Ep. 120 – Captain Marvel, Leaving Neverland

March 9, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the 21st Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and first with a female lead, “Captain Marvel.” They also take a deep dive into the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” and what it means for the legacy of a dead entertainer now considered monstrous by part of the populace.

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Ep. 97 – Beauty and the Beast, Kong: Skull Island, and our full SXSW recap

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Beauty and the Beast,” circle back to pick up “Kong: Skull Island” from last week, and give their full SXSW recap, including quick reviews of “The Disaster Artist,” “Baby Driver,” and “Mr. Roosevelt.”

[00:00-42:53] Intro/SXSW recap

[42:53-56:37] Review: “Beauty and the Beast”

[56:37-1:06:30] Review: “Kong: Skull Island”

[1:06:30-1:10:20] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Kong: Skull Island

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”)
Written by: Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”) and Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”) and Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”)

What if “Apocalypse Now” was remade today, but with a twist:  instead of the Viet Cong, you replace them with King Kong? While the movie isn’t shameless enough to title itself “Viet Kong,” instead “Kong: Skull Island” foregoes subtlety—and, damningly, simplicity—to sort of retell Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece with a giant ape and connective tissue to other giant monsters in the pipeline ready to star in their own film franchises. In short, “Kong: Skull Island” is a weird fucking movie, albeit one that squanders that weirdness by bogging it down in a swamp of exposition, an overabundance of characters, and weird shifts in tone.

After a prologue shows us a pair of pilots, one American and one Japanese, crash landing on an island in the South Pacific during World War II and encountering our title character, we’re thrown ahead nearly 30 years to the waning days of the Vietnam War. Satellite photography and mapping is all the rage, and would-be explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) uses the threat of Russian discovery to convince a senator to finance an exploratory mission with a military escort to Skull Island, which is permanently surrounded by storms.

The military enlists Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a career soldier looking for a fight after having to “cut and run” in Vietnam, and his men to facilitate the expedition. Along for the ride is former British special forces tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the latter of which provides the story with its inevitable “Beauty and the Beast” allegory. As soon as the team arrives and sets off bombs for, uh, some reason, they’re met with a fury by Kong himself, swatting helicopters out of the air and leaving Packard with a thirst for revenge.

Cool monster fisticuffs aside, “Kong: Skull Island” ends up a mess as we’re expected to follow too many different poorly-drawn characters (big ape included) as they make their way across the unclear geography of Skull Island, during which moments of would-be or unintentional comic relief mar what comes down to a movie about a crazed Samuel L. Jackson taking on King Kong. I mean, that sounds badass, right? But then what the hell is with Tom Hiddleston tossing on a gas mask and grabbing a katana to knife through a flock of pterodactyls in a poisonous gas cloud in slow motion? Is THAT supposed to be badass? Because it’s just sort of laughable. And the glut of characters leaves fine actors, like Goodman, Brie Larson, Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell, either stranded with nothing to do or with so little motivation the whole thing feels like a byproduct of bad editing.

Ep. 84 – Star Trek Beyond, SDCC trailer dump, and Kiko is treading the boards with a new take on The Little Mermaid’s Ursula

July 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Star Trek Beyond, talk about all the comic book movie trailers that dropped at San Diego Comic Con, and speculate on what stage role Kiko has taken that’s caused him to miss this week’s show.

[00:00-11:48] Intro/Where is Kiko? Is he starring in The Little Mermaid?

[11:48-38:53] SDCC trailers: Justice League, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Kong: Skull Island and Doctor Strange, plus casting news featuring Brie Larson, Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.

[38:53-1:09:53] REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

[1:09:53-1:17:43] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Brie Larson – Room

November 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In her first lead role since breaking out in the 2013 indie “Short Term 12,” Brie Larson stars in Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” a drama adapted from Emma Donoghue’s New York Times-bestselling novel of the same name. In the film, Larson plays Joy Newsome aka “Ma,” a woman who is held captive in a small garden shed she calls “Room” with her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). With Jack unaware of the world outside “Room,” Joy devises a dangerous plan to escape from their confines and from the man who put them there, prepared to do anything to give Jack the chance to live a normal life.

