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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Apocalypse Now (1979)

War is hell. Especially when you’re dropping acid.

This film tracks the journey of Captain Benjamin L Willard (Martin Sheen), a USA Army Intelligence Officer sent on a hazardous mission up river into Cambodia to terminate “with extreme prejudice” American renegade Colonel Walter E Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has spun out of control and out of his mind. What Willard has to go through in order to get to Kurtz is unlike any other.

Jesus H. Christ. Where do I begin with this one? Well to start, I should say that this isn’t the first time I ever saw this movie, or even the first time I ever reviewed this movie. Confused as to why I’m doing a total double-take? Well, the first time I watched this flick I wasn’t as fully into it as I should have been and my review at that time (along with many others), come off as very lazy to the point of where it seemed like I was reading off of Rotten Tomatoes and piecing them altogether. Trust me, that’s not what I did but if you go back and read it, you’ll think it by all of the jibber-jabber that I typed. But after checking it out for the second time, I finally realized the beauty and the ugliness that lies behind this film but I said it once and I will say it again: this film is somewhat overrated.

Anybody who has ever done research about this film probably heard about how director Francis Ford Coppola literally went to hell in pre-production just to get this film done in his way (it’s actually the subject of a documentary, one that I need to still see), and thank heavens for that because this film would have not worked without his direction. Seriously, no way in hell would it have. What catches your eye right from the start is the beautiful, but deadly images of a Cambodian jungle being blown up to pieces, all played to a tune from The Doors. It’s the perfect combination of a dark song and a dark image coming together and starting this baby perfectly right off the bat, and it gets you ready for what’s about to come and that is pure, utter craziness that’s all from the point-of-view from Coppola.

Let me just say that this film is probably one of the more beautiful ones I have ever seen in my entire life. I don’t know how Coppola got some of the shots that he did, but the long, sweeping shots of helicopters blowing shit up to the tune of Wagner still sticks in my mind every time I think about this film and the beauty it has. Oh, and there’s also the famous bridge blowing up scene where the only source of light throughout the whole scene is just fireworks and gun shots being lift-off in the sky. But regardless of what specific scene I’m talking about, there’s something inventive Coppola does with the colors in his film and it’s just that he constantly mixes them with every new frame. One shot you got purple, the next you got yellow, the next you got red, the next you got orange, and so on and so forth. Coppola has a great eye for colors and how they convey moods for a film and that’s what really caught my eye every time with every shot. When you look at this film and the way that it’s shot, you know that you have to give Coppola enough credit for that but that’s not all he does that makes this film work. No sireee!

The whole general story of this flick starts off pretty strange, but only gets worse after that whole “Wagner sequence”. We start to see these soldiers go across Vietnam running into other soldiers that are either completely insane, or have no guidance whatsoever, or run into a bunch of innocent Vietnamese that are just trying to make it across without getting killed or hurt, or just another bunch of people that keep on making this film tick and tick away some more. There are no sunshine and peachy days with these people that we soon meet on this “trip”, if you will, and they automatically shock and compel you every time somebody new shows up. This is fairly one of the strangest films of all-time, with characters that only make it so, but it’s all there for a reason and that’s to show you the type of effect the war has on people from all different sides of it.

Not once do we see the enemy from their point-of-view, or do we ever really see them up-close-and-personal. Instead, we get to see plenty of the American soldiers that are fighting against them and just how much of a terrible toll this isolation and destruction is taking on their bodies, on their minds, and on their lives as well. This is all some scary shit that we have seen before in anti-war flicks of the same nature, but never this disturbing to the point of where you really feel like it’s about to get bad. Coppola gives us the images to really stick in our heads, but he also gives us the situations and characters to think about and how all war, brings pain and misery no matter whichever way you make it out to be.

However, you heard me going on and on about this film but the one question in your head still has to be left there thinking, “Just what the hell does this cat think is so overrated about this movie, because all he’s doing is having orgasms over it?”. Well, have no fear because here’s the answer to exactly why I think so: not as much character development as there should have been. That’s right, in this whole 2 hour and 30 minute movie, we get plenty of crazy and bizarre-o characters that pop in-and-out and provide us with a lot of philosophical shit to chew on for the time-being, but when it came to the main players of the story, I found it very hard to care for.

Let me give you the prime example of this flick, and that is Martin Sheen‘s character, Captain Benjamin L Willard. Willard is a very confused fellow that seems like he has no motivation for this duty he has to do, other than the fact that he literally had nothing else to do and was just assigned to it. We see Willard go throughout the whole war, meet up with new characters that eff his mind up as much as it effed mine up, challenge what he thinks is suitable of the war, and teach him some new things about life that he never once realized. Problem is, I think I’m looking into that a little bit too much because we never get much from this Willard guy, other than a very cold and intimidating stare from Sheen. Don’t get me wrong, Sheen does an amazing job with this role and handles the lead with such ease and perfection, but he’s not given much to work with outside of just looking pissed and barely saying anything. All of his motivations and convictions feel real, it was just that we don’t really know what to think about him since the guy is so damn stern the whole time and barely loosens up with the exception of a couple of scenes where he actually cracks a smile.

Everybody else kind of suffers from the same thing, but that doesn’t matter as much because of the awards-caliber performances they give as well. Robert Duvall is a sensation to watch as the hip, fun, and cool as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore. Of course everybody knows the famous “Napalm” line that Duvall utters in this film but honestly, how can you not love that line as well as this dude’s charisma? The whole film is essentially one, big downer of a movie and Duvall brings a whole bunch of comedic relief to the film that makes you appreciate him a whole lot more once he’s out of the film for good but you never forget one of the lines he says, and trust me, it’s not the “Napalm” one either. You’ll see.

Then of course, you got Marlon Brando who caused all types of shit (as usual) on the set of this film by showing up overweight, needy for money, and dicking everybody around like he normally does. However, it’s kind of hard to be mad at him for something like that especially when he gives off such a commanding but brief performance as Colonel Walter E Kurtz. As soon as Brando shows up, the film takes a much darker turn, which I thought wasn’t even possible, but once I started hearing all of the shit Kurtz discusses, then I realized it was. Brando hits like a wrecking ball in these types of roles and his small role here as Kurtz is no different and you can’t help but just wait, and wait for him to show up as soon as you see his picture-perfect face within the first 10 minutes.

Also, be on the lookout for plenty of other supporting performances from people you obviously recognize, but other’s, you don’t by how young they are. Especially a very young Laurence Fishburne, who deserves major props for being 14-years old in this film and still not getting blown out of the water with the type of talent they have on-display here. Nice going Morpheus!

Consensus: While it’s not the pitch-perfect masterpiece so many people laud it as being, Apocalypse Now is still a powerhouse of a film to watch, mainly because of the inspired direction from Coppola that pulls out all of the stops, awesome performances from this wide ensemble, and plenty of themes and moral issues to chew on about the war and all of the misery it brings to those involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

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Into the Abyss (2011)

And I thought Monster’s Ball was depressing.

This documentary examines the emotional aftermath of a huge triple murder in Texas, interviewing the two convicted killers (Michael Perry and Jason Burkett), as well as everybody that was either involved with this case, or knew the victims/killers.

The whole discussion about the death penalty is something that is very controversial, yet, is also very opinionated when it comes to certain situations. Some people believe that killers shouldn’t be allowed to live a life anymore, once they have already taken another. Others believe, that it doesn’t matter what that killer has done, he/she is still a person and deserves to live no matter what. This is a point that’s very interesting, one that I still don’t know which to side with, and also, one that’s probably more thought out than this film.

Werner Herzog is definitely a guy that seems fascinated in almost every single subject he touches on and the death penalty is no different. There are plenty of scenes where we get to see these heart-broken people, such as the killers, families of the dead, and a couple of other people that have to deal executions, talk about all of the problems they go through on a daily basis and just how they were/weren’t effected by these murders. Some of the interviews really do feel like they come straight from the heart and others, will take you by surprise by how weird they can get, but regardless, they take you by surprise by how far inside one person they can go sometimes and that’s all that counts. Notice how I said the word “some” in that last sentence.

As much as I think that Herzog definitely knows what he’s doing when it comes to documentaries, I feel like he inserts himself a bit too much and maybe loses track of things, such as is the case here. The documentary starts out with a priest talking about his experiences and thoughts about life and death and what it has done to him as a person, which is definitely the right way to start off this flick. Then it goes right to the convict on death row, Michael Perry, and is basically talking about the situation he’s in and how he feels about being closer and closer to hearing the bells toll. This made it seem like Herzog was actually on to something here and definitely made it seem like this was going to be a movie that was going to tackle the subject of capital punishment, with brute force and aggression, only the way that Herzog can. However, that’s not really what we get.

Where Herzog goes with this flick, definitely took me by surprise, but not in the good way mind you. Herzog then starts to show some of the police footage tapes of the crime scene with interviews from the cop that scoped it out, which is fine but then he starts to really go all-over-the-place. He starts to interview the families of both of the convicted killers/murdered, then goes on to a person that almost had a fight with one of the guys, and then goes on to a couple of other different people, such as a former guard for these executions. Some interviews are good, while as others, are pretty random but that’s not what bothered me the most about this flick.

What bothered me the most here was that Herzog just totally gets rid of these questions about the death penalty, which is one that plenty of people, would like to hear other views on too. Yet, most of the time is dedicated to people talking about how hands feel, how reading at such a young age made them feel (really freakin’ weird scene), and how this one chick got pregnant by her husband, without ever being able to touch him. Yes, it does go in some pretty strange places, which were very unnecessary, and it’s only like that because Herzog feels the need to put his own view-points in there and try to goof around a bit. The real question on everybody’s mind should have been; “Do these dudes deserve to live, or do they deserve to die?”. That should have been the million dollhair question that Herzog would beam at these people, but instead, he feels like he needs to push people to talk. A couple of scenes here show this, and it’s really annoying since these people’s viewpoints are interesting enough and when filming a documentary, especially a documentary on such a controversial subject, you should sort of let the stories speak for themselves. Then again, I didn’t film this so maybe it’s not my place to say how Herzog should, and should not film his documentaries.

The film wasn’t a total buzz-kill for me though, because I do think that some of these subjects do speak for themselves, even though they aren’t given that much time to show-up and speak their piece. These are people, that I hope I can never relate to, just because of how painfully sad their lives can be. All of the interviews with the daddy of Burkett, were very, very well-done, and that whole story about him having to spend Thanksgiving with his son behind bars, really added a lot more emotion to the flick. And it’s also pretty freakin’ scary to see somebody like Michael Perry basically just go up there and say that “he didn’t kill anybody”, when he is practically losing his life for that same act he is talking against. Problem is, the film touches on them a couple of times but never enough to give us the full picture here of what’s really going on in these dudes’ heads and you would think with a guy like Perry, who’s last interview could be right in front of your eyes, that we would see and hear a lot more from him. Sadly, it’s a Herzog show everybody, and that’s pretty much all we’re going to get.

Consensus: Into the Abyss definitely features moments that will shake you emotionally, but gets too bogged down by many other moments that are random and dedicated to other subjects, that aren’t as important or interesting as the main ones. Surprise to see a documentary that was pretty much as simple as they come, but I’m not really saying it’s a good thing. Thanks Herzog!

5.5/10=Rental!!

Lawless (2012)

The Wettest County in the World would have totally been a lame title. Unless by “Wettest” they mean with blood. Then it’s cool.

Lawless revolves around three brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke) who become bootleggers in the South during the Prohibition. As business is booming, it attracts the attention of the local authorities who soon want a piece of the proverbial pie. One local authority in particular, played by Guy Pearce, doesn’t take all of this success so kindly.

After all of the big and glamorous Summer blockbusters come and go from the theaters, studios try their hardest to bring out any film between August and October that could be somewhat Oscar-worthy, yet, not enough due to it not being the Holiday season where all of the heavy-hitters. However, if you’re looking for something that may pack a hard-punch like all of the best Summer blockbusters this year, but yet, still have some Oscar qualities to it, then look no farther than John Hillcoat‘s latest. Trust me, it’s not THAT depressing.

If you have seen Hillcoat’s other two flicks (The Proposition and The Road), you’d know that this guy has a real sight for when it comes to making his films feel like they fit the setting, but also do something that helps the mood even-out all of the problems it may have somewhere along the line. This film definitely isn’t as grim and sinister as those other two, but there’s still enough of a tense atmosphere that Hillcoat brings to this material that got me going, even if it did seem take-off a bit too late in the game. There’s nothing new or original that Hillcoat brings to this material but the whole time I was watching, I felt like I was in the 30’s, where boot-legging was a very serious “no-no”, but everybody still went about doing it anyway.

Perhaps that was my only major complaint about this flick is that Hillcoat and Nick Cave (writer for this flick) don’t really bring anything new to this material, other than just an old-fashioned, shoot ‘em up story with drama here and there. This story can be very unpredictable but you also can’t help but think that Cave sort of chickens out on some of the more darker elements to this story that could have been developed more, and actually came together at the end of the flick when all hell breaks loose. Other than Hillcoat’s style, this flick feels like it could have done by anybody else which is a disappointment because after seeing what these guys have been able to do in the past, I was expecting to be totally knocked out of my seat with something cool that I have never seen before in a story like this. This definitely won’t be getting any looks in the writing and directing department, but with a film this fun, I don’t really think it matters.

So yeah, the film does take awhile to get up-and-moving but once it actually does, it’s a whole bunch of unpredictable fun that reminded me a bit of Public Enemies, but without the terrible Southern accents via Christian Bale. It seems to me that the sight of a 30’s-era Tommy Gun in someone’s hands is a lot cooler, than an 21st century AK-47 in someone’s hands and that somewhat of a fact, stands true with this flick as there is a lot of shooting, bleeding, killing, double-crossing, and a whole bunch of violence to really make people squirm right in their seats. Much like The Proposition, this film isn’t as based around it’s violence as you would expect from all of the advertising for it. But whenever the violence does come into play with this story it’s just brutal, bloody, and amped with a whole bunch of sadistic energy that you could only get from a story that gets very bleak, very quick. Even if this is familiar territory Cave and Hillcoat are covering here, the story itself still leaves a whole bunch of surprises for us to see and that’s what really got me in the end because when the shit really starts hitting the fan late in the game, I really felt like the story could have gone anywhere and was just about to do so. Problem is, it sort of does and doesn’t, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.

A lot of people seeing all of the advertising for this flick are seeing some dramatic heavy-hitters like Pearce and Oldman, as well as some fast-rising stars like Hardy and Chastain, will probably be terribly shocked by the casting of Shia LaBeouf leading the whole film, but have no fear people, he’s not all that bad. Maybe that’s not so warm to hear considering in every movie review I do for one of his flicks, I always give him the benefit of the doubt and talk about how good he is (Disturbia: check, Transfomers: check, Transformers 2: OK, I won’t even go there), but here, he actually is as the young and wild-cat, Jack. LaBeouf, out of everybody else here, probably does the best with his Southern-ish accent and can nail a lot of his dramatic parts very well, especially when his character is really pushed to the edge, by the end. Hopefully this flick shows that LaBeouf can be taken seriously as an actor, or if worse comes to worse, it could just show that it’s only a matter of time until we get that Even Stevens reunion we’ve all been waiting so anxiously for. Either way, it’s a win-win for him.

Another great performance comes from none other than Tom Hardy as his older brother, Forrest. Hardy, as we all know and have seen in the past years, is a total bad-ass when it comes to his roles and takes all of his character’s, and gives them this edge to them that not only makes them intimidating as hell but also very lovable in the long-run. Forrest is a great example of that acting skill because we see Hardy go for this no nonsense talk, brooding character that may not say much in his simple way of life, but still gets our appreciation whenever he has to knock someone’s teeth in with one of his lethal brass knuckles. He may not be in the film just as much as LaBeouf, but he still creates enough of a presence to make him feel like a lead in his own right.

The last great performance to high-light is none other than Guy Pearce as the terribly distasteful city cop, Charlie Rakes. Pearce seems like he’s getting more and more juicer roles as of late, and I think Rakes may be his best one so far because this character is just so damn unlikable that you really want him to die or something bad to just happen to him whenever his groomed, eyebrow-less face shows up on-screen. This is a black-as-coal character that makes no mistakes in being the ever-loving shit out of everybody he has a problem with and makes no apologies, either. This is just one sick son of a bitch that doesn’t give a shit what you think of him, he’s just going to do what he wants and I honestly couldn’t get enough of this character (I mean, that is why he gets the pleasure of being my poster for this review). It may be a tad too soon to start talking about some Oscar talk for him, but you never know because this is one of those “evil performances from a character actor” that the Academy usually eats up.

As for everybody else that I failed to mention, they’re all pretty good, too. Jessica Chastain plays a lovely gal named Maggie, who seems to attract the eyes of Forrest and gives a good performance, even if she does seem a little wasted here. Another piece of wasted talent (I think) is Mia Wasikowska as Jack’s little, love-interest. Both of them seem like they were just here for some female appeal for this flick and even though they don’t do much to keep this plot moving, they still do their best with what they’re given. That’s all that really counts. Another performance I was slightly disappointed by was Gary Oldman‘s as a notorious gangster, Floyd Banner. Oldman is great at playing a villain with a conscience, which he does very well here, but he isn’t in the film for more than 8 minutes which is a real surprise since this guy can really hit it out-of-the-park when he chooses to. But something also tells me he allowed those duties to be left to Pearce, and thank him for that. Almost like a passing of the torch for character acting, if you will.

Consensus: There’s nothing new or original about this take on a pair of bootleggers in the 30’s, but Lawless still provides a good story, with some very good performances from the ensemble cast, and plenty of action and violence to satisfy anybody’s late-Summer needs. Just make sure that THIS Tom Hardy doesn’t tell The Dark Knight Rises Tom Hardy you weren’t fully satisfied, then you may be screwed.

8/10=Matinee!!

Everything Must Go (2011)

Ron Burgundy really does love Scotch.

The story revolves around Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), a career salesman who gets fired, for falling off the wagon one last time. He returns home to discover his wife has left him, kicked him out of his own house and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or more properly, on the lawn – reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival.

Anybody coming into this film expecting, yet another, yuckfest from Ferrell will probably be let-down right off the bat. However, if you’re going into this expecting another Stranger Than Fiction, you will probably get what you want, without the Emma Thompson narration.

This is a very impressive debut from Dan Rush because he initially takes a simple story of a guy, who is down-on-his luck and suffering from alcoholism, and gives it a fresh and lighter approach to make this story more interesting. I don’t want to go out there and say this is a comedy per se, but there are quite a bunch of humorous moments that work and bring a light feel to this film even when it steps into darker territory. This darker territory worked though because you actually feel for Nick and all of the problems that he’s going through, so when you see him getting the temptation of getting a drink, you can’t help but feel scared for the guy and hope that he doesn’t do what you think he’s about to do. Rush does a very good job at actually making us care for this character and his life, even though, deep down inside, he is a very sad and lonely man that can’t really be cured of his problems unless he cures himself.

Where the film really got me at was how Rush makes this story a lot more touching than I actually expected. The whole theme with this story is about how we are all lonely people in this world, and we somehow need to connect with others in order to feel less lonely. It’s a very real theme and one that works well for this movie’s subject matter, but what really had me going were some of the scenes that Rush puts in here that work and make you feel something. One scene in particular is when Nick goes to visit an old girlfriend, played by the stunning Laura Dern, and the whole scene is on for about 2 minutes but it’s the most touching and realistic scene of the whole flick that makes you realize; “maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all”. Really nice touch by Rush and also, especially by Dern.

The film does have its problems though, especially when it came to its metaphors. I knew exactly what the film was going for and what it was trying to say, but sometimes this flick does hit us over the head a little too much with what it’s trying to throw at us. Scenes like when Nick is walking past a Quick Mart and keeps on staring at it, wanting a beer, or when his old boss leaves him a drink in the bathroom of a place and he’s there, contemplating on whether or not to drink it. Some of those scenes were pretty obvious and bothered me but thankfully, they aren’t all there. Also, the pacing can be a little slow and actually reminded me a bit of The Descendants, where I felt like the film started up, then slowed down, then started up, then slowed down, and continued to do the same thing for the whole time-limit. A little bothersome but when you think about the whole product, it’s pretty minor.

Most people will probably realize that this isn’t Will Ferrell playing his usual “Frank the Tank” roles and may even consider this stunt casting, but it’s so much better than that. Ferrell has the charisma in his acting to give such a dark character, more likability than he has any right to be. The character he’s playing, Nick, can be very mean, very drunk, and very sad but Ferrell is able to bring a lot of humanity and heart out of this guy without ever over-doing it. In fact, the moments where his character is barely saying anything, are still powerful just because Ferrell is able to convey so many emotions just by sitting there and looking lonely. Very subtle and very strong performance from Mr. Burgundy.

The rest of the cast that surrounds him is also pretty damn good such as Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie’s son) playing a young kid that decides to help Nick with his Yard Sale/life; Rebecca Hall as a pregnant, but lonely, housewife who misses her hubby; and the always reliable, Michael Peña as Nick’s sponsor. It’s a small cast but a very effective one at that.

Consensus: People expecting another Will Ferrell laugh-out-loud comedy will probably be disappointed, but anyone who wants a sad, but inspirational story, featuring plenty of touching moments and good performances from the cast, will probably feel happy with the final product they have here with Everything Must Go.

8/10=Matinee!!

Hart’s War (2002)

Yippie Kay Yay Nazi!

Lieutenant Tommy Hart (Colin Farrell) is a second year law student who is enlisted as an officer’s aide in World War II due to his father’s political pull. When he is captured and thrown into a German prisoner of war camp, top ranking Colonel William McNamara (Bruce Willis) assigns him to defend Lieutenant Lincoln Scott (Terrence Howard), an African-American POW accused of murdering a fellow white prisoner.

Everything from the poster, to the trailers, and even to the title may have you think that this is a slam-bang action, war flick filled with none other than John McClane at the fore-front. Problem is, it’s more like 12 Angry Men filled with Nazis. Don’t get too hyped up though, not as cool as it sounds.

What this film does and does will is that it has three different parts to it: it’s war movie, it’s a courtroom drama, and it’s also a racism-movie as well. All that may sound like a little bit too much of a jumble right there but surprisingly, the film doesn’t loose itself too much that’s worth crying about. The first 15 minutes starts out where Farrell is getting interrogated and held captive for questioning, then it turns into this “prisoner of war” movie where it almost seems like a “jail house” flick, with all of your random assortments of characters here and there scattered throughout the camp. Then the racism card comes out, as soon as the murder goes down and that’s where the courtroom ish starts to take place but there is still some stuff brewing underneath it all which always kept my interest.

As much as this film would have liked to focus on one subject and one plot only, it still finds its way to get all of these other stories going and place them in this film somehow which made my interest seem to never wan. Beneath the courtroom drama you have a racism issue, beneath the racism issue you have a Lt. who wants to prove himself, beneath the Lt. who wants to prove himself you have the superior officer who wants to come out on top, and beneath the superior officer who wants to come out on top you have WWII and everything else that came with it. Sounds like a real combustion of things going on here, which it is, but it still kept my interest as this story started to develop more and I realized more about these characters and just what all of their intentions were.

Problem with a lot of this film though was that I felt like the screenplay really lead it down in so many damn ways that bummed me out. It really did. The racial issue is a very important one to be brought up and is actually talked about in a very sensitive way here (even though the “N” word does get splashed around quite a lot) but sometimes it could get so heavy-handed with what it was trying to say, I felt like I was talking to Reverend Al Sharpton or something. The black man they are accusing here is practically in the film, just to give off speeches and montages about his race, what he’s going to do with his life, and all that yadda yadda yadda. I don’t mind when a film wants to throw me some racial themes and issues out there to further enhance the story and make it more important than it has any right to be, but maybe there was too much of that and less of something else that may have made some importance as well. Can’t say what it is, but it’s there.

