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Friday, January 9, 2015

The Movie Report #801, January 9, 2015

The Movie Report

#801, January 9, 2015


MOVIES:
  • Black November ***
  • Taken 3 **
  • The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death **

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Movie Report #800, December 31, 2014

The Movie Report

#800, December 31, 2014


MOVIES:

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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Movie Report #799, December 19, 2014

The Movie Report

#799, December 19, 2014


MOVIES:
  • Annie **
  • Fleet of Time (Back in Time) **
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ***
  • The Interview ***
  • Mr. Turner ** 1/2
  • Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ** 1/2
  • PK *** 1/2

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: The Interview

The Movie Report



***; Rated R
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One of the most unfortunate tragedies to come out of the still-increasing real life hysteria stemming from a cyber-terrorist group's attacks against Sony Pictures and the cancelled release of The Interview is that two truly terrific comic performances are now doomed to go virtually unseen, unappreciated, and unrewarded (for now at least). I speak not of the work of leads James Franco and co-director (with regular collaborator Evan Goldberg) Seth Rogen, but that of Randall Park and Diana Bang, who make the most and then some of all-too-rare showcase roles for shamefully, perpetually Hollywood-neglected Asian-American talent. While certainly fulfilling the usual cosmetic requirements of being The Girl in a testosterone-driven comedy, Bang gives even better than she already gets as North Korean communications officer Sook. She definitely, appropriately looks tough as nails on initial glance, but the role and Bang prove far more than meets the eye as the film progresses, with her proving her adeptness with the physical and verbal gags while also generating believable chemistry with Rogen.

Park, who plays North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has received the rawest deal of all. In a less politically sensitive time (and, if we're going to be honest in the current can-of-worms-opened climate of mainstream Hollywood's less-than-accommodating, ever-dismissive attitude toward minority talent, if he were of a different ethnicity), Park's flat-out brilliant performance would be hailed as the breakout, star-making, even awards nomination-worthy, turn that it is. Yes, the Supreme Leader is the primary butt of Rogen, Goldberg, and co-writer Dan Sterling's jokes, and he is indeed at times depicted as a buffoon, as the movie's marketing would lead one to believe. That said, Park's portrayal is far more multi-faceted and, dare I say, human than those appearances suggest. He never lets one lose sight that Kim's cluelessness stems from a sheltered, even innocent, naivete that reflects not only his lack of worldliness but his very youth. His starstruck adoration of American TV personality Dave Skylark (Franco), to whom he grants the titular world exclusive interview, is all the funnier because it is so honest and relatable; like any typical young adult anywhere far from the glitzy light of Tinseltown, to meet, much less hang out, with a favorite celebrity is a fanboy dream come true. One step beyond that, having been so pampered and singlemindedly groomed to rule over his nation his entire young life, he would be--to quote another, and actually far more incendiary, satire of a North Korean dictator released a decade ago--so lonely, and he would cling on so tightly and try to win favor with someone he considers on his same, elevated level. Park nails this sheepish, ingratiating, seemingly unassuming demeanor so well that it more than sells the predictable plot contrivance where Skylark starts to take Kim's side over that of his producer/BFF (Rogen) and his own nation. But Kim's youth and tunnel vision also implies, however, a hair-trigger temper when he feels he loses any semblance of power and control and things don't go his way--and Park does an equally good job with Kim's turns to selfish and monstrous deeds, which come off as an organic extension of an isolated, spoiled man-child's thin skin. While certainly hilarious, Park's Kim is truly a character rather than a caricature.

The idea of thin skin comes to mind as far as the real-life North Korea and cyber-terrorists' reaction to The Interview. The core of the plot may hinge on the CIA calling on Skylark to use his interview access to assassinate Kim, but at the end of the day, this is a Franco/Rogen comic vehicle, and overall the film is more or less exactly what that label entails: often crude, often silly, and always featherweight and way-over-the-top to point of ever being in the orbit of seriousness, much less anywhere resembling reality. Going even farther than even that is Franco's turn as Skylark; to portray a self-absorbed television "interviewer" as being just as shallow and moronic, if not more, off-camera than he is on is an obvious joke, but Franco commits so completely to conveying such utter vacancy that it's less a performance than some sort of absurdist, avant garde performance art. Almost as if to leave ample space for his cohort's outsize display, Rogen is pretty much the straight man here (or at least as far as that term goes in one of his films--after all, one centerpiece gag involves having to use a certain natural hiding space on his person), and he acquits himself well, with the proven bruh-port with Franco making for some reliably big laughs.

And that's what The Interview is good for: laughs. Given the fish-in-a-barrel targets of megalomaniacal dictators and vacuous media personalities, clearly that's all that Rogen and Goldberg were going after, with none of the incisive, self-mocking ambition of their first directorial effort, 2013's (superior) This Is the End, never mind the go-for-broke eagerness to offend of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's previously alluded-to 2004 puppet epic Team America: World Police. If or when The Interview is finally unlocked from the vault, that the film is just a silly lark--or should I say "Skylark"--of an entertainer will leave viewers wondering what all the national security-threatening fuss was all about.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Movie Report #798, December 12, 2014

The Movie Report

#798, December 12, 2014


MOVIES:
  • The Captive ** 1/2
  • Difret ***
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings ** 1/2
  • Inherent Vice **
  • Lingaa ***
  • The Pyramid no stars
  • Top Five *** 1/2

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