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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: June 2012

Ted (2012)

If only I could get my plush doll Spider-Man to start talking and doing cool shit.

The film centers on a 35-year-old man (Mark Wahlberg) who must deal with the cherished teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) who came to life as the result of a childhood wish… and has refused to leave his side ever since.

The one reason why I wasn’t really looking forward to this film as much was mainly because it’s the directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane, aka the creator of Family Guy, aka a show I’m not too fond of. I don’t know what it is about me and that show, but I just don’t find it all that funny and consider other animated-shows like Futurama or South Park to be a lot funnier and wittier when it comes to their jokes. But somehow, I caught myself laughing….a lot.

The idea of having a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear seemed like something that would be funny for the first 10 minutes, then just falter out after that and get boring, but somehow, MacFarlane doesn’t allow that to happen mainly because he’s allowed to do whatever the hell he wants with this material. That’s right, no FCC, no rules, and no standards to live by, he’s allowed to do whatever the eff he wants to do with this story and he obviously is enjoying this newly-found freedom because almost every scene is filled with fart jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, gay jokes, pot jokes, and plenty of other jokes raunchy jokes that you can shake a stick at.

But the difference here with all of these raunchy jokes in this movie, from say, another raunch-fest like That’s My Boy, is that this film actually has some cleverness behind all of the raunch. It’s not just all about making people go “ewww” or squirm at the sight of a dude’s penis, it’s all about making people laugh their asses off at something dirty, but something that’s also very funny and witty. They do the same thing in The Hangover and even though that film and this one are somewhat different from one another, they both show you can still be clever, even if a good majority of the jokes are centered around dudes smoking pot and farting.

However, it’s not all about being dirty that makes this film funny, no, there’s actually plenty of other funny stuff going on that doesn’t concern any bodily fluids. There’s a couple of great movie references to such flicks as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Van Wilder (random, I know), Superman Returns (another random one), Airplane!, and even the 80’s cult classic, Flash Gordon, which actually plays a big part in this film as well. There are plenty of other references here that I’m sure I forgot to mention but it’s also still the same exact kind of snarky humor from Family Guy and that confused me because I laughed at just about everything here, but I barely ever laugh at that show. Maybe it’s just the foul language that makes everything funnier. Oh yeah, there’s also a reference to that show as well that seemed clever. Once again, I’m using that word “clever” in a review of a movie that’s about a talking bear.

Probably the best, and worst thing about this movie, is in fact Ted, the CG bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane. It’s obvious that Ted was going to pretty much steal every single scene, but what really got to me was just how consistently funny this freakin’ character was. Sometimes when you have certain characters like this, they are very funny at points but miss the mark at others, Ted, just about made me laugh each and every single time he opened up his stitched mouth. Not only did he have the best lines in the movie (obviously) but some of his insults that he flings at almost everybody around him were sometimes so mean and cruel, that I couldn’t believe I still liked him in the end. MacFarlane, of course, does a great job with this voice-role and it’s actually surprising just how good Ted, the CG bear actually looks in this film. I don’t want to go as far to say that he looked freakin’ realistic along the lines of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I really couldn’t find a single flaw in the animation they had made for him/it.

Sadly though, Ted is such a great and funny character to have on-screen that whenever he isn’t the film falters and definitely isn’t as funny as you would have liked it to be. It’s not like the rest of the cast isn’t game, because they sure as hell are, it’s just that you laugh so much at Ted and all of the crazy shit he says, that whenever he isn’t around you’re left wondering where he is and what he’s up to. Maybe MacFarlane focused on writing so much funny stuff for his own character, that he sort of left the others all in the dust.

Also, the flick starts to get less funny by the end and lose its originality points when the story starts to dive into Ted getting his ass captured by a childhood admirer of his (another crazy role for Giovanni Ribisi, maybe his weirdest, and that’s say something). I get it, they needed to bring this story-line in to give it some tension by the end, but Ribisi’s character is sort of forgotten about for a good hour or so that when he comes back, we just don’t give a crapola and just want Ted to go back to smoking pot, having sex with chicks, and doing coke. You know, the fun stuff.

But as good as MacFarlane may be as Ted, Mark Wahlberg still shows that he’s great at doing comedy, once again with his role here as John Bennett. Wahlberg is great at delivering comedy but mostly at playing the straight-man, which he does here perfectly and it definitely helps out a lot of the scenes whenever Ted isn’t around and it’s just Wahlberg, being Wahlberg, which isn’t a bad thing because it’s obvious this guy is having a ball with this role. Mila Kunis is also pretty funny as Lori and shows that she still has some great comedic timing to her as well, and I like how they didn’t make her character one of those bitchy-types that hate on their mans for having another friend that get’s in the way of their “alone time”. Nope, she’s actually a pretty cool chick that just wants a guy who wants to settle down. Typical woman, that’s why I’m done getting married after three unsuccessful attempts. Or maybe it’s four?

Consensus: Even though it starts to lose some flavor in the last act, Ted is still a very funny and raunchy comedy that shows off MacFarlane in a new light. It’s a new light where he’s able to say, do, and act whatever he wants and not have to give a crap at all, who say’s he’s not allowed to. Still, doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching a becoming a fan boy of Family Guy. Not a chance in hell, my friend.

7.5/10=Matinee!!

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Magic Mike (2012)

I think it’s time to reconsider my career options.

Veteran stripper Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) teaches a novice (Alex Pettyfer) about the occupation while seeking a lifestyle outside the world of stripping with the help of his protégé’s sister (Cody Horn). They work at the club Xquisite, which is owned by the former stripper Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).

I have to admit it, a “male stripper movie” is not necessarily aimed towards my demographic. Young, straight, sexy *cough cough*, male that prefers the men around him to keep their clothes on. But “male stripper movie” directed by Steven Soderbergh is right up my alley.

Yes, the same Steven Soderbergh that is known for such flicks like Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Out of Sight, and Contagion, amongst others, is now doing a flick where it focuses on the life-style where dudes take their clothes off, get half-naked, dance around, get dollar bills thrown at them, and give lamp-dances to some lucky ladies in the audience. Really frickin’ strange that Soderbergh somehow found cinematic inspiration in that idea but he pulls it off here, somewhere, somehow.

What I liked most about this flick is that it has the perfect style of a Soderbergh flick. The camera has a very distinct look to it where the night-life is full of exotic and wild colors coming from every end of the area, whereas the regular, everyday life is full of this grayish look that makes everything seem like the sun hasn’t come out for days and is just trapped behind this huge-ass cloud that won’t move. There’s also a couple of other cool camera tricks here as well where Soderbergh does a couple of neat static shots that make you feel like you’re right there. Come to think of it, other than the stripping scenes, he barely moves the camera at all and that’s what was really cool about Soderbergh is how he just allowed the story to do the talking itself and just kept his camera right there. Crazy how directors can put their own little stamps on anything they do and make it work, just as long as they aren’t getting in the way of anything.

However, this isn’t a film that’s all about Soderbergh’s verité style, it’s about the men and their clothes getting ripped off in front of hundreds and hundreds of horny women and that’s exactly what this film delivers! Woo-hoo! The first time we get a full show of what goes on with the actual show itself, is probably some of the most fun I’ve had at the movie theater in so damn long. Really, I never would have ever in my right mind thought that I would be having so much fun watching a bunch of dudes rip their clothes off, but I couldn’t help but feel the same excitement that every single one of the ladies around me felt as well. Now of course my excitement was a different kind of one compared to theirs, but whenever these guys came out and started dancing and doing their thing, a certain type of energy just came-out of this film and it was almost infectious.

I don’t know what got over me, or my good buddy Paulie that I saw this with (also young, straight, sexy, and a male), but every time these guys went out on-stage, a smile just went right on my face and I just enjoyed the hell out of myself. It also helped that the crowd I was with loved the sight of half-naked dudes running rampant all-over-the-stage as well so it created this vibe that made me feel like I was actually at a male strip-club with them, just watching the show. These scenes aren’t taking so seriously either and I caught myself laughing hysterically at what I was seeing with all of these shows. And when you have a director like Soderbergh, that’s something surprising because he could have easily made all of these specific scenes just come off as some of the most depressing things to ever grace the screen, but he lets it all roll and have a good time as if he was the club promoter himself. Who knows, maybe that’s what he does in his spare time. Actually, that would make him the busiest man in Hollywood considering he makes about 3 movies each year, so no, never mind about that claim.

But underneath all of the glitz and the glamour of this life that is shown, there is also a story that grounds it all out. Yes, the film does have a story that’s somewhat dramatic but it’s handled well and focuses on Mike as he tries to help this kid out with making it big and also try to do what he wants to do and get out of the stripping business. All sounds very cliched and predictable, which it does get after awhile, but the film handles this story with such emotional honesty that it’s hard not to fall for it and believe everything it’s throwing at you. Believe it or not, this story does actually get dark but not too dark, to the point of no return. It gets just dark enough to where it can eventually lift itself back-up with another lap-dance or two. Hey, can’t go wrong with that.

If there was one big problem I had with this flick that kept me away from giving it a 9, it was that the story does get very predictable by the end and doesn’t really tell us anything new we haven’t already seen from flicks that are just like this. A theme like having too much, too soon is shown in countless other flicks like Saturday Night Fever, Boogie Nights, Goodfellas, and even a lesser-known one, Middle Men, and it’s shown here with the same exact precision, and same exact results. Tried to be a cautionary tale, but in the end, it didn’t matter whether or not we got the message, we just wanted to have fun, which is exactly what we had.

2012 will probably go down in the books as the best year of Channing Tatum‘s life. Honestly, this guy has been kickin’ ass this whole year with Haywire (another film by Soderbergh), The Vow (I know I’m the minority on that one), 21 Jump Street, what was supposed to be G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and now this. This is basically Tatum’s story because it was based off of his experiences and what better person to play the lead, then the person who knows it best. Tatum is great in this role as Magic Mike because he plays up every single emotion we have ever seen him play, ever. He’s funny, he’s sad, he’s inspired, he’s horny, he’s drunk, he’s high, he’s mad, he’s happy, and most of all, he knows how to freakin’ dance. Holy shit man! I know that this kid could dance from his days in Step Up, but he really lets it all-out here and shows that he can not only back his good-looks up with some acting chops, but also some nice dance moves that will absolutely knock your socks off once you see what he pulls off. Seriously, I got frickin’ jealous. And that never happens because I know I’m in such a better shape than that chump will ever be in.

Playing his kinda-sorta love-interest, Cody Horn is alright here but she’s a little stiff with her line delivery as it seems like she doesn’t know what to say next to all of the shit Tatum says and actually does. Her character was also one of those stand-offish types of people that didn’t approve of something that one person did, so they continue to lecture them and try to show their disapproval for all that they do. Lame! Playing her little bro in this movie, Alex Pettyfer shows some real skill as an actor with a role that will hopefully get his name out there more than it did last year with bombs like I Am Number Four and Beastly. Sheesh!

