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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hitchcock (2012)

Whoever thought that Hitchcock was such a lady-killer? No, literally.

Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the legendary director we all know as Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), the film catalogs the various pitfalls and challenges Hitchcock encountered while trying to get his 1960 classic off the ground and into the movie-theaters.

If you watching movies, writing movie reviews, going to the movies, or just simply, love movies in general, chances are that you’ve heard of the legend that is, Alfred Hitchcock. He’s considered one of the greatest directors of all-time and rightfully so, because the guys has some legendary films that he’s made in his career that are over 50 years old and still hold-up, as well as inspire in today’s day and age, just as much as it did then. He’s an iconic-figure everybody knows, recognizes, and in some cases, even love, but there has yet to be a movie even made about him. There’s been thousands upon thousands of remakes that are all loosely-based off of his pieces of work, but still, there has yet to even be the slightest-glimpse of anybody trying to duplicate the look, sound, feel, and overall character of Hitchcock. Maybe the guy’s too noticeable or maybe the guy’s just way, way too loved by cinephiles out there, that it would almost be a cardinal sin to have a flick about him that has even one negative-thought about him.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we have not one, but two biopics based-on Hitchcock with this one and the HBO-movie, The Girl, that apparently talks a whole bunch of smack on him and makes no apologies for it, either. For me, I don’t really care to see that and instead, I’d much rather go with the one that’s most-likely going to pop-up more around Oscar season, and actually says some nice stuff about the guy who has made filmmaking the inventive and stylistic art that it is today.

Director of Anvil! The Story of AnvilSacha Gervasi makes his directorial-debut with an actual-movie this time around and for the most-part, does a relatively fine-job with creating everything that went-on around Hitchcock in terms of his personal life, as well as his professional life. Instead of having the whole-movie focus on Hitchcock’s time he spent on Psycho and actually getting it out there for the world to see, this is more focused on the relationship between him and his wife, Alma, who actually seemed to be the brains behind the operation. We’ve all seen the unsung hero aspect of a movie before, where one person gets all the love, fame, and gratitude for doing something incredible, whereas the other one gets diddly-squat and a pat on the back, but here, it feels reasonable and honest. You see how Alma just wants to be accepted and thanked for all of the hard-work she puts into Hitchcock’s work, even when he’s off acting like a little baby, eating, and drinking himself to death. There’s a part of you that relates to her and understands her pain, and even when it seems like she’s about to drop her knickers and get dirty with somebody else, you actually get worried for bother her and Hitchcock, considering they obviously love one another and have a special thing going together, that it would just be inhumane to let it go to waste.

As much as I may go on and on about how much of the relationship between these two matters, the fact is, it isn’t the best-parts of the movie. Probably the best part for me, as well as everybody sitting with me in the Press section during my screening, were the scenes that showed the filming of Psycho and just how Hitchcock made everything turn into magic, just by a little tweak of magic he would pull here and there. These scenes were probably the best because they showed how Hitchcock made everybody feel on-set, and most of all, showed us how hard it was to actually get a piece of work like this made, without breaking any laws or regulations that were so strict back in the 1980. It goes to show you that a lot has definitely changed in the movie-world, but also goes to show you that even Hitchcock had some problems to deal with his own.

However, being that the scenes where we follow Hitchcock filming on the set were the best, anything else that interrupted this, seemed to get in the way and really put a damper on things. Hitchcock has a subplot where it focuses on him talking to Ed Gein in his mind and trying to be like, and think like him in-order to get the right feel and mood of Psycho down-pat. The reason I had a problem with this sub-plot was not because it was annoying (which it was), but it was because it tried so hard to be like a movie Hitchcock would have made himself and just feels like it was trying too hard on that boat and should have just stuck with what was really going on. Screw Ed Gein, that dude’s a freak anyway.

Alma even gets a sub-plot and even if her’s is a bit more-interesting than Hitchcock’s, it still slows everything down and keeps it a tad boring, at times. The focus on making Psycho and keeping the relationship between these two still strong, and in-tact were interesting aspects of this movie, but focusing on anything but that just to create a certain amount of drama and tension, didn’t add or do anything at all. It just made the movie linger-on a bit more and have me await the moment til I got to hear the infamous “Shower Scene” score. And trust me, when that sound pops-up, the hairs on your neck are going to just stick straight-up.

Having somebody very famous and noticeable like Anthony Hopkins, play the titular role of Alfred Hitchcock seems a bit risky after awhile, but is still an idea you can get used to because Hopkins is always great with every role that he takes, and that is no different here. The way this movie paints the portrait of Alfred Hitchcock, is that he was a very fun-loving guy, that didn’t mind to get cheeky every once and awhile, and just wanted to have fun while he was on-set, no matter how unprofessional and boyish it looked. Hopkins definitely disappears into this role and gives one of the finer performances I’ve seen from him in awhile because he seems to be having such a ball, playing an iconic-figure we all know and can identify in no less than 10 seconds. There’s a certain-amount of joy and energy to be seen and had with Hopkins here as Hitchcock, and I honestly don’t think anybody else could have played him as well as Hopkins does. I think an Oscar nomination is definitely in-store for Mr. Hopkins, even though I highly doubt he’ll win for it.

Helen Mirren ain’t all that bad either, and is probably just as good as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. Although Mirren may be a bit too in-shape and foxy (yes, I just said the word “foxy), for a to play Alma, who always looked frail and small in real-life, she still handles it very-well and comes off more strong of a person that Hitchcock is. Mirren definitely has her great-moments of pure fun and hilarity, but the moments where it’s her and Hopkins on-screen, together, it’s great to see because you really do feel the love and respect between the two and it’s something that I wish I saw more with married-couples in movies. Nowadays, all they ever do is fight, argue, yell, and end-up agreeing on a divorce by the end. Take a page out of Hitchcock’s book and realize that fighting, isn’t always the answer to your marriage-problems. Or if you don’t want to listen to him, then just go on the Steve Wilkos Show. You’ll probably find your answers there.

As good as Mirren and Hopkins are in the leads (and trust me, they are very good), it’s the supporting-cast of familiar faces that really makes this movie so much damn fun. A lot of people were worried to see Scarlett Johansson taking over the role as Janet Leigh, but she’s fine because of her instant-beauty, charm, and just overall likability that she has going for her; Jessica Biel is in a very small-role as Vera Miles, but still does a nice-job as a person that seems to know Hitchcock for me than he seems to be; and James D’Arcy is almost too spot-on as Anthony Perkins, capturing all of the weird tics and mannerisms that made the guy so memorable in the first-place.

Consensus: If you have an appreciation for the subject and all that he has done for filmmaking, then Hitchcock will be right-up your alley with spot-on performances, a fun-vibe, and entertaining bits of insight into making movies in the old days.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Oh, and before I head-out, go on over to see my post at GuysNation. It’s called ‘Movied’ and it will be a weekly-post so if you like what you see, comment, show me some love, and keep on going back for more. Thanks!

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Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

Apparently Cruise can do it all. Yes, even kung-fu.

American and British IMF teams join forces on the hunt to find a stolen virus. However, one by one the members on the teams start ending up dead. Can Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) find out who this assassin is and stop their deadly plans? From the crowded streets of Madrid to the busy harbour of Sydney, the chase is on.

With the first Mission: Impossible movie, I liked it because it was fun but felt like it was a huge disappointment considering that it seemed like the director, Brian De Palma, wasn’t really able to go full-throttle with his direction, and had to ease-in to what Hollywood wanted. Well, if Hollywood has it’s ways, they usually get rid of those types of people and bring in others. John Woo, you’re up next, buddy. Good luck!

Actually, if I was to compare both De Palma and Woo to one another, which is stupid but for the sake of a juicy-review, I would probably have to say De Palma is the better director by-far. However, if I had to compare the two to who is a better-suit for this type of material, I’d have to go with Woo. The guy is known as the go-to-guy when it comes to directing action movies and even if that honor has sort of been passed-down to others over the years, you still can’t deny or forget when this guy was always the person you’d want to direct a loud, stupid, but fun action-movie. That’s why Woo actually makes this film a bit better, however, it doesn’t start-off like that at-first, no sireee.

Where I was really losing my interest with this movie was the first 45 minutes or so, when nothing seemed to be happening. Yeah, the plot was moving-along and setting the grounds for what we would have to know, in order to understand everything more clearly, but it was all so damn boring. People were talking, melodrama was thrown at us, and worst of all, Ethan Hunt was sort of acting like a total-pussy. Like I get it, the guy has fallen for this chick and wants to be with her but can’t because of this high-profile mission, but there is no need to spend literally, 15 minutes on that whole idea. Ethan Hunt is way too cool for that, and doesn’t need his D getting bogged down by some, little sweet who’s off boning another guy. Now, it’s not really her choice but still, stop crying, do your job, and maybe, just maybe in the end, you can have some sweet-old celebration sex for the good of it all. Hey, that’s how I look at things, baby.

I will say, that after those excruciatingly boring, first 45 minutes, the movie does pick-up a little and that’s where I think Woo’s fun-direction really starts to kick-in. What makes this movie so much fun is the fact that Woo knows the type of material he’s working with, and makes no excuses for making it as idiotic and dumb as you can get with an action movie. A lot of stunts and sequences will have you scoffing your asses off at the implausibility of all that’s going on, but to be honest, that’s whats to be expected of these movies by now and it’s just so much fun to watch because Woo adds in his own, little trinkets of style in there every once and awhile. You get a lot of slo-mo, you get a lot of explosions, you get a lot of kung-fu, and most of all, you get a lot of random pigeons flying around certain scenes for more of a dramatic-effect. It’s pretty neat how Woo is able to make a Mission: Impossible movie, but still, not without putting his own stamp on the movie and showing everybody that it’s his own work, and if you don’t like it, then don’t go and give him or Cruise your money. Trust me, everybody did anyway.

And speaking of Tom Cruise, the guy still owns it as Ethan Hunt, which is something that probably comes to nobody’s surprise whatsoever. Hunt is cool, swift, and smart here, and even though I didn’t like the fact of how much time they spent on him and his heart going through a lot of pain, I still couldn’t help but think that the guy was going to pull-it-all together in the end, and come out on-top at the end of the day. Still, Ethan Hunt doesn’t need women, so stay the hell away, gals.

The gal who I keep on ranting and raving about is played by Thandie Newton, and even though she isn’t anything all that special to watch and fall in love with on-screen, she’s still okay and whatnot. I wish that the film made her more of a sly bad-ass in her own right and focused on that element of her character, but too much of that time was just spent-on her being all sad and acting like the damsel in distress that Hunt didn’t need around to get in the way of his shit. Once again, Ethan Hunt doesn’t need women.

What Ethan Hunt does need, however, is a pretty kick-ass villain and that is what he does not get here with Dougray Scott. To be honest, I’ve never seen this guy in anything else before, but I don’t really look forward to seeing that stuff either because the guy’s pretty lame here. I don’t know if it was the crappy-writing, the evil-plan he had in his head (basically, it’s just a bad-guy that has a deadly-virus he’s going to unleash on the rest of humanity, because you know, bad-guys hate everything), or his acting plain and simple, but something was not gelling well with this character at all and I just wanted Hunt to kill him as soon as possible. Actually, maybe that’s a good thing to feel for a villain, but then again, I still feel like some of that hate should be directed towards the actor and what he’s able to do with that role and that is something that Scott didn’t seem like he was all that capable of. Oh well, Ethan Hunt still kicked his ass.

Consensus: Even though it’s just a tad better than it’s predecessor, Mission: Impossible 2 is still stupid, loud, and occasionally boring,  but still features some slick style-points from Woo, and the always welcome, return-to-form for Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, once again proving that this guy can kick anybody’s ass. Katie Holmes’ next hubby, you best look-out mofo.

6.5/10=Rental!! 

The Next Three Days (2010)

Save me, Maximus!

Life seems perfect for John Brennan (Russell Crowe) until his wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), is arrested for a gruesome murder she says she didn’t commit. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison.

It may seem a bit strange that director Paul Haggis would return to the director’s chair after two character-driven flicks like Crash and In the Valley of Elah, to do something very action-oriented in a way that would remind me a bit of the Bourne movies. Total change-of pace if you ask me, but a pretty intriguing one, none the less. However, this is also the guy who wrote Casino Royale and I think he should have kept it that way and try not to stretch out his action skills anymore teaming up with this dude, because he said he was an “Oscar-winner”.

What I liked about Haggis’ direction here is that he does have a good combination of character-driven drama and a suspense-thriller for a combination that sort of evens each-side out. We first start this flick off by focusing on Crowe, how he’s struggling with being a single father, having a wife put in jail wrongly, and it basically just sets up a lot of sadness for his character and the situation he so sadly found himself so involved with. But underneath all of that, there’s also a very interesting prison-escape drama that shows how Crowe goes around, checking for all of the clues on how to get his wife out successfully without any problems whatsoever, and it’s so interesting and well-done, that it actually made you wonder just how the hell this guy was going to pull it all off in the end, if at all. Prison-escape movies are always fun to watch, but it was really cool to see that aspect, used on the outside, from a guy who’s trying to break somebody out, and not really being able to tell how smoothly everything will go. Definitely a good combo for Haggis, but sadly, it all ends up losing it’s way about half-way through. Oh well, at least it was intruiging for the longest-time.

Mainly the problem with this flick is that it can be very hard to buy at times, especially the main bond between Crowe and Banks. As soon as we step into the movie, we see Banks and Crowe at dinner together, then in no less than 5 minutes later she gets hauled out by cops and that’s pretty much all of the love we get see come from them. That’s right, only 5 minutes of them actually being loving and happy together and we’re supposed to buy the fact that Crowe would go the ends of the Earth to save his wife from prison. Who knows, maybe they had one of the most beautiful marriages that any person has ever seen, but with the very limited-amount of time they have together on-screen, I found it very hard to actually believe Crowe would do what he ends up trying to do for her.

However, that’s not the only part of this movie I didn’t buy. The whole film revolves around Crowe and whether or not he can pull off such a plan as the one he has mapped out on his wall (so original) but I couldn’t really believe much of that either. The film does show him doing certain things to gain pieces of information that ultimately help him out with this plan and gaining more information, but it was never fully-developed to the point of where I understood how he could make it all happen to begin with and even worse, only showed-up every once and awhile. In fact, the whole escape itself by the end was really just based on coincidences that Crowe just so happened to find himself running into by sure luck. Crowe’s character had so much time to think everything through and to get everything right, but by the end, everything just happens in a very messy way and like almost every obstacle he got through was just another piece of perfect-timing, that was just a bit too perfect for my taste, really.

