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Jake Gyllenhaal Delivers The Dramedy in ‘Demolition’: A Movie Review

Jake Gyllenhaal Delivers The Dramedy in ‘Demolition’: A Movie Review

Jake Gyllenhaal Delivers The Dramedy in ‘Demolition’: A Movie Review

There has been a lot of death in my life lately. Family members have moved on. One of the things I always struggle with is how to grieve and how to assist those who are grieving. That conundrum is at the crux of the new dramedy Demolition. Written by Brian Sipe, directed by Jean Marc-Vallee (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts, Demolition brings destruction to the pain of losing a loved one.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Davis, an uber-successful stock market manager, loses his wife in a tragic car accident in the beginning of the film. That’s not a spoiler, but it sets up the rest of the film as Davis struggles to process her death and his life in the wake of it. He pens a letter to a vending machine company when, while at the hospital finding out his wife has died, he is unable to get some M&M candy out of a machine. That letter leads to others and opens up a relationship with Karen (the increasingly quirky Watts) and her troubled son and boyfriend. All the while, Davis can’t curry favor with his wife’s father who is also his boss, Phil (the usually solid Chris Cooper of American Beauty). How does one deal with the unraveling of his life in the event of great loss?

Gyllehaal in Demolition

Davis (Gyllenhaal) tries to smile through the pain.

In Davis’ case, he seeks to blow it all up, hence the title of the film. While secrets are revealed and the drama unfolds, tension must be released and there are a number of laughs to be found in Davis’ sadness. It’s hard to quantify if he takes things too far, that’s why I questioned the premise of how to deal with grief. There is no right or wrong answer and in the confines of the film you can see elements of Crazy Stupid Love crossed with something like American Beauty. While both of those films are good to great in their own right, Demolition never quite reaches those heights.

Gylenhaal is always good and he carries the film, though Watts’ character and their interaction is a bit hard to figure. Marc-Vallee attempts a tricky tightrope that he is pretty successful with but its probably a bit too challenging to pull off in the end with all of the quirk and criss crossing of storylines. The payoff is strong, the film entertaining, but I’m not sure it reaches the loftiest of goals. Not all loose ends are tied up and maybe there is a bit too much going on when we want to focus on the protagonist. Again, when dealing with grief, is it best to accept that demolishing one’s life in Davis’ case is entirely feasible? Perhaps. Still, as an entertainment and thought provoking piece it falls a bit short of greatness. Take that as you will.

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Combining Laughs, Love & Creativity: ‘The Lobster’ Restores My Faith in Film

Combining Laughs, Love & Creativity: ‘The Lobster’ Restores My Faith in Film

Combining Laughs, Love & Creativity: ‘The Lobster’ Restores My Faith in Film

Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director of Dogtooth, makes his English language debut with The Lobster. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star in this hilarious and heartfelt tale of what it means to love and the lengths people are willing to go to find and keep it.

In the film’s world, the City’s singles (those who are not married) are sent to a hotel/compound to find a compatible mate or be turned into an animal of their choosing to live out the rest of their lives. Colin Farrell stars as David, a man who is left by his companion, and sent to the compound with his dog to complete just this task. There are already hints that I am giving away in this ingenious tale that is a must see for fans of creative independent cinema.

David is greeted by the couple that runs the hotel and filled in on the ways of the world inside. He must find a mate in 45 days or become an animal. Farrell enters the compound choosing to become a lobster, largely because they can live a long time. He is applauded for his ingenuity, although other guests played by the limping Ben Whishaw and lisping John C. Reilly, have a different take on his choice.

Characters in 'The Lobster' prepare for a hunt.

Characters in ‘The Lobster’ prepare for a hunt.

The trio set about finding mates of similar defining traits, i.e. they seek a woman with a lisp, a limp, etc. Cheating the system comes with hilarious but deadly consequences. Members shoot to kill escapees in the nearby woods regularly, to increase their stays to find a mate. The best hunters then create more time for themselves by killing singles hiding between the hotel and City’s borders. To say too much more would be giving away some of the brilliance of Lanthimos’ work.

While Dogtooth was inventively creative in it’s own right, that film stopped at opening up a world of possibilities at its end and almost felt incomplete as a result. The Lobster feels more full and relatable, though the performances and English-language ease can’t help but support that notion. It’s almost two films in and of itself, with a clear line of demarcation separating what happens in the hotel and outside of it. Both are great fun, darkly humorous and help restore my faith in the revelry of creative storytelling. I saw the film twice in a span of three days and I still wanted more. In the world of sequels and over the top superheroes, this gorgeously shot and strongly acted tale resonates as one of the best films of the year, hands down.