But the one cast member that I couldn’t stop thinking about when this whole movie was over, was in fact, Matthew McConaughey playing the sleazy club owner, Dallas. Here’s the thing with McConaughey: he’s talented, has great comic delivery, looks great, and knows how to act whenever a flick needs him to. The problem is, he always gets himself stuck in the same, old rom-com roles that do nothing for him other than make him look like an utter fool. Thankfully, he’s back in full-action with his role here and shows that he can do it all. He totally plays up that party-boy act we all know and love him for, but there’s also something very dark deep-down inside of all of it, a darkness that actually gets shown more and more as the film progresses. This is great to see McConaughey go through with this character because whenever he’s funny and having a good time, he made me laugh my ass off, but whenever he got mad and you could tell his character meant business, I got scared shitless, wondering just what the hell he was going to do next. That’s how great this role is for him and he plays it up all so perfectly. So perfectly, that he may even come by with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor come around February of 2013. But that’s a stretch, I know.

Oh, and for all of you wrestling fans out there, Kevin Nash is also up in this bitch playing a huge male-stripper that goes by the name of Tarzan. Have no idea why the hell he’s in this, but at least he’s getting some line of work.

Consensus: Even though the story may get predictable by the end, Magic Mike is still a flick that has fun with its premise and fills it with sleaze, humor, raunch, glitz, glamour, great performances from the cast, and plenty of memorable stripping sequences that will surely have you inspired to go out there and try and work that pole like no other. Then again, maybe not.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

I really do hope that none of my lady friends know the real reason as to why I always answer their late calls at night.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) debate during a trip from Chicago to New York about sex and friendships between men and women. Eleven years later, they’re still no closer to finding these answers but are a lot closer to each other than they ever expected.

Can a man and a woman be friends? Or does sex get in the way of that? These are two obvious questions that this flick brings up and I think the solution of it all is pretty clear: yes.

Director Rob Reiner and writer Nora Ephron were definitely on the same page here when it came to meshing these two elements together, because it’s just about perfect. Ephron’s script is very good as it covers a lot of questions and themes that usually come up between a man and a woman, especially with relationships as well. There’s plenty of insight into the minds of two normal, everyday human beings that just feel very true and believable even if it does come from the minds of a whole bunch of Hollywood heads. The film is also very funny and made me laugh a whole bunch because it focuses on relationships in a funny way, but also shows them in a way that makes you rethink all of the relationships you’ve ever been in and may soon be in for the near future.

At the heart of this film though, is the friendship between Harry and Sally. At first, they both hate each other and make it obviously seem like they could never be friends but we stop by on them every time they spot each other every once and awhile, and each time the conversations are funny as well as biting. They both start to become friends, even best friends at that, and I think that’s where the film really won me over with was that I could believe these two as friends and maybe even as lovers. The conversations these two have with each other about relationships, sex, divorce, ‘Casablanca’, and so many other things, all feel real and what would be discussed between two people that are very good friends and will tell each other anything and everything. Reiner definitely did a great job with focusing on these two throughout the whole movie but also not forgetting let the points about relationships from Ephron hit as well.

What I did think was a bit strange about this direction from Reiner was the little interviews from elderly couples that have their own love stories to tell. For some reason they would just pop-up in this flick out of nowhere and some stories would be funny, sad, and even a little heartwarming but they didn’t really need to be here. I get that Reiner was trying to show how love can just come up and find you and your muse at any time in life, but I didn’t feel like it was suited well for the material they had here and instead it just showed that Reiner didn’t know how to transition between scenes very well. It’s my only complaint though so I can’t be too hard on him and this film.

The reason why this film works so well the way it does is because of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan‘s performances as Harry and Sally. Crystal is very, very funny as Harry and uses a lot of the sly humor he uses in ever film and also when he hosts the Oscars. His dramatic chops may not be the best skills he has to offer, but he at least gets by on showing us a very funny and believable character that you could probably walk by on the street and talk to for hours on end about anything. Ryan also is very good here in her own way as Sally and she shows a great divide between humor, heart, and beauty that fits together so perfectly. I don’t usually like Ryan in a lot of stuff (except for ‘In the Cut’, which is for obvious reasons ;)…..) but she won me over here with a female romantic lead that wasn’t stupid and knew just how ridiculous and over-dramatic she could be at some points. Together, they’re a perfect pair because they have such funny and believable interplay that it’s hard to take them as anything else but best buddies. This script was great to begin with but because of these two, it got a hell of a lot better in my book.

Consensus: When Harry Met Sally may fall for the same rom-com cliches we always get, but the smart and true script, mixed with two honest and likable performances from Crystal and Ryan, make this one of the better rom-coms I have seen in quite some time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

RIP Nora Ephron, you will truly be missed.

Sexy Beast (2000)

Don’t piss off Gandhi.

Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winstone) is enjoying life. That’s why the news of the arrival of Don “Malky” Logan (Ben Kingsley), a man clearly from their long buried pasts, is met with such dread. He wants something from Gal, but no one is sure what.

This is the debut feature from director Jonathan Glazer who has done music videos in the past for big-time British bands such as Radiohead, Blur, and Jamiroquai. So basically you know this guy has got to be the shit when it comes to directing and British bad-asses. Mainly the latter.

What I liked about Glazer’s direction here is that it had sort of a mixture between the look of a David Fincher flick and a feel of a Michael Mann one as well. It sounds like a very cool mixture and it is because his style here works by giving you this slick look. It was also really cool to see how he used the contrast of Spain’s bright, beautiful sunlight and England’s wet, depressing nights because one looks like a happy place to be in, while the other does not. Don’t know why Glazer hasn’t been able to do anything worth mentioning since this but I can easily say that I think it’s time for him to come back up on the big-screen and stop making videos for shitty bands like Massive Attack. Sorry Massive Attack lovers out there!

But I’m going to stop focusing on Glazer now because in all honesty, he isn’t the main reason to see this flick. The main reason is none other than Sir Ben Kingsley himself playing the foul-mouthed, high-strung gangster, Don, who doesn’t seem like he wants to take “no” for an answer no matter what the proposition may be. Kingsley may seem like a very left-field choice to play this type of role but it works so well because not only is he perfect with this role but he gave us a look at what he can do with any character just by looking the same exact way he’s been looking for the past 30 years. To be honest, Ben Kingsley is not a scary looking dude but every time he was on-screen here, I wanted to run away from the movie itself. This guy owns just about every scene, constantly yelling, screaming, and causing all sorts of havoc, and is probably the most memorable aspect of the whole flick.

However, that’s also the problem with this flick because he isn’t what this film is all about, he’s actually a supporting character which means that the parts without him aren’t interesting. Don’t get me wrong Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, and everybody else here do great jobs with their roles but when it’s all said and done, you can’t stop to forget about Kinglsey and all of the crazy shit he does in all of his scenes. It was strange because there was just a time in this flick where I didn’t really seem to care as to what was going to happen next to our main character, and just basically wanted to know what Sir Ben was up to and when he was going to pop-up.

It’s also a shame too because the film does try its hardest to do something new with focusing more on character development here rather than all that other gangster stuff we usually see in these kinds of flicks. This is also what attributed to the fact that the flick was starting to drag by the end and the whole cool factor that this film was originally giving off, was starting to go away by the second and as much as I praised Glazer for his direction, I also have to say that I wish he kept up with himself later on in the game. Basically, it’s another one of the cases where the director is inspired and knows exactly what the hell he wants to do but the script is continuing to let him down. Happens all the time, especially to directors from a music video background.

Consensus: Sexy Beast does have a sleek and cool style to it that matches the good performances here, especially Ben Kingsley, but the film started to drag on a bit and started to lose me when they would focus the story away from Kingsley because he is honestly the most memorable thing about this whole flick.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Jarhead (2005)

Call of Duty gives kids so many wrong impressions.

Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper’s rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon.

When people go out to see war flicks, they are basically expecting all of the works such as action filled with guns blazing, grenades blowing up, tanks shooting up the place, and just a whole bunch of other crazy ish that you could probably reenact on your XBOX 360 or PS3. The thing is though, not all wars were like this and not all war films are like that either.

What I liked most about ‘Jarhead’ was Sam Mendes‘ direction here. Mendes really isn’t a guy that’s known for slam-bang, action war flicks so he doesn’t try to do anything here that he isn’t already familiar, instead he gives this film a new type of edge that shows us just how boring the war really is. It’s much like ‘Three Kings’ in that aspect, whereas that was a bit of a satire on what was going on during The Gulf War, this is more of a serious first-hand account that has the type of realism to it that really works and brings you into this setting and the everyday life of these soldiers.

All they do is sit around and wait for the actual “action” to happen while playing a bunch of football, masturbating a hell of a lot, and drinking like nobody else’s business. Hey, I know it doesn’t sound all that bad but just imagined being stationed out hours and hours away from home with no woman and no time to not worry about anything, then the times may start to get a bit bothersome. It feels very real and adds a lot to the whole aspect where no action at all during a war, can actually eff with another person’s mind. Any time these guys feel like they’re about to just go out there and get some kills, they are once again disappointed by how things just don’t end up working in their favor. And on top of that, your “lady” at home who’s supposed to be waiting for you to come home with arms wide open, is also probably getting banged by your best friend or neighbor. Warfare isn’t so fun and exciting now is it?

Mendes also has a keen eye for making any gritty war flick look pretty and he does that so well here. The shots of these young soldiers in the desert are nice to look at because anything with long-ass landscapes of barely anything look pretty. What really caught my eye with this cinematography was near the end where they light the oil wells on fire and the skies light up with this dark, yellowish look and it’s actually very beautiful but at the same time, very depressing like the mood of this flick.

The only problem this film actually has with itself is that since there is so much waiting and waiting for these guys to actually get a chance to do something, that it sort of keeps the same pace and mood the whole time with barely any real emotional weight in-stored.  There are moments where they take you inside of these soldiers’ heads and get you to understand, but there was never anything here that really made me feel like I needed to watch what these characters were going to do next. It keeps everything the same for the whole flick and as much as I can’t complain about the mood that the film set in right away, I still can say that I wish there was more to this plot, to these characters, and to the heart of this flick.

The film also never really dives into these dudes’ emotional states as much as it should have. Yeah, they showed how these guys were effed up by the fact that they couldn’t shoot anything up but it never goes anywhere deeper other than that. We get a couple of scenes but nothing special and it was kind of a shame because even though this flick does have what it takes to be a really good, and somewhat important war flick, it still dropped the ball on not having too much emotional weight to it. You can only care for so much on the screen and it’s only a matter of time until you start to have no feelings for any of these characters.

One of the real reasons this film works so well is because of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s lead performance here as Swofford. Jake is an actor that is highly underrated because he has so many great roles and performances, but at the end of the day people continue to look at him as Donnie Darko. That’s a shame because his performance here is probably the one thing that keeps this movie so compelling at points. He goes through all of the steps of being a shy rookie, to being a bad-ass in training, and then to being one of those dudes who starts to lose his fuckin’ mind when he doesn’t get the chance to shoot his rifle. Everything he goes through here is believable and it almost seems like this character couldn’t be played by anybody else either.

