Archive for Brie Larson

Don Jon

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Italian American Jon Martello is a modern day Don Juan, with a short list of things he cares about: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn”. He has an active sex life, but is more satisfied by pornography.

On a night out with his two best friends, Jon sees Barbara Sugarman (Johansson), and although she finds him interesting he fails to pick her up for a one-night stand. He finds her on Facebook, and asks her to lunch. The attraction is mutual, but Barbara insists on a traditional long-term courtship, which proceeds for over a month without sex. She encourages him to take night classes to get an office job outside the service industry, and Jon indulges her love for romance movies, which he usually dismisses as unrealistic fantasy. They meet each other’s families and Jon’s parents immediately love her.

Finally, the two have sex, but Jon is still dissatisfied. He admits the sex was decent and her body was perfect, but still felt something was missing. He gets up, while Barbara sleeps, to watch pornography. Barbara catches him and is shocked that he would do such a thing. Jon denies that he watches pornography and claims it was a sick joke emailed to him by a friend.

Their relationship resumes, with Jon continuing to watch pornography, but doing so primarily outside his apartment, where Barbara is often around. He is caught watching a video on his cell phone before a class by Esther (Moore), a middle-aged woman who attempts to apologize for an earlier awkward incident in which Jon encountered her weeping by herself at the college. Jon politely brushes her off. Barbara continues to assert control over him, insisting that cleaning his own apartment—a task Jon finds personally satisfying—is not manly. One night she looks at the browser history on his computer, confronts him with proof that he has been continuing to compulsively watch pornography, and ends their relationship.

Jon tries to return to his old lifestyle, but it’s not the same. Esther continues to reach out to Jon, trying to offer him the benefit of her experience. She reveals to Jon that the reason why he doesn’t seem to have the same fun he has watching pornography while having sex, is because pornography is a one-sided affair, and if he wants to have sex that’s better than pornography, he has to be willing to lose himself to another person, and she has to be willing to lose herself to him, calling it “a two-way street.” She lends him an erotic video that she believes has a more realistic depiction of sexual relations. He responds by initiating a sexual encounter in her parked car. She persuades him to try masturbating without pornography, but he is unable to. She invites him to her home, where she reveals that her husband and son had died in a car crash 14 months before. She counsels him further about the need for sex to be a mutual experience, and with her, Jon finally has an emotional connection sex that doesn’t leave him restless to watch pornography.

Jon’s weekly confessional tallying his one-night stands and pornography sessions is replaced by one in which he proudly reports abstinence from pornography and just the one instance of fornication, which he describes as being more like making love. He tells his parents about the break-up with Barbara, and they are devastated. His sister breaks her silence, saying that Barbara never cared about Jon, and was using him to live out her romance movie fantasy.

Jon asks to meet with Barbara and apologizes for lying to her about the pornography. Barbara says she asked one thing of him, and he failed. Jon replies she asked many things of him, and just couldn’t keep up with her expectations. She says goodbye, and tells him to never contact her again.

Jon takes Esther as his girlfriend, and even though neither has any interest in getting married anytime soon, and denies he is love, but believes he really understands her and they can get emotionally lost in each other.

REVIEW:

Well, it would seem that this weekend is dedicated to first time directors. Earlier this week, I watched Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher and tonight I have the chance to watch Lake Bell’s debut with In a World… Now, it is time for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut, Don Jon. I really have some high hopes for this film, but I am also a bit reticent because I honestly don’t remember anyone showering this with praise and accolades.

What is this about?

Jon Martello’s romantic exploits are legendary among his friends, but his obsession with online porn saps his enthusiasm for real sex. As he searches for intimacy — or avoids it — Jon meets two women with vital lessons to teach him.

What did I like?

Scarlett. Guys, as hot as well think and know Scarlett Johansson is, that is nothing compared to the level she achieves in this picture. Her hotness level is ratcheted up x10! There is a scene with her and Gordon-Levitt grinding against a door that is sure to have you squirming in your seat or running to take a cold shower. On top of that, she gives a pretty decent performance as a Jersey girl type.

