Category Archives: Reviews

The Interview Review, A Controversial Comedy of Mediocre Preportions

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The Interview

Directed by: Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg

Starring: Seth Rogan, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, and Randall Park

I don’t know if there has been a movie that has received this much attention by the media in a long time. It is well-known that Sony recently got hacked and threatened by a terrorist organization to remove this movie from theater or else there will be grave consequences. Not long after theaters began refusing to show the film. Sony eventually pulled it from release all together, which lead to a public outcry. The United States didn’t appreciate Sony giving into the demands of a terrorist, so Sony decided to release the movie on VOD and select theaters. Usually movies that cause this kind of controversy are movies like Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom or In The Realm of the Senses, not some comedy starring Seth Rogan. In short was all the controversy necessary; absolutely not. But does that mean it is a bad movie? Short answer, No.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is a popular televsion personality who runs a show called Skylark Tonight. It is a show where he interviews celebrities and reveal personal things about them. Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogan) is his producer and his best friend. One day the two learn that North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un (Randall Park) is a big fan of his show. They end up scoring a personal interview with him. Not long after they receive this news the CIA come to them to go on a mission to assassinate him. Once they get to North Korea things go differently than they or the CIA expected.

To me, these are two separate movies, the first being a standard Seth Rogan comedy involving two buddies and their closer than normal relationship and the second is a movie about the assassination of Kim Jung-Un. Some choices made in the first half the movie don’t work as well as they should but once the movie gets going it feels fresh and interesting. There are many ways that the movie could have handled the “assassination” portion. I know if they created a fake dictator ruling a fake country, instead of North Korea, would have created the same effect. The fact they are making a statement about the hell that goes on there is pretty ballsy of them and I respect the movie for doing that.

Once the main characters reach North Korea the movie becomes exactly what you would have expected from it. During this part of the movie we really get a sympathetic look at Kim Jung-Un, who is played with great sincerity by Randall Park. They humanize a man that we all perceived to be a monster. Sure, in the end, he is still an evil dictator but the movie shows a much deeper and tortured side to him. The movie doesn’t just make a commentary on North Korea, it also says something about America today and the interest we have in celebrity life rather than actual “news”. It’s a satire to its core but it combines what Seth Rogan does well with its harsh political commentary.

I have a lot of problems with James Franco’s performance as Dave Skylark. For a man with an Oscar nomination under his belt, he isn’t able to bring life to his character. Lately his movie choices have been a little odd, focusing in directing and acting in multiple movies in a single year. After a while you can see the fatigue with his performances. He does have a lot of good interactions with Seth Rogan and Randall Park but nothing to make him interesting.

The beginning of the movie I have the most trouble with. Early on I believed that the movie will be a complete mess. Seth Rogan has developed this sense of humor that has branched out for many years and has become mainstream now. If there isn’t a drugs, gross out scenes, or male friends that appear to be way to “close” to each other. This is all that the first part of the story is. Like 22 Jump Street and Neighbors, this kind of comedy doesn’t appeal to me.  They abandon this template and go for something a little different. I like that transition and wish that would have done that throughout the entire movie.

The Interview is rather dumb comedy that manages to go for something new. It achieves a lot with their insane premise but doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

Grade: C+

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Inherent Vice Review, A Pretentious Bore of a Comedy

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Inherent Vice

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, and Eric Roberts

There was a time that I thought some directors could do no wrong. I’ve held directors up a pedestal, praising the genius of their work but they gotta fail at some point. Right? When walking into Inherent Vice I was slightly optimistic, I love Paul Thomas Anderson but didn’t like the book at all. It is sad to say that the book didn’t translate well to screen. Anderson returns to a time that he captured so well in Boogie Nights and to a genre that he loved with Punch-Drunk-Love. In a way he combines both of those movies, the strange comedy mixed with a period piece, and tried to adapt a book that was never meant to be adapted. I question the love for this movie, to me it is more a love for Anderson combined with the stubbornness to admit that he isn’t the perfect director everyone thinks he is.

The movie begins with Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) receiving some troubling news from his ex-flame Shasta (Katherine Waterston) about a conspiracy to send billionaire Micky Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) to an insane asylum. Not long after receiving the news both Micky and Shasta disappear without a trace. Doc is the prime suspect but he takes it upon himself to find out what has happened to his ex and her new boyfriend.

