Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
Writer/director Paul Haggis returns to his woven storylines that he did so well in 2004’s Oscar-winner “Crash.” This time he takes on a theme of love and loss and spreads the stories out to Rome, Paris and New York. As with his previous films, Haggis is able to bring in a long list of talented actors – Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Kim Basinger and Moran Atias. There’s nothing standard or predictable here. Love is twisted and broken. Loss is often life shattering. These characters are on the run emotionally, often trying to find themselves among strangers. The script smacks of intellect. Sometimes, it’s too smart for its own good. Some of these scenes could’ve been trimmed for impact. But Neeson and Wilde crackle together. Brody never disappoints. And Kunis gives everything she’s got. Check this one out in first person – worth a watch.
Usually, fictional films about musicians or the music business range from sucky to decent. But every once in awhile, someone comes along and gets it right. Irish writer/director John Carney has done it twice – once with 2006’s “Once” and again here with “Begin Again.” Mark Ruffalo plays a drunk and down-and-out owner of a music label in New York City. Keira Knightley plays a singer/songwriter who’s hit a rough patch. When these two meet, magic happens. Speaking of magic, young actress Hailee Steinfeld hands in a dazzling supporting performance. Real-life musicians, Mos Def and CeeLo Green, bring street cred to the film. But perhaps the most apt performance is pop superstar Adam Levine playing an up-and-coming pop star, taking shots at his own ego for producing music in search of a hit song, instead of staying true to the song. Knightley learned to play guitar and sang for this film. Ruffalo really brings it every time the camera is on. Both actors begin again and recreate themselves in every role they carefully choose – good for them and us – worth a watch.
Sometimes, you just got to let it go and ride it out. This turns out to be the case with the plot in this film – one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last roles. Based on a Peter Dexter novel and directed by “Mad Men” actor John Slattery, it meanders all over the place. But that’s OK. The unfortunate aspect is Slattery brought along his “Mad Men” costar Christina Hendricks to star, and she’s stiff and seems in over her head beside the power of Hoffman’s presence. And Hoffman is not alone. Seasoned actors Richard Jenkins, John Turturro and Eddie Marsan all capture the grit and ruinous streets that surround them in this uneven crime drama. With a more substantial plot and a better use of tertiary characters, this film could have been in Oscar contention. Instead, it goes down as another great performance for Hoffman and some of his costars in a so-so film – barely worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge