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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2009)

And Metallica thought they had the best metal rockumentary out there.

At 14, best friends Robb Reiner and Lips made a pact to rock together forever. Their band, Anvil, hailed as the “demi-gods of Canadian metal”, influenced a musical generation that includes Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, despite never hitting the big time. Following a calamitous European tour, Lips and Robb, now in their fifties, set off to record their 13th album in one last attempt to fulfill their boyhood dreams.

I don’t really have a certain taste in music like I used to. I just listen to everything including metal which is where I heard about this band, Anvil, first. But it doesn’t matter if you’re a metal fan or you think that music is for the weirdo who sits in the corner during your 3rd period because this film will work for you.

A lot of the credit for this flick probably should go to director Sacha Gervasi, who was a roadie for this band way back in the day when they were big, and still shows his love for them 20 years later. Gervasi shows these rockers for what they are, actual people. We all see these rock stars on stage and we think that all of their craziness they show off-stage is how they are in real-life, when in reality, they are no more different from you or me. Gervasi captures the pain, heartbreak, but also happy times that come to this band throughout this period of time and it was great to see how much of emotion he could get out of these guys as well as the people that surrounded, supported, and loved them all their lives.

This isn’t your normal ‘VH1’s Behind the Music’ episode where they just spout out the history and information about this band with no emotional connection whatsoever, there’s a heart here to not only these guys but the story as well. You feel something for these dudes because all they want t0 do is keep on rockin’ and rockin’ but they just keep on getting bad luck, which gets you almost as upset as these guys are. It doesn’t matter if you like this music or not, you can still appreciate the heart that these guys have and to watch them just got shoved back is very hard to watch at times.

However, this isn’t just a total sap-fest because there is still always the happy moments here as well. The film is funny and has a lot of light moments to it as well which is mainly because of its two main band-mates: Robb Reiner and Lips. These guys have been rockin’ for so many years and it’s great to see a real friendship that has actually stood the test of time. Lips is probably one of the most likable dudes I have seen come from any metal band and his smile and happy-go-lucky persona is almost infectious. Robb Reiner on the other hand, is a little bit of a dick and I couldn’t say that I liked him all that much considering he was probably stoned throughout the whole film. I’m not just saying this to say it either, it honestly looks like he’s smoking up a J in one scene, but then again, I could be wrong.

This is some fairly predictable stuff here but what really works is that even though you know how it’s going to go and how it’s going to end, you still can’t help but think, “damn, I can do this too if I just put my heart & mind to it”. I have been in a band before (and sort of still am) and to see these two buddies who never give up and always try to play wherever they can, is a true inspiration not only to me, but it should be to anyone else who has ever wanted to pursue a dream of their own. It doesn’t always need to be about the money, the women, the drugs, or even the parties, it needs to be about the heart that you have inside of you and whether or not it’s dedicated to the one thing you want to do the most. Never in my right mind would I have actually thought that a Canadian metal band would have gotten me talking like this again, but damn do I feel jammin’ with my buddies now.

Consensus: Even if it is predictable, Anvil! The Story of Anvil is still a heart-warming, tender, sometimes very funny, and insanely inspirational rockumentary that’s all about what it takes to achieve your dreams and how much heart you actually have. Also, don’t be surprised if you start singing “Metal on Metal” afterward because I caught myself doing the same thing. Hell, I still am!

9/10=Full Price!!

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The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

And Jack Sparrow thought he was witty.

With the “Pirate of the Year” awards around the corner, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew of scallywags take to the high seas to find a bounty worthy of entering the awards. Instead they find a young Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who informs them that their beloved parrot is in fact a rare dodo, a discovery priceless in the scientific world.

This is the latest flick from Aardman Animation, aka the witty Brits from ‘Wallace & Gromit’, and ‘Chicken Run’, which means, in terms of comedy, this film has a whole lot to live up to. But when you touch something like pirates and try to make them goofy, it more or less just comes off as being another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flick, except in stop-motion form.

What I can say about this flick is that even though it’s not as hilarious as previous efforts done by this gang, the film still stands on its own two feet and made me laugh quite a number of times. The film brings out plenty of pop-culture references (such as a very memorable about ‘The Elephant Man’) but it doesn’t feel like overkill because these Brits have such great comedic timing. So many animated films, ever since the days of ‘Shrek’, have all tried to incorporate a bunch of dumb pop-culture jokes into their stories just for a quick joke but have usually come off as annoying and cheeky. Here, we get a good amount of that but it’s used in a way that seems like it’s actually moving the plot forward and keeping the laughs moving. Hell, we even get a funny montage played to the tune of “London Calling” by The Clash, which is always great to hear in any movie but it’s used to good effect here.

This is more of a film that centered towards little, American kids which means there is still plenty of fighting, action, and cool things for the kids to go “oooh” and “aaah” at. Since this is Aardman, you can pretty much expect that the stop-motion animation will be in top-shape, which it is, but the real bummer here was that they do sort of get away with using some CGI here as well. I know it sounds like something dumb to point out but these guys are the last things that stop-motion has left (unless Wes Anderson decides to give ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox Part 2′ a try) so I think it would be a huge shame if these guys just walked out on it now.

Also, with a comedy that is actually just about 86 minutes long, I was expecting a lot more of it to be filled with jokes and plenty of that dry British charm that we all love so nearly and dearly to our hearts. Instead, a lot of it starts to run dry by the last act where everything comes together in another, predictable fight where pretty much every character shows up to drop a funny line here and there. I don’t want to say that this bothered me completely, but if you have already seen the trailer as much as I have, I would like to let you know that a lot of the funny parts from this movie are already in there. So if you haven’t seen the trailer (and if you’ve been to the movies within the past month, it’s got to be pretty damn hard) don’t watch it and check this out because you’ll probably be laughing a lot more than I did.

It surprised me, but I couldn’t really tell right off the bat that it was Hugh Grant voicing The Pirate Captain here, but when I did notice it, I thought it was a great role for him considering this guy never does such a kiddie thing like this. Grant still sounds very Grant-ish with a whole bunch of nervous stammering as the usually, less-than-bright kind of character he usually plays in these flicks. I also have to say that it was pretty cool to see Grant not try to be all goofy as Captain here and try to do what Johnny Depp. Instead, he goes right back to the good old days when pirates were a bit goofy but still cool deep down inside.

There’s a whole bunch of other big British names like Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, and plenty more doing great jobs with their voices here even though Jeremy Piven seemed very miscast here as another pirate. His voice is so distinct and so deuchy that this character almost comes off as too serious and too obvious that it maybe didn’t clash well with this light tone that the film was giving off so much. In any other film though, Piven would have been fine to have.

Consensus: The British charm of these Aardman flicks may not be as strong here as it is with so many of their other flicks, but there is still a lot of fun, adventure, and dry humor to hold not only the kids over, but the parents who bring them to this film as well.

6/10=Rental!!

The Raven (2012)

Apparently Poe likes Peter Gabriel too.

‘The Raven’ finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) teaming up with a detective to search for a serial killer who has kidnapped the author’s fiancee and has gone on a murder spree that mimics the author’s work.

Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of the most influential writers ever when it comes to the world of horror. Even though I have only read and heard a couple of his writings, I can easily say that for his time, he was very different and many people in today’s world definitely take notice to that. That’s probably why it would be best for some of people to see this flick.

Director James McTeigue does know do one thing right with this period piece here and that is, make it look and feel as dark as you can possibly get it to be. The mood here is very somber as if it was one of Poe’s gothic tales straight from his mind, put out onto film. McTeigue also helps this tone out with a bunch of beautiful set designs that take you into 19th Century Baltimore. Seems like a random place to actually have a whole bunch of mystery, murders, crime, and poetry going on but somehow, McTeigue was able to make it all work and feel as if we were there watching all of this crazy ish go down.

I also have to say that a lot of the gore here, was used to great effect. In a day and age where we have films constantly trying to tone it down for a friendly PG-13 rating for the big box office take in, it’s pretty relieving to see a “horror” flick take so much pride in its gore and barely leave anything out whatsoever. It’s very gruesome and has a couple of scenes that reminded me of ‘Saw’ but with a cooler, 19th Century spin on it that worked as well. The most memorable scene of gory torture probably came from when they use a pendulum here that is not only really brutal, but also really clever by how the poor slob they use to kill, is actually a critic. Here I am, a critic, sitting in the press screening for this movie, seeing a fellow critic get his insides hacked up! Now I am definitely going to watch what I say next about what movie and what actor/actress.

Problem with this flick is that behind all of the beauty, it’s pretty much your standard thriller film that doesn’t really even deliver the goods on that at all. The whole whodunit side of this flick seemed half-baked in the first place because not only did it seem like it ripped off plenty of other mystery thrillers, but it also didn’t bring any tension to the flick either. If a film is going to go down the road of being a whodunit, then it should run with the idea by messing with the audience, giving us clues, giving us twists, and just having a whole bunch of fun with its silliness. Or, you can just not do it all, which is what I think that this film should have done after about the first 30 minutes it started talking about this mystery and the killer.

At the center of this mystery, the flick also tries to stuff a love angle down our throats and instead of giving us more reason to see Poe and his lady friend together, it didn’t carry much steam and sort of made me care less and less about what happened really. Alice Eve looks very sexy and obviously tries her best with the material that she’s given, but her chemistry with Cusack was barely even there. This wouldn’t have been such a shame if the film didn’t rely on this courtship to make this mystery stronger, but they do, and for that reason it sort of just didn’t hold my interest as much as the rest of this flick did. Come to think of it, I actually nodded off a couple of times but please, don’t tell the other critics that.

