[Happy 15th Birthday!] Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald

Screenplay: Hubert Selby Jr., Darren Aronofsky

102 mins. Rated R for intense depictions of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Burstyn)

iMDB Top 250: #90 (as of 1/24/2016)

Damn, this is a tough movie to watch. Warning: This isn’t a movie that will make you happy.

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn, Interstellar, Draft Day) just found out that she is going to be on television. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. Nobody), an addict, is about to make some primo money selling drugs. His friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, White Chicks, A Haunted House 2) just wants to be a good kid. Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind, Winter’s Tale), wants to design clothing. Each has dreams of becoming better than they are, but unfortunately for them, they are all addicts slowly falling deeper and deeper into their delusions of happiness in this film from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Noah).

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Damn, I’ve seen Requiem for a Dream a couple times now, and it doesn’t get any easier, but this is a work of pure art that almost requires itself to be seen. It isn’t an easy film, and no one is walking out happy, but if you want a truer depiction of addiction, you will not find it anywhere else.

Ellen Burstyn is pure magic as Sara, the matriarch who needs to cut her addiction to fatty foods and in the process finds a new vice. Jared Leto is a kid with one foot in the grave who keeps slipping deeper and deeper into it. Jennifer Connelly’s Marion has so much drive but can’t seem to break out of her chains.

Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, About Last Night) was perfect casting as Tappy Tibbons, a TV personality trying to sell his new books to the masses. He is unnerving and terrifying and everything he needs to be to those who need him.

Aronofsky’s film is jarring and painful to watch, mostly because it is a visual drug trip happening in real time. When the characters shoot up, you shoot up. When the characters make love, you make love. When the characters lose all self-respect, guess what. So do you. It isn’t easy, but it is real.

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The dreamlike qualities combined with the realism about vices and the drugs that surround us all make Requiem for a Dream one of the most painful experiences in film history. That’s about as complimentary I make it sound. It is stunning and gruesome and works perfectly at everything it tries to be. If you can, see this film.

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, click here.

Interstellar (2014)

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine

Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

169 mins. Rated PG-13 some intense perilous action and brief strong language.

 

Just give me one more minute so I can calm down, then we can discuss this movie.

Okay. Okay. I think I’m good now.

Interstellar. Wow. A film that needs to be seen once and then most likely again right after. This movie just took my breath away.

The world is dying. The last of the renewable food sources is almost depleted and engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, TV’s True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club) is on his way through a black hole with a crew of scientists to find a new planet capable of sustaining human life. I don’t want to give away too much here, because this film requires you to be a participant in it.

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The plot here is one that pulls you in and keeps you there the entirety of the film. The screenplay from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) and his brother Jonathan is just incredible, presenting ideas that are grounded in real science and also contribute to a grander understanding of the universe.

McConaughey’s Cooper is an incredibly faceted character, one that could only be played by the Academy Award winner. He is a man who is forced to make decisions that cause him and his family pain in order to save the human race, and he is not without his pain. It is as though he is constantly suffering from survivor’s guilt in a way similar to Russell Crowe’s performance in 2014’s Noah.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, Rio 2) gives a tormented performance as Brand, a woman who is emotionally just as weak as Cooper but chooses not to see it as a connection between the two. These two are both willing to give up great happiness in the goal of the mission, and they both pay dearly for the sacrifices.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, A Most Violent Year) and Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, Draft Day) add to the strength of this cast, but the real surprise here is TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rachel Getting Married), an artificial intelligence assisting Cooper and Brand in their mission. TARS is a unique robot reminiscent of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, a lot of this film pays homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece. TARS provides comic relief while being a fascinating creature in this world created by Nolan.

The cinematography is spectacular here, and presents a quiet and lonely universe, one where the only friend you have is the mission. It is a quiet empty space with beautiful visuals that deeply sadden the viewers while maintaining a bit of wonder.

The score is equal parts quiet and enveloping. Completely engrossing and altogether despressing.

Just a note on visual effects. It’s winning the Oscar, just prepare for it.

Interstellar is one of the best films ever made. It is one of the best films out this year and I will be looking for it on the list of Best Picture nominees. Not only does it present a dismal future but also a hopeful future, and it comes down to a beautifully realized and wholly engaging story with incredible performances and some terrific surprise cameos too. Watch this movie.

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Now, I’m off to see it again.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Interstellar? What did you think? Did you find a hit through the black hole or a extinction of film? Let me know!

Top Ten of 2014 (incomplete)

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You might notice this list is incomplete. Here’s how it works. This list begins in January and continues until the midway through 2015. There are a lot of films still being released and becoming available from 2014, so this list will be adjusting as time goes on. Here it is so far…

 

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. The Lego Movie
  3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  4. Noah
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Draft Day
  7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
  8. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
  9. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  10. Sex Tape

Man of Steel (2013)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayalet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Screenplay: David S. Goyer

143 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

 

So what happens when the king of green-screen takes on the most famous superhero in history. Why, you get Man of Steel. My review is here.

