Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

August 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara
Directed by: Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”)
Written by: Gus Van Sant (“Last Days”)

Three-time Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) stars as quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan in “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” a conventional biopic stifled by a screenplay that doesn’t allow its main character to flourish or make meaningful relationships.

Directed by two-time Oscar nominee Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”), who made one of the most memorable biopics of the last decade in 2008’s “Milk,” works off his own script based on John’s memoir of the same name.

Although writing has been, at best, an inconsistent endeavor for Van Sant in the past, what saves “Don’t Worry” from losing its footing completely is Phoenix’s portrayal of the controversial Callahan, who we see in the film through flashbacks as an alcoholic 21-year-old kid from Portland, who becomes paralyzed in a drunken car accident in 1972.

Most of “Don’t Worry” focuses on John’s physical and emotional recovery after the crash as well as his effort to kick his drinking habit by finding support in Alcoholics Anonymous. In AA, he meets Donnie (Jonah Hill), the group’s leader whose easy-going demeanor keeps John’s addiction in check. Despite the importance of Donnie and the other AA members, Van Sant’s script keeps them at an arm’s length away and never really acknowledges their value.

The same can be said with the way Van Sant handles John’s love interest Annu (Rooney Mara), a Swedish physical therapist who feels like an afterthought as soon as she leaves the room. An hour into the film and it’s almost like John has been alone the entire time. Even more problematic is the fact that because of the way the narrative is constructed, John’s artwork, the most fascinating thing about his life from a cinematic standpoint, only makes an impression in the second half of the story.

When his cartoons are given their moment to shine, however, is when “Don’t Worry” becomes a charming inside look into a man’s comically dark and clever mind through the politically-incorrect doodles he creates on issues like physical disabilities, race, religion and anything else that would cause conservative readers to gasp. Van Sant enhances some of these scenes by having John’s drawings come alive on paper. The subtle animations of his scribbly characters bring a happiness to the picture that balances the sobriety storyline well.

Still, it’s too little too late for “Don’t Worry” when we get to anything that resembles a significant part of who John really is – from his artistic abilities to his friendships to some of the personal baggage that weighs him down. Phoenix gives a triumphant performance, but “Don’t Worry” needed more color – something like 2003’s superior “American Splendor.” Van Sant, unfortunately, thought it adequate enough to scribble in pencil.

Ep. 98 – Ghost in the Shell, The Discovery, Power Rangers, 20th Century Women, and Cody’s tips on choosing the perfect meal from UberEATS

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Ghost in the Shell,” the new Netflix original film “The Discovery,” circle back to pick up “Power Rangers,” and take another look at “20th Century Women,” now on Blu-ray and DVD. Cody also gives listeners tips on what to order from UberEATS.

[00:00 – 18:21] Intro/Cody chooses his dinner

[18:21 – 30:16] Review – “Ghost in the Shell”

[30:16 – 40:15] Review – “The Discovery”

[40:15 – 54:20] Review – “Power Rangers”

[54:20 – 1:03:47] No Ticket Required – “20th Century Women”

[1:03:47 – 1:07:40] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Carol

January 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler
Directed by: Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”)
Written by: Phyllis Nagy (TV’s “Mrs. Harris”)

Director Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”) has produced an elegant and beautifully shot drama adapted from the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith. Anchored by understated performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the lesbian love story set in New York City in 1952 follows aspiring photographer Therese (Mara) and her complicated relationship with Carol (Blanchett), an older woman going through a divorce and fighting for custody of her daughter. Stunningly atmospheric and featuring eye-catching production and costume design, the romance can be stilted at times (how long is too long to stare longingly at someone?), but it’s hard not to appreciate the cinematic composition in its entirety.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård
Directed by: David Fincher (“The Social Network”)
Written by: Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”)

From the start of the opening credits two-time Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher (“The Social Network”) wants everyone to know the new adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” based on the first book of the widely-popular Stieg Larsson series, is a Fincher film. Borrowing from his music-video aesthetic, Fincher unleashes what can only be described as the melding of liquid metal and body parts. Trent Reznor and Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” pulsates behind the glossy and fleshly images. The stylish and head-trippy kick-start is perfect for those who were pleased with both the brutal nature of “Se7en” and the experienced craftsmanship of “Zodiac.” Call it the third and most mature movement of Fincher’s serial-killer symphony.

Never mind that Larsson’s entire “Millennium Trilogy” received the Swedish treatment in 2009 by director Niels Arden Oplev, who packed some incredibly suspenseful scenes in his version of “Tattoo.” The blood inside Fincher’s snow-white fantasy runs just a few degrees colder than its predecessor, which lends its unsympathetic Nordic setting to the English-language storyline. Fincher manages to match the seething temperament and sexuality of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace with an impressive Rooney Mara (“The Social Network”) as the anti-hero.

Said protagonist, Lisbeth Salander (Mara), an unsociable and troubled researcher and computer hacker, comes in a petite, punked-out package with short jet-black hair and pale features. She is directed to recently disgraced journalist-turned-investigator Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), who has taken leave from his magazine after losing a libel case, to help him solve the disappearance of a young girl named Harriet 40 years prior. Blomkvist is commissioned by Harriet’s uncle and retired industrialist Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plummer) to revisit the cold case. With Salander on his side (and in his bed), Blomkvist begins to unearth clues that bring him closer to discovering the truth of Harriet’s whereabouts. Will secrets hidden by the enigmatic Vanger family lead to some type of closure for Vagner? Have Blomkvist and Salander found evidence that a serial killer is responsible for Harriet’s death?

Written for an American audience by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), the narrative linked to the new “Dragon Tattoo” is not much different from Oplev’s take. For the most part, all the pieces are present to hit the most important plot points. Also evident is the screenplay’s overall lack of sentiment, which complements the story’s cast of discomforting personalities. Getting too close to any of these emotional recluses wouldn’t bode well for anyone, especially Mara, who spends much of her screen time proving just how merciless and vengeful Salander really is. It’s a fearless turn for the actor, who pumps acid through Salander’s veins so she can maneuver her way through a lonely life behind a computer much like Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg in Fincher’s 2010 masterpiece “The Social Network.”

Despite the film’s many parallels to its foreign counterpart, Fincher’s fingerprints are all over this one. As a visual artist and director, not many can attain the muted look and distressing tone he serves up. A tangible threat is felt constantly throughout the film and Fincher is extremely conscious of the details he needs to exhibit to keep each isolated moment at a highly concentrated level, even when those moments aren’t meant to be seen. Fincher makes it all feel effortless. With “Dragon Tattoo,” he has set a standard for filmmakers who want to improve on projects that have already set their own lofty bar.