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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 1990s

Fargo (1996)

Can’t ever get enough of hearing the term, “You betcha!”

A car salesman (William H. Macy) is in a tight pinch for money and needs it as quick as humanly possible. His solution? Hire two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife for ransom, so that he can get the money from his very wealthy father-in-law and split it with the two criminals. Everything seems to be fine for the three and going according to plan, until people show up dead due to some tragic consequences. That brings pregnant police officer, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), to the scene where she ends up figuring out just what is shaking all around her sweet, little town of Fargo.

Before I go on any further and lose more and more friends, family, fans, and confidantes than I already know I will, I just want to state this right away: I liked this movie. I can’t argue against the Coens’ artistry as writers, or as directors; the film is always entertaining, no matter how many times I actually do view it (fourth or fifth by now). That being said: It is a tad overrated.

Yup, I know. Bring on the boos.

It’s okay though. It’s exactly what I expect by now, seeing as I’ve had this opinion for as long as I can remember. And it isn’t because I enjoy going against the societal-norm because it makes me look strong, hip, and cool; it’s more just that this movie has never really charmed me as much as it has done so to everyone else.

Hey woMAN, nice shot.

Hey woMAN, nice shot.

That said, there are some little pleasures to be found in this nearly hour-and-a-half movie that still surprise me to this day. First of all, it’s the relaxed-tone of this movie that really does it some justice, as the Coens seem to throw us little, itty, bitty details every once and awhile. Just by the way in which a character looks, or does, or says something, gives you the slightest hint about what we’re supposed to think about that character, and this small town of Fargo, with its sometimes quirky, residents.

In fact, this is probably where the Coens win the most brownie-points from me, as it shows that these guys clearly love these characters they’ve created, and rarely ever pass judgement on them. Sure, they’re a bit ditsy and sheltered from the rest of the world, but they’re still happy with that. It doesn’t make them bad or good people – it just makes them people, who also just so happen to live in a place that’s very far from what some consider the “idealistic landscape to live in”. However, that’s just some people and their opinions, man.

Even two despicable human beings like the characters played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare would easily be the most evil, unlikable fellows in the whole movie, and yet, there’s something about them that still keeps us away from hating them. Maybe moreso in the case of Buscemi’s character, as he seems like a guy who just gets his job done, does what he has to do, acquire his money and live a simple, carefree life like he’d done before, but even with Stormare’s character, there is still something about his quiet-demeanor that draws us to him. That’s probably what also drew the Coens to him so much in the first place, but it works more for us, as we are the ones who have to make up our own minds about these characters, and whether or not we choose to sympathize with any of them.

William H. Macy’s character is clearly the one who we find the hardest time caring for, but even his little quirks make us like him, if only for the faintest of reasons. As for Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson, well, we love her for being just about the opposite of these previously mentioned guys: She’s a simple, lovely and delightful lady that expects the best out of humanity, and only wants to bring happiness to the world. That set-in-stone idea that she has about the world around her gets tarnished a whole lot once she realizes that there’s some actual ugliness out there, and yes, it’s found its way into her own, safe little world that she’s made for herself. It’s hard not to feel sorry for her when she sees everything wrong and terrible about what this world can offer, but that’s what also makes it her so damn human in the first place, despite her small quirks here and there. It’s easy to see why McDormand won an Oscar for this role, as she steals the show just about every time, which was not an easy-feet, considering the talent she had stacked-up against her.

And of course, I could even say that the whole mystery itself still surprises me every once and awhile, all because certain plot-points make a bit more sense now, than they ever did before. That may be less of an attribute to this movie, and more to the caffeine I drank before watching this, but it’s something to still note regardless. The Coens love their characters and what makes them who they are, but they also still love themselves a little twists, a little turns, and better yet, a little bit of blood to be shed, all in the name of some cold, hard crime. These are the guys I’m comfortable with seeing make movies for the rest of my natural-born life, but more importantly, I would love to see them continue with the thriller-genre, and seeing how many times they can put their own creative-spin on it.

But now, here comes the time in my review where I lose all of your love and adoration, and get down to the simple fact, which is: Yes, I think Fargo is a bit overrated.

First and foremost, my problem with this movie isn’t that I’ve seen it so many times that I know everything that happened right from the get-go; in fact, that’s terribly false. There’s plenty of movies I’ve seen many more times than I can probably count, that still remain my “favorites”, even if I know every twist and turn that’s coming around the bend, all because I’ve seen said movie more than a couple of handful of times. But that’s not the point – the point is that with Fargo, I feel like every twist and turn is suitable into what gets a rush out of the viewer so much when watching it, and it just doesn’t hold-up on repeat-viewings, like so many movies I re-watch do.

Doesn't know if the wife he wanted kidnapped is dead or alive. Oh, the everyday  man's crisis.

Doesn’t know if the wife he wanted kidnapped is dead or alive. Oh, the everyday man’s crisis.

There’s small, little tidbits that are worth noting that made me smile because I didn’t notice them once before, but after awhile, I started to realize that there was maybe something a bit too odd when it came to the plot’s-structure. I love me some Steve Park, but his role/subplot Mike Yanagita, an old-friend of Marge’s, could have easily been written-out and the movie would have not suffered one bit. Sure, it’s another instance of the Coen’s making weird characters that they love, but it doesn’t do much for the movie except take us away from the actual crime on our hands; the same crime that Marge herself is investigating.

And I get it, I really do – the Coens like to do this sort of thing where they all sorts of different strands of plot that they are able to weave together somehow, through someway, but I just didn’t feel like it worked so well here. At the end of the day, when the people who deserved to be gone, were gone; the crime has been solved; justice has been served; and some life-lessons have been thrown around, I wondered: What was the point? Maybe this is just a personal problem I have with this movie, but once that anti-climactic ending came around, I had a hard time feeling wholly satisfied. Instead, I just ended my fourth or fifth-viewing of Fargo as I’ve done with any other viewing done before: It’s good, but that’s pretty much it.

Sorry, friends, family and whomever else may actually care. I truly am. Please take me back. Please!

 Consensus: Though the Coen’s clearly have a love for their characters, their story and all of the twists they throw into the plot, Fargo still doesn’t do much for me as a movie that has me thinking for days-on-end.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Smart idea, except for the fact that ALL OF THE SNOW LOOKS THE SAME.

Smart idea, except for the fact that ALL OF THE SNOW LOOKS THE SAME.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Dave (1993)

Luckily Barack doesn’t have too many impersonators out there. OR SO WE KNOW OF!!!

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is a simple, small-town man that wears big-rimmed glasses, rides his bike to and fro work, and also run a temp service that isn’t quite as big on making a whole lot of money, as much as it is just all about getting people jobs and having them make money. Oh yeah, and he also has an uncanny resemblance to the 44th president of the United States, William Harrison Mitchell. That eventually comes to work out for him in the future when he’s called upon to be an impersonator for the President in public appearances, just to avoid any problems whatsoever. However, it just so happens that on that same night, the President happens to suffer a stroke while banging his secretary, which leaves all of his right-hand-men stumbling without any idea of what to do. Allow the country to run wild with the sudden-death of their president? And by doing so, do they leak any dirty secrets about what he did during his time as presidency, minus the whole “cheating-on-his-wife” thing? Well, the simple answer is “no”. Instead, they all decide to let Kovic take over the position as acting-President, but only until the actual President himself wakes up and is ready to get back to doing his job. But what if he doesn’t seem to wake up? Even worse, what if the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that this man placed in her husband’s position, actually isn’t her husband?

Yes, there’s so much drama going on here that only a politician during the 90′s would know all about. Ammiright?!?!?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Anyway, so yeah, this movie always gets talked-about when you discuss the subgenre of “political comedies” and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the first of its kind during the Clinton-administration, but it’s one of the very rare political-satires that doesn’t really destroy any sort of political-agenda that was being thrown around during that time. Instead, it sticks to whatever “people get jobs and we all stay happy forever and ever” idea it has about politics. Sure, the fact of the matter is that that would never, ever happen in real life, but sure, when you’re watching a movie, let alone a comedy, you don’t really need reality to come in and hit you in the face. All you need is some nice, pure escapism in the finest form and that’s exactly what Dave is, with some snappy jokes thrown in for good measure.

That’s not to say that the movie is at all “dated”, it’s just that some of the humor probably doesn’t hit me nearly as hard, or as effectively as it probably did for those back in the early-90′s. It’s not that I don’t know a thing or two about politics, it’s just that most of this film seems to be playing it so damn safe most of the time, that it’s really hard to find much of anything to really laugh at in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of quips made here that may, or may not catch you off-guard, but they are hardly surprising, nor are they really slap-happy hilarious.

However, where I think most of the film focuses its strengths on is just the overall pleasant, carefree pace that Ivan Reitman sets, which carries the movie through some very sketchy-waters. For instance, there’s the sequence in which the President and the First Lady head-off to a homeless shelter in which they just stand there, say hi to people they wouldn’t bear to be around, had their not been cameras around, and basically just muck it up for the press surrounding them with all of the cameras flashing and recording their every step. We always see this in politics, and it could have easily been seen as a snotty thing for a the President and his wife to do here, however, Reitman handles it with care and always makes it seem like this Dave guy does genuinely mean well, even if he doesn’t know a lick or two about actual politics itself. Especially not how to run a country.

I mean, sheesh! We should have all been happy with Bush Jr. just by looking at this guy! You know?

Too far? Okay, anyway, back to the movie itself.

What you could also attribute most of Dave’s charm to is the performance from the always lovable Kevin Kline, doing another one of his sweet, happy-guy acts. My only complaint about Dave, and well, practically every other character with the meager exception of one in particular, is that we never really get an impression for who these people were before this movie. Yeah, we get the idea that Dave was always a nice, peaceful soul that tried to make those around him happier in life, just by solely giving them what they want, but why is he like that? Better yet, why is it that he’s alone in his life, despite being what some clearly see as “the nicest guy on the face of the planet”. Nobody says that about him in the movie, or even to his face, but it’s pretty much implied with just how much Dave is able to make everyone around him smile, cheerful and just overall, feel better about themselves and their lives.

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

Sort of like how I was, until I started drinking. Then, it was all downhill from there.

Anyway, like I was saying about Dave, I wish I got to know more about him. I guess that was the point of not getting to know who he really is as a person, considering he has to practically impersonate another the whole movie, but just more detail would have gone a long way for him, Regardless though, Kline works well with Dave, giving us a guy we can all stand behind and love, even if he is just being the type of guy who doesn’t ask for much in the first place, and doesn’t want much in return. He’s just that type of cool guy, and that’s mostly how I’d like to imagine Kline is in real life.

Same goes for Sigourney Weaver in terms of her character, although her character doesn’t clearly go so far as “wife who hasn’t the dong in awhile”. Hey, it’s not like Weaver can’t play that role-up to perfection, but I think we’d be able to give her just a bit more to work with. If only a bit, that is. We also get treated some amusing, side roles from the likes of Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney, Ben Kingsley as that one character I said has some of his past told to us, in a way that isn’t at all manipulative, and a despicable-as-hell, but-clearly-loving-it Frank Langella as what we pretty much expect him to play, “the baddie”. Once again, you can tell that they definitely elevate the material to being a bit more than what it is, which is all we really needed in the first place.

Consensus: Though Dave doesn’t really bite with its satire as much it should, that still doesn’t take it away from being a mildly funny, tame and rather pleasant comedy that’s big on likable characters, rather than laughs. Either way, something here is bound to be liked.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you're right.

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you’re right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Pi (1998)

My favorite kind is pumpkin, how ’bout yours?

Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) is a mathematical genius that may, or may not be crazy and imagining things. Okay, there’s actually no question about it! He is going crazy and imagining things, but he doesn’t know that yet, nor does anybody else around him. However, what does aid him in this state of absolute craziness and non-stop paranoia, is the fact that he’s able to count and predict numbers in daily-routines. He even believes that he can predict the patterns in the Stock Market and make billions and billions of dollars. However, eventually, others begin to catch onto him, or so he thinks. For some reason, he has a bunch of neighbors that can’t seem to mind their own business; a overly-friendly rabbi who constantly bothers him at a local coffee shop to talk numbers; an old friend/confidant of his (Mark Margolis) that warns him of the dangers of getting into your own head a bit too much; and a suited-up, business-lady of sorts that is always calling him and finding him on the streets, in the subways and right outside of his apartment. So basically, it’s Max versus the world, or at least that’s how it all may be playing out in his head. You never know!

That’s not the most perfect synopsis ever summarized for this movie, but you get the idea: Dude’s smart, dude’s crazy, dude’s paranoid, bad stuff happens to dude. It’s a premise we’ve all seen done a million times before, but what sets this movie apart from the rest of of those other flicks about basket cases, is Darren Aronofsky’s highly-stylized direction. See, back before he gave us asses-to-asses, killer ballerinas, or even Noah’s ark, Darren Aronofsky was just another young, Jewish kid from New York that wanted to make movies and wanted to make his presence known.

Hasidic Jew-paranoia. Can't say I've ever been there, but why not!

Hasidic Jew-paranoia: Can’t say I’ve ever been there, but why not!

So, of course, what better way to do so then have your whole movie filmed in grainy black-and-white, crazy editing-tricks only seen in certain music videos at the time, and have a heavy-electronic score done by the one and only Clint Mansell! And while that aspect of the story may separate from the millions and millions of others, it isn’t like the style takes over what should be substance. Because while Aronofsky definitely does show the many tricks up his sleeves that he has, he also realizes that in order to push a story forward, you have to be able to trust your audience that they’ll be paying attention, using their brains whenever possible, connecting the dots and, if worse comes to worse, be taking notes down on whatever piece of information they may see as “pertinent” to the story, and what might not be.

Because of this trust between Aronofsky and the audience he clearly is making this movie for, it’s easy to see why one person would get mixed-up in it all. Hell, even yours truly, a person that was strung-up on two cups of coffee by the time of watching this, even got lost on a whole bunch of clues/hints/ideas/whatever-the-hell that was thrown my way. That’s probably less of a complaint about the movie, and more of a problem I just have a silly, stupid, cheese-burger-loving human being, but so be it! I’m not always up-on-my-game, I tell you!

Anyway, Aronofsky keeps this movie moving at a nice pace where you don’t always have enough time to make sense of everything that’s happening, nor do you quite allow all of the details of this story sink in just yet. You sort of just have to roll with the punches, and see exactly where it is that Aronofsky ends up with this story, and where he takes all of his characters. Needless to say, it’s a crazy adventure that definitely doesn’t take it easy on you, much like Aronofsky’s other movies that would soon follow.

Which is, yet again, another aspect of Aronofsky’s movies that worked so damn well here, as well. His style may be overbearing, but I think that’s the point. In order to racket-up as much tension as humanly possible for a pseudo-intellectual thriller that runs just under an-hour-and-a-half, Aronofsky throws whatever the hell it is that he can at us. Certain scenes in this movie seem like dreams that linger on in to the territory of being nightmares, which is all because our protagonist, Max Cohen, is just a total and complete nut-job. Although it should definitely be said that he’s a sympathetic one, if only because we truly feel bad that a guy such as him would be subject to so much mind-fuckery that it’s insane. Also, Sean Gullette does a nice job at making this a guy we can believe both as a weirdo, as well as a guy that can be nice and normal, if his mind and his habit of number-crunching allows him to do so. But most of all, what makes him so damn watchable is that we’re right there with him for the whole adventure he’s taken on.

Tio lives! Better yet, he speaks!

Tio lives! Better yet, he speaks!

Everything he sees, we see; everything he hears, we hear; everything he feels, we feel; everything he thinks, we think. Why? Well, it’s all because we are inside his mind the whole entire movie; which is both a good thing, as well as a bad thing.

It’s good, because it constantly throws us for a loop every time we think we have this story all completely figured-out; but on the flip side, it’s not-so-good because the dude is clearly crazy and doesn’t always have the right idea about whatever is in that thick head of his. Therefore, since we’re seemingly placed inside of his mind, lounging on a spec of his brain, it’s never clear where this will go, why or with whom. It’s all up in the air, and I think that’s how Aronofsky wants it to be, if all because he knows that sometimes, these types of stories can end in such predictable, obvious ways. Good on his part for not letting it be so, since this could have easily just been another case of a first-timer getting a bit too big for his britches. Even if so, it’s done him well in the 16 years since. That’s for sure.

Consensus: Easily one movie to throw any smart and determined viewer for a loop, Pi is the type of movie you can’t expect to get, but at least pay enough attention to that you understand just enough in order to feel like you’re along for the psychological thrill-ride Aronofsky loves having us be aboard for.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say "don't do it", but by the same token, he does make a pretty good case for why "he should". So who am I to stop someone from doing what they clearly want to do?

I would say “don’t do it”, but by the same token, he does make a pretty good case for why he “should”. So who am I to stop someone from doing what they clearly want to do?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Rushmore (1998)

Rebellion, love and angst. You know, the perfect mix for any 15-year-old.

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a 15-year-old high school student who absolutely loves the hell out of his school, a little, privately-owned joint called “Rushmore”, that he’s in on academic-scholarship. He loves it so much, that he practically starts, runs and is apart of every group/activity there is to be apart of at the school, which definitely makes him feel inspired most of the time and probably look good in the eyes of future-colleges he aspires to go to, like Harvard or Oxford, but is taken a beating on his studies. However, he doesn’t really seem to care too much, since he sees himself as willing to pull any strings that he can in order to get what what he wants, when he wants. That’s why when the beautiful, yet mysterious teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams) comes along his way and stuns him, he can’t help but fall weak at the knees and do whatever it is that he can do to have her fall in love with him, despite the age-difference. Also, an older, but dedicated friend of his Herman Blume (Bill Murray) seems to take notice of her as well and even gets in the way of Max’s plans, which is exactly when things start to get very tense, very angry and very sad for all three of these individuals lives.

For anybody, high school is a pretty rough time. Not only is your body changing, but so is your mind and brain, and with that, you begin to think and feel differently than ever before. In other words: You begin to get older and grasp what it means to be “an adult”. That sounds scary and all (which it definitely is, so RUN AND HIDE!), but for some people, they can’t wait for that moment to come around when they finally get rid of that adolescence that’s been holding them down for so long, to where they can take that next step into adulthood where they’ll have more responsibilities, more ideas of who they are and most importantly, more freedom than ever before. For some, it happens quicker than others, but it does eventually happen and it’s kind of scary, dare I say it.

I'd pay to stay at that table.

I’d pay to stay at that table.

However, what happens when you’re already somewhat of an adult at an early-age? Well, that’s where Max Fischer comes into play and show you the result of what happens when a kid who is way too smart, way too knowing and way too tactical for his own age or good, just so happens to fall victim to one of the most powerful, earth-shattering forces in the world: Love. Yes, love is definitely one of those first baby-steps we take into adult-hood and needless to say, it’s not all that it’s made out to be, especially not in today’s day and age where most of the adolescent-relationships we see occur nowadays, only last for a year, or even less.

Anyway though, that’s besides the point. The point here, is that this is a Wes Anderson movie we have on our hands, folks, and it’s definitely one of the first instances in which anybody actually took notice of this guy and saw him as the real deal. Which is why it’s pretty interesting to have seen all of his films now (some of them, more than once) and see just what was to come with his style, his themes and his character-developments, all through this movie.

But as I could definitely go on and on about how Anderson’s work here, practically shapes-out everything that was next to come, I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on one aspect of his writing-style that Anderson seems to truly love and utilize more often than not, which is that he loves it when two opposing-sides/personalities, come together and clash head-on. Not only does he love writing us vibrant, lovable and colorful characters that are quite hard to forget, he also loves seeing them when they are at their lowest, or highest, in self-esteem. Because, honestly, whenever anybody is upset by anything, their anger usually gets the best of them and they show ugly-sides to them that they don’t ever want anybody to see. Anderson loves this about his characters and it shows that he loves to give his characters some depth, but also make us realize that they are actually people we’re dealing with here, faults and all, baby.

That’s why when watching a character like Max Fischer, you can’t help but feel like Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and exactly whom it was that he was doing it with. I definitely bet that back in ’97 or whenever this flick was made, that Anderson took a real bold step with choosing relative-unknown Jason Schwartzman for this lead role as Max Fischer, but it was a gamble that paid-off big time as not only did it make Schwartzman a bigger-name, but gave us such an iconic character in the form of Max Fischer – the character I think every teen, male or female, should shape a small part of their lives around, for better, and especially for worse.

See, what makes Max Fischer so interesting as a character is that you don’t necessarily know how to pin him down; he’s kind of cool, in a real nerdy, preppy-way, but he’s also kind of a jerk that steps over people’s feet, just to get by in the world and make himself better. However, on the other hand, he’s also really smart and despite being quite naive about the possibility of having this much-older woman be his special, one and only someone, there’s a part of him you can definitely see knows exactly what it is that he wants to do with life, and how he’s prepared to get by in the world. He’s got the look and body of a 15-year-old kid, but the mind of a 40-year-old, been-there-done-that kind of guy. He’s a little bit cool; a little bit nerdy; a little hopeless; a little bit selfish; a little bit arrogant; and a little bit too ambitious. However, the fact remains is that he is human, and more important: He’s a 15-year-old high school student that’s just trying to understand his life, one embarrassing situation at a time.

But as much as I could harp on and on about how rad and well-written Fischer is, the fact remains that Jason Schwartzman does a very awesome job with this role, nailing all the deadpan delivery Anderson needed to have this character feel a bit more raw, without ever trying to be too real. When he raises his middle-finger up to those who look down on him, you can’t help but want to get up and join him; when he tries to kiss Ms. Cross and gets denied, you can’t help but want to give him a hug and go get some ice cream with him; and most of all, when he’s trying to impress those around him and do cool things, you can’t help but want to join in on the fun, because he’s just that awesome to be around.

Bill Murray, being Bill Murray. What else could ya ask for?

Bill Murray, being Bill Murray. What else could ya ask for?

So yeah, kids, if you need a role model in your life, look no further than Max Fischer. The kid’s got all of the answers. Or, at least some of them.

The one person you don’t want to have as a role model is probably who Bill Murray plays here, Herman Blume. By now, each and everyone of us know that Murray is a Jack-of-all-trades; not only can he be hilariously off-kilter and goofy, but he can also dial-it-back and be subdued, giving us a very humane, down-to-Earth person that we may have never thought was there in the first place. But back in ’98, before Wes Anderson came around, he was sort of just known to us as Bill Murray, a guy who can be, and is, downright hilarious. Here though, Murray finally got a chance to show everybody that he could actually act, and by doing so, he gave us a very sad, very emotional look at a guy who is just depressed with life. Herman Blume not only hates his kids, but he hates his wife, his job, his salary and even hates rich people, despite being one of them. That’s why when you see him absolutely light-up whenever Max is around, it’s sweet to see since you know that this is a down-and-out guy, finally finding someone he can connect with and be around, and not actually hate.

So when the two actually do start fighting over this gal, it’s amusing to watch, in a funny way, but also a bit sad since you know they are friends, and they are hurting one another’s feelings. But it’s all for a good cause, right? Well, I’d say so, because Ms. Cross is a catch for any guy that’s able to nab her down, thanks mostly to Olivia Williams perfectly-nuanced performance. She’s pretty, British, charming and pretty easy-going, but we do know that there’s a huge path of sadness just brewing all beneath her, and it makes you wonder if either of these guys deserve to be with her, or if she should just give up on dating alone and live the rest of her life in solitude and sadness. Doesn’t sound too ideal, but I guess when you have two wild cards like Herman Blume and Max Fischer fighting over you, then I guess it’s the only possible solution really.

Consensus: Wry, snappy and chock-full of angst, Rushmore finds Wes Anderson at his meanest, yet, still finds a way to give us characters that we can not only love, but identify with, making their adventures together all the more rewarding by the end.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

What a smug a-hole. But damn is he cool or what?!?!

What a smug a-hole. But damn is he cool or what?!?!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Bottle Rocket (1996)

Reminds me of the days that me and my buddies used to day-dream about robbing places. Then never would.

After a nervous breakdown, Anthony (Luke Wilson) “escapes” from a mental hospital and begins to hang with his best friend Dignan (Owen Wilson). They have a healthy relationship that has them planning for the future, however, they’re a bit of an odd-couple where Anthony is nice, sweet, and calmed-down, whereas Dignan is more crazy, daring, energetic, and always willing to pull of something dangerous. You know, like robbing a bookstore, which he and Anthony both do, before settling down in an hotel, out in the middle of nowhere. However, both run into the problem where one falls in love with the hotel maid, and the other just wants to find a way to get more money, and pull off more jobs, just so that he can fully live by his expectations he has set for living in the 21st Century. A lot easier said then done, however, especially when you have two different ego’s facing-off against one another.

This is one of those movies that I am, yes, reviewing again, but I feel like Bottle Rocket was in much need of a re-watch for a long while. Not only have I gotten a firmer grasp on what works in movies, and what doesn’t, but I’ve gotten way more used to Wes Anderson’s sense of style and why so many people love the hell out of it (mainly white people). And thank the heavens I did, because not only did I realize what a loser I was back in the day for giving this a “Rental“, but how much a boob I was for not even really paying attention to it because it wasn’t “like The Royal Tenebaums“.

Look at him! He practically wants to take a swan-dive right out of that car!

Look at him! He practically wants to swan-dive right out that car!

Obviously, nothing is! Jesus, I was such a dick back in those days.

Anyway, nothing here really separates this movie from the rest of Anderson’s catalog; the colors still pop-out at you with their quirkiness, the human-tension between characters is obviously felt, and the folky, ironic soundtrack cues up just about every five seconds Anderson gets tired of silence (and there’s also a choice track by the Rolling Stones in here as well, but did I even need to say that?). So yeah, nothing really different here that you haven’t seen Anderson do or explore before, and it surely won’t change your mind on what you think of him as a director. But it’s sort of a novelty watch considering that this was his first flick, his first shot at the big-times, since all of the stuff that he does here that would soon become trademarks of his, were so fresh and vibrant during this time. Also, he added a lot of snippy, snappy writing to create an original-spin on the heist genre; although, I do feel like a bit of a moron for referring to this as something in the “heist genre”, because it really isn’t.

Yeah, there are a couple of robberies done in the span of this movie’s run-time, but they’re more or less pushed to the back-burner, so that character-development and human-interaction can take center-stage and give us a reason to care, which is exactly what happens in this movie. There aren’t any “father-son issues” to be seen here like there are with most of Anderson’s work, but the characters are still interesting enough to pay attention to, especially because they seem like normal people. Sure, they have their quirks and their personalities that may be a little rambunctious, but I never really threw out a character here as being “over-the-top” or “too zany” for me to take in for all that they are. They’re colorful, that’s for sure, but they do have living, breathing pulses underneath their image, and I think that’s where Anderson’s skill in his screenplays shine the most. Not by how funny or unlikable he make his characters be, but just by who they are, and showing that with no strings attached.

That said, it sure as hell isn’t the guy’s best work, but coming from a first-time director, I didn’t expect that. Hell, the first time watching this, I didn’t expect anything except what some consider “his masterpiece”. That was my fault then, but now, I almost feel like I actually get what Anderson is all about and I see why he makes certain decisions in terms of writing and direction, that he does. Every scene has a reasoning for being in this movie, whether it be to build character, suspense, or full knowledge of what type of world we’re placed in, and it all works well. It’s not perfect, and you can definitely tell that some of Anderson’s low-budget problems do come into play and become very noticeable around the middle-act where we spend almost too much time at the hotel, but it’s nevertheless worth paying attention to, if not to just laugh, but to be a bit touched by as well.

And that’s exactly where Anderson’s characters come into this discussion. Though the cast is small and sparse, given the material, everybody does what they can with it and makes it all the more interesting and entertaining to watch. Luke Wilson has always been my favorite Wilson brother, mainly because he has that everyday, get-to-know-me-guy type of charm that works on me, as well as it probably works on the ladies he meets. There’s just something sweet and endearing about the way he handles himself and talks to the people around him, even if those said people around him are total dicks and don’t quite know it just yet.

Nice to see the jumpsuits still hold some relevance today in pop-culture. Obvious connection, I know.

Nice to see the jumpsuits still hold some relevance today in pop-culture. Obvious connection, I know.

The perfect example of one of those people is Owen Wilson as Dignan, the type of friend nobody wants to have, but sadly do. Owen Wilson hasn’t really been showing us much of himself that’s worth loving and caring about, but he’s very good here as Dignan because he acts like a total nut, yet also gets to the bottom of this character, making him more and more endearing in the process. Dignan always senses there is a time for adventure, even when there isn’t one. He tries to get a hair-cut because he feels like he needs to “lay low” after his robbery, and he takes almost any dire situation, to the utmost sincerity, almost to where you wonder if this guy’s joking around or not. Problem is, he never is joking around and always seems like he’s ready to jump-off a building at any given second.

Dignan’s the type of wired-up dude that nobody wants to be around, but we sadly can’t get away from, and Wilson plays him to perfection, not by being funny and dead-panning his ass off, but because he’s able to let us care for the dude, even when he’s obviously not-knowing of his own stupidity. We all know that he means well, and in a way, can’t help but root him on when the going actually does get going, and he needs to man up. The climactic scene where he does finally nut up and shut up, is probably the most memorable and fun, because we too, feel the same type of adventure and fun that Dignan longs for; the only scary part is that it’s real this time, and it could end very badly for him. Good start for Owen though. Wish he took more roles such as this, and actually challenged himself for once, rather than just hanging out with the same damn crew, each and every movie.

Also, nice cameo from James Caan. Can’t get enough of them in this lifetime, so might as well take advantage of them while you still can.

Consensus: While it’s nowhere near being Wes Anderson’s best piece of work, Bottle Rocket is still an effective flick for him to get his start with because it’s heartfelt, funny, a bit weird, a little quirky, and an all around entertaining watch, regardless of if you’re white or not. Mainly though, I’d suggest you be white, because us people, we love the hell out of Wes Anderson and his whimsy! Nearly as much as we love French movies with subtitles! That’s up for debate, though….

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh! The "grown-man-on-small-bike" gag! Never gets old!

Oh! The “grown-man-on-small-bike” gag! Never gets old!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Event Horizon (1997)

Maybe it’s not the aliens we should fear, but ourselves? Then again, maybe not. They’re freakin’ scary!

Smart, but slightly off-kilter astrologist Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) creates a ship called the “Event Horizon” which, for one reason or another, can create small, black gravity holes and do a whole bunch of other cool and fancy things. The first crew to go aboard the spaceship onto a mission for Neptune, somehow vanish into thin air. Nobody knows how, why or where – they just know that one day, everything went dead. This is when Weir decides that it may be his time to finally go and see what has happened to those crew-members, and most importantly, to his creation, but not without some much-needed, professional guidance first. Enter the spaceship called “Lewis & Clark”, commandeered by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the type of no-nonsense guy you’d expect to see on such a high-class mission such as this. And for awhile, everything seems to be going all perfect, that is until some of the crew-members begin to see some weird images, that may or may not be actually “real-life” or just plain and simple “hallucinations”. Nobody knows, and yet they are all experiencing them, even Weir himself, who may be getting even more sadistic images in his head than the others.

"....well then you better go catch it!!!"

“….well then you better go catch it!!!”

So yeah, I bet you can already get your pen and papers ready and try to chalk this one up to being, yet again, just another carbon-copy clone of all sci-fi, lost-in-space movies like Alien, 2001, or hell, even Lost in Space itself. And to be honest, if you were to do so, you wouldn’t be wrong; everything that you see here doesn’t have much originality to it in terms of what new technology it introduces, or what sort of logic about its premise and high-tech gadgets it may make us try and believe. But there is something to be said for a movie that doesn’t really try to go out there and re-invent the wheel, but instead, just tries to keep things small, contained, claustrophobic, and straight-up in-your-face, like any good B-movie, you know?

Especially if that B-movie just so happens to be directed by this guy.

Yep, before Paul W.S. Anderson started forcing us to notice and pay attention to how hot his wife is, the guy was another ambitious, inspired and up-and-coming film-maker that had a predilection for big, loud and extremely dumb sci-fi movies. You could argue that his taste-preference hasn’t quite changed since then, but you also could, considering that it seems like he definitely put some thought into these movies, rather than just making the same damn video-game adaptation, time and time again.

I mean seriously, how many times can we honestly see Milla Jovovich blow-off some zombie’s head, while barely-clothed!??!?

But I digress. Mainly what I am trying to get across here is that Anderson is a bit of a joke nowadays (especially being that he’s usually considered “the lesser director Paul Anderson”), but back then, when he was just getting started, the guy showed that he knew how to frame a story, make it tense, make it go all-over-the-place and most of all, make it fun. While this movie definitely starts-off a bit too plot-heavy, eventually Anderson himself decides to throw most of that out of the window and just allow us to feast our eyes on a bunch of characters just losing their cool and not knowing what to believe and take-in as “real”, or “make-believe”. And needless to say, Anderson frames this idea perfectly and actually has us in the mind-set of not knowing just what the hell to believe, or what to expect next. Always fun when you have a movie like, no matter how original its plot may, or may not be.

I guess the "hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche" could work for a movie that takes in space.

I guess the “hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche” could work for a movie that takes in space.

As you could expect too, the dialogue is, at times, horrendous. The fact that it’s being delivered by some talented, and relatively substantial names, definitely gives it an extra-push to where it’s not as grueling as it may have been with lesser-people involved, but so is not the case here. Laurence Fishburne is definitely the stand-out in this movie because it’s quite clear that he knows exactly what he signed-up for, and lets there be a couple of moments of light in his eyes, shine through whenever necessary. However though, most of the time, he just stone-faces this material, and oddly enough, makes it work because of how strict and uptight this character is. Same sort of goes for Sam Neill who is able to make any sci-fi mumbo-jumbo sound the least bit credible, even if it is abundantly clear, right from the get-go, that he’s definitely a bit of a weird guy who, I for one, would not trust around me for a single bit on Earth with, let alone flying millions and millions of miles into space.

Everybody else that shows up here is fine, too, but I don’t really want to stress any of them all that much because this isn’t really an “actor’s movie”. It’s less concerned with them, and more concerned with how it looks, feels and entertains us as movie-goers, and with that idea taken into mind, the movie does a mighty fine job at doing so. You can clearly tell that most of this movie’s budget went right into the look that Anderson packs with all sorts of 90′s-CGI, that is dated, but then again, it’s the 90′s, so what else could ya expect?!?! And also, any movie that’s as up-front about its numerous amounts of blood, gore and violence as this movie is, always deserves a free-pass from me, especially since it is quite rare to ever get a sci-fi extravaganza that’s rated-R. Maybe that’s why this movie bombed in the first place, but that’s not the point. The point is that while the movie definitely may not have had everybody clamoring at the knees to see it on opening-day weekend, it still seems to have gain a pretty loving, and devoted cult-following; the same one I guess you could consider myself apart of, even though I probably won’t be going to any special events for it anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter. I think a Netflix watch is just enough for me.

Consensus: You can’t wholly expect greatness from Paul W.S. Anderson, but with Event Horizon, you can at least expect him to deliver the goods on a not-so original story that’s fun, exciting and a tad unpredictable, especially once crap begins to hit the fan for everybody involved. Including yourself, the viewer.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

What has this Ryan dude got himself into now??!?!?

After saving his family and the Prime Minister of England from a slew of crazy Irishmen, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is now an assistant to the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence when all of a sudden, his longtime friend Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) is diagnosed with cancer. This is tragic news for both Greer and Ryan, but both know that a job has to be done, so that’s when Ryan decides to take over the job as the Deputy Director of Intelligence, where he is assigned his first assignment: Recover $650 million from the Colombian drug cartels that was left over there by one of the President’s good buddies. Ryan is more than willing to complete the task, but he finds out that there is more brewing beneath the surface than just some money being needed. Apparently, some of the President’s closest advisers are involved with these same said drug cartels and want to keep on continuing to make more money, while also getting rid of Ryan and his boy scout-ways. However, as we found out before, Ryan doesn’t go down easy and won’t back down from a challenge, no mater whom it may be coming from.

Patriot Games was no beauty, but it was at least a relatively small, inspired and taut thriller that worked well when it was showing off the mechanics of the technology that surrounds Ryan and his skills, rather than the fists he uses in fights. And compared to this movie, it was a hell of a lot shorter, clocking in at less than two-hours which, still felt long, but nowhere near as long as a near-two-and-a-half-hour movie like the one we have here, which makes this one feel like any other sequel out there: Overlong, over-exposed, over-stuffed, and worst of all, over-directed.

I wouldn't advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that's just me.

I wouldn’t advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that’s just me.

But while I do feel like director Phillip Noyce got his vision better this time with the action, there’s still a weird feeling with the story that didn’t quite keep me as interested here as it did with the last movie. For instance, the novelty of the first movie where it was just this one situation, with these handful of characters, felt like it was a smaller, more-intimate thriller, for lack of a better term. It made you feel as if you were right there in the moment, with these characters, figuring out what was going on, how they were going to solve it and whether or not they were all going to make it out alive. Problem is, that was when Jack Ryan was just a small-timer in the CIA, but now, he’s taking orders directly from the Big Man himself, which already means that the issues are going to be expanded and a whole lot more jumbled.

That’s why I can’t get too pissed at this movie for giving me a story that covers a larger map of where it goes and how, but I can be pissed off at the fact that it was just so damn convoluted. It seems like with any movie that concerns politics, there’s always got to be a slew of lies, deceptions and back-stabbings, which is exactly what we get here, however, there’s just so many that you lose count of who is screwing who over, and why. In fact, half of the people whose names were said, I couldn’t really match the faces with, all because the movie would focus on this one character for a couple minutes, have them leave and then, all of a sudden, let us know that that character was an important player in the rest of the proceedings we were about to be a witness of.

Think Miller’s Crossing’s Mink, but instead of one character played by Steve Buscemi, you have ten different ones, all played by people less charming and lovable as creepy blue eyes.

So, in essence, when the movie does begin to get closer and closer to its climax, it became to be such a chore for me to keep up with who was who, what they were doing, for what reasons and what the major ramifications of them were. That’s why I just gave up and decided to enjoy the action. Which, no surprise whatsoever, was a smart decision on my part because Noyce definitely got that part of the movie down perfectly. Not only does the action come at you at a full 100 mph, but it also feels very tense, as if the whole movie leading up to it was meant for just this one moment. They aren’t action scenes just thrown in there because they were needed, they feel like they enhance the story and keep it moving at a nice pace. That’s what I wish I saw more in my action movies, but I highly doubt I’ll get. So be it.

Tuco?

Tuco?

And, like usual, it’s always a joy to see Harrison Ford acting in a actioner, regardless of who he’s playing, and his second outing as Jack Ryan, shows that he never gets old as the character, even if he is getting a bit old himself. Once again, Ryan’s less of a bad-ass, and more of a smarty pants who knows what to do at any situation and, if he has to, will get his hands dirty. Ford definitely shows no signs of slowing down with this character, which is why I feel like he could have gone on and did ten more of these movies, and we’d still have a great time with him. However, like what seems to be the case for many major motion-picture franchises nowadays, Ben Affleck came, he saw, and he conquered. That Boston bastard.

The most disappointing aspect behind this flick is even while it does put all of this focus on all of these numerous subplots, characters and emotions, we never really get to see much of Anne Archer or Thora Birch as Ryan’s wife and daughter respectively. Makes sense since this movie is more about the government and its non-stop clusterfucks, and less about the family-dynamic inside the Ryan household, but still, a little bit more development would have been perfect. Especially since Archer, even with her shortened screen-time, shows that she’s still a cool wife that’s willing to take the fact that her hubby could die at any second, and she’d be the one to take over the fam-squad. God, that woman sure is a breath of fresh air that I so desperately need in my life. Tired of all these young bimbos. They don’t know shit about the 70′s like my girl Anne does.

Consensus: Like most mainstream sequels usually are, Clear and Present Danger is quite overblown, loud and excessive to the point of where it’s numbing, but still does feature some fun and exciting moments amongst all of the numerous subplots that are hard to keep track of, characters that we don’t care about and less-focus on the ones we do care about, meaning the rest of Ryan’s family, including the new baby boy!

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Jack's still got it. Oh, and so does Harry.

“Knew I should have taken the keys out.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Patriot Games (1992)

Those crazy Irishmen. You take away their Guinness and bodies start flyin’.

While he’s on vacation, having a rumpus-good time with his fam-squad, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) finds himself caught in the middle of an IRA attack in England, where he kills one person and subdues another (Sean Bean). Ryan used to be apart of the CIA, but is now spending his time to be with his family, teach military students about history, and just keep on living his life in the most relaxing way possible, and then all of this comes up to ruin everything that was so peaceful to begin with. Although he’s touted as a “hero” and a “savior” among the mass-media, some think otherwise. And by “some”, I mainly mean the one dude who got arrested, who wants to extract revenge on Ryan the most sinister way possible: By getting right to the man’s family. Ryan, as any man of the house would respond, doesn’t take so kindly to some crazy, vengeful Irishmen trying to stomp all over his family, so he goes back to the Agency and finds himself ready to hunt this man, and his accomplices down, in hopes that they’ll leave him and his family alone. Easier said, then done, I’m afraid to say, Jack. Easier said, then done.

The most interesting thing about most Tom Clancy film-adaptations is how little they focus on the new technology, and more on the characters that inhabit the story. It’s very interesting, although, very strange as well, considering most of Clancy’s focus more on the hi-rez technology of the agencies he’s writing about, rather than the actual agents themselves, who use the technology on a regular-basis. More or less, they’re just there as paint-thinner on the wall, meant to show you that there is substance to the story you’re reading, no matter how weightless it may be.

The owner of that car never washed it again after that. True fact.

The owner of that vehicle never washed it ever again after this. You can still practically see the cheeks.

That said, Clancy sure does love the character of Jack Ryan and come to think of it, so does Hollywood. Not only have they adapted the character of Jack Ryan numerous times for the big screen (five to be exact), but they’ve also never given up on the possibility that this character will eventually break it big with mainstream audiences, and become something of a more classier-version of someone like, say, Ethan Hunt or James Bond. Seems like a very hard obstacle for this character to hurdle over, but I think with the right time, right direction, and right leading star playing that role, then Jack Ryan may be the household name Hollywood has been wanting for the longest time since 1990.

Which is why even though it’s the only Jack Ryan adaptation out of the whole bunch to actually gets it own sequel, Patriot Games still feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to reach those same heights, even if the heights of Ethan Hunt weren’t found yet. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is fun, but it’s fun in the type of way that you only get with thrillers that take their time and focus on the smaller things in their plot, like clues, like hints, and hell, even like twists that come at you, and yet, still feel deserved. Rather than focusing on all of the blood, bullets, octane and expositions, director Philip Noyce keeps the movie’s tension focused in on the story, what could happen next, why and by whom will be affected. These are the types of thrillers that usually work wonders for me, and for the first half-hour or so, I was really on the edge of my seat, while still waiting in anticipation for the violence to really start coming out at me.

That’s why when the action did start coming out at me, in full-fledged form, I was a bit surprised how disappointed I was with it all. It didn’t disappointment in the way that it was light on all of the action I feel like the story needed to fully kick itself into high-gear; it was more that the non-stop, high-flying action made this whole movie feel somewhat disjointed when the rest of the movie before then is taken into consideration. So much time and focus is placed on the plot, and all of the little intricate details surrounding it, and then once that all goes out the window because some bullets go flying and machine guns start getting fired, it felt out-of-place, as if Noyce knew that he had Harrison Ford in the lead role, therefore, he needed somewhere to show him throwing people off of moving-objects. Which, all seriousness aside, is awesome because Ford’s the man and can make kicking anybody’s ass at his age seem believable, but after all of the slow pacing the movie went through, it seemed like a cheat at the end of it.

Guess what happens next to this character that Sean Bean is playing?

Guess what happens next to this character that Sean Bean is playing?

Then again, like I said, having Ford in this lead role is more than enough to compensate for the fact that this movie gets a little off its rocker by the end. Ford handles this role of Jack Ryan like a champ, giving us a mean bastard who knows when’s the right time to get vicious with somebody, how and for what reasons. He’s not the type of a-hole member of the CIA that we usually see in movies; in fact, he’s very different because of the fact that he actually left the agency to try and make something better for himself and his family. In that case, he’s your regular, loving father in America, just trying to do right and make everybody that surrounds him happy, even if that means killing some people in order to do so. Even then, you still feel like he could be your next neighbor; the type who holds a very deep and dark secret in his basement, somewhere underneath all the cardboard boxes used for moving.

And while Ford’s lighting up the screen, doing his “everyday man” act like no other, the supporting cast is doing a pretty fine job as well. Anne Archer shows, once again, why she’d be the coolest wife for any guy to get to go home to and continues to have dreamers like us just wishing, hoping and waiting for the day that someone like her walks on by; Samuel L. Jackson plays one of Ryan’s buddies, and gives us a rather nice, soft, sweet and cool role that’s even more enjoyable to watch now, considering this all came before the Sam Jackson we all know, and mostly, love in today’s world; Sean Beans plays the nutty Irishman out for revenge and goes a bit over-the-top, but then again, I feel like that’s what he was called on to do, so whatever; and James Earl Jones shows up as Ryan’s head-boss and scares the crap out of everybody around him, everytime he shows up. And that’s even before he starts opening his mouth!

Consensus: The last-act may get too action-y and crazy for what was before, a smarter, thoughtful thriller, but Patriot Games still proves to be a nice adaptation of the Jack Ryan character, mainly due to the fact that Harrison Ford can play a character like this in his sleep, without ever seeming like he is in fact sleeping.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

He'll take a bullet for his family anytime. Then again, if my wife was Anne Archer, you bet I sure as hell would too!

He’ll take a bullet for his family anytime. Then again, if my wife was Anne Archer, you bet I sure as hell would too!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

We hated the Russians so much, we just cast Scotsmen in their roles!

Soviet naval officer Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) is a pretty big deal, especially since he himself, along with the rest of his crew are aboard the submarine known as “Red October”. What makes this sub so special is that it’s able to move so silently throughout the ocean, without ever being detected by a fellow ship or submarine. It can practically get from point-A-to-point-B, without a single hiccup or interruption to be found in between, which is probably why the U.S. government freaks out so much when they have the slightest idea that Ramius, along with his ship and crew, may be heading for the States in hopes that they’ll blow-up Washington and send us a message we’ll be soon to never, ever forget. However, most members of the U.S. government have no clue who Ramius is, or the type of man he truly is; all of them, with the exception of one CIA agent Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin). See, Ryan believes a theory that Ramius isn’t actually coming to America to blow us up, but rather to escape his country in hopes that he can start anew and get away from all of the pain, hardships and suffering he’s witnessed over there in Russia. Problem is, Ryan’s going to have to do a lot of convincing, to a lot of people, and may have to do it all before the Russians themselves pick-up the pace with Ramius’ ship and get rid of him for betraying them.

"Brrr, baby. Itsch cold outshide."

“Brrr, baby. Itsch cold outshide.”

It seems like adapting a Tom Clancy novel can be a hard task to go through with, especially considering his books are so dense and rich with detail, jargon and exposition. That’s why most of these Jack Ryan movies that are made, usually try to center on the well-known CIA Agent-character himself, in hopes that they don’t have to put that much of an eye on the technology Clancy himself loves to chat about, but also piss-off those devout readers of his, just in case you have to change some things up in the process. But that’s not the department where director John McTiernan doesn’t screws up; in fact, from what I hear, he stayed pretty damn loyal to the source-material, which must have been very hard considering there’s all sorts of stuff going on here, and sometimes, all at once.

To start things off though, I have to be honest and tell you all like it is: The first 20 or so minutes of this are pretty hard to get into. Not only is the movie relatively slow as molasses, but there’s a lot of talking going on here that you don’t know what it’s all really about. I got that the movie itself was trying to set-up character’s, give us a bit of insight into them and have us locked and loaded for what was to be the premise for the rest of this movie, but oddly enough, I felt like I may have stumbled upon the middle-half of the movie, where we’ve already been introduced to everything it is that we need to know with this story, the characters and the central-conflict at hand. And I’ve already seen this before, so to have that problem occur once again, made me feel like I was surely making a mistake, one that I should have left as another “one and done” deal.

But, as I expected it to, things began to sort themselves out and this is where McTiernan’s skills as a director come into play, as he’s somehow able to rack-up tension, just by throwing little bits and pieces of information at us. When a couple of people are speaking about what options they have next on the table for themselves, I couldn’t help but feel riveted and wonder what conclusion all of these peeps were going to come to. Most of the time, hell, I didn’t even know what they were talking about, or even how they gained all of that information in the first place, but I trusted McTiernan enough as a director to where I knew that wouldn’t bother me and I’d just have to pay attention a bit more.

That’s why “paying attention” is exactly what you’re going to have to do with this one, because the more you figure stuff-out, sometimes along with the characters in this film themselves, the more the tension amps-up and absolutely sucks you in. Submarine-thrillers seem to always do the trick for me nowadays, but this one really got to me as I could practically taste the sweat dripping off of each and every one of these dude’s foreheads, feel the heat from the steam running all throughout the submarine itself and the constant clinging and clanging of the steel up against, whatever it was that it was constantly clinging and clanging against. I felt like I was right there, watching the ride, enjoying the show and in the middle of a dire situation that just seemed to get more and more suspenseful and unpredictable as it went along, even if I already knew what the outcome was going to be beforehand.

And that, my friends, is exactly when you know a thriller is doing its job, and doing its job correctly. God, I wish John McTiernan would get out of the clink, come back and continue to make movies. Because, I don’t know about you, but I think some people may need him around for another flick or two.

Just saying, legal system.

"Damn you, Charles. You sunk my battleship, once again!"

“Damn you, Charles. You sunk my battleship, once again!”

Another reason why this thriller works so well too, and in many ways, why it isn’t as dated as most movies from the year of 1990 are and/or ought to be, is because it doesn’t really take any political-stance on the Cold War itself. We see plenty of development on the sides of both the Americans, as well as the Russians, and while the former may get a tad better treatment than the latter, it still should be noted that the flick never makes it out to seem like these Ruskies are the types of soulless, blood-sucking nuke-nuts that the media may have portrayed them as. Sure, they went into the war with their weapons and heads held high, but they were also fighting for their families, friends and most importantly, their country. Hate to start sounding like a die-hard liberal over here, but it’s a nice change-of-pace to actually see from a movie for once in which we aren’t given a clear-cut, black-or-white situation with these two sides. We see them both as humane, for better and sometimes, for worse.

Acting as channels for both of those sides are the performances from Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, who both play on both sides of the coin, but also seem to understand one another as human-being, as well as tactical soldier. This is infamously Alec Baldwin’s one-and-done stint as Jack Ryan, and while I wouldn’t say he is amazing here, he certainly isn’t terrible neither. Actually, I’d just put it simple and state that Baldwin’s fine, and while I do think that, in recent time, we’ve seen him come-off a lot better as a supporting-player, much more than the star of the show, he still does a nice job as Jack Ryan, giving us a guy that has the brains to think his way into, and out of any particular situation, and even if he may not have the skills to succeed in a fight, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty a bit. Over the next couple of flicks, this element to the character of Jack Ryan would begin to change and evolve into a more “fuck yeah”, action-y type of character, but it still worked well for Baldwin nonetheless.

The one this movie really works wonders for is Sean Connery who, despite obviously trying to hide his thick Scottish-accent, really does give a certain heroic-pose and feel to Marko Ramius, even though he may definitely make some questionable decisions as Captain of the ship, here and there along the way. Still, through it all, Connery seems like the type of guy you’d be able to trust when he’s at the helm of all this, and be able to spit some inspiration into your hearts, even when he clearly knew the shit was about to hit the fan. However, there’s a reason for why he stays so calm and never clams-up throughout this deadly situation, and it’s one that humanizes him and makes us see that Connery can work with anything. Just throw him a script worthy of his talents and watch him spin the wheels. Gosh, I truly do miss him.

Consensus: May not be the quickest, most punchiest thriller you’ll ever see in your life, but it still stands, and stands in high-order that The Hunt for Red October is an exceptional thriller that gets down the meat of the situation, while never forgetting about making it fun, exciting and worth while for everybody involved, especially the audience sitting back at home and using their brains as hard as they can.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Old-school computer-programming must have been a hoot!

Old-school computer-programming must have been a hoot!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Now you probably wonder what your parents must have really been like before you came around.

Eight years ago, Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) was diagnosed with amnesia, not having any clue of where she was, how she got to where she was, who the father of her baby was, and/or just what her previous life had been life. Therefore, she chose to live on in the arms and comfort of a man, raise her child, become a suburban house-wife, and practically be all nice, kind, civilized and as pleasant as you maternally can get. However, the past that she originally knew nothing about, begins to resurface when she gets into an accident and, yet again, hits her head on the ground. This is when Samantha begins to gain flash-backs to old memories she had, as well as old tricks that she used to know begin to pop-up in everyday, normal activities that she’s been so accustomed to as of late. But now, her past has come back to get her and somehow, she finds herself stuck with a sad-sack detective named Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) on a run for their lives. Where are they going? It’s not quite known yet, but throughout this trip, Samantha’s act begins to wear thin and sooner than later, her old persona begins to come back up in surprising, sometimes even ugly ways; that “old persona” of hers is named Charly, and she’s one bad beotch.

Once the hair-color changes, ya'll best get the hell away.

Once the hair-color changes, ya’ll best get the hell away.

The whole joke surrounding this premise is that Geena Davis’ is an amnesiac that is learning things for the first time, just as we are, and it’s a joke that writer Shane Black runs rampant with. Sometimes more so than he should, but it’s always funny to watch and see how he brings out more about this character with her present, her past and why she’s the type of character we should watch and pay attention to. Black definitely doesn’t try to take this material too seriously, and for that matter, neither should we; both Charly and Samantha are such complete, total opposites, that it’s practically a joke in and of itself that they just so happen to be two personalities that one woman juggles around with.

But it’s a joke that never gets old and for that matter, neither does the movie itself. It’s always fun to watch one of these old-school, action-comedies that try to be all hip, cool and funny, just like as if they were another Lethal Weapon or Tarantino movie. However, while most of them did fail, this movie isn’t one of them as it definitely does play-around with the idea of an ridiculous amnesiac in the middle of all this corporate espionage, car crashes, murders, crime, twists, turns and so on and so forth. In some ways, the movie may actually throw a couple of shocks your way in terms of where the plot goes, but if you’re like me, you’ll lost interest in that part of the film real quick.

Rather instead, you’ll just pay attention to the action and the winning-humor Black throws has on-display here, considering that he’s one of the very few writers out that can turn a totally violent situation, filled with all sorts of death, blood, violence, gore and fear, and somehow find a way to make us chuckle at it, and look at it in a different light, all just by throwing in a wise-crack on the side. He also has that ability to over-do that style of his sometimes, as well, but I never found that to be the case here. In fact, I’d say that when the final-act was going on, I noticed that the laughs began to go away, just as soon as the plot itself began to get uber serious and the threat of death became more and more evident. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially considering that there are some very close-calls with this movie in which a character could bite the dust at any given second, but there was the rare occasion in which I just hoped that Black would throw in a little joke or remark here or there, just to lighten things up a bit.

I mean, hell, it’s a movie for god sakes! We want fun; we want action; we want heart; and most of all, we want some humor! Anything wrong with that!?!?

But like I was saying up-top earlier, the fact that Samantha is your quintessential, boring, settled-for-nothing and peaceful suburban mother, and Charly is tough, rugged, lean and mean, ass-kicking machine, is a total joke that shouldn’t be taken seriously, or even work. However though, not only does it work through Black’s script, but it also works through the way in which Geena Davis channels-on both personalities in some very unexpected, but entertaining ways. Davis has always been a radiant screen-presence on screen, so the fact that she’s this mother and wife, living in the winter-y suburbs of PA (woo-hoo) and is absolutely lovable and pleasant, is no surprise whatsoever. We’ve seen her do that act a million times and quite frankly, she owns it. If she continued to spend the rest of her career doing that, I don’t think anybody would cause a ruckus or even object to that.

Not smart, dude.

Not smart, dude.

But when the change comes around for Davis to start shaking things up a little bit, getting nasty and violent, it’s kind of shocking really. Sure, we’ve seen Davis play a bit of a meanie-wad before in movies, but here, she really goes for full-throttle with this role. She yells, curses, smokes, drinks, screws anybody she wants, lies, cheats, steals and will kill anybody if she so damn well pleases. If it weren’t for all of the cursing and smoking, you would have maybe been able to call her “the female Bond”, but nope, this is Charly, and she’s one gal you do not want to be on the opposite-end of a battle with. Which is strange considering that this is Geena Davis I’m still talking about here, the wholesome, loving and kind woman we always love to see show up in movies; but here, she’s a pretty bad-ass chick that can do anything she wants, no questions asked and it’s fun to watch Davis do this kind of role. It’s sort of a shame we don’t get to see her do much nowadays at all, but seeing her branch-out a bit and show her nasty side, really made you think about the type of leading-lady she actually was, and one that I wish showed her face around more.

Come back, Geena! Please! If not for me, then for all us Thelma & Louise fans out there!

As much fun as Davis may be to watch her play-around with the image we usually see her get stuck with, Samuel L. Jackson ain’t no slouch either. In fact, he actually has some wonderful moments too, playing the type of character we don’t usually see him try-out; the scared, rather wimp-ish type-of-guy that would more than likely give away his wallet and keep his trap shut during a robbery. And yes, that was a Pulp Fiction reference! Anyway, it was fun to watch Jackson here as he gives us a character that’s a bit of a coward when it comes to getting his hands dirty and taking chances, but when he actually does step-up to the plate and risk life-for-limb, you kind of have to give it to him. That, and also the fact that Jackson’s pretty dumb funny with him, giving some of the movie’s best lines, most of which can be found whenever he and Davis are on-screen together, working off of the other. Strange how you wouldn’t think, not even in a million years that these two would work wonders together, but somehow, they do and it’s what makes this movie just a tad bit better and easier to consume.

Consensus: Won’t be the most memorable action-comedy you’ve ever seen, but for nearly two-hours, The Long Kiss Goodnight will be well-worth your time with a funny script, a playful-feel from both Shane Black and Renny Harlin and two likable performances from both Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson, who are trying out new things you may not have seen them do yet before, yet they totally succeed at.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Bitch! You best watch where you pointing that thing!!!"

“Bitch! You best watch where you pointing that thing!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Four Rooms (1995)

People will do anything for a tip.

It’s the first day on the job for Ted the bellhop (Tim Roth), and from what it seems like, it won’t be a very pleasant one. Early on, he gets told the ins, the outs, the what to do’s, and the what not to do’s on the job by an aging, supposed retiring bellman that gives him an idea of what he should expect taking people’s luggage up to their room, answering their phone calls and the most important of all, waiting on them for a tip. So with this all out of the way, Ted gets ready for one of the biggest and most hectic nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. And what do you know it? Ted’s night ends up being an eventful one, albeit one that he finds his life threatened on more than a few occasions. But it’s all in the good name of a sizable tip, right?

Like with most anthology films, the idea here seems smart and somewhat nifty: Get at least four low-key, up-and-coming indie film-makers, give them a budget and give them free reign to basically just strut their stuff for no less than 20 minutes each, slap the Miramax logo on it, and release it to the mass-audience. Seemed like a really promising idea that could have worked wonders for all of the film-makers involved, but somehow, it more or less just ended up killing two promising careers, while just injuring two others.

Take a wild guess as to whose career’s were killed, and which ones were just injured for a short while. Not that hard I guess, but let me just tell you through my usual-way of reviewing anthology films; taking it one-by-one, segment-by-segment. Shall we?

Random twitching example #2.

Random twitching example #2.

1. The Missing Ingredient – This is the one that starts it all off, and that’s not a good thing at all. In short, this segment is easily the worst. It made me feel like I made a huge mistake actually even bothering with this movie. Director Allison Anders gives us a cool idea in which a coven of witches who need male sperm to complete their ritual and just so happened to choose Ted as he comes stumbling on in. While the ground-work was there for this to be not just hilarious, but all sorts of weird and cooky, in a fun-way, Anders doesn’t even bother going anywhere with this. Sure, for horny dudes, there is plenty of hot boobage to be seen, but for anybody who wants a little bit of craziness mixed with their covens, will be most likely disappointed as Anders seemed to really drop the ball with this, and not know what’s considered “funny”, and what’s considered “boring.” Easily the worst out of the four, but it’s not like the next one is a peach neither.

2. The Wrong Man – Things seem to get a bit better with this segment, however, not by much. Director Alexandre Rockwell keeps things small and subdued, but not anywhere near being considered “sweet”, as this whole segment just meanders endlessly, without ever really moving outside of the actual hotel room it’s placed in. The whole story is in which a married-couple (Jennifer Beals and David Proval) basically plays this little sex-game where he pretends that she’s been screwing around him and picks out whatever poor fellow just so happens to stroll through that door, interrogate him, wave a gun in front of his face, take his pills, and basically, just scare the shorts off of him. There are moments in this segment where the wheels seemed to be turning and there seemed to be some moments of promise, but once the segment is all said and done with, I couldn’t help but feel like it went on a bit long. Especially once Beals’ character just started yelling out any term for the word “penis” she could think of right away. Sure, it made me laugh (probably my first one), but it was only because it was a random moment of creative spontaneity that the first segment didn’t seem to have.

Thankfully though, it does get better from here and begins to feel like something worth watching, rather than the first two awful-pieces.

3. The Misbehavers – Antonio Banderas plays a tough and sinister father-of-two that wants to take his wife on a night out on the town, in hopes of getting laid and therefore, igniting the spark in their marriage that probably sizzled-out once kids came along and screwed everything up. But, knowing that these same kids can’t come out with them, he decides to intimidate Ted intoi watching over them, and making sure that they “don’t misbehave”. It seems easy, and with the price for this little mission being $500, it seems even easier. However, with these two kids, nothing is quite as easy as it seems and eventually, the room itself starts to smell and once that happens, all hell breaks loose. So yeah, the plot-line for this segment is dumb, but with Robert Rodriguez behind-the-wheel, it’s anything but. Actually, that’s not true. It is still dumb, but in a “fun” way in which one can only associate with Rodriguez and his style of film-making. It starts off simple and small, but as time goes on, and Rodriguez really gets the brain working, you can see just how much havoc he can throw on top of the other and once all is said and done and we get the final-line of this segment, you know that, if anything, the whole movie was it at least worth it for just this whole time-span of 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if the last segment blows, all we know is that this is the segment people should be wanting to see and talk about.

When you do have a movie in which "the chick from Say Anything" gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something "to watch".

When you do have a movie in which “the chick from Say Anything” gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something “to watch”.

But of course, the last segment is done by none other than Quentin Tarantino himself and, as we all know, the guy has a bit of a thing for stealing the spotlight of movies, and his segment here is no different.

4. The Man from Hollywood – The plot-line is simple: Ted stumbles upon a bunch of fast-cat, Hollywood big-shots (Bruce Willis being among them), who con him into doing something for a hefty price, as idiotic as the act may be. Oh, and there’s a bet involved somehow, someway. Basically, being that this is a Tarantino-segment, you can expect a lot of witty lines that involved pop-culture, violence, sex and a bunch of other talk that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from actual human-beings who grace us with their presence on the same planet we call Earth. That said, considering the rest of the film that came before this, it’s a blast to watch, keeps you interested, laughing, a bit tense and overall, entertained as if Tarantino was the one they really were leaning on for this to work and that’s exactly what they got. In hindsight, it’s not the best thing that Tarantino has ever done or touched (especially when also speaking of his acting), but when you place his segment against the three others, his definitely comes out on-top and a reason to see this whole film. Although you do have to get through two shitty segments, and one pretty good one.

And through all of these segments, there’s none other than Tim Roth himself acting his ass off through them, which is not a good thing. For some odd reason or another, Roth is given the order to carry-out this overly-used, spastic-twitch of his that carries on throughout most of his segments in which he stammers and bumbles more than Hugh Grant on a bad day. It gets old real quick and just becomes random, as if there was no other reason to make this character interesting than to just have him do and say all of these odd things. Roth tries, but he can’t help but suffer due to doing whatever it was that he was told. However, when he’s told to dial it down a notch and just let the segments for speak themselves, is usually when he’s at his most watchable, as well as the same could be said for the movie itself. And mostly, this occurs during the last two segments. Strange how things work themselves out, right?

Consensus: If you counter in the fact that only two of the four segments in Four Rooms work, then I guess you could consider this “watchable” in the least bit. But, then again, if you want to save yourself some precious time, effort and/or money, then just watch the last two segments somewhere on YouTube. I’m sure you’ll be able to find them somewhere.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Talk about a party I'd like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don't do anything I wouldn't do! Woo hoo!

Talk about a party I’d like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! Woo hoo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

The Frighteners (1996)

Marty McFly, Ghost Whisperer.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) isn’t the most moral man around, but he gets by with what he can; which is showing up to funerals of the recently-deceased and throwing his business cards around, in which he goes under the title “paranormal expert”. Some believe it’s phony bologna, others like Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), believe he really can speak and reason with the dead. And they aren’t incorrect in their thinking either, it’s just that maybe they don’t quite know how much Frank does in fact talk to these ghosts. In fact, he talks to them all the time and even has a scam-plan running with them where he’ll tell the ghosts where to go and whom to spook, so that he can get a call, show up and practically save the day, all for a healthy price, of course. So yeah, he may be a bit of a scam-artist, but he’s making a living at doing it and nobody knows how he is, so there’s no problem with that a single bit. That is until the Grim Reaper shows up and tries to put all of Frank’s, as well as his fellow ghouls’ shenanigans to a much-needed, much long rest. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m talking about death. He’s going to get rid of them forever.

Since Peter Jackson was making his name pretty well-known during the early 90′s in his native New Zealand, it only makes sense that eventually Hollywood would catch on, give him a call and see what they can do about making him a bigger name in their neck of the woods. Just ask any foreign director who made their names known with a big hit on their shoulders, and they’ll practically tell you that Hollywood has a knack for doing this, and the results usually aren’t pretty. Sometimes they can be, but other times, they don’t quite work out as well as maybe the Hollywood producers had originally planned on.

"HERE'S MIKEY!!"

“HERE’S MIKEY!!”

This is one of those cases.

Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t like Peter Jackson’s inspired vision was ever lost in the process of this movie being made, edited and marketed to a wider audience. In fact, I’d probably wager that that’s where the main problems for this movie arises in that he couldn’t quite make up his mind as to whom he wanted to appeal to, other than just his usual band of misfits who loved all of his movies before his big break in Hollywood. That’s why there’s a slight problem with this movie and it’s tone; it never quite knows whether it wants to be a dark comedy about death, the after-life and the effect it has on those who are alive, or a slap-stick, full-blown comedy about a bunch of silly willy ghosts that like to do crazy things, even if they are just souls floating throughout the atmosphere. Jackson never quite finds that balance either, and it becomes painfully clear that this flick would have definitely benefited from that.

Then again though, I have to give Jackson still a bunch of credit for at least sticking to his vision, and making this something of his own natural beast. Every moment of horror, sprinkled with just a dash of humor, feels exactly like something you’d get from a Jackson movie, even if there aren’t loads and loads of blood or gore thrown all over the place. It’s weird that even though this is an R-rated movie, that there wasn’t as many ketchup packets to be seen here. It’s not like there were too many moments arouse that needed a nice helping of some red paint, but it wasn’t like the movie was necessarily supposed to be tame or anything. But still, Jackson gets past this and does give us a reasonably fun and light horror flick, that’s probably more about the thrills, than the chills.

However, those chills and thrills begin to somehow go away by the end, and the movie seems to get bland. Suddenly, Banister’s back-story comes to light and while it surely was interesting to see who he really was before all of these crazy ghosts came into his life, it still brought down the speed and fun of the first-half. It seemed like Jackson wanted to bring some depth and emotion into this story, which would have gone a real long way, had the movie not been so light on its feet in the first place. Because the movie was so wacky and wild for the first hour, once it gets deep into dark themes like death and the people who succumb to it, it feels strange and out-of-place, as if Jackson had intended for this to be apart of a whole other movie entirely. Instead, he just got stuck with a goofy movie starring Michael J. Fox and all of the ghosts he hangs out with, one that’s even an old Western cowboy who humps a statue. Yup, it gets that silly, which I was fine with, but once again, gets lost in the shuffle of an overly-serious last-act. One that also takes a cop-out ending, which really bummed me out more than anything else here.

My grandmom's wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

My grandmom’s wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

Speaking of the Fox, the guy does pretty well as Frank Bannister, giving us his usual wise guy, up-to-no-good persona we usually see from him. He always has some wise-crack to say in passing and seems like a pretty good guy, underneath all of the conning, lying and money-grubbing. Even when the movie does get a bit serious and dive right into Bannister’s life, it works for a short while because we know there’s more to this character and we know that he ain’t so bad of a dude, he just needs to stop messing with people’s minds and their wallets. Then again, the same could be said for those a-holes on Wall Street, and we all know that there’s nothing more to them!

Trini Alvarado, despite being quite the cutie, is rather bland as the supposed love-interest/admirer of Bannister’s and is okay with what she has to do, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. She’s just another pretty-face, that just so happens to fall for the strange guy on the outside. If only those types of chicks were real, then I wouldn’t have to worry about going to the clubs every night, on the prowl and looking for wife-to-be #3.

Consensus: You can definitely spot where and when Jackson’s creativity and original vision of this story comes into play, however, you can also see where and when the movie begins to lose its punch and energy, making the Frighteners seem like something more of an uneven affair.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Dead Alive (1992)

Or Braindead. Whatever you want to call it, there’s still plenty of blood-flavored corn syrup to be found.

In 1950′s New Zealand, village nerd Lionel (Timothy Balme) tries to keep his romance with local bag-lady at the supermarket, Paquita (Diana Penalver), up and running. However, the only real factor getting in the way of that all is his constantly nagging mother (Elizabeth Moody), who never seems to want him to leave her alone, or stray away from her and fall in love with somebody else. It would be sort of sad and sweet in a way, but she’s such a beotch that Lionel can’t help but wish she was dead. Well, eventually, good ol’ Lionel gets his wish to come true when all of a sudden, his mum is bitten by a virus-infected Sumatran Rat Monkey. Slowly but surely, before Lionel knows it, his mom has dies but is still alive in the way that she’s a zombie, running around, biting, feeding off of and infecting others as she goes on her merry way. Eventually, she starts to infect too many people to where Lionel has to keep them all locked up in his basement so that the infection won’t spread and kill almost every person in town. But one night, against Lionel’s wishes, a party is thrown at his huge pad which leaves the basement unattended to at times, therefore, also leaving there plenty of time and space for these infested-zombies to start having themselves a little feeding time!

OOOOOH!!

OOOOOH!!

While it has been said many times before that Peter Jackson is definitely the only type of person that can direct the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies the way they need to be directed, I still wonder how that decision or that idea even, all came about in the first place. Most of the movies he made before the Tolkien adaptation, were just strange, slightly off-kilter horror movies (with the exception being Heavenly Creatures, which was somewhere in the middle) that didn’t tackle big spectacles of sword, sorcery and wizards. They were just odd movies, made from a pretty odd nerd who seemed to have a talent for making really crazy, but really fun horror movies, with this being the clear example of that statement.

Over the years, I’ve heard many people go on and on about this movie and I never gave it a shot because horror movies really aren’t my thing, nor is gore, which I heard this movie had a load of. But, much to my surprise, the movie still kicked my rear-end into high-gear because while it sure as hell was a horror flick, it wasn’t a very scary one, nor did it ever take itself too seriously. It’s a B-movie in every sense of the word and never stops being campy, over-the-top or just absolutely wacko with whatever it’s doing, and never for once settling for less. You rarely ever get that with B-movies nowadays to where you could get a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet doesn’t go to the full-max of its insane potential; but Jackson did not disappoint me here one bit. I mean lord, there’s even a scene where a dude beats the hell out of this zombie baby in a public park! If that doesn’t give you the idea of what to expect from this flick, then I have no clue what will! Anyway, I have to give Jackson loads of credit here because he kept everything quick, hilarious, crazy, unpredictable and best of all, campy, but done so in the right way.

Thanks, Pete. You da man!

And now, the gore. Yes, yes, yes. In case you haven’t been able to tell by now, or haven’t heard about this movie before, there is plenty of blood, gore and dismembered limbs to be found here and if that is not your thing, then get the ‘eff up out of here and go rent Steel Magnolias or something. But if those three elements all sound like a juicy good time to you, then you, my friend, should definitely get the hell out there, find your wallet, do whatever you have to do, and see this movie right away. Why? Because the insane amount of gore will utterly leave you flabbergasted, but don’t be alarmed, because it’s done in a sense that goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the directorial style.

Some moments in the flick, you’ll literally be laughing your arse off by how ridiculous everything is, and then the next second, you’ll be holding your stomach, just begging yourself not to barf all over the area in front of you. Case in point, try the dinner-table scene that occurs early on in the movie. Lionel’s mum is already infected, but she isn’t feeling the total side effects yet to the point of where she’s practically a walking corpse, but she’s sure as hell getting there. So, she spends this whole scene falling to itty, bitty pieces, while also somehow getting a small amount of her infected puss into some guy’s pudding. It’s literally the most disgusting thing you’ll see in the whole entire movie, and that’s really saying something. It’s one of the very rare times I’ve actually felt my insides curl up, but at the same time, still couldn’t keep myself from laughing to high heavens.

AAAH!!

AAAH!!

And that’s exactly what Jackson does here, and does well: He finds a balance. Many times throughout this flick, you can tell that Jackson wants to be goofy, and sometimes he wants to be serious. More times than not, he ends up coming off as just plain old cheesy, but that works well for the rest of the movie as it gives you the impression this guy knows what he’s doing the whole way through. Which is why once we get past all of the constant yammerings of the first-to-second acts, the movie kickstarts its heart, gives you all of the splattering gore, in-your-face and hilarious situations, right in front of your eyes. He also finds a way to continually find newer, cooler ways to show one of these zombies being hurt or killed, that keeps you on-edge the whole time, wondering just what Jackson is going to pull out of his pockets next. Usually, it’s something inventive that we’ve never seen done before, and even if we have, it still doesn’t matter because it’s a whole bunch of fun to see regardless.

That’s why, no matter what gripes I may have had with the meandering first and second-act of this movie, the way in which Jackson absolutely goes balls to the walls in the last act, more than made up for those problems and continued to put a smile on my face. Why Jackson doesn’t do more comedies like such as these, is totally beyond me. Bloody hell, he’ll do a melodrama about a teenage girl being raped and killed, and the investigation surrounding it, but he won’t return to his roots, if only for one movie or so? Bollocks I say! Bollocks!

Though none of them are big names in today’s day and age, the cast still do their jobs here, and they do them well. What I mean by that is all they are called on to do here is just be wacky, act as if they are constantly high at all times and be able to take a bunch of ketchup being thrown on their faces. All of them succeed at what they have to do, especially Timothy Balme who is constantly hamming it up the whole time, but still gives us a guy we can get behind to kill all of these zombies, even if he is practically the sole reason they’ve become such a large army. Even then, the dude still feels like he’d be willing to pull a chainsaw out at any moment, and I’m totally cool with that. Just keep it away from me.

Consensus: As ridiculous, as crazy and as over-the-top as you are possibly ever going to get with a B-movie, but Jackson’s non-stop stamps of creativity and total pleasure that obviously went into Dead Alive, make it a fun time, if you’re not squeamish. If you are, then stay far, far away from this one, ya hear?

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

WTF?!?!?

WTF?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Barton Fink (1991)

Started the whole, “What’s in the box?” idea, way before “What’s in the box?” became a pop-culture sensation.

Barton Fink (John Turturro), an acclaimed playwright, is asked to come out all the way to Hollywood, despite his own, as well as his agent’s reservations toward that line of business. When Barton does get to Hollywood, not only does he go through an incredibly terrible case of writer’s block, but everything else around him seems to be falling apart and not making a single-lick of sense, either. But that’s why he has a good buddy, in fellow neighbor Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) to keep him company and most of all, keep him sane. Eventually though, Charlie’s word begins to crumble down, piece by piece, as well,  and Barton starts to realize that maybe Charlie isn’t exactly who he seems to be at all. Hell, he may not even be real.

People, people, people! It’s time for me to reveal to you all a deep and dark secret: I still don’t get this movie. I know, it’s been three years since the last time I actually sat-down and watched this movie, didn’t know what to make of it the first time, wrote a crappy review of it, posted it, advertised it and forgot all about it. However, three years later, something hit me in the head and made me realize that maybe now that I pay attention to movies a lot better and understand more, maybe, just maybe, this movie will have as huge of an effect on me as it seems to be having on every single-person who has ever watched?!!??! Ehh, then again, maybe not. But at least it tried and made me like it a lot more than last time.

Exactly how I feel when watching a Coen Brothers movie: Scared, worried, interested, but also left in the dark.

Exactly how I feel when watching a Coen Brothers movie: Scared, worried, interested, but also left in the dark.

The Coen Brothers have never really made it “their thing” to go out there, write movies and absolutely confuse the hell out of people with under-lining themes and symbolism. A lot of their material has twists and turns you don’t expect, and sometimes, feature shifts between genres, but they never have really pulled anything where it made me scratch my head. They are sort of straight-forward directors that tell straight-forward stories, yet, are very complex in their own right. This one is by far their most complex and I think that’s with good reason because the Coens have something to talk about and finally have the chance to be taken seriously.

And for the most part, being taken seriously is something they didn’t have to worry about being absent from their future because this movie definitely shows that these guys got something “going on” in terms of originality. The story starts off pretty simple, and then gets a bit weird, then weirder, and weirder, and weirder, until you have no idea what the hell is happening. But through it all, you can tell there are buckets of inspiration streaming out from the pores of the Coens, that just comes with them working their rumps off. You never know where this story is going to go with itself, or why, but that’s sort of a good thing because it added to the unpredictability of it all and made the ride through this guy’s wacky brain all the more entertaining and intriguing to be apart of. Never have nervous-breakdowns been so much fun to watch.

Now, aside from what the Coens do with this flick, I do have to say that there is some stuff here that I still don’t get, but also still don’t feel like I have to. It’s late right now as I’m typing this review and in all honesty, I’m probably going to go to bed after this, which really means I’m not going to get to read, each and every single line and detail of this movie on it’s Wikipedia page. I kid you not, you go on over to that link right there and just gaze at how freakin’ long that page is! Seriously, I mean, I thought I thought about this movie a bit too much, but hell, it seems like I didn’t think of enough because everybody else in the world was going bonkers over what the meaning was behind that mysterious mosquito.

I like films that make me think more than I’m expected to, I do, but this film seems like it has a bit too much going on with itself to the point of where not only did it lose me, but loses itself a tad as well. Let me get something straight, critics freakin’ love this movie and hail it as a masterpiece and I know exactly why: Filled with allusions to other works, symbolism out the wazoo, makes fun of Hollywood, all while focusing on about 3,000 different themes of the human-condition and themes of that era. That’s the sort of stuff that critics “get” and absolutely love (no offense to my fellow homeboys out there), and it’s no surprise that most of this film flew over my head, as well as most of the regular-viewing audience that was probably expecting the Coens to comeback with guns, twists, turns and a bit of bloodshed. Some of that does eventually happen, but in a more “intellectually sound” way, to be exact.

But being a “critical-darling” isn’t the best thing in the world to have, and that’s where it hit me that this film may have thrown out more than it could have held. The Coens definitely have a sharp-ear for dialogue that interests the hell out of you and visual-tricks that catch you off-guard, but this story and what it’s trying to say really takes away from all of the beauty here. I get that Hollywood blows and it’s very hard to get a script financed there because how everybody’s so tight and strict up there. Don’t worry, I got that part, more than a few times. However, right when I thought I wanted a new theme/idea for the Coens to bring up, I wanted to go back to the whole Hollywood-angle, mainly because the Coens started throwing all of these other ideas at the screen, seeing what would stick and what would fall without anybody noticing, since because they are, you know, THE Coen Brothers. Some characters will bring up the war, some will bring up homosexuality, some will bring up the common-man and others will just bring up drinking and having a good time and all seem like meaningless, small-talk, written by guys who know how to do it compellingly, but it just becomes a total cluster-fuck of ideas that are never drawn-out well-enough to fully have everybody’s attention and have us understanding everything, either. Then again, it’s always a refresher to get a movie that doesn’t always spell-out everything for ya and at least allows you to do some of the brain-work on your own time.

Usually, the sight of John Goodman walking towards me would make me smile with glee, but with the flames in the background: Eh, not so much. I'd just run.

Usually, the sight of John Goodman walking towards me would make me smile with glee, but with the flames in the background: Eh, not so much. I’d just run.

I just wish my brain didn’t hurt so much right now as we speak and while I type this. Ouch!

Even though he’s the guy that gets caught up in all of this craziness and rubble, John Turturro still comes out unscathed and does a magnificent job as Barton Fink, if not giving one of his best performances ever here. What makes Fink such an interesting character from the start, is that the guy is a bit of a weirdo, but he’s just like you or me: He’s talented at something so much, that he’s going to venture out and see if he can make a living in the big-leagues. I know everybody wants to do this and that’s what makes it so cool how Fink is just ready to get started right away as soon as he gets the call. Then, we start to sympathize with Fink as time goes on and things start to get weirder and weirder for him, but Turturro never loses that edge that makes us like the guy so much in the first place. Turturro is great here because he keeps this character worth watching, even when Fink himself may not make the best decisions. However, it’s just what makes him a person. Loved watching Turturro in this because the guy just continued to get crazier and crazier, but as he was, he was also getting more believable and sane, if you can believe that or not.

John Goodman plays the friendly-as-heaven neighbor of his, Charlie, and is just a ball to watch on-screen as you couldn’t have asked for a more lovable guy to play a lovable character. Goodman has this look and feel to him that just makes you feel at home whenever he shows up here, automatically making the flick better and liven things up with this story, as well as Barton himself. He and Barton have a nice friendship that starts off well and believable, and never loses that aspect as  the movie continues on. The way they talk, interact and make each other feel (not Brokeback Mountain-feeling, neither), without having to worry about all of their troubles out there in the real world, it all just felt real, despite all of the nuttiness surrounding it. They are just two dudes, who met one another and are now just hanging out whenever they can. It’s so fun to watch and it’s also definitely one of Goodman’s best performances, as well.

However, as much as Turturro and Goodman may be the two main stars here, they don’t steal the show. The real one who steals the show the most in this flick is Michael Lerner as Jack Lipnick, the head-honcho at Capitol Pictures. Lerner has three scenes that probably each last about five-minutes each, but he makes every single second count and is just so much fun to watch as he brings energy, bombast and creativity to a role that could have easily just been a bunch of “Hollywood sucks” cliches thrown right at the screen. Obviously Lerner left a big enough impression because the guy was nominated for an Oscar, but still, that doesn’t matter; because without him, this probably wouldn’t have been as smart or entertaining of a take on Hollywood than it already was. But, once again, trust me, it’s not Hollywood they just talk about here. Just check that Wikipedia page again if you’re at all interested and want to stop reading my rants and raves.

Consensus: No doubt about it, people will forever be scratching their heads and wondering just what the hell is up with Barton Fink, but you still can’t deny that it’s entertaining, interesting, original and a very well-acted piece of work that keeps your brain working the whole time, even if you do end on a bit of a question mark.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If only Jersey beaches were this calm, peaceful and poetic.

If only Jersey beaches were this calm, peaceful and poetic. Damn you, Wildwood!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Can we please bring the word “rumpus” back to the mainstream?

Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand-man of Leo (Albert Finney), the Irish kingpin of the 1930′s. Whatever Leo has to say, Tom helps him out with it, by any means possible, and vice versa. However, that partnership seems to go South once Tom starts sleeping with Leo’s dame (Marcia Gay Harden), and finds himself embedded with a new group of mobsters, this time, lead by the ruthless Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). Once the two gangs go head-to-head in a battle over territory, brawn, respect and money, Tom gets thrown right in the middle of all of it, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever.

I’m going to be honest with you all out there, this is not the first time I have ever seen this flick. No, actually far from. This right here marks my third time seeing this flick and now that I’ve not only grown older as a human-being, but as a movie-geek, I have finally come to terms with this movie’s awesomeness. Okay, maybe it’s not awesome but it comes pretty damn close, especially if you know how the Coens roll. And brother, do they roll with style!

What threw me off the first couple times upon seeing this movie was not knowing just what the hell I was getting myself into, and apparently, from reading what other peeps had to say about this flick as well, I wasn’t very far off. The Coens start this flick very traditionally where they barely give you any back-story, rarely lay down any groundwork for whom these characters are, what are their names, and/or just what the hell type of situation we have found them in. It gets even worse once you realize that everything and everybody they’re talking about, are things or people that we have never met or have yet to see, and probably will never see or meet. And lord almighty, this is about 30 minutes into the damn movie already! So therefore, upon being twisted and turned every which way but loose, you can already assume that this movie doesn’t start off on the right foot, that is, if you don’t know what to expect. However, being my third time upon seeing this, as I said before, I realized what I was getting myself into and found myself a whole lot more intrigued by everything and everyone in this movie. That’s all thanks to the Coens and everything they are able to do as writers and directors.

Typical Irishman: always rolling-up the sleeves.

Typical Irishman: Always rolling-up the sleeves.

The Coens, as we all know, have a certain sense of style that they abide by and if you aren’t down for it, then you might as well just get the hell out! However, if you are down for it, then get ready for a wild ride with this one! This movie is chock-full of witty one-liners that never get old, are always hilarious, witty, and are spoken at a mile-a-minute that you may just have to put the subtitles on, just so you can see what the hell it is these peeps are all talking about. But no matter how talky or goofy this movie can get, it’s always interesting and very enjoyable to watch, especially when you don’t really know exactly where this flick could go, at any which second. That’s what we have all come to know, hail and praise coming from the Coens and this movie and their craft-work here is no slight exception. It’s painted in Coen blood, from start-to-finish. And if you don’t like that, then take the high road, Jack.

That’s my attempt at trying to sound like one of these gangsters. But I’ll stop now.

The plot does get a little over-zealous at times and yet, I still have no idea just how the hell everything went down in the end, but that’s the fun with these types of movies, especially when they’re done by the Coens. There’s always something new or cool to pick out from the haystack here and whether or not it all adds up to the bigger picture, is solely on you and how much you pay attention. Does that mean that this flick doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme things? Of course not! Heck, I’d probably say that the movie makes more sense, but to me, some things just didn’t add up to their fullest extent. I don’t know if that’s the Coen’s, me, or just something about with the cosmos in the sky; but either way, something didn’t mesh as well as I had planned, but I still remained thrilled and constantly entertained by this movie, even if I did have to do a little head-scratching at times.

That’s when you know that you have masters at-work here, when you can get a flick that’s all about being crazy, loopy, and wild with where it wants to go and how, but yet, rarely ever seems to make sense, and still have it work. These guys are geniuses at making movies like this because no matter how many times you may scratch your head or have to press “the rewind button”, you always know that you’re in for a treat when it’s the Coens at play, and that’s always a joy to watch. I don’t care who you are in the world, watching the Coens have an absolute ball with fun material is fine entertainment for me. Whether or not that’s your type of cake, is fine with you. But it’s all me, baby, and that is what I like.

You my boys, Joel and Ethan. You my boys.

Let me also not forget to mention the amazing cast that’s on display here, that keep up with the Coens, every step of their goofy ways. Gabriel Byrne has never really lit-up the screen for me as an actor, but here, he’s pretty damn solid as Tom Regan, the type of guy you wouldn’t expect in a movie like this, yet, totally works. It’s sort a strange predicament that this guy is in because he’s always smart, lippy, and a step ahead of the curve, but yet, somehow always finds himself getting his ass kicked, a couple of black-eyes to show off and his head in his hands. It’s strange to see a type of guy like this that’s so intelligent and so on-the-top of his game, get stumped almost every step of the way, but not only do the Coens pull it off with no remorse, but Byrne does so as well. Byrne’s very good here and shows that you can give a character a minor ounce of heart, even if he goes on with the same smirk and remarks the whole time. Also, the guy’s gotta pretty kick-ass Irish accent that I’m pretty sure isn’t even a put-on. Irishmen unite!

Somebody get this man a towel.

Somebody get this man a towel.

Another fella who almost (ALMOST) does a better Irish accent is Albert Finney as Leo, Tom’s boss/buddy. Finney is great as Leo because he’s got the brass, he’s got the old-time appeal, and he’s also got enough stew in his bowl to where he can knock somebody’s teeth out and shoot some mofo’s up if he has to. That’s exactly what he does at one point here, and it’s great to see when an older man like Finney can still get up, shake off his legs and show these youngsters a thing or two about being tough and rugged, the old-school way. The problem with Finney, or I should say his character, Leo, is that he does disappear for a good majority of the movie, which sucks because we do begin to miss him after quite some time. That is, until he came back to the screen and somehow made everything all better with the weather.

However, much of that screen-time was actually given up for one person, Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar. Polito’s character seems like one of these dunces that doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it or what the hell he’s going to do next as back-up plan, but what he does know, is that he’s in it for the money. That’s probably how most gangsters were like back in the golden days, but what makes Polito stand-out the most is that he’s a bit of an a-hole, and yet, still a sympathetic guy because he isn’t a mean or a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. He just wants to go about his business in a kind, pleasant way where nobody has to get hurt and sticking to his “ethics”. Yeah, if somebody has to get pinched every once and awhile, well, then that’s just the way it is. It’s strictly business.

Last, but sure as freakin’ hell not least is John Turturro as Bernie, one of the main dudes in this story that has to keep it moving. Turturro plays Bernie like a wise-cracking, sneaky bastard that scams people all for the good of his own wallet, but yet, has this one scene where he absolutely breaks down and throws out all of his cards. Everybody knows the scene and if you don’t, just look up-top. It’s the one scene where Turturro lets loose and has you wonder, “Should he kill this guy or not? And if not, for what reason?” Once you start bringing morality into a flick like this, then you know you got a keeper, but when you have Turturro doing his thing and making the rest of the movie seem like his own, personal play-land; then it’s more than just a keeper. It’s a freakin’ winner, that’s what it is!

Consensus: Not everything adds up or makes perfect sense by the end of Miller’s Crossing, but like most Coen flicks, it is always fun, entertaining, enlightening, tense, funny, bloody, and most of all, able to give you something new to pick out from among the rest of the crowd, everytime you give it a view.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Citizen Ruth (1996)

CitizenRuthNever would have happened if the people involved weren’t silly, and just wrapped their willies. Or, I guess just “willy”.

Poor old Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern). Not only is she homeless, addicted to huffing paint on a regular-basis, and not able to see her kids, but now she’s pregnant with her fourth child. And trust us, four is enough for her, and lord, even she knows it. That’s why she plans on having an abortion as soon as possible, that is, until the “Baby Savers” get ahold of her and try to make her keep it, all in the good lord’s name who don’t really seem to care about her or the baby, they just want the publicity that somebody is listening to their ways and not thinking otherwise. But Ruth knows that she wants to get rid of the baby, so she then gets taken in by the pro-choice group that actually had a spy (Swoosie Kurtz) in the pro-life group. At first, things with the pro-choice group seem all fine and dandy, with Ruth getting all sorts of lovely treatment in hopes that she’ll get rid of the baby and stick to their side, however, things change around once the pro-life group offers her $15,000 to keep the baby and let it live. And then, the whole deal gets changed around again once pro-choicers offer her the same amount, if not more to get rid of it. What’s poor old little Ruth to do when she has all of this money being waved around in her face, and a baby still in her stomach? My oh my, questions, questions, questions.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen just about all of his movies that Alexander Payne sure does love to poke fun at people. But already in the year 2013, we know this. Back in 1996, nobody had a clue what this guy was capable of doing, or even what his name was. All that they knew was that there was a movie out, that dealt with abortion, starred Laura Dern and that was basically it.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I'm not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I’m not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

And over 17 years later, that’s all people still know of it as and quite frankly, rightfully so.

While I can’t get on Payne’s case too much considering that this was his first movie, I will say that he does go for the gull when it comes approaching the topic on-hand. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, the abortion debate will always be one up for much discussion and controversy, and it’s how funny Payne turned that on its side in a satirical way, highlighting both sides to the best of his ability. Of course it’s easy to poke fun at the heavy-duty Christians that pray to the lord, hail him as the almighty and banish all those who decide to kill their babies to hell, but it never seemed so easy to poke the same type of fun at the liberals on the other side of the coin, which is what really shocked me here. Rather than showing which side he’s on more, he sort of just lets them both speak for themselves, with them both seeming greedy and ill-tempered, yet well-intentioned, as if what they are doing is what they truly believe in as the right way to go about things in your daily-life. Their only problem is that they don’t know how to go about it in a nicer way.

That said, the movie definitely doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know about the subject of abortion, the people that get them, perform them or support them as an action. Mainly, the movie just gives us a story about a girl who gets caught in the middle of this whole media-frenzy where she and her baby are the center of attention, and the topic of abortion is lingering over it. While I do, once again, give Payne credit for spinning this in a way to where it plays both sides view-points in a sympathetic, fair manner, the movie itself just never got over that hurdle for me to where I was totally, and utterly involved.

Plenty of food-for-thought if you think about how far we’ve come as a society in discussing the topic of abortion, but that’s all it is: A thinking piece. Sure, we have characters, character-development, a witty script and even some heartfelt insights to the way humans interact, think and get their points across, but they all just feel like filler for the real attraction of this whole movie: Abortion. I know it sounds terrible to use that as a selling-point for a movie, but it seems like that’s what the creators behind this movie did, which doesn’t matter it any better. It just makes it a smart decision in order to get your movie seen and noticed by dozens of people, which is why I have to give more credit to Payne.

Good job on the advertising, bud. Not-so good job on the final-product itself. Oh well. You picked yourself back up in the years to come, so all is forgiven.

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that's done me!

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that’s done me!

But where this flick really feels like a total disappointment is in the way that it wastes a very talented cast, giving them material that feels like a bunch of ham-handed speeches that do have a point, but are shown to us in the wrong format. For instance, you have great character actors like Kurtwood Smith, Swoozie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place and even M.C. Gainey showing up, looking like they’re going to bring some of their miraculous personalities to the script, but in reality, all they do is become victims of Payne’s preaches. They all do what they can to make the material worth more than just a series of thought-provoking lines, speeches and discussion-starters, but overall, they just succumb to the problems and are left with nothing else to do.

And then of course we have Laura Dern as Ruth, and as talented as this gal may be, she too can’t help but become a victim to the weak-material, if not even worse due to how annoying her character can be at times. I get that Ruth is supposed to be a despicable piece of a white girl trailer-trash, however, there could have been more substance to her than what we got. Once again, Dern’s performance is another case where we have a terribly talented actress, given this piece of material that has reaching for the stars, but ends up coming down empty-handed with nothing to show. Well, except for maybe a spot on her resume that shows she’s got those indie-chops.

Consensus: Payne never chooses a side to stick with in Citizen Ruth, and is the smartest decision he makes throughout the whole entire movie, which brings up a lot of smart, thought-provoking points about the abortion debate, but ends up being just that, no substance added or involved.

5 /10 = Rental!!

Like I always say, "Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has his 'stache."

Like I always say, “Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has the ‘stache.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Best Man (1999)

Just so that I can rest assured my wedding will be awesome, I’m already making plans.

After not being with his boys back at home for many years, settling down with his girlfriend Robin (Sanaa Lathan) and writing a novel that’s all about the people he surrounded himself with back in the old days, and all of the crazy experiences they may or may not have had, Harper (Taye Diggs) is reunited with the old gang after he finds out that he’s to be the best man at his friend Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding. Not only will Harper get to hang out with the guys like he used to (Harold Perrineau Jr. and Terrence Howard), but he may even get to reconnect with an old flame of his (Nia Long). And hell, since his lady-friend won’t be around until the day of the wedding, well then Harper has plenty of time to commit any sort of adultery and dirtiness he oh so pleases to. But to make matters worse as if cheating on your heavily-devoted girlfriend wasn’t enough, it seems to be that Harper may have had a little thing with Lance’s fiance (Monica Calhoun) from way back when, which he’s kept away from him for so long, so why would he want to tell him now, especially on the weekend of his wedding? Well, he doesn’t want to, but since Harper has made a mention of it in his novel that Lance carries around with him, it seems almost like it’s bound to happen at any second, unless that is if Harper has anything to say about it.

It’s strange to think that a movie that did relatively well at the box-office almost 14 years ago, would actually get a sequel. However, it’s even weirder to think that the sequel would include almost every familiar face, name and/or creator that was attached to that same original either. Because, if you think about it, in the land and age of non-stop remakes, re-hashes, reboots, sequels, and so on and so forth, it seems like almost every star eventually gets tired of doing the same thing at some point. And if that is so, well then, all you have to do is wait 14 years and you’ll get the whole band back together, regardless of if that band was all that popular in the first place.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way more talent.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way better luck at nabbing the bridesmaids.

But all sequel talks aside about The Best Man Holiday, let’s chat it up about the original. See, I’ve never seen or heard anything about this original until a couple months ago, which is really odd to me because I definitely like to feel like I know almost any movie, that has ever been made, especially with such big names as the ones we have in here. However, all that trash aside, I pretty much went into this movie cold or totally unexpecting of what it was to expect, other than a bunch of black folk making me laugh, hanging out and having a good time. And hell, white folk or black folk, I’m down for a good time which is what I had here.

What writer/director Malcolm D. Lee does well here is that he doesn’t necessarily go down the same conventional-roads that most “wedding movies” of this same nature usually go down. Rather than giving us a look at the bride’s side, and all of the problems that she and her fellow gals are going through, we get a full-on glimpse at the groom and all of his buddies that support him through this decision, party with him the night before and give him their condolences on the day of, after all of the boozing, drugging and sexxing has been put to rest. Obviously for a sly guy like me, this approach was nice and made me connect with these characters a bit more, and while I do know some girlies out there will be pissed about how it pays attention more to the dudes of the story than the actual girls, well, that’s because it’s called “The Best Man.” Not, “The Best Woman“.

Like duh!

But no, seriously, all of those problems aside, the movie still paints a clear enough picture for both sides to where it doesn’t seem like Lee’s just playing favorites as he so pleases. Of course he likes to focus more of his attention on Harper and his problems, as well as his friends’ problems, but he also shows that the girls that inhabit this story go through the same dilemmas as well. Maybe the guys don’t fret too much about whether or not they look too fat in their suit or if their flowers match their dress, but they definitely do care about similar things like getting the ring, looking fresh to death and being able to actually go through with the decision, and getting past all of those cold feet problems most dudes go through on the day or days leading up to the wedding, much like the women do as well.

Not me though. I already knew I was making a mistake, and five marriages later, look at me now!

So, that’s why when people get on this movie’s case for presenting more of a dude’s point-of-view, it’s not really all that fair, and it’s kind of already know right before hand. Even then though, it doesn’t matter because the script gives each and every one of these character’s a personality, no matter how annoying or likable theirs may be. Of course in a movie like this, we just need to have the constantly nagging, snobbish girlfriend who never leaves her man alone and let him have a good time with the guys (Melissa De Sousa), but even then, her character still feels well-written to where you are annoyed of her no matter what she’s doing on screen, and yet, you sort of know that that’s the point behind her whole character, and therefore, you learn to embrace her. It also helped that De Sousa was mightily easy on the eyes, that’s for sure.

And everybody else to a certain extent is written the same way, except that they’re probably a lot better-performed by more-talented cast members. I’ve always had a soft-spot for Taye Diggs as I’ve always felt like, no matter what it is that he’s in, he’s the most charming thing about it. Hell, even when he is in a bleak piece of work like Equilibrium, the dude still couldn’t help but crack a joke or a smile to save his own life, so obviously he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back in a movie like this, where he’s practically called on to do that almost every second of the movie. That was fine for me because not only was it a blast to watch Diggs give us a cool, suave and charming guy like Harper, but to also show that he isn’t perfect, that he has made some mistakes, and will continue to make them because, well, he’s human, dammit. Humans make mistakes. Even humans named Harper.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

The other big name in this cast (at the time) was Nia Long who practically made a living, and still is to this day, of appearing in these African-American movies, sometimes, even with the same cast members continuously showing up besides her and confusing the hell out of viewers. Seriously, like how many movies did this chick do with Ice Cube? Or even Morris Chestnut for that matter? Anyway, she’s great here in giving us a female character that seems like she’s thinly-written to be nothing more than a hard-at-work gal that needs to get her bone jumped in the next 48 hours or so, by any means necessary, but after awhile, you do realize that she’s a cool gal, one that any dude would be lucky to end up with. That dude just may not be Harper, regardless of what it is that she wants, or heck, even what he wants.

Speaking of Chestnut (sort of), while I’ve always felt like he’s been a bit of a buzzkill in almost anything he shows up in, he was pretty damn good here as Lance, giving us the type of muscle-bound jock that we’re so used to seeing him play, and yet, somehow be able to show us a soft side of his that isn’t afraid to come out in the ugliest ways possible. Don’t want to go any further than that, but I think you feel where I’m going with that. But regardless, Chestnut’s performance here as Lance is definitely the best I’ve ever seen him give, which may not be saying much to begin with, but is still saying something. Same goes for both Terence Howard and Harold Perrineau Jr. who seem like they’re enjoying themselves quite enough to steal the show when they are given the chance to, even if they aren’t the lead characters. However, I think the times may have changed too much and now, all of these years later, the focus may be switched to where they got more attention and more time to do some great acting. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Doesn’t change the name-of-the-game when it comes to wedding movies, but The Best Man is still a fun, entertaining, somewhat insightful movie to see, especially if you’re wondering what it’s like when you want to get hitched, and what all of the people surrounding you will be thinking, saying or doing with one another. If you catch my drift?

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay everybody! Let's gather round and play the "whose life is going to be over next?" game!"

“Okay everybody! Let’s gather round and play the “whose life is going to be over next?” game!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Faculty (1998)

Don’t we all think our teachers are body-snatching aliens?

A geek (Elijah Wood) finds a small mollusk on a football field. He thinks it’s a new discovery until the school’s teachers start behaving very Children Of The Corn ish and become obsessed with the element of water. This is where many of the teenagers band together, all cliques aside and find out just what the hell is up with their teachers, why they’re acting so funny, and just hope that they don’t become like one of them. Because let’s face it: No high school kid wants to be a teacher, and if they do, they don’t want to be like THEIR high school teacher.

If you look up the term “slasher movie” in the 90′s dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture and a short bio of writer Kevin Williamson, who basically re-invented the horror movie franchise back in then with both Scream and Scream 2, among others. Then, if you look up “movie genius” in the same dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture and a short bio of Quentin Tarantino, but a synonym would probably be Robert Rodriguez. Putting them together for one, big horror movie seems like a pretty awesome idea full of wacky, zany fun and originality, right?

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Well, it saddens to me say this, but disappointment ensues. But how?

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is a lot like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with the kid from The Breakfast Club. It may not sound like the coolest idea ever, but Williamson and Rodriguez at least do a good job of making it entertaining with a couple of actual thrilling moments. This follows the same formula of your usual horror movie with the constant jumps and scares that we have come to know (and sometimes love) with the genre, and they work pretty effectively here. You can’t go into this expecting anything you haven’t ever really seen before, nor can you really expect something that breaks down the whole horror movie conventions, because not only has Williamson done that many times before, but he’s practically perfected it by now that it’s become somewhat predictable. You just got to go into this expecting an exciting and sometimes, funny ride that comes from two geniuses like Williamson and Rodriguez.

However, that’s the exact problem with this flick: Most have come to expect more from these two talents just because of what they have been able to do in the past, and to see them collaborate on a feature that’s anything but awesome, is really sad. With Williamson, we get some moments where these kids talk in a very self-referential about how they know that aliens exist, why they exist, and what they can do just to stop them; as well as a lot of references to other sci-fi flicks out there like Men in Black, E.T., and even The Invasion of the Body Snatchers itself, but it sort of comes off as a cheap rip-off because it’s so damn obvious that Williamson is basing this plot off of those flicks, so he thinks by referencing them in his own movie will give it some sort of gratitude and make it seem like less of a rip-off. So instead, it comes off just exactly like that and it’s sort of one of the golden rules where it doesn’t matter if you reference the film or not, if you are ripping it off, plain and simply, you are ripping it off! Bam!

As for Rodriguez, seeing what he can do with an ordinary story and take it in all of these different twists and turns, it’s pretty disappointing when he gives us a flick that’s not only pretty predictable from start to finish, but one that seems like it could have been directed by anybody. There’s no turtles, no Antonio Banderas, no Mexicano music playing somewhere in the background, and no vampires getting their heads blown off by George Clooney. Nope, instead it just seems like one of those typical horror movies that seems like it could have gone somewhere magical with this premise, but goes exactly to where you would expect it to go, which, given the talent that’s involved behind-the-camera, is a bit of a bummer.

Gosh, teachers!! You're so annoyingly weird!!

Gosh, teachers!! You’re so annoyingly weird!!

What makes this movie a little more appealing is the young cast, and deciphering who has had the biggest star out of all of them is now. And to be honest, I can’t really say since everybody seems like they’re on the somewhat same page. Elijah Wood is here as the typical geek that obviously knows something is up with all of the teachers and faculty at his school, and plays up that whole nerdy act with him very well. However, how many times have we seen this guy do that act before? Yeah, so it does kind of get old after awhile, no matter how early in his career it was. Josh Hartnett, being the stud that he is, plays the slacker who gets held-back, sells drugs and quite possibly gets it on with his very hot teacher. Hartnett’s good for this role and it’s a real wonder why he doesn’t do more with his career, although I feel like the novelty of a young, hot, charming dude has sort of worn-off and been thrown over to Channing Tatum.

Shawn Hatosy plays the jock that just wants to be known for being smart, and he’s pretty good at it. It’s a shame that he hasn’t really been showing up in much, except for Alpha Dog, where he played a total dick, but in a good way. Jordana Brewster plays the bitchy, high school newspaper-editor that seems to always be on everybody’s case about lord knows what, but she’s fine with it and I think she still deserves more hits at drama because I think this gal can really make it work, if given the chance. There’s a whole bunch of other peeps in this cast that’s worth talking about, but really, I don’t want to be here forever so just check the film out yourself and see all of these familiar faces who may, or may not be, showing their faces around anymore.

Consensus: Though it can be a lot of fun with some goofy references to other horror flicks that inspires it, The Faculty never fully comes through on its own as an original or different kind of horror thriller, and more as a carbon-copy of the movies it can’t help but crack jokes at and about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well I don't think he counts as anything.

Okay, well I don’t think he counts as anything.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

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