Posted tagged ‘film’

The Wizard of Lies HBO Review

June 29, 2017


Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) puts forth an impressive and thrilling story in this recent HBO original drama film The Wizard of Lies, which tells the true story of the aftermath of Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro)’s infamous Ponzi scheme.

De Niro is perfectly cast as the slimy Madoff, in a role that will likely earn him an Emmy nomination (if not a win). The film introduces his character already locked in prison for his crime.

Here we see a New York Times reporter interviewing Madoff about the events surrounding his scheme. This serves as a framing device for the non-linear story which they present through flashbacks.

Levinson presents the story here quite well.. The film goes all out with the realism by using actual archive footage of TV journalists and comedians reporting and commenting on Madoff’s pyramid scheme.


A little later, we get to see a bit of Madoff’s extravagant lifestyle before he got caught. We see him as the kind of person who views himself as superior to others. The thing is, at times, the film attempts to portray him as somewhat sympathetically.

It’s similar to 2015’s The Big Short where they try to portray it like he didn’t really know what he was doing and how much harm it would cause. It was effective in that film and it works pretty well here too.

Then about half-way through the film, we get a particularly emotional scene where something big happens. This scene is expertly elevated by its use of ironic music. This is easily the strongest part in the movie. Speaking of music, Levinson makes good use of an intense score coming from composers Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.

There’s a lot of powerful, well-directed, well-filmed and well-acted scenes here that make this TV film a real treat to watch. For instance, one clever scene a little later into the film uses drums to play with diegetic vs. non-diegetic music.

Overall, this movie is definitely worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. It gets an 8.5 out 10.


‘The Do-Over’ – Sandler Netflix Insanity

June 4, 2016

Adam Sandler’s The Do-Over is a really weird movie. Yeah, I didn’t exactly know what to expect going into this one considering that I knew absolutely nothing about the plot. But after watching it, I would say that it’s … average … I think?

Our protagonist here is Charlie (David Spade), an ordinary guy who hates his life. But things start to change for Charlie when he attends his high school reunion and runs into his old friend Max (Sandler). Max appears to have the life that Charlie has always wanted. So Charlie agrees to go away with Max for a weekend that soon turns into an unexpected adventure.


It turns out, Max had a secret motive behind the duo’s weekend away. In an actually somewhat interesting and unique premise, Max’s plan was to fake both of their deaths so the two of them could both start completely new lives while taking on the identities of two recently deceased men. But without giving too much away, this quickly ends up becoming much more than they bargained for.

This scenario in the first half of this movie is enjoyable partly as a “what if?’ sort of thing. It makes you wonder what you’d do in these characters’ situations. Would you ever be willing to just completely start your life over? How bad would your life have to get before you were willing to that? And yes, I am in fact suggesting that an Adam Sandler comedy got me to think about complex and depressing issues. I’m just as surprised as you are.

That’s another problem. This movie just wasn’t really all that funny for the most part (and yes, a lot of the time, it was trying to be). The humor seemed to more revolve around the characters getting into crazy situations. And that’s not automatically going to be funny. It still has to be written in a clever way. And the comedy in this movie wasn’t really that clever.

I’m not exactly sure what to think of this movie overall. Would I recommend it? Not really. But can I at least appreciate it a little bit for its ambition? I guess. I’m giving it a 5 out of 10.

‘Kung Fury’ – Entertaining Parody Short Film

January 13, 2016


Hey Seltzer and Friedberg, before you make your next parody film, sit down and give this one a watch. You might learn a few things.

So Kung Fury is a 2015 independent half-hour film about a cop of the same name. The purpose of this film is to parody 1980s cop movies. In fact, the film’s short runtime was probably one of the best choices the filmmakers made considering that I’m not even sure that they had enough good jokes to fill up 30 minutes, let alone an hour and a half.

Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a funny movie, and one of the more refreshing spoof movies I’ve seen recently. But if I had one criticism to make of it, it’s that it didn’t quite reach the level of nonstop hilarity that it could have in my opinion.

But anyway, why exactly does this short film work as a parody? Well for one thing, it does a very good job at mimicking the style of these ’80s actions movies. It’s cheesy. It’s silly. And it looks like it was filmed with a potato. What more could you ask for? Actually, if you didn’t know going in, you might even think that this was an actual action film from the 1980s.

But in addition to mimicking the style of these movies, Kung Fury also does a fine job with exaggerating the tropes of ’80s action films to an absolutely absurd and at times hysterical degree. For instance, early in the film, they utilize the cliché of giving the cop a partner against his wishes. But for absolutely no reason at all, they give Kung Fury’s partner the head of a triceratops. And it’s just so dumb and random that you can’t help but laugh at it.

Kung Fury also succeeds at general comedy. Firstly, the premise itself is pretty funny. Kung Fury has to go back in time to kill Adolf Hitler as part of his mission. And I’m not entirely sure why. But I think that adds to the humor. There’s also a lot of very funny dialogue. Put all of that together, and it makes for a pretty enjoyable experience.

So overall, I give Kung Fury a 7.5 out of 10. I suggest checking this one out, either on YouTube, or here on Netflix.

‘The Ridiculous 6’ – Sandler Netflix Mediocrity

December 29, 2015


By John D’Amico

I can’t say I really hated this film. In fact, I wouldn’t even really call it bad. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one did well at the Razzie Awards this year. Just saying.

‘The Ridiculous 6’ is a comedy western starring Adam Sandler as Tommy aka “The White Knife,” who one day has to go on a mission to save his deadbeat father (Nick Nolte). Along the way, he meets his five half-brothers who decide to go on the mission along with him.

