“Rush” (Sports Drama: 2 hours, 3 minutes)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl and Olivia Wilde
Director: Ron Howard
Rated: R (Sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug usage)
Movie Review: This film is a fine account of the 1970s rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth), young Englishman, and Niki Lauda (Brühl), a disciplined Austrian. Hunt is a playboy. He works to win, and he plays just as much. Lauda is just the opposite. He is all work and no play. They challenge each other to become champions of Formula One racing.
Two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind,” 2001, and “Frost/Nixon,” 2008) knows how to create a good film. At the heart of his films, good stories are present with good characters. This is true with “Rush,” too, an engaging sports drama scripted by Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen,” 2006).
A major flaw exists with this film. Howard and Morgan jump straight into the story. The film’s start assumes people should just know who these racers are. Most moviegoers will not because most moviegoers were too young or not alive when this legendary rivalry happened.
“Rush” is a sports drama, so it spends its time displaying the sport of racing. Liking racing is a plus. Others will like the manner in which the two actors perform in this fine drama.
Competition is at the heart of this piece. Director Howard and writer Morgan maintain that feeling throughout this biographical-type sports drama. It works.
“Rush” is slightly over two hours, but no one will notice this. The film is an exhilarating production. It makes these racers invitingly engaging via racing, moving quickly from scene to scene. Some scenes are too fast, but all are enjoyable dramatics.
At its start, this photoplay is more about rivalry than characterizations, although actors play their parts well with consistency. As the rivalry advances, the characters become more tangible. As a result, the film becomes less about a rivalry. It is about two men’s approach to winning in their sport and how that is similar to their approach to life. Audiences must get to know these characters as they begin to understand each other. Morgan’s screenplay is apt writing in this sense.
Hemsworth (“Thor”) and Brühl (“Inglourious Basterds”) are talented, especially Brühl. Audiences know their characters through their actions primarily. This is a nice manner to keep the plot about two men’s competitiveness essential without fluff. We see Hemsworth, Brühl, and their onscreen personas through this lens. Both actors must relay emotions and intent mainly through their characters’ decisions about racing and their principal competitor. Hemsworth and Brühl make their roles understandable, even if the drivers they portray, Hunt and Lauda, do not inspire one to care for them. Hemsworth and Brühl achieve this smartly under Howard’s direction.
Howard proves why he is one of moviedom’s best directors. Academy Award voters should consider Morgan’s screenplay as an original piece worthy of mention. “Rush” is high-octane entertainment that easily places one in its 1970s setting while making its topic compelling for modern audiences.
Grade: B+ (Rush to your local cinema to see.)
“Instructions Not Included” (Drama/Comedy: 2 hours, 2 minutes)
Starring: Eugenio Derbez, Loreto Peralta and Jessica Lindsey
Director: Eugenio Derbez
Rated: PG-13 (Sexual content, thematic elements, brief nudity and language)
Movie Review: This Mexican film, known by its Spanish title “No se Aceptan Devoluciones,” is an exceptional film. It nicely becomes a touching story with nice humorous bits after a shaky beginning.
Valentín is a major playboy in Acapulco. He has multiple relations with women of all colors and ages. Valentín’s lifestyle changes when one of his flings, Julie (Lindsey), arrives and leaves him 1-year-old baby Maggie. Julie disappears without a trace, leaving Valentín with a baby and no instructions. A first-time father, Valentín only knows Julie’s first name and that she lives in Los Angeles. Valentín leaves Mexico for Los Angeles to find the baby’s mother. While in Los Angeles, Valentín finds a nice job as a premier movie stuntman and creates a nice home for him and his daughter, Maggie (Peralta), for six years. Valentín and Maggie’s lives are happy until Maggie’s birth mom unexpectedly returns.
This film inspires very much in the way of “Life Is Beautiful” (Director-Writer Roberto Benigni), the 1997 Italian film, also known as “La vita è bella.” Benigni directed and starred in his film about man protecting his son in a Nazi death camp using humor.
Derbez stars and directs this film. He also helped pen this nice dramatic-comedic mixture. Derbez’s Valentín is trying to protect his daughter by giving her an adventurous life full of love. Like Benigni, Derbez takes a very serious matter and makes it a moment to smile and enjoy.
Derbez’s Valentín is a mess in opening scenes, including a bad wig. Yet Valentín’s character becomes organized. He grows up and becomes an adult to raise his daughter. He puts his life aside to see his daughter happy. He becomes the ultimate parent, an exceptional parent.
Child actor Loreto Peralta plays his daughter well. She is engaging as Derbez. Their relationship is a keen moment in moviedom. Jessica Lindsey also delivers a nice turn as a mother with a troubling past. The cast easily makes viewers care for the person each one plays.
Disorganization is present in “Instructions” occasionally, but it manages to hold one’s attention with ease through symbolism, emotion and humor. It stays with you when finished.
Grade: B (Instructions read: good movie.)
