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Wednesday
Dec232015

Uncle Nick

Uncle Nick
Directed by: Chris Kasick
Released on: December 4th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Featuring a performance and physique few A-list actors would maintain in a Holiday-centered film, Brian Posehn plays the eponymous character in Chris Kasick's directorial debut, Uncle Nick.

We first meet Nick at home, lounging around in his boxers, surrounded by empty bottles of booze and X-rated material streaming on his laptop. When he stands up, he is all flab, rubber and smooth (except for a stretchmark he will inquire about later). Audiences may also ask: Is he too drunk to get an erection?

A lonely guy with seemingly nothing positive going on in his life, Nick finds out from his mother's nursing home that she will not be able to spend Christmas eve with her family. This does not sit well for Nick. He wanted his mother along, at least to serve as a buffer against his detestable brother, Cody (Beau Ballinger), and as a ride over to said brother's house. Nick just got a DUI.

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Tuesday
Nov172015

I Smile Back

I Smile Back
Directed by: Adam Salky
Released on: November 6th, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther


Featuring Sarah Silverman in what may be the best performance in any American film this year, I Smile Back offers a tragic look into a woman who can no longer take the artifice of her milieu.

Laney (Silverman) seems to have it all: a very nice home; a loving, handsome husband who has just published a book named Bruce (an excellent Josh Charles); two healthy, adorable children (Shayne Colman and Skylar Gaertner) and all the leisure time she can handle.

Yet she is not happy. Everyone around her is bogus in some way, falsifying her or his (mostly his) testimony everywhere Laney looks. Trapped in such existential horror, what is a bourgeois women to do other than consume copious amounts of cocaine and alcohol? Oh, and have an affair with a close friend, Donny (Thomas Sadoski), who is one fraudulent mother pumper. Has Laney never heard of going shopping in order to fill the void?

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Monday
Nov162015

Love

Love
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Released on: October 30th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

Nothing should be surprising when one goes to see a film by writer-director Gaspar Noé (Irreversible; Enter the Void). In the opening scene of his latest film, Love, a woman named Electra (Aomi Muyock) and a man named Murphy (Karl Glusman) are fingering the genitals of each other. His cock is as hard as rock (a stiffy in cinema!) while she is just squeaky wet. The scene does not end until he ejaculates — money shot and all.

Clearly, the two are in love.

With the cinematic blink of an eye, which Noé used masterfully in Enter the Void, Murphy now occupies his bed with Omi (Klara Kristen). It is New Year's Day and their son, Noe (Jean Couteau), is screaming in the other room. As Murphy goes to retrieve the boy, we learn Murphy is suffering from veisalgia (AKA a hangover) and has been hung out to dry up in a relationship he does not want.

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Tuesday
Oct062015

The Walk

The Walk
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Released on: September 30th, 2015 [IMAX 3D]
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Maestro Robert Zemeckishas always been on the vanguard of cinematic technical wizardry. Since many of the films he has directed are part of the American cinematic canon — such as Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, to name a few — would anyone really have any doubt that The Walk, his latest 3D spectacle, would be an unremarkable movie? Hell fucking no, they wouldn’t.

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Thursday
Sep172015

Pixels

Pixels
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: October 27th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Given that this year is the 20th anniversary of the comedy classic Billy Madison, a lot has been recently written or said about not only about the legacy of that film, but also of the career of Adam Sandler. The general consensus, at least among my peers, is that his first few films — namely the aforementioned Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore — stand among the best comedies of its time, but his output has since become uninspired and unfunny.

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Thursday
Sep172015

Beyond the Mask

Beyond the Mask
Director: Chad Burns
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: September 8th, 2015
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

For the past decade or so, producers and studios have been trying with varying degrees of success to appeal to church-going families for their movie-going dollars by producing Christian-themed movies. The trend started with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which proved there was an untapped market by bringing in over a half billion at the box office and going on to be the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. It continued with Fireproof, the Kirk Cameron-starring drama that made Sherwood Pictures, a Christian film ministry, a major player in Hollywood after it became the highest-grossing independent film of 2008. It reached an apex last year when films like Noah, Son of God, God’s Not Dead, Heaven Is For Real and Exodus: Gods and Kings gave Christians plenty to choose from at the cineplex.

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Tuesday
Sep152015

Coming Home

Coming Home (Gui lai)
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Released on: September 9th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Taking vulgar, ideological populism to its extreme, China's Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s imprisoned thousands of intellectuals who were perceived as "counter-revolutionary" effete bourgeois elements who were trying to bring back capitalism to China.

This Cultural Revolution measure, along with thousands of other counterproductive ones, tore families and lives apart. Based on the ending of Geling Yan's novel, The Criminal Lu Yanshi, the latest film by Yimou Zhang (Ju Dou; To Live; House of the Flying Daggers) cast two of China's finest actors to relay a story about two people who were sacrificed in the name of ideological purity.

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Tuesday
Sep152015

Dragon Blade

Dragon Blade
Directed by: Daniel Lee
Released on: September 4th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Gosh darn it. It is such a big production; it means so well; it stars Jackie Chan -- who is so cool; and it has two likable American actors: Adrien Brody and John Cusack. Yet Dragon Blade barely passes the entertainment mustard.

Inspired by, yet hardly accurately based on, historical events, writer-director-production designer Daniel Lee's film sets itself in 50 B.C. along the Silk Road. A significant road for trade between the Occident and the Orient, the protection of the road is headed by Huo An (Chan). A passionate, reasonable, and preferably peaceful man, Huo and his troop protect the land through negotiation and equality -- only resorting to violence when all other means have been resisted by members of the 36 warring nations roaming and occupying the northwestern territory.

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Tuesday
Sep012015

The Second Mother

The Second Mother
Directed by: Anna Muylaert
Released on: August 28th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In one of the nice neighborhoods of São Paulo, an upper-middle class family lives a life of monotonous order where everyone knows her or his place.

The official matriarch of the family, Bárbara (Karine Teles), seems to be of some importance to the fashion world. It is never exactly disclosed what she does, but we know it keeps her away from home during the week. Her husband, Carlos (Lourenco Mutarelli), was once an artist, but now just hangs around the house all day. He inherited money from his hardworking father so why labor? Their son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), is a teenage kid with all the advantages and none of the discipline to carve much of an identity for himself. He likes to swim and smoke pot.

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Monday
Aug242015

Digging for Fire

Digging for Fire
Director: Joe Swanberg
Released on: August 21st, 2015
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Lee (Rosemarie Dewitt), her husband, Tim (co-writer Jake Johnson), and their 3-year-old son, Jude (Jude Swanberg), have just arrived at a swank Hollywood Hills home, courtesy of one of Lee's clients.

While walking the grounds, Tim discovers a bone and a gun halfway buried in the dirt. He calls the cops, but the operator "with an attitude" says there is nothing they can do without more "evidence" (a suspicious response, but okay). Tim wants to excavate the grounds further to find proof of misdeeds. Lee thinks it is a bad idea. Tim concedes to Lee.

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