Friday, October 24, 2014
If you say Edgar Allan Poe, I am generally all over it. Prolific tales of mystery and imagination describes the literary output of the author who wrote the short story that Stonehearst Asylum is based upon. At nearly two hours, large portions of this movie feel just like awkward filler in this adaptation. The cast all have stellar reputations and include Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess and Sir Michael Caine. Sturgess plays a newly minted Oxford Dr., Edward, who arrives at the estate late one night, to the surprise of the groundskeeper, to observe and study the methods of the staff in working with the institutionally insane upper crust residents there. The story takes place at the turn of the century in Victorian England and general moodiness is the order of the day in setting and feel. . Kingsley portrays the head Dr. or so we are led to believe initially, as he channels his character from House of Sand and Fog in a cartoonish kind of way, to portray the superintendent. The Dr. is given the tour of the ginormous place and meets many of the eccentric residents who are full of demons, quirks and alternate identities. It is pretty easy to figure out that things are not really what they seem in this lively place. Beckinsale plays the beautiful Eliza,, who really seems to be quite sane whenever she appears despite a diagnosis of hysteria. Edward quickly falls for her quiet charms as the situation at the Asylum begins to unravel. The Dr. discovers that the methods employed at the asylum are quite innovative, kind and unusually humane as the residents are integrated into normal situations, such a formal dinners and parties, and seem to have the general run of the facility. The beautiful young nurse is one of the first clues that the asylum has had a change in original management. As the good Dr. explores the sights and sounds that go bump in the night, he falls deeper in love with Eliza and discovers the big secret in the basement. Michael Caine appears about halfway occupying a one dimensional role in which he is generally wasted. David Thewlis appears as the aptly named Mickey Finn, who is groundskeeper and gopher/lackey for Kingsley. He moves about the the eyes and ears of the super, always the threat in the background.
It is hard to figure out, sometimes, if the director and writer are going for a comedy/drama or a period piece. The chuckles appear in the most unusual places and feel a bit odd. There are a couple of twists that make the film interesting but it really just isn't enough with the script and limited characterizations. that were given to the talented actors to develop. There just isn't that much in the bones of the film to completely redeem it. Director Brad Anderson, who brought us the masterpiece known as "The Machinist" really missed the mark in this one, based on his reputation. The film feels empty in parts, like it is killing some time. The viewers are exposed to the inhumane methods that were utilized in real life asylums, as through flashback we see the events that preceded Edward's arrival. There will be one generally question that the movie goer will be asking themselves over and over once the big secret is revealed. Why doesn't the Dr just............... well you will figure that one out. Poe fans will probably be disappointed and if this were not being released in October, the "have to see a scary movie" crowd would probably not be checking it out. But if you want to see what it is like when the insane are running the asylum, feel free to check this one out. There are more twists and turns in this Asylum than originally meets the eye. Our audience was quite gracious and many applauded at the end, but it was more in response to the conclusion itself, as opposed to the entire movie watching experience.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Do you want to see Keanu Reeves kick ass? Then you will be extremely satisfied with this movie. This is adrenaline at its finest and it’s refreshing to see an actor, besides Tom Cruise, do their own stunts. It’s directed with a certain style and with beautiful choreography. The directors are stuntman so I would be shocked if the action wasn't handled well in this. You don’t come here for the story and the acting, you come here for the action and it delivers. The actors in this are fine but you come for Mr. Reeves and, I believe, this is best role yet. Yes, I said that correctly. Keanu is one of those actors to where, if you make the right vehicle for him, he can succeed and it compliments his acting. Action movies like this allow him to be better than what the script is, and that’s exactly what he does. He just makes the movie more enjoyable and brings a sense of humanity to his character. The cinematography is very good and heightens the fight scenes to a whole new level. If you have a good looking shot but bad choreography, then your scene is terrible. If you have both it makes the scene more intense. There is a nightclub scene, in particular, that is lit well, shot well with beautiful wide shots and the choreography is spot-on. That is how you make an action scene great and the whole movie is like this. The movie never drags, as I was entertained all throughout waiting for Keanu to fight the next person. The film is an hour and forty minutes and that is a perfect length for a film like this. Overall this is a solid action film and I enjoyed myself watching Keanu back in a good action role. 7/10
(Review by Chase Lee)
