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

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DON’T THINK TWICE review

This movie has been on my radar for a bit now, thanks to someone putting those tiny little posters on my car in Hollywood. I had no idea what it really was. A TV show? A Youtube show? An actual movie? Or if it was a movie, was it a documentary? I’m not sure where I thought it was a documentary, as I hadn’t seen a trailer for it, but it’s been out for awhile now at select theatres and I just never took the time to get to know the movie. So I bit the bullet to see what all the hoopla was about. I have to say, this movie looked like it’d be pretty good. I was smiling at the trailer, I laughed a bit, and I was intrigued by its story.

The biggest star I recognized was Keegan-Michael Key, whom most will know from TV sketches KEY AND PEELE, or from the hilarious cat movie earlier this year, KEANU. He’s proven to be pretty funny and I kind of want to see what his KEY AND PEELE sketches are like, so his draw was certainly the strongest. Kate Micucci, from the comedy-folk duo Garfunkel and Oats, briefly on the TV show THE BIG BANG THEORY, and some may recognize her voice from the animated TV show STEVEN UNIVERSE. I liked what I heard when she sang “Weed Card,” and I liked her role in BIG BANG, but honestly, I’m not overly familiar with her. Still, I was curious. Gillian Jacobs, I wager, is more prominently recognized from the TV show COMMUNITY. I never watched it, but I imagine fans of hers may be interested. And finally, the writer and director of this picture, Mike Birbiglia. Again, not familiar with his name, as he’s only directed one full-length movie in the past: SLEEPWALK WITH ME (never seen it). But as far as his acting profile goes, he’s been in Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and some small roles in movies like, “POPSTAR,” “TRAINWRECK,” and “HOT PURSUIT.”

I went in with some moderately high hopes. I was expecting some strong laughs, and well-written characters, so let’s see how it held up. This is my honest opinion of DON’T THINK TWICE.

(SUMMARY)

The story follows The Commune, an improv group of six best friends: Miles (Mike Birbiglia), Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci), and Lindsay (Tami Sagher). Once upon a time, Miles was up for an audition on the popular TV show WEEKEND LIVE, but was rejected and always held a grudge against the show ever since, but still harbors wishes to get a second chance. He’s not the only one. Most of the group has similar wishes to be noticed by talents that make appearances at their improv shows, and when they do, Jack has a tendency to upstage the rest of the group, irking them. Well one day, it pays off and Jack gets a call that both he and his Sam, whom the two are in a romantic relationship, have auditions. This comes at a particularly awkward time when Bill’s father gets into a motorcycle accident and is in the hospital. But as Jack begins to realize his dreams and the others don’t make it like he does, the group slowly gets divided and the reality of their lives begins to take its effect that they haven’t reached their dreams like they’ve always wanted.

(REVIEW)

Not gonna lie, I’m not sure if I like my own summary for the movie. It makes it sound way too melodramatic, like something out of a Hallmark Channel, but please take my word for it… this movie is great. I can’t believe that I almost missed out on this movie because I thought it was a documentary. I’m a dumb-ass, what can I say? I wised up and took a crack at this one, and it paid off in spades.

I’ve become something of a recent fan of Key. I may not have cared much about his appearance in VACATION (2015), but pretty much ever since TOMORROWLAND, I’ve always valued seeing him on screen. He always leaves such a wonderful impression. After the hilarious film that was KEANU, I’m down for anything that Key is doing, and I’m so glad to see him in a grounded, very real role. I know this guy can play goofs really well, but I always crave comedians to do more dramatic stuff, as they always seem to shine in those roles, even if they’re not their most famous roles. Jim Carrey in THE MAJESTIC, Robin Williams in GOOD WILL HUNTING, now we can kind of add Key to this. It might be something of a cheat as it’s still a dramedy, but as it stands, I’m completely lost in his performance. He’s great.

Jacobs. Holy fucking shit, if there’s anyone that steals the show as much as Key does, it’s this woman. Suddenly, I have this passionate urge to write a personal apology to her for not having watched COMMUNITY because I can tell, she’d be my favorite person on that show. She’s so funny, and just like Key, her more dramatic moments are incredibly powerful. She is clearly the heart of the movie and probably has the most standout moments and scenes. While five out of six of these friends want a shot on WEEKEND LIVE, Sam is honest with herself and doesn’t believe really want to be on the show. She enjoys her time with The Commune and loves her life doing small improv scenes for smaller crowds. She’s not overly ambitious and I think that’s a really strong, really brave thing to have a character like that in a movie like this.

While I wish I could rave and rave about the rest of the cast, I just don’t have the willpower to do so, but everyone’s awesome. I do, however, wish Sagher and Micucci had more screentime and solo moments to let them shine as much as the others get to. They have them, don’t get me wrong, but a majority of the drama centers on the characters of Key, Jacobs, Birbiglia, and Gethard. Sagher and Micucci almost just round out the cast as supporting roles instead of equal spotlight with the other four.

But let me talk about this story. It’s incredibly unique. It’s so easy for writers to make a story about following your dreams and never giving up on them. That’s obviously not a problem or a tired story to write, but it’s been done. That’s not this movie. This movie is an honest look at a scenario if you did achieve your dreams, and the negatives of it, or if you just never got there at all. When was the last movie you saw that was like that? The closest I can think of is Pixar’s MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, but that entire story was just a build-up to the lesson rather than a kind of exploration of it.

In some ways, this movie is also kind of haunting. Being twenty-seven years old myself, I don’t exactly live on top of the world either. Each of these characters has mundane job that they would otherwise love to give up for something bigger. And these characters are implied to be in their thirties (or maybe I drastically misheard). But I have to swing right back around to the character Sam and my love for her because she’s perfectly happy with her current life. She has this passion for improv and thinks it’s okay to have a more low-key way of living that none of the other characters have. This is almost exactly how I feel about my own life. I work at restaurants a little more than a cashier or server. On the side, I’m writing these reviews, which I love. I won’t ever be a rich dude, but I don’t mind that. This movie, once again, kind of validated that it’s okay to feel the way I do about something.

As under-the-radar as this movie will be for most people, I think it’s a truly captivating film and I am truly sorry for nearly missing out on it. It may not be a laugh-out-loud kind of movie, but it’s a sweet, honest, and even inspiring. I highly recommend this movie if you’re looking for something that’s off the beaten path and a little more unique in its story.

My honest rating of DON’T THINK TWICE: 5/5

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Upcoming review:

  • HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGj3AogT9EM