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Gaspar Noe’s ‘Love 3D’ Is Not One Worth Pursuing

Gaspar Noe’s ‘Love 3D’ Is Not One Worth Pursuing

Gaspar Noe’s ‘Love 3D’ Lacks Emotional Punch

French director Gaspar Noe has won fans in these parts with risk-taking filmmaking featuring ingenious camera work and script construction in the past with Irreversible and Enter The Void. His latest effort, the long gestating Love 3D, aims to push further boundaries and effectively portray emotional sex (unsimulated) in a relationship on screen. The results are sure to divide, but in this estimation, that’s hard to imagine.

Love stars Karl Glausman (Murphy) or in some ways, more specifically, his Johnson and acting newcomers Klara Kristin (Omi) and Aomi Muyock (Electra) and their respective bodies. Murphy is stuck living with Omi due to an unwanted pregnancy (and subsequent birth of son Gaspar) and the failure of his relationship with Electra. The film opens with Electra stroking Murphy in bed in full view and if you’re the type of viewer who would feel uncomfortable watching this sort of thing, you might as well tune out now. The sexual relationship between Murphy and Electra is told in flashbacks as he dwells on his past to forget about his present with Omi and son.

A rare non-sexual moment in 'Love 3D'

Love is a mix up of sorts of both his aforementioned films as well as 2011’s Shame and 2013’s Blue is the Warmest Color. The film has a chronography that eventually you kind of get into but the storyline of their relationship is rail thin, evoking what was said to be a 7-page shooting script. The largely poor dialogue seems improvised, acting weak and the sex is beyond gratuitous. Perhaps most disappointingly, Noe fails to show off his usual visual flair, sticking with more basic one shots of coitous and its varieties. Yes, you get your expected 3D money shot as well as 69, head, group sex and transsexual interactions. All very appealing, I’m sure.

It might be worth enduring if there was more of a story to follow. You certainly don’t care about the characters. Murphy regularly calls both of these women cunts, for no specific reason in the case of Omi. He simply detests himself and his situation as near as I can tell. You have no sense of why he fell in love with Electra or whether it was genuine love or not. The couple repeat young love mantras of sticking together and never leaving eachother, yet each fool around with other people, perhaps to show the challenge of monogamy. None of this adds up to anything of substance. FWIW, the 3D portion of the film adds very little, save for your requisite, well, you know.

In the end there are a few messages hidden throughout (European vs. Western philosophies) and a theoretically emotionally wrenching finale, where the toddler Gaspar (is this autobiographical in some ways for the director?) shines in a sterling acting role. If this was earned it would hit home, but as it is, it’s a limp finish for one of the only times in the film. Snicker, snicker. Love fails to capture the title or the director’s intent and is the lesser of all the other titles mentioned in this review. Emotionally charged it may be, but it’s ultimately too hollow for anyone to care.

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‘Spotlight’ Movie Review: “Early” Film of the Year Front-Runner

‘Spotlight’ Movie Review: “Early” Film of the Year Front-Runner

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight, which focuses on the Boston Globe’s efforts to uncover the Catholic Church’s wild web of molestation, subsequent cover-ups and corruption in 2002, immediately jumps to the top of the list for Best Picture nominees. A massive and talented cast brings director Tom McCarthy’s insightful and tension-filled drama to life on the big screen and open-minded audiences everywhere will delight in the results. Based on real events, the film becomes a groundbreaking picture in an era known for over the top green screen tomfoolery and barbarianism.

Spotlight is a team within the Globe known for their hard hitting and story breaking journalism. When a new editor (Liev Schreiber) Marty Barron comes on board to shake things up at the paper where layoffs loom, he pushes the team players (Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo among them) to abandon their current projects and re-look at the Catholic institution in the most deep rooted faith-laden town in America, Boston. What the team uncovers is corruption bigger than one could ever imagine.

The 'Spotlight' crew figuring things out.

Ruffalo shines brightest as reporter Mike Rezendes. His hunched look and sometimes muffled speech hides a hidden talent, ferreting out information from the unlikeliest of sources. When lawyers, cops, a long line of molested children and their families all bow down to the Cardinal-led churches in the area, it takes Rezendes’ and his counterparts fortitudes best efforts to break the case as it were.

