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Monday, April 21, 2014

REVIEW: Filth

MOVIE
Filth

CAST
James McAvoy, Jamie Bell

RATING
R

RELEASE
April 24th, 2014 (VOD)
May 30, 2014 (LIMITED)

DIRECTOR
John S. Baird

STUDIO
Magnet Releasing

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 37 minutes







STARS
****










REVIEW:

From mainstream films like "X-Men: First Class" and "Wanted" to smaller films like "The Conspirator" and "Trance," James McAvoy gets the job done every time, and manages to choose great projects to be a part of at the same time.  In his latest film "Filth," McAvoy dons a heavy Scottish accent to play Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, a manipulative, drug-enfused, sex crazed, psychopathic cop who will do whatever it takes to get a promotion and become "Detective Inspector Bruce Robertson."  To be perfectly honest, this was one of those movies that I was really excited for ever since July of last year.  Now that I have actually seen the insanity that indeed is "Filth," I have to say that it was far from the film that I was expecting.  I expected it to be a lot funnier and not as dark and twisted as it was.  Having said that, the dark-nature of the film really added to the experience, and overall made this insane character study a lot better in quality.  "Filth" is cruel, unapologetic, twisted, and insane, but it is so damn entertaining at the same time that I can't help myself from recommending it.

To say that McAvoy gives a great performance here is an understatement.  Not only is his performance sublime and entrancing, but it also may very well be the best performance he's ever given on screen.  The character of Bruce Robertson is vile, sadistic, and cruel, and yet he's so into the role and he's so whacked out of his mind that it's hard not to be entertained by him.  In a way, McAvoy's portrayal of Robertson makes Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Jordan Belfort look subtle and tame.  This is honestly the type of performance that would get someone at least an Oscar nomination, but considering that not a lot of Academy members will see this film, that probably won't be in the cards.  Nevertheless, McAvoy in this movie is crazy, bonkers, and extremely entertaining to watch.  Same goes with the rest of the cast in the film.

Jamie Bell give a crazy performance playing a work colleague of Bruce.  Almost every scene with him involves drugs or profanity, and when he's snorting cocaine, it is great to watch.  Eddie Marsen from "The World's End" plays McAvoy's loyal and gullible best friend, and his performance is both sad and fun to watch.  There are more subtle and laid back performances that come from people such as Imogen Poots and Joanne Froggatt, and they work really well with Bruce's insane persona.  And in the middle of it all, Jim Broadbent is playing Bruce's doctor, who is usually shown to be some sort of crazy spiritual guide in Bruce's drugged up mind set, and he is just flat out awesome being this mad doctor of sorts.  Overall all of the performances are great, but this is McAvoy's film, so there's really no competition against him.

Screenwriter/director John S. Baird has made one hell of a crazy movie.  It's darkly funny at one moment, serious the next, and as a whole is unapologetically absurd and twisted in the best ways possible.  There are twists and turns that happen in this film that not only are insane and crazy, but also explain certain things that come and go in the film.  Plus, the way he's able to create these bizarre and strange scenes all over Scotland is something that true artists can do.  I've never read the book that this film is based on, but after seeing this, I will surely be doing that sometime in the future.

If films like "The Lego Movie," "Divergent," and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" don't tickle your fancy, then I would suggest taking a chance with "Filth."  It is whacked out of its mind and may very well be the craziest movie you will see in 2014, unless something else comes along, but man oh man, this is such a fun and twisted time.  James McAvoy gives the performance of his career, the script and direction really set the tone and makes this film even crazier than it should be, and the film itself is appalling and bonkers.  I know I'm repeating myself, but that's really the best way to describe this movie: bonkers.  I don't think I will see a more unapologetic film this year, and if there is a movie that is crazier than this, then god help us all.  "Dom Hemingway" came close to being as crazy as this, but where that film had the audience sympathizing with its titular character, this one has us appalled and dropping our jaws with almost every thing he does that impacts the people around him.  Expect a huge cult following to come for this movie, that is if enough people manage to bestow their eyes upon this piece of insanity.






Sunday, April 20, 2014

REVIEW: Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D

MOVIE
Captain America:
The Winter Soldier

CAST
Chris Evans,
Scarlett Johansson

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
April 4, 2014

DIRECTOR(S)
Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

STUDIO
Marvel Studios (Disney)

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 16 minutes







STARS
***3/4








REVIEW:

Marvel simply continues to prove that they know and understand how to make a franchise of superhero films that work well with devoted fans as well as regular moviegoers.  While DC and Warner Bros. have the "Dark Knight" trilogy and "Man of Steel" under their belts, they also have "Green Lantern" and "Catwoman."  Ever since "Iron Man" was released in 2008, Marvel has been churning out nothing but great movies.  Those who say otherwise may be mistaken, for "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" were released by Sony and Fox, respectively.  The man responsible for making Marvel films (the ones released by Marvel Studios) is Kevin Feige, and once again he has outdone himself with the latest film in the "Phase Two" section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

For the first time, we get to see Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, adjusting to his new life in the modern times after being frozen for nearly 70 years.  Ever since the events that took place in "The Avengers," Rogers spends most of his days running around D.C. and walking around the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian, trying to continue his catch-up on history.  Unfortunately, catching up will have to be put on hold as an attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. makes Rogers into a US fugitive for reasons I'd rather not explain here.  Now, Captain America must team up with Black Widow and a new recruit named Falcon in order to take down a threat that's been against Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. since the beginning.

