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
@pegsatthemovies

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

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‘Cinderella’, ‘Insurgent’, ‘Danny Collins’, ‘Jauja’, ’71’, ‘The Salvation’, ’50 Shades of Grey’

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So I’ve seen a bunch of films lately that have all been pretty average or just plain bad..with one I really liked!! And as sometimes we all feel like a bad film has just sucked it out of us, I didn’t even feel like giving some of them a review..but then decided to suck it all in and just put them all in one with a few bits about each and let everyone make up their own minds to see them or not.

I’m starting with the one that actually surprised me out of the group because I actually did like it…not love it mind you, but a good ‘like’ is pretty much all I’m looking for now-a-days from a film!
So let’s begin:
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CINDERELLA (2015) Disney Studios – Every little girl knows this story by heart growing up..it’s truly a little girls fantasy that no matter how crappy things are, you have the chance of one day meeting your ‘prince’. We all bank on it somewhat that it could actually happen. And then you grow up. ha! What surprised me was how much I liked revisiting this version of the story. Richard Madden as “Prince Kit”, (whom I loved and miss as Robb Stark), really made a very believable Prince and Lily James is a quite wonderful “Cinderella”. Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother was perfect, and it’s always nice to see ‘Daisy’ from Downton Abbey (one of my fav. characters of that show) Sophie McShera “Drisella” and Holliday Grainger “Anastasia” doing a fun spin on the wicked stepsisters. Throw in Stellan Skarsgard as the “Grand Duke” and Derek Jacobi as the “King” and you have a well-rounded out cast that brings some new blood & life to this story. And that’s what I liked best of all about it. Told in a little bit more updated version, though not time-wise, but tale-wise, brought it all to life in a really nice wrapped up gift. Was it super fantastic and the best Cinderella story ever told..nah..but it certainly was a nice breath of fresh air and a decent enough way to spend an afternoon reliving the little girl inside of me.

Grade: C+

Next on the list:
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INSURGENT (2015) Lionsgate/Summit Ent.
For this one I actually looked back at my review of “Divergent” from back in March of 2014. https://peggyatthemovies.com/2014/03/26/peggyatthemovies-review-of-divergent-2/ .

Basically I could just repeat it almost word for word except for a few minor things.. Like first off how this one was worse, second of all; bad bad casting decision on Naomi Watts as “Evelyn”, Four’s mother. And yes, the lovely Theo James reprising his role here, though annoying enough he kills the best character they had of all as I noted in my Divergent review also, “Eric” (Jai Courtney) this time round. You know my motto, you’re only as good as your villain and Courtney played a good villain.
Miles Teller as “Peter” steps it up some this time, but after you’ve seen him in Whiplash, it’s hard to take this performance seriously as you now know what he’s truly capable of. Ansel Egort “Caleb” is pretty non-existent both in character and performance, and Shailene Woodley coming back as “Tris” is annoyingly bad…again. I mean in an opening scene she decides to chop off all her hair for a new look.. now we know with the hack-knife that she’s using there is no way this is coming out well.. but oh no..not with Shailene..it’s perfectly coiffed hair cut. Please. Stop it.

I didn’t hate the first one, but I liked this one even less and losing a good villain and not adding anyone of consequence..I think I might be out of town, or ya know, busy washing my hair for the next one.

Grade: D

Moving on—
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DANNY COLLINS (2015) UNIVERSAL

Sigh. I j’adore Al Pacino. I always have. I’ve met him a few times, sat next to him at a movie at Sony once and he shared his candy with me and is truly one of the nicest guys ever. He’s also Al freaking Pacino!!! I mean… enough said right.

Well here he plays “Danny Collins”, an aging rock star who’s manager & best friend “Frank Grubman” (Christopher Plummer) discovers 40 years after the fact, that John Lennon wrote him a letter telling him to basically stay true to himself at what he was doing at the time. Clearly he didn’t and now decides to change his life and sit down and write the songs that were true to him back then, thinking his now-aged audience will want to hear them. They don’t. There is a back story here that I won’t even get into because it’s so passe’ but I will say that Bobby Cannavale as his son “Tom Donnelly” is refreshingly good and I don’t think gets enough credit for his work ever. Annette Benning “Mary Sinclair” as the hotel manager whom Collins is trying to woo into having dinner and maybe more, with him, of course carries herself. Jennifer Garner “Samantha Donnelly” as Tom’s wife holds her own in this company. There are a few really nice, fun moments and as you see them coming a mile away, a few harder ones also, though you pretty much can see in sight what the ending is. In December I went to a screening with a Q & A with Mr. Pacino afterwards of “The Humbling”. This film is almost a cover version of that one except here he is an aging rock star vs. an aging actor.
But ya know what.. no matter as I will always go see an Al Pacino film.