It amazes me that racial issues are still a problem in 2014. This film pokes fun at racial stereotypes, while at the same time being relevant to race and the problems of it today. The direction of this film is outstanding. Director, Justin Simien, creates a good blend of satire and real human drama and how we see people just because of the color of their skin. I won’t get into the whole race thing, but what I can tell you is that I have no problem with people and the color of their skin. This film is a great example of bringing relevant issues to the forefront in a humorous way to get people’s attention. The acting is ok as no one stood out to me. They weren't bad, but not really memorable either. The cinematography was actually really well done. Every scene was shot differently than the previous spicing up the story as it progressed to give you some good eye-candy. Some films can shoot the same over the shoulder shot in a conversation for a scene, but this film changes it up every time when someone talks. This can make the cinematography, to where it changes throughout; add another layer to the unique storytelling. The pace of the film is terrible. As much as I really loved the film overall, it seemed like it was five hours and just dragged. For an hour and half film, it shouldn't have felt like half a day. The message that this director brings is a clever, sometimes funny, important way that everyone who thinks race isn't a problem should watch. 6/10
(Review by Chase Lee)
“The Blue Room” felt like we were seeing the second and third act of a film and not seeing the whole thing. I have to admit that, at first, I didn't like it because of it feeling like it was missing some of the story, but I ended up liking it and not loving it. The runtime doesn't help either as it’s only an hour and fifteen minutes (minus five minutes for credits). Feeling like there was a missing piece of it was a major fault for me as well the third act. The whole third act revolves around a court case; and you figure that would be a big key part, right? It’s the last twenty minutes and it just wraps up and puts a bow on it as quickly as possible. I was disappointed by that and wished they could have really focused on the case and made it more gripping and intense. The acting is well done and the lead, Mathieu Amalric, who also wrote and directed it, was really good and everyone gave believable, sometimes heartbreaking performances. The cinematography was actually lit well and framed up beautifully. It’s one of better shot films this year and it’s not even made here in America. French films are among my favorite types of foreign films and all have fantastic cinematography and this is no exception. The pace of it has a nice rhythm, but as I stated it felt like it was too short and missing the first act. The subtitles have a nice font to where you can read it quickly and then gaze at the wonderful cinematography. You might laugh that the subtitles get some criticism, but it’s important for foreign films. Do you want to read a foreign film with a bad font? The cinematography, acting, music were great, but the court room scene and the fact it felt like someone cut the first act completely out made me dock points for it. 6/10
(Review by Chase Lee)
It maybe too early to declare Birdman as the best movie of the year. Or even suggest Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, and Edward Norton for acting awards. It's hard not to watch this film and be wowed by the stedi-cam work that never ends while the story moves with it. Or be at the edge of your seat by the percussive soundtrack that emphasizes the New York machine gun dialogue. Co-written, produced, and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Blutiful) and written with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo. The story walks the edge of truth and fantasy.
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed up movie actor whose claim to fame is playing a super hero, Birdman. Much like Michael Keaton's own movie history playing Batman. Thomson has thrown all his eggs in the basket hoping for an artistic comeback by adapting Raymond Carver's short story We Talk About When We Talk About Love for Broadway. The action centers in the dressing rooms, the hallways, the backstages and the main stage of the theater while the characters weave in and out of moments. The day before the preview performances, Ralph (Jeremy Shamos) gets knocked on the head by some stage equipment, which secretly pleases everyone because he's a horrible actor. Lesley (Naomi Watts) suggests her boyfriend Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) for the part. His name is not only a draw, but he impresses Riggan with his talent. What he doesn't know is that he's a lose cannon. It's a glitch they will have to endure because Jake (Zach Galifianakis), Riggan's best friend and lawyer, says ticket sales are up due to his casting. On top of this Riggan's girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) thinks she is pregnant. Sylvia (Amy Ryan), Riggan's ex wife shows up to take their daughter Sam (Emma Stone) to lunch. Sam is working as her dad's personal assistant having just come out of rehab. She's got an attitude against her father who she felt was never around. On top of it all, Riggan is hearing the voice of his Birdman persona that berating and advising him.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won an Oscar for Gravity and this should also be another winner for the year. The roving camera makes it feel like we are following characters in real time, then walking down the hall entering the stage where they are rehearsing, then a change of angle shows the audience of the live performance. The camera moves constantly like one continuous shot. It's a conceit but brilliantly realized.
The story within a story within another story is held together by the concept of understanding love. Everyone trying to find their place in life, acceptance and accomplishment. Everyone is battling something or someone. All exacerbated by the flaming ego of actors. Even Mike says that he's only real on stage. This tightrope of success can be tipped either way by the word of a critic, Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) who swears she will close his show without even seeing the play because she doesn't like celebrities tainting the holy ground of Broadway.
There are some uneven moments of the film, but it's definitely up there with the must see of the year.