The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either. Peter Sarsgaard is really good as Troy, and gets this one scene where he just lets loose on his emotions and it’s a real stunning scene that was also the most memorable; Chris Cooper gets a top-billing but is barely even in this flick with only two scenes and still kicks ass as always; and Jamie Foxx adds more emotional weight and understanding to the “angry black drill sergeant” role here as Staff Sergeant Siek.

Consensus: Jarhead is definitely not the war flick for everyone, actually it’s very anti-war, but what sets this one apart is the direction from Mendes who gets inside the heads of these soldiers and shows what they’re going through, and also features a stand-out performance from Gyllenhaal, who is compelling the whole time.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Grizzly Man (2005)

Smokey definitely looks a lot scarier now.

This is a documentary based on the life of Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent the last 13 Summers of his life chillin’ with nature in Alaska before he and his girlfriend were tragically mauled by a not-so friendly bear.

What makes this story even crazier is that he filmed his last couple of trips so it gives you that “‘Jackass’ meets the Discovery Channel” feel, but add a bit of Werner Herzog to the mix, and you have a documentary unlike any other.

What I liked about this flick was how Herzog was able to mish-mash all of these pieces of film together, and give us a look at this man, but also at nature itself. Some of the footage that Treadwell took himself is very extraordinary because of how he is able to come so close to these creatures, and though he may not always get the nicest responses out of them, he still comes closer to any of them then I would ever go. Then again, there was that time where I almost ran over a fox so I guess that kind of counts, right? Anyway, it’s still amazing footage that Treadwell is able to able to capture here and Herzog definitely picked the best of the bunch and shows us what it was really like for this dude to live on the edge almost every single second of his life when he would camp out there in the Summer. Definitely a lot better than some of the stuff that I have seen the Discovery Channel and a lot better commentary, too.

Footage aside, Herzog is also able to show a lot about this dude through interviews with people who knew him, who found his dead body, and even some thoughts of his own. We all get to see how Treadwell effected everybody around him and it really can get to you because so many people really did love him. But the film doesn’t just kiss his ass the whole time, there are plenty of other times where we see a couple of naysayers just point out how dumb and stupid Treadwell. Hell, even one guy goes as far as to say that “he had it coming to him”, and when he says “it”, he means Treadwell’s death. Damn dude, tell us how you really feel! We definitely get to see all of Treadwell here and the people that surrounded him, loved him, and still miss him to this day.

The problem with some of this stuff is that Herzog does get a little too close to this film and the people in it, and creates some very fake moments that are actually laughable now that I think about them. There’s a couple of scenes where Herzog puts himself in front-of the camera and tries to almost stage these melodramatic scenes as if they were in a movie of his own, but the one that really made me laugh was when the guy who listened to Treadwell’s death tape is talking a going on about what he heard, but then he all of a sudden stops mid-sentence because it almost seemed like Herzog wanted to hold him off for dramatic effect. Instead, it just came off as weird and very fake, and it’s a wonder why Herzog didn’t try and edit this part out anyway.

Despite this though, the real reason why this flick works the way it does is because of the man himself, Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell is one of these guys that is so easy to write-off as a total nutcase right from the start, but as the film goes on you start a real human side to him and realize that he loves nature, he loves animals, and he loves being who he is. Treadwell is a guy that gets very up close and personal with these animals and knows that he is basically putting himself into harm’s way every time he does so, but he never shows any signs that he wants to hurt or endangers these furry guys in anyway shape or form. He even goes as far as to start openly crying and sobbing how much he loves and cares for them and yes, it is very strange, but at the same time it’s very emotional because you never once doubt that this guy is putting on a show. He used to be an actor and he is filming himself the whole time, but he loves these animals so much and it’s almost as inspirational as it is weird.

What’s also great about this flick is how we see all of Timothy Treadwell, as I’ve mentioned before, but not just from his friends and family but also from himself. He films himself giving off plenty of little speeches about how he loves these animals and nature itself, but he also shows plenty of angry tirades where he basically points the middle finger up to the government that says he’s crazy, Alaskan park officials who tell him he can’t be with these animals so closely, and to poachers who come into where he camps and openly mock him. There’s a couple of these scenes where he goes crazy and it’s very disturbing as much as it is true and it shows how many people out there look at nature and don’t give a shit about it or the people that love it. Now I am no tree hugger whatsoever, but I do love nature and I love all animals out there and this really struck a cord with me how one person can be so in love and so taken away with nature, that he almost feels like he’s one of them and will protect them in anyway he can. I may sound like I’m going on a constant rant here about this dude, but Timothy Treadwell was a great man that loved these animals and even though he may have a couple of dark sides to him as well, it’s what makes him all the more human in the long run.

Consensus: Grizzly Man is a beautiful film that shows the life of Timothy Treadwell, a man who loved nature, animals, and everything else around him and would stop at nothing to be with them and protect them, even if that did mean losing his own life, as well as his lady friend.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Boning Keira Knightley would probably be on my list of things to do if the world was going to end in three weeks.

Set in a too-near future, a man searches for a meaningful connection as humanity’s last days are at hand. Can he find his greatest love at the worst possible time? As the respective journeys of Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.

I really do like this idea. What would you do, if you knew you only had 21 days to live? Would you have endless sex? Get drunk all of the time? Commit suicide? Party it up like no other? Tell off people you have always wanted to tell off? Rekindle with an old flame? Find love one last time? Or just sit there and go on through your day, as if nothing happened? Honestly, I don’t know what I would do except maybe watching all of my favorite movies one last time. This won’t be one of them.

This is the debut from writer/director Lorene Scafaria, and it’s a pretty good one, too considering she is the chick he wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a movie that made me want to kill all NYC indie bands in existence. That’s why I’m afraid to go to New York, because I know that if I do step somewhere in that city and I hear an indie band, murder will happen. OK, that’s actually not the reason but you get the drift, I didn’t like that movie but I like this one and I think that’s because Scafaria starts this movie out pretty well with a lot of humor.

There’s a lot of goofy stuff that happens in the first half, where we see how all of these people react to the apocalypse differently, like a bizarre-o restaurant called “Freindsies” that starts out with a happy birthday song, and then ends in an orgy that almost comes out of nowhere. Definitely think of that next time I go to Hooters for my b-day celebration. Then there’s also another scene where we see Penny and Dodge get picked up by some random dude, only to find out that he has hired a hitman to kill him. Pretty funny stuff altogether but underneath all of the humor, there lies a very sad darkness and eventually, it comes up from out of nowhere which was good for this film, but also bad.

What I did like about this total shift in tone was that Scafaria gives this trip between Penny and Dodge, some real development so that when these two eventually do “fall in love” it’s earned and feels like something that’s meant to happen, much like the end of the world. That’s another aspect of this movie that kept me going throughout, the fact that there was two ways this movie could have ended. It was a comedy after all, so there could have been a sucker-punch ending where Scafaria decided that the world wasn’t really going to end and all of these people have to live with the dumb mistakes they have already made. But then again, going with the actual doomsday coming around is more logical and it seems like at one point that Scafaria is going to go for it and totally wipe out the whole planet of Earth. I won’t give away what ending she does end up with, but it had me glued to the screen until the credits rolled.

However, as funny as this film could have been at times, the dramatic stuff does come on a little too strong, giving the film an uneven tone. The first half, as I have already mentioned, is pretty damn funny with a whole bunch of wacky situations to how people would act when the end of their days is coming up. But once the film starts to unravel and the idea that everybody will actually die starts to set in, things start to get more and more melancholy and sad. Honestly, I get that you can’t have a film about the nearing apocalypse and have it be funny the whole way through, but this shit ends up getting depressing. Really, the last hour or so barely had any laughs whatsoever and even though before that, it wasn’t the funniest thing known to man, it still put a smile on my face and made me happy. Really, you couldn’t have done this film any differently with it’s tone than Scafaria already did, but it feels like Funny People, where it’s like two different films stuck together. Some of this stuff was touching though, so I can’t be too harsh on it.

Actually, the main reason this flick was so touching was because of the odd pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. These two actually make a good romantic couple together, even though the age difference between them is a big turn-off for most people, myself included, but I guess that’s the point of them and why they’re together. These two would have never hung-out if the world was still the same, but because of this coincidental circumstance, they end up being the only person they’d much rather spend their last few days alive with.

Carell is doing that sad-sack character again here, but still works well especially when he has to play a character that is still so sad from the fact that his wife and everything else he knows, has left him. Whereas Knightley is playing a lively and full-of-life character, but still shows that she has some sad emotions to her as well. Knightley is great in this role and shows that she actually has some comedic chops to her as well, but it’s the fact that we are able to care for her character as much as Carell’s is and that’s where I think the real beauty of this film lies. The pairing of these two may be odd, but it’s also somewhat inspired and shows that if you have an inspired premise, inspired writing, and inspired characters, then it all can work out in the end. That is…until the world blows up. Then, that’s when things don’t work out.

Consensus: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is funny, tender, well-acted by its leads, and has its heart in the right place, but also features a big tonal shift about halfway through that makes it feel like two different movies, wrapped up into one, big apocalyptic nightmare.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Freed the slaves, led a nation through a war, hunts vampires, and has two movies coming out about him in the same year. What can this guy not do!

He freed the slaves and led the Northern states through America’s Civil War. His legacy as the greatest president of the United States endures to this day. But Abraham Lincoln’s life as the world’s greatest hunter of the undead remained a secret – until now.

You’re enjoyment level of this movie solely depends on if you are able to accept the potential idea of Honest Abe slaying vampires. If you can accept the goofiness and fun in that idea, then you will have fun here, but if you think it’s stupid and want a real biopic on the 16th president, then you may want to wait till December.

Going into this, you have to expect an insane amounts of wild and dumb stuff to happen, and that’s pretty much what Timur Bekmambetov delivers on, for the most part. I was a little worried that the tone of this film was going to be too serious for the source material, but it worked out fine just because Bekmambetov seems like he’s totally game for showing Honest Abe, wheeling an axe around and killing a bunch of blood-suckers. But while everything else is serious, the action sequences are totally over the top. In a good way, might I add.

There’s this one, really cool memorable sequence where it’s Abe facing off against his rival vampire that takes place among a CGI-horse stampede. It is probably one of the dumbest action sequences I have ever seen in any movie, strictly because it just defies the law of physics, but it’s so much fun and it’s also something I have never seen done before in a movie. Let alone, a movie about a former president of the United States. There’s also another memorable sequence by the end where it’s Abe facing off against a bunch of vampires on top of a locomotive train. Yes, we’ve all seen a bunch of action sequences/fights take place on top of trains while they’re moving, but there’s just something insane about the feel of this movie and it kept me going along for the ride. Sadly, that ride started and stopped way too many times for my liking.

As fun as this plot was, sometimes I felt like it could have been more of exactly that. Do we get Abe wielding an axe around and killing vampires? Yes, but did I want to see more ridiculous things go down rather than just another interpretation of Abe’s life, with the mix of vampires? Yes, of course. There were times where I really felt like this film delivered on it’s promise of being ludicrous and fun, but then there were times when the film just slowed down for me and got a little too serious for it’s own good. Maybe it wasn’t being too serious, maybe it was more just that the film decided to focus on Abe’s life too much and totally forget about the action parts in-between.

