Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Overnight (2015)

Always break-in the new neighbors.

Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) have recently moved to Los Angeles with their young son and have no idea what to do next. While Emily’s got a job, Alex is sort of just left at home with the kid, where he hardly knows anyone and doesn’t know how to go about actually acquiring any friends. Emily tries to push him more and more, but constantly, Alex doesn’t bother; he misses home just a little too much. One day, however, when watching their son in the park, Alex and Emily encounter another couple by the name of Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche), who not only take a serious liking to them, but even go so far as to invite them over to their house for a good time. Alex and Emily are nervous, obviously, but they decide to take the bait and wouldn’t you know it? They show up at the house and they’re having something of a fun time. There’s wine, pizza, good tunes, and a great overall mood. Then, Kurt brings out the bong and all of a sudden, things get very weird, very quickly.

It’s hard to not spoil a movie like the Overnight, due to the fact that it’s so simple in its shape, size and premise, that even go so far as to saying, “crazy stuff happens”, already feels a bit like a spoiler. There is truth to that statement, however, but the degrees to how far that crazy stuff is willing to go, what it reveals about these characters, and what it’s supposed to make us think about our own lives in general, all seem to not be as predictable. While it’s easy to think that this is just going to turn into another, old-fashioned sex-comedy romp in the same vein as something like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the Overnight tries to be a bit more.

Mah gawd. Toates awkward.

Mah gawd. Like, toates awkward.

Problem is, occasionally, the chances it has to be something more often feel like missed opportunities.

For instance, the movie actually has something very interesting to say about what it’s like for grown-ups, or, most importantly, parents, to go out there, make friends, and socialize as if they’re a bunch of freshmen getting started and situated on their first day of junior high. Very early on, the character of Alex states that “it’s weird” for him to actually go out there and try make friends with people when he’s a lot older than he was some many years ago. Sure, he wants to make friends and have more people to spend his time with, but at the same time, he doesn’t know how to go about it without being incredibly awkward because, well, he’s grown-up.

From here on, the Overnight works with an odd, but effective sense of humor where every discussion between these two couples can get pretty awkward; however, it’s not a crutch that the movie falls back on when it needs to. Instead, these awkward sighs, chuckles, small-talk, grins, etc., all bring out a certain level of honesty from within these characters and is eventually what leads to the later portion of the film. Now, this isn’t to get past the fact that the Overnight can be awfully funny, however, it isn’t always for the reasons you expect and most of that has to do with the fact that the cast do solid jobs in nailing down even the slightest hints of subtlety that make their characters more human and believable – even if some of the choices they make don’t always add-up.

But more on that in a little while.

Now, on with the awesome foursome here.

Adam Scott, as per usual with him, plays up his slightly nerdy shtick, but also allows for it come from a deeper place than him just relying on something we’ve seen him do before. As Alex, he gets a chance to reveal some insecurities that aren’t always well-written, but because Scott seems so into it, it’s okay to sit by and watch. And for Taylor Schilling, as Emily, she finally gets a chance to show the movie world, not only her comedic chops, but her dramatic ones as well. While she’s definitely the voice of reason in this whole thing, there’s still a feeling that even she wants to break out a bit and not be tied-down by the fact that she’s a mother, a worker, and a wife – sometimes, she just wants to have a little fun.

All lookie, but no touchie. Story of my life right there, folks.

All lookie, but no touchie. Story of my life right there, folks.

And with Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche’s characters, they definitely get this; however, it’s bit stupid at times. Sure, Schwartzman is great at seeming like he’s totally in on some sort of joke we aren’t too knowing about, and Godrèche gives off the idea that she’s a lot sweeter than her icy demeanor may have you think, but eventually, their characters begin to get a bit idiotic. For example, without saying too much, there’s a certain insecurity that Adam Scott’s character has, that Schwartzman’s doesn’t, and after this, it becomes all too clear that the movie seems like it wants to discuss real life, actual problems that adults have, and try to hide them underneath raunchy sex jokes about dicks, boobs, and butts.

In other words, it becomes a Judd Apatow movie.

However, whereas with Apatow movies, it’s clear that he’s trying to make a point and doesn’t quite know how to cut it all down to where we understand the point in a quicker, more efficient manner, writer/director Patrick Brice seems like he can’t help himself from throwing a sex joke whenever he sees fit. And then, sometimes, they’re not even jokes; in some cases, the whole idea is that this plot is going to lead to some very strange places in the bedroom and it seems oddly-placed, not to mention, not all too believable. It’s as if Brice knows what he wants to say, but still wants to appease those who were looking for a raunchy piece of sex-comedy.

And that’s what the audience will definitely get here with the Overnight – sometimes, it’s funny, other times, it’s not. However, there’s no denying that Brice, given the chance to maybe polish his script once or twice more, we probably would have had an even tighter movie than something that clocks in at 81 minutes or so.

Yep, believe it or not, could have been shorter.

Consensus: The Overnight is the type of sex-comedy that deals with real human issues that most of us all suffer, but still feels the need to point and giggle at penises and breasts, especially when it doesn’t need to.

6.5 / 10

Somehow, the dude wearing a cowboy hat in a children's park isn't the creep in this situation.

Somehow, the dude wearing a cowboy hat in a children’s park isn’t the creep in this situation.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Deadly Adoption (2015)

Wait, what’s so wrong with Lifetime movies?

Robert and Sarah Benson (Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig) are a very happy couple. He’s a self-help novelist, she’s an organic food saleswoman, and together, they have a daughter by the name of Sully. Though they’ve tried to have more children, due to an accident some many years ago concerning a dock, Sarah is unable to. So therefore, the Benson’s have turned to one of the only options they have left: Adoption agency. Through the agency, they meet a much-very pregnant young girl named Bridgette (Jessica Lowndes). At first, Bridgette is so sweet, likable and pleasant to be around, that the Benson’s both decide to let her stay in their place for a little while, only until the baby comes out and they are able to adopt it as their own. However, as time goes on, more and more weird things start happening around the house; most of which seem to be pointing to Bridgette and her mysterious past. Eventually, the Benson’s begin to realize that there’s something very dangerous about Bridgette that they best figure out soon, all before it’s too late.

Is this love?

Is this love?

So yeah, basically, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig teamed-up together to make a Lifetime movie that is everything you’d expect it to be. It’s an obvious, corny, and melodramatic soap opera that most middle-aged women will stay at home, watch, love, and adore because it plays to everything they’ve already loved and seen before with this network. However, the fact that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are in this movie, makes it all the more intriguing to watch, because it’s all a joke.

Or, at least, that’s what it was supposed to be anyway.

Something odd happens with A Deadly Adoption to where you think it’s going to be one thing, and totally turns out to be another. That’s not saying that I expected it at all to be a serious piece of drama that’s supposed to impact me for days-on-end or change my life in any way, shape or form; I mean in the fact that it was supposed to be a lot funnier than what it turns out to be. Some of that has to do with the fact that I expect so much more from the likes of Wiig and Ferrell, where rather than just seeing them play it so downright straight, I’d see them fool-around and over-act, as they are usually known to do in movies such as this. But that’s not what happens.

Instead, it’s a very straight-forward, almost too ordinary flick to even be called something of a “parody”; in fact, it’s more of an “homage”, which is all the more frightening. Because the movie should be as ridiculous as possible, but never quite gets there, makes it feel like the movie may have been a waste of effort, especially considering this is almost a first for TV. Wiig and Ferrell are two immensely talented and popular figures in entertainment, so why wouldn’t they, now that they have the chance to do so, be as crazy as humanly imaginable? Is the joke that they’re playing it all on the straight and narrow? Because if so, it’s not a very funny one.

However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t at least some pieces of fun to be found throughout. Obviously every supposed twist and turn that this plot takes is funny, if mostly due to the fact that we see it all coming from a mile away and because the movie’s playing it all up so seriously. And then, of course, there’s the performances from the cast that, due to the fact that they’re playing everything so damn sternly, can bring out plenty of laughs, whether they were meant to or not. Even though this is clearly Wiig and Ferrell’s movie, Jessica Lowndes does a solid job of playing up her character’s oddness in a way that, while may not be believable, is fun to imagine as if it were any other Lifetime movie. She goes from being such a little sweetheart, to all of a sudden, a biker, beat-up, bad-ass chick and it’s actually quite humorous. That may sound like it has less to do with Lowndes’ performance, but I assure you, it’s not; she’s perfectly capable of handling this material in a serious manner, even with a slight twinkle in her eye.

Or, is this?

Or, is this?

Then, of course, there’s Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig who are both, like I’ve mentioned before, playing it all so very straight.

Though, there is some joy in seeing Ferrell and Wiig act like kind-hearted, small-town simpletons that don’t have a bother in the world and never seem to be upset with anything that comes their way. Wiig’s character may not get much attention in the department of character development, whereas Ferrel’s does in that his character has a bit of a dark side. Once again, it’s not supposed to be taken seriously at all, and it’s why certain elements of this movie do work. Even if, altogether, the movie still feels like it’s missing something.

Whatever that “something” is, I fully can’t put my finger on. However, whereas movies like Sharknado and Birdemic all seem to be praised and held on some peddle-stool for the fact that they’ve taken these ridiculous premises and run wild with them, maybe there’s something to be said for A Deadly Adoption that could put into the same conversation? While it may not be as crazy as those movies, in terms of its excess and/or schlock, it still takes everything you expect from these types of movies, give them to you on a silver platter and not have you forget what it is that you’re sitting back to watch. Because surely, if you like it, then they must be doing something right; whether you’re supposed to like it or not, may be up to you, the viewer.

Either way, it doesn’t wholly matter because Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig got paid somehow.

Consensus: The one-joke in A Deadly Adoption is clear enough that it makes the hour-and-a-half go by quick, however, even by Lifetime’s standards, it should be a little more memorable, if only for the wrong reasons.

5 / 10

Cue the dramatic squirrel!

Cue the dramatic squirrel!

Photos Courtesy of: Common Sense Media

Ted 2 (2015)

Teddy bears are people, too!

Three years after we last left them, Thunder Buddies Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are back together and hanging out more than ever! Ted is now married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and is looking forward to the future and starting a family, but for John, things aren’t so pretty. Recently, he and Lori (Mila Kunis) got a divorce because she wanted him to change for the worst and John just wasn’t allowing that. However, now that he’s single, he’s a bit depressed and can’t stop checking out porn. But now, for Ted’s sake, he’ll have to put all of that on the back-burner so that he can help Ted and Tami-Lynn have the family that they want. Problem is, after much legal looking into, the U.S. government suddenly declares that Ted isn’t fit to be married, raise a child, or be considered a “person” because he is, in essence, a “thing”. Though Ted can think, read, act, and feel, the government doesn’t believe so – which means that it’s up to him, Johnny, and their young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to take on the government and, once and for all, prove that Ted is more than just a thing.

Be careful, Amanda!

Be careful, Amanda!

Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the original Ted actually worked for me. While it was nowhere near a masterpiece, it was still funny and entertaining enough to where it felt like MacFarlane was giving us all of his greatest hits, without trying to remind us too much that he’s the same dude who created Family Guy. Surely, he’s got his audience out there, but not everybody likes Family Guy and for the matter, not everybody likes Seth MacFarlane, so for him to be able to have people forget what it is that they’re watching come from him, is relatively impressive.

And then, there was A Million Ways to Die in the West. I won’t harp on that movie’s failure too much, especially considering that this is a review for Ted 2 and not the sequel to that dreadful garbage, but I will say that it reminded me so much of what I don’t like about MacFarlane, his certain brand of humor, and his over-excessive tendencies to think that he’s way too clever for his own good. Once again, some laughs were there to be found, but for the most part, they consisted of the weirder moments that MacFarlane was able to cobble-up from a pretty standard plot-line that seemed to have aspirations to go elsewhere, but just didn’t.

And now, there’s Ted 2, which is pretty much a mixture of both.

One of the main problems that seems to be plaguing MacFarlane and his first three movies, is that he doesn’t know when to take a chill pill; too much of this movie is him just pushing a scene deeper and deeper into places that it probably didn’t need to go. There’s a scene where Amanda Seyfried’s character gets a guitar and starts singing, that starts off simple and straight-forward, but soon turns to the odd and bizarre. Which, once again, wasn’t so bad because it actually had me laughing, but too much of it felt like it was thrown in there for good measure, regardless of it had to do with the plot or not.

Which is to say that yes, Ted 2 is a mess, but it’s one that’s at least somewhat entertaining to watch, if only because there are nice moments of comedic inspiration from MacFarlane. There’s another similar sequence to the Seyfried one that I mentioned earlier, that concerns Liam Neeson and it’s so odd, so random, and so strange, that it works well enough to get past the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the over-sized plot. There are many moments like this, most of which are so nonsensical, that they actually elicit some chuckles; then again though, there’s those many other moments where the movie doesn’t seem to go anywhere with itself, except just use the same stupid gag, over and over again.

And that’s a problem, especially when the gag to begin with isn’t all that funny.

Oh, so that makes us the "catcher".

Yeah, that’s not mayonnaise.

This becomes a big problem too, considering that that Ted 2 comes very close to two-hours; which, for any comedy, is already a problem, but one that uses three courtroom scenes to get its point across about accepting all “persons”, by using a walking, talking, and smoking teddy bear as symbolism, is a major disaster. Because MacFarlane doesn’t seem to know where he wants to go, except for the bottom of the barrel, it becomes distracting that he can’t find anything to do to keep the plot moving. But instead, it just rolls and rolls along, as if there is no end game.

Once again, I’m not saying that I despised Ted 2 – it’s just clear that this movie has plenty of problems that could have probably been fixed, had there been maybe one or two more editors by MacFarlane’s side, letting him know what can stay, what can go, and what can never see the light of day. While there’s maybe not a whole lot of scenes that could be placed in that later category, there’s some that come pretty close and/or probably didn’t need to be thrown into this already mish-mash of a movie. Of course MacFarlane is fine at voicing Ted, but are you honestly surprised? It’s his character for gosh sakes!

And as usual, Wahlberg is up to the task of goofing-off as Johnny, even if this time around, he’s saddled with a more boring story-line. Whereas with the first movie, we were getting to see more revealed to us about this character, here, we just sort of see Johnny mope around, look sad and make it seem at all believable that someone who looks like Mark Wahlberg would have a problem getting laid. Either way, Wahlberg seems like he’s trying here and, for the most part, pulls it off, but at the same time, it made me feel like maybe he wasn’t all that there for this one.

Maybe someone was missing…

Consensus: Nowhere near a tragedy, yet not as good as the original, Ted 2 is just funny enough to be worth checking out, if only for the crass moments we all know and, sometimes, love MacFarlane for.

5.5 / 10

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Of course hipsters have found a way to make cancer ironic.

High school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) isn’t all that in love with himself. He’s self-loathing, whiny, and actually kind of selfish, but because he doesn’t try to stand out from among the rest of the high school crowd, he’s gotten along with just about everyone around him; even if they don’t know full well, just who the hell Greg actually is. The only person he does hang out with is Earl (Ronald Cyler II), someone he considers more of a “confidante”, if only because they film so many movies together where they parody Criterion classics. However, one day, Greg gets a bit of a wake-up call when his mom (Connie Britton) strong-arms him into hanging out with a classmate who just recently came down with cancer, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Greg does so, but because he’s such an awkward downer, the early times he spends with Rachel don’t quite go anywhere that makes her, or him feel better. But as time rolls on, the two start to hit it off, although the fact that death is always looming on the horizon makes Greg feel like he’s being too rushed for his own good; something that he apparently seems to be struggling with as the prospect of college becomes all too real for him.

There’s been many “twee” movies before Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and don’t worry, because there will be plenty of more. It’s just up to all of us to figure out what respective movie out of this subcategory is worth checking out, seeing as how it still works and is relatable enough, even despite all of its tendencies; or, if it’s just a piece of pretentious crap that only film school kids would love and adore. And thankfully, Earl is definitely part of the former.

It's hard to be pissed when Nick Offerman's around, though.

It’s hard to be pissed when Nick Offerman’s around, though.

Although it definitely does flirt with being a part of the later.

One thing to be said about Earl, is that it definitely loves itself. The whole plot-line surrounds the fact that all of these characters are so awkward and weird with themselves, that when it comes to honest, one-on-one interaction with another human being, it’s stumbling and odd. That’s the whole idea surrounding this plot and while it definitely offers up some neat little pieces of insight into teenage characters we don’t normally see these kinds of movies made about, the movie still thinks that having a numerous amount of scenes where characters stutter, mumble and dance awkwardly around what they want to say next, is the perfect solution for hilarity. Problem is, it isn’t and it gets to be a little annoying.

Though, the movie definitely does improve after the first half-hour or so. Some of this has to do with the fact that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon seemed to be struggling with how to find his footing with this material; which thankfully, he does, because the movie becomes something of a pleasant delight as it goes along. The movie may never fully get past hugging and patting itself on the back, but it does also realize that there are some real issues to deal with, rather than just shoving them off to the side, shrugging it all off, and moving on while moaning and complaining about how the world just doesn’t get them.

Sorry about that. A little tangent always seems to come from me when I talk about these hipster-ish types.

A girls room: The place any teenage male would want to be and yet, he clearly seems not to care.

A girls room: The place any teenage male would want to be and yet, he clearly seems not to care.

Anyway, as time goes on, Earl finds itself in a sweet place as it begins to discuss certain ideas that we don’t too often see in these kinds of movies. Whereas one movie would make the cancer all about the fact that life is ending, Earl takes it one step further and uses this as a device to explain what it’s like to grow up, realize that your future is right ahead of you, and it’s about time to take a hold of it. Don’t get me wrong, though, the movie doesn’t forget that there is a life in danger here at the forefront, however, it doesn’t also forget to explore the beauty in living one’s life, whether it was planned perfectly, or not. Sometimes, that’s the beauty of life – it can end up in places that you’d never expect.

And at the center of this flick, is the tender relationship that Rachel and Greg have – however, don’t expect it to go in places you’d normally expect it to (as the movie, once again, constantly reminds you of itself). While it would be so incredibly easy to pin-point exactly when Rachel and Greg would find certain interests with one another, start to get along, bond, and, eventually as time rolled on along, fall in love, this movie’s a lot smarter than that. Sure, they bond, get to know one another and definitely make each other better as a result, but they don’t have that one key moment where they fall in love, shout it out to the stars and decide to take a trip to the Anne Frank house.

Once again, I’m sorry, but sometimes, I can’t help myself.

As Rachel and Greg, respectively, Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann are both quite good in roles that seem to be tailor-made for their strengths. Cooke is smart, smarmy and funny, but she’s never too much of so to make us forget that her character is still dealing with some incredibly life-altering problems, and it’s these moments where she seems to break down and remind us of this that have the most impact. As for Mann, his character is more one-note in terms of how he constantly just shoulder-shrugs his way through each and every scene, but he makes it work with smaller, less-seen subtleties in scenes that you wouldn’t expect him to have it. Sure, he may be self-loathing and a tad bit self-righteous, but he also seems to clearly care for others when push comes to shove and definitely wants that human connection he hears is so much of the rage back home. And then, of course, there’s Earl, played wonderfully by Ronald Cyler II, who you should know is just as charming as the title makes him out to be.

Hence why he’s in the title.

Consensus: While some of its stylistic tendencies tend to get a bit excessive, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl still keeps its heart in the right place to make it affecting coming-of-ager, without really settling for the sappy moments these kinds of movies are expected to have.

7.5 / 10

Basically, Be Kind Rewind, the junior version.

Basically, Be Kind Rewind, the junior version.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Face Of An Angel (2015)

AngelposterJournalists, film-makers, teens – they’re all the same evil-doers!

Thomas (Daniel Brühl) is a film-maker who is at a bit of a crossroads in both his professional, as well as his personal life. For one, he’s been assigned to make the film adaptation of a novel by the American author Simone Ford (Kate Beckinsale), which is about a murder case in which a young American girl was killed in Italy under suspicious circumstances. Then, he’s constantly going to battle with the British producers who want something more straight-forward that Thomas had in mind, therefore, causing him all the more confusion of what his vision could be. But as for his personal life, he’s trying his hardest to get over a recent divorce with an famous ex of his, while also still trying to maintain some sort of connection with his daughter. This all leads him to have some sort of drug addiction that constantly plays tricks with his mind. The only source of pleasure that Thomas can find at this point in his life is through the young, vibrant and British Melanie (Cara Delevingne), who helps Thomas out in maneuvering his way around Italy, as well as trying to figure his own-self out.

Keep on smiling, Kate - it won't get any better.

Keep on smiling, Kate – it won’t get any better.

So yeah, basically what this whole movie’s about is how this one director is trying to make a movie out of what is, essentially, the Amanda Knox murder case. Surely, it’s an interesting event to make a movie after and it’s a bit of a surprise that someone hasn’t done so quicker, but Michael Winterbottom, being the ever so challenging auteur that he is, decided to take it one step closer and focus on everything going on around it. Rather than keeping the focus on the actual people involved, Winterbottom sticks his sights on those who are talking about it, reporting on it, making a living off of it, and most of all, looking to make a movie out of it.

It all sounds so very interesting, even if slightly jumbled – and that’s because it is.

While I appreciate the fact that Winterbottom seems so hell-bent on focusing on every aspect of this story, it all comes off as oddly put-together. For one, the movie seems like it wants to be some sort of cautionary tale for those who want to make films and how it doesn’t quite matter if you have a great idea in your head that you’ve got to roll with – if the producers aren’t happy, the movie’s not happening. And even if it does happen, it’ll be with somebody else. It’s an idea that we’ve seen presented in many movies before the Face of An Angel, and I highly doubt it will be the last one to do so, too, however, when pushed up against all else that’s going on here, it feels like a wasted opportunity.

Because with all that we’re supposed to be paying attention here (the case, Thomas’ personal life unraveling, etc.), we are then “treated” to a numerous amount of scenes where Thomas either has some spooky dreams that he’s being killed or hunted, or when he’s always running into this shady fella who he think may actually be involved with the murder. The movie does focus on the trial, the murder and all that, but it’s so surface-material that you probably could have read the opening paragraph of a New York Times article and got a better understanding of everything that happened. Which is a shame, because even a movie made about the Amanda Knox trial would have been interesting as is, but all of this unnecessary filler added-on just takes the impact away.

Not Amanda Knox. Like, at all.

Not Amanda Knox. Like, at all.

Which is to say that, yes, the Face of An Angel is a mess. But because it’s so scattered and mixed up, it’s not a very interesting one. While it seems to think it’s making some reaffirming points about improving one’s life, the movie more or less ends up being just about a needy, self-righteous film maker who doesn’t really do much throughout the whole movie except do drugs, have the occasional bout of sex, fawn over some young gal, and write his script for the potential movie to be made. A lot of this contains him whining and not really being able to grab our attention as well; as Winterbottom thinks he is, which is a total shame because Daniel Brühl is a very good actor.

That is, when he’s given the right material to fully work with. If not, he’s kind of a lost puppy.

And in the midst of this mess, that’s exactly what he is; while he does seem to be trying, it’s hard to make up your own impression of this character, when the movie itself doesn’t ever seem to be able to do so. The same goes for Kate Beckinsale as Simone Ford, who is surprisingly showing up in a smaller, more indie-based movie – something we haven’t seen from her in quite some time. And even though she’s fine and seems to be trying with this role, it falls on faint ears as her character comes in and out of the movie, to only screw Thomas and yawn on about some exposition that we don’t really need. It’s a shame, because who knows when we’re going to see Beckinsale go back to her early days and play in a smaller movie, but so be it.

I guess that means more Underworld movies are to come.

The only one out of this cast, hell, the whole movie, who is worth talking about and/or praising is Cara Delevingne as Melanie. Though her character is nothing more than an idea, Delevingne still give it all that she’s got with plenty of wit, charm and loveliness to her that it makes it seem like her character actually would randomly start hanging out with this dude she literally met for maybe all of two minutes. And even though her and Brühl seem to have some chemistry together, it’s all taken back by the fact that the movie seems to be concerning itself with way too much else that may, or may not be going on, and forgetting that, at it’s heart, it’s actually a drama about people making themselves better.

Or at least, that’s what I think.

Consensus: As usual, Winterbottom seems to have an interesting angle on a very conventional story, but with the Face of An Angel, he seems to be taking too many angles and forgetting how to make them all work together as one, cohesive whole.

3 / 10

She knows she should be elsewhere, but oh well.

She knows she should be elsewhere, but oh well.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Manglehorn (2015)

ManglehornposterWhen you’re sad and lonely, get a cat. Those little a-holes seem to help out.

A.J. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) lives a very quiet, care-free life. He lives with his cat that he loves so much, owns a key shop somewhere around town, goes out to eat when he feels like it, goes to the bank to flirt with one of the tellers (Holly Hunter), and will occasionally head on over to the local casino. Though he has a son (Chris Messina), the relationship the two have isn’t great to where they constantly keep in touch – except for only when the other needs money. But for some reason, Manglehorn is starting to think a tad differently about his life and realizes that maybe it’s time for some things to change. This pushes him to finally ask that bank teller out on a date, reconnect with his son, and above all, try and have something of a relationship with his grand-daughter. For some reason, however, there’s something in Manglehorn’s past that’s constantly keeping him away from doing that. Nobody really knows but him, so what is it exactly?