John Cusack definitely didn’t seem like the type of person that was destined to play Edgar Allan Poe, but then again, who is? Cusack brings a lot of energy and humor to a person that we only know through a bunch of eerie and creepy stories. Yes, Cusack brings him to life with a lot of flamboyancy to him but also made him a compelling person to watch which bummed me out more considering that I think this guy could have definitely done a lot better if the film was just based on Poe’s life, rather than just his final days surrounding some mystery. Then again, the box office returns for this flick may not be so hot so I guess we won’t ever get a chance to see that flick, will we?

Consensus: Gory, entertaining, and featuring a very good performance from John Cusack, The Raven is definitely an enjoyable flick about a figure in literature we don’t know much about, but with a weak script, weak whodunit subplot, and weak romance, the film feels like it should have been more of a biopic rather than one just disguised as a mystery thriller.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

Just wait for Russell Brand to ruin this chick, too.

The Five-Year Engagement is a romantic comedy following Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) as their relationship becomes strained from the continued delays of their wedding an prolonged engagement.

When you get a movie that seems like it’s going to be a mixture of something from Bridesmaids (producers),  Forgetting Sarah Marshall (director), and straight-up Judd Apatow (also producer) comedy, you would think think that this would be laugh out loud funny, right? Ehhh, who knows!

Director Nick Stoller does do what he does best; and that is, keep the laughs going even when the plot seems like it’s starting to float away. There’s definitely a great sense of improv here, which is what makes this cast so damn good; but regardless of whether or not this film’s jokes were actually written, I still laughed many more times here than I did with Stoller’s last flick. Yes, I know a lot of people praise Get Him to the Greek as if it was his end-all, be-all masterpiece, but I guess I’m just not with you on that one.

I also thought that it was cool to see this premise go down and show us something about two people in love, which is something I haven’t seen much in flicks that are about a happy-happy couple such as this. The film shows what it’s like for two people to be together and less of how easy it is to love the other person for all that they are, but at the same time gets into how hard it is to be happy for that other person when they’re doing the things that they’re doing as you’re in total and complete misery. I know this isn’t anything that’s necessarily ground-breaking or inventive to talk about, especially when you talk about half of the rom-coms that have come out within the past 10 years, but it’s still a subject/theme that is done very well here, and I don’t think you see too much of that in rom-coms nowadays.

However, that theme, along with a lot of the jokes, seem to somehow get lost in the shuffle of this 2 hour and 4 minute movie. It seems like every rom-com lately has started to fall into this path where they aren’t just about being a funny, romantic movie, but they also have to have a huge deal of drama in it too, just so it can even things out. The film seems very disjointed in parts, as it was more just a bunch of sketches put together, but they were still funny enough to hold me over and get past it. But by last couple of acts where the film shows Violet and Tom’s relationship starting to crumble down, the film starts to get a bit darker and focus more on the sadness these two have away from each other, rather than focus on some cool moments of comedy. It’s actually a big downer when these two aren’t together because not only does it take a lot of steam out of the comedy, but the idea of these two being perfect for each other is uprooted as well.

Also, did I mention that it’s a 2 hour and 4 minute movie?!? Only Judd Apatow can do comedies like that people so stop trying to hop all over that skill cause it ain’t happenin’, ight? I don’t know why I started talking like that but I guess I got so much love for my homeboy Judd Apatow, I had to back him up. Anywhoo, back to what I was talking about…

Another quibble I had with this flick was that since the film shows 5 years passing, you would think that these characters would change or look a bit older in anyway, but instead, the movie feels more like it’s happening in about 5 months rather than 5 years. Tom gets a caveman beard and Violet gets bangs later on, but other than that, nothing else really changes between these characters and they all sort of just stay the same without any difference in change, look, or act. Then again, not every person in the world needs to change every single day that goes by, but 5 years is a pretty long time.

What I can say about the pairing of Emily Blunt and Jason Segel is that they both have obvious chemistry and use it well with the surprisingly slim amount of scenes they get together. Segel plays more of the straight-man role and Blunt pretty much plays his somewhat goofy, psychiatrist honey and both display a lot of fun working together on-screen, but the film shows more scenes of them apart than together. I wish the film focused more on them just hangin’ out, goofin’ off, or just simply being a loving couple, rather than just worrying they’re going to go next with their relationship and whether or not they’re going to work out. Just be happy and loving you damn kids! Even though you are both older than me!

But since a lot of these scenes are dedicated to what’s going on around these two, the film gets to show more scenes with its awesome supporting cast. Chris Pratt (who looks like Patrick Wilson, if he just got back from an all-you-can-eat buffet) is hilarious as Tom’s bro-bro and steals just about every scene he has; and I probably would have liked to see a whole film dedicated to just him and his wife, Suzie, aka Violet’s sister, aka the hilarious and very sexy Alison Brie. Rhys Ifans is pretty slimy but good as Violet’s charismatic supervisor, Winton Childs. And there are so many others here that are worth mentioning but it’s really just such a huge supporting cast that it’s really hard to name them all.

Consensus: The tone may be a disjointed, the laughs may not be constant, and the run-time may be about 30 minutes too long, but The Five-Year Engagement still entertains enough with it’s very funny laughs, and it’s charming leads, that are backed by an amazing supporting cast that steals the scenes almost every chance they get.

6.5/10=Rental!!

He Got Game (1998)

Ray Allen ain’t got shit on Denzel.

Denzel Washington stars as Jake Shuttlesworth, a prisoner who suddenly finds himself temporarily paroled and with the promise of a commuted sentence if he can accomplish one task: he must persuade his estranged son Jesus (Ray Allen) the number one high school basketball player in the USA – to sign with Big State, the Governor’s Alma mater.

Writer/director Spike Lee has been known to love the game of basketball, but it seems pretty strange that he would almost go as far as actually casting a real-life basketball player in one of his leading roles. It’s also even more strange how much he makes people not want to even think about pursuing their basketball careers considering how much ish talking he does.

No matter what he does in any film, Lee always knows how to make everything pretty. He uses a lot of different lenses that add this dirty and gritty feel but he’s also able to change it up at any moment and place us in a different time and place. Once again, Lee is just playing around with his certain camera tricks and is seeing what he can and can not do, but it still works all of the same and makes Lee the wonder he is usually known as. Well, that is when it comes to his art-direction.

What Lee does perfectly here with his script is that he is able to talk about two different story-lines but have them both come together in the end. Lee satirizes the whole art of a celebrity where we see Jesus going from person, to person, to person and being asked the same damn thing as to where he’s going and if they can get some pieces of that pie. We get to see how much promises people actually make to Jesus just to have him play some b-ball at their universities and the way Lee shows this in a more grotesque way than ever before, is a real surprise. Lee exposes the underbelly and daily happenings of what happens in college recruiting and how much pressure this can put on that high school basketball player themselves. Even though I don’t play any sports (does Ultimate Frisbee count?), I can definitely say that I’m glad I don’t have to worry about getting all these offers, promises, and calls either.

At the center of the flick though, and where it really works, lies within the father-son relationship that just gets better and better each and every time these two show-up on-screen together, which is a very rare thing here. We see how much of an impact Jake had on his son’s basketball playing skills and as much as Jesus wants to deny it and push himself away from his father, he can’t escape the fact that it’s his father who made him the man he really is today. Lee’s script touches on a lot of points about family, moral issues, and staying loyal but I think it was the fact that Lee chose to show this hurt relationship these two had in such a compassionate and realistic way is what made this flick ten times better than your ordinary sports movie and a hell of a lot more emotional.

My main gripe with this flick is that I do think that the ending was wrapped up a little too well for my taste. I get that the film was definitely trying to appeal to the natural audience that wants to see a happy ending but Lee could have done so much more at the end, that could have really made this film’s ending emotional impact stick on you. Still, don’t get me wrong when I say it’s a happy ending because it still is a little dark and sad but nothing that you would really expect from the dude that showed us Radio Raheem getting his ass chocked out.

Denzel Washington is once again playing another great role here as Jake. This is one of the first roles that shows Denzel in a very subdued and laid-back feel rather than being that hero type and going all-over-the-place with his emotions and it’s also one of those rich performances that gives you the kind of comfort that you should feel whenever he’s on-screen. The character he’s playing may be a guy that is obviously effed up in the head, but he is also a guy that you know is good and only wants to do the right thing which is what makes this character so much richer and better, especially because he’s being played by the man himself.

The one performance that I was really surprised by was how good Ray Allen was here as Jesus (yes, that really is his name). Whenever people see that a first-time actor is given his chance for a lead role, they usually shriek and see horror happen right before their eyes but somehow Allen makes me think otherwise about that idea. Allen was a great pick because he shows a character that is obviously very angsty, very confused, and very angry at everyone around him and Allen shows that perfectly on-and-off the court. Even his scenes with Washington feel real and it’s a real wonder as to why Allen didn’t get more acting roles or even go for other ones during his off-season. At least he has a championship under his thumb now but whats better: Oscar or NBA Championship? Hmmmmmm, I think I would go with the first.

Consensus: Though it may end a little too neatly, He Got Game is a film that not only looks great, but also has a real emotional story at its core and works with just about every point it’s trying to make, even if it does sometimes get a little too over-stuffed. Then again, that’s what we come to expect from a Spike Lee joint.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

Being in the Army can blow, especially if the guy who’s constantly yelling at you really wants an Oscar.

Dreams of being a Navy pilot prompt Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) to enroll in officer training school, where he runs afoul of a drill instructor (Louis Gossett Jr.) who senses the cadet’s loner instinct and aims to school him on the importance of teamwork — or break him in the process. In the meantime, Mayo romances a working girl (Debra Winger), ignoring warnings to steer clear of the local lasses out to bag hotshot Navy flyboys.

This is a film that I’ve heard so much about from my parents, aunts, uncles, and even grand-parents. But since it has Richard Gere in the main cast, I wasn’t too happy to see it but I can say that this is one of those very few Richard Gere flicks that I actually enjoyed. Did I mention Richard Gere by any chance?