One of the first things that struck me about this movie was how seriously it was taking itself in the first fourth of the plot. The amount of jokes in this portion of the movie were pretty minimal. At the same time, it didn’t feel like the it was going for straight-up drama either because of the typical Sandler-esque humor sprinkled throughout. I’m not even sure if I’d necessarily call this a bad thing. But it just kind of left me scratching my head.


But in spite of this peculiar start, the rest of movie is pretty much the comedy that I expected going in. So how was the comedy you might be wondering? Well, it could have been better to be honest. We get some annoying characters like Taylor Lautner as one of Tommy’s half-brothers, some disturbing humor like an accidental decapitation, and some gross-out comedy that I’d prefer not to describe.

But sprinkled throughout the film, there definitely were some jokes that got some genuine laughs out of me. For instance, shortly after the introduction of Terry Crews’ character Chico (one of Tommy’s brothers), Chico makes the decision to confess to his newly found half-brothers that he is in fact a black man.

There’s also a really clever scene where the brothers meet Civil War general Abner Doubleday (played by John Turturro), and take part of the first ever game of baseball. And just for the record, Doubleday didn’t really invent the game, but I’m willing to let that slide considering how well-written this scene was.

Overall, ‘The Ridiculous 6’ wasn’t a bad movie in my opinion. But I didn’t really like it either. It was just kind of meh. I give a 5.5 out of 10.

If you’re interested, you can stream the film here.

A Separation Movie Review

January 29, 2012

“A Separation” is the Oscar-nominated Iranian film from writer-director Asghar Farhadi. It tells the story of a married couple going through a divorce. But they soon go through a tragedy that could end up ruining their lives.

I’m pretty sure that if I had the opportunity to see this movie earlier, it would have definitely made it into my top 10 of the year list.

“A Separation” is a film that really keeps your attention all of the way through. There were very few moments during where I got bored.

“A Separation” was nominated for two Academy Awards this past Tuesday in the categories of Best Foreign-Language and Best Original Screenplay. And in my opinion both nominations were well-deserved.

I wanted to address something. It’s not really about this film specifically, but more films in general. A lot of people are turned off by the idea of subtitled films. And at first I was nervous about it too. But when I gave it try I found that it really wasn’t so difficult. I’m not saying that it’s not a challenge at all, but it’s really not as bad as you might think.

I don’t really have too much to say about this one, so I’ll end with saying that it’s definitely a film that I recommend to anyone who wants to see an interesting, well-made piece of cinema.

I give “A Separation” an 8.5/10.

By: John D’Amico

2012 Academy Awards Nominee Predictions

January 22, 2012

Best Picture: The Artist, The Descendants, Drive, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Best Director: Michael Hazanavicius-The Artist, Terrence Malick-The Tree of Life, Alexander Payne-The Descendants, Martin Scorsese-Hugo, Steven Spielberg-War Horse

Best Actor: George Clooney-The Descendants, Leonardo DiCaprio-J. Edgar, Jean Dujardin-The Artist, Michael Fassbender-Shame, Brad Pitt-Moneyball

Best Actress: Glenn Close-Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis-The Help, Meryl Streep-The Iron Lady, Tilda Swinton-We Need to Talk About Kevin, Michelle Williams-My Week with Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor: Kenneth Branaugh-My Week with Marilyn, Albert Brooks-Drive, Jonah Hill-Moneyball, Nick Nolte-Warrior, Christopher Plummer-Beginners

Best Supporting Actress: Berenice Bejo-The Artist, Jessica Chastain-The Help, Janet McTeer-Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer-The Help, Shailene Woodley-The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen-Midnight in Paris, Diablo Cody-Young Adult, Michael Hanazavicius-The Artist, Terrence Malick-The Tree of Life, Will Reiser-50/50

Best Adapted Screenplay: Lee Hall and Richard Curtis-War Horse, John Logan-Hugo, Alexander Payne-The Descendants, Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zailan-Moneyball, Tate Taylor-The Help

Best Animated Feature: Arthur Christmas, The Adventures of Tintin, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, Winnie the Pooh

Best Foreign-Language Film: Footnote, In Darkness, Monsieur Lazhar, Pina, A Separation

The 2011 JohnJamesDAmico Awards

January 20, 2012

These are the nominees for the first ever JohnJamesDAmico Awards. The winners are in bold.

• Best Picture: The Artist, Beginners, Cedar Rapids, Drive, The Ides of March, Midnight in Paris, The Muppets, Super 8, Source Code, The Skin I Live In

• Best Director: JJ Abrams-Super 8, Pedro Almodovar-The Skin I Live In, Michael Hazanavicius-The Artist, Mike Mills-Beginners, Nicholas Winding Refn-Drive

• Best Actor: Jean Dujardin-The Artist, Ryan Gosling-Drive, Ryan Gosling-The Ides of March, Jake Gyllenhaal-Source Code, Owen Wilson-Midnight in Paris

• Best Actress: Viola Davis-The Help, Britt Marling-Another Earth, Michelle Monaghan-Source Code, Amy Ryan-Win Win, Emma Stone-The Help

• Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks-Drive, Bryan Cranston-Drive, Jonah Hill-Moneyball, John Lithgow-Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Michael Parks-Red State

• Best Supporting Actress: Berenice Bejo-The Artist, Jessica Chastain-Take Shelter, Anne Heche-Cedar Rapids, Elle Fanning-Super 8, Ellen Page-Super

• Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen-Midnight in Paris, JJ Abrams-Super 8, Michael Hazanavicius-The Artist, Phil Johnston-Cedar Rapids, Mike Mills-Beginners

• Best Adapted Screenplay: Pedro Almodovar-The Skin I Live In, Hossein Amini-Drive, Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller-The Muppets, Steve Zailan and Aaron Sorkin-Moneyball

By: John D’Amico

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