Movies. Johansson’s character has a thing for romantic comedies, while Levitt is all about the porn. Seems like they would be the worst couple possible, right? I won’t spoil that, but there is a scene when they have a fight and it is brought up how romantic comedies are more or less porn for women. If you really think about it, that’s true. I know very few members of the female species who don’t go gaga for those films. Here’s the kicker, though. She jumped all over his case for watching porn, yet when it came to her romantic comedies, nothing was said. Can we say double standard? Perhaps, and I’m glad that the film said what we’ve all been scared to say.

Silent Monica. Remember in Kevin Smith, as Silent Bob, wouldn’t talk for the entire film? Then, out of nowhere, somewhere near the film’s end, he would spout off some words of wisdom that help the lead character. Clerks is perhaps the best example of this, but pretty much any of the Viewaskew films will work. Keeping that train of though, Brie Larson’s character does nothing throughout the whole film but text (much like every other teenager in the world). She’s attached to the phone at the dinner table and in church, but the last time we see her, the phone is mysteriously missing. I guess without it, she felt she needed to say something, and offered Levitt’s character some advice and insight.

What didn’t I like?

Looks aren’t everything. Scarlett Johansson may be super hot, but her attitude in this film pretty much nullifies that. Well, I shouldn’t say attitude, but rather her views. I’ve already mentioned the porn stuff, but for some reason, she has a hang-up with a guy cleaning his own place. I really don’t see what the big deal with that is, and think there is something in her past that wasn’t explained. Don’t even get me started on her snooping in his computer. What was she hoping to find by looking in his history? What happened to trust?

Stereotype. To an extent, I was loving the stereotypical Italian family that Levitt chose to give his character, but as the gag went on and on and on, it wore thinner and thinner. Do all Italian families eat pasta, specifically spaghetti, every night? Why do they not wear shirts at the table? Are wife beater t-shirts mandatory? I half expected to find out that they were part of the mob as some subplot. Again, the gag isn’t bad, it just wore thin because of how much they kept coming back to it.

Growth. At the beginning of the film, Levitt’s character is obsessed with porn, saying that it is better than the “real thing”. By film’s end, he doesn’t really change his tune, even he has found a kindred spirit (though they aren’t “together”). It seems to me that there should have been some kind of character growth, but maybe that would be too ironically romantic comedy. Personally, I’m ok with him not growing. Some people are just set in their ways, but it would have been nice if he would have acknowledged his attempt to change, and why he tried, as well as why it didn’t work.

On the surface, Don Jon appears to be a film that is sure to offend those with delicate sensibilities who can’t take a joke. Truth is, though, this is a well thought out, funny comedy. Someone said it was a more entertaining version of Shame, but I would go one further and say it is like a mixture of that and (500) Days of Summer (which also starred Levitt). Obviously, this is not a film you can show your whole family. The scenes and themes are just not for everyone. It is more of a date flick, I suppose. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! I’ enjoyed this little film more than I expected to. If Levitt can continue to churn out enjoyable flicks like this, then he is on the fast track to becoming my new favorite director. Give this one a shot, sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

21 Jump Street

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are former classmates who meet again at police academy. Schmidt, obsessed with Eminem was a chubby nerd while Jenko was a underachieving jock. They end up becoming best friends at the academy as they help with each others’ weaknesses, with Schmidt helping Jenko study and Jenko motivating Schmidt through physical activity. They graduate together as partners, but are assigned to park patrol. They catch a break when they spot a group of One Percenters and arrest their leader Domingo (DeRay Davis). However, the department is forced to release him as Jenko forgot the wording of the Miranda rights. The two are reassigned to a revived specialty division on 21 Jump Street.

They are introduced to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who explains the division specializes in infiltrating high schools and that they were chosen because of their youthful appearances. Schmidt and Jenko are assigned to stop a new synthetic drug from spreading to other schools by finding the supplier. They go undercover as brothers, living at Schmidt’s parents’ house. Jenko accidentally switches their identities and they get each others’ classes. They learn the lead dealer of the drug is the popular Eric (Dave Franco), but he is not the supplier.

They go to the dealing room where Eric forces them to take the drug there and not wait. They attempt to regurgitate it but are unsuccessful, and they undergo the phases of the drug while talking to their P.E. teacher, Mr. Walters (Rob Riggle), and also while running track and during band practice. The mistakes that happen at the track meet cause Eric to take a liking to Schmidt.

