Archive for Brie Larson

Room: Haunting

Posted in 8, Drama, Horror, Ratings, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on February 21, 2016 by mducoing

RoomThere are films that frighten audiences. Others that lash, others that endear, others that fester and still others that cause emotional arrest. All these are true of Room, a film that handles an unspeakable tragedy in such a mundane manner as to make one wonder and ultimately succumb.

Premise: After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the room that has been their captivity, life afterward is more challenging than they dreamed. Result: A mesmerizing, tragic drama far from ordinary.

It is a room. In it are things, ordinary things that anyone might expect to find in any ordinary home on any ordinary street in any ordinary town. There is a small skylight to let in the dim glow of the sun. And these regular belongings appear to be owned by normal, if unkempt people, a young boy and his average mother, lounging about, sleeping, transfixed by television or mundane tasks about the kitchen.

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Golden Chalice Award – Top Performances of 2013

Posted in Articles, movieMixology Awards, The Golden Chalice Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by mducoing

GoldenChaliceLogoWhile there were certainly many phenomenal films in 2013, there is little doubt that many of these would have been nothing without the mesmerizing, often stupefying performances that defined them.  This year’s winners of the Golden Chalice, as well as their nominated peers, gave us some of the best acting in recent memory.

Below you will find those impressive performances divided by male and female performances (although the distinction between supporting or lead is not part of the criteria.)  You can see last year’s winners (2012), dominated by The Master.

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Short Term 12: An Astonishing, Deeply Powerful Film.

Posted in 8, Drama, Independent, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2013 by mducoing

Short Term 12Writer/director Destin Cretton offers audiences one of the more powerful, emotional journeys of the year.  Driven by beautiful but also deeply damaged characters, this study of lives beyond our collective vision is a must see.

Premise: A 20-something supervising staff member of a foster care facility deals with her damaged world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. Result: A beautiful and touching drama that will not soon be forgotten.

There are few people outside the foster care system who truly understand it. It is a difficult life, fraught with hardship, rejection, and despair. But in that sadness there is sometimes the glimmer of hope, the power of laughter, the resonant hymn of harmony.

Short Term 12 is a film that observes the reality of this life, full of both agony and joy, solitude and friendship. It focuses on the life of Grace (Brie Larson), a former foster child who has settled into a life as a short term foster care worker at a facility that takes care of abandoned and often troubled children. She is joined by colleague and long-term boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), Jessica (Stephanie Beatriz), and newcomer Nate (Rami Malek).

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Don Jon: Pretty Fun.

Posted in 7, Comedy, Drama, Independent, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by mducoing

Don JonWriting, director and starring in Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has delivered a fun, but also deep dive into the darkness that is human objectification.  Specifically focusing on a culture where fantasy is valued over reality and where humans are degraded to sex objects, Don Jon is an imperfect film but still far more than meets the eye.

Premise: A New Jersey guy becomes addicted to porn and forms some unrealistic expectations about happiness and intimacy. Result: Lots of laughs, great performances and a fair script make this a pretty good, although not great, time.

Jon is called “Don” by his best friends or “boys” Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) for his sexual prowess.  He has an unbroken streak of bedding the “hottest” women at the local club, none ever below an “eight.”  And apart from his “love of sex”, he prioritizes his family – father, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), mother, Angela (Glenne Headly), and sister, Monica (Brie Larson)-, his Church, his “pad” (apartment), his “ride” (car), but above all his porn.

Yes, Jon is a porn freak, or better yet, an addict, who has constructed a fictional world where only the fantasies in the world of his favorite pornography ever truly please him.  Women are just pale comparisons to the money shots.

That is until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) one night at the club.  She is sexy, seductive and hard to get and all this plays its role perfectly to ensnare our dear Jon.  Is it love eternal? Barbara is also overly demanding and high maintenance, using her seductions to control him, to force out of him whatever she desires.  And ultimately, the girl conflicts with the porn.

The film focuses on several key themes, mainly referencing a pop culture where people can no longer connect to reality and to each other.  It is a world of sexual dysfunction where individuals are reduced to conquests for convenience. And it is in this world where Jon finds Esther (Julianne Moore), the walking calamity with some surprising life lessons.

The movie is a fun ride although it does take its sweet time to become interesting.  While not incomplete, the film ebbs and flows between a simple series of humorous or intriguing moments to a good but not great critique of social convention.  Ultimately, Don Jon has some important lessons to communicate, but many of these are lost in translation or simply without the necessary depth of emotion or language to communicate completely.

Nevertheless, the performances are great and keep the film steadily afloat. Gordon-Levitt is charming and true as the “guido” Jon, bringing elegance and veteran chops to a role that easily could have stumbled into caricature.

Johansson is flawless, delivering a hilarious and stunningly accurate character; like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny (for which she received her only Oscar), Johansson is able to pull the strings perfectly on her stereotypical guidette, nailing the role through voice, expressions, timing, and gestures that impeccably mimic real life. Add to that a terrifying mean streak and we have a delicious wolf in sheep’s Juicy Couture.

Moore is equally enthralling from a completely different perspective, managing a tough role that required a certain frank vulnerability

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that easily could have felt insincere.  But instead, Moore gives us much more than the character could have been without her.

