The cast of Perfected Love, along with writer/director Takelia Day, will grace the red carpet for this Vonshay Exclusive film premiere! Be the first to witness local actors and actresses on the big screen here in Dayton, Ohio. The night is sure to come to a perfect ending with you in attendance….
@ The Neon
March 11, 2011
Ed Helms (The Hangover, The Office) somehow summons a more naive and innocent Andy Bernard in his portrayal of Tim Lippe in Cedar Rapids. Lippe is a trustworthy, small town insurance salesman whose lifetime of honesty and insurance adjusting has culminated in a dream assignment, a trip to the ASMI insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lippe’s task while in Cedar Rapids is to take home the coveted “2 Diamond” insurance award which goes to the agency that most closely sells insurance the way God would.
Lippe quickly learns during his first trip to the convention that Cedar Rapids is full of distractions that will not allow him to concentrate solely on the 2 Diamond award. The convention is an eye opening experience, as the very green Lippe encounters many insurance agents who view Cedar Rapids as a sort of Hedonism of the Midwest. One such agent, Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), Lippe has been expressly instructed to avoid. Of course, Lippe winds up sharing a room with Ziegler and discovers that avoiding him is impossible. Reilly’s Ziegler is a combination of every alcoholic blowhard you’ve ever encountered. Loud, obnoxious and frequently hilarious.
Spellbound by Ziegler, a morally ambiguous love interest named Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), and the lure of alcohol, drugs and sex that are readily available at the convention hotel, the impressionable Lippe loses sight of his task and allows himself to be consumed by Cedar Rapids the way a 21-year-old might react to seeing Vegas for the first time. Between Ziegler pressuring the group to let loose and their other roommate Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) serving as a voice of reason, Lippe humorously bounces back and forth between uncharacteristic debauchery and adhering to his nerdy, insurance-centric persona.
An 80 minute conversation between Ed Helms and John C. Reilly would likely be entertaining, so it’s no surprise that pairing them up, letting them develop characters at opposite ends of the moral spectrum and placing them in an absurd scenario resulted in funny scene after funny scene. The actual plot of the movie at times becomes an afterthought, as the directionless conversations between the four main characters take over. Fortunately, this was not problematic. It was more so the ridiculous dialogue between the characters than their circumstances that had The Neon opening night crowd guffawing throughout.
As endearing and captivating as Ed Helms was, it was really John C. Reilly who the audience wanted to see. He turned in the best comedic performance I’ve seen in some time, delivering all the humor you’d expect out of a drunken, divorced, loudmouthed insurance salesman.
@ The Neon
March 3, 2011
Of course Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man) plays Barney Panofsky, the hero of Barney’s Version. If you ever find yourself in need of an actor to dominate a role that calls for an insecure, self destructive, witty, snarky, alcoholic, Giamatti should be at the top of your list.
At first, it seems as though Barney is cursed. The movie begins with an older Barney. Seemingly innocent, lonely and depressed. Shortly thereafter, the audience is surprisingly and refreshingly shown a young, vibrant Barney about to begin his first of three failed marriages. When this first marriage ends tragically, I thought, “Is this just going to be a series of unfortunate events that results in a beaten down man?” As the story progresses, however, it becomes apparent that Barney is a ticking time bomb, too paranoid or drunk to realize that he doesn’t have it half bad. Because his insecurities and paranoia will not allow him to accept his good fortune, Barney inevitably self destructs.
The source of Barney’s neuroses probably stem from the fact that the women and friends with which he surrounds himself are infinitely more beautiful and well-liked than he. A fact that loudly pronounces itself to Barney when his third wife, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), who is the only of his three wives he actually loves, announces that she needs a week to herself. What should have been a harmless week apart for a long-married couple with two grown children plagues Barney. While Miriam is away, Barney’s insecurities come bubbling up as his mind attacks itself with thoughts of losing the best part of his life. In response to imagined dangers, Barney launches a very real preemptive strike that destroys his final marriage.
Barney’s Version is actually quite lighthearted and humorous despite the personal hells that the audience experiences alongside Barney. Much of the humor is provided by Barney’s father, played by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman is as likable as always and serves as an example to Barney of what life can be like if you allow yourself to enjoy it. The two are more friends than father-son and Barney seems to be at his happiest when in the company of his dad.
The final tragedy Barney endures, the progression of Alzheimer’s that robs him of his charm and wit, at first seemed like a throw-in to me. Like an unnecessary evil that the audience could have done without. But, as some time has passed since I saw Barney’s Version, I find myself rethinking that stance. I’m wondering now if that terrible disease finally gave Barney’s brain a rest. A chance to let the self-loathing evaporate and to allow Barney to simply observe, rather than destroy.
Whether the Alzheimer’s was relevant or not, Barney’s Version is tremendously entertaining thanks in large part to Giamatti who convincingly conveys decades of a complicated man’s life.
I haven’t been forced to look away while watching a movie since the frat boys eating dog semen-filled donuts scene from “Van Wilder” nearly made me vomit in 2002. Like I’m sure most members of the modest afternoon Neon Movies crowd seeing “127 Hours” on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I was familiar with the Aron Ralston story and expected that the inevitable self-amputation scene might force my eyes away from the screen for the first time in eight years of steady movie going.
I was also concerned that a movie about a hiker/rock climber getting stuck in a canyon for five days, only to free himself by hacking off his own right arm, might be mostly dull, then needlessly gruesome. I’d imagine director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Sunshine”) might have shared those concerns. It turned out that James Franco’s (“Milk,” “General Hospital”) portrayal of Ralston’s five days in the canyon were actually quite entertaining and endearing because Franco does a terrific job conveying Ralston’s humanity, humor, and most importantly, his will to live.
Ralston is a self-sufficient nature lover and adventurer who was as much in search of solitude as natural beauty. When, while hiking in Utah, Ralston falls down a narrow canyon and gets his right arm pinned between a boulder and the canyon wall, he is forced into solitude for five days, all the while contemplating how his independent, possibly selfish personality may have as much to do with his agonizing predicament as does the rock that keeps him from leaving the canyon.
Because the Ralston story received such attention, the audience knows that he must amputate his right arm in order to free himself and avoid dying in the canyon. Of course, cutting off his own arm was not Ralston’s first attempt at escape and because Franco’s Ralston is so easy to root for, I found myself foolishly hoping that he’d be able to chip away enough of the boulder with his pocketknife to escape, or that the pulley system he fashioned would do the trick, or that the flash flood that loosened the boulder was reality and not just a hallucination brought on by exhaustion and despair.
By the time Ralston is forced to accept the fact that he must cut off his own arm or die, I knew that my eyes would be glued to the screen during the amputation. At that point, the audience is so invested in Ralston’s survival, I’m sure I was not alone in thinking that it’d be insulting to Franco’s performance and Aron Ralston himself to look away. And, while the amputation scene is graphic and difficult to watch, I found it more an emotional display of Ralston’s intense need to survive, rather than shock and awe gore.
Like many of the best movies made, “127 Hours” is only showing in Dayton at The Neon. If you’re considering seeing “127 Hours” but are concerned about being able to make it through the amputation scene without fainting, just know that it’s more beautiful than grotesque and that The Neon, as always, has alcoholic beverages available.
We’ve got to keep moving!
If you still need to see I AM LOVE, you shouldn’t miss it on the big screen. Don’t wait for the dvd! You only have through Thursday to see it at THE NEON. Visit THE NEON for this week’s showtimes.
On Friday, we open MICMACS – the new charming & wonderful film from the brilliant mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet…director of AMELIE, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT. MICMACS will more than likely only play for 1 week, so make plans now for seeing it this weekend.
Click on the poster to find out more about the film (or watch the trailer below).
My full update – including a contest where you write the reviews of our films – will come later in the week.
We hope to see you soon,