By Bob Grimm
on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 10:30 AM
Adam Sandler’s third movie with Netflix is the very definition of over indulgence.
There’s a decent movie in here from director Steven Brill, who worked with Sandler previously on Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds and The Do-Over.
Sandler stars as the title character, a talent manager trying to find new clients in the ‘90’s. After working with low level comedians and daredevils, Sandy finds Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson), an amusement park performer with a stunning voice. Sandy takes charge of her career, and sends her on a superstar trajectory. Sandler creates one of his weirdo characterizations, with a goofy voice and strange mannerisms. While some of the ‘90s jokes involving Fruitopia, Arsenio Hall and the Atkins Diet are pretty funny, Sandler and Brill take the movie off into a strange, unlikely romance realm that destroys all of the fun.
The movie is supremely overstuffed at 130 minutes, with one subplot too many involving Terry Crews as a flamboyant wrestler. His entire story arc could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. Kevin James has a fairly funny supporting role as a ventriloquist who carries on regular conversations through his dummies, and Nick Swardson scores some laughs as a daredevil reminiscent of Super Dave Osborne and Evil Knievel. Hudson is good in her role, even when the character inexplicably falls for Sandy.
At 90 minutes and without the love story, this one might’ve been okay. As it stands, it’s another miss for Sandler (Streaming exclusively on Netflix).
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 4:30 PM
Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, a personal assistant to a celebrity, fed up with her job while dealing with the recent passing of her brother.
Before his dying, the brother pledges to make contact afterwards in the event of his death, so Maureen spends some time in his old house, where a spirit seems to be present. She starts getting mysterious text messages, and slowly finds herself having direct contact with ghostly spirits and/or completely losing her mind.
Part ghost story and part psychological drama, the film is directed by Olivier Assayas, who got a powerful performance out of Stewart with Clouds of Sils Maria, and the same happens here. Stewart continues her string of impressive choices, eschewing huge Hollywood projects in favor of more daring projects.
The film contains its share of supernatural moments, but there’s far more beneath the layers than Maureen simply speaking with ghosts. Credit Stewart and Assayas for making something simple like a text exchange truly compelling. There’s also a true eeriness to the scenes where Maureen may or may not be coming into contact with the dead.
Stewart carries this movie, and shows that she is one of the better actresses of her generation, yet again.
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 9:10 AM
The new sci-fi-horror film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, is an inconsistent but overall sturdy genre pic that looks great and ultimately delivers the goods despite a few slow patches and a couple of remarkably dumb moments.
Credit director Daniel Espinosa for setting a grim tone and sticking with it through the very end. Too many big-budget films wimp out with their visions, but Life isn’t afraid to go to the dark place and stick around until the credits roll. Gyllenhaal and Reynolds play astronauts pulling a long haul on an international space station. Gyllenhaal’s David Jordan is actually about to break the record for consecutive days in space, and generally prefers life in the stars to life back on our miserable planet.
The crew is awaiting a space capsule containing samples from Mars, and these samples will put forth an amazing discovery: life beyond our planet. Ship scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) discovers a cell, wakes it up, and marvels at its ability to grow at a rapid pace. He eventually finds himself marveling at the little guy’s ability to grab on to his glove and basically mulch the hand within it. So, as the viewer quickly discovers, life on Mars was probably a total shit show, because this globular nasty—a distant cousin of Steve McQueen’s The Blob—digs on killing everything in its path.
The expedition goes from a triumphant discovery to ultra protective mode in a matter of seconds. If this thing gets to Earth, the Blue Planet will look like the Orange Planet virtually overnight. The movie hums along nicely for a while as the organism picks off crewmembers in grisly fashion. Some of those death scenes will impress those of you who like your movie deaths yucky, and Life does good things with weightless blood-splattering.
Renting movies, in my humble opinion, has become a lost pastime in the face of Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO. As convenient as these services may be, there's something about opening up a DVD case and popping it into a player that makes me nostalgic for a simpler time and can't be replaced. For those of you reading who are not college-aged students, maybe this is how you feel about VHS tapes or cassettes. Anyway, if you want to step away from your Netflix docket for a day or two, here are the top 10 movies you can rent from Casa Video.
By Bob Grimm
on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 9:00 AM
Japanese anime is about the last type of vehicle where I would expect to see a body switching comedy, but here it is.