Schmidt manages to fit in with the popular kids and takes a romantic interest in Eric’s friend Molly (Brie Larson), while Jenko becomes friends with the nerds in his AP Chemistry class while his teacher Ms. Griggs (Ellie Kemper) takes a sexual interest in him. Jenko discovers that his new friends secretly tap into other people’s cell phones to listen into their conversations. Schmidt decides to throw a party at his house to gain Eric’s complete trust and Jenko takes the opportunity to tap into Eric’s phone. Despite Captain Dickson ordering them not to serve alcohol and drugs to minors, they nevertheless buy alcohol and steal confiscated marijuana. When Eric arrives with Molly and his other friends, Jenko steals Eric’s phone for his friends to tap into while Schmidt fights off a rival of Eric’s.

Schmidt pretends to sell the drug for Eric but is actually giving it to Captain Dickson to be confiscated. While at Eric’s house, Schmidt asks Molly out to prom while Jenko listens through Eric’s phone. He also insults Jenko to Eric with Jenko listening. Schmidt and Jenko learn that Eric is making a deal soon. When Jenko spots Eric leaving school, he takes Schmidt to follow him. They see that Eric is dealing with the One Percenters and they follow them, but are forced to run away when Domingo spots them. Back at school, Jenko accuses Schmidt of his earlier insults, possibly ruining the case, and getting in too deep, but Schmidt brushes him off. Jenko and Schmidt get into a fight that results in them getting expelled and fired from Jump Street.

Later that night, both are confronted by Eric and his friends, who want to bring them on as security after hearing about what happened with the One Percenters. He tells them about a deal happening during prom where they get to meet the supplier. At prom, they are surprised to see that the supplier is Mr. Walters. The One Percenters arrive for the deal, and Domingo recognizes Schmidt and Jenko as police officers, and tells two of his men to kill them. However, the two men reveal themselves as DEA Agents Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) and Doug Penhall (Peter DeLuise), who were a part of the Jump Street program when it began. Hanson casually talks to Schmidt and Jenko during the standoff which gives Domingo the opportunity to kill Hanson and Penhall. A gunfight ensues among Schmidt and Jenko, Mr. Walters, and the One Percenters. Mr. Walters and Eric escape in a limo with Molly as a hostage, with the One Percenters in pursuit of them in another limo. Schmidt and Jenko pursue all of them in another limo where Jenko creates a homemade chemical bomb from his knowledge in AP Chemistry to kill the One Percenters. They then confront Mr. Walters, who shoots at Schmidt. Jenko jumps in front of Schmidt, saving his life and getting shot in the arm and his chest, which was protected by a bullet-proof vest, in the process. In response, Schmidt shoots Mr. Walters in the groin, severing his penis. The duo successfully arrest him and Eric and make amends with each other. Schmidt makes amends with Molly and the two share a kiss. They are rehired into Jump Street where Dickson gives them a new assignment in a college setting, to Schmidt’s excitement but to Jenko’s dismay.

REVIEW:

The original 21 Jump Street was a crime drama aimed more towards teens. At the time it was on, I either didn’t have Fox, or just didn’t care about it. Talking to many of my friends from the time it was on, the feeling is mutual. With that said, the show did gain a cult following and introduced to the acting skills of a young man named Johnny Depp.

What is this about?

In high school, Schmidt was one of the biggest nerds, while Jenko was the #1 jock who picked on everyone. A few years later, they find themselves enrolling in the police academy together, becoming best friends and, with each other’s help, passing the tests and becoming partners. Their first assignment is bike patrol in the park. On a routine patrol, they see some One Percenter’s doing a drug deal and give chase. Most get away, but their leader is caught. It seems like this would be a good thing, but Jenko forgot to read him his Miranda Rights, so he had to be let go. A very unhappy commanding officer sends the two down to Jump Street, where they are to begin an undercover assignment that sends them to high school to uncover a new and potentially dangerous drug and who is supplying it. Will they find the drug and the supplier? Will they revert back to the dynamic they had when they were in high school the first time? Will the captain’s head explode from being such and angry black man?

What did I like?

