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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,...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Movie Review - The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls (2014)
Featuring the vocal talents of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, and Simon Pegg
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi

The one thing The Boxtrolls has going for it is that the stop-motion animation from Laika Studios (who brought us Coraline and Paranorman) is stunning.  Not only are the characters they create richly detailed and incredibly fluid in their motion (a little too fluid thanks to some computer animation techniques), but their production design from the costumes to the sets is astonishingly rich and creative.  (And, to the studio's credit, they've improved in these hands-on areas with each subsequent film they've released.)  Unfortunately, something with the story of The Boxtrolls doesn't measure up to what the animators and designers bring to the table.

Many years ago, a young boy was taken away by some underground creatures who come to the surface at night to collect trash which they turn into treasures in their dwelling.  Believed to be kidnapped, the community of Cheesebridge has since felt that these creatures whom they've named the Boxtrolls (because they wear disposed boxes as their clothing) are to be captured and killed for what they did.  The town puts their trust in Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a slimy sleazeball of a guy who seems to be ridding Cheesebridge of the Boxtrolls, but really has a much more nefarious scheme in mind.

The Boxtrolls themselves aren't the least bit evil despite what the townsfolk may think.  Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the young boy they "took" nearly a decade ago, has grown up with the creatures as his good friends and family.  One evening when he ventures up to the surface for the first time, he comes across Winnie (Elle Fanning) -- his first encounter with a "human" -- who after years of being told by her father (Jared Harris) that the Boxtrolls are nasty, discovers that the creatures may be friendlier than anyone could have ever imagined.  Together, Eggs and Winnie attempt to change the town's mindset towards the Boxtrolls and take down Archibald Snatcher in the process.

There's a promising story here, but the flow of things doesn't quite click perhaps because there's too much fighting for attention.  While the Boxtrolls are cute and oddly cuddly, the relationship between Eggs and Winnie leads to quite a bit of humor, and Archibald is amusingly evil (in small doses), I can't help but think some story editing would've helped things out.  Rather than move along swiftly, more often than not the film feels like it's meandering without any real direction and its conclusion feels oddly unsatisfying.

Still, despite it's somewhat major problems, I always found myself glued to the screen because of the aforementioned stellar visuals.  Laika always brings a sense of quirkiness to all of their films and I sometimes think that strive for uniqueness feels as if they're trying a bit too hard.  They've got what it takes to make a great film (see Paranorman as an example), but they just need to spend a little more time in the story department.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Monday, March 30, 2015

Theater Review - Juno and the Paycock

Juno and the Paycock
Written by Sean O'Casey
Directed by Ben Barnes
Where: Thompson Theater at the Roselle Center for the Arts
(University of Delaware, Newark, DE)
When: Sunday, March 22, 2pm
Photos and images from the REP

Seeing as how this play has already ended its run, I will keep things short and sweet here.  The University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players are back for their fourth production of the (thus far disappointing) season and the group's success at performing Irish plays is a trend that fortunately continues with Juno and the Paycock written by Sean O'Casey.  Taking place over three acts, the play starts as a rather humorous slice of life comedy about a bickering husband and wife and their two grown children, but gradually shifts into something much more serious.  While I found that the play didn't quite have the visceral dramatic impact it was likely hoping for, it's by far the best play the REP has put on this season.
With simplistic, yet extremely effective scenic and costume design by Linda Buchanan and Andrea Barrier, respectively, helping to bring the audience into the action onstage, director Ben Barnes gets this wonderful ensemble of actors to hit the play's humorous and tragic notes.  Most successful in the cast is Stephen Pelinski as the titular paycock (aka "peacock") and Boyle family patriarch Jack who'd rather slum around all day than work.  When Jack comes into a bit of money following a family member's death, Pelinski milks O'Casey's words and staging for all their comedic worth.  Quite frankly, Pelinski is perhaps the most undersung member of the REP ensemble of actors, consistently breathing new life into all of the characters he portrays, fully inhabiting them and making you completely forget who he played in the last REP production.  Kudos to him for his always stellar work.
Nice turns here also come from REP member Kathleen Pirkl Tague as the beleaguered Juno and guest performer Erin Partin as the liberated daughter Mary.  If we're not going to ever get students back into this company (which is a darn shame considering this is a university setting and students haven't been a part of the productions in two years), let's breathe a bit of fresh life into the ensemble with Ms. Partin next season (who always brings a youthful curiosity and vigor to all her roles).

