Monday, June 30, 2014

OBVIOUS CHILD




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Jenny Slate: part-time comedian Donna Stern
Jake Lacy: an unlikely bar patron Max
Gabu Hoffman: Donna’s BFF Nellie
Gabe Liedman: their friend Joey
and others no doubt

REVIEW
I am not a big fan of humour that relies upon getting laughs about day-old female underwear and intimate details about the stand-up comedian’s sex life. And from the opening scenes it is apparent the patrons of the sleazy smoky bar are of the same opinion as no one laughs. Other than that the jokes are of the potty-mouth variety including reference to noisy bodily functions, the sort of gags that appeal to 5 and 6-year-olds.

Given that the film is promoted as a romantic comedy the comedy side is practically nil. As for the romance it is basically a one-night stand and there’s not a lot of romance in those type of encounters. So that aspect is practically nil as well.

It didn’t take long before I realized this is a big waste of time so I walked out.

CLASSIFICATION
 for profanity, sexual situations, crude humour.

JERSEY BOYS




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Vincent Piazza: Tommy DeVito, one of the Varitones trio
John Lloyd Young: his friend 16-year-old Frank Castelluccio
Christopher Walker: mob boss Gyp DeCarlo
Johnny Cannizzaro: Tommy’s brother Nick, the trio’s bassist
Michael Lomenda: their friend Nick Massi
Renée Marino: Mary Delgado
Erich Bergen: Bob Gaudio, songwriter of the hit “Short Shorts”
Mike Doyle: music producer Bob Crewe
Elizabeth Hunter: Frankie’s 7-year-old daughter Francine
Donnie Kehr: loan shark Norm Waxman
Erica iccininni: Journalist Lorraine
Freya Tingley: 17-year-old Francine

REVIEW
Perhaps it is not a fair comparison but having seen the stage version this film is far less entertaining, prone to go off on tangents that add little or nothing to the narrative and it is too long, far too long. Using the narrative device of some band members directly addressing the camera from time to time, I find jarring: a reminder of the fact we are sitting watching a made-in-Hollywood-movie rather than simply being swept up in the story. Voice-over would have been a much better technique as it is less intrusive.

Another thing I found unsettling was the confusing side-story about Tommy’s money problems, presumably from gambling or playing the horses or partying? That was never made clear. And the band’s commitment to helping him out is pushing the “code of honour” a bit too far given the amount involved.

But the chief shortcoming in my view is too much talking between the musical numbers, the reason why this group was so well know. Knowing a bit about them is fine but that should not bog things down.

CLASSIFICATION
 for language throughout.

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY
  • Frankie and the rest of the group arrive at Gyp’s house in two Cadillacs, and park with the blue one in front of the red one. When Bob leaves and gets in the red one, he could not have driven off the way he did without first moving the blue one out of the way.
  • This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation the other party hangs up and Frankie is left listening to the dial tone. In reality the dial tone is only heard after picking up the phone before dialling. That’s why it’s called a dial tone.
  • After performing at the Ohio State Fair the group is approached by a police officer who says “Welcome to Cleveland”. The state fair is held in Columbus, Ohio not in Cleveland.
P.S.
The aging makeup for the last scene is so poorly done it is almost comical. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

CHEF




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Jon Favreau: Chef Carl Casper
Scarlett Johansson: hostess at Gualoises, an upscale LA restaurant
Emjay Anthony: Carl’s 10-year-old son Percy
Dustin Hoffman: Ravi the restaurant owner
John Leguizam: Martin, line cook
Bobby Cannavale: Tony, sous chef
Sofia Vergara: Carl’s ex-wife Inez
Oliver Platt: food critic Ramsey Michel
Russel Peters: a Miami cop

REVIEW
There is something to be said about taking a hard look at what is important to you and follow through. That is but one aspect of this humorous tale combined with some realistic father and son bonding. Add in a road trip across America and there’s lots to like. And did I mention food: close-ups of the preparation might prompt you to order in, even before the final credits.

The acting for the most part is uniformly good, the dialogue snappy and often funny but the one thing there is too much of is the swearing: there is no need to include the f-word in every second utterance. That simply detracts from the story line making it less plausible. And losing a star as a result.

CLASSIFICATION
 for language including some suggestive references.

FOR NITPICKERS ONLY
  • The wall clock shows it to be 2:32 and remains unchanged during a spirited discussion between the Chef and Ravi which took at least 5 minutes.
  • While having a shooter in a bar and without touching it, Martin’s beer bottle rotates from one scene to the next showing the brand label.

P.S.
Subtitles would have been useful for those not fluent in Spanish to get the implication when Martin asks the workers if they will help lift the heavy equipment “or I can call immigration.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

FADING GIGOLO


 Romantic comedy

F.Y.I.
Shorim (Hebrew for watchers or guards) are Jewish civilian patrols set up in Hasidic neighbourhoods in the United States and England. Their primary role is to combat anti-Semitic attacks, burglary, vandalism, mugging, assault and domestic violence. The volunteers are unarmed and do not have the authority to make arrests. They ride in vehicles that look like regular police cars.

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Woody Allen: former bookstore owner Murray Schwartz
Sharon Stone: Murray’s dermatologist Dr. Parker
Sofia Vergara: Dr. Parker’s friend Selima
John Turturro: Fioravante, Murray’s former employee
Tonya Pinkins: Murray’s wife Orthella, an African-American
Vanessa Paradis: Avigal, the widow of a Hasidic rabbi
Live Schreiber: Dovi, a volunteer with Shorim

REVIEW
Preposterous, ludicrous and vulgar. Other than that this film about a male escort does not have much going for it. The surprising thing to me is the fact Woody Allen is involved with such a trashy, pulp-magazine type movie. The fact that his role is so unbelievable and totally out of character begs the question “why?”.  

Although there are a few bits of comic relief, mostly of the slap-stick sort, the acting somehow feels wrong and does not ring true. And there is one other thing.

Once more Ralph’s Rule of Redundancy applies:
“Any film where one person takes on more than two key positions has a major shortcoming: the absence of independent critical judgement that results in something less than it might have been.”
In this case John Turturro stars in and is also the Writer and Director.

CLASSIFICATION
 for some sexual content, language and brief nudity.

TRACKS


 True life drama

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Mia Wasikowska: 25-year-old Australian naturalist Robyn Davidson
Adam Driver: National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan
Roly Mintuma: Eddy, an aboriginal elder

REVIEW
Based on a true story that took place in the 70’s, it is left to the viewer to decide why someone would undertake such an adventure on their own. Her solo walk across the desert of Australia with four camels and a dog as her only companions will seem to some as a waste of time.

However it is lovely to look at and plays out with very little melodrama, much like a documentary. 

CLASSIFICATION
 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

THE GRAND SEDUCTION



F.Y.I.
Since the 16th century European fishermen have been fishing for cod in the waters off Newfoundland along with the locals in the area known as the Grand Banks. Approximately 8 million tons of cod were caught in the 100 years from 1647 to 1750. With the introduction of factory fishing in the early 1950’s that amount of cod was caught in just 15 years.

The Atlantic coast fishing industry collapsed entirely in 1992 owing to this overfishing coupled with a lack of oversight and poor fishery administration. The Canadian government declared a moratorium but even after 20 years the cod population has not returned. The effect on the local economy has been disastrous since fishing represented their livelihood. Most now live on Government welfare cheques.

PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Brendan Gleeson: Murray French
Gordon Pinsent: his buddy Simon
Mark Critch: bank teller Joe
Liane Balaban: Kathleen, the postmistress
Cathy Jones: Murray’s wife
Taylor Kitsch: Dr. Paul Lewis
Mary Walsh: telephone operator

REVIEW
This is something of a rarity: a feel-good movie with no violence, no swear words, heart-warming and wholesome with only mildly suggestive situations done in good taste.

I was smiling the whole time while the laughs just kept coming. The acting is uniformly good and the cinemaphotography beautifully show-casing the rugged beauty of the area.

CLASSIFICATION
 for some suggestive material and drug references.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

THE IMMIGRANT




PRINCIPAL CAST MEMBERS
Marion Cotillard: Ewa Cybulski, a young Polish woman
Angela Sarafyan: her younger sister Magda
Joaquin Phoenix: Bruno Weiss
Jeremy Renner: Bruno’s cousin Emil
Yelena Solovey: Bruno’s boss Rosie Hertz
Maja Wampuszc: Ewa’s aunt Edyta
Ilia Volok: Ewa’s uncle Voytek

REVIEW
The more mature discerning viewer will appreciate that this is a reflection on how things were for some immigrants back in the 1920’s. Not only starting a new life, in many cases it was starting a life they had not foreseen. Unscrupulous people are everywhere of course but seeing how one innocent person is exploited is difficult to watch.

It is a sad story characterized by excellent performances all around (Cotillard especially) and with great attention to detail that gives this period piece a feeling of authenticity.

CLASSIFICATION

 for sexual content, nudity and some language.