Another problem I had with this film was the way it looked. Thank the lord that I didn’t decide to see this in 3D because I would have probably been more mean to this movie in my review, and also would have felt like I just wasted 12 bucks that I’ll never, ever get back no matter how long I work the corner. Seriously, this film does look like shit and I think I made the right (“cheap”) decision in getting the regular, 2D tickets. This film just looks so dull, with it’s dark and eerie look to it that has it come off as a really, low-budget adaptation of the book. Also, every time a single person would throw a blow or wield in a weapon in a fight sequence, the slow-mo would kick in and this bothered me to high heavens. Does it look cool? Yes, but not all of the damn time. Take a page out of Zak Snyder’s book and realize that you can make an action scene look cool with slow-mo, but you just can’t do it every single action starts up. My humble advice: find the earliest showing at your theater, go to it, buy regular 2D tickets, sit at least 4 rows back, and enjoy. That’s what I did and it didn’t do so bad but it made me realize just how shitty everything in this film looked.

The whole time throughout this flick, I kept on watching Benjamin Walker play Abraham Lincoln and kept on thinking that he looks exactly like Liam Neeson. Well, the funny thing is that he did play a younger Liam Neeson in Kinsey, but that’s not to say that the dude doesn’t make a name for himself on his own terms. He has a likable presence where you feel like he could easily be the next president of the United States, even if he does have this dark secret behind him. Actually, I though Walker was at his best when the action scenes were going down because I thought he looked pretty damn bad-ass and also seemed a lot like what Lincoln would actually be like, had he have to fight off vampires all of the damn time. Not a star-making role by any means, but a good one that hopefully gets his name out there and farther away from Neeson’s.

Playing his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has some nice parts playing his strong-willed wife, but a lot of the other times she seems like she’s just there on-display and to give Abe a love interest. Well, a love interest that just so happened to be his wife of 20+ years but you know what I’m saying. She didn’t really mean much to this story. It was also cool to see Rufus Sewell playing yet again, another villain as Adam, the lead vampire that Abe despises the most. Sewell is obviously good in this role and definitely under-plays it well but starts to seem like less and less of a threat by the end of the film, mainly because it seems like every other vampire is after Abe’s neck.

Consensus: You’re enjoyment level of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, will most likely depend on whether or not you are able to accept that title and it’s wild premise, but if you can, it’s fun, crazy, filled with memorable action, and has a nice leading role from Benjamin Walker.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Brave (2012)

Don’t worry Katniss, you can still hit a bulls eye better.

The story is set in the Scottish highlands and centers on Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald), the red-haired princess of the kingdom who defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to her land. In order to right her wrong, she goes to a Wise Woman who grants her an ill-fated wish that may be more than she bargained for.

After the disappointing Cars 2 from last year, Pixar seems like they have finally gotten themselves back up to where they were in the first place. Sadly, I think their bar has been raised a little too high for their own good.

What I liked most about Brave, was the set-up of this flick. I would say probably the first 45 minutes are exciting, adventurous, and very funny and this is where I really thought I had a keeper on my hands. I mean you got Princess Merida acting like a cool, young chick that she is, wanting to do her own thing and you feel like that’s what this film is going to be all about. However, there’s a big twist right in the middle of the flick that I won’t give away and then that’s when things start to get…well..kiddish.

I know it sounds stupid for me to get mad at a Pixar flick for being too “kiddish”, considering that’s the type of movies they make, but the twist here just felt like they were really taking away from a story that could have done so much to me. It could have made me get excited, it could have made me laugh a whole lot more, and it probably could have made me laugh, but instead, it just goes for this playful idea that doesn’t talk about Merida and her struggle of doing what she wants to do, it actually is about her and her mother. This really surprised me because all of the trailers have been pretty much advertising this as a crazy epic, with a strong female lead, that finds out what she wants to do with her life and how. The problem is, that’s only the first hour and the rest is left for us to see and cringe at.

Actually, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s “cringe-worthy” but it’s just disappointing to see, coming from Pixar. Pixar is the company that has had me, in the past, drowning in a puddle of my own tears, destroying my gut by how much I was laughing, and walk out of the theater with a big smile on my face, wanting to hug every person that walked by my for the next 10 minutes. But now, it seemed like Pixar was playing it a little too safe with this one and rather than just going that extra mile in trying to connect with both kids and adults alike, they just go for the low-road and make this movie towards kids. Once again, nothing really wrong with that, it’s just a bummer that this is what Pixar ended up going on with in the end but it’s not their worst film. Just not their best either.

Aside from all of the bad things, though, Brave also has a lot of good that I can’t leave unnoticed. The visuals, of course, for this movie are absolutely gorgeous and I definitely recommend seeing this one in 3D. This is the first time that Pixar has visited the land of Scotland, and they make it look like such a fantasy world with all of these vibrant colors popping out of nowhere and long, sweeping shots of land and forests. Probably the most beautiful thing to look at, out of this whole movie, is actually Merida’s flowing red locks that come right out at you in the 3D as if you can almost reach out and nip a piece of her hair out. So whenever the story is getting you down, just pay attention to the eye candy this movie has on-display here and then it will all get better, as it did for me.

Another first here for Pixar, is that this is the first time they are focusing a film around a female lead and I think they found the perfect one with Merida. First of all, Merida is a kick-ass character that is like all teenage girls out there: she wants to be her own woman, wants to do things herself, and rebels against everything her mother says or tells her to do. This is obviously, an easy character to relate to and cheer on but she also has a lot of spunk to her that gives her this edge, where you don’t know what’s going on throughout her mind next. It’s a pretty cool character and I think that Kelly McDonald was a great choice to voice her but my thing with her is that every time I mention Merida and the word “heroine” in the same sentence, I can’t stop thinking about Trainspotting. I know, I can’t help it, that’s just where my mind goes sometimes.

The rest of the voice cast is pretty good as well, with some familiar voices here and there. Emma Thompson brings some heart to Merida’s conflicted mother, Elinor, and also shows that she can handle a Scottish accent very well. So well, that some of the people around me in my screening were actually jabbering on about whether or not that was Thomspon’s voice. Probably the most times I laughed during this film, were the times the film focused on the subplot with Merida’s dad and his way of controlling a wild and out-of-control drunken party at the castle, with the other kings. I think the main reason I laughed at these parts so much were because when you have such vocal talents like Billy ConnollyKevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson on-top of their A-game, you can’t help but laugh your ass off, even when things start to get very cute for this film in the last act, and all of these guys are merely forgotten.

Consensus: Brave definitely has some nice heart, humor, and beautiful visuals to show off, but it’s not Pixar’s best because of a surprising plot twist that takes it right into kiddie material, which wouldn’t be all that bad if it wasn’t any other flick. However, it is Pixar and the bar has been raised a little too high for them to do something like this, and almost get away with.

7/10=Rental!!

Heathers (1988)

It’s like the old saying; “if you hate ‘em…kill ‘em”. Not an actual saying but it should be.

Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) hates the girls in her popular clique. Enter mysterious newcomer J.D. (Christian Slater), who offers her the perfect — albeit deadly — solution to end the Heathers’ social tyranny.

Hasn’t every kid in high school at least once dreamed of killing off the popular high school sluts and jocks? I mean sure every one has, but to dream of it is one thing, but then to actually do it is another. Go geeks!

What I liked most about this flick is that it’s not like your usual high school flick and I think that’s where it’s real selling point was. The script by Daniel Waters is great because he makes fun of all the things we see in high school such as the bitchy prom queens, the asshole football players, the dumb teachers, and the clueless parents who have no idea of what’s going on. It’s a satire but it’s also very true in how it voices its mind of just how stereotypical high school can be. Waters definitely delivers the good when it came to making me laugh my ass off here but it’s also the central point here as well that made me think of it a whole lot differently as well.

No matter what anybody does, high school will always be high school. There will always be the cliques, there will always be the prissy girls that are too good for you so they go on top of college guys every weekend, there will always be those dickheads that try to take your lunch money everyday, there will always be those teachers/adults who “just don’t get it”, and there will always be the geeks who can never stand up for themselves. That’s how it’s been,  that’s how it will always be and there’s no way anybody can eliminate that. However, you still don’t have to be apart of all of that and you can just be your own person, without ever conforming or trying to “fit in” with a certain group of people. This rings very true, especially to a dude like me who never really tried to blend in with a certain group. I’ll be cool with any person who is able to be cool with me and it doesn’t matter how high on the social status they are either. Maybe this isn’t the point of the flick and I’m just looking for something to look in deeper with, but it still rang a little true for me.

But the main problem I had with this flick was that I think it started to get a little too serious by the end and that’s where it lost me. Yes, the whole idea of having teens kill off other teens is a very dark subject, and something you definitely couldn’t do in today’s day and age of post-Columbine, but you still can lighten it up just a bit without losing that comedic edge. The film loses itself half-way through because then everything starts to get scarier, a lot more serious, and a lot more darker to the point of where I wasn’t really laughing all that much. I think that Waters’ script is done very well here, but I think that he loses his comedic timing by the end and maybe, just maybe, gets a little too carried away with taking such a bizarre-o premise so seriously in the end.

It was really cool to see two stars such as Winona Ryder and Christian Slater back in their hay-day, and give great performances as two great characters. Ryder is awesome as Veronica, a character who seems like she’s definitely a lot more smarter than the girl she hangs around with, but then ends up almost getting sucked right back into it once the other girls start to get up in her grill about it. Ryder has great comedic timing in almost everything she does, and even though she starts to get a little cheesy by the end, I still have to say that I liked everything else she did with a very well-written character. Slater was awesome as J.D., using that “young Jack Nicholson” shtick he’s always known for but it also gives him this mysterious edge to him. I think that they kind of dropped the ball on this character later on in the flick as I think they could have developed him a bit more, but I still liked Slater for what he did here and it’s such a shame to see how much he has fallen down the radar since this.

Consensus: Heathers may get a tad too serious by the end, but it still maintains a smart, funny, and satirical look at the way high school is, how it’s always been, and how it always will be, even if the subject matter may be a bit too dark for some people to hold in.

7/10=Rental!!

Batman Begins (2005)

Fear the Batman and his raspy voice!

As a boy a young Bruce Wayne watched in horror as his millionaire parents were slain in front of his eyes, a trauma which led him to become obsessed with revenge but his chance is cruelly taken away from him by fate. The discovery of a cave under his mansion, and a prototype armoured suit leads him to take on a new persona, one which will strike fear into the hearts of men who do wrong, he becomes Batman (Christian Bale).

Since everybody and their mothers have been hyping up the release of the epic conclusion of the Christopher Nolan Batman Saga, I thought it would be a good time to go back and check out what these other two did to have all of this excitement. However, it only got me more and more excited for what’s bound to come July 20th.

