The Lobster

Colin Farrell seeks the one before his life as a human takes a very animalistic turn. In this highly imaginative, delightfully absurdist comedy from visionary director Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Lobster”, stars Colin Farrell as David, a man who has just been dumped by his wife. To make matters worse, David lives in a society where single people have 45 days to find true love, or else they are turned into the animal of their choice and released into the woods. David is kept at the mysterious hotel while he searches for a new partner, and after several romantic misadventures decides to make a daring escape to abandon this world. He ultimately joins up with a rebel faction known as The Loners, a group founded on a complete rejection of romance. But once there, David meets an enigmatic stranger (Rachel Weisz) who stirs up unexpected and strong feelings within him… At once a full immersion into a strange and surreal world, and a witty and clever reflection of our own society, “The Lobster” is rated R for sexual content, including dialogue, and remote violence.

“The Lobster” prides itself on being a twistedly dark satire on modern day dating, and for a first act it comes out firing on all cylinders, providing a rich underlying of amusing wit to play against a refreshing direction. The film then abandons this concept about midway through for a change in tone that is every bit as muddled as it is depressing. Lanthimos’s thought-provoking satiricals work best when the film carries with it a sense of humor, and that lack is what really took me out of this movie during the last half hour. What does work positvely for the film however, is a brilliant decision to use natural lighting in the movie, laying emphasis on this dystopian setting, as well as camera framing and shots that are eye-appeasing. There are also some pretty notable lead performances which I will get to later. Yorgos certainly had great ideas here, but it’s unfortunate that it all comes to a halt by credits roll.

First of all, you should take this kind of movie more as a deeper meaning project by the director, as many situations and rules might feel ridiculous at face value. Some of the genius metaphors that I spotted for the movie analyze to the audience a society in our own real world that stresses the importance of being with someone, and how the single crowds are being phased out. The hotel in the film can easily be taken as life itself, considering the guests have 45 days to find a potential mate, as well as the multi-step plans for the couples future ahead being layed out for them like an army of drones being marched to the slaughter. The woods in the film clearly represent the single crowds who decide that dating doesn’t feel comfortable to them. This explains why they are cast out and hunted by the hotel’s flock. They simply don’t fit this life plan, so they have no place among the happy couples. Another brilliant metaphor comes in early scenes of the movie when Colin Farrell is checking in, and the supervisor tells him to choose between gay or straight. This is obviously a poke at society’s demand that everyone abide by the divisions that THEY have set forth. All of these metaphors present a dark cloud over concepts that we overlook everyday. We can’t expect someone else to be happy in a relationship just because we are, and Lanthimos provides self-reflective material that turns the mirror around on his audience.

The comedic material is dark in humor, but works perfectly with sarcastic brilliance among the rules of dating within this world. As I mentioned before, it’s kind of disappointing that all of the humorous material in the film happens in the trailers seen in this movie. This gives “The Lobster” a kind of feel in tone opposite to what they were expecting heading into the movie. I found the end of the second and the entirety of the third act quite uneven with the synergetic pacing of the film’s first 45 minutes. The hotel is kind of forgotten as a whole, leaving our characters without a big brother antagonist to defy against.

As for performances, the movie offers a lot of variety. So much so that many characters don’t have actual names, but descriptions such as “Short Sighted Girl”, “Lisp Guy” or “Limping Guy”. The obvious intention to point out the shallow intentions of people judging a person by a noticeable trait is certainly hinted at by Lanthimos, but the movie still supplies some very noteworthy performances. Farrell continues to accept against-the-grain roles to noteworthy praise, and his David is certainly no exception. Colin captivates silently but deadly against the very complexities of finding “The one”, and his stone-faced delivery for the ever-changing dating landscapes around him is what invited me in to a film with truly one of the strangest plots i’ve ever read. Rachel Weisz is visually only in the second half of the movie, but her vocally robotic narrations throughout the film actually set a nice tone to the movie’s dark humor. When Weisz does show up, the chemistry between her and Farrell combine to make a couple with some emotional depth in a world without it. I legitimately found myself rooting for their triumphs and disappointed during their failures. Their union together will certainly provide the kind of roller coaster emotionally to the audience, if you find yourself able to get through the slow periods.

Overall, “The Lobster” is a little overrated from the mostly positive feedback that it has garnered, but the film’s artistic merits certainly more than live up to the kind of Orwell-ian landscape that Yormos constructs for his audience. Embrace the strange and give “The Lobster” a chance if you seek more hidden meaning in your films.

6/10

A Hologram for the King

Author Dave Eggers original story of the same name, gets a big-screen adaptation starring Tom Hanks. In “A Hologram for the King”, director Tom Tywker combines dreamy landscapes with a businessman’s aspirations, with Cultures colliding. When American businessman Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is sent to Saudi Arabia to close what he hopes will be the deal of a lifetime with Saudi royalty. Baffled by local customs, ancient traditions and stymied by an opaque bureaucracy, he eventually finds his footing with the help of a wise-cracking taxi driver (Alexander Black), named Yousef, who is well educated in American pop culture, as well as a beautiful nameless Saudi doctor (Sarita Choudhury) who has him considering major material changes within his own life. With his new cast of friends influencing his intentions, Alan lives life with his eyes open for the first time, while brokering a deal that plays to the opposites of such a concept. “A Hologram for the King” is rated R for sexuality/nudity, adult language and brief drug use.

