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38 reviews in total 
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Top Five (2014)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Top Five is Top Notch, 31 December 2014

I've seen this movie twice now and I've absolutely enjoyed it both times. It's one of the very best movies I've seen this year. Always a smart, snappy stand up comic, it's great to see Chris Rock mature into both a good writer and a good actor. He's handles himself with a maturity and self-confidence--even in scenes where his character is faltering, that makes the movie shine. He and Rosario Dawson have great chemistry together, working off each other like Tracy and Hepburn. There's a long list of supporting characters, Gabriel Union and JB Smoove at the top of the group, that add both depth and hilarity to the film. There are at least 4 or 5 scenes that will go into the Comedy Hall of Fame, to boot. RUN to see this movie!

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Time to shred this film, 2 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is no reason for this film to exist. It's a foul, odious, cretinous waste of time. No talent was wasted in making it because there is no talent evinced in its performances. There is no reason for Seth Rogen to exist in the entertainment industry. Hollywood already has a curly haired idiot in Will Ferrell. There is no need for an unshaven, pot-addled version. If the phrase, "F--k, man" were struck from Rogen's vocabulary he would be rendered mute. James Franco should be given a show selling knives and baseball cards and forgotten for eternity. I watched 20 minutes of this movie on cable, turned it off and threw myself against my apartment walls for 90 minutes. It was a smarter use of my time than this movie.

13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Llewyn Davis has a very, very bad week, 4 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Because there is no arc to the character--and only a loose and very arbitrary arc to the film, Inside Llewyn Davis is ultimately an empty exercise in black and white photography. (Although it is a great audition tape for Oscar Isaac. If anyone is thinking of remaking Serpico, here's your star.)

Inspired by a biography ("The Mayor of MacDougal Street") of folk music legend Dave Van Ronk, the screenplay is only a very superficial skim of the scene. And acclaimed music producer T-Bone Burnette is out of his depth in that role for the film.Where he worked with genuine bluegrass artists like Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch on O Brother, Where Art Thou, here he's on his own. He doesn't have roots in folk music (he's an LA rocker) and, like the Coen Brothers, is too young to have been part of the early Sixties NY scene depicted here. It leaves him unable to provide any insights into the music or musicians.

The film picks up Davis at a bad point, follows him through several more of them in a very bad week, including a hellish odyssey to wintry Chicago, then stops--as the opening scene is (without explanation) repeated. If the movie had started a month earlier or a year later, the journey would be totally different. (Five years later and he'd be playing with the Lovin' Spoonful.) This can be read strictly as the fault of the screenwriters. You never see Davis at rest and only fleetingly at work. Davis himself is neither a bad person nor a bad musician. He's good looking, audiences are enthusiastic and he's a terrific singer and picker. He's recorded two albums. He's attractive to women. His personal relationships are a little tangled though he has a set of friends who are more than willing to feed and shelter him. But like most musicians at the beginning of their professional careers, he's sleeping on other people's couches and scrambling for gigs and money.

There are a few interesting acting bits by Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund and Coen stalwart John Goodman. F. Murray Abraham has some brutally amusing scenes as an imperious club owner. But in the end, it's a frustratingly wasted look at a pivotal point in American music.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An action film on Quaaludes, 26 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let's start with the most important point: Ryan Gosling has ridden the dead-eyed, stonefaced acting schtick as far as it can go for him. At this early stage in his career, he simply doesn't have the life mileage, the gravitas or the looks to play at being Steve McQueen.He desperately needs to go back to, you know, ACTING. Moving onto the movie is ironic for a movie that is drugged out slow when not frozen completely, filled with innumerable tracking shots down hallways to people sitting perfectly still in whatever room the director decided to decorate that day. (I can only assume that the per diem package for participants included an opium pipe.)The script, such as it is, aims for that odd, defeated junction where pretentious meets silly. Besides Gosling, there is an actor playing a cop who sings karaoke and brutalizes people. Kristin Scott Thomas curses fragrantly in her scenes. There is a fight scene that looks like a 6th grader was pitted against Bruce Lee. The set decoration and photography are gorgeous though, some of the richest, most sumptuous (the only word that fits) in recent film history. It's not enough, unless you're looking for someone to help furnish your new home. This is a ridiculous film.

Wyatt Earp (1994)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Costner and Kasdan come together to make another bad Western, 12 July 2013

