Posts Tagged ‘2012’

The Hunt

Movie Review #705

jagten

In collaboration with Danmarks Radio (DR), Film i Väst, Sveriges Television (SVT) & Zentropa International Sweden…

…with the support of Det Danske Filminstitut, Eurimages, Media Programme of the European Community, Nordisk Film- & TV-Fond & Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI)…

Zentropa Entertainments

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures (subtitled)
Country: Denmark – Sweden
Spoken Languages: Danish – English – Polish

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Produced by Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann, and Thomas Vinterberg. Writers: Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg.

Rated R by the MPAA – sexual material, violence, profanity. Runs 1 hour, 55 minutes. Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2012; at Karlovy Vary Film Festival on July 1, 2012; at Paris Cinéma on July 5, 2012; at New Zealand International Film Festival on July 26, 2012; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012; at Zurich Film Festival on September 21, 2012; at Filmekimi on September 28, 2012; at PAC Film Festival on October 7, 2012; at London Film Festival on October 11, 2012; São Paulo International Film Festival on October 23, 2012; at Leiden International Film Festival on October 24, 2012; at Leeds International Film Festival on November 8, 2012; at Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival on November 9, 2012; at European Film Week on November 30, 2012; at Palm Springs international Film Festival on January 10, 2013; at Göteborg International Film Festival on January 26, 2013; at Portland International Film Festival on February 8, 2013; at Belgrade Film Festival on March 3, 2013; at Skopje Film Festival on April 20, 2013; at Newport Beach International Film Festival on April 25, 2013; at Seattle International Film Festival on June 4, 2013; and at Provincetown International Film Festival on June 20, 2013. Limited release in the USA on July 12, 2013. Wide release in Denmark on January 10, 2013; and in Sweden on April 12, 2013.

Starring Mads Mikkelsen. Also starring Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Steen Ordell Guldbrand Jensen, Daniel Engstrup, Troels Thorsen, Søren Rønholt, Hana Shuan, Jytte Kvinesdal, Bjarne Henriksen, Rasmus Lind Rubin, Frank Rubæk, Jacob Højlev, Jørgensen, Karina Fogh Holmjær, Katrine Brygmann, Hunden Rosa, Thomas Frederiksen, and Lene Rømer. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances by Ole Dupont as Godsejer and Advokat, and by Thomas Vinterberg as himself.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Golden Globes night, 2013. I flipped out when “The Great Beauty” beat “The Hunt” for the Best Foreign Language Film prize. Flippedout. I hadn’t seen either movie at the time, but I’d heard such rave over “The Hunt”, and “The Great Beauty” was a complete unknown to me. It just didn’t feel right at all.

Now I have to say, my reaction that night was a bit over-the-top. “The Hunt” (known to its native Denmark as Jagten) probably isn’t every bit of perfection you’ve heard. But it does have quite a good chance for the Foreign Language Film Oscar.

“The Hunt” centers on a fortysomething, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), who has had a less-than-perfect past and is trying to rebuild his life. He teaches kindergarten, and he’s not seen as the most trustworthy fellow. Even less so when he is accused of molesting one of his students. The allegation comes directly from that student, and everyone in the community is willing to believe this girl’s troubled imagination over the grown man’s innocence and honesty.

It’s hard to say that we take sides with this story. Mads Mikkelsen has established himself quite well as an overall villain character (“Casino Royale”, TV’s Hannibal). His protagonist in “The Hunt” doesn’t beg for compassion or to be liked, and this way, it more optimally tells the story. The point of the movie isn’t to tell the story from one side. It’s to tell the whole story, and with much certainty, it does.

“The Hunt” takes a story we’d rather not watch and makes it every bit worth watching. The story itself takes a while to unfold, but it’s engrossing as aything once it’s made itself into something. I’ve been under the impression that Scandinavia enjoys lower budget TV movies in their cinemas. While that may be so for films like “Headhunters” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Hunt” is utterly cinematic. The last 20 minutes reach the emotional apex. The last act? Beautiful–and yet anything but beautiful. As for the finale…well, that was plainly unforgettable.

Tomorrow’s Review

Anatomy of a Psycho

THE HUNT IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD, AND IS FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.

Frances Ha

Movie Review #682

Click here to listen to the review

frances_ha

Studio: RT Features — Pine District — Scott Rudin
Distributor: IFC Films
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Noah Baumbach. Produced by Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Rodrigo Teixeira, and Lila Yacoub. Written by Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig.

