Movie Review: “DEMOLITION” (2016) Fox Searchlight

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With Jake Gyllenhaal as our lead Davis Mitchell, a WASP-ish investment banker with a very large and cold glass house (foreshadowing much?!! *eyeroll) whose life turns into complete disorder when his wife dies tragically in a car crash. He seemingly feels nothing until he discovers a possible grieving outlet, making him deliberately avoid dealing with his grief from a big ol’ vat of emptiness and renouncing this lack of feeling any emotions by demolishing buildings, furniture and household appliances.
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We watch as Davis finds himself writing a highly articulated complaint to a vending machine company for not ejecting his favorite candy bar. When it’s not answered, he then writes another with more detail and another with even more detail until lone customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts), answers his cry for help which is in and of itself so completely unbelievable. So but of course, they strike up a type of relationship. She’s a pothead and single mom with an angsty teenager named Chris (Judah Lewis). But even weirder than this..he then goes on some weird roaming rampage with the kid that really goes no where and makes absolutely zero in the sense department. Watts’ and Lewis’ characters seem secondary not only to the entire cast but also to the overall morale as Gyllenhaal’s Davis bulldozes through the film, robbing the wrong people of the right moments. If this film was trying to be an America Beauty successor, it’s a long way off off ground, but was passable until the final act’s three incredulous twists send it way off the beaten path.

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Maybe this was meant as a comedy of sorts, or a drama..who knows for sure, but what I do know for sure is the film is totally ridiculous, not entertaining and almost insulting to the intelligence. The absurdity of the Gyllenhaal character and his love interest doesn’t match the universe of the other characters in the movie which results in a total disconnect for the us, the viewers. The performances could have been done by anyone, including my neighbor as that is how dull and lacking they all are, except maybe for a completely under-used Chris Cooper here as Phil, the father-in-law who is trying to figure out the same thing we are..what in the fricky-frack is going on.
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The script is weak and the contrived situations simply not funny. An attempt is made at infusing some symbolism of grief, but it’s neither here nor there nor anywhere for that matter.

Grade: D
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Review Screening: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Now playing nationwide as of Friday, April 8, 2016

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REVIEW: “THE BOSS” (2016) Universal Pictures

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Actor, producer and co-writer of this comedy, Melissa McCarthy comes out strong for the first 1/3 of this film featuring her ‘alter-ego’ Michelle Darnell, a character she created with specifics in mind 14 years ago when she was at The Groundlings.

Darnell’s character is a high-powered businesswoman and motivational speaker whose childhood (back n forth between an orphanage and foster care) taught her that the only person she can depend on is herself. She’s self-centered, arrogant and basically completely amoral, seemly part Leona Hemsley/Martha Stewart and an R-rated Little Orphan Annie.
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Michelle generally uses and abuses her personal assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), and her bodyguard isn’t much more than her personal hype man. When Michelle is arrested for insider trading and sent to jail for five months, everyone abandons her, former lover and long-time business rival Renault (Peter Dinklage) buys her companies and the authorities freeze all of her remaining assets. Looks like someone has to start all over again.
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Long & dull, yet incredibly profane & violent at times, story ensues of Michelle going to and being released from jail. When she doesn’t have anywhere to go, she ends up at ex-assistant Claire’s apartment who now works for a crazy Darnell disciple, Dana Dandridge (played by SNL’s Cecily Strong). Claire’s pre-teen daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson), convinces her mom that they have to help Michelle and allows her former boss to stay in the apartment until she gets back on her feet, but Michelle’s feet remain reclined on Claire’s couch until her hand is forced and ends up taking Rachel to her Dandelions meeting (think Girl Scouts) where troop leader Sandy (Kristen Schaal) is discussing their cookie sales.