Now I say all of this crap but I did have a certain bit of fun with the very fast-pace this film was going through. As implausible and coincidental things may get for this plot, Haggis kicked up the volume and the speed of this movie and kept it going perfectly where I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat for a good time. That’s why I can’t go too far into how much this film didn’t make sense to me, because I like prison-escape movies and seeing the sensitive-edge Haggis brought to it, kept me interested. However, a lot of that is lost on some very obvious twists this film goes through.

Russell Crowe is one of the best-working actors today and can make almost any character he plays, work. His performance as John Brennan may be the only exception to that statement. My problem I had with this character wasn’t necessarily Crowe’s performance itself, but it was more or less the essence and nature of the character he was playing here. Brennan is such a meek, awkward, and shy dude that it really seemed “out of his element” and unbelievable whenever he would just decide to g0 around and start doing crazy shit just, in order to help his wife escape from jail. I can understand what a man does and thinks when he’s pushed to the edge, but I never saw that for Crowe and that’s a surprise because this is a guy who’s known for beating the shit out of people in many other films as well as real-life (telephone-throwing joke right there). This performance really surprised me and I think with other actors it would have worked, but when you get a tough-ass like Crowe, ehhh not so much.

One performance that really took me by surprise was Elizabeth Banks as his wife. Banks is always one of those very cute, very funny, and very sexy ladies that pop-up in these raunchy-comedies, but she shows she has a lot of dramatic depth here and makes her character seem a lot more believable than Crowe. Hopefully she continues to get more and more dramatic roles that fit her, and no, I do not mean Man on a Ledge. Liam Neeson is also here as a former prison escapee that helps out Crowe and is easily one of the best and most memorable parts of this flick even though it only lasts for 4 minutes. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is here as the only model, single mom in Pittsburgh. Wilde is a random character to have for this movie and what made it even worse and just added to the implausibility of this movie, was the fact that Olivia Wilde, was playing a single-mom! What the hell! If this is what single moms look like in Pittsburgh, get me my 2005 Scion right now! I’ll be there soon, ladies! Just you wait.

Consensus: The Next Three Days starts off pretty-strong with a great combination action, mystery, suspense and character-drama, but the script really starts to lose itself about half-way through with all of its implausibilities, strange coincidences, and unbelievable character relations, especially the ones between Crowe and Banks, who was supposed to be the core-relationship for us to really connect to this movie and actually give a damn.

6/10=Rental!!

Narc (2002)

It seems like every cop in Detroit is dirty and never does a nice thing for anybody. Only in the movies, though, and I don’t know how much fact there is behind that.

The plot revolves around the efforts of two police detectives (Jason Patric and Ray Liotta) as they search for the murderer of an undercover police officer. As they proceed in the investigation they engage in suspect tactics and give viewers a glimpse into the seedy side of undercover work.

Right before I even got into watching this movie, I was thinking that it was going to be another fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled, cop-action movie but instead, I got something totally different, and probably a hell of a lot more gritty. Actually, “gritty” is probably the best word to describe this flick as I could literally taste the blood, sweat, and dirt that seemed to fall right-through the camera and into my face. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad and literal, but you get what I mean: it’s pretty freakin’ gritty!

I have to give a lot of props to writer/director Joe Carnahan, who takes a pretty normal cop-story of two detectives on opposite ends of the spectrum, that are looking for a killer, and giving it a dark and eerie style that kept me involved with this film even when it seemed to be a tad too predictable. Carnahan makes this film look just as depressing as these two characters are, and it shows us just what sort of terrible side-effects come along with being an undercover cop. Yeah, it’s another one of those hand-held camera style movies, but it’s not as annoying this time around since nobody really saw a Paul Greengrass film around the time this came-out so the hand-held camera was still young, innocent, and normal, just like my grade-school days. Oh dear, how they went to waste after. Definitely not as fun and easy as other movies make it out to be, but Carnahan shows us differently, but that is also another separate-reason as to why I liked this movie so much.

The main mystery surrounding this film was pretty good, but what really got me involved with this story was Carnahan’s detailed-attention to its characters, that not only made me feel something for them, but also made me realize just why they were doing all of this undercover ish to begin with. You get a feel for how these guys go through their jobs on a daily basis and it doesn’t seem like that much of a walk in the park at all. These guys pretty much have to deal with terrible shit all of the time at-work, only to come home, some more terrible shit with their wives/families hootin’ and hollerin’ at them for choosing a job like this. Maybe the film doesn’t go that far in showing us how these guys live but I like what I saw with these characters and it kept me riveted through every twist and turn this story took. The attention to characters made more of an emotional-bump for me, just when things started to seem to get very, very sour for these jokers in the end.

What I was bummed out by here was that the story does get ultimately formulaic by the end and I could kind of tell just where this story was going, mainly because of the type of cliches I’m used to seeing with all of these cop-dramas. There’s a certain point in this flick where you realize that something is a little not all that right with one character, and it starts to turn into something we have all seen before. The same old, tired “bad-cop, good-cop” element starts to get in the way and take over the flick which was a real, real shame for me as I felt like I really was getting to see a new, interesting, and fresh-take on the whole cop-drama. Instead, I was only saddened by the fact that Carnahan starts to lose himself and give us what we didn’t want in the first-place: predictability.

Let me also not forget to mention that the ending does feel a tad rushed. There’s a whole bunch of twists with the ending and how everything with this mystery actually did happen, but that’s not what really bothered me. What really bothered me was how they just dove right into it as soon as the tension was really picking up and it made me feel like Carnahan was a bit too scared of over-staying, his welcome which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the first place, but he almost seems like he dropped the ball a bit too early. Then again though, this guy has some real talent for taking a generic story like this and give it an unpredictable feel so I can’t hit him too much.

Having said all of that junkola, the real reason this story works so well is because of the performances given by everybody here, especially the two main stars. Jason Patric is, in my opinion, a very underrated actor but with his performance here as Nick Tellis, he shows that he has the dramatic range to be a great leading man. He’s trying to get away from all of these problems he’s been having as an undercover cop, trying to seek some peace at home with his wife, and is just trying to do the right thing but the guy keeps on finding himself in once again, terribly shitty situations. Patric displays this sadness very well here and is character that’s easy to trust even though he may not have all of the right answers.

I was actually very impressed with Ray Liotta as Lieutenant Henry Oak, a guy who I would not want to be stuck in the room alone with at all. This guy is one hard-as-nails son of a bitch that’s a force to be reckoned with throughout this whole flick but he also shows a lot of heart too, that made me feel something for this lean and mean character. There’s a little monologue that Liotta gives that makes you realize that this character has a lot more going on then you would first imagine, and it’s a very good scene that shows Liotta isn’t so bad when it comes to drama. Shame that this guy doesn’t get better roles nowadays, but maybe he’s done that to himself. Who knows.

Consensus: Even though it’s ultimately a pretty formulaic cop story, writer/director Joe Carnahan gives Narc a style that is gritty, mean, and grungy, and the performances from Patric and Liotta make this more than just another another, run-of-the-mill story about two messed up cops.

7/10=Rental!!

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

The St. Patty’s day leprechaun would have definitely made this a different type of movie.

The movie centers on a group of heroes with extraordinary abilities, thatmust join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs and imagination of the children all over the world against the evil ideas of the Boogeyman (Jude Law). The heroes up against these terrible ideas just so happen to be Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Other than the Avengers and Justice League, there aren’t many other groups of heroes/characters that are worth being brought to the big-screen to team-up. I mean, yeah, maybe there is but no team really comes as quick to my mind as much as every child’s favorite pieces of fairy-tale story-telling: holiday heroes. Yes, even though you may not believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, or that spooky piece-of-shit that lives underneath your bed, kids still do and will not find it hard to believe that these same characters, can bring on a can of whoop-ass every once and awhile if they wanted to. Yeah, that’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here: holiday characters, beating the shit out of things. Get ready for some questions that need to be answered, mom and dad!

I wasn’t really looking forward to this film from the get-go mainly because the trailer seemed to take itself way, way too seriously. I mean think of it, you have Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost all piled into one movie and you’re going to show me how they band together to fight evil? I don’t think so and better yet, where’s all of the fun in dreaming of about one of these days watching all of your favorite childhood, holiday characters come onto the screen and hang-out with one another? There should be some fun and judging by the trailer, it seemed like the fun was a tad too serious for my taste. Thankfully, I was wrong, dead-wrong to be exact.

There’s actually a lot of fun to be had in this story, mainly because the plot shows all of our favorite characters as what they are, gives them each personalities, specific traits that make them so special in the first-place, and how they are all going to band together and fight this bad evil that seems to be taking over the world and the little kiddies that inhabit it. It’s fun to see Santa and the Easter Bunny just mess around with one another, but it’s even better to watch how they use their respective skills of climbing down chimneys and throwing eggs to help each other out and work as a team. I loved seeing that, and I can assure you that kids will too because it’s something you don’t get to see everyday until you fall asleep and can only dream of it. Yes, anybody over the age of 12 can still dream of Santa and the Easter Bunny, so bug off!

And as you would expect, the visuals and animation is just beautiful. Since I didn’t see this in a free screening, you know I sure as hell didn’t see this one in 3D but if I did, I would have probably loved it because this is so beautiful-looking. It’s crazy to see two movies come out in the same weekend where both are filled with beautiful-visuals, yet, are used so differently. Life of Pi uses it to enhance the story and make you feel as if what you are seeing is all real without any preservatives added, whereas this movie, doesn’t use it to show you that everything is real, but to place you in a small, animated world where everything is colorful, wild, and most of all, beautiful to look at. Both films are beautiful, but they are both beautiful in their own, different ways which definitely has me wondering whether or not 3D film making is ever going to go away.

However, like Life of Pi, this movie sort of runs into a problem with it’s story that seems a bit manipulative and not utilized very well. It’s a fun movie, no doubt about it, but when you have all of these characters come together, you feel like there should be more inventiveness and originality used to where you feel like that’s something you could have never done, had you been given a pad, a pen, and a plot-line to write-on about. It’s a bit obvious with where it goes and doesn’t really make sense as to why it does go there. It just does. Maybe that also has to do with the fact that the times that this movie does try to be funny, it doesn’t really gel very well and even though they weren’t really going for the hilarity-angle of the final-product, I still feel like some of the times they tried were way too obvious and painful to not mention. Also, those elves were so obviously a rip-off of the freakin’ Minions from Despicable Me, almost to the point of where they just hit each other the same way. Way, way too obvious but hey, it will most likely get the kids laughing.

Where I think this movie really lost me was how I thought about it afterward, and barely remembered a thing from it at all. Yes, I enjoyed my time when I watched the movie and yes, it was a great animation-flick, but nothing as memorable as it should have been. Maybe it was because I did the “double-movie day” that I usually do every once and awhile and this was the first of the two and that’s why I didn’t remember much, or maybe the fact that I saw Red Dawn after this and my mind went and good mood went elsewhere, but writing this review about 3 days later, reminds me of just how little I actually remembered. It’s enjoyable, no doubt about it, but once it’s all said and done, then it’s gone from your mind without anything to really stick their forever.

Even though the overall-product wasn’t great, the voice-casting actually was. Casting Alec Baldwin as Santa and have him voice a Russian-accent seemed very, very strange at-first, but actually worked quite well for Baldwin and the character, and gave Santa a persona that was larger-than-life in a way. It’s also better because I didn’t think it was Alec Baldwin voicing Santa, I actually thought it was Santa, right there in front of me, on-screen. He does exist! I knew it! Chris Pine is pretty solid as Jack Frost but the voice did seem a little too heavy and hoarse for a character that looks like a little boy that doesn’t have any muscles and instead, has super-powers. Still deciding on which one’s better. Hugh Jackman seems to be having a ball as the Easter Bunny and always seems like he wants to fight somebody, no matter what the situation is. Maybe that’s how Hugh Jackman is in real-life? And if so, that would be really bad-ass of the guy. Isla Fisher is fine as the Tooth Fairy but not really funny or exciting to watch, she’s just there. And last, but certainly not least is Jude Law as the Boogeyman who has a vicious, if creepy sound to his voice that works for the character, even if the guy is a bit annoying with how much he hammers on the idea of him being a bad-guy, doing bad things, and always tricking people. I get it! The Boogeyman is bad! I knew that since I was 5, and I know it now!

Consensus: It may not be the ultimate team-up movie you’d expect in a year where The Avengers have reigned supreme, but Rise of the Guardians is still the same type of fun, excitement, and good-feelings parents and their kids want, especially around the holidays.

7/10=Rental!!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

If only Clint Eastwood was Jesse James, then I think the story would have been different.

As the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James (Brad Pitt) plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money – and the glory – riding on his capture. However, his plans are all interrupted once he becomes entangled in a friendship with his admirer Robert Ford (Casey Affleck).

It’s very bold to have the climax of your film in the title, no matter how true it is, but I was still so surprised to see that James does in-fact actually die in the end. Maybe, just maybe I didn’t pay enough attention in history class, but for some reason, I didn’t believe that he was going to get killed at the end. Oh, I guess that was a spoiler.

This was the second flick from Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik and it’s pretty obvious where he gets his inspiration of movie-making from, and that is Mr. Terrence Malick. Honestly, if I had no idea who the director was before-hand, I would have easily gone with Malick because every single little detail about this film is so perfect and beautiful that you really can’t take your eyes off of it one bit and I know that’s said about a lot of films but that is really meant here. Dominik focuses the camera on these long, sweeping shots of beautiful farmland where it almost feels like you’re there in the 1880’s with Jesse James and Robert Ford. Every shot is handled carefully, with just the right amount light and color added to it, to get you involved with the stark wilderness that these characters surround themselves with. There is just so much to look at here that you almost forget to pay attention to the story that’s at-hand, which is a total bummer, because this story can really grab you if you give it the attention that it deserves.

What I liked about Dominik, was that aside from his beautiful art direction, he was able to make a genuinely tense and unpredictable story out of a fact-based history lesson, and always being able to surprise us. Not everything about this story that Dominik tells us is true and he probably takes some liberties here and there, I definitely know that, but everything before the actual “assassination” itself, kept me on the edge of my seat and I like how Dominik was able to do that with his deliberate slow pacing. Yeah, this film is one hell of a slow-burner for sure, but it works as it develops each and every character in this story more and more, and also keeps you guessing just when the hell Jesse James is going to show-up, or better yet, when the hell he is going to get killed. May sound like a complaint but it’s not, mainly because Dominik is able to take his time with the story.

Anybody expecting a Sergio Leone-type Western, where it’s just constant gun-battles, witty one-lines, and a whole bunch of spaghetti style art thrown at the wall here, are really going to be in for a big surprise with this film, but have no fear, it still does have enough violence to hold anyone over. Actually, whenever the violence did rarely show-up on the screen, it felt deserved and made sense to the story but also felt realistic in a way that these people are actually dying from real-life bullets and whatnot. I don’t want to dive any farther into the violence and murders that go down in this flick, but I just want to say that they feel realistic and are handled well without being over-exploitative of it’s dark, violent side.

If there was a certain aspect to this flick that seemed to have bothered me the most here, was that it was over 2 hours and 40 minutes and it didn’t need to be that way. See, the first and last act are all dedicated to just James and Ford being around one another but in between all of that is a whole bunch of other characters that were apart of James’ gang that don’t really seem all that needed for this story to work, but are left in there just to add some character development. Usually, I would give some points to any director who can do this and do it as well as Dominik is able to do here, but it takes away from the story and really had me annoyed since those scenes with Ford and James can get so damn tense. Most of the characters were interesting enough to hold my interest, but I just sort of wanted to get down to the real business at-hand here.

Brad Pitt as Jesse James is a perfect bit of casting because Pitt is able to play up all of the sides of him that he has as the iconic figure. Every time James shows up in the story, whether or not to start some trouble or “go on a walk”, it’s always tense and unpredictable to the point of where you don’t know what this character is going to do next. From everything I heard and read about, James was one violent son of a bitch and one that couldn’t be contained because of his wits and determination for violence when needed. This is an idea that Pitt plays up perfectly, giving us a very iconic figure to begin with but also show something else that lies deep down inside of him. We get to see a lot of scenes where James lays out all of his emotions and how painful he feels with the life that he’s living and it’s not only an easy way to get us to care about him even though he’s killed over 17 people in his life, but also a great way to show some insight into an iconic figure that so many people feel like they know.

Pitt’s great, but Casey Affleck is just about as perfect playing opposite of him, as Robert Ford. Affleck plays the little boy-version of Jesse James, as he is constantly made fun of by his family and treated like he doesn’t know shit about shooting guns and robbing banks/trains. Eventually, this guy starts to show more emotions rather than this very shy and awkward young kid that just wants to be “one of the guys”, and the way Affleck plays it all up works perfectly for this very easy, yet hard to sympathize with character.

You also begin to realize that Ford is a character that seems like he tries so hard to want to be like James, that in the end, even when he has done all of the dirty work he could do to get rid of him, he still can’t reach the type of fame that his predecessor once, and still has. It’s a sad idea that makes you think more about Ford and realize just how strong of an actor Affleck is. This character is complex and Affleck shows that and when it’s just him on-screen, he’s amazing but when it’s just him and James messing around with one another, then it just gets even better. Surprised that this Ford dude didn’t end up killing everybody in sight by how much he got picked on. Poor Affleck. At least you got the Oscar nomination over Pitt. Suck on that Jesse!

As for the rest of the star-studded cast, they’re all pretty good too even though a lot of their roles/characters are featured more than they needed to be. Jeremy Renner is vicious and unforgiving as Wood Hite, the cousin to Jesse James; Paul Schneider is awesome as the womanizing crook that every lady seems to fall for; Sam Rockwell has a lot of fun as Ford’s big bro, Charley, but also shows a dark side to him as well by the end; and Sam Shepard is pretty freakin’ awesome as Frank James, and does an outstanding job with the short amount of time he actually gets on-screen. The ladies in this flick are sort of put on the back-burner but both Mary-Louise Parker and Zooey Deschanel do splendid jobs with their roles, even though I felt like they could have had more input into this story. Then again, I just wanted to see a mono-e-mono battle between Ford and James.

Consensus: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford may run on very, very long but features some of the most beautiful images caught on film with its detailed direction from Andrew Dominik, insightful story about these larger-than-life iconic figures, and a bunch of superb performances from everybody involved, especially Casey Affleck in a way you have never seen him before.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Red Dawn (2012)

Next time, just get actual wolverines to save your asses.

Chris Hemsworth stars Jed Eckert, the leader of a group known as The Wolverines. The Wolverines are a group of young adults/children who run off to the hills after the initial attack from an invasion by North Korea, and then fight off the opposition by using the knowledge of their hometown to their advantage. Same shit as the original, just a whole different decade.

As you all probably saw around last week, I reviewed the original, 1984 cult-classic of this movie and I have to say, it didn’t do anything for me. Yeah, I had a bit of fun going back to the golden-days of when we hated Russia and seeing all of these young teenie-boppers, running around and killing off Ruskies, but overall, was pretty lame and terribly corny. This remake/reboot/whatever the fuck you want to call it, is exactly like that movie, but instead, placed in a time where anybody, I do repeat, ANYBODY could call mommy, daddy, 911, secret service, president, or anybody, just with a click of a button. In case you can’t tell by now, this movie freakin’ blows.

I guess when you have material like this, you’re supposed to leave all rhyme, reason, or all sense of belief at the door and just go into have a fun time watching a bunch of teenagers go gung ho against the North Koreans. In a way, it works, but in other ways, it just doesn’t. Mainly where most of the problem for this film lies in the fact that it does change-up some of the happenings in the original a bit, but it still feels dull and unoriginal. It’s as if every scene in this movie, was meant to just be shown on there, without any real energy or zeal whatsoever and just have people wait-up for the next, big action-sequence that apparently was going to hold you over until the next burst of energy.

The problem is, the burst of energy comes from the hand of this first-time director, Dan Bradley, who just doesn’t seem like he’s fit to hold onto a whole movie, where action doesn’t take place non-stop. With most of the action-scenes, Bradley does an alright job and obviously has a bit of fun playing around with the bigger-budget and present-day setting of this premise, but everything else that doesn’t concern action, things blowing up, people getting killed, or bullets flying, he absolutely, positively chokes on, and chokes on hard. The characters all talk in this macho, deuchy language that does nothing to make us laugh and each and every one, didn’t even seem to have a personality that was worth recognizing or holding onto. I mean, I know it’s a bit of an obvious convention in of these movies to have a joker in the group that lightens everything-up with his comedy, but they didn’t even have that here. It was just straight-up seriousness all-around, and rarely did these kids ever live-it-up because any second, they could have just vanished. Actually, come to think of it now, there’s not even that much character-development here and worse, even though all of these characters are people you’re supposed to be rooting for, care for, and be upset for when something bad happens to them, by the end, you sort of don’t care and it’s surprisingly weird how the other characters sort of seem to feel the same-way.

For instance, a couple members of the group get killed-off during a raid and as sad as it may be, the sadness/melodrama only lasts for about a minute, and then we soon see Hemsworth and Palicki flirting their asses-off by a lake as if nothing ever happened to anybody, let alone to one of their friends that they became close with, just as soon as this terrible event occurred. If my freakin’ good-buddy died in warfare, most likely, no matter how hot the babe was, I would probably not be thinking about getting my “D” wet, especially if we were in a local-war with another country that just so happened to invade my little city. Not only is that bad, but the villains that actually take-over this little city, seem to be more focused on pissing off this group, rather than taking over the U.S., taking over the world, or even, taking over the universe. Nope, they don’t care about world-domination, they just care about getting in the hair of some kids that have AK’s, good looks, and some really, really lame dialogue. Go get em, North Korea!

I think it should be noted right now that this film wasn’t supposed to be released on Thanksgiving during the year 2012. Apparently, this was supposed to come-out back in 2009 but MGM went bankrupt, and apparently pushed this film’s release-date and it’s existence back to a latter-date. Sadly, the latter-date had to be now in the movie theaters, and not now, something I would have bought for $5 at Walmart during Black Friday. But this whole project being shelved for over three-years, definitely shows in a way that makes you realize that these editors, writers, and producers were just very, very rampant in getting this out there that the film comes off like a blubbering mess. I am no lover of the original movie, but at least that had some fun-spirit in it and felt like it was a movie, rather than just a couple of cool action scenes strung together by a huge-deal of melodrama. This one, doesn’t even have that and the whole-time, I was just bored, uninspired, and feeling less and less patriotic as it went along. Hell, in a way, I started to root for the North Koreans because nobody in this group had my sympathy of my feelings.

Actually, let me scratch that, because there was one guy who did happen to have my feelings and remorse for him and that guy is non-other than Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth, as we have seen time and time again, has a huge-deal of charisma that cannot be overlooked and it’s such a shame that he was given such a shit-role like this as Jed Eckert. And even though the dude does try and in a way, makes us forget about the shitty script-job he’s forced to work with, you still can’t help but remember that this was filmed before he hit it big as Thor and made us all realize that he is one, cool mofo that will have you at hello. Okay, maybe I went a little too overboard with my man-crushness right there, but you get my drift. The guy’s got a heck of a lot of charm to-boot and it’s just sad to see him stoop right on down to this level of crap.

Playing his brother that has little to no resemblance to Hemsworth, is Josh Peck and as terrible as he is here, he isn’t the worst-aspect of this casting. I don’t know if any of you know this out there, but Hemsworth does have a little-brother, that acts, does well in movies, and even looks like Chris. His name is Liam Hemsworth and if you look at that link, you’ll see that the two share an incredible resemblance that would have made a lot more sense, had he been cast instead of skinny and unfunny Josh Peck. But away from the overall casting, Josh Peck still sucks major-ass here and made me laugh every time he opened-up his mouth cause he can’t be serious, he can’t be cool, he can’t be heroic, and he most of all, can’t be the starting-quarterback for his high school football team. Josh, just go back to eating so you can be funny and talented again. Please.

You have to wonder why Josh Peck was given a larger-role over a guy like Josh Hutcherson who has proven us, time and time again that he can actually handle big-roles, despite not having movies all about him. Here, he’s nailed-down to a role that makes him the dope of the group that can’t seem to do anything right and falls for all of the dumbest-pranks set by the group itself. It’s a pretty lame-role for a guy that seems like he’ll be taking over the teen-world very soon once Catching Fire hits the big-screen. And lastly, the only guy who really shows up here and makes us realize that he can take a shit-movie and script, and at least inject some fun into it is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a U.S. Soldier who sneaks behind enemy lines. The guy’s good, funny, energetic, and also feels like he could and will, kill anyone that stands in his way. Pretty much the guy’s a bad-ass but the question still remains: Who would win in a fight? Thor or The Comedian? Still, waiting on that movie and hopefully they don’t decide to let MGM help finance it either, or it’s another 3 years we’ll be waiting.

Consensus: Red Dawn didn’t really have to do much to make itself better than the original, but it didn’t have to suck this much to make us realize how good that one was either. With choppy-editing, terrible-dialogue, and plot inconsistencies that will have you writing things down for days, you’re most likely just going to want and skip-out on this and see if you can find the original on Netflix and pay The Swayze some love and respect.

2.5/10=Crapola!!

The Sessions (2012)

A man is a man, and he needs to get laid. Ain’t nothing else to it.

Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) is a man in an iron lung who decides he wants to lose his virginity. After consulting with his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), he gets in touch with a professional sex surrogate named Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt). What starts off as sex, soon turns into something more than they ever realized was imaginable in the first-place.

Not only does this flick seem like a tough-sell to the regular, movie-going audience out there but it also seemed like a tough-sell in my own damn household. Seriously, I was struggling to get people to go with me and see this and even though my sissy and I ended up spending out Thanksgiving night together at this, I still couldn’t believe that nobody wanted to see a movie about a dude with polio, making sexy-time with a therapist. Now that I think about it, it is a bit of a weird movie to want to go out and see, especially on Turkey Day but it ain’t that bad, right? I mean, Helen Hunt was once everybody’s favorite sweetheart and still can considered one too, right?

Actually, even though Hunt is probably the biggest-name they have going for this thing, it’s a shame it’s not going to get the film any publicity anyway because it deserves it. Let’s be honest here, this is basically a movie about a dude, trying to get laid, can’t seem to move any part of his body except his neck and man-meat, and ends up having “sessions” with a lady who he pays money to, but at the end of the day, she is still a therapist. It’s a pretty dirty story once you think about it and one that really doesn’t catch you right away and have you think of it being “the feel-good movie-event of the year”, and even though it doesn’t go right up to that praise, it still has a lot that puts a smile on your face.

I can’t believe that this was based on actual guy, an actual story, and that the dude freakin’ posted all of this info into a magazine-article. It just goes to show you that you can do anything if you have a gift, but yet, also shows you if you are able to look on the bright-side of things no matter how shitty life may get, and that’s what the whole-point of this flick is all about. O’Brien is definitely a guy who seems like he deserves pity from us because he can’t do anything other than move his neck around and about, and has to be wheeled everywhere, but he never asks for it. Instead, he just looks at everything with a big smile on his face and feels the need to not let the shitty-things get in the way of what could be a pretty enjoyable life, despite the obvious problem of not being able to move any parts of your body. With the exception of your neck, head, and *ahem*, “other” head. I’m funny, I know.

That’s why the mixture of all of this sex-stuff and this inspirational, life-notes from a guy who’s happy to live it, doesn’t seem like it would mix well at all no matter who or what you threw at it, but it does. The sex-scenes are so frank, so honest, and so up-front that they never feel like you’re watching sex-scenes straight from the Hollywood mind and soul. They are shown in a way where two people, engage in an act where they both connect, amongst other things, with one another through their powers in their bodies and it’s as real as you’re going to get from sex-scenes in movies. Yes, people get naked, people do ejaculate, and people do do a lot of heavy-petting to get another aroused, but it isn’t as exploitative as it may sound. It’s sweet and used in a way to show us these two characters, and the way they connect with each other in a way that they never, ever thought was remotely possible. It’s a great-way to use sex to enhance your story, without going overboard.

However, you take away all of that nudity, you take away all of that sex, and you take away other dirty-stuff that goes down, then you really don’t have anything you haven’t seen before. Even though this story is obviously based on a real event and even better, is based on a real dude, the film still never fully gets off the ground and you feel a lot less inspiration than you would have expected from a story about a guy who finds himself through sex. It’s a story that reminded me a lot of My Left Foot and even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that movie was an all-out masterpiece, it still played-off as if it was a character-study that had some inspirational backgrounds about never letting the odds stack against you and living up to all you can be in life. All of those same, inspirational themes and elements are shown here, but never to the point of where they really impact you. They just feel like they’re there to tell you a story, show you how your life ain’t all that bad to begin with, and how we can all do the same as this O’Brien guy. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s nothing new that I haven’t seen done or heard before in other, more inspirational movies about beating the odds in-life.

And also, the editing was a bit weird in this movie as well. I don’t know whether or not this flick went through a couple of rough-cuts through the numerous festivals it showed-up at, but a lot of this movie feels like it could have been trimmed off, or even better, left in there but given a reason for even showing-up. One instance is the scene between O’Brien’s handler and a hotel clerk that is obviously hitting on her, trying his hardest to do so, and just being confused about what’s going on between the sex surrogate and O’Brien. This instance does contain a couple of the funnier-moments in the movie (and there are many), but just did not feel needed for the final-product and made me wonder why a lot more of this film wasn’t cut, just to make sure it wouldn’t drag. Then again, it does run a lean 93 minutes, and another significant-cut would have probably knocked it right-down to 85 or 86 minutes. Not a terrible run-time, but a bit weird to have I guess.