Grade: C-

Neeexxt…
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JAUJA (2014)
I will be deadly honest with you all here. I am not completely sure what this film was even really about. I went because I was invited to a screening with Viggo Mortensen doing a Q & A afterwards and as I am a big fan of his, I thought “sure I’ll go”. Huh.. I think it’s basically a journey of a father, “Gunnar Dineson” (Mortensen) and daughter “Ingebord” (Villbjork Malling Agger) thru a desert though I’m not sure where they are going exactly, and the daughter runs away with her boyfriend in the middle of it, though there is another person they are hunting, or is he hunting them?? And then he meets a witch in a cave while searching for her.. or does he really?? again, completely confused. And then BOOM! all of a sudden it’s present day and it’s the same daughter living in a nice house but without the father. The whole film switches between Danish & Spanish speaking and let’s just all agree to say that I didn’t get it and call me completely lost on this one.. like ‘we have to go back to the island’ LOST. 🙂

I will say Viggo was an absolutely wonderful guy with a lot to talk about. I think he could tell that I might be a little confused by the film and offered to have me to stay for the second screening they were having later. I told a white lie and said I had plans..which I kinda did. They involved me watching the Malaysian Grand Prix a little later. 🙂 And we ended up talking mostly about football aka soccer, as he brought it up when speaking and it turns out we like the same teams. So there ya have it.
Movie grade: D
Conversation with Viggo grade: A 🙂 Viggo

71
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Being a fan of Jack O’Connell‘s I saw this film a few weeks back and while for the most part, I liked it, and liked his performance as “Gary Hook” the somewhat dis-oriented British soldier who during a riot on the streets of Belfast during the height of the Irish Catholic/Protestant war i.e., 1971, gets left behind by his unit.
What follows was a bit of a convoluted story for me of him being chased down, beaten up, shot, and surviving a bomb attack all in a matter of what..48hrs. I dunno.. a lot of it just seemed a bit implausible for me. And what’s with him always constantly getting the crap beat out of him in pretty much every single film he’s ever done!! ha! Sorry..sorry.. I know I shouldn’t even be commenting that because this is a serious film..but hey. I call it as I see it.

The side story here is of course religion and how much these people hate each other over it..once again..I’m never that great with these story lines because I’m not religious and can’t imagine killing someone over it. But it’s gone on for thousands of years, and as we all know in Ireland, it was really heavy duty for about 30+ or so years until the ‘peace treaty signed about 17 yrs ago, with this time period truly being the height of it all. There is also a nice sub-plot of crooked police detectives “Sgt. Leslie Lewis” (Paul Anderson), “Capt. Sandy Browning” (Sean Harris) helping both sides in a way and the rest of a good supporting cast including Sam Reid as “Lt. Armitage” who is O’Connell’s commanding officer and seemingly the only person really looking out for him & on his side to find him. This is a rough movie, not altogether great, but it will keep you watching till the end.

Grade: C

Almost to the end..

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THE SALVATION (2014) IFC Films

Since this just came for a one week run here in L.A. a few weeks ago, I had the chance to catch it on at my favourite art-house theatre, the NuArt. But whoa.. what a film. I mean if one more thing happened to Mads Mikkelson’s character here. Well I just don’t think it would be humanly possible. To put it lightly..this is a dark dark film (yes pun intended) that just takes you places that I probably never want to visit again.

It’s a Western, but not like one you’ve ever seen before because it’s not just Cowboys & Indians here. It’s really like how it must have truly been because there were tons of immigrants coming from all over and settling in as cowboys, though in every Western you’ve ever seen, they just pretend that suddenly everyone was just a regular old southern boy without an accent drifting out West. ZZZzzzzz

Well this one is 1870’s America, the gold rush is on, and this peaceful Danish settler “Jon” (Mads Mikkelson) has been separated from his wife & son for 7 years and finally brings them out to be with him. Literally within an hour of being here, they are kidnapped, his wife raped & murdered & young son also murdered by two degenerates, one of them being a character named “Paul” (Michael Raymond–James). Jon sets out, with his brother “Peter”(Mikael Persbrant) to avenge their deaths and hunts them down and kills them, which then leads to the unleashing of notorious gang leader “Delarue” (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) coming after them as Paul was, unbeknownst to Jon, Delarue’s brother. The really weird townspeople then desert him in his hour of need because they don’t want to die, ends up most of them do. Eva Green is thrown in as a character named “Madelaine” who has her tongue cut out so she doesn’t speak..which doesn’t matter as she really can’t act anyways.. and then comes some really hard core horrible death scenes and basically anything that can go wrong for Jon does, until of course it doesn’t.

