Posts Tagged ‘levitt’

don-jon-

Jon (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a 20 something, single bartender, he likes to work out, he likes to go clubbing with his pals, Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) He drives a 1972 Chevy Chavelle, and works out regularly.  Jon lives with his parents Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) Angela (Glenne Headly) and his sister, Monica.(Brie Larson)  Jon goes to church regularly, he sleeps around nightly, and is obsessed with pornography.  He doesn’t think he’s going to settle down , but then he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and she is a 10 on his scale, and is everything he wants in a woman.

Barbara wants to meet his parents, she wants Jon to go to school to be better than a bartender, and he wants Jon to be exclusive to her.  He dutifully does all this, but can’t give up his porn addiction.  Barbara catches him one day, he gets out of it by saying one of his friends sent it to him one day, and swears to give it up, but doesn’t.

At his night class, Jon meets a quirky older woman, named Esther (Julianne Moore) and they strike up an unlikely friendship.    What does his porn addition do to his relationship with Barbara?  Does he confide his obsession to his new friend Esther?

I love this movie.  To most, it would seem like Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a stereotype. He plays a Guido, if you don’t know what that is Google it.  He’s a musclehead, he drives a fast car, he has a hot girlfriend. Jon should be happy, but he isn’t.  He doesn’t realize it, but he’s being used by Barbara, who just wants someone to manipulate.  He has a rationale for his addiction, so he doesn’t see it as a problem, but it increasingly takes over his life.

What I like about this movie is the complexity of the Jon character.  His life is a walking dichotomy; he is part altar boy and part playboy. Jon sleeps around, but he goes to church, he moves on to have a steady girlfriend, which to him means respectability, but he watches porn every day, which even he realizes is getting out of hand. This movie contains a lot of truths, about sex, love relationships and the destructiveness of pornography, namely the objectification of women.  Mainly, what this movie has going for it is, it’s damn funny.  Jon says the Lord’s Prayer while working out, his sister always has her face stuck in front of the phone, texting, and Jon’s Catholic Church confessions are laugh out loud funny.  There is a scene where Jon and Barbara are also having an argument about Swiffer pads that is classic comedic dialogue.  There’s also a fake movie with Ann Hathaway and Channing Tatum which is also hilarious. There is also a subtle commentary about the prevalence of scantily clad women in everyday mainstream culture, from fashion magazines to tv commercials. The relationship with Esther is a little far-fetched, but it works in the larger scheme of things.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays this character perfectly, the muscles the hair gel, the car, the women, the porn, all leads you to believe that he’s a jerk, but he’s really not.  He lives with his parents, he is a person of faith (however superficial that faith is) and he wants to settle down, he’s just not sure if Barbara is the right woman to settle down with.  He brings the perfect mixture of party boy player and sensitive guy looking for a deeper relationship to this role, with a perfect New Jersey accent, and perfect comedic timing.  Scarlett Johansson does a great job as a woman who knows what she wants, and knows how to get it.  She lays on the accent a little thick but gets the tone of the role down perfectly, she coos to Jon sweetly but she seeks to be a puppet master. Julianne Moore has gotten into a rut of playing these flighty older women , but in this movie, it works.  Great supporting performances by Tony Danza, Glenn Headly, Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke.

Congratulations to Levitt for writing and directing such a complex movie, including so many disparate topics, and making it funny to boot.  He’s got a bright career ahead of him.  The length was a perfect 90 minutes.  It’s not for kids, because of the preponderance of sex and pornography as a theme, but if you are an adult and don’t have an issue with those things, watch this movie.

Don Jon.  Dawn of a new kind of comedy.

Movie Review: Premium Rush (2012)

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Drama
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premium rush

Wilee (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a bike messenger in New York City.  He’s fighting with his girlfriend, Vanessa, (Dania Ramirez) who has started dating Wilee’s rival at the messenger company, Manny. (Wole Parks) Vanesss’s roommate Nima, (Jamie Chung) has given a lot of money to a Chinese gang, leader Mr. Leung (Henry O.)  who gives her a package that must be delivered to Sister Chen (Wai Chian Ho) in Chinatown by 6 P.M. that day.  Nima turns to Wilee to deliver the package.  He accepts the package, but suddenly his life is in danger, not only are Chinese gang member chasing  Wilee, but he is also being pursued by a crooked cop, Robert Monday (Michael Shannon ) and if that wasn’t bad enough, Manny steals the package because the boss of the messenger company Raj(Asif Mandvi) promises Manny more money for delivering Nima’s package.  Do Wilee and Vanessa get the package back?  Does Wilee eva detective Monday?  And does he deliver the package in time?