As much as I’m able to let loose of some logic just for the sake of being entertained by a flick, there are times when there’s just too much logic to let loose. First of all, since these soldiers were all in a POW camp, why the hell were they allowed their on theater, let alone, allowed to even hold a court session on the campgrounds. I’m an American so it’s obvious who I’m rooting for in the end, but don’t you think that if I was a German Commander that I would at least try to punish the enemy that I was facing? Maybe if I was a ruthless German Commander from a WWII movie I would, but I guess that’s just the logic I have when it comes to stuff like this.

Also, why the hell would a German Commander get so lovely and overly nice to his prisoners? I could understand if you wanted to humor the prisoners from time-to-time and have a little piece of shits and gigs here and there but inviting them in for drinks to shit the shit is sort of pushing it and a little too far fetched for my taste. Then again, Hans Landa was pretty nice and look what happened to him….oh wait! Nevermind!

The film is high-lighted as a Bruce Willis vehicle and even though he is a big character in this flick, he definitely isn’t the main center of it. That honor is actually given to Colin Farrell as Tommy Hart, who gives a very rich and mature performance from a dude that, at the time, was really starting to grow up and realize what dramatic skills he really had behind all of those bad-boy looks. The role that Willis does play in this film is definitely not one of his best because I honestly think that he is terribly miscast here as William McNamara. Yeah, Willis can play tough and rigid like no otha motha and he has his moments here as well, but his stiff demeanor and limited vocal range doesn’t fit this overly ambiguous character that seemed to always be up to something, even though we never really find out. Somebody else could have definitely fit this role a lot better than Willis, but I think the film just needed him so they could use his name for advertisement. Understandable.

Terrence Howard gives off a very good performance here as the soldier on trial, William McNamara, and gives one speech by the end of the flick that feels very genuine and also shows why Howard is one of the better African-American actors working today. There’s so many emotions in this guy’s system as he’s telling this speech that it actually makes you think twice about what you’re seeing and hearing. Howard definitely bumps this flick up but once again, it was the screenplay that kind of brought him down.

Consensus: Hart’s War has good performances from it’s cast, features some rich stories dealing with a lot of different issues, and is an entertaining enough of a war flick to hold you over, but with it’s heavy-handed approach and unbelievable writing, the film sort of feels like a fable made for inspiration, rather than an actual story that could have possibly taken place.

6/10=Rental!!

The Apparition (2012)

If you think about it too much, you die anyway. So in reality, it doesn’t effin’ matter what you think about. The resolution is always the same.

This is the story of a couple (Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan) who are haunted by a supernatural presence that is unleashed during a college experiment, and the fellow student (Tom Felton), who helps them out.

I know I didn’t want to see this movie (even though I did), but to be honest, it doesn’t seem like Warner Bros. wanted anyone to see, either. This has sat on the shelf for over two years, hasn’t had a single trailer or commercial ad that I have seen so far, and nobody has even asked me about it which is strange, since all of my lame-o friends seem to ask me what I think about a new horror movie coming out soon. What’s even weirder is that the film has been screened for only a couple of critics, for a screening that was to be held 4 hours before the film actually came-out. That really shocked me, except for when I actually saw the movie. Now all of the clues finally make sense. This movie, just plain and simply sucks.

This is the feature debut of writer/director Todd Lincoln and to be honest, I sort of feel bad for the dude. It seems like his vision has been tampered with so much because of this being in post-production for over 2 years and whatnot, but I can’t feel that bad since this movie is just god-awful. Honestly, if a horror film is not scary but at least has fun with itself, I’m fine with that, but when I get a horror film like this, that doesn’t even seem to try hard one bit in making us scared or to even have fun with itself, then I’m totally against it. The latter part is exactly what this film is and it doesn’t even seems like it tries at all. Nothing here scared, compelled, or even entertained me for it’s 77 minute time-limit. Instead, I just nodded off, thought about what I would do to save this movie and even went so far as to take out my phone and just text people, asking what they’re plans are for the night. I never do that when I’m in a movie theater, but seeing as this movie totally blew and I had only 2 other people in the lobby with me, I decided to go for it.

It’s sort of sad to see such a film like this not do anything with itself at all, because this film in particular, really seems like it gives up right from the start and just doesn’t even try to liven itself up with any cheap scares one bit. I hate jump-scares, but I don’t think there was one at all throughout this whole film and instead of that, we had slow-burning scenes where the camera would just linger up to the scene of scares, waiting for us to feel the effects of the tension. Problem was, there was absolutely no tension there whatsoever and it just made this flick a whole lot more boring. I think the most tense I was when watching this flick, was the previews that came before it and Taken 2 showed up. That trailer still gets me all of the time. Horror films, when they aren’t good, can be pretty boring, but never THIS boring. Seriously, I was just dozing off at points, whenever I wasn’t texting or day-dreaming and I don’t feel ashamed for it one bit.

Perhaps what makes this film even worse is that the cast does nothing else to keep us watching. Granted, they can’t really do anything with such a script like this unless it’s the likes of Meryl Streep or Marlon Brando acting in it, but they do nothing throughout this whole movie. Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan play the dullest couple I have ever seen in a horror movie, let alone any movie, ever. They really do try but there is no chemistry between them, no sense made as to how the hell they barely talk about any of this bad stuff, and how they even make a living in this big house, when neither of them have heavy-paying jobs that they go to. What also surprised me was how Stan’s character in the beginning, is shown trying to conjurer up the dead, only to have his gal-pal at the time, mysteriously disappear and never to be heard from again, but once all of the freaky shit actually starts to happen, he’s the first to dismiss it as anything else. It’s almost as if the guy forgot he had a girlfriend that was taking by a ghost randomly. I mean plenty of my girlfriends in the past have gotten taken away from me due to ghosts, but I’ve never forgotten about it. Oh well, I guess they must have been going through a real rough patch at the time.

Then, there is Tom Felton who shows up for about 7 minutes throughout the whole movie and I actually wish, showed up more because he brings some excitement to a film that needed some for sure. Felton seems like a kid that can act, if he’s given the right script, but here, he’s given absolute dog shit but makes the best of it so I have to give him that credit. Sadly, he’s barely in the film which means it’s all up to Mr. Stan and Ms. Greene to hold out attention, and that is something they do not do a lick of.

Consensus: The Apparition was destined for disaster right from the start, and a disaster is what it is. With barely any scares, any excitement, any type of fun in this flick at all, we get what is essentially one of the most boring horror films out there, that seems like it should have never, ever been made, even if it was just for the dog days of August.

1/10=Crapola!!

Premium Rush (2012)

Delivery by car is so mainstream.

The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, a bike messenger who sees a routine delivery turn into a life or death situation through the streets of New York City. Michael Shannon also shows up as a crooked cop who is after the content of one of the package Wilee is carrying.

Even though this one has been sitting on the back-burner for over a year now, I was still looking forward to it because it’s a new, clever-take on the whole action genre that seems to get very tired after all of the Summer blockbusters have come and gone. Yeah, urban biking may not be the most exciting thing to watch on the big-screen, but at least it’s somewhat new, and features JGL and crazy-eyed Shannon. What could possibly go wrong? Well, to answer that question, I would have to say a whole lot.

Writer/director David Koepp seems like he has his head on-straight when it comes to the whole action element of this film, but with everything else, it seems like he loses it. The biggest problem with this film is the plot. At first, the film starts off with a bit of a mystery angle where you have no idea why this one crazy asshole is chasing after this biker for one little piece of info but after awhile, we start to find out and that’s where this film really goes down the tubes. Apparently, the Chinese mob gets involved, an illegal deportation shows up, a character’s gambling problem comes out of nowhere, and then of course we have the romantic-love angle that seems more forced than ever before, and it just adds another unneeded piece of a plot for this already stacked story. Without giving too much away, certain things in the story just don’t add up and I think Koepp’s intentions were to just have us forget about it and focus on the cool action. Sadly to say, it doesn’t happen.

Then of course, there’s the parts of this movie when the characters actually talk. Woah nelly! Holy shit have I never laughed so hard like I did here before in a long, long time. The problem with this script is that every line is a total cliché and doesn’t do anything, but make this film seem more like a laughing mess than it already was. This one scene in particular where JGL is chasing after his “biking buddy” in order to get a package from him, and even though it is a thrilling scene that takes place all throughout NYC, all of the cheesy-ass lines these guys exchange with one another was enough for me to just start laughing and focus on what these guys were saying, rather than what they were doing. This isn’t the only time it happens, but this is the one time where it was freakin’ unbearable to watch or listen to and it just gets worse and worse as the story continues to develop (and make less sense).

But, what really saved this film from being a total piece of crap after all, was the action Koepp brought here. Urban biking seems like a pretty exciting activity to do, especially when you’re in the busy-ass city of New York and that’s why I like how they captured all of that into this film. There’s plenty of scenes where we follow JGL going down the streets at crazy speeds, where it almost seems like he’s going to lose his head any second, but somehow, pulls out at the last time. A lot of these scenes have tension to them, but Koepp gives them a playful style whenever he shows JGL’s mind making up what move he should pull next. It’s a pretty neat trick they pull with this film, and what’s even better is that all of the action and bike-riding throughout the streets is mostly stunt-work, which means less CGI. Such a relief to see a film focus on that aspect of an action film, without feeling the need to try and enhance the shit out of it with a computer.

Another part of this movie that sort of this saved this movie was the two fast-rising stars in the leads. After a white-hot role in The Dark Knight RisesJoseph Gordon-Levitt gets to show off his skills as an action star more, with his charm still deep in-tact. JGL definitely isn’t wasted here because he’s in plenty of shots and gets to use his likability to his advantage, but you also can’t help but feel that this flick was made a very long time before anybody thought he was going to be as big of a star as he is now, and this sort of comes off like a lame role for a guy who can’t really afford them as of right now.

The same could almost be said for Michael Shannon who has been kicking asses for the 5 years in smaller, indie-roles but now is finally getting the chance to break-through in the mainstream crowd. Sadly, this is probably not the movie to do it since the whole time, he just continued to make me laugh. The script here is so atrocious that every line of dialogue that comes out of Shannon’s mouth, just makes him seem more and more like a cartoon villain, rather than a real-guy, who could literally make your life a living hell. It’s weird too, because the guy starts out as this calm, collective villain that says things very slowly, but then changes out of nowhere and just goes haywire with his act, almost like Shannon flipped a switch off in his back right in the middle of the movie. Some may call this a fun performance where he just chews up scenery like nobody’s business, but I call it a role that starts to get way too over-the-top, way too quick and it’s hard to watch or listen to after awhile.

Basically, if this film came out about 2 years ago, which I think it was going to do, then it would have been fine because these guys weren’t as huge of names then as they are now, but since it is out when these guys are somewhat large stars, it’s a huge disappointment and shows that these guys may have to watch the next script they read. But, something does tell me that this may not happen again and it was only a coincidence that this piece of shit had to come out now.

Consensus: Premium Rush gives the audience the type of escapism fun that they need around the dog days of August, but almost ruins itself with a convoluted plot, over-the-top acting from Shannon, and a terrible script that just gets worse and worse as it goes along, almost until the point of where you just want these people to just ride their freakin’ bikes and shut the hell up!

5/10=Rental!!

Cosmopolis (2012)

Join Team Edward. You’ll get all coke, sex, and parties you want.

Set during a 24-hour period, Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old newlywed billionaire who manages to lose both his fortune and bride in the span of one short day. He starts by doing one bad thing and keeps going on to the next;  and you know what happens in the end? Nobody cares because he’s a little rich piece of shit.

This was a film I really wanted to like. It really was. Writer/director David Cronenberg hasn’t always been one of my favorites per se, but he’s got this unique vision when it comes to making his movies: his own ways, and I could at least respect that about him. That is, until now.

