REVIEW: Rules Don’t Apply

15 11 2016

rules-dont-applyPoor Warren Beatty. The man has been trying to make a passion project about Howard Hughes for the better part of four decades. The film faced significant challenges, including 2004’s biopic collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio that nabbed double-digit Oscar nominations.

12 years later, Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” finally makes it to the big screen only to have the misfortune of opening in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory. The timing doesn’t exactly feel right for a mostly breezy, old-fashioned tale about an eccentric and potentially deranged billionaire who wants to control women’s bodies and limit their personal freedoms. (A remark where a young actress declares, “I think Howard Hughes should be president, there’s no one else like him” is sure to inspire some nervous laughter.) To be clear, none of this is Beatty’s fault. He has no control over the circumstances under which his movie gets released.

But he did have control over what kind of movie he made. Beyond the unfortunate parallels to the man dominating global news headlines, “Rules Don’t Apply” is not a film built for the long haul – it is certainly not the kind of project that clearly evinces forty years of thought and development. After all that time, it feels like Beatty should have figured out the story’s protagonist – Hughes, his latest starlet prospect Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), or the married company driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) who falls for her against his better judgement. The film plays out as a series of loosely connected, scarcely progressing scenes involving these characters – nothing more.

Of the key trio, only Ehrenreich’s Forbes is a character deserving of his own film. Beatty plays Hughes as a slave to his obsessive-compulsive disorder, turning his neuroses into a joking psychosis. Collins, meanwhile, dashes through her lines with such speed that she delivers them without seeming to understand what any of them mean. Or, at the very least, she doesn’t feel them with any strong sense of purpose.

Ehrenreich, meanwhile, recalls the unflappability and easygoing cool of a ’90s Leonardo DiCaprio. As a corporate pawn torn between his show business attraction and his familial commitments, Forbes is the only person in “Rules Don’t Apply” whose path does not seem predestined. Too bad that Beatty did not line up the heft of the movie fully behind him. C-1halfstars

Advertisements




REVIEW: Trash

14 02 2016

Trash“Slumdog Millionaire” meets “All The President’s Men” in Stephen Daldry’s “Trash,” a tale of three Brazilian dumpster-dwelling children who uncover a plot of serious political intrigue from an inadvertently disposed wallet. The film provides a gritty look at their reality, though that comes more from the photography or the set design than anything in the story. Daldry uneasily balances the improbable conspiracy with the poverty expose, cobbling together a bland movie that satisfies neither aspect of its premise.

The bright spots are few and far between, though I suppose we all ought to be glad that Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara’s characters do not fulfill the “great white savior” tropes that plague movies of this sort. He serves as a priest, and she works for an NGO, but neither can protect or save the teenagers from the corruption and brutality of local law enforcement. Any small victories they achieve come from their street-smarts and intuitions.

But given the improbable journey set in motion by their discovery, “Trash” ought to feel more thrilling, entertaining – or at least illuminating about Brazilian society. Given the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the subject might once again prove of interest to audiences worldwide. Hopefully they choose to watch something authentic like “City of God,” not “Trash,” which feels obviously made by an outsider. C2stars





REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man

29 12 2012

The Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies have sure taken a dip in public opinion in the last five years, no doubt due in large part to the ill-received “Spider-Man 3.”  I’ll grant that the 2007 series entry had far too many villains, and the black suit of revenge came off a little creepier than intended.

Yet I’d still rank Raimi’s three films as the finest superhero movies of the new millenium after Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.  Their thematic depth is impressive given that the series was far more prone to let fancy CGI or long action sequences rule the day.  Revenge, responsibility, and duty were all explored to very great effect by Raimi, who did a great job in advancing what a comic book movie could be.  Unfortunately, his legacy has become leaving the franchise on a bit of a sour note with the public.

Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” rather than reversing that decline merely accelerates it.  Like fellow summer action flick “The Bourne Legacy,” it fails to make a clean enough break with its predecessors and thus gets forced to live with its specter looming overhead.  James Vanderbilt’s story, adapted with the help of “Harry Potter” screenwriter Steve Kloves and original trilogy architect Alvin Sargent, feels like only a minor variation on the 2002 “Spider-Man” origins tale.

Perhaps I’m a little sensitive because the Raimi “Spider-Man” movies were some of the highlights of my middle school years, but a mere decade seems like far too short a window to reboot a series.  Especially given that the last “Spider-Man” film was released just five years before “The Amazing Spider-Man,” people have not had nearly enough time to forget the particulars of the series.  It’s that very painful awareness that dooms Webb’s update from the beginning.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Love Happens

10 03 2010

Ehh.

Love Happens” is an ehh movie.  There’s nothing that is horribly awful with it, but it doesn’t have anything going for it either.  And sometimes that is just as bad as a flat-out bomb.  The movie is so caught up in clichés that it’s impossible not to see the whole plot from the poster and trailer.  Imagine that.

Aaron Eckhart plays Dr. Burke Ryan, an author of a self-help book about grieving the loss of loved ones appropriately after his wife died in a car crash.  Anyone care to venture what’s actually going on?

If you guessed “the man who gives advice hasn’t taken his own,” you would be correct!  Burke is secretly a wreck, giving off a façade that he has it all together.  The only person that can call it is his father-in-law, played by a scary Martin Sheen.

So how does Jennifer Aniston play into the movie?  If you guessed “love interest with problems of her own,” you would be correct!  She plays Eloise, your typical beautiful girl who always falls for the wrong guy.  After the typical bad first impression of Burke, they begin casual flirtation and start to hang out.

Is there any romantic spark between Aniston and Harvey Dent?  Not in the slightest.  There is no chemistry between the two of them, and it doesn’t help that the story is so poorly written that it doesn’t allow for much affection at all.  I don’t hate Jennifer Aniston by any stretch of the imagination, but “Love Happens” gives me insight into the minds of the people that do.

Don’t let the title fool you.  “Love Happens” is not a movie about love; besides, there would have to be love shown.  This is a movie about overcoming grief, and in that regard, it isn’t terrible.  But it isn’t good enough to redeem the nearly two hours of my time that this movie ate up.  C- /