The Films of Jonathan Levine
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (March 8/16)
All The Boys Love Mandy Lane follows the title character (Amber Heard) as she agrees to accompany several fellow students to a weekend party at an isolated ranch, with chaos naturally ensuing after an unknown assailant begins knocking the typically unlikable kids off one by one. First-time filmmaker Jonathan Levine, along with scripter Jacob Forman, has infused All The Boys Love Mandy Lane with just about the laziest, most generic feel one could possibly envision, as the movie, for the most part, unfolds in a manner that's perpetually lacking in surprises and is rarely able to sustain the viewer's interest for more than a few minutes at a time - with the thoroughly tedious atmosphere compounded an almost aggressively deliberate pace that essentially highlights the various deficiencies on display. Levine attempts to liven things up by flooding the proceedings with ostentatious instances of stylish visuals, and yet it remains clear from beginning to end that even the most impressive of imagery isn't enough to elevate a seriously run-of-the-mill, paint-by-numbers slasher screenplay. And while Heard delivers an appreciatively charismatic turn as the movie's protagonist, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is otherwise suffused with an assortment of hopelessly forgettable figures that exist only to be brutally murdered. The big twist that transpires during the movie's final stretch is not bad, admittedly, but it arrives at a point wherein most viewers will have long-since checked out - which confirms All The Boys Love Mandy Lane's place as a less-than-auspicious debut for a filmmaker who has gone onto bigger and better things (ie there was nowhere but up for Levine, really).
Click here for review.
Warm Bodies (April 14/13)
Based on Isaac Marion's book, Warm Bodies, which unfolds in a zombie-infested landscape, follows an undead individual named R (Nicholas Hoult) as he finds himself inexplicably developing feelings for a human survivor (Teresa Palmer's Julie). Filmmaker Jonathan Levine employs an almost incongruously deliberate sensibility that seems at odds with the movie's high-concept, unabashedly absurd premise, and it often does feel as though the writer/director is going out of his way to avoid comparisons to the similarly ridiculous Twilight saga. It is, as such, not terribly surprising to note that the viewer is, for the most part, prevented from wholeheartedly connecting with the thin storyline and underdeveloped characters, with the inclusion of a few admittedly compelling and heartfelt moments going a long way towards sustaining the movie's mildly watchable atmosphere. (There's also little doubt that the chemistry between Hoult and Palmer, which grows more and more palpable as the movie unfolds, plays an integral role in keeping things relatively interesting.) It's worth noting, too, that Warm Bodies, once it passes a certain point, gains enough momentum to carry it through to its crowd-pleasing finale, which ultimately cements the movie's place as an erratic yet passable entry in the teen-romance genre.
The Night Before
Snatched (May 25/17)
About as hit-and-miss a comedy as one could envision, Snatched follows Amy Schumer’s Emily Middleton as she reluctantly invites her mother (Goldie Hawn’s Linda) to join her on a South American vacation – with chaos ensuing after the two are kidnapped by guerrillas and held for ransom. It’s perhaps not surprising to discover that Schumer delivers a comically-broad performance that contributes heavily to the uneven atmosphere, as the actress eschews the creation of an actual character and instead relies heavily on her sarcastic, one-liner-spouting persona – although, in fairness, a lot of this stuff is quite funny. The pleasantly watchable atmosphere persists right up until the aforementioned kidnapping, after which point Snatched devolves into a series of incredibly erratic set-pieces detailing Emily and Linda’s perilous adventures in and around a South American jungle – with the movie’s midsection containing an almost equal number of effective, entertaining sequences and those that just fall flat. (In terms of the latter, there’s an ongoing subplot involving Chris Meloni’s rugged outdoorsman that doesn’t entirely work, although the conclusion of this storyline provides the movie with one of its only laugh-out-loud funny moments.) The spinning-its-wheels vibe persists right through to the somewhat lackluster conclusion and it is, in the end, clear that certain segments of the narrative should’ve been jettisoned completed (eg the pointless tapeworm sequence) - with the strong chemistry between Schumer and Hawn ultimately one of Snatched's few consistent elements.