Needless to say, it's a pleasure to see the REP back in better form with Juno and the Paycock.  Here's hoping the trend continues with their final two productions of the season.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Movie Review - Lucy

Lucy (2014)
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-Sik Choi, Analeigh Tipton, and Amr Waked
Directed by Luc Besson

My biggest problem with director-screenwriter Luc Besson's Lucy is that I found it difficult to suspend belief and imagine a reality in which there was some feasibility with the title character's superheroic abilities she gains after being given a drug that strengthens her mental capabilities to fully utilize all 100% of her brain's power.  I realize there's a slight whiff of hypocrisy when I can watch something like Jurassic Park and believe that dinosaurs roam the Earth again or a film like Skyfall and buy into the notion that James Bond can run atop a speeding train.  However, something about Lucy didn't ring true and because of that, I found myself removed from the proceedings.

Scarlett Johansson is the title character -- a gal who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and finds her life completely turned upside down.  In Taiwan, she finds that her boyfriend (or perhaps one-night-stand partner) forces her to deliver a package to an evil drug kingpin (Min-Sik Choi) who in turn implants a package of a newfangled drug in Lucy's stomach forcing her to become a drug mule and carry the supply back to America with her.  However, on her way back home, Lucy is abducted, beaten up quite badly, and, after a powerful kick to her abdomen, finds that the package of drugs is leaking into her body.

As Lucy's story unfolds, we have interspersed scenes of Morgan Freeman as Professor Samuel Norman giving a lecture on how human beings only use 7% of their brain capacity.  Were we to utilize even 20%, we'd see marked differences in how we interact with others.  Thanks to this experimental drug, Lucy is finding out just what a 20% utilization will do and as the drugs seep further into her system, she finds that she is able to do things no human could imagine.

I could deal with Lucy reading lips and becoming quite adept at punching people, but when she starts being able to manipulate matter (both inhuman and human), I admit that I threw in the towel.  Johansson is fine here -- I think she's actually a decent "action" star -- but as Lucy's brain capacity increases, her emotions become nonexistent.  Her character's sassy (and, quite frankly, humorously enjoyable) demeanor at the film's outset becomes a blank slate by the film's end and it just makes for a bland ride.

Lucy is by no means a bad film -- its quick running time of under ninety minutes certainly speeds things along -- but I just couldn't accept the concept perhaps because it was a little too much in human "reality."

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Movie Review - Just a Sigh

Just a Sigh (Le temps de l'aventure) (2014)
Starring Emmanuelle Devos and Gabriel Byrne
Directed by Jérôme Bonnell
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Two people meet on a train to Paris and spend an afternoon talking and making love in Just a Sigh -- a film whose premise is anything but original, yet contains some seductively romantic moments as we find ourselves oddly invested in the film's outcome.

The film works best when Emmanuelle Devos and Gabriel Byrne share scenes together (or at least look longingly at one another) as, respectively, struggling fortysomething French actress Alix and British fiftysomething literature professor Doug.  Their quick, then more lingering glances across a crowded train ride to Paris set the stage for their romance and immediately create a palpable sense of sex appeal.  Unfortunately, the film attempts to flesh out Alix's life in particular -- the opening fifteen minutes feature her preparing for, then going to an audition; there's an odd ten minute diversion around the hour mark where Alix visits her estranged sister -- to no avail.  I'm assuming writer-director Jérôme Bonnell wanted to create a more natural approach to his two subjects by crafting a "day-in-the-life" style film, but when the film shifts away from the romance, it falls undeniably flat.

Obviously, for a film like Just a Sigh to work at all, there is a need for a connection to be felt between its two leads and that's certainly the case.  The build-up to the sexual consummation here is exciting and undeniably tangible with the love scenes between the two actors resonant and somewhat erotic despite the fact that nudity is doled out very tastefully and not at all gratuitously.  Devos and Byrne shine when they have scenes together.  It's just a shame the movie decides to branch out from their relationship because whenever it does that, it becomes a rather tedious bore.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Review - The Angriest Man in Brooklyn

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014)
Starring Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage, Melissa Leo, and Hamish Linklater
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I think The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is supposed to be a comedy and despite the fact that I didn't laugh once (or really even smirk in the slightest), I found one of Robin Williams' final films to be oddly endearing.  Admittedly, however, the reason for the emotion stems from the fact that Williams finds himself playing lawyer Henry Altmann, a man who discovers that a brain aneurysm has allotted him only ninety minutes left to live and he must determine whether he wants to continue on his current path of anger and resentment or reconcile his differences with his estranged wife and son (Melissa Leo and Hamish Linklater).  Had Williams not recently passed away, I doubt very much that the film would've had much impact.  However, true life seeps into the cinematic world a bit here, creating something a little more rousing than the film itself merits.