Last year, with Joe, David Gordon Green finally seemed to have gone back to his roots, and while he was at it, find the perfect suitor for his unique sense of style with the likes of Nicolas Cage. Sure, the movie may have depended a lot on the performance of Cage, but as a whole, it brought Green back to the good old days of when he made smaller, more indie-based flicks that seemed so strange oddly put-together, that they seemed like nothing more than crappy student films. However, for better or worse, they weren’t; they were David Gordon Green’s babies that he wanted to display for the whole world to see. What the world decided to do with them, was totally their choice.

First dates don't get anymore exciting than this!

First dates don’t get anymore exciting than this!

As it will be with Manglehorn – another flick that finds Green back to his old indie-world.

And just like with Joe, Green’s been able to find another talented star who is able to gel with his unique style with the likes of Al Pacino, surprisingly. Over the past year or so, Pacino has really stepped away from the big, mainstream lime-light and stick it straight with the indies, and while they may have not all worked out perfectly as a whole, there’s no denying that Pacino’s very good in them. Now, at this point in his career, Pacino is less concerned with making money and pleasing others, and more or less concerned with just challenging himself and showing the rest of the world that it doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still season and hone your craft.

With this character of Manglehorn, Pacino gets a chance to do so and it surprisingly works for the rest of the movie. Even though a lot of the lines that Pacino mutters are nothing more than a faint whisper, at times, there’s still a sense that there’s something more to this guy than he’s letting on. Pacino has the great ability to make it seem like he’s improving his ass off, even if the script is written exactly as how it’s coming out, and here, as Manglehorn, there are many instances in which it seems like Pacino’s just making it all up as he rolls on along. But somehow, once again, it works – it makes you see that this character may be a bit out-of-touch with the world around him and when push comes to shove, can be as charming as you or I.

That’s if, you know, you or I were Al Pacino, of course.

No, Harmony Korine. Just leave.

No, Harmony Korine. Just leave.

But anyway, what Pacino’s performance in the key role shows about the rest of the movie, is that when Green just allows for the camera to sit down and just observe whatever Pacino’s doing, or saying, or acting with, the movie’s something of a little delight. The scenes Pacino has with Holly Hunter and her character are at times sweet, and at other times, odd, but there’s no denying that there’s an engaging simplicity to them all that puts us all one step closer to these characters, rather than making it feel like Green’s style is getting in the way too much. Even the few scenes Pacino has with Chris Messina’s character run with the same kind of energy, although in a different manner, of course.

However, the problem that this movie runs into is that it feels like it’s a little excessive in certain details. Now, even though Green didn’t write this (Paul Logan did such), the movie still has his certain trademark for letting the weirdest little details sink in, but whereas his movies end with that and just allow for them to be a thing, Logan seems like he wants this tale to be about so much more. For instance, it’s never clear where exactly this movie is going, all of a sudden until the last half-hour and we realize that, oh wait, something’s troubling this character that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Honestly, I just presumed he was just an old crank and left it at that; anything else seemed to not exist, until it was coincidentally brought up later on.

Then, there’s the odd subplot of Manglehorn’s past life coming into the forefront of the plot, which never seemed to really go anywhere. Throughout the movie, we constantly get to hear little glimpses of a conversation some characters are having with one another about a past recollection of Manglehorn and something he did. Sometimes they’re heroic tales, sometimes they’re weird, but either way, they feel a tad unnecessary. It’s almost as if Green and Logan felt like having someone as talented as Pacino in the lead role wasn’t enough to make him interesting as is, so to add-on all of this supposed backstory would just help him out. Problem is, it didn’t happen and just goes to show you that sometimes, you shouldn’t get in the way of an artist and his art.

Especially when that artist is Al Pacino.

Consensus: Due to Pacino’s great performance, Manglehorn moves in certain areas that you don’t expect it to, to much surprise, that is sometimes both good, as well as bad.

6.5 / 10

I'd trust that grizzle with opening up my car.

I’d trust that scruff with opening up my car.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Madame Bovary (2015)

When being rich just isn’t quite cutting it for you.

Young American Emma (Mia Wasikowska) is finally able to leave the convent, although, it’s only so that she can get married to a country doctor by the name of Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes). It was arranged by her father, of course, but there’s no real problems with Charles to begin with; however, he’s so boring and dull, Emma begins to grow tired and look for something more meaningful. She thinks she finds that with the dashing Marquis (Logan Marshall-Green), a man who appreciates hunting and fine art, and then she thinks she finds it with local law clerk Leon Dupuis (Ezra Miller). Eventually though, this excess in love and sex, leads to a much greater excess in fashion and luxuries; both of which Emma, nor Charles are able to pay for, although the dry-goods dealer Monsieur Lheureux (Rhys Ifans) has no problem extending her as much credit as she wants. This all starts to catch up to Emma, where she’s not only in constant fear of her husband finding out about her philandering ways, but also of losing everything that was handed to her when she got married in the first place.

Normally, these kinds of fluffy, British period pieces don’t do it for me, but with recent releases like Belle and Far From the Madding Crowd entertaining me, my tune has changed a bit. Now, I’ve come to realize that these period pieces can work if they’re made for more people than just their target-audience. Sure, you can say, “It works for who it’s made for”, but to me, that’s another way of saying, “Oh well, you know, a good majority of people will hate this movie, but they aren’t the target audience who it’s made for.” If that’s so abundantly the case, then whom exactly are these period pieces made for?

Sad.

Sad.

Older people? Intellectuals? People that aren’t below the age of 50? Either way, I’ve come to realize that the more these kinds of period pieces start to try and reach out a little to other possible target audiences, the more I’ve come to enjoy them and understand the appeal.

And then, there’s Madame Bovary, which kind of reminds me exactly why these kinds of period pieces don’t work for me, as well as many others like me, in the first place.

Adapting the story of Madame Bovary must be a pretty hard task, but you’d think that with a female director on-hand to direct a story about a female, straight from the female’s perspective, that there’d be a little bit more of an impact, right? Well, that’s the problem here – there isn’t. Instead, director Sophie Barthes just shows Emma’s actions, over and over again, without much of any tension or narrative driving it. Rather than understand full-well why it is that Emma wants to screw around so much on her husband and spend all of his money in places she shouldn’t be, making us at least understand her, and somewhat stand behind her back, the movie mostly portrays Emma as being a bit of mopey, unlikable, and needy brat.

Which wouldn’t be so bad had the movie been maybe an hour-and-a-half where we didn’t have to see Emma constantly make the same mistakes, over and over again, but that’s not the case. The movie goes on for at least two hours, to where we see the mistakes being made, she hardly ever learns, and it’s hard to care. Not to mention the fact that the movie actually starts off with Emma’s death early-on, so much rather than actually building to that shocking climax, the movie already shoots its gun too early and makes it easy for us to all connect the dots.

This isn’t to say that Mia Wasikowska doesn’t do a fine job as the title character, because she does, it’s just a role that sees her sort of going through the motions. Of course, she may not have been challenged all that much to begin with, but there’s a lot of Wasikowska just looking drab, bored and sad, which makes sense at certain points with this character, but at the same time, feels repetitive. Also, the fact that Wasikowska absolutely killed it in another period piece not too long ago (“Jane Eyre“), makes this performance sort of seem like an after-thought and shows that maybe Wasikowska doesn’t need to bother with them anymore.

And then, there’s her suitors, who all try just as much as Wasikowska does, but they too seem to fall on dead ears. It may seem like a weird role for somebody as modern as Ezra Miller to play a character in a period piece, but surprisingly, he works well with it. There’s no sense of irony to anything he does or says, and more often than not, seems like a reasonable enough guy to fall in love with Bovary, although he mostly falls into the background of a character people lose interest in. Ditto for Logan Marshall-Green who seems to be ready to charm the socks off of Emma Bovery, but instead, just looks at her and all of a sudden, she’s absolutely smitten.

Handsome.

Handsome.

If only it was that easy in real life.

But the real performance I want to talk about from this whole movie that’s probably the most interesting anecdote it had to offer was Rhys Ifans’ Monsieur Lheureux. Even though Lheureux initially seems like a sweet, likable and honest businessman who actually is looking out for Emma and her expenses, he eventually starts to edge on over the other way. He’s very easy to extend her as much credit as she oh so desires, he doesn’t care how much time or effort it takes for him to get the goods that she wants, and he doesn’t even bother his head as to when he will get the money back; he just knows that he one day will.

Ifans is so good at oozing charm, that it makes it all the more scary when he turns the other cheek and shows ulterior motives. People who have read the book will know what happens with this character, but for those who don’t, it will come as an absolute and complete shock, all thanks to Ifans’ work here. Even though, yes, Paul Giamatti is around too, he doesn’t get nearly as much as Ifans and it’s quite surprising what he’s able to do with so very little.

Consensus: Occasionally engaging, if only due to the performances, Madame Bovary suffers from the fact that it’s too repetitive and bland to really get over that hurdle that so many period pieces as of late seem to get over.

5 / 10

EVIL.

EVIL.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire03

Dope (2015)

Kids, don’t do drugs, or sell them. But definitely listen to A Tribe Called Quest when you get the chance.

High school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is on the verge of graduating, figuring out of his major, getting into a good college, and getting the hell out of Inglewood. Though he will definitely miss his best friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori), he knows that this is what he needs to do to survive and make himself a better person, and not just a cliche of what everybody thinks as “the young, black kid in America”. However, all of his dreams and hopes get a bit blindsided when he’s at a party and things get out of hand – drugs are dealt, money is taken, guns are shot, bullets are flying. But, when it’s all over, somehow, Malcolm has a gun and a stash of drugs in his backpack, which seem to have gotten in there deliberately from the local drug-dealer, Dom (A$AP Rocky). Now, Dom wants Malcolm to take the drugs to a place to make sure that he’s able to get out of jail, but now, somebody very threatening wants the drugs, too and now, Dom, has no idea what to do! All he knows now is that he has to rely on both his book, as well as his street smarts to get him out of this terrible situation.

Oh, and of course he's got to be in an ironic punk band!

Oh, and of course he’s got to be in an ironic punk band!

Oh, and it all happens to the back-beat of some sick 90’s hip-hop jams; which, I have to say, is kind of strange considering that this movie, minus a few plot-points here and there, could have easily taken place in said decade. The movie very much feels like it’s trying to be the Boyz N the Hood for the new generation, but at the same time, still seems to be placed in the same time and place as that movie, that it can’t help but feel a tad bit like it’s unoriginal. But that’s the beauty of Dope: On the surface, it seems like you’re average, coming-of-age flick, but it somehow finds smart, interesting ways to spin itself that makes it feel fun, fresh and original, as if this were a story that was just being told to us for the first time, and excluding all of the other times we’ve seen movies about young drug-dealers just trying to survive.

Nope, Dope is something smarter and it wants you to know that, too.

Don’t get me wrong, though, no way in hell is Dope pretentious; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. While it’s a movie that seems to love and appreciate its characters, it still doesn’t shy away from the fact that they too, like all of us, make some incredibly terrible mistakes. Because Malcolm and his friends are so young, dorky, and closed-off from everyone else around them, it makes sense that they would only be able to react to a situation such as the one they’re thrown into, acting on pure ingenuity, regardless of what they think happens next. After all, they’re kids just acting like kids, so sue ’em!

But this is getting away from the reality that Dope is a familiar story, told exceptionally well by director Rick Famuyiwa. Even in the smaller, more intimate moments where it literally consists of two characters talking to one another about life, or what have you, there’s still a certain sense of energy behind Dope that’s infectious. While the movie takes place over a few weeks or so, it moves by so quickly and rapidly, that it literally could have been taken place in a single, hellacious day. And because of this, the movie never loses its muster; even if it is taken time to develop its characters a bit, there’s always a sense that there’s somewhere to go and that the plot needs to constantly unwrap.

Of course, by the end, the unwrapping gets a bit ridiculous. Though there’s a lot of eyebrow-raising coincidences that occur throughout a good majority of this movie, it’s the last-act or so where it seems like Famuyiwa loses a sense of this story a bit; then again, it seemed like it was inescapable. Because Dope is so swift and so willing to throw a twist and turn at us every chance it gets, it also suffers from the problem that it gets a bit too ahead of itself – even when it seems like we’re done with the whole drug-angle, the movie still continues to hammer away at it. Which is to say that the movie’s 110 time-limit could have easily been trimmed-down to at least 90 minutes and all would have been fine.

Then again, it’s hard to hate on a movie that’s having as much fun as Dope is.

Word of advice: Don't tell her about your band. She's probably heard a bit too much music in her lifetime.

Word of advice: Don’t tell her about your band. She’s probably heard a bit too much music in her lifetime.

Which, by a summer viewing standpoint, is exactly what you want. But at the same time, there’s still a message at the center of Dope that’s noteworthy and smart, and doesn’t try to cram down your throat (that is, until the last-act). Rather than being a tale about racism and how it affects our everyday landscape, Dope is more about how one person can get through that all and focus on what makes them better as a human being, rather than what it does for society. The characters in Dope realize that racism is indeed an issue, but they’re more or less concerned with how they’re going to get by in a world that constantly seems to be crushing them from both sides. Whereas some want to stay on the straight and narrow path of studying hard, getting a good job, and having a lovely life, others can’t ever see themselves doing that, so therefore, they stick to the streets where they deal drugs, rob people, and risk the chance of getting arrested and/or killed each and everyday. It’s a sad reality, but it’s the reality we live in.

And nobody knows this more than Malcolm, our main protagonist, played wonderfully by Shameik Moore. Malcolm is the 21st century definition of a “nerd”: While he’s definitely not the most popular kid in school, he’s far from being the dweeb. He dresses cool, isn’t too socially-awkward, and knows how the outside world works, even if he definitely gets picked-on by his confidantes because he’s smart and is able to use that to his advantage. Moore is great in this role because even though Malcolm seems to have it all figured out about what he wants to do with his life, he’s still far from growing up, or better yet, understanding everything there is to understand about life. He’s smart and inspired, but when he’s talking to girls or college counselors, he’s still a naive, 18-year-old kid that has an idea of what he wants, but when he gets right down to it, is still spacing out on all of the details.

Which we were all like at one point!

Playing Malcolm’s two buddies, Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori do solid jobs at making their personalities seem more than just “loving side kicks”; they too, like Malcolm, have their own dreams and aspirations, and are more than willing to support Malcolm in this poor situation. But perhaps the one that I was most impressed with was A$AP Rocky as the drug-dealer who puts the drugs in Malcolm’s bag in the first place, Dom. Even though it doesn’t seem like Rocky has to stretch himself too much to really fit into this role, he still impressed me with how he was able to embody a character that you’re never too sure about. Does Dom really like Malcolm? Or, basically, is he just using him for his own personal gain? And if so, what will he do to Dom when all is said and done?

Either way, you never know and it goes to show you that the list of good rappers-turned-actors just got a bit bigger.

Consensus: Despite a problematic last-act and run-time, Dope still treads along fine enough to where it’s entertaining, funny, and most of all, heartfelt to the point of where it seems like it’s offering you a glimpse into a character’s life whose is worth glimpsing into.

8 / 10

Dare to dream, kid.

Dare to dream, kid.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Inside Out (2015)

Whatever characters are in my head, they are some pretty messed-up individuals.

Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is a twelve-year-old girl who is going through a bit of growing pains. After living her comfortable, lovely little life in Minnesota, her and her family all of a sudden have to move out to San Francisco, where she doesn’t know a single person and has to join a hockey team that she doesn’t seem to want to. However, to help her out through this whole turning point in her life, just like they’ve been there for her from the day she was born, are five personified emotions that live and work inside of her head: Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and the one who pretty much has all command over what happens, Joy (Amy Poehler). For some reason though, on Riley’s first day of school, Sadness can’t stop touching all of Riley’s happy memories, therefore making them sad, which, as a result, makes her more sad as a result. Things end up getting so out-of-hand with Sadness, that she screws up the whole system, which in turn, makes Riley into something of a mean, nasty and cruel girl to those around her. Now, it’s up to Joy and Sadness to figure out how they can fix the whole system so that Riley can get back to her old self – even if, you know, her old-self still needed some growing up to do.

Oh, Psych majors are going to have a field day with this one!

Oh, Psych majors are going to have a field day with this one!

I’ll start it all off by stating this: For the first time in what seems to be five years, I cried during a Pixar movie.

While that may have been an obvious statement at least a decade or so ago, when it seemed like Pixar excelled at doing that on a yearly-basis, the past few years haven’t been so kind to the company to where it would be the first thing on everybody’s mind. For one, they’ve ran into the problem that they had been working with such a great platform, for so very long, and seemed to be striking gold everywhere they went, that they were totally set-up to fail. Shame that it had to start with the dreadful Cars 2; go on a tad bit with the initially promising, but ultimately disappointing Brave; get very desperate with the prequel Monsters University; and then, suddenly, bow out of actually releasing a movie all year last year, something they haven’t done in I don’t know how long. What this seemed to be was just another case of a talented, original studio that have been breaking all sorts of ground with just about everything they put out, tragically, run out of any original ideas to pass-out to the masses.

Thankfully though, Inside Out is exactly the step back in the right direction for Pixar, and all of animation as a whole.

While the premise to Inside Out may already seem a little too heady for its own good, let alone a kids movie, have no fear as the creators do a terrific job of laying just about everything out perfectly to where we understand just how everything works. From the way Riley reacts to something, how she feels about her day, or to even what she dreams about when she sleeps at night, are all touched upon, but believe it or not, there’s still a bit of mystery hidden beneath that continues to let the film surprise us more and more. While it would have been easy to lay out all of the cards on the table and let us see it play its hand, Inside Out takes itself one step further as it not only continues to surprise us, the audience, with all of its terrific little tricks and goodies, but even surprise itself.

Whereas a movie such as this could have easily seemed like it was just making itself up as it went along, Inside Out seems like it knows where it wants to go and why, however, they let us join in on the ride, too, and hardly forget that they’re teaching the audience about what they’re doing, alongside entertaining them, too, of course. And the whole tinkering around with this plot and the certain surprises it offers alongside the way, are what makes the movie so funny to begin with. Though Inside Out has plenty of jokes aimed towards the kids (slapstick and such), there are equally just as many jokes, if not more, targeted towards those who may not even have to be adults to fully appreciate.

Be ready mom and dad, the next couple of years are going to be a whole lot not at all as peaceful as this.

Mom and dad, be prepared, the next couple of years are not going to be nearly as peaceful as this.

Literally, one could be 14 years of age, watch Inside Out, and laugh their rumps off at a passing-line that they didn’t see coming, nor will they fully remember when all is said and done with; however, if they pay attention long enough, they’ll be rewarded. So few movies actually congratulate its viewers on giving their whole heart and attention to what it’s presenting, and it’s such a great feeling to get that here with Inside Out – a movie that’s more about making fun its own self, rather than pointing a finger at the audience and making fun of them for not fully understanding what’s going on. Sure, some of the jokes are more on the “mature” side, but if you pay close enough attention, you’ll hear ’em, you’ll get ’em, and you’ll laugh at ’em.

And sometimes, that’s all you need with a comedy.

Then, of course, there’s the dramatic side to Inside Out and, like I said before, it absolutely obliterated me. While I must admit, a premise such as this is right up my ballpark (adolescence, growing, coming-of-age, etc.), Inside Out handles it so well to where it feels like it’s writers actually know a thing or two about going through that period of time where you’re growing up and starting to make a little sense of the world you’re in. You’re not fully there just yet, but you’re working your way there, and it’s a very scary, but always rewarding time in your life; trust me, I’m still going through it and I’m nearly 22!

Anyway, what at first seems like a neat conceit to tell a story about growing up, Inside Out soon turns out to be a heartwarming tale that uses its own mechanisms to show us how we all operate as we get older. Even though most of us grow out of adolescence and feel as if we are ready to take on the world with a fresh new start, the fact is that we really aren’t; sometimes, we need to depend on the good will and love of those around us. They could be friends, family, or confidantes who you don’t even think twice about on a regular-basis – it doesn’t matter who, they’re there for you when you need them and even if you don’t think you need them, trust us, you do.

Heck, we all do!

But the movie also brings up another important aspect that doesn’t just have to do with growing up, but has to do with life as a whole. What the character of Joy represents is being happy and pleasant, all of the time, 24/7, never bringing other people down, and never having a worry in the world. This is a good mind-set to have, most of the times, but occasionally, you still need to bring yourself down to reality and look a bit on the gloomier side of things; which is exactly what the character of Sadness represents. While she’s not always about being depressed about every event in one’s life, she still realizes that people need sadder moments in their life, just to balance out all of the joyful ones; no one wants to be around a person who is always chirpy, nor does anyone want to be around a person who is always downer. Sometimes, they want somebody who is slap down in the middle and that’s the most important fact about life that Inside Out brings to light, especially for the kiddies that will go out and see this.

God, I’m so happy to be back to loving Pixar movies!

Consensus: Even despite its overly ambitious premise, Inside Out never loses its energetic muster to stop being entertaining, fun for the whole family, and most of all, heartwarming, proving that important messages about life can be in anywhere you look – you just have to search a bit closer.

9 / 10

Yup, they're inside of each and everyone of our own heads. And no, they don't symbolize the government!

Yup, they’re inside of each and everyone of our own heads. And no, they aren’t metaphors for the government!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cold Souls (2009)

Just take my soul already!

Paul Giamatti stars as a fictionalized version of himself, who is an anxious, overwhelmed actor who decides to enlist the service of a company to deep freeze his soul. Complications ensue when he wants his soul back, but mysteriously, his soul gets lost in a soul trafficking scheme which has taken his soul to St. Petersburg, making Paul have to venture all the way out there to see just what the hell is even going on in the first place.

What you see in the title, is exactly what you get in the movie’s tone. Seriously, don’t come expecting some minor laughs here and there, because the film really just doesn’t seem all that concerned with that aspect at all. It’s more about being dark, moody, bleak, and overall, pretty frigid in its portrayal of where our society may be turning towards. Actually, it’s a pretty far-fetched idea, but I could definitely imagine, just waking up one day, and wanting to be and have Brad Pitt’s soul.

Damn, now that I think about it, I hope this future does come to existence!

Here's a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

Here’s a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

This is the debut flick of Sophie Barthes who not only directs, but writes this flick as well and the information I was looking up for this said that apparently she had this idea in her dream. Now, I could only wish that any of my dreams had anything as ambitious lingering around in them, as apparently the ideas she has swimming in her brain when it’s sleepy-time, but considering that she’s working off of an idea that was probably no less than two minutes, I have to give the gal some credit because it’s pretty intriguing what she comes up with here. Even if the results don’t fully match the ambitions, you have to at least give her credit where credit’s due, because it’s sure as hell not easy to make a movie in today’s day and age – let alone one with as kooky of an idea as Cold Souls.

Barthes doesn’t paint a portrait of a future that’s groomed for doom, where people are in desperate need to be others, have different lives, and basically just erase or escape any type of life they have and don’t like. It’s sort of like the same ideas that went through mind-benders like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, and although this one doesn’t really stack up anywhere near those masterpieces, Barthes at least tries to capture that Charlie Kaufman-esque nature of her material without really going overboard. There’s a lot of weird, sci-fi stuff going on here that’s definitely thoughtful, but it’s also grounded in a reality to where you feel like something could happen like this, had somebody gotten a more well thought-out plan. Barthes definitely deserves style-points on this one in terms of his screenplay, but damn, did we really need to be so sad the whole time?

The answer is no, but most people will probably disagree with me.

Even though the premise definitely promises a bunch of weird, wacky fun in the same light as a Kaufman flick, that promise never gets fulfilled. Instead, Barthes seems like she’s content with just focusing on the sad aspect of this story with long, gloomy shots of a snowy Russia, and an even more horrid-looking New York City that looks as if it hasn’t seen the sun in a decade. All of the colors in this movie feel like a mixture of soft blues and muddle grays, and as much as that may make this flick seem more depressing and sad, do we really want to feel like we, as well as the characters were watching, should just go kill themselves and get it all over with? I don’t think so, because even while you may have an interesting premise to work with, to just constantly hammer us over the head with your inherent seriousness about it can get pretty old.

And another, even despite the fact he's in the same bed as Emily Watson.

And another, even despite the fact he’s in the same bed as Emily Watson.

But even despite the actual lack of fun in this movie, probably the most disappointing aspect of this whole flick is that it brings up all of these questions, ideas, and messages about life and exactly where we are headed as a society, but loses them about half-way through once the last act kicks into high-gear; and then, it ends, just leaving everything up in the air. Listen, I’m totally game for any type of film that wants to bring up a lot of food-for-thought, have me doing thinking about what’s it trying to say, and eventually allowing me to go out with some people afterwards and talk it up, but this movie doesn’t even seem like it wants to give me that privilege. Even when that last act comes around and the movie oddly changes from this existential drama, into this mystery/romance/off-kilter comedy that now all of a sudden wants to please us, rather than having us contemplate jumping off the San Francisco bridge. It was a change in tone that not only felt phony, but showed that Barthes maybe backed-out on an ending, that could have answered a whole lot, and even left some more up for thought and discussion.

But nope, she didn’t even give us that.

