marisa tomei

[Movie Review] A Warm and Welcome Homecoming for Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

spidermanhome_posterWith great power, comes great responsibility, John Watts. It’s one thing to have Spidey somewhat back in the hands of Marvel Studios, it’s a whole other thing to deliver a portrayal of Peter Parker’s alter ego that can wipe the slate clean from sins passed. Watts has come from ultra low budget horror, Clown, to helming what is hands down the greatest Spider-Man film to date.

Sam Raimi and Marc Webb both tried and–to certain degrees–failed to deliver crowd pleasing adventures for everyone’s favorite web-slinger. While these were not the first efforts to bring the character to the screen in one way or another, of the most modern attempts it would seem the third time (third iteration anyway) was the charm. Tom Holland’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War gave legions of fans hope for the impending reboot as it certainly appeared that finally the tone and personality of Peter Parker and his arachnid alias had been captured. Spider-Man: Homecoming extends that and more with nearly the entire high school setting.  (more…)

Movie Review: The Ides Of March (2011)

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So many movies lately have tried to tackle the most boring aspect of a topic in the forefront of our lives and try to turn it into something thrilling. Of the topics the one I’m mostly uninterested in is politics- mostly because it’s a topic so rich with varying opinions and voices way more qualified to share their opinion that throwing my hat in the ring would be as ill advised as putting a blind man behind the wheel of a car entering a Nascar race. While politics is not my bread and butter I can recognize when a film conveys the ugliness and shady conversations behind closed doors in an effective way. THE IDES OF MARCH is a film that will talk your ear off at nauseam until it turns you finally realize you are chin deep in a tense thriller with zero threat of any real physical violence- it’s not a glamorous accomplishment but an accomplishment nonetheless.

Dirty politics takes center stage when Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) has to learn the hard way that when it comes to winning a presidential nomination some people will stop at nothing to secure a win. Stephen works for presidential hopeful Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) and his senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman). However, when opposing campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) offers him a job and a pretty blonde intern seduces him, Stephen finds his loyalties spiraling out of control.

More than anything else THE IDES OF MARCH is a film about characters. What I mean is that yes there’s plot and things do happen but really everything in the film relies on the characters themselves. Where lots of films put characters in dicey situations and let them work their way through them this one is nothing more than characters in their job and how their personalities and personal demons control what they do or say. Every movie has characters that do things and say things but for me I wasn’t as hooked on the actual political race the characters are involved in as I was with their motivations and reactions to what other characters say and do. So when I say this is a film about characters what I really want to push across is that this is not a film about people running for a presidential nomination but instead is about how loyalties and motivations can change on a dime when a person’s livelihood and moral code is pushed to the edge.

It’s not a perfect theory to say the least but to a more direct point I will just say the performances in THE IDES OF MARCH are top notch. George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman all bring their characters to life and each of them has a different but distinct voice. Their characters are pushed and tested and you watch each and every interaction play out never knowing exactly how any one character will react. It’d be a disservice to any specific actor to single one out as better than another as they all give great performances and are leveled out in a way where none of them tip the scale in regards to anyone else in the cast.

All that being said the film itself is not perfect. As tense and engaging as the conversations between characters are and how great the performances are the film at times does feel a bit long. There are stretches that while acted well and don’t harm the tone of the film do make the time drag ever so slightly. Sometimes scenes of silence linger which also slows the pace down but also could be intentional just to add to the uncomfortable nature of the scene.

The performances are the standout of the film and it’s because of that the characters are about the only impression I was left with at the end. I wasn’t left with a profound reaction to how the election turned out outside of the implications of what characters had to do to get to that place. The dirty politics that eventually go in play make the dynamics between characters that much more interesting but their goal wasn’t as groundbreaking as you’d hope. That’s not a knock against the film as a whole because the film is held up and to great effect by the power of the writing and the performances in spite of how generic the actual plot around the characters happens to be.

When you look back at great thrillers a good handful usually involve key characters in mortal danger, most get killed or some sort of physical violence lurks just around the corner and at times I thought THE IDES OF MARCH would go there but it never does and I have to applaud the film for it. There are some darker aspects in the film for sure but given that the film is tense and engaging without character whipping guns or knives at each other and instead hurl lots of dialogue back and forth I believe the tension is that much more impressive. However as great as the initial viewing of the film is I still feel like the story is generic enough that there is little reason to continue revisiting it. The leads all knock it out of the park and easily make the film as watchable as it is but overall seeing it once was perfectly enough- yet there’d be no reason to hold a gun to my head if I was asked to watch it again.

Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Color me surprised- not only because THE LINCOLN LAWYER is a film that evokes the look and feel of certain 90’s thrillers, but that I actually found a recent Matthew McConaughey film very compelling. There are solid performances around every corner and the film remains quite riveting even though there isn’t a single twist you don’t see coming. Director Brad Furman does a great job with pacing and tension which makes THE LINCOLN LAWYER one of those happy surprises, although I went in not expecting much.

Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a very slippery and confident lawyer, defending a wide range of despicable individuals. Mick is very good at what he does, but when he is hired to defend the morally bankrupt Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe) he finds himself in somewhat of a pickle. Mick begins a dangerous game of tug of war with his conscience and his professional integrity as well as an even more dangerous series of interactions with his new client while also searching for a way to help a previous wrongly convicted client.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression by making any of my praise for THE LINCOLN LAWYER sound as if I believe this is the be-all-end-all of courtroom thrillers, because though I did like it quite a bit I also don’t see a whole lot of re-watch value in it either. The acting the tension, the script are all very well done, but the film is pretty predictable and the lack of surprises hinders any lasting impression it could have had. I will say that even though there’s a lot of events I could see or feel were coming, it didn’t do any critical damage to my ability to enjoy the film.