When I think about this film and what really pissed me off throughout it, I think about Cronenberg and how he easily could have made this one, crazy, effed-up wild-ride from start-to-finish. Problem is, it’s just as much the trailers’ fault as it is his. All of the teasers and trailers have been promoting this Cronenberg’s big return-t0-horror film, where R-Pat is going around, shooting guns, doing drugs, being a total a-hole, and effin’ ladies in the limo. But it’s not that at all! Instead, it’s just him going around and talking to people about absolutely nothing! Actually, I shouldn’t say that because they do actually have some conversations about the state of the world and where it’s going, but never did I feel compelled, never was I on-the-edge guessing what was going to happen next, and never was I thinking to myself, “Oh shit! All hell is about to break loose up in this bitch!”. Nope — instead I just kept dozing off and wondering when the hell it was finally going to fade to black.

That’s what really bothered me about this film: the non-stop talking. All these characters do is talk, talk, talk and that would have been fine had the script been a bit more Quentin Tarantino-, Aaron Sorkin-, or even Martin Scorsese-esque. But Cronenberg doesn’t add anything new or engaging to this script to fully keep me involved when everybody is just blubbering on about God knows what. It’s just way too dull and pretentious to keep me even somewhat intrigued. It makes me wonder if Don DeLillo’s novel was one of those situations where it looked good on paper, but when it came to be being brought-up on film, just didn’t fit. And since that’s what it seems here, it’s a real bummer because a lot of the material seems thought-provoking and very relevant if you think about how a lot of it is about the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer while encasing riots everywhere they go. Could have been so much more interesting if there was just something here to keep it going and alive.

One of the most intriguing aspects about this film that caught my eye way before I even saw a trailer for it, was the fact that Robert Pattinson was in the leading role as numb billionaire, Eric Parker. I’ll give Pattinson some slack, the kid definitely seems like he can act and actually has some skill to him, but he keeps on getting bogged down by shitty movie, after shitty movie and I thought that this was going to be his one light at the end of the tunnel. How wrong I was.

See, what Pattinson does here is exactly what he’s been accused of before: being way too dull. Eric Parker seems like one of those great characters that just wreaks of sleaze, where he doesn’t give a shit what happens to him, when it happens to him, and how, he just wants to live up his life with sex, booze, and money. That’s your typical rich dick-head that can sometimes make or break a movie depending on who’s playing them; I think it goes without saying that he breaks the hell out of this movie, in a bad way of course. I get that Parker was supposed to be a numb character that didn’t feel any sort of excitement until society has finally started crackling down into ashes, but Pattinson’s performance doesn’t bring anything else but that and by the end, it starts to feel one-note. So one-note, that even when his character starts to seem like he’s actually gaining some sort of edge towards the end, you can’t really feel it because he’s got the same type of delivery with each and every line. It was almost like Cronenberg told him to go out there and act like you’re in a zombie movie, but to be the zombie that can talk. Seriously, he’s that lifeless, which, in a way, could be the point, but it still didn’t work for me. I think this will stand as the moment where I realized that Pattinson may not have any talent at all, and is just that piece of brooding little shit that all of the dudes hate, and the girls love. Maybe that’s why K-Stew is getting so bored of him now. Heyyoh!

What’s even worse about his performance, is that when anybody else from this ensemble shows up on-screen, you barely even pay attention to him as everybody here gives it there all. The problem here is the same one that I had with Pattinson: so damn dull and lifeless. Each and every performance seems like they are just another annoying character that barely has any emotions whatsoever, and almost every supporting performance doesn’t last for more than 8 minutes on-screen. So really what you have here is a dull Robert Pattinson, running around the streets of New York (obviously filmed in Toronto), meeting up with even duller people, and at the end of it all, you’re supposed to look at the world we live in and realize something that CNN has been telling us for the past year: the economy is going way, way down-hill. Thanks Cronenberg! I really needed to wake-up and smell the cauliflower on that one!

Consensus: Cosmopolis may be a very thought-provoking and smart thing to read on-paper, but being adapted into a feature film just doesn’t cut it because of the dull performances from everybody involved, the uninteresting direction that Cronenberg goes for and succeeds in, sadly, and the ideas and insight into the world we live in that seem very current, but just don’t bring anything new to what we have already heard before.

2/10=Crapola!!

Made (2001)

Being a player: money! Being a mobster: not so money.

Bobby (Jon Favreau) is an aspiring boxer who refuses to abandon his dreams, despite the urgings of his friend Ricky (Vince Vaughn) to pursue a higher position in the organisation of old-time mob boss Max (Peter Falk), who offer both of them a job.

OK, so who doesn’t love Swingers? I think it’s pretty safe to say that everybody does but I think that people loved it so much that maybe they weren’t able to even give this film a shot. Maybe they shouldn’t have gotten rid of Doug Liman in the first place, huh?

With Jon Favreau taking over writing and directing duties, the film gets a very personal feel from him as he keeps the story moving as well as the hand-held camera style that almost makes it seem like we’re watching a documentary in a way. What I can say about this flick that Favreau does do well with its story is that he keeps it somewhat character-based, where we see a lot of interaction between his character and Ricky, whether they’re fighting, arguing, or showing that they have each other’s back, you can tell that these guys have been life-long friends ever since they were little tikes. Also, when you do practically have the main two guys from Swingers, you have to expect a nice amount of laughs and even though they definitely aren’t as rapid as I would have expected, I still had some nice laughs and chuckles here and there that held me over for the rest of the flick. That Dustin Diamond cameo was probably my favorite part of this flick now that I think about it, but also very random.

Where I think Favreau messed up with this film was not giving us much to care about, let alone, anything cool with the plot to see. Granted, Swingers didn’t really have much a plot other than just a bunch of guys hitting on chicks and trying to get laid, but at least that film had a whole bunch of buddy-buddy energy that kept it going, this plot sort of just meanders on and on. Actually, some of it I thought would have done better as a drama because you have all of these problems with these characters and even at times, they are scared to death that they may get “whacked” but the film treats it as a joke, but an unfunny joke at that. And I also guess that the joke of this movie was that they just wanted to go from scene to scene to scene of showing Vaughn ramble on like an ass and have Favreau play off him as the long suffering friend that can’t seem to escape his childhood buddy. Lame, lame, lame!

However, even when the film does try its hardest to go into drama, it comes off pretty corny. The “relationship” that the film tries to force down our throat between Favreau and Famke Janssen was totally unbelievable and very predictable as to how it was all going to end, and even as cute as the kid was, the film uses her more as a reason why Favreau has something to live for. Hey, I don’t mind when a film tries to give us reasons to care for a character, but when the reasons are as contrived and obvious as this, then don’t expect me to even care. Also, what the hell is this dude doing with a chick that basically rides on dude’s erections for a living? Come on Jonnny!

With ‘Swingers’, it’s pretty much the same thing where you have Vince Vaughn playing Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau playing Jon Favreau, which isn’t so bad really. Vaughn is a wild-fire pretty much throughout this whole flick and just doesn’t let loose of his energy one bit. He’s funny, quick, and a character that makes you feel so damn uncomfortable because of some of the shit he says with the people he’s around. Favreau is also pretty good as Bobby, and gives another one of his silent, but lovable guy performances that we see from him so very often. But hey, that’s not a complaint. Also be on the look-out for two little performances given here by Peter Falk as the menacing gangster, Max, and a menacing “gangsta” named Ruiz, played by none other than Sean “Puffy” Combs. Yes people, before Get Him to the Greek, Puffy played another bad-ass mofo.

Consensus: Made is basically living off the legend of Swingers but still has enough laughs and good performances to hold you over, even if the contrived emotions of the so-so plot are too obvious to ignore the whole time.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Hit & Run (2012)

I’d run away from Dax Shepard the first chance I’d get.

Former getaway driver Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) get to Los Angeles. The feds and Charlie’s former gang (led by Bradley Cooper) chase them on the road.

Anytime, within the past month or so that I’ve wanted to watch a video on YouTube, I couldn’t help but just get pissed off by seeing an ad for this movie come out right before it. Worst part was that you couldn’t even click away to skip the ad, you had to watch it, in it’s 15 second entirety, which isn’t a huge problem if it wasn’t the same damn clips.

However, being pissed at this movie going in just wasn’t the right way to feel as I couldn’t help but be surprised in the death days of Summer. That’s right people, August is almost over which means all kids go back to school and nobody goes to the movies anymore because they spent too much on The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I went into a huge rant that nobody wanted to read so I’m just going to dive into what I really wanted to say. For the first 30 minutes or so, nothing was really catching my eye and getting me involved as much as I would have liked. They start off with an ultra-sappy and contrived emotional scene where Shepard is telling his gal-pal to “close her eyes and think about the moment, nothing else”. Then after that, they suddenly go right into a scene with Tom Arnold chasing after his minivan and blowing holes everywhere, while screaming “fuck” at the top of his lungs. And to top that off, it just wasn’t funny no matter how hard they were trying and trust me, they were trying. It seemed like this was going to be one of those flicks that just wanted to be so wacky and funny, but also have an emotional story in the middle to even it all out but it wasn’t working and really got me worried of what I got myself into. Thankfully, it was only for those 30 minutes where I nearly lost my mind.

After the first 30 minutes or so, the film all of a sudden kicks its story into high gear and becomes a fun ride that delivers on the cool look, the cool thrills, and the funny laughs that sometimes came out of nowhere. It’s obvious that Dax Shepard (who just so happened to also co-write and direct this, and do his own stunts) loved Smokey and the Bandit as a kid growing up, because that’s the same exact kind of style and feel he gives this movie that automatically makes it a wild ride that doesn’t have to try too hard to charm us. So, if there is any credit going to towards this film and making it fun, it’s Shepard who deserves the most because he was able to somehow get this filmed in only 10 weeks, and used a very low-budget that will probably make a lot of the other big-budget action picks a whole lot more jealous by how polished the action scenes look here.

As you could probably tell by now, this film was pretty exciting when the action scenes came up and even if there is only about 3 in whole movie, you still get a great feel of energy and adrenaline every time they pop-up. But what really works with this film is that it hits its funny-marks very consistently in the last hour, which surprised me because they seem to be going all-over-the-place with its comedy. Sometimes it was trying to go for the wacky, rom-com aspect, others it was going for edgy and raunchy (that one scene with the naked old people will really shock some people), and other times it was your typical, conversational humor that can either make, or break a film depending on how well they use that aspect of comedy. Well, to say the least, the film’s comedy works and you’ll find a couple of gags that continue to show up every now and then that really catch you by surprise.

What really makes this film work out in the end is the cast that Shepard was able to assemble, obviously by just calling up a couple of pals for a little favor, which all work to his advantage. As for Sheperd in the lead role, he’s actually very charming and has the everyday likability to him that makes us forget about any dumb-ass role he has chosen in the past decade or so. The guy has a great comedic timing and can be sweet and enduring when he wants to be. If this guy can get his ass in the right rom-com and role, he may be destined for leading man material, which he sort of is here, but I mean on his own when he isn’t the co-writer/director. Tom Arnold plays his federal marshal buddy that just never seems to be able to do anything, without effin’ it up one way or another and the scenes where it’s just him being a goof-ball, sometimes left me in stitches. It’s been awhile since I last saw Tom Arnold in a big-budget, Hollywood movie like this (if you want to call it that) and it’s great to see that he can still deliver on being wacky and funny.

Perhaps the easiest favor that Shepard had to call up from anyone in this entire cast was in fact, his girlfriend in this movie and in real-life, Kristen Bell. I bet you are all pretty surprised to see that this gorgeous woman has been going out with this weirdo for the past 5 years, and you honestly have to be thinking to yourself, “Why?”. Well, after seeing this movie I have to say, “Ohhh, now I see why!”. It’s pretty obvious that these two have a genuine chemistry and love in real-life, because it spills out so well in this film whenever they are together just being themselves, or discussing what it takes to be in a relationship with another person which may seem really strange since it’s in a movie like this, but still works because these two have an emotional honesty between that feels real, as if you’re almost watching a real-life couple right in front of your eyes. In a way, you are, but this film offers them a lot more challenges in their respective acting departments that anybody has ever seen from either of them. As for Bell herself, she’s lovely as usual and it makes it better that she seems to be having a whole lot of fun playing chase with her boyfriend and pals.

