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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: May 2012

You Can Count On Me (2000)

You can always depend on your doped up brother to bring some shock to your life.

The return of wild brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo), is an unwelcome surprise to Sammy (Laura Linney), a young mother who is starting to cheat on her fiancé, Bob (Jon Tenney), with her boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick).

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan is a dude I hear so much about considering he has only done two films in the last decade. Still though, I’m surprised that he isn’t a bigger name, especially after doing something like this.

What I like about his script is how it is a very honest script that shows what real relations between family is like. Every human emotion here doesn’t feel contrived or like they just rehearsed it, everybody reacts to each other the way that they normally would in real-life and it’s that kind of human honesty is what made me react to this flick the most. These are sad people, with sad lives, but they are all trying to get through it with one another and even if it may not work out to the best of their imaginations, they still somehow find ways to make good with what they have. This is a script that has some very smart moments with its drama and its emotions but its also very funny at certain points that you wouldn’t expect right away.

I also liked how Lonergan didn’t try to make us feel more for these characters than we already did by throwing us a bunch of sappy and cheesy moments that all emotional films like this try to snake us into. Since the film also shows the relationship between a long lost bro-bro and sis-sis, you would expect that there would be plenty of key scenes about their past and what happened so that the viewer would know more, however, the film doesn’t show this at all with the exception of the beginning, and it works. It’s quite impressive when films like this can do that because it lets us think about what happened through how they are now and it doesn’t try to spell anything out for us.

Lonergan is very good and skilled as a writer, no doubt about that but as a director, it seems like he may need a little working with. There is a lot of shots in this flick that shows these characters either just sitting, sleeping, watching TV, driving, or just randomly doing something that doesn’t pertain to the story and is just there because Lonergan wants to show us how unhappy these characters really can be. Some of these scenes seem very random and un-needed and one in particular with Broderick’s wife, seemed to go on a little too long for my liking. May sound like a weird complaint but there a couple of random scenes like this that didn’t really need to be here in the first place.  As good as the script may be too, everything still plays out the same way you would expect a drama like this to. It’s not as terribly disappointing as I may make it sound but it was still something I noticed right off the bat.

Laura Linney isn’t an actress that I usually like, because I thinks she plays the same character in almost any flick that she does but she’s very good here as Sammy. Sammy is one of those confused but very strong-willed women that just wants to do the right thing no matter what, but always seems to be dragged down by all of these mean people around her. Linney plays this character well because she shows what it’s like to be a woman who’s been through so much and just can’t seem to get a grasp on things but it’s not a one-note performance. Linney takes this character and give her a charming likability that is easy to relate to and understand right off the bat and I’m glad that she was nominated for an Oscar here.

Mark Ruffalo was also amazing in his role as her brother, Terry. Terry is one of those characters who has a lot of obvious problems but always tries to do the right thing no matter what. Problem is, he’s taken down by other people, just like his own sister. Ruffalo plays this role perfectly with just enough anger and heart to give us a full-rounded character that may be a little rough around the edges, but still is a good person no matter what he may mess up with. The scenes with him and Linney are all great and they feel like the an actual brother and sister that haven’t seen each other in so very long. Matthew Broderick is also good as Brian, Sammy’s boss, and he actually has a couple of funny scenes that work here even though his character may be a tad strange. Still, good performances all around here.

Consensus: Though some moments may not work, You Can Count on Me works mainly because of the great script from Lonergan that feels honest, insightful, and emotionally here, as well as the great performances from the whole cast.

7.5/10=Rental!!

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Mirror Mirror (2012)

Who’s the fairest of the two Snow White movies that nobody asked for?

An evil queen (Julia Roberts) steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess (Lily Collins) enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.

So here we go with the first of TWO Snow White films for the year of 2012 and I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I hope Kristen Stewart can do a better job as Snow White.

One of the strangest things about this film is that it’s directed by visual artist Tarsem Singh, who has done flicks like The Cell and Immortals. Those films, much like this one, are all about the visuals rather than the actual story itself but it’s not always a bad thing either. Singh brings a very colorful flair to it all with vibrant set pieces and costumes that makes you feel as if you are watching a children’s book being brought to life. Visually, this film is a treat even though it does feel like I’ve seen this done before but it’s still Singh and he can’t really do much wrong when it comes to making things look pretty though.

The one department that he is obviously trying really hard to work on is his writing, and I think this is a clear example as to why. The story isn’t really a loose re-telling of the usual Snow White tale we all know and love but it still offers a lot of cheeky/campy jokes to give the audience plenty of winks. The film does have its witty moments where it made me chuckle at times and I can definitely say that it’s a step-up for Singh considering all of his other movies consist of little or no happy emotions.

Problem that I with this comedy is that it tries way too hard to go for this campy feel that it just ends up being annoying. All of the anachronistic jokes placed within a fairy tale story is a device that has pretty much beaten to death for the past decade ever since Shrek came out. Don’t get me wrong, I love Shrek but there is only so much winking you can do towards the audience when you’re telling a story like this until it seems like you have nothing else to really rely on. There was also something off about plenty of this comedy as well because I don’t really think that Singh understand comedic timing let alone put it in a film where it’s story depends on it to be different. A lot of the jokes just felt strange and whenever they missed the mark, they really missed it and it was pretty noticeable. There was also a very strange George of the Jungle joke that I don’t know if I was the only one to catch but it was just another case and reason as to why this film was trying too hard.

I think the rest of this problem also has to do with the cast and that some had good comedic timing, while others just couldn’t seem to get it right at all. Julia Roberts was the prime example here as the Queen. Roberts is obviously taking a lot of joy in a role where she gets to play an evil and powerful bitch but a lot of the jokes that she makes, either falls flat or come off as if it was some high-class chick who doesn’t really do comedy but is trying her hardest at it for once in her career. Roberts also wasn’t as evil as the Queen and I couldn’t help myself think that she was more likable than she was unlikable, but I guess that just goes to show you the kind of charm Julia Roberts has.

Even though she wasn’t given much comedy to work with here, Lily Collins also comes off pretty flat too. Collins obviously hasn’t had much experience so I guess I should take it a little bit easy on her but she’s so damn bland, so damn boring, and so damn generic here as Snow White that it almost feels like this role could have been played by anybody else in the wholest widest world and it wouldn’t have even matter, which is something I shouldn’t feel with such a character like Snow White. She should be likable, cute, witty, smart, and full of charisma, which are all things that Collins does not have except for huge eye brows. I’m sorry to point it out but I honestly could not believe that those things were real!

The cast that did get the comedy right actually were the best parts of this flick in the end. Armie Hammer went all out for his role here as Prince Alcott and it shows because this guy really did have me laughing. I like how Hammer was able to mess around and poke some fun jokes at his All-American boy look he has sported on so well and it brings out plenty of laughs considering you don’t see an actor that is so young and good-looking as him going to the same depths just for a laugh. Hopefully Hammer continues with his comedic side but also not forget about his dramatic side either because it’s very obvious that he can handle both pretty well. Nathan Lane is also great with his comedy here as Brighton, but then again, when isn’t this guy funny?!? Lane is such a professional that it didn’t seem hard for him at all to bring out a laugh here and I just wish that he chose a better movie to be apart of. This is also one of the rare movies where they actually give dwarves something to do that isn’t just being on the end of every “short” joke known to man. Hopefully this gives Hollywood the idea that maybe they should start giving dwarves better in roles because you never know if they could be any better than any other regular sized, A-list name. You never know!

Consensus: Filled with some campy laughs and nice-looking set pieces, Mirror Mirror will obviously entertain most kids and adults who go out to see this, but it also tries way too hard for its comedy and results in a very strange and bland attempt at trying to wink at the audience while telling a legendary story at the same time.

4/10=Garbage!!

Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

Why isn’t there blood spewing out of these people?!? Better yet, why isn’t there that many people getting hacked off?!?

After having killed the first two on her death list, The Bride (Uma Thurman) continues in her journey of vengeance to hunt down and kill the remaining victims, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), Budd (Michael Madsen) and ultimately, Bill (David Carradine).

Basically in a nut-shell, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 kicked ass and I was so hyped up to see this one after that. However, if you go into this one expecting that one all over again, check again bitches. Hell, I wish I actually checked again.

Without a doubt, you have to see the first one before seeing this because it will make you understand the story so much better and even the little things that popped up in the first one, will still somehow find their way back into this one so just be ready for that. What sets this film apart from the first flick though is that it’s not an insane, fast-paced action flick with people getting chopped up by samurai swords everywhere. Instead, this is a lot more of a character/plot-driven flick that depends a lot on Quentin Tarantino’s writing to create a mood and a certain amount of suspense. This guy is perfect for that and he does a great job with that here because the scenes of dialogue may go on longer than you may expect at first, they still feel relevant to the story and it’s just so damn hard to be bored of a Tarantino flick, especially when somebody in one of his films are talking.

Another element that separates this flick from the first is that there isn’t many homages to a lot of what Tarantino loves as much as there was in the last one. I liked how he was able to incorporate everything he knew, saw, and loved about movies and could put them all up into one flick but barely any of that is here, which sort of relies on him to use his also perfect directing skills. Tarantino doesn’t disappoint and there are of course some funny little nods to the kung-fu movies and spaghetti westerns but I was kind of disappointed by the lack of homages and tributes from Tarantino’s fan boy self.

The main complaint that I had mostly with this flick was that I honestly was just totally bummed by how much action there wasn’t, which may sound dumb but they honestly feel like two different movies, which I know they are, but I was just let down totally. I was expecting crazy action left-and-right like the first but what I got was just a bunch of slow and tense conversations which did work but I honestly couldn’t go from one to the other in such a different style. It may sound like a bit of a dumb complaint but I just was expecting something a hell of a lot more insane, which I think is to expected coming from Tarantino.

Don’t get me wrong though peeps, there is action here and when it does go down, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. There’s also plenty of times where Tarantino plays with our natural fears such as being buried alive, being bitten by a snake, getting our eyeballs taken out, getting shot with a dart, and plenty of other crazy and effed up shit that will make you squirm but also feel cool about because Tarantino does it in such a creative way that it’s hard not to feel a little smile on your face about. That damn Tarantino always gets me right when I think I’m lost.

