Quick Reviews: 3 IDIOTAS / DEAN / THE HERO / BEATRIZ AT DINNER

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3 IDIOTAS

Starring: Martha Higareda (NO MANCHES FRIDA [2016] and STREET KINGS [2008]). In support: Vadhir Derbez (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017])

Co-writing: Martha Higareda

(SUMMARY)

In the present day, two friends are told by a college rival that he knows where to find a friend of theirs who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. In flashback, we’re shown how these friends met and challenged one another to be inspired to do the things that they want to do, falling in love, and challenging what is perceived to be the conventional.

(REVIEW)

On paper, this doesn’t sound too bad, and can even have a pretty strong message if done right. Sadly, it was not done right. The movie is painfully unfunny, what with its overuse of fart jokes. While some ideas are interesting, the rest of the film barely justifies it. Even the romance between characters Poncho and Mariana feels forced. It somewhat breaks my heart to say this because even though I don’t remember liking NO MANCHES FRIDA all that much, I did really like Higareda. I remember liking her performance, and she’s no worse here. But it’s a chore to sit through this. To my understanding, this movie is a Mexican adaptation of an Indian film similarly called 3 IDIOTS (2009). Whereas IMDb gives this movie 3.9/10 (as of 6/15/2017), IMDb has the Indian original at an 8.4/10 (as of 6/15/2017). Wow. That’s an insane contrast. I’m rather interested in seeing that myself just to see if such a rating is warranted. But alas, this quick review is about this one. It’s not funny, makes zero sense most of the time, and even resorts to a crap load of clichés. I don’t recommend this. Not even as a rental. Check out the Indian original. It’s gotta be better than it’s Mexican remake.

My honest rating for 3 IDIOTAS: 1/5

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DEAN

Starring: Demetri Martin (IN A WORLD… [2013], TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT [2011], and TV show HOUSE OF LIES), Kevin Kline (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], THE ROAD TO EL DORADO [2000], and WILD WILD WEST [1999]), and Gillian Jacobs (DON’T THINK TWICE, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 [2015], and TV show COMMUNITY).

Directing and written by: Demetri Martin (Debut. Congrats.) Co-composing the score: Mark Noseworthy (unknown work) and Orr Rebhun (TV shows ENLISTED and THE CRAZY ONES). Cinematography by: Mark Schwartzbard (TV show MASTER OF NONE).

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Dean (Demetri Martin). His mom just passed away and he’s having trouble grieving, unlike his estranged father (Kevin Kline), who just wants to help him. Instead of grieving, Dean takes a vacation to Los Angeles and falls for a young woman named Nicky (Gillian Jacobs).

(REVIEW)

For a respectable list of firsts for Martin, as writer, director, and star, this is an impressive feat. He has a good sense of character writing and relationships, and every one of his actors are believable in their respective roles. Whether it’s because he was genuinely a great director or it was a great collaboration with his actors, it’s hard to say, but it pays off well. It’s got some good comedy and drama. Jacobs steals the show any time she’s on. There’s even a few surprises that I didn’t see coming. Having said all that, the movie is pretty basic in its design. If you read my summary, the movie is about what you’d expect to get. It’s not saying anything particularly profound, or trying anything all that new, and has been done in better movies that came before. Overall, it’s a safe movie, but it’s an impressive movie for someone who’s never written, directed, or starred in a movie before, and throwing a couple of surprises does elevate the movie to above average. If you’re a die-hard Martin fan, I recommend a matinee screening. Otherwise, I recommend it as a solid rental. It’s nothing amazing as a whole, but it’s not too shabby either.

My honest rating for DEAN: a strong 3/5

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THE HERO

Starring: Sam Elliott (ROCK DOG [2017], GHOST RIDER [2007], and TV show THE RANCH) and Laura Prepon (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], and TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and one episode of CASTLE). In support: Krysten Ritter (BIG EYES [2014], TV shows JESSICA JONES and DON’T TRUST THE B— IN APARTMENT 23, and upcoming TV show THE DEFENDERS), Nick Offerman (MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI [2017], HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 [2015], and TV show PARKS AND REC), and Katharine Ross (DONNIE DARKO [2001], BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID [1969], and THE GRADUATE [1967]).

Directing and co-writing: Brett Haley (short films). Co-writing: Marc Basch (unknown films). Composer: Keegan DeWitt (MORRIS FROM AMERICA [2016]). Cinematography: Rob Givens (short films)

(SUMMARY)

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is a seventy-one year old struggling actor, seemingly only known for one role for the last forty years, a western called THE HERO, of which he is being offered a lifetime achievement award for the role that made him famous. Despite all this, Lee hasn’t worked that much since, and often finds himself voicing over for commercials. When he’s not doing that, he’s getting high with his friend and drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman) and being reminded that he wasn’t the best father to his thirty year old daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). And despite striking up a relationship with a much younger woman named Charlotte (Laura Prepon), as well as finding internet fame for a speech he gave at his award ceremony, he finds himself diagnosed with cancer and finds himself in a situation where he needs to sort his life out.

