As an avowed, no-nonsense peddler of cinematic excess, director Michael Bay would in some respects seem to be the ideal candidate to bring to the big screen the deliciously weird and over-the-top true crime story at the center of Pain & Gain, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson. Unfortunately this down-and-dirty air-quote character piece, a florid and casually misogynistic action dramedy that marks Bay's least expensive production since his debut film, comes unglued early on, and then spends two hours-plus thrashing about wildly, to only middling effect. Madly trading off rambling voiceover narration from character to character, like a relay race baton, Pain & Gain takes the tale of a group of brutal yet idiotic criminals and twists it into a series of hyper-masculine poses masquerading as some sort of statement on the new American dream. It's like Bottle Rocket by way of Savages, but not really in a good or interesting way. For the full, original review, from Screen Daily, click here. (Paramount, R, 129 minutes)
When you take zombie as a surname, you might seem to be limiting your career options, not unlike getting a face tattoo. Yet Rob Zombie, who burst onto the scene as frontman for the theatrical hard rock act White Zombie in the late 1980s and early '90s, has carved out not only a successful but a varied entertainment career as a musician, multimedia producer, filmmaker and graphic novel impresario.
His latest film as writer-director, however, The Lords of Salem, is a horror offering right in his experiential wheelhouse. When Massachusetts radio deejay Heidi Hawthorne (wife Sheri Moon Zombie) receives a package with mysterious music, it triggers headaches, hypnosis and visions of her town's violent past. Is Heidi, a recovering addict and trauma survivor, slipping back into madness, or is something even more sinister afoot? Recently, I had a chance to speak with Zombie one-on-one, and while I didn't ask him about his studded iPhone case we did chat about his movie, what hell is to him (hint: in involves drunk strippers), and what's next professionally. The conversation is excerpted over at Yahoo, so click here for the read.
The winner of Best Narrative Feature at last year's SXSW Festival, writer-director Adam Leon's Gimme the Loot takes a premise seemingly made for dark twists and turns — over the course of two summer days a pair of Bronx graffiti artist teenagers, Malcolm and Sofia, try to scrape together and possibly steal $500 to pull off a big stunt that will humiliate their rivals — and turns it into a keenly observed, vibrant, livewire work coursing with adolescent energy. As a result, the young director has been rewarded with attention as one of the top up-and-coming filmmakers of the under-30 set. I recently had a chance to speak with Leon one-on-one, about race, class and taking his little movie around the world. The conversation is excerpted over at ShockYa, so click here for the read.
Indie import Hunky Dory, starring Minnie Driver, may have been initially conceived before the hit small screen show Glee, but it suffers mightily in comparison to the pop cultural shadow of that series, playing like a mash-up of it and a decidedly retro version of High School Musical, as filtered through the gauzy lens of underclass-artistic-exuberance that's plagued a certain subset of comedic-leaning British offerings ever since Billy Elliot.
The 1970s-set story of an idealistic drama teacher (Driver) who endeavors to fire up her apathetic students by staging a glam rock/pop adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Hunky Dory builds to an undeniably poppy and somewhat cathartic finale, but Laurence Coriat's screenplay is a superb example of mere dutiful execution, lacking much distinctive flourish in either character or dialogue. The movie drags on too long as well, needlessly investing in backstories that aren't that interesting and don't add that much to the main plot of the production. When director Marc Evans is able to concentrate on some of the actual inventive musical stagings, there's often a rush of wind under the film's wings. Alas, that's not frequent enough to fully redeem matters. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Variance Films, unrated, 110 minutes)
I guess to call Detour, director William Dickerson's micro-budgeted drama of confinement and descent into madness, by a more accurate moniker, Mudslide, would be to court an unfortunate array of jokes centered around bodily excretions. But, seemingly taking Buried and Danny Boyle's 127 Hours as its inspiration, the movie spends most of its time trapped in a SUV covered with the detritus of a muddy landslide. While not lacking for decent acting or technical execution, the movie's lead and de facto host is, as written, something of a cipher, leaving one wishing for MacGyver, or even MacGruber, to tackle a similar dilemma. The impulse to fight for survival is buried within all of us, but Detour lacks a compelling enough arc to sustain what might have worked much better as a short film. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here; for more information on the film, click here to visit the movie's website. (Gravitas Ventures, unrated, 86 minutes)
A couple attractive Aussies whose respective stars are on the upswing, Teresa Palmer and Liam Hemsworth, try to help anchor Love & Honor, a well meaning but essentially dopey period piece flick that tries with increasingly diminishing effectiveness to meld an anti-war message with Nicholas Sparks-type romance. By all means, though, for the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (IFC Films, PG-13, 96 minutes)
If every war is a thousand rolling tragedies, then the flip side of such conflict is also the opportunities it provides for humanity to showcase the better angels of its nature. Poker is the unlikely binding agent at the heart of Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust, a briskly paced documentary in which a disparate but closely knit cabal — including the president of the Philippines and a future president of the United States — work together to concoct an intricate plan of rescue and re-settlement, saving over 1,300 Jews from death in Nazi concentration camps. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. Rescue in the Philippines opens exclusively in Los Angeles this week at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. (Three Roads Productions, unrated, 60 minutes)
In 2004, writer-director Pablo Berger delivered an unlikely yet charming little Spanish-Danish comedic hybrid, Torremolinos 73, about an exasperated encyclopedia salesman who, along with his wife, accidentally trips into a career directing pornographic movies for import to Northern European countries. It took more than eight years to realize the dream of his totally different but equally unique follow-up, Blancanieves, the winner of 10 Goya Awards, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards. In a case of good news/bad news, though, Berger's movie — a black-and-white silent film that re-imagines the tale of Snow White through the prism of bullfighting, while also serving as a homage to European silent movies of yore — comes on the heels of the Oscar-winning The Artist. Ergo, two of its most distinctive qualities risk looking, bizarrely, derivative. I recently had a chance to speak to Berger one-on-one, about the joint pain and opportunity that presents, as well as his decades-old inspirations for the movie. The conversation is excerpted over at ShockYa, so click here for the read.
Props to Eva Mendes, who kinda killed on The Daily Show tonight, all while not talking very much about her new movie, Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines. She asked host Jon Stewart about how/why he got cut out of The First Wives Club, which in turn led to Mendes then recounting a rather hilarious story about finding out at a premiere that her voice had been over-dubbed... because she didn't "sound intelligent enough," she said a producer told her. The bigger indignity, she said? It was a Steven Seagal movie. (That would be 2001's Exit Wounds, to save you a cross-search.) Again, the whole episode is here, if you need it, or I'm sure they'll have guest-specific splits up soon.