After I finished watching this movie, it immediately reminded me of The Counselor and that is in no way a good thing. The Counselor was a movie that used nonsensical dialogue to further the plot, only leading to a convoluted and disappointing ending. Inherent Vice is exactly the same way to me. The dialogue is overwritten to the plot that you completely forget what that began talking about. It is all about these interactions.

Labelled as a “comedy” is a bold statement. I found very little to laugh about. There were certainly funny and entertaining scenes scattered throughout the film but when you add in all the extended scenes of talking about nothing it’s really not effective. Josh Brolin’s character Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen provided most of the laughs. At one point he barges through Doc’s door and smashes it completely as he walks in. I found that amusing. I give a lot of credit to both Brolin and Phoenix for excelling in their roles and their presences elevate the movie slightly.

The supporting cast was mostly wasted. Outside of Josh Brolin and Martin Short, no one was utilized to their fullest potential. The 5 minutes that Short was in was exciting and fun and I credit to his zany performance. The female characters are worthless as well. The film is narrated by an unknown female character that isn’t even explained. She pops in and out of the movie as if she had an important role. For the longest time I believed she was just a voice in Doc’s headed. Shasta was an interesting character who is given two big scenes to shine. She mostly opened the story and closed the movie. The longest she was in the movies was an extended nude scene that leads to her telling the audience about the horrible nature behind her recent relationship. It makes sense in the grand scheme of things but fells a little exploitative.

There are certain things that I could praise about this movie. Paul Thomas Anderson is a director who understands the process of filmmaking. He takes on new and daring things and Inherent Vice still falls into the category. He knows what he wants and he gets it. The camerawork is absolutely great. He is always moving his camera in interesting ways and makes for a visual experience. The first scene where Doc talks to Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson) is the essential visual of a noir film. The score is also effective but slightly too much in certain scenes.

I keep going back to this but everything in this movie felt pointless to me. The interactions between characters and the story itself. What could have been a good movie turned out to be a very disappointing entry into Paul Thomas Anderson’s career.

Grade: D+

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Review, An Emotionally Intense Love Story

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The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Directed by: Ned Benson

Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, William Hurt, Viola Davis, and Bill Hader

Claimed to be the “One of the Most Romantic Love Story Ever”, based on the quote from the poster. The movie is the farthest thing from romantic, that’s like saying Blue Valentine is “romantic”. What makes it so good is that it skips the idea of romantic movie, the two characters meet and develop a relationship only to be tested down the road and eventually resolving their conflict, and goest straight to the destruction of their relationship and the ramification of their marriage. The marketing for this movie was terrible, showing us a movie that was completely different from the product but it  subverts your expectations and delivers one of the most compelling character study of two damaged souls trying to rekindle a dead relationship.

Beginning at one of the only happy point in their relationship, as shown in the movies timeline. We open up on Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) and Connor Ludlow (James McAvoy) enjoying their meal at a local restaurant. Connor asks Eleanor what she would do if he didn’t have the money to pay for the bill. The two decide to dine and dash. After being chased out of the restaurant, Eleanor and Connor run towards Central Park and enjoy the rest of the night in the park.

 We cut to Eleanor riding her bike to the Brooklyn Bridge where she attempts to take her life. We learn that their marriage has fallen apart due to the death of their child which has hurt Eleanor and Connor in different ways. Eleanor believes that her life is no long worth living and Connor has resorted to withdrawing himself from their relationship. After the attempt on her life, Eleanor moves back in with her family and then goes back to finish school. Connor on the other hand has let his bar go into shambles and is on the brick of closing. Both of their lives have taken a turn for the worse and they are lost without each other.

Originally conceived as two separate movies focusing on each others experience. After the premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival the movie was eventually edited into one version called Them. Watching the movie you can tell that each other had a completely different style for their stories. Eleanor’s story was a bit more vibrant with brighter colors and Connor’s story was a little more muted and featured a more grey color scheme. I like this because it shows a lot about their emotions. Eleanor was learning to move on from her wrecked marriage and the cinematography represented her changing view of life. The muted style of Connor’s story showed his emotions towards their situation and how he can’t move on from the turmoil that has befallen them.

