Tag: Alessandro Nivola

The Art of Self-Defense

The Art of Self-Defense hit a few festivals before it got its wider release. I had so much hype built up towards it that I will say, right now, I might have liked it more had my expectations been more regular. And that sucks.

It does have a lot going for it. A24, a quirky film where Eisenberg can showcase his talents, and more.

And you know, its about karate! We haven’t had many dojo based films in awhile. The last one I really remember is The Foot-Fist Way. It was another smaller indie film with a weird humor sense. And it was okay. Maybe the real reason this came out is Cobra Kai. People love that series.

Punch
Punch

Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) is a little bitch. Maybe because he has a common lady name, but he is passive, quiet, and lonely. He lives at home with a little tiny dog. He goes to work. He doesn’t go on vacations. Gosh. He is an accountant. Gross.

Well one night he gets home and realizes he is out of dog food. Having to walk to the store in the middle of the night is scary, more so with recent reports of motorcycle people running around and beating people up. Sure enough, he gets mugged, put into a small coma, and in drastic need from rest.

While he is away from work, he wants to change his life. No, not a vacation. Getting a gun! That will help defend himself. But there is a waiting period. While waiting, he instead finds a karate dojo, led by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), who talks in such a charismatic way. He makes Casey feel special, he gives him goals in life, he gives him a meaning. He is also going to help him become a better man.

But the more and more involved he gets in the class, the more Casey is realizing he is in something bigger than he bargained for.

Also starring Imogen Poots, Steve Terada, Phillip Andre Botello, and Hauke Bahr.

Kick
Kick.

I will do my duty to defy expectations by not talking a lot about how this movie was in terms of the genre. Because it turns out, that ruined it a bit for me. What you can and should know is that it is a Dark Comedy very much so based on the genre.

This is a swell role for Eisenberg. He is able to definitely to act his way into this character and it feels like a natural fit, unlike a lot of other recent roles. Poots really dives down into her character as well, and was unlike any other role I’ve ever seen her in.

I think Nivola is the real star and talking point here. That character is just so unique, brave, and twisted. It is hard to describe and compare him to other roles that might seem similar. It is just bizarre, and I love it.

A lot of surprises are in store for The Art Of Self-Defense, but ones that are welcome to the Sports karate genre of film.

3 out of 4.

Disobedience

This is one of the many reviews that have come out of WorldFest in Houston. Check the WorldFest tag to see them all!

WorldFest isn’t known for its big releases. No, it is an independent movie festival, so seeing one of those giant movies that is going to win an Oscars would probably be very rare.

On that note, for the film Disobedience, it is probably the first time I heard of a movie months before I knew it would be at WorldFest. It was directed by Sebasti├ín Lelio, who directed Gloria a few years ago (haven’t seen yet still, but a remake soon with him still at the helm for America), and A Fantastic Woman, which just won best foreign film.

Needless to say, I was excited about his next film. Hell, very provocative posters for this film have gone up and maybe that is why it is famous (okay, that is the reason). Let’s bring on the sexy times.

Group
Nothing sexier than candles, flames, beards, and dark clothing.

The story opens up with Rav Krushka (Anton Lesser) is giving a sermon about the differences between Man, Angels, and Beasts, and the idea of choice. Oh, this is totally a synagogue as well, very very conservative Jewish. Somewhere in Great Britain, a little local community. The women sitting on the second story only. And then he goes and dies.

His one and only daughter, Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) is living in NYC. She left the community she grew up in, abandoned her family, to live alone. She is a bit of disgrace. No one talks to her anymore. But someone sent a message through the grapevine that her father was dead, their Rabbi and spiritual leader, so she heads back over ready to face her past and her peers.

The ceremonies take place at the home of Dovid Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola), Rav’s spiritual son, whom he took in when he was in his teen years to begin his devout training, so sort of a brother to Ronit. He is now married to Esti (Rachel McAdams), a big shocker to Ronit. They invite her to stay in their guest room while she deals with her father’s loss and the annoyance from the community.

We learn of course that some members of the group had an intense past. This past is why Ronit ended up leaving their community, seemingly never to return. How dare she mess that up, right?

Kiss
Rachel and Rachel standing on a street. R-A-C-H-E-L-I-N-G.

Setting this in a conservative Jewish community with very little out of it first took me awhile to figure out where this film was set. It is a modern film, it just took until the last 20-30 minutes before someone pulled out a cell phone for any reason. It could have been in the 60’s/70’s, or it could have been modern, given their conservative nature, who knows!

The three main leads give really good acting performances. Weisz is the powerhouse here, Nivola has his moments at the end, and for the most part McAdams is a quiet force building over time. They all feel very vulnerable and real in their roles, giving an extra umph to the story.

It just took forever for the story to really grow and move forward. It was definitely boring. I am fine with a slow burn story, but it was hard to keep my eyes open early on and even by the end there was still some struggles.

I like that we got an in depth look at a community that is old dealing with “modern issues”, and it seems to be something that the director is playing with lately. It is something worth being told, but the payout doesn’t feel necessarily worth it.

2 out of 4.

$5 A Day

I honestly don’t know what to say about $5 A Day based on what I guessed it would be about. Maybe prostitution. Very cheap prostitution.

But that is my go to thought for all films I’ve never heard of.

drivers
Oh well maybe its a ROAD TRIPPPP. With prostitutes?

Ritchie (Alessandro Nivola) is a health inspector and living the life with his girlfriend, Maggie (Amanda Peet). Nice. Good job, good pay, good living. Until he gets fired for lying on his resume about spending some years in jail earlier in his life. Maggie didn’t know this either, or that he lied about his dad being dead. Because he isn’t dead! Just dead to him. Something poetic. So Maggie leaves him too.

Apparently his dad, Nat (Christopher Walken) is dying from a tumor, and doesn’t have long to live. But he is apparently a bad guy, who has conned people his whole life. He even gets buy spending at most $5 a day, pretty nice. So Ritchie flies from LA to Atlantic City to be with his dad, who convinces him to go on a road trip to New Mexico for a potential cure. Oh fine.

Just along the way they have to drive in a sweet’n low car, and get free gas as long as they stop at Chevron stations. With hundreds of fake IDs giving him pretty much every birthday of the year, they are able to strategically eat at IHOPs for free! Crafty guy. Along the way they stay in abandoned houses, con some more people, run into their old baby sitter (Sharon Stone) and maybe even get lots of cash over a question of paternity.

What? Could Nat maybe not even be Ritchie’s real father, an exceptionally long con?

Dnce
I bet when you saw Walken’s name, you knew he’d dance at some point in the movie.

TL;DR Version is this is a road trip movie about a dad and son, before the dad dies, rekindling their relationship, and also shenanigans.

But really I didn’t find it entertaining at all. Lots of cons happen, but to normal regular people who doesn’t deserve it (it feels like). So the main guy is just a jerk, and his son is a jerk too by helping. And that is about it. A 90 minute movie about jerks jerkin’. Yes, I do have a way with words.

This is just more of Christopher Walken playing the stereotype of himself, I think.

1 out of 4.