During an interview with me, Larson talked about approaching her role as a mother, bonding with nine-year-old co-star Tremblay, and why “Room” is ultimately a unique meditation on the process of growing up.

Portraying a mother on film is something fairly new for you. Since you’re not a mother in real life, how did you confront a role like this, especially with all the emotion there is between you and actor Jacob Tremblay?

I talked with my mom quite a bit about what it was like to go through pregnancy and to raise a child and knowing what to do initially. I think a lot of it comes from being compassionate. I think a mother’s heart grows so many sizes when she has a child. This child becomes like a floating piece of yourself that you can’t imagine living without and would do anything to protect. It wasn’t a far reach because I love this planet and humanity so much. It was easy to project that onto this beautiful little boy, played by Jacob, who is one of the greatest and most wonderful people I’ve ever met.

What kind of relationship did you and Jacob have to create with each other before going into production to make it feel like the mother-son relationship was authentic? Did you spend a lot of time with each other prior to making the movie and what kinds of things did you do?

We had about three weeks of what we called “rehearsals,” but it was really an opportunity for the two of us to hang out and get to know each other. We would draw portraits of one another and play with Legos. We built the toys you see inside [the room] in “Room.” We spent a couple of hours every day just playing in [the room] in “Room.” It became a really safe, wonderful place for us. We were both alone in Toronto, so we spent a lot of time just goofing around. We’d play silly games or anything that got us to feel a sense of comfort with one another. More than anything, you have to be comfortable as an actor to really go for it. We really wanted Jacob to just feel like he was so loved and supported that he had the freedom to do what whatever he wanted to do with his character.

As I was watching the film, the room itself made me feel confined and very restless. How did you handle the space as an actress and did it ever get overwhelming?

No, because I think we really helped create that space. [The room] in “Room” never felt small. It felt like a very sacred place. It felt very special to us. That door [in the room] during filming could actually be open. It was never locked like it is in the story, so we did have the ability to leave. Because the space is so small, it did cut out any extra people that were on set. So, it would usually just be me, Jacob, our director, and a few core people it would take to record the scene properly. It wasn’t easy to get in and out a lot of the time because the door would be in the way or it would hit someone. It meant that you couldn’t bring your cell phone in and you had to be very respectful of the space and create a world that was very intimate and very loving.

When I say as a viewer I felt very confined, is that what you were hoping for?

Yeah, it’s so necessary to feel the confinement and the pain or feel the situation [Joy and Jack] are in. That’s the set up for them to escape. You have to feel that the space is so dire that it would have to make sense for them to attempt such a risky escape in order to have a better life. I think that it’s perfect that you felt that way. I think it is totally necessary.

To read my entire interview with Brie Larson, click HERE.

 

Trainwreck

July 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson
Directed by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)
Written by: Amy Schumer (debut)

After years of gaining respect in the stand-up comedy world, the recent seven Emmy nominations for her TV show “Inside Amy Schumer” solidified the titular comedian as a super successful TV star. In fact, there may not be a hotter name in the world of comedy right now. In a landscape where it almost isn’t enough for a comedian to just do stand up, Schumer looks to expand her career, which is already red-hot and become the latest to cross over from the stage to bonafide movie star in the Judd Apatow directed “Trainwreck.”

On an assignment to write a story about a surgeon who works with athletes, magazine writer Amy (Schumer), visits Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Despite good chemistry, Amy is too driven by her no commitment lifestyle and is reluctant to get involved on a deeper level. But slowly and surely, she starts to fall for Conners and wonder if, despite what her father ingrained in her as a child, that monogamy really is realistic.

The smartest thing that Schumer and Apatow did in making “Trainwreck” was surrounding Schumer with a really talented comedic cast. Actors like Colin Quinn, John Cena, a totally incognito Tilda Swinton and a surprisingly game LeBron James pop in and out, consistently stealing scenes. In fact, a good chunk of the funniest moments of the film come from people who aren’t Schumer or Hader. As for Schumer herself, everyone knows her comedic skills, but she proves to be an impressive actress with dramatic chops when the film calls for it.

Script and story-wise, a lot of “Trainwreck” feels like well-treaded ground. Commitment issues and arrested development are the main themes, something that Apatow is familiar with, yet him and Schumer don’t do anything particularly new or interesting with it. On the other hand, the romantic storyline with Schumer and Hader does work, and leads to some pretty sweet moments throughout the film, mostly from Hader who proves himself to be an apt romantic lead. The script is also extremely inconsistent in laughs. Jokes only hit half of the time, and when they do, they are more of the amusing type than the belly laugh.

Unfortunately in “Trainwreck,” Apatow brought his worst tendencies and most frequent knock on him as a director. The comedy is completely bloated. Many times a movie can just “feel” too long, but rarely do you have a case like in “Trainwreck” where you can actually point to obvious scenes that just don’t have a purpose and the film could lose without sacrificing anything. Scenes like a way too long bathroom stall conversation about Johnny Depp with a camera only on the legs of the girls and a completely awful intervention scene with LeBron James, Matthew Broderick, Chris Evert and a woefully out of place Marv Albert are completely superfluous and belong on a deleted scenes reel.

It may seem like there is a lot to dislike about “Trainwreck,” but only because it’s flaws shine more brightly than the good parts of the film. Make no mistake, “Trainwreck” has enough charm and fun performances to scrape by. Scrape being the operative word. With some restraint in the editing bay (I’m talking at least 30 minutes that could go), a tighter, more consistently funny script, Schumer and Apatow could have had a pretty successful comedy. Instead, what we have is a nice, entertaining and ultimately forgettable comedy, which can’t help but feel like a little bit of a letdown given Apatow’s pedigree.

Don Jon

September 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (debut)
Written by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (debut)

For an actor turned director/writer who has never stepped foot behind a camera to shoot a feature film before, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”) makes a commendable debut with “Don Jon,” a flawed yet jaunty adult-themed comedy that puts the spotlight on male sexuality and the desires that drive some to obsession.

As the second film to hit theaters in as many weeks that takes a comedic angle to the subject of sexual addiction (“Thanks for Sharing” being the other), “Don Jon” is less about the method of controlling the problem as much as it is stripping it down to reveal the real individual behind an amplified version of something, arguably, all men do.

Gordon-Levitt stars as the title character, Jon Martello, a porn-addicted New Jersey bartender, whose only interests in life include working out, club hopping and hooking up with good-looking women, and, most importantly, spending any other free time he has firing up his laptop to get his fix of visual pleasures via adult entertainment websites. When he meets Barbara Sugarman (a perfectly cast Scarlett Johansson in one of her best roles ever), however, his secret indulgence has to become even more guarded since she is an old-fashioned Catholic who just doesn’t understand why guys watch dirty movies in the first place.

In Jon’s case, it’s not so much a question of why as it is why so much? And why, if he can easily attract a new girl to bed every night, does he always find more gratification from images on a computer screen? It’s an interesting character study Gordon-Levitt presents, although a large portion of the narrative does become rather repetitive as the film continues. For example, in one ongoing joke, Jon visits the church confessional regularly to admit his sins of the flesh (sex out of wedlock, masturbation), but after the same scene plays out again and again, the effectiveness is lost. The same thing happens with other routines in the script like the sound of his Apple computer turning on (an indication to audiences he’s about to partake in some online porn) and having dinner with his family (Tony Danza plays his dad; Glenne Headly his mom; Brie Larson his disengaged sister), which always ends in the same cliche argument (they don’t understand why he can’t find an nice girl to settle down with).

Julianne Moore (“Boogie Nights”) enters into the third act of the film as Esther, a fellow college classmate of Jon, who is basically added to the narrative so Jon can have a reason to follow some type of character arc and not come out as the same douchebag he started as at the beginning. It works marginally, although it’s hard to picture Jon as anything but a sex fiend even when he’s trying to kick his habit and learn to love someone unconditionally.