What’s even more surprising than this change in tone, was how Paul Giamatti seemed to be a bit boring to watch as well. Granted, the guy isn’t given all that much to work with, other than a slew of shots of him just staring off into the space, looking all mopey and sad all of the time, but when the guy does need to liven things up, he does with that charm and wit we all know and love the guy for. His character (which is pretty much him, just not nearly as famous), is a downer and that’s why it’s pretty fun to see what happens to him when he switches souls, gets a little bit more energetic, and a bit more inspiration with how he lives his life and it’s one of the very rare moments in this flick where not only he comes alive, but the movie as well. Sadly, Barthes knocks his character back down to reality, and he becomes the same old, sad sap we started out with in the first place and it’s a bummer, because Giamatti’s always good and entertaining to watch. You just got to give him the right material that allows him to have some fun every once and awhile.

Consensus: Cold Souls deals with a very interesting idea about the current landscape of our society, but is too dour to really bring anybody into the world it’s trying to portray, nor does it really follow through on any of the rules it sets up to begin with.

5.5 / 10

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Unfinished Business (2015)

Poverty sucks, but hey, at least you’ve got plenty of weed.

After refusing to take a pay-cut from his boss (Sienna Miller), salesman Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) decides that it’s his time to finally cut himself loose and break off on his own. Problem is, Dan doesn’t have much of a team. Though he gets two misfits in the form of the aging, semi-retired Tim (Tom Wilkinson) and the silly, but very naive Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), Dan still can’t seem to catch much of a break. Not to mention, there’s a lot of problems going on at home where his kids are the subject of bullying and, in a way to avoid any further mishaps, Dan’s trying to save up more and more money so that he can send his kids away to a nice, safe and bully-free private school. Once again, though, it’s all a matter of money with Dan, so that’s why when he and his gang get a chance to fly out to Berlin to possibly sell their product, swarf, to the highest bidder, he takes it. He’s not sure if it’s all going to work out, but what he does know is that he is not going to back down from any obstacle thrown in his way – even if Berlin offers up more of them than he ever expected.

In a little less than a week, season two of True Detective will set upon us and while many are looking forward to seeing the new sets of characters, story-lines, and setting, the one element I am mostly anticipating is seeing what Vince Vaughn can do in one of the lead roles. Because, see, even though some may not know this, Vaughn actually got his start in dramatic flicks, where he played some very serious and odd individuals, rather than just being the swift, quick-talking, smart-ass that every R-rated mainstream comedy seems to cast for the hopes of any possible laughter whatsoever.

What.....

What…..

He was Norman Bates for gosh sakes!

But even though I have yet to see a single lick of True Detective, something makes me feel as if Vaughn will blow us away. In nearly a decade since Into the Wild, we’ll see Vince Vaughn challenge himself and go deeper and darker with a role that he was once able to pull off; sure, the movies that he was participating in may not have been stellar, but there’s no denying that Vaughn came ready to play, ready to challenge himself, and ready to see if he could make movies better. You could make the argument that Vaughn’s been doing that for the past couple of years, but if you look at the movies he’s been doing it, it becomes clear that they’re way too often reliant on him, that if you were to eliminate him from the respective movie altogether, they would be absolute piles of dog excrement. They would be unfunny, stupid and lacking any sort of energy.

Sort of like what Unfinished Business is with Vaughn in it.

The main problem with this flick here is that it feels so generic and conventional, that eventually, once we get to any parts of it that may be at least somewhat riveting or fun to watch, it feels even worse. It’s one thing to have a movie that’s so utterly and completely crappy, that nothing in it could be looked at as mildly interesting, at best; then again, it’s a whole other thing completely when you have a movie that’s garbage, but still seems to hold some promise deep down from within. Because the promise is wasted on something that’s junk, it makes it seem like a waste, as if any other movie could have swooped-in, taken the idea and ran wild with it.

Problem is, Unfinished Business has so very few of these moments. There’s plenty of scenes that take place in German gay club that all prominently feature male genitalia in all of their bulgiest form, and there’s a hotel room that soon turns into a hotel expo idea that’s pretty nifty and entertaining to watch, even if it is the only thing in the whole movie. Other than these two elements, everything else about this movie feels like a bore. Most jokes miss completely, whereas others plop right down on the ground, moving around frantically for any sort of air, and then die right in front of your own ears and eyes before you could even recognize that a joke was even made.

....is up.....

….is up…..

See, Unfinished Business is the type of comedy that’s not at all funny, but the same time, still tries to be more than what it is. There are many, and I do repeat, many, scenes dedicated to Vaughn skyping with his wife and kids, discussing all sorts of melodramatic family stuff that would probably be suited best in an after-school special that’s about bullying and acceptance. However, here it all feels so oddly-placed that it seems like an after thought altogether; while director Ken Scott may have wanted there to be more heart and humanity added to the proceedings as a way to balance out all of the dicks and balls, it just feels messy and uneven.

And this isn’t to say that the cast should be held fully accountable for this, because most of them do seem to be trying. It made me very upset to see such a talented and lovely actor like Tom Wilkinson take this paycheck gig and just run through the motions as the “aging horn-dog” of the group, but eventually, I realized that he’s got plenty more movies coming up to where I need not worry about all of that. Then, there’s Dave Franco as Mike Pancake (yup, his actual name), a character who seems to be bordering on the line of “mentally challenged”, but the movie never makes its mind up as to what he actually is, nor does it know whether it wants to laugh with him, or at him. Either way, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to sit and listen to, and while I credit Dave Franco for at least trying to stand out a bit and take on something new, it still doesn’t go anywhere.

And then, there’s Vince Vaughn.

Obviously I’ve talked about him enough times here to where it’s become fully clear that I have it out for this dude, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I like Vince Vaughn; normally, he’s funny in everything he shows up in. The movies themselves could be nearly unwatchable, except for the moments that he showed up and did “his thing”. That I have no problem with, except for the fact that it’s a role that seems to be so overdone now, it’s stale; no longer does anybody want to watch as a Vince Vaughn character faces off against all sorts of adversity standing in his way, only to then have him make some smart-ass remarks about a fellow person, love and care for his family, and all of a sudden, have everything turn out alright for him. By now, it’s like the guy’s gotten so comfortable, that he’s become dull – a term that I never thought I’d use in the same sentence when speaking of Vaughn.

But hey, at least True Detective is coming soon. Be prepared, people.

Consensus: An uneven mess, Unfinished Business has no clue what it wants to be, what it’s about, who it’s for, and especially, how it’s trying to be funny, chalking this up to being another formulaic vehicle for Vince Vaughn.

2 / 10

...with these pictures?!?

…with these pictures?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Jurassic World (2015)

Next summer, just go to Six Flags.

A little over 20 years since the disastrous incident that occurred at Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is now up, running and pretty damn successful. It’s considered one of the more popular theme parks on the planet, where it features all sorts of dinosaurs, games, rides, and scientists working on genetically-modified dinosaurs. Wait, what? Yep, just like they were doing those many years ago, scientists at Jurassic World are now trying to figure out how they can make bigger, better and more efficient dinosaurs so that they can keep attendance booming over a large period of time. While the operation’s manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), sees no problem in this, one of the Velociraptor’s trainers, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), does and sees that it’s only a matter of time until the dinosaurs decide to bite back. Eventually, on one fateful day when two brothers (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting the park, the T-Rex that they have hidden away at the park gets loose and decides to run all sorts of havoc around the park. Now, it’s only a matter of time until too much damage is done and nobody can stop it; something that Grady, as well as some shady businessmen, want to make happen.

Let’s get one thing clear: Jurassic World is definitely the better of the Jurassic Park sequels. Sure, that may not be saying much, but considering that so many sequels/reboots/remakes/cash-ins seem to pop by every other week or so, without seeming like any life was put into them at all, it’s saying a whole lot. It’s saying that Steven Spielberg made a smart decision on taking a back-seat to his prized possession and allow young up-and-comer Colin Trevorrow take over the reigns; a job he does fine enough with to where there’s some brief instances of a sense of fun and wonder in the tips of his hands.

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

So yeah, it’s a good movie. Is it great? Nope, but sometimes, that doesn’t always matter.

Where Trevorrow seems to drop the ball a bit is in making sense of this story to its fullest extent. For one, it’s interesting that even though there’s so much talk about the theme park of Jurassic World itself, and in how it’s trying to be the biggest, best, and greatest thing to ever hit the Earth, makes me wonder what the message was trying to be conveyed here. In a day and age we live in where SeaWorld seems to constantly be getting hit with controversy after controversy, it’s almost idiotic to avoid discussing this in any way, especially when your own movie seems to be dealing with the same problems, in a theme park where animals are held, no less.

But what’s odd is that the movie doesn’t ever seem to know what sort of stance it wants to take. We don’t know if we’re supposed to feel pity for the genetically-modified dinosaurs and how they’re just acting out the way they would be, had they not been so held in captivity for so long, or if we’re supposed to feel bad for the human beings who are just trying to run away and save their own lives. In the original film, it was clear that we’re supposed to care for the humans, but also realize that the dinosaurs were acting out in menacing ways that made them deserve to be put down. Trevorrow and company, for some odd reason, constantly juggle between the two and it creates a weird jumble that never seems to be fully pinned-down.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of how the characters, despite the lovely cast playing them, are a bit on the bland side. One of the hottest, brightest, talented and most charming stars we have working in movies today, Chris Pratt, is given the hero role as Owen Grady and it doesn’t seem like it fully goes as deep as it should have. Sure, Pratt gets a chance to use some lines, look tough and constantly seem like he’s always in control, but he plays it in such a way that’s almost too straight; as if he was just playing Burt Macklin, through and through, and forgetting to drop out of character. Of course, this may have more to do with the writing that was made for him, which is a shame, but it puts into question as to why the writers didn’t decide to give Pratt, one of the funnier men in movies today, at least a joke or two to work with?

Just seems weird, is all.

Who is it that's supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham's daughter?

Who is it that’s supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham’s daughter?

Bryce Dallas Howard is sort of in the same boat as Pratt, where her character seems like she’s just window-dressing to a lot of action and a random romantic subplot that seems to come a tad bit out of nowhere. Then, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play her nephews who seem to be there to yell, run and scream a whole lot; Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, who will occasionally sound like he has a Southern accent, and then, suddenly, drop out of it; and well, there’s plenty more along the likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Irrfan Khan, and B.D. Wong, all of whom do what they can, but aren’t always given much to work with because of the visual-display on hand.

With that said, too, the movie itself is actually all fine. There’s just been so many complaints about the characters that it felt like it needed to be addressed, because while they’re definitely lame, they don’t destroy the movie. It’s still a fun time, which seems to be because Trevorrow still knows what it’s like to watch a movie as a kid – just as Spielberg seems to have always intended with his movies.

Though some moan and complain about the fact that the movie takes about an hour to get to any sort of dinosaur action, or any action of any sort, for that matter, it still seemed to work for me, the same way it did for me in Godzilla. Whereas that movie kept us in the dark about what it prized-attraction looked like and was capable of doing, Jurassic World seems to understand that we know what its star looks like and can do, however, when it’ll come into play is what really makes the anticipation all the more worth it. Once the T-Rex is unleashed and all hell breaks loose, the movie still keeps its fun tone alive and well, but at the same time, still terrifying to where it doesn’t seem watered-down like most PG-13 movies can be, especially when they’re made for a larger audience.

So basically, come to this one for all of the action and fun, don’t bother even taking a glance at the characters; you’ll only leave pissed-off.

Consensus: Though definitely lacking in the story and character department, Jurassic World benefits from a fun and exciting feel that makes it a summer blockbuster worth checking out, even if the “other” sequels still leave rancid tastes in your mouth.

7 / 10

Meh. Whatever.

Meh. Whatever.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Duff (2015)

Dang teenagers and their technology.

High school teenager Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) is smart, quick-witted, is sure of herself, and also has a bunch of friends that love and support her. However, she soon realizes that maybe her social life isn’t all that great to begin with; sure, she has friends, but is she really as successful or as popular as them? Better yet, is she really all that pretty, either? Eventually, Bianca stumbles upon the realization that she is, sadly, a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). This shakes Bianca to her core, so much so that she realizes it’s about time that she realizes it’s finally time for a change of pace where she can have more men look her way, more people talk about her with positive connotations, and more friends, as a result. This is when she enlists the help of her neighbor Wes (Robbie Amell) who is also using her as a way to ensure that he gets good enough grades in class so that he can pass, get those scholarships to the colleges he wants, and live his life, happily forever after. But somehow, through all of the hanging out they’re doing, Wes and Bianca soon realize that maybe what it is that they need, isn’t just to look pretty and be popular – maybe, just maybe, it’s to have someone special in your life?

