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Entries in John Esther (26)

Friday
Jul112014

A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy)

A Coffee in Berlin ("Oh Boy"/Germany)
Directed by: Jan Ole Gerster
Released on: June 13th, 2014 (USA)
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Winner of six German Film Academy Awards, including Outstanding Feature Film, Best Director and Best Actor, Jan Ole Gerster's wry indie flick about the metamorphosis a young 20-something-year-old named Niko (32-year-old Tom Schilling) and his experiences —without getting a damn cup of coffee — is just as good as his country's men's soccer team.

A college dropout without a job, Niko has been filling his life with aimlessness, lethargy and his share of citations for drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol. He just left his girlfriend, Elli (Katharina Schuttler) in Paris, his things are not unpacked in his Berlin apartment and his friends have to drag him out anywhere. Sometimes Niko makes an effort to get a cup of coffee, but that seems to be as impossible for him to achieve as anything Niko is not trying to do.

One day, through a series of events, Niko encounters various kinds of individuals — some new, some familiar. Drug dealers, drunk teenage punks, an actor playing a Nazi in a film (Arnd Klawitter), a kind grandma (Lis Bottner) protecting her drug dealing grandson (Theo Trebs), a smarmy psychologist (Andreas Schroders), and an enraged father (Ulrich Noethen) who has just found out his son's actual matriculation status. These encounters reinforce Niko's sense of alienation and ennui.

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Thursday
Apr172014

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez
Directed by: Diego Luna
Released on: March 28th
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

It has been a long time coming, but finally somebody has made a theatrical film about Cesar Chavez, and it is my favorite 2014 film so far.

Born March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez grew up knowing what it was like to be exploited. After the Chavez family lost their home during the Depression, they worked in the fields for very little compensation. As all hands were needed in the field, Chavez did not attend school past the 7th grade.

After serving two years in the Navy, Chavez returned to the fields. From there he quickly rose through the ranks of the American labor movement working for the CSO (Community Service Organization), a human rights organization which encouraged Latinos to register to vote.

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Thursday
Apr172014

The Raid 2: Berandal

The Raid 2: Berandal
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Released on: March 28th
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Three years after the 2011 film, The Raid: Redemption, writer-director Gareth Evans returns with the highly anticipated, vehemently violent sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal.

Essentially commencing where The Raid: Redemption finished, the sequel finds the protagonist, Rama (Iko Uwais) going undercover to infiltrate a crime syndicate and bring everybody down, especially the crooked cops at the top.

As Rama falls deeper and deeper into his undercover role, he begins to lose his sense of what is right and wrong, incrementally becoming more punitive toward his aggressors. Of course, in a society where cops and government officials are as crooked as the gangsters, who can tell what is right and wrong? The only thing to know for sure is how to survive and fight another day.

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Friday
Mar212014

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted
Directed by: James Bobin
Released on: March 21st, 2014
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Picking up where The Muppets in 2011 ended, Muppets Most Wanted sees the gang touring across Europe, thanks to their new co-manager, Dominic Badguy (pronounced "bad gee"), played by Ricky Gervais.

Immediately, we suspect Dominic has ulterior motives for taking the "weirdo" troupe to Europe, but the Muppets are a trusting bunch and do not notice any of the obvious clues. Besides, Dominic's carefree managerial style is a welcome change from the sternness of their leader, Kermit (voice by Steve Whitmore). Now the Muppets can go crazy on the stage!

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Friday
Mar212014

Need for Speed

Need for Speed
Directed by: Scott Waugh
Released on: March 14th, 2014
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is facing tough times. His father just died, and he is about to lose his local custom auto shop. As fortune would have it, local NASCAR hero Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) shows up — with Tobey's ex-girlfriend Anita (Dakota Johnson) in tow — to make Tobey an offer to rebuild a special car he and his band of irresponsible, socially inept, sexist and sexually repressed mechanics would be super stupid to reject (although there is a debate among them).

Once the $3M project (give or take $250,000) is completed and split to Dino's advantage, 75/25 percent, Dino challenges Tobey to a race where the winner takes all. Tobey accepts the wager.