What Nolan does here with this Batman flick is give it a whole new look, edge, and feel to it. Instead of going for the slap-happy, goofy type of Batman we usually see from Adam West and the terrible Joel Schumacher, we get a real serious Batman that works a lot better. That’s right, no Prince jams, no Bat nipples, and no hammy villains: everything is played straight to the core and that is one of the main things that Nolan does here perfectly. Nolan actually gets into the character of Bruce Wayne more and find out how, why, and for what reasons he goes off from being this million dollhair playboy, to all of a sudden becoming a kick-ass dude dressed in a Bat suit.  Of course being dressed as a Bat when you’re laying down the law on somebody is a little kooky in its own right, but they actually bring that up amongst other topics, and it all comes together perfectly.

Nolan also knows how to make this film look great with some perfect shots coming from the cinematography, but also with the sleek and dark look this film had the whole time, especially when it came to Gotham City itself. Gotham City here, actually looked like a metropolis rather than just a set with some fancy designs on it and it got me into this setting where every one and everything is just dirty as hell, everybody and their mothers are all corrupted, and there is no law being brought down on anything bad happening. Gotham City has never looked better and it only gets cooler and cooler to look at once Nolan begins to bring in some of Batman’s cool gadgets and whatnot, all of which, are going to make you want to head on back down to the local Toys R Us and play around a little bit. I’m probably alone on that one but it’s just another excuse to go and play with my toys.

There was plenty of action that worked, especially the finale which kept the energy flowing, but it start to bother me after awhile. Yeah, Nolan gives us the action we want but whenever he does, the camera is constantly up each person’s asses and you can’t see anything else other than a couple of figures throwing punches and kicks at one another. With all of these “hand to hand” combat fight sequences being edited so tightly, it was really hard for me to even get a feel for who was hitting who and who was doing what to whom, and I guess I just also wanted that “awww shittt he just broke that bulls….” moment that I usually get whenever I watch a superhero/action movie. Instead, I just guessed who was winning and who ended up winning and 9 times out of 10, I was right.

Christian Bale was a great choice for Bruce Wayne/Batman because the guy can look and act the part no matter what it is that he does, and he is no different here. I like how Bale gave off this dark but cocky attitude about him that made his character seem more like Patrick Bateman, which isn’t such a bad thing considering that is by-far one of his best performances of all-time and it’s definitely a lot easier to cheer on this guy when it comes to the beat-downs. Katie Holmes was pretty damn flat as Rachel and I think that’s mainly because the writing didn’t give her much to do, other than constantly bitch at every one around her, especially at Bruce and then act like they’re in love at the end. Yeah, didn’t really believe that after all of the hissy-fighting but maybe she was just tense. Then again, that’s always an excuse for ladies.

As for the villain(s) of this flick, each and every single one of them do fine-ass jobs and give a lot more to this story, even if it is without any real iconic villain that we all know and love from the Batman series. Liam Neeson is sinister as Henri and seems like the type of dude you really don’t want to mess with, even if it is Oskar Schindler; Tom Wilkinson was freakin’ funny (in a good way) as the last mobster in Gotham City; and Cillian Murphy does a great job playing up that whole crazy-persona here as Dr. Crane, and thankfully, he doesn’t overdo it one bit. Oh yeah, another surprise is that The Scarecrow is actually scary this time around. Never going into the corn fields ever again.

Consensus: Batman Begins is not perfect but it’s a very dark, bleak, and serious type of superhero film that works due to it’s inspired direction from Christopher Nolan, and some awesome performances that all of the cast gives out, with the exception of Katie Holmes which was pretty predictable.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

That’s My Boy (2012)

Somehow I wish my dad was like this.

While still in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd (Andy Samberg), and raised him as a single parent up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd’s world comes crashing down on the eve of his wedding when an uninvited Donny suddenly shows up.

To be truly honest, I was somewhat looking forward to this flick. Adam Sandler has been in a down-fall as of late, but this one had promise because it was directed by someone new (Sean Anders of Sex Drive), has another big-name that is on the verge of being the new “comedic bad boy” that Sandler once was, and is rated-R. I know I can’t get myself hyped up for something just because it’s rated-R but it’s Sandler we’re talking about here! This guy is freakin’ hilarious when it comes to this stuff, right?

The main problem with this flick is that a lot the comedy is in bad taste. This is something that many comedies can pull off if they can do it in a smart way that can make you laugh, here, it’s done terribly wrong as if the idea of this film was to just horrify the audience. The first 5 minutes of this film is dedicated to a relationship between a twelve-year-old student and his adult teacher, and if that doesn’t get you right away, trust me, there is plenty more to disturb you. For me, I wasn’t all that disturbed by everything here because I feel like anything goes whenever you’re making a comedy but it doesn’t work here since all of the raunchy and vile stuff that the writers were throwing at us, were just for the sake of doing so. It almost felt like it was forcing itself to be raunchy in order to be funny, which bothered me because when you have a guy like Sandler, you shouldn’t have to force any type of comedy regardless of what the film may be.

It’s terribly raunchy and dirty but the film isn’t anything different from what we’ve already seen from any other Sandler comedy. All of the conventions we have come to expect, and probably hate by now, are here and in force the whole way through such as the hair metal music soundtrack, the random D-list celebrities who show up here just to make a quick buck, the women who are all made out to be either bitches, whores, gold-diggers, or just complete psychopaths, gross-out gags, and the annoying schmaltz that creeps up by the end and tells you about how “family is important”, aka the same exact theme behind every single one of Sandler’s productions. Yeah, it’s all pretty obvious and even though it did have me chuckle every once and a blue moon, the film still missed the mark on every other single joke it tried to make.

I guess what really bugged me about this whole film was how unfunny Adam Sandler was here. Sandler plays Donny, a total dirt bag that obviously can’t connect with his son, nor with his son’s richy-rich friends and acquaintances but just wants to have a good time and get some moolah in the meantime. This doesn’t sound so bad for a Sandler character but the problem with Donny is that he’s kind of annoying, and Sandler’s frat-boy antics don’t quite work out as well when you’re pushing 45. The voice Donny has is this Boston-like, high-pitched voice that just got on my nerves right from the start and every joke that he makes is hard to understand due to this. But Sandler may have to stop with these types of roles sooner or later because even though they worked incredibly well back in the 90’s/early 00’s, they are starting to seem too obvious for him now as if he just wants to go back and try to bring back that glory he once had.

I sure as hell hope that Andy Samberg didn’t leave SNL for this shit because this guy really gets screwed over here as Donny’s son, Todd/Han Solo. Samberg is pretty good at playing the straight-man but he’s never fully able to let loose of his crazy-boy antics that he shows off so well in everything else he does, and a lot of that is mostly given to Sandler. But surprisingly, the funniest cast member of this whole film has to be Vanilla Ice playing himself and actually really open to making fun of himself. Ice is probably the funniest/best thing of this whole flick and he doesn’t do much other than just be a total nut case. Also, he allows a couple of “Ice Ice Baby” jokes here and there as well, something I was not expecting from his side one bit.

Consensus: That’s My Boy is a raunchy comedy that’s done in terribly bad taste, but also isn’t very funny, features the usual antics and gags we expect from an Adam Sandler comedy, and squanders the comedic talent that lies within Andy Samberg, only to give it to random d-listers like Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges.

2.5/10=Crapola!!

Rock of Ages (2012)

If only life was played to the music of Def Leppard, then all girls would feel the need to pour some sugar on me. If you know what I mean.

This movie tells the story of small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and city boy Drew (Diego Boneta), who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.

I’ve never been a big fan of the 80’s but from time to time, I’ll find myself rocking out to a couple of hair metal tunes like “Cherry Pie”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and plenty of others. So the idea of having a musical taking place around that era and focusing on that music, didn’t really have me reaching out for my “nostalgia money” but hey, nostalgia isn’t all that bad.

Director Adam Shankman is a guy who knows how to do musicals and bring out the most energy in them. Everything looks so colorful, the dance numbers have people running all over the place while pulling off some neat Michael Jackson-like moves, the editing is choppy but gives the film this frantic feel to it, and a hell of a lot of camp to be had here as well. I mean whenever anybody talks about the 80’s, you can’t get past the fact that everything in that era was just so corny and goofy, but also, so perfect for that time period. That aspect is what this film plays off of and I think Shankman did a pretty damn good job recreating this era to the point of where I felt like I actually was watching a story in the 80’s, not just a dramatization on what might have been.

But if you’re going to see this film, you’re not going to be bothered with the camp of purty colors that are on display. Nope. You’re definitely going to be seeing this film because you love 80’s music, or just music in general and if that is the case, then this is a perfect fit for your music loving heart. Every time the film would start to get lame and focus on its “story”, a kick-ass musical number would just come right in to bring my attention back onto the screen, get my feet tapping, and simulate all of drum parts for each and every song. Everybody in the theater that I was with, kept looking at me but I didn’t care because I just could not help myself once people starting belting out lyrics to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “I Wanna Rock”, and even, yes, “I Want to Know What Love Is” (hey, don’t judge that song can get to you, man). Some of the songs aren’t used in the right context here and some even weren’t made yet by the time that this film takes place in, but either way, I could not stop rocking out and I came to realize that the 80’s was a pretty cool time for music. Never thought I’d be saying that.

The problem with this film is that whenever people aren’t jamming out to some choice tracks, everything starts to get boring and terribly dull. The center story, that the rest of the film takes place around, is beyond cliché where we see a young girl come all the way to Hollywood to be a huge singer, only to fall in love with another young, up-and-comer. Boring! This is something we have all seen done before and nothing else is really changed here with the exception that this love is surrounded by 80’s tracks, but even they couldn’t get my head past the weak-ass story. I actually think I dozed off a couple of times, only to be awoken by the loud, thunderous sounds of the music that would bring all of the fun this movie needed.

The film also doesn’t have much to say about the 80’s, let alone the music that took over this decade. Maybe I was going for something more than what I really needed from a musical like this but I think that the film could have done more with it’s whole 80’s premise, rather than just showing us how cool it was. It would have been a nice mixture of Rock Star and Hairspray, and even though that may not sound so wickedly cool and fun, it still would have offered more insight to its decade than this film did. Also, 2 hours and 4 minutes is sort of pushing it a little too long, especially when you have a musical that’s just strictly for the 80’s crowd.

What really made this film such a blast though, aside from the 80’s tracks, was the strange ensemble that came out believable and made this film a whole lot better. Malin Akerman is delightful and sexy as the “Rolling Stone” reporter that gets involved with a big-time rocker; Mary J. Blige may not be the best actress out there but she sure as hell can sing, which that’s all this film needs; Paul Giamatti is slimy and slightly evil as Paul Gill, but who else could play that type of character; Catherine Zeta-Jones is over-the-top as Patricia Whitmore, the wife of the Mayor, but is entertaining and has one sick-ass dance number that brought me back to her Chicago days; and Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand both have a lot of fun with each other as the two club owners, but I think needed more time on-screen as well. As for our little tikes in the leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, they are delightful to watch but kind of get blown out of the water by this phenomenal supporting cast. Mainly, one in particular.