Michelle gets an idea that her “way back” is to form a group called Darnell’s Darlings which will teach girls business skills as they sell brownies that Claire makes from an old family recipe. Michelle gets Rachel to help her recruit various tough girls and other misfits to join up and sell brownies for a percent of the profits and approaches her estranged former mentor Ida Marquette (Kathy Bates) for financing to help expand the business, but as all this is going on, Renault and his assistant Stephan (Timothy Simons) are keeping tabs on the whole deal and just want the payback that he feels her still owes her.
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I could go on.. but the question is almost why?? Trust me, I’m helping you here to avoid wasting your money even bothering to watch this one. “The Boss” is mostly unoriginal, uninspired, unrealistic and unfunny. The clich├ęd plot lazily recycles the often used story of a main character who has been supposedly ‘hardened’ by a tough life and doesn’t know how to give or receive love. There are a few laughs to be found here and there, again, the first third of the film is good, but the movie’s other problems just kill the mood. Besides that, the movie’s attempts at humor are overly dependent on odd cartoonish violence involving children, cursing around, by and at children, and vulgar sexual references which come off as more crude than funny. McCarthy herself has been much funnier in previous films and hopefully she’ll be funnier again in her future projects. Sadly, her character in this film is one boss who should be fired herself.

Grade: D
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Review Screening: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide Release: Friday, April 8, 2016

“MILES AHEAD” PREMIERE & Q & A ~ DON CHEADLE, EWAN MCGREGOR

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It’s made clear to us right off that this film is not factual. There are some factual elements in the film – Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) did stop making music for 5 years, became a reclusive person and something made him start making music again.
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The film starts us in the later years of Miles’ life. He has already reached fame and fortune. But his drug addiction has turned him into a Howard Hughes recluse. And he has temporarily turned his back on music. The story opens with Miles alone in his home when he is aggressively approached by Rolling Stone magazine writer Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) who is interested in writing about Miles’ new project. The opportunistic Brill gets swept into a fantastical series of events that include following Miles as he confronts his record label, procures cocaine and is chased through the streets in a hail of gunfire by unscrupulous folk looking to advance their worldly standing through the theft of Miles’ still-in-progress demo tape.

By way of flashbacks, we get a glimpse into the more serene life of Miles Davis before drugs off-tracked his career. A clean cut Davis is seen rising in ranks through the Jazz clubs of America and eventually falling for Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who would eventually become his wife of 10 years.
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The film doesn’t dive too deeply into the domestic violence between the two lovers that became headlines back in the early 60’s nor does it touch too intensively the racial tensions in America at the time. There is a scene where Davis is unprovokingly harassed by police officers and taken to jail for simply showing kindness to a woman of white skin, but the film has no message to present in terms of Miles’ involvement with racial divides at the time. Instead, Cheadle keeps the camera focused on a single day in the broken down icon’s history. This works largely to the films advantage but sacrifices giving us a glimpse into the life of the historic character.

Don Cheadle is a revelation as Miles. The raspy voice, the trumpet playing, the belligerence. All are played exactly on key. The supporting cast does amply in tow but there is little to look at outside of Cheadle’s performance. Still, it’s ironic that while Cheadle seems to get not only jazz, but the concept of creativity – starting off the movie with the Miles Davis quote “When you’re creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain’t the limit”
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But a jittery hand held camera may throw some viewers off in spots and the film can be dark and discombobulated at times. Trying to follow the story between modern day and the flashbacks was confusing. Not knowing where the time line was going will leave some confused. Did all the craziness in Davis’ life really happen? or was it Hollywood license

We end up with Cheadle/Davis back on stage blowing his axe in patented ‘Miles style’. **Miles Davis died in 1991 at age 65 universally recognized as one of the most influential and innovative American musicians of the century, jazz or-no jazz.

Grade: C

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POST Q & A WITH DON CHEADLE, EWAN MCGREGOR, EMAYATZY CORINEALDI
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Per Don Cheadle on the basics of the films: It took him ten years to write the script for the movie and shot it all on a budget of 8.5 million dollars. The movie was shot in 6 weeks with 30 shooting days, pre production took 6 weeks and it was all shot in Cincinnati where afterwards they had to go in and cut out certain things like hills and change all the license plates to reflect it being in NYC.

