Pages

Monday, November 24, 2014

MINI-REVIEW: Horns

MOVIE
Horns

CAST
Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 31, 2014

DIRECTOR
Alexandre Aja

STUDIO(S)
Radius-TWC,
Dimension Films

RUNNING TIME
2 hours







STARS
***1/4








REVIEW:

Daniel Radcliffe is doing a bang-up job getting away from his "Harry Potter" image.  From historical dramas like "Kill Your Darlings" to delightful rom-coms like "What If," he's definitely succeeding at showing people how capable of an actor he really is.  With the new film "Horns," Radcliffe delves back into the realms of fantasy and horror as he plays Ig Parrish, a man whose longtime girlfriend was murdered and is accused by the town he lives in that he's responsible for it.  After a drunken night of playing with god, Ig wakes up to the startling discovery of horns growing from his forehead.  And yet, that isn't even the craziest thing in his life.  Things are even stranger when people, when they see the horns, begin to tell the truth, and doing so revealing their darkest and most cynical thoughts out loud.

The story itself becomes pretty predictable and the villain, without spoiling who he or she is, is pretty obvious and cliched, but I had fun with "Horns" overall.  Daniel Radcliffe looks like he's having a fun time in the role of Ig, and there are scenes with his character that are both hilarious and awesome.  The visual effects and makeup designs are also very impressive, looking realistic and just plain cool in general.  The script by first time screenwriter Keith Bunin, based on Joe Hill's novel of the same name, suffers from not knowing exactly what genre it wants to be.  There are moments that are played purely for laughs and others that are played for scares.  Unlike other recent horror films like "You're Next" and "The Cabin in the Woods," this film didn't have the right tools to properly mesh the two genres well enough so the film has an equal balance of both horror and comedy.  Having said that, I still found enjoyment in Radcliffe's performance and several key moments that had me say "F** yeah" out loud.  If you're looking for a fun, but flawed, horror flick, "Horns" is a solid film to choose.




MINI-REVIEW: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

MOVIE
Birdman

CAST
Michael Keaton,
Zach Galifanakis

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 17, 2014

DIRECTOR
Alejandro González Iñárritu

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 59 minutes








STARS
***3/4









REVIEW:

"Birdman," or "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," can be summed up best in a single word: surreal.  If you look up "surreal" in a dictionary or on the internet, the synonyms that you will find to be associated with the word would include "weird," "strange," "dreamlike," and, most commonly, "bizarre."  This film comes to us from writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and it has Michael Keaton playing the titular character.  Well, the titular character of a famous movie series Keaton's character Riggan was the star of to be exact.  It's pretty obvious here to see a strong comparison between the character of Riggan and Keaton's own life in regards to him playing "Batman" in the late 80s/early 90s.  It's also pretty easy to see a strong resemblance to another film that Fox Searchlight released and helped to win many accolades, Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan."

You might be thinking to yourself "Wait, how the hell does a Michael Keaton movie relate to that movie where Natalie Portman is losing her mind and manages to make out with Mila Kunis?"  Well, as hard as it may be to believe, the films are a lot similar to each other in more ways than one.  For starters, both delve in to the psychological aspect of their main character, making the audience question what is real or what is a fragment of the characters' imaginations.  Second off, they both have the central character in a type of rivalry with someone who potentially are more gifted and more pleasing than they are.  Third off, both movies strangely enough feature a scene featuring some lesbian loving.  Not gonna lie, that last one doesn't seem too much of a coincidence on my end of the spectrum, and it unfortunately doesn't further the plot or receive any explanation or recognition after it happens.  Don't worry guys, that's the worst I can say about this movie, as the hype surrounding this flick is real and something to believe.

Aside from a couple of subplots that go absolutely nowhere, a score that sounded a little too repetitious at times, and an ending that felt like it was trying to be ambiguous just for the sake of doing it, it's hard to deny how great "Birdman" is as a performance showcase, an experiment in filmmaking, and an all-around movie in general.  Michael Keaton is fantastic here and deserves all of the praise he's gotten thus far, although I personally believe the two standouts of the film were Edward Norton and Emma Stone.  The cinematography was gorgeous and precise, and the whole concept of this film having the illusion of being one continuous shot is nothing short of groundbreaking.  Iñárritu's direction and script, which he co-wrote with three other individuals, are concise and very sharp in their methods of storytelling.  Aside from the little problems I had with the film, I can't deny that "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" is a masterful film and one that will be remembered long after 2014 concludes.







PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Blackhat

Unbroken

Big Eyes

Foxcatcher

The Theory of Everything

Wild





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

MINI-REVIEW: Whiplash

MOVIE
Whiplash

CAST
Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 10, 2014

DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle

STUDIO
Sony Pictures Classics

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 46 minutes







STARS
****







REVIEW:

I personally believe that Jazz is the best form of music out there, hands down.  From the rhythm to the swinging tone to the combination of instruments, I just love everything about it.  That might be part of the reason why I was really looking forward to Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash."  Poised to be a big player in the awards circuit this year, "Whiplash" won the top prizes given out at this year's Sundance Film Festival and even went on to play at the prestigious Cannes, Toronto, and New York film festivals before finally rolling out to theaters.  The film tells the story of a drummer played by Miles Teller from "The Spectacular Now" who gets into a top jazz orchestra band that has given way to the careers of many great musicians in the past.  He quickly finds out upon entering the program that his instructor, played fiercely by J.K. Simmons, is a man willing to do anything to have his disciples see the true talent within themselves.  When I say anything, I mean anything, as he does some of the most despicable and shocking thinks out there to his students.

Chazelle, an up-and-coming screenwriter and director, doesn't hold anything back in regards to the content shown here.  It's pretty easy to tell that this came from personal experiences of his, as the intensity of each scene is heightened and gripping at the same time.  It's possible that the way Simmons' character in the movie is portrayed in a bit of an over-the-top manner, but to me this actually sort of added to the character a lot.  When people remember their teachers or old acquaintances, the recollection is more exaggerated than it actually was, but they sometimes forget that the teacher's job is to help their students succeed.   And just like Simmons' mission in the film to help get the best out of Miles Teller, Chazelle's past helped push him to make this amazing powerhouse of a movie.

"Whiplash" is not a movie for the faint of heart.  It is an intense, shocking, and yet mesmerizing film that people I know have called "the most anxiety-driven 2 hours of 2014."  Frankly, I can see why many people would think this, as it really is a film that has anxiety as one of the central emotions for both the characters in the movie and the audience members watching it.  Miles Teller continues to prove that he is one hell of a talented actor, and at 28 shows that he's not slowing down anytime soon in terms of winning some awards.  J.K. Simmons really IS as terrifying and brilliant as people have been making him out to be, and definitely deserves all of the attention he's gotten for his performance.  These two actors, along with Damien Chazelle's crisp direction and sharp script helped to make "Whiplash" exactly what Teller's character sets out to be at the beginning of the film: one of the greats.








PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Rosewater

Big Eyes

Unbroken

Foxcatcher

Mr. Turner



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

REVIEW: Dumb and Dumber To

MOVIE
Dumb and Dumber To

CAST
Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
November 14, 2014

DIRECTOR(S)
Bobby Farrelly,
Peter Farrelly

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 51 minutes






STARS
**1/4









REVIEW:

Just for a minute, let's journey back to the year of 1994, otherwise known to many filmgoers as one of the best years for movies in history.  Looking back on it, some of the most widely acclaimed and quoted films of all time, including "Forrest Gump," "The Shawshank Redemption," and "Pulp Fiction," were released in this magical cinematic year.  Another reason why 1994 is so iconic is that it's the year when Jim Carrey became an overnight sensation.  Over the course of 365 days, Carrey went from being just Fire Marshall Bill on "In Living Color" to one of the most notable names in Hollywood, thanks to the three films of his that were released this year: "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," "The Mask," and "Dumb and Dumber."  In case you don't remember, each of these hilarious films had follow-up features that, let's face it, didn't do the originals any justice whatsoever. (I'm looking right at you, "Son of the Mask.)  However, for some reason, people kept crawling back to the idea of a sequel to "Dumb and Dumber."  Well to those people who spent two decades asking for a "proper" follow-up flick to one of the smartest yet most juvenile comedies of the modern era, I say congratulations, because your wish has finally been granted.

