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Entries in John Esther (58)

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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Monday
Sep232013

Ip Man: The Final Fight

Ip Man: The Final Fight
Directed by: Herman Yau
Released on: September 20th, 2013 [LIMITED - USA]
Rating: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Over the past five years there has been a great influx of films about Ip Man (AKA Yip Man), a Chinese martial artist whose greatest claim to fame is that he taught Wing Chun to martial artist legend Bruce Lee.

In 2008, Donnie Yen starred as the titular character in Ip Man and then reprised the role in the 2010 film, Ip Man 2. That same year, The Legend Is Born – Ip Man was released. Ip Man also appeared in the 2010 Chinese TV series, The Legend of Bruce Lee, as well as the current Chinese TV series, The Legend of Ip Man. Noted director Wong Kar-wai’s recent film, The Grandmaster, stars Tony Leung as the great master in 1930s China. And now comes director Herman Yau and writer Erica Lee’s version, Ip Man: The Final Fight.

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Thursday
Jun202013

Inequality for All

Inequality for All
Directed by: Jacob Kornbluth
Released on: June 22nd, 2013 (USA | LAFF 2013)
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Thanks to the Reaganite fiscal policies over the past 30 years, the economic disparity between rich Americans and the rest of America’s people has increased monumentally. The middle class is disappearing into the poor while the rich get richer. This is not good news for Americans, even the rich. Our economy thrives on consumption, and when the middle class are not doing their dutiful duties by consuming, we all suffer.

At least that is what Robert Reich says.

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Thursday
Jun202013

Purgatorio

Purgatorio
Directed by: Rodrigo Reyes
Released on: June 15th, 2013 (USA | LAFF 2013)
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Two men stand outside a large fence waiting for the right time to climb over, leaving a family behind. Another man leaves water for those who have made it over the fence, while another man goes around picking up what he thinks are clues for people who have crossed the border unannounced. Others are imprisoned by drugs, violence and vengeful fantasies. Borders as large prisons.

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Wednesday
Jun192013

Tapia

Tapia
Directed by: Eddie Alcazar
Released on: June 15th, 2013 (USA | LAFF 2013)
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Like most professional boxing champions, Johnny Tapia came from a very poor neighborhood where kids loved to fight. Although Tapia was a relatively small guy — as an adult he stood around 5'6" and 114 lbs — he was extremely quick, strong and, more importantly, a naturally smart fighter. He knew how to psyche out his opponents while pumping up a crowd, especially if it was a local crowd. While I am not much of a fan of boxing, Tapia's boxing skills are very entertaining.

Unfortunately, for director Eddie Alcazar, they are about the only entertaining elements in his documentary, Tapia, which made its world premiere last night at the Los Angeles Film Festival to a semi-filled theater. (Reports of a sold out crowd for the screening are an exaggeration.)

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Thursday
Jun132013

I'm So Excited

I'm So Excited (Los amantes pasajeros)
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Release date: June 28th, 2013 (USA)
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

When a writer-director of Spain’s Pedro Almodóvar’s stature titles his film after a banal, albeit apropos, American pop song from the 1980s, you know he is aiming for his lowest common denominator.

The opening night film for Los Angeles Film Festival 2013, I’m So Excited commences with León (Antonio Banderas) and Jessica (Penelope Cruz) working on an airport runway. After a minor accident, León learns that Jessica is pregnant with their child. He is so excited he forgets his job and thus puts all the passengers on the plane in serious jeopardy.

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Thursday
Jun132013

Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars
Directed by: Richard Rowley
Released on: June 7th, 2013 (USA)
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Director Richard Rowley’s superb and solemn documentary does not paint a pretty picture of U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration.

The Dirty Wars narrative, sort of, starts one night after a U.S. raid results in the deaths of innocent Afghani men, women and children. U.S. sources give one side of the story. Those present, like family members of the victims, give another.

There to uncover what happened before and during the tragedy is journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army). Not one to be embedded, Scahill’s thorough investigation ultimately leads to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

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Thursday
Jun132013

The Prey

The Prey (La Proie)
Directed by: Eric Valette
Released on: June 7th, 2013 (USA)
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Franck Adrien (Albert Dupontel — AKA Pierre, the intellectual gone amok with a fire extinguisher in Irreversible) is a bank robber doing time in prison. Although he is a loner who just wants to be left to serve his time, others will not let Franck alone. He has a stack of money hidden from his last job, but he does not trust anyone — including his incredulously attractive wife, Anna (Caterina Murino), who is left alone to support their mute daughter, Amélie (Jaïa Caltagirone) — enough to disclose the whereabouts of the loot. This makes quite a few people mad, but Franck can handle himself.

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Friday
Feb012013

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
Directed by: Fedrik Bond
Released on: January 21st, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Drugged and melancholic, Charlie Countryman (Shia LeBeouf) receives advice from his recently departed mother (Melissa Leo) that he should leave Chicago and go and visit Bucharest (she meant Budapest).

Upon arrival in Romania's capital, Charlie is thrust into a romantic adventure in a foreign land. Charlie meets the love of his life, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), a cellist in the local symphony who happens to be fluent in English and would be perfect except her estranged husband, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), a ruthless mobster, still wants her. Nigel also wants a highly incriminating tape floating around.

Directed by Frederik Bond, written by Matt Drake, narrated by John Hurt and consisting of a score composed by Moby, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman has its moments, but is essentially a sheepishly Hollywood film in indie clothing.

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