Rated R by the MPAA – mild sexual content, profanity. Runs 1 hour, 26 minutes. Premiered at Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2012; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2012; at New York Film Festival on September 30, 2012; at Berlin International Film Festival in February 2013; at D’A – Festival Internacional de Cinema d’Autor de Barcelona on April 27, 2013; at IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival on April 28, 2013; at San Francisco International Film Festival on May 2, 2013; at Montclair Film Fsstival on May 3, 2013; and at Seattle International Film Festival on May 17, 2013. Limited release in the USA on May 17, 2013.

Starring Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, Charlotte d’Amboise, and Grace Gummer.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

“Frances Ha” is a petite independent movie with all 86 minutes existing for one reason: to prove it’s truly something special. The one thing it has that Frances the character doesn’t is inner talent. Noah Baumbach directs this beautifully. Not as a 2013 flick, but a simple 2013 dramedy with a 1950s finish. It looks beautiful and it sounds beautiful. The soundtrack is every bit worth hearing.

Baumbach also cowrote the movie with its star, Greta Gerwig. Every breath of the screenplay is lifelike. None of it is overwhelming, nor underwhelming, nor superficial in any way that I can tell. What’s best is that the two writers seem to equally love and hate the titular character. She’s rendered a complete dork (and Gerwig’s appearance says so, too). It takes time to warm up to her, but once we do, we fall in love with her. What more can I say? This is pretty much what we want in a purist indie comedy. “Frances Ha” is always oddly humorous, often unapologetic where it is brisk and lighthearted. It has its flaws, but I’d rather not point them out. Not at the expense of a movie that had me willing to go for a second viewing before it was halfway over.

Coming Reviews

Platoon
Casino Royale
Dreamgirls
American Pie 2
Die Another Day
Freaks
127 Hours

Spring Breakers

Movie Review #655

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Studio: Muse Productions – O’ Salvation – Division Films – Annapurna Pictures – Iconoclast – RabbitBandini Productions – Radar Pictures
Distributor: A24
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Harmony Kormine. Produced by Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Jordan Gertner, Chris Hanley, and David Zander. Written by Harmony Kormine.

Rated R by the MPAA – strong sexual content, profanity, nudity, frequent drug material, frequent violence. Runs 1 hour, 34 minutes. Premiered at Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2012. Limited release in the USA on March 15, 2013. Wide release in the USA on March 22, 2013.

Starring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, and Gucci Mane. Also starring Heather Morris, Ashley Lendzion, and Emma Jane Holzer.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Selena Gomez.  Vanessa Hudgens.  James Franco.  These three make up the bulk of the main cast, and they were all on the Disney Channel.  Which many of you probably knew, anyhow; I’m just throwing it out there to begin with, because you’d never think these people knew what “wholesome” meant.  Part of the movie’s irresistible nature, in fact, comes from how hard R [SEE FOOTNOTE] it is–”hard R” being a film rating, but moreover an attitude of style.  The movie is filled with full-frontal nudity, profanity, drug use, and all around partying.  Add in some dubstep, which is the score.  Now the cinematography, which switches liberally between the hallucinogenic, the VHS-ish, the Hollywood.  Don’t forget the clever script, the enthused acting.

With all that in the mix, what we have here is a party, in and of itself.

“Spring Breakers” is a precursor to this August’s “The Bling Ring”, except this one tells a much heavier moral tale.  The movie is a sly blend of egalitarian drama and tragicomedy, where Selena Gomez plays a Christian college girl perfectly.  She’s been warned about sin all her life, but as it’s surrounded her forever, she’s also become desensitized.  So when her sorority friends team up and rob a few gullible folks to pay for a spring break, she doesn’t feel guilty, ’cause she ain’t the one who stole somethin’.  She’s constantly keeping her worried relatives posted about the vacation, and she’s having guiltless fun meanwhile.  After all, she’s just watching people drink and snort cocaine; she hasn’t done so herself.

Lo and behold, the cops find out about the illegal acts her friends took part in.  Gomez is guilty by association.  She goes to court, then jail, clad in a bikini alongside her three friends.  They’re bailed out by a gangsta, the role into which James Franco transforms himself.  Where her trip in California was once Heaven, it’s now Hell.  Now that she’s out, she’s dying to get back home.