The acting is definitely a lot better this time around since we get to see these characters a lot more than we did in the first. Uma Thurman is great once again as “The Bride”, but this time she gets to show a lot more to her character rather than just slashing Japanese effers up. There’s a lot of emotions she has to show here such as anger, terror, happiness, sadness, and enterprisingly even love. Thurman does a perfect job with this role here where she actually feels like a real human with emotions even though she could kick my ass in any second.

As for the other two villains in this flick, they are pretty fine too. Michael Madsen plays Budd, Bill’s washed up brother, and brings that charming evilness to his character that he always seems to do so well and his scenes are all pretty good. Daryl Hannah is pretty bizarre again as Elle Driver, and gets to use a lot of her key bitchiness to her aide this time because her character is just a chick that you want dead right away but she always seems to be one step ahead.

Oh shit, I almost forgot to mention the man villain of them all, Bill himself. David Carradine is great as Bill because he is everything that a great villain needs: he’s charming, funny, likable, creepy, and always scary with every scene he has. There’s just this certain atmosphere Carradine brings out every time he is on-screen like I felt like this guy would just snap crazy in one second and wouldn’t give a single shit who he killed. It also helps that he has some of the best lines in this flick as well and the one that always sit in my mind at the end is the one he makes about Superman. I won’t spoil it here but it’s pretty smart and may actually think a little bit, which is definitely a total surprise considering it’s a Tarantino flick where it doesn’t matter what themes or morals he may be throwing out there, it’s still a flick about bad people doing bad things. Get used to it peeps.

Consensus: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is not exactly like the first installment but that’s not all of a bad thing: there’s plenty of action, well-written scenes of tension done by the master himself, and it’s definitely a great way to close off this two-parter even though I don’t think Quentin is all that done here.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Titan A.E. (2000)

A video-game come to life on screen, but in a good way this time.

Set in the year 3028, many years after the planet Earth has been blown to bits by an alien race named the Drej, a young boy named Cale (Matt Damon) is discovered to hold the secret map of the Titan machine inside of his hand. The machine holds the power to unleash another planet for the few surviving humans still roaming around in space, and the opportunity to re-ignite their evolution.

This may seem like a totally random flick to review but for some odd reason I caught this on my Netflix queue and I haven’t seen it ever since it first came out so I thought it would definitely be a great way to get some nostalgia. Being a kid ruled.

One of the best things about watching movies is how they can sometimes take you out of the world that you’re living in at the present and transport you into this different world with all of its inhabitants and beauty. This is one of the main things I liked about this movie because it takes you out into the galaxy above and around us and shows its beauty and sometimes its darkness. The visuals in some cases may be dated, but they still look glorious because they show these little animated sketches but give it this 3-D look that almost makes it seem like a live-action flick. The film does a great job of combining both styles of animation here which works and takes you to this vision of space that I haven’t seen done before. There are so many great sights to see that it’s hard to just put my finger on one and I almost wish it was in 3-D and released again in 2012 because I think it would actually look even better and maybe get a better box office return.

To add on with the visuals too, the action is very fun and there is some sort of great energy that co-directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman both contain that makes this flick so much fun. There is just enough story here to make sense but when the shoot-em-up action scenes pop-up, they bring a lot to the film and make it feel like a lot of fun as if you’re watching ‘Star Wars’ in cartoon version. Let me also not forget to mention that there are some pretty cool rock songs courtesy of Jamiroquai, Lit, and even Fun Lovin’ Criminals. I don’t understand why more animated flicks let alone more movies in general just don’t use a pretty up-beat rock soundtrack to add to their action because it can honestly do wonders like it did here.

However, on the writing front, there is a lot of problems to be had here. First of all, as understanding as the story is in the first place it still doesn’t mean that it’s original by any means. There’s so much here that seems borrowed from plenty of other sci-fi flicks/stories that it can be very annoying at points. I mean there’s no big surprises at the end of the flick, but I was at least asking for some originality for me to get to that point. I also can’t forget to mention that this flick seems very adultish for an animated flick. Sometimes there will be a random sex joke that may seem more subtle than you expect but it’s still random, and there is plenty of other moments where it seemed like this flick really stepped over the whole PG rating, especially when it’s trying to connect with a kids audience but maybe that’s why it didn’t do so well at the box office in the first place anyway.

The characters here are also very bland and they aren’t very interesting, except for maybe one character, who wasn’t even human. Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, and Drew Barrymore, among others, all do their best with their voice jobs it’s just that their characters are so bland that it’s almost way too hard to root for them to save mankind. They all seemed to be written very dry or lifeless and they didn’t stretch my imagination as much as the cool visuals did either. However, the one character that I seemed to like the most was the Caterpillar-looking type named Gune, voiced by John Leguizamo. I don’t know what it is, but it always seems like Leguizamo is able to make any character he is playing, likable beyond belief.

Consensus: The visuals are very pretty to look at and there is a lot of fun to be had here with the energy in the action, but Titan A.E. still suffers from unoriginal writing, characters, and plot devices that seem to be used from so many other sci-fi stories. Still, what stands out from all of those other ones is its great visuals which make it a lot better than it has any right to be in the first place.

6/10=Rental!!

Men in Black III (2012)

Look out aliens, they’re getting older.

Agent K (Will Smith) travels back through time to the 1960s to save Agent J (Tommy Lee Jones). However, the big mishap here is that he’s about 30 years younger (Josh Brolin) and they both have to fight off super-alien, Boris the Animal, from destroying the world.

Now, I know I sure as hell wasn’t asking for this and I’m pretty sure (hoping) that nobody else really was either; but there is still something positive to be said about this franchise. The first one was very fun and probably stayed in every kids memories forever; and then the second one came around suck all of the fun from the first one! Still, there’s a smidge of fun here taht brought me back to the good old days of sitting down and poppin’ in the old MIB into the VHS, with a couple of my really cool buds. Oh, the old times.

What really had me scared in the beginning was how out-dated this flick seemed. It’s been awhile since the first and second film came out, so when you have Smith up on-screen using lines like “pimpslap the biznitch” or “fo’ real dawg”, it gives off barely any comedy and seems like everybody involved is trying to go back to their 90’s flavor. It’s not sitting well with the viewers, though. Actually, movies, Summer blockbusters, and comedy in general has sort of changed since ’97 and you don’t have to look past the first 20 minutes to notice. I didn’t find myself laughing once and felt boderline disappointing because they tried so damn hard to make me. Everything that Smith did back in the 90’s that seemed hip, cool, and funny —  comes off flat. Sure, there’s something nice about a comedy that isn’t all about being raunchy goes with a clean approach, but it just isn’t funny enough here and that’s what pushed my buttons at first.

Thankfully once Smith finds himself in 1969, things start to pick up smoothly. Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a nice job with this material because he was able to balance out all of the elements of comedy, action, sci-fi, and even a bit of drama; and somehow he made it all work. I started chuckling a lot more once they got into the 60’s lunged at the time-period by bringing up iconic figures like Andy Warhol, played hilariously by Bill Hader, and a couple of little references to outdated music and fads that were big around then. Yeah, the time-travel idea may have not been very inspiring, but it still worked, alright? Thanks mainly, of course, to Sonnenfeld, who is able to make it work, without just seeming like a one-trick pony where every other joke is a hit at the decade. When you got MIB gadgets in the 60’s, you got a quick laugh.

However, a lot of the fun comes from the action and sci-fi elements. The 3D for this movie is actually pretty good and the special effects look even better, thanks to the wonderful work by Rick Baker who always seems to be on his A-game no matter what the movie is. Of course, the aliens look great and the gadgets are cooler than ever but there’s also a lot of action here that really keeps the movie going, without ever really stopping itself to slow down and focus on its characters.

You know what? I did sort of like when they started to slow the film down and focus on the characters, because it worked better than expected. The film really focuses on how Jones’ character has changed over the years from this smiling happy dude that is liked by many, to this totally stern and miserable-looking guy that nobody wants to be around. This was a cool idea and used well — whenever the film brought it into the picture a bit, however, it immediate starts to shy away from it and then this final twist comes in at the end to give us a connection to these characters more and it comes off as totally shoehorned in. I don’t want to give anything away but what shocked me at first, really made no sense and seemed like a really manipulative way of getting us to care for these two characters that we already love and root for as it is.

Will Smith returns to the screen after a 4-year absence and plays the role of Agent J with all of the charisma and enthusiasm he has in his pocket, almost as if he wasn’t gone from the screen for 4 minutes. As I said before, a lot of Smith’s comedy at first, comes off as dated but he starts to get the hang of it and shows why he is one of the most lovable personalities on the big-screen and I hope he comes back to stay and not leave us after doing some dumb shit like Seven Pounds. Tommy Lee Jones is not really here all that much as Agent J, because a lot of that time is given to the awesome Josh Brolin, who plays a younger version of him. Brolin hits the deadpan delivery that Jones has perfectly and he adds a lot of charm to a performance that could have easily just been one-note. He said “slick” a little too much for my liking, but I still have to give a lot of love to Brolin for bringing an impersonation of a very notable actor, and giving it his own, little swing.

Jemaine Clement is sort of one-dimensional as the villain, Boris the Animal, and I think it’s a disappointment because I think Clement could have really handled this material like a champ. Instead, they give him non-intimidating villainous lines, a running gag about his name that wasn’t funny the first 100 times they did it, and a Randy “Macho Man” Savage look that made me feel like he was going against the wrong guys in a battle like this. He should have been facing Hulkamania, brothers!!

Consensus: Men in Black III may not be a threequel we needed to see nor does it bring anything new to this almost-forgotten franchise, but it does bring a lot of kid-oriented fun to it, with charming performances from the cast, a breezy pace, and a nice mixture of comedy and action that will remind you as to why this franchise worked so well in the first place.

7/10=Rental!!

Escape from New York (1981)

That poster has nothing to do with this flick but it’s still pretty damn cool.

It’s 1997 and crime rates have been soaring up so high that New York City has been blockaded off for a place where all criminals run around and do their own thing. However though, the U.S. president (Donald Pleasence) is soon captured by these criminals and soon has to be rescued by condemned criminal and former war hero, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell).

The 80’s may have been a rather lame decade but for legendary director John Carpenter, it was probably the best 10 years of his life that he will ever have and it all started because of this one. I don’t know why though either considering there isn’t anything really special to be seen here.

