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DRINKING BUDDIES is brewed with care

20 Jan

DRINKING-BUDDIES

Sometimes love is all about timing, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are co-workers at Chicago brewery. They are best friends that like to drink and flirt with one another, but struggle with romantic feelings because they are dating other people. Writer and director by Joe Swanberg gives a different, but realistic look at relationships that go on in the restaurant industry. Their connection resonated with me, even though I spend my time on the other side of the bar. The actors’ portrayal becomes dynamic when alcohol becomes part of the equation. It looses the characters up and blurs the emotional reactions in the process.  Actions speak louder than words, and this film’s best scenes are those moments of silence. Like most bar relationships, I am left with wishing there was more to it.  Drinking Buddies is brewed with care, but I did not want to order another round.

WORD COUNT: 150

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

I am glad I spent time with HER

16 Jan

HER-FILM

Spike Jonze’s latest film ‘Her’, set in the not-too-distant future, tells the story of writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who finds himself falling in love with Samantha, an advanced operating system (Scarlett Johansson), while he is dealing with a divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). The film emits warmth and intelligence with its exceptional production design, cinematography, and performances. There is a charming quality to Jonze’s dialogue with both of the characters being tormented by loneliness. Her does not shy away from topical subject material, such as modern society’s dependence on technology. If it has not happened yet, it will in the near future, unless people are to compartmentalize and measure technologies contribution to a better life. Phoenix tops his performance in The Master with this grounded performance while Johansson, captivates our senses with her sultry voice. Her reminds audiences to appreciate the moments with our loved one. I am glad I spent time with Her.

WORD COUNT: 156

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Starlet shines

26 Sep

STARLET-FILM

The title hints to the world that will be explored in this film, but it does not prepare you from the reality of the situation, until you are fully invested in Jane’s (Dree Hemingway) likeable character. She is a working adult film actress that befriends an elderly woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson). Initially, her motivation is fueled by guilt, but their relationship develops into something much more than an ordinary friendship. The given circumstances will appear strange and uncomfortable to mainstream audiences, but there is something about Jane’s character that allows audiences to forgive her poor choices, at least temporarily. Director Sean Baker makes some bold choices that most filmmakers would never consider, but he successfully executes his vision in a way that keeps people talking about the characters and their relationships, as opposed to reducing the film to a single scene. Starlet shines.

WORD COURT: 143

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

WARNING: This film contains strong sexual content.

Requiem for a Dream is a hard truth

24 Sep

REQUIEM-FOR-A-DREAM

Requiem for a Dream consumes your mind, body and soul like a drug and holds onto to you after the final credits are over. Your skin feels like something is crawling on you, but nothing is there. It is one of the most powerful films ever. Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Hubert Selby’s novel follows the lives of four different people, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The film explores the direct and indirect effects drugs have on each of them and reveals their blossoming hopes turn into a state of moral and physical helplessness.

Editor Jay Rabinowitz perfects Aronofsky’s hip-hop editing technique. The drug scenes are ground-breaking and the downward spirals of each character is a gut wrenching experience that stays with you forever. Everyone in the cast gives powerful performances, especially Burstyn and Leto whose addictions are scary reminders of the hard truth.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Insidious: Chapter 2 is lost in the after life

17 Sep

INSIDIOUS-CHAPTER-2

James Wan may have now established himself as the King of modern horror with SAW, Insidious and The Conjuring under his belt. He knows how to keep his audiences on edge and screaming for more. The sequel to the 2011 surprise horror hit brings back the cast and pick up right where they left off at. The Lambert family (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) seek to uncover the secret that has them attached to the supernatural.

The film does give some better scares than the first one, but also makes some predictable choices that would bore the avid horror fan. Writers Wan and Leigh Whannell bring some welcomed creativity to the story but at the same time overreaches and leaves too many unanswered questions. John Leonetti deserves some recognition for his brilliant camerawork as he frames the film’s haunting atmosphere. Insidious: Chapter 2  will frighten audiences, but the story does not live on in the “after life” of Chapter 1.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Short Term 12 should not be overlooked this summer

6 Sep

SHORT-TERM-12

Filmmaker Destin Cretton draws from his personal experiences from working at a foster care facility to create a thoughtful and powerful film, Short Term 12. The plot revolves around a group home for troubled teens where a supervising staff member, Grace (Brie Larson) attempts to negotiate and navigate her way through her personal and professional problems.

