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Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Movie Review - Ender's Game

Ender's Game (2013)
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis
Directed by Gavin Hood

Fifty years prior to the events that start unfolding in Ender's Game (which, in turn, takes place many years in the future), an alien race of bug-like creatures known as the Formics attacked Earth, killing millions.  During that attack, the mysterious and elusive fighter pilot Mazer Rackham seemingly sacrificed himself by ramming into one of the alien spacecrafts which caused the attack to stop and the Formics to retreat for some unknown reason.

For the subsequent fifty years, the Formics have remained quiet on their home planet, but they appear to be building their army for another attack.  The US military has started a program recruiting intelligent young folks to become commanders of their aviation fleet.  In the program, the young recruits study the work of Mazer Rackham as well as taking part in virtual reality simulations that prepare them to work as a team as well as become cognizant of the mind of the enemy.  One of these recruits is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) and director/screenwriter Gavin Hood's film tells his tale.

Although Ender's Game does a decent job placing us into the mindset of a young teen being forced to deal with the heaviness of "saving his home planet," there's surprisingly very little tension created.  The biggest reason for this is because we really aren't witness to any battles between the Formics and humans.  Everything is set up as a virtual "game" of sorts and after seeing the umpteenth practice by Ender and his fellow recruits, you find yourself getting antsy from boredom.  While the special effects are okay, they aren't enough to keep your mind off the fact that we're just watching kids train and not seeing anything that really holds any significant merit.

In addition, I'm not quite sure Asa Butterfield was properly cast as the title character -- one who needs  to convey strength and hutzpah in order succeed in the way his character does.  I liked Butterfield very much in Hugo where his wide-eyed wonderment perfectly fit in that film's aesthetic.  Here, he's just a bit too timid-looking to convince me that he could rally the troops (so to speak).  Admittedly, that's kind of the point -- here's a non-muscular, kinda brainy kid who takes these more fit and stereotypically more appropriate recruits and molds them into spectacular soldiers -- but something just never quite clicked for me with Butterfield's performance and character.

Ender's Game probably has quite a bit it wants to convey in terms of promoting peace instead of war -- Ender finds himself emotionally conflicted with this notion throughout the entire film -- but it doesn't succeed all that well on that front.  Instead, any grand intentions of created something deep and meaningful fall flat.  That isn't to say that Ender's Game lands with a thud, but I can't say that I'd look forward to seeing any sequels made.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Movie Review - Labor Day

Labor Day (2013)
Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, and Tobey Maguire
Directed by Jason Reitman

To the credit of writer-director Jason Reitman, his Labor Day feels very much like a film that could've been made in 1950s Hollywood.  Rightly so or not, had it been made all those decades ago, the film would've at least carried with it a tone of nostalgia for a bygone era and its somewhat ludicrous premise could've at least been glossed over a tiny bit by chalking it up to being from "the good ole days."  Instead, Labor Day was made in 2013 and despite taking place in the mid-1980s, the film feels incredibly dated (quite honestly, were it not for certain conveniences, one could easily have been fooled into thinking the timestamp of the film's plot was 1955).  Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for sentimentality and I don't necessarily look harshly upon movies that try to tug at your heart.  Unfortunately, Labor Day labors a bit too much to pull the heartstrings and proves to be Mr. Reitman's most disappointing film to date.

Kate Winslet is Adele, a depressed single mom trying to raise her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) in a small rural town.  Recently divorced, Adele has grown more and more sheltered as years have passed, relying on her son to perform errands seeing as how she nearly panics stepping foot into something as mundane as a convenience store.  While braving the real world with Henry at a grocery store one afternoon, Henry is confronted by a mysterious man named Frank (Josh Brolin) who is bleeding from a wound in his side.  He asks Henry and Adele to take him home with them and when they initially resist, Frank gently forces them by proposing the notion that he could hurt them if they don't.  Upon arrival at their house, Frank tells them he is an escaped convict and that he only wants to hide out in their house for a night after which he'll leave.

A decent enough premise, for sure.  However, Adele hasn't had a man around the house for some time and, thanks to some laughable foreshadowing via a golden-hued flashback, she's longing for a man's touch.  Following a pie-making session -- complete with slow motion edits of hands criss-crossing each other and that ever-reliable golden hue -- we know where this story is headed.

