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18 articles


"Jimmy P." Never Commits To Recovery

25 July 2014 4:33 PM, PDT

Do Indians commit suicide?

There are many great doctor-patient films like Jimmy P. (2013).  They are, perhaps, the truest form of the character study. First the doctor or disturbed individual is introduced and then brought to their counterpart as, for some reason, the perfect match of speciality and weakness. The sessions begin and the story unfolds like a mystery. Piece by piece, the subject's mind is revealed to establish data points, connected later on during breakthroughs.  So long as the story continues, it remains engaging and interesting, usually supplemented with a subplot for the doctor (preferably resonating with the main arc). Since these films are so prone to formula, the best ones dig deeper and reveal something about psychoanalysis, society, or ourselves. Jimmy P., however, stays with the formula for the most part and settles on "good enough".

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- Jason Ratigan

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It Ain't Easy, Living "The Motel Life"

25 July 2014 2:58 PM, PDT

Based on the 2006 debut novel by musician Willy Vlautin, The Motel Life also marks the directorial debut of brothers Alan and Gabe Polsky. It is apropos that a story about two brothers be told by two brothers, and the Polskys have some semblance of a track record, both having produced Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant remake. In this instance, they find themselves behind the camera in the bleak, uncompromising Sierra Nevadan frontier, as one traumatic accident sends two brothers into a tailspin.

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- Kyle North

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Pal Around With "Ernest & Celestine"

25 July 2014 1:34 PM, PDT

I cannot remember the last time I was so thoroughly charmed by a film as I was by Ernest & Celestine, an Academy Award-nominated animated feature adapted from the children’s book series by Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent. It tells the story of a spunky little mouse named Celestine who is training to become a dentist but truly wants to be an artist. In Celestine’s world, the mice inhabit a bustling city below ground, while the town above is populated by bears. One such bear is Ernest, an aspiring but poor street performer with a hankering for sweets. Mice and bears live in fear of each other and never enter each other’s worlds; however, Ernest and Celestine end up forming an unlikely friendship when they go on the run together as wanted criminals following the theft of a great deal of candy...and teeth (yes, teeth).

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- Lee Jutton

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In Branson, You End Up Spending A Lot Of Time With "Strangers"

25 July 2014 12:05 PM, PDT

Apparently five years in the making, We Always Lie To Strangers is the story of a remote Ozark Mountains town that plays host to hundreds of music festivals and generates a ton of money in tourism revenue. What is often a funny and genuinely fascinating story is a tad overlong, especially once you get the basic framework of the narrative after the first half hour or so. Stretching the story out over 100 minutes seems like plodding, though I will admit that even though you get the basic gist right off the bat, the doc is still worth watching.

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- Robert Ottone

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"In the Blood" is Another Action Film Failing to Make Good Use of Gina Carano

23 July 2014 10:55 PM, PDT

Even though there are more now than ever before, there’s still a shortage of female action stars working today. Chalk that up to an unfortunately low number of films that require women in physical roles and perhaps even more at fault are the quality of those films. Sure, every now and then we get a Kill Bill, Hanna, or The Hunger Games, but more often than not it’s something like an Underworld sequel, Resident Evil, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Charlie’s Angels, or Catwoman. The latest chapter in poorly utilized action starlets comes in the form of In the Blood, which stars Gina Carano as a newlywed hell-bent discovering the truth of her husband’s disappearance even if that requires breaking a few bones to do it.

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- Lex Walker

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You'd Like to Think Half as Much "Bad Grandpa" Would Be Half as Bad

23 July 2014 10:46 PM, PDT

There’s a reason Paramount has labeled this continuation of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa as .5 instead of 1.5 (as other special edition releases of films usually do), and that’s because unlike 1.5 editions, this isn’t the original film with new footage added in to make it longer or better, it’s just 80-some minutes of deleted scenes and production footage. It’s not an improvement over the painfully unfunny original but nor is it any worse. If anything, it could be said to actually have a little merit in that you get a sense of the effort that went into the film’s production, which is more merit than the film itself had as just a string of obvious and contrived pranks that were funnier when done by other movies or the guys of Jackass themselves in their TV show. That said, there’s still no good reason to subject yourself to this. »

- Lex Walker

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"Joe" Brings Its A Game

23 July 2014 8:55 PM, PDT

Folks lookin' for trouble tend to find more than they're after.