After viewing the trailer for “A Hologram for the King”, I felt very confused as to what the central focus of the movie’s main narrative was. Now that I have viewed the 92 minute full length feature, I can clearly say that the lack of cohesive writing with this book and screenplay is still very much there. This movie quite frankly left me feeling jaded, to the sense that I felt like I was watching three different movies, all set in Saudi Arabia, trying to play out together as one unit. The problem is that their opposite tempos tend to do more harm than good in the overall presentation, and the viewer is left wondering what the point of it all was. My hopes going in were that the movie was going to represent the vast cultural differences between America and Saudi Arabia, and while this is the kickstart that we are presented with for the first act of the movie, the second act becomes a foreign thriller, while the third becomes a love story that comes completely out of left field. I will get to the performances a little later, but in terms of this love story, there is no chemistry between the two leads because the movie isn’t interested in building what could be between them. Before the final twenty minutes of the movie, in which this takes its final course of direction, Hanks and Choudhury are in two scenes together. No kind of spark between them is built, and it even looks like Hanks is going to hook up with a Danish girl who he meets upon his introduction to the country. The ending is very abrupt, as nothing is really set up other than the inevitability of Alan and his female love interest, so the movie just kind of ends on a note of anti-climatic for something visually that deserved so much more.

Some of the aspects that I did enjoy about the film came in some experimental film making from “Cloud Atlas” director Tom Twyker. For those who didn’t see that movie, there was a lot of hidden meanings in Twyker’s style that really leaves the audience seeking more in future watchings. This film, while the presentation is a little more transparent, does leave you with some really awe-inspiring editing that has to serve as what little of a character development that the movie simply doesn’t grant us orally. There is a scene in the movie where Alan has a bit of a health scare, and while he has to go under the knife for surgery, the movie’s visuals cut in with everything from the loss of a past job, to spending time with his young-adult daughter. It’s really presented in a way that looks opposite of anything that any other director is doing right now, and I think that deals more with Twyker’s subtle cutting and pasting that seems to hit the right sentimental reaches at just the right moments. There is also a lot of beautiful visuals in the backdrop of this undeveloped land that falls heavy into the substance category. A lot of this movie feels like a vacation opportunity for Hanks, despite what comes of his performance, and that is because “Hologram” feels very much like a love letter to the kinds of Saudi cultures that we are forbidden to.

Hanks isn’t bad or even remotely bland in his performance. It’s in his endearing charisma that the movie leaves the audience hanging on during some of the dull moments creatively. The problem in the building of his character, is there simply isn’t any. During the first ten minutes, so much fast-forwarding is done with Alan’s life, and it all feels like life is but a flash in the ever-changing backdrops and opportunities that present itself in his life. Whether this intentional or not, Hanks makes the most of everything that comes his way. The best of course being the precise comedic timing that Hanks supplies for a first act that has him settling in to his new terms and conditions of life on the other side of the world. Sarita Choudhury has a strong on-screen presence, complete with eyes that could light fires during the coldest nights, but the movie clearly isn’t interested in her story. With very little focus on her motivations, her character just doesn’t fit the mold for the kind of romantic genre notes the movie ends with. To add insult to injury, a swimming scene which involves nudity for Choudhury not only doesn’t make any sense when presented with the very heavily clothed women of this country, but it’s presentation just doesn’t fit the kind of sex-less presentation that the movie had laid out in its rating. It feels like nudity for the sake of nudity, and doesn’t add any kind of passionate touch to the yearning of these two souls who find comfort in one another.

Overall, “A Hologram for the King” is a series of miscalibrations in tone that feels so incohesive in its chopped up presentation. It’s narrative is as dry as the dessert that surrounds our story, and it will leave audiences yearning for anything with substance to hold on to. This is one “Hologram” that lacks depth in everything but its colorful design

4/10

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Doris

A quiet but quirky mid-life woman has a sexual and lifestyle awakening after she instantly falls for the new guy in her department. Michael Showalter’s latest film “Hello, My Name is Doris” stars Sally Field as the title character. When Doris Miller meets John Fremont (Max Greenfield), her company’s hip new art director, sparks fly magically for Doris. In the cluttered house she shared with her late mother, Doris mines the Internet for information on her one-and-only crush, guided by the 13-year-old granddaughter (Isabella Acres) of her best pal Roz (Tyne Daly). When Doris begins showing up at John’s casual events, she wins over his closest of friends, and the group welcomes her into their usual haunts. Her new life change brings Doris a thrilling perspective, but also creates a rift between her and her longtime friends and family, who believe she’s making a fool of herself over a guy half her age. Eager for all the experiences she has missed out on, Doris throws caution to the wind and follows her heart for the very first time. The film is rated R for language and sexual situations.