Ultimately, I could almost have bought into this immediate connection between Adele and Frank.  However, Reitman hits us over the head so many times with how good a man Frank is -- he teaches Henry how to throw a baseball, he's kind to kids with cerebral palsy (yep...don't ask how that factors in), he fixes things around the house, he cooks -- that it all just becomes eye-roll-inducing after a while.  We are treated to flashbacks of Frank's former life, too, that prove maybe he isn't as bad a guy as he was made out to be.  The whole thing just becomes too treacly and heavy-handed for its own good.

Josh Brolin gives a nice performance here bringing a gentleness that you don't often see from him and young Gattlin Griffith is also quite good.  Kate Winslet's Adele, however, feels a bit too overwrought.  I couldn't help but think I was watching her act rather than seeing her fully embody her character.

Jason Reitman has proven himself worthy in the past.  Unfortunately, Labor Day is a disappointment.  You're better off watching his last flick Young Adult -- criminally under-seen and under-appreciated.  It's streamed on Netlfix in the past, so it may very well pop up there again.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Movie Review - The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer (2013)
Starring Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

I had high hopes for this coming of age story after I'd heard promising things following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last year, but despite the majority of critics' positive comments, this reviewer found The Kings of Summer to be one of the worst movies he saw from 2013.  Something about this film rang very false for me with not a single character, situation, or a majority of the dialogue based in any sort of reality or truth.  There's an irreverence here that I never enjoyed.  Perhaps this is one of those indie comedies that you "have to be in the mood to enjoy" (I've talked about this concept before), but both the screenplay by Chris Galletta and direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts were too eccentric to ever be anything other than obnoxious.

Similar in plot to Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom -- a director/screenwriter whom first-timers Galletta and Vogt-Roberts cull a great deal from in both story and tone -- The Kings of Summer tells a tale of two best friends who run away from home following the completion of their freshman year of high school.  Joe (Nick Robinson) can't stand his father (Nick Offerman) and his insistence on butting into all aspects of his life.  Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also has some obnoxiously overbearing parents (with the mother played by Megan Mullally) who have him rolling his eyes at every single thing they say to him.  Fed up with their respective folks, Joe and Patrick decide to build a house in the woods where they will live forever, away from the rules of society (and the rules of their parents).  This strive for independence shifts into one of those typical coming-of-age stories where all parties learn something that helps them become better people.

The problem with that notion is that none of the characters in this movie ever seem "real" enough to make the audience feel any sympathy towards them or have any rooting interest in seeing them succeed.  The parents of both teens, as an example, are so utterly unrealistic that I think I was literally gritting my teeth in frustration any time they spoke.  Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson (who play Patrick's parents) are embodying dumb, completely irrational characters, and Offerman's part is so mind-numbingly dull while also managing to be irritatingly sarcastic.  While the younger actors fare better even they can't overcome the overly simplistic trials and tribulations that are thrown their way in order to produce tension.  I won't even begin to discuss the third teenage member of the clan -- Biaggio (played by Moises Arias) -- who serves no real purpose in the film other than to act weird at every possible moment.

Ultimately, the comedy in The Kings of Summer is never derived from any basis in reality (despite the fact that there is supposed to be a basis in reality) and that makes all of the purported humorous situations feel fake.  Both the screenwriter and director didn't craft a film that felt genuine and, considering how miserably they failed here, I certainly will not be looking forward to their next venture.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Review - Blood

Blood (2013)
Starring Paul Bettany, Mark Strong, Brian Cox, Stephen Graham, and Ben Crompton
Directed by Nick Murphy
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Rarely do you hear me saying that I wish a movie were longer.  In the case of Blood, however, a noir-ish character study, I longed for a few more minutes to give a little more depth to Paul Bettany's Joe Fairburn, a British cop who takes a trip on quite an emotional roller coaster after a young teenage girl turns up dead on the streets of his town.  The case itself isn't anything particularly out of the ordinary, but this murder affects Joe more than usual causing him to take his investigation to harsh (and illegal) extremes.

Paul Bettany is fantastic here, creating a great amount of depth in (I think) the best film role I've seen him tackle.  Guilt is a key factor in Joe Fairburn's emotions and Bettany makes the audience fully understand his pained conscience.  Alongside Bettany are some very nice turns from Stephen Graham as Joe's brother and police officer partner Chrissie who also finds himself racked with guilt over his brother's misdeeds, Brian Cox as Joe and Chrissie's father (their former police captain boss and now dementia-ridden and addled), and Mark Strong as a fellow investigator who thinks Joe may be hiding something from his colleagues.  All four men are quite strong and they're all given some nice characteristics to sink their teeth into.

