THE FILM YAP » julianne moore We Never Shut Up About Movies Sun, 23 Nov 2014 05:50:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Non-Stop Sun, 08 Jun 2014 04:18:33 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Non-Stop - inside

There ought to be a name for this sort of movie, in which an aging star reestablishes his action-film cred by starring as a cantankerous oldster who puts a big hurt on some whippersnappers. Geezer’s Revenge? Oldsploitation?

Or perhaps we should just name the genre after Liam Neeson, who has become its current poster boy with the “Taken” series and now “Non-Stop,” in which he plays a federal air marshal squaring off against a mysterious killer in the skies. Neeson brings his usual crusty authority to the role as Bill Marks, a drinker and borderline loser who redeems himself through heroism.

The plot is more or less preposterous, with passengers dying every few minutes and the villain sending Marks clues and taunts via text message, as the latter tries to puzzle out the identity of the bad guy. Is it the quiet Muslim fellow? The obnoxious cop? Or maybe the amiable woman (Julianne Moore) chatting up Marks before the stuff hit the fan?

“Non-Stop” isn’t terribly original … OK, let’s be honest, it’s pretty much a rip-off of “Die Hard,” “Speed” and several other superior thrillers. But it does what it does well, with a reasonable amount of action and intrigue, plus Neeson backing it all up with his craggy solidity.

Call it what you like, but this old-school action/thriller delivers the goods.

Video extras are so-so. The DVD comes with a comprehensive making-of documentary, “Suspense at 40,000 Feet,” that includes the participation of all the key cast and crew. The Blu-ray version adds a single featurette with director Jaume Collet-Serra focusing on the creation of the movie’s many action scenes.

Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 3 Yaps

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Non-Stop Thu, 27 Feb 2014 05:01:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Non-Stop - inside

“Non-Stop” takes two recent staples of the action/thriller genre and mashes them agreeably, if preposterously, together.

You’ve got the high-stakes terrorist event in a confined space with an imposed deadline, a la “Die Hard,” “Speed” and many ripoffs, in which a group of innocents are trapped in a place with a diabolical enemy willing to sacrifice them all. And you’ve got the taunting killer communicating with the cop trying to stop him, dropping hints and continually outflanking the do-gooder until the very end.

The movie also boasts an older guy showing he’s still got the right stuff. Harrison Ford did this in “Air Force One” and Clint Eastwood with “In the Line of Fire.” But even they’ve aged out of that sort of thing, so a new crop of geezers have come to the fore, with Liam Neeson leading the way. He established his action cred with “Taken” and since then has mostly done badass roles.

“Non-Stop” is a bit of a twist because Bill Marks doesn’t seem much like a hero at first. A federal air marshal, he’s a drinker with a bit of a temper who, among other challenges, goes white-knuckled at the prospect of flying. But it’s the job and he does it well, if not with much enthusiasm.

Bill receives the ultimate challenge during a six-hour flight from New York to London. He starts receiving text messages on his (supposedly) secure device that a passenger on the plane is going to die if $150 million isn’t wired to a bank in the next 20 minutes. Sure enough, someone ends up dead at the end of that time, though not in the way we, or Bill, expects it.

The rest of the movie becomes one long cat-and-mouse game as various potential suspects present themselves and are weeded out.

There’s a taciturn Muslim guy (Omar Metwally), a loudmouth Bronx type (Corey Stoll), a nervous bespectacled guy (Scoot McNairy), a brash young black dude (Travis Mitchell), an uptight businessman, a distracted computer programmer (Nate Parker) and more. Even the captain (Linus Roache) and flight attendants (Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong’o) are not above suspicion.

Gliding in and out of Bill’s baleful eye is Jen (Julianne Moore), the gregarious woman who sat next to him on the plane before all hell broke loose. She’s an X-factor, likable but not entirely trustworthy, and Bill seems to weigh his doubts and hopes for her.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra and his quartet of screenwriters keep things coming fast at the audience, including an audacious effort by the terrorist to convince everyone that Bill himself is actually the one pulling all the strings. Now he has to fend off an unruly mob of passengers and hostility from the pilots and crew.

The whole thing is utterly ridiculous, including ham-handed attempts to insert some maudlin sentiment into the proceedings, represented by a timid young girl and some disturbing news about Bill’s past.

But “Non-Stop” is just that, a giddy and reckless thrill ride from start to finish. It’s only after you climb off that you realize how silly it all was, but by then you’ve had your fun.