The one person who pulls through all of this material, no matter how choppy it may get, is John Hawkes as Mark O’Brien and proves why the guy should be in more leading-roles, rather than just standing in the background, giving his two cents every 20 minutes, and letting the leading-star take over the reigns. Hawkes does a great-job with this role because he’s forced to convey a lot of emotions through his face, neck, and head, that surprisingly, all tell a story of a man that obviously has good-intentions, doesn’t want to be looked down on, and most of all, just wants to feel and understand what all of this beauty about sex is really all about. It’s a nice sentiment for a character to have, but Hawkes makes us truly believe in this good-natured act for so long, that it doesn’t even seem like an act. He seems like a real person that just wants to experience life, just like everyone else, regardless of the odds that stand in his way. I think Hawkes is very good in this and may just get an Oscar nomination, but if not, it doesn’t matter because the guy is still so, so freakin’ good at every role he takes.

Playing the sex surrogate that makes all of his wildest dreams come true, is Helen Hunt who is a gal I haven’t seen in awhile, but shows right back-up and reminds us why she is so damn lovely and amazing to watch as an actress. What I liked so much about Hunt’s character here is that even though she may have some insecurities here and there, she’s still a strong-willed, understandable woman that is only doing this to help people out there in the world and still goes home to a son and husband every night, in a very happy-mood too, may I add. Hunt is pretty daring with this role because she lets loose of the clothes a lot and spends a lot of the time just naked, for the sake of being naked, and it doesn’t matter one-bit because she’s in great-shape and is even better to watch since this is one of the most-meaty roles we’ve seen from her in quite some-time. She’s likable, understandable, and most of all, human and I hope she gets an Oscar-nomination for this as I think she definitely should because of what she’s able to do, pull-off, and have us think about her in the end.

William H. Macy isn’t really as huge of a part in this story as much as the previews/trailers may have you think, but the guy is still great as the down-to-earth, mellowed-out priest that hangs-out with O’Brien and never gets on his shit for doing the dirty deeds that the lord frowns upon. It’s great to see a religious-figure play such a big-part of a movie, without making it totally about that aspect and throwing away any type of other ideas or themes about love and sex that may be out there. Still, Macy is awesome and I have to wonder: why does that hair-do make him look so freakin’ cool?

Consensus: The Sessions is not the special type of life-changing experience you may expect from a movie about a physically-handicapped man finding love and sex, but is still well-acted from everybody involved, treats it’s subject and characters with decency, and never holds anything back in terms of where it goes or what it shows (sex scenes, I’m talking about you you dirty-boys).

7/10=Rental!!

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who cares about family when you got a plate full of turkey right in-front of you?

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a divorced, single-mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner in Baltimore. Thing is, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are a bit out-of-whack, her gay-brother (Robert Downey Jr.) likes to start a whole bunch of trouble, and her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) doesn’t like anything that anybody else does.

Ohhh, Thanksgiving. The family, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn, the butter, the bread, and most of all, the fights. Yes, not matter how perfect your family may be, there are always fights to be had around this joyous time because let’s face it, any time you get a group of people together, to sit-around and eat dinner, there’s going to be some words thrown around and about and that’s just the way it works. Me, on the other hand, I eat, talk, watch football, and that’s it. If my family fights, then so be it because I know I’m not getting myself involved and I’m sure as hell not missing out on some turkey, that’s for damn sure. To be honest though, I think eating turkey was something that was more interesting to think about than watching this movie.

Jodie Foster went behind the camera for the 2nd time with this flick and you can sort of tell that she’s connecting with this topic through her own experiences with her, and her family, especially around Thanksgiving. Now maybe since Foster was such a big-name at such an early-age, maybe she didn’t really have nice, little, suburban-cooked meals of turkey with her ordinary-family of regular-day people, but you can definitely tell that she enjoys that aspect behind Thanksgiving because it shows a lot in this film, and there’s just a certain easy-going feel to it that makes it so pleasant of a watch. All holiday movies are cheery and happy-go-lucky, and this one is no different but it’s something about the family-dynamic that this movie nails so well that got me all cheerful.

All of the interactions these characters shared with one another, all felt real for about the first hour or so. I liked how everybody in this family, knew each other, had their own ways of communicating with one another, and didn’t hold-back when it came to expressing their real-feelings about something, whether it be each other or the world around them. That’s how a real family is and I liked watching everybody just talk and be themselves around one another, even if themselves was just a selfish, condescending piece-of-crap that you wouldn’t want to be around, let alone spend all of Thanksgiving Dinner with. I don’t know how many actual, normal Thanksgiving Dinners Foster has had in her life, but I can definitely tell that she enjoys the look and feel of a believable family-dynamic and how everybody gets that all families are wacky, dysfunctional, and always, I do repeat, always fight about something stupid or meaningful.

However, this whole realistic family-dynamic doesn’t go on forever. After the first hour of this movie, it seemed like Foster sort of lost what she was going for originally, and just decided to make this one, long soapy melodrama and sort of abandon all of the realistic, family-stuff that was going on before. I liked when the family was arguing and how they couldn’t decide on what to eat or not, but I didn’t give a single-crap about how the father remembers the good old days and how he could wish to go back in-time and do them all over again. I’m sorry, but it didn’t interest me and it seemed like Foster lost herself because instead of focusing on the whole family and what they’re all about, she focuses more on Claudia as time goes on and as good as interesting as she may be at-times, she’s never fully-developed.

You have to give Holly Hunter a lot of credit for really nailing her roles as Claudia. Claudia is a bit of nut-job that obviously has problems with her professional and personal life, and even though that is touched-on within the first 20 minutes or so, it never feels like we really care all that much to begin with. Then, the film starts to really focus on her and what’s going on with her life, and it makes no sense as to where all of this crap is coming from. I get it, she’s a bit sad, and she misses her daughter, but what does that have to do with her and her personality. I didn’t get what Foster was touching on with her and even though Hunter is very-good here, I still wish that her character was more fully-developed and wasn’t used so randomly.

Everybody else in the cast is pretty good, too, and to be honest, a lot more interesting than Claudia in-ways. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he’s having a ball as Claudia’s trouble-making brother, Tommy, and just uses that “talking-really-fast” shtick oh so well here as he does everywhere else. Him and Hunter have a nice chemistry that really does feel like they are brother and sister, and that they have always loved each other through thick-and-thin and just watching them together was great to see, especially since Downey was probably all coked-up out-of-his-mind while he was doing this. Anne Bancroft plays the mother, Adele, and is very, very good as we all know her as being and just nails the whole cooky, paranoid mother-role very-well. Hell, in a way, it even reminds me of what my mom may be in the near-future but I’m not banking on it. A super young-looking Dylan McDermott shows up here as Leo Fish, a friend of Tommy’s, and he’s okay but he seems way too comfortable with this family, way too quick. Literally, as soon as the guy stops in, he starts making wise-cracks to Claudia about how much of a hell the house has got to be and it’s obvious that he wants to get into her parents, because why else would he randomly be talking to her like that, but it didn’t seem believable. Instead, it just came off as a bit creepy and if he was a guy that one of my relatives brought over for dinner, I’d probably want him the hell out. Then again, it’s Dylan McDermott and I’d be pretty honored if the guy showed-up in my house in the first-place so never mind that noise that I’m spraying.

Consensus: Home for the Holidays has the look and feel of a cheery, good-spirited holiday movie, but also feels like it’s trying to go for a bit more and instead, bites off a little bit more than it can chew.

6/10=Rental!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Gobble Gobble!

Life of Pi (2012)

Think of it as Cast Away, with instead of Wilson, there’s a shit-load of CGI.

This is the story an Indian boy named Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) from Pondicherry who survives 227 days after a shipwreck, while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. However, like any 227-day trip with a Bengal tiger, it doesn’t go so smoothly.

An adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel was definitely one that needed to wait-out it’s time. It was called unfilmable for many reasons, but one of the main ones being the fact that the story mainly-revolves around a boy, stuck in a boat with a tiger. The only way you could have ever shot this movie with an actual-tiger still in-play, would be to have it utterly and completely stoned, and I think instead of eating the actor, the tiger would just go for the nearest Cheetos bag. So, obviously filming it conventionally was already-out before anybody could put it in, but what about the art and magic that is cinema? Can all of the money in the world ($10 million to be exact) make a CGI-tiger, look as real as the ones you see eating zebras alive on the Discovery Channel?

The answer to that is with an upstanding yes! Director Ang Lee once again shows that he is able to find beauty in any story he feels the need to tell, and he finds it here in the best-way with some of the most-realistic, beautiful special-effects I have seen in quite some time. With well-established directors like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese both trying their aims at 3-D and doing a relatively nice-job in their efforts, it is so great to see a director that has never messed with this technology before, and just really give-it-his-all and give us a mesmerizing picture from start-to-finish.

And when I mean “start-to-finish”, I mean exactly that. Everything not only looks as realistic as you can get in terms of the animals involved, but the constant-colors that just pop-out of each and every scene really kept me looking the whole-time. You think by watching the trailer that you saw all you needed to see in terms of how gorgeous and stunning this film looks, but trust me, you haven’t. Certain things that you didn’t even think were possible to do with CGI-animation, let alone 3D, is done here and will take you by-storm by just how much effort and energy Lee puts into this new-found love of telling a story. I honestly cannot tell you enough: go see this movie in 3D and realize that maybe it’s the directors like Lee, Scorsese, and Spielberg who should be throwing out 3D movies instead of chumps like Timur Bekmambetov and Scott Speer. In case you couldn’t tell, Speer directed Step Up Revolution (trust me, I have no idea why I saw it either) and Timur directed the OTHER Honest Abe movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Keep on giving 3D to legendary directors that know how to work this kind of stuff, and keep it away from guys who literally are only doing it to “up” their box-office sales. And 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t even help.

But in case you haven’t been able to notice already, I’ve only been mentioning the 3D and visuals of this movie and that’s mainly because the story kind of loses itself, as well as this movie. Watching the trailers, seeing the previews on TV, and even looking at that poster up-above, will already have you know that this is about a boy and a tiger lost at-sea, but little do you know that that whole-factor doesn’t play, until about 30 minutes in and we have to deal with an introduction to this kid’s life that is unexpected and a bit annoying. I think my problem with it was that it constantly went back-and-forth between this person’s child-hood, to the present-day of when he’s talking with this reporter and after awhile, it made me wonder just when the hell the damn ship was going to sink and we could get some straight-up, survival-guide facts at-play.

After that glorious and beautiful-looking crash (gives the infamous one in Flight a run for it’s moolah) ends up happening, the story then kick-starts into what I wanted and for the most-part, it works. I really liked where Lee went with this story, how he told it in a way that didn’t seem to bore the hell out of everybody watching because of it just being a kid and a tiger treading along hopelessly at-sea, and most of all, how he didn’t find himself going back-and-forth between the past and present like he was doing in the beginning. Just let a story tell itself and you’ll be perfectly fine and that’s where the real charm and beauty in Lee’s direction plays-out. Sadly, it doesn’t last forever and the story just finds it’s way back into screwing everything up, once-again.

The problem this movie runs into by the end, without giving anything away, is that it’s ending is a bit too long, too explanatory, and mainly, not needed at all. I don’t want to get into the logistics of this ending and what happens, but it’s the same exact one they took from the book that I apparently heard about, and even though staying close to the source material is something that more directors should take from Lee, they should also take away the fact that sometimes things that play-out well in a book, don’t necessarily play-out very well on-screen. It’s novel-adapting 101: make sure the audience picks-up, what you’re throwing down, just as long as you don’t lose the audience of the book’s near-and-dear faithfuls, but also don’t lose the movie-crowd, as well. I won’t say that the ending and honor to the original source-material lost me, but I will say that it definitely killed any hopes I had of feeling emotionally-connected to this story at all. Sorry Lee, you had me crying over two gay cowboys but when it comes to a boy and a tiger, ehhh, not so much.

New-comer Suraj Sharma does a really great-job with his lead-role as Piscine Patel, and what’s more notable about this performance is how it’s his first-role ever, he had no prior acting-experience, and he was practically all by himself throughout the whole movie, in terms of acting and communicating with others. Yes, in the movie, there is a tiger there that looks just about as real as you can get, but you have to remember, that it is not a real tiger and that this Sharma kid is practically talking to the thin-air or an imaginary object. It’s sort of like how Mark Wahlberg talked to a tennis ball in-place of Ted, in well, Ted, and how he made it so damn realistic, and that’s pretty much what this Sharma kid does. He’s a believable kid that has us believe in him right from the start, he’s a kid that definitely has us feel like he can pull it out in the end, and he’s also one that seems to have a chip on his shoulder, where he knows that it’s probably not right to try and hang-out, kick-back, and try and smoke a couple of doobies with this tiger, because this thing does not play nice.

Even though it is fairly a one-man show, the movie does have some nice supporting roles, as well. Irrfan Khan is very, very good as the older Pi and shows how he has changed into a stronger, but more enthused man about life and by the end, once we learn that there is more to this character, more to him, and more to what’s on-display here, then that’s when he gets good even if the story sort of loses him in the shuffle. Rafe Spall plays the writer that interviews Pi about this miraculous story and it’s a really, really blank role that would have really benefited well if it was originally-given to Tobey Maguire. Yeah, he would have been way too familiar for this role and pretty much take us out of the story, but at least it would have been a lot more entertaining watching Peter Parker get all awkward with some guy about how he saw some of the sickest shit out there at-sea, rather than watching the guy who once-played a fake-Shakespeare. And besides, if you’re not going to put Maguire in the movie because he’s too recognizable, then don’t put Gérard Depardieu in there, either. Everybody knows who that fat slob from French is, and I highly doubt it’s going to bother-us anymore.

Consensus: With outstanding visuals that are probably some of the most realistic I have ever seen put onto screen, as well as some of the beautiful as well, Life of Pi is definitely a spectacle that’s worth venturing out to see in 3D, however, be ready for the visuals to eventually play second-fiddle to a story that isn’t all that strong to begin-with, gets a bit better, and then fizzles out with no emotional-connection whatsoever. Still, deserves to be seen.

8/10=Matinee!!

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Oh, now I see where the attraction for Tom came first for Katie, after all.