Cretton artfully presents a difficult subject and backs it up with authentic dialogue that resonate for a long time after the end credits. The acting is wonderful across the board with Larson and Gallagher Jr. leading the way with award worthy performances. Their characters are flawed which makes for a much more interesting film. Cretton’s script is sound and the documentary-like shot direction adds to the story’s authenticity. Short Term 12 balances hope and despair in a way most independent films cannot. It is a valuable gem that should not be overlooked this summer.

WORD COUNT: 149

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Into the Wild captures the spirit

16 Aug

INTO-THE-WILD

Sean Penn waited nearly a decade to make the  film about a driven young man’s desire to abandon his comfortable, civilized world and embark on an adventure that would lead him to the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction novel about the inspiring, but tragic story of Christopher McCandless. Penn assembles a thought-provoking film filled with refreshing messages about life, passion, and the pursuit of happiness.

The film intermingled a narrative that can become tedious and the 148 minute run time should have been addressed, but there is no denying Emile Hirsch’s hauntingly powerful performance as Christopher. It keeps the film engaging and on a personal level. His journey of self-realization is unforgettable and his decisions become a topic of debate concerning liberation and destruction. Love it or hate it, the film captures the life and death of young man trying to live life on his terms.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

The Spectacular Now shook me

15 Aug

the-spectacular-now

Eight months into 2013 and The Spectacular Now is the best film I have seen so far. It features a young cast that brings Tim Tharpe’s novel to life. The film follows Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior that refuses to live beyond the moment. He has no plans and his interests have led him to a life of hard partying, but after being dumped by his girlfriend he wakes up to something much more.

The film exceeded my expectations because of the performances by Teller and Shailene Woodley. Their chemistry and charisma are charming and pulls you in. This is not your normal coming of age film. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber defy the formula and create an unpredictable story that goes to all the right places. I believe it is the most authentic picture of adolescence since John Hughes. The Spectacular Now shook me and took me back to a place I had forgotten about

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Magnetic (short film) not strong enough to hold me

11 Aug

MAGNETIC-SHORT-FILM

There is an old saying, “opposites attract,” but not in the short film, Magnetic. Writer/Director . F. C. Rabbath draws you into its story with a young boy offering a small magnet as a gift to a young girl, but she rejects him. The look on his disappointed face is priceless and worth pausing the video for a moment. For a second, I’m thinking this is going to be a psycho-killer film as the kid stares past the object of desire and is unable to see the obvious, but thankfully Rabbath has another path for this character to follow. The film jumps forward to the character as a young adult still obsessed with the image from years ago. The story mixes in some science fiction to create a comic book-like scenario that creates a strong, but unpredictable power. Rabbath is a good storyteller and a solid filmmaker, but Magnetic was not strong enough to hold me.

WORD COUNT: 155

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Only God Forgives is a polarizing acid trip

8 Aug

ONLY-GOF-FORGIVES-GOSLING

Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to Drive felt like a polarizing acid trip. You either love or hate his approach to filmmaking. It is stylistic with substance to back it up. Only God Forgives is no exception, but I found the stylistic side dominating the substance in this film. The symbolism and metaphors mix with the spirituality as audiences follow Julian (Ryan Gosling), a drug-smuggler living in Bangkok is compelled to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s death.

Unfortunately, the plot is thin and its pace is uneven. However, Larry Smith’s cinematography is beautiful and his distinct color pallet collaborates with Cliff Martinez brooding score to help Beth Mickle achieve her dark and dangerous production design. This film will surely divide audiences because Gosling appears lost at times and is not technically equipped to carry out the martial art requirements of this role. The sublime succumbs to the ugly underworld and the film cannot recover.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A