What bothered me with this film right from the start was how the flick started off so slowly and just seemed to just slide right by with barely any action or anything else that would have held my attention. There’s definitely a certain type of atmosphere here to really get you worried but the film never really plays up on that and is more concerned with building up the plot, which in some cases is a good idea but for this one, it doesn’t work and just comes off more as being a bore fest.

You can also definitely tell that Carpenter really didn’t hit his niche with this flick either. The vision is cool but it definitely isn’t pretty looking and it actually looks a lot more unprofessional and cheesy rather than eye-opening. Since I knew there was going to be a lot of New York looking like total ish the whole flick, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how much Carpenter just littered it up here but then again, he could have made it look a lot better rather than just making it look a bit too much like an indie flick. Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s obvious that Carpenter was on the top of his game with this one but a year later, he ended up making The Thing, so I guess he can be forgiven for that.

However, once that first hour went by everything started to get better and better. There isn’t much dialogue but even when these characters do speak, they seem pretty mean, nasty, and tense which adds a lot to the whole vision and feel of this flick. Speaking of the vision, the central premise of how New York is now all of a sudden a huge play-ground for all of these angry and evil criminals to just do whatever the hell they feel like is really cool and used well enough here to give you a cool feeling that this place is basically shit and everybody in it deserves to die, with the exception of some nice peeps. The action is also pretty good but then again, there wasn’t enough of it except for a one-on-one fight between Snake and this big ass bearded dude that ends in a very cool way which definitely is one of the high-lights here.

The main reason why this film is probably as iconic as it is today is because of its central character himself, Snake Plissken, played by the always amazing Kurt Russell. Russell and Carpenter had great collaborations together and this was definitely one of them because Russell is able to create this bad-ass, cool, and utterly terrifying dudes that seemed like he didn’t give any shit whether or not you were ready to fight, he will just kick your ass no matter what. Plissken barely talks in this flick but even when he does, he always seems to talking through his clenched teeth but he’s not about his words and more about his actions. This guy is definitely one you want on your side in a bar fight and also a character that shows that Russell was and still is able to create characters like this where you don’t want to mess with them, even if you do think they need a nice ass-whoopin’.

As for the rest of the cast, they are all pretty good with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, and Donald Pleasence all showing up, but perhaps the most memorable from this whole flick is Issac Hayes as the #1 and only master of this little criminal playground, The Duke of New York. Hayes is cool no matter what flick he does and here is no exception even though I would have definitely liked to see a little bit more of him being an evil mofo, but then again I think we get enough.

Consensus: Escape from New York has a cool vision, great central performance from Kurt Russell playing the bad-ass character, Snake Plissken, and has some amount of B-movie fun to it, however, the first hour goes down with a whimper and you can definitely tell that this isn’t Carpenter’s best direction but he made up for it a year later so it’s not that bad.

7/10=Rental!!

Confidence (2003)

Audiences that go to see a movie always loved getting lied to, especially if it’s from the movie itself.

Jake Vig (Edward Burns) is a sharp and polished grifter who has swindled thousands of dollars from the unsuspecting Lionel Dolby (Leland Orser) with the help of his corrupt crew. However, Lionel wasn’t just any mark, he was an accountant for eccentric crime boss Winston King (Dustin Hoffman). Never one to shy away from a challenge, Jake offers to repay The King by pulling off the biggest con of his career.

Con movies are just so much fun to watch no matter who or what is involved and this flick is no different. However, something also tells me that it should have been a little bit more different.

Director James Foley doesn’t try to do anything new, cool, or improved with the whole con man/heist genre but he does know how to still jazz it up a bit. Although the film deals with a lot of dark subjects such as death, scamming, and robbing, the film still maintains a great deal of humor that keeps it moving with a pace that not only tells the story but also gives you something to laugh at. It’s a heist film that doesn’t really try to take itself too seriously and even though it may get a little carried away with trying too hard to be humorous, in the end, I still found myself laughing and enjoying myself.

What usually makes and breaks these heist flicks is if the actual heist at hand can be taken seriously and could actually happen in real-life with just the right amount of detail the flick is giving it. In this film’s case, it works and it’s very entertaining to see how much detail this film goes into with its actual heist. Some people may not be able to believe that everything here could have happened as neatly as it does here, but the film makes a comment about that and says that if everybody is on the right page and has the right lines, then everything will basically go according to plan. With this flick, that statement is very true and not only was the heist very well-planned but it was also neat to see all that had to go into this one as well.

My problem with this flick is that it isn’t exactly the most original one out there and I think that the lack of surprises was what took me out of this flick. Here and there, the film would give me a little surprise/twist that would catch me off guard, but too many other times I knew exactly what was going to happen, why it was going to happen, and just exactly what the aftermath was going to be. I mean it’s kind of hard to pull out something incredibly original when you got heist flicks like The Sting, The Italian Job, and even The Grifters just showing you all types of originality.

I also think that the reason there were barely any surprises whatsoever with this flick was the way that it was structured. The film begins with Jake being held by gun-point by Morris Chestnut (of all intimating black dudes out there) and he is basically telling us how and why he is in the mess that he’s in. That was fine considering it gives us a bit of mystery to why he is close to being killed but then we see Weisz’ character, who obviously has something to do with the reason he’s being held-up and it sort of just makes it pretty obvious that nothing is going to end up going right for this heist no matter what these guys try to do and that things are basically going to go down as planned. Then again, sometimes it’s not so bad knowing exactly what’s going to happen because it can be fun, but sometimes you can’t just spell out everything that’s to come within the first 5 minutes.

The cast is actually what raises this film higher and made it a lot more fun to watch. Edward Burns is great as the smart, charming, and just straight-up cool con artist here as Jake Vig, and it’s a real wonder as to why the hell this guy hasn’t gotten bigger roles considering he’s actually very good at holding a film down on his own; Rachel Weisz is pretty good here as his main squeeze, Lily, and she gets to show some comedic chops as well; Andy Garcia is pretty strange and goofy as the detective who’s tracking down Vig, named Gunther Butan, and he’s good as well; and Dustin Hoffman is very good as this creepy and snarky kingpin known as The King, and it was really cool to see Hoffman in a role that was not only funny but also very sinister and evil as if this guy could just go crazy one second and blow your head off right away. There’s a whole bunch of other people in this cast that are great too and they all elevate this film from just being another heist flick.

Consensus: Confidence may not be the most original and surprising heist flick out there, but the cast is charming, the direction from James Foley is fun and fast-paced, and the whole heist itself has just enough attention to detail and believability that it makes this film a hell of a lot better than it had any right to be.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Men in Black (1997)

These guys were facing off against aliens, before that was even cool.

Working for a highly-funded yet unofficial government agency, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are the Men In Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on Earth. While investigating a series of unregistered close encounters, the MIB agents uncover the deadly plot of an intergalactic terrorist who is on a mission to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies currently in residence in New York city.

So with Men in Black III coming out soon, I thought it would be a nice idea to go back and check out the first one that not only did I love as a kid, but so did every other kid around me. Sad to see how things change as you grow older, and then become a d-bag movie critic.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a pretty good job with this material, which is based on a comic book series that’s full of darkness and violence, by making it somewhat light and fluffy with humor and slime instead. There was plenty of jokes to go around in this flick and I liked that because it showed that the film didn’t really take itself too seriously, which was never more serious than it needed to be at all in the first place. I mean you have two guys dressed in ALL black, going around looking for aliens: how much goofier can you get? Liked the tone of this film because it could have easily fallen apart by taking a serious look at the world of alien hunting. It’s actually more cool than it is goofy, but I think it’s all in a day’s work and that’s all that really mattered to me.

What really took me away was the fact that Rick Baker‘s art direction was something only he could do. Baker is a dude that’s known for doing all of the make-up and costume features on plenty of films ranging from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, The Nutty Professor, and the one he just recently won an Oscar for, The Wolfman. If you have watched any of those three, you will notice that this guy isn’t messing around when it comes to making some crazy make-up look real and this is probably one of his best examples. Whether it’s the giant bug Edgar, or the little worm aliens with the Mexican accents, or even Jack Jeebs, Baker’s detail to make-up and costumes look funny, scary, and surprisingly, very believable. This was one of the main selling points of the flick when it first came out and it’s understandable as to why because they still hold up in today’s day and age of constant IMAX 3D flicks filled with CGI out the wahzoo, coming out almost every weekend.

What I was a little bummed out by this film was that a lot of this just feels very generic, which is mainly due to the plot. The plot is so 1-2-3 that you can usually tell everything that’s going to happen within the first 5 minutes and even though it’s not as bad here as it is with plenty of other flicks of this nature, I still couldn’t get past that I wasn’t really going to see any surprises. Still, I think it’s Sonnenfield’s direction that kept my mind off of this problem for a short time anyway. Speaking of short time, the film is only 98 minutes long and it actually went by pretty quick, even though I do think they could have done a little bit more developing when it came to the characters and just what exactly their main objective was. I get that they were going after the one big, bad alien dude but I don’t know how he was going to tear down the galaxy. Hmmm, maybe it’s just a mystery I’ll never know about.

Where I think this film really worked well with was the two performances from Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K and Will Smith as Agent J. This is one of those polar-opposite, buddy-buddy combinations we see all of the time in these types of flicks but it’s so much fun to watch here because of the type of performers Jones and Smith both are. Jones’ sense of comedy (or lack thereof) is very dry and sometimes non-existent, while Smith is constantly up in everybody’s grill, making slang jokes at everybody he meets and is constantly just shoving his attitude in other peoples’ faces. They both make a good team together because they work well and you can tell that they both do have chemistry, even though the film doesn’t really focus on it all that much. But hey, at least they’re having fun.

Vincent D’Onofrio‘s performance as Edgar was pretty impressive when it came to his physical stature, like how he moved his body and neck in some crazy places, but he really just left me feeling uncomfortable every time he was on-screen. I don’t really think that was any problem with D’Onofrio at all, as it was more of the writing that made him look and feel like an uncomfortable, dirty slob that looks like he hasn’t bathed in years. It was also pretty bad to see Linda Fiorentino absolutely do nothing with the character she was given as Dr. Laurel Weaver. Yeah, I know that the female character in any action movie isn’t really supposed to be a big role by any means, but you could at least try and make it the least memorable instead of just making it seem like you obviously don’t want to be there with you dry deliver and “phoning it in” looks from start to finish. Never really been impressed by this chick and it’s really no surprise that she hasn’t done much in the past decade.

