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Thursday, April 17, 2014

MINI-REVIEW: Dom Hemingway

MOVIE
Dom Hemingway

CAST
Jude Law, Richard E. Grant

RATING
R

RELEASE
April 2, 2014 (NY/LA)
April 11, 2014 (Expands)

DIRECTOR
Richard Shepard

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 33 minutes






STARS
***3/4









REVIEW:

When a movie starts off with the titular character breaking the fourth wall in prison talking about how incredible his "piece" is while being "serviced" by a fellow prison inmate, you know that you're about to see a film that is out of its own mind.  "Dom Hemingway" is a movie that starts off with constant swearing and drinking and never ceases from there, despite getting darker and more heartfelt as the film progresses.  Jude Law plays the titular character, and he's been in prison for 12 years due to not snitching out his colleagues.  Now he's out, and he's got a lot of catching up to do.  After all, his daughter's grown up now and doesn't want anything to do with her dad, his friends are minimal and his enemies are exceedingly high, and Dom wants the money that belongs to him.  What ensues in the 93 minutes that this movie lasts is absolute absurdity, but in the best ways imaginable.  Thanks to a fleshed out narrative, very satisfactory/shocking moments placed throughout the film's duration, and a fierce and commanding performance from Jude Law, "Dom Hemingway" is an insane, hilarious, and surprisingly heartwarming dark comedy that is definitely worth seeing.

To say that Jude Law's performance as Dom is great is an understatement.  Of all of the performances I've seen from him, this is probably my favorite one of his next to Gigolo Joe from "A.I. Artificial Intelligence."  The character of Dom is a sour, bitter, and pathetic human being who is actually fleshed out and gives the audience a reason to sympathize with him.  Despite his aggressive temper, over the top sexual charisma, and absolute hatred for the world, Dom is still a human, and Law clearly shows this, especially in the film's second half.  Richard E. Grant's performance as Dom's right hand man Dickie helps to contradict Dom's aggressive manner at times, and even manages to give off some powerful laughs here and there.  Demian Bechir and Emilia Clarke help to round out this stellar cast of characters, though Jude Law basically owns this movie at the end of the day.

Director/screenwriter Richard Shepard manages to take this pathetic character and give him a story where we, the audience, get to both laugh at his absurdity and pity him when things go from bad to worse for him.  This film as a whole is an absurd dollar coaster ride into the life of one crazy man looking for revenge and redemption, and I for one had a blast with it.  The direction is great, Jude Law's performance is out of the park, and "Dom Hemingway" as a whole is a great little gem that deserves your attention no doubt.  It's one of those movies that doesn't quite go as far as one may want it to, but the overall experience is incredibly satisfying.  If this movie is playing in your area, definitely check it out.  "Dom Hemingway" is a love it or hate it dark comedy that I saw as an insane, bonkers, but great movie with a well-written story and Jude Law's most energetic and twisted performance to date.




Thursday, April 10, 2014

REVIEW: Rio 2 3D

MOVIE
Rio 2

CAST
Jesse Eisenberg,
Anne Hathaway

RATING
G

RELEASE
April 11, 2014

DIRECTOR
Carlos Saldanha

STUDIO(S)
20th Century Fox,
Blue Sky Studios

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 41 minutes






STARS
***







REVIEW:

Three years ago, 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios brought audiences around the world "Rio," a movie about the only male bird in an otherwise extinct species who must travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to mate with the only female left of his kind.  Of course shenanigans ensued, and audiences everywhere flocked (no pun intended) to see it, making it a surprise hit.  Three years later, we have the unnecessary sequel to an otherwise decent and cute movie.  And sure enough, the sequel is exactly what the first one was: decent and cute.  Aside from the many predictable moments, unfunny jokes, and mediocre "tree-saving" storyline, I thought "Rio 2" was a sweet enough movie that will definitely hold little kids over for a while, as well as put some smiles on the faces of parents.

The story of "Rio 2" picks up almost exactly where the first "Rio" left off: Blue and Jewel are happy, they have three kids, and the music is alive in Rio De Janeiro.  However, the lives of the new family are about to be changed when Blue and Jewel find out that their race might not be near-extinction after all.  In fact, an entire colony of Blue Macaws might be living in the jungles of the Amazon out of sight from human eyes.  So the birds fly out to the Amazon to find the rest of their kind, only to find that Jewel's father is the head of the though to be extinct colony.  While all seems great at the Amazon, Blue isn't so sure that he's ready to let go of Rio and his old life quite yet.

Just like with the first "Rio," the animation is extremely gorgeous to look at and the soundtrack is catchy and very energetic.  While not worth seeing in 3D, the animation is still nice enough where it'd be really nice to see it on the big screen.  While, in terms of quality, Blue Sky doesn't always thrive in the storytelling and joke department, I will say that they know how to make a good looking animated movie.  As for the songs, all of them are very fun to listen to.  From the movie's opening number sung by Janelle Monáe to the hilarious rendition of "I Will Survive" by Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenowith, the music has the audience dancing in their seats and a big smile on people's faces throughout.