This plot follows a new, super-cool agent, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as he embarks on his mission to uncover the mole who has framed him for the murders of his entire IMF team. The answers that he comes up with aren’t that easy to find in the first-place, so he’s got to use his acquired set of skills to make all the magic happen.

After screwing myself over and not going out to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, I realized a huge mistake not only because I didn’t see the best-received mainstream movie of 2011, but because I haven’t seen a single-one of these Mission: Impossible movies. I don’t know what it was, the fact that I’m not incredibly huge on action-movies that feature spies that aren’t named James Bond, or I just wasn’t falling for the same crap of watching Cruise be a total bad-ass by kicking ass and punching-out some pretty neat-o one-liners for two hours. Either way, I didn’t see them and I feel like I needed to and I sort of see why I missed them in the first-place: they were exactly what I expected them to be.

A name you don’t usually hear associated with action-movies is Brian De Palma and it’s pretty cool to see such a talented guy, flex his directing-muscles and do something new, cool, and improved with the same old tired genre of action. In ways, De Palma gets to do just that, but in other ways, not really. What I liked about De Palma’s direction here is that most of these shots feel deserved and the way he frames certain scenes are more than you would expect from any other action movie of this multitude. Instead of just blasting us over the head constantly, with a bunch of action-scenes that feel the need to be loud, aggressive  and full of CGI, we get small, calculated scenes that burst with tension, without ever really seeming like it’s trying too hard.

There was even that one memorable scene where Hunt gets lowered into the data bank room and can’t make a peep, or else all of the alarms will go off and his cover will be blown. Before hand, I heard a lot about this scene and heard that it was the most memorable of the whole movie, and that was no lie, because it’s the one scene where I really felt on-the-edge-of-my-seat, throughout the whole 2 hours. That’s not to say that the rest of the movie wasn’t thrilling, because it was, it’s just that this scene in particular stood out the most because it seemed like the most original and refreshing idea out of the whole-product. De Palma takes the idea of “not making a peep, or the cover is blown” so seriously, that the whole sequence is nearly played in silence, where all we hear is the sound of breathing and slight-movements coming from Hunt. It’s a real thrilling sequence that shows you that De Palma wasn’t going to let any big-time, Hollywood production get in the way of his uprising tension. Sadly, though, he does let them get in the way of everything else and that’s what sucked.

It’s obvious that De Palma didn’t have total and complete control over this movie and the way the final-product looked and played-out, because there seems to be a lot of problems that we usually get with the action genre, that I’m just tired of. First of all, the story makes no sense whatsoever and I’m glad that De Palma focuses more on that aspect of this movie, but if you’re going to do it, do it right and not to the point of where I’m scratching my head, wondering “who did what?” and “why it happened?” Too many questions for an action flick and it shows that maybe a twist or two in a movie works for pieces like Blow Out and Dressed to Kill, but not for a story about Ethan Hunt. In reality, he doesn’t need them, all he needs is his really cool, super-agent skills that make you feel as if you are not worthy to be in his presence.

It also gets worse when the last 10 minutes turn into nothing else, but the same old garbage-like action movies that we are so used to seeing, filled with intense CGI that feels dated even 16 years later, and an unbelievable action-sequence that I’m usually fine with from time-to-time, but here, not so much. In all honesty, I feel like all of the confusion that goes on throughout this movie and it’s direction is the fact that De Palma just doesn’t fit-in well with the Hollywood royalty, and it seems as if his script, his final-product, and his ideas for a new, and improved action movie, were all used in filming, but never fully thought-out once it came to the actual final-product itself. You can blame anybody you want for that: Hollywood for being so stingy and closed-minded; De Palma for being so gullible thinking that Hollywood was going to let him tinker around with a movie based off of a beloved TV show; or the bazillion writers, who felt the dire need to include action, comedy, espionage, suspense, human-drama, twists, turns, mystery, and a dash of romance all into a story that didn’t need to be anything other than, “CIA agent gets framed, finds out who it was, and kills him.” But to be honest, I think the real one to blame is non-other than Mr. Ethan Hunt himself, that’s right, ex-Mr. Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise.

See, even though Tom Cruise does a great job as Ethan Hunt and definitely makes us realize just how frickin’ swift and cool this guy really is, we never get a moment where he’s not around and I think that’s all because Cruise was the producer on this and basically was given, whatever he damn well pleased at the time. It’s not a bad thing to have Cruise in the fore-front of your movie because the guy can act, and the guy can do this action-role very well, but every single-shot of the entire movie! I mean I get it, man, you’re a really cool actor that’s a big-name to have attached, but give somebody else something to do, other than smell the back-burns of your flatulence.

Case in point, high-quality stars like Kristin Scott Thomas, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno (Leon), Vanessa Redgrave, and even freakin’ Emilio Estevez are all here, but put on the side-lines because Cruise felt the need to be on his own time, and service his own movie. They are all great stars that can put in some great work, if they are given that shot, but they never are because it seems like Cruise wants it all about him, him, him, and nobody else. Yeah, Jon Voight gets the biggest-role out of the whole supporting-cast, but even his character goes through a weird-ass transformation about half-way through and just adds to the whole confusion of the movie, it’s plot, and just how Voight can move so well when he’s practically dying? Oh well, answers that will probably never be answered and who’s fault is that? You Tommy, you. Katie, I hate to say it, you were right, honey. Good decision on your part.

Consensus: De Palma definitely tries his damn near-hardest to try and make Mission: Impossible different from all of the other action movies out there in “Conventional Land”, but can’t seem to really get his final-product away unscathed from Hollywood without a couple of edits, re-writes that just seem to clutter everything up, and a lead-performance from Cruise that is good, but also feels a bit over-bearing as his face basically pops-up in every shot.

6/10=Rental!!

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Apparently the sun never comes out in this alternate history, either.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but are not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school, the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them. It ain’t pretty, trust me.

I have never read the original novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and to be honest, that may have been a good decision on my-part, since I didn’t really know what was happening and also the fact that I had no idea what type of mood it was going to put me in, because damn man, it’s a total downer. No, I mean it. It is a REAL downer.

However, let’s not talk about all of that sadness that goes on here, let’s focus on the finer things with this flick (and in life) considering I’m not ready to walk into traffic just yet. It was really cool to see director Mark Romanek back after all an 8-year hiatus from movies and take a subject matter like this because he fits it’s feel and style very well. This whole film, from start to finish, is absolutely stunning and beautiful to look at. The whole look has this very dry sense of color the whole time, but it also ended up giving some of the most beautiful images of this movie such as onne image that stands out the most in my mind is the shot of a beach and a little old tugboat was lying on its side in the sand, with the orange sunlight just barely shining over it. That’s one-shot from this film that really stayed with me and made me understand just the type of world I was placed-in with this flick. It’s a dark piece of material we have here, but with Romanek on-board, beauty still finds it’s way of climbing back into the story and presenting itself the whole way through.

I also felt that the mood that Romanek set for this film was just the right way to approach this material to begin with. I don’t want to get into too much about what goes on in this flick and how it all happens, but the fate these kids are left to live are pretty damn sad to begin with and Romanek doesn’t try to gloss that up with any unnecessary humor or themes about the joys of life. No siree, instead he makes this a flick about how we as humans, are supposed to live out our lives and be happy even though it may not always go that exact-way we want it to be. Then again, I highly doubt that that is what the central message of this flick is all about, but it’s what I could get underneath all of the sadness that Mr. Romanek used so well.

The problem was that there was also a bad-side to that depressing mood as well. This flick is so based on being a total debbie-downer, that even the parts where the flick tries to bring some little moments of being happy, they don’t really do much because you know that no matter what happens, the violin score will just come right back on and thus bring on back the sadness that we thought we escaped. There’s no problem with a film being sad the whole time, especially if that’s what it’s mood is conveying straight from the start, but it’s a real problem is when it seems like that’s the only thing that the film has any time to focus on and rather than just giving us something to smile and at least be happy about for the meantime, we are instead treated to total and utter depression. I guess I don’t quite get it since I didn’t read the original source material but I seriously could have only imagined how bad that must have been.

What really brought me into this flick though was the performances here by this young and attractive cast that have all proved themselves in their own respective bouts, but come together here and do a nice-job with some dull-ass characters. Carey Mulligan is great as Kathy H., and once again shows that she has the emotional chops and presence to pull off any character and have you know she is always around. The new Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield, is also nice to watch as Tommy and feels like a real kid who just doesn’t know how to act around girls, or anybody for that matter. Then again, he also got jipped out of being the co-founder of the largest social network of all-time so that may add a bit of insult to injury as well. (teehee, Facebook jokes rule) The real stand-out here may be Keira Knightley though, who is very one-dimensional as the bitchy and manipulative chick, Ruth, but is very good at it unlike anyway we have seen her before.  However, her character does end up starting to change and show some real humanity by the end of the flick and was probably the only character I could actually feel something for once everything was said and done. Which brings me on to my last and final problem with this flick.

I get that these characters are here for a reason that I won’t say, but something just felt off about them to the point of where I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel for any of them. Since there was so much depth to the sadness of this whole plot, the characters themselves are sort of just left on the side and are there for you to care about if you want to or not. The film can be a little stuffy, but it barely let me feel anything for them and then when their fate is finally said to them, it was weird how I didn’t feel any emotional connection. Now it would be hard to say that I could ever relate to anything that any of these characters have been and are going through but I still think as a film, there should have been more emotions centered at the characters rather than just their surroundings. Maybe I was supposed to feel this emptiness or maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel anything for them, maybe it was just for the whole situation itself. Maybe. I don’t know really.

Consensus: If you are in happy mood and want to keep that going, then don’t check out Never Let Me Go, because it is sad, empty (in many ways), and doesn’t have any real moments of shining suns in the sky, but it is also beautiful to look at, a very moody piece that can really put you into its setting, and features a fine young cast that does a great job with all that their given.

7/10=Rental!!

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I may be a noob because I don’t know a Orc from a Uruk-Hai, but as long as we got elves, wizards, dwarves, monster-creatures, and trees all duking it out in one flick, I’m fine with not knowing.

Taking place literally 3 days after where the first one left-off, we follow three stories of our favorite characters and see how they all are separated, but go-out on their own quests as well. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum (choreographed by Andy Serkis), the ring’s former owner. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf (Ian McKellen), before fighting at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.

That’s a pretty lengthy-premise, hell, probably the longest one I have ever done, and hell, this is a pretty lengthy-movie. But even though it may clock-in at 2 hours and 59 minutes, just missing that day-changer by a measly minute, you still can’t help but have a great-old time watching all of your favorite fantasy characters, battle it out like nobody’s business. Oh, and let’s not forget the walking trees, too. Can’t forget about them.

Once again, as you could probably expect from the guy, Peter Jackson does a great-job at nailing each and every single, little detail of this setting down to it’s core. Everything just looks perfect the way it is and those swooping shots that seem to take over the film, do nothing else but put you in the mind-set that yes, you are in Middle-Earth and it’s time to get ready for a place that is filled with mystical-beings and happenings, but also a place that’s filled with a lot of darkness and war, as well.

Believe it or not, from a reader’s stand-point, this is the most controversial movie-adaptation of the three because apparently Jackson took some liberties of his own in changing up the story-structure, events, and even the characters as well. Obviously any person who has ever read these books and is expecting the exact, same thing on-screen are going to be a little pissed to see some things shook-up a bit, but I don’t think Jackson could have told this story any other way. What I mean by that, is that since there are three stories going-on at the same time, you sort of have to tell them all just like that, rather than telling one-story, being done with it, and moving onto the next without any transition to other stories. It can be done, but it wouldn’t have worked for this movie and that’s why I’m really glad Jackson kept all of these three stories to continue to go-on at the same time, without a break, or stop, or anything. It’s just got a beautiful flow to it and that’s because Jackson knows the story from head-to-toe and wants to show everybody his love and appreciation for it, even if he has to stick to his movie-rules and piss a couple of people off by doing-so. Hey, you can’t please everybody out there, Pete, but you sure as hell pleased the hell out of me.

I think where this film works so well compared to the first-one is the sort of tone and approach it takes to the story. You can definitely tell that this story is starting to get more and more tense as it develops and you can tell that there’s more of a drastic-feeling to every scene, where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen next, who you’re going to have to say bye to, and just how far the story will progress in-time. You have a bigger, emotional-connection to everybody here and it’s not just about who’s going to get killed-off next, it’s about who are you going to miss when it’s all said and done. There is definitely a lot that’s worth standing-by and awaiting the next surprise, but it’s not all about surprises, twists, or turns with this story, it’s about the feeling of the world you’re placed into and whether or not you’re going to be able to stay-long and watch as all of your favorite characters risk their lives 24/7.

That’s why the infamous battle at Helm’s Depp is considered one of the best battle-sequences of the past-decade, there’s so much emotion, turmoil, and intensity going on behind it, that you can’t stop feeling like you are involved with it as much as the actual-characters themselves. Anybody that talks about this movie, always talks about this huge-spectacle of a battle and as they should, because it is absolutely awesome to be entertained by, and absolutely gripping to watch. You never know what’s going to happen next with this scene and you feel like anything could happen, and usually does actually happen. It’s filmed-beautifully, as well as you could expect, and just goes to show you that Jackson had an inspiration for how he wanted this battle to look and feel like and holy damn, if it wasn’t for this whole-sequence, I don’t know how much of this film I would have actually loved.

However, I shouldn’t really talk like the battle at Helm’s Deep is the only thing worth watching here, because it isn’t. Each and every other story that they throw at us is as epic, dramatic, and gripping as the one that comes before it, the only problem is that when it gets in the way of the battle-sequence, it slows things down a bit. I liked the story of Sam and Frodo continuing their quest with the Ring, and the two hobbits with the walking trees, but whenever they showed-up, it was usually to break-up the action that was happening during the battle and it felt a bit cheap, as it just took away from all of the excitement and intensity that we were feeling beforehand. I mean, yeah, these stories needed to be told and needed to be spliced-in with the main-one, but still, you can’t help but feel like they just dedicated a good solid 45 minutes to the battle at Helm’s Deep, and be done with it, rather than just jumping back-and-forth and breaking some of the fun.

That same person who you heard talking about this movie and mentioning the battle at Helm’s Deep, would also probably mention that this is the flick that first introduced the CG-driven powerhouse of Gollum, played by Andy Serkis. See, what most people at the time didn’t know was that Serkis donned the blue-suit for this role and encapsulated all of his movements, flow, and feelings all into this character to give him a realistic-look and feel. Instead, everybody else thought that it was just another case of the computers taking over the magic of Hollywood, and just using a bunch of special-effects that may look beautiful, but are still special-effects none the less. That’s what’s so amazing about Serkis as Gollum here, is that he just brings all of this feeling to a character and makes it seem very unbelievable how he was able to pull it all off so well. I also can’t forget to mention that Gollum looks as real as you’re going to get and it’s a work of art to watch and just gaze at. Yeah, technology is better now, but at the time, it was beyond art. It was a freakin’ masterpiece.