He also wanted to make it perfectly clear that “It’s not a biopic” and he notes “I wanted to do Miles Davis. I wanted to do something crazy and make it like a composition of Miles’ life”. Cheadle chose to pick the time in Miles’ life when he had stepped out of writing and music. “You get to 1975 and he just shut it down” on Miles Davis’s music and impact.

Everything inspires Don Cheadle when it comes to his music, acting, and writing. “The most I could, I would stay in that character” Don Cheadle on being Miles. “The hardest part is staying healthy and getting through it” Don Cheadle on wearing so many hats while acting and directing the Miles Ahead movie.
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For Ewan – him and Don met while in Rwanda back when Cheadle was shooting the heart-wrentching, but so well done film, ‘Hotel Rwanda’. They had arranged to meet at Ewan’s house to talk about this film and Ewan, being the motorbike guy he is, went for a ride, lost himself in it as you do, and was 1/2 way to Malibu when he suddenly remembered he had the meeting with Don..felt so bad and rode furiously fast to get back home to find Don just hanging out reading a magazine.
Had fun with it all, and noted that at times how odd it was as Don would be in character as Miles, directing Ewan as Miles, so really he had 2 directors on the project.

Don Cheadle counted on his entire crew to make sure the movie was being done right! There were no deleted scenes and there was one shot that was not in the movie Don Cheadle wanted to empower everyone on his crew.
Cheadle still continues to play the trumpet used in #MilesAhead, playing with the Roots recently. “I played this morning.” he noted.

And with that, the post-premiere party was one of the more fun ones I’ve attended. Had a great time meeting so many people and was lucky enough to meet, chat and have a fun time with someone I truly admire and adore – Mr. Michael Ealy. #bucketlistmeeting

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REVIEW: “EVERYBODY WANTS SOME” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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“Everybody Wants Some” consists of little more than film of a bunch of overly-competitive jocks joking with each other, partying, and trying to get laid over the course of three days before school starts.

With the countdown on, the opening of the film doesn’t even attempt to describe what’s going to happen and the end of the film barely describes what happened beforehand.

The cast of the film (i.e., the 12 guys who make up the group of athletes) Nesbit (Austin Amelio), McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Jake (Blake Jenner), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), Finnegan (Glen Powell), Plummer (Temple Baker), Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), Beuter (Will Brittain), Jay (Juston Street), Brumley (Tanner Kalina), and Coma (Forrest Vickery) are baseball players, yet there is no baseball played until the very end. They are basically just on one big continual lookout for stimulus in the largest and tiniest things…and really whatever kind of stimulus they can get their hands on whether it be getting stoned, constantly drunk or high.
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Story-wise, it unfolds over almost every part of the 80’s era, which is, as far as I could tell, undefined yet each night takes us to a different flavor of the time: disco, punk, you name it…which makes the soundtrack very listenable..and the best part of this lackluster film.

Featuring bad frat-boy dialogue or a narrative that tries to hard with a cast of guys that look to be in their late 20’s & early 30’s vs. college age, this is Linklater’s new film and his signature style slightly suffering from the post-Boyhood effect with people noticeably walking out within 20-30 minutes. As the lives and summers of eternal youth unfold: partying, billiards, male competition, table tennis, loves, pinball machines, pranks, disco, dance music. And of course girls, all about the girls. For the boys “this is the best day of their lives – until tomorrow.”
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This is not even a close comparison to Dazed & Confused which is a classic and as with most Linklater movies..they tend to run an hour to long ~ this one is no exception.

Grade: D
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Review Screening: Monday, March 28, 2016 ~ Courtesy LAFILM-TV
In limited release ~ Friday, March 30,2016 ~ Nationwide Release: Friday, April 8, 2016