CinemAddicts Podcast Spotlights Award Winning ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

On the latest episode of CinemAddicts we spotlight Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a first rate drama penned and directed by Eliza Hittman.

Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) is a pregnant teenager in rural Pennsylvania who decides to travel with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) to New York City. Getting an abortion without the parents knowing and traveling in an unknown city, especially for a youth is a scary prospect, and Hittman effectively captures Autumn’s stress inducing journey. The feature, which co-stars Ryan Eggold as Autumn’s detached father, won the Neorealism award at the Sundance Film Festival and took home the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. The feature hits theaters March 13.

Other films covered on the latest episode include the Annette Bening drama Hope Gap and the action thriller Final Kill. Take a listen below!

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

Sweet Story Propels Pixar’s New Film ‘Onward’

OH BROTHERS – In Disney and Pixar’s “Onward,” two teenage elf brothers embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left in the world. Featuring Tom Holland as the voice of Ian Lightfoot, and Chris Pratt as the voice of Ian’s older brother, Barley, “Onward” opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020. ©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Although Pixar has developed a wildly successful formula, it is, nonetheless, a formula. You’ve got the quest, usually driven by someone’s emotional longings. You’ve got the frenetic action, you’ve got the vividly realistic (if not a bit exaggerated) characters and landscapes. You’ve got the laugh-out-loud jokes and sight gags. And you’ve got the big, “we dare you to not cry” resolution. And, with only the occasional misfire (Planes comes to mind), it always works. While the stories may share similar DNA, the Pixar movies live and die by the strength of their characters and quests. With Onward, they’ve hit the mark again. The story — two teenage elves who, thanks to a magical scepter, will be able to spend one day with their late father — is clearly a personal one for writer/director Dan Scanlon. He lost his own father at a young age, and that idea of wish fulfillment lovingly permeates the film.

Playing the two teens, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt — both young veterans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — share a boisterous, joyous camaraderie that’s tailor-made for the Pixar aesthetic. The actors are friends in real life, and that vibe definitely informs their performances in the movie.

As always, there are sight gags for viewers of all ages — older moviegoers will certainly get a kick out of the Weekend at Bernie’s homage — and the film’s decision to place its elves in a modern suburban setting will help it resonate with its tween and teen audience.Of course, by the end, the boys (and the viewers) realize the gift they’ve been given is not what they originally expected. In trying to discover the man their father was in the past, the brothers are really setting down a road to discover the men they’ll be in the future, and therein lies the true Pixar magic: in its characters fantasy worlds, we can learn more about our own reality.

The supporting cast, led by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer and Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is solid, and it wouldn’t be a Pixar film without breathtaking cinematography and music.

Though its elfin protagonists may not have quite as long a shelf life as Pixar’s more iconic characters, ultimately, the movie is another winning, worthy addition to the studio’s library.

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CinemAddicts Podcasts Spotlights Riveting Nicolas Cage Thriller ‘Color Out of Space’

On the latest episode of CinemAddicts, we take a deep dive into the work of Nicolas Cage. His latest feature Color Out of Space is a must see picture on different fronts. First off, it’s directed by Richard Stanley, a filmmaker whose promising career (he debuted with the cult hit Hardware) was negatively affected after he was fired from The Island of Dr. Moreau. Stanley’s experiences are chronicled in the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau.

Secondly, Cage delivers a fine performance as Nathan Gardner, the patriarch of a family whose lives are profoundly changed after a meteorite crashes into their front yard. Up and coming actress Madeleine Arthur, Joely Richardson, Brendan Meyer, and child actor Julian Hilliard (excellent as the youngest in the family) round out the ensemble.

Other films covered on the episode include The Gentlemen and the upcoming Blake Lively action thriller The Rhythm Section. Take a listen below!

Color Out of Space, based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, is now playing in theaters.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

Eddie Murphy Gets It Right With ‘Dolemite’

There’s a classic scene in the TV show Taxi in which a young, strait-laced Jim Ignatowski takes his first bite of a marijuana-laced brownie; we immediately see him begin his transformation into the hilariously loopy character he would become. After watching Dolemite Is My Name, I could picture a young Eddie Murphy listening to Rudy Ray Moore’s comedy album for the first time. Within seconds, I saw that toothy Murphy smile appear. Mere moments later, I imagined him unleashing that iconic horse-like laugh we’ve grown to know so well.