This film has a very old-fashioned feel to it but its set in the cool and hip 80’s. The whole idea of the modern “American dream” was still alive in the U.S. and this film showed how young working-class citizens could still have that dream fulfilled, and this is what sort of reminded me of films from the 40’s when we were off fighting in the war. I liked this feel and most of that is that is thanks to director Taylor Hackford.

Hackford does a great job with this material because he keeps this story building-up, to where we have a feel for all of these characters and why or why not we should give a rat’s ass about them. I liked how Hackford also kept this happy spirit alive within the film, even though there are some pretty dark moments that will sure ring into your mind as shocking but still very well-placed. Hackford is basically creating a happy-go-lucky story about a young and restless kid going into his life of manhood, something that was a huge staple back in the black-and-white days of film, but he adds a little bit more edginess with some sexy time, rough language, and a lot more violence than I actually expected.

The problem with this story and with this film overall is that even the film entertained me for the most part, I still couldn’t get involved with this story at all. I knew what was going to happen with this story because it’s all so cheesy and predictable at points, but I could never get involved with the character Zack Mayo. This guy seems like a total dick, who doesn’t really care about himself or the others around him and the whole time we’re supposed to watch him on-screen and possibly root for him. I didn’t take this in by one second and at the end of the film we’re supposed to believe he’s a changed man by saying thank you to people. Yeah, OK!

Speaking about the ending, I knew exactly what was going to happen since I’ve heard about it 100 times beforehand and seen it spoofed in all of these other shows and what not but my main problem with this ending was that it was way too sentimental and by the end of the flick, I didn’t think anything was changed. Mayo still seemed like a dick, but this time he just had a love in his life. Nothing new, just the same old dude.

Richard Gere has never been one of my favorites and here he does an OK job as Zack Mayo, but once again he’s not really doing anything new that I haven’t already seen him done before. Mayo is a dick and Gere is pretty good at playing that but I just never could get behind this guy for some odd reason. Debra Winger is very good as “his girl”, Paula, and actually creates a character that you can root for because she doesn’t want to love him, but sometimes, you just gotta give into the love. They create a good chemistry together and it’s a shame that I don’t see Winger in anything anymore other than indie productions like ‘Rachel Getting Married’. David Keith also is fine as Mayo’s good buddy, Sid, who always seems to be there for him no matter what.

The best performance out of the whole cast actually won an Oscar, which isn’t a real surprise but it’s Louis Gossett Jr. as Sgt. Emil Foley. Right from the get-go this guy is a total bad-ass that just shows up and tears about every single person he sees into pieces. He’s loud, funny, and altogether, just a total joy to watch even when this film does start to get very serious and dive into some pretty dark material, but he still found a way to keep me laughing and just pretty intimidated as well. “Mayooonaiseee!”.

Consensus: Some moments are cheesier than others, and the central character isn’t a very likable one, but An Officer and a Gentleman still has a lot of heart when it comes to creating a genuinely entertaining story, with good performances to back it up as well.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Crank (2006)

It’s what it would be like for Forrest if he took coke before his big run.

The film centers on a British hitman in Los Angeles named Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) who is poisoned and must keep his adrenaline flowing constantly in order to keep himself alive, and in so doing causes mayhem, gets into fights with other gangsters, has altercations with the police and takes numerous drugs.

Take the basic concept of ‘Speed’ mix it up with a little bit of ‘Oldboy’ and throw in some ‘Falling Down’ for good measure, and there you have Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor directorial debuts. Sounds crazy, which it is.

This action film is pretty cool considering it has a concept that is used well and isn’t taken seriously one bit. The humor here ranges from deadpan, to tongue-in-cheek, and then surprisingly to dark material as we see some innocent bystanders get thrown into the deaths for good measure. There were moments where I actually found myself laughing at this flick and what it was doing, and I think the film was doing that along with me. The dialogue is definitely a lot snappier and cooler than we come to expect from our average action flick so we are spared the bad dialogue and attempt at character development, and instead we get blood, gore, and lots and lots of violence.

The action in this flick also works mainly because of the direction from these two dudes, who give the film this style that is actually one of the first to use this kind. These guys use a bunch of crazy techniques like the shaky-cam, to four-way split screens, and then to some graphics and special effects that you would see in video games, which all may take awhile to get used to after awhile but keep this film’s energetic and frenetic pace moving at a quick speed. It was also great to actually Quiet Riot and NOFX on a movie soundtrack, so that’s definitely a plus.

My only problem with this flick is that I feel like they kind of dropped the ball sometimes on their own premise. It seems like half-way through that these guys sort of forgot that Chelios had to keep on moving at a rapid pace in order to stay alive because there were plenty moments here when he would actually tries to slow things down and talk to the bad guys. This happens a numerous amount of times and I also just felt like they could have definitely done more of him ass-kicking people as well. I mean yeah, we get to see him shoot people but we never actually get to see a fist-fight every once and awhile but then again, maybe that’s just me being weird expecting more from a film called ‘Crank’.

Jason Statham definitely made this film work with his whole performance as Chelios because he’s the perfect kind of action star that can make you laugh your ass off at, but the next second he could totally scare the shit out of you by how scary and serious he can be. Statham has to do a lot of crazy things here like snorting and injecting just about everything in sight, running around the city half-naked, and even boning his girl in front of all of these Chinese people, and he makes it all work because he never seems to take himself too seriously here. Statham is the perfect fit for this kind of role and it was also even cooler to hear that he did his own stunts, which is always a bonus for me.

Amy Smart is playing that woman-in-peril act as Chelios’s girlfriend, Eve, but she’s good in this role because she actually adds a lot of sexiness to her role and her and Statham actually a have a nice little chemistry that seems playful but also very sexxed up. I wish the villains were a lot badder but then again, I don’t think it much mattered considering all I wanted to do was see Statham run around like a wild banshee, and that is exactly what I got.

Consensus: Crank may have some slow parts here and there, but its still a fun, energetic, and not-so serious thrill ride that knows what it is and isn’t trying to be anything else. Also helps that you have Jason Statham in your lead role too but then again, that’s always a given.

7/10=Rental!!

Think Like a Man (2012)

Whoever knew that the dude who hosts family feud is a lady killer.

The film is based on four friends who have their love lives shaken up after the women they are pursuing buy Harvey’s book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers find out that they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire to use the book’s teachings to turn the tables.

Steve Harvey is a dude that I think is pretty funny and cool but never did I know that he had this much shit on men, or even African American men for that matter. This man is not only betraying all men but also his own race as well. Harvey better keep on checking behind his back from now on.

Instead of telling off the whole self-help book for a whole 2 hours, the film revolves around a bunch of people who get into relationships and do the normal thing that people in relationships usually do: go out, fall in love, get into a big fight, break-up, then get back together. This is the formula for almost every rom-com and just because this one is based on an actual best-seller, doesn’t mean that there’s much new to see here either. However, it is still a pleasant comedy none the less. I won’t lie, I definitely did have a couple of pretty good laughs here and there and what liked most about this film’s humor was that it had a lot of scenes where guys would just constantly mess with each other about their woman and love lives. It’s always fun to see this kind of stuff be portrayed in movies because with guys, it happens all the time and is usually very funny for the guys that aren’t getting picked on.

The problem is that it can only go so far because once these “romantic” stories start up, things start to fall apart for this film real quickly. It’s biggest problem here is that since there are about 4 or 5 stories here, that means we have 4 o 5 stories that basically all play out the same, exact way with little, different variations here and there. The relationships starts out exactly like each person wanted, but then the males start to realize that “their game” is being taken from them, courtesy of Harvey’s book. Therefore, they go out and find a way to turn the tables on the ladies and give them what they want and tell them what they want to hear, even if they don’t do what they say in the first place. This gets repetitive after awhile as we see almost every story just turn out the same as the one before it. It doesn’t matter if you watch rom-coms or not, you can pretty much guess what’s going to happen to these characters and their relationships just by noticing the formula here.

This probably wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the really lame-ass characters that are all pretty much one-dimensional with the exception of a few. These characters get put into these categories early on in the film and then we see how they interact with the opposite sex, and that’s pretty much all of the charisma and development to them. Sometimes this film will try and correct this mistake by giving us a background check on some of these characters like when Romany Malco’s character starts to miss his R&B band that he used to play with, or like how Jerry Ferrara’s character can’t get rid of his geekdom, or that for some odd reason, Terrence J can’t get past the fact that he’s a momma’s boy and she isn’t going to appreciate anybody he brings home. Honestly, none of these characters have much going for them and as much as these stars may try their hardest to make it work, the thin script just sort of ends up taking over.

The characters that I did like and could at least appreciate were also the best performances in this cast, which isn’t saying much but still, it’s worth some sort of praise. I liked Michael Ealy a lot as the chef with dreams, Dominic. Ealy has always been a pretty solid actor for the longest time but keeps on getting put in crap that doesn’t show what he can do with his depth but I think his performance here is pretty good and gives us a character that is easy to like and identify with since we all want to do something with our lives and achieve our dreams one day. Just like me, maybe one day I can hope of being the next Roger Ebert. Then again, it’s very unlikely.

The other great performance was from fellow Philadelphian, Kevin Hart, who plays the “happily” divorced Cedric. Hart is so funny here with this material because he has this great comedic timing where he can make a script like this even more ridiculous than it already is. Hart has always been funny but he gets the biggest laughs here and also has the best character that obviously is bitter towards his divorce, but every time he shows up on-screen, he pretty much just steals it from everybody else who shares it with him. Hopefully, this film may get him some more attention and place him in better comedies because with his charm and over-the-top small guy shtick, he can go pretty far.