In the end each other are still drawn to one another and still feel that the can rekindle their relationship but eventually the move even farther apart. The story telling of this movie is simply amazing. It takes the time to view each others emotion and how they both decide to handle everything. We switch between their perspective and shows what they are going through. Throughout the movie you can tell that it was originally two movie but as one it succeeds at showing pure emotion.

Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy both create characters that are fully realized and are able to make you care for these characters and their struggles. Jessica Chastain shows her range as an actress and proves that she is a powerhouse performer and deserves the recognition from her peers. James McAvoy also shows that he has the capability to be an amazing actor. This is by far his best performance of his career. He brings you in and lets you live the character that he has brought to screen. This movie is much more an actors film that a story driven film but with these two performances it completely works.

 I loved the way that this movie was done and I am complete invested in the characters as well as the story. I highly recommend everyone seeing this movie but beware it is a hard experience.

Grade: A

Eraserhead: The Disillusionment of Fatherhood

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Eraserhead

Directed by: David Lynch

Starring: Jack NanceCharlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, and Jeanne Bates

Eraserhead (1977) directed by David Lynch, is a tricky film, it is essential an experimental horror film yet it is much more than that. From the start it feels so close to a dream that you forget that it tells the story of Henry Spencer and his journey through fatherhood. It’s been stated that Lynch’s films focus on the human experience and he himself stated that it is about “dark and troubling things” and if you look deep enough you can see that this movie portrays fatherhood as one of those dark and troubling things. He presents fatherhood as if it is this evil thing that will take over your life and not let you have any freedoms. It takes a subject that films usually don’t present in true form. Parenthood is a tricky thing that causes people stress and angst. It is a hard thing to do in life and most movie don’t present it that way. I feel Eraserhead shows it in a more true and somewhat surreal manner. When you look past that part about fatherhood you are still left to wonder about the beginning and much other things involved with the narrative; the woman in the radiator, the man in the planet, and the weird creatures that pop up here and there. These all are key factors to the story even if it is hard to pinpoint their purposes.

Henry Spencer’s (Jack Nance) life is changed when he gets unsettling news about his girlfriend and her premature birth. He is thrust into the role of being a father without a say in the matter. After a few days Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) leaves because she can no longer take the pressure of being a mother to a baby that shouldn’t be alive. This leaves Henry in the role of the lone parent at which point he escapes into his mind so that he can have his moments of peace. This is when Eraserhead turns into a surreal journey through Henry’s mind and his role of being a father. This when the woman in the radiator becomes important. She is clearly a figment of Henry’s imagination and provides him with an outlet of escaping his reality. They are never really seen together until the end when he kills his child but she is a big part of Henry’s escapism. One scene in particular is when the sperm like creatures, which look strangely like his son, come flying out at her and she keeps killing them all. This makes me think that it is Henry dreaming of a way to end the life of the creature that is his son. It is a heavy scene that gained a few laughs but shows just how much Henry hates being a father. That also brings it back to the beginning when the shot of Henry is superimposed to have the sperm like creature come out of his mouth. It once again shows just how much his son looks like said creature and his disposition with the creature and his son.

Most of the imagery of Eraserhead represents the mind of Henry and what he wants in life, it’s why he has weird sex with his next door neighbor. It is all him trying to escape the life that he is presently living, which it’s an unhappy one. He wants a life worth living and he is stuck raising the son of woman no longer present in the movie. Now some of the images don’t necessarily represent his terrible life or the sounds but the underlying them, in my opinion, is fatherhood and how it isn’t what people expect of it. Lynch himself said the movie was about dark and troubling thing, I think it refers to the fear of fatherhood and how it affects one’s mentality. Eraserhead is more than just a horror movie with a shocking finale but also a good analogy for fatherhood, industrialism, and dreams and there is still alot about this movie that no one will ever know. It is a movie that every time you watch it you find something  new and more interesting than the last viewing and is also why the movie will be able to stand the test of time and affect people now as it did in 1977.

