Movie Mantz Movie Reviews and Industry News from Scott Mantz Wed, 23 Mar 2016 19:08:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Review: Love & Mercy Wed, 03 Jun 2015 19:20:15 +0000 “Brian Wilson Gets Around”

“Love & Mercy”
Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti
Directed by Bill Pohlad

God only knows what the America music scene would have been like back in the 1960s without the artistic brilliance of Brian Wilson. Between 1962 and 1966, Wilson was the unparalleled genius who wrote, co-wrote and produced some of the most enduring songs in pop music history with the group he co-founded, The Beach Boys. These were iconic songs that fully defined the “California Sound,” thanks to chart-topping hits like “Surfin’ USA,” “Catch a Wave,” “Little Deuce Coup,” “I Get Around” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

During that time, The Beach Boys even gave those mop-tops from the UK, The Beatles, a run for their money like no other American band – and vice-versa, as their competitive rivalry brought out the best in each other. When Wilson heard the fab four’s innovative 1965 album “Rubber Soul,” he pushed his own band to top it with 1966’s landmark “Pet Sounds.” Then The Beatles answered that call with 1967’s game-changing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

But breaking new ground came at a price, and it was one that cost Wilson dearly: his sanity. After he retired from touring with The Beach Boys following a nervous breakdown, he re-focused his efforts on pushing the boundaries of the recording studio. But he was constantly at odds with the rest of the band – especially lead singer Mike Love – who didn’t understand the complex arrangements and sophisticated musicianship and would rather stick to the tried-and-true hit-making formula of singing about surfing, cars and girls.

Then there was Brian’s physically and verbally abusive father-turned-manager, Murray Wilson. Jealous of his talent, envious of his success, out of touch with his son’s generation and wholly unsupportive of Brian’s new musical direction (inspired with the help of mind-altering drugs), it’s no wonder that Brian finally lost his marbles, gave up on his musical vision and pretty much locked himself in his bedroom for the better part of the next decade.

An unconventional musician with such an incredible background deserves an unconventional biopic, and that’s exactly what “Love & Mercy” is – and then some. As directed by Bill Polhad (the Oscar-nominated producer of “The Tree of Life”) from a screenplay written by Oren Overman (“The Messenger”) and Michael Alan Lerner, the film jumps back and forth in time, and with two different actors playing Brian Wilson.

That might sound confusing, but it’s an ingenious approach, and it’s much more accessible than a film like 2007’s avant-garde “I’m Not There,” in which music legend Bob Dylan was played by six different actors (including Cate Blanchett). Paul Dano is superb as the groundbreaking 60’s-era Wilson, who fought an uphill battle with the evolution of his music, while John Cusack is equally terrific as the sweet-but-emotionally fragile Wilson in the mid-80’s, when he was under the 24/7 control of his domineering therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy, played with creepy egocentric self-absorption by Paul Giamatti.

Music history buffs will find the Dano sequences fascinating, especially during the in-studio scenes where Wilson conducts session musicians (often not the actual Beach Boys), until he unravels during the making of his would-be masterpiece, “Smile” (an album that would remain unfinished until 2011). But the heart and soul of “Love & Mercy” lies with Cusack, who tries to break away from Landy’s unhealthy stranglehold with the help of his iron-willed new girlfriend Melinda Ledbetter, played with strength and gusto by Elizabeth Banks (who’s on an incredible roll this year after directing the box office smash “Pitch Perfect 2”).

Though it runs a bit too long at 2 hours, “Love & Mercy” is still a terrific film about one of the most complex musical virtuosos in rock history. It’s deeply fascinating and engaging from start to finish, and the satisfying emotional impact is bound to give moviegoers – dare I say it? – good vibrations.

-Scott Mantz

Review: I’ll See You In My Dreams Fri, 15 May 2015 16:17:38 +0000 “A Dream Come True”
By Scott Mantz

“I’ll See You in My Dreams”
Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott
Directed by Brett Haley

Forget about big-budget spectacles like “Tomorrowland,” “San Andreas,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” or even the box office behemoth known as “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

If you really want to see something truly unique and special at the movies this month – or, for that matter, all summer long – then feast your eyes on “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Shot on a shoestring budget in just 18 days, this delightful, touching, poignant and very funny independent gem is packed with more genuine emotion than you’ll likely find in any other movie over the next few months.

But what really makes “I’ll See You in My Dreams” a rare sight to behold is the prospect of seeing 72-year-old Tony and Emmy-winner Blythe Danner command the big-screen with her first truly lead performance. She is quite literally in every single scene, and she shines from start to finish. It’s the kind of star turn that Oscar-worthy performances are made of, and that alone makes this wonderful crowd-pleaser a dream come true.

Danner plays Carol, a longtime widow who is set in her ways. She has her friends, her hobbies and her dog. She’s comfortable on her own, and she has no interest in rocking the boat. That changes when she meets a charming retiree named Bill (Sam Elliott), whose pursuit of her forces her to reconsider the prospect of starting over again at this stage of her life. Making the situation a bit more complicated is the unexpected emotional connection she has with Lloyd (Martin Starr), her much younger pool-boy with a heart of gold. Will she throw caution to the wind and take another shot at love, or will she play it safe and stay firmly wrapped in her comfort zone?

Though “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is clearly aimed at grown-ups, the sweet and profound screenplay – written by Brett Haley with Marc Basch – is bound to resonate with moviegoers of all ages. It doesn’t matter if you’re 27 or 72, this is one deeply heartfelt and honest cinematic experience, and it never hits a false note with button-pushing manipulation.

In addition to Danner’s terrific performance, Sam Elliott is equally superb in a rare turn as a romantic leading man. Their irresistible chemistry is off the hook, as is Danner’s emotional connection with Martin Starr. Being torn between two completely different men creates an awkward situation for Danner’s character that’s unlike any that she has ever faced before, but in both cases, the levels of intimacy are genuine and effective, regardless of age.

When “I’ll See You in My Dreams” had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, it got an extended standing ovation, especially for Blythe Danner’s revelatory lead performance. No film could have been more deserving, as it is quite simply the stuff that cinematic dreams are made of.

AHL: Pitch Perfect 2, Mad Max Thu, 14 May 2015 16:25:45 +0000

WATCH my 1-minute reviews of “Pitch Perfect 2” and “

Profiles: The Beatles Tue, 12 May 2015 16:51:24 +0000

This was a fun one! A special “Profiles” on the movies of The Beatles, with very special guest Chris Carter (host of “Breakfast with The Beatles” on 95.5 KLOS-FM in Los Angeles!)

Review: Avengers 2 Fri, 01 May 2015 16:21:22 +0000 “The Avengers Come of Age”
by Scott Mantz

“Avengers: Age of Ultron”
Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson
Directed by Joss Whedon

After a decade of having big-screen adaptations of its best-known comic book characters – like Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four – primarily controlled and released by other studios, it’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into its own with the Marvel Studios release of the first “Iron Man” back in May of 2008. But that’s because the old saying is true: time flies when you’re having fun.

And as a separate production company that has gained control over its treasured library of superheroes (and villains), Marvel Studios sure has had fun in the years since with the release of “The Incredible Hulk,” two “Captain America’s,” two “Thor’s,” two more “Iron Man’s,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and, of course, the first “Avengers,” which alone grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide (making it the third-biggest movie of all time, behind “Avatar” and “Titanic”).

Based on the box office returns of what we’ve seen so far, there’s no question that moviegoers are having loads of fun too. And there’s a lot more to come with additional sequels to the aforementioned titles, as well as new franchise-starters like “Captain Marvel,” “Doctor Strange,” “Black Panther” and, thanks to a new deal between Marvel and Sony, another reboot of “Spider-Man.”

