Reviewers’ Roundtable ~ ‘Higher Ground’, ‘People V. The State of Illusion’, ‘Warrior’
The following quotes were pulled from reviews written by AZ Weekly Entertainment Magazine’s Film Section contributors to present readers with a wider perspective about this weekend’s new releases.
At 27 years old, Joseph J. Airdo is a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism graduate with a degree in media analysis and criticism. Randy Montgomery, 34, works in media and marketing and holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Education. And, at 64 years old, Stan Robinson is a retired First Assistant Director with more than 22 years of experience in film and media production.
Read their full reviews of these and other movies exclusively online at knotmove.com, AZWeeklyMagazine.com and ScreenScene.org, respectively.
A fundamentalist’s (Vera Farmiga) lifelong struggle with tenets of her church comes to a head in the wake of a tragedy involving her best friend (Dagmara Dominczyk). Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (R – 114 minutes)
Joseph: “Actress Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut ‘Higher Ground’ is a comically insightful yet honest look at religion that eventually falls from grace. Farmiga’s effort starts off strong but its tone slowly shifts as writers Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe’s screenplay – based on Briggs’s memoir ‘This Dark World’ – transposes ‘Higher Ground’s’ priorities. When comedy is its focus, the movie is as intimate as it is entertaining. When drama takes center stage, the film feels cold and distant thereby impairing interest.”Grade: C
Stan: “The common pitfall many of the ‘faith-based’ movies of ‘preaching to the choir or non choir’ with a heavy handed message, works fairly well with an insightful message while comically treated. When attempts to take the ‘Higher Ground’ with drama to emphasize the underlying theme, it alienates us with feelings of pretentiousness firmly taking hold…”Grade: D+
‘People V. The State of Illusion’
Former attorney Austin Vickers explores the science and power of perception and imagination. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (NR – 80 minutes)
Joseph: “‘People v. The State of Illusion’ is guilty of first-degree boredom. And that is a tragic injustice considering the message writer/producer Austin Vickers attempts to relay via the film is one of masterful motivation, especially because – unlike other docudramatic efforts that share its hypotheses – ‘People v. The State of Illusion’ does not suggest that we possess some magical superpower. However, all of the optimism in the world could not make these talking heads even remotely interesting.”Grade: F
Stan: “‘People V. The State of Illusion’ reminded me of the basic principal that our professor in film school said of a movie, to entertain, educate, or enlighten the viewer to elicit an emotional response. As the various notables, and there are quite a few, presented ideologies on perceptions with the premise of the film centering around a man’s stay in prison, it stimulated my examining one of my favorite quotes “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (William Shakespeare). If one is in the mood for some ‘serious thinking’ Austin Vickers’ film provides it…”Grade: B-
The youngest son (Tom Hardy) of an alcoholic former boxer (Nick Nolte) returns home, where he is trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament – a path that puts the fighter on a collision corner with his older brother (Joel Edgerton). (PG-13 – 139 minutes)
Joseph: “An admirable cinematic effort to say the least, ‘Warrior’ is an emotionally gripping story whose sights are set on something far deeper than a physical fight. Granted, ‘Warrior’ – for the most part – adheres to the sports drama formula right down to the melodramatic manipulation. However, as the events both in and out of the ring unfold, the viewer is overcome with a sense of stimulating spirituality that forces them to their feet – not as a result of the external battle but rather the internal one which it remarkably represents.”Grade: B
Randy: “Warrior”is deserving of all of the praise it will receive come awards season. While the premise may be a bit reminiscent of “The Wrester” or “The Fighter,” this Mixed Martial Arts flick features outstanding acting and some unique plot development. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are two of the finest actors of the decade, yet their work is not widely known to American audiences. “Warrior” should make these two household names here in the United States.” Grade: A+
Stan: “Although a lover of most sports and played many throughout my years, boxing or its derivatives I feel is barbaric. And, faith-based themed movies are a turn-off, as they tend to be preachy while clouding a solid plot or theme. Setting aside the mixed martial arts in the film (which has a huge following) and the glaring faith-based clichés, the drama of a father (Nick Nolte) and his two sons (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton)at odds with each other and each dealing with private issues of their own, rises to the surface of ‘Warrior’ for a compelling story of family reconciliation.”Grade: B-