“Don Jon” is a very risky choice by Gordon-Levitt. The decision to tackle this sort of topic doesn’t leave him unscathed, but he manages to wrap everything up without writing himself into awkward corners. All in all, he definitely has a future as a director in some capacity just in case that whole acting thing doesn’t pan out like he planned.

Short Term 12

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever
Directed by: Destin Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”)
Written by: Destin Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”)

If all films were as affecting and emotionally authentic as director/writer Destin Cretton’s dramatic indie masterpiece “Short Term 12,” the moviemaking industry would be a better place. Cretton, in only his second feature film of his career (his first was last year’s scarcely seen “I Am Not a Hipster”), has crafted what is easily one of the best films of 2013. Deeply moving and featuring extraordinary performances by both first-time and established actors, “Short Term 12” is one of those honest and intimate scripts that come out of nowhere to say something memorable and meaningful.

Based on Cretton’s 2008 short film of the same name, “Short Term 12” follows the internal workings of a temporary group home for at-risk youth and the teenagers and staff that form the organization. Supervising the day staff is Grace (Brie Larson), a 20-something young woman who is the heartbeat of the program and knows how to interact with even the most troubled kids. Her extremely kindhearted live-in boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) also works at the facility. He, too, understands how sensitive their jobs are, since he was raised by loving foster parents.

When a new client, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), joins the group, Grace is forced to revisit some of the incidents in her dark past that she has bottled up for years. But with all her attention paid to the kids who need her guidance (Marcus has anger issues and is turning 18, which means he has to leave the program; Sammy is a sweetheart who has emotional meltdowns), there is little time for Grace to confront her own situation head on.

With Grace at the center of his narrative, Cretton has created a genuine protagonist, with deep-seated flaws and an unmatchable devotion for her responsibilities with the kids. Larson is wonderful and the fully-realized character Cretton has written for her is one that few actresses come across in their entire career. Cretton doesn’t stop there, however. Along with his leads, including the perfectly cast Dever, he also handles each of the young personalities as if they were starring in their own movie. Actors like Alex Calloway (Sammy) and Keith Stanfield (Marcus) might have limited screen time (and in Calloway’s case, few words to say), but they’re presence is extremely compelling. In one particular scene, Marcus shares with Mason lyrics to a hip-hop song he has written. In the three minutes it takes him to perform it, Cretton hooks you if he hasn’t already.

Brimming with tenderness, humor, sadness and hope, moviegoers who enjoy rich, character-driven stories need to seek out “Short Term 12” as soon as possible. Far from the melodramatic fare this could’ve turned out to be, Cretton proves to be an impressive storyteller early on. Here’s to hoping the independent film industry has him for a good amount of time before larger studios start throwing money at him. With his talent, it’s bound to happen sooner than later.

The Spectacular Now

August 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson
Directed by: James Ponsoldt (“Smashed”)
Written by: Scott Neustadter (“(500) Days of Summer”) and Michael H. Weber (“(500) Days of Summer”)

As we meet our protagonist, high school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), he’s drinking a beer, writing a curse word-laden college essay he’s clearly not taking seriously. It not only serves as a placeholder for his character later in the film, but it introduces the audience to some darker themes, chiefly underage drinking and borderline alcoholism. As the film continues, we see bits and pieces of these themes, although nothing really scratches below the surface. It’s an issue that plagues the new coming-of-age drama, “The Spectacular Now.”

After some heavy drinking, popular high school slacker Sutter wakes up to find he has passed out in the lawn of less popular albeit sweet schoolmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley). As their friendship blossoms into something more, Sutter finds himself surprised with how much he cares about Aimee, and how difficult their relationship could possibly become because of the heavy baggage he carries.

Woodley, who was absolutely robbed of an Oscar nomination for her outstanding performance in 2011’s “The Descendants,” is in top form here. Aided by her plain clothes and lack of make-up, she is able to encapsulate the attitude and personality of a girl who is totally comfortable in her own skin, but also the naivety that goes along with being a girl who never had a rambunctious childhood. Her scenes with Teller bring forward a natural on-screen relationship that really grounds the film.