Williams is adequate as Henry, although I feel like we've seen him play this angry, somewhat crazed role before.  Yes, he dials things back a bit here, but not quite far enough if I'm being honest.  Mila Kunis plays his temporary doctor who has troubles of her own -- it should come as no surprise that her foibles will change for the better by crossing paths with Henry.  Together, Williams and Kunis play off each other surprisingly well, however many of their scenes together are so poorly written or so abysmally staged -- this film has one of the worst uses of green screen I've seen in a while -- that they end up falling flat.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is not a great film, but it is unfortunately made better simply because of the passing of Mr. Robin Williams whose real life struggles somewhat mirror the difficulties his character faces in this film.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Movie Review - Million Dollar Arm

Million Dollar Arm (2014)
Starring Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, and Alan Arkin 
Directed by Craig Gillespie

Million Dollar Arm is an amiable sports drama that follows many cinematic paths trodden before and does so well enough, although it lacks a bit of drive and momentum, meandering as it tells its true story of two youths from India (Suraj Sharma and MadhurMittal) who are discovered by down-on-his-luck sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) in a last ditch effort to save his floundering career.  With cricket being India's go-to sport, J.B. concocts an idea to head to India, create a reality show to find those who can fast pitch a baseball (therein building excitement in the country), and help buoy his career by "selling" one of these athletes to a US baseball team.  With this being a Disney film, a happy ending is likely not out of the question so some of the flick's dramatic elements lack some gravitas, but the struggles of young Rinku and Dinesh as they attempt to make their country proud are surprisingly touching.

I've never watched Mad Men -- I've tried a few times and failed -- so my connection with Jon Hamm mainly stems from his guest appearances on 30 Rock.  As a leading man here, there is a charisma present that is much needed, but there's also a smarmy cockiness that exudes which is certainly fitting for a sports agent whose struggle to venture on his own has proven unsuccessful thus far.  We find ourselves rooting for J.B. from the get-go not only in his struggle to succeed in business, but also in his rocky relationship with his renting tenant Brenda played by Lake Bell, who is quite charming and continues to impress this reviewer.

Million Dollar Arm is by no means a home run, but it certainly doesn't strike out either.  With equal opportunity spent on both the young Indian ballplayers and J.B.'s personal troubles, director Craig Gillespie does a nice job balancing both story lines in a way that's respectful to all parties involved.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Movie Review - Annabelle

Annabelle (2014)
Starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, and Alfre Woodard
Directed by John R. Leonetti

The Conjuring made my list of Best Films of 2013 at last year's RyMickey Awards so I admittedly had some hopes that this "prequel" of sorts would measure up to the chills of its predecessor.  Annabelle will also likely show up on a RyMickey Award list -- for the Worst Films of 2014.  With nary a tense moment, this poorly directed and poorly acted flick proves to be a huge letdown and has officially diminished any excitement this series of films had for me.

In The Conjuring, we were brought into the lives of Ed and Lorraine Wilson who had a large array of "paranormally inhabited" objects in their home -- one of which was a large porcelain doll whose creepy appearance alluded to some nefarious shenanigans.  Annabelle is the story of this doll who is brought into the lives of doll collector Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her husband John (Ward Horton) after John finds the toy after much searching.  One evening, a pregnant Mia is attacked in her home by two members of a cult who are shot and killed with the blood of one member dripping onto the doll and creating some supernatural possession...and, in turn, causing much chaos for Mia, John, and their infant daughter.

