Tag Archives: Zoe Kravitz

Movie Review: Dope (2015)

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Rating: B/ Puppy dog-eyed Shameik Moore plays geeky urban teen Malcolm, who lives in the Bottoms of Inglewood, California, where crime and desperation reign. With a setting like this, you’d expect Dope to be a depressing movie, but it’s not. It’s actually a very funny movie; not perfect by a long shot, but with some of the funniest, zaniest dialogue to come around in years. Malcolm is obsessed with 90’s Hip-Hop culture and plans to go to college, which makes him very uncool with the kids in his hood, who mostly end up joining gangs and dying young and never expect anything more of themselves. Continue reading Movie Review: Dope (2015)

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The Road Within (2014)

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So, I did the unthinkable last night, I watched a remake of a foreign movie before viewing the original. The Road Within is a remake of the 2010 German film, Vincent Wants to Sea, and I’ve heard it is a very faithful adaptation. Anyway, if that is the case, I might as well cross Vincent off my itinerary. The Road Within may be an independent film, but it feels as pedestrian as they come.

Let’s cut to the chase; the real problem here isn’t the script (trite and hokey as it is,) but Dev Patel. Fucking Dev Patel, man, Robert Sheehan plays Vincent, a Tourette’s Syndrome victim with a anger management problem in this movie, and he’s quite good. He’s making a monumental effort against a weak script with his solid performance.

Following his alcoholic mother’s death, Vincent is sent to a behavioral therapy program by his cold-hearted  politician father (Robert Patrick) and so sooner has he been dropped off and virtually abandoned by pops he befriends a flirty pixyish anorexic (Zoe Kravitz) and hits the road in his therapist’s stolen car to scatter his  mother’s ashes at sea.

Of course there’s one small problem, besides that whole ‘wanted felons in a stolen car’ thing. Vincent and the Anorexic, Marie have taken Vincent’s annoying roommate, Alex (Dev Patel) with them, quite forcibly (to prevent him from narcing them out to the doctors at the facility,) and that’s where the film really falters.

Don’t watch this if you’re an Obsessive-compulsive Disorder victim like me; it will just infuriate and baffle you. Alex is a pedantic clean freak who suffers from OCD, and that’s where the filmmaker’s development of his character ends. His character more often than not provides some kind of ghastly slapstick, his eyes bulging out like a deranged Marty Feldman incarnate, jumping about comically like a spastic and screaming about ‘poo’ and ‘contamination’ whenever someone touches him.

It’s pretty much the tackiest OCD stereotype one can imagine, and I felt almost embarrassed for the actor and the filmmaker in that (a they treated a complex and serious illness this way and (b that they thought people with OCD actually act like this. While Sheehan’s part is underwritten and pretty cliche as far as depictions of Tourette’s Syndrome go (choosing to portray the uncontrollable cursing that sometimes- but not typically- goes with the illness,) his character is written with some finesse and sympathy, and the actor creates a somewhat likable protagonist with admittedly limited resources. He seems, more or less, like someone who could exist in the real world.

Contrary to this movie’s depiction of OCD, people suffering from the illness are not psychotic or retarded (we may in fact be borderline crazy, if ‘insanity’ is defined by having an unfortunate mental condition that hinders our day-to-day functioning, but I desist.) The director, Gren Wells, could just as well have hired Adam Sandler (Happy Madison productions Sandler, not Punch-Drunk Love Sandler) to play Alex and it probably would have been just as convincing a portrayal. Patel’s shtick gets old fast, and by fast I mean the minute he’s introduced into the movie.

Besides the unfortunate depiction of certain psychological conditions, the setup of The Road Within is painfully standard, with characters apparently reaching recovery from a healing road trip and lots and lots of big discussions about the trio’s illnesses effect on their lives. Robert Patrick does a good job (and actually has a touching monologue near the end) but his character is just too unbelievable, going full circle from uncaring jerk to genuinely loving dad thanks to a few short conversations with Vincent’s shrink (Kyra Sedgwick.) The transformation just isn’t plausible with you consider the father, Robert’s years of being a total asshole to his son.