After the first "Captain America" movie ended, I said that Chris Evans was the ideal Captain America.  This opinion was further proven in "The Avengers," and now with this film.  Evans not only makes Captain America a fun and awesome superhero, but he also manages to make the character of his alter ego Steve Rogers act human.  Scarlett Johansson kicks all kinds of ass here and makes a really fun and awesome character out of Black Widow.  Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Shaw, and Robert Redford all deliver great performances as the latest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe cast, Falcon, The Winter Soldier, and Alexander Pierce respectively.  As for Samuel L. Jackson, what else can you expect from him; he's great in everything, and this movie continues to show that.

I admire the direction from Joe and Anthony Russo since they've taken this superhero world that Captain America lives in and made the action and the situations within the film as realistic and humane as the original "Iron Man."  In fact, dare I say, this is the best Marvel solo film to come from the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the original "Iron Man," and that's saying quite a lot.  The action is superb, the acting is great from all, and the direction from the Russo brothers is simply fantastic.  While the film focuses more on the political aspects of this superhero world rather than non-stop action, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is still engaging and entertaining enough to recommend to those who are fans of Marvel's impressive track record.  Although, the 3D is kind of useless, and doesn't really add much to the film as a whole.




PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Earth To Echo

Blended

Lucy

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Maleficent

Guardians of the Galaxy




REVIEW: Noah

MOVIE
Noah

CAST
Russell Crowe,
Jennifer Connelly

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
March 28, 2014

DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 18 minutes




STARS
****







REVIEW:

It's kind of fascinating for me as a Jew to see this country react to things that involve the Bible.  In the case of "Noah," the Christian community has been very divided due to exactly HOW faithful it is to the original story.  Director Darren Aronofsky, whose past films include the highly disturbing "Requiem for a Dream" and "Black Swan," co-wrote the screenplay with Ari Handel and merely based their script on the original story.  Having not actually read the entirety of the Noah story from Genesis, I have to say that I was captivated by this film all the way through.  This is one of those rare religious films that can be seen and even enjoyed by all who are able to open their minds and allow a different take on a Biblical story to take place in front of them.  While it's a little slow in the second half, "Noah" is a powerful, breathtaking, and incredible movie that I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did.

It seems like in his last few movies, Russell Crowe has played one of three things: 1.) the jerk and/or bad guy, 2.) a man who likes to sing, or 3.) all of the above.  Believe it or not, Crowe goes back to Option 3 once more, though he sings and acts like a jerk at separate times in the film.  Don't get me wrong, he's really good in the movie, but it just seems like Crowe loves to play a guy that the audience can dislike, and the character of Noah is extremely unlikable for reasons I won't explain in the movie's second half.  As for the standout of the movie, that title unquestionably goes to Emma Watson.  This is possibly her most emotional and her most revealing performance to date, giving Hollywood a reason to cast her in more serious and dramatic roles.  Among the rest of the stellar supporting cast is Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly, and Ray Winstone, who all are really good in the film despite some performances being stronger than others.  There really aren't any bad performances present here, as everyone is believable and powerful overall.

Having never seen any of Aronofsky's previous movies, I can surely say that I loved the way he portrayed this grim and dark, yet beautiful and fairy-tale-esque, world in the film.  While the visuals aren't as stellar as something like "Gravity," they help to benefit the grand and epic scope that this movie possesses.  Along with the epic scope and the great direction, I loved how Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel took this Biblical tale and made it their own, so to speak.  Knowing the basic outline of the original story, I loved how the story didn't end with the Ark and the flood, rather we got to spend another hour with Noah and his family dealing with their predicament.  While I wasn't totally buying how Noah was portrayed as a heartless jerk, I loved everything else they did, and I even liked how Noah sort of came to redeem himself in the end.  Trust me, that's not spoiling the real juicy bits of the movie.

It's kind of funny to think that we live in a world where Christian audiences will praise movies that glorify their beliefs like "Son of God" and "God's Not Dead," and yet when a movie like "Noah" skews a little away from the original source material, controversy explodes amongst audiences.  As a Jewish audience member, I was entranced by watching "Noah," and I loved how Aronofsky and Handel made the story grimmer and more unique than most Biblical films.  This film, to this generation, is what Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" was to the 1950s.  I have a feeling that this movie will carry on throughout the years as one of the best religious movies of the 2000s.  "Noah" is a movie that is bold, ambitious, dark, and beautiful, and I loved nearly every second of it.  Jewish audiences may love this movie, but then again they may be as divided as Christian audiences has been, so my suggestion is to see this movie and judge it for yourself.




PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Earth to Echo

Get on Up

The Other Woman

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Hercules



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