Selfie, with her?

Selfie, with her?

Basically, take the premise to Not Another Teen Movie, make it serious, and wouldn’t you know it? You sort of have what the Duff is; while it is, at one point, insightful in exposing the true nature of young, impressionable, high school kids and their sometimes evil, maniacal ways of pushing people into stereotypes, regardless of whether they accept it or not. Then, on the other point, it’s also a movie that feels incredibly content with keeping things as simple and conventional as possible, without ever trying to change, or shake up the genre it seems to be playing around in.

To be honest, the Duff is a little bit of both, but it’s at least ten times better than a mega-serious Not Another Teen Movie.

What works in the Duff‘s favor is that it has a fresh voice to tell us all that we need to know about the current state of high school’s social life today, to ensure that everybody’s on the same page. While it’s only been a few years or so since I last stepped in a high school classroom, there’s still a certain feeling that even though most may stay the same about high school and all of the social politics that go into, the landscape may alter a bit to where there are more cliques than ever before. Through Bianca, we see, hear, and understand what it is that’s around her and it helps us to create a bubble around each one of these character’s lives and how they’ll affect her.

And this also helps out the fact that Bianca, the character herself, is actually pretty smart and funny. Some of that has to do with the fact that Mae Whitman (yes, her?) is charming in her own ways, but some of it also has to do with the fact that she’s actually an interesting character that feels lived-in and not just an archetype of what some writer’s would deem as “hip” or “cool”. Sure, she’s both of which, but she isn’t bragging about it, either; that’s just not her style. She’s much more subdued than that and it helps her character come off as more realistic than anything else.

Not to mention that, despite seeming like he’s way too old for high school, Robbie Amell and Whitman have something of a sexy bit of chemistry together. Though the pairing is, I must admit, odd to say the least, these two make it work somehow by showing that these two need one another. Sure, the ways we are shown this are hackneyed, corny and wildly predictable, at best, but there’s still some shed of truth to be found in these scenes.

Oh yeah, totally what high school jocks looked like in high school. Grey hair and all.

Oh yeah, totally what high school jocks looked like in high school. Grey hair and all.

Not too much, but just enough to keep me away from barfing out my lunch by all of the sappy teen romance.

Like I said, however, the Duff does feel like it gets a tad too predictable for its own tastes and while it can sometimes get away with its sarcastic smirk, it doesn’t always save the day. For instance, take the character of Bella Thorne, who plays the stereotypical bitch of the school who’s only concern is whom her boyfriend is of the week, whether or not she’s having a party later in the day, and if there are enough cameras around her following her every move. Despite Thorne trying here, it still seems like the kind of lame role that’s written for a sitcom; whereas instead of getting to see the deep shades beneath her exterior, we just see an annoying, villain of a girl. It’s quite bothersome actually and doesn’t do much to help the movie, except just ad needless conflict.

Then, of course, there’s the message of this movie, whatever it is that may be. See, a part of me wants to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and say that, in the end, the movie’s all about the triumph and the will of one woman’s journey to make herself feel better for who it is that she is, rather than what others see, there’s still another part of me that thinks the opposite. See, without saying much, Bianca changes herself up in a manner that makes her seem more appealing to those around and even though Whitman is already plenty fine to look at, the movie tries to make it seem like she needs to look and fit a certain way to get the guy, to get the friends, and ultimately, get the life they oh so crave and desire.

To me, that doesn’t sit well. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking to young high schoolers or senior citizens, it just feels oddly-placed is all, especially in a movie that seems so against selling out and being along with the crowd in the first place.

Then again, that’s high school for ya.

Consensus: The Duff‘s familiar premise and feel waters it down from being like other high school comedies released in the past few years, but still offers up enough charm and wit to make up for some of those problems.

5.5 / 10

Yup. Totally ugly and fat.......

Yup. Totally ugly and fat…….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Love & Mercy (2015)

Dude should have just stuck with the surf rock genre. Clearly, it was going places.

Beach Boys member Brian Wilson is covered at two points in his life, both of which seem to unveil certain problems he faced with his wild personality. In the 60’s, he was a lot younger (Paul Dano), and decided that it was time for he and the rest of the Beach Boys to test the waters out and see what they could do next with their sound. This lead to Pet Sounds, which ultimately, lead to a whole lot more tension within the band, and left Wilson to start losing his mind a little. Then, in the 1980s, Wilson is a bit older (John Cusack), but also under the watch of self-appointed therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), which means that his life and every decision he makes, is being monitored so that Landy can keep track of what it is that Wilson does, regardless of whether or not it’s actually worrisome to his health. However, one fateful day, Brian meets a car saleswoman by the name of Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and automatically knows that he wants to be with her. However, due to his “condition”, and also the fact that Eugene doesn’t like it when he disobeys certain rules, Brian’s left to act out a little.

Not crazy.

Not crazy.

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people know about Brian Wilson, the music he created, his personality, his career, and all of the controversy that came along with the decisions that he’s made throughout it. Some of it’s good; some of it’s bad; and some of it is, well, just what you get when you have a small-time musician who all of a sudden gains tons and tons of success, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes, they go crazy – other times, they just blow it all away on drugs, guns, beer, women, and end up dying because of so.

Hardly do you ever see a musician go from being small, to big one day, without any screw ups occurring between, or after the fact.

But this is all to prove a point about the idea of the rock biopic itself: In all honesty, it’s sort of becoming tired. Sure, it’s nice to see high-quality actors like Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti, among others, take over the roles of some of these more famous types, but when you have a figure as famous and as notorious as Brian Wilson at your forefront, are you really trying to shed some light on anything new about him, his personality, or the music he created? Not really, and it shows so often here in Love & Mercy.

While this isn’t to say that the movie’s bad, it does, by the same token, still make it seem conventional, even if director Bill Pohlad tries very hard to make sure that this doesn’t happen. But even though it does, Pohlad still doesn’t forget the idea of what makes movies like these so interesting, is that all you need is a compelling angle to make things sizzle and spice a whole lot more. While that doesn’t wholly happen here, there’s something neat about watching the likes of Dano and Cusack just sink into these roles, playing practically the same person, without hardly looking anything alike, and still coming off as believable.

Now, once again, that’s talking about the acting, and less about the actual story itself and how it’s structured. The structure is, like I’ve said before, typical of these sorts of movies. We get a flawed musician who has a bit of problem, tries to get past it, and faces plenty of adversity from those around him due to this problem that he features. This is what we’ve all come to expect with these kinds of movies and it’s a bit of a shame, because you’d think a movie about such an innovator like Brian Wilson, wouldn’t try to walk the same patterns that some of Wilson’s fellow members always seemed to bring up and argue about.

Either try to change things up? Or stick to the script and do what people like? This is the main question of at the end of the day, but even I know if it’s able to make up a conclusion.

Still not totally crazy just yet.

Still not totally crazy just yet.

Which makes sense because the movie seems all the more infatuated with its performances, rather than any actual surprises in the narrative. As mentioned before, Dano is very good in the role as a younger version of Brian Wilson, where we get to see him in the studio, working with just about each and every person he employed to help out with his wild and crazy project ideas. He sinks right into a role that we think would be hard to do, but comes off as the right amount of odd ballish and sincerity, even if he is still a bit on the cooky side.

As the older version of Wilson, John Cusack puts in a great performance that he hasn’t seem to interested in giving for quite some time. However, what works so well for Cusack here is that he isn’t afraid to make us feel unsettled by Wilson’s demeanor, but also realize that he’s actually something of a sweet guy once you get beneath all of the weird mannerisms. Though it’d be easy to suggest that the real life Melinda Ledbetter would have fallen and gotten married to Wilson so quickly because of his name and the money, in the movie, you’d be wrong. Banks and Cusack have legitimate chemistry where it seems like, even despite the significant problems in Brian’s personality, they still want to make it work.

And of course, there’s Paul Giamatti, who is absolutely milking it to death as Dr. Eugene Landy. Because Landy was a pompous joke in real life, the movie really plays up the fact that it may have been him after all, that was the true psycho – not Brian. While the movie makes this strong argument (and Giamatti is very helpful in that effort), there’s still a part of me that feels like he was maybe a bit too wild and crazy to be taken as seriously as the movie wants us to take him. Sure, Giamatti’s scary, but Landy? Puh lease. It’s just another rich dude, scamming to make himself even more rich.

What else is there to know?

Consensus: Even despite the conventional format of Love & Mercy, the well put together cast helps keep it thoughtful, entertaining, and interesting, all at the same time.

8 / 10

Oh yeah, toates crazy. No doubt about it.

Oh yeah, toates crazy. No doubt about it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Nightingale (2015)

Sometimes, the best conversations you ever have with yourself. But trust me, I’m not crazy.

After his mother mysteriously leaves him all alone in his childhood home, Peter Snowden (David Oyelowo) finally gets all sorts of freedom to do whatever it is that he wants. That means he gets to sing, dance, smoke, drink, eat fish, and document it all for the rest his “followers” to see on some sort of live vid-chat. But most of all, Peter wants to reconnect with a long, lost pal of his, which he’s able to do by setting up dinner at his place for Friday. Now, Peter’s got plenty of time to make himself up all primed and ready for his friend, so that he can not only impress him, but possibly get out of his house once and for all, and be away from his overprotective mother that never let him do much of anything fun in the first place. However, people keep calling the house and asking his mom – which leads Peter to dodge this questions and, sooner than later, concerns in an odd fashion. This leaves many of them to wonder just where the hell she actually is, and better yet, just what the hell Peter has been up to for the past few days or so without her around to keep him in line.

Crazy.

Crazy.

If, for some reason or another, you don’t like David Oyelowo and would much rather not have him any movie you see, as opposed to the opposite, then Nightingale will not be the movie for you. Once again, I don’t know what the reason would be as to why you wouldn’t like David Oyelowo and his skills as an actor, but the reason you would want to steer clear of this movie, is because it’s literally David Oyelowo, all of the time, with nobody else, for literally an hour-and-a-half. If you can’t handle all of that, then don’t bother to watch – even if I don’t exactly know why’d you want to do that in the first place. Because not only is Oyelowo fantastic in every movie he shows up in, but here, he’s exceptionally so.

And he ought to be, considering that he is, like I utter again, literally the only person you see in this movie. Sure, you hear a few people on the TV and a person even comes to knock at the door to talk (who’s voice you hear, but his face is never seen), but aside from those two instances, there’s never much contact heard, or ever seen, that Peter has with the outside world. There’s a lot of talking to himself and to people on the phone, however, but with the later, we never hear the person on the other line; it’s just all Peter, all of the time.

And you know what? David Oyelowo, whether you love him or inexplicably hate him (once again, for reasons I can’t even begin to think of), makes it all work so damn well.

As Peter Snowden, Oyelowo is able to dig deep into the psyche of a man we literally know nothing about. We’re practically thrown into his life, warts and all, watching as he’s having something of a nervous breakdown, and though we don’t know why that is or where it’s going to go, it’s hard to turn away. We may not have anything to know about him early on, but it’s hard to not be enticed right away by him, his personality, and his actions, even if they seem to be all under the same category of “crazy”.

But once again, that’s the beauty of Oyelowo’s performance; though Peter is obviously a very weird and nutty dude, Oyelowo makes him seem like a normal, everyday kind of guy that has a problem or two with his anger, self-control, and talking to imaginary person(s) he may, or may not be making up in his head. Clearly Peter has something wrong with him, but what is it? Better yet, where does it all stem from? Does he have a mental illness of sorts? Or was his mother just a tad too controlling and bossy for his own good?

Yep. still crazy.

Yep. still crazy.

Whatever the answers may be, they rarely come and they didn’t need to; Oyelowo was more than enough to compensate for a grey area here and there.

With Peter Snowden, too, Oyelowo gets to show the rest of the world the range that he has within his skill-sets. Though it’s not hard to imagine Oyelowo being able to play so many other types of characters, it’s still a shock to see him turn on and off his comedic-timing, while also still making us scared out of our minds by how deeply and truly twisted he can seem to be. It’s definitely not an easy task to make this kind of character anything short of annoying (what with all of the constant talking to one’s self and thinking that one’s self is the funniest person in the room), but once again, he makes it work. Maybe David Oyelowo truly is the real deal that we, the movie world should take more notice of.

Sure, he’s been on the upswing for the past couple or so years, but after his undeserved snub for an Oscar in Selma, it becomes ever so clear now that Oyelowo deserves more recognition from the film world. Nightingale may not be a perfect movie (still think it could have delved deeper and gone the extra mile to portray more about Peter’s condition, whatever it may have been), but as a vehicle for David Oyelowo’s incredibly wide skills as an actor – somebody who can be both funny, charming, and odd, sometimes all in one scene – it’s stunning.

