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

NO MANCHES FRIDA review

So here’s a different film for me to review. A true-to-form foreign film. I’m pretty sure I haven’t reviewed one at all this year. I doubt this year’s A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS really counts as it was written, directed, and did star an American actress and film-maker. No, this is straight-up a Mexican film, made by a Mexican film company, starring Mexicans. Wow, I’m probably acting like I’ve never heard of this before, but what astounds me is that I literally haven’t reviewed a foreign film… at all this year. It feels weird to me.

But oh well, apparently, this particular comedy has a bit of history to it. It’s actually a remake (jeez, even Mexico is running out of ideas) of a 2013 German comedy called FACK JU GÖHTE, translating(?) to: “Fuck you, Goethe,” (Goethe = German poet Johann Wolfgang [von] Goethe… I think). Or according to IMDb, the American title is “Suck Me, Shakespeer.” To be honest, I’m trying to make sense of this title myself, but it’s all sort of confusing to me. I don’t speak German. Cue a “waa waa.” Might wanna cue a second one actually because I have no idea what “No manches Frida” translates to. Yeah yeah, you’ll look at my profile picture and see a Hispanic/Latino guy, but I never learned Spanish. How did ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK put it? I’m a “coconut.”

I knew this movie had been out for a bit now. Since Labor Day, I believe. But I guess I wasn’t interested in paying for a foreign film that I knew nothing about. No trailers, no TV spots, no articles online, nothing but a cardboard poster in the dark corner of the second floor of the movie theatre it’s playing in. Couldn’t be too impressive. But I found myself in a unique position to see it for free, so I took advantage.

I can’t exactly talk about the cast or the crew, as I wouldn’t be familiar with anyone’s work. I don’t keep up with foreign films unless they generate enough buzz to be released in America. Although I guess it might be fun to acknowledge the film’s actress Martha Higareda, who has been in a few American projects before, like STREET KINGS (2008) and SMOKIN’ ACES 2: ASSASSIN’S BALL (2010) and an episode of HAWAII FIVE-0. Beyond that, yeah, I got nothing.

In any case, I look at this trailer and it looks… okay. I’m not going in with the highest of expectations, but it could be funny. We’ll see. This is my honest opinion of NO MANCHES FRIDA.

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Zequi (Omar Chaparro). He’s a thief who has recently been in jail, but is finally let out. However, he owes a lot of money to a dangerous club owner. He had the money before going to jail, but he had his partner hide it so it wouldn’t be confiscated. Once he’s out, he’s met with his dim-witted partner Jenny (Rocio Garcia) and they go and find the money, which she buried in a school. However, there’s one minor problem: the spot where Jenny buried the money now has a the school’s gymnasium built on top of it. With little to no choice, he discovers that the school is in need of some help with open spots for substitute teachers, as the school is loaded with teenagers that are undisciplined and out of control. He decides in order to be close to the buried money, Zequi poses as a sub. Soon follows a rough romantic relationship with the incredibly lovely and overly kind Lucy (Martha Higareda), embarks on an equally rough relationship with the most unruly class in the school, all the while mining for his missing money.

(REVIEW)

Pfft… this will be a tad complicated because on the one hand, this movie got really carried away with it’s own humor that is all over the place, ranging from jokes that fall flatter than a crepe getting ran over by a steam roller, to some cartoonishly senseless slapstick. Have I mentioned how predictable it was and how this story has been done a thousand times before, even in American films? FREEDOM WRITERS (2007), DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989), COACH CARTER (2005), the list goes on. And this movie does nothing to distinguish itself other than be a comedy. But you can argue that THE MIGHTY DUCKS (1992) covered that. And yet… I found myself strangely engaged in what was happening. I want to say that this movie is something of a guilty pleasure.

I guess as some point, I sort of just accepted that this was going to be an incredibly offbeat movie and I decided to accept what I was watching. I mean, there’s a scene where Lucy gets injected with goat hormones that makes her horny and high as a kite, acting like a sexy cat toward Zequi when he takes her home to recover… resulting in her acting like a regular cat, licking water from a dog bowl… and then collapsing in the bowl asleep. Hell, this movie practically opens with a teacher jumping out a two, three story window, unable to deal with the unruliness of the subject class of misfits. The teacher strikes the ground and you see blood pooling around her head. I’m sitting there scrambling to pull my jaw off the ground, and then it’s revealed that not only is she alive, but the “blood” was a juice box that she landed on. Lucy’s right above her checking this poor woman, then she suddenly wakes up and begs Lucy to kill her. Holy shit, this was way too dark for this kind of light-hearted, peppy movie, and… she fell two, three stories! She’s dead!

Despite all the absurdities that this movie is marinated in, I suppose the reason why more than a few of them still get laughs out of me is because the actors’ expressions are just as big and expressive as the big and absurd things happening. So I wasn’t truly bored, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of enjoying it. But don’t start accusing me of saying this movie is good. It’s not. It’s like when I saw this year’s THE 5TH WAVE. Because the movie hits almost every beat and is about as carbon copy of The Hunger Games franchise as it could get, it was so enjoyable to watch simply for how much it wasn’t trying. This movie has a similar effect, even though it’s issue is trying too hard.

I’m not sure what else to talk about. It’s a stupid little movie that’s hard not to find enjoyable. Are you looking for a groundbreaking comedy about inspiring teachers helping teen scamps be all that they can be? Don’t bother. It’s every single one you’ve seen before. But if you’re looking for that story, but screams “screw it,” and goes balls to the wall insane with its gimmicks, you might get a laugh or two. I guess I’m glad I saw it, but once was enough for me.

My honest rating for NO MANCHES FRIDA: 3/5

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Upcoming reviews:

  • WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws74Ie4fMc8
  • WILD LIFE:
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNCjU9VEuNc