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” is based off of a short story, and while there is a lot in this film to give a passing grade for, the movie’s thin plot starts cracking in the final third of the movie. What does positively enforce this as a must-see is the very comically divine method of satirically poking fun at today’s hipster trend. There are a lot of really smart one note jokes that brought real laughter out of me. Beyond this is a heartfelt combo of moral fibers about the importance of friendship, as well as finding a world within those people where you belong. The very mood of Doris is presented as a comical character of sorts, but as the movie went on, I noticed a real sadness below an exterior of cutesy quiet. That is where “Doris” succeeds in relating to it’s audience. Not so much in a script which feels a little threatened into taking chances for the very limited plot structure that it has mapped out for itself, but in a character who is reaching for any chance to feel alive again. Doris is a hoarder, and this image of her cluttered house presents a crippling spin on the story and its main protagonist because we come to learn that Doris is living through someone else’s memories and collectibles.

Sally Field’s performance is a tour de force of emotional depth and bravado. It’s under her charisma and likability in this character where the movie gets its wings for a 90 minute journey. Doris is your typical human being with an obsession for a member of the opposite sex, but there are more than a few moments where her madness is played off for laughs that would otherwise be creepy if an actress of less quality portrayed her. Field presents us with her greatest role in over twenty years, and you can certainly feel that there is a couple of things internally about Doris that she relates to. She simply plays the role too wonderfully to never been in some of these situations. This is a character who really wears her heart on her sleeves, and it’s in that glimmer in her eye for a dream to come true that we find it easy to fall in love with her and root for her triumph. Max Greenfield is also terrific as the young object of Doris’s desires. Greenfield is constantly smiling, and it’s impossible not to be infected with happiness from such a cheerful approach to the characters he takes on. Surprisingly, he and Field have really good chemistry in the movie, and we just can’t get enough of their awkward, but engaging hangouts that satisfies equally what both are looking for.

The structure is a little simple, as there really isn’t a lot of room for subplots in this universe. This becomes most evident during the third act that starts to lose a little steam when you realize the predictability of this end result peaking through. That’s not to say that I didn’t go home happy from this film, but I would’ve liked a little more experimental mayhem with the characters inside of this little glass bubble. The cliche use of dream sequences is also something that feels overdone by the second of three times that it uses this niche. The fantasy is always better in film and real life, so it doesn’t help the script in the slightest when that bubble bursts and we are no futher than we were five minutes prior to when the dream began. The film is positively paced, and never feels lagging or dull, but its safe approach leaves a little more to be desired.

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” is an intriguing invitational handshake to a woman who we always want the best for. Because of the magical twinkle of Field, combining with a warm medium of awkward comedy and touching mellow-drama, Showalter packs an indie punch that never abandons the observational satire that he has crafted effortlessly in films like “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “They Came Together”.

7/10

The Perfect Match

The Perfect Match

One man’s goal to win a silly bet with friends sends him on a one way road to “The Perfect Match”. Urban film director Bille Woodruff presents his latest film revolving around the brutal world of dating, with a side of comedic humor sprinkled throughout. Charlie (Terrence J Corwley) is a suave playboy who’s convinced that relationships are dead even though his sister Pressie (Dascha Polanco), a therapist, tries to tell him otherwise. His best friends bet him that if he sticks to one woman for one month, he’s bound to fall in love. Charlie takes the bet because he believes that he’s immune to love. That is until he crosses paths with the beautiful and mysterious Eva (Cassie Ventura). Turning on his irresistible charm, Charlie coaxes Eva into a casual affair but soon finds out that Eva has turned the tables on him. Now Charlie is questioning whether he may actually want more than just a one night stand, and just how much he’s willing to change his life for it. “The Perfect Match” is rated R for some sexuality, nudity and language.

Bille Woodruff sure has directed something bizarre here. “The Perfect Match” is a cheaply styled, stereotypically written Cinemax Softcore porn train that never feels like it’s riding on one consistent track. The story feels jumbled in execution because there are more than a couple times when the movie and it’s storylines just stop for either a scene that feels like the worst in one subject improv, or the several musical montages that the movie sucks the well dry on. For anyone who has ever watched one of these late night movies, you will understand the concept of fifteen minutes of development time, then a sex scene. Rinse, dry, repeat. The sex scenes aren’t even shot in any kind of artistic way. They happen so fast (and with clothes on) that you wonder why they even exist. There’s certainly enough of them in a script that is very flacid for such a committed drive to sex. For 91 minutes, the movie offers very little positives in the way of countless laughably bad cliches for this kind of film. We’ve all seen countless examples of a character too good for relationships, so he decides to give a chance to the wrong girl who ends up being “The One”. So what supplies “The Perfect Match” with the need to see it? Very little.

There were some moments in the film that did involve some decent laughs. Nothing of the gut-busting nature, but I did manage to chuckle a couple of times when the movie felt the most honest. For instance, one of the male supporting characters is worried about the outrageous costs of a wedding ceremony. This concern, as well as his reactions to these price drops actually gave the movie tolerance, and never really made this a boring sit. I think a lot of the comedy positives has a lot to do with this film being rated R. It’s not a rating that is necessary. There is no nudity or anything of major crude humor, but you will be thankful that the film supplies us with a couple of these dirty words during scenes that feel like silhouettes are chatting with each other.