On the far-off planet of Krypton, science officer Jor-El (Russell Crowe, Gladiator, Noah) tries to convince his dying planet that they do not have any time left and must abandon all hope to the stars. As he quells a coup from military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon, TV’s Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter), Jor-El realizes that all hope for saving his race are gone except for a miracle which has resulted in the first natural birth in years. His son Kal-El is born. Jor-El does one of the most insane things in comic book history by launching his infant son off into space in hopes of saving the Kryptonian species.

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Years later, an adult Kal-El (Henry Cavill, Immortals, The Cold Light of Day), now under the guise of Clark Kent, tries to keep his superpowers under wraps as he lives a normal life raised to Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, Draft Day) and his wife, Martha (Diane Lane, Unfaithful, Secretariat).That is, until General Zod comes to Earth in search of taking the planet and terraforming it for his own. Now, with the help of Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Her), Superman must stop Zod and save the human race from extinction.

I wanted to like this movie. I am a major fan of the Superman mythos. I love director Christopher Nolan and his work with The Dark Knight series, so when I saw his name on the producer credits for Man of Steel, I was overjoyed. I even like somewhat likable director Zack Snyder, and find him to be a slightly more skilled director than Michael Bay, so I was excited. Then I saw it.

It felt like the team behind the film didn’t know anything about Superman or why his character is so important. We see virtually none of Clark Kent. He reveals himself to Lois Lane way way too early for there to be an actual romance to develop. I like General Zod, but he isn’t nearly as strong as previous incarnations have made the character. He comes off as a lost little leader looking for someone to blame as opposed to the cold and calculated military beast he should be. His flunkies are not anything more than flat uninspired flunkies.

The film has some strong performances from minor characters due to great work by Costner, Lane, and Crowe as well Laurence Fishburne (TV’s Black-ish, The Matrix) as Daily Planet bigwig Perry White and Christopher Meloni (TV’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as Colonel Nathan Hardy, but unfortunately, when you cast an unknown, you might get a dud. Henry Cavill is a dud.

Then there is Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch), who definitely brings the spectacle, and a lot of it, but he doesn’t give us any heart. This film is all spectacle, no substance. We don’t get any Daily Planet or Jimmy Olsen. We don’t get any Lex Luthor (though I can get waiting on the sequel for him). We don’t get what an origin story needs. Here’s some advice. Don’t do an origin story if the previous incarnation did it so well. Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie did the origin so well, so why try to top it. Do what The Incredible Hulk and just skip past it while referencing little moments. This film was too much like The Amazing Spider-Man and not enough like a reboot should be.

And if I might have a moment to speak to David S. Goyer. Sir, please take a break from superheroes. It’s becoming a little weird.

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Sadly, Man of Steel was not the movie I was looking for. The character of Superman has a little camp, and that’s fine, at least Marvel took on the camp with their version of Captain America: The First Avenger and embrace it a little. Have a little fun. Isn’t that what superheroes usually are about (with the exception of a select few). Hopefully this team can pick up the pieces with Batfleck and fix it for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I said hopefully.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Draft Day (2014)

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Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliot, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman

Screenplay: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph

110 mins. Rated R for brief strong language.

 

I didn’t think I would enjoy Draft Day. I rented it because my brother enjoys sports movies. I also like Ivan Reitman, though his work as of late had been disappointing. I rented it because I thought it would be something I could recommend to my bro, or something I could tell him to steer clear of. That was it. Plus, it didn’t hurt that it was a movie.

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Draft Day is all about Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, 3 Days to Kill) on the most important day of his career: Draft Day, a day on which Sonny might lose his job, due to his bad calls as a draft manager, or it could redeem him, as long as he doesn’t screw it up. His estranged romantic relationship with Ali (Jennifer Garner, TV’s Alias, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) continues to get tangled, as does his working relationship with Coach Penn (TV’s Rescue Me, Ice Age: Continental Drift). In fact, as Sonny keeps getting more and more risky with his choices throughout the day, he puts himself further and further into being let go from his job and losing all the connections that make his life mean something.

Kevin Costner does great work here, and the scenes in which he is actually interacting with others heighten their performances as well. You can see Sonny’s mind working to fix the situation that he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into.

Draft Day uses some interesting cinematography and editing techniques to keep the pacing going. I didn’t actually realize that the movie is essentially two hours of talking, which it is.

I found it interesting that this film features three different actors from three separate iterations of Superman: Kevin Costner from Man of Steel, Frank Langella from Superman Returns, and Tom Welling from TV’s Smallville. I just thought you should know.

