In "Citizen Gangster," Edwin Boyd(Scott Speedman) is a World War II… MoreIn "Citizen Gangster," Edwin Boyd(Scott Speedman) is a World War II veteran who works as a bus driver in Toronto. Dreaming of becoming an actor, he walks off the job one day. Now without the means to support his wife Doreen(Kelly Reilly) and two children, they must now rely on the generosity of his father(Brian Cox). At least, until Edwin decides to put some of his theatrical greasepaint and service revolver to use by robbing banks.
"Citizen Gangster" is a prime example of a movie not being able to see the forest for the trees, as it is lovingly filmed in muted terms and contains a great deal of period detail. And then almost makes you wonder what the big deal is with this true life story whose biggest surprise is delivered in the postscript.(Saying "you had to have been there" does not count.) Plus, Scott Speedman does nobody any favors in the lead, as he is often overshadowed by the supporting cast, as this movie like many others in the past 20 years simply does not have enough Brian Cox to go around. At least, the story does have a valuable message to deliver, namely find a job you love. Just don't strand any passengers by the side of the road while you do.
You must excuse Ralph if he has not been acting like his usual self,… MoreYou must excuse Ralph if he has not been acting like his usual self, as he has been suffering from a mid-life crisis, of sorts. After 30 years of tearing down buildings and getting hostile stares from the residents in an arcade game that also bears his name, he yearns for something more from life than just this and living in a dump. So, he goes to support meetings before trying his luck in another video game where he gets a medal. Surprisingly, that turns out to be the easy part...
I'll start off this paragraph by doing something I swore I would never do in logging reviews online, namely wondering who exactly "Wreck-It-Ralph" was meant for. In tone, it is definitely kids' stuff. But it also concerns old time arcades and video games which I am not really sure exist anymore. In fact, there is no sense of nostalgia here at all, except for a couple of token appearances by the likes of Pac Man and Q-bert who are sadly typecasted. So, while the first two acts are decent if mildly entertaining, the third act finally kicks things into high gear, making this at least a little worthwhile in the end.
Relax, "Nightcrawler" is not yet another superhero movie. Quite the… MoreRelax, "Nightcrawler" is not yet another superhero movie. Quite the opposite, as it is concerned with one Louis Bloom(Jake Gyllenhaal), a thief who specializes in stealing anything that is not nailed down. At least, until he happens upon a crash on the freeway and Joe Loder(Bill Paxton) who gets paid to videotape said acts of carnage. Inspired, Louis parlays the theft of a bicycle into some video equipment which he uses to record footage of his own which gets the notice and a paycheck from Nina(Rene Russo), a news manager at a local television station. Flush with cash, Louis hires Rick(Riz Ahmed) to be his intern.
Highlighted by a very good performance from Jake Gyllenhaal going very much against type, "Nightcralwer" is a dark look at the American dream, as seen through the eyes of a bottom feeder. Thankfully, the movie does not try to explain too much about this sociopath, except that he has probably sat through one too many human resources lectures in his life which could damage even the strongest of minds.
With its emphasis on an anti-hero, "Nightcrawler" does bring to mind any number of 70's movies. But in its strange way, the movie also feels dated, namely with its emphasis on local news, not cable or through the internet.(There is GPS though.) And that's also true in the way that the news stations in the movie frighten suburbanites, not through more recent terrorism and Ebola, but only through violent crime. And then there is an expertly edited car chase, which follows a very contrived key sequence.
In "Laggies," Megan's(Keira Knightley) life is stuck in neutral,… MoreIn "Laggies," Megan's(Keira Knightley) life is stuck in neutral, working with for father(Jeff Garlin) by holding a sign outside of his accounting firm. Even as she is comfortable in her life, she is shaken up by first her photographer boyfriend Anthony(Mark Webber) proposing marriage and then finding her married father in the process of getting a handjob outside of a wedding from another woman. That might explain why she buys booze for teenage Annika(Chloe Grace Moretz) and her friends one night who later asks for an additional favor in asking Megan to pose as her mother for a guidance counselor.
"Laggies" is an amiable enough movie about two young women coming together in friendship, both in need. While Annika needs an older sister to talk to, Megan just needs new friends. Sadly that premise does not work as well it should, not only because of a rushed, predictable and too conventional ending but also for the first time in a long time Sam Rockwell being disappointing in a movie. On the other hand, this might arguably be the best performance of Keira Knightley's career, even if she does get upstaged by a turtle in a scene.
In "Viva la Liberta," Enrico(Toni Servillo) is in a bit of a rut… MoreIn "Viva la Liberta," Enrico(Toni Servillo) is in a bit of a rut lately. Not only are his poll numbers as leader of the left in Italy way down but to add insult to injury he also gets heckled at his own party congress. Desperately needing a timeout, he leaves without telling anyone and holes up with his old friend Danielle(Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and her family in Paris. Andrea(Valerio Mastandrea), one of Enrico's aides, looks to Enrico's brother Giovanni(Toni Servillo), an intellectual who has just gotten out of a mental hospital, for clues on his brother's whereabouts. But what he gets instead is a headache when Giovanni talks to a journalist thinking he is Enrico which at the same time gives Andrea an idea.
If "Viva la Liberta" had just stopped with Toni Servillo's tremendous dual performance and its plot about doppelgangers in politics, I would gladly understand the complaints about this movie's lack of originality. But luckily it does not stop there, as the movie is also interested in carefully exploring mental illness and the world of make believe, not only in the deception at the heart of the movie, but also the world of movies, as Enrico takes the time for once to consider an alternate path for him and his brother, along with maybe one for the left in Italy.