Ian McKellen was the anchor of the first movie, but is rarely here as Gandolf, even though he still kicks as much ass here in this movie, as we expected from him in that movie. Instead, that anchor is given-away to Viggo Mortensen who absolutely nails it as Aragorn. Viggo just has this look and feel to him that has you wonder what he’s going to do next, but yet, at the same time, still has you feel like you’re in safe-hands whenever he’s around. That’s why it was pretty freakin’ awesome to see him take over ship here a lot of times and just let everybody know that he’s the boss, he’s the man you don’t want to mess with, and most of all, he’s the man that’s going to slay all of these weird-looking, freaky creatures. Just goes to show you that Viggo really can scare anybody, whether he’s playing a Russian-mobster, playing Sigmund Freud, an ex-gangster-turned-family-man. Yeah, that last sentence pretty much puts Viggo Mortensen’s career into a nutshell.

Consensus: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second-installment that hits, and hits hard with enough emotions, action, and characters running through, that you feel like you have a full grip and feel of this story, what’s happening in it, and what’s to come of it in it’s grand, epic finale. Return of the King, here I come!

9/10=Full Price!!

Anna Karenina (2012)

Think of this as one, big act of revenge courtesy of Sienna Miller.

The story centers around Anna (Keira Knightley) – a Russian wife and aristocrat who visits her brother in Moscow after his wife accuses him of adultery. While mediating between the two, Anna finds herself romantically drawn to the affluent bachelor Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) and the two begin a tumultuous and passionate affair that will challenge the rigid social structures they live under and bring Anna to the depths of despair and isolation.

I don’t think I’m in the minority at all when I say that I don’t enjoy watching period-pieces, especially one that’s done by Joe Wright. Yes, even though the guy has made some pretty impressive movies of the year and always has something flashy and beautiful to show-us, I still can’t help but feel like the guy should be spreading his wings more and going for action-thrillers like Hanna, rather than going back to the period-pieces that made him so famous in the first-place. However, maybe a period-piece by Joe Wright is all I really needed to have me less-hateful of them in the first-place. Then again, maybe not. It’s probably just that period-pieces are way too boring for my fast-paced, 19-year old soul.

Even though this may come off like a normal period-piece that’s no different from any other one that has came-out in the past-decade or so, Wright brings us something new, something fresh, and something that’s worth taking a second-look. See, what’s so unique about what Wright does with this material in the first-place is that he stages the film as if it was all a play. Characters, situations, and events may change, but the setting rarely ever does and rather than just filming all-over-the-globe and having places look like 19th century Russia, Wright keeps it condensed into one, theater-room that brings a new level of art to it, but will also confuse the hell out of you, as it did to me.

For the first 20 minutes or so, I kept wondering to myself why everybody was acting and dressed differently, but still in the same-spot as they were before. Of course, as time went-on, I started to realize that this obviously wasn’t the case and it was just a stylish way of Wright trying to get our minds off of the fact that this is yet, another period-piece, with soapy melodrama to spare, but hey, I gotta give the guy some kudos. If it wasn’t for Wright directing this flick with his sharp-eye for color and design, then I don’t think this film would have held my interest as well as it did. That, and also the fact that Wright keeps this story moving at a pretty quick-pace that doesn’t seem slow-down for anything in this movie, which I liked it because it was a fresh-approach to a period-piece that I feel like I needed to fully be entertained by.

Sadly, this quick-pace doesn’t stick and after about the first hour or so, the story starts to really take a toll on you with it’s snail-like pace that rarely goes anywhere with itself. Like most period-pieces and the stories that inhabit them, this story’s tale of love, lust, and passion during a frowned-upon fling doesn’t generate anything new or exciting that we haven’t ever seen before and even though it’s like that throughout the whole-movie, it didn’t really seem to bother me because of the distraction Wright had on my mind. However, once that distraction was lifted, I felt like I could see all of the problems with this story and how it seemed to linger-on as if it had somewhere to go with itself, but needed a good shove here and there to actually do it.

Thankfully, Wright does give the story that occasional shove every once and awhile, but it’s not enough and the latter-half of this flick just really started to bore me away, like I usually expect from period-pieces of this nature. The story isn’t anything new, but I was expecting a different-look at the theme of adultery and finding the real you through it, however, none of those sparks ever seem to be lit. Instead, we get a bunch of scenes where Knightley just runs around, cries, throws temper-tantrums, gets jealous really easily, and has a bunch of panic-attacks that could have almost had her back to the psych-ward that she was in last year with A Dangerous Method. Actually, come to think of it, that would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then just Knightley acting all bi-polar because she needs her bones to get jumped. Crazy Knightley for the sake of being crazy = good. Crazy Knightley for the sake of just banging a gong and getting it on = not good. That’s as much of a surprise as to me as it must be to you, I know but it’s the truth.

Even though her character was one that I started to care less-and-less about as the flick went-on, Keira Knightley is still great as Anna Karenina and shows us why she deserves roles like these. Knightley has always been this actress  that I’ve liked and saw a lot of promise in, yet, she never really seems to break out of that crap-mold that she always finds herself in with flicks like The Jacket and Domino. However, it seems like whenever she has to put on some old-school, pieces of cloth for a role, she’s always on top of her game and nails it just about every time. I think she’s an actress that deserves more credit because of the way she can handle weird roles like Karenina, and make her the least-bit likable and surprising with where her motivations go and don’t go.

Playing the eye of her affection, is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who seems to really be crankin’ it up as of late with all of these strange-roles he’s been taking as of late. Kick-Ass was obviously the one flick that had us all notice him, but then he takes something as wacky and weird as his role in Savages, and now this! The guy definitely likes to expand himself and see what he can do and he does that very-well here as Count Vronsky. Vronsky was a pretty-interesting character right from the start because he’s very sly and very mysterious, but he never lets his guard-down long enough for somebody to capitalize on it. That is, only until Karenina does and then all of the interest I had with him was just lost as he and her both seem to go through a pretty obvious, pit-fall in their relationship and as much as I would have like to sympathize with both of them, I just didn’t.

The guy who I did actually sympathize with here, was in fact, Jude Law as Karenina’s much-older hubby, Alexei Karenin. What surprised me the most about Law and his performance here as Alexei was that he doesn’t play the type of “jealous husband who’s being cheated-on” role like we are so used to seeing in movies of this nature. Law actually down-plays himself very well and only allows his emotions and feelings to come through his facial expressions and actions, rather than words. Law is definitely the most interesting out of the bunch and really made me feel sorry for him because even though some of it his fault for being such a dull, and boring dude, I couldn’t help but feel like the guy wanted nothing else other than to be loved and not cheated-on like he is by Anna. I would have said look for Law to be nominated for an Oscar by the beginning of next year, but due to this film’s already, mediocre-performance, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we won’t have to look at all. Shame too, because I think Law’s been due an Oscar for quite some time now.

Consensus: Joe Wright definitely adds an extra-level of style and beauty to an otherwise, ordinary and empty period-piece, but Anna Karenina still fails to deliver on the emotional fire-works that it’s premise seemed to promise, as well as interesting characters that we actually care about and have sympathy for as they go-on, with all of this lust and adultery.

6/10=Rental!!

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Man, I’m glad to be from Philadelphia.

Bradley Cooper stars as a sad sack loser named Pat trying to get back on his feet after suffering a mental breakdown. When he meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) with problems of her own, an unexpected bond begins to form between them.

As many of you out there may know, I’m a proud Philadelphian through and through, and to see and hear about a big-budget, Hollywood rom-com be filmed around my parks was surely something that had me interested. I mean honestly, it’s been awhile since the City of Brotherly Love has had a good movie come from it’s native-land in a long, long time and that’s why I was a bit skeptical of just how well this one would do, despite it’s somewhat generic premise. Then, a miracle started to occur right in front of my eyes, as the reviews started to tricked in and I realized: this movie could be the next Rocky, in terms of representing Philly and making all of those who live there, proud to be apart of a city that deserves all the love and praise (in some ways). Then, lastly, another miracle came my way and made me realize something: I LOVED THIS MOVIE.

Yes, I just used the “L word” and with good reason, because this film is exactly what I wanted in a rom-com/character-drama. Director David O. Russell steps out of the boxing ring, and into the streets of Prospect Park (holla!), which may definitely seem a bit odd at first considering this is a character-drama that focuses on people who have problems and don’t really do much about it except talking, and not just go into the ring and beat the shit out of each other, but in a way, you can almost tell that the guy is as ever comfortable as he has ever been with material like this. See, earlier in the review, I stated that this was a “big-budget, Hollywood rom-com”, but I was wrong. Dead-wrong. Actually, it’s more of a very indie-like, rom-com that down-plays everything that we have come to know and expect from any movie of this unoriginal genre, and thank O. Russell for that because that’s the real charm behind this movie.

Right from the first-shot of this movie, I couldn’t help but be swarmed in by all of the fun, humor, and wittiness of this setting and script and as soon as more and more characters became introduced to the story, I knew that I was only getting started on this wild-ride. Every piece of dialogue between these characters is always fun, always interesting, and always something that feels realistic and believable, especially when you actually consider the characters. The real risk O. Russell takes with this movie and these characters, is that he introduces us to people that aren’t exactly the most likable or lovable people we would want to watch a movie about, let alone spend 2 hours with, but somehow, the script makes you forget all about that and you really see something underneath all of the humor, goofiness, and weirdness of these characters, you actually see a heart to it all.

What I loved so much about this flick is how it takes a look at love, through the eyes of a heart-broken man, that has literally been pistol-whipped by love, and can’t figure out just how to go back to the life he once had and make right with everybody he knew, so instead, he just goes back to his old ways and tries to convince everybody that he is the same dude he was 8 months ago when he was shipped-away to crazy town. However, sooner or later, as predictable as it may sound, this guy eventually has to come to terms with what is true and what is not, and eventually that takes a toll on his life and what he thinks he should do with it. This idea of picking yourself back-up from a broken-heart and broken-life, by doing whatever you can to make yourself better each day-by-day is an idea that really resonated with me, as I can definitely say that there have been many times throughout my life where I’ve realized I can be happy in my life if I just allow myself to be better as each day goes by.

However, as corny and gooey as I may make this sound, this film is definitely not all about that. This love that is eventually carried-out, is not something we are used to seeing in movies and what’s even weirder is what the script brings into the fore-front of this love and what gets in the way of it. To be short, without giving too much away, the film combines crazy people, dancing, and the Philadelphia Eagles all into one movie and shows you that as weird of a combination that may be, you give it some real heart and depth, than anything can freakin’ work. I loved this film for showing me, once again, that making your life better is certainly on you but can also be used by allowing yourself to help others and have others help you. It’s a beautiful message that may seem as conventional as they may come, but this film carries it out in a way that isn’t and makes you re-think about where your life/love-life may be heading, and how you can make everything around you, well, better. I know, I know, I’m corny as can be but seriously, this film will make you feel like there is nothing wrong with you, or the world you surround yourself with.

I also think that most of the feelings I have for this movie mainly come from the “romance” between the two lead characters: Pat and Tiffany. First of all, Pat and Tiffany are not necessarily a romantic-couple, even though they may show signs of it. In their own, strange ways, they are both a bit crazy and off-kilter from the rest of the world, but the feelings they share about the things around them has them connect on a way that makes you believe in them as people that could definitely meet and be friends, but also be together, fall in love, and make themselves, and everyone else around them better as well. The whole movie is pretty strange in the directions it goes towards, and that’s mainly thanks to these two and it’s just great to see a rom-com about a couple that doesn’t necessarily fall in love right on impact, and can’t really show each other the type of love-signs we have come to expect from generic characters in these types of movie. Pat and Tiffany is the perfect, anti-rom-com couple that makes it all the more disappointing that once things do get a bit conventional and soapy by the end, it’s a bit too hard to believe or be satisfied with. However, it’s not to the point of where I felt like the whole movie was ruined for me. Just a tad bit of it was. Just a tad bit, mind you.

Despite that itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, little problem, these characters are still great to watch together, especially considering the cast that’s behind them all. Bradley Cooper probably gives his finest performance yet as Pat, by showing that he can let-loose with his manic-energy that definitely shows he still has that pitch-perfect comedic-timing, but also shows a bit of a darker side to him as well. For Cooper, lately, there hasn’t really been a film that’s showed him off a true, dramatic-force to be reckoned with and it’s more that his comedy-skills have been used a hell of a lot better, and showed-off more than I expected. However, his role as Pat allows him to break free from that mold, give us a character that is a bit off his rocker, isn’t always the nice guy when it comes to certain situations and choices that he makes, but also, always allow us to feel some sort of sympathy for the dude as well. Cooper gives off what could possibly be his closest shot to an Oscar nomination this year, and you know what, I think the guy deserves that at least because he nails this role to a “T” here and it’s just great to see him finally break-out and combine what he does best: comedy and drama.

I was a bit skeptical of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, because the character is definitely supposed to be a lot older than Lawrence’s 22-years of age and would seem a bit weird considering that Cooper is 37, but surprise, surprise, Lawrence makes this work like no other. What’s so beautiful about Lawrence here is not only is she able to really have us believe in this gal that could be so weird and cooky, but also have us believe that she is as old and damaged as she is. Tiffany is not the easiest character to really get right from the start as you can tell that she has some problems that may need more fixing than just a simple dance-competition, but Lawrence is so natural with this gal that you can’t help but want to reach your hand out to her, even when Pat doesn’t seem to be. Lawrence is everything you would want her to be in this role and yet, it’s something that we have never seen from her before. She’s vulnerable, but never asking for sympathy; she’s sad, but never mopey; she’s smart, but never condescending; she’s weird, but never to the point of where she’s considered “crazy”; and she’s good-looking, but never to the point of where you wouldn’t believe her is as this older, sadder-woman that comes to terms with the life she lives and where it’s going. Basically, in a nutshell, Lawrence is perfect for this role and if she doesn’t at least get a nomination for her role here, then I’m really going to be ticked off. Seriously, this girl has tons and tons of amount of promise going for her and I’ve already forgotten about House at the End of the Street. Even though, I can’t believe how I remembered that title.

As much as this is Cooper and Lawrence’s show, everybody else on the side still gets their own chances to shine and jeez, am I ever so glad for that, because their just as good too. Thank you so much David O. Russell, for giving us a meaty-role for Robert De Niro that shows us why everybody loved the guy so much in the first-place. De Niro plays Cooper’s OCD-like father that can’t seem to ever miss an Eagles game, and is absolutely terrific in a role that shows how much one man can love a son, but also want the best for him and try to give him advice on how to make his life better. It’s a role that shows De Niro at his finest, that we haven’t seen from him in a long-time and as much as he may down-play it, he still lets loose a bit and still makes us laugh our asses off whenever he does the signature crunched-up face. Man, you gotta love De Niro!