“Spring Breakers” never once loses its fun.  Even ending on a huge minor chord, the movie feels exhilarating every step of the way.  My single, true complaint is that the “Material Girl” story falls apart after an hour of film time.  The script loses focus of its main character (Gomez) and tries a bit roughly to give its other antiheroes morality, at this point.

Still, we’re left with a message, and if the movie manages to pull that off for its time, and to entertain the whole way through, I wouldn’t shrug it off so quickly.

FOOTNOTE: The MPAA rates this R “for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout.” Indeed these guys did stuff for Disney, but if you’re interested in a Disney experience, I advise you to steer clear of “Spring Breakers”. The nudity, for example, is so frequent and graphic, it might be worse than the a stereotypically risqué foreign film.

Much Ado about Nothing

Movie Review #636

Click here for the audio review.

much_ado_about_nothing_ver2Studio: Bellwether Pictures
Distributor: Lionsgate – Roadside Attractions
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Joss Whedon. Produced by Joss Whedon and Daniel Kaminsky. Written for the screen by Joss Whedon. Based on the play “Much Ado about Nothing” by William Shakespeare.

Rated PG-13, for some sexuality and brief drug use. Runs 1 hour, 49 minutes. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012; at Wisconsin Film Festival on April 18, 2013; at San Francisco Film Festival on April 27, 2013; and at Seattle International Film Festival on May 16, 2013. Limited release in the USA on June 7, 2013.

Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, and Jillian Morgese.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Note: I attempted to write this review in iambic pentameter. I was almost through line 10 when I decided to rip the paper into four pieces.

I’ve read two Shakespearean plays, and neither one was my choice. If I can help it, I will never read Much Ado about Nothing. But that’s Shakespeare’s fault. It certainly isn’t that of Joss Whedon, the director of this reimagination. Whedon has given me a new perspective of Shakespeare. He’s the god of fanboyism, with credits like Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, “The Avengers”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, and a three-part web series called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (which I’d highly recommend). It doesn’t surprise me that Whedon would do Shakespeare on top of that.

“Much Ado about Nothing” is a decent modern retelling. It’s flawed by the many characters; try keeping up with their names and their relations to each other. It’s like watching a muddled soap opera, which is saved by the cast, as is much of the movie. Amy Acker is perfect as Beatrice, as is Riki Lindhome as the (now female) Conrade. My biggest surprise was seeing Fran Kranz in a role that does not offer him marijuana (whatever happened to the guy who was too stoned to stand in “The Cabin in the Woods”?).

The movie is meant for Shakespeare’s fans. I honestly can’t imagine my watching “Much Ado about Nothing” more than once or twice, but a Shakespeare fan might react differently. The movie is definitely in love with the Bard, but once you get past the archaic dialogue (not that it’s really in the way), “Much Ado about Nothing” is truly Joss Whedon’s film. We laugh at his quirkiness more than Shakespeare’s earthquake of malapropisms. It’s a lot more than we expect for a film billed with, “Shakespeare knew how to throw a party.”

Holy Motors [English-language companion]

Review No. 608

“Holy Motors”, great balls of fire!

NOTE: If you don’t speak French, I’m sorry here you are.

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A

CREW:
Director — Leos Carax
Producer — Martine Marignac, Albert Prévost, Maurice Tinchant
Screenplay — Mr. Carax

CAST:
Denis Lavant — Mr. Oscar
Édith Scob — Céline
Eva Mendes — Kay M.
Kyle Minogue — Eva
Ms. Minogue — Jean
Jeanne Disson — Angèle
Élise Lhomeau — Léa
Ms. Lhomeau — Élise
Michel Piccoli — man with birthmark
Leos Carax — The Sleeper

OTHER:
Distributor — Les Films du Losange (“Diamond Films”)
Release Date — May 23, 2012 (Cannes); July 4, 2012 (France); October 11, 2012 (NYFF); October 17, 2012 (New York premiere)
Language — French, English, Chinese
Country — France, Germany
Running Time — 116 minutes
MPAA —
NOT RATED — MATURE CONTENT.

HOLY MOTORS WAS WATCHED ON SEPTEMBER 6, 2013.

Holy Motors is strange and utterly enchanting.  The film is the fifth work directed by Leos Carax, who’s also worked as a film critic.  Yes, he’s French, but he truly knows American movies just as well; his Holy Motors echoes these classiques.  It’s Blade Runner and it’s also Eraserhead.  (I believe there’s touches of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well.)