Tom Cruise as hair metal icon Stacee Jaxx, was not only a perfect bit of casting for Mr. Cruise here but also the best part of this whole movie. Lately, Cruise has been taking more and more roles that show him sort of making fun of his own image and this is one of those roles where he gets to play around a bit with that image, but also be able to release his inner rocker. His voice may sound a little too weak for some of these songs that he performs, but it doesn’t matter because the guy takes over the screen whenever he’s on and also has a pretty credible character arc to him as well. It’s nothing like Magnolia, but it’s still the only arc for any character in this movie and it’s used well because it’s Tom Cruise dammit! Honestly, Tom Cruise has one last, big Oscar for him somewhere and even though it may not be this role, I know it’s still coming up soon regardless.

Consensus: Rock of Ages may have a weak story that makes the era its portraying more dull than it has any right to be, but the non-stop 80’s tracks are filled with energy and fun, and feature some great performances from this impressive ensemble cast of characters, especially an intense Tom Cruise.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Rules of Attraction (2002)

Whoever thought that Dawson would end up being Christian Bale’s little bro.

Set in a small, affluent liberal-arts university in present-day New England, USA, where three students named Sean (James Van Der Beek), Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), and Paul (Ian Somerhalder) who have no plans for the future – or even the present – become entangled in a curious romantic triangle.

If you don’t know who Bret Easton Ellis is by now, go on over to Wikipedia and check him out. He’s the writer of several novels like Less Than Zero, American Psycho, and The Informers. Basically this guy is a fucked up dude who sees the world differently than I can say I do, but I also got to give him a lot of respect because this damn guy is original and it’s even better when you have an original director to help out with the adaptation.

Writer/director Roger Avary is one of the main reasons why this film works so well because he gets inside the mind of Ellis and sees the world through his eyes. Everything is mean, nasty, cruel, but also very very dark in a way that is like unlike any other flick I have seen in quite some time. On the surface, this is a college flick that shows non-stop debauchery, hell, probably a lot more debauchery than ‘Project X’, but underneath it all is actual themes about how people can never connect and these characters are perfect examples of that. They all try to connect to one another and actually be noticed, but somehow, it never works out whether it’s bad timing, miscommunication, a tongue slip, or just a total fuck up which makes everything go to shit. It’s sad to say it but this film is more brutally honest than I ever expected it to be and it was very hard to not agree with what this film was trying to say.

But as I said, this film is also about non-stop debauchery and when I mean debauchery I mean everything such as snortin’ cocaine, drinking beer, having sex, partying, snortin’ cocaine, drinking beer, having sex, and so on and so forth. There is so much of that here but it works for the film because it not only adds to the whole central theme of the flick but it also takes us into this satirical world of college that Ellis has created. These kids never go to class, any time we ever see them they’re doing something bad, and when they aren’t doing something bad, in their heads their planning on doing something bad next. It was funny how Ellis just makes fun of how young adults are, especially ones in college, but the humor isn’t obvious at all, actually it’s the kind of humor that’s pitch black and is almost too dark to understand at first. The inner-thoughts that go through these kids minds is funny because of how short-minded they are but it’s also very sad because it’s true and it seemed like every time I got a laugh out of this flick, I sat there and thought that I shouldn’t be laughing because this film is basically making fun of me as well. Hey!!!

The screenplay is awesome and fits Ellis’ style but it’s the style and inspired direction of Roger Avary that really got me here. I can’t say that this film is filled with a style that is unlike any other film you have ever seen before, but there are some pretty inventive things that Avary does here with this story that gives it that extra kick. For example: Avary uses this technique where he plays forward with his camera then rewinds it in a different place and does the same thing to other scenes. This was a technique used in ‘Memento’ but for this flick, Avary gave it this very weird and bizarre feel that not only made me feel like this director could do anything but he actually will too. There’s plenty of other memorable scenes where Avary uses a split-screen to show us the difference between fantasy and reality (hello 500 Days of Summer), a Trainspotting nod, a scene where a snow flake falls down Van Der Beek’s face to melt into a tear in a very emotional scene, a long but quick-paced montage about a dude who went to Europe and all of his experiences, and one of the best “love at first sight” scenes that I have seen in a long, long time. That’s right, a movie that is based off of a novel from the same dude who gave us Patrick Bateman, has one of the better “love at first sight” scenes I have recently seen. Don’t understand it either but it’s something that Avary did here that made it work.

However, as much praise as I may be giving this flick, there was still a huge problem in the end. Earlier I said that this film is basically non-stop debauchery, and as perfect as that idea may have suited this film, it als0 leaved a lot to be desired. This film has no plot, and while it does move at a regular pace, nothing really goes down other than all of the crap that I mentioned earlier. It takes us inside this world of these obvious, loser kids but it still doesn’t really do anything for this film to keep it’s story going and it was sort of a bummer in the end because there could have been a really solid story to work with here in the first place.

Another problem I had with this story was that I think it also lost a lot of focus here because even though it’s supposed to be focusing on these three characters, it mainly puts Sean Bateman in the front, and everybody else in the back or not there at all. I get it that Bateman is basically the notorious asshole here, but there was a good 20 minutes where they didn’t even include Paul, and barely even had Lauren show up either. It was a shame that not only was there barely any story here at all, but it’s even more a shame that they try to sell this as a love triangle, when they barley focus on it or even anybody else other than Sean for that matter.

The cast is a bit odd on paper, but they all do perfectly with each of their incredibly sad and depressing characters. Shannyn Sossamon was absolutely likable and believable as the sweet and innocent virgin gal, that definitely seems like a chick I would love to just hang-out with and maybe give a hug too as well, since the whole time she seemed like she needed one. Ian Somerhalder is pretty solid as Paul, and was definitely giving off those homosexual winks at everyone around him and it worked because this character was weird but also very sad. Jessica Biel may seem like a strange choice for a total slut in a college flick, but she’s actually very good and creates a wholly unlikable character in Lara. Then again, everybody else in this flick is basically unlikable as well so she basically already had her hand in the bag.

The best performance out of this whole cast that really did shock me more than anything was probably James Van Der Beek‘s amazing performance as Sean Bateman. Yes, Dawson is the one dude in this flick, who goes to college to fuck everything up and succeeds at it. I didn’t think I was going to believe it when I was watching this, but slowly and surely, I started to really believe just how sick, effed up, and mean this character was but I also couldn’t hate him since Van Der Beek plays him with such charm and likability, much like Bale did with Patrick Bateman. This is one of the best “against type” roles that I have ever seen and Van Der Beek nails what it’s like to be a person that is angry with everything in the world, especially yourself. I’m a little ashamed to say it, but dare I say that I was actually a bit scared of him here as well…? Great performance and it’s an honest shame that he hasn’t gotten any big roles since this because this definitely should have knocked him back up in the books.

Consensus: The story is basically non-existent but where The Rules of Attraction works in is it’s inspired writing and directing work done by the wonderfully stylized, Roger Avary, and a cast that makes this more than just another film trying hard to be mean and hard to watch, it’s one that may make you look at college and young people in a different way. Still, can’t say that it’s everyone’s cup of tea either.

8/10=Matinee!!

Syriana (2005)

So does any of this explain as to why gas is up to 4 bucks?!?

This is the story that tells the oil industry from different perspectives such as a CIA operative (George Clooney), an energy analyst (Matt Damon), a Washington attorney (Jeffrey Wright), and a young unemployed Pakistani migrant worker (Mazhar Munir) in an Arab country in the Persian Gulf.

Damn, I wish I was smarter when it came to watching movies because this film pretty much killed me. However, coming from the dude who wrote Traffic, I wasn’t expecting anything less.

Writer/director Stephen Gaghan does the same thing he did with that film and give it the inter-connecting story-lines, with plenty of characters, and all centering around one central topic. This time around, it’s not as good but he still has his moments as writer and director, mostly the latter though. I liked the look Gaghan gave this film: gritty, dirty, and very realistic looking as I actually felt like I was there going from Pakistan to Texas, then to Maryland and back to Pakistan again. Gaghan also some nice moments of suspense and tension here with the script as you know something crazy is going to go down and you can feel the heat in the air rising. However, the problem with all of that is that I didn’t know exactly what or why that heat was rising in the first place.

My main problem with this flick was that I don’t think that this film really was for me. I like to watch a movie to be enjoyed, to see good performances, nice writing, and maybe learn a thing or two in the process, but the problem here is that I didn’t learn anything probably because I didn’t know anything about this topic to begin with. Gaghan knows what he’s talking about when it comes to all of this political mumbo-jumbo about the oil and foreign relations, but I honestly didn’t. Instead of trying to make it work for the audience in anyway, Gaghan doesn’t seem to really give a shit whether or not anybody understands what the hell everybody’s talking about because he’s got some knowledge to drop on us. Gaghan constantly keeps on bringing out information left and right and it was so frustrating after awhile because even though I tried to fill in the blanks myself as to who was doing what to who, I still couldn’t come up with anything and realized that I was missing out on some key plot elements to this film, not like I was going to even know what was going on in the first place anyway.

I guess the blame could be put down on me since I barely knew anything about this main topic, or anything else they talked about here but I honestly think that Gaghan could have at least dumbed it down just a bit. That’s right people, I said dumb it down and I will stand by that statement only for this flick. Hell, maybe dumb it down isn’t the right thing to say, maybe it just needed to be more coherent for an average folk such as myself. Yeah, coherency is what I really meant.

The key audience for this flick who will understand just about everything that’s going on are probably dilettantes, politicians, pundits, and all of the other people that are involved with the government, but for your regular movie goer, it’s hard to understand anything really and I think that Gaghan could have really benefited from some explanation or more time to keep this flick going and making a lot more sense to the wider audience. Maybe this film is too smart or maybe I’m just too dumb, either way, I can’t say that I was on the edge of my seat nor did I have any real clue as to what was going on.

Where the film really did start to pick up though was about the last 30-45 minutes when everything started making sense after awhile. All of the stories start to come together and even though I didn’t really know what the hell was going on in the first place, I could say that the ending was definitely a satisfying ending because I did pay enough close attention to it the whole time. I know it’s a cheat saying that I almost forgave the film for it’s last act, but I still think Gaghan handled it well. Wish I could say the same for the rest of his flick.

The ensemble Gaghan was also able to get here worked very well even though it really comes down to three people: George Clooney, Matt Damon, and the criminally underrated Jeffrey Wright, who are all great and perfect choices to be the anchors for this flick. They are all very good with their roles as is everybody else in this big-ass ensemble too but really, it’s Clooney who shines the most. Clooney got his Oscar with this performance as Robert Barnes, and as good and strong as it may be, I don’t quite think it was pure Oscar material but this guy is going to get a big win in the future so it’s all fine and dandy for now.

Consensus: Gaghan’s direction is well-done, and his work with this big ensemble is also very impressive, but the problem with his script is that it’s way too confusing with all of it’s jargon that will only make sense to people who actually pay attention to this stuff in the first place. I don’t know if it was just me or the flick itself, but something wasn’t going too well here and that’s why I can’t say it’s as great as everybody says it is.