It’s easy to draw a line from the bawdy, blue humor of Moore to the raucous, raunchy humor of Raw Murphy, and it’s even easier to view Moore as a hero of young Murphy’s.

It’s no wonder, then, to see Murphy throw himself whole-heartedly into the role of Moore in Dolemite Is My Name. It was clearly a labor of love, exactly what he needed to bring him out of his three-year acting exile. At age 58, Murphy has been rejuvenated by the opportunity to bring Moore’s story to the screen.

Granted, he didn’t have to be rejuvenated too much – Moore is no spring chicken when we first meet him. He’s not exactly a washed-up has-been; he’s more of a world-wearied almost-was. As a singer, he laments how he might have hit the big time, if only his record label hadn’t signed some guy named James Brown. As a comedian, he’s been reduced to getting a few precious seconds each night as an emcee at a local L.A. dive bar.

He spends his days as an assistant manager of a record store, and that’s where his fortunes change. There’s a vagrant (Ron Cephas Jones of This Is Us) who comes into the store, spouting outrageous stories about a dude named Dolemite. Where others see the alcohol-induced ramblings of an old, broken man, Moore sees buried treasure. Armed with a tape recorder and a wad of cash, Moore seeks out the old man and his stories. After polishing them into comedy routines, Moore breaks out his pimpiest-looking suit and creates the Dolemite character.

Before he knows it, Dolemite is a smash hit. After recording his new routine at the club, he sells enough self-produced records to get the attention of a record company, which sends him out on the road and helps make the album a hit.

But Moore wants more. He becomes convinced that Dolemite could be big-screen dynamite. After his Hollywood pitches go nowhere, though, he takes on a Dolemite film as the ultimate DIY project.

Recruiting a local playwright (Keegan-Michael Key) to write it and a minor Hollywood star (Wesley Snipes) to direct, the Dolemite movie starts to come to life in a bumbling, stumbling, “how are they ever going to finish this?” kind of way.

Murphy clearly relished the opportunity to re-create some classic scenes from the real Dolemite film, throwing himself into them with unbridled glee and the requisite reckless abandon. Moore might have been making a train wreck, but he sure wanted to have fun doing it. After all, if he was having fun, wouldn’t a theater audience?

When the movie’s finished, it’s looking like theater audiences might never get that chance. Nobody in Hollywood wants to release the train wreck, and it looks like Moore’s signed away his life’s recording royalties for nothing.

But then, as the request of an Indianapolis DJ (Chris Rock), Moore books the movie into the late-night slot at a local theater, and with the DJ’s support, he fills the theater. Dolemite becomes a local sensation, attracting the eyes of a studio that had already turned the film down once. Moore signs a distribution deal with the studio, and the rest is history.

While the original Dolemite movie’s production might have been bare-bones, the same cannot be said about My Name Is Dolemite, which sits squarely in the “quality biopic” genre. Regard for Moore in the African-American community – especially among its entertainers – has attracted a first-rate cast, including Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, rappers Snoop Dogg and T.I., and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who overflows with sass as Moore’s comedic discovery, Lady Reed.

The quality of the cast helps make the directing job easy for director Craig Brewer, who manages the ebb and flow of the story nicely. It’s got an “underdog sports story” feel that serves the film better than a “rags to riches” approach would have. The crew re-creates the look of the ‘70s, from its gaudy clothing to its muted Earth-tone cinematography, with loving care.

But it’s Murphy – who is also one of the film’s producers – who provides the highest octane for the movie’s engine. While a younger, brasher Murphy may not have been able to handle the nuances of a character like Moore, the current incarnation – older, wiser, and all too familiar with the perils and pitfalls of stardom – has accumulated enough life experience to do the character justice.

Will Dolemite Is My Name reignite interest in Rudy Ray Moore and his work? It may, although the Dolemite clips that run during the credits do look hopelessly dated. Will it make fans happy that Eddie Murphy is back, with new movies and stand-up specials on the way? Absolutely.

Dolemite Is My Name is now streaming on Netflix.