There are a handful of solid performances- McConaughey and Phillipe getting the bulk of times to shine. McConaughey rarely draws me in to the theater let alone to the video store for a rental although I have liked him in previous movies. I do like him when it comes to dramatic roles as opposed to the slacker romantic interest that he’s normally cast in and luckily this time around it’s not the latter. Phillipe has always proven quite good in the brooding dramatic roles and I think his role here is also one of my favorites I’ve seen him in. Phillipe is dark and creepy as well as portraying a dormant psychotic personality where McConaughey is the smooth talking confident lawyer. The mix makes for some very entertaining cinema.

As far as the rest of the film goes, it’s easy to say that the film takes the safe approach by avoiding a lot of whodunit scenarios and twists, but the ones that are there can be fun, yet extremely predictable. The film leaves everything out in the open, letting you have all the motives and information that compile the story and lets you have as much fun with it as you please. In some ways I admire that sort of take it or leave it mentality.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER has a certain attitude about it as well- not one that says it’s smarter than you, just one that says it knows what it is. When a filmmaker can establish a tense tone but still sell out any of its surprises then you know it’s a film meant not to stimulate the most complex inner workings of your brain. Instead what you’re left with is solid performances selling you nothing but a tightly wrapped piece of entertainment that might leave a mess once you’re done and you can either slop up the rest, or leave it for someone else to enjoy.

There is no doubt in my mind that THE LINCOLN LAWYER is a well made, well acted stylish thriller, but it’s the cinematic equivalent of a one night stand. Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillipe give great performances as does the rest of the supporting cast. As far as courtroom thrillers go, THE LINCOLN LAWYER should stand proudly amongst them- just not tall enough to easily separate it from the herd.

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Maybe I’m becoming a softy, maybe I’m just sentimental, or maybe CRAZY, SUPID, LOVE is one of the best romantic comedy/drama to come along all year long. I don’t know how since it had some cards stacked against it, because I’m not the biggest Steve Carell fan (actually I just really don’t like his character on The Office) and I felt that the trailer was a funny and appealing mask hiding the ugly movie underneath. Turns out all you need is a cool as hell Ryan Gosling, two sides of Steve Carell, a smart script and the adorable Emma Stone delivering your one PG-13 F-bomb to have one hell of a funny and touching romantic comedy with some great drama on the side.

Cal (Steve Carell) is blindsided when his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce. He moves out and begins spending his nights at a local bar where he mumbles and spouts off about his wife’s infidelity and sudden change of heart. Another bar attendee, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), decides to lend Cal a helping hand by helping him get back in touch with himself as a man and a loving husband. Cal is a very timid student at first but catches on to the fast and loose lifestyle of Jacob. It doesn’t take Cal long to realize that the bachelor lifestyle just isn’t what he is missing.

For such a simple and cliché premise there is so much content in CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE that makes it grow on you and get better and better as it goes along. At the beginning I was nervous because I didn’t like the characters that much and didn’t know why I was supposed to care about them. Then it quickly rushed to me once I finally got into some of the laughs and the camaraderie of Gosling and Carell. Amidst the quirky comedic moments there is real heart in the mix, which will assuredly turn some viewers off. If you stick with it though and let it all sink in I have little doubt you won’t enjoy yourself.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is an indie movie with indie spirit and indie heart but with the Hollywood gloss and stars to make it stand out. This is a movie that could work even without the fantastic cast that lights up the screen. Since we have the name though let me say that Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Steve Carell and Emma Stone all knock it out of the park. Gosling is undeniably cool even when he’s being a jerk; Steve Carell proves once again he isn’t just the bumbling idiotic boss of Dunder & Mifflin but a real actor with great dramatic chops. Moore is funny and heartwarming and Stone has a somewhat muted role but is always very adorable and hilarious. Marisa Tomei makes an appearance as well and is great even if just slightly crazy. And Kevin Bacon, well, I’m just not sure why Kevin Bacon was cast in this one.

The script has kind of a sneaky style and wit about it. It’s cliché and formulaic at times but offsets itself by being somewhat self aware and surprising. There are moments of the movie that I could easily predict and then several moments that caught me completely off guard. It’s those moments that made me go “oh snap” that thrust me deeper and deeper into loving this film. I cannot undermine the predictable moments either though, because even though I saw some stuff coming there were some curveballs lurking even within the predictability.

There’s obvious moments designed to make the entire audience laugh and understated moments meant to tickle the funnybone of people that love their comedy subtle as well as uproarious. There are moments ranging an over-the-top brawl to a character randomly playing the game on the back of a cereal box during a dramatic montage. There’s inappropriate imagery and ideas regarding underage kids and dialogue about the male and female anatomy that’s, for the most part, handled tastefully so as to, just barely, fit in that PG-13 rating.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is full of great characters that switch back and forth from endearing to somewhat deplorable but I never hated a single one of them. I have no doubt the film will seem too staged or contrived for some and too mushy and dramatic for others. For me though, CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE isn’t crazy, it isn’t stupid but I absolutely loved it. Love is crazy sometimes- it can make you do stupid things, but as the film shows, true love is always worth fighting for. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is a perfect date movie for young and old- it’s a great movie for couples to rekindle over and chuckle at the small truths about being in love or being married. Guys just don’t be surprised if your girl pictures you as a shirtless Ryan Gosling for the next couple weeks.