Don’t get me wrong; I love these movies as much as the next comic book nerd (some more than others, of course), but I can’t help but wonder, is this all too much of a good thing? Based on the by-the-numbers malaise that permeates the new “Avengers” sequel “Age of Ultron,” the answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Not that the first “Avengers” was all that great to begin with – a fun movie, yes, but the alien invasion story didn’t feel inspired, and last year’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which felt like a mini-“Avengers” movie unto itself, was a superior film on every level. But now that the “cool” factor of seeing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble for the first time is out of the way, what we’re left with this second time around is a film that’s far too unfocused, uneven and convoluted than a movie based on a comic book has any right to be.

It’s also too long, running 2 hours and 21 minutes, which just so happens to be one minute shorter than its equally overlong predecessor. And then there are the action scenes, which are thrilling and exciting at first, but after a while lead to the mind-numbing effect of “battle fatigue.” So by the time we get to the climactic showdown of mass destruction that fills the last 30 minutes, it looks and feels too much like the big blowout that closed out the last film.

If “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has one saving grace – and it’s a saving grace that goes a long way – it’s that the irresistible chemistry between the characters is infectiously entertaining. Despite having to pick up the pieces after their world-protecting agency S.H.I.E.L.D. crumbled in the last “Captain America” movie, it sure is fun hanging out with these heroes. They feel like a close-knit family now, digging at each other with sly, cheeky humor. There’s also a romance brewing between Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and…well, no need to spoil the fun on whom she hooks up with here, but it’s a nice surprise.

But it’s not all fun and games for the once-and-future Avengers, who once again assemble to save the world from a threat in which the future of humanity lies in the balance. That threat is Ultron, an artificially intelligent super-villain that made its first appearance in the 58th issue of the “Avengers” comic back in 1968. As if its intent is to wipe the human race from the face of the earth wasn’t bad enough, the Avengers must also contend with two mysterious super-powered newcomers – the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

There’s a lot going on here – too much, perhaps – and even though popcorn-minded moviegoers just looking for nonstop action will get their wish, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is really at its best when it’s focusing on the characters. As usual, Robert Downey Jr. effortlessly commandeers the proceedings at Tony Stark/Iron Man, but there’s also a noble attempt by returning writer-director Joss Whedon to give all of the heroes their moment in the sun. That’s especially true for Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, who after being vastly underutilized in the previous movie, is given a much bigger backstory this time around.

Overall “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is fine. It’s fun, it has a confident tone that’s endearing, and the action scenes deliver the goods. But as Marvel Studios gears up to keep cranking out more of these superhero flicks – and that’s in addition to the full slate of movies that its rival, DC, has on tap with “Batman v Superman,” “Aquaman,” “Wonder Woman,” “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” – the pressure will be on the filmmakers to make each and every one of them feel as unique as possible, lest they start to feel like more of the same.

As for whether or not they’ll succeed, we’ll find out soon enough over these next few years. After all, time flies when you’re having fun.

Profiles: Marlon Brando Tue, 28 Apr 2015 17:44:36 +0000

Watch “Profiles: Marlon Brando” with special guest Eva Marie Saint (“On the Waterfront”

Profiles: Russell Crowe Sun, 12 Apr 2015 17:47:24 +0000

Watch “Profiles: Russell Crowe,” featuring our on-camera interview with Crowe himself!

Profiles: Jack Nicholson Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:50:43 +0000

Watch “Profiles: Jack Nicholson,” featuring our interview with Michael Douglas (Oscar-winning producer of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”)!

Profiles: Al Pacino Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:56:38 +0000

This was a BIG one!! Watch “Profiles: Al Pacino,” featuring our on-camera interview with the Oscar-winning legend himself!

Profiles: Julia Roberts Tue, 11 Nov 2014 17:41:40 +0000

For our “Profiles” spotlight on Julia Roberts, we’re joined by Dermot Mulroney, who co-starred with Julia in TWO movies: “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “August: Osage County!”