In the summer of 2013 Wyatt Earp has been showing up regularly on cable. I thought I'd view it again to see if it worked better in my living room than in a multiplex. It does, though just barely. Although this is not the silly, Baby Boomer mess that Silverado was, WE is final proof that Westerns are not in Lawrence Kasdan's area of competence. For Costner, it's another of the bloated vanity projects that crashed his career after multiple Oscars wins for the majestic Dances With Wolves. As I said, it does view better on the small screen; which is small comfort for the viewer. It's too long, it's humorless and it has that grungy, unshaved, unwashed look that hack film makers mistake for "authenticity." Costner, at this point in his career, didn't want to share the screen with equals. So he surrounds himself with mainly B-list co-stars, Gene Hackman being the sole exception. Some give good performances: Mark Harmon is a terrifically sleazy Johnny Behan, for example. And Dennis Quaid gives one of the very best portrayals of the legendary Doc Holiday. Unfortunately for him, the absolute best on screen Doc is Val Kilmer in the rival Wyatt Earp film, Tombstone. Still, it may be his finest performance on film. On the other end, the usually gifted Mare Winningham is lost as Earp's mistress, Mattie Blaylock. That Costner let his ego overwhelm the film is, finally, what dooms it. Dominating screen time while dispensing with the warmth, humor and sex appeal of his previous films, his Earp is relentlessly vicious and morbidly sullen throughout. In the end, the best way to watch the film is to wander the house doing chores while running to the TV room only when you hear on screen threats or gunfire.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Well, the cinematography is better..., 2 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Because I consider the Swedish version of be a classic on the level of The Maltese Falcon, I avoided the English language version when it was in the theaters. (In reality, the original version may be a better adaptation. John Huston had a Dashiel Hammet book to work from. Steig Larsson's work is transcendentally awful, on a level not even the purple pronouncements of The Bridges of Madison County descended to.) However, late one empty night, the American version showed up on cable and I decided to watch it. It's not bad, only slack and uninspired. The screenwriter and director hewed somewhat closer to the book but to no obvious purpose. And there are at least 4 narrative choices (spoiler alerts won't cover them, I'm afraid. You'll have to trust me--they didn't work.) that damaged the momentum of the film and the chemistry of the two main actors. And finally, David Fincher wasn't able to find an actress to match the ferocity, killer grace and awkward beauty of Noomi Rapace. Rooney Mara is a fine actress (catch her in Soderbergh's Side Effects.). But she's simply too faceless for as vivid a presence as Lisabeth Salander. She's like the 3rd Goth girl at the table, pale and unremarkable. Daniel Craig does a fine job as her partner. But the other actor choices are uninspired if professionally handled. It would have been better if Fincher and co. had done a wholly revised version, set in the US or England with different villains (imagine an African American Salander and the KKK, for example) rather than this dull work.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
By the numbers--usually blood red, 24 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Olympus Has Fallen is a paint-by-numbers action film by Antoine Fuqua, a director who generally performs better behind the camera. Die Hard at the White House as its been referred to, is in the main, a humorless and very bloody action film with Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent on a mission-to-redeem-himself, which entails lots of knifings and bullets to the brain of his faceless opponents. It's all very professional--and totally generic. Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo are on hand to recite their lines and write their names on the back of a paycheck. This is a movie for people who have seen everything else at the cineplex but still feel the need to spend 2 hours in a darkened auditorium.

60 out of 106 people found the following review useful:
Quitting Quentin, 3 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like Inglorious Basterds, this is another juvenile cartoon by the perennially adolescent Tarantino. However this time he manages to make it a racist cartoon, as well. How is it racist? Tarantino plays out a macho fantasy game by featuring a strong though implausible African American protagonist and yet spreads the N-word liberally throughout the film. He's defended that particularly odious over-usage by suggesting that being "authentic" to the times demanded it. And yet much of the film's details are otherwise incorrect: the rifles are wrong for the time period, for example; and the soundtrack is a hodgepodge of rap, old pop (Jim Croce?) and music from other films. And most obviously, the racial attitudes of both white and African Americans are simply ludicrous. The taunting, insolent attitude by Django towards white people would never have been tolerated in the South, circa 1858. And certainly no Mississippi plantation owner would allow him at the dinner table with white guests. Tarantino has also led many to believe--dishonestly, this is his version of an Italian western. However, it hews closer to a sub-genre of Seventies Blaxploitation--Westerns (Buck and The Preacher, Take A Hard Ride and very obviously The Legend of N---- Charley and its sequel The Soul of N---- Charley, to name a few.) Of course there are the standard QT touches in the film: odd flashes of humor, odder cameos (Michael Parks, Lee Horsley, Don Johnson, father and daughter Russ and Amber Tamblyn) and over-the-top violence--although even the violence is handled ineptly. The gushing blood shots look more like exploding balloons over-inflated with red paint. QT hasn't lost his touch with actors and he gets good performances from his leads--Waltz, Foxx and especially DiCaprio. Samuel L. Jackson as the boss of the African American house crew gives a masterly performance reeking of evil. But all of it comes in service to a trashy, overlong and digressive film. Tarantino is over-due for a course in films not marketed to 13 year old comic book readers or grindhouse fans. Until he shows an adult perspective I think I'll forgo any more of his films.

28 out of 49 people found the following review useful:
All over the road in Florida, 26 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you're going to make a movie with a voice-over narrator, the first step must be finding a voice the audience can clearly understand . Macy Gray is an able enough actress in small doses but she's far too inexperienced and has much too odd and weak a voice for the role. But the failure of this film lies almost entirely with the bumbling of director Lee Daniels. Had this inept effort been his first directing job Precious would never have been made. The film is structurally muddled, with surrealistic fantasy sequences mixed with hard realism and big splashes of sexy Southern Gothic melodramatics. The sound recording is, in the main, low and nearly inaudible. The cinematography is the standard indie mix of shakycam amateurishness, lens flare and out of focus artsiness. The story meanders wildly and with no particular focus on any of its several narratives strands. The acting is more interesting than good, with McConaughey, Cusack and Kidman playing against type but too no real purpose. Lee Daniels crush on Zac Efron's torso means Efron is showcased lovingly but at an embarrassing, centerfold length. Several reviews I've seen called this movie a "hot mess." I'd emphasize the "mess" end of that critical construction.

The Master (2012)
35 out of 64 people found the following review useful:
Pointless and repellent, 29 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If your idea of film entertainment is to spend 2 hours and 17 pointless minutes with a violent, unstable creep in the final stages of alcoholism, The Master is your ticket to fun! Joaquin Phoenix plays the creep, a wet-brained WWII vet who concocts revolting cocktails from whatever material--beer and coconuts, paint thinner, photo developer, he can lay hands on. Watching him mix his brews will cause your throat to constrict with revulsion every time. At one point in the film he falls into the sphere of cult leader Philip Seymour Hoffman, who's relationship with Phoenix' character seems to be a metaphysical form of pulling the wings off flies. It's all terribly pointless and boring. It's not often I walk out of a movie theater wanting to rush home and take a long shower to wash the film experience away. After The Master, I did.

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