Justin L.'s Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Django Unchained
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The most severe drawback early on in 'Unchained' stems from, ironically, the very quality that Mr. Tarantino's known for: his complete irreverence. With a casual lack of concern for historical accuracy and tact ( la 2009's 'Inglourious Basterds'), Mr. Tarantino, from the get-go, creates a tonal atmosphere of near-boyish glee with his barrage of echoing gunshots, exploding body parts, and extremely black racial humour (pun unintended). At times, you can almost feel him smirking at how stylishly clever and daringly subversive he is.

Despite the first half, 'Unchained' does come together when Django and Schultz finally reach Candie's Mississippi plantation; at which point, Mr. Tarantino's penchant for verbose ballet comes into full form (not to mention his eclectic mix-tape of a soundtrack).

Ultimately, though, 'Unchained' is far too long for its nearly three hour running time, with new editor Fred Raskin unable to control or moderate Mr. Tarantino's indulgence in his own style.

Full review: http://www.soundonsight.org/?p=159779

Red Dawn
Red Dawn (2012)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Altogether, 'Red Dawn' is best described as pedestrian; the acting is mostly flat and dull (Mr. Peck especially, Mr. Hemsworth in exception); the chemistry between the romantic interests is faint and almost non-existent; the story itself is straightforward but inundated with needless and forgotten subplots (i.e the mayor and the Russians); the action set pieces are explosive but are undercut by eye-gouging shaky cam; and the references to the original film (deer blood, tracking device) serve as nothing more than a wink and a nod to those in the know.

'Red Dawn', like Ben Afleck's 'Argo', propagates an altered and fictionalized reality to necessitate a flag-waving narrative, but this approach is wildly irresponsible. There's still a fairly substantial niche in modern cinema for the wistful nostalgic to relive their glory days as a cartoonish live-action superhero (see the nearly arthritic cast of 'The Expendables'), but the uninspired 2012 remake of 'Red Dawn feels' positively regressive.

Full Review: http://www.soundonsight.org/?p=149994

Beauty Is Embarrassing
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes


'Beauty is Embarrassing' is neither

Chances are, you haven't heard of Wayne White. Quiet and unassuming, White could go for a walk in downtown Los Angeles and be completely inconspicuous to the artistic layman, but chances are, you've seen his work. Whether it be on Pee-Wee's Playhouse, or a Smashing Pumpkins music video, White's various contributions to influential projects from the 80's onward have solidified his status as an accomplished art director, painter, cartoonist, and illustrator. So it's a shame, really, when Neil Berkeley's documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing, doesn't do him much justice.

Through Berkeley, we examine the life and career of White, from his childhood in Tennessee, to his rise to prominence and love in New York, and, finally, to his eventual disillusionment with art in Hollywood. From these examinations, we come to the realization that White is really just a simple man, whose love for art is at constant odds with the world around him.

For a cinematic undertaking with so much purpose, the film has a surprising lack of focus and direction. As Berkeley tries to encapsulate a man's entire life into a 90-minute tribute, he ends up trying too much and accomplishing too little.

From the start, it's clear that White is a seasoned raconteur. In fact, the film starts off with White presenting a lecture about his life and career. Taken individually, his stories are deeply fascinating, enlightening the viewer on the often-shadowy world of pop art and Hollywood. In particular, the debate around his work straddling the artificial false dichotomy of art and entertainment is extremely engrossing.

But there are just too many. The film often diverts from its conventional narrative structure of child to man to artist, to inexplicably go off on tangents. In order to fit them all, White's anecdotes are peppered into the film, and because they are so interesting, they take your attention away from the central story. As the film delves into its self-created diversions, we completely forget about the strands we left behind, so when the film comes back to tie them back together, it doesn't work. The result is everything feeling too episodic and meandering. It's a classic case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.

However, for all of the film's misgivings, Beauty is Embarrassing still delivers to a very minimal extent. The documentarian, in this case, is very fortunate to have an interesting documentary subject. Every time White abjectly muses about his challenges and hardships in his career, we are endeared because his polemics are awash with brutal honestly and humorously restrained contempt. Furthermore, when White carefully touches upon moments of incredible poignancy, the impact is real, often for the very same reasons.

For anyone having trouble picturing Beauty is Embarrassing, it should be said that the film is very much like White's art. On the surface, it is smart, clever, profane, and provocative, but underneath, it's entirely unimpressive and plain; it's art imitating art.

Citadel (2012)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The best way to describe 'Citadel' is to say it's a cross between Roman Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby' and Daniel Barber's 'Harry Brown'. Combining the urban paranoia of the former with the urban decay of the latter, the film hits on a nerve that seems a bit far-fetched on the surface, but feels all too real and believable.


Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Taking the same direction as 'The Raid: Redemption', 'Day of Reckoning' assumes that blimey, balls-to-the-wall action will overshadow the fragility of the script. But at least 'The Raid' had the courtesy to set up the simple premise in the beginning and have the action play out for the rest of the duration. Day of Reckoning wants us to piece together a vague story that seems to meander along and is put aside for stretches of time. This is essentially how the movie pans out: five minutes of bland exposition, then five minutes of hardcore violence, then five minutes of bland exposition, and so on and so forth.

That being said, the fight sequences are really well choreographed, are often visceral, and downright wild. You don't really need to try and follow the story (they explain everything in the last scene, anyway), but fans of the series, or fans of inspired fight sequences, will likely enjoy 'Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning' for what it is: a generic action movie disguised as art house.