The characters never feel like anything that we can relate to. A lot of that isn’t JUST because of their rich backgrounds, but because these are the kinds of people you witness while watching a Saturday Night Live skit. No chances are taken from their character traits, so for the men we receive these bonehead frat boys whose only focus is sex. For the ladies, they are only focused on getting married and having kids. Such complex characters written by Brandon Broussard, the very same man who penned Tyler Perry’s “House of Pain” TV show. It’s because of such a gap in relatable content why this movie just doesn’t feel intriguing to me. There is a chance at the beginning of the third act to branch off Charlie’s past and the kinds of effects the loss of his parents has had on his psyche, but no. The movie just passes through them like a walk through rain drops.

Heading into the final act, there really isn’t a lot that kept what dwindling interest I had from floating away. One positive that I can say is that at least the ending isn’t predictable, and the film cares a little more about sticking to its rules, instead of abandoning them with the sinking ship. I admire that this film stuck to its guns on an ending that won’t always send its audience home happy.

Overall, “The Perfect Match” just doesn’t quite meet the kind of expectations that we set for ourselves in a 21st century rom-com. Woodruff and his cardboard cutouts doesn’t create anything memorable in a film with no emotional depth. If this is the best that Jorva Entertainment Productions can offer us for romantic substance, then I choose to break up with this perfect match.

3/10

The Choice

The Choice

Two neighbors in the middle of a budding romance find themselves tested beyond expectation with “The Choice”. Based on the novel by Nicolas Sparks, the film takes place when feisty medical student Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) moves in next door to perennial ladies’ man Travis (Benjamin Walker), it sends them both on a romantic journey neither ever dreamed possible. Travis has always believed a serious relationship with a woman would cramp his easygoing and adventurous lifestyle, while Gabby is all set to settle down her long-term boyfriend Ryan (Tom Welling), until an irresistible attraction between the neighboring couple upends both of their well-planned lives. After a whirlwind courtship, Gabby and Travis wed and build a family together, making every decision hand-in-hand until one of them is forced to make the most important choice of their life alone. A romantic and life-affirming celebration of love, marriage and family that explores the most heart-wrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive? “The Choice” is rated PG-13 and directed by Ross Katz.

My past experiences with Nicolas Sparks films have garnered similar emotional responses. These are typically predictable films that present a world full of emotionless romantics who are typically from two different sides of the tracks. The films usually end with one of them getting in a serious accident that may or may not end the life of a main character. To say that “The Choice” was much different from this direction would be lying to my reading audience completely. The film is fullproof that the genre keeps getting weighed fown from predictable outcomes, as well as laughably bad line reads that will have you slouching in your seat.

The film begins (Of course) in Wilmington, North Carolina. A beautiful creek town of clean-cut kids with little to no social problems in the world. If that city sounds familiar, it’s because it’s where “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” were shot. This film feels like the worst episodes of both of those shows. Director Ross Katz uses a majority of his screen time to bombard us visually with wide angle shots of the water and birds passing. The camera work is solid in regards to framing and capturing, but the cinematography gives the look of the film a kind of Flomax commercial feel, complete with montage fun times and boring accoustic music. On more times than once, I caught the same shot being recycled in a later part of the film. These kind of shots are usually used for the opening minutes of a film to set the environmental tone of the film, but the movie keeps beating us over the head time after time to show the dreamy landscapes. Just once I would love to read a Sparks story that takes place in the ghetto with poor people. Too much to ask?

The story is regurgitated muck from a best of in the Sparks filmography. There is of course a love triangle for the affections of Gabby. The biggest problem from this angle, aside from the fact that it’s used in EVERY Nicolas Sparks movie to this point, is that the movie is morally bankrupt with who the audience is rooting for. As our protagonists, the film wants you to embrace love conquering all even if that all is cheating on your two significant others. I will get to the characters later, but Gabby is so unlikeable as a leading lady that it was hard to find any redeeming factors in her traits. She has this amazing doctor boyfriend who doesn’t cheat on her, abuse her, or demean her in any way, but she cheats on him without ever truly suffering emotionally for her poor decisions. Aside from this, the film uses its third act to bring back a familiar cliche for this writer’s work, and it’s presented in total slow motion.

A majority of this film did move along pretty smoothly and kept me entertained even if it was for all of the wrong reasons. Where the pacing gets subdued is during the third act where the film fast-forwards seven years. SPOILERS SPOILERS – Our main characters now have two children and are married. All of this happens in a tornado flash without so much as a minute to stop and soak in any of these major life moments for our characters. What really brought me to tears hilariously was the lack of aging so much as a day in either of Gabby or Travis’s physical features. I’m not asking for a huge change here, but the characters don’t even comb their hair differently, nor does Gabby look even remotely aged in skin tone considering she had two children. I just don’t buy it. The cheapest aging effects would’ve been enough, but it’s things like this that took me out of the movie. It is during this time that a character (Of course) encounters a brutal accident, which leaves them conveniently without a scratch on their face, but the scenes are in slow motion. We wait through numerous scenes of wimpering dialogue when we just want an answer. Considering you pushed two kids and a marriage through five minutes of scenes, I think you can give us an answer for the fate of this character in about the same damn time.