Teller, while good, is only marginally believable as a super-confident, slick and fast-talking teenager. He oozes coolness, but at times it’s difficult to understand why. Kyle Chandler, who is very slowly starting to reap the benefits of his Emmy win for the final season of “Friday Night Lights,” gives the strongest performance of the supporting cast as Sutter’s father. From the second his character appears on screen, Chandler is dialed in and adds little nuances in speech patterns and attitudes that make his scenes a joy to watch.

Frankly, the acting is solid all around. The problem, however, is that despite a wealth of interesting characters, director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed”) doesn’t spend enough time to get to know them. Sutter’s boss played by Bob Odenkirk or his good friend Ricky played by Masam Holden are just two examples of characters who have a lot to add in their brief moments on screen, but then disappear for large chunks of time. We don’t get to truly know these characters, which is disappointing considered the depth they appear to add.

As mentioned before, “The Spectacular Now” presents a lot of darker themes that might not be in a typical coming-of-age film. Sutter, who is finishing high school, is essentially an alcoholic, who drives drunk on several occasions during the film. There’s also the slow corruption of Aimee, who goes from a straight-edge teen to taking swigs of hard alcohol from a flask. The problem, however, is that while these themes are presented and touched on, they’re never fully explored. We see minor consequences of Sutter’s drinking problems, but the stakes are never high and true darkness is never revealed

If nothing else, “The Spectacular Now” is a well-made film featuring fine performances, but the lack of depth in many different facets leaves the viewer wanting more. With such promising elements, it’s a shame the final product is decidedly unspectacular.

21 Jump Street

March 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson
Directed by: Phil Lord (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) and Chris Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)
Written by: Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”)

Considering the handful of ’80s TV shows adapted into films over the last decade, it’s impossible not to dread the idea of “Manimal” or “Magnum P.I.” finding their way to the big screen anytime soon. Even as popular as the retro revival is today — from skinny jeans to the resurgence of 3D movies — there’s really no excuse for things like Michael Mann slummin’ with “Miami Vice” or the intentional ridiculousness of “The A-Team.” For obvious reasons, we’ll give Jessica Simpson wearing Daisy Dukes a pass for now.

Yet on the heels of these substandard movie versions comes the surprisingly clever and often funny “21 Jump Street,” an adaptation of the TV series that launched teen heartthrob Johnny Depp’s career in 1987. While the plot itself leaves much to be desired, screenwriter Michael Bacall (scribe of the overrated “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the duo behind the deliciously entertaining “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) use the kitschy nature of the crime show to their advantage by mocking its own drawbacks. More telling is their recognition that a “21 Jump Street” movie isn’t necessarily something fans of the series were begging Hollywood to make. With the pressure at a manageable level, the filmmakers toss all logic aside, don’t overdo the nostalgia, and simply have fun with it.

Starring hunky Channing Tatum (“The Vow”) and not so chunky Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) coming off his first Oscar nomination, “21 Jump Street” takes the procedural buddy cop setup and injects some much-needed energy into the tired formula. Assigned to go undercover as high school students to find the supplier of a new hip, hallucinatory drug students are dropping, rookie police officers Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) maneuver their way through the social network of a younger generation. It’s not just about popular kids and nerds anymore, as we learn when Schmidt points out a group of Asian girls hanging out before class dressed like punk manga comic book characters and asks, “What the hell are those?!”

Like Drew Barrymore in the 1999 rom-com “Never Been Kissed,” Hill and Tatum are forced to revisit their awkward teenage years (Jenko was a dumb jock; Schmidt was a wastoid) and do so with some sharp comedic timing. Neither will ever be able to pull off Peter DeLuise’s mullet, but the hilarious Hill and Tatum tandem is a good enough reason as any to ignore ’80s TV show-turned-movie history and (cue Holly Robinson) jump down on Jump Street.