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Film Reviews

Not known for coming out with multiple reviews on the same date in the past, due to some recent cramming sessions and the fact that no less than four major films were slated for release this week on the Indie and Widescreen circuits, 24/7 has compiled a short round up of reviews over Spring Breakers, Ginger & Rosa, Olympus Has Fallen and Admission to give you a good indicator on what you can catch over the weekend while we are all waiting for Mother Nature to wake up from Old Man Winter’s spell.

Photo 1Written and directed by Harmony Korine
Director of photography by Benoît Debie
Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes.
Principle Cast:  Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco and Gucci Mane
Spring Breakers: Kids’ writer sprays a visually appealing tale of high energy and repetition but little else

To set the scene, we have four college-bored coeds who are money-strapped and itching to get out of their daily-drolled lives as students. The plan is to head South to Florida for Spring Break and live it up, but with little-to-no money under the mattress, the possibilities of getting any Vitamin D is a fading notion. As time creeps along in lecture halls and dorm rooms, our ladies devise a plan on how to earn their tickets to freedom by robbing a local diner clad in ski masks with water pistols and mallets. With funds in tow and having hopped a bus, the four start to live it up in St. Petersberg, only to have their dreams dashed once again by getting arrested for attending a local party. While most marketing details that this is where the story ends – it’s only beginning…

As a word to the wise, please don’t think that your initial idea of what Spring Breakers is will be pulled from the initial trailer. Yes, you’re going to get a dark and entertaining film for roughly 90 min and viewers will be pleased to see that the consummate Benoit Debie (Enter the Void) has continued  to carry over appealing and engrossing visuals to add texture to this tale. But audiences will find that materials and substance along the lines of aTraffic are missed for something more akin to a Skrillex music video.

Spring Breakers also isn’t a movie you should go into looking for character development. The actresses in Spring Breakers are fully adequate to fulfill out this film along with their bikinis but the best performance in the film is from James Franco (no surprise there) who carries a Cheshire Cat like sneer and snake-like swagger like a badge of honor.

Spring Breakers has captured a time and place and once this shell is cracked the film then becomes more of the same – over and over again.  Korine implores a use of repetition in Spring Breakers by re-telling scenes using different angles/sound effects/transitions, several times over. While the technique can be a little overdone at times it also combines a wonderfully splashy visual sense of cinematography and color similar to 2011’s Drive with realism to time/place and for that you have a film which is built  actually like Spring Break – loud, lively, non-stop and  memorable for the story’s you can tell your friends but something you probably will only try once.

See the full review HERE


Photo 2Written and directed by Sally Potter
Director of photography by Robbie Ryan
Rated as PG-13
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Principle Cast: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Jodhi May and Annette Bening

Ginger & Rosa is a moving coming-of-age tale with a new head-turning performances

The reserved and earnest Ginger (portrayed splendidly by Elle Fanning) is raised by her mother (Christina Hendricks) and selfish father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a challenging and bohemian activist – one who has served jail time for refusing military servicing. As the days grow in the house, so does the tension between Natalie and Roland much to Ginger’s unwanted advances and interjections. To help distract and ease the pain from the house is the fatherless Rosa (honesty shown by the first-timer Alice Englert),whose home life has been centered by her withdrawn and mostly-absent Mother. As teenagers are prone to do, Ginger and Rosa spend every waking moment together engaged in authoritative and outrageous behavior – flirting with boys, skipping school, arguments with the parents and ultimately trying to find their place in the World. As such, the girls begin to search their separate ways – Rosa, seeking to fill the void of her absentee father, chooses the opposite sex and the appeal for physical connection, while Ginger would prefer to put her head into books, taking up poetry-writing and saving the World by marching to ban the bomb. As both girls continue to mature into their personalities and sexualities, their lives lead each to explore uncharted territories in the most uncomfortable of places imaginable for a teen – alone.

Potter has done a wonderful job in molding a foundation in which to push compact and deep information without ever seeming stuffy. Scenes and visuals are nicely drawn together by inter-splicing newsreel footage, background scoring and overall location-setting to help fill in gaps in time and place, while then focusing on character growth and interactions taking place in the forefront of a scene. Overall Ginger & Risa is plotted with well worded and acted principle characters but obvious that effort was all used up prior to getting to its side acts. Proving that emotions can be dispensed with the ease and quickness of a card dealer, Elle Fanning’s precision makes one forget any downfalls there may be in other areas of the film, while Alessndro Nivola gives a caustically hedonistic turn in Roland. The performance is so good that you wish you slap Roland in the face but then apologize and give an offer of a drink after.

As a cinematic and visually realized world of heightened insecurities and an earnest unveiling of juvenile life through mature eyes; Ginger & Rosa deftly strikes the iron head-on as it proves a combination of sweet tones while manifesting a lesson that product is about the environment its born in. This film isn’t without flaws but for the ones that stick out, they are minimal compared to the storytelling taking place. Be sure to catch this film where you can – while it has distribution and some names attached, it probably isn’t going to get past the Art House venues.

Fresh Roasted Rating: A
See the full review HERE


Photo 3 Olympus Has Fallen  

Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Screenplay by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt
Director of photography by Conrad W. Hall
Distribution by Film District.
Film Rating: R
Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes.
Principle Cast: Gerard Butler , Aaron Eckhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd

Pro-American Survival with Artistic Consequences

The poster art for Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t really contain any spoilers for anyone – in fact its going to set up everything you need to know about the action film. In saying this and taking a look at the artwork, one knows the White House will be damaged, the American flag will blow in the breeze and Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman will try and defend the blazoned house on Capital Hill. That’s it….no, really….you’ve just seen Olympus Has Fallen.