As for the voice work in the film, there's nothing special here.  Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and the rest of the cast are just fine, and aren't really anything special.  I'd say that if there was anyone in the film who actually kind of stood out from the rest, it would be Jemaine Clement and Kristen Chenowith.  Both were very entertaining in the movie, and both shared possibly the best scenes in the film.  But then again, there weren't that many scenes that were particularly memorable, and that can be blamed on Director Carlos Saldanha and his three screenwriting partners, including the late Don Rhymer.

My biggest gripe with the screenplay of this movie is that it offers absolutely nothing new to the table, and instead gives us every formulaic plot point that's been done in nearly every animated movie out there.  These plot points range from the "hero losing a game for the hero's team and becoming a disgrace to said team" cliché, the "father doesn't approve of his daughter's male boyfriend/husband/fiancé" cliché, and even a subplot about tearing down the Amazon rainforest.  While this aspect of the screenplay really didn't bother me too much, I just wish that Blue Sky would learn from Pixar and DreamWorks that originality is keen in making a great movie.  Instead, they're only focusing on rehashed story lines and dumb messages along with the colorful animated characters.  Luckily, this wasn't that big a flaw for me, as I've sort of gotten used to this type of product from Blue Sky.

While "Rio 2" isn't that great a movie, there are still enough enjoyable moments to recommend this to families who are craving a decent family movie.  The animation is gorgeous, and the songs are catchy enough to make you smile and dance a little bit in your seats.  The voice work is fine, but nobody gives a performance that's especially memorable.  And the story, well, it's a combination of a series of clichéd stories with an eco-friendly message but now with the colorful characters of "Rio."  There are certainly better kids movies out there, like "Muppets Most Wanted" and "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," but "Rio 2" isn't the worst thing your family could see.  If you enjoyed the first "Rio," chances are you'll enjoy the latest installment.  And if not you, then definitely your kids or young companions who travel with you to the theater will be having a ball with it.




PREVIEW/SHORT YOU MAY SEE:

Peanuts

Almost Home 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

REVIEW: Only Lovers Left Alive

MOVIE
Only Lovers Left Alive

CAST
Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

RATING
R

RELEASE
April 11, 2014

DIRECTOR
Jim Jarmusch

STUDIO
Sony Pictures Classics

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 3 minutes






STARS
****








REVIEW:

In the 14 years that have represented this century, our society has shown that we love two things: vampires and zombies.  The vampire fans ridicule the "Twilight" series, while the zombie fans have a love/hate relationship with "The Walking Dead."  Many people, myself included, wondered when Hollywood was going to get the concept of zombies and vampires right.  Well, last year they proved their zombie loyalty with "Warm Bodies," and this year, we have "Only Lovers Left Alive" to show their vampire love.  This movie comes to us from acclaimed director Jim Jarmusch, and this film stars the likes of Tom Hiddleston, aka Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Tilda Swinton, who really knows how to choose some great roles.  This movie is basically about two vampires named Adam and Eve who have been madly in love and married to each other for over a century. These two, who live on opposite sides of the world for unexplained reasons, come together in Detroit, Michigan and try to live a normal life.  Well, normal from a vampire's perspective.

What I loved so much about this movie is the screenplay and the whole story behind these two vampires living normal lives in a society that craves technology and TV shows about zombies and vampires.  Instead of going around biting the necks of any random pedestrian on the street, Adam buys O-Negative from a doctor from a local hospital and drinks it out of a shot glass.  The logic behind that is actually incredibly clever, especially considering all of the diseases people can carry around in their systems.  Director Jim Jarmusch's screenplay is sly, witty, and incredibly original for a vampire movie in this day and age.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston's chemistry here is undeniably irresistible to watch.  In every scene they're in together, it's so believable that they are this couple who is madly in love.  What I think is so great about these lovers is that you can tell that these are old souls who happen to be living in a generation of iPods and other modern technology.  Plus, these characters are so cool and so hip that you almost want to be friends with them, as long as they agree not to suck your blood.  Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, and Jeffery Wright round out the rest of this rather impressive cast, and all of them do superb jobs in the movie regardless of how long they're in it.  The cast, especially Hiddleston and Swinton, really help this movie to be as hip and as off-beat as it is.