As for his wife, played by Jacki Weaver, she’s great as well and shows us a lighter-side to her acting-skills, by giving her character a delightful smile that only wants what’s right for her boy and her family. Oh, and I forgot to thank David O. Russell for something! Thank you so much for bringing back Chris Tucker to a mainstream movie that isn’t co-starring Jackie Chan and reminding us why the guy is so damn funny in the first-place. Yeah, Tucker may have lost his signature, high-pitch voice that mostly everybody hated (even though I loved) and has definitely packed on a couple of pounds for good measure as well, but still shows us that he has that great comedic-timing that makes me wonder why the hell he isn’t in more stuff. Does his character matter all that much to the plot? Hell no, actually, if you got rid of him, nothing in this movie would ever change one-bit but it’s Chris Tucker, man! The guy’s hilarious and I want to see more of him.

Consensus: With a heart as big as the state of Philadelphia (not terribly big, but still big none the less), a message that hits the heart, characters that interest the hell out of you right from the start, and a script that balances quirky, comedy, drama, and romance altogether, Silver Linings Playbook is exactly the type of feel-good movie you want to see this Winter-break, especially if you have ever longed for someone to tell you that your life is worth it and is something that’s meant to be made better not just by others around you, but yourself, as well. Definitely go out there, and go see it. Especially, if you’re from Philly. Then again, I feel like that’s obvious enough already.

9/10=Full Price!!

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Being on a ship isn’t always swashbuckling fun.

Russell Crowe is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, renowned as a fighting captain in the British Navy, and Paul Bettany is the ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin. Their ship, the HMS Surprise, is suddenly attacked by a superior enemy. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans.

Anybody who ever hears the words “ships” and “pirates”, automatically think of Captain Jack running rampant all over the seas, with his pet monkey on his shoulder. However, how do people feel whenever they make a story like this, with adults in mind? Answer is, more rum!

Director Peter Weir did a great job with accurate depiction of what it would really be like to stay on a ship like this, way back when. All these people do all day is stare at the ropes of the boat and the stars in the sky, then eat, sleep, drink, occasionally have a battle, and then go back to eating, sleeping, and drinking all over again. It seems very tedious, which is an emotion that Weird conveys very well and it’s a real change of pace we usually see from the fun, hip, and energetic movies about pirates out on the seas, having a grand old time. I also liked how we never knew who the enemy was in this story, considering we never know exactly who the hell these guys are going to face up against. Could be an army. Could be a leper boat. Hell, it could even be Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. But either way, it was still as much of a mystery to me as it was to these guys in the movie.

Let’s also not forget to mention that Weir’s attention to detail is what made this a sight to see the whole film. Weir definitely has a great eye for what looks good and what doesn’t and with a film that takes place on a boat, that’s something to be commended for. The opening shot is absolutely stunning and got me ready for the rest of the shots I was going to get. Long, beautiful, and sweeping shots of the sea and land around it, really made me feel like I was out there with them and took me to this world where I never knew what was going to happen next or where I was going to be, just exactly like these people on the ship thought. Maybe I’m thinking about the cinematography a bit too much here, but when you have something that looks as pretty as this one, you can’t go without at least talking about it. I mean hell, just check out this shot right here. Now try and tell me that that isn’t something that catches your eye! By the way, it’s all real, no CGI. Don’t see that very often.

Even though Weir’s direction really brought me into the mood, the story itself didn’t do much for me and I have no idea who’s fault that was. First of all, the story is pretty slow and even though it does pick up every once and a blue moon, you still can’t help but feel like there should be more character development to have us care who lives, who dies, and who ends up getting put at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker (which basically mean’s dead, but I just wanted an excuse to use that term). Whenever somebody died, and the crew had a huge ceremony for them, I didn’t really know or even care about it all that much because nothing really happens with these characters to drive this story on. It’s strange too, because even though action doesn’t take up the film, all of the other scenes weren’t really dedicated to the crew members or their character development, instead, the film just sort of lingered around. Weird, I know, plus add on a two hour run-time and you got yourself a boat ride that may over-stay its welcome by a good 45 minutes or so. Give or take.

Another strange aspect of this story, and probably its strongest was Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey. Once again, Crowe turns in another impressive and strong performance that shows he is able to convey so many emotions, no matter who he is playing. The character of Aubrey isn’t a very likable one, but Crowe somehow finds his way to get him by with a wee bit of charm and it worked on me, and then it didn’t. The problem with this character is that this guy goes through so many problems over the course of the flick, that it almost seems like he is a bit bi-polar. There’s those scenes where we see him being the commanding officer of the ship and is inspired to beat the enemy, then we see him being jealous towards his friend and not allow him to do what he wants to do (some random story about collecting newfound insects, that didn’t do much for me), and then he goes a little control freak-ish when he starts to lay down the law on some of the crew for not being respectful enough to him. However, at the end of all of this we get a shot of him feeling triumphant as if he was just another hero of the seas, when throughout the past 2 hours we get a glimpse at a person that seemed like he had a lot of control issues and went with his pride a bit too much. But the film tried to play him off like some great, heroic figure? Didn’t get it but I guess that’s why Weir hired Crowe to do the job since he’s always a great watch.

Another performance that almost steals the spotlight from Crowe is the one given by Paul Bettany as Aubrey’s supposed “friend”, Dr. Stephen Maturin. Bettany and Crowe last appeared in A Beautiful Mind together, where it was obviously Crowe’s show which was supposed to be the same plan here, instead, Bettany comes close to almost stealing the spot-light from him. Bettany easily as one of the best character arcs here because this is a dude that just wants to help everybody out on the ship, is very real with Jack and the crew, and just wants to see some damn animals! His character definitely sticks a lot of sense into Crowe’s face and it’s a real wonder why Bettany didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this one because his character was really the only one I actually cared about. Everybody else could get captured by Black Beard and I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass.

Consensus: With a couple of good performances from the cast and a beautiful vision from Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World definitely should hit a lot harder than it does, but due to a lacking script without a confused central character and barely little, or no character development, the film just ends up being a mildly entertaining 2 and a half hours spent. Next time, just call up Johnny Depp.

7/10=Rental!!

Red Dawn (1984)

When in doubt, always trust The Swayze.

It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town and their country from invading Soviet forces and also try to fend themselves off of each one another as well.

So, after about 4 years of being in post-production, the remake to this 80 classic is finally coming around and to celebrate (if that’s what you call this review) the arrival of it, I’m going to go back to the days when times were simpler, and hell of a lot cheesier. Big, big mistake on my part.

Back in the 80’s, it really seemed like America was paranoid as hell by the Ruskies and what they were going to do to us next, which makes it all the more reason why this film should have just had a whole bunch of more fun with itself. Seriously, when you see a premise that includes a bunch of young kids with AK-47’s, going around and shooting up the Soviets, you should be expecting a whole bunch of ridiculous fun that continues to get better and better as the flick goes on. However, that’s barely the case here and instead, we get a lot of moping, sadness, and total seriousness from everybody involved. I get the fact that maybe the idea back in the 80’s of us getting invaded wasn’t such a funny, little joke like we can sort of have now, but there wasn’t anything here at all to lighten-up the mood at all. Everything is taken as if it really was happening, with real people, real situations, and real guns. If I wanted to see something like this being real, I would go to Russia myself with a bunch of guns and start shooting up the place. When I go to the movies, I expect non-fiction fun and a whole bunch of it, as well.

See, even though the serious-approach to this story may be bad, it gets even worse when you consider the screenplay everybody has to work with here. This is some god-awful screen-writing that starts off corny, gets cornier, and just ends up being downright laughable by the end of it, but not just because of the lines these characters use, but because of what the writers and director behind this movie try to get us to care about. The scenes with the whole army of wolverines together, didn’t do shit for me as half of the time as when they were just sitting around, eating beans, and crying about how they miss their mommy and daddy. I don’t think a single conversation went by without one of them breaking down into a full-out cry-fest as if they just got done watching Marley & Me. Yeah, it’s pretty sad but come on, your shooting the freakin’ people that killed your mommy and daddy so be happy and put a smile on if you can and keep on nuking. Then, the film tries to have it both ways by trying to develop and have us sympathize with the evil characters from the Russian side, but it works for these characters, just like it works for the others: to no avail whatsoever. Basically, we are just left watching the movie without any real human-connection whatsoever and it’s pretty obvious that the film-makers were just depending on the cool premise and right-wing approach the whole time.

Then again, who needs substance, when you can just blow shit up for 2 hours?!? That’s pretty much what this film was asking, and you can totally tell because of the action is pretty solid, in terms of 80’s action glory. I don’t know if this matters at all in today’s day and age of NC-17 movies coming out every month, but this was one of the first flicks to ever get slapped with the PG-13 rating and has 2.23 glorious acts of violence occur every minute. Now, if that doesn’t tell you anything about this film then I don’t know what will but the explosions, gun-play, blood, killing, and warfare is pretty fun to watch and definitely where most of the film’s energy lies in. Didn’t understand why the hell the Soviets took time out of their day, just sitting around and being angry, when all they could have done was just look around for a bunch of young punks in the woods. However, though, I didn’t write this movie and thank God for that or else I would probably have to take up a job as a pizza-delivery boy for Domino’s!

The positive to this film that sort of kills all of those other bad germs is Mr. Patrick Swayze who I will never, ever say a bad thing about in any movie whatsoever. I love the guy and I loved him here, but it’s such a shame that everybody else around him just sucks the life out of everything good that The Swayze does and most of all, does with style. Seriously, you got a cast full of 80’s stars like Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey all accompanying Swayze, and they are all so gosh darn terrible. I don’t know if it was the cringe-inducing script that screwed them over or what, but something was just not clicking here and every time one of these character’s opened their loud-ass mouths, I just prayed that a Soviet wrecking-crew would come around and blow their freakin’ heads off. I know, I know I sound like a freakin’ maniac, but they really pissed me off and I didn’t really give a shit whether or not they completed their mission (whatever that was). I just wanted them to start blowing shit up, taking names, and doing it all for the good of the country. In a way, I guess they succeeded, but damn is it a miserable time getting to that point.

Consensus: Red Dawn is an obvious flick for a cult following: it has guns, explosions, cheesy dialogue, and Patrick Swayze. Then again, though, a lot of those elements that make it so loved by a certain type of crowd, doesn’t always click so well with other viewers who just want to have some fun with a movie and not have to be bothered with a terrible script that’s unbearable at times.

5/10=Rental!!

Borat (2006)

I have to take a trip to Kazakhstan at least once in my life.

Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) travels from his primitive home in Kazakhstan to the USA to make a documentary. On his cross-country road-trip, Borat meets real people in real situations.

I’ll never, ever forget the first time I checked out this flick way back when it first came out and laughed my ass off by almost everything that was going on here. Take it for granted, I saw this when it first came out and I was probably around 12, so of course everything is a lot funnier then, but I checked up on it again to see if I was wrong but what I got was that it only gets funnier, as you get older.

The funniest aspect of this whole flick is that you can’t script stuff like this. Yeah, it’s another mockumentary but it’s all real except for everything Borat is talking about and that actually makes it funnier to see how these people react to this guy. I was really surprised by how producers were able to get all of the people they did for this movie, because some of them look like some real assholes, while others just look like they are terribly uncomfortable being around this dude. Although I think I would be too if I was near a guy that kept trying to kiss me and trying to ask me about my sister, and if she has sex with lots of men or not. May not sound that funny on paper, but when you play it all out to real people, who have no exact idea as to what the hell is really going on, then it’s comedy gold.

However, I don’t think I’ve explained just how funny this damn movie is! Everything here, pretty much from start to finish is absolutely hilarious because it never stops with the uncomfortable situations, the politically incorrect jokes, and the people they actually grab from the streets to do this movie. It’s a very offensive flick, that makes so many harsh jokes towards every type of person from America (Jewish, Pentecostals, African Americans, Gays, Feminists, New Yorkers, Southerners and college students, to name a few) but it never seems like overkill. Instead, it just gets funnier and funnier with each and every situation these guys pull off and just when you think they won’t do it, trust me, they do it alright. If you don’t laugh at this movie, then the joke is on you and you don’t deserve to watch something like this. Me, on the other hand, had to actually hold my side because of how hard I was laughing. This is my 3rd viewing too people!

What’s probably funnier than all of the offensive jokes and uncomfortable situations here, is that all of the actual people they get to interview, tell you something about the America that we live in. America is a place that I’m glad to have been born and raised in, but I can definitely say that there is flaws to the people of our society, which is probably with all other societies in the world as well. We see people that are racists that tell Borat what type of guns are the best to kill Jews with, we see a car dealer tell him what’s the best “pussy magnet”, we see some dude from a rodeo say how Borat should change his look so he doesn’t look like “a Muslim, who would more than likely have a bomb strapped to his chest”, and we see a bunch of college kids say how all women should be slaves and bow down to what they have to say. It’s some real effed up shit we get to hear and see here, but it’s all true and that’s what is probably the most jaw-dropping thing about this flick. Some of this may actually have you think about our society and realize just how dumb we are such as whenever we see two gay guys making out, we frown upon it, but cheer on George Bush and the Army to go off and kill every single person in Iraq. Hey, I’m not saying I’m supporting or going against anything that the U.S. is going for but this film brings up a lot more questions about our society than you would expect from a dude that runs around asking ladies for “sexy time”. Comedy that makes you think, haven’t heard of that in awhile.

My only complaint about this flick is that as hard as I did laugh, after watching this one for a third time, I also didn’t laugh as much upon this viewing as I knew what was coming, and what wasn’t. The whole idea of shock value is to not expect what’s going to come up next, and I did here, but I still laughed a lot so I can’t really fault the film for that at all. Maybe if I was 12 again, I would have given this a 10/10. Maybe, just maybe.

The whole subject about this flick, is that it’s pretty anti-Semantic in how Borat despises Jews and wants to get away from them as fast as he can. However, Sacha Baron Cohen is not a racist at all, in fact, he is actually a practicing Jew. This really surprised me when I first saw it because it made me realize that this guy was in on the joke the whole time and I think because of his involvement, it wasn’t banned in every single area of the world, but also makes this character Borat, one of the funniest and most endearing racists ever caught on film.