6/10=Rental!!

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Made me really want to watch ‘Bad Boys II’. I never want to feel like that again.

Police Constable, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is good at his job, so good in fact, he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, his superiors at the Met have decided to sweep him under the carpet. So it is that London’s top cop finds himself in the sleepy West Country village of Sandford, where everything is a little too nice…

That synopsis doesn’t sound like anything too special but trust me, when you have the creative minds of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg working together, special is what you get.

The film is an obvious homage to all of the fun-loving buddy cop films of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today, but it also seems like it has a lot of love for the genre too. What’s so funny about this movie is that almost every scene features something goofy going on whether it’s a slight visual gag, recurring joke that seems to pop up everywhere, and in-jokes that will test your movie geekdom to it’s full limits. You’ll hear somebody utter a phrase or line-for-line dialogue from another flick or you’ll even see a scene from another recreated here and if you don’t get it right away, it’s not that funny, but if you do get it (like I did), you’ll be laughing your ass off the whole time. What was also rare about this comedy was that almost every jokes stays here in this flick and somehow finds it way of popping up later on in the flick and tying altogether with the plot.

Everybody knows how a cop movie goes but this film loves to toy around with that idea and just make it even more fun to actually watch them. Of course they mess around with the cliches and conventions that usually come with these types of films but it’s not all about that, these guys really do love these films and show how much fun they can be even if they are referring to such “classics” as ‘Point Break’ or ‘Bad Boys II’. If you don’t get the joke with that last statement then this surely is not the film for you. Then again though, a lot of this humor is very British in its own way, which I usually don’t understand but other times I do and laugh my ass off at so it’s sort of strange with me.

My only problem with this flick is that when the action comes around here, and it does come around big-time, they over-do the whole “shaky cam” element a little too much. I get that this flick was obviously trying to make a little joke about the constant zooming in-and-out and the shakiness of the action movie cameras, but the action would have been so much better if they didn’t feel the need to resort to this and just give me a head-ache. It’s a minor complaint but a complaint none the less.

Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, but not in a Simon Pegg-ish way though, he’s actually very much the straight guy and let’s everybody else do the humor which was a very smart idea. Pegg does have an occasional few moments where he lets loose just a bit but he’s not the usual, cheeky guy we all know and love him for in other flicks. He may not be the easiest to like here but that provides a lot of love for Nick Frost as his likable cop-buddy, Danny. Frost is such a joy to watch here and brings home the laughs just about every opportunity he gets and the chemistry between the both of them are always great no matter what flick they’re in and that’s no different here. These guys are pure comic gold when they are with each other no matter what it is that they do and I hope they never stop at it either.

The rest of the cast is also a lot of fun and features a lot of familiar faces playing against type. Former 007 Timothy Dalton was absolutely hilarious as the dude who owns the local supermarket, and drops down the lamest but funniest puns I’ve ever heard considering they go so well with everything else that’s going on here; Jim Broadbent is very goofy, as he should be with his performance here as the Sandford’s chief of police; and there are so many others here that make this flick work and I honestly don’t want to spoil them but you’ll see what I’m talking about once they pop-up.

Consensus: Hot Fuzz is a lovable, entertaining, and very funny homage to the buddy-cop genre with plenty of in-jokes and hilarious performances and cameos that will just make the film better and more impressive as it goes along.

9/10=Full Price!!

Crash (2005)

Don’t be racist, especially in L.A.

A Brentwood housewife and her DA husband. A Persian store owner. Two police detectives who are also lovers. A black television director and his wife. A Mexican locksmith. Two car-jackers. A rookie cop. A middle-aged Korean couple… They all live in Los Angeles. And in the next 36 hours, they will all collide…

So the one thing about this movie that always seems to get people crazy (myself included) is that this was the Best Picture winner over the near-masterpiece that is ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and while I can’t say that I think otherwise now, I can still say that i think that this one doesn’t deserve all the bashing it seems to get.

To start off with this flick, I have to say that the general idea of having all of these stories center around racism is pretty nifty and it works mainly because of Paul Haggis‘ script. Haggis did a great job at showing us all of these different perspectives on other peoples’ race and gives us plenty of stories where we realize just how hard it is to be anything in this world, especially when race comes into the picture. I think I’ve mentioned race about 3 times already in this review but it’s as if it was just another character in this movie, but it just didn’t speak. It’s everywhere these characters look, around everything they do, and basically impacts all of their everyday activities and it’s only gotten worse and worse as the years have gone by. It’s a harsh reality but it’s a very true reality and I have to give it to Haggis for at least going out there and showing all of this because it’s something everybody needs to hear and understand. There’s plenty of other themes and messages here about life, people, and the world we live in, not just racism, but it’s definitely one of the themes that I could understand and connect with the most.

The problem that Haggis ran into with this script was that it sometimes dives into soap opera-ish and that’s where it sort of began to lose me. Some moments in this film rang true for me, while others just felt too cinematically cheesy that they could only happen in a movie, which is what movies are all about but this film does try its hardest to seem like its real. Take for instance, the scene with Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate, without giving too much away I just want to say that they both are driving in a car and within 1 minute of the ride, they are already fighting and arguing about something, which is trying to show how a black person and white person can’t really get along. Then it ends in a very bizarre and shocking way but it came off more as unbelievable to me because it seemed like Haggis was trying too hard to try and show us how messed up relations between two different races are. Nice try Paul, but life doesn’t always play out like that.

However, for every “made for movies” scene, there was an equally compelling and powerful scene waiting to just come right up and snatch us. Haggis has a couple of scenes as director where he unleashes these very heavy scenes full of his score and they work because as over-powering as it may be, it still keeps your eyes glued on the screen as you can feel the emotion pouring out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the fact is that when it works here, it works superbly.

Where this film really works is the ensemble cast that Haggis was able to assemble here and all do perfect jobs with their sometimes unlikable characters. Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, and Matt Dillon are all given characters that you can’t really like just because they don’t do the right thing about 95% of the whole flick, but yet they are very compelling, especially Dillon. Matt Dillon is perfect here as the racist cop, which is sort of a cliche in and of itself but he somehow transcends above that formula and makes this a character that it seems like only he could play. He’s unlikable, pompous, and racist but by the end we start to see the human side of him and it actually feels very real and that’s where I think his performance hit its highest note. Once we start to realize that he’s actually a good actor too, is also when his performance got better. Still don’t know why this guy hasn’t been able to get more like this recently. Then again, there was ‘Takers’ but I think that only counts as a good movie for me.

Consensus: Crash is a very hard flick to talk about because it’s well-written, features some great points about the world we live in, especially when it comes to race, and is acted greatly by everybody involved, but way too many scenes also feel like they were just made for a movie experience and the more the film seemed to ring false, the more it seemed to lose points for me. Good film? Yes. Good enough to win Best Picture over Ang Lee’s near-masterpiece? Nope, sorry.

8/10=Matinee!!

Prometheus (2012)

Crews of explorers should just not go into space unless they are with a freakin’ army.

Prometheus centers around a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Let me just start off by saying that after watching Alien and realizing it to be the true sci-fi/horror classic that everybody has ranted about, I was very pumped for this quasi-prequel of sorts. Problem is, when you watch Alien, there isn’t really any need to see this flick.

What makes this “prequel” so different from many others out there, is that it’s directed by Ridley Scott himself. The thing with Scott, is that he won’t just go for a quick and easy job where he’ll just make some moolah. No, instead he’ll put his heart and soul into production that quite frankly, deserves it and that’s what makes this film better than plenty of the other prequels we see out there. Scott brings us back to the universe he made famous and expands it, answering more questions for us that we already had. But even though this film’s big selling point is it’s tie-in to Alien, it’s a real beautiful film to just gaze at.

Scott always has a great attention to detail and his production design for Prometheus just totally backs that up. There’s some cool, futuristic stuff here like space suits, vehicles, holographic displays, medical devices composed solely of robots, and plenty of other impressive treats to see here as well. Everything looks so dazzling, especially if you see it in 3D, where a couple of scenes may just take you by surprise by how you feel like you can just reach-out and touch whatever it is that’s on the screen. Some real beautiful stuff here, mainly because Scott feels something for this universe that he’s created and has given all of his might to make it work.

The problem with this flick isn’t really Scott’s fault, it’s more of the story itself. The core of this story is basically Alien done all over again. Crew wakes up out of deep sleep, spaceship lands on mysterious alien planet for some strange reason, crew discovers some ancient alien crap, alien force is awakened by them, people get others infected, and then they are all picked off one by one. It’s pretty obvious where this story is headed, because it’s pretty much the same thing around and that took away from the surprise factor for me. I knew that only a few were coming out alive and the only sense of guessing with this film, was who was it going to be. Sadly, I guessed right.

Even though this film is about 2 hours long, for some odd reason, a lot of it feels like there were some actual big scenes cut-out from the final product. The main reason for me saying this is because there’s a lot that goes down here, that makes no sense and seems somewhat random. One example is how Captain Janek is able to explain the purpose of aliens and what was inside of them so damn quickly. It almost comes out of nowhere, without any clues or signs to how Janek must have known this and comes off like a way to make the finale hit harder. Another example is how David knows how to work the Space Jockey devices without any faults whatsoever. How did he know how to do all of this? What, did he just learn it all by reading a bunch pictographs from Earth or is it just that he’s so totally uber smart cause he’s a robot and all? Not explained at all and it gets even worse when he can apparently speak the alien language fluently, as if he has been doing it his whole life. Yup, didn’t make any sense.

Scott does do a pretty good job with the pace of this film and I can easily see that he put a lot of effort into making this film thrilling, just like he did with Alien. However, there is a huge difference between both of those films and it’s pretty obvious considering the whole hour and 50 minutes of that movie was filled with tension out the wahzoo, whereas this one, had about 4 to 5 scenes of actual tension in it’s whole 2 hour run-time. I don’t know what it was about this flick that made it so different but for some reason, I wasn’t really on-the-edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next to these characters. I just sort of sat there and kept on waiting for Scott to really knock me out of my seat. Which was a shame too, because there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for Scott to do this but just ended up, well, keeping me somewhat satisfied. Somewhat satisfied is not something I want to feel with a product like this, especially when it’s coming from Ridley Scott.

As for the performances, everybody is good but nothing out-standing by any means. Noomi Rapace is fine as our leading lady, Elizabeth Shaw, but feels too much like Ripley and definitely isn’t as strong as her considering we never fully see her lash-out and get “tough”. She just runs away and screams, except for one scene that feels too much like the infamous “chest bursting” scene from AlienLogan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy, but is fine as Charlie Holloway even though the character comes off extremely dicky at times, to the point of where you don’t care if he lives or dies. Charlize Theron plays a villain for the second week in a row, but is more subtle and stoic this time as Meredith Vickers and does a good job with her, even though I think they could have done more with her. Idris Elba is good as Captain Janek and probably has the most likable personality on the whole spaceship.