But these two or three examples are nothing more than a starting point.  The movie is, at the same time, everything we’ve already seen, and something for the ages because it’s completely new.  It frees the imagination entirely.  The lack of fear when Mr. Carax explores the fantasy genre is why we’re curious, just as much as the director himself.  Of course, Holy Motors raises questions.  What’s going on here? and How are these stories going to connect? stand out more than the thousand others.  Watching the answers take charge–or, when the director cleverly avoids them–is mesmerizing.

There is a lack of dialogue in this neat little fantasy, but that isn’t much a problem.  (Is there perhaps symbolism in the homages to silent films, during the first and last scenes of the movie?)  In fact, the dialogue isn’t really necessary: the cinematography speaks it all.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  The “mirror shot” is important in one scene–but it’s not used to depict an epiphany…I won’t give any spoilers.  The cinematography is exquisite and beyond careful; your attention is in the hands of the director with just these little details.

The casting is excellent, with actors who’re more talented than one would expect.  (Were they defying gravity at one point?  Is it just me?)  But simply their performances are good enough; in fact, they’re perfect.  Eva Mendes does very well (to say the very least).  But this actress is nothing with Denis Lavant around.  Mr. Lavant takes on not one, not two, but ten personas!  Not just that: he’s a true demonstration of them all.

Holy Motors is great mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t fear its inner child.  (No, this isn’t a film for that inner child; there’s violence and more nudity than in most American films.)  It’s surreal, but it’s just as dramatic.  I’ll note the lack of cohesion here, but it’s possibly the only imperfection to be found.  Decades after these auteurs, Mr. Carax has made a near-perfect amalgamation of Luis Buñuel and Federico Fellini.  Yes, it’s truly an oddball, but in modern cinema, isn’t that exactly what we want?

Tomorrow is my birthday.

Takin’ off…

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Holy Motors

Review No. 608

«Holy Motors», grandes boules de feu!

NOTE: This is that French review I mentioned in my short-lived Monday podcast.  If you don’t speak French, learn it, damn it fret not: the English-language transliteration is coming this afternoon.

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A

LES MÉTIERS DU CINÉMA:
Réalisateur — Leos Carax
Producteur de cinéma — Martine Marignac; Albert Prévost; Maurice Tinchant
Scénario — M. Carax

LE DISTRIBUTION:
Denis Lavant — «Monsieur Oscar»
Édith Scob — «Céline»
Eva Mendes — «Kay M.»
Kylie Minogue — «Eva»
Mme. Minogue — «Jean»
Jeanne Disson — «Angèle»
Élise Lhomeau — «Léa»
Mme. Lhomeau — «Élise»
Michel Piccoli — «l’homme à la tâche de vin»
Leos Carax — «le dormeur»
Avec neuf petits rôles des autres de M. Lavant.

L’INFORMATION DES AUTRES:
Les sociétés de production — Les Films du Losange
La date de la sortie — le 23 mai 2012 (Festival de Cannes); le 4 juillet 2012 (France); le 11 octobre 2012 (N.Y.F.F.); le 17 octobre 2012 (États-Unis — avant-première en New York)
Les langues — français; anglais; chinois
Les pays des origines — France; Allemagne
La durée — 116 minutes

« HOLY MOTORS » A ÉTÉ REGARDÉ LE 6 SEPTEMBRE 2013.

« Holy Motors », c’est bizarre et complètement ensorcelant. Le film est la cinquième pièce qui a été réalisé par Leos Carax, qui a aussi travaillé en critique.   Oui, il est français, mais il vraiment sait le cinéma américain aussi bien ; son film « Holy Motors » fait le perroquet à des classiques. C’est « Blade Runner » et c’est aussi « Eraserhead ». (Je crois qu’ils y ont des touches de « 2001 : A Space Odyssey » aussi.)

Mais les deux ou trois exemples sont pas plus qu’une pointe pour commencer. Le film est, à la même heure, tous les choses on a déjà vu, et quelque chose pour les âges, parce que le film, c’est complètement nouveau. Il libéré l’imagination complètement. Pas de peur quand M. Carax explore la fantastique, c’est pourquoi on est curieux, autant que le réalisateur lui. Bien sûr, « Holy Motors » relever des questions.   « Qu’est-ce c’est ? » et « Comment ces histoires vais relier ? » ressorti plus que les mils autres. Quand on regarde les réponses–ou, quand le réalisateur les évite astucieusement–c’est étonnant.