(REVIEW)

You’d think it’d be incredibly morbid for elderly actors playing roles that tease their deaths, but give credit where credit is due, Elliott owns this movie. You feel every inch of his frustration as a struggling actor and, despite being so popular in one film, hasn’t given him the clout to get better roles. But it is delightfully entertaining to watch him get high off his ass. And usually I get a little queasy watching an old man make out and have sex with a much younger woman, but the characters are written so well that their chemistry does make it very sweet to watch… of course, I have a cousin who might be pretty annoyed with this. Either way, from the small amounts of comedy to the heavy drama, Elliott carries this film flawlessly. And for the life of me, I will never forget, “Lonestar Barbecue Sauce. The perfect partner… for your chicken.” There is sadly some predictability to the film, as in you know how they’ll get resolved and even when. Other scenes drag on much longer than necessary, and one or two questionable character decisions, but overall, this is a good movie. I recommend it and can see this getting Elliott an Oscar nomination next year. It’s not great, but it’s good and worth seeing.

My honest rating for THE HERO: 4/5

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BEATRIZ AT DINNER

Starring: Salma Hayek (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017], SAUSAGE PARTY [2016], DESPERADO [1995], and the upcoming THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD [2017]) and John Lithgow (MISS SLOANE [2016], INTERSTELLAR [2014], SHREK [2001], and upcoming films DADDY’S HOME 2 [2017] and PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017]). In support: Connie Britton (AMERICAN ULTRA [2015], and TV shows NASHVILLE and AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Chloë Sevigny (THE DINNER [2017], LOVE & FRIENDSHIP [2016], and TV show BLOODLINE), Amy Landecker (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007], and TV show TRANSPARENT), Jay Duplass (PAPER TOWNS [2015], and TV shows THE MINDY PROJECT and TRANSPARENT), and David Warshofsky (WILSON [2017], NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], and TAKEN [2008]).

Directing: Miguel Arteta (ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY [2014], YOUTH IN REVOLT [2009], and THE GOOD GIRL [2002]). Screenwriter: Mike White (NACHO LIBRE [2006], SCHOOL OF ROCK [2003], THE GOOD GIRL [2002], and the upcoming THE EMOJI MOVIE [2017]). Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh (PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY [2016], ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP [2015], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], and upcoming films THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017] and THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]). Cinematographer: Wyatt Garfield (short films and unknown movies)

(SUMMARY)

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a massage therapist. She’s had a rough week what with her pet goat killed outside her home and the general stresses of her job at the hospital. But one fateful day, going to a rich neighborhood to take care of frequent client Cathy (Connie Britton), her car breaks down as she tries to leave. Being a gracious host, Cathy invites Beatriz to their dinner party that night to celebrate business deal with their equally rich and infamous Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). Soon, heads clash as Beatriz’s naive and pro-life attitude insights arguments with Doug, who is in love with his job and cares little about hurting others’ feelings.

(REVIEW)

Damn. In some ways, it’s a letdown, but in others, it delivers exactly what it promises: a minority arguing with a Donald Trump-like figure. Why is it a letdown? Because many of the arguments in the movie are pretty contrived and predictable. The movie has solid character-setup. We get a great sense of who Beatriz is when she’s introduced. She’s an animal lover and a passionate healer. When we meet Doug, he’s an asshole and a pig because he’s a rich white guy and he’s shameless about it. But as soon as they’re sitting down enjoying the dinner, you know that the arguments are coming. I know, that’s the whole point of the movie, but every fight ends with Beatriz apologizing and promising to keep a cool head, only to go ballistic again. Granted, for different reasons, but you’d think the first blowup would be indication enough of what kind of company she’s a part of and it makes little sense that she’d stick around. Even when she agrees to stay out of the way for the duration of the party, it’s still never enough for her to keep her mouth shut and continue to be a semi-ungracious guest. Don’t get me wrong, Lithgow is a fiendishly charming guy and Hayek probably delivers the best performance she’s had in recent memory. There is a passionate drive behind this movie and you can feel it in the insensitive-in-a-good-way comedy. I think in different character circumstances, this would have been a truly effective film. As is, it’s not bad, but it’s something a disappointment. It’s worth seeing, if only for the performances, but I think each important scene wasn’t transitioned into very well and that’s the supposed to be the whole crux of the film. I recommend it as a rental.