4 Yaps

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Don Jon Tue, 31 Dec 2013 05:40:07 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Don Jon within post

If you thought “The Wolf of Wall Street” was raunchy, then take a look at “Don Jon,” the directing debut of star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The funny/sad tale of a lothario who’s obsessed with Web pornography and one-night stands, it gives “Wolf” a run for its money in the flesh department.

For those who aren’t put off by a story that’s all about sex, “Don Jon” is actually a rather charming movie. It’s about a guy who thinks he’s got it all figured out, hurts a lot of people carelessly and gets hurt himself, and gradually discovers there’s more to life than the bits between his legs.

Scarlett Johansson is terrific as Barbara, the girl Don falls hard for. They trade Jersey accents, a lot of sass and not a little electricity between them.

Of course, it’s bound to happen that his online activities throw a wrench into his real-life romance. It’s around here the movie goes a little sideways, with Don encountering an older woman (Julianne Moore) at his community college classes who gives him something else to think about.

It’s a trenchantly observant movie that knows its character and community down to the ground. I liked the way Don’s family dinners devolve into vitriol and screaming, or how he can drive like a demon out of hell, screaming at other motorists, while being a devout church man. The movie shows these contrasts and foibles without making the narrative seem any less human.

“Don Jon” isn’t a great movie, but it’s quite a good one for a first-time director, not to mention a lot more daring than most filmmakers are right out of the gate.

Video goodies are rather sparse, with a standard making-of documentary and a few behind-the-scenes featurettes, including one on the origins of the Don Jon character and another on the hats worn by one of his wingmen.

Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 3 Yaps

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Carrie Wed, 23 Oct 2013 23:48:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Carrie-Inside

Dripping with style and dread, Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic “Carrie” is an essential horror film. This year’s remake is a timely, poignant high school drama that happens to have horror elements.

Adapted from Stephen King’s first novel, the story is the stuff of iconic campfire legend. Raised by a fire-and-brimstone-preaching mother (played with powerful menace by Julianne Moore), Carrie White (the magnetic Chloë Grace Moretz) is a wide-eyed outcast. Unsympathetic toward her pains of puberty, her peers constantly bully her, even throwing tampons at her and calling her names when she panics in the shower room during her first period.

During this scene, director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and writers Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa add a timely touch. They show “queen bee” Chris (the gloriously catty Portia Doubleday) filming and posting the tampon incident on YouTube. When this video of a terrified Carrie is projected on a large screen at the prom, it is meant to humiliate her in the face of fellow students, but it ends up reflecting their fear and insecurity back at them. When you stare into the abyss of social media, the abyss stares back at you, the film suggests.

After reaching her peak of digital and physical abuse, Carrie takes her revenge. This bloody rampage, which was a surreal, shocking spectacle in the ’70s, is disturbingly familiar now, in the wake of school shootings.

This version of “Carrie” is a mesmerizing funhouse mirror of high school angst and aggression. The original film seems to use the high school setting as more of a springboard for horror setpieces. It doesn’t seem to work quite as well as a teen drama like this “Carrie” does. The 1976 film is largely memorable as a tale of a girl with deadly telekinetic powers. The remake, on the other hand, leaves an impact as simply a film about a teen girl struggling to belong.

While watching the original film, viewers giddily anticipate the iconic scene in which Carrie is doused with pig blood at the prom. During the remake, you’ll find yourself so swept up in the bittersweet pathos of the prom and Carrie’s anxiety and aspirations, you’ll forget about the impending grisly spectacle, making it all the more somber and startling when it arrives. It certainly rivals the original sequence, and that’s no small feat.

2013 has been a banner year for the horror genre. With “V/H/S/2,” “The Conjuring,” “You’re Next,” and “Insidious: Chapter 2” under its belt, this year has mirrored the magic of the late-’70s, early-to-mid-’80s era of horror. “Carrie” is not only worthy of that list; it also ranks among the best coming-of-age dramas in recent memory, including “The Spectacular Now” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

The film’s poignance is a large credit to its star. With her simultaneous grace and ferocity, Moretz engagingly embodies the film’s tone. Like the film itself, she illuminates the humanity beneath the horror.

Sad, sweet, scary and surprising, “Carrie” is one of the best films of the year.

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Don Jon Thu, 26 Sep 2013 13:15:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Don Jon within post

Some child stars learn to overindulge. Joseph Gordon-Levitt learned to work the system. He put in his time as a kid (“Angels in the Outfield”, “A River Runs Through It”) and acted in a wide variety of films as a young adult, from mainstream cheesy (“Halloween H20″) to teen rom-com (“10 Things I Hate About You”) to low-budget cult (the brilliant “Brick”).

