Movie Reviews 

Hail, Caesar!

by Alan Rapp on February 5, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Hail, Caesar!
  • IMDb: link

Hail, Caesar!With Hail, Caesar! the Coen Brothers take a few good-natured stabs at the golden age of movies while celebrating, and lampooning, the studio system of Hollywood during the early days of the Cold War. Providing a film where Channing Tatum gets to play Fred Astaire and Tilda Swinton does double-duty as twin gossip columnists, I wouldn’t go so far to call it a screwball comedy, but Hail, Caesar! certainly does have a few screws loose (in mostly the right places).

Josh Brolin stars as studio exec Eddie Mannix dodging offers to leave the studio for a more stable job while overseeing a big-budget spectacular about a Roman general’s encounter with Jesus Christ when his star (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a group of Hollywood writers who are all Communists (Fisher Stevens, Patrick Fischler, Tom Musgrave, David Krumholtz, Greg Baldwin, and Patrick Carroll).

Not all the film works. Far too much time is wasted on Mannix being wooed by an airline, and, while opening up intriguing ideas about outside-the-box solutions to problems, the subplot involving Scarlett Johansson as a single pregnant starlet fizzles. More successful is Alden Ehrenreich as a Western star struggling with his role in straightforward drama.

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Kung Fu Panda 3

by Alan Rapp on January 29, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Kung Fu Panda 3
  • IMDb: link

Kung Fu Panda 3Building on the epilogue of Kung Fu Panda 2, the latest sequel introduces Po (Jack Black) to his father Li (Bryan Cranston) and an entire tribe of Pandas hidden away in a secret valley deep in the mountains. Along the way Po will also struggle with passing on his knowledge of Kung Fu in the role of teacher, first to the Furious Five and later to his Panda students, when an old threat returns and begins stealing the chi of Kung Fu masters across China.

While not as good as the first film, Kung Fu Panda 3 stands up pretty well against Kung Fu Panda 2 – even if it ignores the most intriguing subplot of the first sequel involving Po’s evolving relationship with Tigress (Angelina Jolie). J.K. Simmons proves to be a good choice for the film’s villain Kai: Oogway‘s (Randall Duk Kim) one-time friend who escapes the spirit realm in his search of ultimate power.

And the film introduces us to an entire village of thinly drawn but (mostly) entertaining Panda characters while still finding time to deal with Mr. Ping‘s (James Hong) jealousy and insecurity at Po exploring a relationship with his “real” father.

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Anomalisa

by Alan Rapp on January 22, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Anomalisa
  • IMDb: link

AnomalisaBased on his play, Charlie Kaufman‘s stop-motion feature focuses on depressed self-help author (David Thewlis) in a Cincinnati hotel the night before the latest stop on his book tour. Alternatively charming and tedious, Anomalisa delivers a collection of mundane and awkward experiences and conversations highlighted by the author, who hears everyone he’s ever met speaking in Tom Noonan‘s voice, meeting an insecure young woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) whose voice breaks the self-help guru out of his melancholy.

Centering a film around a lonely puppet with questionable sanity who hears the world in monotone makes for an unique film experience. That said, Anomalisa is a film I could never quite wrap my arms around and embrace. Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson certainly tap into some real human emotion, but with the focus on the boredom, monotony, and depression of the life of our schmuck of a protaganist all Kaufman really has to explore is that same boredom, monotony, and depression with no end in sight. Dragging its way through several scenes, Anomalisa is a 90-minute film that often feels quite a bit longer.

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The Revenant

by Alan Rapp on January 8, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Revenant
  • IMDb: link

The RevenantWriter/director Alejandro González Iñárritu offers a straightforward tale of survival and revenge based on the true experiences of a frontiersman left for dead in 1823 in South Dakota. Bleak may not be a strong enough word for the film’s tone, but Leonardo DiCaprio makes it work as fur trapper Hugh Glass who struggles to survive after being attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by a member (Tom Hardy) of the group who had sworn to look after the wounded man.

The Revenant is the type of movie you are more likely to appreciate than enjoy, and I don’t see myself returning to the film any time soon. That said, Iñárritu unquestionably delivers a stunning film of personal survival that is completely engrossing to watch. It’s impossible not to root for Glass and his struggle to make it back home and exact some measure of revenge for what was done to him.

Entirely DiCaprio’s film, with the exception of one or two scenes which Hardy steals, the other notable members of the cast are Domhnall Gleeson as the leader of the company fur trapping expedition and Forrest Goodluck as Glass’ son Hawk.

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Youth

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Youth
  • IMDb: link

YouthWriter/director Paolo Sorrentino‘s Youth is the kind of ensemble dramedy you will either buy into immediately or struggle to make any connection to throughout its two-hour running time. My experience with the film falls into the later category. Sorrentino’s script gives us an odd collection of characters at an otherworldly resort in the Swiss Alps. The main storylines revolve around retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and his relationships to his best friend filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) and Fred’s daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz).

Sorrentino’s film isn’t lacking for either on-screen talent or style. Although not in the category of their best performances, the ensemble plays well off one another. And the film looks terrific but, since we are viewing events through an unreliable protagonist in Frank, its unclear how much of the magic is actually present in the odd resort and how much (such as his hallucinations) are entirely figments of his imagination. I suppose, like most of the movie’s superflous plot and characters, it doesn’t really matter.

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