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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

REWIND REVIEW: Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Supermensch: The Legend of Shep GordonMOVIE
Supermensch:
The Legend of Shep Gordon

RATING
R

RELEASE
June 6, 2014

DIRECTOR
Mike Myers

STUDIO
Radius-TWC

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 25 minutes






STARS
***1/2






REVIEW:

If you were to mention the name "Shep Gordon" to anyone you know, chances are that little to none of them would even know who the hell you're talking about.  Now if you were to mention any of the clients he's managed over the years, including Emril Lagasse and Alice Cooper, then obviously more people would recognize those names.  Shep Gordon, the subject of Mike Myers' directorial debut "Supermensch," is the man that everyone in Hollywood is friends with and mostly goes to for parties, a place to crash, or just plain old advice.  Myers says in the film that Shep is "the nicest guy he's ever met, hands down," and judging from the 85 minutes I got to spend with him, I can definitely see why. This movie is funny when it needs to be, but the things that grabbed me about this movie were the stories that Shep tells.  These stories are so good and so engrossing that you just simply have to hear them.  The story of Shep himself, though, is the type of tale that shows how much he does for other people regardless of his current situation and how he never asks for anything in return.  If you want to learn more about this fascinating individual, then I'd highly suggest seeing this flick.  "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon" is a funny, fascinating, and just downright entertaining look into the life of the most famous man you've never heard of.




Monday, October 27, 2014

REVIEW: White Bird In A Blizzard

MOVIE
White Bird In A Blizzard

CAST
Shailene Woodley, Eva Green

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 24, 2014 (LIMITED)

DIRECTOR
Greg Araki

STUDIO
Magnolia Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 31 minutes






STARS
**1/4








REVIEW:

As much as I love Shailene Woodley both physically and as an actress, it was inevitable that she would one day be in a film that is less than good.  That day, I am sad to report, has come with the release of her new indie mystery thriller, "White Bird in a Blizzard."  The film starts off in the late 80s when 17 year old Kat Connor's mother mysteriously disappears without a single trace of evidence as to what could have happened to her.  The film stays in this period for half of the film before jumping into the early 90s when Kat is in college and has let the whole situation with her mother simmer down.  If you weren't interested in that plot description at all, then I'm afraid that the movie wouldn't even do much for you despite the presence of an incredibly talented cast.

Shailene Woodley is fantastic here as Kat.  Imagine a character who is the direct opposite from Aimee Finicky, her character from "The Spectacular Now," and you just about have her character in this film.  Throughout the film, we see Kat exploring her sexuality and maturing as the mystery behind her mother's disappearance thickens.  Woodley just keeps proving film after film that she is going to win an Oscar most likely some day, and also that she is quickly becoming one of Hollywood's biggest sex symbols of the modern era.  If the rest of the cast was as good as she was here, then this film would have been a lot better in quality in my eyes.

Eva Green in this film is absolutely annoying, plain and simple.  It seems like, with every character and role she takes on, she's simply trying to say "I am hot, I am gorgeous, and guys swoon over me." when in reality she's just giving a hammy performance that is both uncomfortably over-the-top and ridiculous at the same time.  Her performance is so hammy, it would be too big for the entire family to finish in one sitting.  The yin to her yang is Christopher Meloni, who is basically a quiet, moody, and babyish guy who goes from that to something else entirely in a flash.  Angela Bassett, Shiloh Fernandez, and everyone else was fine, I guess, but that's just about it.  They didn't bring anything significantly stunning or interesting to their roles, thus making them just people who are merely there for the sake of filling up time and the cast list.

Greg Araki seems to know how to make a calculated and smart movie based on how he directed this flick.  Unfortunately, his predictable, annoying, and sometimes laughable adapted script didn't allow us as an audience, especially if we weren't familiar with him, to see that.  Hell, there's even a scene at the end of the film that shows a character laughing at how ridiculous a certain situation is.  To that character, I say "cheers," because that's almost exactly how I reacted when the film's final moments were presented.  "White Bird In A Blizzard" could have been a solid, if not great mystery thriller had the story been more balanced, the twists more unexpected, and the characters better written.  But alas, the film isn't any of that in the end, and the only thing that's remotely great in the film is Shailene Woodley's sexy and mature performance.  If you thought you were going to be getting a fascinating narrative with your 5 minutes of Ms. Woodley's naked physique gracing the screen, then boy are you going to be disappointed.





