Movie reviews: Spring Break movie binge

I went on a serious movie binge during Spring Break this past April, watching six films in eight days. I missed one night to attend a friend’s birthday party and one night to watch Kentucky beat Kansas in this year’s college basketball championship game. But I dedicated the rest of my evenings to movies. Here are some short reviews:

Directed by:
Jonathan Levine
Format: DVD from Redbox
Viewed: Thursday 4/05/2012 by myself at home
Seth Rogen always equals “dude flick.” But I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt a lot, and I’m happy that I gave this little film about a young man trying to beat cancer a chance. While the overall plot was predictable, I felt unexpectedly moved by the many gestures of true friendship between the two stars. And several sequences between Gordon-Levitt and his mom, played by Anjelica Huston, broke my heart with their quietness.

“Casa de Mi Padre”
Directed by:
Matt Piedmont
Format: Big screen
Viewed: Tuesday 4/03/2012 with my wife at the Regal Manchester
Will Ferrell movies usually mean brain candy, and this one is no exception. I would describe “Casa de Mi Padre” as a shameless mashup of every B-movie western you’ve ever seen. But this version adds indie-style sequences that intentionally linger way too long, deliberate editing mistakes designed as punch lines, a bizarre apology involving an animatronic white tiger, and an extended homage to “Scarface” that truly baffled me.

Directed by:
Nicolas Winding Refn
Format: DVD from Redbox
Viewed: Sunday 4/01/2012 with my wife at home
I’ve seen “Lars and the Real Girl” and I know the Internet memes, but I don’t know a lot about Ryan Gosling. So I decided to see what the hubbub was about and watch “Drive,” where Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman and getaway driver who becomes an unlikely killing machine. While it wasn’t my usual type of film, I appreciated the filmmaking and the ambiguous storylines. Plus, my wife and I enjoyed spotting “Hey, girl” moments throughout.

“Exporting Raymond”
Directed by:
Philip Rosenthal
Format: DVD from Redbox
Viewed: Wednesday 4/04/2012 by myself at home
I’m not a big sitcom watcher, and I’ve never seen a full episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” But this documentary about the writer of the hit U.S. TV show traveling to Russia to oversee the making of an international spinoff resulted in many painfully awkward moments. The writer’s eccentricities and anxieties are hard to love, but any movie like this one about small moments of real cultural understanding are ultimately essential.

“Take Shelter”
Directed by:
Jeff Nichols
Format: DVD from Redbox
Viewed: Friday 4/06/2012 with my wife at home
My wife and I missed seeing this highly acclaimed drama when Fresno Filmworks screened it late last year, so we were happy to see it available through Redbox. Michael Shannon plays a small-town father with a growing mental illness quite flawlessly. But we were most taken with the performance of Jessica Chastain as his wife, as she delivers a portrait of marital strength and fortitude unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time.

“The Rum Diary”
Directed by:
Bruce Robinson
Format: DVD from Redbox
Viewed: Friday 3/30/2012 with my wife at home
I’ve always thought that Johnny Depp plays Hunter Thompson better than Hunter Thompson ever played Hunter Thompson. So even though “The Rum Diary” is an uneven and under-developed movie to go with the uneven and under-developed script from Thompson’s early unpublished novel, I didn’t mind. Watching Johnny Depp romp through 1950s Puerto Rico as a drug-addled “journalist” was well worth it.

2 thoughts on “Movie reviews: Spring Break movie binge

  1. I liked 50/50, too. I was afraid to see it at first, because my mom recently went through a bout of cancer, and my grandmother died from it. I hate cancer and illness movies in general! But that odd mix of funny and sad was just right– predictable but honest.

  2. Hey Mr.Beavers! Nice Reviews. I too recently watched Drive and I must say it had a good soudtrack. (from a past student at College of the Sequoias)

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