It should be noted that it took me about twenty minutes to write the above horribly formulated summary paragraph and I'm sure that's because of the idiocy of the whole film.  Director John R. Leonetti does a horrible job at extracting any chills from the admittedly silly story, crafting a mind-numbingly paint-by-numbers experience that could've been helmed by anyone who's ever seen a horror film before.  We're also treated to a master class in Horribly Bad Horror School Acting from Annabelle Wallis who was obviously told to do a whole lot of nervous shaking, gasping for breath, and the go-to motion of placing your hand over your mouth and screaming loudly.  Ugh...poor Ms. Wallis.  I actually thought she was decent throughout the film's first half, but once the horror aspects kicked into gear, she just became laughably awful -- a fault of her own and her director's to be sure.

What a disappointment especially considering how fantastic The Conjuring is.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Movie Review - 22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street (2014)
Starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, Peter Stormare, and Ice Cube
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

From the film's opening moments, the screenwriters of 22 Jump Street has the characters inform us that their film is going to be, for all intents and purposes, a rehash of the successful 21 Jump Street released two years prior.  By blatantly spelling out the repetition we'll be seeing, certain expectations are created (or perhaps certain expectations are lessened) which bode well in director Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's favor with the film providing quite a few solid laughs, but unfortunately overstaying its welcome by having an action-packed third act never seems to want to end.

The chemistry of leads Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko who head off to college to unearth an illegal drug ring is certainly what brings the humor to 22 Jump Street.  Without these two amiable fellows, this near carbon copy of the original film would've fallen flat.  However, fortunately, Hill and Tatum continue to impress with the charming, humorous bromance that they bring to the screen.  I'm still surprised by Tatum's ability to make me laugh and how much Hill's character in this series is oddly endearing which is something I don't find to be the case in some of his other comedic works.

Still, despite many laugh out loud moments in the film's opening two acts, 22 Jump Street takes a turn towards the action comedy realm in the final 45 minutes and it falls flatter than it should considering the impressively enjoyable story that precedes it.  Rather than wrap things up quickly, we're forced into watching what is essentially two denouements strung out as lengthy as possible with some poorly conceived comedic routines peppered into some poorly developed action sequences.  The combination doesn't work here and it's a shame given the goodwill the audience feels during the flick's first two thirds.  I'd still love to see a 23 Jump Street particularly because of the nice repartee between Hill and Tatum, but this sequel was a bit of a letdown.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movie Review - And So It Goes

And So It Goes (2014)
Starring Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Annie Parisse, and Austin Lysy
Directed by Rob Reiner

I fully went into And So It Goes expecting the two elderly leads to find some decades-old pot and smoke it for comedic effect.  That didn't happen so Rob Reiner's film doesn't immediately lose points for that old people hippie-druggie comedy bit that is one of my biggest movie pet peeves.  However, if there was such a scene at least it would've elicited a reaction from me of some kind -- something that And So It Goes failed at doing.  While the two leads are amiable -- I always find Diane Keaton immensely charming (even though she plays the same characters over and over again) and Michael Douglas is underrated when it comes to light-hearted fare -- the story feels old, tired, and worn-out.

Douglas is Oren Little, a pompous realtor who is selling his longtime home in preparation for doing the typical "old person" thing of moving to warmer weather.  During a showing, his estranged son (Austin Lysy) shows up with his ten year-old daughter Sarah (Sterling Jerins), asking Oren to watch over his heretofore unknown granddaughter while he has to spend a year in prison.  Oren reluctantly agrees, but has no idea how to deal with this, so he turns to Leah (Keaton) who lives in and runs a rental property of Oren's.  With Oren's curmudgeonly attitude, Leah's optimism, and Sarah's innocence, the trio make an unlikely triangle -- one that follows the same paths we've seen many times before.

And So It Goes isn't offensive in any way, but it's mind-numbingly dull and that's often a bigger kiss of death than simply being bad.  But, hey...at least the leads don't smoke pot!

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Movie Review - Lilting

Lilting (2014)
Starring Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei Pei, Andrew Leung, Naomi Christie, and Peter Bowles
Directed by Hong Khaou
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Whenever I see an actor or actress in a live setting, I feel like I have this weird sense of parental fascination with them.  Scarlett Johannson in A View from the Bridge (and not so much from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof).  Kristin Chenoweth in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  Gone Girl's Carrie Coon in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  I end up rooting for these people simply because I paid substantial money to see them on a stage.  Way back in 2010, I was somewhat dragged to an Off-Broadway play called The Pride (that was actually pretty good) that starred Hugh Dancy, Birdman's Andrea Riseborough, and Ben Whishaw -- three actors who all have proven themselves on the cinema landscape in subsequent years.  Because of this weird urge to watch things with these people with whom I've had some "live connection," the little indie flick Lilting was added to my Netflix queue upon its arrival to streaming.  Perhaps it was just the early morning hours in which I watched director and screenwriter Hong Khaou's first feature film, but my focus could not be kept once the film hit its halfway point and it kept rehashing the same emotional beats over and over and over again.