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Thursday
Mar202014

The Double

The Double
Directed by: Richard Ayoade
Released date: May 9th, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Poor, somewhat perverted, Simon (Jessie Eisenberg). His mother is dying at a disreputable rest home. People harass him on the train to work. The waitress (Cathy Moriarty) at his favorite restaurant gives him sass. His co-workers at a cold data processing center only recognize him when he makes mistakes. And his love life consists of watching, sometimes spying, on his coworker, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). Simon, however, is not all bad; he makes a collection out of Hannah's scraps, and he has some good ideas for increasing efficiency at work.

What Simon really needs, or thinks he needs, is to speak to the Colonel (James Fox) via Mr. Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn).

Imprisoned by his own inertia, Simon's world becomes more complicated with the arrival of James Simon (Eisenberg). A confident, charming young man, James and Simon begin a partnership where James fights for Simon while Simon does James' work, even taking tests for James at work.

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Thursday
Mar202014

Ping Pong Summer

Ping Pong Summer
Directed by: Michael Tully
Released on: January 18th, 2014 | Sundance Film Festival 2014
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Perhaps the most conventional film screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the third feature film from writer-director Michael Tully (Cocaine Angel; Septien) relays an all-too-familiar story about a young teenage boy who goes through a transformation during one summer vacation at the beach.

Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is an awkward 13-year-old boy into rap music, popping and breakdancing. He is not very good at it, but that does not stop him from working his moves on a regular basis. Rad is also not very good at table tennis, but that does not stop him from walking around with a ping pong paddle — maybe because it matches his red parachute pants?

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Thursday
Mar202014

R100

R100
Directed by: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Released on: Sundance Film Festival 2014 | Forthcoming U.S. release from Drafthouse Films 
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

Once upon a time, a mild-mannered man named Takafumi (Nao Omori) needed some sexual excitement in his life. His wife was in a coma, so sexual relations in the biblical sense may not have been the most decent thing for him to do.

Thinking, or feeling, he should just have his sexual needs fulfilled by sadistic, random encounters instead, Takafumi enters into a year long contract where dominatrices will appear unexpectedly to humiliate and hurt him until his head comic(book)ally swells — thus indicating sexual gratification. (It would have been funnier, more subversive and more apropos with the film's conceits if the filmmakers had done that with Takafumi's crotch area instead.)

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Monday
Jan272014

Infinitely Polar Bear

Infinitely Polar Bear
Directed by: Maya Forbes
Released on: January 18th, 2014 | Sundance Film Festival 2014
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

One of the best received films at Sundance Film Festival 2014, writer-director Maya Forbes’ semi-autobiographical Infinitely Polar Bear tells the story of a father, Cam (Mark Ruffalo), who takes care of his two daughters while their mother, Maggie (Zoe Saldana), earns her MBA.

It is Boston, 1978, and Cam gets released from a mental hospital just about the time “bohemia is dead” Maggie and her bourgeois Midwestern idealism get her accepted into Columbia’s MBA program. Due to peculiar family finances, Maggie must leave her two daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Beth (Pauline Stuart), with their mentally unstable father in their small Boston apartment for 18 months while Mom attends school in New York. Although Maggie hates to leave her kids, the structure of parenting may just be what Cam needs — along with lithium.

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Monday
Sep232013

Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven

Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven
Directed by: Rena Riffel
Released on: September 17th, 2013
Rating: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

The follow-up to the notorious 1995 movie, Showgirls, Showgirls 2: Penny’s from Heaven is actually better than its predecessor insofar as the original was not made to be the laughingstock, cult movie it has become. Showgirls 2, on the other hand, is intentionally, unabashedly bad in order to satirize wannabe movie stars, the entertainment industry and yes, its predecessor. In other words, it is so bad it is good.

Somewhat reprising her role from the original film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas (one of the worst Hollywood screenwriters ever), Rena Riffel wrote and directed this story about a Las Vegas stripper named Penny (Riffel — now old enough to play an aging showgirl) who dreams of moving to Hollywood and becoming the star of a new dance show. Penny has no talent, formal training, or “X Factor,” but that is not going to stop this “whore,” “slut,” “trash,” “stripper,” and “bimbo” from making it.

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