MINI-REVIEW: One Chance

MOVIE
One Chance

CAST
James Corden,
Alexandra Roach

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
October 10, 2014

DIRECTOR
David Frankel

STUDIO
The Weinstein Company

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 43 minutes






STARS
***









REVIEW:

Look, there are a lot of these "inspirational true story" films that come out every year, but that doesn't mean they are all bad.  "One Chance" is not a bad film by any means, as it manages to succeed thanks to its engaging story and James Corden's great performance as Paul Potts.  The problem that lies with this movie is that this type of story has been done so many times before that it almost seems repetitive.  David Frankel is a solid director, as shown with films like "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me."  It felt to me that he was just making this particular film simply to make it, not to add anything new to the table or to find a way to make it stand out from the rest.  As a whole, though, "One Chance" is charming, sweet, and funny enough for me to give this a solid recommendation to those who like biopic films.  If this film does manage to make people look up who exactly Paul Potts is and how his story continued after the film's conclusion, then it must be doing something right.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Mommy

MOVIE
Mommy

CAST
Anne Dorval,
Antoine-Olivier Pilon

RATING
TBA (It's gonna be R)

RELEASE
TBA

DIRECTOR
Xavier Dolan

STUDIO
Roadside Attractions

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 14 minutes




STARS
****







REVIEW:

For those who are lucky enough to have a motherly figure in their life, then you will know that everyone's relationship with their mom differs from person to person. Even siblings may have different relationships with their parents, depending on the number of parents and their genders. Xavier Dolan's latest film "Mommy" explores a few months in the life of Diane, aka "Die," and her 15 year old son Steve, whose violent temper causes much difficulty in his mother's life. Things get more interesting when a new neighbor named Kyla moves in across the street and begins to develop a friendship with the mother and son duo. While this might sound like any other dysfunctional family themed film out there, what Dolan does here is essentially captures the brutal and harsh nature of life while showcasing how this mom tries to work with it all, even when her son keeps screwing things up.  Thanks to Dolan's expertly written script and his keen since of direction, as well as some amazing cinematography and Award-worthy performances from its two leads, "Mommy" is an absolute masterwork that is funny, heartbreaking, and relatable all-around.

Xavier Dolan is only 25 years old and he's already made five feature films, including "Mommy." To have a guy with his whole life ahead of him and having accomplished so much as a filmmaker already is truly remarkable. Not to mention, Dolan has made a dysfunctional family movie that may connect strongly to a massive amount of people. Personally speaking, I saw a lot of myself in the character of Steve, and I saw a lot of my own mother in Die, and the way those two work and argue with each other in some scenes were very similar to situations my mom and I have had. I just have to point out, for those who have seen the film, that I'm not referring to the "incest" tones that are present in the film, more-so referring to some of the more light-hearted moments, as well as some of the minor arguments had in the movie.

The most fascinating thing about this movie, without question, is the aspect ratio that it's presented in. Instead of having either the typical 1:85:1 (typical widescreen format) or the 2:35:1 ratios, (the stretched out "cinematic" format) this movie uses the incredibly rare aspect ratio of 1:1, usually only seen in old-school photography. According to Dolan, this technique is used to showcase the central focus of a scene without having any distractions around it. To me, since the aspect ratio actually changes a couple of times in the film, I have a different interpretation. When the ratio changed, I personally felt that it was resembling moments of sheer joy and happiness with the characters before changing back to the 1:1 ratio and showing the harsh realities of a situation. As a aspiring filmmaker, I thought the way Dolan did this technique was absolutely brilliant, and hopefully is something that is further experimented upon in future films in general.