Whishaw is Richard, a young man struggling with the fact that his boyfriend of five years Kai (Andrew Leung) has passed away.  Kai was very close with his mother Junn (Cheng Pei Pei), a Chinese immigrant to Britain who struggled to provide a good life for her son.  However, Kai kept his homosexuality a secret from Junn which sets up an awkward situation for Richard who wants to make sure that Junn is cared for in her later years as she lives at a retirement home.  As Richard and Junn get to know each other -- while still keeping some big secrets from one another -- their relationship travels a rocky road.

The problem with Lilting is that until the film's final ten minutes, the film keeps repeating the same emotional moments.  How many times can we see Richard uncomfortably meet with Junn, pondering whether to tell her about his true relationship with Kai?  How many times can we see Junn not give Richard the time of day?  How many times can we see in flashbacks Richard trying to convince Kai to come out to his mother?  Nearly all of the film's scenes play these same notes again and again.   While both Whishaw and Cheng are solid, their characters go through minimal arcs and even at the film's conclusion, I never felt the emotional connection I probably should have.  By the time the film's final half hour began, I had checked out because I didn't care about anyone.  It's a shame because I think there was some semblance of an interesting story here, but it just doesn't come together in a satisfying way.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Friday, March 13, 2015

Movie Review - The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Starring Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, and Ty Burrell
Directed by Craig Johnson

In the opening moments of The Skeleton Twins, we witness two Saturday Night Live alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig play characters who both try and kill themselves...and right off the bat, we know that we're in for a film that we may not have expected given our preconceived notions of the comic actors.  Neither suicide attempt was successful -- Milo (Hader) didn't slit his wrists deep enough and his twin sister Maggie (Wiig) was thwarted when she received a phone call that Milo was in the hospital.  Needless to say, both of the Dean twins have some emotional issues that they need to work out.

Milo moves in with Maggie, but the duo were estranged for several years following an incident that occurred in their home town, shattering their relationship.  They warm up to each other quickly, but things have definitely changed for both of them.  Maggie is married to Lance (Luke Wilson), a really nice construction worker who wants nothing more than to be a loving father and a doting husband.  Maggie repays that kindness by cheating on Lance with pretty much anyone who will look at her longingly.  Milo, meanwhile, meets up with Rich (Ty Burrell), one of his old flings from when he lived in the small town, but soon realizes that Rich may have buried his homosexual leanings in favor of heading a "typical" American household.

A dark comedy, the film works best in its opening half as the troubled Milo and Maggie get to know each other again and try to help each other out of their difficult times.  Unfortunately, as the flick progresses and the siblings are forced to face their suppressed psychiatric issues, the film's sense of darkly whimsical humor vanishes and director Craig Johnson's film becomes a bit too weighty for its own good.  That isn't to say that The Skeleton Twins doesn't work -- it just becomes a bit less enjoyable to watch.  Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader do some excellent work here, balancing these tricky characters' roller coasters of emotion, with Hader in particular showcasing that he's got some dramatic chops that I didn't expect in the slightest.  Luke Wilson also proves to be entertaining as a guy that the audience can't help but root to succeed.  Overall, The Skeleton Twins is a solid piece, but one that doesn't quite balance its humor and pathos in quite they way it should.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Movie Review - Breathe In

Breathe In (2014)
Starring Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, and Mackenzie Davis
Directed by Drake Doremus
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

A bit too subdued for its own good, Breathe In treads a familiar path -- older married man (Guy Pearce) falls for a much younger teenage high school student (Felicity Jones) -- but finds itself buoyed by some nicely mannered performances.  Pearce and Jones certainly make Drake Doremus' film watchable, but its slow pace and slight payoff leave a little to be desired.

