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Happy Birthday Jake Gyllenhaal

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Jake Gyllenhaal who is one of my favorite actors turns 34 today. In honor of his birth I have reviewed two of his films, starting with his most recent work.

Nightcrawler

Written and Directed by: Dan Gilroy

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed

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Nightcrawler puts the spotlight on a shameless profession and even bigger spotlight on one of the creepiest characters in film history. Gyllenhaal shines as ruthless sociopath Louis Bloom and his quest to be successful and gain everything he wants. The film has a wonderful slow build up as is interweaves fast car chases, awkward social interactions, and attempts at making you feel sympathetic for Louis. Every time you want to root for the anti-hero, Louis, he does something even more deplorable, turning him into a character you love to hate. This is truly a character study at it’s best and Jake Gyllenhaal completely encapsulates the intriguing and troubled Louis Bloom. It’s an intense film from start to finish keeps you on the edge of you seat pondering what is going to happen next.

9.5/10

Brokeback Mountain

Written by: Larry McMurty

Directed by: Ang Lee

Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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The score instantly grabs you in Brokeback Mountain and sets the pace and mood perfectly for this heartbreaking film. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal share an incredible chemistry, every shot you can see their passion and longing for one another along with the shame they feel. Ledger plays the more tortured soul character as Gyllenhaal’s character limps through the motions of the societal acceptable life, waiting to make Brokeback Mountain his everyday reality. The film lends itself to gorgeous scenic shots as they met secretly on the same mountain for a number of years. Brokeback Mountain is subdued but beautiful masterpiece.

10/10

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HOLIDAY MOVIE REVIEW

After a couple months absence, I’m back reviewing again.  Kicking it off with a Thanksgiving movie review

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

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Written & Directed by: John Hughes

Starring: Steve Martin & John Candy

Original Release: November 25, 1987

Steve Martin and John Candy make a delightful mismatched pair in this festive movie.. Despite the predictability, the script delivers loads of laughs and numerous comical situations. Some of the best scenes are between Martin and inconsiderate customer service workers, most notably the Marathon car rental lady.  I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at some of insane coincidences that kept bringing Martin and Candy back together, but since it also brought a colorful array of strange characters was forgivable. . The music has that classic 80’s plus John Hughes vibe that is lighthearted and danceable. While not remarkable this classic 80’s film of a holiday traveler’s worst nightmare come true is enjoyable from plane to train to automobile.

8/10

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Foreign Film Friday

Children of Heaven

Country: Iran

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Written and Directed by: Majid Majidi

Starring: Amir Farrokh Hashem & Bahara Seddiqi

Nothing to make you realize how trivial and inane your first world problems are after watching this subtle humble masterpiece. This sweet story of brother and sister secretly sharing one pair of shoes has just the right amount of heart, drama, laughs, and thrills. They could not have found better child actors to portray Ali and Zahra, and it’s one of the best representations of a brother sister relationship on film. Every time Ali’s big round eyes swelled up so did mine, never have I so easily rooted for a protagonist to get everything he wishes, and his wish was the simplest of all to get a pair of shoes for his sister. Soft stringed instrumentals play throughout adding even more character and charm to this modestly set film. Children of Heaven is definitely not a Hollywood production, but that is what makes it so remarkable, it’s 100% genuine in every regards.

10/10

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Way Way Throwback Thursday

A Streetcar Named Desire

Original Release: September 18th, 1951

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Directed by: Elia Kazan

Written by: Tennessee Williams

Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Madden

Tennessee William knows how to create fascinating characters with hard hitting boundary-pushing dialogue, beautifully tragic A Streetcar Named Desire is no exception. The dark bluesy jazz with all its elongated horns sets the stage perfectly for the adaptation but the shadowy cinematography hides too much the actors’ range of expressions. The fact that Marlon Brando was the only one not to win an Oscar is an outrage, his portrayal of Stanley stands the test of time and gets better with every viewing. Even with Blanche being a very melodramatic character, Leigh’s performance pushes her even more over the top to a near caricature of a crazy person. The looks Kim Hunter gave Brando makes me believe she was married to him in real life, talk about your on-screen chemistry: it was hotter than the temperature in New Orleans. Though not my favorite adaptation by Tennessee Williams, Streetcar is still a thrillingly dramatic sadly romantic tale.

9.5/10

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Hector and the Search For Happiness

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Directed by:  Peter Chelsom

Written by: Maria Von Heland, Peter Chelsom, & Tinker Lindsay

Starring: Simon Pegg

An intriguing but flawed concept, Hector slaps you in the face repeatedly about what happiness is. The issue: happiness can be different things to different people at different times, and none of Hector’s findings are groundbreaking theories in what makes a person happy: money, food, love, family, etc. Simon Pegg is charming and lovable as Hector, but really only hits the comedic elements of the story. The script is perfectly paced and timed with plenty of laugh out loud moments. The score is superb, mixing in all the right cultural elements from the different countries he visited. The climatic scene was way too predictable and leaned on being very preachy, which soured my like of the movie overall, but still would recommend it to my friends.

8.5/10

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No Good Deed

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Directed by: Sam Miller

Written by: Aimee Lagos

Starring: Taraji P. Henson & Idris Elba

 

 

No Good Deed is a feel good “chick-flick” disguised as a psychological thriller, complete with neglected frumpy housewife, the single best friend, and mysterious sexy stranger. The beginning has a nice slow build till you get to the main action of the film. For once, the woman in danger actually makes smart decisions that fail only to continue to build the suspense, which is frustrating. Elba played the villain with threatening reserve perfectly fitting that of a psychopath while Henson and her horrible wig played the fighting back housewife with the her normal vigor. The camerawork and score try a bit too hard to prove how thrilling it is with suspenseful music and of course it’s pouring rain shots. The story hits all the right, albeit predicable, notes with a way too rushed happy ending, but still packs an enjoyable punch.

 

7/10

 

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The Skeleton Twins

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Directed by: Craig Johnson

Written by: Mark Heyman & Craig Johnson

Starring: Kristen Wiig & Bill Hader

My eyes were transfixed on the screen from start to finish, fearing I would miss a beat in this darkly funny film. No surprise, Wiig and Hader had perfect brother sister chemistry; the surprise was how they were both able to leave me utterly speechless at the subtle grandeur of their raw performances especially at the darkest parts of the film. The script was biting, rhythmic, relevant and refreshingly honest. I was left wondering how old Milo and Maggie were, a minor detail but it distracted me enough to take me out of the moment especially with Ty Burrell cast their former teacher. The musical score was subdued with the best lip-synched musical number since “Stepmom.” This movie is more than a great character study with two standout performances, it’s a near perfect masterpiece that’s a must-see.

9.5/10

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