“Baggage Claim” (Romantic/Comedy: 1 hour, 36 minutes)
Starring: Paula Patton, Derek Luke and Jenifer Lewis
Director: David E. Talbert
Rated: PG-13 (Sexual content and innuendo and strong language)
Movie Review: “Baggage Claim” feels like something one has seen before. A woman tries desperately to find a man to carry to her sister’s wedding. The problem is the woman is Paula Patton, who is exceptionally beautiful. She is attractive enough that she should not need help finding a man, but she does.
Here, Patton plays Montana Moore, a flight attendant who needs to find a man in 30 days. Using her airline connections and help from friends Gail (Jill Scott) and (Sam) Adam Brody, she plans to be on the same flights as past boyfriends to Mr. Right. The problem is the men are not what she needs or expects.
Again, Patton is gorgeous. If she would call me, she could have all my numbers: phone, Social Security, banking account and all my grades since kindergarten. The thought she has trouble finding a decent man for marriage is asinine.
The acting is uninspiring. Patton is affable, but her character’s life is disorder on wheels. Luke is more than adequate as usual. Other characters are overplayed, stereotypical personas.
Based on director-writer David Talbert’s book, the story is untidy. It is a formulaic romance. The comedic moments are mild. The film just never hits its stride as either a comedy or romance.
Grade: C- (It contains plenty of baggage.)
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” (Animation/Comedy/Family: 1 hour, 35 minutes)
Starring Voices: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Terry Crews and James Caan
Directors: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
Rated: PG (Crude humor and violence)
Movie Review: This is sequel to 2009’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller). The film continues along the story. This outing, Flint Lockwood (Hader) goes searching for his incredible machine that produces any type of food from water. Lockwood is now working for the Live Corp Company, which is headed by his idol Chester V. (Forte). Live Corp assigns a new task. Flintwood must find his food-making machine that is still in operation on an island. The machine is creating ferocious food-animal hybrids that may pose a danger if they should ever leave the island. Flintwood, his father, Tim Lockwood (Caan), and several friends travel to the dangerous island to find the food-procreating machine.
“Cloudy 2” is more adventurous than its prequel, although it is not original on jokes. The film continually uses some jokes more than needed. A few times, the reused jokes work because repetition is part of the joke. Other times, the jokes are stale when reused and unoriginal.
This animated production scores points in that it tries to be as unique as its original. The attempt was nice. Instead, it is more adventurous. Audiences are treated to an engaging trip full of vibrant imagery. Charming visual effects should be enough to hold small fries’ attention, particularly if seen in 3-D.
Grade: B- (Chances are audiences will like it as much as its prequel.)
Note: Stay through the credits for one scene.
“Don Jon” (Comedy/Drama: 1 hour, 30 minutes)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Rated: R (Strong graphic sexual material and dialogue, nudity, profanity and drug use)
Movie Review: Write a screenplay about sex. Check. Become a director. Check. Cast yourself in the lead role. Check. Cast one of the hottest actresses to play your love interest. Check. Well-played Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
“Don Jon” is Gordon-Levitt’s first full-length feature for which he wrote the screenplay. He is a talented actor, as seen in “(500) Days of Summer” (2009) and “Inception” (2010). He is a smart director, too. This film is not bad for his first outing.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a New Jersey guy who loves a few things very much. Women, his family, time with the guys, his church, gym workouts and pornography are daily routines. He meets Barbara (Johansson) and falls in love. One day, she catches him watching porn. Their relationship changes as Jon searches for intimacy with Barbara that he has only found viewing porn.
An adults-only movie is the correct way to describe this sexual-laden screenplay. Scenes contain sexual moments or sexual overtones constantly. This movie is not about sex or pornography. It is a about a young man’s addiction to porn and his search to find intimacy outside of porn in a loving relationship. Along way, comedy is the treat for audiences with a heaping side of profanity.
Gordon-Levitt’s screenplay looks to make meaning out physical pleasure. It examines mental and emotional pleasures as rewarding phenomena, such as love and commitment. In this sense, “Don Jon” is mental floss for the complex social interactions of couples, both the primitive urges of attraction and deliberative reasoning.
While the film appears a piece about physical interactions, it is really an intellectual awakening of love, youth and the complexity of relationships. Gordon-Levitt takes what could have been brainless material and makes it entertaining cinema for those looking for something intriguing. This is really a thinking film cleverly disguised as comical material about sex.
Gordon-Levitt puts together a great cast. This is always a plus. He casts the beautiful Scarlett Johansson to play his girlfriend. He selected her for this part as director. Johansson works as his lover. Moore is charming here; independent films are her specialty. Glenne Headly, Gordon-Levitt’s mother, is captivating. And, a surprise is Tony Danza as Gordon-Levitt’s father. Danza makes his role substantially potent. He steals the scenes in which he is involved.
A splendid cast, very adult themes and some thoughtful dialogue are the ingredients for a good adult entertainment. “Don Jon” is not the film for everyone, but for those looking for something different this fall, it is for you.
Grade: B (Jon is a gratifying man.)
“Rush” (Sports Drama: 2 hours, 3 minutes)
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