Probably the stand-out performance from this cast would have to be Michael Fassbender as the robot David. David is a pretty unsettling character the whole way through this flick as you have no idea whether or not he’s going to be good or going to be bad. He’s also a character that sort of just goes his own way the whole movie and doesn’t really care about the others, but you still can’t let that get in the way of what you may think of him since we all know that robots in sci-fi movies usually aren’t the nicest “things” around. Thankfully, those results are told to us by the end but for some very brief moments, he kept me guessing and I think a lot of that is credit to Fassbender’s skills as an actor. Wish I had more to say about him considering he was the best but it’s just one of those good performances that are notable once you see the movie.

I usually love Guy Pearce in everything he does, but his casting here as Peter Weyland just didn’t seem like it belonged in this movie at all. Peter Weyland is an elderly character, so why did Scott feel it was necessary to cast a younger dude as him and just keep on stuffing his face with make-up and effects. First of all, it looks stupid and fake, and secondly, it just seems like such a waste of a talent like Guy Pearce.

Consensus: Prometheus has some great moments that dazzle and excite, but still has plenty of pot-holes that make this story more confusing, makes the characters seem very one-dimensional, and also make a lot of the genius opportunities Ridley Scott had here, seem to go right out the window.

7/10=Rental!!

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson’s mind is finally a fun place to be at again.

Moonrise Kingdom centers on two 12 year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who fall in love and decide run away together into the wilderness. Naturally, the local community frantically scrambles to find them before a violent storm hits shore.

For awhile now, it seems like Wes Anderson has really started losing any credit he’s ever gotten since his debut, Bottle Rocket. Mainly, the reason for that is because his style is just overly-quirky, to the point of where you don’t feel like you’re actually watching real-life human beings, you’re just watching a bunch of twee characters made from Anderson’s sketches. However, that all changes here but at the same time, doesn’t change all that much. Which is very strange considering it’s probably my favorite from him since The Royal Tenenbaums.

This is probably Anderson’s best-looking flick he has ever done but it’s also with the same style he’s been using for his whole career, it’s just that it works so well with the story. All of the trademarks from Anderson’s direction are here in this flick, but the difference here that sets it apart from all of his other, beautiful-looking movies is that this one is set in the 60’s. The bright colors, sets, costumes, and camera-tricks that Anderson pulls out of his pocket all work rather than just seeming like another hipster attempt at being “cool” because of how he sets it in the 60’s. 60’s was a time for fun, relaxing, and being yourself and Anderson totally taps into that mind-set with just how gorgeous he makes this film look and even if you don’t like Anderson films (and trust me, there are plenty out there who absolutely despise the hell out of him), you can still sit there and just gaze at the beautiful portrait Anderson has on-display here.

Anderson always has beautiful films, no surprise there, but what makes this one so different is that he has a great script to give us something else to sink our teeth into. Anderson has a very dead-pan way of comedic timing but it’s put to great use here just because the film is so damn funny. As usual, you have to look out for little sight gags here and there but it’s the fact that this film continues to get more and more goofy as it goes on, that makes you feel like you’re having the time of your life. There’s a certain unabashed “fun” feel to this film that had me entertained so much but it’s more about how the story made me feel, rather than what it made me do.

This is probably Anderson’s most innocent piece of work to date, and with good reason because when you have a story about two runaway, little kids being together and falling in love, how can you not get a little cutesy? There are so many moments here that are so pleasant to watch because you really feel something for these two kids whenever they are together, and you want them to be happy, you want them to never grow-up and be old, angry people like Suzy’s parents, and you just want them to live their lives together, forever. I know it all sounds uber cheesy and lame, but this story really bring you into to its sweetness and Anderson takes full advantage of that showing us that the outside world for these two, is just not a fun or happy place to be, especially together. It was a story that actually reminded me a lot of my little crushes I had on some chickity-doo-da’s when I was little tike and made me feel young again, just watching how happy they were being able to connect to somebody in their lives. It’s some great stuff to see up on-screen and it’s a real surprise that Wes Anderson almost had me close to tears by the end of it all. “Close to tears” is what I said, people! Don’t worry, he didn’t get me just yet.

The reason why you love these kids together so much, is because the performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so damn good that I was even surprised to hear that this was their first film-roles ever. Gilman has this nerdy, but endearing look to him that makes him easy to like especially when he starts acting all cool and tough, while he’s trying to protect his “girl” from the cruel outside world. While Hayward is absolutely great as this somewhat disturbed girl, that seems like she would most likely be one of those emo freaks, had she been born 30 years later. They both seem so natural with each other, which really shocked me because they have to do some pretty “intimate things” together that would more than likely have some kids turn their heads and go, “ewwww coootieeeeesss!!”. However, that’s not either of these kids and they’re definitely a perfect fit for one another and I hope that they both get some real, bright futures for themselves because I think they deserve it with the work they put out here.

They’re the real stars of this flick, but everybody else is pretty damn good, too. Bill Murray is great as the dead-pan, always sad daddy of Suzy; Frances McDormand is fun to watch as the very messed-up mom of Suzie (also, Hayward looked a little bit like a younger version of McDormand, just a little bit though); Edward Norton is a whole lot of fun as the cheesy Scout Master Ward, and totally had me by surprise by how spot-on his comedic timing was considering this was the guy who got nominated for an Oscar where he actually curb stomped some dude (doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have me really laughing at all); Tilda Swinton is evil and bitchy as Social Services, then again, what other kind of character would she play; and Jason Schwartzman also pops-up for about 5 minutes as Cousin Ben, but is still a lot of fun.

Actually, the most surprising piece of good work here was probably done by Bruce Willis as the sad and lonely guy that searches all over for these kids, Captain Sharp. Willis has been so many damn action roles as of late that so many people almost forget about how great of a “dramatic” actor this guy can be at times and he totally surprised me with the depth he was able to go through with this sad-sack of a character. He’s not really all that tough, he’s not really all that happy, and he’s really not at all like John McClane in the least bit. All of which, are a great thing and I hope this shows that Willis has more to him than just shouting out “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!”.

If there was one complaint I had to throw out from this whole movie it would have to be Bob Balaban as the narrator. The guy opens up the film and is a funny joke, but every time he comes on, for some reason just bothered the hell out of me and it seemed like it was a joke that went on too long. Not a huge problem by any means, but any time the guy showed up, I seemed to have gotten more annoyed.

Consensus: Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s welcome back to being a top-notch writer/director, and with good reason. The ensemble all bring out great work, including the little kiddie leads, the writing is hilarious in its subtle, dead-pan way, and the story itself will drag you in with its sweet innocence. Classic Anderson and I hope he’s back to stay for good.

9/10=Full Price!!

Pleasantville (1998)

Black, white, orange, yellow, red, green, etc., their all the same thing.

Geeky teenager David (Tobey Maguire) and his popular twin sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), get sucked into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV sitcom called “Pleasantville,” and find a world where everything is peachy keen all the time. But when Jennifer’s modern attitude disrupts Pleasantville’s peaceful but boring routine, she literally brings color into its life.

It’s hard to believe this but with The Hunger Games and Seabiscuit, I have now seen all of Gary Ross‘ films. Now I know that’s not saying much but with the three films he’s made, he’s very impressive and I hope he goes on and on to do more.

When I first was about to watch this film, I was expecting a nice satire on 1950s culture from the fashion to the TV and that’s what I got with plenty of laughs. The screenplay is very funny and there are plenty moments where I think Ross hit the nail right on the head with how he shows just all of the “too good to be true” moments and cliches that we usually see in old school television shows from the 50’s. I mean you got the temperature that always stays the same, the fact that these kids think they are so bad and dirty when they just hold each other’s hand, how every single kid on the b-ball team absolutely rocks and makes every single one of their shots, and just about everything else that made me laugh at just how much Ross makes jokes about. We all know that episodes of “I Love Lucy” are cheesy as hell now but back then, they seemed so cool and hip and it’s always fun to poke jokes at that especially since Ross isn’t doing it in a mean way either.

However, as much of a satire as it is, there is still more to this film than meets the eye. The whole film is one big insightful speech about how we should all stick up for ourselves and that things shouldn’t be as narrow-minded as they once were back in those days. If people didn’t like something back then, they just stuck by it because there was nothing else to do but honestly, who is that helping? You have to stick up for yourself and sometimes it’s not so wrong to change things up a bit rather than just doing the same old crap day after day. Ross brings a lot of this up and it’s also great to see how he is able to show contrasts between the 50’s and 90’s just through this one general theme.

What really struck me right away though was the way it looked. Ross uses black-and-white for the majority of the film but as the town starts to change, so do the colors. At first, we get little glimpses of red, or yellow, or pea green, but then the colors really start to pop-out at us and it mixes in well with the original black-and-white look it had in the first place. It’s pretty impressive how Ross was able to mesh these two art styles together but it’s also even more impressive how he made things such as a tree on fire, or a leaf falling, or even rain pouring down from the sky seem so much more beautiful than they actually. Well, that is Hollywood’s job to do (make simple things in everyday life seem so much more beautiful) but its add so much more to the film’s look and the story itself considering everything here is caused from the colors changing. It’s a very beautiful film and one that will probably make me look at everyday occurrences a lot differently now.

My problems with this flick though was that by the end, everything get’s a little too obvious. We know that this flick is making a statement about the 50’s lifestyle and how people just repressed their negative emotions towards their everyday life but Ross is aiming other places too. Ross draws a lot of comparisons to racism at that time as well and shows how the town doesn’t want anything to do with people who have color at all, and they even go so far as to call them all “coloreds”. It’s pretty obvious that Ross is trying to draw some ideas from this as well but it’s too in-your-face and can get very annoying at times. May seem like a dumb complaint but by the end, you’ll start to notice some preaching.

Tobey Maguire isn’t really playing anything new from his usual “lovable but geeky dude” role he plays but his performance as David is good because he’s able to seem like a real teenager that finally gets a chance to change a world that he though he never could be apart of in the first place; Joan Allen is also great as his TV mommy, that finds out about sex and then her whole life is changed which provides some of the better scenes of this film; Jeff Daniels is goofy but charming as the strange dude who works at the restaurant, Mr. Johnson, but when isn’t he playing anybody strange?; William H. Macy is good as David’s TV daddy and provides plenty of funny scenes when he tries his hardest to cope with the fact that his wife just won’t be around all that much after this sexual awakening in her; J.T. Walsh is good as the mayor, Bob Bob, playing his usual villainous character that we always see him in; and Reese Witherspoon isn’t in this as much as I would have liked even though she started this whole change in colors fiasco in the first place, but she’s still pretty good with what she does. It seems like with all of his films, Ross is able to assemble a great ensemble cast and give them all shots to strut their stuff, even if that person does include Paul Walker who probably gave his best performance ever here. You better be thankful for Gary, Paul.

Consensus: Some of it starts to get preachy by the end, but Gary Ross keeps Pleasantville just exactly that, pleasant, with great performances from the ensemble, funny satire, and themes about how we should all stick up for each other and change things up every once and awhile because going on in life so narr0w-minded, isn’t doing yourself or anyone else any good. Or at least that’s what I got from it.

8/10=Matinee!!

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