The problem with Blood is that it almost moves along too rapidly.  While Joe's psychological downturn is fully understandable, I wanted a bit more time to allow Bettany to gradually express his character's swings of emotions.  Upon the film finishing, the credits rolled and stated that the film was based off the tv series "Conviction" which I discovered was a six-part British miniseries.  Perhaps the story works better in that format as opposed to the quite shortened ninety minute runtime here.   Still, director Nick Murphy creates an ominous atmosphere surrounding the character of Joe Fairburn that I must recommend a watch.  Blood is one of those reasons why I haven't crafted my Best of 2013 list yet.  It's little gems like these that may find a placement or two in my final lists.  One of these days I'll get around to the RyMickey Awards (probably not until September now), but that'll just give you more time to check this out.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review - Stuck in Love

Stuck in Love (2013)
Starring Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Logan Lerman, Nat Wolff, Liana Liberato, and Kristen Bell
Directed by Josh Boone
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

The Borgens family has some issues when it comes to love.  Dad Bill (Greg Kinnear) and Mom Erica (Jennifer Connelly) have recently divorced, but Dad can't get over Mom.  Daughter Samantha (Lily Collins) has become affected by her parents' separation believing that love isn't possible so she moves from guy to guy for one night stands to fulfill her sexual desires.  Son Rusty (Nat Wolff) takes the opposite approach of his sister and longs to find a true love to last for a lifetime.  Together, this foursome navigates the ups and downs of romance, trying to figure out how this elusive emotion works exactly.

Stuck in Love is more than adequately acted -- all four of the aforementioned actors plus Liana Liberato as Rusty's troubled girlfriend, Logan Lerman as a truly nice guy who tries to change Samantha's brashness, and Kristen Bell as a confidante of Bill make the most of Josh Boone's first script and directorial debut.  However, Boone's screenplay is a tad uneven -- its lighthearted nature works much better than its stabs at trying to be serious.  As a matter of fact, when the tale veers into any bit of a solemn moment, it proves to be too melodramatic as if Boone was searching for a way to make us connect with these characters.

That isn't to say Stuck in Love is a dreary piece of work. In fact, Boone shows potential in this genre and I'd be interested to see what he can bring to the table in the future.  He certainly can direct actors in a way that makes them believable and interesting.  There was potential for more here, but for a first time attempt at directing and writing, Boone's Stuck in Love is solid enough.

The RyMickey Rating: C+ 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Movie Review - Homefront

Homefront (2013)
Starring Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Rachelle Lefevre, and Izabella Vidovic
Directed by Gary Fleder
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I have no idea why I wanted to see Homefront upon its release last Thanksgiving, but for some reason of another, the trailer looked like it was for a film that may have recognized its cheesiness and played it up to provide a laughably humorous over-the-top revenge flick.  That wasn't the case at all.

I should've known to stop as soon as "Written by Sylvester Stallone" came up on the screen, but I trudged on despite my better judgment.  Jason Statham plays one of his interchangeable tough guys here -- this time he's Phil Broker, a former undercover cop who moves to a new town after his cover is blown following a successful drug bust in Shreveport, Louisiana.  During that drug bust, the son of the ringleader of the gang Phil was infiltrating is killed, setting the story up for REVENGE.  Jump to a few years later and Phil's daughter Maddy (Izabella Vidovic) gets into a fight on the school playground with a classmate.  Because only uncivilized hicks live in down south, this classmate's mother is a drug-addicted basket case named Cassie (Kate Bosworth) who wants Phil to pay for Maddy's indiscretions.  Phil and Maddy end up apologizing and assuaging the situation, but not before Cassie tells her brother Morgan (James Franco) to teach Phil a lesson.  Morgan (AKA "Gator" -- because...of course his nickname is Gator) sneaks into Phil's house and discovers that he was a former undercover cop.  It just so happens that Gator's girlfriend Sheryl (Winona Ryder) was good friends with the leader of that aforementioned drug deal gone bad.  Gator and Sheryl see this as an opportunity to help their burgeoning crystal meth business -- they'll reveal Phil's location to the drug clan leader in exchange for having full distribution rights for their crystal meth for their locale.

Of course, Phil being played by Jason Statham lets you know right away that Gator and his clan aren't going to win out, but, with this being a commercial film I wouldn't really expect anything less.  However, I did expect James Franco's Gator to at least be a bit more maniacal and enjoyable to watch.  Instead, we get a rather straightforward performance from a role that simply screams for overacting.  Sure, Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth pick up the slack in that department -- and I say that without any criticism at all seeing how their roles called for it -- but Franco could've done so much more.  Jason Statham is like he is in every movie -- perfectly reliable and capable, but he's not given anything above and beyond what we've seen from him before.  Perhaps the biggest surprise in the acting department comes from young Izabella Vidovic (who is listed in the film's credits as this being her first big screen role, but she'd already had a feature credit to her name so...).  Much like everyone else in the film, Vidovic isn't given much to do, but she definitely held her own amidst the more seasoned actors with whom she shares the screen.

Ultimately, the fault of the film comes down to the script and the direction.  Stallone's dialogue, story, and character development are pretty awful -- Maddy's teacher (Rachelle Lefevre) is introduced as a potential love interest for Phil in the film's first half and then never makes another appearance.  Why throw that into the mix if you're not going to do anything with it?  Of course, Stallone may very well have written something and director Gary Fleder may have left it on the cutting room floor.  I'd have almost let that slide if Fleder had upped the "corny" factor several notches.  This film was screaming out for a director who realized the absurd humor in the story and Fleder does not bring that aspect to the table.  Instead, Homefront is played straightforward which lets its flaws shine right through.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Movie Review - Black Rock

Black Rock (2013)
Starring Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth, Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson, and Anslem Richardson
Directed by Katie Aselton
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Black Rock certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to Deliverance-esque thrillers, but it definitely is head and shoulders above modern-day horror films.  Here, three childhood friends -- Abby, Lou, and Sarah (Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, and Kate Bosworth) -- reunite for a camping trip on a remote island off the coast of Maine.  While bonding (and fighting) on the island, three men (Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson, and Anslem Richardson) come upon the women's campsite.  After a nice, though slightly uncomfortable evening together, an unfortunate accident puts the three gals in danger, running for their lives and fighting for survival.

With an incredibly quick running time (under 80 minutes), I was quite surprised how much character development manages to be compressed into the flick by director Katie Aselton (who, as mentioned above, also stars in the film) and her screenwriter-husband Mark Duplass (who also has acted in things like Humpday and Safety Not Guaranteed).  Granted, some of these obligatory scenes of exposition prove to be a bit eye-rolling, but they also set up Abby, Lou, and Sarah as smarter-than-your-average damsels in distress.  Perhaps most interesting about Black Rock is that there's never really a moment where you say to yourself, "Why are these people doing that?  That's so stupid.  Only people in horror movies would do something like that."  We all know that feeling when we watch thrillers.  That "Don't Go Up the Stairs" kind of moment.  Black Rock has very few, if any, of those and for that it gets loads of credit in my book.

All three leads -- Ms. Bosworth, Ms. Bell, and Ms. Aselton -- more than hold their own and all are impressive in what I assume are their first "thriller" leads.  Being a lead actress in a thriller/horror movie isn't an easy thing.  You're forced to run a lot and have reaction shots with your eyes wide open while you're gasping for breath.  However, these three elevate these stereotypically stock roles into something a little more intelligent and a little more lively.

Is Black Rock going to necessarily give you anything you haven't seen before?  Not exactly.  However, if you're in the mood for a flick like this, it's one of the better ones of this genre I've seen in a long time.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Movie Review - Don Jon

Don Jon (2013)
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headley, Brie Larson, and Tony Danza
Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

It's tough to feel bad for a guy who's screwing Scarlett Johannson I've come to discover after watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt's feature film directorial and screenwriting debut Don Jon.  Gordon-Levitt is Jon, a tough-around-the-edges New Jersey pretty boy who charms the undergarments right off women mere hours after meeting them.  Each weekend Jon and his two buddies head to the local club and each weekend Jon goes home without a different hottie.  One evening, however, he meets Barbara (Johannson) and is instantly taken by her despite the fact that she won't immediately sleep with him.  Barbara ends up changing Jon's lothario ways...or so she thinks.  Despite Jon exclusively sleeping with her, Jon is unhealthily addicted to online pornography so much so that it has warped his mind into being unable to have a normal relationship.

Don Jon is played for laughs and perhaps that's where the problem with the film comes into play.  There are never really any moments that are purposely driven to make you laugh out loud, yet the film never takes Jon's addiction serious enough to make you feel pity for the guy.  In fact, rather than feel sympathy for his addiction, we start to pity his relationship with Barbara who becomes more controlling as their courtship continues.  Ultimately, this proves to be a bit unsatisfying for the viewer as we flailingly strive to connect with Jon in a way that makes us root for his success.