When British exchange student Sophie (Jones) boards with a suburban New York family for a semester, husband and wife Keith and Megan Reynolds (Pearce and Amy Ryan) and their teenage daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) look forward to being able to show the young woman what the United States has to offer.  A rather advanced pianist, Sophie finds herself placed in Keith's high school music class where her talent and focus is a turn on to the struggling cellist Keith who wants to leave his teaching career behind and earn a coveted spot in a world-renowned orchestra.  Heretofore, Keith certainly never seemed unhappy in his marriage to Megan, but Sophie's interest in his interests invigorates him with the two eventually finding themselves bonding a bit more than they should.

Rather interestingly, Doremus and his co-writer Ben York Jones keep things as innocent as possible for as long as possible and even when Keith and Sophie turn towards romance, their feelings are depicted as more like lustful puppy love as opposed to lustful abandon.  While this is certainly an intriguing idea to keep things more "clean," it also doesn't quite provide the spark that a movie like this really needs.  Once again, Pearce and Jones have a palpable chemistry that makes their burgeoning relationship work and I guess there's kudos to be given to the duo for making the whole situation not feel "icky," but Breathe In doesn't quite overcome its overarching sense of dullness.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Monday, March 09, 2015

Movie Review - God's Pocket

God's Pocket (2014)
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan, and Caleb Landry Jones
Directed by John Slattery

Talk about a snooze fest.  One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last films, God's Pocket tells the tale of a working class Philadelphia neighborhood known as Devil's Pocket wherein tough guys and broads abound.  Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) is a live wire -- a twentysomething factory worker whose racist remarks and poor work ethic don't sit well with his co-workers.  One day, after a spouting a particularly cruel diatribe against an older black man, the elderly gentleman whacks him on the side of the head with a pipe and Leon dies.  The manager of the factory and the crew decide to cover up the death, saying that it was an accident...and one would think that the movie would be about setting up whether these crew members would be discovered for their crime.

But no...after the murder in the film's opening ten minutes, we don't really revisit the investigation in the slightest.  Sure, Leon's death looms over the rest of the film's proceedings, but the film instead focuses on Leon's mother and stepfather Jeannine and Mickey (Christina Hendricks and Hoffman) and Jeannine's newfound affair with a reporter (Richard Jenkins) investigating Leon's death.  Taking place over the course of three days, God's Pocket goes nowhere with all of its characters wallowing around in dank, dark places not talking about anything of much importance except how hard life is in The Pocket.

This is actor John Slattery's first film as a director and there are sparks of interesting moments, but nothing ever truly lights up.  The acting is all so dreadfully sullen and dull that there's never a moment of respite from the dreariness.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Movie Review - Men, Women & Children

Men, Women & Children (2014)
Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie Dewitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort, Timothée Chalamet, Olivia Crocicchia, Elena Kampouris, Dennis Haysbert, J.K. Simmons, and Emma Thompson
Directed by Jason Reitman

Are you aware that the internet can pose a dangerous threat to our youth?

Are you aware that the pressures of being a teen nowadays are amplified exponentially by the power of social media and texting?

Are you aware that some people get so lost in the internet worlds of role-playing games and pornography that they lose touch with their actual reality?

If you've been living under a rock for the past ten years, then writer-director Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children is the movie for you!  However, if you're anything like me and pretty much everyone else, I'm sure that none of the above questions are altogether surprising.  Reitman seemingly thinks that these notions are somewhat new as he tries to present all of them to riveting, shocking, and dramatic effect.  Unfortunately, we've seen this story before in both movies and television -- and we've seen it done much better.

This is one of those movies where you simply try to guess at the beginning which teenager is going to commit suicide and which one is going to get pregnant because you know it's going to happen -- and, sure enough, Reitman doesn't do anything to reinvent the wheel because halfway through the flick someone gets knocked up and three-quarters of the way through we witness the suicide.  Neither of which surprise us in the slightest as we could see them telegraphed from the film's opening five minutes.  Reitman hasn't crafted characters here, he's simply created stereotypical avatars of what he must think sex-crazed teens (Olivia Crocicchia, Timothée Chalamet) or loner teens (Kaitlyn Dever) or jock teens (Ansel Elgort) or overprotective parents (Jennifer Garner) or cool parents (Judy Greer) or emotionally detached spouses (Adam Sandler, Rosemarie Dewitt) are really like.  He then tosses in a tongue-in-cheek British narrator (Emma Thompson) to spout pithy remarks about the goings-on which confused the heck out of me as I couldn't tell whether Reitman was trying to craft something serious or whether this whole film was just an awful attempt at satire.