Spotlight is the best-written film I’ve seen in some time and one which restores faith in these smaller, story driven vehicles that seemingly have vanished from the marketplace. McCarthy paces the film perfectly and wrangles strong performances throughout. It would be a shock if this film doesn’t walk away with its share of hardware come awards season. Consider it essential viewing for those with minds out of the gutter or completely turned off in the age of fast, furious, superhero sequels that nobody over 25 ever wanted in the first place. A sterling effort.

 

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‘Steve Jobs’ Movie Review: Performances Solid in Apple Co-Founder Biopic

‘Steve Jobs’ Movie Review: Performances Solid in Apple Co-Founder Biopic

‘Steve Jobs’ Movie Review: Performances Solid in Apple Co-Founder Biopic

The hype meter was turned up pretty high for the latest film based on the life of Steve Jobs to deliver. The Apple co-founder, recently deceased has seen several works on his life make it to the big (and small) screen over the last few years, but none with as much talent behind it as Steve Jobs. The film is littered with Oscar level talent: penned by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Danny Boyle, starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet and sprinlkled with Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels to boot. Still, the unique structure of the film (divided into three “scenes”) will likely divide viewers looking for a thriller.

Jobs covers three product launches, from the original Macintosh computer to the iMac. Therefore, the acts are similarly structured to the film’s detriment in my estimation. The locations overlap and thus become a bit stale, unlike last year’s brilliant Birdman, the visual flare is present but kept to a minimum and thus the play-like delivery for some reason failed to ultimately move me. The acting is very solid, and Jobs is constantly battling issues that linger over the length of the film – his daughter and her troubled mother, his relationship with Apple – the company and it’s players (Steve Wozniak to name one) and his own inner demons. Still, I think the repetitiveness of the setups wore a bit thin. Despite some showcase opportunities, the drama didn’t really hit home.

The film is loosely based on the biography of the man but was littered with trouble and controversy before it made it to the big screen. Jobs was formerly to be helmed by David Fincher and led by Christian Bale, two superstars who may have towered over the project before ultimately falling out. Leonardo DiCaprio was also once attached, so the picture definitely had the interest of  some A-level talent. Settling on the players involved was no real fallback, but one can’t help but wonder what might have been. Steve Jobs may not be a missed opportunity, it is a biopic with a unique structure after all, but not enough deep-rooted inherent drama to turn the wheels for me. I admit, my mood may have played a role in my take on the film, as I watched with a heavy heart due to personal circumstances, nevertheless, my takeaway for the time being is a good film that falls short of higher expectations.

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Tom Hardy Goes Radio Silent in ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ Movie Review

Tom Hardy Goes Radio Silent in ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ Movie Review

Tom Hardy Goes Radio Silent in ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ Movie Review

Mad Max Fury Road stormed into theaters toting a Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh Rating of 98% and an average 8.7/10 score for an action film. Both all but unheard of high marks for reviews. However, while I sat through the mayhem and looked around a capacity crowd for my screening, I couldn’t help but taking in the silent crowd juxtaposed with the chase carnage on screen and wonder…what are we all missing?

There’s no sense in relaying a plot of Mad Max to you, because plot and story clearly take a back seat to on screen action. Loosely, there is a water shortage in a desolate future that is controlled by an evil dude with five wives or something like that. We meet Max when he is scooped up by the baddies and is reawakened in what I believe is as a blood supplier to one of the bad cronies. Furiosa, an adversary of the baddies who breaks off on her own agenda, gets tracked down by the bad guy set, until Max helps her and they form an uneasy alliance to achieve (what end again?). None of it really matters anyway.

AP FILM REVIEW-MAD MAX: FURY ROAD A ENT

An intense search for Furiosa’s arm ends in catastrophe.

You are here to witness spectacle and exciting action and on that front, I supposed Max and director/creator George Romero (also of the original Mad Max films) delivers. The whole film is a long chase with general carnage in the desert along the way. Thrilling CGI and real stunts take place to some effect I guess, it’s just that none of it means anything. The audience, myself included, didn’t appear to be having much in the way of fun, and with no story to engage us, to me that is a virtual failure.

I can’t really rip on the film in full, because there aren’t really any specific expectations you can have upon going to see it, you just sit back and take it in. There is just no emotional involvement to the would be excitement so therefore it all lacks a certain punch. Innovative silence and chase scenes mixed with good enough performances (particularly Charlize Theron as Furiosa) aside – it’s hard to tell who is bad and who is good, everybody looks the same and despite all of the weirdness, it just didn’t add up to more than a shoulder shrug for me. I don’t think I am remotely alone in this thought. I’m not mad about Max or Romero’s attempts at entertainment, but I’m also not prepping another trip down Fury Road any time soon. Whatever.

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Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts in Noah Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young’ Review

Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts in Noah Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young’ Review

Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts in Noah Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young’ Review

Noah Baumbach broke into filmgoing consciousness by co-writing projects with the newly Oscar-nominated Wes Anderson. He contributed to The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox while also directing the well-received Squid and the Whale and the under the radar Greenberg, also with Stiller in a lead role. In While We’re Young, Baumbach further pushes down familiar territory with a mid-forties couple (Stiller and Watts) caught in challenging times since they don’t have children.

Their relationships with other couples their own age, primarily their close friends including MC Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys, are centered around their kids, which leads them into uncharted territory. When a young couple (Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver) enters their world, they rediscover some of the spark seemingly missing from their relationship.

Stiller and Watts find the fountain of forced youth in 'While We're Young.'

Stiller and Watts find the fountain of forced youth in ‘While We’re Young.’

What Baumbach does well is have us laugh at ourselves. The interplay between the younger and older couples contains the most interesting moments, especially when it comes to the laughs. Driver sparkles as a wanna be documentarian, the same field Stiller is in, and Watts (particularly in a hip-hop dance class) and Stiller (in his usual just off-kilter style) gain the gut punch guffaws.

The message behind the story is a solid one, but it gives way to an all-too predictable ending which in many ways is the antithesis of the whole film in the first place. How we get there loses steam about halfway through as a plot twist if you will interrupts the feeling of an otherwise strong independent film. While We’re Young is best for those a bit older but in the end doesn’t quite carry out the promise of its premise to its fullest. Still, its worth seeing for those with an eye on thought provoking cinema.

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David Oyelowo Pretty Solid in the Dipped in Saccharin ‘Selma’: A Review

David Oyelowo Pretty Solid in the Dipped in Saccharin ‘Selma’: A Review

David Oyelowo Pretty Solid in the Dipped in Saccharin ‘Selma’: A Review

Selma is the very poorly-titled Martin Luther King Jr. biopic from Ava DuVernay. The title is bad because it’s boring and non-descript and despite its roots, doesn’t tell us enough about the star of the story, Civil Rights leader and legend, Dr. Martin Luther King. David Oyelowo does his best to rescue the film that follows MLK’s march in Selma, Alabama. The story is steeped in history and is a monumental point in the history of our nation, unfortunately, in the too often clumsy hands of DuVernay, we’re left with a would-be weeper that doesn’t cut to the heart of the man and his struggles to achieve this significant outcome. Cue the heavy violins, since we should be touched.

Selma sees a host of civil rights activists, led by MLK, perform non-violent protest, in opposition to a lack of right to vote. MLK did it the way that Malcolm X couldn’t. The story is well-known for anyone who made it through the 8th grade and therefore, a greater probing of the man with less sentimental actions would have served the film better. MLK leads his followers, blacks and women, who eventually are joined by other races, up against the tyranny of the US government and its racist ways. The politicians and president are typical villains and MLK the righteous man standing up the injustice.

Hard not to be moved by the march moment in the poorly-titled 'Selma.'

Hard not to be moved by the march moment in the poorly-titled ‘Selma.’ but DuVernay tried to ruin it.

Oyelowo, though pequeno in stature, does his best to embody the legendary MLK. I have a little issue with a Brit portraying such a significant man, but he is solid enough in handling the task. What his performance can’t overcome are the stereotypes in the writing and directing that seem paint-by-numbers in these stories. A man is beaten down, but he rises up and the music swells to accompany it. A stare down in public is counterbalanced with tears and emotional strife in public. However true these cliches may be, I would have preferred a more intimate, even look at the man rather than a fairytale-like take.

Selma isn’t a bad movie per se, but it breaks no ground for a man that broke it all. This, in and of itself, is enough to turn me off. I wanted to feel this man’s journey rather than have the film try to manipulate my feelings. I’m capable of getting there on my own with a great story, acting and directing, instead I get tried and true tropes that are a disservice to the historical events and my time and intelligence. There were a handful of scenes that hit the right notes, but far too few in the grand scheme. Too bad, because the man and moment deserved more.

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