In "Payday," Rip Torn takes advantage of a rare leading role and runs… MoreIn "Payday," Rip Torn takes advantage of a rare leading role and runs with it. In this film, he plays Maury Dann, a country musician, who is currently at a crossroads in his career. His manager Clarence(Michael C. Gwynne) advises him to take some time off in Nashville, where he can record a little, and maybe appear on Johnny Cash's show, after a concert in Birmingham, so as to avoid a process server who may be looking for him. Maury, by contrast, wants to continue the tour into New England. For the time being, all he wants to do after the concert is to drink beer and have sex.
"Payday" is a modest character study of somebody who is not modest in the least, answering the question once and for all as to whether talent has any connection with how good a person is. For Maury, it all comes down to his past which he can never escape, either his mother(Cara Dunn) who he supports and visits occasionally or his children that he has lost touch with. This was also filmed at an interesting time for the South, just after it had recently integrated.
In "The Guilt Trip," Andy(Seth Rogen) has just invented an organic… MoreIn "The Guilt Trip," Andy(Seth Rogen) has just invented an organic cleaner that he plans to peddle to corporate stores around the country. While doing so, he also plans to bring along his mother Joyce(Barbra Streisand), not only to get her out of the house but also because he has also located her first love still alive in San Francisco.
You know you're in trouble if in trying to make a comedy, the best scene is a serious one, hinting at where the overall tone of "The Guilt Trip" should have been in the first place. I mean Seth Rogen has shown he has been able to drama and comedy before but shows he has no idea here of how to be the straight man and Barbra Streisand's once great comic instincts have apparently atrophied to very little over the decades. That leaves it to Brett Cullen to steal the scene he is in, with another highlight involving a strip club. Because otherwise all you are left with are the cliches of the road movie genre, with the accompanying overwhelming product placement. The saddest thing is this might be the closest we come to a big screen adaptation of "Middlesex."
In his 1961 novel "Catch-22," Joseph Heller asked the question, 'Where… MoreIn his 1961 novel "Catch-22," Joseph Heller asked the question, 'Where have all the Snowdens of yesteryear gone?"
Last year we got an answer. Boy did we ever!
What the documentary "Citizenfour" does in the tense intimacy of a hotel room in Hong Kong(and through e-mails before and after) is to not only explore who Edward Snowden is and why he did what he did, but also to put those actions in a wider context by showing how much certain government officials lied when they said there were no NSA programs to monitor its citizens that go beyond simply the stated aims of protecting them against terrorism which it failed to do so in the case of the Boston Marathon bombings.(At the same time, this documentary also serves to dispel any number of nerd stereotypes.) Where this may lead is anybody's guess but some hints are implied, namely not blindly relying on technology anymore but returning to older means of communications like a Rubik's Cube and pen and paper.
While journalist Gleen Greenwald and assorted allies do their best to get behind and ahead of this story(including director Laura Poitras who does her simple best to remain off-camera), the real tragedy is President Obama not acting proactively when he had the chance, considering he had five years to do so before Edward Snowden's heroic actions. And that is assuming Obama's good intentions, of course.
In "The Homesman," Mary Bee Cuddy(Hilary Swank) is a self-sufficient… MoreIn "The Homesman," Mary Bee Cuddy(Hilary Swank) is a self-sufficient farmer in Nebraska territory. However, she aims to change that by proposing marriage to Bob Giffen(Evan Jones), a fellow homesteader, and is turned down flat. Soon enough, Mary and the rest of the town have bigger problems to contend themselves with. Namely, the mental well-being of three local women(Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Sonja Richter). It is soon decided to take them back east to Iowa for the care they need and Mary is the one who volunteers to take them. Luckily, for her she finds George Briggs(Tommy Lee Jones, who also directed and co-wrote), a not-so-good man about to be lynched, who agrees to help.
For about the last fifteen years, Hollywood has had little idea what to do with Hilary Swank, who like many others who do not fit easily into a simple box. However, with "The Homesman," she gives her own fierce answer in another excellent performance in a western that is relevant to today.(Plus, in an extended cameo, Meryl Streep gives her best performance in quite a while. Faint praise, I know, but still.) What this movie also does so well is detail not so much the physical struggles of surviving on the frontier, but the mental ones as well. So, it is a shame that women are hardly treated any better in the present day.
In "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," Arash(Arash Marandi) is very… MoreIn "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," Arash(Arash Marandi) is very proud of his car, having worked 2,191 days at a menial job in order to save up enough to afford it. And then has it taken away in one fell swoop by Saeed(Dominic Rains) who takes the car in payment for all the money Arash's father Hossein(Marshall Manesh), a junkie, owes him. And while Saeed usually hangs out with Atti(Mozhan Marno, of "The Blacklist"), he leaves her behind to give a lift to a girl(Sheila Vand) one night.
Aided by cool black and white cinematography, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" proves once again how to do a creepy vampire movie, located in a place called Bad City which could be thought of as nowhere and everywhere at the same time. That helps the movie in slyly critiquing the sanctimonious regime of Iran where this movie is set, if not filmed. For example, the father is the addict for once and the one woman who wears a headscarf is a vampire who wants to know if she is a bad person. And let's not forget the open grave on the edge of town.
Did you know that one of the more tedious duties of being a king is… MoreDid you know that one of the more tedious duties of being a king is having your portrait painted over and over again? That is no less true for King Charles XVI of Tachycardia. But it is even worse for him when his portrait takes over his life, and then obsesses over a shepherdess from a painting who is in love with a chimney sweep. Luckily for them, a mockingbird is able to save them from the king, the bird being a veteran of several skirmishes, both verbal and violent, with the real king.
"The King and the Mockingbird" is an entertaining old-fashioned animated film that is equal parts surreal and political. In other words, it clears up the mystery of why the king's city is so underpopulated while ending on a very final Marxist note. So, while the movie specializes in some very memorable imagery, at other times, the movie's primitive level of animation makes this seem like a lost extended episode of "Heckle and Jeckle." And yes that's what I get for settling for the dubbed version.
"Stand Up Guys" starts with Val(Al Pacino) being released from prison… More"Stand Up Guys" starts with Val(Al Pacino) being released from prison after 28 years, where he is met by his best friend Doc(Christopher Walken). Whereas Doc may never stab his friend in the back, he may have to shoot him, under orders from Claphands(Mark Margolis). But first Doc takes his friend to get laid and introduces him to viagra.
"Stand Up Guys" is a better movie than I was expecting and not as good as it could have been. For example, there is a scene in a cemetery that makes absolutely no sense but still works. In any case, it is always fun watching a couple of old pros do their thing, even Al Pacino who is relatively restrained here. And while the movie does have its share of erection jokes, it is also wistful in tone, telling the viewer the story of this singular friendship over an eventful night.
In "Snitch," Jason(Ravi Gavron) is arrested on charges of drug… MoreIn "Snitch," Jason(Ravi Gavron) is arrested on charges of drug smuggling when a friend mails him a box full of ecstasy pills. Since his friend informed on him, Jason is now facing a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, being unable to cut a deal to inform on any drug dealers. However, his father John(Dwayne Johnson) is willing to go for bat for him. In fact, he will go so far as to go undercover to get dirt on big time drug kingpins, which almost gives ambitious federal prosecutor Joanne Keeghan(Susan Sarandon) a spontaneous orgasm. So, it's a good thing that John has ex-cons working for him like Daniel(Jon Bernthal).
"Snitch" starts well enough, as it seeks to explore the draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws in this country. And it helps that Susan Sarandon gives another very fine performance, even against a miscast Dwayne Johnson who while a decent enough actor is not quite adept at the whole vulnerability thing. Still, that is long before the movie betrays itself, turning from a family drama into an action flick. Admittedly, some people require car chases and shootouts to get the message across, so it's not a total loss.
In "Welcome to the Punch," Ruan Sternwood(Elyes Gabel, of "Scorpion")… MoreIn "Welcome to the Punch," Ruan Sternwood(Elyes Gabel, of "Scorpion") tries to flee the country but faints because of a severe bullet wound before he can do so. Before he does, he places a phone call to his father Jacob(Mark Strong) who is wanted on pretty every charge imaginable and ironically allows the police to trace him to Iceland. But because the police do not take the advice of Detective Max Lewinsky(James McAvoy), Jacob is able to elude about half the Icelandic military in his escape. After which, Max is placed on the case full time, even as his partner Sarah Hawks(Andrea Riseborough) worries that he might be too emotionally involved, only to be expected considering that Jacob kneecapped him the last time he tried to capture him.
"Welcome to the Punch" is a stylish crime thriller. However, it still suffers from some of the cliches of the genre, namely predictability, especially as it concerns one character's fate. What keeps this movie from being completely ordinary are the set pieces and Andrea Riseborough's cool impression. And then there is the great chemistry between Mark Strong and Peter Mullan which instantly elevates any scenes they share.
With his daughter Sam(Emma Stone) being hired as his personal… MoreWith his daughter Sam(Emma Stone) being hired as his personal assistant, movie star Riggan Thompson(Michael Keaton) aims to take Broadway by storm with a play he is adapting, directing and starring in. Except, he is finding it more challenging than he originally expected. Namely, that Ralph(Jeremy Shamos), one of the key actors, can't. Which is taken care of easily enough through an industrial accident which Riggan confesses responsibility of to his agent Jake(Zach Galifianakis) due to psychic powers. In any case, this means Riggan gets to replace him with Mike(Edward Norton), a definite improvement, unless you discount his adherence to realism on stage. Oh and Laura(Andrea Riseborough) might have some news for Riggan.
"Birdman" is a well-acted and complelling back stage drama, filmed on location at the St. James Theatre in New York City, that allows Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis to extend their range.(It is ironic perhaps that Lindsay Duncan who plays the New York Times critic/great defender of theatre is currently appearing in 'A Delicate Balance' about a block away.) Also, it is something of a technical achievement in its apparently seamless editing which imitates the onstage feel of a play with a rotating background. So, while Riggan is doing the right thing by bringing serious theatre to Broadway, he is doing for the wrong reason, namely his ego, always dwarfed by that of a superhero he once played and now suffering under the strain of.