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Posted Ari Coine

‘The Laundromat’ Plays One Shell Of A Game

THE LAUNDROMAT

What is The Laundromat? Is it a drama? Is it a comedy? Is it a dramatized documentary? Is it a mystery? Is it a civics lesson? Is it a “how-to” video?

Actually, it’s all that, and then some. And if that sounds like a little too much for one movie to handle, well, perhaps it is. The Laundromat clocks in at 96 minutes but manages to feel like it’s closer to 150, even though director Steven Soderbergh uses every trick in the book to hasten and tidy up the affair. There’s narration, animation, summation, and fourth-wall breaks galore as Soderburgh tries to somehow simplify the tricky trickling of money through the complex world of offshore financial services.

So why does it feel so long? It’s a big story. It’s a complicated story. It’s a story that jumps from continent to continent, told in a series of vignettes about people — some real, some fictitious — whose lives were ensnared in a real-life scandal that has come to be known as the Panama Papers.

After an amusing prologue that explains the history of money through the eyes of the film’s on-screen narrators and real-life Panama Papers perpetrators Mossack and Fonseca (played in opulently over-the-top fashion by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas), we meet Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) on what will become the first of a series of worst days of her life. A tourist outing turns tragic when the boat capsizes, and her husband is among the 21 people killed. Then, after she’s led to believe she’ll be compensated with a sizeable insurance settlement, she discovers that — thanks to a little bit of cost-cutting by the boat operators (David Schwimmer and Robert Patrick) — the “insurance company” is nothing more than a shell game being played in foreign countries and tiny Caribbean islands.

While Martin’s story serves as the through line for the plot — after all, why would you waste an asset like Meryl Streep, who’s brilliant as usual — it’s at this point where the film starts to take several detours.

Each of these detours tries to explain another rule or two of how the shell game is played. Some are cruel, like the one in which a philandering California father tries to buy his daughter’s silence with bearer bonds that are supposedly worth $20 million. (Of course, before she can cash in, dear old Daddy moves all the money around, leaving her with $37.) Some are criminal, like the dramatization of British businessman Neil Heywood’s real-life poisoning in China.

In the end — as it did in real life — the film winds up in Panama, where the mighty financial firm of Mossack Fonseca is taken down by an anonymous leak of several million documents.

Well, until the film winds up on a soundstage, where Streep literally strips herself out of character and breaks the fourth wall to deliver a scathing indictment on the political system that has allowed these financial cons to flourish. It’s the kind of rant that won’t win the film any fans with the MAGA crowd, but is stunningly on point.

Was the story interesting? Yes. Was the acting fantastic? Yes. Was the film amusing? Yes. Was the message a strong one? Yes.

Then why do I sit here, writing this review, still feeling unsure whether I actually liked the movie?

I didn’t dislike The Laundromat, but it somehow doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts, and it’s hard to put a finger on why that is. Maybe it’s because so many of the story’s characters are pretty despicable humans. Maybe it’s because even when the bad guys lost, the good guys didn’t actually win. Maybe it’s because you’re left with the feeling that the outlook is still grim for the 99%. Or maybe all of the above is just a bit overwhelming.

So we’re left with a film that’s hard to dislike, yet hard to like. Just like the reality it portrays, it lives somewhere in a grey area.

The Laundromat is now streaming on Netflix.

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Posted by Ari Coine

 

CinemAddicts Podcasts Previews The “Electric” Battle Of ‘The Current War’

The Current War: Director’s Cut centers on the race to gain a monopoly on the electricity business, a battle waged between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon). Tom Holland co-stars as future business magnate Samuel Insull and Nicholas Hoult rounds out the ensemble as Nikola Tesla.

There was a battle behind the scenes of The Current War: Director’s Cut as well, as filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s feature debuted two years ago at the Toronto Film Festival and received mixed reviews. That version featured a heavy editing hand from Harvey Weinstein, but since then the film is being released by 101 Studios and Gomez-Rejon has added five new scenes to the film and has supposedly given the film a faster pace.

One reason Gomez-Rejon’s cut may be worth a look is that his previous film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a highly underrated film, and one would assume The Current War: Director’s Cut will have its share of highlights. Other films spotlighted on the latest episode of CinemAddicts is Cyrano, My Love and Frankie, a feature headlined by Isabelle Huppert. Take a listen to the episode below:

The Current War: Director’s Cut hits theaters October 25.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi