David Dobkin

David Dobkin

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The Judge Review


Grim

This generational drama strains so hard to be serious that it's almost laughable. Its big themes are only superficially addressed, while the bloated nearly two and a half hour running time could easily have been cut down simply by eliminating all of the emotive close-ups of actors with tears welling in their eyes. In other words, while there are the bare bones of a decent movie in here, it's been badly compromised to turn it into Oscar bait.

At least it starts well, with a sequence centred on Hank (Robert Downey Jr), a slick Chicago lawyer with a precocious daughter (Emma Tremblay) and an angry trophy wife (Sarah Lancaster) who has had enough. Hank's cold-hearted ways are a legacy of his estranged relationship with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall), the no-nonsense judge in a small-town Indiana town. Then Hank is called home when his mother dies, comforting his brothers Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio), whose injured hand ended his baseball career, and Dale (Jeremy Strong), who is mentally challenged. He also rekindles his youthful romance with waitress Sam (Vera Farmiga). Then Joseph is arrested for murder, and Hank steps in to help inexperienced lawyer CP (Dax Shepard) defend him against the shark-like prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton).

There isn't a single subtle element in this film, as the script is carefully constructed to pull our sympathies back and forth even though both Hank and Joseph are deeply unlikeable grumps. Downey and Duvall are good enough actors to make them watchable, but director David Dobkin (The Change-up) hammers every sentimental scene home with far too much force. And the script is so simplistic that it chickens out before anything interesting happens. Even the court case lacks something compelling to draw the audience in. It certainly doesn't help that the characters are all deeply contrived. Just one example: there's a disability for each of the three brothers: physical, emotional and mental.

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Downey Jr and 'The Judge' Set To Open Toronto Film Festival


Robert Downey Jr Robert Duvall Vera Farmiga Billy Bob Thornton Dax Shepard Ken Howard Leighton Meester David Dobkin

David Dobkin, the filmmaker best known for his classic comedy Wedding Crashers, brings an altogether different film to the Toronto Film Festival this week. His legal drama The Judge, starring Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall, opens this year's festival on Thursday (August 4, 2014).

Robert Downey JrRobert Downey Jr [L] and Robert Duvall [R] in 'The Judge'

"I hadn't had an opportunity to really dig in and do something like this in 20 years," Dobkin told the Canadian Press of his foray into drama. "There are a lot of intense scenes in the movie. You would think that comedies are more fun to work on and they're not always as fun as they come out. This movie was strangely cathartic."

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The Judge - Trailer


Hank Palmer is a ruthless but excellent lawyer, despised by many of his peers for his habit of representing often blatantly guilty criminals. One day mid-trial however, he receives a call from home informing him of his mother's recent death. Reluctantly, he ventures back to the town of Carlinville, Indiana where he grew up to convene with his family ahead of the funeral. As he expected, the greeting between himself and his father - the local Judge Joseph Palmer - is particularly frosty. As a young college graduate, Hank was desperate to leave the harsh and unfriendly grasp of his father but when the town's sheriff tells him that Joseph is now a murder suspect, he begins to feel a grudging obligation to cast their differences aside and help him protest his innocence.

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Jack the Giant Slayer Review


Good

We may sigh heavily at the thought of yet another fairy tale blockbuster, but the filmmakers and cast here demand a bit more attention. And sure enough, it's refreshingly smarter and funnier than we expect. There are still the problems of unnecessary 3D and far too many digital characters, but the restless pace and the witty performances make it a lot of fun to watch.

It's Jack and the Beanstalk with added action mayhem, as orphaned farmboy Jack (Hoult) sells his horse for a bag of supposedly magic beans. When one inadvertently gets wet, a massive beanstalk manages to propel Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson) into the realm of the giants, reawakening a legend that had died off centuries ago. So the King (McShane) enlists Jack to join a rescue team of guards (including McGregor, Marsan and Bremner) and Isabelle's intended, the shifty Roderick (Tucci). Up above the clouds, they encounter two-headed giant Fallon (Nighy) and his nasty horde. But rescuing Isabelle is only the first problem they face.

The freewheeling plot zips along without pausing for breath, encompassing massive set pieces and more gritty battles as well as small moments of drama and romance. Meanwhile, Jack and Isabelle cast lusty glances at each other, even when they're in physical peril. Director Singer brings out the energy of the characters to keep us involved, playing on the vertiginous angles of the settings while playfully deploying fairy tale imagery in the sets, costumes and landscapes. it's understandably why he decided to digitally create the giants rather than have actors play them, but this leaves a hole where the monsters should be. Aside from Nighy's more obviously performance-captured face, all of them look like dead-eyed cartoons, which essentially turns the film into a medieval Transformers movie.

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Picture - David Dobkin Westwood, California, USA, Monday 1st August 2011

David Dobkin Monday 1st August 2011 The Change-Up Los Angeles Premiere held at The Regency Village Theatre Westwood, California, USA

Picture - Director David Dobkin Westwood, California, Monday 1st August 2011

David Dobkin - Director David Dobkin Westwood, California - 'The Change-Up' Los Angeles premiere held at The Regency Village Theatre - Arrivals Monday 1st August 2011

The Change-Up Trailer


Mitch and Dave were the best of friends when they were younger but over the years, they have slowly grown apart. After running into each other on a night out, both men are jealous of the other's lives. Mitch is single and lives on his own, with a number of beautiful women for his pleasure. Dave meanwhile, has a modest pay check from working at a high status law firm, a beautiful wife, Jamie and three adorable kids, whom Mitch likens to 'mini drug addicts'.

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David Dobkin

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