Director David Gordon Green saw two of his films come out in 2013 (generally and in festivals, respectively) set in rural East Texas: an emotional comedy, Prince Avalanche (2013), and a hard-life drama, Joe (2014).  The first captures the isolation and quietness of the place and the second captures the banal desperation of its citizens.  Both are character-driven films and, therefore, difficult to describe beyond useless generalities like "the images are striking" or "the performances were strong".  They provide an atmosphere to explore and observe without judgment, but move relentlessly forward ending as we always knew they would.  Both films are gray with Joe more charcoal to Prince Avalanche's ash.

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- Jason Ratigan

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Tyson Gives Us A Scope As Big As The "Cosmos"

23 July 2014 12:30 PM, PDT

I unabashedly adore science-fiction; I love that it bends the rules of our real world and takes us out of the mundane of everyday living, into realms where space travel is as easy as hopping on the subway, giant radioactive monsters emerge from the sea to wage war on each other, a man can relive the same day over and over until he gets it right, and a gigantic train can circle the world on an annual basis and protect humanity from an ice age of its own making. (Seriously, Snowpiercer is the movie of the summer--watch it now!) However, remove the word “fiction” and one might naturally become a bit hesitant. Pure, unadulterated science is often thought of as education more than as entertainment, the stuff of exams rather than of escapism. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey manages to bridge that gap; while watching it, one does feel as though »

- Lee Jutton

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"Lego Movie" Builds Something Special

23 July 2014 9:16 AM, PDT

What do I do?  I don’t have my instructions. 

There is something special about Legos.  They aren't Hot Wheels or Barbies with clear identities and gender implications.  Legos can be anything for anyone.  They're building blocks and that's all.  Writers-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with story help from Kevin and Dan Hageman, use this to develop a theme that is resonant with any normal individual while also establishing the raison d’être of the company.  Of course, they also get to use the expansive catalog of Lego’s greatest (and not-so-greatest) stylings from pirates to astronauts in bricks and accessories.  It also comes supplied with sophisticated satire and an emotional heft that is quite simply astounding.  So, in the way that G.I. Joe (2009) was decidedly not, this is very particularly the Lego movie.  That's why they called it The Lego Movie (2014).  Awesome.

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- Jason Ratigan

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"Nurse 3D" Is A Bitter Pill To Swallow

23 July 2014 8:34 AM, PDT

I always give them one last chance.

Douglas Aarniokoski, the director and co-writer of Nurse 3D (2013), is standing on the shoulders of giants, seeing just a bit further into the ways and means of stabbing people on screen.  First came the swipe-grab-fall technique where the actor embraces the sword into his side and acts like it went through him. Then Orson Welles or somebody realized that perspective allowed one to stab into thin air, but if seen from the side, looks like it goes right through the victim, requiring only good timing to pull it off.  Then, some time later, props found out they could cut a piercing weapon in half, stick it on the actor, and hey-presto, it looks like that guy got himself stabbed but bad.  Some time in the 1970's, some cunning director took to perspective again to come up with that great innovation Aarniokoski and other »

- Jason Ratigan

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There's Some Healing "Where I Am"

23 July 2014 1:46 AM, PDT

In 1999, American writer and prominent gay figure Robert Drake was living abroad in Sligo, Ireland when two young men viciously beat him and left for dead. Robert survived the attack, but he suffered brain damage which left him unable to walk or even type. Twelve years after his attack, Where I Am follows Robert Drake as he returns to Ireland to find some closure and to reflect on what his life is now and what it used to be.

Robert Drake is a fascinating subject for a documentary and gives a perspective that hasn’t really been seen in Lgbt documentary films. He is a gay man, but he is also a deeply religious person who is active in a Quaker church. He also happens to be a physically disabled person who is still adjusting to life and learning his own limitations, physically and mentally. The attack left him unable to walk without assistance, »

- Rachel Kolb

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Wes Anderson's Beautifully Filmed "Life Aquatic" Drifts Aimlessly

22 July 2014 11:32 PM, PDT

Wes Anderson has made a name for himself writing and directing a number of creatively off-kilter comedies that often give actors a chance to shine in unusually nuanced roles. His eye for the idiosyncratic lends authenticity to every feature he’s ever made, but it can just as easily cheapen the overall product by creating an air of pretention or a sense of being quirky for the sole sake of being quirky. How much of that he pours into each film and how high the audience’s tolerance for that tendency is have a heavy bearing on the overall enjoyment of Anderson’s work, which is a shame because the final product often has an incredible cast like Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Cate Blanchett (as we do in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) and elements that give film a very identifiable stamp of artistry even as it weaves a rather unconventional tale. »

- Lex Walker

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"No Clue" Makes Its Case

22 July 2014 11:17 PM, PDT

Where's everyone getting guns?  This is Canada!