Il y a une manque du dialogue dans ce petit film fantastique génial, mais il n’y a pas de problème. (C’est symbolique : les hommages aux films muets dans la première scène et la scène finale du film ?) En fait, le dialogue est pas vraiment nécessaire : la cinématographie dit tous les choses. C’est absolument exquis. Le « frame du mireur », c’est importante en scène singulière–mais ce n’est pas pour illustre une révélation soudaine…je ne vais pas donner des spoiler. La cinématographie est très belle et plus que prudent ; et votre attention est dans les mains du réalisateur avec juste ces petites finesses.

Le casting est excellent, avec acteurs qui sont plus doué qu’on attend. (Ils ont résisté à la gravité en scène singulière ?   Juste moi ?) Mais juste ses performances sont assez bien ; en fait, elles sont parfait. Eva Mendes est très bien. Mais cette actrice, elle est pas de beaucoup avec le casting de Denis Lavant. M. Lavant est pas un, pas deux, mais dix personnages ! Pas juste cela : il est une vraie représentation des tous.

« Holy Motors », c’est très grand parce que ce n’est pas de peur quand il présente son enfant interne. (Non, c’est pas de film pour les enfants ; il y a de la violence et plus du nudité que la majorité des films américains.) C’est onirique, mais c’est aussi que dramatique. Je vais noter la manque de cohésion ici, mais c’est possiblement l’imperfection singulière pour être trouvé. Beaucoup des ans après ces auteurs, M. Carax a fait un amalgame de Luis Buñuel et Federico Fellini, et ce n’est pas loin de parfait. Oui, c’est vraiment une excentrique, mais en cinéma moderne, n’est-ce que pas tous des choses qu’on veut ?

Stay tuned for the English translation!

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Mud

Review No. 590

It’s a beautiful movie.  Yeah, it’s called “Mud”.  Go figure.

mud

B-PLUS

CREW:
Director — Jeff Nichols
Producer — Lisa Maria Falcone, Sarah Green, Aaron Ryder
Screenplay — Mr. Nichols

CAST:
Matthew McConaughey — Mud
Tye Sheridan — Ellis
Sam Shepard — Tom Blankenship
Reese Witherspoon — Juniper

OTHER:
Distributor — Lionsgate & Roadside Attractions
Release Date — April 26, 2013
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 2 hours, 10 minutes
MPAA Rating — PG-13
MPAA Description — some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking

MUD WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 22, 2013.

Halley’s comet might end whatever legacy Tom Sawyer has when it comes around next, but its sequel, it done remained itself intact as classic for the ever. Boy, just take yerself a mighty fine gander at who’s copying it! Even I is, ’cause my gawd if it hain’t the most influential book on ‘Murican literature, and in sum cases, ‘Murican movies yammerers. The man by the name of Mr. Mark Twain, he done written his 1885 classic, and it’s a great one by the calling of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Them Hollywoodmen, they done Huck Finn for the movies twenty-four times (that’s what I been told by Wikipedia at least), and I bet that you probably hasn’t heard of any of them.  But I tell you that’s the way things should be: that Huck Finn novel, it do belong in a time capsule so that it can represent its time, not have folks like me coming round and butchering the words of Mr. Twain himself.  (I tell you, he done gather his sentences in mighty fine fascinate me ways!)

I reckon that do mean you can assert that Mud, which done made by Mr. Jeff Nichols, done been a letdown, depending on how familiar you are with Mr. Mark Twain and what he done wrote first.  This Mud really echo enough of the Huck Finn lore, and my, you could make an English teacher do cry when she learn that there hain’t even a “special thanks” credit at the end in the honor of Mr. Twain.  Can you really miss the offbeat chemistry betwixt the likes of them two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland)?  Or that one of them have a mighty abnormal name?  Or that the vagabond who hain’t knew as nobody else but Mud (Matthew McConaughey): he do look to an elder called Tom Blankenship (Sam Shepard), the same way Huck done looked to Tom Sawyer in them adventures?  Mayhap Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) is Becky Thatcher?

Believable? Yes.

