Hidden Gem

Hidden Gem – State and Main

by Alan Rapp on January 26, 2017

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: State and Main
  • IMDb: link

State and Main DVD reviewIt’s about purity. We’ll double-down on Throwback Thursday this week to take a quick look at David Mamet‘s underrated 2000 comedy State and Main in which a movie set is forced to relocate to the sleepy town of Waterford, Vermont when their star’s (Alec Baldwin) love of underage girls gets them thrown out of New Hampshire. Immensely entertaining and highly quotable, this one never fails to make me laugh.

Go you Huskies. Featuring an amazing cast, Mamet gives us Philip Seymour Hoffman as the playwright turned screenwriter, William H. Macy as the film’s director, Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker as the film’s stars, and Rebecca Pidgeon, Clark Gregg, and Julia Stiles as townies. All turn out to be perfect fits for Mamet’s quick dialogue that takes equal swipes at Hollywood and small town life but still finds ways to celebrate each.

Everybody needs a hobby. The conflict in the film comes from the dysfunction of the set, the uproar the movie folks have on the town (in both positive and negative ways), and their star’s latest dalliance which puts the entire project in jeopardy.

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2005 – The Upside of Anger

by Alan Rapp on March 19, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Upside of Anger
  • IMDb: link

The Upside of AngerReleased ten years ago, writer/director Mike Binder‘s The Upside of Anger is an underrated film built around a terrific performance by Joan Allen as the pissed-off matriarch of a family struggling to keep it together after her husband has disappeared (presumably to live with his secretary in Sweden). The woman’s life is further complicated by varying states of disrepair of her relationships with her three daughters (Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, and Evan Rachel Wood) and a burgeoning romantic relationship to a former Major League pitcher turned radio host (Kevin Costner) who, despite the woman’s rough edges, quickly falls for Terry and her family.

Along with Allen’s performance (arguably the best of her career as the unlikable but somehow still lovable Terry) the film gives each of the daughters strong roles dealing in their own ways with their mother’s constantly boiling disposition. Russell, Christensen, and Witt each bring something different to their roles as Evan Rachel Wood shines as the youngest sibling who is forced to grow up too quickly due to her father’s abscence and mother’s consequent behavior.

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2004 – Spartan

by Alan Rapp on March 12, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Spartan
  • IMDB: link

“Where’s the girl?”

SpartanTen years ago today David Mamet‘s thriller Spartan opened in theaters starring Val Kilmer (in one of his best roles) and a relatively unknown actress (Kristen Bell) only months away from her career breakthrough as a spunky teen detective. Although my favorite Mamet scripts are his satires (State and Main, Wag the Dog), Spartan is an underrated gem that received neither the box office nor critical success it deserved.

Kilmer stars as a member of Delta Force tasked with finding the President’s daughter (Bell) before anyone realizes the young woman is missing. As with other Mamet thrillers, the plot offers twists and turns in a slowly unraveling mystery involving white slavery, kidnapping, family secrets, and questionable orders that costs several good people their lives and careers.

As you would expect from a Mamet film, the supporting cast is top-notch including Derek Luke as Kilmer’s junior partner, Clark Gregg, William H. Macy, Tia Texada, and Ed O’Neill.

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Hidden Gem – Playing by Heart

by Alan Rapp on April 2, 2013

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Playing by Heart
  • IMDB: link

“Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.”

Playing by HeartReleased in 1998, Playing by Heart follows the formula of several romantic dramedies (Love Actually being the best) which feature interlocking stories of couples in various states of their respective relationships. Written and directed by Willard Carroll, the film is notable for it’s impressive ensemble cast as well as a pair of the six stories which slowly come together during the film’s final act.

My favorite of the group features Angelina Jolie, as the beautiful but high-maintenance Joan, and Ryan Phillippe as the aloof young man with a dark secret who seems immune to her obvious charms. Also worthy of note are Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands as an elderly couple dealing with both the looming specter a life-threatening medical condition and a long-simmering old argument as the pair prepare to renew their vows on their 40th wedding anniversary.

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Last Night

by Alan Rapp on March 16, 2012

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Last Night
  • IMDB: link

last-night-blu-rayFrom writer/director Massy Tadjedin comes a tale of temptation as a married couple each find themselves fighting an attraction to someone other than their significant other during an evening spent apart.

What works so well about Tadjedin’s script is how lived-in Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael’s (Sam Worthington) life together feels. This isn’t your typical Hollywood romcom set of idealistic young lovers or bitter married couple. Despite a little bickering, it’s obvious the two love each other, but until the end of the film we’re not sure if doubts and temptation in the form of an old flame (Guillaume Canet) or an attractive co-worker (Eva Mendes) are enough to lure them into a decision that could end their marriage.

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