The one that really steals the show in this whole cast is probably Bradley Cooper who seems to really lovin’ life playing an against-type role as the murderous thug, with really bad dreadlocks that makes him look more like the wrestler Raven from his WWF days, than actually intimidating. We’ve all seen Cooper do the villainous act before, but never quite like this to where the guy seems to really be having a ball just being mean, brutal, and a little weird as well. Cooper always has some great comedic timing with everything he does but I think his best showing of that is his one scene where he admits to why he’s come after Shepard after all of this time. To top it all off, he’s a fellow Philadelphian and that makes me feel a whole lot prouder to show him my love and support. Go Bradley!

Consensus: Definitely does not start off on the right foot and can be a bit uneven throughout, but when Hit & Run does gets itself moving, it’s a wild, cool, funny, and entertaining ride that seems like everybody had a ball making regardless of how much money they spent, and/or thought that they were going to make back. They’re simply making movies, to make movies. What’s so wrong with that?!?

7/10=Rental!!

The Truman Show (1998)

Surprisingly, MTV hasn’t tried this yet. Probably will after Jersey Shore starts to become repetitive. Oh wait…

‘The Truman Show’ chronicles the life of a man named Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast around the clock to billions of people across the globe. Truman becomes suspicious of his perceived reality and embarks on a quest to discover the truth about his life.

In today’s day and age where everybody is constantly on Twitter tweeting about what they had for din-din, on Facebook posting pictures of them and their bong sesh the night before, or on YouTube uploading videos on themselves singing R&B songs by Mariah Carey, it’s easy to see why you would sometimes feel like you’re life is all one big TV show. However, life isn’t that cool and unique after all.

High Concept movies are usually hit-and-miss and rarely ever do they hit as well as the concept here. Writer Andrew Niccol takes gives everything he can into this concept where Truman in his own little world, and where everything is one big show, one big block of advertising, and most of all, one big piece of reality TV. There’s obviously a lot of satire to be had here where Niccol brings up the point about how our nation, is a nation that is consumed by watching other people’s live and needing to know everything that goes on in his/her private lives. It’s definitely a theme that gets better and better as the years go on by considering we have so many things in today’s world that take more and more away from our privacy. But it’s not all about the obvious satire, and that’s where the real beauty of this film lies.

Director Peter Weir did a perfect job here as a director because he immerses us into this world where Truman lives. We see everything that goes on in his “fake” world, then to the people who make this world for him, and then to what’s going on behind closed doors and how they are all filming everything the way they are. It definitely seems like a concept that would be a little too far-fetched but somehow Weir was able to pack all of these things in here that gets you more and more involved with this story as if you are, hey, watching a life play out in front of your own eyes. That’s right people, I’m talking about something that sounds exactly reality TV. Oh em gee! As you see Truman start to peel away the layers of his life to realize that something eerie is going on, you start to root for him and can only hope that he eventually does find out that it’s all one big show, and that he was the main star. This plot may have never been able to work, had it taken place in real life, but the way he realizes everything, hint by hint, not only makes the film seem plausible but feel like it’s actually happening right then and there.

It’s a real surprise how a plot like this actually came together so damn well in the end, but I guess when you put two heads like Niccol and Weir together, miracles can happen.

My only problem with this flick was that I sort of felt like the ending was a bit too abrupt. All of this build-up is leading and leading up to the finale of where Truman finally finds out about the world outside of his own, but even when it does happen, it’s sort of a let-down. Actually, I don’t want to say that it’s a let-down because I think it was actually handled very well in fact, it was just that it all happens so quick and I would have liked to see more of what actually happened after the ending went down. I know I sound very vague but that’s because, believe it or not, I don’t really want to give too much away here.

Ever since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out, people really started to take notice that Jim Carrey could play a more serious role than we usually see, but this was the real film that let us know that this guy had more than just a bunch of goofy faces. Carrey is amazing as Burbank because he makes this character so damn likable and believable that it’s easy to see why someone would want to center a TV show around him in the first place. In front of everybody, he’s hamming it up to the neighbors and going through the same routines day-in and day-out, but behind the closed doors, he continues to lose his shit as he realizes that something is a little too freaky underneath it all and you really do want him to find out everything at once and just get the hell out of there. Carrey totally throws himself into this role showing a lot of dramatic range as an actor, but also showing the things that make him funny in the first place as a comedian and giving us a new look at someone that we thought would end up being his own biggest fan.

Even though I’m not as fond of her as everybody else seems to be, Laura Linney is pretty good as Truman’s wife and it makes me wonder just how much money would a lady take if they had to act like Carrey’s wife and sometimes, get it on with him? Yeesh. Ed Harris is also good as the show’s director, Christof, and gives off this God-like nature to him that makes it seem like he was the one who actually gave life to Truman after all. Also, be on the look out for a nice little side spot from Paul Giamatti. Damn, this guy was everywhere back in the 90’s!

Consensus: The Truman Show works as well today, as it did way back when in 1998 with it’s very realistic satire but also works because of an amazingly original premise that seems to get better and better as more and more is revealed, and also features some great performances from the cast, especially a very good and very different Jim Carrey.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Sparkle (2012)

Where’s Kevin Costner when you need him?

Set in the 1960’s, three sisters form a Motown singing group, but fame has a heavy price, and Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is seeing her family fall apart right before her eyes. While Sparkle is writing her songs, it’s her sister, named Sister (Carmen Ejogo), who has center stage.  The other two sisters are backup for her, but she is a troubled soul and could make all their hopes and dreams come crashing down.

Being one of the only three white people in a crowd full of black people, I went into this expecting nothing much except for good music, some good times, and also, something that may have not necessarily been targeted towards me. Thankfully, I got both with just a bit more than I expected and yes, it was for me.

I never saw the original Sparkle, and to be honest, I have no plans on doing so since it seems like this one takes that story, adds nothing new, but somehow still makes it work. I think a lot of that credit has to go director Salim Akil who actually generates a lot of nice touches here and there with rich human moments that sometimes ring true, and plenty, and I do repeat, plenty of great music to listen to and even dance along to. The Motown sound is one of the best and this film remembers it all in the best ways with a lot of of fine tracks you may have, or may have not heard before but regardless, you’ll be tapping your toes and fingers. Now maybe if the Motown sound isn’t your bag, then this probably won’t be the best film to jam around too but since it’s mine, I enjoyed that aspect of this movie. Hell, I already listened to the whole soundtrack so you know it got me going!

But once you get past all of the exhilarating and fun musical numbers, you get what is none other than your usual, predictable story of a bunch of gifted singers, trying to make it big but end up falling short due to some terrible occurrences. Yeah, it goes down the road you would expect it to within the first 5 minutes and it’s a shame because this film could have really shown off some real twists and turns that would have gripped me a lot more had they decided to go down the road less traveled with musical flicks. You get wives being beaten, race cards being pulled, felonies committed, and racial politics being discussed, and it just gets to be the usual cliché-ridden tale you would expect from a story about a bunch of singers in the 60’s and 70’s.

But at the end of the day, everything is predictable and obvious but you never once get left out the story. There’s a type of sensitivity that Akil brings to this material where he spends times with these characters, allows us to get to know where they come from, and where their dreams are headed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a rich character drama that takes time with it’s story and characters, but at least it gives us something to hold onto and make us root behind these people when their lives really seem to go to shit. But it wasn’t just Akil’s direction that made these characters work, a lot of that has to be because of the ensemble cast of characters on-display here that make every one-dimensional character, seem like a hell of a lot more despite what’s on paper.

American Idol hopeful Jordin Sparks does a fine job as Sparkle because as cliché and obvious this character’s motivations can be, she at least makes her appealing and cute to the point of where she’s at least someone we like to watch on-screen, even if everything she says and does is pretty much calculated. Carmen Ejogo kicked ass as her sister, aptly named Sister, who is the obvious Beyoncé of the group who’s live eventually starts to go down-hill once too much fame and drugs come into play. I’ve seen this Ejogo gal before in other stuff before but whatever it was, it doesn’t matter because she did a great job giving a character that is pretty two-dimensional, more of a heart and soul that feels battered (literally) and bruised due to all of her problems with breaking out of normality. Maybe I gave the character more to chew on than this flick actually did but at least she kept me interested and I wouldn’t have minded seeing a whole film about her.

As for the dudes in the cast, they all do fine with a certain somebody, once again, stealing every scene he was in. Mike Epps did a phenomenal job as the hated comedian, Satin Strothers, who just disrespects everybody he comes around and doesn’t do a nice thing throughout the whole movie, but yet, you still want to see more of him. Epps is one of these actors that can use that perfect blend of seriousness and comedy to his advantage, which he does in-fact show here very well, but there’s a type of intensity to him here as well that makes his character so damn scary whenever he’s on-screen. Yeah, the dude is pretty much your essential dickhead that doesn’t do anything pleasant throughout the whole movie, but with Epps playing him, it’s all fine and dandy.

The real shame of this movie was that this was going to be Whitney Houston‘s big comeback and sadly, as everybody knows, she died about three months after completion for it and what a freackin’ tragedy that is man because she does a great job here as the girls’ strict momma. Houston has never been an actress to write home about but at least she gives it her all and this flick as the momma that is never, ever allowing them to make the same mistakes that she did and you can feel her love and emotional support from her the whole movie. It also helps that when Houston belts out one song, she tears down the house, as you would expect from her and it’s just another sign that she could have really came back after all, and tore it down once again. Sadly, that did not happen and it’s a total disappointment.

Consensus: Sparkles features little or no surprises when it comes to its story, but features a great load of nostalgic music that takes us back to the Motown days, some fantastic performances from the cast that actually elevate these characters, and a couple of nice touches here and there of melodrama that work more than they should.

6/10=Rental!!

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Finally, they got tired of the retirement home and decided to fight back.

Hot off their latest mission, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his ragtag team of mercenaries are pulled right back in the game when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) presents them with a new assignment. It should be easy—to travel to Albania and retrieve a briefcase carrying a blueprint of a plutonium mine. The villain named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), isn’t exactly quaking in his boots, but he probably should be. There is exactly no chance whatsoever Barney will allow him to escape with his life.

I know I’m going to catch a lot of hot water for this but I actually liked the first Expendables. I thought it had awesome action, an ensemble cast of action stars that I missed seeing on the big-screen, and provided me with enough laughs to even everything else out. Yeah, the story may have been terribly lame and the action wasn’t non-stop, but at least it was fun and that’s more than I can say about plenty other Summer, action blockbusters that came out in 2010. Thankfully, with more back-up and some new faces, this sequel does a whole lot better and keeps everything moving in just the right way.

Since being writer, director, producer, and the main star of the original one proved to be too much for him, Stallone decided to take it easy on this one and allow Simon West to take over the director duties and what a great decision that was! Going into this film, I wanted action, action, action, and well, more action, and that is exactly what I got from West’s direction. In the first 10 minutes of this flick, we get a huge, loud, and explosive set piece that shows the guys running around, shooting and killing people while dropping corny one-liners for fun and to be honest, it got me in the mood for what I was about to get for the rest of the movie. It was also a surprise to see a lot of wide shots used for the action as well as some nifty editing tricks to where we could actually the action as it happened.

There is a story to be had here, but in all honesty, who gives a shit about that when you got these guys! There’s a whole lot of mayhem to be seen here and everybody here takes total and complete advantage of that and makes this flick seem like it was a lot more deserved in the action department, than the first one. I wanted loud, insane, crazy, and intense action and for the most part, West delivered on that and sort of gave me the old-school action movie feeling I wanted with the first one but instead, only got here once he put his magical touch on it. It also helps that these guys seem like they’re all having the times of their lives making this movie, and you can’t help but feel the same exact thing and join in on the festivities. That’s all I wanted, and that’s all I got and for that, I am very thankful.