You gets the point, I do hope, but that hain’t exactly a prominents in the movie.  (Prominents don’t look right.  Teacher at my schoolhouse done told me it’s gotten n, c, e, but I don’t believer.)  As fer Mr. Jeff Nichols, he done previous films called Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, and he done wrote and directed this here movie, and indeed he make it his own.  Not by changing the story much, but by keeping us interested in the one curious character that done dealt with.  Them boys Ellis and Neckbone, they two young teenaged boys, and they do act like adults, and Mud’s a bum, he wander round withem.  Same coming-of-age ideal, that was dealt with in Stand by Me.  I wasn’t a fan of Stand by Me, mayhap cause it felt like a caricature.  Caricature in Mud is ten times stronger, but so were the performances. I done felt for them boys that done made Mud a coming-of-age drama.  Even when they’d try and punch someone ten years elder thanem in a face, or when they’d done told a twentysomething woman they was in love with her.  (Teacher says that hain’t a complete sentence.  Dasn’t need be, am I right?)

I tell you, Mud was the most interesting character here, but what else would y’all expect?  If you done asked me a month and a half back, I done tell you candidly that I hain’t no fan of Mr. Matthew McConaughey.  I seenem in an early performance of his (that done called Dazed and Confused) and a recent he done performed (that done called Bernie); Mr. McConaughey done decent both ways, though I have to tell you, neither one impressed me.  You ask me now, my reaction done made completely different.  Why of course, it done changed cause his performance in Mud is mighty convincing.  Mayhap there’s a head start to the role, gave the fact that the chemistry betwixt he and them two boys is written in, but Mr. McConaughey done utter transformation to himself.  He ain’t no “hot guy in a romantic comedy,” he’s a “hardass bum” an a “criminal that everybody keeps away from.”  He done lended his name unto the movie itself, and y’all can tell (since I’m telling y’all) that the change happens with that writer-director who go by the name of Mr. Jeff Nichols, as well.  While Mud don’t all in all feel like an original, it all and all feel genuine, cause it done through in through being more poignant than it got any rights to be.  (The widow done told me it’s a sin that I done used a thesauris to use words like poignant.  A body knows how y’all go bout pronouncing that one?)

Later

Scary Movie V

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Django Unchained

Review No. 514

Tarantino “Unchained”.

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A

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO. PRODUCED BY STACEY SHER, REGINALD HUDLIN, AND PILAR SAVONE. STARRING JAMIE FOXX (DJANGO FREEMAN), CHRISTOPH WALTZ (DR. KING SCHULTZ), LEONARD DiCAPRIO (“MONSIEUR” CALVIN J. CANDIE), KERRY WASHINGTON (BROOMHILDA VON SHAFT), SAMUEL L. JACKSON (STEPHEN), WALTON GOGGINS (BILLY CRASH), DENNIS CHRISTOPHER (LEONIDE “LEO” MOGUY), AND JAMES REMAR (BUTCH POOCH / ACE SPECK). ALSO STARRING DON JOHNSON, DAVID STEEN, DANA MICHELLE GOURRIER, NICHOLE GALICIA, LAURA CAYOUETTE, ATO ESSANDOH, SAMMI ROTIBI, CLAY DONAHUE, SCALANTE LUNDY, MIRIAM F. GLOVER, OMAR J. DORSEY, FRANCO NERO, JAMES RUSSO, TOM WOPAT, DON STROUD, RUSS TAMBLYN, AMBER TAMBLYN, BRUCE DERN, M. C. GAINEY, COOPER HUCKABEE, DOC DUHAME, JONAH HILL, LEE HORSLEY, ZOË BELL, MICHAEL BOWEN, ROBERT CARRADINE, JAKE GARBER, TED NEELEY, JAMES PARKS, TOM SAVINI, MICHAEL PARKS, JOHN JARRATT, AND TARANTINO. DISTRIBUTED BY THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY & COLUMBIA PICTURES ON DECEMBER 25, 2012. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 2 HOURS, 45 MINUTES. INTENDED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES, DUE TO GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, NUDITY, AND PROFANITY.

DJANGO UNCHAINED WAS WATCHED ON JULY 3, 2013.

“Django. The ‘D’ is silent.” –Django (Jamie Foxx)

In the Golden Age of Westerns, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained would simply be too violent to believe. In the modern day, it’s just too good to believe. Tarantino’s genius is all over here. The story is involving, set off by a premise that is simple, but completely original and involving. The year is 1858, and Django (Jamie Foxx) has missed his wife (Kerry Washington) ever since they were sold to two different slaveowners. As soon as a former dentist, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), comes to free him, Django has only one thing on his mind: to get back to his wife. But this would involve crossing paths with the avaricious, ruthless aristocrat Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

django-unchained-2

You don’t mess with this guy.

