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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

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

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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.”

Pusher (1996)

I’m going to assume that drugs are bad?

During a couple of days, middle-man drug-dealer Frank (Kim Bodnia) is living the life he wants to have. He’s got money, he’s got drugs, he’s got a girl (Laura Drasbæk), he’s got a best friend (Mads Mikkelsen), and he’s got some protection on his side, just in case anything ever goes wrong. However, that said protection has been getting a little antsy in the panties lately since Frank has owed money to them. For a long time too, so I might add. But that doesn’t matter because Frank cuts a deal with the kingpin of the mob, Milo (Zlatko Burić), and come together on a deal that will make both sides happy and clear. Then the actual “deal” happens, and not everything goes so according to plan as Frank, Milo and everybody else had hoped.

After Drive hit the cinemas and everybody realized that Ryan Gosling could still be the hottest thing known to man, without uttering a single word and just staring, a new name was brought to the Hollywood-crowd: Nicolas Winding Refn. And yes, it all started back in ’96 with this little gem, that not only put his name on the map, but Danish cinema altogether. Then again though, it was a crime movie made for a total of $15 and a couple of Big Macs, so obviously any type of exposure or audience would have made this flick a “success” to say the least, but I digress.

Don't mess with a man who has two guns in his hands. That's if he can actually control 'em.

Don’t mess with a man who has two guns in his hands. That is if he knows how to fire them simultaneously.

I’ll give credit where credit’s due, for being just 26 at the time and not having any experience whatsoever in a film school or any type of tutelage for that matter; Refn makes for a very impressive-debut because the guy tells the story in a straight-forward way, without any added schlock or strings. Obviously that simplicity would change very drastically over the years, but for his first flick, he made the smart decision in keeping things cool and straight-forward, which altogether made it a very tense, jittery flick that will have you feel as if you’re right there, if not in as much danger as Frank gets over the movies hour-and-a-half. Everything about the film seems like a documentary here, and even though it’s obvious when and where Refn added his own workings to have it gel in a way that’s at least cohesive, it still seems like Refn got together with his buddies, pressed “record” on his tape-recorder, and let loose with whatever story/script he was working with.

I also wonder just how much of a script was used here considering not a single person really seems to be acting. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, as much as it’s just noticeable by how grainy and unprofessional the film seems to be. Obviously everybody here starred in flicks before and had their own type of exposure, but being a Yankee and only leaving my country once (does Niagara Falls count?), I didn’t catch on to what these actors were before the movie. After the movie, I had a pretty clear image in my head since most of them still continue to pop-up in stuff nowadays, which shows that Refn had a good handle on who he was casting, and for what role.

Everybody here gets their roles down to a T, even if most of them feel like they’re just saying shit, just to do so. Well, that is with the exception of Kim Bodnia as Frank, our frantic drug-dealer for the hour-and-a-half. What works so well with Bodnia here is that he doesn’t make Frank really all that sympathetic, but still allows us to root for him, hoping that he eventually escapes the shitty luck he’s been having as of late. He’s not a good guy in the sense that he isn’t moral, per se: He deals drugs, commits crimes, runs from the cops, makes girls do dirty, sexual things to him, and even go so far as to beg his mommy-wommy for a heaping-amount of money, even when it’s pretty clear to us that this is the first time he’s talked to her, or vice versa, in a very long time. In that sense, the guy’s not “likeable”, but once you see him try to go to Point-A-to-Point-B, only to have it all screwed up because of one unlucky coincidence; then you eventually have to open up the arms and just tell him to give you a big one. Bodnia’s great in this role and keeps the movie moving at a nice pace, even when everything and everyone else around him seems to be so relatively regular and ordinary.

And if there was a huge problem I had with this movie, it was that after all of the buzz and hooplah I had heard about this movie (and the two sequels that followed), I was left sort of disappointed. Not because I wanted more bits of gun-toting, violence, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, but because I expected it to be more than just your ordinary, crime thriller that focused on a drug-dealer who needed to get a certain amount of money before the ticking-clock hit zero. That whole approach provides plenty of tension and a general sense of unease in the air, but it doesn’t bring anything new to a genre that was already hitting it’s high-marks of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, right at around the time this movie hit the streets.

"Don't make promises you can't fulfill. Like this knife to your throat."

“Don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. Like this knife to your throat.”

Yeah, maybe it’s a little too cheap to compare those cinematic classics to anything, anything at all, but with this type of movie, I would have felt like Refn would have had his work cut-out for him and know what to do to make this a bit more unique than your average, forgettable crime-thriller in the same vein as Tarantino’s. Other than the naturalistic-approach, that gives it the grimmest-look I’ve seen of a movie in a long while, there’s not much else to this story. It’s just a guy who needs his drugs, needs his money and needs his safety, so that he can live the life that he wants to live, as bland as it may be. Definitely an idea this movie could have explored more, maybe in a way to separate itself from the rest of the pack, but nope, Refn decided to follow the leader and along the ride, hoping that people will notice something “different” or “unique” to the approach.

I found nothing, but I’m just a dick.

Then again, being a the self-establish film critic that I am, I have to take in each and every flick as they are, and not what they could have been and I could see you doing plenty of other bad crap with your life, other than watching a movie about a bunch of people who do. It has plenty of style to-boot and will probably make you feel more for Refn as a director, especially since you’ll know about his back-story behind this flick and how he decided to turn down the offer from a local film school, just so he could make this movie. Sounds to me like somebody’s making a bit more money now, than half of those fellow-graduates probably made in their whole lifetime. Lesson is: Screw film school! Get out there and make a movie of your own!

Consensus: Despite not being anything criminally new or ground-breaking that hasn’t been done to death by now, Pusher still shows us a force to be reckoned with in the form of Refn, a name who has become synonymous with “artsy”, but shows barely any of that here and to good effect as well.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, "no" to the booty-call?"

“So, “no” to the booty-call? What about the drugs at least?”

Mimic (1997)

As if the sewers weren’t disgusting enough.

After an insane roach problem threatened half of humanity three years ago, Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) and her husband Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) feel as if there is nothing else out there in the world to worry about, other than having a couple of babies and starting a family. However, all of those settling-down ideas are put to the side once some roaches stay alive and find a way to mutate into any species they oh so desire. Even humans! This means that Tyler and Mann have to get back into the groove of things, show up to work, and get ready to kill the roaches once and for all, but this time, they’re a little bit more powerful and hungry this time around and it’s going to be a lot easier said then done. Maybe.

This is the epitome of the type of creepy, gushy-flicks that Gulliermo del Toro loves to make. There’s oodles amounts of slime, creatures, people in distress, and even a couple of kids wandering around. It’s exactly the type of movie you expect from this dude, except for the fact that this one sort of blows. Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as I already have made it out to be, but you can already tell, right from the very beginning that this is the work of a guy who’s whining and dining at a bigger table than he’s used to, and eventually, the jig is going to be up and they’re going to ask for the check.

That means that del Toro bit-off a bit more than he could chew. Does that label it down for you out there?

Cool beans.

Scientists can get down and party too! Woo!

Scientists can get down and party too! Woo!

What I will say positive about del Toro’s direction is that the dude obviously loves the creatures and the havoc he has created for us to watch on screen. Most of the creatures are computer-animated, but each and every one has a fine line of detail that looks and feels real, as if you are almost right there. They don’t scare you like they should because they’re a bit corny to look at, but when they are all up in your grill here and show their violent-ways, I have to admit, even I was a bit freaked-out. Not because I thought I was going to get killed or anything, but because they were just disgusting-looking. Many horror movies do that with their monsters in order to have them be scary: the grosser, the scarier. It doesn’t quite work for me as much as it may for some horror-hounds out there, but I do have to admit that some of it does work, and some of it doesn’t. More good, than bad, but the bad does show.

However, the bad barely even shows because the whole freakin’ movie is dark. Seriously, practically the last 20 minutes of this movie is lit-up by a glow-stick and a small flashlight. That’s it. I get that, literally and figuratively, keeping the audience in the dark is supposed to keep us on the edge of our seats and even more scared with what’s next to come, but I need to see something, hell, anything in order to feel that way! I trust that del Toro really had some suspense to build on here, but it never quite latched onto me, mostly because I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on, and mostly, because I wasn’t all that interested.

Basically, the whole problem with this movie comes down to the script and how poorly-written it is. When I watch a horror movie, I don’t ask for a winning-screenplay about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, but I do ask for a little something more than just the same old lines I’ve heard time and time again. Somebody saying to an on-looker, “Look out!”, right before they get all caught up by a monster and eaten alive, or a moment where people decide to split-up because “that’s what’s best for now”, all just piss me off to high heavens and make it obviously clear why the horror genre has failed me so much in the past. That’s why come every Halloween, I’m always packing on the quality horror flicks that I’ve most likely missed, and get on top of them so I can actually feel happy for the genre that will never, ever go away, not even as each and every one that came before it gets a remake.

Look out! It's a buggy/roachy thingy!

Look out! It’s a buggy/roachy thingy!

Yup, wasn’t a fan of that one either.

But at least the Oscar-caliber cast is good and here to save the day, right? Ehhhh! Wrong! Despite Mira Sorvino being about 2 years past her Oscar win, she still seemed to want to cash in on the money, and not the respect, especially when she took a role as cut-and-dry as this. I’ll give Sorvino some credit, the lady’s natural charm and cuteness to her look makes this character more interesting than your usual, heroine in horror movies, but she does fall victim to some pretty shitty lines and uninspired actions her character takes. Then again, the gal’s smokin’, so I can’t be on her ass too much.

Jeremy Northam is here as her dorky hubby and does what he’s asked of, even if that is being insanely hokey; Charles S. Dutton is meant to be here for comedic-relief, and because every horror movie is strictly in need of a black character to kill off, especially once the murder-toll begins to tally-up; Josh Brolin plays Northam’s hot-shot buddy that’s a bit too big for his britches, but gets by on wit and just being cool (as always); F. Murray Abraham plays an aging, college professor who knows a bit too much dangerous shit to walk around and not tell anybody about, even though he plays it with enough class to make us feel like he knows what he’s doing and talking about, even if it is completely idiotic; and rounding it all out is Giancarlo Giannini plays a shoe-shiner who works in the subway where all of these roaches are hibernating, and gives the movie some much-needed warmth and depth as we see that the dude obviously cares for his “special” son, no matter how “special” he may be. And by “special”, I mean that the kid walks around, playing tunes with two spoons and his legs, and calling somebody “Mr. Funny Shoes”. Wow, nice subtlety there del Toro!

Consensus: People who love del Toro flicks, as well as the creature-feature flicks that are obviously famous in the horror genre, will have a blast with Mimic, if they can get by the over-familiarity of the plot, as well as the sure dumbness of the script and characters.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Sooooo rad."

“Sooooo rad.”

Stargate (1994)

Let’s just stay in this universe and not fuck anything up. Thanks.

Prof. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) believes there is more to our humanity but yet, nobody will care to listen to him because they feel as if he is just another nut with a microphone, and a head that’s a bit too big for his britches. That said, somebody takes notice to this freak-o and makes him apart of a secret mission to uncover an ancient portal known as the Stargate. Along with a couple of soldiers, lead by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), they take a trip through this other dimension to see what’s shaking and baking and the answers they come up with are sure as hell not pretty.

We can all come to terms with the fact that Roland Emmerich isn’t the type of guy we can expect to see new-bread, highly-intellectual classics from, but at least we can expect one thing from him no matter what the story may be that he is tackling: fun, fun, and more fun. That’s all there is to it with Emmerich and even though Godzilla pissed almost everybody and their Chinese relatives off, and 2012 didn’t quite predict the future so well, at least the guy had fun with it, right? I’d say yes, but then again, I’m usually a sucker for these movies that don’t lose their enjoyment, no matter how stupid or idiotic they may actually get. This movie is the one where I drew the line with Emmerich and all of his stupidity that follows.

What I’m about to say is probably going to lose me a lot of street-cred but hey, so be it. The problem with this movie, right from the start, was that it was just so damn terribly boring, almost to the point of where I was actually contemplating turning it off, checking out another movie, and acting as if this one never came anywhere near me or my mind. I was very, very close to doing this but sadly, I stuck with it and it rarely ever got better for me. Emmerich tries his hardest by building up a story, showing us all the details, but also trying to leave some out for good fun, but it’s almost too much to where we don’t even feel like we know what the hell is going on at all.

Cool cut though.

Fresh cut though.

We get that these guys have to go to a different dimension, look for species, figure shit out, and take notes down, but that’s about it. Oh, and need I forget to tell you that Russell’s character has actually been given the direct order to bring a bomb with him and detonate it whenever he senses danger on this other universe. You know, a universe that may have human-beings alive on it and other materials that may be useful for the world we live in. Nope, just blow that shitty place up and act like it was all good in a hard day’s work. Because let’s face it, that’s what the military does, right?

That aspect of this movie seemed really stupid, but I was willing to drop my pants and my brain for a healthy-dosage of fun and entertainment, and I barely even got that. The first half of this movie is simply dedicated to these dudes running around this strange land, being acquainted with the natives, and trying to figure out what the hell is up with this land, even if there isn’t really anything wrong with it in the first place. This all plays out as if it was a shitty, low-budget remake of Dances with Wolves, but instead of having Navajo natives, they got these weird, slightly-colored people to speak total gibber and gabber, and consider that a “foreign language”. Seriously? That’s the best you could come up? Give me a damn break!

Don’t worry though, because it does get worse. As soon as the problems do actually show their faces, the movie still continues to make no sense as to why this person they have to face-off against is evil, why the hell he cares about these dudes showing up on their land, and just what does it all mean in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you could probably say that I was looking for a little bit too much in something that was just a typical, sci-fi yarn, but when a movie that is so focused and hell-bent on describing it’s ideas, plot, and exposition, I at least expect there to be some sort of reasonable explanation to it all. Not a whole lot, but just some, and this movie just never gave me that nor did it do anything to excite me. A couple of action scenes here and there fly by, but that’s about it and something felt like Emmerich just wanted to cut-loose, get crazy, and start blowing the shit out of random things like people, pyramids, and most of all, hairy monsters that are just there for show.

If there was any hope in this movie that it wouldn’t be the total shit-box I was expecting of it to be, it was at least that the cast could save the day, and apparently even that was asking way too much. James Spader is a very talented actor that can usually make any type of role work, but he just is so nerdy, so gullible, and so spazzy, that it gets to a point of where it’s annoying. I didn’t look at this guy in any other way, other than just by seeing him as the usual bookworm that thinks he’s way too smart, doesn’t know how to act in situations where the shit gets hot, and worst of all, doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Something tells me that a dude like James Spader doesn’t quite need help with the ladies but I guess Roland Emmerich saw something that I didn’t. Strange.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Thankfully, this is where Kurt Russell shows up to pick the slack up from here and shake things up, Snake Plissken-style. Okay, maybe his character here isn’t that awesome or cool for that matter, but it’s Kurt Russell being Kurt Russell, and for a movie and role like this: we really needed to see that come alive within the dude. Russell is constantly cool, a bit dangerous, a bit mysterious, but always bad-ass and shows that he can take even the shittiest-material, and make it his own little bitch. He seems like he really wants to get wild at some points, but he keeps it grounded and humane, just the way I like to see Russell play it. Although it doesn’t hurt to want to get up and start hacking people off left and right. Especially wouldn’t have hurt in this movie, anyway.

The strangest person in this cast, who still has me scratching my head as to whether or not he was actually good, or just plain and simply ridiculous was Jaye Davidson as the Egyptian king that wants this pretty place to himself, with nobody else’s grubby paws getting in the way. Davidson is the person most of you may now from the Crying Game (yeah, you know who the hell I’m talking about) and is fine here, but dresses so strange, looks so weird, and has this voice that’s a mixture between Barry White and Satan, that it just didn’t do a single thing for me and had me laugh at him the whole entire time. It seemed as if Davidson just got back from a drag-queen show every time he showed up on set and decided to now waste the time getting ready to suit-up, and kept the clothes he had on originally. Does it work? Yeah, maybe in a campy-way, but this movie isn’t campy enough and is always so self-serious that this villain, this performance, and this look that Davidson carries on throughout the whole movie just seems idiotic and totally out-of-place. Still have no idea why the hell this dude jumped off the face of the Earth after this movie hit, but who knows. Maybe he got stuck in another universe after all!

Consensus: Sci-fi junkies will probably eat this shit for breakfast, spit it right back out, and chew it up again for fun, but for a person who just wants a good story, realistic characters, and a bunch of fun and action, Stargate doesn’t even fill me up after the appetizers. It feels as if it wants to be a goofy, over-the-top movie but plays it so serious and so dramatic, that it never gets off the ground. It just stays there and sinks into the sand.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Trust me, it's a dude. I think...

Trust me, it’s a dude. I think…

Presumed Innocent (1990)

Come on Indy! Don’t get caught with your Willy!

Presumed Innocent is about anti-heroic lawyer Rozat “Rusty” Sabich (Harrison Ford), a Kindle County prosecutor and presumptive heir to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office currently occupied by Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy). When Rusty’s attractive colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi) turns up murdered, the evidence points to Rusty, despite his being married with children and the type of dude that would never, ever pull a deadly-stunt like that off. However, is there more going on than he thinks that may point fingers to others out there. Even the people he loves and works with? Only time will tell until everything is revealed.

Old-school mystery thrillers are always my favorite to watch, and for some odd reason, I always get the urge to watch them during the summer time. Don’t know why that’s always been a thing for me. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the fact that every movie in the summer that’s released or viewed, are usually dumb as hell and require barely any thought, or maybe it’s just a thing I do. I don’t know, maybe it’s as simple as that. No further thinking required.

All of the credit for this film has to go to director Alan J. Pakula for bringing a very moody and tense atmosphere to this flick because it honestly gave me a feeling that I couldn’t trust anybody in this story. It’s a very interesting “whodunit” that keeps you guessing the whole time, even when you think you got it all under control. Usually when courtroom scenes show up, they usually spell-out more hints and clues that make the wider-picture seem so much more obvious, but here, Pakula really seemed to be pulling out the rug right from underneath us, and best of all: he seemed to be enjoying it. That’s what I like in my old-school, mystery-thrillers and watching this one was nowhere near being different.