It all ties into a neat tidy bundle at the end and despite some good scenes and performances, ultimately has little to say about the character’s conditions. Comedies, whether convivial or dark, about mental illness can be effective; just look at Benny & Joon, The Silver Linings Playbook, and The bizarro black comedy The Voices. The Voices was offensive as offensive can be, but it didn’t try to be anything other than a pitch black comedy. The Silver Linings Playbook performed the high wire act between being light and funny and not trivializing the characters’ illnesses. The Road Within has it’s moments, but ultimately it’s just not a substantial flick, obtaining cheap laughs from the character’s  respective maladies and telling a well-meaning yet tired story with no real surprises.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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There’s hardly a moment that’s not brimming with action and excitement in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a modern continuation of the “Mad Max” series substituting Mel Gibson for Tom Hardy as the lead. I’ve liked Tom Hardy since his role in the weirdo biopic “Bronson,” and although I haven’t seen this film’s precursors (!), I was intrigued by it’s rave reviews and no small amount of unwarranted controversy from feminist critics.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is not a particularly deep movie; not particularly wise to the intricacies of human nature other than the well-worn assertion that when the apocalypse rolls around, shit will go down. You know what? That’s okay.  Because what this latest installment does have is cool car chases, crazy set pieces, and kick-ass female characters (remind me why this was branded misogynist again?)

You know that a movie with a rock n’ roll gimp playing a flame-throwing guitar on the front of a fortified tank as the baddies ride into battle has got to have some redeeming social value, or at least be cool as hell. In the not-so-distant future, oil and water have become precious commodities and society has broken into factions, each more brutal than the last. Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is mad about stuff, namely the state of civilization and the death of his wife and daughter which have festered in his mind and culminated in crazy hallucinations.

He gets kidnapped by an insane cult led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne,) who promises his ‘wild boys’ eternal paradise in Valhalla if the live- and die- by his will. Max then gets made into a ‘blood-bag,’ a commodity whose blood is to be used to renew Immortan Joe’s wild boy’s when the time comes. But Max escapes, and with much trepidation joins Joe’s renegade warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and a group of the maniacal leader’s sexual slaves in route, the the ‘green place,’ a Utopian locale based on Furiosa’s distant memory.

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I was pleased and relieved to see that Furiosa and Max’s relationship was not (as I feared it would be) ‘let me get past your hard-as-nails facade and awaken the woman within’ bullcrap. It’s based on mutual respect, certainly more than sex or romance, and I love how he forgoes shooting the gun at a crucial moment to hand it over because she’s just, y’know, a better shot. For someone who was expecting a filmy post-apocalyptic sex scene, maybe with incense and gauze curtains or some such shit, I was pleasantly surprised.

I am not the audience for this movie, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it. I am the less-than-1% who actually prefers European art films and understated independent films to big-budget multi-million dollar smashes, but the nice thing about “Mad Max: Fury Road” is it doesn’t try to be deep or profound (like Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy) but just has fun being itself, a big fun goofy action movie of larger-than-life proportions, like playing a particularly epic video game. There’s scarcely a dull moment.

It’s interesting to see how classical mythology (namely Norse) has collided with modern sensibilities, selfishness, and consumerism with Immortan Joe’s boys (one of his warriors, a wet-behind-the-ears kid named Nux (Nicholas Hoult,) describes ‘going to Valhalla to eat a Mcfeast’- a little post-McDonald’s product placement there) 😉 The wild-boy’s ideology reminds me of ISIS and any other cult or hate group worth it’s salt- you get to be an asshole, and you’re rewarded for it tenfold in the afterlife.

Watch it for the guitar gimp. And if not for the guitar gimp, watch it for Tom Hardy. And if not for Tom Hardy, watch it for Charlize Theron as an indomitable heroine and her group of newly liberated wards who must find their own deeply-buried strength. Never to we get the feeling that Theron’s identity as a woman makes her softer or weaker than any of the guys. And we don’t get that gag-worthy prerequisite scene where the warrioress takes off her helmet and tosses her hair around, making the stoic hero’s jaw drop.

This might actually be worth watching in 3-D. So pop your popcorn, put on your 3-D glasses, and put your innate need for deep meaning and intellectual stimulation away, because you’re in for a wild ride. I bet considering this movie’s wild success, Mel Gibson’s kicking himself for turning down the amount of money offered to play in this film. If you discard your initial skepticism (I’m talking to you, art film addicts and hipsters) at seeing a film that actually made loads of money- a remake, no less- I’m sure you will find a lot to love about this film.

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