Django is a colander full of great performances, leaking out slowly and subtly to compliment a quixotic screenplay. With the exception of the “outback” cameo from the director himself, everyone here delivers a strong performance. Christoph Waltz becomes his character here. He’s a charming, witty fella, humbly disguising himself as a bumbling dentist in order to deceive other slaveowners. Tarantino’s love for dialogue runs all throughout Django, but if there’s any performer who presents it most memorably, it’s Waltz. Leonardo DiCaprio is another worth noting. His performance as Candie is outstanding, funny, and nearly unforgettable. He has Samuel L. Jackson on the side for even further amusement. Is this truly DiCaprio’s first villain role? Of course, the hero himself is worth noting. As soon as Jamie Foxx has taken charge of Django’s persona, he’s controlling that role to no end. He’s equal parts gritty and hilarious, and he makes the last fifteen minutes his own. Could Jamie Foxx be the new Clint Eastwood?

Django is an outstanding tour de force and a half. The story is engrossing and brilliant, with a decided ability to amuse greatly when beset by racism and graphic violence. Better yet, these qualities are heightened by Tarantino’s anachronistic style, which features tunes from old westerns, as well as a few modern-day appropriations from the rap genre. The movie is two hours, forty-five minutes long, but it doesn’t waste a single minute. The whole thing flies by in what feels like no more than an hour; by the time it’s over, you’re eager to go for seconds.

For a Few Dollars More

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The Dictator

Review No. 509

“The Dictator” speaks of painfully humorous comedy!

dictator_ver3

B

DIRECTED BY LARRY CHARLES. PRODUCED BY SACHA BARON COHEN, ALEC BERG, JEFF SCHAFFER, DAVID MANDEL, ANTHONY HINES, AND SCOTT RUDIN. WRITTEN BY BARON COHEN, BERG, SCHAFFER, AND MANDEL. STARRING BARON COHEN (PRESIDENT PRIME MINISTER ADMIRAL GENERAL HAFFAZ ALADEEN / ALISON BURGERS / EFAWADH), ANNA FARIS (ZOEY), AND BEN KINGSLEY (TAMIR). ALSO STARRING JASON MANTZOUKAS, BOBBY LEE, SAYED BADREYA, ADEEL AKHTAR, FRED ARMISEN, MARK CAMPBELL, GAD ELMALEH, SUSAN SYKES, JON GLASER, AND CHRIS PARNELL. FEATURING A CAMEO APPEARANCE BY MEGAN FOX. DISTRIBUTED BY PARAMOUNT PICTURES ON MAY 16, 2012. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH, ARABIC, AND HEBREW BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 23 MINUTES. INTENDED FOR MATURE VIEWERS, DUE TO BRIEF NUDITY, PROFANITY, AND INTENSE VIOLENCE.

THE DICTATOR WAS WATCHED ON JUNE 28, 2013.

General Aladeen (Baron Cohen): “I accept your job offer as general manager.”
Zoey (Faris): “Well, you can’t be the manager because I’m the manager.”
General Aladeen: “Well, I can if I killed you.”

The Dictator is the ideal mockumentary film in the post-Christopher Guest age. It’s equal parts witty and outrageous, with the likelihood to draw laughs from the demographics it satirizes. In two words, the movie is politically incorrect, and if that floats your boat (or just doesn’t sink it), then this is eighty minutes of weight-lifting for your lungs.

The movie–dedicated to Kim Jong-Il–opens with a dictator in the Republic of Wadiya, a fictional North African country. His name is Haffaz Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), and he’s misogynous, anti-American, antisemitic, lustful, etc. Quite the caricature. When he learns he is to be assassinated, Aladeen sends a body double to rule Wadiya, while he himself stays hidden in Manhattan. Could this body double maintain order in Wadiya, or could his ineptitude at the job lead him to abolish the dictatorship?

The Dictator

“Twenty dollars a day for internet? What the f__k?! And they accuse me of being an international criminal?”

The Dictator is a satisfying movie. In fact, it’s easily the most quotable movie of 2012, and a contender for the first half of the decade. There’s some genuine verbal comedy offered in the absence of predictable slapstick. Try not laughing during the “terrorism misinterpretation” scene! Perhaps even better would be the final moments, when Aladeen asks American citizen Zoey (Anna Faris) if she is “having a boy or an abortion.” The list goes on.

