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Sunday, August 31, 2014

REVIEW: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For 3D

MOVIE
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

CAST
Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba

RATING
R

RELEASE
August 22, 2014

DIRECTOR(S)
Robert Rodriguez,
Frank Miller

STUDIO(S)
Dimension Films (TWC),
Troublemaker Studios

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 42 minutes






STARS
**1/2







REVIEW:

About 10 years ago, a film called "Sin City" came along and entertained many people everywhere.  The film was based on a series of celebrated graphic novels by Frank Miller, and was brought to the screen by Miller himself, along with the likes of Robert Rodriguez and (special guest director) Quentin Tarantino.  It's almost interesting how long this movie has been in the works, considering how much of a delay there was to get this bad boy into production.  But alas, here we are, and now this movie is here, this time with most of the same cast and crew, but also with new additions, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green.  While I enjoyed the first "Sin City" for what it was, the style of a neo-noir film isn't really for me, as I've learned recently.  This new sequel, "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For," tries to be goofier and more over the top while trying to recapture the grittiness of the original.  Unfortunately, the movie suffers because of this.  While there were many things to enjoy about this movie, "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" fails to recapture the epic and all-around enjoyment factor that the first one greatly had.

Just like with the first "Sin City," this film has separate storylines all told throughout the duration of the film.  To get this out of the way, the best one was easily Joseph Gordon-Levitt's one.  The reason for this is because it's slick, gritty, and felt the most engaging and the most authentic in terms of being compared to the original movie.  Not to mention, the acting from Gordon-Levitt and Powers Boothe really elevated the tension and the grittiness of each scene they were in.  This was the type of story and structure that I expected the other few stories in the film to have.  Unfortunately, to say the least, they don't.

Before I get into the stories that heavily involve characters from the original movie, I'm going to talk about the story that involves the characters played by Josh Brolin and Eva Green.  On paper, the idea of a man troubled by his old girlfriend and his old girlfriend coming back into his life to wreck havoc sounds like it would have lots of potential.  In the case of what's going on here, nothing about these scenes felt tense or engaging in the slightest.  Eva Green gives possibly the single most over-the-top performance I've seen all year, and Josh Brolin didn't seem to engaged with the story in all honesty.  Not to mention, we have ANOTHER storyline involving Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven that is so dumb and predictable, I'm still debating whether or not their scenes were supposed to be comedic.  If that couldn't get bad enough, then we have the stories with Mickey Rourke and Jessica Alba's characters.

As you might know, these guys were very big parts in the original "Sin City," so for them to come back is no particular surprise.  In looking up this movie, I saw that it was described as being both a sequel and a prequel to the original, sort of adding on and tying up loose knots from the original.  That's all fine and dandy, if they didn't create plot holes within themselves.  Characters that died in the first one are spontaneously alive now, and are somehow moving along in the storyline.  There are other characters featured in scenes that imply it to be taking place before the original film, but there are also these scenes where characters that died are interacting with other characters after their story lines have ended in the original.

Not only is that confusing, but it's just seemed like an excuse to have old actors come back for the sake of having them come back.  Not to mention, these stories weren't even that strong in the first place.  They just kind of felt a little goofy and just, well, there.  Some might find enjoyment in these stories, but for me, I preferred just having these characters in the first one.  Had they gotten an entirely new cast, with the exception of maybe a few surprise cameos, then maybe the film could have succeeded far more than it did here.

Being the man who directed "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Spy Kids" and "Desperado," I must say that Robert Rodriguez really has lost his touch based on his most recent movies.  I feel like he is trying so hard to be innovative and keep up with the times in terms of technology and special effects that he's losing the essence that makes a good movie: a well-thought out story.  Part of the blame can also go to Frank Miller, who actually wrote the screenplay based on his novels.  Both of these men seem to be focusing too much in the special effects and the 3D (which by the way isn't particularly that great) that they forgot how to tell a good story and get the best performances out of their actors.  Not to mention, it feels like Rodriguez and Miller are trying to make this as ridiculous and over-the-top as possible, when in the end that's not necessary in the slightest.  Word of advice to these guys: when trying to make a gritty neo-noir comic book movie, try to make it more like "Watchmen" and less like a sequel to "Machete."  This might be just personal taste, but that's how I felt about the structure and direction that these two made here.