(Review by reesa)
Posted by Dallas Movie Screenings at 11:31 PM Labels: Birdman or or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) review
Keanu Reeves has that stoic tough guy role down to a science. He's even more affective now that he's older and more substantial in form. Directed by stunt men David Leitch and Chat Stahelski (who has been Keanu's stunt double for years) with a script by Derek Kolstad offer non stop action in a surprisingly satisfying action movie that is worth seeing again. What is nice is there are no shaking camera shots. You get to see every kick and punch and bullets blazing.
Reeves plays the title role of John Wick who lives in a beautiful home mourning the passing of his beloved wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan). He receives a package from her that she had arranged to be delivered after her passing. A cute little beagle puppy that would help soothe his heartache. The puppy becomes his constant companion. While out doing his daily chores, a few Russian speaking thugs expressed interest in his car and try to buy it from him. When he declines, the thugs later attack his house, beat him up and kill his dog. The thugs take the car to a chop shop run by Aurelio (John Leguizamo) who recognized the vehicle's owner and tells them to take it back. Apparently the name John Wick makes even the most tough and meanest villain's blood run cold. He is known as the Boogey Man.
The movie is a series of amped up revenge sequences as Wick pursues the bad guys one of whom is the son of his former boss. Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) plays the spoiled rich son Iosef who doesn't seem to quite understand the dangerous can of worms that he's opened. After all it's just a dog. Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) knows more than anything what Wick is capable of, so to save his son he decides to try and take out Wick first. He even puts out a open contract on Wick offering a huge award. Personally asking Marcus (Willem Dafoe) to do the job since he know Wick better than anyone. Wick checks into the Continental Hotel that is a safe place for hitmen and women run by Winston (Ian McShane) and the hotel manager Charon (Lance Reddick). No one is allowed to murder on the premises or there will be penalties. They also offer cleaner services. Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) decides to take up Viggo's offer to pay those penalties off.
Yes, there's lots of killings, and inventive demises. John Wick seems like a one man army. The theme is similar to Denzil in Equalizer being a retired operative, where Wick was a hitman but managed to escape the life. Plus they are both fighting Russians, which must be the new bad guys. Maybe we can get Liam, Denzil and Keanu together for the next action movie.
(Review by reesa)
The faith based genre of films have become more popular lately preaching to their choir. The films are generally centered around a crisis that is over come by their religious beliefs which is all fine and good, but sometimes the message is like a 2x4 across the head. In this new feature based on a true story about a blind high school football player is directed by character actor Dylan Baker working from a script by Bram Hoover (who also stars in the film) and Toni Hoover. The result a little like the average Lifetime movie of the week, with an low budget quality, awkward acting and stilted dialogue. But the film still won the 2013 Heartland Flim Festival's Audience Choice Award for Narrative Feature, so the feel good element works despite it's weaknesses.
Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka) and his best buddy Jerry Baker (Bram Hoover) grew up together playing football in Corbin, KY. In high school they are a winning combination with Travis winning more accolades for his sportsmanship. The small town community is obsessed with it's Friday Night Lights and winning the championships which is under the direction of Coach Farris (Stephen Lang). Life is good and picture perfect until Travis loses his sight to bacterial meningitis. As a teen, this is like a major setback from being top rock star to being pathetic. Even his cheerleader girlfriend drops him like a hot rock. Travis sulks in his room until his rehabilitation coach Patty Wheatley (Becky Ann Baker) starts giving him some tough love while training him to maneuver around the school and the streets. His best friends Jerry and Ashley (Alexa PenaVega) also try to not judge and keep things upbeat for him like Jerry letting him drive his truck.
Meanwhile the team is faltering without their star player so Coach Farris suggest to Travis that he should come back on the team playing center. Of course everyone thinks this is a disastrous idea especially the school's recreation director and vice principal Duncan (Timothy Bushfield) who wants to end Coach Farris anyway he can. The rest of the movie is the rise and fall of Travis and his attempts to play football culminating in the final big game.
There must be some small towns that scream Americana like Corbin, KY. Just a touch diverse, middle class, and everyone knows your name. Kim Zimmer (Guiding Light) and Dylan Baker play Travis' parents who are understanding and protective. Jerry is battling with confidence of always coming in 2nd to Travis so he self sabotages at crucial moments in the game. Max Adler (Glee) playing a footballer player again doesn't believe Travis will help the team being blind and all. Look for the real Travis Freeman showing up as a church preacher (which he is today) giving a message that speaks to fictional Travis that helps him over come his demons. Inspirational probably. TV movie definitely.
(Review by reesa)