Which is, like I’ve said before, to say that Oyelowo himself is actually stunning and more than deserving of anymore recognition that comes his way in the upcoming years.

Consensus: Without broadening its story’s lenses, Nightingale serves as a wonderful calling card for the amazing talents of David Oyelowo; the one who makes this movie worth watching just about every second it’s on for.

8 / 10

And, yep, you guessed it - crazy. Oh well.

And, yep, you guessed it – crazy. Oh well.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Vulture

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)

I’m still a kid and I don’t care who knows it!

After the Krabby Patty mysteriously loses the famous recipe to one of its most prized possessions, all hell breaks loose in the Bikini Bottom. Civilization breaks down, friends become enemies, and basically, it’s everything for themselves. However, Spongebob loves his little pineapple under the sea, as well as everybody around it so much, that he’s willing to go to the ends of the sea to find out what happened to the recipe, who has it, and exactly how he can get it back. But to do this, he may have to enlist the help of a known rival of his, Plankton – someone who has been clamoring for the Krabby Patty recipe for many, many decades, all due to a long rivalry with the owner, Mr. Crabs. All personal problems between the two aside, they’ll both have to look far and wide no matter where they go, even if they don’t know that it happens to be none other than Burger-Beard the Pirate (Antonio Banderas) himself, who is using the recipe to his own gain on dry land. Which, in case you haven’t been able to tell just yet, isn’t ideal for these sea creatures.

Having grown up in the late-90’s/early-aughts, many hours of mine were spent in front of television sets watching Spongebob Squarepants. I was there when the first episode aired on Nickelodeon (after the Kids Choice Awards, I think), and I stayed with it for quite some time, even as I started to grow older and my humor matured a bit (although, don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate a nice fart joke here and there). However, that was the beauty of Spongebob: I may have been young and laughed myself silly, eventually, I got older and realized that there will still plenty of jokes for me, the older version of myself, to chuckle at. Though it’s recently been watered-down by an over-reliance on kids humor, Spongebob will forever have a special place in my heart and will be the one animated show that I, one day, will hopefully get the chance to pass down to my offspring.

Meh.

Meh.

This movie may not be the one I rush my kids to see first, but I’ll still bring it up to them to remind them that hey, it’s out there and hey, it’s actually alright.

What worked so well about the series, and what those behind the movie didn’t forget about, was how the humor could be so strange and bizarre, but at the same token, still work. The reason for that was because the people who created Spongebob made it into this insane world where practically anything could happen, whenever it saw fit. Sometimes it would come out of left field, sometimes it would be expected, but most of all, it was usually funny. Here, with the movie, the same happens where we’ll get certain scenes that seem to have been made from the slight influence of some sort of hallucinogenic, and then, moments later, get a silly pun that practically everyone can take notice of.

And with that said, just like the show, the movie gets down the right amount of jokes made strictly for kids, as well as those for adults. However, they don’t necessarily overlap. Whereas kids will laugh at a character falling down, getting hurt, or ripping their pants, the parents will probably laugh at a joke aimed more towards them that actually deconstruct the Bikini Bottom a bit. But nonetheless, the jokes aimed towards the parents never get “too mature” to where they could be deemed “inappropriate”; they tread that fine line between and it helps to create a cohesive sense of humor, even while the plot progresses.

Now, with the plot taken into consideration, there is something to be said for a movie that probably didn’t need to go into live-action territory like it does so here. However, what’s so interesting about all of the advertising for this movie, is that it clearly pushes the angle down everybody’s throats that Spongebob and everybody else turn into real-life, 3D figures in a real, live-action environment – even if, you know, that doesn’t happen until the final-act. For the most part, a good portion of this movie stays in regular, 2D animation, as if it were just another episode and it works. It goes to show you that you don’t need all of the gimmicky, pyrotechnics to get the audience involved, or, at the least, intrigued in your product; all you need, sometimes, is a good story, with an even better sense of humor.

Once again, meh.

Once again, meh.

That’s why, when we’re all of a sudden placed into a live-action environment, the movie gets a bit iffy. The jokes still hit and the movie doesn’t lose its self-deprecating sense of humor neither, but it just feels unnecessary, especially considering the fact that the first two-halves of the movie worked so well, and it didn’t even seem like they were trying. Of course, the live-action elements benefit from the fact that Antonio Banderas is having a blast playing up his machismo as Burger-Beard the Pirate, but even then, his act gets a little old as we realize that he’s just there to service the plot and keep things moving forward.

Which calls into question: Do you really need much of a driving plot to keep Spongebob enjoyable?

No, not really, but whatever. Maybe I’m just looking a bit too deep into this thing. Because even while the creators make the smart move of not crapping on a part of my beloved childhood, I still am finding something to bitch and moan about no matter what. Which is to say, don’t listen to me and just enjoy Spongebob for what it is. I did so and I have been doing for the past 16 or so years.

God, man. I sure as hell am getting old.

Consensus: Without sacrificing its trademark wild sense of humor, Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water works as an extended episode that delivers fun for the whole family, as it’s been doing on television for the past decade or so.

7 / 10

Okay, that's more like it.

Okay, that’s more like it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hungry Hearts (2015)

hungry_hearts_poster-620x842Know who you’re impregnating, before you impregnate them.

Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) randomly get stuck in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, and from then on, their lives are changed. The two fall in love, get a place together, get pregnant, and, well, wouldn’t you know it? They end up getting married! It’s great for these two young kids, and for awhile, they seem to be getting along quite fine. They have a child, and while Mina and Jude originally seem to be on the same page of how to raise it, what to give it to eat, etc., eventually, that all begins to change. Once Jude finds out from a doctor that all of the vegetables and non-protein foods that Mina is feeding their baby isn’t allowing for it to grow at the right pace it should be, he decides to take matters into his own hands where he feeds the kid all sorts of delicious treats like ham, turkey, and sugars – all of which Mina is totally against. This leads to a battle of wits and actual displays of violence that pit Jude and Mina against one another, all with their precious little baby in the middle of it.

Yay!

Yay!

Don’t be fooled by the Bruce Springsteen title here, people: Hungry Hearts is no picnic to get through. But somehow, I think that’s the point. Writer/director Saverio Costanzo takes a premise that would give off all sorts of insights that were so prevalent in Blue Valentine, and yet, take it a step further, in trying to talk less about messed-up relationships that don’t fit together well, and focus more on the fact that the people in the relationships themselves are messed-up to begin with, hence the reason as to why the relationship isn’t quite working out in the first place.

Like I said, happy stuff.

What’s initially interesting about Hearts, is that it doesn’t ever seem like it’s trying to make full sense of this romance and show how these two lovebirds are absolutely, positively made for one another. Instead, the movie goes on to show that while they may be pleasant together, the circumstances in which they met and eventually came together to get married, weren’t at all ideal. Then again, not everybody’s relationship is ideal if you think about it, but here, with Mina and Jude’s, it especially so in a way that helps the movie’s style in which nothing is glamorized in any sort of fashion. What you see on the screen, is literally what you get, warts and all.

That said, there’s something odd about Hearts from where it starts off as an insightful romantic-drama, to something in the same vein as Rosemary’s Baby. What starts to come into play in the later-half of this movie is literally a constant game of cat-and-mouse between Mina and Jude, which I will admit, does grab attention to itself, but at the same time, feels like something from a whole, entirely different movie. Though it’s hardly ever mentioned, there’s a slight idea going around in this film that Mina’s family has a long history of mental illness and because of this, she acts out in ways that could literally be classified as “insane”.

Once again, the movie utters maybe a line or two about this idea and that’s about it.

Which is definitely weird, not because it seems to come out of nowhere, but because the movie seems to lose all hope in saying anything interesting with its plot. Jude is passionate about saving his baby’s life and will do anything to keep that so, whereas Mina is just a crazy lady who wants to constantly feed her baby nothing but veggies, regardless of whether or not it’s killing it. That’s basically it and while it’s tense to see how Jude reacts to Mina in certain situations, at the same time, it feels like a disappointment considering the places this movie could have gone and definitely seemed to promise on and on about.

No!

No!

But if there is something that made this last-half, if somewhat believable to watch when it was easy to get through all of the crazy nonsense, are the two performances from Driver and Rohrwacher, both of whom seem very committed to this material, even if they are a bit too good for it. Driver, like usual, finds ways to challenge himself and step outside the boundaries made for him by Girls, and with Jude, he does a great job. While Jude is, at times, a very frustrating character by how much of a pushover he can be when it comes to how to raise his own child, there’s still a feeling of honest love that’s felt whenever he’s on-screen, and it helps his character be more likable throughout, even if you do want to ring his neck at certain points.

Something I’m pretty sure many people feel while watching him on Girls, but it’s still slightly different.

Believe it or not, though, it’s Rohrwacher who actually steals the show a bit from Driver, as she really seems to giving it her absolute all, even if the script doesn’t seem to be too bothered with her doing that. What I mean by this is that the movie seems to categorize her as nothing more than “a villain”, and while this isn’t a false idea to have when looking at her and her actions, it still seems like too harsh of a judgement. Rather than being well-rounded and making Mina’s convictions seem somewhat justified in her own nutty way, the movie instead just goes right ahead and points the finger at her. Not saying that she doesn’t deserve it, but after awhile, it became abundantly clear that the movie wasn’t looking for much more insight into this character.

However, that’s why Rohrwacher’s performance is so good, because we get to see certain shades to this character that the script may not have even had at first. Whereas Mina’s a nervous wreck just about every second of every day, Rohrwacher shows that it’s literally a battle she is having with herself, rather than her just lashing out and loving every bit of it. Even when she starts committing terrible actions to her baby, it comes out of a soft spot of love and compassion that, while you may not at all agree with, is understandable. Once again, not condoning any of this woman’s actions, but when put into perspective, it make sense why she acts the way she does.

Simply put, she’s crazy. That’s it.

Consensus: Despite a drastic tonal-shift about half-way through, Hungry Hearts benefits from two solid performances that make the movie hit harder than it probably should have.

6 / 10

Oh, what promise the future holds.

Oh, what promise the future holds.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Ghosts are such a pain, you know?

Before the infamous haunting of the Lambert family, there was a young girl by the name of Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) who went through a lot of the same problems. Her, her brother, and her dad (Dermot Mulroney) all live together in a small and cramped apartment, where the recent death of the matriarch of the family still holds a bit of weight around them all. Since Quinn misses her so much, she tries to contact her dead mother by going to local ghost whisperer, Elise (Lin Shaye), who has now turned her back on this business as she has now lost her own husband. However, she makes an exception thinking there will be no harm, nor any foul from this decision. She was dead wrong about that! Instead, Elise has now turned the angry spirits onto her and Quinn, where they have now taken over Quinn’s room and promises to never leave her alone, all until she is theirs forever. Elise will make sure that this happens, but by doing so, that also means she’ll have to go back to her old ways, which was, from what we know, pretty dangerous to begin with.

The Insidious franchise, as a whole, kind of pisses me off. While I understand the appeal in all three of these movies, I never fully understand why so many people give them a pass. The first one was a fun piece of low-budget horror that most definitely benefited from the fact that it was a 21st century horror movie that didn’t have a gimmick attached to it, and was actually good. Then, the second one came around and felt like it was trying to capture that same fun feel of the first, but at the same time, couldn’t avoid tripping over itself in trying to enhance the story and keeping it moving.

Don't go down there!

Don’t go down that hallway!

Now, with this third one, it just seems like everybody involved may have gotten as tired of it as me.

That isn’t to say that Insidious: Chapter 3 is a bad movie, because it isn’t; at least, not for the first hour or so. Unlike the past two movies, this flick takes its good old time to get to the action, where instead of offering a whole bunch of spooks and scares to get the ball rolling, it mostly focuses on developing characters. Initially, this may seem like a waste, but as time goes on, it eventually pays off as it gives the audience a better view of these characters, their personalities, and why exactly they should matter to us.

Heck, even the scares work relatively well. Rather than throwing one scary object at us, after another, writer/director Leigh Whannell takes it easy, relaxes a bit, and lets it all play out in a slow, melodic fashion. Once again, many may be bothered by this approach to a genre of film that should be blasting at the seams with frenetic energy, but as time rolls on (which it will definitely do), it ends up working in the movie’s favor. I always say that more horror movies should take the slow-burn approach to delivering their scares as it definitely keeps on racking up the tension, without ever seeming like it’s losing its audience.

And that’s what this movie is for the first half, and then it just drops the ball; much like the other movies.

Where Whannell seems to lose a bit of sense here is that he mistakes pulling back curtains and giving us three second glimpses of weird-looking figures as being terrifying, and doesn’t realize that they may just be goofy to look and point at. Whereas most horror directors realize that they’re working with campy, B-movie material and hardly ever shy away from that fact, Insidious does’t know whether or not it wants to explore these silly moments more, or take them as serious as heart-attack. The same issue happened with the other two, where it seemed to be so odd and outrageous, that it was surprising when the movie itself didn’t seem to take it as some sort of a joke.

And this is a problem because for the last-half or so, this is exactly how the movie plays out. Elise ends up taking a trip into “the Further”; Elise starts seeing some weird images; Elise fights with demons; and eventually, Elise gets the demons away (or so she thinks!). It’s not that the formula is broken, so therefore, it should be fixed, it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be much life left in them to where they’re fun to see toyed around with every so often. Recent horror movies like the Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and my favorite of the year so far, It Follows, all take notice of this idea and decide to do something about their sometimes familiar story-lines.

Don't look under that bed!

Don’t look under that bed!

Insidious now feels like it’s a bit behind the curve and it needs to get along with the times.

However, considering that this is a prequel, some have been considering it the last of the series. Which, isn’t a total shame, because it’s definitely overstayed its welcome now, but will definitely leave behind a solid legacy for Lin Shaye, an underrated character actress that seems to finally be getting her due now. It’s odd that someone like Shaye would be the main draw and practically, the poster girl for this franchise, but somehow, she has and the movies are better for it. Shaye’s the only one who seems like she’s fully into the material that she’s working with and while the movie makes the mistake of taking her a tad too seriously, she’s still good enough to where it works for her and her character. In fact, it makes her seem all the more bad-ass.

And because we get more time with her this time around, we’re taken away from the rest of the characters. Though Dermot Mulroney and Stefanie Scott seem to be trying, their characters don’t have much more depth other than just, “normal, everyday human beings who are scared of ghosts”. Mulroney tries to breathe some life into this boring dad role, but eventually, has to sit on the side lines and watch as Lin Shaye cleans house.

Which isn’t that much of a problem, because she does it all so well.

Consensus: If Chapter 3 is indeed the finale to the Insidious franchise, it won’t be a tearful goodbye, but it will leave behind a legacy of being an mediocre movie that could have been so much scarier and fun, much like the other two.

5 / 10

Don't follow her!

Don’t follow her!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Spy (2015)

007 needs to smile more.

After an agent of hers that she’s been looking out for and bonding with over the past five years, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), has to take a leave of absence, desk-bound, under-appreciated CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) finally gets her chance to be in the field. Her task: Stop a Bulgarian crime lord by the name of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) from selling nuclear weapons. The only problem is that Cooper’s cover continues to get blown by either her own wrong-doings, or a fellow agent who has just recently decided to go rogue and try and take matters into his own hands. His name is Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and while he and Cooper don’t get along too well, it’s solely up to her to make sure that she keeps Rick away from the mission as much as humanly possible, while also still making sure that she’s keeping some level of anonymity for her own well-being. But as the mission gets more and more complicated, Susan realizes that she may have to get a little dirty if she not only wants to complete the mission, but to also stay the hell alive.

Though some people may bitch, moan and complain about the fact that writer/director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy seem to team up practically every chance they get time out of their schedules to do so (which seems like every other year, so far), there’s still no denying that they’re a match made in heaven. Both clearly know what the other wants, so therefore, they work well together in not only giving themselves 110%, but also giving the right kind of 110% when necessary. Because yeah, even though these two don’t seem to be challenging one another all that much, when the end result is still entertaining to watch, just as much as the last movie that came before it, what’s the real problem?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!? Just take my money already!

In all honesty, there is none! So stop complaining, people!

With Spy, McCarthy and Feig’s third team-up so far, the look, feel and overall idea of a spy movie is messed around with, but don’t be fooled by what this movie’s advertising may have you think, because it’s not a parody flick. Though it may have initially started off as such, eventually, the movie turns the other cheek to where it’s less about poking fun at the stylish cars, guns and women, and more or less poking fun at the lovably charming characters here. At points, it probably would have been nice had Feig tried to make more of a comment on the spy genre (especially since there seems to be so many damn movies coming from this genre nowadays), but if a movie is funny, then I won’t hold any gripes against it.

And yes, Spy is definitely a funny flick. Like with the Heat and Bridesmaids, where Feig shows his real, true strength in directing comedy is just allowing for it to draw itself out to where even the most normal, everyday situation, can turn into something truly odd and bizarre. Sure, while some of this praise can go to the cast and crew who definitely seem to be, for the most part, playing along with it and making it up as they go along, there’s still plenty to be said for Feig himself. After all, he’s the guy who gets to say when a scene begins, goes on, and ends and so he definitely deserves credit for at least knowing when and how to format his comedic scenes.

However, like with the case of the Heat, there’s still a weird feeling that maybe the action takes over a bit too much, especially in the last hour or so of this flick. There’s no problem with an action-comedy utilizing the later portion of that term to its fullest, and most absolute extent, but when it seems like it’s doing nothing much other than to just keep the run-time going, it gets a tad bit tiresome. The action’s fine and all, but any comedy that goes over two hours, definitely features some form of trimming, no matter who you are.

Talking about you, Mr. Apatow!

But, as always, a lot of this doesn’t hold up too well when compared to the fact that the movie is enjoyable and funny, but also a teenie bit more than just that. See, with Feig’s movies, he always puts an extra amount of detail into his characters to where, even if they are acting like cartoonish jack-asses, there’s still some form of humanity and personality to them that it all makes sense as to why they’re acting the way they do, with whom, and how. And because of this, most scenes that would generally just seem “funny”, end up turning into more hilarious territory, especially when you consider the smart writing that’s been put into most of them.

Look at J-Stath! The dude's having the time of his life!

Look at J-Stath! The dude’s having the time of his life! Let him do that more!

For instance, take Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. While Cooper is another instance in which McCarthy gets a chance to swear, yell, make fun of people, and kick ass, there’s a bit more to her character than just that and it makes a lot of what she does and say hit harder. Because Cooper, the character, is such a sweet and relatively gentle person, to hear and see her when she has to step up big time in the field, she turns into a whole different person where she’s loud, obnoxious and more than willing to lay the whoop-ass on whoever deserves it the most. Once again, this is another performance from McCarthy that we’ve seen before, but there’s so much fun in watching her do it and hardly miss a beat, that it’s hardly ever boring.

Not like it was in Tammy, that is, so lets be happy about that.

But even though McCarthy’s the lead, which entitles her character to the most development, she isn’t the only one. Rose Byrne, despite playing the main baddie, gets a chance to not just be funny again, but show some form of humanity within a character that just wants to blow the United States up, as most villains in these sorts of movies want to do; Jude Law plays the charming and handsome fella we usually see him play, but his character is a bit more of a dick than he lets on and it’s actually interesting; Miranda Hart plays Cooper’s best friend and confidante and gets a chance to show an even sweeter side to a job that you wouldn’t think could have one; and Jason Statham, well, what else is there to say other than he lights the screen up every chance he gets. And then some.

See, if there’s any complaint that I have about Spy, that I don’t believe I had with many other movies, is that it needed more Jason Statham. That isn’t to say that I’ve never uttered that phrase before because I detest Statham and think he’s a talentless hack – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think he is very talented, charming and fun to watch, but because he’s usually the lead in the movies he does, there’s a lot of him to go around and it makes me wish that wasn’t the case, at least not in those movies. Movies like Spy where we get to see the more charming and light side to his tense presence, makes it easy to see why somebody would want to hire him just for his comedic skills alone. He’s been funny in the Guy Ritchie movies that he’s done and he occasionally drops a little wittisome here and there in a dull action-thriller, but here, he’s on full-force and I wish I got more of it.

Meaning, producers and casting agents, give Jason Statham more funny material!

Consensus: Tad overlong, Spy runs into a slight problem of unevenness, but because it’s cast and crew are so talented and funny, it slides on by as an enjoyable time that also proves why we’re all lucky to have Melissa McCarthy in our lives, and why Jason Statham needs to do more funny stuff.

7.5 / 10

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it's funny.

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it’s funny.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)

When present-day John Cusack says no to being in your movie, you know you’re in deep trouble.

Many years in the future, after they found certain ways to toy around with details that would make them billionaires, buddies Nick (Craig Robinson), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Jacob (Clark Duke) are all living the high life. Nick is a successful musician who can’t remember the original lyrics to most of the songs he’s performing; Lou is a billionaire, always drinking, always sexing, always doing some sort of drug, and always being a dick to whomever is around him; and Jacob, other than being that guy whomever Lou is a dick to, still moves awkwardly around in life. After Lou gets fatally shot in the penis area, the three all decide to take that one, final ride in their lovely little secret, the Hot Tub Time Machine. However, once they get where they’re, the three all realize that they’re in the near-future, where things a little bit more different than they are in the present time. But what’s really surprising to the gang is to see Adam Yates’ (John Cusack) son, Adam Jr. (Adam Scott), all grown up and ready to tie the knot. However, could he possibly be the one who shoots Lou in the past, or no?

"Jesse Eisenberg who?"

“Jesse Eisenberg who?”

Given its juvenile sense of humor, Hot Tub Time Machine was actually a pretty solid comedy. Not perfect, but not terrible, either; I guess given the fact that the title was so idiotic to begin with, that anything resembling something of actual quality was fine enough to be granted a pass. And even the idea of going back to the same premise and jotting around with certain little things here and there, still seems like a not-so-bad idea, so long as the creators behind the idea keep it all together and not lose themselves in a never ending stream of dick, gay, and sex jokes.

And sadly, that’s exactly what Hot Tub Time Machine 2 turns out to be – quite like mostly every other comedy sequel.

Where most of the problems with this movie come from, as they often do with most comedies, is that the jokes just aren’t funny. However, director Steve Pink or writer Josh Heald ever seemed to take the hint that their material just wasn’t hitting quite as hard as they may have intended for it, too. Rather than giving us funny, almost smart raunchy jokes about dude’s performing oral sex on one another, or someone drinking way too much and getting pretty messed-up, Pink and Heald go one step further and just continue on with showing these sorts of things, thinking that them happening is funny enough as is.

However, they’re wrong. But what makes it a tad bit worse is the fact that most of the jokes rely around that same kind “not-homophobic, but homophobic” brand of humor that works so well in Judd Apatow flicks. In the later’s films, most of the male characters act like they’re in love with one another in an all-too intimate way, all despite them clearly being straight. However, in order for these characters to make it feel as if they didn’t actually mean any heartfelt feelings with their gesture of tender love and care, they normally break out a typical, “Nah, bro. No homo.”

While these characters in Apatow movies are fine to do this, all because they actually do it all for a reason and helps improve the rapport between the actors who are supposed to be playing best friends of one another, here, it’s just wrong and slightly offensive. There’s a game show sequence in which anal sex is performed with two dudes and it’s just terrible to watch; not because I’m homophobic (which I’m definitely not), but because the movie just continues to go on and on with the joke as if it was all that hilarious to begin with.

The only time that whole overlong sequence is ever a tiny bit of funny, is whenever Christian Slater himself would show up.

And they act all surprised like they weren't gonna be back around.

And they act all surprised like they weren’t gonna be back around.

That’s right, people, you heard it first: Christian Slater actually made a movie better just by showing up.

And some of you may be pissed off at the fact that I’m spoiling a small bit of this movie for all of you sitting at home, wondering whether or not you should even bother with renting this in the first place, but that’s done so on purpose. Not only am I trying to save you, the dedicated and ever so loving reader, but also the people involved with this, because I know for an absolute fact that Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, and especially, Adam Scott, are a whole lot funnier than what it is that they’re forced to go through the motions with here. But somehow, Christian Slater made me laugh more than them?

What gives? Better yet, where the hell is John Cusack at?

See, what’s perhaps the most interesting anecdote about Hot Tub Time Machine 2 isn’t the fact that it wastes a potentially smart premise on a plethora on dumb, useless sex and gay jokes, is that John Cusack didn’t even bother showing up this time around. Maybe it made sense to him that since the movie wouldn’t be taking place in the 1980’s anymore (aka, his playhouse) and would instead be heading to the near-future where his stunt-casting may not be needed, or maybe John Cusack despised the script so much that he didn’t even want to bother trying to give this thing a go. Cause you know, I’m pretty sure that Dragon Blade needed all of the time and attention in the world.

But regardless about Cusack not showing up here, it probably wouldn’t have helped much. The jokes don’t quite land as well as they did in the first (if they do land at all), and honestly, it just seems like everybody involved was looking for a quick cash grab, all due to the fact that the first one was a mild hit. “Mild”, being the keyword.

Please don’t give ’em another.

Consensus: Without hardly any jokes that are actually funny, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 feels like a lifeless bore, only made so that important people could get rich and the occasional chuckle could occur.

2 / 10

My expressions exactly.

My expressions exactly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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