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" had potentially a lot going for it.  Unfortunately, it doesn't give that many things that are considered "good" in return.  Despite the visuals looking as great as they did in 2005, and the story arc with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character being riveting and engaging, the film suffers from being too cheesy, relying too much on special effects, and having a couple plot holes that really drive the movie into its own whirl pool of confusion and absurdity.  There was honestly honestly potential for this to have been a good, if not, great sequel to "Sin City."  Unfortunately, that wasn't delivered here, and instead we got a movie that's half good, and half mediocre.

So in the end, "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" is not the worst movie of the summer.  It's really just an average movie that's kind of stuck in between the really good films and the really bad films.   Considering though a lot of the other movies we've gotten, including the comic book films "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," "X-Men: Days of Future Past," and most recently "Guardians of the Galaxy," this could have and should have been a lot better in quality.  This movie didn't make enough money opening weekend to warrant the idea of a "Sin City 3" to be considered.  Frankly, though, I don't even think I want another chance to go into this world again after seeing this movie.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Addicted

Annabelle

Dracula Untold

The Interview

Amityville: The Awakening

The Hateful Eight

Exodus: Gods and Kings





REVIEW: Frank

MOVIE
Frank

CAST
Domhnall Gleeson,
Michael Fassbender

RATING
R

RELEASE
August 15, 2014
(VOD/LIMITED)

DIRECTOR
Lenny Abrahamson

STUDIO
Magnolia Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 33 minutes






STARS
****








REVIEW:

Who would have ever thought that Michael Fassbender, arguably one of the most talented and best looking men working in Hollywood today, would sign on to a role that requires him to wear a giant papier-mâché head throughout mostly the entire duration of the film?  Well I sure as hell didn't, but thank goodness he did, as we probably wouldn't have gotten as hilarious and fantastic of a performance that he delivered here as "Frank."  Loosely based on the British character Frank Sidebottom, Fassbender is the perfectionist leader of a bizarre band who finds inspiration in literally everything he comes across.  The band members, including one played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, all follow this man and consider him to be an underground genius.  Pretty soon, Domhnall Gleeson's character, an aspiring musician on his own, spontaneously joins Frank's band, and his presence begins to change the way they're all exposed to the world that they live in.

If you can't get past the fact that the titular character wears a giant head throughout most of the movie, then this most likely is not something you would probably get in to.  I'm not gonna lie, this is one insanely weird movie.  It's kind of like a strange breeding of the off-beat humor that "Napoleon Dynamite" possessed and a lot of noises and sounds that this group of misfits and weirdos call "music."  At the center of it all is a quirky character who, past the giant head, is a lot more complex and fascinating than one may expect.  From the moment we're introduced to Gleeson's character Jon as he's walking around his hometown trying to find inspiration for a song, immediately I was grabbed by the line and yanked into the abyss that is this movie.  "Frank" is not a movie for the faint of heart, but if you're able to get sucked in by its absolute weirdness, then I have a feeling you're really going to enjoy this flick.

Michael Fassbender's performance as Frank is unlike anything he's done in his career thus far.  Usually being seen as an antagonist in films like "X-Men: Days of Future Past" or as dark, tortured characters in films like "Shame," one of the main things that makes this performance stand out from the others, aside from the head, is the fact that Fassbender is funny here.  In fact, I'd even say that he was hilarious in this movie.  Since you can never see his face for the most part, what drives this performance is the physicality of the character as well as the way his voice sounds.  However, as the third act comes rolling in, we as an audience get to see a dark and upsetting side of Frank that makes us care for him and actually cry with him.  In fact, the last scene of this movie, without giving anything away, actually made me feel like I was going to tear up.  Me tearing up in a movie is a very rare occurrence, so for a movie to move me like that really says something special at how well something can get to me.  And most of that was thanks to Fassbender's killer performance.

Domhnall Gleeson, probably best known for the overlooked film from last year "About Time," delivers a great performance here as well.  Gleeson's character Jon is like ourselves when we join a group of outsiders for the first time and fall in love with their absurd behaviors and tastes in things.  While I don't think his performance was as strong as his role in "About Time," I still found Gleeson's character and performance to be enjoyable and relatable all at the same time.  Everyone else here, including Maggie Gyllenhaal, are all really good as well.  Having said that, even they couldn't top how method and crazy-awesome of a performance Fassbender gave as Frank.

If you're not into absurd and strange comedies like "Frank," then I doubt that this will change your mind on them.  As someone who digs these types of films, as well as movies that successfully tell a strong three-act story with colorful characters, I personally loved the crap out of this movie.  There's some type of charm that this film possesses that made me happy to invest 90 minutes of my time in the presence of these characters.  The direction is actually well-done and the script is quirky and hilarious while also dark and saddening at the same time, which elevated the movie in quality for me.    Not to mention, the music is strangely enchanting and really catchy, especially the last song in the film called "I Love You All."  If "Frank" is at a local indie theater near you, then do yourself a favor and check it out.  If it's not, then luckily this movie is on all VOD platforms for your viewing pleasure.  If you enjoy absurd films along the lines of "Napoleon Dynamite" and don't mind the titular character wearing a giant papier-mâché for mostly the entirety of the film, then I have a feeling that you are really going to enjoy "Frank."


PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

The Notebook

Pride

A Letter To Momo

The Two Faces of January


White Bird In A Blizzard




Saturday, August 30, 2014

REWIND REVIEW: Locke

MOVIE
Locke

CAST
Tom Hardy, Olivia Coleman

RATING
R

RELEASE
April 25, 2014

DIRECTOR
Steven Knight

STUDIO
A24

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 25 minutes






STARS
****






REVIEW:

Ok, before you watch the trailer for this movie, (if you haven't already) I want you to look at the poster for this movie.  My guess is that the image of a man like Tom Hardy just sitting in his car with critic blurbs saying that the film is "suspenseful" and "compelling" made you think that this is some sort of action flick with violence, mobsters, and other things of that sort.  Hell, even that's what I thought this was about prior to watching it.  However, having seen the film in its 85 minute glory, I can happily say that "Locke" is compelling and suspenseful for all of the reasons you wouldn't expect just by looking at it from the poster, or even the trailer if you give that a watch.

Basically imagine a movie that takes place in one location that revolves around a man who receives a phone call that turns his life and flips it on his head.  That's the best plot description I can give you without giving too much of the story away.  All you really need to know about this movie, aside from that, is that this is a movie that is incredibly worthy of your attention and time.  In a year where indie films have flourished more than ever, "Locke" undeservedly slipped under the cracks of the people's attention, making it lost in the shuffle of all of the "Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Begin Again's" of 2014.  If you want to see arguably Tom Hardy's most raw and engaging performance to date, as well as a compelling story that relies solely on dialogue and a single performance from the sole actor in the film to keep your attention, then definitely look for "Locke" whether it's On Demand or at your local Redbox.  This is, in my opinion, one of the most well-structured, paced, and thrilling movies to have come out this year so far, and something that I would definitely watch again and again given the opportunity.




REVIEW: If I Stay

MOVIE
If I Stay

CAST
Chloë Grace Moretz,
Jamie Blackley

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
August 22, 2014

DIRECTOR
R.J. Cutler

STUDIO(S)
Warner Bros. Pictures,
New Line Cinema,
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 47 minutes





STARS
***








REVIEW:

Being a fan of Chloë Grace Moretz, I'm game for whatever role she decides to choose next.  When I heard that her latest project was, for lack of a better term, a "chick-flick," I was more interested than actually excited for it.  The movie is basically about a girl pondering whether or not she wants to continue living life after a car accident has left her in a comatose state and as possibly the sole survivor of the crash.  Of course there's a hunky boyfriend, and of course there is a lot of drama present.  Getting past that, though, all that matters is if the film itself got enough things right to be considered good.  In the case of "If I Stay," I think it did.  Sure this isn't a perfect movie by any means, but for the most part, I actually enjoyed this movie more than I expected myself to.

First off, the acting in the film is actually better than one would expect. Chloë Grace Moretz might not be giving her best performance here, but as a whole, she pulls off her role fairly well and manages to carry this movie on her own for the most part. Blackley actually surprised me in the sense that he actually gave a decent performance and brought some emotion to the role. The other performances in the movie are nothing particularly special, though I will say that there’s a scene with Stacey Keach's character in a hospital room that was actually pretty emotional. Otherwise, nobody other than Moretz and Blackley really stood out for me.

The overall tones that the movie possessed were something of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, the film felt sappy, forced and too manipulative for my liking. On the other hand, there were moments of genuinely authentic and pleasant vibes that actually moved me and made me actually care for these characters.  When these pleasant moments were allowed to shine, the film strived and succeeded at keeping this critic invested.  Having said that, these moments don't make up for the flaws that this film unfortunately possesses.