Premium Rush is not a good movie.  It tries very hard to be Fast and Furious on a ten speed bike, but bikes don’t really lend themselves to breakneck speed action movies.  What’s the audience for this?  Bike messengers?  Lance Armstrong?   The story is too simplistic, there is no real conflict, not enough of one anyway, the characters are morally opaque, neither too good or too bad, which doesn’t help the movie at all, but again it tries to take a page from the Fast and Furious genre of gray-area characters.  The casting, other than Levitt is multiculturalism run amok, there’s a black bike messenger, a Hispanic bike messenger, an Asian girl in trouble.  I’m very cynical of such Benneton or Abercrombie and Fitch casting because I can see producers saying, the Chinese girl will help us sell this movie in China, the black guy will get the black audience, the Hispanic girl will help in the US and South America, and so on.  This movie tries so hard to be hip, that it actually features a scene with a flash mob.  Flash mobs jumped the shark about two years ago, who thought this was a good idea?

Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I like, is stuck reading what sounds like a bunch of unrelated tag lines.  I don’t know why he accepted this movie, Looper, made around the same time, was a much better movie than this one.  Dania Ramirez and Jamie Chung were added to the cast to boost the testosterone levels of teenage guys in the audience, but show little in the way of acting skills, and as many edits as the director tries to make, the action still lags.

Premium Rush.  Don’t rush to watch it.

looper

It is the year 2044.  Time travel is not possible, but it will be in 30 years.  What’s left of America is a dystopian society, filled with vagrants and guns.  Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a looper, a futuristic bounty hunter, who kills criminals coming back from the year 2074.  Abe (Jeff Daniels) who employs Joe and other loopers ensures that the loopers only work for 30 years.  Loopers have to kill their older selves when coming back after 30 years, that’s called closing the loop.  Joe has a chance to kill older Joe (Bruce Willis) but doesn’t do it.  Older Joe has moved to Shanghai, gotten married to a woman, (Qing Xu) and is quite happy and wants to stay alive.

Old Joe gives Joe a map with three names, the looper program has been taken over by a man named the Rainmaker, who is involved in mass killing of vagrants and closing all the loops.  Old Joe asks Joe to kill the Rainmaker before he grows up to kill masses of people.  Joe lands in Kansas, one of the locations where the Rainmaker may be.  Joe’s being chased by a looper named Kid Blue (Noah Segan) and fighting withdrawal symptoms from a drug addiction. Joe is taken in by Sara (Emily Blunt) who is a single mother, raising her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) Does Joe find the Rainmaker?  Does Joe kill the Rainmaker before Old Joe comes to Kansas and does it?

This is an excellent movie, it has a Blade Runner vibe, especially the city scenes, minus the robots.  There are several ethical/moral  issues, which the older Joe doesn’t seem to have a problem with resolving, but at least Joe struggles with it.  But it’s Old Joe’s savagery to stay alive, that adds plausibility to the story.  This is a very violent movie, on par with The Matrix, I wasn’t quite prepared for the violence, but it does stay within the bounds of time travel, as defined by Back To The Future in regards to the time space continuum.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is very good indeed, he gets Bruce Wills’ facial expressions and vocal inflections right, so he does actually look and sound like a young Bruce Willis.  Bruce Willis does a decent job with a deep multi-dimensional role, that he really sinks his teeth into.  Emily Blunt is very good as the tough mother with a tender spot for her son. She’s trying to raise a son in an obviously bloodthirsty world.  The only character I didn’t care for was Piper Perabo’s ubiquitous prostitute character, why oh why does Hollywood insist on a prostitute in every movie?  Is it really necessary?  I say not in this movie, or most Hollywood movies, but yet the trend continues.