If only I could write that last sentence with a smile on my face and with some type of enthusiastic joy, because not only is this sequel not as funny as the original, (an impossible feat if you ask me despite the returning actors and directors/writers) but it's just unfunny and unoriginal as a whole.  To be honest, I actually laughed a lot during the initial trailer that was released.  It looked absolutely dumb, but it looked like it had the right amount of dumb to balance the potentially hilarious humor that was promised.  Unfortunately, aside from a couple of scenes that made me laugh out loud, the trailers featured the film's better moments and weren't even that funny to watch in the context of the film.  I wouldn't be so disappointed with this movie if it hadn't copied exact plot points, jokes, and moments from the first film, ala "Wayne's World 2" and "The Hangover Part II."  Yeah, it's one of THOSE kinds of comedy sequels.  The idea of seeing Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne initially sounded great, especially since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels were coming back.  Unfortunately, that's all the film should have stayed as: an idea.  It pains me to say this, but "Dumb and Dumber To" was absolutely stupid, and not even in a good way.

I will give credit where credit's due and say that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are great in this movie.  They fit back into the roles of Harry and Lloyd, as Ace Ventura once said, "like a glove."  Both men try their hardest with the material given and do what they can do, and for the most part succeeded at being these lovable idiots once again.  Jeff Daniels especially impresses considering that he's been doing dramatic work on "The Newsroom" for the past few years.  Jim Carrey is great too, but then again, this is the type of performance to expect from Jim Carrey considering his last few films being a bit of the same as this.  However, this sort of leads into one of my biggest issues with the movie: the Farrelly brothers somehow managed to make Harry and Lloyd even DUMBER than they were in the first movie!

I know what you're thinking: Well what do you expect with a movie called "Dumb and Dumber?"  Well, as a fan of the original and having seen it many times, I can confidently say that I expected a smarter film.  In the first movie, the characters were stupid, but they had some type of intelligence that made them tolerable and more interesting.  Here, they just do stupid things for the sake of looking and sounding stupid.  I would give an example of this, but the one example I want to give would give away the ending of the film, so just think of the stupidest scenario to occur with a plot like this.  The other supporting characters, particularly the one played by Laurie Holden from "The Walking Dead," are also written and performed pretty poorly.  Then again, what else is there to expect with such an unfunny and clichéd script?

Let's face it guys: The Farrelly Brothers haven't exactly been great in the past few years.  On one side of the spectrum, "The Three Stooges" had some incredibly clever jokes and its three leads taking on the iconic roles incredibly well.  On the other end, "Hall Pass," at least from what others have told me, wasn't funny and instead was just despicable and mean-spirited.  With this movie, we fall on the latter end unfortunately.  The humor isn't entirely funny, and instead just gets repetitive, juvenile, and even downright mean at times.  Like, it gets shockingly mean compared to the first movie.  I'm all good with shock humor when it's done right.  Here, it just felt like the Farrelly's were trying to be mean and see how others would react to it.  Well guys, here's my reaction: shock, disgust, and sadness.

As mentioned before, this film is practically a rehash of its 1994 predecessor.  Even though it mentions "Mary Samsonite" and her whereabouts in the beginning, as well as show characters like Billy the blind kid all grown up, the story for the most part is identical to the original.  The villains and their motive is the same, the love-esque storyline is the same, and a decent amount of the jokes from the first movie are given a slightly new edge to them, but overall are unfunny. Even when they have one of the most iconic vehicles of 90s cinema,the Mutt Cutts car, to bring back nostalgia, the opportunity with it is wasted and is only used for a really dumb and pointless gag. It's a shame too because recent sequels like "Toy Story 3" and "22 Jump Street" proved that movies can get away with older versions of beloved characters while still having fresh and hilarious jokes to compliment that.  Aside from a few moments involving jokes that made me laugh out loud and a few twists that were actually pretty inventive, this movie wasn't remotely original and simply copied its former almost identically.

The last thing I wanted to do is to bash on this movie, because as I've said before, the original "Dumb and Dumber" is a modern comedic classic to me.  Not to mention, the only other sequel Carrey made to one of his films, "Ace Ventura: Nature Calls," was a decent enough film with some solid laughs.  Here, we have an unfunny, stupid as hell, and piss-poor follow-up that left me shocked and sad when walking out of the theater.  In fact, the movie itself left me in my seat in shock, which I consider a good thing now since it introduced me to the song "When I'm Alone" by Lissie (if you hear the song, you'll be questioning why it's even in the credits to begin with) as well as a rather awesome post-credits scene that teases a "Dumb and Dumber For" to come out in 2034.  After seeing this movie, the last thing I'd want to see is another one of these movies.  As much as I wanted to like this movie and get past its sheer stupidity, I couldn't help but criticize how repetitious, predictable, unfunny, and just all around mediocre "Dumb and Dumber To" sadly is at the end of the day.  I guess it makes sense now as to why Warner Bros. dropped this project in the first place before Universal picked it up.







Monday, November 10, 2014

REVIEW: Nightcrawler

MOVIE
Nightcrawler

CAST
Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 31, 2014

DIRECTOR
Dan Gilroy

STUDIO
Open Road Films

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 57 minutes





STARS
****









REVIEW:

"Nightcrawler" is the type of film that explores the craziness of its central character without fully delving into the psychological factor of his life.  The character of Louis Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is a man who will do whatever he thinks is necessary to get himself to the top.  The movie opens with him stealing some chains off of a gate in the pursuit of making some quick cash.  When trying to sell the chains and a few other things to a buyer, he makes a proposition on how he'd be more than qualified to work for this man, ending his mini speech by saying his motto: "If you wanna win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket."  This motto, and even this entire 7 minute chunk of the movie, basically describes the type of person Lou is, as well as gives an explanation for why he does what he does throughout the entirety of it all.  To describe this movie is to describe Lou Bloom as well: twisted, insane, unpredictable, and darkly hilarious.

If you look up writer/director Dan Gilroy on IMDB, two movies that he wrote the screenplay for will prominently be shown as the top results: "The Bourne Legacy" and "Real Steel."  I've only seen the latter of the two, but from what I saw in "Real Steel," Gilroy had a well-developed story that made for an entertaining family action flick.  With "Nightcrawler," Gilroy not only shows the capability he has as a screenwriter, but also the capabilities he has as a filmmaker in general.  The style that he has here is slick and engaging, with the story and the direction allowing the viewer to be fully engaged with everything going on, despite most of the film being conversations between Lou Bloom and others.  In fact, I would say that Gilroy's creation of Bloom is one for the ages, and overall is a character who has a lot of complex and surreal layers to him.  Saying that Gilroy gets all of the credit for this character isn't exactly fair, as the man who portrays Lou, Jake Gyllenhaal.

In general, it would be extremely difficult to talk about this movie without talking about Jake Gyllenhaal's mesmerizing performance as Lou.  This character is sly, intelligent,  vicious, and a force not to be reckoned with.  Despite his character learning about the television industry with fresh eyes, he's able to turn himself into an expert on it, thus giving him the ability to manipulate and persuade others to help him get to the top.  What. I found to be so brilliant about this character is that he's able to be menacing and terrifying through his calculated words and not through the means of cursing or even violence.  This came to me as something of a relief considering that we live in a world of violence, sex, and language, and here comes Louis Bloom just staying calm and stern as he threatens a person he's talking to.

The character of Lou himself, in a really strange way, reminded me of myself.  Lou is a person who has a vision in life and, at least in the way I perceived it, saw life as his own circus or movie of sorts. Everything he does seems to be carefully calculated and structured in such a way that he's never actually wrong and is always going to get his way.  The idea of him seeing life as a film struck me during this big chase scene in the film's climax in which, without trying to spoil anything, made it seem like Lou thought of himself as a director of sorts.  There are explosions, an extremely fast pace, and Lou simply follows it all while telling his assistant to never stop filming it all.  There are also other moments where, in order to "direct" his life, he will do things that are shocking and strangely unsurprising considering the circumstances Lou is put into by others.  It's because of these traits, along with how committed and method Gyllenhaal's performance was, that makes this, to me, the best performance of 2014 thus far.

Everything in "Nightcrawler," like the name suggests, crawls into your mind for 2 hours and gives you as an audience member an insane trip into the corrupt world of TV news in Los Angeles.  This film isn't for the faint of heart, but rather those who are looking to see one man's mission to get to the top and the methods that he has to do this.  If it wasn't for Gilroy's sharp direction and script, the film's dark sense of humor, and Jake Gyllenhaal's commanding, even Award-worthy, performance, then I don't know how exactly the film would have played out.  Luckily we live in a world where this scenario is a reality, and that is something we should all be happy about.  "Nightcrawler" is a twisted and wickedly awesome thriller that manages to get under your skin while being an entertaining-as-hell movie at the same time.









ME WITH THE STAR OF "NIGHTCRAWLER" 
JAKE GYLLENHAAL, AS WELL AS THE FILM'S WRITER/DIRECTOR DAN GILROY BEFORE A VERY SPECIAL ADVANCE SCREENING OF THE FILM ON OCTOBER 25, 2014!!!!!