Then “(500) Days of Summer” happened, and Gordon-Levitt wasn’t so free anymore. He was a “type”. He’d never get cast in certain roles again, so he took his career into his own hands. “Don Jon”, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, which he also wrote and stars in, is an ambitious opportunity that doesn’t always work. At the same time, you have to admire his initiative and effort and hope he gets it right the next time.

Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a good-natured New Jersey guy who lives for the gym, Sunday Mass, dinner with his family (headed by Tony Danza) and nights in the club where he also bartends. He can, and does, take a different girl home every night, but doesn’t find nearly as much fulfillment in sex as he does in online porn. When Jon meets good girl Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he considers settling down for the first time, but can he kick his dirty habit?

“Don Jon”‘s plot is pretty standard — bad boy tries to make good — and at first, Gordon-Levitt’s gruff-voiced Jon looks and sounds almost cartoonish. The film lags considerably toward the last third of its 90-minute running time. In fact, it may have worked better as a short.

However, Gordon-Levitt’s savvy and humor shines through in some unexpected moments. Watch for a fun cameo from a couple of his high-profile pals. A subplot involving Jon’s night-school classmate (Julianne Moore) leads to genuine empathy, and Jon’s sullen, mostly nonverbal sister (Brie Larson) is a funny addition. This is perhaps the most emotion I’ve ever seen Johansson show, and Gordon-Levitt thoroughly embraces Jon, in all his stubborn, tough-guy glory.

“Don Jon” will never be a classic, but it’s a worthy rental. It’s not the most brilliant directorial debut out there, but it shows potential. Gordon-Levitt should get another chance to helm a movie and who knows, next time he could be great.

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Don Jon Wed, 25 Sep 2013 04:07:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Don Jon within post

“Don Jon” is the loutish inheritor to other cinematic lotharios who only have one thing on their mind — Tony Manero from “Saturday Night Fever,” George Rondy in “Shampoo,” etc. Like them, writer/director/star Joseph Gordon-Levitt is interested in seeing if his character has a redemptive side, which this charming comedy/drama sets about exploring.

I just backspaced to remove the word “romantic” from that last sentence, because if there’s anything Jon is not, it’s a starry-eyed wooer of women. Muscled up and hair greased back in an unmovable wave, his friends call him Don Jon because of his unwavering ability to pick up “dimes” — their word for gorgeous women. (Ten out of 10, get it?) The exchange rate on these dimes is depressing, though, as Jon beds and drops them in short order.

His real ardor, though, is for porn. Jon’s encounters with online smut dwarf even his fleshly hook-ups. As we learn from his regular glib confessions to his priest, it’s not unusual for him to hit two dozen — or more — sins per week.

(Whatever else you want to say, the boy certainly has stamina.)

The movie really pushes the envelope in terms of sexual content and presenting a character who is, at least initially, so compellingly unlikeable. Jon even describes why he considers self-pleasuring to porn to be superior to sex with an actual woman. And he screams around town in his vintage Chevrolet Chevelle SS, hollering at other drivers like a madman — often while on his way to church.

All that changes when Jon meets the ultimate dime: Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson. She and Gordon-Levitt have terrific fire as an onscreen couple. Decked out in slightly trashy clothes and makeup, slinging around a grating Jersey boy accent that matches Jon’s, Barbara is the perfect yin to his superficial yang. The fact that she puts him off sexually only drives him crazier for her.

“You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Jon tells her, and he really means it. At first it’s an overpoweringly romantic moment. But each time he repeats the phrase, which is often, it sounds less dreamy and more like a pickup line. It becomes even cheaper when we realize her looks are the only thing drawing him to her.

Jon’s regular Sunday meal with his family is an exercise in hilarity, and tragedy. Mom (Glenne Headly) is a shrieking harridan, sister Monica (Brie Larson) rarely takes her nose out of her smartphone, and dad (Tony Danza) dispenses hostility in between downs of the football game roaring away on the big screen in the next room. It’s telling that the only time Jon Sr. ever shows any respect for his son is when he’s introduced to his hot new girlfriend.

Needless to say, it’s only a matter of time before Jon’s porn addiction comes between him and Barbara. He defensively claims that every guy does it — which is like an alcoholic claiming that everybody drinks, failing to distinguish between occasional indulgences and nightly blackout binges.