Two teenagers in Japan find themselves inhabiting each other’s lives when they are dreaming, and general nuttiness ensues. Of course, this is Japanese anime, so things get a little deeper and metaphysical than two kids simply switching lives at high school. As the film goes on, there are comets, allegorical braids, time travel…this movie is nutty in a good way.
Writer-director shoots for the stars with his spiraling, inventive movie, and he reaches them. On top of being a great story, the animation is startlingly good. Actually, it’s some of the best animation I’ve seen in years. Does the movie try to do too many things at once? Perhaps, but it’s done so well you will forgive it it’s complications.
In a week where Hollywood released a pale Japanese anime remake in Ghost in the Shell, it’s nice to see a film that takes the anime art form to new heights. Let’s all just cross our fingers and hope Hollywood doesn’t try to do a live action remake of this one. That would be a confusing mess. It’s best to leave well enough alone, and this is a remarkably beautiful movie.
By Bob Grimm
on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 9:14 AM
This live action take on the classic Disney animated musical isn’t a shot for shot remake of the original like, say, Gus Van Sant’s time-wasting Psycho effort. However, it does follow a lot of the same plot points and incorporates enough of the musical numbers to give you that sense of déja vu while watching it.
Thankfully, Emma Watson makes it worthwhile. Hermione makes for a strong Belle. Since director Bill Condon retains the music from the original animated movie, Watson is asked to sing, and it’s pretty evident that Auto-Tune is her friend. She has a Kanye West thing going. As the Beast, Dan Stevens gives a decent enough performance through motion-capture.
The original intent was to have Stevens wearing prosthetics only, but he probably looked like Mr. Snuffleupagus in dailies, so they called upon the help of beloved computers. Like King Kong last week, the CGI creation blends in nicely with his totally human, organic cast member. The cast and crew labor to make musical numbers like “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest” pop with the creative energy of the animated version, but they don’t quite reach those heights. They are nicely rendered, for sure, but not on the masterpiece level that was the ’91 film. As for the romance between Belle and the Beast, it has a nice emotional payoff.
In a way, the movie is a sweet tribute to the animated movie, rather than being a movie that stands on its own.
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 at 10:30 AM
This Oscar nominated film (Best Foreign Film) from Denmark is about as complicated and difficult a story to tell, but writer-director Martin Zandvliet more than succeeds.
It’s post WWII in Denmark, and a group of Nazi youth POWs is tasked with clearing a beach of thousands of mines. Their commander, a Danish Sergeant (an excellent Roland Moller) views his crew with contempt at first, treating them harshly. Over time, the fact that they are just young boys begins to wear on him, especially when some of them meet their deaths on the beach.
The cast is beyond good here, delivering a story that has echoes of All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s a difficult film in that it portrays wartime German soldiers in a sympathetic way, and the film will justifiably irritate some. In the end, it’s about the horrors of war, its aftermath, and coping with the hatred and bitterness that follows. The movie is a heart wrenching experience, especially in how Moller’s character endures an emotional rollercoaster.
Moller makes everything the Sergeant goes through seem authentic and convincing. This is a brutal film, and it should be.
By Bob Grimm
on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 1:30 PM
Writer-director Sean Byrne follows up his very good horror debut, 2012’s The Loved Ones, with this piece of heavy metal nastiness.
Jesse (an unrecognizable Ethan Embry), a starving artist, and wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) are moving into a new house with daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). Shortly before buying that house for a dirt-cheap price, they find out that the couple that lived there before died in some sort of accident.
After moving in, a super creepy guy (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and former inhabitant of the house shows up on the doorstep looking to move back in. Naturally, Jesse says no and, naturally, creepy guy doesn’t stop. Byrne sets his story to heavy metal music, with Jesse’s family being devout followers of Metallica, and Vance’s creepy guy needing to play metal at night on his guitar to drown out the voice of the devil.
If devil movies give you the heebie jeebies (like, for instance, last year’s The Witch), you will probably find plenty to like in this one. Byrne is proving to be quite capable of cinematic freak-outs, and he has able partners in Embry and Vince. Place Mr. Byrne along the names of Ti West, Robert Eggers and Ted Geoghegan when making a list of current horror directors to watch.