Gordon-Levitt deepens his voice and picks up a thick Jersey accent to play the title character and he certainly embodies the persona.  Unfortunately, even towards the end when conversations with an older woman (played by Julianne Moore) try to get him to come to grips with his addiction, we can't sympathize with the guy.  Maybe it's because he's got ladies like Barbara fawning over him who, in Jon's own words, is a ten.  [That would be on a scale of one to ten with ten being the best, for those mathematically challenged.]  Johannson also does a nice job with the Jersey attitude (although her portrayal seems a tinge more like a caricature than Gordon-Levitt's) and she certainly plays the part of a sexy tease quite well.  Despite some cute moments of dialogue between the two, though, Gordon-Levitt's screenplay never really had me squarely in their camp hoping for their success.  Maybe it's an unconscious jealousy on my part -- "seriously, he's screwing Scarlett Johannson and still has to look at porn to get his jollies?" -- but something just didn't coalesce for me.

While I'd be interested to see what else "Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the Non-Actor" has down the pike, Don Jon is a bit too generic in both its script and its direction to really showcase any fantastic talent the fine young actor has behind the camera.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Movie Review - Girl Most Likely

Girl Most Likely (2013)
Starring Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Christopher Fitzgerald, Matt Dillon, Darren Criss, and Bob Balaban
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I watched the first hour of Girl Most Likely and then had to stop to head out of the house.  Three days later, I realized that I hadn't finished the film, but over the course of those three days, I hadn't thought about it once.  It's not that Girl Most Likely is bad -- I found myself laughing quite a bit and the performances were pretty darn solid -- but its story doesn't exactly feel special by any means making the whole film almost forgettable.

Kristen Wiig is Imogene who, at the film's onset, is living in New York City with her rich, haughty boyfriend.  After attending a posh soiree, her boyfriend tells her that he's moving on and breaking up with her.  Devastated, Imogene becomes depressed, loses her job, and spends day after day in her fancy apartment until she comes up with the crazy notion that if she pretends to commit suicide, her boyfriend may feel sympathy for her return to her side.  Fun stuff, right?  Unfortunately, her plan backfires and she ends up in a mental hospital.  After a night or two, the doctors determine that she can be released to a family member who will agree to watch over her.  While Imogene assumes it will be her (ex-)boyfriend, her estranged mother Zelda (Annette Bening) arrives to take her back to her childhood home in Ocean City, New Jersey.  [In an odd coincidence, the reason I had to leave the house during my initial viewing of Girl Most Likely is because I was going to Ocean City, New Jersey.]  Unfortunately for Imogene, Zelda cares more about her own well-being than her daughter -- a notion that hasn't changed since Imogene's youth and one of the reasons Imogene ran to New York City at her first opportunity.  With Imogene trying to come to terms with her past and her present, she finds herself attempting to determine what kind of person she really wants to be.

Despite the seriousness of how the film starts out, Girl Most Likely does find humor amidst the pathos of its main character quite a bit in the film's first half.  Kristen Wiig isn't reinventing the wheel in terms of a character here -- her delivery of jokes in movies is always peppered with a quiet staccato verbalization of words which I find funny, but not exactly original from film to film -- but she certainly is agreeable to watch.  The introduction of Annette Bening's Zelda is almost too stereotypical of the Jersey Shore persona that we've come to know in recent years thanks to Snookie and The Situation, but Bening milks it for all its worth and, despite the over-the-top nature of the character, quite honestly delivers a really strong comedic performance.

Unfortunately, the film falters a bit once Imogene finds herself plunking down in New Jersey.  Subplots about her brother Ralph's (Christopher Fitzgerald) nervous nature, the tenant (Darren Criss) living in her childhood room, and Zelda's CIA boyfriend nicknamed "the Bouche" (Matt Dillon) all fall flat and fail to elevate the character of Imogene despite the fact that they are clearly aiming to do so.  Girl Most Likely had promise, but the dark comedic nature at the film's start dissipates rather quickly which proves to be a bit of a disappointment.  Still, considering this is streaming on Netflix, it's certainly something to consider watching.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Friday, July 04, 2014

Theater Review - Once

Book by Enda Walsh
Music by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
Directed by John Tiffany
Where: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York, NY
When: Thursday, June 5, 7:00pm