Now for those who have read the book that this film is based on, the flaw I'm about to talk about may upset you.  However, there's a reason as to why I had this while watching the film. The editing in this film felt incredibly jumbled and got annoying to me a little. From what I've heard of from the book, the lead character Mia was recalling memories she had as she's having this comatose out of body experience. In the movie, that’s never addressed whatsoever, so instead it’s just randomly cutting to and from the hospital in every other scene, making it feel almost unnecessary in a way. Unless you read the book, I doubt many would catch on to that, as it’s never even shown that Mia is remembering things in the first place.  The ending of this movie also ticked me off quite a bit.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*
We as an audience are given this intriguing and fascinating emotional climax about Mia choosing either to “stay” or “go” in terms of living, and then the screen fades to a white light. The screen then fades from the white light into the hospital room, where the last seconds of the movie is Mia simply opening her eyes.  The reason why this ticked me off is for two reasons:  The first reason is that it sets up for a sequel that I doubt many people who haven't read the book would actually want.  The second reason is that the close up shot of opening eyes has been done in countless other movies beforehand, so the surprise of that has worn its welcome and instead made me just say "really?" out loud.  If these two things were either better structured or unique in their own way, then I have a feeling that I would have enjoyed this movie more.
*END OF SPOILERS*

Despite the flaws that I found present here, I actually enjoyed "If I Stay" more than I expected to. Chloe Moretz and Jamie Blackley had solid chemistry and did solid jobs here in regards to their performances, the story kept me invested, and there were several scenes that moved me in both a happy and a sad way. If you’re a teen girl, or somebody who has read the book that this movie’s based on, I’d say check this movie out. From what I’ve heard, this actually stays true to the book, which is always a good sign. As for the guys, unless you’re like me and you either A.) like chick flicks, B.) rarely dislike movies, or C.) all of the above, this isn’t a movie made for you. And if your girlfriends drag you to this one, at least you’re giving the lady something that they’ll thank you for taking them to.  This isn't on the levels of something like "The Fault in Our Stars," but this is a young adult adaptation that I would recommend as a solid rental for a girl's sleepover party.


PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Dolphin Tale 2

The Good Lie




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

REVIEW: The One I Love

MOVIE
The One I Love

CAST
Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss

RATING
R

RELEASE
August 22, 2014 (LIMITED)

DIRECTOR
Charlie McDowell

STUDIO
Radius-TWC

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 31 minutes





STARS
***3/4







REVIEW:

If you've seen any other reviews for this movie, one of the first things they tell you is that this is one of those movies where it's hard to really talk about without giving away something ridiculously original, crucial, and unique to the movie.  Personally, I agree with everyone who has said this, as "The One I Love" is one of those rare movies that's best to know as little as possible about before going to see it.  Even though the trailer doesn't give much of the "surprise" away, it's still best to avoid it until seeing the film.  All you need to know about this movie is that a struggling married couple go away to a luxurious vacation spot in order to settle some of their differences and try to get their marriage back into shape.

What happens at this vacation spot isn't necessarily scary, but it's very jarring and extremely clever, so much so that the audiences at the numerous film festivals where this played had no idea how the studio who'd pick this up for distribution would sell it without giving away the big twist.  Luckily, Radius-TWC for the most part did a bang up job selling this quirky little indie to audiences.  This "twist" I'm hyping up might sound like a gimmick, but believe me when I say it isn't.  All I'm saying is that not knowing the twist adds to the surprise of this movie.  Regardless of knowing anything or not, "The One I Love" at its whole is a clever, funny, and surprisingly creepy take on one couple's mission to pick up the pieces of their crumbling marriage.

Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss share great chemistry together, plain and simple.  As the two sole actors in the movie, (aside from Ted Danson in a couple of scenes) these actors have the responsibility of carrying the entire show based solely on their performances.  Luckily, they do just that, and in return make us believe that they are a struggling married couple.  There are so many layers to their characters that I can't begin to discuss here, but once you see the movie, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  In fact, I'm just gonna stop now before I potentially give anything else away.

Director Charlie McDowell and screenwriter Justin Lader have together made something of a modern romantic marvel with this movie.  Things might not be as fully explained as some of us would want it to be, but considering that this was their first foray into filmmaking territories, I must say that these two have done a bang up job and have really started their careers off with a bang.  This is a movie that, once the twist that I keep hyping up happens, the story spirals into unpredictable territories that leaves you mesmerized and guessing until the end.  Although, even the end of the movie will have you guessing as to what has happened.  I doubt the twist will have a positive effect on everyone, but for this critic here, it worked exceedingly well.  As a whole, "The One I Love" is a funny, romantic, and even pretty dark movie that takes the average idea of a dysfunctional married couple and turns it on its head.