He does have a point, though, when he sneers at the mushy romance movies favored by Barbara and her friends, filled with pretty people who always come to happy endings. (These are acted out in short vignettes by the likes of Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway, both veterans of actual such flicks.) In some ways, the female insistence upon an orderly, unattainable romantic ideal is just as unhealthy as Jon’s obsession with impossibly beautiful girls who just want sex.

Things get more ambitious with the introduction of Esther (Julianne Moore), an older classmate of Jon’s who stumbles across his porn obsession and repeatedly engages him in odd conversations. It’s an interesting sequence, but it seems to build up to a third act that the story never gets around to telling.

“Don Jon” ends on an abrupt, truncated note — much like the man’s thoroughly selfish love life. Still, this is a bracingly original and daring first feature film for a young actor who’s already spent 20 years in front of a camera, and clearly has something to say behind one.

4 Yaps

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6 Souls Tue, 02 Jul 2013 09:18:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 6 Souls - inside

“6 Souls” is more interesting to ponder as a cinematic failure than as an actual movie.

It stars some very talented performers, including Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. And the Swedish directors, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, certainly know how to make a movie visually interesting; the film is a slick blend of muted colors and inky shadows.

So how come this horror/thriller is such a complete disaster?

It helps to know the film was shot five years ago, and hung around the studio’s vault gathering dust before finally being shunted out to pay-per-view and a modest theatrical run this spring.

Screenwriter Michael Cooney breaks out that moldy oldie of a story concept: multiple personalities. That stopped being a fresh idea for a screenplay about 40 years ago. Never mind that most psychiatrists consider it bunk.

Actually, heroine Cara Harding (Moore) is among them. The story opens with her dismissing split personalities as a figment. But then she’s introduced to a patient, David (Rhys Meyers), who appears to be the real McCoy.

David is a shy, sweet Southerner confined to a wheelchair. But Adam is a brash lothario who walks unimpeded. Rhys Meyers emotes each of these shifts between personalities by going into a twitching, spasmodic orgy of tics.

Other personalities manifest themselves as time goes by, and we soon lose track of who’s who. Plus a supernatural element enters late in the game, along with a hillbilly mystic muttering something about curses and the devil.

What’s supposed to be scary instead comes across as incredibly goofy … then tiresome.

As for video extras … there aren’t any. Nada, zip, zilch – not even a theatrical trailer. This only lends credence to the notion that “6 Souls” got dumped by its studio.

Not that it didn’t deserve it.

Film: 1.5 Yaps
Extras: N/A

Extras: 1 Yap

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The English Teacher Thu, 25 Apr 2013 12:39:53 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Release Date: May 17, 2013 (limited release)

Rating: Not Yet Rated


Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is a 40-year-old unmarried high school English teacher in the small town of Kingston, PA. Her simple life turns an unexpected page when former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) returns home after trying to make it as a playwright in New York. On the verge of abandoning art and pressured by his father (Greg Kinnear), to face reality and go to law school, Linda decides to mount his play—a dark, angst-ridden, ambitious work—as a Kingston High production, with flamboyant drama teacher Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane) directing. Now well out of her comfort zone, Linda takes further risks in life and love, the stage is set for a highly comic downfall. With the play, her reputation, and teaching career on the line, Linda finds an unlikely ally in herself. Amidst the ruins of her formerly perfect life, can she find a way to her own unique storybook ending?

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6 Souls Fri, 05 Apr 2013 16:56:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 6 Souls - inside

The filmmakers behind “6 Souls” are not without skill, and it features some very talented actors — Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Frances Conroy. So why is it a complete disaster?

This psychological/paranormal thriller is totally lacking in suspense, an engaging plot or any kind of visceral impact. Honestly, I struggled to get through it.

The studio provided me with an online screener, so I watched it in fits and starts over a couple of days. No doubt this experience was completely different from sitting in a theater, we’re you’re immersed in darkness and can’t leave … well, at least not if you’re there to do a job.

My guess is if I could have left, I would have.

The movie, originally titled “Shelter,” was shot fully five years ago by Swedish directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, from a screenplay by Michael Cooney, a horror specialist (“Identity,” “Jack Frost”). I get the sense that it didn’t test well, so it was backburnered while the studio figured out what to do with it. Rather than just dumping it on video, they went with the increasingly common two-tiered strategy of putting it out on pay-per-view with a simultaneous modest theatrical release.