This review would be nothing though, if I didn’t mention the characters and performances. I already spoke on how unlikeable Gabby is, but the real thorn in the side is Teresa Palmer’s suffocating line reads. I find it hard to grasp when this character is mad or happy because she says her angry lines with a smile. Besides the fact that her and Benjamin Walker have absolutely zero romantic chemistry, there are many scenes where their romantic lines fall flat to bad timing, and it leaves many scenes full of dead air. Seriously, if this film cut out these dead air scenes, 106 minutes would quickly become 90 minutes guaranteed. Walker is decent, but he doesn’t have enough charisma to really shine as a leading man. Far too much of his scenes emotionally are on one setting. We never really get that chance to see what makes Gabby want to run away with this guy from quite literally THE perfect guy. Walker is one of only three people in the movie with a southern accent. This wouldn’t be such a problem if 1) The film in its entirety didn’t take place in the south, and 2) There weren’t more than 20 characters with speaking roles in the movie. It all just gives the movie that “I don’t give a shit” feel that romantics will eat up regardless of my review.

“The Choice” doesn’t present nearly enough difficult options to make seeing this movie warranted. There are currently MUCH better films at the box office, so make “The Choice” to tell Nicolas Sparks that “The Boy”, “The Finest Hours”, “The Forest”, or “The Finest Hours” are much better movies with boring titles than this near two-hour pile of moral bile.

3/10

 

Before We Go

Before We Go

Chris Evans and Alice Eve spend a night broke and with no means of transportation, in “Before We Go”. It’s Evans directoral debut, and follows the journey of two strangers stuck in New York City for the night. Starting as interrupted strangers, the two soon build a bond of trust within each other, when a night of unexpected adventure forces them to confront their fears and take control of the problems in their lives. This film is the most frustrating of one night stand’s. Right when we think our characters have grown a lot and are ready to make some changes in their lives, they are no more wiser than when the film began 95 minutes prior. There is certainly enough intrigue in Evans script, complete with the mystery of backstories within the two protagonists, as well as the on-screen chemistry between the two, without any romanticism involved. Yet it falls into the hollow halls of reptitive content, with the movie never really moving out of it’s cluttered mess, moaning about their tortured pasts. It’s a romantic genre film that really doesn’t have the traits to inject into that genre. It’s not all a miss however, as the film has some witty dialogue (especially in the opening act) that carried us through some of the more awkward moments. Alice Eve has the look of a Hollywood heavyweight, but i have yet to be moved by a performance from her. If there is one thing that Evans knows, it’s on-screen charisma. There’s a charm in his delivery that ranks him among the likes of Bogart, Gable and many others who defined the romance genre for their generation. He definitely put a lot into his performance, but a reflection on the film as a whole hit me with an epiphany. I think Evans ran into too much involvement into one film. That’s not saying that he couldn’t direct a film, but i don’t think it will be a success with a film he stars in. In giving credit to him though, the film has a nice 80’s feel, adding moody new wave sounds to a New York backdrop at night. It’s a great combination that sets the stage perfectly, even if it’s a little unbelievable that all places look as glorious as the ones shown in the film. Maybe that’s really what the movie needed; some kind of emotional dilemma. Eve gets robbed as the film begins, but there is never a sense of danger in her eyes. She opens up to Evans easily and the rest is history. Despite everything i said, i think the female audience will find enough in the handsome charms of Chris. It’s enough to distract them from the real issues plaguing the film. I wish the ending would’ve left a better taste in my mouth, but it all wreaks of wasted opportunity. This was one film that i was looking forward to, but it will easily be forgotten in under a week. “Before We Go” is a dry offering for a DVD date night in. Evans shows promise visually, but his lack of structural development from act to act leaves his first behind the camera effort elusive.

5/10

I’ll See You In My Dreams

I'll See You In My Dreams

National treasure Blythe Danner stars in this film that symbolizes the realistic effects of living with loneliness after the loss of everything that seemed to make sense. ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ tells a story about a widow and former songstress (Danner), who discovers that life can begin anew at any age. With the support of three loyal girlfriends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place), Carol decides to embrace the world, embarking on an unlikely friendship with her pool maintenance man (Martin Starr), pursuing a new love interest (Sam Elliott), and reconnecting with her daughter (Malin Akerman). The film rests a lot on it’s comedically charming cast, most of which is at it’s peak when the four female friends share an array of scenes, ranging from a sex talking poker game, to a marijuana smoke out followed by a munchie fest that will have your gut hurting in laughter. Where the film trails off is in a third act that begins with a bombshell that left the audience, as well as the movie gasping and searching for a new identity. If anything defines this film, it’s Danner. She has always been a real starlight in the Hollywood acting, but ‘Dreams’ is the first film in a while that features her at the helm. It’s a tour de force performance, complete with irresistable charm and a subtely poignant underbelly that reaches for the most from her audience. If not for Danner, the film would be greatly in trouble from the series of unanswered questions around her in this weak script. More on that later. The movie also supplies a quiet and tragic look into the crippling world of loneliness. The actions of Danner’s character to avoid the quietness of a daily routine that has her screaming for more inside, is well documented with many repetitve actions done over and over again within the first fiteen minutes of the movie. I think that this point certainly communicates Carol’s desire to change, even if she believes it may be too late. That change comes in the form of on-screen squeeze, Bill (Elliott). Elliott is decent, but his screen time is minimal for someone who is getting second billing in this movie. The love story between he and Danner slowly builds over the first half hour, and then feels sped up when the movie realizes it hasn’t done much between the two. All of this is at the front and center when a nice relationship based on chemistry is being built between Danner and Starr. This was the relationship that i was really pulling for, and the movie seems to want that out of it’s audience until the big bombshell happens and suddenly it takes a stand in the department of awkward because the film feels afraid to take a chance because of their age difference. That’s not to say that the movie is afraid of taking chances totally. The big bombshell is more than enough to debunk that statement, but it feels like the chances being taken are the wrong ones in terms of storytelling satisfaction when it’s all said and done. I didn’t feel like the characters were any better for the end result of their respective situations. ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ is certainly likeable enough, based on it’s always entertaining cast and interesting set up. It gets a passing grade from me, despite me never having to really have any interest to watch it again. Some dreams are easily forgotten, but thanks to a twilight performance from Danner, this dream has some everlasting memory.