Consensus: Men in Black is what you would expect: funny, light, filled with cool-looking special effects and monsters from Rick Baker, and entertaining but is also very light on plot, which doesn’t really bring up many surprises as it goes along. However, it’s a flick that will always be in my childhood.

8/10=Matinee!!

Saved! (2004)

Now I thought Amanda Bynes was a pretty good looking Jesus freak, but damn was I ever so wrong!

Good girl Mary (Jena Malone) can’t believe it when she gets pregnant by her newly-gay boyfriend. She also can’t believe the actions of her popular, relentlessly devout best friend, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), who’s looking after her wheelchair-bound brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin), attempting to convert adamantly Jewish Cassandra (Eva Amurri), and trying to snag cute newcomer Patrick (Patrick Fugit), a hip skateboarding missionary.

You would think that a film about a born-again Christian getting knocked up would be comedy writing itself. But writer/director Brian Dannelly is more about getting in touch with the big issues with religion and the results are fairly successful. Hell actually, a lot better considering Mandy Moore is in one of the leading roles.

What I liked most about Dannelly’s script here is that he goes for some big punches by poking a lot of jokes at fundamentalism, faith, and the people that believe so fanatically in it but he does it in a way that doesn’t offend anyone really. It’s much like ‘Dogma’ in the way that its just showing religion/faith for what it is and even though it may poke a couple of jokes at how crazy and energized up these certain people can be that are behind it, he never really bashes them. The humor is very funny in a satirical way where we see how everybody in this high school is all about the big G.O.D., but at the same time, they aren’t necessarily being the best people that they think God wants them to be. Then again though, that’s the point of the flick.

We can’t always live up to God’s expectations as to whether or not we are doing the right thing in his eyes just about 24/7. It’s definitely a lot harder to ask that out of teenagers more than adults considering we have so much evil and bad things around us that seems so easy to just do what we think is fun or the right thing for us to do. Still though, we can still be happy and be loved by God even if we may mess up every once and awhile because honestly, who’s perfect in today’s world. Donald Trump? Barack Obama? Oprah Winfrey? Don’t worry I’m not a huge believer in faith but I can definitely say that certain people are a lot pushier with it than they have any right to be in the first place.

The film isn’t just a satire about faith and the people it, it’s also a sweet, little coming-of-age story that I thought had some nice touches here and there. Dannelly gives this film a little relaxed feel to it where everybody lives close to one another in this suburban town of Maryland, and they all have different things going on in their lives except for one thing, The Holy Spirit. I liked this because it was a good coming-of-age teen comedy that didn’t try to do anything new with itself but at the same time didn’t try to be another one of those lame-o high school flicks that get old by the 20-minute mark.

My problem that I had with this flick was that as funny and as biting as it sometimes was, the last act really disappoints. I like the fact that Dannelly didn’t try to bash any religion or the people behind it but at the same time, he makes enough jokes at them throughout the whole flick and then tries to say that he’s sorry by giving everybody a nice reconciliation. This seemed a little too neat for my liking considering how biting this film and its satire could be and it just seemed like Dannelly took the easy way out rather than just trying to go for anything edgy or different for that matter. The film’s last act is also filled with just about barely any humor whatsoever, but then again, I don’t really think they were trying to go with that either. It’s just a shame though that a film can be mocking a subject at one point and then by the end, just teeter out and try to ask for its forgiveness for making jokes in the first place.

As for this nice, young cast, they all do pretty good jobs as well. Jena Malone is a perfect fit for Mary because her face shows that she is both naive about what she should do with her future but also determined to do the right thing, which makes it so much easier to like her character right from the start; Mandy Moore is a blast to watch as Hilary Faye because she’s just one of those pretentious, goodie-goodie, rich, pretty, and self-centered chicks that you just want to see get knocked out and told who’s boss but she’s also very funny by how serious she is and it’s just a surprise as well that Moore gives a good performance considering she does do a lot of crap; Macaulay Culkin and Eva Amurri probably have the best scenes together in this flick and it’s a real surprise why none of their careers never really lift off after this; and Patrick Fugit is nice to watch as Patrick, a kid that knows all of the right things to say but just can’t get the girl that he wants. However, if it came down to a choice between Mandy Moore and Jena Malone, I’m sorry but I would have to say Moore. Actually, it’s not that hard of a decision in the first place.

Consensus: Saved! features a lot of funny satire that has a sweet coming-of-age story behind it that works, but by the end it starts to teeter back and ends a little too cleanly. Young cast that makes it definitely worth watching more though.

7/10=Rental!!

The Shape Of Things (2003)

Those artsy chicks will always eff with your life.

When shy, insecure English student Adam (Paul Rudd) begins a relationship with radical art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), she takes charge of his life and brings about extreme emotional — even physical — changes in him, stirring the suspicions of his closest friends.

Writer/director Neil LaBute is a dude that seems to have fallen off his rocker within the past couple of years making flicks like Death at a Funeral, The Wicker Man, and Lakeview Terrace. Personally, I don’t know what the hell has been up with him but I think it’s time to take a look at how he was before he started losing his mind.

It’s great how LaBute structures this flick as a romantic comedy and ends up making it something that’s almost like a horror flick. With many of LaBute’s flicks we get many themes and points about humans and the emotions they have in top discussion and with this one here, it’s no different. LaBute brings up points about how we view love as. Love is something that most people would do anything for and it is definitely something that changes people, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. Here, we see it in two different ways: with Adam losing weight and being a lot happier, but then we also see how he isn’t making his own decisions and basically gets bullied around into doing things he doesn’t really think he’s capable of doing. Love is definitely something that’s powerful but it’s also shown and discussed here in a way that may think twice about the person you love or that loves you. Love isn’t the only subject discussed here but it’s the only one I came out thinking about because of the reality-based truth that LaBute brings out about it. There’s a whole lot of darkness and meaness behind this though and I couldn’t help but think that LaBute knew exactly what he wanted to say, how he wanted to just let it all out through these characters, and when exactly he wanted it to happen in the film. It may not seem that hard to make your words count but there’s just so much timing that goes behind it all that makes LaBute’s writing oh so perfectly.

LaBute actually adapted this film his own play and instead of making it into one big theatrical presentation, he actually just makes it exactly what it was in the first place. The film is about an hour and a half with 11 scenes taken place in 11 locations and a cast that has only four speaking parts. Yes, this is definitely like a play but I didn’t feel like this film was claustrophobic or quiet at all and keeps just about every scene moving with dialogue that pulls you in right from the get-go and never fully lets go. There’s definitely a lot of talking going on here but it’s talking that feels like real people talk rather than just another piece of “cinema talk”.

I will say though that there are some parts of this flick that I didn’t really like even though the writing definitely kept me distracted. Every time the film would transition from one scene to another, LaBute would bring out this random punk rock song that made it seem like I was watching a TV sitcom or another one of those crappy American Pie straight-to-dvd flicks. I honestly think that he could have just went from scene to scene with just silence and it would have been fine but it sort of made me feel like I was watching a whole different flick because of the music and then that all changed once the ending came up.

Another problem I had with this flick and my only complaint about this great script was that I couldn’t find myself caring much for any of the characters here except for maybe Adam, but even then, he was a little too chumpish. What LaBute does with all of his films is that he gives us characters that are just plain and simply bad people, and when I mean bad I mean like unmoral, and let us watch them as shit happens to them and they do shit onto other people. This usually works because it’s so damn interesting to watch things play out but for some odd reason I couldn’t help but think that this flick was really hard to watch just because these people were either total dicks or just people that you can’t really sympathize with. I will say though that this is one of LaBute’s specialties with just about every single one of his flicks and that’s not really something that I can say that I wasn’t expecting from a film that was done by him.

The four speaking roles are also great and make this film a lot better to watch then expected. Paul Rudd is very likable and goofy in a more nerdy than we’re used to seeing him here as Adam, and the transformation he goes through is believable but also very sad. This guy starts out as a total schlub of a guy but then starts to build up some confidence and self-esteem in him as soon as Evelyn walks into his life and then we start to see him lose weight and become a better person. Rudd is great at playing these types of likable and awkward dude roles but there’s an under-lining sense of darkness here beneath the surface and I think he gives one of his best performances that I’ve seen from him.

Rachel Weisz is also perfectly cast as Evelyn because she’s just one tough bitch that’s hard to like and enjoy but at the same time, you can’t help but realize that her presence throughout this whole flick is always known. We feel her in the room when she is around; we feel her presence when she isn’t around; and the other characters are always talking about her whether they criticize what she thinks or what she’s doing to Adam. Basically this chick is always brought up in this flick and with good reason because she’s a character that is so damn hard to read and is also one of those characters that always blurts out the truth whether or not it’s the right time to do so.

Gretchen Mol is also great in this role as this sweet girl, Jenny. It was such a huge surprise to see Mol do very well in a role that’s emotionally demanding because half of the time that I usually see her, she just gives the most wooden performance of all and totally fits this role well. Fred Weller is also perfectly cast as Phillip, aka one of the biggest dickheads I have seen on the screen in a pretty long time. Yes, Evelyn is pretty unlikable here but Phillip is even worse and just about every time I just wanted somebody to slump the hell out of this dude considering how condescending and pretentious he is. Still though, Weller is great with this character and once again, LaBute picked another great star for this role.

Consensus: The Shape of Things is definitely one of those flicks that has a whole lot of talking but features some great commentary on the way the world works with love, life, art, and what one person would do in order to be with the one that they loved and also features a great cast that ticks away just about every scene. Let me also not forget that there is a HUGE twist at the end that is definitely memorable and will have you thinking for a long, long time afterwards.

8/10=Matinee!!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

Getting knocked up sucks but I guess the sex is fun, right?

This is a look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn’t always deliver what’s expected.

Once again, Hollywood has decided to give us a whole slew of stars and jam them into one rom-com. However, it’s not as bad as New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day and Gary Marshall isn’t direction so that’s good, right?

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much (pun), probably because I’m a dude and dudes don’t care about all of that pregnant ish except for if the baby is theirs or not. Hate to say it, but it’s true fellas. But I was pleasantly surprised by this flick and I think a lot of that has to do with director Kirk Jones‘ way of giving every story a purpose of their own. I’m glad that this flick focused more on one certain issue to connect all of these characters with, rather than just one day or some stupid holiday, but I’m also glad that the flick didn’t really fall into the pit-falls of absolute cheese that most of Marshall’s did. Each story has their own bits and pieces of humor, but they also have some heart to it that sometimes feels fake, and other times doesn’t. It’s definitely a mixed bag here but I think I’m just going to go off and talk about each of the stories individually, rather than focusing on all of them at the same time. Let’s see what I can do here.

1) The one story between Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford, was a story that was interesting at first, then continued to lose more and more steam as it went along. The whole idea of these two having a one-night stand and wondering whether or not they’re a good fit for the other, is a pretty interesting story in and of itself, but whenever the flick focuses on it, it starts to become a major downer and just took my mind off of it more and more. It’s the one story that doesn’t go the obvious route, but that wasn’t really a good thing considering how the film handled it. Crawford doesn’t seem like he’s better than this material, but Kendrick does and that’s what really sucks to see because this damn chick was nominated for an Oscar about 3 years ago! Come on Anna!

2) The other story about Cameron Diaz hooking up with her reality show dance partner, played by Matthew Morrison, is not necessarily a downer as it’s more just bland and uninteresting every time it’s up on-screen. Diaz is a reliable actress when it comes to comedy, but Morrison seems so damn stiff with her on-screen that he makes it seem like he’s scared to be around her. Then again, I would be too, considering all they do throughout this flick is bicker and fight about stupid shit. Maybe this is how real-life couples act whenever one in the relationship is pregnant, but here, they almost never seem stop and it’s a real wonder as to how the hell these two will do when they have to worry and care about another life. Glad they weren’t my parents and it would suck even more considering I still have a chance with Diaz. I know it. She knows it. We all know it. The chick just has to come to her senses, that’s all.

3) Another story that was pretty lame was between Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro, who both play a couple that can’t have a baby, so they decide to adopt one from Ethiopia. Lopez is good, but seems like she was trying too hard to gain some laughs and Santoro also seemed very stiff every time he was around. Actually, I think the problem with his performance is that I couldn’t really understand him all that much with his Spanish accent that makes him sound like he is just learning English. Then again, maybe he is and maybe I’m just a dick. This story is also a downer and one I didn’t really care about but got so much better whenever they focused on Santoro hanging out with the “Dudes Group” with Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, and Chris Rock as the leader of the park. Every time these guys were on-screen, I always laughed and that’s mainly because of Chris Rock. This guy always, no matter what flick he’s in, shows that he can get at least one laugh out of the crowd before the camera goes black (another pun intended), and even though he’s confined in PG-13 territory here, he still delivers on all of the laughs. Funny stuff with these guys but I just wish they did more of that and eliminated the whole J-Lo story altogether.

4) Probably my favorite story out of the whole flick, and maybe even the one that’s worth the price of admission alone, was the one with Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone, who play a couple that seems to be really struggling with pregnancy because of Banks’ hormones going up-and-down all of the damn time. Both of these stars are hilarious throughout this whole flick and made me laugh with everything they did, whereas about 5 other stars from this cast probably would have made me jump off of a bridge by how hard they tried. Banks is always reliable when it comes to comedy, but it’s Falcone who really surprised me as he showed he had great comedic timing (something else that I saw from him in Bridesmaids) and could make you care for his character just by being the sweet guy. These two have great chemistry together and easily won my heart over. Whenever they introduced the story-line between Falcone’s dad, played by Dennis Quaid, and his much-younger wife (Brooklyn Decker), I also laughed even though I think they forced the whole “dad and son are constantly in competition” thing a little too much but it still worked because Quaid and Decker both have fine comedic timing. This story was the best and even when it gets into dramatic territory by the end, it surprisingly worked which was something I wasn’t expecting from a movie like this at all.

Consensus: What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a very passable flick with some moments of genuine comedy and heart, but also isn’t very original in the way it offers a look at pregnancy and all of the problems that come along with it. My idea: get rid of every story, except for Banks and Falcone’s story, combine that with the “Dudes Group”, and keep the father angle with Quaid and Decker, and you got comedy gold. Or at least something that’s ten times better than those Gary Marshall flicks.

6/10=Rental!!

Battleship (2012)

Gets me more and more excited for the live-action adaptation of “Don’t Wake Daddy” directed by Wes Craven.

Crashing the biannual RIMPAC exercise, a mysterious alien spaceship makes the month-long training event more important than ever before for our naval forces. Unaware of their goals beyond apparent wanton destruction, with a force field keeping what’s out out, and what’s in in, it’s down to a handful of ships and erratic lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) to take down the alien forces and save our world from being turned into dust.

Any person that was even somewhat bummed to hear that Michael Bay was done with the whole Transformers franchise, can only be happy to see that there may be a new franchise brewing. For some odd reason, though, it’s based on a board game that I only played when I was really, really bored. I was a very hyper kid in case you didn’t know.

Instead, taking over duties as director is Peter Berg. Berg is a dude who knows how to do action well even though his scripts may not always be perfect. Case in point, flicks like The Rundown and Hancock, are two films that hit-hard with its action and entertains the hell out of everybody watching even though it may not be winning any awards in its originality department. Still, the guy knows what he’s doing and that’s pretty obvious with this flick too, but it almost seems like he wanted to be more like Bay rather than try to put his own stamp on this soon-to-be movie series.

First of all, before I start to crack down on this film I would like to say that it is pretty fun and action-heavy, if that’s all you want. Berg definitely has a lot of fun with this loud, crazy, and insane atmosphere and story that it almost seems like he has a bit too much fun with all of the havoc but you still can’t help but be entertained watching it all yourself. I will say that the action did hold me over for many parts and I think that’s mainly because the special effects do actually look quite good. Berg’s huge visual FX team definitely makes this film look legit and plenty of the scenes where it’s just the alien’s ships squaring off against the Navy’s ships are actually very realistic. However, that can’t get past everything that is so lame.

I’ve been using that word a lot lately. “Lame”. But that’s exactly what this flick is because as fun and entertaining Berg and his FX team try to make this flick, they continue to get bogged down by the fact that this script is so damn shitty and unoriginal. I get it that I’m not supposed to be going to this flick for witty and powerful writing, but you got to give me something to work with here that can at least hold me over when shit isn’t blowing up. However, this film’s dialogue is so overly cheesy, so obvious, and so ridiculous that whenever there is a moment of everybody being serious, there is tons and tons of laughter, but whenever the film is joking around with us, the film ends up just being stupid and a lame attempt at comedy. It’s also annoying since every single character here seems to have their own witty line, right before they go off and do something heroic or bad-ass. Are lines like “Boom” and “Mahalo Motherfucker” really needed for a flick like this? Actually, they don’t even say the “F” word, they just cut it off because they didn’t want to lose their fan-friendly PG-13 rating. Lame.

This film isn’t so terrible just because it tries to be funny, plenty of action flicks nowadays try their darn near hardest to do that, but it’s more that there’s nothing new or original really offered here. All of the action revolves around ships trying to blow each other up by constantly tossing missiles at each other and the aliens being able to throw any kind of weird or strange sci-fi shit at the opposite team. It becomes fairly boring and monotonous, that only seems to be used for the sake of keeping our minds off of the fact that this script blows. Probably also didn’t help that all of the action was played with a loud-ass noise constantly blaring through the speakers. Actually, I think one of the speakers in my theater blew out and I was not surprised because my ears are still ringing from all of that loud ruckus. I sound old, I know.

What was also another bummer about this flick was the aliens themselves. Yes, once again in a Summer blockbuster there seems to be aliens as the villains but honestly, who else could pull off such a thing as the villains in this flick? Russians? Arabs? Swedes? Anywho, the explanation for them being on Earth is pretty dumb and sounds like the same reason I heard last Summer in Super 8, and the way they look is terribly unintentionally funny. With their helmets on, they seemed like a bunch of soldiers from the cancelled Halo movie, and when they take them off, they all look like evil Goblins and seem way too silly to be considered a bunch of evil and menacing pack of aliens. They seem more like the ones you want to cuddle with, or save from the government. Not throw out in the open and have them killed.

As far as the cast in concerned, everybody tries but they aren’t given much to do with this material. Taylor Kitsch plays Alex, a slacker who joins the Navy, and within weeks is the senior officer on the big, bad naval ship, being allowed to call all of the shots. This didn’t make any sense but Kitsch definitely tries with this character, even though the guy comes off very bland and does too much of the “Christian Bale Batman’s voice”, but I think he obviously has talent, just needs the right movies to show it off. Maybe that’s what Savages will be for. Brooklyn Decker isn’t as convincing as the military physical therapist, but she definitely is easy on the eyes.

Liam Neeson is one of the big draws of this flick, but he’s barely in it and whenever he does show up, he’s the absolute man and steals the show away from everyone around him. Shame the dude didn’t get more screen-time but he was probably off doing 10 other flicks around the filming of this one and hell, I don’t blame him for leaving. I would have too. Alexander Skarsgård also isn’t around that much either but that’s for reasons I can’t say, even though I am so damn tempted to. Oh yeah, and we also have pop singer Rihanna making her feature-film role debut and is absolutely terrible. She plays one of those bad-ass female roles that’s usually made for and done a lot better by Michelle Rodriguez, but she can’t even do any of that right. Honestly, Berg should have just called me up, told me to get a slight tan, cut my gonads, and get a butch-looking wig, and I could have honestly done a better job than whatever the hell this chick does here. Rihanna, you’re a great singer but stay away from movies and closer to Chris Brown’s hands. Oh yeah!

Consensus: Battleship definitely thrills with it’s loud explosions and fun direction from Peter Berg, but the script takes away from everything else with its overt silliness, lines that seem like they are jokes in and of itself, and characters that don’t make any sense but are just here to give us people to care about and root on to win the good fight. Michael Bay will be back people, get ready.

4/10=Crap!!

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Don’t eff with a chick that dresses like Bruce Lee. Especially if shes waving around a sword.

The Bride (Uma Thurman) was once part of a group of world-class female assassins until her employer, Bill (David Carradine), and other members of the group turn against her and have her shot. Five years later, she awakens from her coma. She heads off around the world seeking revenge with plans to kill each person involved, saving Bill for the grand finale.

Take it from Quentin Tarantino to take what is essentially a simple, and pretty standard revenge story and give it the style that harks back to the good old days of 70’s kung-fu action movies, spiced up with many other random styles that Quentin just feels like throwing in there.

What I loved most about this flick was how the fighting, action, and blood were filled with so much energy and were better than half of the shit I’ve seen in the past 10 years, that I wanted more of it. Right from the beginning we get a nice little fight between The Bride and her second target on her list and it seems goofy because of all of the swooshing you hear when they move, but it’s so vicious and so brutal that it’s hard to laugh especially when these chicks are very close to just gutting the other person out. It’s a very minor scene but it’s one that starts the film off on the right foot and the action just keeps getting better by getting more vicious, more violent, and a hell of a lot more bloody. The blood is insane in this flick and it may be a bit ridiculous how Tarantino just makes every single kill have blood shoot out from these people, but it still gives this film this cool and deadly look that could only be achieved with an R-rating. Actually, it’s more of a very hard R-rating, one that only Tarantino can get because he’s the freakin’ man.

As we always get with Tarantino flicks, there are plenty of homages and influences seen here and they all work perfectly. The whole film is basically one big kung-fu movie that reminded me of the days when I would just sit home and watch all of these Bruce Lee flicks where he would be either taking on 50 dudes at once (no homo), or he would be getting kicked in the chest by one of Lew Alcindor’s big feet. I can definitely tell that Tarantino did the same thing when he was a little kiddy and his inspiration just runs throughout this whole flick with a giddy and original feel to it. However, it’s not just kung-fu movies that this flick seems to be harking back to, you get a bunch of blaxploitation homages, spaghetti western moments where the score is just over-powering, a random ass anime scene that may seem weird but is just as brutal as the rest of the flick, and even a little bit of nods to his own previous work such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I don’t know how he does it but Tarantino is the master at taking everything he knows and loves about movies, and putting them all into one crazy and madly original flick.

There was only problem I had with this flick and it was one semi-cheap scene where we see Bill in the classic villain mold which is a bit unnecessary. I don’t really think I’m giving too much away talking about this scene but it shows one of Bill’s associates, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), sneaking into The Bride’s hospital room about ready to poison her while she’s sleeping. However, at the last second Bill calls it all off, saying that she “deserves better than that”. I thought that this was kind of a cheat way just for the story to continue and to show the reason why The Bride continued to live on and basically cause havoc to everybody on the planet. Also, wouldn’t a real assassin know how ruthless she is? So why wouldn’t he just off her right then and there? Regardless though, it’s only one scene but it still was at least the only negative I could come up with.

Uma Thurman is the perfect choice as The Bride because she just fits that deadly and sexy look so well. Uma is tall, sexy, blond, sweet, great to look at, but she can also be very scary and look like she’ll be hugging you one second like a sweetheart and then chopping your head off the next like the vicious killer she actually is. It also helps that her story is very easy to get behind because the chick was practically left for dead by all of these people and who wouldn’t want to get some good old revenge? Tarantino knows how to make great characters for leading ladies and it’s definitely one of the rare occasions where I actually found myself scared of a female character in quite some time.

The film really only focuses on two villains here (Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu) and they are both very good at playing these evil roles, especially Liu who I think had her best performance ever in this flick. She plays O-Ren Ishii and is one of those samurai sword waving villains that you always see in the kung-fu movies and seem cheesy as hell but never do you take them as seriously as you take this chick. Liu plays this character very well because she’s very quiet a lot of the times and more or less let’s her killing do the speaking for her. It’s a shame that Liu hasn’t really gotten the right roles after this but I guess that’s what usually happens to you when your biggest blockbuster hit was Charlie’s Angels.

Consensus: Kill Bill: Volume 1 shows Tarantino in top-form with a style that is bloody, violent, vicious, and shows every single one of his influences in a way that not only shows what he loves but also creates a wholly original flick on its own. Definitely can’t wait to see Volume 2.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Dictator (2012)

“Scripts suck!” Or at least that’s what Sacha used to think.

The story centers on General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), the deposed Repubic of Wadiya dictator who makes his first trip to the United States. Here he finds love in a very strange place and even stranger person (Anna Faris).

I guess a scripted Cohen film was pretty much inevitable, as his star has gone up in recent years and no matter how hard he tries to hide it all with a beard or funny accents, people were bound to recognize him. Still, it’s mostly the same thing this time around except for the fact that everybody knows what he’s going to say next.

Regardless of what the trailers, posters, or shocking appearances by Cohen himself may have you thinkinh, this is nowhere near as funny as Borat or even Bruno for that matter (I know I’m in the minority with the latter), but it’s not all that bad either. I was definitely a little shaky about this flick at first, but after awhile, I realized all of the comedy sticks to the usual raunchy, offensive, and mean type of humor that we always get with Cohen flicks and it still works even though all of the jokes aren’t improvised. Still, the film had me laughing a lot more than I expected just because it’s able to get lean and mean without ever saying sorry and that’s what you gotta do. Do I think they maybe pushed it to the edge a couple of times here? Of course, but then again, when doesn’t Cohen do that?  No race, gender, social class, or political figure is left unscathed and that’s pretty much all in a day’s good work when it comes to what Cohen does.

However, as funny as most of the jokes may be, the film does hit the occasional dry-spot where it feels like it’s time to build up character some more. The whole love story between Aladeen and Anna Faris is pretty lame but then again, I guess you have to have to have this sort of thing in a comedy, just to give it something. They also had this same element in Cohen’s other flicks; however, they were played with more of a joking, sarcastic way rather than being so straight-up and serious. It also disappointed me that Farris wasn’t anything special or funny even as she’s some type of Vegan-type chick that Aladeen falls in love with.  This role could have definitely been played by any other actress.

Also, as much as I may say that this flick is mean and lean, sometimes it’s just too safe. There was a huge opportunity for Cohen to dive into some real, splitting political satire here but he more or less, just plays it safe with an abundance of extra raunchy jokes to show that he really has a knack for grossing people the hell out. Worked, but also seemed like Cohen was getting a tad soft on us.

Regardless of how soft his comedy may have gotten here this time around, Sacha Baron Cohen still delivers the goods when it comes to his brand of shock comedy. Cohen is  known for playing these strange, politically incorrect characters; and the despotic dictator, General Aladeen, is no different. This guy is an ass, doesn’t know what’s right in the world, and shows no signs of ever changing his ways; but hey, it’s all good as long as Cohen is able to make us laugh, and make us laugh is what he does. Can’t really say anything else that hasn’t already been said about him and his character here is definitely no different than any other he has ever played, but Cohen is still the selling-point of this flick and with good reason.

Consensus: At a swift 82 minutes (including credits), The Dictator doesn’t over-stay its welcome and shows that Cohen is still able to make his raunchy, mean, and offensive brand of comedy work despite pulling out of some very key comedy moments that would have really taken this to be more of a satire, and not just another ordinary, Hollywood comedy.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Hanna (2011)

Thrillers need more techno beats.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenager raised and trained by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA operative, to become a highly skilled assassin. But when she’s sent on a deadly mission across Europe, Hanna takes to an English family and starts longing for a normal life. She must first solve the puzzle of her mysterious past, however.

The fact that this is directed by Joe Wright (‘Atonement’, ‘The Soloist’), definitely makes this film stand-out a lot more considering this guy isn’t really known for adrenaline-bumping action flicks. Still, it’s great to see a director who can actually get out of his comfort zone a bit and actually do a pretty good job with it.

What I liked about Wright’s direction was how much style this dude put into this flick. There are plenty of beautiful visual moments where it almost seems like you’re watching a rave party go down and how he just keeps the camera moving on the action is very tense and creates this sort of “nowhere to hide” atmosphere. It takes a lot for a director to take a total 180 from doing Jane Austen adaptations to doing action films, but he definitely shows a lot more promise when it comes to action than a lot of these other directors that have seeming to been doing it for over 10 to 20 years by now.

What always kept staying in my mind the whole time with this flick was the awesome action scenes and how Wright’s style really added a whole bunch more to them. In ‘Atonement’, Wright used this 7 and a half minute tracking shot and it was not only beautiful but also very unneeded especially for that flick. He does the same thing here with a couple of scenes but there was one that stuck in my mind and it felt right to the whole movie considering it actually keeps on continuing to build up more and more as the shot continues. There was this one shot where we see Hanna’s dad get off of a bus and end up at a subway station where he is met by 4 dudes who obviously want to beat his ass and the camera never leaves as we see him walking and then kicking ass. It was definitely one of the most memorable scenes from this flick and was a really good use of a tracking shot, and everybody knows how much of a sucker I am for those kinds of shots.

Let me also not forget to mention that the score/soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers is absolutely phenomenal and what I think separates this from many other thrillers. There’s always a constant dub beat in the background of this flick and it keeps on getting louder and louder and louder until you feel like you just entered a club full of teens all strung-out on ecstasy. I never really have been a fan of those guys much but when it comes to scoring an action flick, they do the job just about as perfect as Hanz Zimmer has been doing for the past couple of years.

The problem with this flick is that even though on the technical front, it’s astonishing, everything else seems to be pretty lame. The script isn’t anything special, nor is it anything worth recommending. Too many times did this film focus on Hanna and her little trip with this family where she got to see the world and encounter all of life’s problems on her own. Right from the beginning I knew they were going to go down this road so when it actually did happen it was kind of disappointing since it seemed like this flick was going to be a tad different from anything else that I’ve seen. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t really get attached to Hanna’s character considering she’s just one of those fish-out-of-water characters that obviously looks like she is a little Coo-Coo for Coco Puffs so it’s not like I could feel anything for her since she didn’t really have much to worry about because every person that walked into her, she practically killed right away.

Still, though, the biggest problem this flick hits with its end is that there is a little plot twist they decide to throw in here that was too obvious and the end with how Blanchett’s shoes come into play was a little too goofy. The film was just a bummer because it obviously drops the ball when it came to being a cool moment and it’s just a shame that Wright didn’t get a script that deserved him because he is probably the biggest star of this whole flick.

However, the cast is pretty good and I can’t really put the blame on them for anything whatsoever. Saoirse Ronan is pretty bad-ass as Hanna and seems like that sort of weird and freaky-looking kid that would be a secret cold-blooded killer, but then again watch in 10 years when I’m calling her the hottest chick on the planet; Eric Bana is pretty awesome as her daddy and is allowed to show off his action stuff; and Cate Blanchett is pretty much a total bitch as the evil and sinister Marissa. Good cast all around just not enough on the script side to give them the love that they deserve.

Consensus: Hanna is super stylized with a pumping score from The Chemical Brothers, and some very cool-looking action scenes courtesy of Joe Wright, however, the script fails to live up to the direction and just ends up being a little too boring and obvious to ignore after awhile.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Hard Candy (2005)

Chris Hansen has just shit his pants.

Hayley Stark’s (Ellen Page) a smart, charming teenage girl – but even smart girls make mistakes. She’s hooking up in a coffee shop with Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), a guy she’s met on the internet. And even though he’s a cute, smooth high-end fashion photographer in his early 30s, Hayley shouldn’t be suggesting that the two of them go back to his house alone. When they get there, Hayley quickly finds some vodka and starts mixing screwdrivers. She even suggests a photo shoot and strips off some clothing. Everything is going well for Jeff… until his vision blurs and fades, and he passes out. What happens after this is all hell breaking loose as Hayley rains a terror on Jeff.

Basically, this film starts off like something you think you’ve seen done a million times before but then turns into a cutting thriller that almost seems like it could go anyplace at anytime. The subject matter of pedophilia is pretty effed up as it is, but I think everything they deal with here, is a lot more effed up than I could have ever imagined.

Despite being an effed up movie in the fore-front, deep beneath all of that is a character-driven drama that messes with your head about who you should feel sympathy for: the victim or the predator. That line is blurred many times throughout the whole flick as you constantly feel like one person is in the wrong for what they’re doing, but then again, you can’t help but think that this person has a reason for doing what they are doing mainly because of what they know and have against the other person. The film gets terribly uncomfortable when it comes to the decisions of who you think should get the sympathy and what that other person should do. Sometimes, I even felt guilty for sympathizing with the person I felt sympathy for but that’s the way that this flick messes with your mind and makes you think to how you would feel if you met one of these people in your life.

The film’s screenplay does bring up a lot of questions but mostly it is made just to have us on-the-edge-of-our-seats the whole entire time. Right when you think something is going to happen, director David Slade just pulls the carpet from right underneath us and gives us a scene we weren’t expecting to see next but it’s so tense and suspenseful to the point of where we can’t even sit still and watch this. It keeps on getting more twisty and more twisty as the film goes on and I think Slade did a good job at making it seem like this flick could honestly just go about anywhere and anyplace to where I just gave up predicting what was exactly going to happen next.

Let me also not forget to mention that this flick also has some very hard scenes to watch due to the extreme levels of torture that actually come around, especially one scene in particular that I refuse to say anything more about. These scenes were very effective but at the same time provided the biggest problems for me when it came to this flick. First of all, the conversations that these two have are effective enough so to just throw some torture in there seemed a bit like a cheat. Secondly, it was pretty obvious that Jeff would never really be able to do anything terrible to Hayley considering that Page was pretty young when this film was going on and I think that Slade would have had a lot more problems to deal with rather than just his subject material, if he showed anything that had her fully harmed in anyway.

However, my last point is brought up in the situation we have with the character Jeff. Yes, this character is pretty much a slime-ball who basically came to this little “meeting” to do nothing else other than bring a young girl home and try to mess around for a little bit. The guy is a shit, no doubt about that, but there are things that happen to him that I feel are very questionable. The levels of torture that this guy has to go through seemed like it was a little too torturous even for a person like Jeff himself. Maybe I’m not the right person to make that call considering I have never been through any sort of sexual experience with an older person, but then again I’m just thinking like a human. Things get terribly bad for Jeff to the point of where he is given a decision at the end and I don’t know what I would do in his situation, but by the same token, I don’t think a person should ever put to these types of limits and in the end that’s what the film is trying to show us. I probably missed the point of this flick, but I still think that this film went a little too far with its torture as well as when it came to Jeff’s circumstances. Poor pedophiles, they just want to be loved. Then again, they should watch who they message next time.

This film is essentially two people going at it with one another for a whole hour and 40 minutes but it works because of the two stars that portray them. Patrick Wilson is great in this role as Jeff. One of the main reasons why this guy is so good here is because even though we know right from the start that this guy is a dirt, he still makes us question whether or not he’s the monster we perceived him to be in the first place. Wilson constantly toys with our feelings and emotions towards how we feel for him, but it’s also a lot of the more emotional scenes that rang true for me as well considering that this is an actor that we rarely get to see so so up-front in our faces with sadness and confusion.

The real stand-out for this flick though is Ellen Page here as Hayley, aka every pedophiles worst enemy. Page is amazing here because she totally makes us think twice about her in every way. There are moments where a lot of the things she does is very questionable (honestly, how could a person plan out something like this so perfectly?) but she seems so hip, smart, and intelligent for her age that it’s also quite believable. She’s a chick that always seems one step ahead of Jeff, and even the audience, and it’s also one of those performances where Page really seems like she’s too smart for anybody’s good. She practically commands every scene and never loses sight of what this script and film was trying to say and convey.

Consensus: Hard Candy is exactly that: it’s perfectly-acted, hard to watch, tense, and makes you think about the world of internet chat and how we view sexual predators in our lives. Yes, it can get very gruesome at times but it still is a flick that will have you question certain things about how you think and feel, and if any film can do that to me then that’s a good one in my book.

8/10=Matinee!!

 

Idiocracy (2006)

Believe it or not, this is the direction our world is headed. Just check out the trending topics on Twitter.

To test its top-secret Human Hibernation Project, the Pentagon picks the most average Americans it can find — an Army private (Luke Wilson) and a prostitute (Maya Rudolph) — and sends them to the year 2505 after a series of freak events. But when they arrive, they find a civilization so dumbed-down that they’re the smartest people around.

Sounds like Mike Judge doing a live-action adaptation of ‘Futurama’, but this time, with so many more stupid people. Maybe almost too stupid if I think about it. Hell I’m thinking about it and I’m turning stupid.

The one thing I like about Mike Judge is that his writing and comedic style comes from just being very simple. He doesn’t really try to do anything new or inventive with his comedy other than just give us something to laugh at, even if he and a couple of his other buds may only think it’s funny after about the 20th time they bring up the joke. This premise is definitely one of his first “high premise” comedies and it’s also one of his more ambitious flicks as of late too.

Where this film works is in its satire that takes over the whole film and how he shows the world as a completley and utterly stupid place to be in. He shows how the world will be watching TV shows like “Ow! My Balls!” and buying a drink with electrolytes in it, even though none of them even know what the hell electrolytes even are. It’s funny to see how much fun Judge pokes at this dystopian future that may seem very funny to make fun of now, but it’s also kind of sad because we can see that this is the direction our world is heading in. I don’t want to go out there and state that the world is going to be filled completley with idiots but we’re getting dumber and dumber as the years go by and it’s kind of surprising how Judge brings this point up better than anyone else ever could have. Yes, I’m talking about you Woody Allen.

The comedy for this film isn’t just all about satire though, it’s also just about being plainly stupid which can make and break a film. Whenever a comedy just wants to be stupid and silly, it totally works, but in the case with a flick like this, it can also get terribly annoying to the point of where it almost seems over-done. Yes, there are plenty of times where the stupidity of these characters and this future had me laughing but at the same time, I feel like Judge really hammered down the whole “stupidity” thing a little too far considering it’s almost every joke he makes in this film. Hey, I guess with a TV show like ‘Beavis & Butthead’, Judge is known world-wide for constantly repeating jokes until they’re dead in the water, but here, it became a little too much.

Another problem with this flick was that as much as the premise was really cool and held my interest, I couldn’t help but think it would have been used a lot better with a bigger budget and longer run-time. The film does get to do what it wants without ever really trying to shoot for the stars but the effects are really crappy and the story seems to start to run out of any creative steam by the last 20 minutes. I guess I can’t really blame Judge for the budget that he was given but I just wish that he did more with this flick and I wish it didn’t look like it was made on a DELL computer.

As for the cast, they are all pretty much pleasant enough to make this dumb film work and seem more realistic than it had any right to be. Luke Wilson is once again the most charming and likable dude to ever grace the screen with his performance as Joe Bowers; Maya Rudolph is fine as the prostitute/”artist”, Rita; Dax Shepard is border-line mentally-challenged with his performance here as Frito, and even though he’s very good at playing dumb, it’s no surprise that this is probably the best thing that this dick has ever done in his whole career; and Terry Crews is the man as President Camacho, aka the President that would kick Obama’s ass any day. Once again, nothing special from this cast but still pretty good considering what they were given with the loose script.

Consensus: Idiocracy may be a little too dumb and stupid for its own good, or bad, but where the film succeeds is in Judge’s satirical writing that makes this film funny, biting, and a little bit more realistic than it should be even though this is coming from the same dude who invented The Great Cornholio.

6/10=Rental!!

Things We Lost in the Fire (2007)

Hopefully these two didn’t leave their Oscars where the fire happened. Especially Berry because I don’t thinks she’ll be getting one any time soon.

Attempting to piece her life back together after losing her husband (David Duchovny) in a tragic incident, grieving widow Audrey (Halle Berry) turns to an unlikely ally: her husband’s childhood friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), an emotionally wrecked heroin addict. But as the troubled pair struggles to bear their respectively heavy burdens by leaning on each other, they discover that they possess unexpected resources.

Yes, it’s another one of those grief-filled, sad, and lonely tales but director Susanne Bier (who made her American debut with this film) makes the film a lot better than what I was originally expecting. Then again, it could have been the fact that she had two Oscar winners at her disposal as well.

What I liked about this story is how emotionally true and heartfelt the film felt. This is a very hard film to take in because it’s bleak, dark, and quite depressing, but the film never loses sight of what it’s trying to show and say. The story may seem a bit unbelievable (honestly, why would some chick of Audrey’s stature allow a heroin-junkie around her young kids) but sometimes people only want to be reminded of their lost loved ones, so in order for that to happen they choose the next big thing that can remind them right away. This film shows how hard it is to get over a huge obstacle in life such as death but it’s also a film that shows how we can all get through life together if we are always there for one another no matter what the situation may or may not be. The film didn’t make me cry bring out the Kleenex but it definitely felt like an emotionally realistic film that didn’t try too hard to get people crying. It just told the story like it was supposed to be told in the first place.

