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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Grey (2012)

First he takes on the kidnappers, then the Nazis, and now THE WOLVES!

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. But thanks to wolves that view their presence as a threat, they aren’t alone.

Even though January to February is basically the toilet bowl of movies, there is always one guy who prevails as the winner. And no, there is not that much ass-kicking as the trailer/poster may have you think.

The plot here isn’t anything all that new that we haven’t already seen done before but co-writer/director Joe Carnahan brings something different to it. Carnahan does a great job here with this slick, dark, and stylized flick capturing a great look and feel right off the bat. All of these shots from the ice and snow in British Columbia look beautiful but it’s still not something you can gaze at as if it was a Terrence Malick considering the tone is still very dark itself. Let me also not forget to mention that this film also has one of the best plane crashes that I have seen as of late.

There is a lot in this film that will keep you riveted because these guys are basically trapped in the middle of somewhere, where all of these wolves are ready to feast at any second which is what gives it this paranoid and tense feel the whole film. There is always this big sense of dread in the air and you know that something just is not going to go right with this situation that they are put in and the film will catch you at a couple of parts and keep you completley riveted.

The film also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action junkies that will probably go out and see it considering that there is plenty of awesome action/thrilling sequences but don’t let it fool you, there is still a lot of character development as well that worked very well. Carnahan may pack this film to the top in tension but when it comes to the guys talking about life in general, he lets everything slow down and then he somehow becomes very subtle with the way he moves his camera around but never loses track of what these guys are saying. I can’t say that there are too many moments where we get to understand these guys from the inside and outs but for a survival action flick, I can definitely say that these characters felt like real-life people rather than just the usual side-character in an action flick that nobody cares about.

My only problem with this was that when they started getting all philosophical and started talking about God and faith, then it started to really ring false to me. I don’t know what it was but there was just something about a bunch of bearded dudes sitting around a fire, freezing their asses off talking about whether or not they believe in God or no that kind of made me scoff and realize that this film was aiming a little too high. I also thought that this was a little unneeded because the whole flick they don’t even make one mention of it at all but when they do, then the film becomes this huge spiritual experience where we have just about every guy cursing God. Hey, I don’t mind a flick when it tries to be more than a just mindless action flick, but don’t try and get too serious with me.

Another problem I had with this flick wasn’t so much of the flick itself rather it being the advertising itself. Everybody who saw the trailers for this flick knew that there would be some sort of stand-off between Neeson and the wolves, when in reality, that sort of happened and sort of didn’t. I don’t want to get into any specifics and give anything away but it was always in the back of my mind the whole time so that once I got disappointed, the disappointment was sort of in the back of my mind as well. Also, knowing that this is a Neeson action flick that is made mostly for him, we all know that he has to basically live out all of the crazy events considering that he is the main star and basically it’s just like you’re watching people die left-and-right as if it was a slasher flick but instead of a teenager killer, it was either the wolves, snow, ice, or mother nature herself.

Being that this is an action vehicle for Liam Neeson the film really relies on him for a lot here and I have to say that this is definitely one of the better performances I have seen from him as of late. Neeson plays Ottway, who is a character that’s a little bit different from his other action heroes. He’s a lot more troubled, very depressed, and scared but also still very knowledgeable and brave which is something that Neeson pulls off perfectly in this whole flick. Neeson makes everything in this flick look so easy and it’s just great to see him playing an actual person again rather than a secret CIA dude who has a certain amount of trained skills. If this film was released in October to December, it definitely would have garnered him some buzz for Best Actor but hopefully his name will still come around this time around next year. Then again, it’s very unlikely but still, I think he should deserve some love at least. There is also a lot of other performances here given by some familiar faces I was incredibly happy to see such as Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, and many others who add a lot to their characters almost just as much as Neeson does.

Consensus: Even though it tries to aim a little higher than it should, The Grey is still an impressive survival flick from the stylized and tense hand of Joe Carnahan, that gives this film characters that we care for and the jolts and scares that work almost every time. Definitely my favorite flick of the year so far and even though that’s not saying much, I still think it was a pretty big surprise.

8/10=Matinee!!

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Take Shelter (2011)

Why can’t people just accept that he has a dream!?! Well, a very effed up dream to say the least but still.

Curtis (Michael Shannon) believes strongly that a huge storm is approaching and will destroy everything on a massive level. Rain from the sky begins to look like motor oil, multiple tornadoes are forming, and huge flocks of birds begin to navigate in weird patterns. He also has a history of mental illness in his family and his visions may be from his paranoid schizophrenia.

The “crazy guy who sees things” premise has been done time and time before but there’s something different that writer/director Jeff Nichols brings to it. Maybe it’s just the fact that this guy is actually very good at everything he does. No, that’s exactly what it is.

The one thing that Nichols shows that he definitely is a force to be reckoned with in the next upcoming years. He does a great job with the direction here because the story has this sort of horror flick feel to it but even when all the freaky and scary stuff isn’t happening, he lets everything calm down in order to give us some very rich family drama. Nichols gives a lot of these dream sequences this dazzling look and feel that has you so taken aback by them that even though you do know that they are just hallucinations and not real, for some odd reason you start believing that they are despite what this story is telling you. The CG effects are pretty good, some better than others, but I’m just really impressed that they were able to make any type of huge storm look realistic, given the meager budget they have working with here.

The film’s script is also very well-done because it captures two things at once. You know that this guy is just having dreams and imagining stuff but after awhile, the sense of impending doom starts to take over and you can’t help but start to think that this guy is right after all and you’re just waiting along with him for it go down. You feel hooked right away and it doesn’t stop for the whole two hours that this film has you for, but it’s not just that which got me going. The whole family drama aspect of this film works greatly as well because its very subtle, quiet, and genuine. Everybody hear speaks like a normal person would and their reactions to this guy’s dreams and actions feels very real in the way that people wouldn’t just beat around the bush, they would get straight-up in the dude’s face and call him a loony. The characters all feel real here and even though I can’t say that I know anybody that would actually be as nutso to build a storm shelter himself for the apocalypse, I could say that if I did meet one, I would be pretty up-front about how crazy I think they are.

My only complaint with this film lies within the whole metaphor this film is trying to throw on by our faces. The whole idea that there is a storm approaching not just in real life but also in his head seemed a little obvious for me in the way that I just knew what this film was trying to say. It’s not that this ruins the film by any means necessary it’s just that once you get the hang of what this film is trying to say, it’s pretty much over-done.

The main reason as to why this flick does work though is because of the man they call Michael Shannon. Shannon is finally getting his first lead role as Curtis and he makes every single second work and count like no other. This guy looks nuts and has elements about him that would make him rather nuts but he’s just an ordinary working-class family man that is starting to dream some pretty scary things and it starts to take over his mind big-time. He never goes around yelling at people, preaching about how the apocalypse is coming, instead he just keeps it all to himself without ever letting anybody, even his wife, know what’s going really going on in his crazed mind. Shannon is perfect for this role because even as crazy as he may be going he never seems violent and never seems like the type of dude that would kill his family because a big old cloud in the sky told him to. He feels like a dude that loves his family but also has a lot going on in his mind that he shows very subtly only getting worse through time. Shannon doesn’t let loose until one part where he just can’t take it anymore and just lets you know how much power he has for a performance like this and even when it’s over, you can’t help thinking that this is truly a weird dude. Shannon deserved a nomination for this performance because he’s great and handles every scene perfectly but something also tells me that we will be seeing more of him in leading roles now.

Also, I think that Jessica Chastain will be proclaiming that 2011 was the greatest year of her life considering she has appeared in about 7 films last year, including this one, and she’s great in just about each and every single one of them. Chastain plays his wife, Samantha, and gives you this feeling that she really does love her husband and is trying her damn hardest to really connect with him and help him through this very rough time in both of their lives. It’s also great to see Shea Whigham working again considering the last time I saw him was when he got rocked by Paul Walker in ‘Fast & Furious’.

Consensus: Take Shelter is a powerhouse of a flick with arresting visuals, a perfect performance from Michael Shannon, and a direction and script from Mike Nichols that makes you feel the impending doom that could possibly happen, as well as feel the true emotions that run behind all of these characters motives.

9/10=Full Price!!

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Is this usually what happens when two very good-looking people marry each other?

Ted (Dustin Hoffman) is a career-driven yuppie until he finds out his dissatisfied wife (Meryl Streep) is leaving him and their 6-year-old son. But just as Ted begins to love being a full-time parent, his wife reappears to reclaim the boy.

Divorce is not something I have ever had to deal with in my life but from what I hear, it’s not a very nice thing to be put through. I know this through many people I know and hearing their experiences and thoughts on what happened, really makes me feel something towards them but feeling something towards a film that’s about divorce seems very, very hard. However, when you got something like this, it’s not hard at all.

Even though this is definitely not the first and definitely not the last film to use divorce as a plot, the one thing that separates this flick from all of the others is the fact that this feels real right from the get-go. All of these emotions that these people feel, all of the heart-breaking things that these people say, and just everything that everybody goes through in this film feels real and genuine except for being just another schmaltzy Lifetime made-for-TV movie. Much of this is testament to writer/director Robert Benton, who not only adapted this from the novel but directed this as well and supplies plenty of very dramatic moments but also a bunch of funny ones as well, which gives it this light side that does a really good job at keeping us happy even though it can get very sad at some points.

The whole time I was watching this film though, I couldn’t stop but try and reflect on a little bit of my own life and just realize how true this film felt. When I looked at Ted and how he cared for his son and would do anything just to tend to him, I saw my father and when I looked to the little bratty Billy, I saw myself and how that bond between us was strong no matter what because he loved me and I loved him. There are so many damn memorable scenes here that just stick in your mind but they felt like something that I would do as a kid with my dad, and the emotions that just ran out through every scene just hit me hard and strong.

What is also great about this script and its direction from Benton is that the film isn’t a very easy one for answers and barely chooses any sides. As soon as the mother leaves her son and husband, it’s pretty easy to paint her as “the bad guy”, but as the film goes on you see that some of the blame for her leaving could be also put on the father as well. The film doesn’t show us how their relationship was before this divorce, so we are able to draw up our own conclusions on to how they were before all of these problems started to actually occur. This may make it harder for some people to say who’s right and who’s wrong but when it comes down to the actual real-life feelings of losing a loved one and feeling how the other one feels, it feels like the only way to approach this sort of material considering how one-sided it all could have been.

The one problem I had with this film was the fact that the mother sort of seemed very one-dimensional the whole film. Even though I did hate her for the longest time until I saw her side of the story with everything, I still have to say that all she does throughout this film is complain about how she needed to find herself, realize who she was, and yadda yadda yadda bullshit. It would have been fine if she said it just once and left it at that, but it seemed like when anyone actually spoke to her that she just constantly kept whining and complaining that it was a real wonder to how was this chick even happy in the first couple years of marriage.

Regardless of that little problem though, the cast is just about perfect and what really serves as the icing on the cake for this flick. Dustin Hoffman is perfect as Ted. Hoffman is an actor I’m very so-so with not because I don’t like him, it’s just because I don’t think there is anything really special to him other than nailing down the whole ‘Rain Man’ thing perfectly, but here he totally makes me re-think that. Hoffman is just one of those incredibly likable dudes that seems like the perfect fit for this dad who wants to do everything to make his son happy but also be successful at what he does and how he can’t accomplish that is almost too hard to watch at times. His more dramatic scenes though are what really works and everything he says about he feels, what he’s going to do, or what he wishes he could do, feels realistic and he definitely deserved that Oscar without a doubt.

Meryl Streep is also great in a very young role as the mother, Joanna. Yeah, she’s kind of a weird itch for leaving the son and father in the first place but as time goes on we start to see her for more as a troubled human-being rather than just another nervous wreck who seems like she should be put into a clinic. I also have to give a lot of props to Justin Henry as the son because he actually holds his own between these two Oscar-winning stars and doesn’t seem like that overly annoying, too-smart-for-his-own-age kid act that we usually get with young actors.

Consensus: Kramer vs. Kramer is superbly acted by just about everybody involved and the direction feels right because we never take one persons side over the other, but where this film works is in the screenplay where it shows real people, with real problems, doing real things without ever seeming unbelievable just for the sake of dramatic sake.

9/10=Full Price!!

Pandorum (2009)

A title that I heard this movie say about 30 times throughout the whole film.

Upon rousing themselves from hyper-sleep, Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster), a pair of crewmen assigned to work on a spacecraft, discover startling gaps in their collective memory — including who they are and what, exactly, their mission was in the first place. The plot thickens when they realize they’re not the only ones on board the ship.

I was very surprised by this film because I rarely remember when it first came out, and the posters did nothing to help me get ready what to expect either. Thankfully, I had a good surprise with this film.

Space-horror films are always the best because they really get that type of claustrophobic feeling in and director Christian Alvart brings that here very well. I always felt like there was no way out for these characters, and that they were always in danger almost every single turn they took. Alvart’s story he creates here is something that starts off very mysterious and weird, but then turns into this action and tension-filled horror flick that kept me wondering what was going to happen next.

I like how this film had a whole bunch of confusion that lead me to wonder why all of these things were happening, and how they all happened. These questions are left open for a good majority of the film and the way Alvart leaves it like this is a very brave thing to do considering that most of this would be very hard for most viewers to just stick with, especially if they don’t understand just what the hell is going on.

The only problem with Alvart’s story here is that there are an increasingly large bunch of plot holes that come with this film and its story, which are hard to ignore really. I didn’t understand as to why if these characters knew they were going to lose their memories once they got shipped away in their pods, they didn’t just leave a couple of little sticky-notes to have themselves be reminded of certain information that would seem very important for when they finally “woke up”.

Another thing I didn’t understand was why these ships would just leave one little button for somebody just to press and mess every little thing up. The first crew of the ship in this film go crazy, and one person actually presses the button to destroy the ship after he goes incredibly nuts, or suffers as they say, “Pandorum”. Plenty of submarines have this button, but it’s really, really hard to get to but why in the hell would they just leave that button for someone to easily press for something a whole lot bigger, and something that is apparently being used for a very important mission. Hell, a mission that is apparently going to impact the rest of mankind. There are more plot holes to be found but these were the two that bothered me the most of all.

I was able to get past these plot holes though because not only of Alvart’s story and the way he tells it, but with its very detailed and artistic direction he gave it. A lot of sci-fi films keep their spaceships usually gritty and disgusting to look at, but the way this spaceship looks is actually very convincing and what a spaceship may actually look like if it were going to be around in today’s world. The sets are real and the way all of the colors, some dark and some bright, actually blend in so well with the moody atmosphere this film was given.

Even though there is some really good-looking CG used in this film, I still couldn’t help but get bothered by the CG that was used on these monsters, or creatures, or whatever the hell you want to call them. These damn things are here just for the sake of being terribly gratuitous and disgusting, and look less lie actual creatures and more like lizards stuck through a condom. Yes, I did just say lizards stuck through a condom but once you see this film, you’ll know what I mean. Lesson learned here is that making your monsters completely and utterly disgusting, doesn’t make them anymore scary.

The cast here is very small but all do pretty well with what they are all given. Dennis Quaid gets top-billing for this film and is pretty good even though at the beginning, his character is just limited to staying in the control-room but soon gets more and more involved and that’s when we see Quaid’s chops really come out. The real star for this film is actually Ben Foster playing Bower, a guy who does everything in his will-power to find out just what the hell is going and does whatever he can to get out of this place safe. This guy can really make you believe in him and seem like he’s always one step-ahead of all of the baddies in this film, which is what Foster really can do well with any film he is in. Cam Gigandet was really annoying and bad as this other dude that comes later in the film, but he’s only here for a small bit. I still don’t know what so many people see in this little shit.

Consensus:Pandorum has its fair share of flaws and plot-holes that may bother some, but the story is mysterious and tense enough to keep any sci-fi die-hard watching, and wondering just what is going to happen next.

7/10=Rental!!

Man on a Ledge (2012)

Don’t jump Sam! You still have to do two more ‘Avatar’ movies!

Sam Worthington plays a fugitive on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. While on the ledge of a building, hostage negotiator Elizabeth Banks tries to piece together his story and talk him out of taking the plunge.

Since there was already one “dude on a ledge” flick last year (and from what I hear, it blew) I was somewhat looking forward to this even as cheesy as it may have seemed. Still, with my second screening here, things seem to be getting better but not by too much.

Director Asger Leth doesn’t really do much else that we haven’t seen done before but it’s still pretty fun none the less. The whole idea of a guy on a ledge is pretty freaky itself and as much as the film may cut back-and-forth between that and everything else that’s going on around it, the film still never loses that tension it started with when it first came on. I also need to mention that Leth still adds some pretty good action scenes that may look a little cheesy, they are still at least a lot more entertaining and realistic than those crappy aerial-fights in ‘Red Tails’.

In the beginning, it is also made abundantly clear that the protagonist, Nick, is innocent and the whole film we are left to actually find out just who framed him, why, and what’s going to become of him. The answers we get are pretty obvious once they’re revealed but it’s still fun to guess who and why. It’s a good mystery that works here but then when it comes to the actual writing, the film starts to lose it’s ground.

The problem with this film is that the writing really doesn’t do this really simple but cool plot justice. The film is about this dude on a ledge but it’s also about this evil greed bastard and the heist that these two people are doing on him through his jewelery shop. It’s not like the film couldn’t really handle all three of these stories going on it’s just that every single one plays out with either something we’ve seen before or a totally preposterous and unbelievable way. The heist and the guy on the ledge are actually working together so a lot of the things they do to help each other seem non-realistic especially when they focus on this heist that’s going on which has them prepared so much that they practically know the codes to just about every door and safe, but what I really wanted to kn0w was how did they know all of this info going in? There is also plenty of other things that happen to Nick by the end that played out as if it was just a fantasy-tale ending but the film was going to please crowds so I can’t really diss on it too much.

Speaking of that heist though, one of the film’s biggest problems was that whole element. The heist not only seems very unbelievable but it’s also done written poorly with a whole bunch of witty banter between Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez that not only seemed forced beyond belief, but got terribly annoying by the 4th sex joke they made. These scenes feel totally out-of-place with the rest of the film and also make it seem like a desperate attempt at lightening-up the whole subject about this dude possibly killing himself. Bell and Rodriguez try in these scenes but they just come off as annoying and not very believable as two people who are pulling off a heist that could mean life or death here. Instead, they are too busy making jokes about how they both know how sexy and smart the other one is. Also, Rodriguez was only in this film for one and one reason only, she’s smoking hot and we get to see that in a totally unnecessary scene where we see her in her Victoria Secret lingerie.

As for the rest of the cast, they all do fine here but nobody is really out of comfort zone either. Sam Worthington is alright as Nick but he sort of just plays the same guy he always play in just about every flick; Elizabeth Banks is trying way too hard here to be rugged and strained as the cop who tries to talk him out of his apparent suicide; Anthony Mackie is just sort of here, but still pretty good as Nick’s good bud, Mike; and Ed Harris plays the villain, David Englander, and can nail this performance no matter what and does a pretty fine job here but I’m just wondering why the hell he took this film in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, everybody here does their best but there’s nothing all that special about their performances once you get right down to it. Still, nice to see Edward Burns working again though.

Consensus: Man on a Ledge has a nice premise that is fun, entertaining, and keeps you on the edge, but it also features writing that is not only unbelievable but also sub-par performances from this good cast which does nothing but make you disappointed thinking you could have gotten something so much better. It’s nothing phenomenal but you’ll have fun while it’s on and forget about it by next week.

5.5/10=Rental!!

BTW for anybody wondering, my top ten 2011 list will probably be up by the end of this month/early next month so stay tuned peeps!

The Tree of Life (2011)

Beats me what this is even about, but damn does it look pretty!

Growing up in the Midwest with two brothers, Jack has always been torn between his mother (Jessica Chastain)’s guidance to approach everything he encounters with an open heart and his father (Brad Pitt)’s advice to look after his own interests. Now, Jack (played in an older age by Sean Penn) must find a way to regain purpose and perspective.

That synopsis there is sort of what I think this flick is about because within the first 240 minutes we get the creation of the universe, jelly fishes swimming all over the ocean, and dinosaurs. Yes, you heard me right, I said dinosaurs but after that then it gets normal.

Going into this flick, knowing that it was Terrence Malick not only directing but writing as well, I was going in expecting two things: 1. a good story and 2. beautiful visuals. For numero uno, I kind of got that but for number two, I definitely got that.

After seeing only two films from Malick so far (‘The Thin Red Line’, ‘The New World’) I knew that this was going to be just another one of his flicks that just wreaks in beauty with just about every shot, and he did not let me down. Every single shot here is just another piece of beauty that gets added to the collection of all of his other flicks and even with the smallest amount of light in one shot, you can still feel like you haven’t seen the sun like this quite before. The thing with a lot of these shots though, is that you seen realize that Malick is deliberately taking certain shots to put us all in the mind of Jack as a young boy and we see what he sees, feels what he feels, and at least try to understand what he’s trying to understand. It also helps that Malick shot on some of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in quite some time and I honestly want to know just where he found caves that look like the ones he was filming here. No matter what though, Malick is perfect when it comes to creating beautiful visuals for a flick and even when it comes to him getting towards using CGI, it almost looks perfectly real. Hell, a lot more real than most of these big-budget action block-busters that come out every year. That’s a true testament to the directing style of Terrence Malick.

When it comes to the story, well, let’s just say things are a little bit weird. As I’ve already mentioned before, the first 40 minutes are totally confusing as we see this present-day story that goes back to the past, and then goes all the way back to the creation of the universe filled with all sorts of random life-forms. It was a little confusing at first but still stunning to watch none the less however when the actual story about this young boy and his family came in, that’s when the film really did wonders.

The whole story about this little kid and how he sees the world through two different life-styles actually made me not only feel a lot for his story but my own as well. Take it for granted though, I wasn’t born in the 50′s and my parents are both kind of the same in terms of parenting, which isn’t a bad thing in any way because come on, they let me watch R-rated movies when I wasn’t even legally allowed to. Just the way that all of these kids go about their days kicking the can down the street, chasing their mom around the house with a lizard, breaking windows to be deemed “cool” by others, and so so many other things that remind me of myself when I was a lot younger and didn’t have much to do in my life other than go outside and play with my buds. It was great to see a film just tell a story about kid growing up through the kid himself with all of his angst, curiosity, confusion, anger, but most of all, happiness.

Where I think this film hits its biggest problem is that I think its structure could have definitely been used a lot more simpler than Malick actually gave us. I have to give props to Malick for this structure because after awhile, you start to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and everything starts to make sense, but I think if he had started from the creation of the universe thing to the childhood of Jack to the adulthood of Jack, it probably would have made a lot more sense and come off as more enjoyable that way. There is also a bunch of talk about God and faith that didn’t really do much for me and may seem a bit too far-fetched when it comes to connecting two different stories together, but it didn’t really bother me all that much considering I was just watching beauty right in front of my eyes.

Even though the film sort of treats the characters as second-nature here, the performances are all still pretty good. Brad Pitt is a fine fit as Jack’s tense and strict but loving father that truly shows how Pitt can command any scene even if the guy he’s playing is a bit of a dick, but from what I hear, all fathers in the 50′s were apparently like this. Jessica Chastain is a joy to watch as the fun-loving, sweet, and tender soul that is Jack’s mom, and also a lot of love to Hunter McCracken who is just about perfect in this film as young Jack, considering how much he has to go through and none of it ever seems fake or put-on. Hopefully this kid has a lot of work in the near future. The weakest part of this cast as well as this flick is probably Sean Penn as older Jack who isn’t really given much to do in the first place other than walk around, mope, and wear a very nice suit barely even muttering a word.

Consensus: Though it’s not for everybody, The Tree of Life is a beautiful and gorgeous flick done by Terrence Malick who not only gives us wonderful visuals to gaze at, but also a story to follow and relate to (not talking about the dinosaurs) and performances to watch and admire (minus Sean Penn).

9/10=Full Price!!

The Last Kiss (2006)

Cheating, breaking up, making up: that’s the way love is sometimes. Or at least when you’re going through a mid-life crisis that is.

Thirtysomething couple Michael (Zach Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) grapple with parenthood and other life-changing events. Instead of pushing him toward the altar, Jenna’s impending pregnancy has only made Michael feel more trapped. So when he meets flirtatious college student Kim (Rachel Bilson), he’s tempted to stray.

After the total success of the great film, ‘Garden State’, many people were trying to use Zach Braff in any way they could because thirty-somethings from all-over-the-world were in love with him. It’s not a real shame that this is what they ended up with, but they could have gotten something better.

The script written by Paul Haggis (‘Crash’) creates an honest look at modern relationships with all of the fun, love, and even heart-break that can sometimes occur during a relationship. I felt like a lot of what they were talking about here and how everything played out seemed very honest and realistic. Most of this is coming from a guy’s perspective as well but I still had to say that whenever a script comes around, that shows the way love really is, how it feels, and what it should be like, then it’s enough for me to appreciate it. This is why it’s such a real disappointment when things start to get a little hoaky by the end.

I can’t give too much away but somebody utters the words, “never give up” to Michael and this guy literally takes that piece of advice and uses it, which to some may seem sweet and totally romantic but to others like me (basically heartless assholes), this may seem a little cheesy and sort of against the whole film and what it was trying to at least go for. The ending is also stretched longer than it should have been and instead it took forever to get to the last shot, and even that was a disappointment by how it just ends. But then again, I don’t want to say what happened.

The film does have this very fun approach at the beginning, with all of these different characters doing their own thang, having fun, making jokes, and making sexy-time as well. This was good but it soon then begins to narrow down slowly but surely to just being about Michael and his little dilemma that he pops up into, while the other ones just totally disappear and have no real end, they are just gone from the picture completely. This was a bummer because there were plenty of other stories that had promise and they could have tried using to wrap-up real nicely at the end of the film but I never understood why they didn’t do that, instead of just ending with one story basically.

A lot of it seemed trimmed down to where director Tony Goldwyn can’t really do much other than just throw in a real cheesy montage and end the film, rather than actually have it actually impact anybody who’s watching. Although there are parts that certainly stand-out more than others, I was kind of bummed to see such a real talented and great cast sort of go to waste with a story-line that seems to bring the film down a bit by the end.

As messy as this film may sound, or at least how I make it sound, the cast is what really keeps this film moving and getting better and better by the second. Zach Braff uses his usual lazy charm that always seems to get a win for anybody who’s watching, even though he’s essentially playing the same dude in every film. Jacinda Barrett gets a real good role as his pregnant girly-friend, Jenna, and shows exactly why she is so amazing to have as someone who loves you and why Michael is such a dick for questioning in the first place. Rachel Bilson plays Kim, and I think the film was trying to make her the same kind of quirky character Natalie Portman was in ‘Garden State‘, which isn’t a bad thing because her performance is good but I could see where they were going with this character. Surprised that she can actually act though.

The ones here that I actually thought held their own the most was Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson as Jenna’s parents because their whole little love-life starts to fall-apart too, and this is what brings out the most in them. Danner is great as this very messed-up and very sad lady, who just can’t seem to get over the fact that she doesn’t get any lovings from her hubby. Tom Wilkinson is amazing with every scene he gets especially in the end, where he impacts not only the characters in the film but also the whole story as well.

Consensus: The Last Kiss has some great touches of honesty about love, life, and hitting a time in your life where you just don’t know what you want, but that all soon starts to fall down as the film gets a little hokey by the end and loses sight of all of its characters and rather just focuses on one.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

Hey, if this Jeopardy contestant can do a film why can’t any other one? Anybody have Ken Jennings’ number?

This film centers on Oskar (Thomas Horn), a precocious 11-year old boy whose father (Tom Hanks) died in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a mysterious key that belonged to him and decides to look for the lock that fits the key, convinced that his father left a message for him somewhere in the city.

Way back when, I remember seeing the trailer for this flick and actually thinking it could have been a big Oscar contender. Now I think that was probably because of that awesome U2 song they put in it. No you know what, it definitely was.

Director Stephen Daldry makes his fourth film in only eleven years and tries his hardest here. He has this little style of his throughout the whole film that constantly speeds up the camera and has us moving around the plot as if we were inside the mind of our young protagonist. It was pretty cool for Daldry to actually take this approach and give this idea a shot but it just couldn’t do much to get our minds pass the suckiness of the story itself.

The problem with this story is that too much of it doesn’t feel genuine at all. The story starts off a bit promising with some believability but then once Oskar starts his own little quest, everything just really feels thin. Eric Roth made the screenplay and he uses a lot of the same tricks he used with other scripts like ‘Forrest Gump’ or ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ but it can only go so far when you have a plot that tries hard to be involving and emotional. There are also plenty of other times where the film seems to throw these huge vocabulary words at us without any real meaning or need and even though it may look good on paper, when it’s being put to a film and only focused on for about a couple of seconds, it doesn’t quite work as well.

The main reason why this film’s story didn’t feel real or involve me in anyway was because of that kid that you see gracing his whole face on the poster up-top. Oskar is a neurotic 11 year-old who doesn’t fit in, has a phobia of just about everything outside of his room, and actually gets tested for Asperger’s which he actually says that results were inconclusive, but then again, I do have my doubts about that. The film is actually being marketed as Bullock and Hanks flick but this is all Thomas Horn as Oskar, and it’s definitely an annoying trip just about the whole way through. This kid is terribly annoying because it’s very obvious that he can’t act right from the start so basically everything that comes out of his mouth seems bratty, obnoxious, and always way too smart for his own age kind of kid. He is just right in front of our face the whole entire time and it’s very bothersome especially since this kid never feels like a real kid at heart so everything that he goes through for the whole 2 hours and 10 minutes, just feels implausible as if it was almost a sure fantasy.

I think more of the blame for this should be actually put on Daldry himself considering he was the one who cast this damn kid. There are a lot of scenes where this kid has to yell, scream, and basically rant on about what’s going through his mind and why which I know is supposed to make us feel his angst, sadness, confused state of mind but after awhile it’s a little too hard to watch. I know that it may be terribly mean for me to base this off of a kid, let alone a first-time performer, but he is just really going all out with these little sch-peels he has which it almost reminds me of the one that Edward Norton did in a far-superior post-9/11 flick, ’25th Hour’. The reason why I blame Daldry for this kid was because he never really seemed to help this kid through any of his scenes. He just sort of left him out there to dry and try his hardest to get any type of emotion out of the audience but instead it just takes away so much from the film overall. Daldry focused a little bit too much on his visuals and a lot less on the actual main character himself. Shame on you Mr. Daldry.

The rest of this star-studded cast are all pretty good but they are barely around. Sandra Bullock is quite good as Oskar’s mother who actually has this big scene towards the end where she lets it all out and it works very well mainly because Bullock is a very good actress. Tom Hanks plays Oskar’s father who is mainly shown through flash-backs and he plays up the likableness that always wins with any audience but he is barely ever shown and even when he is, he’s just goofing around with his son and not doing anything really spectacular. Max von Sydow is probably the best part of this flick with his mute character, and right when he actually shows up is when the flick itself starts to actually warm up. He doesn’t use that voice that everybody knows and loves him for but he uses his skill as an actor in a more subtle way that really made me feel more for him than it did for Oskar. Viola Davis also has her two scenes where she’s good but then again, it’s just about two scenes and that’s it really.

Where the main problem with this film stems from is the fact that the plot makes 9/11 its main catalyst for the story. I know that I can’t really blame the film for this, since its in the novel that its adapted from, but the way the film uses it to get some sort of emotion out of us seems terrible. Oskar’s father could have died in any other way and it wouldn’t have matter in the least bit but the film keeps constantly reminding us of this and after about the tenth time Oskar referred to 9/11 as “that bad day” I wanted to just kick his ass. It also gets worse once the film takes something like a last phone-conversation between two loved ones and makes it just seem like another plot element where in real life, that is something that really meant something. It’s hard to watch for these reasons because it feels a exploitative and I still think that it’s a little too soon for people to be making 9/11 films that try this hard.

Consensus: This is definitely a story worth being told and its cast has its moments where they shine, as well as the story itself, but Daldry’s direction feels too-stylized for this type of material, the main kid is terribly annoying, and the whole plot point about 9/11 feels exploitative and something that could have easily been replaced since it didn’t matter either way what this film used in place of it.

5/10=Rental!!

The Devil Inside (2012)

First film of the new year and it’s already earned itself a spot on one of the year end lists.

At once spooky and grisly, this film follows a woman’s quest to find the truth behind claims that her mother killed three people during an exorcism. The daughter’s journey takes her to Italy, where she becomes involved in other exorcisms.

With all of the “found-footage” flicks that I have been watching as of late, I always wonder if it really is a dead genre. Flicks like ‘The Last Exorcism’, ‘Quarantine’, and ‘Apollo 18′ all made it seem so and I can say that this one should definitely be added to that list.

Director William Brent Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman don’t really bring much here to this tired genre other than just a bunch of back story that they try to use to cover up the fact that this is still a horror film with annoying jump-scares. The film’s story starts off by telling us about this girl named Isabella, who wants to know what happened to her mother but everything she wants to know is basically explained within the first 10 minutes. She’s a crazy beotch, that killed three people in her house during an exorcism on her, and she is now in the loony-bin. I could understand if this chick wanted to know the truth, but after awhile it seems like she’s trying to connect with her mother even though this chick is obviously possessed. We never ever really get lost in her character’s emotions because there seems to be no internal struggle for her in the first place and even when there does seem to be one, she just constantly whines and cries about it to the point of where I wanted the devil to be inside of her just to make her at least interesting in any way.

The only time the film actually seems like it’s going for something interesting with it’s characters and story, it totally gets rid of that whole idea. The two priests here actually seem like they had a lot more to offer this story than Isabella did and they provide a lot of smart commentary on how the Vatican’s questionable system but they over-due it way too much to the point of where it seems like this is some sort of sly commentary the film is trying to give us.

These guys also make it seem like they are professionals in every which way and have seen it all but even when the demons bring up their names, or say that they did something in the past, they shriek and act all confused about what the demon just said. I’m tired of this whole element in films that have demons in them because everybody knows that the Devil is just like God in the way that he is always there watching us no matter what sort of deeds we do. If a Devil says that they know I ordered a bunch of hookers and had a sex, drugs, and GTA party, then I won’t be like, “how diddd youuu knowww??!?!”, I’m just going to tell it to shut the hell up and continue on with my exorcism.

One of the dumbest things about this flick is that the only time I actually shook during this whole flick was when they used a dog as a scare device. You heard that right people. A dog pops out of nowhere and probably supplied the biggest scare for me in this whole flick, but I’m happy to say that at least it wasn’t a damn cat this time. As for all of the other scares in this flick, there’s no subtlety one bit and everything here that’s supposed to be scary and shocking is all something we have seen done time and time before. The whole bleeding from the vagina thing, the whole cursing thing, and everything else that comes with an exorcism film is used here but never freaks you out once considering it’s been used before except in a hand-held camera way. Oooooooooh spooooky.

The performances here are pretty shitty to considering that everybody seems to be characters in a film. It also seems like director wanted everybody here to ad-lib in order to get this real feel but instead it all feels very weak as if these people constantly couldn’t think of anything bright to come off the top of their heads so they just repeated the one thing that they said before. It’s pretty much really bad improv the whole way through especially when they start to act all scared. The only good performance I think in this whole film was Suzan Crowley, and it’s not even her performance as if it’s more just her crazy eyes that kind of freaked me out just looking at her.

Finally though, the one thing about this flick that has everybody talking is definitely the main reason why this film blows: it’s ending. The problem with the ending is that the film started to seem like it was going someplace where it’s never really been taken before but nothing ever happens and the film-makers just pull out the cord. The screen goes black and then there is this little pre-credits title that pops up telling us to go to this website for more information. WHY!?!?? We know that all of this shit is not real, so why in the hell would we want to do the work ourselves and go and look up something that isn’t real in the first place?!? The seemed like a real big slap-in-the-face to the audience and rather than just seeming ambiguous just for the sake of the idea of making this a series (which I hope to never see) it just seems flat-out lazy. However, I don’t give a shit if they never finish this story and the case never gets solved so don’t even bother giving me a web-site, cause I’m not going to check it out anyway. Besides it will probably be gone in about a month once they realize nobody is actually checking it out.

Consensus: The Devil Inside is just another lame, unscary, and totally unoriginal found-footage flick that is pretty terrible the whole way through until the end, and then it’s pretty obvious that it’s just shit.

1/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

The Artist (2011)

Now whenever Pop-Pop says that “they don’t make films like they used to”, you can prove his ass wrong.

The story revolves around a fictional silent movie star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who finds himself on the downside of his career fading with the advent of talking movie. He falls in love with Peppy Miller, a young extra (Bérénice Bejo) who soon begins to rise to movie stardom.

Having a silent-film in the year 2011 be your front-runner for Best Picture seems very strange since the silent films are the total opposite of what we watch in films now. I can’t believe people actually went along with this idea/gimmick considering barely anybody would actually go out and give money to a film like this other than film nerds and old farts, but still, it’s a great idea if over-hyped a bit too much.

The film may take a bit of getting used to considering everything’s silent, everything’s in black-and-white, it stars two French people I myself and many others probably haven’t heard of until now, it’s not shot in wide-screen, and when they aren’t giving you little title-screens, half of the time you’re reading the lips of these characters. This may seem like a total pain in the ass right from the start but somehow writer/director Michel Hazanavicius makes it all work. Hazanavicius captures the whole feel and look of the silent film era with the whimsy, charm, and overall giddiness that took over these films and the happy spirit this film gives off is almost contagious enough to bring a smile onto your face, as it did to mine.

We don’t get to hear what any of these people are saying, and we barely even find out what it is too but the way we watch the body language of these characters and the type of emotions they can draw from us makes us really feel what was so special about these films in the first place.  I think Hazanavicius’ other great addition to this film was that he is able to do with little subtelty but still able to make us feel emotions that we would feel even in a film that almost spells out everything for us.

But back to the way Hazanavicius captures this time period and makes this gimmick work perfectly. You get a real sense that you’re watching a flick that is not just an homage to the early days of cinema but also a film that could have easily been made as one of the last silent films in the 1930′s when “Talkies” started taking over completley. There are all of these different shots taken from other silent films of the era but they feel natural to the story and keep you in the mind-set of just how much the times were changing despite how depressing it may have been during the 30′s. I think the main reason why this film works so well is because of it’s sweeping score that is definitely one of the best I have heard in a long time because it actually feels like it belongs and isn’t just used for background music. It’s nice and easy on the ears but it also fits perfectly with the tone when the plot starts to shift into some very sad territory, even though that part of this flick may feel a bit like a parody.

However, the film does hit a big blockade in the middle of the flick where Valentin starts to lose his mind when he can’t change with the times. This would have been okay if the film just focused on it a tad bit but to be honest, the film really does lag when it starts to focus on this more and more without anything new or simply fresh for us to keep our minds busy. It was a bit of a bummer considering this film was really entertaining me but right at about this point I was caught checking out my watch a couple of times.

Another problem with this film is that I don’t necessarily think that it’s the one film that everybody is stating that it is. Going into this flick my expectations were incredibly high considering how much Oscar talk it’s been getting but other than the fact that it’s a cute little gimmick that is done well I must say, I still couldn’t help but think that there was just something that didn’t really do much for me considering I couldn’t feel anything for this story it’s characters but I was at least enjoying myself. I felt like I was watching one of those history lessons on The History Channel but instead of having little interviews from people of the time and then flipping back-and-forth between re-enactments, it was just one, long lesson with some really good-looking people. I think my expectations going into this film is what kind of brought it down for me but none the less, it was still a film that didn’t really change my way of living like everybody claimed it to be.

The real reason why this film is so incredibly charming though is because of its lead performance from Jean Dujardin as George Valentin. The guy hams it up just about every time he is up on screen but he feels like a perfect fit for a character who can’t seem to get out of a certain period of time but you still feel something for. The guy’s smile is infectious and it also helps that he looks exactly like a star from the silent film days. It’s crazy how the guy is the front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar this year, even though his performance is all based on his physicality and he doesn’t even say anything throughout the whole flick (except for one part). Dujardin is a lot of fun to watch here and is one of the main reasons why people should check this flick out.

Bérénice Bejo is also a lot of fun as Peppy Miller. Bejo is gorgeous, charming, and just seems like a total sweetheart and the chemistry her and Dujardin have together feels real and electric even though we never hear them actually speak to each other. It’s a different type of love story that we usually see nowadays, and actually feels like one of those nice, sweet, and simple romances we would see way back in the day. There are also plenty of other peeps in this cast as well such as John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Missi Pyle among others.

Consensus: The Artist is not the one film of 2011 that will change your life, but it does feature a lot of fun with its perfect direction, great lead performances, and overall delighting and charming feel that will take you back in time to the golden days of silent films.

8/10=Matinee!!

Hesher (2011)

You know that metal head loner who rocks out to Slayer and Metallica all by himself? Well, you should definitely take some life lessons from him some day.

TJ is 13 years old. Two months ago, his mom was killed in an accident, leaving TJ and his grieving dad to move in with grandma to pick up the pieces. Hesher is a loner. He hates the world and everyone in it. He has long, greasy hair and homemade tattoos. He likes fire and blowing things up. He lives in his van until he meets TJ. Hesher is the story of a family struggling to deal with loss and the anarchist who helps them do it in a very unexpected way.

During some of the more angry and I hate “mom, dad, and everybody else around me” periods of my life, I actually found some solace in music that made me want to break down the wall. So with this concept, I could see the cool use of “metal music for therapy” as something new but instead, it just ends up being weird.

Writer/director Spencer Susser does a good job with this film in keeping it weird, a little sad, a little humorous, but never sentimental which is something I can easily say that I appreciated. Right from the get-go, we notice that there has been a death in the family for this father-son combo and there is a lot of really sad and miserable shit that actually happens to this kid, but the film barely ever makes us feel like we have to cry over it all. Instead, he just shows us Hesher being a complete and utter asshole, popping in just whenever he feels like it and doing degenerate things such as lighting a diving board on fire, or even changing the TV channels so he can get porno. It sounds weird I know, but it’s not all that sentimental which I liked considering it was a lot more of a mean film that I thought I was going to get.

Despite the title, this film is actually less about Hesher himself and more about a father and son getting over a death in the family with Hesher popping in just to eff things up more for them. I think it’s cool that they made him the title, but it sort of makes all of the other characters seem like just a bunch of bores when it comes to him. Let me also not forget that this film is incredibly weird which isn’t so bad considering there were a lot of weird and goofy moments that started off pretty strong in the beginning but then it just started getting really weird. Really weird to the point of where I actually wondered if everything I was watching just a part of this kid’s imagination.

The problem with this film is not just the film itself, is more or less just the main character himself, Hesher. To be honest, I don’t know what to really make of this dude other than the fact that he comes into this kids life, with no explanation or reason and even when it seems like he’s asked, nothing is ever said and he just shoots it off to the side. However, if you honestly don’t know how to label Hesher for yourself, just check out the tattoo of the middle finger on his back. That is definitely sure to give you some insight onto who he actually is.

Hesher is also a dude that sort of just keeps to himself but you still never want to eff with him because you know that he will definitely kick the hell out of you right away. Hesher, in his own effed up way, actually ends up slapping a lot of sense into this father and son just by telling them really vulgar metaphors, that he actually compares him losing a nut the same as the dude losing his wife. Yeah, that’s a really bad choice of comparisons but then again this character is not someone who’s normal. Regardless though, the guy is pretty solid because he’s able to give some good insight, provide some dark laughs, and make us feel terribly scared of even messing with him.

However, every time Hesher was working for me the film started to really steer him in the wrong direction I believe. It’s harder and harder to like him considering he does dumb shit like making some joke about Kermit the Frog’s finger that I’ve heard 100 times to this old gal, light this bully’s car on fire but leave the kid there, ask the kid if he has had some sexy time while he fingers the mashed potatoes, and etc. Hesher really can do a lot of cool things and where he can be vulgar and repulsive, some people may find humor in that but for me, I just cringed a lot by how far this guy was pushing the boundaries.

When it comes to playing Hesher though, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great and I think what makes this character watchable in the first place considering JGL seems so flawless with this performance. It may be hard to actually like him but JGL actually helps that a lot here as well. The rest of the cast here is pretty good too with Rainn Wilson playing a very seriously saddy daddy role; Devin Brochu is angsty but also very realistic as the little kid, T.J.; and Natalie Portman does a good job as well but she seems a little out-of-place with a lot of her scenes. I mean the cast is good but when they are compared to Hesher, you don’t really care nor think about them much at all.

Consensus: Hesher has its moments where the dark humor makes you laugh and some of the touching moments also hit well too, but the problem is just like its lead character. We never understand anything about this character, he can be a total dick at times, and he just makes everybody feel uncomfortable without any real rhyme or reason.

5/10=Rental!!

Red Tails (2012)

It’s like a mixture of ‘Flyboys’ without all of the white people and ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ without all of the whatever the hell else Spike Lee put in there.

The film is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all black combat squadron who fought in World War 2. Besides the war against the enemies overseas the men also had to fight against racism and prejudice in the military and back home.

And so marks my first ever press screening ever after about 2 years of reviewing films. Yay!! It was great to see the packed crowd, all of the soldiers in uniform, fellow press agents, and even the original dudes that this film is based on, but for some reason that wasn’t enough to get by the fact that this film is pretty bad in the first place.

Although the film is directed by first-timer Anthony Hemingway, it still feels very much like a George Lucas flick, who actually produced this and tried to get it off the ground for over 23 years even using his own money. This could have easily been directed by Lucas because everything here just feels like him. Everything here feels dull from the characters, to the story, to the planes, and even to the special effects which over-power just about every scene to where it’s noticeable right away and very distracting.

The film’s script also tries so hard to be funny, dramatic, and moving but just comes off as terribly hokey. I was in a crowd full of people that laughed at just about every single damn word that these characters said but I couldn’t find a single, genuine laugh other than when the characters were all trying to be serious. The tale itself though is a very important one none the less and I was at least glad that this was actually getting some love for the first time but it’s all bogged-down by the painful predictable story arcs. Anybody who has seen this kind of film before can definitely notice all of the clichés here such as the love-story sub-plot that still seems forced no matter what, the kid who just isn’t ready for war/battle, the one soldier who has personal demons of his own to fight along with the war, one soldier who gets too cocky and could put himself into danger, and the fact that not only are these soldiers fighting the enemy up in the air, but they are also fighting them on the ground…with racism!! Don’t forget to bring your check book of war-movie clichés because I can promise you that every single one will be checked off by the end of this long as hell film.

The only time that this flick actually has some life brought into it is when they filmed the aerial battles themselves. The dogfights here, have a certain energy that the rest of the flick doesn’t really have and to be honest, they are very entertaining to watch considering we don’t get to see much of aerial-fights in war films nowadays. However, even when these aerial fights do happen, they still feel like something we have all seen done before. Instead of actually giving these high-flying fights some real danger, the film feels and looks more as if it was a just another video-game sequence like ‘The Adventures of Tintin’. After all of this time, you would have thought that Hollywood and films would start to find out new and improved ways of portraying these fights in the air, but they never really change.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard are given top-billing for this film to ensure that it has some star-power to it but the problem is that they aren’t really in the film all that much which is a shame considering that these two need a big come-back of sorts. Nate Parker and David Oyelowo are the two here that actually stand-out and give their characters some real authenticity but they can never get past the fact that they are still one-dimensional war hero’s. Out of the rest of the supporting cast, everybody here is basically just running through their lines without any real emotion or feeling, and it’s weird to say this but the one out of the whole cast who actually had me laughing was freakin’ Ne-Yo. Yes, that dude who sang that song about being so sick of love songs, was the funniest part of this film considering he had me chuckle about twice.

Consensus: Its heart may be in the right place, but Red Tails is still a terrible-looking CGI action flick with wooden performances from almost everybody involved, and cliché upon cliché to really take the heart out of what could have been an important story.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Contraband (2012)

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are back except this time, they’re robbing people!

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a former drug smuggler who must revert back to a life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss (Giovanni Ribisi). To settle the debt, Wahlberg’s character assembles a team of crooks and does what he does best: smuggling contraband.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormàkur seems like a pretty inspired choice for a flick that seems so simple and could have easily been done by a schmuck like Joel Schumacher or someone else of that kind. However, it doesn’t matter who the director may be, it still needs to work which is something this film kind of does and doesn’t do.

Kormàkur starts this story off pretty well with just the right amount of mystery, energy, and suspense to fill the air. The plot does take its time getting to where it has to go but the action scenes, when they come, are very well-done. Notice how I said ‘when they come’. Still though, they are used to actually to move this plot along and not just used as an action flick device that we usually come-and-get. Also, I love heist films so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much else other than some really cool and tricky heists which is what this film provided enough to satisfy me and keep me guessing.

The problem with most of these action scenes, as fun and exciting as they truly may be, for some reason it’s filmed with the annoying shaky-cam that we always see and hate, but is used to create a feeling here that doesn’t work. Whenever action hits this flick, the camera always moves around at a rapid and paranoid pace, as if it kept constantly looking around each corner, making sure not to get caught pulling off the heist itself. The shaky-cam is obviously something I hate no matter what the film may be, but here it didn’t seem needed considering how slick the action sequences are in the first place.

I also think another problem with this film is that for some reason the direction and screen-writing never really seem on the right page at all. The film is marketed as a silly and dumb action flick but it’s a lot much more smarter than that and sometimes teeters on drama. When I mean drama though, I mean the kind of drama where they try to really discuss some real issues about family, betrayal, and alcoholism. Let me remind you, I am talking about the film called ‘Contraband’. The film could have honestly been a thriller, heist, drama, and action flick but for some reason, the film doesn’t know how to jell all of that together in the right way in order for it to seem reasonable and not so uneven. It also doesn’t help that the plot stops and starts so many times to the point of where I just wanted the damn boat that they were in to blow up just for the action to stay constant.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty reliable as an actor here to pull of this good-guy role as Chris, to where it isn’t an obvious attempt at making a former criminal seem like a hero. Actually, he doesn’t really do much here that we haven’t seen him do already but watching Wahlberg play in his comfort zone isn’t so bad in the first place. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife, Kate, and she really does try to give some weight to her character but she doesn’t really do much here and just comes off as a plot device for Chris to have a race-against-the-clock situation.

Giovanni Ribisi seems like a strange choice for the villainous role here as the thug Tim Briggs, but he’s actually very good with his eccentric and sometimes crazy acting style to make this bad guy a bit more menacing than I was expecting, and always entertaining; Ben Foster is also great as Sebastian, Chris’s best friend, who has a battle with alcoholism and always strides in these kind of roles; and it was also nice to see J.K. Simmons doing a role that was humorous but also never made you forget that he was a total dick-head as Captain Camp.

Consensus: Contraband features many problems with its script, tone, and annoying camera issues, but the cast somehow rise above the material and make this crime/thriller/action/heist/drama flick a very entertaining, if flawed one to say the least. But hey, it’s January and I was at least entertained rather than feeling depressed.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! (2004)

Actors always fall for clerks from a place called Piggly Wiggly. They always do.

Actor Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel) just wanted to promote his new movie when he agreed to go on a date with a fan as a stunt. When he ends up falling in love with the winner — Rosalie (Kate Bosworth), a grocery store clerk at a small-town Piggly Wiggly — all bets are off. But Rosalie’s co-worker and best pal, Pete (Topher Grace), won’t let her go without a fight. Who will win Rosalie’s affections — the actor or the boy next door?

Rom-coms can be really annoying sometimes, but there are usually other times when they make 90 minutes of formula seem not so bad after all. This one is sort of like them.

The one thing that this film has going for itself is that it is pretty funny and charming thanks to script by Victor Levin. There’s some funny moments here and there that surprisingly worked even though I think they were placed in the wrong film, and the great use it had for its character seem very well-done as well because all seemed very fleshed out.

However, the problem with this film that I had other than the formula, was that a lot of it just feels way too cheesy and not so believable. I never understood what about this girl touched Tad Hamilton so much to the point of where he wanted to just leave Hollywood after all and be with her. I mean they have a date that seems nice and cute, but they don’t really talk about much that would seem totally mind-boggling for a famous actor and nothing stands out for her either. She’s just plain, good-looking, and somebody he did not sleep with on a first-date and maybe that’s why he wants her so much.

The plot cliches didn’t really bother me that much until the last 30 minutes where I think this film really starts to become a big eye-roller. There’s a lot of sappy and cliche speeches that these characters give to one another, and the music that takes over it almost every time is over-bearing and just adds to the whole corniness of this film.

I also think that this film was trying to aim this for such a younger audience then it seemed like they had because a lot of the kids don’t talk like kids and seem like they’re still in high-school, even though they’re old enough to drink? I didn’t understand this and I think the film was marketed towards the wrong peeps which is why it didn’t do so well at the box-office.

The cast of this film is what kept me watching in the end, and really added a lot more fun to the film. Kate Bosworth is very good as this pretty and cute girl that seems likable enough for two completely different guys to love, but there was nothing about her that really stood-out amongst any other female in other rom-coms. Josh Duhamel is also very cool and charming as Tad Hamilton, this actor who come’s at a cross-roads in his life, but I just never really understood why he wanted to let everything go because of this chick. Topher Grace is probably the funniest part of this whole film as Pete because he’s essentially playing Eric Forman but his constant nerdy banter and remarks made me laugh every time.

Consensus: Though Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! has some funny and charming moments, thanks to its script and good cast, there isn’t much else that stands out other than a not very believable premise happening and some terribly sappy moments by the end of the film.

5/10=Rental!!

Also everybody, whenever you get a chance go on over to http://thefocusedfilmographer.com/2012/01/17/its-time-to-vote-tuesday-83-the-red-web-awards/ and vote for The Red Web Awards. I contributed so make sure to vote for some of my picks as well. Thanks!

The Iron Lady (2011)

Disappointed over no Tony Starks cameo.

Meryl Streep provides a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of Britain, whose political career and determination changed the rules that had limited women’s opportunities for leadership.

It seems like 2011 will probably be best remembered for the year of the big disappointments. With films such as ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘J. Edgar’ just to name a few, a lot of films that have been hyped for the big awards-contenders have all seemed to anger people more than astonish. This one can now be added to that list as well.

Director Phyllida Lloyd (‘Mamma Mia!’) is a director who is obviously trying really hard to be taken seriously as a drama director, and even though she may need some more help in that department she still makes this film enjoyable to say the least. There is a lot of stuff about the obstacles in Thacther’s life that she had to deal with such as the Falklands War, the IRA, people that were always looking for a way to oust her, and giving people taxes that they didn’t like so much. There is a lot of this shown and plenty of the happenings that were occurring in Britain are shown through actual news reel footage which were at times disturbing and very clear as to what mayhem she really was causing. In some cases, re-creating what happened would have been a great idea, but using this archival footage added a lot to the whole history of Britain and what Thatcher was doing.

The script itself is pretty good and provides a very good history lesson but there’s something that’s off about the structure of this film that takes away a lot from making this a normal biopic. We are shown Thatcher’s life through flash-backs from Thatcher herself, when she is terribly old and going through dementia having constant hallucinations of her dead husband, Denis. This was bothersome for a large portion of the flick because it constantly kept going back-and-forth and whenever we would start to get back into Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister, the film would then cut right back to old Thatcher being all crazy and talking to the wall. It almost has the same structure like ‘J. Edgar’ where we see an old version of the icon talking about the past, but in this case, there was too much of the old stuff and a lot less of the actual flashback stuff where we got to see Thatcher work her magic. The other thing I never understood was that she was so cooky and grief-striking but she still has enough sense and energy to rant and rave on about things she did back when she was Prime Minister to people such as her doctor or maid. It’s very strange to see this but I guess Thatcher really is a old woman among old women.

However, the problem with when we are at the flash-back sequences we never really get a sense as to whether or not what Thatcher is doing is right or wrong, and it doesn’t seem like the people who wrote or directed this had any standings either. I liked seeing all of the things that Thatcher did and whatnot but the film never reflects on if they were bad or not considering everybody who lived in Britain at the time, wanted off with her head. I guess that they were trying to take the easy way out and just bringing the British history text-book out to film but a little bit of opinions here and there would have been nice to see. You can also never tell what is fact or faction considering a lot here is about Thatcher’s life and only she would know what happened herself, so there’s a lot of actual guessing there.

A lot of these problems did go away when I realized that I was watching Meryl Streep on the screen. Streep is just about perfect in this flick as Thatcher basically taking over every scene she has while knocking down every mannerism and accent down pat. When Thatcher’s in her glory years as Prime Minister, it’s great to see Streep shine and show a lot of that powerful strength she has an actress that can take a scene and put the attention on her right away without you thinking about anyone or anything else but it’s her scenes as an old lady that are even better. Older Thatcher is a very sad and lonely gal and we feel this through Streep’s performance as she constantly shows how much her character never understands what she has done to her country and the effects that it had on everybody around her. It’s a great performance from Streep and she brings a great mix of charm, likability, and sadness to a character that needed it most of all.

The other good performance given here is by Jim Broadbent as her hubby, Denis. Broadbent is playing that usual quirky, somewhat goofy dude that always seems to lighten up the mood no matter what the scenes tone may be. Him and Streep have great chemistry and it really made me feel like they were in love, but the film doesn’t really focus on him all that much as it is more or less about Thatcher and what she does for her country which was kind of a shame considering the film could have really benefited from some real drama if they actually showed more scenes with each other when he was alive. There isn’t really anybody else worth noting in this cast considering that Streep takes over the spot-light which has its obvious positive but also negative effects.

Consensus: With an amazing performance by Streep and a great history lesson on Britain during Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister, The Iron Lady will definitely entertain most people, but when it also has problems with its structure and the fact that we never ever really know if what Thatcher is doing is good or bad for the country that she so rightfully loves.

6/10=Rental!!

Albert Nobbs (2011)

A woman playing a man = really trying for an Oscar.

Glenn Close plays a woman passing as a man named Albert Nobbs in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Some thirty years after donning men’s clothing, she finds herself trapped in a prison of her own making.

It seems like one way for your leading role to get an Oscar is play somebody who is sexually confused. I’m not saying that they will always get it but they will definitely get the nomination, even if the rest of your film blows. This is the case with this flick.

Director Rodrigo Garcia really does try his hardest with this flick. He keeps it small, brings out any type of emotions that he can, and lets humor take over as well but beneath it all, there’s nothing really there other than a boring flick that we have all seen done before. I never felt any real emotions with this film because it was just so damn slow and tedious. If it weren’t for the two main leads, I probably would have dozed off plenty of times because there was nothing here that really kept me over as shocking, new, or even entertaining. Just the same old, same old period piece that feels too much like a play on-screen.

The film also keeps on panning back towards the dumb romance between Wasikowska and Johnson, which doesn’t provide anything else other than just a bunch of corny love-lines that take you away from the whole fact that you got this person who obviously should be the fore-front of the story. But instead Garcia just wants to provide some detail into a relationship that doesn’t work on many levels. I mean they are both good here don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I felt like the flick never did them justice considering they were put in here as the romantic sub-plot that was supposed to mean something, except you never really catch as to why until the final act.

The main reason why this film comes even close to working well is because of the two great performances given here by the two ladies dressed up like dudes. It’s sad to see Glenn Close in a film that is boring because she is so good here as Nobbs. Instead of playing up the fact that she is a chick dressed as a guy, she gives us this subtle and quiet performance and she displays a lot of emotions just on her face with even the twitch of an eye or lip. She’s shy, scared, and keeps to herself but when she’s happy being in her own skin and having these little fantasies, it feels real even if the fantasy scenes are really hoky. Close has really been trying her damn hardest getting this flick off the ground after appearing in the play, and it’s sort of a shame that her performance is stuck in a film that doesn’t really help out her Oscar chances. However, I think she’ll probably get the nomination.

The one performance that I think elevated this film beyond belief was the one given by Janet McTeer as Hubert, a fellow woman in men’s clothing. As soon as she shows up on the screen you know she’s going to be the best part of the flick and she owns just about every single scene. She’s funny, dramatic, honest, and actually feels like a real person. Her act is the exact opposite of Close’s performance but that provides her with a lot of great lines and just by the way McTeer delivers them all with her sneering and cartoonish-like act where you can tell that this is almost her impersonation of a man. McTeer is probably the most memorable performance in the whole film and I can easily say that if I was a woman dressing up like a man, I’d feel a whole lot better knowing that I wasn’t alone with Janet McTeer. Definitely deserves the nomination.

You have so many other great stars in this film such as Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brenda Fricker, Brendan Gleeson, and Pauline Collins among others but they are never really given much to do and they all come off as just a bunch of one-dimensional characters that don’t do much for the story. There’s also this terribly random scene in which Gleeson is doing some “licking” if you know what I mean, and the scene is completley irrelevant to the whole entire film that it made me wonder just why the hell was it in here in the first damn place.

Consensus: Glenn Close and Janet McTeer make Albert Nobbs better but with its slow pace, muddled script, and nothing else that really stands apart from anything that I’ve seen before, makes this period piece just feel like another stage play on screen.

3.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

The Skin I Live In (2011)

Ladies and germs, if you want a nice surgery done anywhere on your body, Zorro is the guy to call.

Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), a brilliant plastic surgeon, seeks to overcome the grief of his late wife’s disfigurement in a fiery car crash by inventing skin that is impervious to injury, but his experiments on a living woman (Elena Anaya) hasten his descent into madness.

The thriller/horror genre is one that writer/director Pedro Almodovar has not touched before. Considering all of his films are about the empowerment of women, social issues, and highly-charged romances, seeing him do a film that explores a lot of different and bizarre things, is very interesting. Still, it could have been way better really.

Almodovar places us into a plot that we have no idea what’s happening and just where the hell we are. I usually get bothered when films place me somewhere and I have no clue where I am, but it works here because it sets us in the right mood with the setting, tone, and also the characters. Then this dude in a lion costume comes into the story, and that’s when things really start to get crazy.

The reason why I liked Almodovar’s direction here is because even though he is some new territory, he seems very at ease with all of this bizarre-o shit that’s going on especially when it comes to his themes being placed into the story. There is a lot of sex in here but it doesn’t feel over-exploitative and considering there are a lot of people boning here, it’s a surprise that this didn’t turn into a soft-core porno flick. It’s also great because Almodovar is able to keep this mystery with this flick going the whole time even when we think we know what’s going on which leads me to the one element to this film that won me over.

There’s a moment here in this flick where everything turns around and we see one of the major plot points come to base and basically explain everything we are seeing. The twist is something I never guessed and trust me, you won’t get either but once it does happen, everything starts to make sense and this is where Almodovar succeeds. The story was already weird in the first place but by throwing in this little twist, it makes everything seem a whole lot weirder and without giving anything else away, let me just say that you will look at this film in a very different way my friends.

I think that this twist was so great because it actually helped a film that I thought was not doing so well when it came to its structure. Somewhere in the middle of the flick once everything started making sense, Almodovar decides to thrown in a little flashback sequence that shows what had taken place six years prior which may explain everything clearer and give us a better idea of what we are seeing but considering that this film starts off and about 30 minutes later we are taken back in time to only be given more characters to keep track of, it almost feels like Almodovar gave up on his original story idea to start a brand new one. It was also hard to keep track of what was going on considering that the film keeps cutting back-and-forth between the past and present which made it hard to actually keep track of the time lines.

There were also other problems I had with this film, and it was believability. We know that this dude Robert has this chick locked up so obviously if she escaped, his ass would be screwed for life. So when he starts actually believing the fact that she won’t live him once he sets her free, seemed very unbelievable to me considering she obviously wants to leave and giving her any type of leverage seems like a dumb idea. The other issue with this story was that I couldn’t really believe that Robert, a guy who’s job concerns him with actually helping people out, would actually go to the limits of torture that he does pull here but then again, there are some effed up people out there and sometimes they will do anything for revenge.

Antonio Banderas, aka the sexiest brochacho alive, does a very fine job with a dark role here as Robert. The guy has the looks but also has this other look to him where he almost doesn’t feel anything, and it gives you this sinister side to him that feels real even though it’s almost too hard to believe some of the things that his character starts doing. Banderas is very good in this role and even though the dude does some pretty terrible things, Banderas still makes him likable and seem like a very reasonable dude. Elena Anaya does a great job as Vera and owns pretty much every scene she has, especially the ones with Banderas. She has a great character arch to her and she really does give it her all just about every scene. It also helps that she’s insanely hot, so that’s definitely something else that will keep your eye on her as well.

Consensus: The Skin I Live In lacks in some elements such as its structure and believability, however Almodovar keeps this weird and bizarre feel the whole time, which gives the film plenty of room to breath with its characters and the performances from the great cast.

7/10=Rental!!

Meek’s Cutoff (2011)

The Indie version of ‘Unforgiven’.

Set in 1845, this drama follows a group of settlers as they embark on a punishing journey along the Oregon Trail. When their guide leads them astray, the expedition is forced to contend with the unforgiving conditions of the high plain desert.

I never thought that the computer-game that I had so much fun with back in the days of computer class, that the real story its based off of was so depressing. I mean having to kill all of your livestock right from the get-go for food and having people die of the chicken-pox all the time wasn’t very fun in the game, but in real life it must have really blown.

The poster right there is pretty bad-ass but it gives you the wrong impression. You think that Michelle Williams is going to be blowing fools up this whole time but you soon realize that it takes about an hour to reload the gun in the first place, and killing fools is the last thing on these peoples minds. Honestly, this whole story is just about these settlers looking all over the place for some water. That’s it but for some odd reason it actually works.

Director Kelly Reichardt seems like she was pretty fed-up with all of the non-stop, gun-slinging, and bar-hopping cowboy fools that take over Westerns in today’s world, so she makes this whole flick make it seem like real life. The film is terribly slow and within the first 5 to 10 minutes where nobody’s speaking, you wonder just what the hell you got yourself into in the first place but Reichardt does well with this considering she’s not trying to sell us something fake, she’s actually giving us something that we could use as a “source” for our next history project. The Oregon Trail was real boring and this film moves at just the right snail-pace to give us that feel of just how damn bored and thirsty these effers really were.

Let’s not also forget that this film has some very beautiful landscapes that almost remind me of some wallpapers I would have for the backgrounds on my old computer. We see all of these huge sheets of land where there is barely anything but sand and then it shifts right towards another shot of the sun shining on a prairie giving us this feel of they were totally alone and had nowhere to go. Considering that actual dialogue is pretty rare in this film, the shots actually add a lot to this flick when it comes to its mood and how its approached.

The problem with this film is that since it is so damn slow, there are plenty of moments where I just dozed right off. I mean I don’t know if I wasn’t in the right mood for this film or what, because I did like this film but there were moments where it just felt like this film dragged on and on and on to the point of no return. I get the fact that Reichardt was trying to do something new and hipsterish with this material but in all honesty, there has to be some sort of tension for this flick to actually keep us involved. I also could have done without the whole score because even though it was a tad eerie, I think they placed it random times and really could have been even more effective had there been no music at all.

Also, don’t let me forget the ending which just pissed me off. The film leads up and up and up until we finally get to a place where we weren’t expecting one bit and then it just ends without ever telling us anything about what happened to these settlers. This ending bothered me because I felt like the whole time this film was just leading up to its tension-fueled final moments, but instead it just sort of ended and lost all of the momentum it somehow gained, which was something I was not expecting in the least bit. Another problem was that we never actually get any info on what happened to all of these settlers and I guess we were just supposed to go look it up ourselves, which I did do so I guess I’m the sucker really.

The characters were pretty good and everybody is pretty good, they just don’t have much dialogue for it. Michelle Williams is obviously the star of the show and she’s very funny, realistic, and brave and she does a great job with the material she’s given. One performance I was not expecting to be so good was the one given by Bruce Greenwood as Stephen Meek . Greenwood is almost unidentifiable with his huge beard, wild hair, and mountain-man look but every time he’s on screen, you see him as this dude and it shows a real talent with his acting. I’ve never ever really taken Greenwood as an acting threat but he’s very good here and his scenes with Williams are great, I just wish there were more of them really.

Consensus: Meek’s Cutoff is very good to look at and features a very cool approach to the whole Western genre, however, the slowness may bother a lot and put them to sleep, and the ending isn’t a satisfying conclusion really.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (2011)

Small weenies are so funny….

After discovering that his mild-mannered parents were huge porn stars in the 1970s, a young man (Nick Swardson) bids farewell to his small Iowa hometown and seeks his destiny in Los Angeles, where he aims to become the world’s most popular adult-film actor. The only problem is that he is not that well-equipped if you know what I mean.

Knowing that it scored a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and was considered one of the biggest box-office flops of 2011, you are all probably wondering why I even wasted my time reviewing this. Well my friends, let’s just say I didn’t want to say that ‘Apollo 18′ was the worst flick of the year.

Directed by Tom Brady (no not that one, but it could have possibly been done by him) this is a flick that takes essentially a one-joke premise and stretches it out beyond belief, until there is absolutely nothing funny in it at all. The whole film is basically just about this dude Bucky Larson who has a small pee-pee and takes the porn industry by storm and gives hope to everyone all over the world. It’s a stupid idea in the first place but it just keeps on getting worse and worse until the point of where I had nothing to actually laugh at let alone even watch.

This is also all thanks to Adam Sandler, who actually co-wrote the script and since he has been doing a lot of PG/PG-13 comedies as of late, he’s finally allowed to once again branch out into R-rated territory, which makes this film even worse. The constant dick, sex, fart, boobs, vagina, and porn jokes just aren’t funny and instead of actually saying the word “dick”, they try all of these little cool slang words that I guess Sandler has been using for ages now but finally is able to let loose now that he isn’t catering to the whole family audience. Now of course I had about two chuckles that seemed completley forced but still chuckles none the less, but the whole formula of this fish-out-of-water comedy is just too lazy and the whole time this film just tries to resort to lame jokes that will only make you laugh if you’re the biggest perv in the world.

Now let me get to the real problem of this film and that is the title character himself, Bucky Larson played by Nick Swardson. I think that Swardson is a funny dude and I’m glad to see that he has finally gotten a chance to head-line a comedy for once but I just wish it was another flick and another character entirely since each quality is terribly annoying. Bucky is that kind-hearted, country bumpkin that was so sheltered from the outside world that he doesn’t know what to do around all of these naked chicks instead just automatically jizz everywhere that we usually get with these types of films, but it never works once here and I just wanted to punch Bucky in the face every time and knock those obviously fake buck-tooth out of his mouth. He’s annoying and he has this incredibly dumb Iowa accent where he over-exaggerates his r’s in everyday language. Poor Swardson, he deserves a lot better but the sad thing is that after being in a flick like this, it’s a little too hard to get anymore work that will even come close to having us forget about Bucky Larson.

Everybody in this film blows too, and are basically just a bunch of cartoon characters played by some familiar faces that we have seen every once and awhile. Christina Ricci is totally one-dimensional as Bucky’s lady-friend, Kathy McGee but she’s incredibly cute and hot so that was the one positive to her performance; Stephen Dorff plays the porn-industries own George Clooney as Dick Shadow, who looks like he came straight from an 80′s hair-metal music video and desperately wanted to go back after he realized what shit he just got put in; the incredibly washed-up Don Johnson doesn’t do anything here as the porno director, Miles Deep (Getttt ittt?!?!?!); and Kevin Nealon is probably the only one who had me chuckle and even that was a big-ass stretch considering this guy is so random and spends almost every single one of his scenes just screaming at the top of his lungs at something. You’ll of course see the usual Happy Madison crew pop-in every once and awhile but it’s a real shame that stars like Dorff and Ricci took shit like this considering they are very talented, and if this is the kind of material they’re going to be getting from now on then they should definitely fire whoever the hell is responsible for putting them in this crap.

Consensus: With a one-joke premise, unfunny jokes that seem to be raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy, and plenty of other annoying elements including the title character himself, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star does nothing new with this obviously tired formula and is definitely one of the worst films of 2011.

0.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Win Win (2011)

If only Giamatti was coaching WWE-style wrestling, rather than that soft/real crap.

Paul Giamatti is a stressed out and frustrated attorney, father, and high school wrestling coach named Mike. He agrees to be a guardian to this old dude who is starting to suffer from dementia just to get some money. His grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up after running away from his mother that he hates. So Mike lets him live in his house with his family and he soon learns that he is also a badass wrestler that could save his shitty wrestling team.

Written/directed by a dude named Thomas McCarthy who I still need to check out more of considering that he’s only made two other films and I have heard nothing but lovely things for them both. Also, considering that he wrote for the near-perfect flick, ‘Up’, this is definitely a guy who is able to get the Kleenex out.

The story is pretty simple but the way that McCarthy writes and directs everything here, makes it all seem new and refreshing in its own little, non-original way. Everything here simply feels like real-life with real people, real situations, and real dialogue. McCarthy makes everything that happens in this story not seem like something before (even though that is the case) by just giving us the problems that these characters face but after spending so much time with them, we can empathize with them and root them on no matter what.

McCarthy does a great job with balancing out comedy and drama very well here also. The comedy aspect works out perfectly because in about the first 45 minutes, I was peeing my pants in just how damn funny this dialogue was especially since there are a whole bunch of running gags that have to do with the older guys and the fact that their wrestling team sucked, and they bring it up basically every time the film goes towards the wrestling mat, but it’s very funny and never seems over-used. It seems like everybody in this film had me laughing my ass off at one point but when it came to the dramatic side of this flick, that’s where the film really started to surprise me.

There’s a moment where this film really starts to kick in to some very dramatic material but it never gets too schmaltzy or annoying, instead it stays real which is a true testament to McCarthy’s job as a screen-writer. The film never seems to be trying too hard to make us tear-up or even get us to feel something for these situations, it just sort of happens because we spend so much time with all of these characters and we get to love them. The whole dynamic between Mike and Kyle is very odd but great because it shows just how these two obviously different people need each other in their lives for solace and comfort. It’s great to see how McCarthy puts in this flick as things start to get pretty dark by the end of the flick, but he still doesn’t lose his charm when it comes to writing and I still found myself laughing, even though I never teared up once. Yeah I know that it’s dumb to judge how much I liked a film by the fact if I cried or not but honestly, I was a baby during ‘Up’, so I was almost expecting the same thing here as well.

The problem for me with this film was the fact that by the end everything started to get very predictable and instead of me not knowing just what was going to happen next, I knew exactly what was going to occur and happen to these characters. Did I like this element in a way? Yes. Did I not like this in another way though too? Yes as well. The reason I didn’t like this element as much is because the fact that it was predictable just showed me that it didn’t seem like McCarthy was able to really go for the gutso with this script and try to really tug at our heart-strings but instead give us a satisfying, if predictable fall-out. This is good if you are trying to satisfy everybody who watches the flick but when it comes to people who really want to feel something when they are watching a comedy-drama, you shouldn’t make it feel like a cop-out and almost as if you were scared to really try anything else other than just staying light and happy. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the script was awesome but the last act for me was pretty disappointing considering how much the whole film made me feel.

What McCarthy does do perfectly here though is give us an ensemble cast that gives everyone here a chance to shine. Paul Giamatti is always great in everything he does, and continues to do so with his performance here as Mike. Giamatti is such a lovable dude that no matter how many bad things the characters that he’s playing does, we always somehow like him because it’s Paul Giamatti. He’s great at what he does and when it comes to playing the every-day daddy role, he handles it perfectly. Also, for his first role ever, Alex Shaffer does a pretty bang-up job as Kyle. Kyle is just a really simple kid that isn’t a bad seed by any chance other than the fact that he’s troubled but also very charming. Shaffer handles the charming and the troubled side of Kyle very well and seems like a mature kid right from the get-go that may not look like a kid I could leave the house key with, but by day 4, I’m practically telling him that I keep it under the rug when I’m not home.

Bobby Cannavale is a dude I have seen before but regardless he’s great here as Mike’s assistant-coach, Terry and made me laugh just about every damn time he opened up his mouth; Jeffrey Tambor is also a lot of fun as Vigman, Mike’s other assistant-coach because come on people, the guy is always funny; and it’s also great to see Burt Young actually working again because to be honest, after doing my ‘Rocky’ review I actually started to wonder if this dude was still alive. Terrible thought I know, but a thought none the less.

Amy Ryan is perfect as Mike’s wife, Jackie, who has that perfect balance of drama and comedy to the point of where she feels like a couple of moms that live right around me. At first, she seemed like she was going to be this highly annoying and strict mom who was very weird about having this kid come into the house, but after awhile you get to see her for who she really is and she’s just really cool and down-to-earth, which I was not expecting one bit. Great to know that she isn’t the crackhead mom in this flick though.

Consensus: Even though it gets very predictable by the end, Win Win is still well-written with rich characters, amazing performances by this ensemble cast, and a simple look and feel that seems like a genuine story.

8/10=Matinee!!

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