” both earned the equivalent of three stars on my current grading scale. I liked them substantially, but I hardly consider either of them classics. “The Drop” meets precisely the same fate. It’s an enjoyable time at the movies, no doubt. (And no doubt Lehane is just a three-star kinda guy.)

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The Fly

Movie Review #876

1986’S “THE FLY” IS MORE CREATIVE THAN THE ORIGINAL. I’M REFERRING NOT ONLY TO STORY, BUT ALSO TO GORE.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

fly

Relased August 15, 1986 (nationwide)
Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated R (contains gore, nudity, sexual content, profanity, violence)
96 minutes

David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” is not so much a remake as it is a reimagining of the 1950’s film.  It presents not a sudden, but a gradual shift of its lead character from human into fly, though using the same concept that was employed in the original work, both of which serve as adaptations of George Langelaan’s short story “The Fly”.

The gist of this remodeling is, we have a mad scientist (Jeff Goldblum) who is thrilled by the possibilities of what he has just invented.  He has created a machine that can effectively teleport any object from one “telepod” to another.  The two telepods are fifteen feet away from each other, but it’s assumed that this will work just as effectively with any distance between the two machines, as the teleportation is a matter of destroying the object inside one telepod, spinning the matter through space, and recreating the object inside the second telepod.

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The Birdcage

Movie Review #875

“THE BIRDCAGE” FEATURES EXCELLENCE FROM BOTH ITS CAST AND ITS WRITING. ANYONE WANT SECONDS?

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

birdcage

Released March 8, 1996 (nationwide)
Comedy
Rated R (contains profanity)
117 minutes

“So this is Hell, and there’s a crucifix in it.” – Robin Williams in “The Birdcage”

It seems that, following his marriage to Diane Sawyer in 1988, director Mike Nichols began to embrace a political side of moviemaking. It’s rather obvious in “The Birdcage”, but if anything, it works out well for this film. This is a remake of the Franco-Italian film “La Cage aux Folles”, concerning a gay, Jewish couple in South Beach, Florida who makes a living running a drag show on the floor below their apartment. Everything is going well, until they start facing the troubles of their son’s oncoming marriage. The woman he is going to wed is the daughter of an unmistakably Republican U.S. Senator and his unmistakably Republican wife. They want to meet the in-laws, but they aren’t exactly aware of how little they would approve of them.

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La Dolce Vita

Movie Review #874

THIS IS THE POSTER CHILD FOR EXTRAVAGANCE IN CINEMA. IT BOASTS THE AUTEUR’S BRILLIANCE IN AN IRRESISTIBLE MANNER.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

la_dolce_vita

Premiered February 3, 1960 (Italy)
Released April 19, 1961 (USA, nationwide)
Re-released July 23, 2004 (USA)
Comedy, Drama
Not Rated (contains mild sexual content)
174 minutes

I never have seen nor will I ever see something quite like “La Dolce Vita”, unless I do the inevitable, which is to watch it again. This is a foreign-language film, but certainly not a foreign film. The term “foreign” implies that it is emotionally, culturally, and conceptually inaccessible. “La Dolce Vita” presents accessibility that can be termed as universal. So many English-language films are endlessly more foreign.

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Blood Diamond

Movie Review #873

“BLOOD DIAMOND” SUFFERS FROM A SLOW FIRST HOUR, BUT MAKES UP FOR IT WITH GALVANIZING PERFORMANCES AND SHOCKING INSIGHTS INTO ITS HORRID WORLD.

★★★
By Red Stewart

blood_diamond_ver2

Released December 8, 2006 (nationwide)
Adventure, Drama, Thriller
Rated R (contains graphic violence, strong language)
143 minutes

There are a lot of atrocities that go on in our world, but I’ve always felt like blood diamonds (or conflict diamonds) are the most understated. Innocent civilians are forced to mine for gems by sick warlords to sell and fund their battles with insurgents. It wasn’t until 2003 that a flawed certification known as the Kimberley Process was established to prevent mainstream consumers from purchasing (and unintentionally supporting) these illegal commodities.

“Blood Diamond” may tell a fictional account about the lead-up to the Kimberley Process, but many of the story elements seen in the film are tragically happening to this day. After getting separated from his son, a Mende fisherman named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is drafted into a mining workforce where he discovers and hides a large pink diamond. Though Vandy and the other miners are soon incarcerated by the government, he is freed by a Rhodesian mercenary named Danny Archer (DiCaprio), who agrees to help Vandy find his son in exchange for the diamond.

Like most Edward Zwick films, the scope of “Blood Diamond” is large and bears a long exposition as a result. While the backstory could’ve been said in 20 to 30 minutes, it takes a good hour to fully play out. But once the film gets past this small trifle it really kicks into gear, with Vandy and Archer exploring the Sierra Leone landscape and witnessing the aforementioned horrors associated with conflict diamonds, including: child soldiers, tortured civilians, and psychopathic businessmen. This in turn ties in with a subplot where Archer undergoes a morality change after realizing that he’s been playing a strong part in all this.

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Out of Sight

Movie Review #872

FUN IN THE MOMENT, AND MEMORABLE FOR ITS CREATIVITY, “OUT OF SIGHT” IS NOT OUT OF MIND.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

out_of_sight

Released June 26, 1998 (nationwide)
Comedy, Crime, Romance
Rated R (contains profanity, graphic violence)
123 minutes

The title “Out of Sight” refers to the proverb “out of sight, out of mind.” It also denies that proverb. It explains that even if you see someone for a few minutes, they could still cross your mind in a matter of years later.

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