The set-up is that it’s a split-personality story — the sort of thing that has existed as cinematic fodder for 40 years or so despite being an extraordinarily rare and much-debated diagnosis in the psychiatric field. Count Cara Harding (Moore) among the skeptics. As the story opens, she’s testifying in a case where she basically asserts that the whole concept of someone with multiple personalities is bunk.

One person trying to change her mind is her father (Jeffrey DeMunn), also a head-shrinker, who has encountered what he thinks is a legitimate split-personality case. He invites Cara in to consult, and soon she’s swept up in the saga.

Moore and DeMunn have some nice scenes together, part of a lifelong father/daughter chess game. He urges her to challenge her preconceived notions of how the human mind works while she thinks he’s unable to admit when he’s wrong. If the movie had actually stayed focused on this dynamic, with the patient acting only as a catalyst to further their conflict, it might have made for an interesting drama.

Instead, the story heads straight into schlocky boo-gotcha territory, with increasing evidence that this thorny case of mental instability is, in fact, actually the work of … wait for it … The Devil!

Things end up in hillbilly country, where grim snaggletooth men throw hard stares at Cara as she investigates the case. Eventually, she’s brought before The Granny, an ancient crone/mystic/leader, who fills her in on the tale of a faith healer who died in the early 20th century after betraying his people.

It becomes apparent that his horrid curse is being replicated today, with victims bothered by festering sores on their back in the shape of a cross, and a rash of (literally) dirty mouths.

Rhys Meyers flails mightily in the role of the patient but ends up coming across as more silly than frightening. His abrupt shifts to different personalities are triggered by a phone call requesting to speak with one of his other hosts, at which point his head snaps back and he makes all sorts of odd crunching noises, as if  he’s practicing self-chiropractic care.

His default personality is David, a mild-mannered Southern boy confined to a wheelchair. The flip side of the loony coin is Adam, a brash New Yorker who leaps out of the wheelchair, antagonizing Cara with questions about her own family and past. Later, we encounter Wesley and Charles, two men who … well, I shouldn’t give that away.

“6 Souls” is a wretchedly unwatchable train wreck of a film.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love. Sun, 30 Oct 2011 13:00:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Sometimes you just want a romantic comedy. It’s the cinematic equivalent of comfort food: unchallenging in its flavor and familiar from the first bite to the clean-plate end. Rom-coms are often compared to sugary confections (great in moderation but generally unhealthy), but it goes deeper than that. Too much comfort food will kill you, but just the right amount is utterly satisfying.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is pure rom-com comfort. It’s smart and well-acted enough to be substantial, and though darker elements are present, the film never veers into tragic territory. “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” knows what the audience wants and what they can handle, and only occasionally does this savvy resemble pandering.

Heading up a strong ensemble cast is Steve Carell as Cal Weaver, who’s in for a rude awakening when wife Emma (Julianne Moore) reveals she’s dallied with a coworker (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce. Crushed, Cal drowns his sorrows at a hip bar where pinky-ringed playboy Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on the schlubby dad in New Balance sneakers. Cue makeover sequence and “how to be a player” montage. Meanwhile, newbie lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone) lusts after Conan O’Brien but finds herself intrigued by Jacob despite his tomcat tendencies, and Cal and Emma’s teenage son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is convinced he’s found his soulmate in the babysitter (Analeigh Tipton).

“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” isn’t going to win any awards, or go down in history as The Best Romantic Comedy of All Time (a title currently held by “When Harry Met Sally”). The script hits all the right notes, occasionally all too well. Predictability is often desirable in rom-coms, but certain moments in this script border on sitcom structure. And why does Cal’s fling Kate (Marisa Tomei) have to be such a neurotic mess? Not every woman out at a bar is trolling for a boyfriend.

But for every wrong in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” there’s a right. Each main character is well-cast and authentic: from Carell’s earnest pathos to Gosling’s playing against hero type to Stone’s believable gawkiness. Bobo and Tipton’s youthful give and take paints a wincingly funny portrait of adolescent unrequited lust at its best (and worst). The soundtrack is lovely and pleasing without being cloying, and moments of dialogue — particularly Carell’s monologue late in the third act — alternate between giggle-inducing and achingly real.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” takes place in a dream world, where awkward moments are manageable, no problem can’t be fixed and everyone gets together at the end. In this case, dreams provide a healthy dose of escapist fantasy that is essential to combat day-to-day life. Plus Ryan Gosling doffs his shirt. This alone deems “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” a worthy rental.

Blu-ray extras include featurettes with Gosling, Stone and Carell.

Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps

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