The problem with this film that kept me away from crying or feeling anything more than I already did was the fact that it can get very melodramatic at points to the point of where it was coming off like a  daytime soap opera. There were many moments in this flick that made me feel emotions for these characters and the situation that they are put into, but at the same time, too many other moments seemed hokey and uninspired. The film constantly relies on close-ups to show us how sad and upset these characters are; there are conversations between characters that seem like they should go one place but end up a totally other place; and by the end, all of the corny melodramatic speeches start popping out like crazy. There’s even a speech/story by the end of the flick that mentions the title about 10 times and it seemed over-done and totally obvious that the film was trying to have us understand where this title came from, rather than just letting us figure it out for ourselves.

The main reason to see this film though and why it mostly worked for me was the two lead performances that elevate this material to higher proportions, especially Del Toro. Benicio Del Toro plays the strung-out junkie, Jerry, and probably gives on of his most underrated performances of all-time. Yes, that is saying a whole lot. Del Toro goes through a lot of transitions with this character as he goes from being nervous the whole time, to stoned, to charming, to lovable, and then back to being stoned. Del Toro does so much with this guy but every single step he takes feels real and you believe in this guy and his motivations he had behind the things that he does. The whole time I was watching Jerry, I didn’t see this recovering heroin addict, I saw a genuinely nice dude that would do anything to make the people around him happy, it’s just that he’s been so effed up for so long that he can’t find the energy to even do that anymore. I felt that kindness and warmth come right from Del Toro’s performance and it’s definitely one of the best performances of his career and one that should have at least had him nominated once again for an Oscar. I’ve been watching this guy a lot lately and he just seems to be getting better and better and better.

Halle Berry is also very good as the grief-stricken mother, Audrey. Berry is basically channeling her role from ‘Monster’s Ball‘ but she’s still a pro at it and is easily able to make us feel for her character even though she may make some questionable decisions. Berry feels emotionally-driven in this performance as opposed to the other crap she’s been giving as of late and I wish that she would just take more roles like this since it obviously suits her best and gets more people looking at her come Oscar time. Yeah, she didn’t get nominated but compared to her performance in ‘Cat Woman’, she should have freakin’ won every single acting award!

Consensus: Things We Lost in the Fire may get exceptionally cheesy and hokey with its melodramatic trappings, but the amazing performances of Berry and Del Toro make this feel seem genuine and make a bleak story into something that’s emotional and heartfelt.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Dark Shadows (2012)

Just when you thought vampires were getting lame, Jack Sparrow comes along and makes them hip again — sort of.

The movie centers on playboy Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) who is turned into a vampire and buried alive when he breaks the heart of the witch Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green) back in 1752. When he wakes up two centuries later in 1972, his manor has fallen into ruin and his descendants are in such state of discord that matriarch Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called on the resident psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) to help her and her family out a bit.

It seems everybody out there already realized that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton can’t get enough of each other. I mean this is their 8th collaboration and judging by it, I think it’s time for them to separate. It’s not always easy, but it’s for the best, guys.

The first trailer for this flick really had me anxious. I don’t know a lot about the 60’s cult TV show that this movie is based off of, but from what I hear, it definitely was all work and no play. Everything was so serious on that show, whereas the trailer promised a slightly goofy flick that more or less made a lot of jokes towards the earlier premise, rather than play them in a serious matter. Sadly, all of those laughs and all of that humor goes away pretty quickly and that’s when I realized that once again, I was jipped by Hollywood. Damn you!

That’s not to say there isn’t any humor here, because there is and it does work to an extent. The jokes and gags are funny and had me laughing a lot when I least expected to, but the problem was that all of the funniest material was already done to death by all of the commercials and trailers. Once again, damn you! The humor this flick has does add a little lift to the story, and whenever the film actually starts to focus on the soap opera melodrama that made the TV show so famous, Tim Burton goes more for a tongue-in-cheek approach that brings out some laughs. Funny stuff but should have been so much funnier.

With a plot like “ancient vampire, wakes up in 1970’s and experiences a culture shock”, you would expect that there would be an enormous about of jokes for Burton to play up; but instead he plays a more serious note. I know that the original TV show was sincere and all, but to have an idea that seems pretty original and something that would be deemed “comedic gold” turn into a plot the gets weirder and weirder just for the sake of being weird only makes it seem like Burton wanted an excuse to make a film to bring him back to his weird-o childhood days. Then again, maybe it’s as original as I once though and maybe it’s been done before. But come on, guys, what would you rather see?: a melancholy but meaningful “Dark Shadows” movie, or a “Dark Shadows” movie full of one-liners and odd humor? I choose the latter, but some folk might drift the other way.

As always though, Burton’s film does look pretty good in his dark, CGI way. Everything is so dark and gloomy, but yet very lavish; it shows that once again, Burton can do almost no wrong when it comes to his production designs. However, the whole gothic style started to wear off by about the third or fourth time I saw waves crash against the rocks, or whenever there would be an eerie piece of music played in the background when Depp came walking into a scene. It seemed like Burton didn’t have much faith in this material in the first place, so he just resorted to a bunch of random moments that would hopefully keep his audience glued. I was watching the whole entire time, but that’s only because I was waiting for Burton to really pull me in and give me something that I wasn’t expecting from him. Sadly, that is exactly what I got.

Regardless of what Burton did here, I still have to give a lot of credit to Johnny Depp because no matter what flick he is in, he always give it his all and that is no different here. Depp is fully committed to playing Barnabas Collins with his Old English delivery and goofy faces, and still gets most of the film’s laughs despite being a one-joke the whole way through. Collins is a vampire from another time, that is simply trying to adjust to a very different world but Depp is better than that and allows Collins to be one of his more erratic characters to date. Which is definitely saying a whole lot.

Backing up Depp when it comes to the laughs is Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis, the bum who cleans the Collins estate and pretty much delivers every line with sarcasm and a snarl in his voice. Haley is so funny in this flick and it’s a real wonder as to why Burton didn’t give him more material to play around with. Michelle Pfeiffer is also pretty good here as the family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, even though her character gets pushed to the side by the last act; Helena Bonham Carter brings some laughs as the alcoholic psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, but should have been a whole lot funnier; Eva Green is very easy on the eyes but very over-the-top with her villainous role here as the evil witch Angelique; and Chloë Grace Moretz is fine as the teenage daughter of the family that is constantly being weird and seems like she’s about to sneeze every time the camera is on her. Still, with a cast like this you can’t go wrong but somehow Burton is able to just let them all fall by the waste-side so he can have some fun with his “passion project”.

Consensus: Definitely has some moments that are funny and very cool to look at, but as a whole, squanders a original premise with annoying jokes, loses its comedic edge with it’s semi-serious tone, and lets a great ensemble cast like this, do nothing other than play second-fiddle to the Tim Burton and Johnny Depp freak show.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Song of the Day: (hope you like this little thing I got going)

There are many films with the combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. If you would like to see more such as Edward Scissorhands then why not try an online service. LOVEFiLM provide an excellent free month trial which allows you to watch free movies online.

Knockaround Guys (2002)

It’s like ‘My Cousin Vinny’, except everybody is trying really hard to sound Italian.

The film follows Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper, Johnny Marbles (Seth Green), Taylor Reese (Vin Diesel) and Chris Scarpa (Andrew Davoli), four sons of major Brooklyn mobsters who team up to retrieve a bag of cash in a small Montana town ruled by a corrupt Sheriff. Specifically, the plot gets started when Matty goes on a job to deliver the money for his mob father, Benny “Chains” Demaret (Dennis Hopper), on the advice of his uncle Teddy Deserve (John Malkovich). Things don’t go as planned though…

I honestly have no idea why I wanted to watch this other than the fact that it has a pretty cool cast and I like gangster flicks. That’s pretty much it and maybe next time I’ll be a lot more cautious.

Where co-writers/directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien dropped the ball on this flick was that it’s essentially a plot that should be pretty goofy, but takes itself a bit too serious. That’s a shame because even though the whole “mobsters in country land” plot device has all been done before, I think that this film would of had a little bit of fun with it.

That’s also another problem with this flick as everything is just about as cliché as you can get with a gangster/crime movie. There’s a boy who wants to prove to his daddy that he can make it in his work of being a gangster after being traumatized as a little guy, a crooked sheriff in country town, a Mexican stand-off, a two-timing gangster, two dope kids who end up with a big bag of money, a brawl in a Southern bar, and the list just goes on and on and on. Yeah, it’s nothing new and basically everything you get here is something we have all seen done before, but for some reason I still found myself entertained.

I don’t know what it was with this flick but even though everything here was too serious and too cliché, I still enjoyed myself watching it. The plot does take its time to get moving but somehow I found a lot of fun with that and it gave me a chance to actually get to know these characters and also be able to feel the tension building up in this story. I think that there are a couple of plot twists here and there that work in order to keep the flick going, and it’s just strange that the script had nothing new to do or say but I still found myself watching and interested in just what was going to happen next.

A lot of my enjoyment with this flick probably also had to do a lot with the cool cast they have assembled here. Barry Pepper is good in a very rare leading role here as Matty Demaret, which is a shame because this guy really does deserve bigger roles; Vin Diesel does his usual “stand there and look intimidating” act here as Taylor Reese, but don’t get me wrong it still works none the less; Seth Green seems a little too phony with his Italian accent as Johnny Marbles, but he still tries his hardest with what he’s given; Dennis Hopper shows up for a little bit and just plays the hard-ass daddy role as Benny “Chains” Demaret; Tom Noonan is probably the best out of the cast with his once again sinister performance as the crooked sheriff, Sheriff Decker; and John Malkovich seems like he’s pushing his Italian accent a little too far as well, but he’s still pretty good to watch. It’s a cast that are all pretty good at what they usually do and even though they aren’t in top-form here, they still are watchable and what I think made this film a lot less cringe-inducing than so many people have said about it.

Consensus: The plot features just about every cliché in the book, takes itself a bit way too seriously, and obviously could have done a lot more with what it had, but Knockaround Guys has a pretty good cast and some good moments that make this film at least entertaining enough to be a fun, if flawed guilty pleasure. Hate me all you want people, but I enjoyed myself.

5/10=Rental!!

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