Consensus: Think Like a Man has a couple of good laughs, mainly because of Kevin Hart and many others in this large cast, but what really takes away from this flick is its predictable and cliched solutions, that wouldn’t be so bad in the first place if these characters weren’t so damn one-dimensional in the first place.

5/10=Rental!!

Chimpanzee (2012)

Would have been a lot cooler if they were filming a real-life documentary of Caesar in the wilderness, and I don’t mean Julius.

Little Oscar is a chimpanzee living with a close “family” in the Taï Forest of Africa’s Ivory Coast. He learns how to find food by watching his mother, and frequently hitches a ride on her back. When tragedy strikes and Oscar cannot find his mother, he is rejected by the other chimpanzees with one surprising exception.

It seems like around “Earth Day” (4/20 joke) every year, we get these Disney Nature movies where they show us the beauties of nature and they are basically just one episode of something you would see off of National Geographic, but given an A-list name to narrate it and is on the big screen. This one isn’t as bad as I may make all those others sound anyway.

What I liked about this documentary is that directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield weren’t afraid to get up-close and personal here with these chimps, and it does not only this film, but the chimps themselves a lot of justice. We get to see how these chimps use their skills to get food like hitting a nut with a rock, using sticks like straws to gather up ants and termites, and also even killing other monkeys. This was a big shock to me considering I never knew this kind of stuff even happened and the way they show it is a little scary at first. I mean they practically corner this monkey and rip it up to shreds, and even though we don’t get it all in gory detail, we still can make enough pictures in our heads. This showed me that the film wasn’t going to just give us the cute and cuddly side of these chimps, we were going to see the real thing, even if that does mean they can be a bit wild sometimes too.

You also get a real sense that these animals actually have personalities rather than just being little fury things. It’s crazy how so much of this just happened the way these people captured it. All of these chimps act a certain way that makes sense and isn’t too far from how we act so it’s very easy to see how we have evolved from them. These little baby chimps play like normal baby humans would, parents care for their young much like humans do (without all of the picking), and the protective skills against anybody who tries to hurt a loved one is pretty much the same exact thing. It’s crazy to see what we all have in common with them and I’m glad that this flick was able to inform me of that once again.

The problem with this documentary is that I think it’s a little too dark for the the audience that it’s advertised for. The film is rated G but there are a couple of scenes where absolute havoc and dismay happen that actually caught me by surprise by how dark and scary things got for this flick. When Oscar loses his mommy, a little girl in my movie theater was actually crying her ass off the whole time and as annoying as it was for me to just sit there and listen to it, I still couldn’t believe the fact that stuff like this shouldn’t be so dark for little kids. Then again, it’s how nature works so maybe it wouldn’t have been right to cut it out all just because of one little girl. Also, I didn’t pay for this ticket here (shhh…don’t tell AMC) but I did check it out and it’s very short for, almost a little too short for the full price ticked you would have to pay if you wanted to be a nice, common-folk citizen. Not necessarily a complaint, as its more of a warning to people who don’t want to spend too much money on a 1 hour and 18 minute movie about a bunch of chimps running around.

Many people have said that they didn’t really like the narration by Tim Allen here but I have to say that it actually brought a lot of warmth to this story and I think he does a good job with it. Allen isn’t really a guy who would be my first choice to narrate my nature documentary (probably because he hasn’t done anything in the past 10 years worth mentioning that isn’t animated) but I think he brings a funny feel and vibe to it that helps the film out even when it starts to get a tad dark.

Consensus: Chimpanzee may not be the perfect fit for the kids but it’s a very beautiful and surprisingly detailed documentary that takes you into the life of a little chimp named Oscar and all of his furry, little friends.

7/10=Rental!!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Batman and Iron Man together at last! Except this time, Batman actually is gay.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Junior) is a thief posing as an actor who teams up with tough-guy private eye Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) and frustrated actress Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). They stumble upon a murder, which is when the comedy starts to ensue.

When you take elements of a noir, mix it together with dark comedy, action, a little bit of love, and a whole lot of satire and put in one flick, it seems like it would just be another jumbled up piece that would turn out to be just another lame rip-off of ‘Pulp Fiction’. However, c0-writer/director Shane Black is definitely a guy you can depend on for originality.

The film starts off with this very self-aware narrative that shows us all of the things we should know about this story, and makes it a point to point out all of the obvious stuff that pop-up later on in the flick. This was a hilarious way to start the flick off because it got me in the right mind-set of how the comedy was going to be, how frequent it was, and that I also wasn’t going to see something I’ve seen before. Black is a writer that I hear so much about and I can really tell that he has some real talent because with each and every single frame, he keeps on bringing more and more fresh ideas to this story to the point where you think anything can happen, and it actually does.

Despite bringing some fresh and new air to this type of flick, there is also a huge amount to laugh-out-loud here, which is exactly what I did. There’s a lot of gay jokes here to be heard but they work incredibly well, the tongue-in-cheek humor that shows these characters basically talking like they are in another crime-action flick works and doesn’t seem overly used at all, the one-liners just come out like crazy, and you can’t laugh at how funny Black is when he’s poking fun at Hollywood. We always get those flicks that make it abundantly clear that Hollywood is just a huge scam but this flick tells it in a very funny and different way where Black brought up funny statements such as the fact that every girl from a little farm-town makes it “big” or that everyone in these bars look like celebrity impersonators, just felt like the best kind of satire that actually had me laughing. It’s also one of those flicks that pokes fun at people getting shot and killed but that still made me laugh. I don’t know what it is with this guy, but Shane Black is really earning points from me.

My only gripe with this flick is that I do feel like the film tries a little too hard to give us a complicated plot so it doesn’t become one of those stories it’s making fun of. Yes, the plot is a mystery but it gets way too complicated to the point of where I had no idea who the hell this chick was that they were searching for, let alone, if she was alive or dead. All I wanted to see was what would happen to our three main characters and I guess that’s where my favorite parts of this flick came from.

Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely awesome as Harry Lockhart because he plays Downey the way we want to see him played. The character, Harry himself is pretty interesting but it’s not his character arch that made him interesting, it was the charisma and charm that Downey gives off in his performance that gets you behind this guy right from the start. Once again, it’s one of those mile-a-minute/tweeker talks that we usually get from him but it works well for his character and it’s just so much fun to see Downey having a ball with a character like this.

However, what really surprised me was how he actually took the back-burner from a dude none as, Val Kilmer. Yes, The Val Kilmer takes this film from Downey and practically makes it his own with his hilarious performance as Gay Perry (yes that is his name). Kilmer is an actor that is known for choosing some really good roles but then at the same time, known for choosing some real shit roles but I think he found his niche here as the sarcastic-as-hell, gay cop that just elevates this film beyond belief, every time he shows up on-screen. Don’t let me take any credit away from Downey because I think he was awesome here equally, but it was Kilmer who just brought so much energy, so much fun, and so much humor to this whole flick that it really made me crack-up at just about everything he said, even when he was being serious. The chemistry is also a lot of fun to watch too considering that they are supposed to be hating each other for a good part of the flick but they still end up having that buddy chemistry that worked so well for Black in the past.

Michelle Monaghan is surprisingly awesome as Harmony Faith Lane, Harry’s love-interest. I was very surprised when I actually found myself laughing at Monaghan’s character here because not only is she fine as hell but she’s got some great comedic timing to her as well and makes her character seem more than just another one-note, action flick love-interest that starts off strong but then starts to fade away from the picture slowly. I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much Emma Stone actually looks and sounds like her but I hope that Stone stays on the path she’s on, considering Monaghan hasn’t really had a good flick in awhile.

Consensus: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an original piece of work that combines mystery, crime, action, romance, and tongue-in-cheek comedy that works on almost every level especially with its great lead performances and gets me more and more excited to see what Black and Downey Jr. are going to do with ‘Iron Man 3′.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Lucky One (2012)

It’s a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. There’s nothing else that needs to be known.

The story centers on Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron), a US Marine who finds a photograph of an unknown woman Beth (Taylor Schilling) in Iraq and credits it for saving his life in combat. He vows to find her once he returns to America and eventually does nothing less than stalk her while taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Great way to get the babes.

Basically everybody knows what to expect here that can be seen in plenty of other Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that have come out in recent years such as ‘Message in a Bottle’, ‘The Notebook’, ‘Dear John’, ‘The Last Song’, and plenty others. All of those (with the exception of one, I’ll let you guess which one) are very bad and pretty much the same exact thing. This is another one that can be added to that stupid list that needs to go away and go now!

Women and young, teenage girls who have probably read this novel about 20 times will probably love this movie to death because that’s the audience it’s mainly for. However, I am not that audience and that was the biggest problem here. Every single character in a Sparks novel are about as one-dimensional as a piece of paper but are still treated like as if they can do no wrong, with barely any flaws whatsoever.

Logan starts off in the movie suffering from post-traumatic stress, but after the first 10 minutes, they act as if it was never there in the first place once he gets to the cozy countryside. Then when he actually gets to this countryside and has starts to woo over Beth, we see how he really is which is even worse. He’s humble, nice, strong, in touch with his emotional side, starts to tear up a bit when he’s playing piano as if it was his last time ever playing piano again, checks out classics like Moby Dick whenever he feels like it, and can play chess so well that he actually lets her young son win against him just to boost up his self-esteem. The film treats him as if he was the second coming of Christ that pretty much walks around with a halo around his head the whole time making everybody’s lives a whole lot better, which annoyed the hell out of me within the first 20 minutes because they just kept on constantly shoving it down our throats just how perfect and amazing this guy was. And to be honest, I didn’t care one bit. Oh yeah, need I forget to mention that this guy walks from Colorado all the way to North Carolina with his doggy. However I feel like if I got into that rant, we’d be here so much longer.

Aside from the characterization, this film is also laughably bad in many aspects where I don’t even think it intended to be. The melodrama gets kicked up to about 100 here and at times, almost feels like it’s making fun of itself but that’s the thing, it’s dead serious. There are so many corny scenes where these characters start to have realizations about one another and how beautiful that other person is and the sweeping score just comes in booming right in your ears and it just gets even worse as the film starts to dive deeper and deeper into this schmaltzy material.

This film also has one of the worst “sex” scenes I have seen in the longest time where Logan is blatantly shaking Beth’s left butt cheek and the film makes it seem like it’s some sort of cute showing of love and companionship but just came off as really lame and definitely a little too detailed for a PG-13 movie. I mean they show both of them moaning at one point and even though I’m no prude to this kind of stuff (hell, I saw ‘Shame’ for Christ’s sakes), I still don’t think that many parents will appreciate Ms. Schilling hitting a full-on orgasm with Mr. Efron.

Speaking of Mr. Zac Efron, I can’t really say anything bad about him here because he is obviously trying but he better be careful with the types of roles he’s getting. Yeah, ‘The Notebook’ put Ryan Gosling on the map but ever since then he has barely done anything close to that and even Channing Tatum is starting to find himself farther and farther away from this stuff with edgier flicks coming out in the upcoming future, but Efron is still building up his star and he better make sure that he doesn’t make any more shit films like this or else we may just get a ‘High School Musical 4′ just so he can get a quick paycheck. As for Taylor Schilling, her character is pretty paper-thin as well so she at least tries with what she’s given but the material really does end up bringing her down. Hopefully this movie gets her face out there and maybe we’ll see her in more upcoming flicks and check out what real talents she has as an actress other than showing how passionate getting boned by Zac Efron can be.

I think it would be safe to say that the best performance out of this whole film, and probably the best thing about this flick really is Blythe Danner here as Nana. Danner is that wise, funny, and always witty old lady that has something to say and made me laugh just about every time. And with a film like this, you need any type of humor just get you through. It’s a small compliment but it’s a compliment to this film none the less and this film needs all of that it can get.

Consensus: The Lucky One is what you would expect from a Nicholas Sparks adaptation: corny, schmaltzy, full of one-dimensional characters, and writing that will make you laugh even though they may not be laughing with you.

1/10=Crap!!

Shocker, right?

Lockout (2012)

It’s like ‘My Date With the President’s Daughter’ except its in space and filled with more serial killers and rapists.

A former government agent Snow (Guy Pearce) wrongly accused of a crime gets a shot at freedom — if he can engineer a high-risk mission to outer space in order to rescue the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) from a prison where the inmates are in control.

Right from checking out the trailers, I knew that this was basically ‘Escape from New York’ in space. Hell, it could have even passed as a sequel from John Carpenter himself but it at least still deserves more credit than that. Ok, maybe not that much but come on it’s April!

What this film did and did well was that it was an action movie that kept a pretty quick pace going on throughout the whole time. It went from point A to point B without feeling the need to muck it up or try and bring in some soft moments so we could feel something for these characters. It gets the job done in a slick pace that doesn’t feel like they’re holding you over for too long either.

Just about anybody could correctly guess the entire story based on the trailers/commercials or if you have ever seen an action film from the 90’s, but I think that’s the charm underneath it all. It’s not trying to be anything else other than dumb, mindless entertainment that is pretty much meant to be watched for the sake of passing time. Also, the fact that the script doesn’t take itself too seriously and actually allows plenty upon plenty of jokes to come up also added a lot of the fun to this film as well. Basically, you get what you pay for: action mixed with sci-fi, that doesn’t need to be watched or enjoyed with a brain intact.

The film itself only cost about 30 million dollhairs to make (which may not sound all that cheap but when you think about how much ‘John Carter’ went up for, then you’ll understand) but for some reason I feel like a lot more money could have been used on this. Not all of the visuals are bad, actually they are quite good but the times when they are bad, they are noticeably bad. There is a scene in the beginning where Snow is riding away on this motorcycle while some peeps are shooting at him and it honestly looks like a freakin’ video game cut scene. The SFX looked clumsy and it was almost as if the film didn’t have enough money to fix the scene up, so they just left it in there hoping people wouldn’t notice it’s horrible look. Sorry dudes, I’m a pretty observant guy.

It was also sort of strange that in a that consists of 500 prison inmates on the loose, that the most dangerous threat to these protagonists was the space ship that they were all in. The inmates obviously get their times to shine and show that they can be pretty bad-ass and killer when they have to (that’s what got them in there in the first place), but too much of the film was focused on the problems that Snow had to deal with when it came to the actual space ship itself. It would constantly shut-on and shut-off, change room temperature, come close to blowing up, and a whole bunch of nonsense that sort of took away from the dangerous level of all of these bad guys in the first place. Maybe the other problem also had to do with the fact that whenever the two main bad guys talked, I couldn’t get past their thick, Scottish accents. Then again, that’s probably my fault so don’t mind me.

Guy Pearce has been one of those actors that you can depend on no matter what the material is, and it was pretty cool to see him finally get his shot at showing he can be a leading man once again here as the wise-cracking Snow. Snow is basically the Snake Plissken-type where he’s dangerous, smart, and very much a loose cannon but Pearce sells that every single second here and makes us like Snow a whole lot more. I would say about 95 percent of this dude’s dialogue is either a wise-crack, insult, sarcastic comment, or just a plain and simple joke but it never gets boring one bit and makes a lot of the scenes with him a lot more playful and lighter. Pearce obviously is having a blast with this role and I couldn’t help but have fun watching him myself.

Maggie Grace is pretty good as the president’s daughter, Emilie Warnock, even though she is pretty much playing the same role she did as Liam Neeson’s daughter in ‘Taken’ but at least this time, she can fight back. Grace has some obvious chemistry with Pearce and I could actually see these two characters play together very well in a sequel to this, but judging by the box office for this one, I highly doubt that it will ever come around. Yeesh! On another thought though, can anybody tell me just what kind of accent Peter Stormare was gunning for here? The dude sounded like a strange mixture between a cowboy and Ivan Drago, and sometimes he would even go back and forth between the two. Strange accents aside, the guy is still a good actor though.

Consensus: Predictable, dumb, and unoriginal, Lockout barely has any of the elements that makes a good, if memorable, sci-fi flick but with a reliable cast, quick pace, and fun action to boot, it doesn’t do so bad when it comes to just killing some time.

6/10=Rental!!

Amélie (2001)

Those French are just so damn whimsical.

Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) lives in Paris and in a world of her own. She works in a café, rents an apartment. Life seems to be dull but ok. Except that she’s lonely. Then everything changes. When Amélie discovers an old box of childhood treasures in her apartment and returns it secretly to its middle-aged owner, it transforms his life – and hers.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of films that are whimsical just to be whimsical, which is why I went into this flick with low expectations. However, by the 20-minute mark I knew I just had to give in.

Writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet seems to be a legend where he’s from and I can definitely see why. First of all, he makes this film look beautiful and probably the most beautiful that I’ve seen Paris look ever, which is really saying something. It’s so colorful and just gives you this warm feeling whether we’re in a bistro drinking some coffee, in an sleazy adult-video store, checking out an old fun house ride, or just simply walking around the streets of Paris. I’m a sucker for Paris locations as it is so it was kind of a given that this film, visually, was going to take me over.

When it comes to the script though too, there’s a whole lot of fun and originality to be had. The ideas that this film keeps on stewing out gets better and better. There are things here that Jeunet does with this simple “boy meets girl” story, that I could never think of in a billion years. It also helps that this film practically had me chuckle every time they made a little funny joke that sometimes may be a little annoying with all of the whimsy they use, but in the end just works because of the fun and light approach that this film is given with its script and direction. It’s just one of those scripts that features a great sense of humor that can find even the most pessimistic person in the world, at least getting a little smile on their face.

The script is so charming though, mainly because of its heart that makes you realize that there’s more beauty in the world. There are so many things out there in life that we usually don’t ever take a look at because it’s just there but in reality, it can bring out the happiest moments in anybody’s simple life. Things like skipping stones, popping bubble wrap, collecting photo stubs from those booths, playing a game of marbles, and so many other countless little things in our life that can make us so happy and bring us back to a nostalgic and innocent time in our lives. The general premise is so nice and sweet that it’s even better to see that it’s heart is in the right place after all, and focuses on the finer things in life that surround us.

There were little nitpicks that I did have with this flick and even though everybody here may call me a dick and whatnot, I still had some problems. Sometimes, I felt like the flick would be a little contrived with the events that happened and especially with the whole love thing between Amelie and her boy-toy because they both love each other but for some odd reason, she keeps on playing cat-and-mouse with him. I get that your nervous and don’t know what to do, but sometimes it can just be a little strange. Also, the whole narration makes Amelie feel more like an urban legend rather than a real person so the whole time that’s what I basically looked at her as and nothing else. Then again, these are just nitpicks so don’t mind me.

Amelie is is a great character to begin but having the amazing Audrey Tautou play her, seems like the perfect choice. Tautou is so damn cute that every scene where she is just looking at whatever it is, you can’t take your eyes off of her, however, it’s also the fact that her character is just so nice, so sweet, so full of life, and so delightful to be around is what makes her such a great character to begin with. Yes, I never felt like I was watching a real person here but then again, I don’t really think the film was going for that and that’s why I have to say that I enjoyed watching Amelie herself and Tautou play her so well. Everybody else is very good here as well and makes me really want to go and check out how pleasant actual people are in Montmartre.

Consensus: Some parts may feel contrived, but Amélie is still a fun, delightful, and charming flick that has originality in every scene and feels like it not only was a bunch of fun to write, but film as well and that fun is contagious.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Star Trek (2009)

Just when I thought ‘Star Wars’ was so much better, J.J. Abrams has to just make me reconsider.