The acting in this movie is absolutely fantastic, simple as that.  Dorval's portrayal as "D.i.e" is both funny at times and incredibly real. Everything she does in the film, from her decisions in regards to Steve, to the lines of dialogue spoken, all serve a purpose to this character, thus making her a lot more enjoyable and all the more mesmerizing.  The true scene-stealer, for me personally, had to be Pilon's portrayal of the trouble-maker Steve. In short, Pilon is a ticking time-bomb in this film, with the audience never quite knowing when he is going to explode in rage. This guy is someone not to mess with and, if Hollywood is smart enough, will be seen a lot more in the future. Pilon overall is funny, out of control, and just flat out brilliant here. The other main star of the film is Suzanne ClĂ©ment, who plays the mysterious neighbor of "Die and Steve, Kyla. She's not as great to me as the other leads are, but when Dolan gives her character the ability to shine, she does that with grace.

"Mommy" is the type of movie that, despite being in French with subtitles, can cross barriers and be enjoyed by and resonate with people worldwide. We might not all be single/struggling mothers or teens with a violent temper, but it's their bond together and the struggles that they face that allows the audience member to put themselves into the characters' shoes. Xavier Dolan is a young Canadian force to be reckoned with, and someone whose previous films have shot towards the top of my personal watch list. Everything might seem boxed in at times due to the unusual aspect ratio, but once you see past that, this film becomes an emotional journey that doesn't let its smaller screen ratio change its quality whatsoever. In fact, it simply embraces it and sort of makes it its own character into the story itself. When a movie can make how large a film's presentation is a metaphorical character into the story, then it must be doing something unique and great. Overall, "Mommy" is a brilliant and magnificent drama that manages to capture the tragedy, light-hearted, raunchy, and grittiest parts of the relationship between a mom and her child.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MINI-REVIEW: Stretch

MOVIE
Stretch

CAST
Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 7, 2014 (iTunes)

DIRECTOR
Joe Carnahan

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 35 minutes






STARS
***3/4







REVIEW:

Tell me if you've heard this one before: a studio is so skeptical on a movie with a $5 million budget that they decide to remove its theatrical release date and instead release it only on VOD.  If you haven't heard that before, then you have now, as "Stretch" had exactly that happen to it.  This film comes from director Joe Carnahan, whose work has ranged from silly 80s remakes like "The A-Team" to serious Oscar-worthy films like "The Grey."  The film also boasts from an impressive cast, including the likes of Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms, and Jessica Alba.  "Stretch" in a nutshell is a 95 minute R rated action caper about a limo driver who ends up getting involved with the wrong person on the wrong night.  If that doesn't sound so bad to you, then you're most likely wondering why exactly Universal decided to take this off its theatrical release schedule.  In truth, I don't know why they did it, as this is a far superior film to most of Universal's most recent films.

Everyone in the cast, ranging from Patrick Wilson's electrifying lead role as the titular character to Ed Helms' whacked out performance as a man haunting Stretch's crazy imagination, are all great.  Even the cameos are well presented and extremely funny to watch.  However, the one performance that stood out among all of the others, without a doubt, was Chris Pine's role as Karos.  If you thought Pine was great in the "Star Trek" films, then wait until you see him here.  From the moment he appears on screen, Pine is an absolute madman in this beard-dwelling character and clearly shows that he's having a great time doing it.  Think of him as if The Dude snorted some cocaine and then took some ecstasy right after.  To me, this is the type of role that, if Universal had released this in theaters and had tried to do some kind of Awards strategy, could have gotten Pine an Oscar nomination.  Many people would most likely disagree with me on this, but that just shows how much I loved him in this flick.  This is the type of performance that just shows what the term "scene-stealer" really means.

I've always admired Joe Carnahan's style of directing, as well as his keen sense of screenwriting.  It really shows that this movie was a passion project of his due to the absurdity and "off-the-walls" craziness presented here.  Sure there are plot points that are extremely predictable, but as a homage to 80s action movies, were you really expecting something else?  I've seen lots of 80s homages before, as it seems to be the latest trend in Hollywood.  However, what makes this one stand out from the others is the fact that it takes the typical tropes and characters seen in those types of movies, and somehow morphs them all into original and unique things.  And that alone makes me very happy to recommend this film to you.  If you want to see a film that is campy, hilarious, brutal, and just plain fun, then "Stretch" is most definitely the film for your precious, movie-hungry eyes.  I may question Universal's decision to release this only on VOD and release films like "Ride Along" to the big screen.