This isn’t a great film, it a super depressing one to be honest, but it’s also not horrible. Mads is quite good as a cowboy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan even better possibly as the villain, though you know my motto, you’re only as good a your villain..yeah that doesn’t apply here. Jonathan Pryce “Keane”, Eric Cantona “Corsican”, Sean Cameron Michael “Lester” and Jose Domingos “Raul Delgado” all offer good supporting characters. This film was definitely a mixed bag for me.

Grade: C

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50 SHADES OF GREY (2015) Focus Features/Universal Pictures

What was the big deal here is all I kept thinking about while watching this film. I thought I was going to be watching the second coming of Deep Throat or some really trumped up S & M film or something the way everyone was going on about it..and all I got was an actually very tame, quite badly done film about this guy, “Christian Grey” (Jamie Dornan) wanting to control this girl “Anatasia Steele” (Dakota Johnson). She’s a literature student who works in a hardware store (of course she does) and he’s a tormented handsome, self-made millionaire businessman..ZZZzzzz oh sorry I drifted off there for a minute just telling with that ridiculous storyline. They are like the new Twilight couple featuring some S & M sex vs. vampires & wolves. Control in the way of having her sign a contract before sex, because he doesn’t spend the night with anyone or have relationships..blah blah blah.. of he does end up doing so, she ends up letting him take her to the ‘The Red Room’ and with some reeaaally bad dialogue thrown in and possibly worse acting, you have the story in a nutshell. I don’t think two people with less chemistry together have made a movie about sex so badly before. And truly, there wasn’t anything hardcore about this. Why all the fuss?? So the guy has a dungeon like room full of sex toys.. a few sex scenes that seriously weren’t that far out there at all. I feel like I must have missed something..but if I did, that’s okay because I will probably miss the next few ones in the trilogy also unless they up their game and their acting ..a lot.

Grade: D

So now you see why I just threw them altogether in one review. I like some, but didn’t love any of them. And now I’m caught up, back and ready to go! 😀
@pegsatthemovies
peggyatthemovies.com

(See grading scale)

REVIEW ~ ST. VINCENT (2014)

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By this time, if there is anyone who hasn’t figured out that Bill Murray is a comedic genius then not only do I feel bad that they’ve missed so many fantastically funny, great movies, but maybe they can find some of it then in this film.  While Murray does a bit of a mixed bag here of comedy and a dramatic turn also, no one can deliver spot on, deadpan sarcasm like Murray.  NO ONE!  His character, “Vincent” is the corrosively, sarcastically funny old man next door who gets softened up a bit by the fact that his new neighbors seem to need his help somewhat with of all things, babysitting of the young boy, “Oliver” (played wonderfully by Jaeden Lieberher).  Oliver and his mom “Maggie” (Melissa McCarthy) are a bit down on their luck as she is going thru a divorce and trying to work long hours and take care of her son.  Step in ne’er-do-well neighbor and all around screw-up Vincent to ‘save the day’ and what ensues is a story of what could be taken two ways.. You can look at it as Vincent teaching Oliver ‘real’ life and what goes on when they spend the day in at the races using Oliver’s lunch money to make a bet and a surprising win, Vincent, showing Oliver how to deliver an upper-cut to nose to defend himself against the school bullies, celebrating at the local bar, or the sweetness of visiting his Alzheimers ridden wife.  Of course it’s not what you’re supposed to do, but taken in the context of the movie can not only be looked at as somewhat of a learning process, but quite funny as well.  StVincent2

But this isn’t all fun and laughs as not only does McCarthy go for a more dramatic start here, giving us some relief from what seems to be her playing the same character her last few comedic movies, but she does it well enough and it’s nice to see her showing she’s got more range than we thought. Murray, is as always quite genius even when his role becomes more challenging in the dramatic sense when he suffers a stroke and goes through a tough recovery process all with the help of what is probably one of the worst characters not only in this movie, but just in general, a very not funny, awfully acted Russian prostitute “Daka” played terribly by (Naomi Watts).  Not only is her accent just awful and grating on your every last nerve, but her garish, harsh makeup really does not flatter here at all. While she is supposed to be somewhat endearing and maybe even a bit funny, the whole character is sadly what makes this movie only good instead of fantastic.  On the fantastic side, newcomer Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver is remarkable in not only his acting skills, but as a child holding his own alongside Murray.  Who knows, we might have another Nicholas Hoult on our hands here! Add in a couple of fun smaller supporting roles from the always wonderful for me, Chris O’Dowd as “Brother Geraghty” a priest in the Catholic school which Oliver attends even though they and most of the children attending aren’t even Catholic, in his always fun, comedic ways, he helps Oliver make his presentation of “St. Vincent”. Terence Howard as “Zucko” the bookie trying to collect Vincent’s gambling debts and Kimberly Quinn as “Nurse Ana” who cares for Vincent’s wife “Sandy” (Donna Mitchell) in the care facility and has a soft spot for him as he tries to do anything and everything to keep her from being moved to another facility.