Tone. The original series was a bit serious from what I hear. Some people may scoff at the change to a more comedic tone, but since this isn’t a verbatim remake of the original and we have different characters all over the place, it works for me.

Self-awareness. The film addresses many things in films that the audience is thinking. For instance, early on, it says something about the writers not having any ideas on their own, so they just remake old things. Later on, there is a scene during the freeway chase scene where a truck full of some kind of gas has a slight accident, but doesn’t explode, as we see in so many films.

Chemistry. Just like in real life, partners have to have chemistry. If you’re going to pair up an odd couple like Hill and Tatum, then they better work well together, and they do. Who would have thought that Channing Tatum had some comedy chops. I have to tip my hat to this guy, where many stars who can’t act are assuming people are just criticizing them or being haters, Tatum has taken the time to hone his craft and the improvements are showing.

What didn’t I like?

Franco II. This kid, Dave Franco, has rubbed me the wrong way ever since I first saw him on the last season on Scrubs. His older brother, James, has his moments, but at least he has the chops to back it up. This guy just grates on my everlasting nerves, and this time it can’t be blamed on the characters since he’s supposed to be likable.

Hot for teacher. The AP Chemistry teacher obviously has some kind of horny, lustful, attraction towards Jenko. It actually is a bit passive-agressive. All that is well and good, but here’s the thing. For all the emphasis they put on Schmidt and Molly, it seemed they could have done some exploring with these. I can just see some of the awkward situations, but I guess that would have been too much to ask.

Not the same. I give all the props in the world to Jonah Hill for losing all that weight for this role, but I have to question a couple of things. First is, was it really necessary and would it have worked better if he was the old size? Secondly, his character seems like a really, really smart guy, why the hell did he end up at the police academy and not in college?

The mixture of action, comedy, and sheer absurdity are what makes 21 Jump Street a surprise hit for the year. Throw in a cameo from the show’s stars who appear and tell the guys that they used to work Jump St. (always nice to have some continuity), and we have a winning formula. Now, I’m not saying this film is perfect…far from it, as a matter of fact, but it is entertaining and that is what movies are about, first and foremost. I highly recommend this.

4 out of 5 stars

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The story begins in Toronto where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), the bass guitarist for the band “Sex Bob-omb,” begins dating high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) despite the protests of his friends and bandmates. He later meets a mysterious American girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and begins dating her, losing interest in Knives. Sex Bob-omb competes in a battle of the bands to win a record contract with the label G-Man when Scott is attacked by Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), the first of Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes who seek to control Ramona’s love life. Scott defeats Matthew and learns from Ramona that, in order for them to continue dating, he must defeat each member of the League of Evil Exes.

After learning that popular actor and skateboarder Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), the second evil ex, is coming to Toronto to film a movie, Scott is forced to break up with Knives, who is devastated and tries everything she can to win him back. Scott successfully defeats Lee by tricking him into performing a dangerous skateboard stunt. He encounters the third evil ex, Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), who serves as bass guitarist for Scott’s ex-girlfriend Envy Adams’ (Brie Larson) band, “The Clash at Demonhead.” Todd initially overpowers Scott using his psychic vegan abilities, which are stripped from him by the “Vegan Police” after Scott tricks him into drinking coffee with half and half, allowing Scott to win the fight.

Following the defeat of the fourth evil ex Roxy Ritcher (Mae Whitman), Scott’s relationship with Ramona begins to falter as he grows increasingly upset with her dating history. During the second round of the battle of the bands, Sex Bob-omb faces off against the fifth and six evil exes, twin Katayanagi brothers Kyle (Shota Saito) and Ken (Keita Saito), earning Scott an extra life upon their defeat. During the battle, Scott sees Ramona together with her seventh and final evil ex, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), who turns out to be Sex Bob-omb’s sponsor G-Man. Ramona breaks up with Scott as she is unable to leave Gideon’s side due to a chip in the back of her head, and Scott leaves Sex Bob-omb as they sign on to play at Gideon’s new club, the Chaos Theatre.