However, as fun and action-packed as this movie may have been, there were still some quibbles I had with it in that department. All of the action seemed to happen with just guns and explosives. We do actually get a couple of fist-fights here and there, but it seemed like they cheated out on that mainly because the guys are getting a little too old to be flying around, simulating beating the crap out of one another. I guess after Stallone broke his neck during filming in the first one, they decided to settle down on that aspect, but it still worked none the less despite all of my bitching.

You also can’t help but laugh unintentionally at this film at times, too. There is a story here so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining too much but where it was going, how it was going, and why it was going there all seemed a bit cheap for my tastes and it gets very sentimental at one part, for which I didn’t even really care about. Let me just say this without spoiling anything, a character gets killed off in the beginning and it’s pretty obvious and doesn’t make a difference one bit. It sort of just happens and we don’t care which is kind of a bummer considering these are characters and performers we should love and care about, especially when their lives may be in one degree of danger. That rarely happens in action movies like these but let’s just forget about those conventions and try to suspend reality for a bit.

The ensemble for the first flick was great, but this one, well, it’s even better where we finally get to see some of the most iconic and popular action stars in one, big, action orgy. It’s a pretty neat thing to see, especially when they are all at the top of their game as well. Sylvester Stallone does a great job as the core of the film, and still looks fit and clean to the point of where you could imagine him not only having the brains, but also the guns (both kinds of guns) to kick anybody’s ass; Jason Statham plays Jason Statham, and it’s probably the best type of role he can play out there and that’s all that matters to me; Dolph Lundgren was hilarious and steals probably half of the scenes he’s in just being the normal, goofy, Swedish dude we all know and sometimes love him for; Nan Yu brings some estrogen to the mix and does a fine job of holding her own when it comes to kicking ass and taking names; Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all back for what seem to be extended cameos, but still get the chance to mow down some mothaeffa’s and sprinkle out some awesome one-liners that show them exactly why they were so requested for this movie; and let’s not forget about Chuck Norris. ‘Nuff said about that.

Everybody else that I didn’t mention is pretty much in the background but still does their own thing, which is good, but the real star of this whole cast is probably the ultimate return of Jean-Claude Van Damme in a major, action blockbuster. It’s been awhile since Van Damme has been in anything this big before and it’s a great return-t0-form for this dude because he still does all of the same awesome shit that we loved him for before. He’s still got the signature kicks in him, still oozes the charisma that makes him such a watchable presence in the first place, still is in great shape, and still can play somebody that we hate so damn much, but yet, we can’t get enough of. In my opinion, Van Damme stole the show for me and I hope that this gets his name out there once again and brings him back to the major, Hollywood blockbusters he at one point owned every time.

Consensus: While it doesn’t win any points in its character development, emotional story, or incredibly original writing, The Expendables 2 wins mucho points in providing plenty of kick-ass action, a look at some of the greatest action stars in the biz, and a fun time at the movie theaters that gives us one last bang for the Summer. Sucks to say it, but it’s just about over people and what a way to go out.

8/10=Matinee!!

ParaNorman (2012)

See, those kids who talk to dead people aren’t so weird after all! Haley Joel Osment is jumping in the air somewhere right now.

The small New England town of Blithe Hollow comes under siege by the undead. Only a misunderstood local boy, Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who has the ability to speak with the dead, is able to prevent the destruction of his town from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He’ll also have to take on ghosts, witches, zombies and worst of all, the moronic grown-ups. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.

Maybe I was all alone in a boat by myself back in 2009, but I really just did not like Coraline. There was something about it that just didn’t work and I felt it was just too scary and serious to be considered a kids flick. This one follows in the same exact steps as that one except it has the one key ingredient that always makes these films work: the fat kid. More on that later, though. Let’s start with the positive things that came before he arrived.

The animation for this flick, is exactly what you would expect from the animation studio Laika. Even though I may have disliked a lot about Coraline, I still thought that they had plenty of eye-candy to help me get through, and that’s exactly what we have here but probably used a lot better in the terms of 3D. It was a really neat thing to see stop-motion animation done in a 3D way, and it added some real color and zaniness to this final product, as if it was one of the horror films that it was making fun of in the first place. Needless to say, the kids will love how much shit is constantly popping out at them (not literal shit, but you get my drift), but the parents will also be able to appreciate a 3D used right and almost not feel like their over-priced $13 dollar ticket will go to waste. Actually, if you add the kid’s ticket as well it’s going to be a lot more so it’s a good thing that it at least delivers or there’s going to be a loud of pissed-off parents.

Another element of this film that separates itself from Coraline, is that there is loads and loads of amounts of comedy to be had here, which really took me by surprise considering how much I actually laughed. There’s a lot of goofy sight-gags that you have to look closely to see and there’s a lot of jokes that only true horror movie fans will get, but what separates this film from all the other animated films that have come out in the last 2 years or so, is that is able to make almost any movie-goer laugh. Have a couple of kids? They got their fart jokes and slapstick. Got a bunch of grumpy adults? They have their sly humor and wit about a dark situation that somehow makes it lighter. Got a horror movie lover out there? They got the movie references. Have you average, movie-goer that just wants to laugh and have a good time? They got plenty of jokes that will work and make you laugh, as they did onto me. You’ll be surprised by how far this film goes with it’s comedy but it works, and instead of just dropping out pop-culture reference after pop-culture reference like we see in Shrek films, we get the type of comedy where goofy things happen, all for a reason. And that’s funny enough as it is.

Problem with a lot of this comedy is that it comes in a little too much. I get that the film wanted to always keep things light and humorous, even when it get dark and scary as hell, but they could have at least slowed down a bit and let some scenes just play out in a very serious matter. Sounds pretty strange that I would actually want a funny film to stop it’s humor for a bit and just be serious with us, but it gets to the point of where you can’t pay attention to what’s going on with this story and what’s on-screen because you’re constantly just waiting for another funny quip to come right through. Strange complaint, I know.

Another complaint about this film I had was that it take a bit too long to get where it exactly needed to go. With these films, you know exactly what’s going to happen from start to finish, which means that it better hurry it’s ass up by keeping us entertained. This film definitely keeps us entertained for the most part, but doesn’t really hurry it’s ass up either. The film just sort of just takes it’s time with it’s awfully predictable story, which doesn’t really work when you have something as conventional as this. Two very weird complaints, I know, but this is not necessarily the most normal film out there either and I think that’s all because of Norman himself.

Kodi Smit-McPhee seems like a great choice as Norman because the kid has always been type-cast as these weirdo-types and gives Norman a whole lot of boyish sympathy, that’s easy to fall for and stand behind; Anna Kendrick voices his older sister who is always bitching and trying to impress a hot dude around her; that hot dude I’m talking about is Casey Affleck as an older brother of somebody and shows he’s got great comedic timing with a weird, scratchy voice like his; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse proves he can be funny, but not as a nerd as the school bully here. Everybody else from this talented ensemble is fine, but when it comes right down to it, nobody stands in the way of the fat one.

I don’t know who this kid is and I don’t know if I have ever seen him ever before, but Tucker Albrizzi absolutely nails every line he has the token fat sidekick, Neil. Neil is such a great character right from the start because he’s fat, a nerd, and doesn’t get along with most kids, but still has a big heart and you can feel that from Albrizzi’s voice and just how they make this character look. Honestly, you cannot say that the picture of Neil in this movie just doesn’t want to make you pinch his cheeks or feed him some Cinna Buns. Every time this kid just about opens his mouth, it’s a piece of comedy that works and thank the lord for Albrizzi, because he makes everybody in this flick seem like a bunch of rookies, even though he’s only 13 years old. Kids got a bright future and I hope he keeps it going. Then again, I have never seen him before or if he can act well, but I know the kid’s got a great voice for animated characters that’s for damn sure.

Consensus: ParaNorman may not be the best animated flick all year, but is still a hell of a lot better than Coraline, the film that came before it with a playful sense of humor that can have anybody who sees this laugh, and a talented voice cast that milks all of the lines for all that they got.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)

Chicks got to make up their minds.

Best friends and lovers since high school, Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) got married in their twenties and, after a few years of wedded bliss, woke up to discover that they love each other as pals but not as husband and wife. So Jesse moves on, while Celeste is left to wonder just what the hell did she do.

It’s a surprise that this flick hasn’t gotten a bigger distribution than what it already has, because the material here could probably end up making this a sleeper hit of the late Summer, much like (500) Days of Summer did way back in ’09. No, it’s nothing as brilliant and original as that, but it says the same stuff and makes you feel the same emotions, except there’s no Hall & Oates in this one. That already puts it a step-below.

What I think touched me about this story right off the bat was how honest it was about itself. I don’t know how much Jones and co-writer/co-star Will McCormack have experienced in their lives from the past, but it seems like they know a whole lot about relationships, how you make them work, and sometimes, how you can make them fall-apart just by trying to change that other person. There’s a lot here that speaks out to people who think they are too good for their soul-mate and think that it’s time to call it quits just because they aren’t up-to date with them, as much as they are with everything else in the world. There are plenty of people out there just exactly like that, and 9 times out of 10, those people start to realize that they made a huge mistake because they never once thought that the person they’d tried to get rid of, would eventually come back and be the person they always wanted them to be.  It’s a very true testament to not just how relationships work, but people as well, and Celeste and Jesse are no different from that.

What I liked most about this script was how every single part of this flick was set-up as a rom-com cliché. Gay best-friend? Check. Chick that needs to get her love-life back on-track but ultimately fails? Check. Witty best friend that tells it like it is? Check. Big speech at the end where the character tells everybody all that they have been through? Double check. The difference here is that this film sees those conventions, and sort of spins them on its head and give us a true tale of love being lost, love being unrequited, and love almost being found once again. The story I have been describing to you for the past 3 paragraphs now, may seem like a total drag but I can assure you that it’s not. There is a lot of material that is funny here and even though every once and awhile this film will show us something we have seen done before in thousands of other rom-coms, it still feels true to itself and to the situation these characters are in.

By the end, when this story started to show it’s true colors and what it was really trying to say, that’s when I actually started to feel a little emotion here and there. The whole idea of this chick getting fed-up with her old husband because he won’t grow-up and then wants him back, doesn’t seem that sympathetic, but the way it’s played out here makes it seem so and you feel for this Celeste character. Not only is she a very realistic female character that you could easily meet at a bar or somewhere in a downtown night club, she’s also a gal that feels some sort of emotions whenever her feelings are hurt and when she wants to just be loved. You don’t really see female characters in rom-coms go through the type of shit Celeste goes through here, and I think that’s what makes her development as a character, all that much better and smarter.

My problem with this script was that I did feel like they took a little bit too much away from Celeste, just in order to give-up some time to random side characters that could have honestly been cut-out. I liked Elijah Wood as the stereotypical gay boss/best-friend, but he doesn’t add a single thing to this whole product and if they were to get rid of him, I don’t think much would have been missed. Not saying that he’s bad or anything, it’s just that there isn’t much to hold onto when it comes to his character. The same could be said for Emma Roberts who plays a Ke$ha-like teen-star that just wants to rock-out with her whatevers out. Roberts is fine in this role too, but she doesn’t add anything either other than a bunch of dumb dick and butt gags that seem tired by the third time they even mention it. Other characters like Chris Messina as a hopeful boyfriend that will take Celeste out of her funk, and Will McCormick as the stoner buddy named Skillz, are all fun to watch but also seem like another example of this film having too many ideas and too many side characters that eventually take away from Celeste’s real problem at-hand: the chick can’t move on.

Andy Samberg finally gets his real taste at drama and plays it up very well, when he gets the chance to. Samberg, at-first, plays Jesse as his usual jocky, young-minded, goofy persona that always seems to take over his characters but by the end changes it up a bit and starts to grow-up into his own person that is just as confused with what he wants as Celeste is. Jesse’s whole story development seems a little forced (the guy already wants to have a family with this one girl after one date?), but Samberg makes it seem believable with a nice amount of honesty and sensitivity that is unlike anything we have ever seen from him before. It’s not one of those roles that really stands-out and shows that this guy can almost do it all, but it’s a nice way of showing that maybe there is a life for this guy after leaving SNL and doing a shit-fest like That’s My Boy.