Looper is directed by Rian Wilson who has written the Brothers Bloom, which was ok, but not as good as this.  The movie feels a little long at times, some of the scenes should have been shorter, but  the action combine with the concepts presented, make this an excellent film.

Looper.   I was thrown for a loop, you should be too.

Movie Review: Hesher (2010)

Posted: March 2, 2013 in Drama
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hesher

A 13 year old boy named TJ (Devin Brochu) has just lost his mom ((Monica Skaggs) in an auto accident.  TJ now lives with his devastated father, Paul, (Rainn Wilson) and his sweet as pie grandmother.  (Piper Laurie) TJ gets bulled by a kid named Dustin (Brendon Hill) in school.  As if that’s not bad enough, TJ earns the ire of a headbanger named Hesher, (Joseph Gordon Levitt) by breaking a window in his house.  Hesher subsequently threatens to kill TJ and somehow moves in with TJ’s dad and grandma.  TJ  meets Nicole (Natalie Portman) when she breaks up a fight between TJ and Dustin.  Nicole works in a  supermarket, and TJ brings her an ice-cream to thank her for saving him.  Hesher meets Nicole when she gets into a car accident, and Hesher gets her out a ticket by acting like a raving lunatic.

TJ wants to buy his father’s car, the one that was wrecked in the accident that killed his mother, but the used car dealer won’t sell it to him.  So he takes the 1,800 dollars he got from stealing his father’s ATM card and plans to bring it to Nicole’s house.  TJ has a schoolboy crush on Nicole.  But TJ sees something when he goes to Nicole’s apartment that makes him run away in an angry fit.  What does he witness?

I did not like Hesher, because it is in no way grounded in reality.  No father would let a heavy metal stoner guy into his house, and let that guy take over the house, no matter how catatonic with grief he is.  No grandmother would let a stranger into the house, and serve him dinner, no matter how sweet she is.  Hesher is an unrelentingly depressing story that never lets the poor 13 year old protagonist have a moment of happiness, every dream is crushed, every happiness is dashed.  Everyone has problems, every life is full of them, we go to movies to escape our problems, and let a little light shine through.  But no light shines through this dreary tale. Draw the curtains and let the depression wash over you, that’s what this movie does, wallow in its own self-pity.   There are laughs, but they are the cringe-worthy inappropriate type of laughs, and there weren’t enough of those to sustain this movie.

The writing for this movie is poor. The main character is a heavy metal guy, and he’s a pot smoker and he’s angry.  That is a very superficial portrait of a person who likes heavy metal music.  That’s a stereotype, no different than any other stereotype.  Why is Hesher so angry?  What was his childhood like?  How about some insight into what causes him to be the way he is?  Unless the writer believes that all metalheads are angry rebellious youth who drink and use drugs.  That is the epitome of a stereotype.

I like Joseph Gordon Levitt, a lot.  I like Natalie Portman a lot, I like Rainn Wilson a lot.  I’m old enough to remember Piper Laurie from Carrie.  So why don’t I like this movie a lot?  The writing constricts these great actors into such a tight shoebox hat their characters never grow.  Levitt can’t show the least bit of humanity, because he’s Angry Unpredictable Stoner Guy.  Natalie Portman looks like a librarian in training with her frumpy clothes and oversized glasses.  Rainn Wilson is not the edgy Dwight Shrute from The Office, he is the ineffectual father, so neutered by grief that he can’t kick a bad and possibly dangerous influence on his son, out of his mother’s house.  Piper Laurie is so sweet, she can’t possibly have a suspicious thought about Hesher. The writing leaves these actors stranded.

Hesher.  Mega-death.

Tom (Levitt) works in a greeting card company, he really wants to be an architect.  Tom also believes that he is destined to meet “The One”, the girl whose love will change his life forever.  Summer (Deschanel) is the new assistant at Tom’s company.  She doesn’t believe in love, and doesn’t want a boyfriend.  Through a mutual love of the Smiths, and a chance meeting at a karaoke bar, Tom and Summer start to live together.  Tom is over the moon in love with Summer, Summer on the other hand, has mixed feelings at best.  Summer starts to tell him her dreams, and sleeps with him, but insists they are just friends and not boyfriend and girlfriend.  They fight, they make up, and finally they break up.  Tom wants desperately to win Summer back?  Will he get his chance at a former co-worker’s wedding?