In "Box 507," it has been seven years since Maria(Dafne Fernandez),… MoreIn "Box 507," it has been seven years since Maria(Dafne Fernandez), the teenaged daughter of Modesto(Antonio Resines), a banker, and Angela(Miriam Montilla), died in a forest fire. For them, life goes on. At least, until bank robbers take her hostage, forcing Modesto to open deposit boxes for them, one of which he loses his lunch into. That one also happens to have some very important information for him which he looks into while his wife recovers in the hospital. That box belongs to Rafael(Jose Coronado) and Monica(Goya Toledo) who are in the midst of some very delicate negotiations with the Mafia.
"Box 507" takes a methodical and nuanced approach to its multifaceted mystery, as it carefully dispenses information throughout. The central point of which is that there really is nothing more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose. But as intriguing a character as Modesto is(with an excellent performance from Antonio Resines to match), he is also the epicenter of the movie's flaws as it is too hard to believe that such important information just falls into his lap with him also being in a position to successfully decipher it. What could have solved this problem and made this otherwise compelling movie thrive would have been to start with at least one degree of separation between Modesto and the documents.
Luther Sledge and gang have just robbed a stagecoach in the old west.… MoreLuther Sledge and gang have just robbed a stagecoach in the old west. But that victory does not come without a cost, as the coach driver is accidentally killed and Sledge's partner soon after dies in a card game. None of which stops Sledge from meeting up with Ward(Dennis Weaver) and Hooker(Claude Akins) to discuss an ambitious new plan to rob a gold shipment. At the same time, there is an old man(John Marley) following them who might have some inside knowledge.
"A Man Called Sledge" might not be what would one would normally expect from a typical James Garner vehicle, as this is a Spaghetti western where he plays a much more ruthless character than the charming rogues he was usually known for.(That does partially explain why the forced romantic subplot never quite gels.) That having been said, there is still plenty to admire in this entertaining and violent genre smash-up where death is a constant companion for the characters in a movie made during the sunset of the western. On the other hand, it does take the outlaws a long time to find the obvious, if very daft, solution.
In "Gate of Hell," a rebellion has broken out in Japan. As all hell… MoreIn "Gate of Hell," a rebellion has broken out in Japan. As all hell breaks loose, a desperate plan is hatched to save the royalty by distracting them with a decoy. Kesa(Machiko Kyo), a handmaiden volunteers for the suicide mission which the rebels fall for. Luckily for her, Morito(Kazuo Hasegawa) is on hand to rescue her before battling his own brother. After order is restored and the rebellion put down, Morito is granted a boon for his bravery and loyalty. He chooses Kesa's hand in marriage which is when things get very, very complicated.
Even as action packed as its first act is, "Gate of Hell" also finds the time to unload a lot of 12th century Japanese politics and history on the unsuspecting audience. That is all a little unnecessary, considering that at the heart of this historical drama is the intimate and timeless tragedy of three people and they are the only ones that matter. But the movie soon recovers itself very, very well on the way to its shattering climax. In general, this is also a movie about warriors who have trouble adjusting to peacetime, especially considering this was made not that long after the end of World War II.
In "The Oranges," David(Hugh Laurie) & Paige(Catherine Keener) and… MoreIn "The Oranges," David(Hugh Laurie) & Paige(Catherine Keener) and Terry(Oliver Platt) & Cathy(Allison Janney) are a pair of close knit middle aged couples living across the street from each other in suburban New Jersey. So much so, that David and Terry jog together every morning and they all celebrate the holidays together, even as Terry and Cathy's daughter Nina(Leighton Meester) cannot make it home in time. That holds true until her scumbag of a fiance, Ethan(Sam Rosen), cheats on her. And when she does come home, she warms up romantically to David while his daughter Vanessa(Alia Shawkat) seethes in her room and at work.
While maybe not looking like much on the surface, "The Oranges" succeeds by a being a comically perceptive movie about suburbia that is aided by an excellent cast, especially Hugh Laurie who underplays magnificiently. The movie is kind towards its flawed characters and even handed in showing that suburbia can be a comfortable place to be while also a trap of sorts. For example, Tina who at least has a life of her own makes some huge mistakes in the movie but is at an age where she can recover and learn from them whereas Vanessa does nothing more than just complain in retail purgatory.
Douglas(John Magaro), figuring that if two ordinary looking guys like… MoreDouglas(John Magaro), figuring that if two ordinary looking guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger can hit it big with their band The Rolling Stones and get all the girls, then why not him? So, he forms a band with some friends of his. Regardless, Grace(Bella Heathcote) takes a liking to him. But his father(James Gandolfini), a store owner, does not care much for the idea of his son getting into the music business, much less his longer hair.
As seriously flawed as "Not Fade Away" is, I recently read in Grantland.com why this story might have worked much better as a television series, given its episodic structure. In which case, instead of two hours of cliches about the 60's, we would have had at least ten hours of such tired material. Yes, sometimes forgotten bands can be even more interesting as those that made it big but not here, as the band does nothing to differentiate it from many others of the time period when pretty much everybody was in a band like everybody has a blog today. So, while the movie references many of the innovators of the decade, it only waits until the very end to make any kind of original, ambiguous statement of its own.