My honest rating for BEATRIZ AT DINNER: 3/5

THE LOBSTER review

Good ole Colin Farrell. Has he ever turned in a bad performance? Don’t say DAREDEVIL because he was a freakin’ gem in that film. This guy has a resume that speaks for itself and is probably one of the best actors around. Plus his Irish accent is enough to get even a flaming heterosexual like myself to get all hot and bothered. But never mind that, he seems to have a fun knack of being a part of dark comedies, doesn’t he? IN BRUGES and SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, now this. Well, a dark and offbeat comedy starring Farrell is reason enough to get my ass in the seat, even if I wasn’t too clear on the story. I knew he played a character whose wife left him and now he’s under pressure to get a new wife, or else he’ll be turned into a lobster? Yeah, I got weirded out, but that was part of the appeal. So here we go, this is my honest opinion of THE LOBSTER.

(SUMMARY)

David (Colin Farrell) lives in an alternate reality where men and women aren’t allowed to be single. If you are single, you go to this hotel where you have forty-five days to find a mate or you’ll be turned into an animal of your choice and released into the wild. In order to gain more time to find a mate, you go hunting in the woods to tranquilize “the loners,” a group of people who reject the system, and bring them in to the staff. David does eventually find a mate that he will settle for, a rather heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia) but will only be able to if he lies about having certain traits in his character. However, his ruse is quickly unveiled and in order to prevent being turned into an animal, he escapes the hotel and eventually find refuge with the loners, who reveal that their rule is that there are no couples. This is made particularly conflicting when he meets a woman who is short-sighted (Rachel Weisz) and the two begin to fall in love.

(REVIEW)

If you’re looking for an offbeat comedy, then look no further. This movie is really good.

First of all, there is so much that isn’t shown in this movie. The first thing you’d think, “How do they turn people into animals.” If you’re hoping to see the machine that might do it, the movie never shows you how it happens. Why only forty-five days? Why is anything like this? Because fuck you, accept this alternate reality! I love when movies do this sort of thing because far too often, people have to have their movies grounded in reality. It’s a challenge to flip your perception of reality upside down, kind of like getting engulfed in a new culture… which, now that I’m thinking about it, is exactly what’s happening. Nothing’s really shown, nothing’s really explained, it’s just watching a dude traverse the world that’s being established and I was hooked.

I think I remember briefly skimming a review that detailed how this movie highlights the fears of modern dating. I’ll probably read the review in its entirety to compare notes, but I do want to say that this film does feel like a satire of dating websites. Everyone speaks in a monotoned voice. Even when in pain, there’s no shouting, screaming, or even real emoting. Even the raised volume of a persons voice is pretty rare. It reminds me of typing without emojis. While you can get a general sense of how a person is emoting the sentence being said, it’s not actually seeing the emotion. They find mates by only finding one single character trait they both share, like being short-sighted, or constant nose-bleeds. Kind of like browsing a profile, a person looks for similar interests instead of getting to know them the old fashioned way; talking, which they don’t really do. When they do talk, its pretty specific. When women talk to David, they’re pretty straight-forward in their speech, talking about their interests and possible fun-facts about them, instead of anything meaningful. But when talking to his “friends,” they’ll talk about their lies, their intentions, it’s a different dynamic, not unlike talking to your close friends. This is obviously just my personal interpretation of what the movie is symbolic of, but I would love to know someone else’s and have fun comparing and contrasting thoughts. Especially regarding that ending. Oh man, that ending is right up there with FIGHT CLUB, I’m tellin’ you.

Speaking of… well, speaking, their monotonous speech is such a primer for some of the more brutal comedic moments. For example, one of David’s friends that decides to come up with a fake character trait to get with a desirable mate that constantly has nose-bleeds, he demonstrates by rather brutally bashing his face onto an end-table. Another scene involves David being married to Heartless Woman who savagely kicks his dog to death and casually explains to David what she did. I know it simply sounds unpleasant, but hey, dark comedies. They’re like that.

The one real downside to the story is that it is kind of slow. I feel like the movie does take a lot of time to show us the world its created and the atmosphere of the movie that it does drag on for a bit. Maybe not the individual scenes, but the accumulation of all the scenes that drag adds up to feeling the length of the film toward the end. Its probably closer to nitpick since the movie does hold up by being so intriguing.

Also, now that I think about it there’s this too: the story shows that the loners can move around, like to the City where the couples live in freedom to do whatever they want. So, if they can move, why do they continue to camp out near the hotel, that literally schedules hunting time to bag and tag loners? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to, you know, relocate far away from there? Like… way far? I think I remember a description of the story saying that the loners are rebelling against the hotel, but all it seems like they do is have someone on the inside steal for them, bringing clothes, food, toiletries, etc. Hardly the stuff of Rebel Alliances against Galactic Empires.

I really like this movie. It had a few unexplained elements that kind of drag it down, but the weirdness that this world is marinated in is so fascinating and insane that I can’t help but be drawn into it. The best part of the movie is the impression it leaves and the burning desire to talk about it and interpret the story. I think it’s well worth the viewing, but unless you’re ready to sucked into a quirky alternate reality, it might be hard to get through it. Otherwise, highly recommended.

My honest rating: a strong 4/5

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