I've already written a review of the Broadway production of Once (feel free to read it as a refresher) which I saw over two years ago prior to its Tony-winning success so I'm not going to go into great detail here.  However, I will say that the production now with two new leads -- Paul Alexander Nolan as the unnamed Guy and Joanna Christie as the unnamed Girl -- is just as touching as it was when I first saw it.  Granted, Nolan and Christie bring a slightly different vibe to the proceedings than the Tony-nominated Cristin Milioti and Tony-winning Steve Kazee, but they still bring the film's characters to vivid life.  While it didn't quite have the same impact on me as it did the first time around, Once is still one of the best theatrical experiences I've ever been lucky enough to witness.  Rumor has it that the production is winding down (the mezzanine was less than half full the night I saw it), so get yourself to New York and see this ASAP particularly if you're a fan of the fantastic Glen Hansard-Markéta Irglová Oscar-winning film.
Joanna Christie and Paul Alexander Nolan

A few notes from this viewing (really just for my remembrance purposes):
  • The choreography is riveting in its simplicity.  I made mention of this in my original review, but it bears repeating here.  Listed as "Movement" in the playbill, we're not bearing witness to "dancing," but rather emotional reactions to the music that's being sung.  There's a gorgeous moment during the song "Say It to Me Now" in which a quartet of bank clerks describe with grace and sadness the travails of everyday life -- it really got to me this time around.
  • The fact that the cast doesn't leave the stage for nearly the entire show and plays all of the music you're hearing is worthy of a standing ovation (although, admittedly, I did not give one to the production this time around...I probably should have, but it just wasn't quite as good as the first time around).  A talented group of people.
  • This seemed more humorous this time around.  Cristin Milioti's portrayal of Girl seemed a bit more steeped in melancholy whereas Joanna Christie in this production gave Girl a little more joy.  There's nothing wrong with that and the romance between Guy and Girl is still gut-wrenchingly gorgeous, but it's different.  Similarly, Steve Kazee's Guy felt angrier whereas Paul Alexander Nolan didn't quite have that pent-up pain.  Once again, nothing wrong with this -- just a slightly different interpretation.  I prefer the original performances, but both Christie and Nolan are riveting and completely carry the story without any hardships when it comes to vocals, musicality, or acting.
  • The first track on the cd is a fast-paced instrumental overture of the movie's most famous track -- the Oscar-winning "Falling Slowly."  When this instrumental overture wasn't played at the beginning of the play, I got incredibly depressed thinking they'd left out one of my favorite little bits of music.  Little did I know that despite being the opening track on the cd, it comes about two songs into the play.  Needless to say, I was a happy camper when the rousing instrumental piece came up.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Movie Review - Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies (2013)
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton, and John Malkovich
Directed by Jonathan Levine

Romeo and Juliet with zombies is the overarching theme of Warm Bodies, director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine's comedy about a United States that, in the near future, is overpopulated with zombies, forcing the remaining humans to live behind giant manmade walls in order to protect themselves.  Having stepped out of those walls one night in search of supplies, Julie (Teresa Palmer), her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), and her best friend Nora (Annaleigh Tipton) have a run in with a pack of the walking dead, one of whom -- a teenage zombie named R (Nicholas Hault) -- kills Perry and eats his brain which gives R all of Perry's thoughts and immediately has him fall in love with Julie.  When another zombie tries to kill Julie, R whisks her away to safety where the two find themselves realizing that they're not so different after all despite what others may have them believe.

Warm Bodies starts off rather ingeniously.  Mostly through humorous voiceover, R tells us his feelings about his new life as a zombie -- something we don't usually ever bear witness to in zombie films.  Nicholas Hault does a nice job of comedically countering a vivacious voiceover with a catatonic physical state.  The juxtaposition creates more than a few laughs.  Unfortunately, after the initial set-up detailed above, the film sort of wallows in nothingness.  The love story aspect of Warm Bodies just isn't as creative as the concept of finding out what zombies are really thinking behind their empty, human-hunting eyes.  (This makes sense, I guess, seeing as how we've had umpteen adaptations of Romeo and Juliet grace the silver screen.)

Across the board, the acting is above the level we typically see in teenage love stories with Teresa Palmer and Analeigh Tipton making the most of their underwritten characters and Rob Corddry managing laughs as R's best zombie friend.  Unfortunately for everyone other than the character of R, I found myself not really caring about their story lines.  Perhaps it's because the R's voiceovers throughout the film endear him to us more than the other characters, but these other character's plights just didn't register with me.

That said, Warm Bodies is decent.  It certainly is much more grown-up than most teenage romances and the rather ingenious take of making us privy to a zombie's inner thoughts creates an incredibly amusing first act.  I just wish the remainder of the film could've lived up to the opening's promise.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+