If your last name is "Butt", then there's really only two things you can be: a cigarette filter manufacturer or a comedian.  Brent Butt took the latter route.  Stand-up comedy took him into television with two Canadian series, Corner Gas (2004-09) and Hiccups (2010-11), and a feature film, No Clue (2013), that is basically a 90-minute pilot for a detective sit-com.  It's a busy field especially and the light Canadian touch is certainly popular in American television at the moment.  Shows like Better off TedPushing Daisies, and Psych take the same gentle approach to laughs out of goofy awkwardness and verbal inanity as No Clue.  However, this Butt vehicle is a step above those shows by looking sleeker and pushing the jokes without winking at the audience.

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- Jason Ratigan

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"Wadjda" Measures the Double Standards Faced by Saudi Women

22 July 2014 11:13 PM, PDT

Though we would like to think otherwise, gender inequality still exists within the United States and the rest of the world, where it takes on different forms depending on the culture. In Saudi Arabia, behaviors as seemingly insignificant as talking to an unrelated man or riding a bicycle have a stigma if you’re a woman, and the consequences can be dire if the wrong people see it. This world of unequal taboos sets the stage for Director Haifaa Al Mansour’s film Wadjda, the story of a young girl who, more than anything else, just wants a bicycle so she can ride with her best friend. Wadjda touches on a number of examples of gender inequality found in Saudi Arabia, and she ties them together well in a story that might be a bit transparent in its outcome but still remains compelling for its inside look at Saudi Arabian double standards. »

- Lex Walker

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"The Book Thief" Steals Cliches From Countless Better Films

22 July 2014 11:01 PM, PDT

If you want an Oscar, an easy route is to write, direct, or star in a film about World War II. Audiences love the sense of triumph derived from a small personal story within the larger context of conflict, and they’ll tend to stick with the story even if its message about the strength of moral character in the face of evil seems stale and clichéd. Moviegoers eat that stuff up – usually. Every now and then a movie gets it wrong though, and at the point the schmaltz just becomes so thick the audience can’t choke it down, and that’s where The Book Thief gets caught. It goes down the checklist and marks everything off, but it does so with such an obvious and mechanical manner that the sentimental moments feel cold and overly calculated.

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- Lex Walker

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There's No Good Reason Not to Keep Watching "The Venture Bros."

22 July 2014 10:51 PM, PDT

While integrating nods to pop culture has become an increasingly popular source for jokes in today’s sitcom and animated series culture, few shows do it as effortlessly or completely as the sporadic tales of Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros. Granted, the increasingly long periods between each season means that some jokes don’t always arrive as fresh as they could in relation to what’s being lampooned, but for the most part the show maintains its high caliber of long-form storytelling and classic cartoon sampling by never relying on a piece of satire that’s only a year or so old. Its comedic references often go a ways back in cartoon adventure history and deep into nostalgia for some really obscure but relevant source material. The fifth season was the show’s shortest one yet, and while it might be more hit-or-miss than any that came before, it »

- Lex Walker

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These "Wahlburgers" Are Entirely Undercooked

22 July 2014 10:41 PM, PDT

Continuing the trend of giving a reality TV show to anyone with a famous face to maximize on low production costs and high audience recognition, Wahlburgers follows the aspiring burger business of Paul Wahlberg, one of the lesser known siblings of actors Donnie Wahlberg and Mark Wahlberg. Much like any other reality TV show out there, Wahlburgers has to do as much as it can with as little substance as possible, and it never really succeeds. Episodes feel like minor happenings that have been stretched and inflated to fill 21 minutes with material that could have been covered in 2. The supposed draw of the series is the interactions between the Wahlberg siblings, their mother, and Mark’s HBO immortalized “entourage”, but even then each episode tries to do too much with far too little and so each of the 9 episodes of the first season feels empty.

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- Lex Walker

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This "Bird" Still Rattles Cages

22 July 2014 9:30 PM, PDT

I’m lucky here at JustPressPlay, I only get the best comedies to review, it seems. Blazing Saddles, The Birdcage, both are incredible and two of the funniest flicks ever. I was obsessed with The Birdcage as a kid, thought it was amazing, with brilliant performances and even better giggles to be had.

All these years later and the movie holds up. It’s still a remarkably funny and witty film about the restructuring of family and relationships. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane play a gay couple who, after their son reveals that he’s engaged to a right-wing politician’s daughter, are faced with the reality of hiding who they truly are in order to protect their son’s love. The politician and his wife are played by Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest, who are both also outstanding.

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- Robert Ottone

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18 articles



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