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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Hugo (2011)

I guess Marty got tired of making films about people getting murdered so he decided to get in touch with his inner-child. No, not I’m not talking about Leo.

When his father dies, 12-year-old orphan Hugo (Asa Butterfield) takes up residence behind the walls of a Parisian train station. There, he meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), the daughter of filmmaker Georges Méliès, who holds the key to Hugo’s destiny.

Knowing that this is Martin Scorsese‘s first family-film and the trailer was kind of cheesy considering it had that really bad song by 30 Seconds to Mars in it, my expectations were pretty low despite all of the non-stop positive reviews. However, I’m glad to say I was duped once again.

What Scorsese does perfectly here is bring out the most exuberant flair as a visual arts director then in anything else we have ever seen him in. I don’t normally see films in 3-D because I think they’re are a waste of money and 9 times out of 10, the 2-D versions end up being the same thing as the 3-D one. However, I went into this one with the glasses and everything, and I have to say that almost every single shot here is perfectly made with lush and gorgeous visuals that will take you inside of this colorful little place where it seems like Scorsese had Van Gogh do the film’s art-work himself. I mean this guy makes screws look beautiful. That has almost never been done.

Another great element about this flick is how Scorsese is able to basically send a love-letter to all of the silent film era stars who have inspired him to do what he does best, but it doesn’t feel like he’s just kissing these peoples asses the whole time, he actually creates his own story and adds a silent film-look onto it as well. There are some scenes where there is barely any talking at all and it’s all about how the score, sounds, and art-work all look to make sure you aren’t bored one bit. Basically, anybody that is a film-lover, like yours truly, will love all of the homages and shout-outs to all of Scorsese’s homeboys but the film is also something for kids to watch even if they don’t get all of the silent film stuff right off the bat. However, that’s why they invented Google kids.

The biggest problem for this flick is that it does take quite a bit of time to get started and that usually doesn’t bother me but the first hour or so, was terribly boring and actually had me zoning in-and-out of the film, which barely ever happens. The first part is your typical little kiddie movie that I’ve seen far way too many times for my own liking where the two kids both talk about being reckless, free, and adventurous but then everything sort of just goes back to normal once they realize their kids. It also a long flick (clocking in at 127 minutes) but then again, coming from Scorsese I wasn’t expecting a 1 hour series premiere.

Another major problem I had with this flick was the fact that I think it’s central story, you know the story about the orphaned kid who’s father dies, kind of gets lost by the end. I don’t want to give away too much but there is a big “twist” in the story that gets more attention than the real story at-hand, which is something I was kind of disappointed about because I think they could have made a real emotionally-realistic story about a kid who misses his daddy, but they went with something else. The story they ended up going with was not a problem for me but I still think they could have a done a bit of better job of focusing on the real story they started with.

The performances from everybody involved is also great as well. The kiddie performances from Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are good but they have done better in the past, and they kind of get lost by the end of the film. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Gustav the Station Inspector and is a perfect fit for this role because he seems like a silent film star villain where he uses his goofy emotions on his face to express his villainous acts and the terrific dialogue matches well with those emotions too.

Ben Kingsley is the real show here to watch as he gives a totally heart-breaking performance that goes way back to his wonder days when he was in talks for Oscar-bait every year. Kingsley had me worried at first because I thought I was going to hate this angry and grumpy old man but somehow he turns that around with a sad and grief-stricken character that brings out the most emotion I felt for the whole entire film. It’s definitely a good performance that I wouldn’t be surprised got him a nomination come Oscar time but it is definitely enough to make me forgive him for BloodRayne. But I understand, a man’s gotta make a living somehow.

Consensus: Hugo may not get fully off its grown in the first hour or so, but Martin Scorsese makes this love letter to his favorite films growing up something else that’s stacked with utterly gorgeous, luscious, and amazing visuals that everybody should definitely go and experience in 3-D no matter what.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

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The Muppets (2011)

Eff you Alvin and eff you Smurfs, these are my real child-hood heroes.

In this flick, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and friend Mary (Amy Adams) must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a businessman who plans to demolish the Muppet Theater to drill for oil.

I’ve always been a Muppets fan ever since I was a little kid so when I heard they were finally coming back after all this time away from the limelight, you know that the little kid inside of me jumped up-and-around in the little Kermit the Frog undies like a kid on Christmas day.

Basically this film is one big excuse for Segel to pal around with all of his child-hood friends and give us a whole hour long episode of The Muppets, but it doesn’t feel like just one big excuse for anything, it feels like an actual film that could bring them back.

The plot itself has been done over millions of times but what really separates this film from the others is how tongue-in-cheek and self-aware everything is that just about every single ridiculous happening in this film seems so normal and made me laugh my ass off. There is a lot of winking at the camera but it didn’t seem over-used and there are little subtle moments where you can tell that they all know they are in a movie, which adds so much more fun to this film’s comedy. I mean hell if you just see the trailer, they tell you right away that The Muppets aren’t popular in today’s world but somehow they are able to bring back all of the wit and charm that made the original fun for kids and adults alike but there are still some other little pieces of humor that are made for the new generation as well.

Another aspect of this film that worked was the music and how great all of the songs were. The music supervisor for this flick was Bret McKenzie, from ‘Flight of the Concords’, and you can tell that he has some great talent in song-writing. There are plenty of original and fun tracks here such as “Life’s a Happy Song”, “Man or Muppet”, “Pictures in My Head”, and plenty more memorable tracks that I had humming in my head after the film was over. The best thing about all of this music is that it’s not only fun to listen to but when you watch, there are still a lot of funny things happening in these musical numbers which you barely ever see in musical-like films of today’s world. No matter who or what you listen to, you can’t resist some toe-tapping here.

Jason Segel is apparently one of the biggest Muppets fan ever and it shows because this whole film he just has this one big and goofy grin on his face the whole time as Gary. The guy is really having the time of his life and thanks to that, I was too. Amy Adams is very innocent and sweet as Mary who sometimes will come out of nowhere and make a very funny comment then do some out-of-character song. The problem with their story-line is that it kind of gets lost about 20 minutes into the film and we start to care less and less about their “love story” and more if The Muppets are going to be able to pull this show off after all. Chris Cooper is also a total bad-ass as Tex Richman, which is a great role for Cooper because he gets to be a little goofy and show off some of his rapping skills that he’s been hiding for so long. Yes people, Oscar-winner Chris Cooper has a rap solo in this film. There are also dozens of cameos from plenty of A-listers that are sure to make anybody go, “Ooooh, look who it is!”.

The main reason why The Muppets works though is because in the end it’s really all about how you can still be fun, hip, heart-warming, and even a little cool if you just stick to a formula that you have been doing for about 30 years. The Muppets are not mean, they use humor but never to hurt anyone it’s more of to just make people laugh and have a good time which is probably one of the best things about them. In today’s world, comedy relies on raunch, mean comments, slurs, and so many more bad things, but The Muppets are simple: they are funny, without ever offending or hurting anybody’s feelings. To do that in any decade is awesome, but to be able to do that in 2011 and be the best comedy/family-film of the year, is probably one of the best achievements that this film has to offer. This is a PG flick that is for the whole family because they can all have fun and thanks to Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and everybody else, I had a great time too.

Consensus: The Muppets is all about having a good time with humor, great musical numbers, dozens of hilarious cameos, and a lot of heart to make you feel like you are watching all of your favorite Muppets together once again and hopefully this time, they are here to stay.

9/10=Full Price!!

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

The one thing I kept wondering the whole time was whether or not anybody got showers.

The film stars Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a girl who runs away from a cult only to be picked up by her sister and brother-in-law. As she tries to get used to being back in “normal” life she starts get flash-backs of the past, and it starts to eff with her, thus effing with everybody else around her. Let’s not also forget that this chick is as paranoid as a kid looking up porn in a public library.

Going into this film I knew to expect a good performance from an Olsen sister nobody knew about, and a lot of cult freakishness. Sadly, I still don’t know what to think of this film.

This is a real upsetting film that will probably make you more sad than actually on-the-edge-of-your-seat. Right from the opening scene you know you’re in for some real dark ish to be going down and having a cult there, makes it almost even more grim, but that is where my problem with this film is.

The film brings out a lot of points about how vulnerable people can be and how weak-minded most people are as well, but I think this was just a case where writer/director Sean Durkin just wanted me to feel like I should go snuggle in my warm, big, and cozy bed. He definitely did a good job at this but there could have been more to it. This premise can be used very effectively and can do a lot of creepy wonders if you have the right vision but this film kind of left me cold, as if I had no reason to really see this film other than to be utterly depressed out-of-my-mind.

The writing also felt pretty repetitive because it was the same constant thing where Marcy’s sister and her husband would just yell at her because she wouldn’t tell them anything, then Marcy would get paranoid about something, and then they would do the same thing over and over again. I think if they focused more on these characters rather than just the situation itself, the film could have really done some real damage to its viewers but it also felt like Durkin didn’t know what to do with this strong plot and just focused on a bunch of random silence and yelling. There could have been a whole lot of cooler things they could have done with this premise but when you just do the same thing over and over again without getting anywhere the first time around, then that’s where I have my problem.

Despite my problems though, I feel like Durkin did a great job behind the camera and really worked on keeping the grim material, grim. Everything is all dark and faded to bring out this glum look for the film even when Marcy does escape the cult and it gives us this sort of feeling like she will never escape. There were also a lot of cool shots where Durkin has one scene in the present, transition over to a scene in the past and it creates this dark mood that’s subtle. It’s a shame this guy didn’t know what to do with his script because he sure as hell knew how to film it.

Speaking of Elizabeth Olsen, she’s pretty much awesome here as Martha. This is her debut role and what she has to do for it is very hard since this character is so battered and tortured that Olsen is actually forced to basically bring out any type of commanding force to this very complex character. She owns that and I think she has a future in the movie-business, I just hope that not all of her films are like this really. John Hawkes is also pretty menacing and freaky as the cult leader, and Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy are pretty good as Marcy’s sister and brother-in-law.

The ending is also another topic of conversation that many people were pissed about because it does just happen, without any real tension but just being ambiguous. I wasn’t as pissed with this ending considering this is what to expect now from all art-house flicks but it’s also a great ending that adds a lot to a film that doesn’t try to spell everything out for the audience. The whole ride to the ending was a bit sloppy but I can at least give some props to a film that you can find a lot of meaning out of. It wasn’t my cup of tea but hey, I’m just one dude.

Consensus: Martha Marcy May Marlene is a grim flick with some great acting from Olsen and Hawkes, but the film itself feels repetitive and a plot that really could have gone so many more places than it actually went and just stayed in this film.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The American (2010)

Is a silent Clooney better than a talking Clooney?

On the heels of a rough assignment, assassin Jack (George Clooney) declares that his next job will be his last. Dispatched to a small Italian town to await further orders, Jack embarks on a double life that may be more relaxing than is good for him.

Seeing the trailers for this one, many were actually expecting a slam-bang action thriller, that never stopped moving from start-to-finish. However, just like this year’s film ‘Drive’, that wasn’t the case so much.

Director Anton Corbijn (who did a very good film called ‘Control’) has a great taste in art and what looks pretty. If you don’t believe me, just check out all of the pictures he’s taken and then tell me what you think. He approaches this film with a lot of peaceful and beautiful images of Italy that just match the whole slow-pace that this film was going for and it’s easy to see that he has a knack for making the smallest things, look pretty.

The film itself is actually very slow, but never too slow to the point of where I was bored which I enjoyed very much. The whole film, I felt like was building up a lot of suspense and actually focusing on a character, without really trying to be too pretentious and go for some large idea that doesn’t have right to be in a slow-burning thriller with Clooney in it.

It was also cool how this film had barely little or no talking, which just gives you a real big feeling of this is how life actually is. There are moments when not everything that’s going on makes perfect sense, but the film doesn’t try to hit you over the head and tell you what’s happening. Instead, they more or so focus on the interaction between characters without needing any words and shows that you don’t always need to explain everything with words. All you need is a good writer like Rowan Joffe to actually say something, without really even saying anything in the first place.

However, where the film starts to fall is the fact that it really doesn’t work out well as a coherent story. The film can be declared an “art film” which it certainly has every which right to be, but when it comes to actually be a thrilling story, it feels a bit disjointed with all of its scenes it sort of mashes together. We get many scenes of Clooney doing push-ups, shirtless of course, then he’s eating something in a little restaurant, then he works on a gun from the beginning till the end of the film, and then we also get scenes of him getting it on with this prostitute (Violante Placido) who always seems to be naked whenever she’s on screen. Most of these scenes go by very quickly to the point as to where it doesn’t feel like they’re even necessary to begin with, and it’s another problem that Corbijn tried too much with this film as well.

Corbijn makes it pretty clear that he wants us to root for this guy, Jack, by having just about every scene on him, showing him all that he does all day everyday, and giving us little bits and bits of insight into this dude’s life. However, I never really felt a connection to this character. It wasn’t that this guy was an unlikable dude, he just didn’t really seem to have me wanting for everything to be OK because of how dull his conversations with everybody were. To work as a character study, we actually need a character that we can connect with and believe in, but instead he just feels like a dude that’s there. Oh and he’s played by George Clooney.

As uninvolved as I was with this character Jack may actually be, George Clooney still does play him well. Since there’s not much of a very talky script, the film depends on a lot of emotions from Clooney to bring out a lot and it works because this guy just looks like a professional no matter what it is that he’s doing. It’s a more nuance performance from him and for the most part, he succeeds in actually keeping us interested by his character’s intentions because of Clooney himself. The scenes he has with Paolo Bonacelli, who plays the town priest, are some of the best in this film because you can tell that Clooney just wants to let out all that talking in the scenes but still stays back and keeps it all silent.

Consensus: The American features some beautiful sights, a slow but tense pace, and a different but good performance from George Clooney, but has too many scenes where they didn’t feel needed and a bit disjointed, which doesn’t do much for the whole character study aspect of this script.

7/10=Rental!!

The Descendants (2011)

Who would ever want to cheat on Clooney?

Matt King (George Clooney), the trustee of his family’s ancestral land in Hawaii, tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a serious boating accident and falls into a coma.Under pressure from different factions to sell the land, he belatedly learns a disturbing secret about his wife.

Director and writer Alexander Payne hasn’t been around since 2004 with ‘Sideways’ and it took him awhile to see what he was going to choose next. Thankfully it was this one.

This film reminded me of Payne’s earlier film, ‘About Schmidt‘ because it had some very funny times where I laughed that were also under-lined with real heart-wrenching moments as well. The humor here is a lot more dry and sarcastic, rather than being straight-up in-your-face about it, but either way worked because it had me laughing just about every time without ever feeling forced.

Where the film really works is where it gets emotional and shows real heart in how it handles each and every situation this film goes through. Moments and situations that you think are going to go one way, end up happening a completely different way then you imagined and the way Payne makes us feel something not only for these characters, but this story as well is where the film really worked.

Life is very unpredictable and it can sometimes be very messy, but for this Matt King guy, it seems like his life is really at a loss. However, the plot itself doesn’t feel like a major let-down and instead of hammering us over the head with constant mushy moments that would seem forced in many other films, it goes for the subtle realism that comes in anybody’s life and Payne always reminds us that it’s not just how we act about ourselves, but also with each other. It’s better to be there for one another, rather than not being there at all and I think that’s what this film really did a good job with trying to convey.

My main problem with this film is that I feel like the whole angle where Matt is stuck in this huge-ass sale of his ancestor’s land was just annoying, and kind of got in the way of the actual dilemma at hand. With this sub-plot, the film was trying to show us how Matt is in a more conflicting moment in his life and how he has all of this pressure on his back of basically getting rid of his whole family history, which to me seemed way to obvious and unneeded considering Matt is already finding himself with his family. I think without this sub-plot the film would have been a lot more easier to feel emotion for but instead it just adds on another idea that was not needed.

I also had a problem with the pacing because I really did feel as if it was a little bit too much of a languid pace for me. There were moments where this film really seemed like it was picking up some steam, and then there were times where it just dragged on to show us something about this character that I didn’t feel was needed and more of Payne just giving us moments of silence rather than characters actually talking.

George Clooney gives a great performance as Matt King, and it’s almost to a point where it’s too hard to tell a good Clooney performance from a bad Clooney performance. Here as King, he down-plays his natural charisma but he still has moments where he show that charm that makes him so damn likable in the first place, which makes the comedy work even more when he’s being a tad goofy. There are also many emotional scenes where Clooney is supposed to show his grief and pain through his facial expressions and I think it really works well and I think Clooney was a very good choice for this role.

As with ‘Up in the Air’, Clooney is given another young-actress to accompany him throughout the whole film and almost up-stage him here with Shailene Woodley in a great role as the rebellious daughter, Alexandra. She is mean, angry, and a little bothered by her dad but still has enough love and sympathy for him where she can ease up and realize that their whole family is going through a hard time. Nick Krause plays her boyfriend, Sid, who reminds me of a younger Keanu Reeves but in a good way; Beau Bridges is funny and really cool as cousin Hugh; Robert Forster plays the King’s father-in-law and boy did he get old, but he’s still good; and Judy Greer is awesome here as King’s wife’s boyfriend’s wife. I know that was a pretty long one but hey, I tried to make sense.

Speaking of King’s wife’s boyfriend, he is played a face that nobody has seen in quite a long time, a guy by the name of Matthew Lillard. Yes, Shaggy from Scooby-Doo is a person that some chick would rather bone than George Clooney. I think this casting was awesome because Lillard is actually very good and shows a lot of range as a dramatic actor and it’s just such a surprise to see how old this guy looks now as well. His character is also fleshed-out very well as is every other character in this film and I think that’s why this film really works in the end, because nobody is a caricature. They are all real people and all have real feelings, even if they may be a little bit messed up.

Consensus: The Descendants has problems with it’s languid pacing but is very sweet, emotional, and rich in character development where it shows how people deal with grief and the unpredictability of life. Not my favorite film of the year but a very good one that I’m glad to see that Alexander Payne wrote and directed.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

A Dangerous Method (2011)

Sir PSYCHO Sexy.

Viggo Mortensen stars as Sigmund Freud, whose relationship with fellow psychology luminary Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is tested when Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), one of the first female psychoanalysts, enters their lives. It’s also even better that Sabina is a crazy psycho who just wants to bone.

I had a feeling that this flick was going to be a little strange, considering that it’s directed by David Cronenberg, but it really wasn’t, which now seeing this, I kind of wish it was more strange.

The overall subject matter of this film is pretty interesting because it’s showing the beginning days of psychoanalysis, and there is a lot of talk about the human body and all the types of limitations we may go towards. This all seems like something we would love to see and hear about but sometimes overly-talky films don’t produce anything great to watch, they can just be downright boring.

I think where this film mostly fails is the fact that there’s nothing here that’s really happening that kept me watching the whole time. This is really just a traditional love story with a bunch of cool-ass scientists, talking, and some spanking. Something just feels somewhat lost in the mix of the dramatic-whop this film was supposed to give off because there are times when the film had my interest, then others it just totally lost me cause nothing seemed like it was happening.

A lot of things happen here such as World War I breaking out, Sabina marries some other dude, Freud and Jung traveling to America, and they also have falling out between each other. This seems like it would have you shocked at every single turn but nothing adds up to much drama. It was almost like watching a whole series of vignettes that really never amount to anything, other than ideas that could have really done something if its material just had some sparkle to it. The film also starts in 1904 and ends in probably 1921 but we never know when the year changes and n0body ever seems to age, or even show a change of character as the time’s go on.

Regardless of the emotion that is not in this film, there is a great look and sound to it. The costumes, set pieces, and buildings all look very exquisite as if I was there right there with them in early 1900’s Switzerland. The score also comes in at good times where it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to make us feel anything, but all that is pretty much wasted considering the fact that I couldn’t feel anything with this story.

Michael Fassbender is good at bringing Carl Jung to life with this sort of buttoned-down and relaxed way to him that doesn’t get in the way of his character likability; Viggo Mortenson plays it pretty solidly as Sigmund Freud, who brings charm and wit to his role that only a seasoned actor like him could do and pull off so well; and Vincent Cassel’s short role as Otto Gross is pretty good but his character is not on for long, and it seems more like an extended cameo rather than an actual supporting role for this flick.

I’m still wondering if I could say that Keira Knightley’s performance as Sabina was terrific, because she does over-act quite a bit but at the same time, her character seems very real. I think she was supposed to over-act, which is something she does very good with but her own character starts to settle down by the end and she creates this very rich and innocent character. She goes from being totally off-putting to likable and I think she deserved to be in a movie that suited her performance better.

Consensus: David Cronenberg brings out good performances with his cast, but A Dangerous Method lacks an engaging story that brings about some interesting topics and happenings, but never amounts to anything other than being a total bore.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Don’t take taxis during rush hour. This is what will probably happen to you.

Neal Page (Steve Martin) is a high-strung advertising executive who needs to get from New York to Chicago in a matter of two days, for Turkey Day. Many things go bad for Neal and he ends up being stuck with a very nice, eternally sunny, and somewhat intolerable dude named Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower-curtain salesman. Things go from bad to worse, and Neal is stuck with Del in trying to get back to his crib for the turkey. And honestly, who wouldn’t be rushing home for Thanksgiving dinner? Yummy yummy.

John Hughes is a great writer and director and those are the two strengths that are shown here incredibly well, especially with his writing. The whole script here is basically watching this tight-ass be tormented by horrible situations that honestly do go from bad to worse and a guy he always seems to sneak away from, but in the end, he always ends up being right back to where he started from. It’s a formula that is very obvious but somehow Hughes makes it work.

The humor here is hilarious because I just loved seeing a buddy-comedy that had funny situations mixed with a lot of the usual jokes that come from two guys who are polar opposites. Del is talkative, loving, and always happy, while Neal is somehow always tense, annoyed, angry, or just bothered by everything going on around him. This clash between two characters creates a whole lot of fun for the film but then again, I do love road films, so my opinion could be a bit biased.

What really adds to this film is the fact that the humor is under-lined with some sentimental moments, but it doesn’t feel forced or corny in anyway. Hughes is able to draw out these characters so much that by the end of the film, we really do understand them and care for them and hope that no matter what they are both happy, which may sound a little cheesy now but the film spends so much time with its comedy that when it actually does get a little soft, it surprisingly works. The ending is quite a heavy one and I think that’s a real surprise and tribute to what a true talent John Hughes was as a screen-writer.

My problem with this film was that it was a little too obvious that there is a lot more to this guy Del, then we actually think. Without giving anything away, we never really find out where this guy is going, why he’s going there, and just how the hell he ends up going the same way as Neal the whole film. This to me seemed pretty obvious and I think if Hughes wanted to really shock us, he could have just been a bit more mysterious with the character of Del.

There was also this one scene where we find out the big “twist” if you want to call it that, at the end of the film. The scene doesn’t last long and I think for the film to really give this hard-hitting emotional impact on the audience, the scene needed to be help up longer before we started getting into the real heavy ending. Then again, I could just be nit-picking like a the highly-esteemed movie critic that I always am deep down inside.

The main reason why this film works is because of the great performances given by Steve Martin and John Candy who give some of their most memorable performances of their careers, and that’s saying something. Martin is great as the stuck-up Neal, who always seems to be freaking out at everything, and there are also many other scenes where he gets to show his true comedic talent. If you don’t believe me, just watch the F-bomb scene, then you’ll see what I mean. Just wish the dude would step away from ‘Cheaper By the Dozen’.

Candy has never been better as Del and it’s probably my favorite performance from him (beating out ‘Uncle Buck’) because he’s just so damn likable. The guy is always happy, looking on the bright side of things, and whenever something bad seems to come his way he always finds his way of sneaking out of it and bringing out a positive. Candy has a lot of funny lines and funny scenes where he gets to show his playfulness on-screen, but it’s really about the heart that Candy brings out inside of Del that works. You can tell there is something underneath Del, and there are a couple of scenes that hint this and the way Candy shows it is just perfect and real showing of how great he was with both comedy and drama. If I was stuck with John Candy on a two-day trip, I can easily tell you it would be a hell of a time though!

Consensus: Planes, Trains and Automobiles uses a formula we have all seen before but somehow Hughes makes it even more hilarious than it has any right to be, which is also with some thanks to Candy and Martin who are perfect in these roles, bringing out both comedy and heart within their own characters. Perfect Thanksgiving film.

9/10=Full Price!!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Now I know that I definitely have to stay away from my wife’s sisters from now on.

The film is a tale of three sisters-Hannah (Mia Farrow), Holly (Dianne Wiest) and Lee (Barbara Hershey-who are all unique and special in their own little ways, but they all have problems when it comes to their men and love life. Taking place over two years, we see their struggles, pleasures, and problems as they come to grip with life.

This film goes into some gross places considering the fact that one of sister’s own husband starts boning around with another sister, however Woody Allen is an amazing writer and makes even the weirdest and craziest of things work somehow in his own little cooky way. I think one of the main reasons being is the fact that he’s able to balance all of these stories, topics, and genres so well that it almost is too hard to take your eyes off the film and rarely does your mind ever go somewhere else.

This is also one of the films in Allen’s career where a lot of it feels very realistic because not only does he use that hand-held camera that makes me feel as if I’m right there with these characters, but the fact that a lot of what these people go through and talk about all ring true. I mean we’ve all gone through these feelings at one point or another (not necessarily the boning of your wife’s sister, but you know what I’m saying…) and because of these very interesting characters, it’s also even easier to relate to.

There is a lot to enjoy here but I really have to give some love to Woody who does a great job of keeping this film very interesting and not trying to bog it down with a lot of his annoying themes and messages he always tries to get across in his films, but here they don’t really get in the way all that much. Except for the whole religious angle which I kind of felt was a little forced and out-of-nowhere. I mean maybe Woody was trying to satirize and bring out some questions within the fact of Christianity, but I didn’t see any real reason for this, except for how it kind of ties together in the end.

I was very glad to see Woody taking a back seat to this cast, and letting everybody strut their stuff and do a bang-up job. All of the girls are all very interesting in their own right and it also helps that each one is played exceptionally well, although I do think we could have gotten to know more about Hannah, considering she is the one who is named in the title and she’s the one sister the film pay’s attention to the least.

Michael Caine actually won an Oscar for his role as Elliot here and I have to say he deserved it because he is just great to watch. Caine’s character is the one who is dicking around on his wife and that calls for many emotionally-strong scenes where he just does not know what he wants, much like everybody else from the whole film, except this guy is actually doing something bad. Caine owns almost every scene and it’s a real great change of pace for him considering he’s not always in every scene and not being terribly witty.

Consensus: Hannah and Her Sisters is a great Woody Allen flick because it balances out heart, darkness, humor, and tenderness all so well with a very well-written script, and performances from everybody involved that add so much more dimensions to these already interesting characters. Oh and it also has Thanksgiving din-din in the film so watch it around that time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004)

How oblivious can people be?!?!

Two married couples (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts) who have been close friends for years find that dynamic irrevocably changed when two of them (Ruffalo and Watts) have an affair. Things get even more complicated when their spouses find out and have an affair of their own.

Director John Curran, who directed Stone, seems like he does the same thing with both films. He has great stars in their roles, interesting enough premise, and shows early promise, but then he soon loses it all. Here, he doesn’t quite lose everything but still too much than I expected.

Right from the get-go you know this film is just going to be confrontational, tense, and a tad awkward by how these two married couples inter-act with each other, and to be honest, it gets almost worse in a way. There are times when the arguments here seem so realistic and honest that it’s at a point where I wondered if the writing team behind this all just cheated on their wives at one point and had these actual conversations.

The film also does a good job at not taking sides. We get to see everybody’s view-point on all this “screwing around” and each one seems pretty reasonable. It was also a very detailed look into how each spouse treats each other differently, which can be both good and bad, but usually the later. It was kind of sad to see these people actually not care about these infidelities until it’s almost too late and the damage has already just about been done. It’s sad to see this but at the same time, very good to see because it’s believable and a film like this, definitely needed that.

However, Curran starts to get a little too carried away here and this is where I think the film falls apart. He has these random little moments of silence and odd imagery that is supposed to create some sort of background into these people’s lives and show the impact of this infidelity it has on these couples. To me, this seemed really annoying because I didn’t know what Curran was trying to get across and I wish they actually focused more on the scenes of these people having realistic arguments, which may seem a little odd for me to say but it would have worked if they had more.

There were also moments here where the film I think had times where it just dragged on and on with nothing really exciting happening. The film just feels like it moves along a steady pace with nothing really happening other than these couples being awkward with each other, and not really saying anything else other than how they don’t want to get caught or anything of that cheating nature. I also realized that there is barely any humor whatsoever in this film, and some people say you have to look closer for it. However, I looked as hard as I could, I found nothing humorous here.

The cast is the real benefit of this whole film and I have to say they did a splendid job of casting as well. Mark Ruffalo is great as Jack because the whole film he just carries this look of sadness, anger, and confusion through the look of his eyes the whole movie and gives us a lot of depth for his character. Laura Dern is also great in this role as Jack’s wife, Terry, because I never knew exactly what she was going to do next and I think that is always something you need when you’re playing the always upset wife of a dude who’s sleeping around; Naomi Watts is also good as Edith because the whole time she seems very remorseful about her actions, but just can’t stop and shows a huge deal of sadness to her character as well; and the weak link in this cast is actually Peter Krause as Hank but not because it’s badly-acted, it’s just because Hank is such a one note character the whole time and never shows any real emotions other than just being cool I guess.

Consensus: The script shows brutal honesty, powerful characters, and some sad moments of a broken-marriage, but We Don’t Live Here Anymore suffers from moments that just seem too far-fetched and others that don’t entertain as much as they do just depress the viewer.

6/10=Rental!!

Planet of the Apes (2001)

CGI is better than costumes.

After flying through a space “worm hole,” astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) crashes on a planet where simians rule over humans. Aided and abetted by a sympathetic chimpanzee (Helena Bonham Carter), Davidson leads a small band of rebels against their captors.

Back in August when I watched ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, I said it was a 100 times better than this 2001 piece of junk, but actually, this one isn’t so terrible to begin with.

Director Tim Burton is a guy who’s usually known for doing some crazy ish with his material, but here he doesn’t do anything real different with this material, instead of just gives us pretty good-looking visuals. The action is here and there but the problem that Burton runs into, is that it doesn’t really get off the ground and it feels like he just pushed this film to its ending without any real emotional connection or point about his story.

It’s kind of a shame considering how great of a director Burton can be, and if he didn’t direct this, I wouldn’t have noticed because there’s nothing really striking at all about this material that reminds me of Burton classics such as ‘Ed Wood’ or ‘Edward Scissorhands‘.

The script is also pretty terrible because the lines are just so incredibly cheesy to the point of where I was laughing, and when these “characters” aren’t spitting out corny one-liners, they are either growling, snarling, or making crazy little ape noises at each other. I liked how the plot is all new and taking a cool new twist on this plot, but they way it ended up and turned out, seems kind of disappointing because the script was kind of a real let-down.

However, I have to say that even though this can all be pretty lame, I actually enjoyed myself for the whole 2 hours of this flick. The plot moves along at a slick pace, and even though it sometimes falls into some boring spots, it still kept me interested. The action here is also pretty fun because there are actual ape-on-ape battles that actually are pretty fun to watch as well as some other cool moments to watch.

I also really liked the the visuals and the costumes that Burton supplied with this film because a lot of it looks really cool. The world of the Apes seems straight-out of the original and still looks pretty to look a. The costumes of all of the Apes that were done by Rick Baker were done very well, with a great deal of detail added to each character, but the real problem with the costumes is that these Apes just look so damn goofy. I mean they have these funny and little goofy faces where their teeth just show and they make these funny hissing noises, and instead of actually being horrifying they are actually pretty laughable but I guess the film really wasn’t going for any seriousness.

Marky Mark is one of my favorite actors, but his performance here as Leo Davidson is one I think he should try to forget. Wahlberg doesn’t really have the strength here to actually command this film and his lines are even worse. He does seem a little confused and with no idea what to do with this lead role, other than make scared faces and do his “signature voice”. Still, he’s the man.

Tim Roth actually turned down the role of Severus Snape to play Thade here, which is a real shame cause he could have really had such a bigger career with that role instead of this. Roth isn’t bad here, cause he’s actually pretty menacing, but his villainous character is so cartoony and cheesy that nothing really comes out as scary and more of just goofy. Helena Bonham Carter plays the nice ape, Ari, and does her usual crazy lady performance; Michael Clarke Duncan is loud and full of yelling as the black Ape, Attar; Paul Giamatti actually made me laugh as Limbo; and Estella Warren is pretty damn laughable with her performance as Daena. The cast is all OK, just nothing really special since the film doesn’t really take them all too seriously.

Consensus: Planet of the Apes is cheesy, poorly written, and filled with sub-par performances from the impressive cast, but it’s still an entertaining B-flick with great visuals, some fun action, and a feel of not taking itself too seriously which is good for any film about a world of apes.

5/10=Rental!!

Wedding Crashers (2005)

Why can’t these guys do more comedies like this?

John (Owen Wilson) and his buddy Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) are emotional criminals who know how to use a woman’s hopes and dreams for their own carnal gain. And their modus operandi? Crashing weddings. Normally, they meet guests who want to toast the romantic day with a random hook-up. But when John meets Claire (Rachel McAdams), he discovers what true love — and heartache — feels like.

Here’s a film that has been in my mind ever since it first came out. I remember when I was in fifth grade and I always used to watch this with my buddies, and we would laugh our asses off like a bunch of hyenas, even though half of the shit these people said in this film, were stuff we had no idea about. The only thing that mattered is that it was dirty stuff and that was cool.

What works with Wedding Crashers is just how damn funny it is. The humor here is raunchy but the whole time it had me laughing my ass off by just how witty these one-liners were. When I was watching the film, I couldn’t help but quote lines like “Baba ganoush!”, or “lock it up!”, and even the “people helping people” speech that we get. I love when I can quote films and still laugh at the quotes even though I have seen this film about 15 times. Yes, I have been counting.

The film is essentially broken up into three parts – the hour where we are at the Summer House and the two half-hours where we are not. Everything in this one hour at the Summer House works incredibly well and had me laughing non-stop because that feeling of just being around this one family, where everyone’s a little kooky in their own way and nothing seems to be going right for one person, but does for the other, is always funny in my book.

The only problem with this film is that by the last act, the film starts to get terribly and I do repeat terribly over-dramatic. Throughout the film, there were these little montages of Wilson and McAdams falling in loooooove, which I thought was incredibly stupid and annoying but when the last act showed up and then you have the dumb-ass speech where you’re all lovey-dovey and saying sorry all-over-the-place, that’s where this film lost me and had me totally annoyed. I usually hate it when films do this and this was even worse considering how funny that one hour was, and everything else is basically chuckle-worthy.

I have to say though that the real show to watch in this film is definitely Vince Vaughn as Jeremy. I wouldn’t say that this is on par with his debut in Swingers but I will say that his performance here is just hilarious because he does that “speak 100 miles a minute” thing that he’s so good at and probably has some of the most funny if not memorable scenes of the whole film. The film would have still been pretty funny without him, but having Vince there just makes everything so much better and funnier.

Owen Wilson is pretty good too as John, but then again he’s just playing Owen Wilson so there’s no real stretch there for him, acting wise; Bradley Cooper is totally dickish as Sack, a name that just screams dick head; Isla Fisher is insane but hilarious as Gloria; Rachel McAdams is sort of in a whole entirely different film as Claire; and Jane Seymour is a hot and sexy mama as Kathleen, Claire and Gloria’s cougar mommy. I don’t really have much to say about her performance other than the fact that she is just hot!

Oh, and Christoper Walken is here too as the daddy. However, I don’t need to mention how awesome he is.

Consensus: With some very funny moments, tip-top comedic performances from the cast, and a big list of quotable lines, Wedding Crashers is a sure comedy classic but with the last half-hour, when things start to get a little too over-long and serious, that’s when my happiness started to run away.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Of course this is Disney’s first black princess, and she’s a frog half of the film. Classy Disney!

Down in New Orleans during the fabulous Jazz Age, young Princess Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose) searches for true love and comes face-to-face with snooty debutante Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), ancient voodoo priestess Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis) and the evil Dr. Facilier (Keith David). But with the help of her mother (Oprah Winfrey), a crooning alligator and other friends, Tiana’s fairy-tale dreams may come true after all.

When you have a film that’s advertised as the people who made ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’, you got a lot to live up to. However, I can say that black isn’t better, but still alright.

With all of the talent involved, I have to say that they really did do a great job with this material. Granted, the original story isn’t much different from anything else we’ve seen before, but they do a great job of actually expanding on that idea and giving it a little fresh twist of actually having the princes be a frog too. Not much of a huge shocking twist in the story, but still a good one none the less.

I think if anything was to really stick out about this film was the setting of New Orleans which really did a lot for this film. You go from the southern swamps, to the mansions, and to French Quarters which all give it a really cool look especially with this beautiful 2D animation that just pops out here. With just about every film being released in 3-D nowadays, it was kind of cool to actually see a film, let alone animated, that could have really benefited if given the extra dimension. It’s a film that is very very pretty to look at but if this was in 3-D, I think it would look even better. Especially this scene where some kind of crazy voodoo is going on and these constant colors are just flying all-0ver-the-place and bring you into this sort of acid trip, which would have been even more awesome, if I had those glasses on.

The songs are also another strong-point by how much different types of song genres that come about and give Randy Newman a lot of space to show his talents in. One song is typical jazz, another is gospel, another is Cajun, and then so on and so forth and it was just awesome how great all of these songs sounded. Hell, the film even opens up with some Dr. John here as well and once you open up with him, you know you got the flavor.

The cast and characters in this film are also all pretty good with the likes of Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Bruno Campos, and Oprah Winfrey among others. Probably the most stand-out job of the whole cast was Keith David (aka THE EFFIN’ Man) as Dr. Facillier, the voodoo man. He not only proves he can deliver sinister dialogue but he can also sing like a professional. He has totally got some major respect points from me now.

However please don’t get me wrong, I do not think this is a bad film by any stretch of the means, it is just not as memorable as any of the other Disney-animated films. When I walked away from Aladdin, I always remember humming “A Whole New World” or “Friend Like Me”. Even with The Little Mermaid I caught myself singing “Under the Sea” or “Part of Your World”. Damn I’m even singing it now! Even though the songs here may be fun to listen to and very well-done, they still don’t match up one bit to any of these other songs from any of these other films and I still can’t remember one off the top of my head.

There is also no real break-out character that we’re always so used to seeing. With Aladdin it Robin Williams as The Genie, and with The Little Mermaid it was Sebastian. Here…I’m guessing maybe the big ass alligator named Louis, who just wanted to play in a jazz band because he was very good at the trumpet. How ironic that his name is Louis too. Even though these characters aren’t memorable, they’re still amusing.

Consensus: The Princess and the Frog benefits from good music, a sweet and tender love story at it’s core, and the beautiful look of the film, but nothing else really stands out and even though the film doesn’t have much wrong with it in general, it just lacks in comparison to so many other Disney classics. Not a bad film just not a memorable one either.

7/10=Rental!!

J. Edgar (2011)

Even wearing his mom’s clothes, Leo is still the man.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this riveting biopic as J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI director as notorious for his overzealous methods of law enforcement as for the rumors regarding his cross-dressing and close relationship with protégé Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

J. Edgar Hoover is a dude I know about and it’s cool to finally see someone bring all of his crazy myths and legends up on film. The problem is that I wish it was as good of a film as I was imagining.

Director Clint Eastwood knows how to direct an emotional and compelling story, and he brings that to this film here with a great deal of moments where it shows J. Edgar not as a genius, but more of in an negative light, which is something you barely ever see in biopics. He’s a very sad dude that has terrible problems of paranoia, controlling everything, and trying to get all of the attention for himself. It’s hard to imagine a film that would basically talk ish on its subject but to be honest, this guy was a nut-case if a smart one at that.

Another element to this film that everybody was buzzing about before it came out was how apparently they would be talking about J. Edgar’s sexuality. The film does not exploit this by any means and I think handles it very delicately because it has a lot of the subtle touches that the film is trying to show and probably the best and more emotional scenes of this film actually have something to do with that gay-love angle. It’s finally great to see a big Hollywood film with a lot of talent in it, so able to actually show homosexuality without hating or making fun of it.

The problem with this film is that even though there are moments where this film clicks, other times it just plain and simply misses. One of the problems with the film is that it’s story is told through a very-old Hoover talking to numerous ghost writers, telling his side of the story to almost everything in his life, and this isn’t the most original idea but it’s not such a bad one either. However, sometimes they would go back-and-forth between the past and present time, which not only became annoying but also a major take-away from the film considering that the story jumps around so much, we can never fully get ourselves into one without going to the other one. I think if they told this film from Hoover being young and then watching him as time progresses, then the story would have been a lot better.

Another major problem is that I feel writer Dustin Lance Black emphasized so well on the whole homosexual-angle that when it came to telling the story of Hoover, he kind of lost his way by trying to go for too much without any connection. The film almost feels like a “Best of J. Edgar Hoover” series where we see all of the famous cases that he was apart of, all the controversies, and all the rumors, but we never actually know how the film wants us to feel about all of this and just exactly what this film is trying to say. I felt a little bit dragged on especially by how slow the story was and I think that it gets very jumbled with the actual story of Hoover, except for his fancy of women’s clothing.

My last problem with this film is the fact that it is about 2 hours and 17 minutes long which in some cases, isn’t so bad, but here I felt like I was dying a slow-and-somewhat painful death. The film has about 5 endings and I couldn’t help but look at my cell-phone every 30 seconds to check what time it is and to see when this film was actually going to end. I wouldn’t have had such a problem with the time-limit if the film didn’t lag along at a snail’s-pace and over-stayed its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

It’s a real shame though that this film couldn’t have done any better with critics, because it really could have done Leonardo DiCaprio‘s amazing performance as the man himself, some justice. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get past the thick-accent and the obvious make-up, but somehow DiCaprio makes this very troubled person, an almost larger-than-life persona who totally sinks into this character and after awhile I stopped seeing him as Jack Dawson and more of Hoover. He won’t win, but I’d like to see him at least get an Oscar nomination for this.

Armie Hammer is also exceptionally well as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s right-hand man. Hammer has a great look to him where he always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody he is with and throughout the whole film he uses that to his advantage. The scenes these two share together are great and you can really feel the chemistry and almost sexual tension between them both build-up as the film goes on. Their scenes together were the best mostly because they were believable, and handled in such a way that it didn’t seem shoehorned but more of natural when you have two guys who are with each other all the time, with some very dark secrets.

Oh, I lied, I had one more problem with this film as well. The make-up looks exceptionally well on Leo because he really seems like how old-man Hoover would look like, but Hammer is a different story. The guy’s make-up design looks more like a burn victim mixed with Eric Stoltz from ‘Mask’. It’s very weird to see and Hammer’s performance as older Tolson isn’t any better considering he does these random twitches and jitters that apparently every old man that Armie Hammer has ever seen does.

Consensus: The film has its fair share of flaws: it’s story goes from one place to another, it’s too long, and the make-up is exceptionally bad. However, J. Edgar features great performances from the cast, especially a compelling DiCaprio, as well as a certain love angle that feels right with this material and makes this seem more emotionally connected, when other times it seemed distant.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Jack and Jill (2011)

Adam Sandler’s career went up a hill, then totally plummeted.

Jack (Adam Sandler) has a nice quiet life with his family, until Thanksgiving comes and in comes strolling in his identical twin sister, Jill (also played by Sandler). She creates a huge problem for Jack especially when Al Pacino comes into the mix as a man who is very fond of Jill.

My expectations were already terribly low for this film going in considering that the trailer looked like one of those fake-films ‘Tropic Thunder’ had in the beginning, the 4% it now has Rotten Tomatoes, and the fact that it’s directed by Dennis Dugan, the genius behind ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’, ‘Grown Ups’, ‘You Don’t Mess With the Zohan‘, and the list goes on and on. Therefore, you know this is going to be shit.

In case you already can’t tell from the looks of it, this film is not funny but that’s not to say it doesn’t have some chuckles here and there. I had a chuckle and maybe one laugh-out-loud moment, but other than that, this film blows. I mean the film goes from fart-jokes, to obvious slap-stick, to anti-semantic jokes, and then randomly to jokes about Mexicans, hookers, Indians, and Al Pacino. The film varies all over the damn place. But not in a good way.

Another major problem with this film that I did not understand was how could anybody ever like Jill and her company, let alone her own twin brother. I mean she’s loud, annoying, mean, disgusting, talks loud, makes fun of chicks to their face, and gets sad at the most random things of all. I can’t really put any blame on Jack for not wanting to be around her because honestly, she annoyed the hell out of me just watching her, I could only imagine what it would be like to spend all of your favorite vacations with her.

Then the film tries to go for the little sympathetic note at the end where it tries to show that Jill just needs love, but what has she actually done that made her seem like she needed it and why the eff does Jack all of a sudden feel like he needs to give it to her despite practically trying to avoid her the whole 93 minutes. 93 minutes that I also must say felt as effin’ long as ‘The Godfather‘. As you can tell I’m trying to reference as many good films as I can just to get my mind off of this crap.

The performance from Adam Sandler that he gives for Jack and Jill really isn’t a bad one to say the least, there’s just nothing really all that funny about either of their characters so it kind of just doesn’t matter. It’s also really sad to say this because Sandler used to be one of the funniest guys in Hollywood and probably still could be if he wasn’t stuck doing shit where he gets to wear lip-stick, make-up, and woman’s clothes. Also, Katie Holmes plays his wife, as if she was trying to base her role off of a piece of card-board.

It was pretty fun to see all of these random cameos from people such as Regis Philbin, Dana Carvey, Drew Carey, Shaquille O’Neal, Jared (the Subway guy), Michael Irvin, Tim Meadows, and even David Spade. However they are all just here because Sandler has a lot of friends and keeps true to them but still doesn’t do much. Al Pacino is hilarious and shockingly convincing basically playing a nutty version as himself and is probably the main reason to see this film considering he is just so damn funny. The one laugh-out-loud moment I had with this film was because of him, which is saying a damn lot really.

Oh and there is also Johnny Depp wearing a Justin Beiber t-shirt saying that he was apart of Duran Duran. This is the most random bit of the whole movie and probably the most memorable, considering it lasts for only about 2 minutes.

Consensus: Jack and Jill had chuckles mostly thanks to Al Pacino, but other than that is just not funny because Jill is incredibly unlikable and just a person that nobody would ever want to be around, let alone her own brother.

2.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

How ironic is it also that one of the last lines of this film was Pacino himself saying “Burn it!”? My thoughts exactly Al.

Like Crazy (2011)

Note to self: don’t date chicks with British accents.

American Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and British Anna (Felicity Jones) meet and fall madly in love atcollege in Los Angeles, but must make their relationship work long distance when Anna returns to London. With an ocean between them, their trust is tested, forcing them to confront the idea that their love may be impermanent. Or can it survive against the odds?

After seeing all of the trailers for this film, I had a feeling this was going to be my kind of film considering it was like a ‘Blue Valentine’ for teens. Except this one didn’t make me want to chop my head off so much.

Director and co-writer Drake Doremus does a sensational job here with this film because it runs at a brisk 89 minutes, but he somehow is able to jam in 5 years of these kids relationship into that run-time without any real problems. Months almost past in between scenes and although it never tells you when time has actually changed, I knew right away exactly when and where this story went.

Everything here seems pretty natural because being in love and being young, I know how it feels to have that young love. It’s something beautiful, something grand, something unlike any other, and something that just takes you away from the rest of the world and almost make you feel like nothing can tear you apart. However, sometimes love can be very hurtful and ugly. This film shows that as these two have to go through many hurdles being away from each other so much and at times it’s painful to watch since they just don’t know what to do and wait to see where life takes them. It takes them together, it takes them apart, and other times it takes them to places they would have least expected, but either way, everything here felt natural and real as if this would happen say two people fell madly in love and had to go through a huge problem such as this.

The problem Doremus runs into with this film is the fact that I do think that he runs into the occasional problems of falling into the usual romantic-drama schmaltz. There are moments that feel so natural and real that I started to believe it, but then there were other moments where something would happen and it would seem totally random, but that one person would make the biggest deal about it.

Without giving away any major spoilers something here happens in this film that has to do with a bracelet that comes off of Anna at a very serious time and she makes the biggest stink about it, when in reality, I highly doubt somebody would care especially “at that certain moment”. I know I’m being incredibly vague, but I just can’t say it. I also barely ever saw Jacob actually working on his job as a furniture designer. Yeah he makes a chair here and there but he’s always out doing something and leaving for Britain, when nobody else is there. That’s gotta be a great business he has going for him!

The performances of Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin is what really kept me into this film. Yelchin has always been playing these sort of little child-like roles like in ‘Charlie Bartlett’, or ‘Fright Night’, or even ‘Terminator: Salvation’ for that matter but here he shows a great growth in maturity with his role as Jacob because he has to act like a normal adult would but still have emotions as if he just got stood up at the carnival. Trust me, I know how that shit feels. Jones is even better as Anna who doesn’t know what she wants, needs, or even believes in anymore and has so much emotions going through her facial expressions that it’s almost hard to not shed a tear watching her shed one as well.

They are both great together and they feel natural because as time goes on, they both start from something funny, cute, and a little goofy, but then go to sad, frustrated, mad, and hurt. All of these emotions come out perfectly between both of them together, whether they are speaking or not speaking, you know that something is right about them together and although the story may have some unbelievability to it, Yelchin and Jones really made me believe in their relationship together.

I think that this film really misused Jennifer Lawrence as Jacobs on-and-off again lady friend, Samantha because shes really cool and chill. I didn’t see why Jacob was thinking so hard when he was with her because in all honesty, all she ever wanted to do was just love him and make him happy and I also want to know what she was doing with such a sad sap in the first place. You see how he is without Anna and it’s a surprise that he actually starts going out with Samantha in the first place.

Another and final problem I had with this film is not just a problem with this film but also plenty others. What I’m trying to say is that I’m getting real damn tired of these ambiguous endings. I usually like them but lately it seems like almost every film I run into every day has one and this one has the worst of all considering the note they end on is not only pretty sad but also abrupt as if the film was not finished. This bothered me a lot but its a new occurrence in the film industry and I hope if more and more films are going to have these ambiguous endings, then they should at least not be as abrupt and random.

Consensus: Like Crazy has its fair share of schmaltz, cliches, and unbelievability, but it’s honest look at young love that is beautiful but sometimes hurts is refreshing, as well as the unbelievable chemistry and performances from Jones and Yelchin.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Quiet American (2002)

Michael Caine is still a pimp.

A British reporter, Fowler (Michael Caine, in an Oscar-nominated performance), falls in love with a young Vietnamese woman, Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), and is dismayed when an American, Pyle (Brendan Fraser), also begins vying for her attention.

The nice thing about The Quiet American is that it looks very very pretty and gives us a great image and view of Vietnam before everything started getting a little hay-wire. This was actually filmed in Vietnam so it gave me that real time and feeling that served this material very well, and when you look at a big ocean with little boats with lights, it’s nothing more than a just a very pretty screen saver pic for your computer.

However, if only the actual story and writing did the looks some justice. First off, the film totally ruins itself within the first 10 minutes because it shows Pyle dead and it’s basically assumed that there was some sort of love triangle going on with these three. So basically for the next hour-and-a-half we are left wondering just how big of a role Fowler actually played in Pyle’s death and what lead to everything. In some movies, this actually works well, but here, not at all.

Another problem with this film is that the writing is pretty crappy with the script sometimes going from this love-triangle to the problems in Vietnam with France. This constant going back-and-forth between stories and themes bothered me as I didn’t know what the film was trying to get across other than the metaphor of Phuong actually representing Vietnam, that the film was bashing me over the head with.

Speaking of Phuong, what the hell was so amazing about this girl that made these two practically fall in love, fight, and almost die for? The whole film she is just there to sit and look pretty, spouting out incomplete sentences and being a face that looks pretty familiar honestly. I mean these guys could have gotten a million girls in Vietnam, but what was so special about this chick? That was never really answered and then the film went so low as to try and get me to root on Fowler as he was trying to divorce his wife. When the hell has divorce for the sake of being with some Vietnamese mistress been alright? I guess in some cases it is, but this one threw me off a bit.

Michael Caine is actually very powerful as Fowler, and is probably what makes this film watchable in a way. He got nominated for an Oscar here, and with good reason because his character isn’t likable or even morally attracting at all, but something about Caine just draws you into him the whole film. Caine’s character goes through many transitions and he makes them all seem believable and draw you into Fowler.

Brendan Fraser also stepped away from his usual goofy roles to play Pyle here and is actually pretty good. We never know what his full intention’s are but the whole time we wonder just what will Pyle end up being at the end of the film and that mystery is what kind of drew me into his character. Fraser plays a pretty nerdy guy and then gets dark real quick, but still makes it seem very believable and it’s a good thing that he doesn’t get blown away from Caine in the end.

Consensus: Caine and Fraser are very good in The Quiet American but this pretty film suffers from some bad writing, metaphors that are too obvious, and film that is practically spoiled within it’s first 10 minutes and takes you out of the whole film.

5/10=Rental!!

Immortals (2011)

Oooooooooh sooo shinnnyyy.

In Ancient Greece, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) searches for a powerful weapon that will free the bloodthirsty Titans and enable them to overpower the gods and enslave mankind. Unable to interfere directly, the gods choose a champion to defend them: Theseus (Henry Cavill). Theseus gathers a ragtag band of warriors, including priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff), to meet the challenge.

Director Tarsem Singh is not a dude I know very well when it comes to his films but from what I know they are beautiful. This is one of those cases here.

The great aspect Singh brings to this film is that everything here is filmed with these bright and vibrant colors that are mixed in with these sets. Some are CG and some are actually real, but either way, everything here just looks beautiful and filmed with this style that almost reminds me of a painting of some sorts that I would see on the ceiling of a church. Probably one of the best looking films of the year and another reason for me to actually go out there and look at this dudes movies.

However, as my 4th grade teacher would always tell me, “beauty is only skin-deep”, which is sadly the case for this film. The problem with this film is that the writing is so generic and lame that nothing seems to really stand-out other than the beautiful colors and ass-kicking action. These characters talk as if they were straight out of a ‘300‘ sequel and there’s no real emotional drive to this film that makes you root for these “people” as they go on and fight the big war.

Also, I never understood just what the hell was up Hyperion. Hyperion wants to wage this huge war on the Gods but he never has a big enough reason and when he does finally say it, I couldn’t take it as that seriously. It could have been fleshed out a bit more, through maybe a flashback here and there but instead was just left in the air. Oh yeah, the reason why he starts the war with the Gods is because his wife and kids die from a disease/sickness. Makes perfect sense, right?

There are also parts to this film where everything seems to drag on and on to the point of where you just want somebody to do something effin’ crazy. All of those epic and intense battle sequences you see from the trailers and everything, is here, but at the end of the film when the rest of it is just about these 3-5 people going after Hyperion. It’s not like the whole film is boring it’s just that the slow parts, seemed to drag on so much more because of the action being as great as it is.

Speaking of the action, it’s freakin’ awesome. Everything is shot so colorfully that the mix of blood and gore fully makes this film a fun treat, especially when the action starts to get bigger, louder, and a lot more epic. You don’t have the normal slow-mo sequences that almost every action director tries to do nowadays, which gives you time to enjoy all of the men spearing, beheading, pulverizing, impaling a whole lot more at a quick and fast pace. When the action happens, it’s fun, bloody, and stylish the problem is that it just happens after some very long periods of dragging.

The real spectacle this film is also trying to high-light is the big-screen U.S. debut of Henry Cavill who plays Theseus, and is also going to be playing Superman. He does what he can with this script and I think he really does have what it takes to be a great Superman because he just has that physically strong and heroish man look to him that will win anybody over.

Mickey Rourke is also having a lot of fun as the baddy, King Hyperion aka the guy who is eating something in almost every scene. It’s awesome to see Rourke having a fun time with a role that he could play for more and more decades to come. Stephen Dorff is good as the comic relief and kick-ass warrior, Stavros, and Freida Pinto is kind of mute and just not doing anything as the “virgin priestess”, Phaedra.

Consensus: Visionary director Tarsem Singh brings so many colorful, vibrant, beautiful, and larger-than-life sets to this film that it almost makes Immortals feel like some sort of dream filled with bloody and fun action, but also a lame script and long moments of boredom in between all of the slashing and killing.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

It seems like Todd Phillips must really like some Hunter S. Thompson himself.

Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), go on a three-day romp from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Motoring across the Mojave Desert on the way to Sin City, Duke and his purple haze passenger ingest a cornucopia of drugs ranging from acid to ether.

After seeing ‘The Rum Diary‘ for the bore that it was, I realized that I needed to see the one and only Depp and Thompson connection that everybody’s been talking about for so long. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

I haven’t really been all that familiar with a lot of Hunter S. Thompson‘s stuff but I can say that from what I know and hear, his shit is really crazy and out-of-this-world. This film is really freakin’ weird and it’s all about the insanely-real, and drug-influenced nightmares that go through this guy’s head when he’s taking LSD, coke, and some other crazy stuff that I didn’t even know existed. The whole film feels like a pretty long acid trip, which is much thanks to director Terry Gilliam.

Gilliam is great at these very eccentric and trippy set pieces that really get inside of your head and wonder just if what you are looking at is real, or all just a dream/imagination. Gilliam makes from what I hear pretty unfilmable stuff, and makes it damn realistic but not without making a lot of these drug-induced nightmares very funny and just very crazy to watch. Gilliam was the perfect choice for this type of film and even though this definitely isn’t the type of film that will make you wanna do some drugs, there is still a lot here that shows what it’s like to be on drugs and just how effed up your perception of reality can actually be.

The problem I think this film has is that a lot of the tone feels a bit uneven. Everything starts off all hilarious and very funny, without any type of real judgment on these dudes and all of the shameful things they do when they are completely drugged up, but that all starts to go away by the end of the film and that’s when it gets pretty dark. It blends right into this depressing kind of a film that doesn’t try to throw any messages about how “drugs are bad” at you, but to me, this still seemed a bit weird considering I spent the whole time just practically laughing at all these dudes.

I also feel like the film is a little too long and some scenes could have definitely been cut out, even though it seems like they were just going along with the material. The whole angle with the little, church girl seemed random and unneeded, and the diner scene where Gonzo totally gets big and nasty seemed very out-of-place for a film like this. It was a little too serious, a little too dark, and a little too sad to be placed in a movie where two guys are just tripped out the whole entire time.

Despite those little problems though, I still had a blast with this film, mainly because of the cast. Johnny Depp is the freakin’ man and totally crazy as Raoul Duke. Depp, as we all know, is perfect at playing these eccentric and cartoonish characters, and what he does here not only made me laugh but just watch his whole performance with happiness knowing just how great he really is with these sort of characters. Benicio del Toro is also totally convincing and crazy too as Dr. Gonzo. They are both great together and it’s funny how two completely different actors with two different styles, can come together on a film and just make everything seem like their having a great time with their roles.

Let me also not forget to mention that there are also tons and tons of cameos from a bunch of A-listers and random celebrities such as Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Flea, Lyle Lovett, Cameron Diaz, and even the man himself, Hunter S. Thompson. Oh and then there’s also Garey Busey, but he’s barely ever hard to miss in any film.

Consensus: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has its fair share of being too long and too uneven, but at other times, still has a direction from Gilliam that is beautifully trippy and inspired, and the cast just makes this whole bizarr-o film seem real without getting too serious.

8/10=Matinee!!

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Conviction (2010)

I definitely know that my little bro would not do this for me that little bastard.

Convinced that her brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), has been unjustly convicted of murder and incompetently defended by court-ordered attorneys, high school dropout Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school in order to represent him in his appeal.

Last year I was supposed to see this at a press screening but for some odd reason, never actually got to it, so I just ended up waiting for it to one day pop-up. When it finally did, I kind of felt bummed by what I missed.

This story here is a true under-dog story that usually gets schmaltzy and feels like a “made for TV” film but somehow director Tony Goldwyn makes it better than just that. The story telling here was not easy to pull off because it all takes place in 16 years of visitations, back-story, courtroom dramas, and marriage problems but Goldwyn does well when it comes to setting up a pace and sticking to it well.

However, where this film fails is within it’s right to actually keep me glued into the story even when I knew all that was going to happen. Right from the get-go, I knew what was going to happen, but then again so did everybody else who watched this and I mean even though its pretty formulaic and predictable it was still fun to watch, but with barely any surprises.

The problem with this film though is that I feel like they had a lot to say about the judicial system and how they are not always right but for some reason, this film only went down that road about twice and that was it. I think with the type of material they had here and the constant showing of mishaps with the actual courtroom system and how evidence is handled and whatnot, that they could have said a lot while still being able to tug at our heart-strings, but only mildly does both.

The real strength of this film though is the cast at hand, and let’s just say it’s a pretty-looking bunch we got here. Hillary Swank is good here as Betty Anne Waters but my problem with her was that her character just has the same look on her face the whole time, and didn’t really give us any real reason to care about her. This wasn’t Swank’s fault but the script could have helped her more. Minnie Driver is also good as the smart-assed best friend of Betty; Peter Gallagher is awesome as Barry Scheck and just had me staring at his eye-brows the whole time; and Mellisa Leo, Juliette Lewis, and Ari Graynor chew up some good scenery as well.

The whole cast is good but compared to Sam Rockwell as Kenny, they are totally forgettable. Rockwell plays up all the charm and humor that he always puts into his performances but he also puts in a great deal of sadness and depression that this character goes through while he’s in prison. Since we only see him through the visitations at the prison, it would be incredibly hard to develop a character solely on that but Rockwell is great at keeping our attention on him the whole entire time.

Consensus: Conviction features plenty of good performances from the cast, especially Sam Rockwell as Kenny, but too much of it feels like the usual, under-dog story we get on cable and in the end, feels like a film that could have went more for the gut than the heart but instead chooses the latter.

6/10=Rental!!

Melancholia (2011)

Just put a freakin’ smile on for Christ’s sakes.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth.

Lars von Trier is a very hard director to watch, especially if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into with him. Trier always seem very hell-bent on making just about every single hope and dream that anybody has ever had and basically throwing them away in our faces. The hope and dream in this film is the planet Earth.

This film is a very hard pill to swallow because it starts off so slow and depressing that it’s almost way too hard to even stick with it and just “enjoy” it. Trier isn’t all about having us be enjoyed, but he’s more about just letting us see the world from a certain persons point-of-view and letting us understand these people for what they are, not what we want them to be.

Basically what he is trying to say here is that everything you know and love, will all someday come to an end and die. It’s sort of like that song “Do You Realize??” from The Flaming Lips, but instead of a 4-minute alternative rock song, we have a 2-hour long film that stretches this idea pretty plainly and simply but the visuals is where it is taken to a whole ‘nother level.

Right from the beginning of the film, von Trier gives us these slow-mo shots of leaves falling, people yelling, horses collapsing, and the world we all know and love, basically disintegrating right before our own eyes. Trier is able to bring some real-life beauty to the whole “end of the world” idea but I almost forgot about that sometimes because of his visuals. The location that this film is shot on, is just about perfect for this film because it’s big, secluded, and can also get very glum and dark which is where this film really starts to hit its mood in.  Trier has a vision that he’s not afraid to show off and that’s something I can easily say I have to give him props for.

Despite some beautiful visuals, von Trier sort of falls down when it comes to the actual “story” aspect of this film. Seeing that this is a very personal script for von Trier, since he did go through depression, it’s almost a no-brainer that he hits the nail on the head when it comes to making us feel the depressed and sad atmosphere that he probably felt for a long time but the whole story feels a like nothing is really happening and not really going anywhere. The film starts off focusing on Justine a lot with her depression and whatnot, but then the film focuses on her sister Claire, which is where I think the film kind of forgot about Justine’s problem and never fully resolved it. This felt messy to me and almost like von Trier was trying to branch-out both sissies but in a way it just didn’t work here.

Another problem I had with this film was the fact that Justine is not a very likable or enjoyable character to have your film centered around most of the time. She over-does the whole “I’m sad” act way too much throughout this film and is sort of just left there just hanging around, looking like she could be pushed over and not even care. Just having your character stand there and be depressed for some odd reason and never explain, doesn’t make your character compelling or dynamic, it just makes that person seem more and more like a distraction from all of the other good elements of the film. I don’t know why she didn’t do a lot of the things that she did, especially by the end, but to be honest, I couldn’t say I cared all that much.

Although her character isn’t very strong, Kirsten Dunst is still very good at selling this character and does a great job with what she is given. Most von Trier female leads have to endure it all, which is what Dunst kind of has to do as well, but it’s more about focusing on how well Dunst can put act on one emotion and make that all seem believable and well-rounded. I think she was able to do that here and provide a more dramatic center for this film. Also, for anybody wanting to see some of Maryjane Watson’s boobies, you’ll get to see them as she lies naked for a good 3 minutes. MY spidey sense is tingling! Ohhh owwwww!

The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Charlotte Gainsbourg starts off as a total bitch sister as Claire, but then soon starts to warm up as shit really starts to hit the fan, and this is something that Gainsbourg is able to pull-off real well; Keifer Sutherland is great as Claire’s husband, and provides that dirty charm that he always has; and Alexander Skarsgård is also nice to watch as Justine’s hubby who basically is always push to the side. My man should have known what he was getting himself into.

Even though the film really didn’t do much for me in the beginning, it picked up a lot by the end when everything really starts to get chaotic and I think this was what won me over. The way these people act seems so real and so genuine that if I was put in this situation, I think I would do the same exact thing. I’m not saying that all humans think like me but when it comes to the end of all humanity, I think that there is just a time when you have to act and almost give up. I didn’t feel cheated by the ending and I think it was the perfect way to end a film that really wanted to build-up to its last shot, which is something it does masterfully.

Consensus: The narrative may be a bit off, and things sure as hell don’t really pick-up for the longest time, but Melancholia is a show-case of Kirsten Dunst’s acting skills as a female lead, and von Trier’s brilliant ways of creating beautiful visuals and having them add another layer to the emotion’s of his films.

7.5/10=Rental!!

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