Eraserhead is a true life passion project. David Lynch spent nearly four years making this movie and you can see the love that David Lynch had for the subject. The direction is superb and is something that is replicated in any of David Lynch’s other films.

The story is compelling and really is masterfully told. It requires the viewer to think and observe what really is going on. The mysterious beginning doesn’t provide a single explanation for what is going on and only makes the movie more interesting. The man in the planet can be interpreted as a god like creature controlling the fate of Henry and the rest of the characters within the movie. The sound design of the movie is really interesting. It makes for an interesting experience and makes it seem that there is something much more sinister going on on the outside of Henry’s world. These things are what make this movie even more mysterious. There is always something else going on in this world that isn’t even explored. Lynch is able to hide his true intentions and makes for an incredibly surreal experience. Nothing is as it seems and that is the movies true power.

Criterion’s release is breathtaking and their most anticipated this year. The packaging alone is simply beautiful and the picture is the best that Eraserhead has looked. The features are plenty and give you a thorough look at the making of this movie. I could recommend this movie more and is worth the price of a Criterion blu ray.

Frank Review An Interesting Yet Unengaging Comedy

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Frank

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy

As soon as I saw the trailer for this movie I was completely sold. It looked like a weird yet quirky comedy that had a quite unique premise. The inclusion of Michael Fassbender as the paper mache head wearing Frank was a stellar casting choice and does an amazing job of making an emotionally fragile musical genius. Sadly once I saw the movie I was slightly disappointed by the outcome. Some comedy films are able to strike a chord with me but the comedy here isn’t entirely for me.

Inspired by the comedian Chris Sievey and his persona Frank Sidebottom, Frank begins with Jon (Domhnall Glesson) staring off into the horizon. He is singing songs to himself in his head trying to come up with the next music idea for him. He runs home, still coming up with other song ideas, and when he gets there he finally hits the mark. Once he begins to write the song he realize just how bad it actually is. Yet again he fails with ideas for his dreams. One day he runs in to the band Soronprfbs lead by Frank (Michael Fassbender) who invites him to join the band after the attempted suicide of their keyboardist.

Jon travels with Frank and his band to the hillsides of Ireland. There they begin recording their new album but due to Frank’s perfectionism they spend much more time in the cabin in the woods than anyone would have expected. At the cabin we begin to learn more about Jon, Frank, and the rest of the band.

The strange thing about Frank is that it feels like two completely separate movies. One is a character study taking place in a cabin and the other is the road movie that leads them to the South by Southwest festival in Texas and the eventually destruction of the band. I was fascinated by the first and second acts and how the characters interacted. It was a deeper look into what went into the process of making an album and the people behind it. It was sad the way that the movie ended up going. Slowly as the movie progressed after this point made me like the movie less and less as it went on. What was an enjoyable hour turned it to a complete downer of an ending that really felt different than the premise and first hour promised.

Other than those problems I had big problems with the tweeting and voice over that is in the movie. It became very annoying every time Jon tweets about the events that take place in the movie. I understand the reasoning of it but I felt that the movie would have been fine without it.

Even though it is labeled as a comedy I don’t know if it was truly that funny. It had it’s humorous moments but it felt more like a quirky drama. I am sure that the audience that this movie is meant for will eat this movie up and laugh their asses off but I am not part of the group of people. I was attracted by the sheer strangeness of the movie and not so much for the comedy elements.

Outside of the flaws of the story I really enjoyed the movie. The first hour is fun and exciting. It showed certain things that we don’t really see about the creative side of art. You get the overall sense that these characters care about what they are doing. During the movie Frank may have wanted to be love by people but in the end he gives up on that venture and goes back to the way things were. He grows as a character and the mask only held him back from his true potential. That side of the story is endlessly fascinating and shows the true power of this movie and that is to make you care about a character that never really shows the audiences his true face. The biggest question that it asks is “can you compromise your life and art for popularity and fame” and I feel that the movie answers it completely.

I can’t entirely dismiss this movies problems that are prevalent in it’s final act but I did really enjoy the movie and found a lot of value in what I was watching.

Grade: B-

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Check out Ryan Gajda’s, who created this poster that I used, blog Sunday Dog Parade. He is quite the artist and provides great artwork of great movies as well.