Across the board, some typically solid actors are left wallowing.  Kaitlyn Dever (so good in Short Term 12) and Ansel Elgort (quite a charming surprise in The Fault in Our Stars) fare the best, but maybe it's simply because their roles felt the least cookie cutter.  Also, would it be too hard for Judy Greer to land some more gigs?  She makes the best of her part as a mom who posts risqué pictures of her daughter on the internet by imbuing a bit of heart and personality into the film -- something that Men, Women & Children is missing in spades.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Movie Review - Tammy

Tammy (2014)
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, and Ben Falcone
Directed by Ben Falcone

What an unfunny mess Tammy is.  Melissa McCarthy stars as the title character, a foul-mouthed, bellowing, and brash woman who comes home after being fired from her job at a fast food joint only to find her husband (Nat Faxon) canoodling with the next door neighbor (Toni Collette).  Obviously upset, Tammy leaves and heads two doors down to her mom's house where she demands to take her mom's car and drive far away.  While her mother (Allison Janney) understands her pain, she dismisses Tammy's dreams of starting anew, but her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) also wants to get out of Dodge and agrees to let Tammy take her car as long as she can tag along.  Tammy agrees and the two set out on a cross-country journey of discovery.

I think I mention this in every review of her films, but my introduction to Melissa McCarthy occurred when I watched the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls on tv.  I'm rewatching the show via Netflix and it makes me appreciate the sweet and charming persona that McCarthy can inhabit should she so choose.  So why does she choose motion picture vehicles in which she plays completely reprehensible, vile, vulgar, unappealing characters?  If she's trying to recapture the Bridesmaids magic that earned her a deserved Academy Award nomination, she's failing miserably.  There's nothing about the character of Tammy that makes you want to watch her.  She's slovenly sloppy, obnoxiously dimwitted, and ignorant to nearly everyone that crosses her path.  Spending ninety minutes with this woman is eighty-nine minutes too much.

McCarthy needs to seriously take a look at her choices and shake things up a bit.  She attempted that with an admirable turn in 2014's St. Vincent, but Tammy is an utter failure.  Written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, Tammy is one to avoid at all costs.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Movie Review - The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (2014)
Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Nina Arianda, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, and William Hurt
Directed by Ned Benson

I can't deny that The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them teeters on slow-paced boredom at many times throughout its run time.  However, at its heart is an interesting glimpse at how one married couple deals with a horrible tragedy.  After being ripped apart as they find the need to deal with the aftermath in different ways, can they ever be reunited in love?  However, rather than place a large amount of emphasis on the tragedy (which is admittedly mentioned only in passing a few times and only takes center stage in one quiet, yet power-packed scene), first-time director and screenwriter Ned Benson instead pushes his lens into the depth of what pulls apart and pushes together a couple that cares deeply for one another.

Interestingly enough, the entire summary of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is pretty much encapsulated in that opening paragraph.  As we get to know Eleanor and Conor (Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy), we realize that the couple who seemed so lovingly enraptured with one another in the film's opening scene have suddenly been torn apart by the time scene #2 rolls around.  There's a lot of quiet contemplation and friends and family try to help both deal with the estrangement, but the film is really about time for reflection -- for determining what is really wanted from life.  Chastain and McAvoy are both quite good in a film that's all about their relationship but features less than five scenes with them actually together.  It's an interesting concept that doesn't quite come together, but it certainly isn't for lack of trying on the actors' part.

It's the slow burn of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them that brings the thing down a bit.  I'm all for a slower pace in romantic films as it allows us to further get to know the characters, but here the heaviness of the proceedings start to wear on the process about halfway through.  Ned Benson's concept behind The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is actually quite an interesting one.  He actually made two films -- The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her.  Both were released in theaters in sort of a double feature, with Him obviously focusing on Conor's reactions to their relationship and Her concerning itself with Eleanor.  To be somewhat commercially viable, Benson created Them which clocks in at two hours -- about an hour and ten minutes less than Him and Her combined.  With the pacing of Them being what it is, I'll admit that I'm not quite sure I'd have been able to handle a viewing of Him and Her.  Once again, this isn't a bad film by any means, but it's just a bit too heavy to be enjoyable.  

The RyMickey Rating:  C+