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Though they do a good job of mixing the right amount of comedic with dramatic adding in just enough heartstrings pull. all in all this adds up to only being a good movie..not a great movie,

Grade: C  (average)

#peggyatthemovies

 

REVIEW: “BIRDMAN” (2014) ~ Fox Searchlight

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Ok.. I will admit, I’m rather breathless right now.. I was fortunate enough to see a special screening (thank you EVER so much Jason Watters) of this movie and to simply say it’s fucking BRILLIANT feels like I’m almost understating it.. To say I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say I don’t think most have either..But I’m pretty sure in my stating that fact. It’s almost to difficult to put into words what exactly this movie is about, because it’s that different and special, but when you see, trust me, you will get it, and that gettin is oh so good of a film.  From the 4th or 5th minute in this movie..YOU ARE IN IT..it feels that way..and as they say..’in it to win it’.. And you don’t want to leave it.

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To sum it up as best I can without ruining or revealing to much of the plot of this SUPERBLY acted play within a movie, within a play, yes you read that correctly, starting with a simply superb performance as “Riggin Thomson” is Michael Keaton, playing a washed up actor who in a twist of fate that could possibly be based on a bit of real life (hmmm), once played an iconic superhero character named ‘Birdman’, got pigeon-holed by sequels and has been type-cast ever since.  He is attempting to mount a ‘comeback’ of sorts by doing a Raymond Carver play which he wrote. is directing and starring in and what entails during the 3 preview showings of the play is what this somewhat fantastical, oh so cherry-red, dark comedy takes us through. All the while ‘Birdman’ seems to be a voice in his head telling him things, but is it just a voice and are all the fantastical things he can do all real?  This is all part of the wonderfully different ride you will be on while watching the film feeling you are on the rollercoaster right along with him,  birdman 3

Stealing the show and his play within a movie within a play..ha! I just love saying that..is Riggin’s co-star in both “Mike Shiner” (Edward Norton), who really does a fantastic job here of making us think or believe his character is either completely insane or completely normal. You get to decide while you either shriek with laughter or dis-belief at this guy.  While some of the supporting cast here is so-so for me in this movie. as I’m not fond of either character of “Lesley” (Naomi Watts), who is the rather neurotic lead of the play  or “Sam” (Emma Stone), who plays Riggin’s re-habbed daughter/theatre assistant/stoner/ends up sleeping with Mike role, I did however love Andrea Riseborough as “Laura” who plays quite comically, Riggin’s girlfriend, and “Brandon” (Zach Galifianakis) his agent/lawyer/comic best friend.

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I will sum this up for you very simply, this is probably one of the best films I’ve seen, this year for sure. It’s so original, well thought out and If anything, you must give a huge shout-out to not only the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu for his amazing vision and what he accomplishes in this film with it, but the WHOLE film crew from the producers and most especially the camera crew as noting they did in the Q & A afterwards with producer John Lesher & the film’s star, Michael Keaton, what a great job was done by all in a very short period of time on a very low budget, you will be amazed by what you see and hear as the soundtrack is just as good as the film itself.  This movie has you giving knee-jerk reactions in some scenes that parlay into completely different situations than you thought possible, it will make you think, it will entertain you and end with a scene which is one you will not soon forget, Lastly you will talk about this movie for a long time afterwards. Is this what you might call a “comeback” for Michael Keaton, yeah..it is, and we all know how much not only Hollywood, but we ALL love comebacks, My suggestion to all is run..don’t walk..do not pass go, just get to the theatre and see this very very good movie when it’s released. For me, this would get Oscar nods for film, lead actor Michael Keaton, and supporting actor, Edward Norton.  I’m going to bet on this one that I am right..:)   

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Producer Josh Lesher & Michael Keaton

Producer Josh Lesher & Michael Keaton

Grade:  A (Oscar-worthy)

(see grading scale)

#peggyatthemovies