This isn't the conventional vampire or love story out there, but thanks to the cleverly written and incredibly original script, Jim Jarmusch's hip and energetic direction, and two knockout lead performances, "Only Lovers Left Alive" stands out among the rest and is one of the most inventive movies I've seen this year.  From the film's first frame and first note of vinyl music, to the last haunting and silent shot of the film, I was captivated throughout and couldn't take my eyes off the screen.  Everything about this movie screamed perfection to me, and I loved how Jarmusch's take on the vampire genre was so different and so unique from all of the rest, in the end bringing something new and cool to the table.  I can't recommend this movie any more than I am, and I honestly cannot wait to see it when it's officially released in my area.  If you live in an area that is or is going to be playing this movie, then I'd say check it out.  "Only Lovers Left Alive" is hip, unique, awesome, and one of 2014's best releases thus far.




Sunday, April 6, 2014

REVIEW: Enemy

MOVIE
Enemy

CAST
Jake Gyllenhaal,
Mélanie Laurent

RATING
R

RELEASE
March 14, 2014

DIRECTOR
Denis Villeneuve

STUDIO
A24

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 30 minutes






STARS
****








REVIEW:

The first time I was exposed to the concept of a "doppelgänger," or an identical double of a living person, was through the TV show "How I Met Your Mother."  While on that show the concept was played towards a comedic approach, the whole idea around it is extremely interesting.  That's one of the reasons why "Enemy" really intrigued me.  Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and brought to us by his "Prisoners" director Denis Villeneuve, this movie shows what happens when two men, one a timid History teacher and the other an aggressive C-list actor, become a part of each other's lives and start wanting things that they couldn't have as themselves.  From start to finish, "Enemy" had my undivided attention, and it left me impressed, speechless, and confused all at the same time.

Jake Gyllenhaal shows so much range by playing two characters who are practically polar opposites.  Adam, the timid History teacher, is a quiet and nervous person who only finds joy in the three things he does everyday: teach his History classes, drink wine, and have sex with his girlfriend.  Anthony, the eccentric movie star, is more out-going and prone to going out and getting what he desires, even with a pregnant wife at home.  Their first encounter is extremely fascinating to watch, for Adam regrets tasting the forbidden fruit and Anthony craves more of it, thus creating this tense feel and environment for the rest of the film.  Both sides of Gyllenhaal in this movie are extremely fascinating to watch and overall make one hell of an amazing performance and maybe even a career landmark for him.

After impressing many, including myself, with "Prisoners," Denis Villeneuve has made a film that's not only superior to "Prisoners," but is also more tense, shocking, and attention-grabbing.  He, along with screenwriter Javier Gullón, created a dark and somewhat realistic universe that shows humans in their truest forms: as flawed individuals.  Both characters played by Gyllenhaal are flawed in the ways where the other isn't, and yet their flaws lead both of them down some dark paths.  I've never read "The Double," the book that this movie is based on, but I am extremely intrigued to do so now despite the claims that it's a hard novel to read.

Based on the way the film is written, acted, and executed overall, the end of the movie will have you scratching your head and wondering what the hell just happened.  The thing about that is that was kind of the whole point.  The movie itself is like being given all the pieces of a puzzle and all you, the viewer, needs to do is to put the pieces together.  This, of course, would require multiple viewings, which I see as a great thing personally.  I honestly could find nothing wrong with this movie, and I cannot wait to revisit this again.  "Enemy" is a smart, dark, and superb thriller/character study with two incredible performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, a well-written script from Javier Gullón, and great direction from Denis Villeneuve.  Seek this film out if and/or when you can, because it's a mind-bender that one should allow to mess with their mind.





Saturday, April 5, 2014

MINI-REVIEW: Bad Words

MOVIE
Bad Words

CAST
Jason Bateman, Rohan Chand

RATING
R

RELEASE
March 14, 2014 (NY/LA)
March 28, 2014 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
Jason Bateman

STUDIO
Focus Features

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 29 minutes





STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

Who would have thought that Jason Bateman, a guy known for usually playing the straight man, could be so vulgar and crass?  In his directorial debut "Bad Words," Bateman plays a 40 year old man who finds a loophole in an otherwise perfect system and goes out to compete in the national spelling bee for kids.  The reason behind that isn't revealed until later in the film, but I doubt you're here to know what the big reveal is.  Rather, you want to know if Jason Bateman pulls off making a vulgar, crude, and dark comedy and if he succeeds as a first time film director.  Depending on how much you enjoy mean-spirited films, I'd say that Bateman made something hilarious and unique here with "Bad Words."  He, along with screenwriter Andrew Dodge, have made a smart, shocking, and downright hysterical black comedy with great chemistry between Bateman and his 10 year old co-star Rohan Chand, as well as a solid directorial debut for Mr. Bateman.  The film itself might have been a tad predictable and some of the jokes didn't hit as well as others, but that didn't stop the movie from being entertaining and a fun way to spend an hour and a half.  Definitely check this one out if you're looking for an unconventional but original black comedy starring Michael Bluth from "Arrested Development."






PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Guardians of the Galaxy

Neighbors


22 Jump Street


Blended


A Haunted House 2


The Signal