Scott goes to the club and professes his love for Ramona, gaining the “Power of Love” sword with which he uses to fight Gideon. Knives arrives to battle Ramona over Scott who, while trying to break up the girls’ fight, accidentally reveals that he is cheating on both of them with each other before he is killed by Gideon. Scott uses his extra life to restart his battle with Gideon, this time resolving his issues with his friends and owning up to his own faults, gaining the even stronger “Power of Self-Respect” sword and defeating Gideon alongside Knives. Free from Gideon’s control, Ramona encourages Scott and Knives to stay together while she prepares to leave to start over. Upon Knives’ insistence, however, Scott instead follows Ramona as he always wanted, and the two begin their relationship anew.

REVIEW:

First of all, let me say that when I heard about this film back in the fall, I had no idea what to expect. I saw Michael Cera was going to be in it and assumed it was going to another one of those indie drama/comedy things he’s always in. Then, earlier this summer, I saw the trailer for and was blown away by the level of awesomeness that this film looked to have and the countdown began!

If you’re like me, then you may probably have no idea who Scott Pilgrim is. No, he isn’t an original character (big shocker, right?), but rather a cult comic book.

From my understanding, this movies stays dead on with the source material, save for some stuff that just wouldn’t translate to the big screen. Why can’t they all do this?

Now, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is full of action. I’ll get to that in a second, but I have to say something about how slow-paced the first 30 minutes or so of this film are. I know, I know, it seems as though I’m always bitching about films that take forever to get going, but that’s because it is so true. What makes it worse, is that this film is obviously meant for people like me, who have a short attention span and want to get to the action. There was no need to drag on that drama at the beginning. Introduce the characters and move along. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is that studios don’t get that idea. If this was a drama, I’d let it slide, but this is a freakin’ action movie! Get to the action!!!!

Speaking of said action, I loved every minute of it. Sure, there are those that are going to question how this wimpy guy is able to pull off these moves, but do we really need to know everything about every character we see in film and television?  I think not. The mystery is what makes them great. Somewhere around the mid-90s or so, we seem to have forgotten that and our films have suffered.

Each of the fights are brilliantly choreographed and the effects that go on in the background a reminiscent of old school anime and the old Batman TV series. An eclectic mixture, to be sure, but it works better than you think.

The video game element of these fights is really quite hilarious, as with the defeat of each of the seven exes they turn to coins. Strangely enough, they just leave the coins there, except for the first one, where Scott and Ramona took a few for bus fare.

For those of you out there that are all overly concerned with violence, this is no more violent that the Mario Brothers’ games. Sure, in the final scene, he could have decapitated Gideon’s and we could have seen lots of gushing blood a la Mortal Kombat, but that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of Scott Pilgrim, now would it?

From what I’ve seen of Scott Pilgrim, no one would have been better to bring him to life than Michael Cera. A friend of mine like to say that he plays the same character in each of his films. This is not really an exception, but he does seem to be acting more. Maybe the director got more out of him, or he took some acting classes, who knows? One thing is for sure, he kicked some major ass!

Mary Elizabeth Winstead normally is drop dead gorgeous, but with this weird hairdo and negative attitude she has in this film, she didn’t do anything for me. However, that’s a testament to how good she was. Usually, she’s the nice damsel in distress type, so this is a departure for her, and she does it beautifully.

The Seven Evil Exes all have their quirks and whatnot, but here’s something that you ma not realize. Scott Pilgrim takes down Superman (Brandon Routh)…ex #3, and the Human Torch, soon to be Captain America (Chris Evans)…ex #2. Just an interesting tidbit.

I didn’t really care for Routh’s vegan powers, but it made for an interesting character. As for Evans, it would have been cool, if he would have the power to create his own stunt doubles with his mind…a sort of multiplicity power.

The best fight of all, though, was where Ramona actually defended Scott against, I think she was #5. That was a totally awesome fight, especially the choreography as Mary Elizabeth Winstead is basically controlling Michael Cera like some sort of puppet.

The final verdict on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is that it will more than likely be one of those cult hits when it is released on DVD. The theater I saw it in was rather empty…partially becus the a/c had broken earlier in the day, but that’s neither here nor there. This is a great film for those of us that tire of seeing a bunch of buff guys doing impossible stunts and shedding blood all over the place (that isn’t a shot at The Expendables, btw). Sometimes a change of pace is welcome, and with the quirky humor, video game graphics, and martial arts homage action, this is a film that should appeal to everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Go see it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars