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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

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

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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

Desperado (1995)

Once you accept the money, then it’s time to sell your soul and join the mainstream.

Taking place after the first one with a new cast but relatively same story, a gun-toting mariachi (Antonio Banderas) travels to a Mexican town in search for the man who killed his lover and shot his right-hand, the same hand he used to be able to make sweet, sweet music with. After the mariachi shakes things up in town, the local drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) wants him dead and, if at all possible, brought to him so that he can be the one to do the righteous act of slaying. And so, the rivalry between the two heats up with the drug lord getting more and more paranoid, and our mariachi gets more and more cornered by all sorts of crooks, yet, is also able to find solace in the loving and caring arms of a gal who runs the local library (Salma Hayek). However, there’s something about this chicky that strikes the mariachi as strange. Could it be that she is in-debt to this local drug lord, or maybe, just maybe, is it that they share something a little more personal than just strictly doing business?

After he hit the big bucks and fame with his shoestring budget debut, El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez found himself prime and ready for big-budget, Hollywood filmmaking where not only would he be able to call the shots anyway he would want, but with anybody he wanted to. But as we all know, once some little nobody all of a sudden makes it big and gets his hands on whatever he wants, then things sort of go downhill from there. And to add insult to injury, we all know that simply “remaking” your first movie, with a bigger budget and cast on-display, is an even more drastic move on anybody’s part, especially Rodriguez’s.

Where the hell's the turtle?

I guess Rodriguez was just “too big” for the turtle anymore.

I guess you can’t blame Rodriguez too much for wanting to play it safe and practically do what he did no less than 3 years before, because even though his name was out there for the whole world to take notice to, the guy was still only 27 years old. And for a guy that young to be making movies this big, it has to be a pretty overwhelming feeling. I couldn’t imagine it, but who the hell am I, right? However, fear doesn’t excuse laziness, and that’s exactly the type of problem Rodriguez runs into with this movie.

It isn’t that the movie’s necessarily boring because it goes over everything that happened in El Mariachi, it’s more because Rodriguez doesn’t know how to give his story more substance in order for us to care. Instead, he just gives us piss-poor character-development that doesn’t do much for the actors in terms of what they have to work with, and also gives us too many scenes where people are doing more talking, than actual shooting, killing, or anything violent of a sort. Which is fine, as long as you can hold somebody’s interest with actual interesting, entertaining dialogue, which is not what Rodriguez gives this movie or the characters. Most of them seem to just ramble on and never go anywhere, except only to move the plot from one gun-battle sequence, to the next.

But then again, those gun-battle sequences I’m talking about, are pretty damn fun and flashy when they happen, and probably shows Rodriguez’s most inspired pieces of filmmaking to-date. So many wild and wacky stunts that defy human or scientific logic; so much blood that you could practically fill a pool with; and better yet, an unpredictable feel to each and every scene where you feel as if any character you see, could practically be offed at any given second. For instance, without giving too much away, a couple of characters who are introduced for a good and solid 2 minutes, suddenly bite the dust out of nowhere, which keeps you on-edge and ready to see what happens next with this plot, and the characters that inhabit it. This is where the fun of the movie really lies, and it’s what we have all come to know and love about Rodriguez, even if most of his films seem to only consist of these scenes, if done in a more over-the-top, balls-crazy way. But even then, they’re still fun and exciting to watch, and bring out the best in him. Hence why I can’t wait to see Machete Kills.

Hey, at least there's no Australian-accent.

Hey, at least there’s no Australian accent present.

And as much as I may get on Rodriguez’s case for taking the easy way out and doing nothing more than “remaking” his first movie, I have to give the guy credit because he found a suitable-enough cast to do it with and keep me interested by. Antonio Banderas was such a perfect choice to replace Carlos Gallardo (who still shows up as a fellow mariachi and band member to Banderas’ character) because he’s able to give us more substance to a character that feels like it needed none, yet, we’re still okay with seeing. Banderas has the look of an action-hero, that’s as tough, nasty, and vengeful as you can get, but also displays a certain heart and sweetness to him that gives you the idea that yes, this dude is not some cabron you want to mess with, but does have a heart when you get right down to the core of him. And the fact that Banderas did all of his own insane stunts, gives this movie even more of a feel of sincerity, despite it still being outrageously crazy and off-kilter at times. However, it also proves that Banderas is the hunk of a Mexican man-meat that almost any lady faints over. They just have to make sure that Mrs. Melanie Banderas isn’t around, or else catfights will most likely ensue.

The rest of the cast is good, even if they don’t get the chance to sink their tooth into their respective roles quite as much, or as well as Banderas does. Joaquim de Almeida plays Bucho, the drug lord who wants this mariachi dead, and displays a ruthless killer you don’t want to mess up a deal with. He and Banderas create a nice rivalry full of suspense and thrills, despite only sharing the same screen for no less than 5 minutes, and even then, it’s still pretty damn intense! Salma Hayek is fine as the gal that the mariachi takes a liking to, and vice versa, even if she doesn’t get much to do. Also, who the hell is going to believe that Salma Hayek not only reads books every single day, but also owns and continues to keep a library up and running? Sorry, just seems unbelievable to me. And there are quite a bit of nice cameos to be seen here, especially ones from people you’d know to see in a Rodriguez movie. Fellow pals like Steve Buscemi, crazy Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, and even Cheech Marin all show up, and do okay jobs with what they have to do; which still isn’t much, but it’s enough to make us happy to see their shiny faces. Okay, maybe not Trejo’s, but you get my drift.

Consensus: Exactly what you’d expect a big-budget, longer, and more attractive remake of El Mariachi to be like, except only that Desperado doesn’t feature anything much more interesting to watch other than a couple of fun action scenes, and alright performances from the cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don't you forget!

Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don’t you forget!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

El Mariachi (1992)

Money doesn’t matter, just be weird. When you do that, you’ll always be a winner, as well as crazy Quentin’s bestie.

A wandering mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) walks into a small Mexican town searching for any piece of work he can find. He walks around from drink-hole to drink-hole, and finds himself getting denied, time and time again. However, he also finds himself on-the-run when a bunch of gangsters mistaken him for another man, dressed in all black, walking around with a guitar case; except that dude’s guitar case is filled with all sorts of nifty little toys like guns, knives, and explosives. The poor mariachi just has his guitar in his case, the way it should be. So, for the next 90 minutes, the mariachi runs all over town trying to hide away from these gangsters hoping to make it out alive, and most of all, hoping to end up with the girl (Consuelo Gomez) he falls head-over-heels for completely out of nowhere. But when you throw love around in the midst of violence, the results don’t always come out so pretty.

The countless stories and legends behind the creation of El Mariachi is what makes it so damn unique in the first place. To think that a movie, let alone an action-thriller, could be made for $7,000 is ridiculous, but somehow, Robert Rodriguez made it happen. However, it wasn’t the average, conventional way of saving up money by finding investors, “borrowing” money from mommy and daddy, or going around from festival-to-festival in hopes of finding people that will find your product so worth their while, that they just have to put their money into it. Nope, instead, with Robert Rodriguez being Robert Rodriguez, saved up all of his money by being a human lab-rat for all sorts of medical tests and experiments that he found in the Classified Ads page in his local newspapers. Crazy, I know, but hey, at least it allowed him to save up just enough money to make his own movie. If that isn’t thinking outside the box, then I surely don’t know what the hell is!

Block out at least one letter of a major corporation to avoid copyright lawsuits.-Rule #204 to making a low-budget movie.

“Block out at least one letter of a major corporation to avoid copyright lawsuits.” – Rule #204 to making a low-budget movie.

Now, whether or not you knew about all of that beforehand, it doesn’t matter. Because, what does matter, is that the film got made, found an audience, and was bought for over $1 million dollars, making Rodriguez a household name, and also hero to all of us aspiring filmmakers out there. Even for a guy like me who promises himself day in and day out, that he’ll one day make a film before he turns 30, and most likely for anybody else out there who shares the same hopes and dreams as well.

And with that idea in your mind, the movie works on a whole different level. Whenever you’re watching a single frame in this flick, you’re just automatically thinking about, “How the hell did he do with that with such a small-budget?”, or even like, “I know how he did that. Gosh, it’s gotta be so easy to make a movie!!”. The whole movie plays out like this because you can tell that Rodriguez really put his heart, mind, body, and soul (literally) into this movie. He wanted to make the movie, he wanted to show the world what he could offer, and he did it all with what little resources he had, or in some cases, didn’t have. With that idea in your mind, the movie works as a piece of inspiration to all film makers and shows you that yes, even you, the poor film graduate who owes more than $15,000 to anybody you’ve ever shook hands with over the years, can make a movie with whatever you have in your pockets.

But inspiration can only go so far, and you have to look at the movie the way it is now, in the year 2013, and I have to say: It doesn’t hold-up quite as well.

"Better be the Fender Stratocaster I ordered."

“Better be the Fender Stratocaster I ordered.”

I get it though, Rodriguez obviously didn’t have a lot of money to work with here so he did whatever he could, however he could, with whatever he could, but a cheap movie can only entertain somebody for so long, that is until they start to see the cracks and strings show. What I mean by that is that the movie definitely has this over-the-top, over-zealous feel to it. It definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, has a bit of a fun, and doesn’t let you forget that you’re watching the work of somebody who made something with such little resources. I was fine with that because it made me feel like, hell, I could have even made the movie had I lived in Mexico and been able to stand all of that heat and sweat. But, once the movie starts to get serious and pay more attention to its plot, then it sort of gets tone-deaf, as if Rodriguez paid a little bit too much attention to what he was TRYING to do, and didn’t realize what he COULD do, if that makes any sense.

By the end of the movie, this is fairly evident. Once you start to see that the plot’s tension has picked-up and the emotions are supposed to be running wild, you realize that Rodriguez loses a bit of his funny, wacky edge that he worked so well with in the first hour or so. That’s what the kept the movie alive because it was knowing, while also inventive in its own weird way. That’s why when it gets serious, the energy and creativity the movie kept on continuing to show us and have us feel, gets sucked-out dry and leaves us cold. Obviously we all knew that Rodriguez would make a revamped, bigger-budget version of this story no less than 3 years later, but back then in ’92, I bet if you didn’t know that valuable piece of information, the movie probably would have been just a worth while attempt at a movie that tried to defy all the odds, but instead, ended up becoming its own worst enemy. Can’t say I hated the movie for that, but it definitely left me with a sour taste in my mouth, although I definitely still had that urge to want to make my own movies. That’s why the movie worked the most, if for nothing else.

Consensus: The legend behind the making of El Mariachi is probably what makes it so interesting and inspiring to most people out there, especially the aspiring film makers who are looking for that big-break quite like Robert Rodriguez was at the time. But however, the legacy it holds behind, doesn’t quite do the movie itself enough justice to really make you want to watch it again, and again, and again.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

A mariachi and his guitar. Aka, LOSER.

A mariachi and his guitar. Aka, DWEEB.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

A Little Princess (1995)

Don’t know about these kids, but the I had when I was little were a bit more screwed-up. It’s a guy thing.

Smart, bright, and imaginative 10-year-old Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) always believes in fairy-tales, even when things in her real life aren’t so bright. However, she has the support of her daddy (Liam Cunningham) to make her happy and that’s all that counts. And that’s very true, but when that said daddy of hers get shipped-off to fight in WWI, Sara is left at the same girls’ school in New York that her late mommy went to. At first, Sara seems to really like it there since her stories of wonder and the inexplicable make her something of a cult-favorite at the school; but when her daddy is allegedly “killed” in battle and all of her trust-funds are no longer valid, Sara is left somewhat of an orphan. But the mean, despicable, and downright evil Miss Minchin the Elder (Eleanor Bron) decides that she could use dear little Sara around her establishment for cooking, cleaning, and all sorts of other chores that no little 10-year-old should have to do so excruciatingly, but so be it. It’s either in there or the streets, right?!?!? Even through the thick and the thin though, Sara still finds a way to get past it all and somehow look at everything with an optimistic smile, and a brain that’s full of imaginary dreams that sometimes do come true, and sometimes don’t.

If that's what every room in a girls home looks like, somebody find me the make-up and bows ASAP!!

If that’s what every room in a girls home looks like, somebody find me the make-up and bows ASAP!!

With Gravity coming out this Friday, it’s very interesting to see where Alfonso Cuarón first got his foot in the Hollywood film-making business, but also how none of that has been altered or changed over the years. For instance, all of the flowing tracking shots we have come to know and love from Cuarón’s flicks are still present here, as well as his perfect attention to detail and beauty to any setting, and it only seems to make the material better as a result. And nearly two decades later, not much has changed for this guy or his style, instead, he’s just evolved and become the beloved film maker we want to, hell, we need to see more of nowadays. Especially if he’s going to make kids movies like this.

And much like in the same vein as Hugo two years ago, this is more or less a kids film with plenty of art, plenty to look at, and even plenty enough for the adults who, if they ever get roped into seeing this so that their kids will shut up for an-hour-and-a-half, will have something to pay attention to every once and awhile. However, that’s probably asking a bit too much of the adult, since the story and screenplay itself is standard kiddie-fare, with dream-sequences, little girls being princesses, playing around, laughing, smiling, dancing, and overall, just doing what little girls do in movies like this, made for fellow little girls out there. That’s fine and all, but it does leave the parent wanting more if they aren’t the “artistic type”; then again, nothing’s wrong with that in the first place, that’s just me being a picky-bugger. That’s all it comes down to.

Anyway, as I was saying about this movie, it’s a bit more imaginative than other kiddie-movies, and it definitely features a plenty a more inspired direction that makes the movie itself feel like it was wanted to be made in the first place, and not just done so that the Hollywood company can make some sweet cash off of these little tikes and their desperately-loving parents. Cuarón gives this material all of the right amount of visual flair, splendor, and beauty that you could ask for in a movie about imaginary princesses, princes, and Creatures of the Night and really helps you pay attention. Which did mean a lot since the story itself is rather dry, if not conventional at times. That’s why it’s always worth it when you have a director that cares for the material and wants to make a good movie, even if all the other factors around him continue to battle him at wits end.

I know I sound like a cynical a-hole and all, but seriously, nothing else really seems to be saving this movie other than Cuarón’s direction. Yes, there is absolutely, positively, nothing “wrong” with this movie in terms of who should watch it and whether or not it will fully suitable for the whole family (it’s rated G, after all), it just doesn’t do the types of wonders most kids films do for all members of the family. The little girls of the fam-squad will be pleased, but as for us younger and older dudes, boredom may come very close and I feel like that’s where it hits its road-block. Just doesn’t appeal to all senses, and maybe I’m a d-bag for not being able to get past that, but so be it.

Now you all see why I’m still single. Well, that, and because I don’t pay child-support.

Cause she just really wanted to get "out there" in the country during WWI.

Cause she just really wanted to get “out there” in the country during WWI……

But the key to every kiddie-flick is whether or not the performances from the young cast work, and for the most part, it’s a very mixed-bag, as you’d expect from a movie where half of the cast were just potty-trained no less than a couple months before. Liesel Matthews does a nice job in such a young role as Sara because she has to play up the fact that she’s a young girl, who is a bit rebellious, a bit knowing of the adults, as well as her fellow girls, and seems like the type of kid who’s a bit smart for her britches, but she isn’t annoying about it. Shame that she didn’t do much after this movie, but hey, who knows if she’ll ever make that desired comeback only a handful of people have been waiting for.

Then, of course, there’s the adults that are pretty good too, even if the characters they have to work with are either thin, or totally one-dimensional. The character I’m mainly talking about is Miss Minchin the Elder, who is like a mixture between Cruella de Vil and the Bride of Frankenstein; she looks, sounds, and acts as evil as you can get with a woman of her age, and yet, she still has the power to run and facilitate a privileged girls school, that rich people continue to send their daughters to. Though Eleanor Bron does indeed try with this character, she felt too one-sided as if she couldn’t go a day without yelling at some little girl for crying when she fell down the stairs, or threatening to throw them out on the streets to rot and die if their parents don’t continue to pay their bill. In the context of a kids movie where you need a villain that’s this over-the-top, mean, and distasteful to want to see fail at the end, she works, but in terms of a story that goes deeper than just what it presents, she fails. Luckily, the rest of the movie didn’t, all thanks to Mr. Alfonso Cuarón who seems like he’s obviously onto way bigger, and way better things.

Consensus: The kids will probably love the hell out of A Little Princess if you threw it in their face for an afternoon, however, it may be a bit hard for an older-viewer to pay attention to if they sort of, kinda, maybe have to. Except, it is pretty. That much is true.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, at least it shows the kids that you can hold the hand of a black person. That Alfonso Cuaron, so peaceful.

Hey, at least it shows the kids that you can hold the hand of a black person. That Alfonso Cuarón, so peaceful.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Ransom (1996)

Would you really put a price on your children? If they just to happened to be Jewish, then yeah, Mel wouldn’t think twice about doing so!

Self-made millionaire Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson) seemingly has all that a man could ask for, and then some. He’s got the loving wife (Rene Russo), he’s got the lovable kid (Brawley Nolte), and the job that pays well, and will continue to do so, long after he’s dead. However, all of that happiness and sunshine goes away once Tom’s son is nabbed by a bunch of kidnappers who are demanding $2 million. Tom feels like he should pay it, but with the FBI in on the case as well, he realizes that if he does pay it, he runs the risk of never, ever seeing his kid again. Then again, if he doesn’t pay it, he runs the same risk as well, but with more of a cloud hanging over his head. What to do, what to do?

You can only do so much and so little with ransom movies, which makes perfect sense as to why this flick felt like nothing more than a daytime soap-opera, with the idea of a kidnapping being the one aspect of the story to hold it down. In order for a flick to work like this, it has to be boiling and simmering with tension, as if the story itself and the characters that inhabit could literally go anywhere, at any time, just at the drop of a hat. But Ron Howard, as skilled of a director as he may be with most that he does, doesn’t quite have the skill to where he can take a simple premise like this, shoot it longer than 2 hours, and still keep everybody on the edge of their seats. That tension and suspense comes around near the 2-hour-mark, but everything else leading up to it feels like a slow-burner, without any real places to go.

"I'm sorry for all of the hurtful comments I have made in the past. Now, somebody find my fucking son you Jews and blacks!"

“I’m sorry for all of the hurtful comments I have made in the past. Now, somebody find my fucking son, you Jews and blacks!”

The places and areas that it does take a detour in, only feel like sad excuses for Howard to show everybody that this isn’t your typical, kidnapping flick. No siree, this one has more meaning and more of a point behind it. How? Well, because at one point, without giving too much away, Tom actually goes on a news station, gets in front of the camera, and puts a bounty on the kidnapper’s heads, stating that whoever finds these killers and his sons, will get double the amount of the ransom price he was originally proposed. This is one of the very rare smart ideas that I’m glad to see Howard take and it went on well for awhile, because you have to think about the media, and how much they love to twist the actual pain and agony that real families face, and take it in as their own story, made to be read and enjoyed by millions all over the globe. That’s what the media gives us and I could tell that’s the angle that Howard was trying to take with this material.

Then, well, it all crashed and burned, going right back to where it started from: A soapy melodrama.

And I hate to say it, but “soapy melodrama” isn’t exactly the right ingredient for a suspenseful, pore-sweating movie. Howard definitely tries to milk as much out as he can with this simple premise, but it to almost no avail. There’s no real point behind the kidnapping, the reasoning for doing so, or why this story is meant to be told. Which would have been fine, had the movie been a slam-bang, action-thriller that wasn’t asking us to use our brains too much or too often with the material, but those weren’t the types of waves I was receiving from Howard and co. Something felt like Howard was trying to reach for more than this material proposed, but ultimately failed at doing so. Meaning that instead of actually giving us something to chew and discuss on the way home, he just gives us a movie that’s in your head, and out of it a near-2 hours later.

Not so bad if you can make your movie the most entertaining thing out there, but Ransom is not that type of movie. It may have some spills, chills, and thrills, but not much else boiling underneath the surface other than two pissed-off people.

Would have been awesome if his character was a Lieutenant.....and named Dan....

Would have been awesome if his character was a Lieutenant…..and named Dan….

Speaking of those said, two pissed-off people, they’re actually played very well by both Mel Gibson and Gary Sinise, respectively. Gibson is a good actor with these types of roles because despite him seeming like a bit of a freakin’ nut behind the scenes, you can still that there’s an ounce of heart and humanity to the guy, and it shows every time he takes a dramatic role like this. Obviously he doesn’t get these types of roles coming his way anymore, but when he can make a role that seems to go totally against his bad-boy, hard-edged image, then I’m always able to welcome it with arms wide open. I’ll just have to let him know that I’m not Jewish before he approaches me.

Then we have Gary Sinise as the head-kidnapper who, despite being brought to our attention within the first 20 minutes, actually plays-up the psychotic-streak of this dude very well, actually making me believe that somebody so nutty and odd would actually go so far as to kidnap some millionaire’s son, just for the sake of fortune. That is until Sinise goes a bit overboard with this character, and has it come off more as a self-parody, rather than an actual character that you could believe handling himself in this type of situation, had it ever presented itself in front of him any other time. Together, they’re good because you never know who’s smarter than the other, but you know that their paths are going to eventually cross and when they do, all hell will break loose. It sort of does, but not in the way that you expect and I sort of liked that approach that Howard ended up taking. He goes for the over-the-top theatrics a bit by the end, but still keeps it grounded and humane enough to where you see these characters for all that they are, as random as they sometimes may be.

Consensus: Everything about Ransom should spark and sizzle with tension, but Ron Howard can’t seem to get it up and going, despite a wonderful central performance from Mel Gibson, showing us more power and depth to a man that’s thrown against his will and all that he knows with the world.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"I mean that: Your husband called me "the N-word"."

“I seriously heard your husband whisper derogatory statements about my race beneath his breath.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Paper (1994)

This is how we used to do it back in ’94! Papers, baby! Papers!

Two white businessmen are found dead in their car randomly in the middle of the night, and eventually leads to two young, African American teenagers getting arrested for supposedly being the culprits in this case. As soon as this news breaks out, every newspaper joint in all of the NYC area is on top of it, especially The New York Sun and one ambitious-reporter in particular: Henry Hackett (Michael Keaton). Not only does Hackett have a very pregnant wife (Marisa Tomei) at home, but he’s also got an editor (Glenn Close) that’s constantly up his ass about everything, a bigger boss (Robert Duvall) that can’t seem to get his life in check, a job-opportunity at a more prestigious newspaper, and a paranoid co-worker of his (Randy Quaid) that won’t leave him alone. On top of that, Hackett also has to find a way to break this story, and as honestly as possible. However, when you work in a business where most news is fabricated in order to make money and sell products, honesty is not as easy as it comes.

The main reason why I wanted to give this flick a try was because I too am a journalism major, will be looking for a quick writing job as soon as I get that degree, and to get the hell out of college. Maybe back in and around the time this flick was out, that could have been totally possible, but nowadays, it seems easier said then actually done. Yes, it’s not a single surprise to any one out there that newspapers are starting to go away more and more, as each and everyday goes by, and it’s a sad fact. However, it’s a fact nonetheless and still doesn’t get inspired, young writers like myself down in the dumps. Maybe once I actually get out there and start looking around for journalism jobs, then yeah, maybe I’ll get all pissed off and cynical in my own way, but for now: I remain hopeful, happy, and ready to see what comes next with my life and the career I want to have.

"Hey mom, I think this Paper movie I'm doing is going to make me a bigger star than ever before."

“Hey mom, I think this Paper movie I’m doing is going to make me a bigger star than ever before.”

Thanks to this movie, I want that career even more now. However, I just may not get it. Still got to stay realistic above all else.

Even though I have never been in a newsroom before, I still feel like Ron Howard gets the atmosphere and the mood down pretty well. Everybody in this flick is constantly moving, trying to get more information down from whomever they can receive it from, and by any means possible. Howard gives this movie a jolt right from the beginning and it never lets up, basically allowing you to feel as if you are right there as more information about this main story begins to come out, as well as more details and information about these characters as well. The movie is mainly about the breaking-news story that this paper’s trying to cover, with any shred of dignity and respect, but Howard also doesn’t let the quick pace get to us too much. This is about the people that work in the newsrooms, put their bodies and minds on the line for 24-hours-a-day, working their assess off, and just hoping that they have a good enough story that will either: a) get their story on the front-page, b) get their names noticed and more recognition, and/or c) prove to the world that they can do what they love to do, get paid for it, and also having something to show off to your buddies and family as well.

There’s not many movies out there that really celebrate that type of attribute you can have, loving the work that you do. Mainly with journalism movies that more or less show journalists for being a bunch of cad-like, a-holes that take any story they can, spin it directly on its head, and don’t ever worry about hurting any one’s reputation or feelings. The movie touches on that subject a bit, but never goes deep enough to where we hate the hell out of the profession of being a journalist, and instead, makes you want to be one even more. Then again, that’s probably just my feelings and mine alone. Most likely is, but just think about it: Wouldn’t it be so cool to get paid for writing about stories, or simply covering the news? The same news that everybody already knows by now, but still reads it just to find out something new or cool about it? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me who thinks that’s rad, but so be it. I’m used to it by now.

Of course the movie does get darker and darker as it goes along, and starts to show more cracks in the relationships between all of these co-workers, and that’s where I felt like the film started to lose its balance. Not that I didn’t mind that Howard felt the need to get a little dramatic with the material, but he did it in such a way that seemed like it came from a completely, different movie altogether. One second, you have “The Keatmeister” telling somebody head-honcho from another newspaper, to “fuck off” in every which way possible, all for our pleasure and amusement, and then the next second, you have a scene of him and Glenn Close duking it out. And I don’t mean just a simple bunch of slaps and blows, I mean they really beat the shit out of each other. Came out of nowhere and although I do realize the point that Howard was trying to get across, he did it in such an over-the-top way, that it didn’t fit in at all with the rest of the frantic speed of the rest of the flick.

"Seriously? You wanna do this shit now?!?!??"

“Seriously? You wanna do this shit now?!?!??”

But keeping this movie altogether, one and for all, is non-other than “The Keatmeister” himself. Everybody loves seeing Michael Keaton pop-up in anything he so chooses nowadays, and it makes me sad to see him in stuff like this, knowing that the dude deserved so much more material than he actually got. Of course he was Batman, some say the best of all-time, but he still never got to be that household name I think we would all love and adore. Here though, he proves himself once again as a leading man, and one very capable at not only getting us to love him because he’s funny and charming, but because he also feels like a nice enough dude that will end up telling the story in the most honest way possible. The movie never goes deep enough with his character or the situation he’s been thrown into, but that doesn’t matter because Keaton is the man and makes any piece of material, shitty or not, worth watching.

The rest of the cast is pretty awesome too, and helps out the rest of the movie whenever they are called on to do so. Even though I thought her character was a bit too much of a bitch to get along with anybody, let alone fellow news-reporters, I still thought Glenn Close was good as the senior editor of the paper that didn’t quite take anybody’s shit, and also gave everybody a piece of her mind when she felt was necessary. It’s never made clear to us why her and Keaton’s character have so many problems with one another, but they make it work for the most part and it’s an underlining tension that you feel throughout the whole flick, especially when they’re in the same room together. Robert Duvall fits the role of the aging, sad owner of the newspaper like a glove and never lets you forget about his pain or to have you feel it as well. Randy Quaid is good as the paranoid buddy of Henry, even though we’ve seen him do this role about 100,000,000 times by now. And last, but certainly not least by a hundred miles away, we have Marisa Tomei as Henry’s loving, but terribly pregnant wife who wants him around more, but just can’t seem to wrap her head around the fact that he loves his job so much. Tomei is always a lovable presence to have in a flick, and despite her character’s constant-nagging, she never gets tiresome or annoying to see on screen. We always enjoy seeing her and want more.

Consensus: It may not go any deeper than saying “Journalists Rule!”, but The Paper, at least for this aspiring writer/journalist, makes you feel like you already have the job, are right there as everything’s happening, and allows you to have a good time as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!!

R.I.P.

R.I.P.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Demolition Man (1993)

In the future, essentially, we’re all going to be a bunch of rich hippies. Tell me something I don’t already know!

It is the year 1996, John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is the LAPD sergeant that always gets the job done and solves crime because he has a pride for it. However, the only obstacle crime he can’t solve are the ones committed by known criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). However, on one fateful night, Spartan gets Phoenix cornered and ready for jail, until Spartan realizes that he accidentally just killed innocent hostages by doing so in the process. Though Phoenix is jailed for all of the bad things he’s done, Spartan is somehow thrown in the slammer with him, but since this is supposed to be “the future”, a simple “doing time” wouldn’t sit well with the powers that be. Nope, instead, both men are cryogenically frozen until their parole date comes up. When it finally does, some 30 years later, the men awaken to a world that’s full of sweet, sensitive people that don’t believe in the act of violence, cursing or wiping their rumps with actual paper. This is, essentially, the perfect world for Phoenix to raise all sorts of hell in, whereas for Spartan, he has a bit of trouble getting use to the calm way of handling things, even when it comes down to getting his man: PHOENIX!!

With mostly all of Sly Stallone’s flicks, you expect sure stupidity, but you also expect there to be a lot of fun thrown into the equation. Because surely, you can’t just have a movie that’s plain, old stupid, without it at least being a little fun as well, can you? I don’t think so, but that’s just me. Anyway, what I think what separates this flick from the many other, Sly-vehicles, is that there’s something “more enjoyable” to this material that makes it worth the while, even if you aren’t getting non-stop thrills and action.

"I'm yo cracka's nightmare!"

“I’m yo cracka’s nightmare!”

See, what works so well with this movie is that despite it being totally advertised as, and starting off as a full-on rated-R, action-thriller, the movie’s more of a satirical comedy on what our future would look like, had society had enough of all the nonsensical violence and inappropriateness that plagued our culture right around the early-to-mid 90’s. Can’t say that it’s really halted either, but that’s another discussion for another site. This is all about movies and reviews after all, so let’s get on with it!

Even though I was quick enough to actually call this a “satirical comedy” that doesn’t mean it’s smart in any way either. It’s a dumb movie, but has a bit more of an edge to it that has it be more than just a time-killer at the movies. It features funny moments in which the writers actually thought of something clever to use or say, in order to get a rise out of the audience, and it allows us to play around in our heads, whether or not a future like this would ever happen in a world/society such as ours? It’s strange to think that these are the types of ideas you could have rambling around in your mind during a Sly Stallone flick, but that’s what happens when you put more effort into your work, rather than just making it another “pay-day” job, done for the sake that you have cover for your hot-tub.

That said, don’t get me wrong, this movie is as silly as you can get with a Sly movie, and features all of the same type of action we know, and for some, love to see come from one of this guys’ movies. It’s over-the-top, campy, unbelievable, and breaks more laws of physics than it should, but that’s the point of this movie, even when the action’s not on the screen. Even then, the movie still seems to place its motives in the act of entertaining us, have us laugh and make us feel like we’re watching a movie that’s worth the trip, no matter how long or excessive it may seem. Which yes, it is excessive and rather long for its type, but it still worked well enough in holding my interest the way an action-flick of its very nature should.

But like I’ve been alluding to many, many times in this review: This is a Sly Stallone movie, and should not be taken seriously at all, and that’s mainly because he’s such a goof-ball to begin with. Sly’s skills as an actor may not be all that equipped with handling comedy well, but he’s able to poke some jokes at his own image, while also throwing some other, iconic action-stars under the bus as well. That “Schwarzenegger as president” joke? Pure hilarity, but only because of what we know as human-beings in the year 2013. 10 years ago, they probably weren’t laughing because it was almost too stupid, but nowadays, it was pretty damn close to happening. Whoever thought that Demolition Man would come close to predicting something in the future as ridiculous as the Terminator stepping into political office? Not me, that’s for sure.

"I am da law. Oh, different movie? Whatever, same premise."

“I am da law. Oh, different movie? Whatever, same premise.”

Sly’s good at pulling off this kind of material, and so is Wesley Snipes who is so over-the-top, that you have to begin to question just what the hell were in his Wheat Thins that he had before shooting? Seriously, the dude is total and complete bonkers, but rightfully so. The whole movie centers around him scaring the hell out of a every simple piece of white folk that he runs into, which is what Snipes does so perfectly and with so much energy and excitement that you just have to give him some credit, even though if he acted this way in another movie, it would be absolute torture to witness.

Same goes for Benjamin Bratt and Sandra Bullock who usually get on people’s nerves whenever they are seen in something nowadays, but were just getting their careers off the ground at, and around this time, making it a nice slice of history to see, or at least say you’ve seen. Bullock is as fun and vivacious as ever, and proves to be willing enough to play around with Sly and in ways, even bring out the best in his acting. Must have been a very rough challenge for an up-and-coming actress to attack, but it’s a challenge that she was up to, and not much has changed in the past 20 years or so. Good for her, probably not as good for Bratt, but hey, at least they both got the chance to bang one another for awhile thanks to this. And that has to account for something, right?

Consensus: While many will automatically see Demolition Man as another dumb action flick, it’s surprisingly more of a comedy, with a bit of a satirical edge that makes it more than just stupid fun, although I wouldn’t argue against those many who call it “dumb”, because it totally is, but there’s fun to be had in its dumbness.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

A series of bad career choices just await.

A series of bad career choices just await.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Who said hitmen don’t have souls?

Leon (Jean Reno) is a professional hitman that does his job, does it right, gets it over with, and by the end of the day, has a nice glass of milk and goes to sleep. One day, however, a friendly little neighbor of his named Mathilda (Natalie Portman), finds her family gunned-down by a mad DEA agent (Gary Oldman) in their apartment and is left with nowhere to go. Leon, against his original rules and regulations he’s had set in stone for many years, decides to take her in under his wing and train her to be something of a contract-killer in her own right. However, there’s a problem about this 12-year old girl, she isn’t exactly anything that he has ever encountered in life. Ever.

It’s a shame that writer/director Luc Besson hasn’t had a decent flick in about a good decade or so, because at one time, this guy was considered the go-to son-of-a-bitch when it came to action-packed thrillers that delivered on the guns and bullets, as well as the fun that made it all so damn entertaining. I’m not much of a fan with Besson since some of his last couple of projects have been a bit terrible (and trust me, The Family isn’t all that special either), but dammit does this film make me hate him even more!

Come on, Luc! Just come back to us and do what you did for this world in the first place!

I remember the first time my discretly deadly, French neighbor taught me how to load a pistol.

I remember the first time my discretely deadly, French neighbor taught me how to load a pistol. Those were the days.

That last sentence may have you confused as to whether or not I liked this film, because trust me, I didn’t just like it, I LOVED it. And why this movie pisses me off and makes me hate Besson even more for throwing out garbage left and right at the screens nowadays, is because this is the movie that reminds me why this guy kicks so much ass and is great at doing, what it is that he does. This movie has some of the most tense and suspenseful action scenes that I have ever witnessed on-screen in a long-ass time and it’s all because Besson knows how to pace himself and his material. Every once and awhile, Besson will come out guns ‘a blazing and bullets flying everywhere, and it’s just as violent as it is fun; however, he also allows for there to be some downtime devoted to character-development and emotion, while also still maintaining the fun-aspect of it all to where it’s not just about Besson filling in the blanks to the next action scene, he’s actually setting up more tension. It continues on that way throughout the whole 2 hours you’re stuck with it, and it never lets up.

But as much as this film may be a slam-bang, action-thriller at times, it’s also a very endearing and heartfelt story about the bond between the oddest of all odd couples out there: Leon and Mathilda. Aside from the amazing performances that help the characters out, there is a real piece of heart and humanity that lies within them and makes this film tick each and every second it gets the chance to. Yeah, sometimes Mathilda does get a little weird with what she says to Leon, but what’s so great about their dynamic with one another is that one is more immature and mature than the other, and it’s not the in the way you’d expect it to be or be shown.

For example, Leon is a bit of a dummy when it comes to reading and expressing his emotions, whereas Mathilda is not and helps him through that. But also, Mathilda has problems with killing people and coming to grips with growing-up, whereas Leon does and helps her through all of that in his subtle, shy way. It’s a strange dynamic that these two have, but, they both make the movie so much more special and never once feels forced. It all feels like a part of the story that’s meant to be told so that when these character’s lives are actually in danger, we care a hell of a lot more than we ever do with action flicks and that’s what separates this movie from plenty others of the same kind.

Sometimes, I think the film does go a bit over-board with the playful tone it tends to give the scenes where it’s just them two because as happy and goofy as they both may be together, it still feels a bit out-of-place. Especially when they have that overbearing score that continues to play an accordion as if somebody just walked into a pizza shop in Hell’s Kitchen. I get it, Besson, they’re all happy and having a jolly time, now knuckle down and get this thing back to being a little serious so it doesn’t seem a bit too strange to see a tough hitman, rolling around and chasing a 12-year old girl. Yeah, made it sound a lot creepier than it should be but trust me, it’s not as bad once you watch the movie. Trust me.

And the reason why it isn’t as creepy is not just because of Besson’s approach, but because of the spectacular performances from the two stars involved: Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. Reno is the type of actor that you see show-up in a lot of shit nowadays (Alex Cross, for one) and definitely does what he can with the role he’s given, but just never seems to shine anymore than the screenplay allows him to. It’s almost as if all of the charm and brightness he once had, has just been lost on mediocre script, after mediocre script. However, it’s always nice to spot him back in the golden days of his acting-career and his role as Leon being the most iconic, and most significant one. Reno is very soft-spoken and a tad naive about himself, but never comes off as a fool because the guy knows when to kill, do it right, but also turn on his “nice-guy mode” when he gets back home. It’s a performance that shows a hitman for being more than just a heartless killer; he can actually have a personality and be a nice guy for a change, and that is an idea that Reno runs oh so perfectly with. God, I wish this guy was in more stuff. I really do.

Don't worry, he'll get the case solved. Just don't expect there to be any evidence.

Don’t worry, he’ll get the case solved. Just don’t expect there to be any evidence.

We all know Portman as being that big, A-list celebrity that seems to be the next big thing in terms of Hollywood’s leading ladies, but believe it or not, playing a young, but smart 12-year old girl from the streets was one of her first roles ever, and it ranks as one of her best, if not one of the best child performances of all-time. What makes Mathilda so damn awesome as a character is because she’s your typical kid, who always tries to act like she knows everything and is smart on any topic you throw at her, but doesn’t feel like a contrivance Besson can just throw at us. It actually feels like she’s a Ms. Smarty Pants right as soon as we meet her. And besides, even if she does know a lot more than you would ever expect her to, she doesn’t know everything and that shines on throughout this whole movie whenever he and Leon converse about the meaning of life and just what the hell is there to make sense of it all. Portman is so damn charming, funny, and entertaining to watch as Mathilda that even though she has the weirdest occupation that a 12-year-old could ever have, she still seems like a real kid and one that I would love to just be around, even though I’m 20 and it’d be a little weird. I’d definitely like to hang-out with Portman now, but, however, I think that time has passed. Damn me for not being born earlier!

As great as these two are, the real scene-stealer of the whole movie is definitely Gary Oldman as the crooked cop, Lt. Stansfield. As everybody knows, Oldman was the guy that Hollywood always called on when they needed somebody to play an outrageous, over-the-top, cook-ball of a villain and that is no different here. And seeing what he does with Stansfield, you’ll see why he was called on so much. Oldman is just wild and totally off-his-rocker throughout the whole movie and just plays this bad guy like the type of evil S.O.B. you’d expect him to be. Even though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from a villainous role, Oldman is so good at it that you can never take your eyes off of him. Oldman has a lot of fun with this role, which is obvious, but the most fun is watching him as he chews scenery unlike any other and his scenes are sometimes the most tense because you never know when that switch of his is going to automatically flip.

Consensus: Leon: The Professional still features all of the amazingly violent action-scenes that we have come to know and love of Luc Besson, but also features more substance than just a bunch of violence, and actually has a heartfelt story that’s executed so perfectly by everybody involved, especially Reno and Portman who have almost never been better. I would put Oldman in there too, but trust me, the guy’s been crazier, if you can find that hard enough to believe.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could blow up a little precious face like that to pieces?

How could blow up a little precious face like that to pieces?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

La Femme Nikita (1990)

Skills needed to join the CIA? Must have a previous life devoted mainly to crime and drugs.

When her junkie friends are killed by a bunch of cops after a botched pharmacy heist, small, French gal Nikita (Anne Parillaud) decides to take a chomp of out of a cop, and then shoots him moments later. This obviously lands her in the slammer and is going to keep her there for quite some time, possibly even life. Well, that doesn’t happen as Nikita soon dies out of nowhere. Or, so that’s what the rest of the world thinks. The reality of the situation here actually is that Nikita has been thrown into a secret government agency program where she will be trained, nurtured, and taught how to be a working-force of wits, smarts, physicality, and personality. Over time, Nikita does begin to listen and learn, and somehow finds herself changed for the better. However, when she’s out in the real world where she has to make a new name, life, and living for herself, Nikita can’t quite grip what’s really going on. Add on the barbaric missions she has to complete, and you’ve got a very messed-up secret in your life; one that needs to be let out, or else you’ll one day just explode. Poor girl.

Remember the days when Luc Besson actually used to make fun, tense, quality thrillers? Yeah, me neither. Been quite some time, actually; however, there was a time when the dude was considered one of the best working-names in the biz and it showed in the 90’s with this, Leon: The Professional, and his craziest flick of all, The Fifth Element. Sure, there was plenty more, but those three were considered “The Crowned Jewels” of what Besson could do if he had just the right amount of money, so he could service his audience with just the right amount of gun-play, blood, and violence. And for that, I’m forever grateful. However, I still can’t get past the fact of how overrated I feel like this one is.

Yup, I already know a lot of people are going to gunning for the Comment Section after I just dropped that bomb, but people, please do bear with me here. I have my reasons, and understandable ones, too. Or at least I hope they are, I don’t know, you make the call and let me know.

"I'll teach you to blast your loud music, hobo across the street!"

“I’ll teach you to blast your loud music, hobo across the street!”

Anywho, what I liked about this flick from the beginning was it’s mood. First of all, Besson opens up this flick with a dimly-lit scene of a bunch of French punks robbing and gun-dueling a bunch of cops. Automatically, this starts off a hectic battle where bullets are exchanged, curse words are thrown out, and people begin to drop like flies. It’s fun, exciting, and a little bit scary. It had me expecting the best from Besson, in terms of his action-thriller mode, but then suddenly, something changed with this movie; something I was not expecting in the least bit, but surprisingly liked and thought it was a nice touch. After Nikita gets locked-up and publicly “killed”, she then is sent to ease her time and pain away on a project where she has to become one bad-ass bitch, that has to fight, kill, and smart her way through each and every mission they throw at her. Or at least get ready for the missions they will throw at her, because don’t forget: She is in-training and she has to gear-up for what’s in store for her once she walks out and gets ready to live the rest of her life, or what’s left of it anyway.

Doesn’t sound different at all, right? In fact, you could probably just call it a “rip-off” of Oldboy, despite Oldboy being released almost 17 years after this one, but that’s irrelevant, right? A rip-off is a rip-off, no matter how obvious or subtle, right?

Well, what’s so different about this movie’s approach to the way it handles its middle-half, is that Besson lays low on the action, blood, and dirty stuff, and just gives us a heartwarming, honest, and sometimes funny tale of a trashy girl who was always coked-up on her mind, and is now getting a chance to make a difference in this world, even if it just to kill other people, for reasons unknown. And this probably goes on for a whole hour or so, and it works. It actually really works, I’d say. Besson knows how to write interesting characters, give us reasons to care about them, and make it even easier to wonder when they’re all going to meet up again, and that’s where I feel like this movie was really in it’s zone. There were some tense, action-y moments here and there, in between all of the lovey-dovey stuff, but still worked and kept me watching.

And then, as saddened as I may be to say it, something bad happens to this movie. Not only does Besson lose a little grip on the pacing of his story, but he also loses all sense of what makes a story plausible, or hell, easy to understand. Without spoiling too much and giving it all away, after Nikita succeeds on a couple of jobs, she’s granted the opportunity to work her own mission, with her own crew, and by her own ways. So, in that case, rather than being a chick who does little missions, no matter how risky or easy, she now has become a total pro at it; so professional that she’s given her own assignment and chance to call of the shots. That’s fine and all, but it didn’t make much sense to me, especially considering how up-tight and legitimate this secret agency seemed to be.

But okay, whatever. That’s a little nit-picky I guess, at least the action was solid, right? Well, sort of yes and sort of no. “Yes”, because Besson can make any action sequence, whether it be involving a gun, a car, or just the normal, straight-up fist-a-cuffs, worth watching and thrilling; however, I have to say “no” as well, mainly due to the fact that it comes out nowhere, starts up, ends, comes out of nowhere again, starts up, ends, and then continues the same cycle for awhile, until the movie ends on a total whimper that made me wonder if the movie was over, or if my Crackle account was fucking up or something. Seriously, I sat there for a good 2 minutes wondering just when the rest of this movie was going to pop-up and be shown to me, but little did I know that 2 minutes was exactly how long the credits were. So basically, I just sat there staring at a blank-screen when all was said and done, and it left me feeling blue,

It's like college all over again. Except with more dudes lying on the floor ready for Round 2.

It’s like college all over again. Except less dudes lying on the floor ready for Round 2.

I get that a lot of people probably like the ending because it comes and it goes, in a not-so dramatic way that we’re not used to seeing with these loud, big-budget, insane action-thrillers, but this was almost too anti-climactic and sudden for it’s own good. It leaves so many questions just dangling in the air, which is usually a good thing for any movie, especially one where so much still hangs in the balance, but it sort of just pissed me off here. Liked the idea of ending the story on a more emotional note than I would have ever expected from the opening-sequence, but seriously, it just happened, and that was it. May not piss others off and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m always glad to not follow the pack, even if it going to make me a tad bit unpopular amongst some.

Thankfully though, the saving grace to all of my anger was the leading performance from Anne Parillaud as the aptly-titled, Nikita. Parillaud wasn’t doing much for me in the beginning because she just seemed too punky and brash for her own good, but once she starts to wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that there are better things in life out there worth living and fighting for, then I began to see a softer side to her character, one that didn’t just come naturally. Through time, we see bits and pieces of who she really is, the sweet, soft, and innocent gal that wants love and happiness, come out and shine in ways that just made me smile along with her. The scene where she kicks some dude in the face, only to do a little shake-and-bake to a symphonic song? Yeah, that’s the crowning-achievement of her performance in this movie and it continued to get better and better as her story started to develop more, and as we learned more about who she really was, and the reasons why. I felt like they could have explored more of who she was from the past, rather than just the present and nothing but, but it’s a little nit-pick of mine, and I think I’ve had enough of them already, so I’ll let it slide.

But also, don’t get me wrong, Nikita is a pretty kick-ass character. I mean that in that literal and figurative sense as well. She does some nice booty-kicking to people who deserve it, and doesn’t shy-away from the real danger, when the going gets going. For that, I give more credit to Besson for actually writing us a female character in an action-movie and actually allowing her to be more bad-ass than most of the dudes. Well, with the exception of “The Cleaner”, played by Jean Reno, who is basically Leon, before Leon. He’s got the look, the talk, the style, and the mastery-skills of silencers, exactly like Leon, but he’s not. Still though, the guy’s just as bad-ass Nikita, if not more and shows us why he deserved his own, way better movie. Hey, what can I say? I’m a big Natalie Portman fan!

Consensus: Though it’s not the slam-bang, action-thriller some may expect coming from the mind of Luc Besson, La Femme Nikita is still a nice mix of drama, heart, and violence, but by the end, doesn’t work so well juggling all three elements, nor does it know how it end itself on a note that makes everybody happy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"What did you say about platonic friendships between 12-year-olds and 40-year-olds being still considered creepy?!?!?"

“What did you say about platonic friendships between 12-year-olds and 40-year-olds being still considered creepy?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Air Force One (1997)

I could see Barack being able to throw down when push came to shove.

On the most heavily-guarded aircraft in the world, President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is returning back home to the states with his wife and daughter. Everything’s running smoothly and calm, that is until a group of angry, pissed-off, Russian terrorists (lead by Gary Oldman) decide to take over the plane, hold the president and his family for ransom, and kill some other passengers as well. However, the President is lucky enough to get out of there as safe as can be as soon as the bad stuff begins to happen, and finds himself locked inside a air-pod that flies him down to safety, away from all of the violence and the terrorists. But that’s what they all think. See, what really happened here is that the President didn’t back down from this fight, and was going to stop at nothing, I do repeat, NOTHING to get the family and the country that he loves oh so much back.

Yeah, it’s pretty stupid: The President just so happens to kick just as much ass, if not more, than the heavily trained and tutored Secret Service members there to save and protect him, if the moment itself ever arose. But hey, so be it. When a movie is this fun, this goofy, and this tense, you just learn to embrace it rather than slap it in the face for it’s sheer showing of stupidity. Like I said, it’s fine and everything, but it is very stupid and one mustn’t forget about that fact when watching this movie. Or else, you may get a bit lost in your own self-seriousness. Don’t be ashamed though, because it happens to all of us.

"No need to call my agent. He already knows I'm doing this crap."

“No need to call my agent. He already knows I’m involved with this crap.”

The main reason being is that a lot of it is very, VERY patriotic. As much as Americans love to show how snobby other countries are with their ways of running themselves, and whatever it is that they hold sacred; trust me, we are just as worse, if not worse. And one of the main ways we get our patriotism out there for the rest of the world to see and (hopefully) latch onto is movies, and this is just the clear-cut example of that. Plenty of moments here feel like everybody involved was just ready to chant, “USA! USA! USA!”, after somebody said something considered “cool” or “tough” that had to be associated with the country they hail from. I mean, I’m an American, I love my country, and I’ll stand by it any day of the week, but this movie does push it a little too far, to where I feel like if I was out of the United States of America; I’d be very bothered. I was bothered, but that’s just because I’m an American and I’m stupid, right?

Anyway, so the movie. What works about this movie, despite it’s over-the-top, stars-and-stripes approach, is that it’s always a boat-load of fun. See, as the summer continues to roll on and die down, day by day, I start to see less and less of these big, loud, and unapologetic stupid blockbusters that aren’t made for our minds to be used, and more for our eyes. It’s very hard to come by a very solid blockbuster that doesn’t totally blow out the fun, or doesn’t totally blow out your brain-cells by the end of it’s run-time, and I felt like this flick found a nice breathing ground between both of those factors. Yup, it was very dumb to where I questioned what 2 + 2 equaled a couple of times; and yup, there were many moments where I felt like I didn’t know what was going to happen next, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, and why. I’m a movie critic. I watch a lot of movies. So what can I say, eh?

Basically, where I’m getting at with all of this gibber jabber is that this movie, no matter what type of folk you are, whether you like your movies loud, big, action-packed, and implausible, or small, subtle, thought-provoking, emotional, and mentally-challenging; you’re going to have fun with this flick. Most people already have and even though I’m not to say “Go out there and follow the rest of the herd”, I do have to say that it does seem pretty obvious why people like this movie so much, and why it has a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, 16 years after it’s original release date. That goes to show you the type of movie this was meant to be: Big, dumb, and fun. That’s what’s worth seeing here, even if you can’t believe a lick of this plot. And if you don’t, I don’t blame you, because apparently Slingin’ Dick Billy didn’t either, and he still liked it!

"FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!"

“FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!”

As for the real reason why this movie did so well commercially and critically, well, let’s just say it’s because the President of the United States of America in this movie was portrayed by non other than Harrison Ford himself. Yes, as hard as it may be to fully take in Han Solo as the guy who would make most of the judgment calls behind the big desk, in the White House, Ford still uses that charm and general ruggedness to his act that works very well and has us believe in him. Not just as the President, but also as a bit of a bad-ass that would be able to chew bubblegum and kick ass, while also telling people to get off of his plane. Its obvious that around this time Ford was beginning to show his age and it was going to eventually catch up on him, but for the mean time, watching this movie; his older-age practically just leaves your mind and allows you to just soak up all of the ass-beating and whoop-downs that he commits to these terrorist scum-bags.

Speaking of those said “terrorist scum-bags”, the leader of the crew is non other than everybody’s most lovable villainous actor: Gary Oldman. And yes, Gary Oldman does plenty of the Gary Oldman tricks of the trade that we expect to see him pull off by now, especially with as much enthusiasm as he shows here. The character that Oldman plays is rather weak, because he’s one of those leaders of a terrorist group that has a plan so stacked into his head, yet, still can’t help but let his violent tendencies gain control over his mind and plausible-thinking, but Oldman’s too great of an actor to let that phase him in the least bit. Oldman chews up, spits out, and swallows back in the scenery, and seems to be having a ball while doing so. Therefore, we have a ball just watching him, even if we would have appreciated more screen-time between him and Ford. Oh well, I guess that’s why we have Paranoia coming out this Friday, right? Trust me, just as least excited to see it as you are.

Consensus: Implausible and idiotic to a fault, Air Force One definitely doesn’t have the highest IQ of all the other action-thrillers out there, but still has plenty of fun with itself, and allows Ford and Oldman to work their magic and do what they do best: Act their assess off.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

I never pay prostitutes to have brains. Just enough low self-esteem that they’d consider to be with me.

Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) are in love and want to start a family. However, Lenny’s not quite ready for that yet so they decide to adopt a child named Max. A couple of years go by, Lenny is feeling neglected from Amanda, but is always there for Max and surprised by how smart and knowing he is. That intrigues Lenny so much that he starts to begin a search, behind Amanda’s back, for Max’s birth-mother and finds out that she’s a porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny is obviously shocked by this result but he doesn’t let it get to him, and tries to change her so that she can meet-up to his vision and leave the life that she’s been living, despite it being the only way she can manage a steady-income. While Lenny is off being a counselor of sorts, Amanda’s off on her own having her own sort of affairs, main which being one with her art-gallery owner (Peter Weller).

An “okay” Woody Allen movie, is better than no Woody Allen movie. That’s all there is to say about the man, especially since he churns out a movie every year, gets an even-more stacked-cast than before, and continues to find more and more interesting ideas for his stories, and how to tell them. They don’t always work, but it’s always nice to see the guy back on the big-screen, no matter how regular or average the film he’s working with may be. Although some may definitely disagree with me on this: Yes, Mighty Aphrodite is average and regular.

Mighty1

“32 years younger? Good enough for me.”

As usual, what I always like about Woody’s flicks is that the guy has a keen sense of humor, no matter how dark or grim the subject-matter may be. Which is weird considering how the movie starts off light and straight-forward with him and his girl adopting a kid. It feels like a film that’s a bit too innocent and sweet, especially coming from the finger-prints of Woody Allen himself. Thankfully, once the movie goes about 20 minutes into itself, we are then introduced to a whole other story-line that makes the film any bit of being memorable. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Ms. Mira Sorvino herself as the screechy-voiced prostitute herself, Linda Ash.

See, I can’t go on and on any further without mentioning her right off the bat because she makes this movie. Sure, Woody’s good, his writing is inspired, and everybody else in the cast has their bright and shiny moments, but it’s this woman who takes this movie, brings it up by the grips of her hands, and never lets go of it, even when she isn’t on-screen. Her presence is always felt in this movie, and that’s a good thing because she keeps it hilarious and fun, while also giving it it’s right amount of heart and sympathy as well. Of course this is Mira’s best performance, not only because she won the Oscar for this, but because she hasn’t really done much after this. And hell, even the stuff that she did do with her career, was nowhere near as challenging or as exciting as this role.

She’s given the hard task of taking a character that would be easily considered “annoying” and “bothersome” by about the first 10 seconds of screen-time that we spend with her fine-ass, but surprisingly, the girl keeps her rompy, to where it’s almost like a whole person herself. Easily, without a doubt, she could have been played-up for just a bunch of laughs as if she was more of a caricature that we usually see in these types of flicks that concern a low-bit, NYC hooker, but the combination of Woody’s sharp-writing and Sorvino’s general likability, is what keeps this character more than just a cliché. She actually has a heart and soul that you feel for, not because she’s way too in over-her-head with certain things, but because she actually does plan on being a person that makes a difference in someone’s life, even if it does concern still hooking around and whatnot. Sorvino’s so good here, in fact, that knowing that she hasn’t really done much with her career ever since, makes it all the more better because it’s the snap-shot of brilliance that comes every once and awhile.

Did that hype the performance up enough for ya?

"So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?"

“So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?”

As I said though, saying that she’s the best part of this movie isn’t too discredit any other aspect of this movie that makes it work. It’s a joint-effort and more than likely, the flick works. Woody’s always been, and probably forever will be, a welcome-presence of the big screen, even if it is a bit odd to see a 60-year-old man, adopt and raise a child as if it was the most casual act of kindness on the entire face of the planet. Others are good too, especially the highly-underrated Michael Rapaport, who plays a boxer at a gym that Lenny cons into going out on a date with Linda and has the under-lining, good-boy sweetness to him that allows you to get past the fact that he’s a total idiot. Then again though, she is too and watching them together is probably the high-lights of the movie. In fact, those scenes are so good, as sparse as they may be, I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing one whole flick just surrounding them and their blossoming relationship. Now that would be a Woody Allen flick I’d be very excited to see, but probably may never, ever get.

The ones in this cast who I don’t think worked were very small problems here and there. I like F. Murray Abraham in just about everything he does, and is even good here, but the whole act that his legion of cult-singers narrate the story and tell us what’s lingering at the end of it, as if it were a Greek, modern-tragedy, got old and only took steam out of the flick. Also, it served as a pitch perfect example of what it’s like when Woody can get a little too up his own ass and seem a bit pretentious. And before I go and forget to mention it, Peter Weller, as snarling and oozy as he may be, feels like he’s here more than nothing else to be a dick, and nothing but. Come on, Woody! You can do better than that!

Consensus: Whenever Mira Sorvino isn’t on the screen at all, Mighty Aphrodite isn’t as sharp or as entertaining, but when she is around, for us to set our eyes on, she’s fun, exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt, in only the type of way an Oscar-winning performance could be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, I'm going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career."

“One day, I’m going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career.”

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