Where the screenplay runs into trouble is in developing its characters. There’s several instances in which Sacha Baron Cohen seems to carry his character by means of method acting, not writing. When he addresses a man whom he calls “sub-Saharan,” he doesn’t say “hello;” he says “yo.” Although it’s funny, is it really possible Aladeen hates Americans, and yet he talks with fully westernized parlance? Let’s not forget, the Americans in the film are utter caricatures. It’s, again, funny but also strange and ironic that the Americans can’t relate to Aladeen at all, despite being exactly the same. If I weren’t an American citizen, the movie would make me think of Americans as a country that heralds racism, sexism, and what have you. Maybe this is the one defiance of the movie’s otherwise genius assessment of not-so-PC humor. I’ll reiterate that it’s good weight lifting for the lungs.

A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy

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Parental Guidance

Review No. 471

“Parental Guidance” not suggested.

parental_guidance

C

DIRECTED BY ANDY FICKMAN. WRITTEN BY LISA ADDARIO AND JOE SYRACUSE. STARRING BILLY CRYSTAL (ARTIE DECKER), BETTE MIDLER (DIANE DECKER), MARISA TOMEI (ALICE SIMMONS), TOM EVERETT SCOTT (PHIL SIMMONS), BAILEE MADISON (HARPER SIMMONS), KYLE HARRISON BREITKOPF (BARKER SIMMONS), AND JOSHUA RUSH (TURNER SIMMONS). ALSO STARRING GEDDE WATANABE, CADE JONES, MAVRICK MORENO, MADISON LINTZ, AND KARAN KENDRICK. FEATURING CAMEOS FROM TONY HAWK AND STEVE LEVY. DISTRIBUTED BY 20TH CENTURY FOX ON DECEMBER 25, 2012. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 45 MINUTES. SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE WAS WATCHED ON MAY 3, 2013.

“My granddaughter’s birth has made me want to create things she will love.” –Billy Crystal

It’s amazing that I could predict how Parental Guidance would end as soon as it had begun.  Actually, scratch that.  If this were a movie that showed a modicum of decency toward a genuine movie lover, then to predict the ending would be impressive.  But it’s just common knowledge here.  Parental Guidance isn’t as far as you can get from original, but aside from a few minor touches, it recycles gags that seem to have gotten old fast.  The film is only as unpredictable as the sight of birds in the early morning.

I’ve been accused of being too generous to movies, but perhaps to Parental Guidance, I just need to be a bit more generous.  Movies like this don’t care about plot or pacing.  They don’t care how suddenly their characters change, because we won’t notice.  Maybe we will, but we won’t care.  Movies like this are the PG equivalent of a standup routine.  You try and “make ‘em laugh.”  Nothing else.  Just a joke.  Another joke.  And another joke.  Maybe a quick gross-out scene right when the under-eight audience is about to fall asleep.  Don’t want the comedy to be too boring.

And that’s exactly the problem with Parental Guidance.  It can’t make us laugh very easily.  You can see where it’s going, for sure.  You know what jokes it’s trying to tell; they just don’t come out right in delivery.  Sure, kids will laugh at this, but there’s several other movies that would treat them to much harder laughs.  The juvenile humor is evened out rather noticeably with Billy Crystal’s “adult humor.”  Fortunately, he steals the better half of his scenes (mind you, he features in a main role).  As for the other half, unfortunately, the writing of Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse (no, I hadn’t heard of them either) manages to fail even an old-school genius like Crystal.  And unfortunately, there’s no kid who will get his jokes.

Parental Guidance is a substandard family comedy.  You take two parents that don’t look to us like they’d be strict, and apparently they’re Household Hitlers.  They don’t let their kids do anything but what is (hypothetically) good for them.  That includes not meeting their grandparents.  And it’s not until they do meet their grandparents that they realize that they’ve been brainwashed into the rule of their parents, and that their parents realize how totalitarian their rule is.  Seeing from how the movie plays out, you can stop questioning my level of exaggeration.  The movie adopts a great deal of caricature into its namesake.  As you would expect, results are both to success and failure.  But this story is so common.  You could do a two-minute Google search for something that takes the caricature to hilarious extremes.  And I guarantee, you’d find not one, but at least ten to your satisfaction.




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