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Now, the film runs on a bit longer than it should and the football jargon confused me a bit, but I found myself excited for the enticing climax to come and I was not disappointed in the thrills of this movie. I really liked Draft Day a lot, and I feel like people who participate in fantasy football league drafts or even people that love the world of football will like it too. Give this one a go.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day? Touchdown or fumble? Let me know!

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

 

I feel like I should describe the film I’m about to review, but to streamline and simplify the process by just having you watch Spider-Man. This film is little more than a carbon copy, subbing one villain in for another and one love interest in for another. I should point out that this is mostly a well-made movie, but the pacing issues really drag it down given the fact that we had seen all of this before.

The Amazing Spider-Man tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), a loser but a smart one at that. The only thing he seems to want in life is Gwen Stacy (perfectly casted with Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman). That, and to discover the truth behind his parents’ death. Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill, The Five-Year Engagement) is the man who may hold some truth, but he is a bit too preoccupied with becoming a monstrous half-man/half-lizard hybrid.

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There is a lot of sameness to this film. Peter becomes Spider-Man. He fights the monster and tries to save those around him from certain doom. This plot is kind of boring for a regular superhero film at this point, but the fact that this is the second time it has been shown on film makes it all the more painful. If this first 90 minutes had been more brushed over, we could be enjoying ourselves a lot more, but this movie just drags. The subplot mystery surrounding Peter’s parents does help, but not enough.

I personally thought Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey was less likable than I would’ve hoped for. Now Emma Stone was pretty likable. She was some damn perfect casting, as with her father, played by Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Draft Day).

Then you have Curt Connors, a character who was merely cameos in previous Spider-Man films, and here he is in all the glory. And he is friggin’ creepy as The Lizard. Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Lincoln) are Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and give us solid performances given the unsolid scripting.

Now, from a cinematography standpoint, Marc Webb’s film has some very nice touches. The new costume for the masked hero is actually pretty nice looking. The ending was pretty awesome. I like that they are taking a page from Marvel to end on a note that not all is finished here. So the film does have some great moments, given that it is the same movie.

Now, I’m going to just state something. I hate comparing reboots and remakes to their predecessors. I don’t think it is fair as we have already had too much time to fall in love with the originals. It doesn’t offer up a fair fight, but then again, maybe that is the reason that we shouldn’t have remakes. It makes a good argument, but at the same time, I feel like some remakes are pretty damn perfect (John Carpenter’s The Thing and Peter Jackson’s King Kong to name a few). The problem with not comparing The Amazing Spider-Man to Spider-Man is that both films are so close in both exact plotting and timing that it is difficult not to. If you make a film right, it doesn’t have to be up for comparison. I never find myself comparing Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to Tim Burton’s original Batman because both films have difficult tones and aim for different ideas.

So, when I come to a topic of comparison from a music perspective, I don’t want to compare the fun and upbeat feeling of Sam Raimi’s trilogy to the ominous toning of Marc Webb’s film. But I do, and the difference and preference keep me to the original.

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Now, this film was originally scripted as Spider-Man 4, and I don’t understand the reason to reboot. All the best parts of this film would’ve been made better by continuing the previous film. We already introduced Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, so even planting Emma Stone in would’ve done fine enough. Curt Conners was already a character, so his introduction would’ve reduced the strained runtime. The mysetery around Peter’s parents would’ve injected some serious intrigue into the series. Even the open-ended finale would’ve translated perfectly. It just felt like a monetary decision (and it was) to push the reboot button, and we can tell.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Did this tale need retelling or where you experiencing deja vu?

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley

Screenplay: Adam Cozad, David Koepp

105 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.

 

Jack Ryan has lived a lot of lives. First, there was The Hunt for Red October, where Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin. This was the first in a series of films based on Tom Clancy’s popular character. The chronology continued into Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, where Harrison Ford took on the Jack Ryan role. Years later, the character was revived in a reboot called The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck. Apparently, that reboot didn’t go over too well, and now Director Kenneth Branagh (1994’s Frankenstein, Thor) has revived him yet again in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a generic and somewhat cliché reboot that is sure to be rebooted yet again in a decade or so.

Chris Pine (Star Trek, Rise of the Guardians) is Jack Ryan this time around, and this reboot focuses heavily on his first mission and inciting character moments. Jack is recruited by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, Dances With Wolves, Draft Day) to work for the CIA, complicating matters with girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Laggies). The relationship dynamic is completely void here, and Knightley comes off like a wasted draw. I’m far more convinced by the connection between Cathy and Viktor Cheverin, the film’s central villain, played by Director Brannagh.

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The plot here is more suited for an hour-long spy television show from the 1960’s, and has few scenes even worthy of remembrance. Brannagh gets some nice cinematography which compliments the action set pieces nicely enough, but there just isn’t much here to go on. A beginning to a franchise this film is not, the screenplay is more like several stories weaved together, with dialogue and random character development scenes thrown in. For your money, see something with more Oomph! This just isn’t it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) on IMDb

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