Whenever people see Baron Cohen now, people think of him as this goofy, somewhat larger-than-life character who always plays these insane characters and never snaps out of them. The character Borat, wasn’t the first to show this, but it’s one that showed that he is a comedic genius. No matter what Cohen does in this movie, whether it be hanging out with a bunch of black people in the ghetto, taking a shit in front of Trump’s Towers, or even getting drunk with a bunch of college kids, he never drops character and always stays in character. Cohen does so many embarrassing things, most of which, he puts himself in, but the whole time you can’t help but wonder how a guy can go throughout a movie like this, and just keep on making it seem like he is really thinking this. Cohen definitely has a pair of brass balls and I wish that he continued to do more mockumentary stuff like this and Bruno, but I guess fame was too much for him and his characters. Poor guy, at least The Dictator was fine and dandy.

Consensus: Borat is not only a comedy that absolutely delivers the laughs with an offensive/mean streak unlike any other flick I have ever seen, but also shows you a side of America that will sometimes make you gasp by just how shocklingly cruel and small-minded can be and think.  It’s a comedy that makes you think, while still bust your gut. Sounds like a winner to me!

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

I guess back in 1967, black-and-white milkshakes where wiped-off menu’s everywhere, as well?

This film tells the story of a liberal couple (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn), he a publisher and she an art gallery owner, whose value system is challenged when their only daughter (Katharine Houghton) announces one day her intention to marry a famous black surgeon (Sidney Poitier). Obviously you know that all racist hell breaks loose! Well…sort of…

In today’s day and age, no matter where you may be in the world or what you’re views on the subject are, but interracial dating is still an act that people frown upon. However, back in 1967, it was pretty much illegal, without ever really being considered a law in the first-place. It was just a mutual understanding that blacks and whites weren’t supposed to be together in a romantic sort of way, even though it still happened behind the curtains. It just goes to show you that time does change, which is a good thing for society and the world we live in, but sadly, is not a good thing for this movie.

Director Stanley Kramer surprisingly starts this film out as a comedy which, much to my surprise, actually worked and had me interested into where the hell this story could, and might just go with itself. There were plenty moments that had me chuckling here and there, which really took me by surprise considering how ready I was for some straight-up drama and even though the topic may ask for that, it still came off as the opposite and had me wondering just what the hell Kramer’s intentions were with this story and what he planned to do with it in the first-place. However, as film continues to go on and on and bring in some more subjects to the story, it begins to get a bit more serious and sadly, that’s where all of the problems for this flick begin.

The problem with most films from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, etc., is that everything that seemed so cool and relevant then, are all lame and out-dated now. Obviously this is no surprise to any film-geek in the 21st century (points to self) who notices a huge change in the times, but this film really had me thinking about that problem the whole damn time and it just got in the way of everything.  The dialogue does surprisingly have its moments, but also features plenty of other moments that are totally cheesy, over-dramatic, and very eye-rolling, almost to the point of where you wonder whether or not a certain line was supposed to be taken seriously, or these writers just thought it was time to have every character break-down and say the dumbest crap imaginable.

However, the point of this movie is what really invigorated me in the first-place and the real question is does this film bring up a lot about race and interracial relationships? In a way, yes is does, but is also done in such a way that it brings up all of these facts and problems with that point this movie is making, however, ends on it in such a terribly weird way that makes it seem like this film was aiming for something else other than the topic of racism. The film is basically telling us that it doesn’t matter what color, race, or social background two people come from, as long as they feel and have love for each other then that’s all that matters. That’s a nice theme and central message to have and think about as you go on throughout your whole day and life, but also seems terribly, terribly hokey and tame considering this issue that were dealing with here and how it was so damn taboo back in those days to even talk about, let alone, have a whole film discussing it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wanted this subject to be hit harder rather than touched and backed away from as if a little kid was at the petting zoo. Makes no sense? Yeah, I know, but just bare with me on that and realize that I was a scared kid at the zoo whenever my parents took me.

Though to be honest, I wouldn’t have had such a problem with this theme if it was handled at least a bit better in a more realistic and believable. Instead, the film goes with sentimental and light-approach that almost comes off as self-parody. The issue of interracial dating is an important one, and one that was really controversial back in the day, so it really made me disappointed in seeing just how soft of a obvious-treatment it was given here, without ever really allowing itself to break through the cracks and give us all something to think about that wasn’t just something that Hollywood was shoving down our throats. But it’s not all about interracial relationships, actually, some of it just talks about how the times are changing and how the younger generation is starting to gain more and more control over the older generation of people, an issue that goes on and on and on no matter what decade or generation it is. Once again, another important issue to bring up, but once again, the film handles it poorly. It got so bad during one scene where Tracy accidentally hits some young, black kids car and gets yelled at by him for being a dumb, old, senile man, which was a scene that had me laughing my ass off, even though the look on Tracy’s face was serious, as well as the kids’ as well. It’s one of those memorable scenes that you remember, strictly for all of the wrong reasons.

What does make this film a lot better and very watchable are the performances here given by the trio of leads. In what would be his last role ever, Spencer Tracy gives a heart-breaking performance that truly makes this film memorable. Throughout the whole film, Tracy’s character is constantly struggling with himself and his morals because he doesn’t know whether or not to say yes, or to say no to his daughter going off and getting hitched to this black man, that seems very charming and nice, but also worries him about their possible-future together. This problem is very understandable, and it’s also one that Tracy shows off perfectly with a great amount of sympathy and realism that seemed to lack from the rest of the film that surrounded him. Tracy has, and forever always will be a legend of acting and his performance here as the struggling father remains one of the finer performances from his later career, which makes it even more of a shock that the guy died only about 2 weeks later. Real shocker, but also a true testament to what a great actor he truly was and one that is still missed to this day.

Katharine Hepburn plays his elegant wife, Christina, and also gives another great performance, just like you’d expect from Miss Hepburn. She starts off as kind of a bitchy-type that you see in most of these “rom-coms” where it’s all about meeting the disapproving familia, but after awhile, you start to realize that this is real lady who only wants the best and whats safe for her daughter, but just can’t seem to get that idea off onto her hubby, who just so happens to be black. Hepburn has some really memorable moments here, especially when she fires a chick that works for her out of the blue and shows just why she was one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the screen. Once again, like Tracy, another actress that is still truly missed to this day and with her performance here, shows why you can do wonders with a mediocre script.

Let’s also not forget to mention the always terrific, Sidney Poitier as Dr. John Wade Prentice, in what is another role where he plays the calm, sophisticated, and charming black man that’s trying to win the approval of the common white-folk. Poitier is strong and perfect in a role that seems like he was fit to play, but there was one flaw to him that I didn’t seem to understand, and really took me away from his character’s believeability and motivations. I mean this black guy is essentially Mr. Perfect: he’s handsome, a renowned pro in his area of study, kind, respectful, and above all, a gentleman. Now why the hell would Tracy have such a problem with a kind of guy like that going out with his daughter? I get it, the guy is black but within the first 10 minutes of meeting the guy, he has to realize that he’s not that different from anybody that’s white. He’s just a simple, nice, and kind-hearted young man that just so happens to have the hots and wants to marry your daughter. Now what so bad about that, other than him being married to a white-girl in the 60’s? I may make it seem a lot less serious than it really was, but after awhile, these people should realize that the guy isn’t such a bad cat after all, and should at least be given a shot before they kick him to the curb.

In case you haven’t been able to notice, I mentioned that the trio of leads in this flick all do magnificent jobs, but I left out the other gal that just so happens to in this film as well, Katharine Houghton as the young-lady, that just so happens to have a case of jungle fever. The reason I chose not to include this chick with the three thespians up-top, is because she’s pretty bad and struggles through all of her dialogue, making her the main-reason why this film is as over-the-top as it comes out to be at certain points. I don’t know what the hell this chick does with her life now, but sad to say, I hope she didn’t show-up in any other flicks and ruin them, or hopefully, she got better at acting and decided to take a low-key approach. Either way, haven’t heard anything from the gal after this and I think the same could be said about Poitier and Hepburn, as well. Tracy doesn’t count, cause, well, you know, he died. Sorry, too soon?

Consensus: What was once a landmark film for discussing a controversial subject back in its day, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is now, in the year 2012, a very dated and tame film that doesn’t bring anything new to the subject of interracial dating, even though it does do a nice job of show off some very fine performances from the cast, especially Hepburn and Tracy, who is superb in his last role, ever.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Alright, bring on the freaks!

Set in Middle Earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form “the Fellowship” begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Obviously with the fact that Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth soon with The Hobbit, I thought to myself, “It’s been awhile since I actually wasted my day and watched one of these movies. So, why not just go back to the whole trilogy and waste three days now? Woo-hoo!!” Trust me, people, it’s all for you out there so you better be freakin’ happy.

Anybody that ever talks about this movie, or the trilogy itself, always says the same thing, “You have to have read the books to fully understand.” Is that true? Well, yes, in a way, but that does not mean you can’t still appreciate it for what it truly is: a very, very well-made film. Jackson has never been a huge favorite of mine but I have to cut the guy some slack here because this direction is one of the more inspired-directions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Jackson obviously has a near and dear passion and love for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and that shows here with his set design and attention to detail.

Saying that everything in this movie is beautiful, is a downright understatement. Everything looks so perfect the way it is, that at times, believe it or not, I actually caught myself wondering just how they got it to look so real and put it out into a film without ever making it look cheesy one-bit. I will say that in the year 2012, the CGI and special-effects may not be as up-to-date as we all are used to nowadays, but just checking this film out from a viewer’s stand-point and realizing how much attention and detail was given to each scene really makes me want to get up, and give Jackson a big old hug. The guy really has a distinctive look with this film and made me feel even closer to Middle Earth, even though the shots were obviously from New Zealand. But you know what? Who the hell cares, because if Jackson can make it look like Middle Earth, then that’s good enough for me.

I feel like I should have been more open in this review by starting off and saying that I’m not a reader/nor have I ever read any of Tolkien’s novels and to be honest, I still think that the story made me enough sense for me to get the gist of it. In the beginning, Jackson spells-out everything pretty nice and clear for everyone to understand just what’s going on with a detailed and heavy prologue and definitely makes it clear right from the start, just what we’re in store for: hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, sorcery, action, violence, and plenty of other weird-looking creatures just hangin’ around. Jackson’s attention to detail in terms of setting and scenery, carries out very well into the characters and creatures that he creates but I feel like that’s a pretty obvious statement already. Let me just get it out of the way: Jackson’s direction is superb here and he pays attention to detail like no other. Also, it’s a very, very, very beautiful film! Okay, now that I got that thought out of my mind, I can move on now and just tell you that it’s a pretty fun movie once you get past all of the kookiness behind it.

You don’t generally have to be a fan of fantasy movies (like me), to enjoy the hell out of this movie, but it definitely does help. There’s so much exposition, secret powers coming out of nowhere, swords clashing, people yelling bold statements about courage, weird creatures, and more exposition. It’s exactly what you expect from a fantasy movie and I didn’t have much of a problem with that because the story kept me involved, and I found myself to have a lot of fun with it as well. The action doesn’t take over the whole  movie, but that was a-okay with me because I payed more attention to the adventure that all of these colorful characters were on, where it was going to take them, and the danger that lied ahead of them. There was definitely a great deal of suspense in the air because I never really knew when shit was just going to pop-off for these characters and their adventure, and quite frankly, I was a bit scared for them as well. It’s one of those movies where you feel as if you are on an adventure that may never end, but you sort of don’t want it to end because you feel as if you’re along for the ride, without having to worry about being killed or eaten alive by some weird-looking, monster/creature/thing.

Regardless of how fun and exciting this movie really was, it still does not make it “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a statement and accolade that has seemed to be given by anybody who has watched this movie. Is it a grand, sweeping epic that catches your attention right from the start and keeps you watching? Yes, but is it perfect? Awwww, hellll nooo! The reason why this movie is not perfect is because of how long it is. It comes close to clocking in at over 3 hours and even though I don’t mind that with most movies, just as long as they keep my attention, I minded that with this movie because of how many times it seemed to start-and-stop all over the place.

What I mean by this, is that every time the movie would fire-up with an ultra-epic action scene, it would just automatically slow-down, start having everybody talk in their exposition jibber-jabber, continue walking, focus on another character from another setting, have another ultra-epic action scene, and then go right back to the same pattern. At first, I didn’t really mind this because it was entertaining to see and I liked watching where Jackson went with this story, but after awhile it became a bit repetitive and I could almost tell where all of the action was going to go down and when. That’s not good for me, because I usually like my surprises, especially with my action-adventure movies and if Dan the Man’s not surprised, Dan the Man’s not happy! Waaah!

And to be honest, it was even worse when these people would go off on these rants and raves in this jibber-jabber, that really seemed to get in the way of any type of excitement or energy this movie had going for itself. When I thought the movie would continue to go at the pace it was going at, it just slows down, focuses on a character talking a whole bunch of nonsense that only people who sleep with the book would be able to comprehend, and loses that steam for the longest time, that is, until the next action scene files in and picks the movie right back-up from where it was left off in the first place. A couple of scenes where these characters had these “talks” really seemed to come out of nowhere, and maybe should have gotten a call from Jackson’s editor to cut that one the hell out. One scene in particular is where Cate Blanchett comes in out of nowhere and starts to go crazy about the ring, and even though it is visually-stunning, it’s still pretty obvious and serves no purpose to the story or the message other than, “everybody is obsessed with this ring and wants it like Grandma’s secret meat loaf recipe”. Yup, I think I got that idea right from the beginning of the story when I saw how bat-shit crazy this ring made everybody go so it didn’t necessarily do anything for me when all of these characters kept falling for the same bag of tricks over and over again.

But I can’t rag on this film anymore, really, because it still kept me entertained and kept me watching a great ensemble, do fantastic jobs in each of their own, respective roles. This whole cast is jam-packed to the core with familiar-faces and superstars of the silver-screen, but the one who really stood-out for me was Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen owns it as Gandalf because he gives this character a great deal of warmth and sympathy that it makes it real easy for us to believe why so many people feel comfortable around him, and why they don’t have to fear for their lives whenever he’s around. I also liked how McKellen didn’t really ham it up and kept everything very straight-forward with what he was going to do next, and why. I also can’t forget to mention Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The guy just looks intimidating and definitely holds his own as the only guy who could be considered an “action hero” throughout the whole movie, but there’s going to be a lot more of him talked about in the future reviews of this trilogy so I won’t go and spoil it now. Just be ready, everybody, as I wastes my life away watching swords, sorcery, and stones.

Consensus: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring may be a tad overstuffed with scenes that feel unneeded, but it’s epic-nature still cannot be denied with it’s fine, fine, fine attention to detail from Peter Jackson, and engrossing story that makes you feel as if you are along for this ride in Middle Earth, where nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Not really sure if that’s the right statement to use for this movie, but you get what I mean.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

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