The real star of this whole movie, as you probably predicted since she co-wrote it, is Rashida Jones as Celeste. Jones is an actress that we all know can be funny (just watch Parks & Recreation), but she has never really been given that great amount of drama to work with that makes her stand-out from the rest. This performance here is that game-changer for her as Celeste is not only a great character to play, but is also a great performance for Jones where she shows that she can make any character likable and easy to root for just by using her mysterious charm that she has about her. The scenes her and Samberg have are dead-on, as their chemistry is as perfect as you could get it, but when it’s just Jones allowing herself to be shown in such an uncomfortably sad light, it feels real as if Jones is just reliving a past break-up that she still feels terrible about. But even when she has to do the comedy act with her performance as well, she nails it there too and it just shows you that this lady has a very bright future in Hollywood. Hopefully, this is the film that shows it off, too.

Consensus: Celeste and Jesse Forever may suffer from too many ideas and characters but never feels too jumbled up due to a great script that shows the emotional turmoil you go through during heartbreak, as well as what can happen to one person when they realize that the person they got rid of in the first place, was probably the best person for them in the end.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)

This will probably bring up a lot of awkward questions about where babies come from and how they’re made. Questions I look forward to answering.

The film stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as an happily married couple who have been unable to conceive a child and are ready to give up. One night after a bit too much wine, they fantasize about what their ideal child would be and bury a box with all these wishes in their backyard. Lo and behold, a dirt-covered little boy (CJ Adams) appears on their doorstep the next day.

That’s a pretty strange premise to have and it’s only weirder that the son of Frank Zappa, Ahmet, wrote it himself. However, while his father was inventive and original with what he could with his profession in music, he just so happens to be the total opposite with his.

What bothered the most about this flick was how damn predictable it was. I sort of knew that I was going to get that right from the start going into this, but I wasn’t expecting it this bad. Everything happens in the same ways you would expect it to normally go down in flicks like these, and what’s worse is that I barely got a surprise. The recipes for this family-oriented flick have already been written out and predicted before-hand, and it was only a matter of time until I was throwing money down on what was going to happen next, how, and when. Sadly, it was only me and my grandparents who went to go see this (go ahead, make jokes) and they weren’t down to throw any moolah around but you can bet your sweet-asses if I had gone with a bunch of girls I would have been loaded. With money, that is.

As soon as Timothy shows up in these people’s lives, he somehow makes all of these miraculous dreams and miracles come true but without ever doing anything. Take it for granted, the kid’s a nice kid and has a certain amount of goody-goody charm to him but he doesn’t do anything that could be deemed terribly special to the point of where you actually believe in these townspeople actually standing behind him altogether. I thought that they were going to play this story out as if it was “the Forrest Gump for kids” but even that would have been too much of a stretch for this movie. A lot of belief has to be suspended for these types of films but not so much to where you think people would buy the fact that these people know he has leaves on his legs, and they never choose to say anything. Where I come from, that kid would have gotten his ass thrown in so many lockers they would run-out. And don’t even get me started on all of the lunch money he’d lose.

But as terribly formulaic and predictable this all is, it still has a nice message deep-down inside that I couldn’t help but enjoy every time it was on-display. Basically, this film is all about how kids should be themselves, live up to what they want to do, and don’t have anybody ever tell them that they are weird for doing so. I got this message right from my parents when I was a young kid and I’ve been living that way ever since and look where it’s gotten me. I’m no major success in life or anything, but I still have stay trued to myself and the things that I want to do regardless of how weird it may be viewed at as by other people. This message is very prominent in this flick and I hope it is one that gets out to kids, as well as parents so they can tell their kids the same thing.

The real element of this movie that actually won me over was probably the performances from everybody involved, even if their characters may have not been the best that they have ever portrayed. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are awesome as the wife and husband couple that eventually get Timothy Green and they play up this very loving mother and father-combo well, and you could see why they would be great parents to have, especially for a kid with such odd predicaments as Timothy. Garner is fine but it’s Edgerton who really nails it as the fun-loving dad who just wants Timothy to have the love and support from a father-figure that he never had, and that sometimes results in the funnier and more heartfelt scenes of the whole movie. Not saying that there were many, but they still worked mainly because it was Edgerton behind all of them.

I was actually surprised that this kid, CJ Adams, didn’t bother me as much as I was expecting him to. Kids actors aren’t always the best to watch in movies like this, especially those ones that try to sound ultra-smart and cute, but somehow just end up being annoying and that’s what I thought Timothy Green was going to end up being. Thankfully, he’s not and this young blood, Adams, plays him very well by giving him a conscience that’s easy to stand-behind. Also, without sounding terribly effin’ creepy, the kid’s very cute and will probably have a lot of young girls swooning over him. I was like that once, but then I started to get facial hair. That’s when it all went South for me.

Everybody else in this cast is fine too, the only problem is that they aren’t giving characters that are worth paying much attention to, even though the film tries to make us see otherwise. Ron Livingston easily steals every scene that he’s in as Edgerton’s boss, but his character is played off as this one-note dickhead that we don’t really care what happens to him or what lesson he learns; Rosemarie DeWitt (who is almost this year’s Jessica Chastain with how many times I’ve seen her show up in random shit) plays Garner’s younger sister that believes all of her kids are miraculous and so much better than what they really are, and she’s alright with the role but she is another one that feels too one-notey for us to care about; David Morse has a very interesting character as Edgerton’s dead-beat daddy that was barely ever there for him when he needed him the most, and actually gives it his all even though by the end of the film, his character is sort of wasted in a bunch of false sentimental moments that don’t do much development for his character, or Edgerton’s for that matter; and Dianne Wiest, as great as she may be, she gives off one of the biggest one-note pieces of trash in this whole movie and seemed way too mean and cruel to be a chick that these many people would put up with, let alone have her as the head of the city council. There’s plenty of other familiar faces to be seen here, but they’re all given characters that don’t really seem like you should care about at all and the film takes too much of its focusing on them, when they could be focusing more on Timothy and his so-called “parents”.

Consensus: Though it is well-acted and features a nice message for the whole family, The Odd Life of Timothy Green just doesn’t bring any surprises, emotional resonance, or any type of extravagant characters to hold onto. Still, it’s bearable to sit through and won’t kill you to check out on a rainy, Sunday afternoon.

5/10=Rental!!

The Running Man (1987)

Don’t trust the TV. Especially that crap on MTV.

Set in the future, one of the most popular TV shows is called The Running Man, and it features supposed crooks running away from these over-the-top manufactured villains, as well as escaping these torturous boobie-traps. These bad guys are there to kill the supposed crooks, and eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself ends up in the “game”.

Believe it or not, it was none other than Paul Michael Glaser who directed this little 80’s gem from back in the day. Whoever thought that Starsky had it in him to make a movie like this and even though it may not be the most loved and adored out of Arnie’s 80’s to 90’s collection, it still hits a bit of a soft-spot with me for some odd reasons.

The main reason why this movie works so well, still in the year 2012, is because this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yeah, there’s a lot of corny one-liners, plenty of outlandish wardrobes that look like they were made for a drag-queen runway show, and a lot of over-the-top performances that may have you laughing your ass off by how dumb they sound in this movie, but the fact that this film is still able to have fun with itself makes it a more enjoyable ride than I expected. Even back when I saw this one in 8th grade, I just kept remembering how corny everything is and now, my opinion still hasn’t changed but I’m able to get by certain elements like that with a movie like this because it totally takes advantage of it’s kick-ass premise.

And yes, for all you little teenie-boppers reading this out there, this premise is very similar to The Hunger Games‘ one but this came out before that one, so if you got a problem, take it up with Arnie and see what he has to say. Aww man, good old, cheese-ball Arnie quotes. Those were the prank-call-using-soundboard days.

The problem I did have with this film, is that the film’s message is a little too in-your-face, almost to the point of where they are actually just telling you, “hey, don’t believe everything you see on the television”. Is this a very true statement that seems very relevant in today’s world? Yes, but do we really need to see this done so obviously and blatantly? No, and even if some of the material did have me laughing, it just felt like it was trying too hard to go for that satire idea and somehow failed at doing so. Maybe when you see films like these, the points that they’re trying to get across doesn’t really matter, but when it’s done in an hitting-over-the-head way like this, it can get pretty annoying, pretty quick. That’s why I just depended on Arnie to say dumb shit like this. Hahahahahah god! I just cannot get enough of that stuff!

But all joking aside, Arnie has never been the best actor, he knows it, we know it, Sylvester Stallone knows it, and even Maria Shriver knows it (hey yo!). However, that’s why we as a movie-loving audience, don’t really watch him to give grand-stand, Oscar-winning performances, we watch him so he can go around, kick the baddies’ asses, chew out some terrible one-liners, and at the end of it all, come out on-top with the girl on his arm. That’s all we need with Arnie in any role that he has ever done and that’s why I’m really glad to see him coming back on the big-screen because the guy still has that star-appeal to him, regardless of how much of that ravishing physique he’s lost over the years. Yikes!

Probably the reason why this film is so entertaining to watch, even when it seems like it’s starting to get boring and a little slow, is all because of Richard Dawson as The Running Man’s dick-headed host that seems all nice and lovely to everybody in front of the screen, but behind-the-scenes, is an evil and nasty guy that would do anything, and I mean, anything, just to get ahead in the ratings. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to cast the kissy-face host from The Family Feud (aka one of the most family-oriented game shows of all-time) as the evil game-show host here, but it was one of the smartest pieces of casting and it’s even better because Dawson doesn’t even seem like he’s doing anything new for himself. He’s pretty much just playing what he’s always played for the past decade or so, except this time, he’s a little more evil than you might have seen him get. So if Arnie’s one-liners are pissing you off to the high-heavens (and I really don’t know why they would), then just depend on Dawson to keep your mind alive and awake during this one.

Consensus: Though it is definitely an over-the-top, corny, and silly piece of 80’s action, The Running Man still has a certain type of entertainment to it with some funny-ass one-liners, exciting action that can get pretty gory at times, and a solid supporting performance from Richard Dawson as the diabolical game-show host.

7/10=Rental!!

The Lookout (2007)

Memento mixed with any heist thriller that has ever come out. Honestly, just pick one.

After experiencing a brain injury, and facing a mental disability where he suffers from short-term memory loss, janitor Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes part of a heist at the bank where he works.

Writer/director Scott Frank does something pretty cool here. He takes a heist flick, give it a character-based drama feel to it, and still have some action at the end to boost things up. Maybe it’s not the most unique thing out there, but it still worked for me and you I need more of that in the crime genre.

Frank did a pretty good job taking his first bite at directing and gives this film a very low-budget, “indie” quality to it that showed you don’t need to have all of the money in the world to make a low-key film like this to work. All it takes is enough skill to make a story like this to work and somehow, Frank pulls it off very well because he decides to focus on the characters more, rather than the heist and action itself. We actually get a good feel for some of these characters, and we see them more as human-beings rather than just another bunch of walking-action movie cliches. I’m not saying that every single person here is so unique and all given the same character development as the main ones, but for the ones that Frank does focus on, it works well and has you root for them even when things start to seem really turn shitty for our heroes.

But as much character development Frank puts into this story, he also has a nice build-up for the heist itself and it gets very tense by the end. Even when the film does totally change its ways into to full-on, action-thriller mode, it doesn’t seem fake and seems like this is the right way to go with a story that just continued to build-up, and up, and up until the very last shot (pun intended). Can’t say that it’s most exciting piece of cinema I’ve seen in quite awhile, but it worked well and kept me involved with this story when everything could have easily gone out the door.

However, as good as that heist and final 20 minutes were, the film did bother me with a couple of problems I kept running on in to. First of all, the heist itself seemed way too easy. I don’t want to give anything away as to how these peeps pulled it all off the way they did, but I will say that the way they did was so easy, that almost any person could rob a bank, regardless of the size of the bank itself. It was a plain heist as it was but it also seemed like one that was a bit too easy, even for these characters. Wasn’t the anchor of the flick, but it was still something that bugged me.