6/10

Irrational Man

Irrational Man

Should be called ‘Illogical Plot’. Woody Allen writes and directs this film that centers around a teacher-student relationship at a Boston college. When a burned-out, brilliant professor (Joaquin Phoenix) takes a job at a small college, everyone there is abuzz. He becomes involved with a teacher (Parker Posey) as well as a precocious student (Emma Stone), but it takes a dramatic, and monumental act to turn his life around and make him see the world through a much wider and more appreciative perspective. ‘Irrational Man’ is a film that i only caught the trailer to once, and to go into the film blindfolded makes you appreciate even more how ridiculous it is. What little i knew about this film, told me that it was a troublesome film about a teacher who falls in love with his student. BOY WAS I WRONG. The film saunters through at a snail like pace when it finally reveals it’s true intentions; Phoenix must commit a murder of a total stranger to restore meaning to his life. The choice and even the result of the death feels like an afterthought famous for Allen films. The movie is riddled in clouded dialogue, as well as some of the very worst personalities that i have ever seen. Phoenix is a solid Hollywood A-lister, but in this movie, he feels like his character in the effect that he couldn’t care less. He too searches for real meaning on why he took this project, with the exception of working with one of Hollywood’s most legendary writers. Anyone who knows me, knows i love everything about Emma Stone. Well, this film managed to make me hate her. The character she portrays is so unlikeable and against any kind of spoiled side that we have ever seen from her. It’s nice to take risks, but this character is so one dimensional, and her moves are easily choreographed throughout the film that she will eventually fall for Phoenix. If the movie stayed at that kind of predictable offering, i could’ve appreciated it enough because maybe these two will be made better by film’s end. Instead, both characters are mere shadows of what they were 92 minutes prior, and we don’t feel any better about the investment we have given them during such a time. If the film has any good to it, it’s in the camera shots and how beautifully styled the movie’s backgrounds are. If there is one thing Allen will always do right, it’s that he knows how to point a camera. I just wish his actors didn’t desire more with my overall interest in the film. The third act is where the film gathers any kind of momentum down hill, but it soon takes a nosedive in absolute absurdity with logical choices. It’s so bad that i struggle even as i write this to properly classify what kind of movie tone-wise this was. ‘Irrational Man’ is perhaps genius in the fact that it says everything you need to know about the film in the title. It’s irrational to spend time with these people, to find anything appreciative about this film even with a love for Woody Allen, or even irrational to spend a dollar to rent this at RedBox. It’s pretentious dribbel at it’s finest.

3/10

Paper Towns

Paper Towns

A teenage boy loves and loses, all in a scavenger hunt to get back the girl he defines as his miracle, in ‘Paper Towns’. Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”), the movie is a coming of age story centering on Quentin (Nat Wolff) and his enigmatic neighbor Margo (Cara Delevigne), who loved mysteries so much she became one. After taking him on an all night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears, leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick witted friends on an unforgettable adventure that will change them all for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship and true love. I was a little disappointed to find out that this movie came in at #6 on it’s opening weekend, with a dismal 12 million dollars made. I personally enjoyed this film, but felt that it fell short of it’s author’s predecessor, mostly due to a lack of significant characters, as well as lack of emotional range that is lacks from it’s audience. What is good about the film is that there is a deeper meaning behind the plots used for table dressing. This is a movie about time. Whether in the meaning of graduating high school and leaving behind the friends you love for life, or the time to change the things about your life that you don’t like before it’s too late. It all lands on the cusp of a very likeable cast, even if they aren’t always used in the best of ways. Wolff showed some real comedic timing in Green’s first film, but it’s nice to see he can carry the load of a lead with just as much charisma. We’ve all been in the position of liking someone that we know we can’t have, so there is always that voice in our heads that is rooting for this kid. In a sense, i took his character a lot like Emile Hirsch’s in 2004’s ‘The Girl Next Door’. There is a nice transformation for him by the film’s end, but the ending leaves out any chance for his triumph to be recognized. The ending is getting a lot of negativity by critics, and i can kind of understand it to a point. What i did enjoy about it is that it makes sense. It’s also a film that has guts when it comes to possibly alienating the audience who have made the 100 minute investment. If i pointed to anything critique-worthy about the film, it’s in the almost slapstick comedy style scenes that leave the second act of the film in a tone deaf mess. They come out of nowhere, and it just feels like a child trying to squeeze a square peg into a circle outline. If the movie stuck more to it’s noble intentions, it would’ve worked more for the last scene when the friends go their seperate ways. There are some things that shone a light on my final year in high school, but i never felt that ‘Paper Towns’ was anything more than a lovestruck boy pursuing a crush that the movie forgets to develop why she is as great as Quentin makes her out to be. The juice doesn’t feel like it’s worth the squeeze, but it does all go down smooth enough with a nice mystery, as well as a young cast full of chemistry that will no doubt give us tons of smiles to come for years. Keep an eye open for the gas station cameo if you are a fan of Green’s first film (wink wink)