The film follows James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) aboard the USS Enterprise as they combat Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from their future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. The story takes place in an alternate reality due to time travel by both Nero and the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy).

The one thing that J.J. Abrams does perfectly here is that he takes everything that every Trekkie knows and love and doesn’t ignore it and act like it never happened, instead, he’s spiced it up with extra energy on everything across the board like action, story, mythology, special effects, and basically everything else you need in a film. Basically, J.J. Abrams is going to be the next George Lucas and hopefully that’s said with more praise rather than negativity, considering Lucas hasn’t been the most reliable sci-fi director in the past 13 years.

This is definitely one of the films in recent memory that has made me actually want to go out and be a kid again. Abrams injects this flick with a great deal of fun and energy to the point of where almost every single scene is as entertaining as the last. The constant space-ship shoot-outs, the hand-to-hand combat brawls, and the blowing up of just about everything in sight gives this film that epic feel of a thrill-ride that is sure to please just about anyone. So if you’re a Trekkie, a person who hates being called a Trekkie, a person who thinks that ‘Star Trek’ is a poor man’s version of ‘Star Wars’ (I can easily say that I’m one of them), or just a person who appreciates a good old sci-fi/action flick, this film will definitely entertain the hell out of you as it did for me.

It also helps that the special effects are by far some of the best I have seen in the past couple of years. The film is constantly moving around all-over-the-place but there are moments where this flick just stops and lets us sit back and look at these beautiful, CGI images of space, the space-ships themselves, or just what a planet looks like from space itself. There are even scenes where there’s a free-fall from space and it just looks damn near gorgeous but also make you hold your breath considering how real and stunning it looks.

Where this film also works is its script because it can handle just about everything perfectly. The fact that the writers didn’t want to offend any Trekkies out there is something definitely worth noting. It doesn’t just ignore the events of the first 10 films and almost pretend as if they never happened or start from scratch like that, it actually acknowledges them and say that they happened in an alternate time-line. Which in a way is restarting its series but also continuing it and giving them the right to do whatever the hell it is that they want with this material. Definitely the right way to give the series a reboot because it doesn’t offend anybody and doesn’t confuse anybody either.

There is a lot of humor here that works well and doesn’t feel shoe-horned one bit like many action-action flicks try to do. There’s plenty of funny scenes and moments such as a moment where Bones keeps injecting Kirk and he has an allergic reaction to it, a moment where Chekov messes around with the voice recognition computer, any plenty of moments of endless rejections of Kirk by Uhura, and just so many many more scenes that actually had me laughing my ass off and it didn’t feel like it was trying too hard by any means. There are also a lot of other emotional moments as well that will probably bring any real Trekkie to tears. Before the opening credits even pop-up, we are treated to an awesome space-fight where Kirk’s mother gives birth to him and his father is killed in a space crash. I don’t want to say that this made me close to crying but it is definitely a scene that feels genuine and starts off the film perfectly.

My only gripe with this flick was that the villains for this story felt terribly lame. These Romulan people have these Mike Tyson face-tattoos happening and looked like a bunch of angry cave-men. They are always grumpy and totally unforgettable and uninteresting but then again the film is really trying to just give us villains that will make this film work and no matter what, we all know what’s going to happen at the end so who cares really. It’s just a shame that they have a good actor like Eric Bana playing a role where he practically yells and hollers about something new the whole time.

I was also very impressed by how perfectly Abrams handled this ensemble cast as well. Chris Pine references but doesn’t do a parody of William Shatner but brings a lot of swagger, cockiness, sarcasm, and boyishness to the role instead. It’s a very fine line and he struts right down it and makes this one of the better leads for a sci-fi flick I have seen in a pretty long time. Zachary Quinto is also seamless as Spock, channeling Leonard Nimoy (who also appears in the flick as well), channeling both his logical side of things as well as human side to perfection. It’s definitely a great role for both of these guys considering the flick is basically counting on them to give more than just impersonations and it’s something they handle perfectly.

It was also great to see every other character here do a great job and get a chance to have their own moments as well. John Cho is good as Sulu and kicks some ass in a sword fight; Anton Yelchin is funny channeling his inner Russian, while saving the day with his math skills as Chekov; Karl Urban steals almost every scene he’s in as Bones, and just lets the comedic timing; Simon Pegg is also hilarious in a lot of his scenes as the quirky engineering genius, Montgomery Scott; and Zoe Saldana gets to strut her stuff every once and awhile as Uhura. There are so many other little performances here given by stars that you have seen somewhere else but this main ensemble is what really makes this flick work as well.

Consensus: Star Trek is a perfect reboot of the series with exciting action, humor, great performances from everybody involved, impressive special effects, and a fun-loving spirit that will not only entertain and be loved by Trekkies, but also will bring in others who aren’t that familiar with the material already.

9/10=Full Price!!

Irreversible (2002)

Begins with a place called “The Rectum” and ends with the shot of the poster from ‘2001’. Sums up this movie pretty well.

When a woman (Monica Bellucci) is brutally violated, her angered boyfriend (Vincent Cassel) and ex-boyfriend (Albert Dupontel) team up to track down the rapist and take justice into their own hands.

After hearing about how damn traumatizing this flick is for over 3 years now, I finally found the time, the place, and the right mood to actually just sit-down and try to “enjoy” it but in the end, I ended up just liking it without ever really throwing up. However, there were a couple of close calls.

The plot seems very simple and actually generic but what really throws everybody for a loop is that it’s all told backwards. No, not in the way ‘Memento’ was but more of showing us what happens from the after-math to the lead-up. It’s not as confusing as it may sound and I think that’s a real showing of writer/director Gaspar Noe‘s talents.

I have never seen any of Noe’s other flicks but from what I hear, they’re almost just as bad as this one but what really got me into this flick was the fact that it is shot perfectly and dare I say it, beautifully. The camera feels like it’s constantly just moving, zooming, and swaying all-over-the-place as if Noe was given the camera after a nice little sitting during Happy Hour. The camera barely ever rests easy (except for the infamous rape scene) and the whole frenetic style really got to me after awhile and took me to this place where I never ever wanted to go. It also helped that this is a very dark flick but the colors they use to pop-out at us, work in such a disturbing way. I also love films that feature one-shots and this has a ton of them but since the story is going backwards, the camera actually never cuts away and feels more like one, long, uninterrupted shot. Definitely couldn’t have been an easy thing to pull of but somehow this Noe guy makes it seem possible.

Also, I think the way that Noe chose to tell this story, was a pretty brilliant idea. First of all, he shows us what happens after this revenge takes place but he also allows us to see through reverse chronological order that maybe this revenge was meant to happen after all this time. I don’t want to say that it was obvious that this flick was trying to show this in a way, but instead of just plopping us in the middle of a story, with characters we don’t know or even like for that matter, Noe actually lets us get to see them before and after the terrible event that takes place.

Still though, no matter how much you can at least praise Noe here for his technical side, you still can’t get past the fact that the two scenes here are pretty effed up and stay in your mind for a very long-ass period of time. The infamous rape and murder scenes here are some of the hardest that I have ever had to watch because the camera never once pans away from it. Hell, the rape scene goes on for 9 minutes and in just one single take! It also doesn’t help that about 20 minutes into the flick, the murder happens as we see some dude’s head bashed right in. However, me saying all of this won’t make a difference in how you view these scenes anyway. They are both effed up, hard to watch, and ones that will probably stick in your head forever and even though they sort of felt germane to the whole story, I kind of want to know, what was the point?

The story is shown in a way that works and makes you think about these characters but its the story itself and the fact that it has a brutal rape and murder scene is what bothers me the most. I get that Noe was probably looking for a way to shock the hell out of whoever went out to go see this (which he succeeded with) but what I don’t get is what are they here to even tell us? Is he disputing the ideas of revenge as to when they should, or should not be used? Is he showing us how fate can sometimes grab us by the ass and rape it? Or is he just showing us a glimpse into the lives of people that just had bad luck after all? I don’t know what this story was supposed to tell us and I don’t really think Noe knows either. He just wanted to make people vomit and run away disgusted, which is something he may have done to everybody else but certainly not me! Muwuahahahahahahaha! That was supposed to be my evil laugh.

The performances here given by Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel are all very good pretty much for the reason that they are put through some mighty-hard shit in the first place. All play their respective roles with realism because they all have to show a lot, go through a lot, and change their whole emotions when a tragedy comes through and it’s what made this film feel legitimate as well. It also probably helped that Cassel and Bellucci were going out at the time (and married now), so whenever they were on screen together, they felt like a real couple that actually did love each other.

Consensus: Even though the violent matter of this flick may take most heads away from it’s overall enjoyment level, Irreversible is still a grueling flick with a wonderful and innovative style that not only takes us to dark and scary places, but also gets inside your head just a little bit. Still, can’t say that I recommend it to anyone nor can I say that it’s a film that I’ll want to watch it again.

6/10=Rental!!

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Two people who have English degrees don’t seem to make the best couples.

Set in Brooklyn in 1986, this film captures with extraordinary immediacy the inner workings of the Berkmans. Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a once successful novelist and Joan (Laura Linney), have given up on their marriage, leaving their two sons Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), 16, and Frank (Owen Kline), 12, to grapple with what has become of the family.

When I think of films that have to do with divorce, I think of the classics like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ or ‘War of the Roses’, to name a few. However, never in my right mind would I thought that a film by the same dude who brought me ‘Greenberg’ would be added to that list as well.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach is a guy who’s films I can never really get into but with his script here, he shows some real talent that deserves to be heard. His script is filled with a bunch of humor, sarcasm, and witty puns that actually take your mind off the fact that this flick is essentially about a family falling apart right in front of our eyes. It’s strange to be laughing at something like this but the way Baumbach is able to make every single situation in this flick, come out almost funnier than the last is what truly is what makes him such an inspired writer in the first place.