Danza and Headly deserve their own spinoff film in all frankness.  Every Sunday dinner is a blessing for audiences who will fondly recall the intense, deeply entertaining family dynamic these two deliver. And Larson, although unfortunately in very little of this film, makes the most of an easily forgettable character through some facial expressions that literally make certain scenes.  And Brown and Luke, for their parts in this film, are essential, making endless club scenes worth watching every time.

In the end, Don Jon is a good movie.  While far from great, it manages to make observers think and even though much of that thought will genuinely depend on the observer him or herself, the sentiment is still there.  And so for the laughs delivered as well as the overall feel of the film, Don Jon is worth a look, even if it may not be recalled too much after viewing.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

21 Jump Street: If Only All Revivals Were Done Like This!

Posted in 7, Comedy, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by mducoing

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) team up once again and take on one of their riskier enterprises to date: a supposed remake of the much beloved cult classic TV series 21 Jump Street. But with a clever script written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill and staring an all-star comedy cast (including Hill), this film far exceeds expectations.  

Premise: A pair of failing cops is sent back to high school to blend in and bring down a drug ring. Result: A slightly flawed but still very funny and smart comedy that pays homage to the original series while still managing to be fresh and interesting in its own right.

21 Jump Street begins too quickly with a series of scenes meant to set up the police duo of Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum).  In a speed sequence that almost approximates montage, we see their evolution as “geek” vs. “jock” in High School, their eventual friendship in Police Academy (why they both chose to enter the Academy is never explained) and ultimately their exile into the painfully uneventful world of bike cops in a suburban park. There are a few scattered laughs here and there but the specter of total failure looms over every scene.

However, with a sudden, disastrous arrest the film changes completely.  Proving that the first part was purposefully rushed to get to the main event, Schmidt and Jenko are exiled to 21 Jump Street on a final assignment to save their jobs. It is at this moment that the true wit in the writing comes out crisply: Hill and Bacall successfully create a meta-narrative that rears its head at appropriate moments showing the audience the film’s ultimate awareness of its place in history and handles it with poignant humor.  It is also pointed out that this film is not a “remake” but a “revival” which is a hysterical moment and ultimately further proves the films intelligence.

Ultimately, the two find themselves going deep undercover as high school students as part of a larger covert series of teams trying to stop crime in local schools.  Led by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who hilariously lives up to his name, the duo is assigned a drug-busting mission playing the unlikely “brothers” of Brad and Doug McQuaid.

The film follows these two through high school, an experience which bafflers them both as roles are accidentally reversed and this, combined with shifting mores, puts the “Jock” as the “Geek” and vice versa.   They find themselves trying to infiltrate various groups and break all the rules trying to “fit in”, while simultaneously, falling into these worlds getting “too deep”, which creates issues along the way.

Allergic to protocol and common sense alike, the two hapless cops try to follow alpha dealer Eric Molson (Dave Franco) while trying to navigate the all sorts of other unexpected obstacles: an unstable principal (Jake M. Johnson), a bizarre track coach in Mr. Walters (Rob Riggle), an eccentric drama teacher (Chris Parnell), an overly “interested” chemistry teacher (Ellie Kemper), and an unlikely love in  Molly (Brie Larson).

Overall, the antics that surface in this film are hardly tired and hold up well under the scrutiny of comedy lovers and 21 Jump Street lovers alike. Every scene holds a buffet of laughs, most of which cleverly anticipate the cliché the audience is expecting and supplies both a twist and a “gotcha” moment that is effective and endearing. Despite some pranks that fall a bit flat, the more memorable result is how many hit the mark.

Fortunately, the acting in this film is fantastic throughout.  Hill, as expected, manages to deliver not only a new character in his ever more extensive repertoire, but also nails Schmidt.  This character is complex and nuanced, humorous and deep, and ultimately helps lift the overall film from hokey to hilarious.

Tatum, for his part, is perhaps the biggest and most pleasant surprise.  Like Mark Walberg in the shockingly hilarious comedy The Other Guys, Tatum in this film, manages to turn around a heavy tide of sub-par performances (The Vow, Haywire, Dear John) and deliver a funny, complex, and interesting character from beginning to end.  As the film progresses, audiences will be pleasantly surprised to find they want him in the scenes with or without a shirt!

Franco is also fantastic in his role as the over-privileged dealer way over his head in so many funny ways.  His line delivery and comedic timing are well-managed and he once again demonstrates that he is far more than a pretty face and kid brother to star James Franco.  Larson, on her end, manages to be endearing and provide the awkward moments that let the cast shine while shining herself.  And the rest of the cast, as a whole are wonderful; each have delightful moments that make them standout, even as they blend perfectly into one broader comedic plot.

In the end, 21 Jump Street is entertaining and lives up to the hype.  While not a perfect film in many ways, it is worth watching and does more than enough to hold its own against the nay-sayers.  And the plot and performances are boosted even higher by a very funny surprise near the end which takes this film even a notch higher.  While it may not be the beloved series, it also isn’t the 80s anymore, and this film proves we can reinvent while still being respectful, and more importantly, funny.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

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