6/10

Trainwreck

Trainwreck

7/10

Judd Apatow gives us a modern romantic comedy far from anything that we are used to seeing from the genre. ‘Trainwreck’ is the film that stars comedian Amy Schumer as a New York City magazine writer who has been told all of her life that spending life with just one person isn’t possible. Her nightly life of multiple sex partners, as well as drunken blurs are thrown for a loop when she is told against her will that she will do a story on a successful sports doctor, Aaron Connors (Bill Hader). Amy starts to see that everything she knew has been untrue, and now she stands at a crossroads with love if she decides to go against all of her principles. ‘Trainwreck’ is easily Apatow’s best work in a decade. It would be easy for him to craft another raunchy comedy, sticking his characters in awkward and unpredictable situations, but his latest film builds with a subplot that his audience can relate to. This woman is emotionally ungiving because of a lack of committment from her live fast and party hard father (Colin Quinn) whose views and opinions have crippled her views on love. The movie is appealing to both genders for an enjoyable date night. It’s got more of the quotable one-liners made popular in past Apatow offerings such as ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, as well as ‘Knocked Up’. The ladies will be treated to a love story that refuses to settle for the same cliches that paralyze those films of that genre. This is a couple who have a lot of problems, and the script refuses to ignore that, all the while giving us many key performances to making this a passing effort. Schumer is pure comedic gold, but i was honestly surprised by how complex her emotional pallate was. There is a nice transformation in her character that isn’t always easy to spot, but by film’s end we believe that she is living with her eyes wide open for the first time in her love life. Bill Hader also showcases again that he can’t be held down by just one style of character. After his solid award worthy turn in 2014’s ‘The Skeleton Twins’, Hader has shown a gentle charm beneath a lovable goofball exterior. He plays to a breed of comedy that doesn’t need cheap slapstick during an era soaked in it. The side characters were there, but i was kind of surprised at the lack of screen time that most of them received. Despite critical praise, Lebron James is in the film for a matter of five scenes. I guess if you are going to see his acting debut, you will have to accept it in small doses. One actor who doesn’t have a lot of scenes but makes the most of his time is John Cena. It was during his parts that the movie reached in and demanded the most honest laughs of the night. Cena might’ve failed in his action run in Hollywood, but the man has great comedic timing that can’t be denied. Cleveland native and SNL alum, Vanessa Bayer also disappears for half hours at a time during a point in the movie where Amy could use a best friend perspective. A lot of those type of scenes are instead used for Amy’s sister (Played by Brie Larson) that while they do work, makes Bayer’s character struggle for screen time meaning. The movie has a lot of great cameos, none of which i will spoil for you the reader. If the movie does suffer from one problem it’s that it takes a lot for us to get through the nearly two hour run time. This isn’t because of bad storytelling, but instead a lack of editing famous for the Apatow filmography. His movies always seem to run too long, despite a tight story that never needs these pointless inserts in the script. There are many scenes that don’t do anything but pause the progression of the film’s pacing, and i felt it more than once. That’s not to say that it ruined the movie, but with a twenty minute trimming of the scenes that only slowed down the comedic momentum of a smarter than usual script, the film would’ve moved into a territory that not any other Comedy has done in 2015 yet. Even still, the charm of the on-screen chemistry between Schumer and Hader can’t be denied. ‘Trainwreck’ is anything but, and it’s sharp humor along with characters who are hard not to root for, makes for a must see experience to anyone on the fence about checking it out.