The script also has a bit of a sweet side to it, which at first, is a little too hard to see since everybody is mean and nasty, but by the end of the flick you can really start to see it come out. The film has characters that aren’t very likable but by the end, they start to understand their short-comings for what they are and that’s where the film made a difference for me. I actually started to care what was happening between the members of this family just through how they show their pain and anguish over this divorce and it works because you somehow get attached to these characters. None of these moments are ever shown in an obvious or melodramatic way either, which is always one step above the normal Hollywood comedies we get almost every weekend.

The one fall-back that I did have with this flick was that Baumbach seemed like he just felt the need to be a little strange and weird with this flick and it doesn’t work. The whole idea that the one kid, Walt, is playing ‘Hey You’ by Pink Floyd an calling it his own without his parents or many other people not knowing that it’s actually by them seemed a little far-fetched for me since it is a pretty big song, and I don’t know, Pink Floyd is a pretty big band. Then again, I guess these sophisticated types just stayed at home and listened to opera all day.

Another example about the weirdness of this script is the whole sub-plot about Frank and his angst. First of all, he’s drinking beer just about every night and he constantly jizzes in his hand and wipes it all over random stuff in school. OK, I get it, the kid is having a hard time but does he really need to wipe his semen everywhere in order to show how upset and confused he is. This seemed like something for a whole different movie and this was just a little too weird and strange to actually ring true at all.

Where the film excels perfectly act though, is the performances given by all four of these performers. Jeff Daniels is great as the snobby, know-it-all, Bernard. The guy thinks he’s right even when he’s terribly wrong and it’s just funny to watch him go about his day and say things that obviously make him seem like a total pompous asshole. Daniels is great in this role and easily can make us laugh but he’s also still likable in a way and he’s a pretty cool guy, even though he can be kind of a dick. Laura Linney is also pretty good as Joan. It’s a really hard character for her to play, considering she has to make an extremely unlikable character, likable in some way but she pulls it off and makes her character seem like a real person rather than just another one of those confused woman that want sympathy all the time.

Jesse Eisenberg is great in this role as Walt, playing the usual fast-talking nerd he plays in every flick but he still seems like a young kid, as he actually was when this film was filming. Much of the film actually revolves around him and just to watch him take his father’s advice all the time and practically hate his mom as well, seemed very realistic and made Walt an easily relate-able character since I would have probably acted the same way as well. Owen Kline, son of Kevin Kline, is also very good as Frank and it’s a real wonder as to why this kid hasn’t done much more with his acting since he gives a very realistic performance as a young kid, even if his story does get a little too wild. The one scene-stealer in this whole film though is William Baldwin as the total goon, Ivan, a guy who made me laugh just about every time just by calling everybody around him “my brother”. Alec probably could have pulled it off better though.

Consensus: Even though some moments don’t really ring true, The Squid and the Whale still features great writing that mixes drama and comedy perfectly, with realistic performances from everybody involved that add so much more to these almost unlikable characters.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Three Stooges (2012)

Look what you missed out on Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro.

While trying to save their childhood orphanage, Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes), and Curly (Will Sasso) inadvertently stumble into a murder plot and wind up starring in a reality TV show.

This has been considered The Farrelly Brother‘s passion project ever since they first broke-out onto the comedy scene with ‘Dumb and Dumber’. And as much as I want to stick up for these guys here as I’ve done in the past, I have to say that I think it’s time for them to choose another hobby if this is their passion.

I’m just going to say it now, I loved The Stooges growing up. I always would sit down on the couch late at night, turn on TV Land or whatever station was playing them and just sit back and laugh my ass off. That said, I was not a huge fan of this movie. Where I think this film hit its problems with even before it was made, was that the film sets these guys in the 21st century, when all of their material was made around the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. This means a lot of the comedy that was so fresh, hilarious, and ground-breaking back in those days, may come off as a bit dated and too slap-sticky for some people’s tastes, which is exactly what happens. The Three Stooges have had their own time in comedy history where you can watch any episode of theirs, and you can find something new to laugh at even if it just Moe hitting Larry over the head with a hammer. However, placing them in a time where stuff like this is usually a lame way of getting laughs, definitely makes it a big stretch.

You would also think that since this project has been in development for so damn long that everybody involved would actually come up with some new stuff that would still be loyal to The Stooges but also make us laugh, right? However, that’s not the case and instead we get a bunch of material we have seen used from them time and time before such as these guys hitting each other in the head, somehow tied together by a plot of saving an orphanage and having these guys realize that they all love each other. It’s definitely weak in plot terms, but I wasn’t going to see this movie for an Oscar-winning plot, I just wanted to see some funny stuff happen and I barely got that.

I’m over here trashing this film like no other but I honestly can’t say that I didn’t laugh at this because believe it or not, there were a couple of real chuckles that come out of me during this one. I knew what to expect from The Stooges right beforehand so all of the hitting and biting was a little annoying for me, but the moments when Larry is dropping puns out the wah-zoo all had me laughing and even a couple of other wise-cracks throughout the film had me cracking up too. Probably my favorite part of this whole movie that may be worth the price of admission (that is, if you go to see this) is when Moe gets to go on “Jersey Shore” and he practically beats the crap out of every cast member, Stooges style. It was very funny to see not only because I would love to see these bastards actually get beat up like this in real-life, but because it showed a pop-culture reference that actually worked here even though having the cast on is pretty much a pop-culture reference in and of itself.

As much as people may be bitching and complaining about how two comedic legends like Del Toro, Penn, and grand thespian Carrey didn’t get into this after all, you can’t really complain with the actual cast of guys they have playing the famous Stooges. Sean Hayes does a great job as Larry with a pitch-perfect Philly accent (trust me, I should know); Will Sasso does a very tolerable job as Curly and not only looks, but sounds exactly like him the whole time; and Chris Diamantopoulos may not be as impressive here as Moe, but he still has plenty of moments where he gets to strut his comedic stuff as well. All three guys do great impersonations of The Stooges and even though I won’t go so far as to say that they evolve into these roles, they do nice jobs of not ruining their legacies either.

The supporting cast is kind of lame but I think that’s why The Stooges were basically front and center just about the whole time. Jane Lynch does absolutely nothing funny here as Mother Superior, and I don’t know if that was on purpose or that she just didn’t feel like being funny; Larry David started to get really annoying with his raspy/transgender-like voice as the appropriately named Sister Mary-Mengele; Jennifer Hudson is only here to stretch some of her vocal chords for one scene where she breaks out into song and that’s pretty much it; and Sofía Vergara is definitely a great sight to look at and also knows how to make herself look like a goof, but maybe it’s time I saw something new from her. Lame supporting cast but that’s basically why it’s called ‘The Three Stooges’ in the first place.

Consensus:  The Three Stooges is not as bad as I (along with plenty, plenty others) was expecting it to be, but it still features tired jokes and a supporting cast that isn’t very funny either. However, if you loved The Three Stooges, and grew up watching them, then this is the film for you because anything that you could ever want from a Three Stooges movie is here, with the extra hit to the head with Moe’s hammer. Even though I did used to watch them and love them, the film is a little stretched out a bit too far.

3/10=Garbage!!

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Have a genre? Don’t worry, Joss Whedon will eventually eff with it.

The story centers around a group of five friends going on a quiet cabin retreat, only to scratch the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom what might possibly be going on just as time quickly runs out.

In the past couple of years, the horror genre has sort of gone down the tubes with just about every other film being a carb0n-copy of another one. It can all get pretty damn annoying but that is unless you have Joss Whedon signed on to write, then you got yourselves something totally different in all of the right ways.

This is the same old stupid teenager story where a bunch of dumb, horny teenagers go out into the woods and stay in a cabin, when crazy shit starts to go d0wn and they all get knocked off one by one. That’s the generic premise we are used to getting with these films, which is what you get here in a way, but then the twists and turns come out like crazy. I don’t want to give anything away but what I will say is that certain things pop-up in the middle of the flick that changes this the way you look at this film forever. You get curve ball after curve ball here and things you wouldn’t expect to happen in a movie like this, happen and it’s all thanks to the crazy mind of Joss Whedon. It’s definitely more of a “fun” horror movie then anything else and you’ll probably be spending most of the time watching this flick, just wondering what’s going to happen next to these characters and this story itself. Basically, this plot goes anywhere and everywhere it wants to at it’s own pace and that is no problemo with me. I know all of this sounds very vague, but trust me it’s for your own safety.

What I liked most about this horror flick was not just how it’s got constant twists to it but it was also that I had a hell of a time with the whole film in general. The movie makes a lot of jokes towards itself, other horror movies, and the same old plot conventions we usually see but it’s not winking at the camera constantly, it’s actually a bit more wittier than the first 10 minutes may have you think. Essentially, it’s a horror movie that is about horror movies but doesn’t feel tired in the least bit like we have seen other spoofs start to become after the first 20 minutes. The jokes work and they actually had me laughing, which I haven’t gotten with a spoof-horror movie since ‘Scary Movie’ and maybe that’s even pushing it. I also have to say that as funny as this film may actually be, I still find plenty of other times where I really got scared by certain stuff, especially by the end. Once again giving too much away, the last act basically lets loose on everything that’s scary in the world and throws it right at your face to see which may start to surprise you by how freaky it may actually look. Now I mean I wasn’t petrified but there was definitely some moments that had me shaking up a bit in my boots in a more disturbed way really.

Maybe my biggest complaint with this whole film was how the film started to turn into this big-ass CGI bonanza that wouldn’t have been so bad if it were that the special effects were good, but instead they looked a little cheesy. This may sound like a small complaint but the film heavily relies on its CGI and special effects to get some of the creepiest and scariest stuff out there on-screen and it seems more like a B-movie than anything else. I don’t know where the budget for this one went, but it definitely was not it’s special effects.