I did not like this movie.  Let me count the ways that this movie seemed like amateur hour to me as far as moviemaking goes.  The first thing the viewers hear is a voiceover.  That means someone is going to explain the movie to me, how wonderful.  Secondly, Tom has a sister, who’s about 12, who gives him relationship advice.  I hate when moviemakers make children wise beyond their years.  Kids don’t know anything about adult relationships.  Third, Tom’s friend says to Summer, “Tom likes you.”  I felt like I was in the 5th grade.  Fourth, things just happen out of the blue, to bring these two together and then make them fight or break them up.  A guy hits on Summer at a bar, Tom hits him, Summer isn’t happy at Tom’s display of over protectiveness, they fight, they make up.  Then Tom randomly meets Summer on a train when they are both going to the same wedding, that would never happen in real life, but it does in this movie to move the plot along.  Also, if people fight this much when they’re dating, it just gets worse if they ever get married, trust me. Yet Tom holds out hope.  And for all the talk of honesty in this movie, no one is honest to anyone.  Tom is not honest to Summer about his love for Summer, Summer is not honest about her feelings or lack thereof for Tom.  The mood of this movie is downright glum at times, that makes it hardly enjoyable.  The ending seems tacked on and phony, which makes all the talk about honesty all the more disingenuous.

I like Zooey Deschanel, but in this movie she was a little too downcast, a little too unlikable.  Joseph Gordon Levitt deserves better than this clunky romance.  I still remember him as Tommy on 3rd Rock From The Sun.  He was an endearing kid on tv then, he’s an annoying young adult here.

500 Days of Summer.  Headed for a fall.

50-50Image

Adam (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) is a 27 year old writer at a radio station.  His best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogan) also works at the radio station.  Adam has an artist girlfriend named Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is flighty and non-attentive, and a  mother (Angelica Huston) who smothers him.  Adam’s father has Alzheimer’s disease.  Adam feels some pain in his back, he goes to the doctor and finds out he has a rare form of spinal cancer.  After being shocked initially, Adam goes through chemotherapy and befriends two cancer patients, Mitch (Matt Frewer) and Alan (Phillip Baker Hall) Rachel stays with Adam, but it’s out of a sense of pity, or duty, or some other misguided reason.  The relationship doesn’t last, though because Kyle sees Rachel kissing another artist at her art show debut. Adam tries to forget Rachel by sleeping with a girl from a club, but his back hurts too much to enjoy the lovemaking.  Adam’s life is not going well, to say the least, Kyle tries to help, the only way he knows how, by introducing Adam to girls, Adam’s mother continues to smother him, and his therapist,  Katherine, (Anna Kendrick) who should be helping Adam, is awkward and inexperienced.  To make matters worse, Adam hears from the doctor that the chemo hasn’t worked, and he needs an operation to remove the tumor, and if that doesn’t work, he’s out of options. What happens next?

I like this movie, because despite the devastating topic, it’s treated with maturity and more importantly with humor.  Nobody wants to see a pity party here, and we don’t get one.  Writer Will Reiser keeps the jokes and the pop culture references coming fast and furious.  We see Adam’s pain, but he handles it with stoicism , and it seems totally natural.  The ending is disappointing, but the writer painted himself into a corner, so that no matter which ending he chose, someone in the audience would have been disappointed.  The acting is great.  Joseph Gordon Leavitt is superb, he’s just a very likable guy, and he plays his role as a cancer sufferer with an understated dignity.  Seth Rogan is Seth Rogan, slightly less irritating than usual, providing lots of laugh, despite playing the same character in every movie.  I liked Bryce Dallas Howard, I know she was supposed to be a superficial airhead, but I can’t see her as an evil person.  Anna Kendrick feels oddly out of place, here, she plays the role as if she’s 12, and it makes for lots of awkwardness, and no chemistry with Leavitt.  Angelica Huston gives the mother a heart, even though her character is not given a lot to work with.

50/50.  100% good.