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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Prisoners & Don Jon

Dearest Blog, today it was off to the cinemas for a double-feature of strange bedfellows, Prisoners and Don Jon.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing the trailers didn't reveal.

First up was last week's number-one box office draw, Prisoners.

Two young girls go missing on Thanksgiving day, and while locals and law enforcement attempt to find the girls and the culprit, one father takes matters into his own hands.

To be perfectly frank, I wasn't buying much of the hype about Prisoners. It looked like a good enough whodunnit, but nothing special. Sadly, it didn't surprise me.

Dear reader(s), by now we know one another well enough that I don't need to tell you

Prisoners is too damn long. It clocks in at two and a half hours, and starts feeling like it's never going to end somewhere around the 90-minute mark. The mystery itself is interesting, if nothing new, but the pacing is slow and never really gains any momentum.

The bleak late-fall/early-winter landscapes (Georgia masquerading as Pennsylvania) set the perfect tone for what is a humorless, miserable film. I'm not a fool, and I don't expect pratfalls and belly laughs in a story about child abduction, but there's a sort-of graveyard humor that's common among folks who work in grim circumstances, and the movie could have used some of that.

The cast is a who's who of Awards season darlings: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano. I can't say anyone gave the performance of his or her career, but everyone was more than adequate. I might fairly be accused of some personal bias in Mr. Gyllenhaal's favor, but I thought he captured his stressed and twitchy detective especially well. And I will never complain about two hours of Melissa Leo. Ever.

Prisoners clocks in at 153 minutes (you heard me!) and is rated R for "disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout."

Prisoners is an average thriller that's blessed with, but ultimately can't be saved by, an extraordinary cast.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Prisoners gets five.

Lightening things up a bit for the second half of our doubleheader, I sprinted across the cinema to catch Don Jon, starring, written, and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

A young New Jerseyite is content with his life of working out, clubbing, and watching porn...until he meets the girl of his dreams.

Lest any readers get the wrong idea, and I think the wrong idea easily could be gotten here, I'll state up front that the following thoughts are based on this film only, there's no underlying discomfort with or distaste for the subject matter. (Read: I'm entirely okay with porn.)

Don Jon isn't the straight comedy sold by the trailers. When it's funny, it's very funny. The drama is equally well done, but--not being what I expected--it left me feeling a bit off-kilter about the whole. The film is very crass throughout. It's short by today's standards, but I suspect it would have worn out its welcome long before the end if Gordon-Levitt weren't so charming. Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as his Jersey Shore-esque dream woman, and Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Glenne Headly are strong in supporting roles.

Before I saw this, if you'd asked me to list ten ways I thought it might end, I wouldn't have come close to guessing the way it does end. Full marks for one of the best cinema surprises I've had in a good, long while.
Don Jon runs 90 minutes and is rated R for "strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language, and some drug use."

Don Jon isn't a perfect film, but it's confident, funny, and charming enough to be worth a rental, if not a trip to the cinema.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Don Jon gets six.

Now, seriously, I've already had enough of this crap. Remind me when Thor's out again, please??

Until next time...........

If I ever go missing, please send Detective Jake Gyllenhaal!

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