The young cast here is all pretty good and features a couple of faces that may get very big after this, if aren’t all ready as it is. Chris Hemsworth has some likability to him as the school jock but is a lot cooler as Thor; Kristen Connolly is a nice, little cutie-eyed chick that obviously seems like she could be a lot better if here role weren’t written in such a jokey way; and Fran Kranz ends up stealing the whole show here as the stoner buddy that always has something smart and witty to say but in an annoying way either. The young cast is good, but aside from Kanz, aren’t really anything special. The other two juiciest roles here are given here to great character actors Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as….well…you’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: The Cabin in the Woods is definitely one of the funnest horror movies to come out in some time with it’s twisty and unpredictable writing, tongue-in-cheek humor that works, and a whole fun feel to it that will definitely not disappoint anyone whether or not you like horror movies.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

21 Grams (2003)

I don’t know what these people are selling, but I sure as hell don’t want 21 grams of it. Teeehee

’21 Grams’ interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Sean Penn plays a critically ill academic mathematician, Naomi Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and Benicio del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a director I’m sort of mixed with even though I have already seen three of his four films already, including this one. Still, seems like a good enough director but at the same time, very much into making everything look absolutely filthy.

When it comes to the technical sides of things, Iñárritu knows what to do. The film looks very dirty, grainy, and makes it almost seem as if everybody in the film needs a bath but it works and gives this film a sort of ugly feeling where nothing good will come and happen to these characters. The film also has some very razor-sharp editing that cuts away at some very good moments but mind you, this is not a very fast-paced film by any means, it is a long slow-burner that keeps you watching even when you think your out.

When it comes to the emotional side of things though, Iñárritu also seems like he knows what he’s doing. The film is very dark, sad, and very depressing but there is still a lot we can feel for these characters because each of them all had or still have something terrible eating at them from the inside. Iñárritu keeps all three of these characters’ motives tucked inside of them and it’s actually up to us what we think they will do next and whether or not they are actually good people. At times, it can be hard to feel anything for these types of characters but by the end, you really start to feel their pain and anguish, which is something that almost draws you closer to them.

The problem with all of this is, everything here is told in a non-linear way where it constantly jumps back-and-forth between past, present, and the future. This of course, has its negatives as well as its positives. The positives about this is that this way of approaching the story sort of gives it that feel of a jigsaw puzzle where one second we see two people happy, then the next second we see one of them getting shot, and it all feels confusing at first but after awhile you start to get used to it and connect all of the pieces anyway. I like these types of films that use this different kind of approach and it was pretty neat to see it used here but then again, it did have its negatives that were a little too big.

First of all, I think the whole idea of having this film’s narrative jump around from one scene to another was just because Iñárritu he wanted to spice up the premise that could have easily been a straightforward melodrama. If it was a film that just told its stories in the order that it happened, it would have still been easily as good as the final product here and I think that Iñárritu just did this because he knew that he needed to do something new and cool with this material to make it stand-out. Secondly, this point basically goes along with my first point in saying that it’s pretty pointless after all but then again, it did keep me a little bit more interested than I expected so I can’t talk total ish. However, my last problem was probably the biggest of all and took me away from the film as a whole.

I already stated that I could actually feel something for these characters because of all this bad stuff they had happen to them, but what really took me away from really getting inside of them and understanding how they felt was this narrative structure. The problem with this structure and this story was that the flick requires us to feel something for these characters by seeing all of these things that occur over a different time-and-place every 5 seconds, which doesn’t really allow them to build any real character arc because of the fact that one second they could be happy as hell, then the next second they could be crying like a little beotch, and then the next second they could be getting it in with their significant other. By the end of the first hour, the flick starts to get more linear but it can’t really do much for the fact that this flick jumped around a little bit too much and did damage not only to its characters, but also the audience watching it as well.

What took my mind away from this though was the amazing performances by everybody involved. Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, playing the quiet and sophisticated type that we don’t usually see him play, but he does a great job here and is amazing at showing vulnerability with any of his characters no matter who they may be. Benicio Del Toro is amazing as Jack Jordan, the one dude who has an inner fight with God. With any other actor, this conviction from this sort of character would have been too hoky and too annoying but Del Toro makes it seem believable and shows what it’s like for the other person who causes the pain to someone else. Del Toro lets it all out with this performance and even when he seems like he’s going to do something terribly wrong and evil, you start to think otherwise once you realize that his character is actually a good guy after all.

Probably the one performance that shines throughout this whole flick is Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck. This performance is nothing short of amazing because Watts is able to show us a character that is practically falling apart right in front of our eyes, and it seems real and believable. Watts is asked to do a lot with her character here such as go through all of these different emotions over the course of 2 hours and it shows her exceptional range and vulnerability as an actress. Watts really tears out her soul for this whole flick but you can’t help but to feel something for her considering her whole life is practically turned to shit and it’s just great to see an actress in top-form like never before.

Consensus: 21 Grams features powerful performances, a dirty and grainy look, and a story that conveys plenty of emotions but the structure is also a problem for this flick because it not only takes away from the character arch of these people but also just feels pointless and put in here for no other reason other than to spice things up.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Michael Clayton (2007)

It’s like the ‘Bourne’ trilogy, but with a lot more talking and yelling.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house “fixer” at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. At U/North, the career of litigator Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit that Clayton’s firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. But when Kenner Bach’s brilliant and guilt-ridden attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) sabotages the U/North case, Clayton faces the biggest challenge of his career and his life.

Writer/director Tony Gilroy is a dude mostly known for writing all of the ‘Bourne’ flicks and instead of going with the fast action, chases, and cool stunts, he actually aims for talking to take place. Which surprisingly works wonders.

The one thing that Gilroy does perfectly with this flick is give us a good premise that keeps on getting better and better as the all of the details start to show up, as well as more and more layers begin to peel. There’s a lot of info and details being thrown at us but it’s not too much to the point of where we don’t know what’s happening. Gilroy actually allows us to take in all of what we know about this story/case/mystery and he continues to reward us as each and every plot twist comes out. The script is very good and even as much as talking as there is in this flick, it’s not boring by any means so for anyone going in expecting a Jason Bourne-like flick, won’t be terribly disappointed. Gilroy knows how to create tension just by having people revealing things and the tension just keeps on going and going and going, until eventually the credits pop-up and he releases you.

The film also does another great job with its script by being very subtle about everything. Right at the beginning of the flick we are just sort of popped right into the middle of this story and we don’t really know why or how these different stories and characters connect in anyway, but through the conversations we start to understand but it’s not as obvious. There’s also never a moment in this flick that seemed too melodramatic or corny for my sake because Gilroy makes it all feel real with these people explaining themselves through not only words, but actions as well. Yes, I know these people aren’t real but the film still made it seem so with everything that they do here.

My problem with this flick is that even the realism can be a down-side of the film as well, especially when it starts to dive into darker territory. One of the things I couldn’t believe in this flick was that it seems a little hard for a company to actually be able to tap somebody’s phone without anyone ever knowing, but it’s almost even harder to believe the fact that they could get away with murder successfully for such a long period of time. I will not say or state what actually happens in this flick that made me think this but it was a little too hard to believe at first and it’s kind of a shame that the flick revolves around it a lot.

Like most thrillers though, the flick also pays more attention to its plot and what its characters are doing, rather than what they feel and this was also what set me back a bit. I wasn’t looking for any real emotional connection with these characters to the point of where I could call them an inspiration but the film, except for the titled hero, never really allows us in the minds of the other characters. Since there is a lot of subtlety, we rarely get a full understanding of what these characters are feeling and even though it didn’t take me out of the film completley, it still set me back once I realized that there was a bit of emptiness to its emotional impact.

I think one of the main reasons to see this flick is mainly for the performances from everybody involved, especially George Clooney as Michael Clayton. Clayton is an ambiguous hero-like character that seems like one of those messed up and strained dudes that just want a break from all of the havoc that they have had in their lives, which is what actually allows us to watch him and cheer him on for the whole 2 hours of this flick. Clooney is great with this role here because he combines some great elements of self-loathing as well as being exhausted with determination and that look and attitude that he’s always one step ahead of the person he’s against. It’s nothing terribly new for Clooney, as usual, but it’s always great to see him in top-form no matter what it may be and he definitely makes it a whole lot easier to actually feel something for this guy Michael Clayton.

Clayton’s opponent is named Karen Crowder, who is played very well by Tilda Swinton as well. I’ve already stated that I haven’t been the biggest fan of her but she’s pretty good here in a villain role that isn’t the type of villainous role you would expect. She’s self-conscious, scared, and one of those hard-workers that do terribly bad things in order to cover their own asses. Swinton isn’t exactly the ideal villain for a flick like this where you would expect her going around shooting people left-and-right, but she’s very good at playing a role that asks a lot more strength and emotion from her and it worked not just for me, but also for the Academy as well because she ended up winning the film’s only Oscar.

Tom Wilkinson is also another great performance in this flick as he is basically hooting, hollering, and running all-over-the-place throughout the whole flick but he’s still very good and adds a lot more to the character he’s playing as well as the story. We rarely get to see Wilkinson in such a role that allows him to just be a loose cannon and it was pretty cool to see him actually pull that off and seem very believable rather than just seeming like he’s over-acting. Sydney Pollack is also great in this role as Clayton’s senior partner, Marty Bach, and he’s always good in everything he does so no change there either.

Consensus: Although it hits some problems with its emotional impact, Michael Clayton still features amazing performances from the whole cast, an tense direction from Tony Gilroy, and a story that gets better and better as it goes along and more mysteries are revealed.

8/10=Matinee!!

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