Old Fashioned

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1/10

Old Fashioned is possibly the toughest religion based film i have sat through. It’s not the worst film of that genre, but more on the fact that it is pointless that it has anything to do with religion, and that it’s existence baffles me as i search for clarity in a nearly two hour entertainment drought that took many pauses throughout my viewing experience. The film focuses on Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder), a former frat boy who gives up his sexually ambitious lifestyle and now runs an antique shop in a small Midwestern college town. There, he has become notorious for his lofty and outdated theories on love and romance. When Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Robertson), a free-spirited young woman with a restless soul, drifts into the area and rents the apartment above his shop, she finds herself surprisingly drawn to his noble ideas, which are new and intriguing to her. And Clay, though he tries to fight and deny it, simply cannot resist being attracted to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life. If you can’t tell by my rating, i absolutely loathed this film. First of all, the characters are unlikable and not even in an entertaining sense. Even more so than Christian Grey in “Fifty Shades of Grey”, Clay is a controlling and at times scary human being. There are so many warning signs for Amber with her interest in this man. Their interest in one another doesn’t make sense from Amber’s point of view because as the film goes on we find out she has a yearning for sexual touch. So she decides to get involved with the man who has sworn abstinence until his wedding night? Make no mistake about it, if abstinence is your thing, then rock on. But the problem with the believability and lack of chemistry with our two main protagonists is that they never kiss, cuddle, and barely hold hands. It’s nice that Director/Star/Writer Rik Swartzwelder was kind enough to cast himself in a role and think he could get away without forming any kind of bond between these two characters. I don’t buy that these two have any interest in each other for a second, and it’s made all the more ridiculous when after one date they seriously consider a marriage talk. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I hope no influential minds end up seeing this film. The last thing the world needs is people like this walking around. I Mentioned earlier that the religious aspect of the film is pointless, and that is because there is really no need for it in this particular storyline. Clay isn’t living with sex because of religious beliefs, he is doing it because he thinks this helps make him a better person from the terrible things he used to do to women. This is where the story at the very least made me laugh. It turns out Clay, the sap who couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag, is a former director of Girls Gone Wild DVD’s. This is an actual storyline that Swartzwelder thought would represent his evil past ways?? Is is a slimeball way to make money? Yes, but it doesn’t cast him in the near vilainous light that Clay hates himself for. The fact that the movie makes this out to be the worst thing possible shows just how tame and vanilla this film is. The camera work is subpar even for a low budget religious film. There are many shots that take place a little too up close to the face of our characters during conversations. The camera was so close at times that i thought someone would slip and actually look at the camera. Why not? There were many times when i saw Clay about to break into laughter midway through a line read. I’m glad someone got entertainment out of this morbid waste of film. Another thing wrong with the production is the choppy style of the editing. Scenes feel like they end when a next shot of something completely unrelated shows and then we go back to the original scene. Sometimes it cuts and never goes back to finishing the conversation. It makes it very hard to keep up with ongoing situations in the film. Our characters boring story goes nowhere fast, so they have to shoehorn some suspense in the final twenty minutes of the film by introducing us to characters we haven’t seen, but are now showing up on Amber and Clay’s doorsteps to try to seduce them into cheating on the other one. Where did this come from? It doesn’t matter because it’s soon dismissed in favor of an ending that doesn’t make us or the characters feel any closer to the reality of what is going on. Old Fashioned is a film that many of my readers have waited months for me to review, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s bad from it’s slow narrative start, to the conclusion that gives us no satisfaction for where these two are heading. This is a relationship doomed to fail, and i for one wish i got that movie instead. Old Fashioned is an insult to romance both past and present. Many of the older crowds who see this film will be humiliated into admitting that they have more in common with today’s youth in terms of romantic offerings than they do this film and it’s slap in the face title. Too tone deaf to ever be taken seriously, but not entertaining enough to ever include in a bad movie night marathon.

Aloha

Aloha

4/10

“Aloha” is a collection of scenes that are acceptable out of context, but together they sprout an uneven direction that boosts Director Cameron Crowe’s most disappointing film to date. That’s not to say that i was angry coming out of this film. Readers of mine know when i am angry just from reading my words. I would say my emotion is that of disappointment for a film i have been looking forward to for the better part of eight months. Bradley Cooper stars as a legal defense worker who teams up with a pilot (Emma Stone) to convince the natives of Hawaii to sign off on a satellite launch that will enhance our technological advancements over our competitors. Over time, the two find that they have a lot in common spiritually, and learn some terrifying truths about the people they work for. In the middle of all of this is Cooper’s ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) who is now married with two children and searching for clarity with the man who left her behind. After watching the trailer for this film, a lot of people are going to be fooled into thinking that this is a cute and quirky Romantic Comedy that is the perfect compliment to a nice night out with a significant other. The romance is there even if it is shuffled under a relationship that just doesn’t work in age (13 year age difference), or in their on screen chemistry. The couple’s comedic banter serves them well as friendly acquaintences, but the second it turns romantic is when things feel awkward for the audience. To add to this fault, Crowe throws a 360 turn to his audience and turns his film into a sci-fi feature among the likes of a Marvel superhero movie. One of the film’s biggest characters makes a villainous turn out of nowhere that feels cartonnish and out of sorts with the tempo created in the film’s first two acts. By the end of the movie, i was almost laughing at how bizarre this film was. It’s like Crowe made a social commentary film on the power and consequences of the world’s leaders and then decided to force two people in love in the middle of it. The film would’ve been much better with sticking to the triangle tug of war that the trailer promised us. It all feels like Crowe pitched two films to the studios and they didn’t like either film by themselves, but approved a science experiment gone wrong creating two different tones in genre that are sloppily mixed. The movie is shot well at least, and there are some funny scenes that left me with a smile on my face. I guess the biggest tragedy for this film is going to be in it’s lack of rememberance. For a director who crafted Hollywood top shelf like “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous”, it feels like he has lost focus with his audience here. The great main cast, as well as honorable supporting cast like Alec Baldwin, Danny Mcbride, Bill Murray, and John Krasinski really deserved more. Krasinski especially is reduced to an adult who barely talks throughout the film. I’m not doubting that there are adults who act like this, but not to their children while also showing off his love for them. Aloha is an appropriate word for a film as uneven as this. It’s a word that means hello and goodbye. You the audience should trust my insights and journey to the latter.