Mike Banning, a former Secret Service agent from the President’s detail spends his current days tortured behind a desk, deep within the US Treasury Department. During a massively-coordinated attack on Capital Hills, a militant group of Koreans turn the White House (or rather Whitehouse as the films’ news reports place the name) and it’s surrounding to rumble while taking essentially ever cabinet and staff member hostage in a secret bunker to which Banning hops back into the driver seat to help save the country – perhaps the World from sudden upheaval.

In viewing Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day) newest film, the obvious reference will be called out like cannon fire: Die Hard. There will be no bigger comparison and its justifiably so. From the minute the opening credits role and our Gerard Butler comes into frame,Olympus Has Fallen could almost be the 2013 remake of Die Hard – if the original series hadn’t already come out with another installment earlier this year. The storyline unabashedly takes its lead from not only the mega-smash hit 90 action franchise  film so well that at times, I found myself wondering if this was a teaser for Fuqua to submit himself to the next project in the franchise that made Bruce Willis a houses hold name. Additionally (as if Die Hard wasn’t enough) OHF subjects audiences to overly-amped, American-prided salutes from Red Dawn, nuclear threat from a Dr. Strangelove or even redemptive service from In The Line of Fire – viewers never get a sense that Olympus Has Fallen is an homage to any of these films but that we should take it strictly as original material.

Artistically, Olympus is a head-shake of curiosity. For a reported $130 Million dollars, the viewer can easily be lost as to where all of the money went. CGI and set pieces have been slap-dashed together to make something viewable not believable; Sound design and blood work were appreciated however because if you are going to have an action movie tribute – you might as well go big or go home. The actors in the film – all very great in talent and very well known,  are competent and enjoyable while handling their various roles, but aside from Morgan Freeman – no actors will be using this film as a stepping stone.

The ideas and issues placed on screen in Antoine Fuqua’s newest film are simultaneously outrageous and unnerving with the recent heightened awareness of nuclear discussions in amongst the Koreas. Unfortunately the more unnerving issue aspect of Olympus Has Fallen will be its widescreen release this weekend to an audience that may be seeking a smart, well-executed and precisely-acted political-action film; instead viewers will be handed a loudly, over-blown and unoriginal Pro-American film that takes itself way too seriously. Olympus Has Fallen may be just the thing to help people forget that Spring is officially here but they have to put their parkas on to still get to the theater.

Fresh Roasted Reaction: C –
See the full review HERE


Photo 4Admission
Directed by Paul Weitz
Screenplay by Karen Croner
Director of Photography by Declan Quinn
Distributed by Focus Features
Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes.
Principle Cast: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Wallace Shawn, Nat Wolff), Gloria Reuben, Travaris Spears, Sonya Walger and Lily Tomlin

Subdued comedy that classifies itself as Undeclared

Getting into an elite school of any kind is especially difficult in this day and age, but trying to get into an elitist college can be next to impossible – the only way to conquer the status hurdles is to overachieve. Unfortunately, Admission does little else but skate by on good looks (mostly provided by Paul Rudd) and first time impressions, leading to a bland but passable, one-time-viewer Rom-Com.

Portia Nathan lives a nice little life with her English professor boyfriend Mark, and her job as the Admissions officer at Princeton. Out of nowhere Portia’s world begins to fall apart when Mark cuts ties and runs from the relationship just as admissions season begins to ramp up.  To take solace, Portia turns to her dedication to work and her New-Age, Feministic mother (Lily Tomlin) for some healing before embarking on her  annual recruiting trip to regional schools.  Only finding tough love from her mom and now out of the City and visiting Quest, a new alternative high school, Portia runs into an old classmate – John Pressman (Paul Rudd),  who is looking to get his prize student Jeremiah (intelligently painted by Nat Wolff) into a top school, and will do just about anything to make it happen.

Adapted by Karen Croner from the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission is a clever take on an unseen side of the traditional college tale. Instead of focusing on student life and the regular party stories – we are given a story with circumstances from behind one of the premier universities in America, Princeton. It is through these doors that the real issue withAdmission (just like the History lessons being taught in the halls) begins – we are given a fine story, its just that its lacking pull and attention. Ultimately Admission doesn’t know what it wants to be in the end – Rom-Com, life lessons, to thine own self be true, ambition, behind-the-scenes, parent/child relationships, the uncovering of American University education – these are all topics and themes covered in Admission and yes, its a lot to take in so at the end of it all Admission could have ended up being a mess or incredibly farcical but instead it just becomes a wash.

One would think from a film which includes the actor who coined “slapping’ the bass”, the actress who got away with Lemonisms like “blurg” and all set in a college location that Admission would be over-the-top. Truth is, the film is subdued but still pleasant and laughable. While both leads are thoroughly enjoyable to watch together with a naturally unbalanced chemistry, individually the characters just aren’t strong enough for audiences to want to root for either in the end. As a director with a track record for being under-rated, Paul Weitz has delivered a bland picture with an occasional enforcement of thoughtful conventions such as a humour applicant review/rejection process. I Admission will be fine viewing fare (esp. geared for an intimate VOD setting) but if you want something similar and with a bit more substance check out 2012 Liberal Arts or Weitz’s much stronger About A Boy. 

Fresh Roasted Rating: B

~ Matt Miles, Producer of Fresh Roasted Films 

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