Mother!

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”)
Written by: Darren Aronofsky (“The Fountain”)

If you’ve ever had someone approach you and utter the words, “I had the weirdest dream last night,” and your first instinct was not to automatically run in the other direction before the storyteller began to describe their incomprehensible nightmare in extreme detail, you might find filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s new thriller “Mother!” profound in a bat-shit crazy kind of way. Aronofsky has created the cinematic version of sleep paralysis. It’s vivid, uncomfortably terrifying and once you snap out of it, you’ll never want to experience it again. Ever.

Without attempting to plunge deep into the psychobabble metaphors Aronofsky amplifies to frustrating proportions (this coming from a critic who loves some good symbolism), “Mother!” follows an unnamed married couple, played by Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”), as they watch their quiet life get disrupted by the arrival of unexpected guests.

When a stranger (Ed Harris) shows up at their door and is invited to stay by Bardem’s famous writer character, the friendly gesture sets off a series of events that lead to the unraveling of Lawrence’s medicated character’s sanity as her mind and home fall apart piece by piece. Joining Harris’ character in overstaying his welcome is his boorish wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), and later their two bickering sons, who turn the visit from discordant to destructive.

Is every insane thing happening around Lawrence simply a figment of her imagination or is Aronofsky making it a point to draw a faint line between reality and possible hallucinations. Like Natalie Portman’s ballerina character in “Black Swan,” the existence of Lawrence’s lucidness is left to the viewer to wrangle over, but what is obvious is that Aronofsky has embraced his sprawling, chaotic narrative without remorse.

Maybe that’s a sign of a groundbreaking director. Aronofsky has created a picture about obsession and, in turn, has become a manic of his own making. He’s much better telling human stories like in “The Wrestler” or even “Requiem for a Dream, which is still just as nerve-wracking as “Mother!” It’s a bold move and he should be commended for the original and ambitious albeit preposterous content. What we could use less of Aronofsky doing, however, is making a film that doesn’t add up to much more than two hours of navel-gazing and waxing philosophical. With “Mother!,” he can’t seem to check his ego at the front door.

Run All Night

March 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews, Uncategorized

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra (“Non-Stop”)
Written by: Brad Inglesby (“Out of The Furnace”)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: in order to escape a dangerous situation, a deeply flawed, but stoic and stern Liam Neeson needs to use his kickassery skills that were honed in some vague way to pile bodies and save the day. It’s a formula that has served Neeson well, as he has sustained a newfound action film career as he rolls into his 60s. Still, one can’t help but think Neeson is making the same movie over and over again, an issue which continues in “Run All Night.”

After witnessing a murder, Mike (Joel Kinnaman) finds himself in danger from the ruthless son of a mobster. When Mike’s estranged father Jimmy (Liam Neeson) shows up to try and protect his son, he is left with the choice to kill the man after him. To complicate things further, the man he killed is the son of his longtime best friend Shawn (Ed Harris). With a vow to return the favor, Jimmy and Mike must band together to survive one long night.

There usually isn’t a lot of variance or nuance to Neeson in this particular type of role, and “Run All Night” provides no exception. It’s a typecast that, at this point, he is comfortable in and, to his credit, also pretty adept at. Still, it is no different than any other performance in any other action film he has starred in. As his son, Kinnaman is a little bit of a blank slate, never showing enough emotion to register as a worthwhile character. Of the entire cast, it is the always fantastic Harris who stands out as the most well rounded of the bunch.

The “eye for an eye” driving story behind “Run All Night” is familiar, but is actually heightened a bit by the prior relationship between Harris and Neeson’s character. Unfortunately, those complexities are never fully explored and it feels like an entirely missed opportunity. There is also the case of the father-son relationship between Neeson and Kinnaman, which is intentionally icy cold from the get-go yet never warms up, even when it is meant to.

The requisite violence, narrow escaping in close calls and angry phone threatening that happens in every single one of these Neeson movies is, of course, present and at the forefront of “Run All Night.” It is generic, by the numbers and a clear signal that the Neeson shoot-em-ups are growing tired. Neeson, unexpectedly, has proven himself to be an action star capable of commanding the screen. It’s a shame that filmmakers can’t provide him with more complex roles and juicier storytelling.

Man on a Ledge

January 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell
Directed by: Asger Leth (debut)
Written by: Pablo Fenjeves (debut)

There is something fascinating about seeing dramatic and life-altering events play themselves out in front of the public eye. It is why traffic gets backed up when there’s an accident on the highway or why crowds of people flock when police or fire trucks show up somewhere. As Nick Cassady (Sam Worthington) stands perched on the ledge of a hotel room, it is clear that he is trying to rile the crowd up for motives unknown to those trying to help (or in the crowd’s case, encourage) him. While this perilous setup doesn’t leave the movie completely devoid of entertainment value, poor acting, lame dialogue, and a lack of creativity plague the appropriately titled “Man on a Ledge.”

As prison escapee Nick Cassady arrives at his hotel, he writes a note and steps out onto a ledge high above New York City. Claiming he is innocent of the diamond theft he was putting prison for, he threatens to jump unless he gets police officer Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) there to talk to him. As he is up on the ledge manipulating Mercer and entertaining the crowd below, he is in contact with his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) via earpiece as they attempt to commit a crime to prove his innocence.

Worthington, sporting a Kenny Powers style near-mullet, turns in yet another robotic performance. Not only is he completely dull, but his Australian accent randomly rears its head throughout the film. While Banks is great at many things, she fails to pull off the role of a cop convincingly. There is something about her cadence that is distracting and can’t be taken seriously in this type of setup.  In fact, Bellis the only actor who plays his role well. There are too many supporting performances in the film that are hokey and trite. Ed Harris (“History of Violence”) is the typical bad guy, the other cops in the film have the familiar cop attitude and use ridiculous lingo, and Rodriguez plays the annoyingly played-out stereotypical “fiery Latina,” hurling out insults in Spanish when she gets worked up.

There is a sense throughout “Man on a Ledge” that these are all things that have been done before. There is a recycled heist gag straight out of “Mission: Impossible 3,” the cop cars and crowds surrounding a suspicious hostage situation in New York City evokes “Phone Booth,” and the cop/criminal conversations and general themes of “Inside Man” can be found as well. When mixed in with a script chock full of cheesy conversations, the end result is a film that feels very redundant.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, “Man on a Ledge” unfolds rather briskly and is never boring. While most of the film’s far-fetched logic can be overlooked for the sake of entertainment, the ending of the film is so absurd that even the most open-minded filmgoer will react incredulously. There are certainly worse movies than “Man on a Ledge,” but the film is overall stifled by its lack of originality and corniness.