Another aspect of this film that bothered me was that things did really get predictable by the end, and it was kind of a disappointment considering this film had me on the edge for a good part of it. After the heist “goes down”, things start to go haywire and every situation becomes just another action-movie cliche that you always expect from these types of movies. There’s even one scene where Chris Pratt is talking about how he used to hunt with his daddy’s shotgun, only to be filmed holding it later on in the film, and it was an obvious, fore-shadowing moment that I got too many of throughout this whole flick. Was I entertained by most of this? Yes. But I think Frank could have done a better job with some of this because this guy did write Out of Sight. I mean,0 come on now!

Actually, what I think really held this film together for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s awesome performance as Chris Pratt (no, not Andy Dwyer, but how awesome would that be?). Pratt is a good character to have in a film like this because the guy obviously had it all at one time, but sadly, lost it all after a traumatic accident ruined his life forever and now he’s trying his damn near hardest to work with it. Maybe it doesn’t sound like the most well-written character ever made in film, but JGL plays him perfectly with just the right amount of sadness, sorrow, and anger in his system that makes you feel like this dude is a good with some mental problems that he can’t really help. This, along with Brick, was a role that showed off JGL’s skills at leading a film all on his own, and it’s so great to see what he’s become today in Hollywood.

Jeff Daniels is here as Lewis, Pratt’s blind room-mate and is just another role that proves how great Daniels is in any role you give him. He’s used as the comic-relief here, but that’s not such a bad thing since Daniels is great at creating well-rounded characters that know how to win you over, just with personalities. Matthew Goode was pretty good, too as Gary Spargo, but thing with him is that you know he’s the bad guy the whole time so there’s no real mystery to him. Isla Fisher is OK as the uber cute, and uber sexy Luvlee, but her role is sort of forgotten about by the end and it’s a shame since this gal could have done a lot more with this role. Like showed some more skin…right?

Consensus: The Lookout may run into some predictable territory by the end, but Scott Frank’s direction keeps this flick fun and entertaining, with plenty of good performances from this cast that makes every character seem even more well-rounded than the last.

7/10=Rental!!

Hope Springs (2012)

Face it, old people bone.

Many years of marriage have left Kay (Meryl Streep) wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). When she hears of a famed relationship guru (Steve Carell) in the town of Great Hope Springs, she must persuade her skeptical husband to get on a plane for an intense week of marriage and sex therapy.

Judging by the first couple of trailers I saw, I was expecting another zany, Streep comedy, where she plays an older gal trying to relive her older days by doing what it is that she wants, when it comes to being between the sheets. In that regard, it reminded me a lot of It’s Complicated, which is a film I laughed at, but still thought was your average, rom-com that nobody thought twice about. That is not necessarily the case here, and that’s what really, really took me by surprise.

Despite being advertised as this totally zany comedy, the film isn’t filled to the core with that. Yeah, there is a couple of funny light moments that really work and made me crack up (one scene in particular where Steep tries oral sex on Jones in a movie theater, which probably gave a lot of people in the theater with me a lot of ideas), but it’s more about the dark, sad truths that come behind relationships and marriages, regardless of how long you have been together.

People, as a whole, grow old. And it doesn’t matter what you try to do with your life to never grow old, but that’s eventually what happens and you can see that especially with this couple of Kay and Arnold. Not only did these two grow old, but they also just grew apart from one another, becoming more of room-mates than actual life-mates. Arnold wakes up everyday, eats the same breakfast combo (one slice of bacon and two eggs, remember that), kisses his wife on the cheek before going to work, comes home from work every night, eats dinner with his wife, goes to watch the Golf channel, falls asleep (typical), and gets awoken by Kay to go up-stairs to his own room, where only he sleeps. This is how his day is every day and it never changes, and it all occurs with barely any talk between him and his wife. What the hell happened between them? Why won’t he just love her? Why doesn’t he talk to her? Why? Why? Why!?!?

Much to my surprise, I was very intrigued by this couple within the first 10 minutes and I kept sitting there to myself wondering just what was up with this obviously, once-loving couple. Director David Frankel is actually more intrigued than anybody else watching this and through the series of non-stop therapy sessions, we see what happened to them, how it all started, who’s to mainly be blamed, and just why they are the way with each other now. The smartest thing that Frankel does other than just let all of these play out, is that he doesn’t take anybody’s side in this relationship. Nope, it’s actually both of their faults for the reasons as to why they aren’t as in love as they once were. I don’t want to give away as to how and why they all of sudden changed things up in their relationship, but what you may find and hear about here are some very honest truths about the way couples begin to act, especially when they have been together as long as 31 years together. Yeesh!

Though, as surprisingly heavy as this film may be, there was still a whole bunch of unneeded rom-com elements that I didn’t feel were really needed. After about the third, awkward sexual scene these two have, I was pretty much getting annoyed by how it seemed like the only way that Frankel could get comedy for this material is by placing a whole bunch of stupid, jokey-jokey sex scenes that didn’t seem to really add much to the film and the ideas, other than show us how old people can’t really be dirty and sexual. Another rom-com formula that also seemed to bother me was the types of songs Frankel used here. A lot of them are a bit too-on-the-nose with certain sad and sappy songs playing whenever either one of them don’t feel loved, and so on and so forth. Basically, the fact that this is a rom-com kind of ruins it but I guess it wasn’t all that terrible to totally destroy the final-product.

But I guess when you have the actors that you have in this film, it doesn’t matter what type of material you have, because it works anyway. Meryl Streep is of course, great as Kay, but this performance is a lot different from what we’ve been seeing from her as of late. There’s a lot more subtlety going on here with her act that really stands-out as we can tell that this girl just wants to be loved and just wants her old relationship back as most people would feel if they started to get in a relationship like the one she’s in. Kay is a character that doesn’t get too up-front with her husband because she’s a bit afraid to ruin any type of chance of intimacy that they may or may not have, and it also shows the effect that this dull relationship may have on her self-esteem and feelings. Streep is great in this role and she gives us a female character that is not only as strong as the male, but also gives us a lot of insight into how our woman feel if we don’t show them the bedroom from time-to-time. Am I right men?

As good as Streep was (and trust me, she was good), I was more involved with Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold and actually found him to be the best thing in this whole flick. Jones starts out as the usual grumpy, stand-offish old man that doesn’t really want anything to do with anybody or anything, he just wants to go about his day the same way he’s been going about it for the last 20 or 30 years. But as time moves on in this flick, we start to see a lot of those walls come down and we see a very lonely and self-conscious guy that doesn’t know what to do with his wife, other than just be a husband and not much else. There’s a lot of moments where Jones nails a lot of the comedic moments, but his emotional moments where we see the character for all that he is, is what really took me by surprise and has me hoping that he decides to take more roles like these in the near-future because isn’t it just a total treat to see this guy shed a tear every once and awhile?

Steve Carrell plays the therapist that somewhat helps this couple out and as successfully deadpan as he can be, truth is, he doesn’t really have that much to do in this film other than to ask these two questions and try to “connect” with them emotionally. Carrell isn’t really ever in this film all by himself and it seems like sort of a waste of a very good actor that shows he can do great things with his roles, even if he isn’t playing his usual, funny-side that we see so very often. It’s not necessarily that this is a criticism of the movie, it’s more that I wish they used him more or if they didn’t want to do that, then they should have just got somebody else that wasn’t such a big-name to do this role in-place of him.

Consensus: Though it follows the same-old, rom-com formula most people hate (and surprisingly love), Hope Springs still succeeds with great performances from Jones and Streep and at showing us the dark and sad truths behind older relationships that can sometimes be healed just by a little communication and most of all, love. Yes, that “L word” always finds itself back.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Campaign (2012)

If only Ron Burgundy really did run for office. Do I hear the basis for a sequel…?

When long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) commits a major public gaffe before an upcoming election, a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs plot to put up a rival candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district. Their man: naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center.

If you are going to release an election comedy, the time right before the election would be a perfect time, really. Everybody is basically sick and tired of seeing what these candidates all have to say about themselves, their goals as president, what they think about the other candidates, how much of a wonderful family and dog they have, how they are going to lower taxes, blah, blah, and blah. So you know it’s time for a political satire, especially one with two of the goofiest and funniest comedic actors working right now, right?

You would expect a comedy about politics, being released very slightly before election-time, to have at least some sort of sides to choose or just plain and simple satire on politics themselves, but somehow, you get nothing here from that. Looking at director Jay Roach‘s track record (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Dinner for Schmucks), I knew that I wasn’t going to get anything that was necessarily considered biting, when it comes to satire department, but I wasn’t expecting something as safe and sometimes, soft like this. What bothered me the most about this flick is that there is so much room for political satire to the point of where you could almost make it up on your own, but for some odd reason, these guys never seem to go for it. To me, this seems like a huge, wasted opportunity that definitely could have given us a smarter look at the politics we see on TV today, but I guess they’re all fine with just settling for being funny.

Actually, this missed-opportunity probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it wasn’t for the fact that this film definitely isn’t as funny as I was expecting it to be. There’s a lot of those dim-witted, goof-ball jokes that we are used to getting with Ferrell and his movies, but it just seems repetitive here, almost to the point of where Ferrell and co. felt like they ran out of material to joke around about, so they just tried to say the same jokes, over-and-over again but it a new fashion. This starts to get very tiring and actually, very boring, almost to the point of where I was actually looking at my “watch” (code name for phone, but don’t tell anyone) more than anything else on the screen. Which is a total shame because I usually have a ball with these guys, as I did with Dinner for Schmucks, a very underrated comedy, in my opinion.

But for when it did make me laugh, it sure as hell did make me laugh and that’s all I can give it credit for. Some scenes stood-out to me in particular, but the best was probably in the first 15 minutes where Huggins goes around his family-table and allows them to all share secrets that they have hid underneath the table for very, very long, and some of the stuff that just comes out of these people’s mouths are hilarious and dirty. It was a sure sign that I was in for something funny and everything else from the punching-baby sequence, to the vengeful political-ad videos, to the drunk driving incident, all had me laughing enough to say that I had a pretty enjoyable time, even if I feel like there could have been so much more to this material.

The real reason this whole film works is mainly because of the two comedic all-stars in the leads that always seem to give every role they have, their all and these ones are no different. Will Ferrell is basically playing-up the same buffoon he plays in every movie, but this time with a mix of his George W. Bush impression and some of Bill Clinton in there as well. It’s a nice little mix that Ferrell makes work by just being, well, Will Ferrell, and that’s all I really ask for when it comes to him and his comedies. Then, you have Zach Galifianakis as the heterosexual Marty Huggins, that just seems so sweet and nice, but can never catch a break because of Brady is always one-step ahead of his ass. Literally sometimes, too. Zach is always a funny guy and even though he hasn’t had many times to prove so outside of his roles as Alan, he proves that here and gives this Marty Huggins a lot of jeer-full goofiness to him, but not enough to the point of where it’s annoying and campy. Whenever these guys were on-screen together, I laughed my ass off and I sort of wish that they did a better movie to head-line together because this one sure doesn’t live up to what people would most expect from these two comedic fellas.

It was also nice to see Jason Sudeikis play a supporting, goofy role as the straight-man behind Cam Brady, Mitch. Sudeikis is funny, as always, but this time he allows all of the jokes play-out from Ferrell’s side of the equation and it’s nice to see what this cat can do when it comes to comedy, considering I haven’t been all that impressed by this dude as of late. Though, the highlight of the cast is probably Dylan McDermott as the evil campaign advisory, Tim Wattley. McDermott is good with this role because he plays everything with such a stern, serious look on his face that adds so many more laughs to this film, whenever it seemed like Zach and Will weren’t necessarily helping out the situation. What was even better was how they even compared him to Dermot Mulroney during this film, which I thought was funny because I actually thought he would have been a good fit for this kind of role.

Consensus: Though it’s satire never fully takes a bite, The Campaign still features a fun cast and a funny bunch of moments that are worth to see, if only for the two leads themselves.

6/10=Rental!!

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