Sunday, June 29, 2014

Begin Again

If you love music and want to have a really fun time, then I urge you to see Writer/Director John Carney’s Begin Again. 

This is a gem of a film about a young, singer/song writer Grettta James (Keira Knightley) and washed-up record producer Dan (Mark Ruffalo), who meet by fate after she’s been dumped by her rising-star boyfriend (Adam Levine) and Dan’s been fired by his one-time partner (Mos Def).

It starts out like a standard romantic comedy, but 10 minutes into it, magic happens and the audience realizes it's in for a fabulous ride.

Together, Gretta and Dan try to produce an album of her songs, using out-of-doors venues all around New York City.

This is a story about the creative process …what Inside Llewyn Davis tried and failed to do.  The secret is that Begin Again is done with a feeling of authenticity and delicacy, yet, like Knightley's character, is uncompromising, as well.

What John Carney’s excellent screenplay also proves is that, in the best of romances, there is not just one main character; there are two.  However, in this romance, there is a wonderful twist because the main characters have different loves.
But, Carney is not just a great writer; he is an excellent director, as well.  The scenes move so smoothly with the actors seeming so relaxed, it’s as if we’re listening in on private, improvised conversations.
Cinematographer Yaron Orbach always knows just where to put the camera for best effect and Composer Gregg Alexander has put together a super soundtrack with most of the truly wonderful songs written by him. Begin Again is, also, a musical in the same sense as Carney's Once.  But, it's even better!

Keira Knightley proves she has a fine singing voice and Mark Ruffalo has never been better.  They are backed up with fabulous performances by James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener.
I confess I enjoyed this film so much, I saw it again a few days later.  And, it was even better on the second viewing!

I give Begin Again a 4.9 out of 5

PS: I may need intervention...  I've seen the film two more times since the original posting...and may see it again!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Third Person

The action takes place in Paris, New York and Rome.  It has Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello and Kim Bassinger.  It was written and directed by Paul Haggis, who did Million Dollar Baby and Casino Royale. It has to be great.  Right?  WRONG!

Third Person is a mess of a movie.
It’s about beautiful, but disgusting and/or stupid people, who only their mothers, if even them, could care about. And, after a while, it wasn’t just that I didn’t care about them, they bored me. 

What’s more, the Cinematographer Gianfillipo Corticelli has the dubious distinction of making Mila Kunis, Maria Bello and Olivia Wilde look unattractive.  For an Italian artist to do that is unforgivable.

If not for Olivia Wilde, I would have done something I have rarely ever done…walk out of the theater. But, then, I wouldn’t have learned that maybe not everyone was such a loser. 

Spoiler Alert... They were almost all figments of the imagination of the writer played by Neeson. So, a creep, creating creeps.  But, it seemed his book was going to be published.  Maybe lots of creeps, after all.

It’s a shame someone with Haggis’ talent would waste his time on this piece of junk.
I give Third Person a 1+ out of 5.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Sequels are often not as good as the original and, to some extent, that is the case with How To Train Your Dragon 2.  However, that doesn’t mean Director Dean DeBlois’ film is not good.  It’s just not as good as the first film because it’s not as joyful.  Darken forces are at foot and that brings in a happy surprise, but also, a sad event, as well.

If you like dragons….and I do…, you will enjoy the variety of flying animals and the coming-of-age of both Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his flying friend Toothless, plus the animation is fabulous.

I give How To Train Your Dragon 2 a 4 out of 5.

22 Jump Street

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have created a sometimes hilarious sequel to 21 Jump Street with 22 Jump Street.  And, the end-credits portend more than 3-dozen subsequent adventures of Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), including Beauty School and computer games.
The team is sent to college to handle the same type of drug problem they previously handled in high school.  So, essentially, the plot is the same…just the jokes are different.  But, that’s okay.  The audience is there to have fun.  And, fun there is.  Plus, there’s more of Ice Cube (Lieutenant Gibson) and that adds to the enjoyment.

The only criticism is that the film needed fresh eyes for some pruning.  Too much time was spent on Schmidt’s personal pity-party.  But, Jonah Hill was the prime Producer and Story Writer, so I doubt this was the fault of Editors Keith Brachmann and David Rennie.

22 Jump Street gets a 4 out of 5.