With a mug like that, yup, he's totally giving himself away.

With a mug like that, he’s totally giving himself away.

But the most important aspect of this story that made it work was the courtroom scenes themselves, some of which; are very smart and well-written. There are plenty of courtroom drama’s out there like A Few Good Men and A Time to Kill that have great and snappy dialogue to get you riled up and excited, but it’s also dialogue that feels very “staged”, which, I guess is the point considering they’re movies and all but it gives you this feel that maybe these certain types of people wouldn’t talk like this, had they actually been put into situations like this. Here, a lot of the courtroom dialogue feels very realistic and everybody that either defends their own case, questioning someone, or objects, all seem like real people actually talking. I know this is a weird compliment to give this flick but it’s just a very rare thing to see a courtroom flick just shoot it straight, without trying to throw out any lines like “You can’t handle the truth!”. Even though, I do have to say that 20 years later, that whole scene/line is still pretty epic.

Problem is, after all of this build-up, all of this suspense, and all of this smart-ass questioning going on in the courtroom, the film still disappoints. BIG TIME. I don’t want to give anything away as to what happens in the end, or even what the end is all about but it features a huge twist on the story and not only makes you think differently about what you just saw but also, all of the characters themselves. This all sounds cool and nifty, but it’s very weird how they approach this ending by having an explanation told in a way that would remind you of a psychotic horror movie character. I knew by the way this story was, there was going to be a big twist in the end, but I didn’t know it was going to be handled in such a lame and anticlimactic way. I’m tempted to throw my whole life away and spill the beans, but I still want to keep my credibility. It’s stupid though. Enough said.

Even though Harrison Ford hasn’t had the best track-record in recent years (even though he was awesome in 42), you still got to give it to the guy because he’s able to pull off the action roles like Indiana Jones or Han Solo, but also able to breakaway from them and pull off some dramatic, regular-guy roles as well. Ford is great here as Rusty showing a lot of emotional strain just in the way he looks and way he sounds, but also distances himself away from the audience and makes you think twice about his character as to whether or not he’s involved with the murder he’s investigating. Actually, this was a pretty cool feature but there comes a point in the film where Rusty eventually does get accused of murdering this gal, and shows barely little or no emotions about it. I get it, the film is trying to make us question whether or not he’s involved with the actual murder, but it just didn’t come off as real considering the guys normal and somewhat happy life is in danger. Still, Ford can rock these roles out very well and he’s no different here.

"Hmm...I guess I'm going to be a dick today too."

“Hmm…I guess I’m going to be a dick today too.”

The rest of the cast is full of a bunch of familiar faces that are sure to make you happy when they pop-up on screen. Raul Julia is a lot of fun to watch as Rusty’s lawyer, who always seems to have a trick up his sleeve and brings a lot of humor and charm to the courtroom scenes, even when they seem to get uber serious; Brian Dennehy is playing one of his usual nasty and corrupt characters here as Rusty’s morally compromised boss; and Greta Scacchi has a couple of good scenes as our murdered lady-friend, Carolyn Polhemus, and it’s pretty easy to see why so many dudes would fall for her, especially a guy like Ford. There’s also plenty of other people to see here too, but I won’t spoil them for you. Just check it out yourself and see how many faces you can make to names. Movies like this are fun like that. Most of the time at least.

Consensus: The tension, the mystery, the mood, the atmosphere, and the acting seemed to all come together for Presumed Innocent by one point to where it was really kicking ass in a way I wasn’t expecting, but because of it’s out-of-nowhere, nutty-twist at the end, major points had to be taken away. But the build-up is still awesome, so expect that.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yeah, we're fucked."

“Yeah, we’re fucked.”

The Brothers McMullen (1995)

I’m telling you, us Irish guys know our women, and beer. Definitely more of the latter than the former.

Three Irish-Catholic brothers (Edward Burns, Mike McGlone, Jack Mulcahy) from Long Island, New York, all love the hell out of each other and would do anything for the other. However, they also have a lot of problems that they need to let out every once and awhile. Whether it be the wife at home giving them a hard time, the kids are getting up your ass, or you feel as if you’re getting too old for this shit anymore, they are always there. That’s what brothers are for and that’s what these ones do for one another. Why? Cause they Irish, they Catholic, and they are, above else: McMullens.

Is it me, or does it seem like Edward Burns deserves more roles? This flick pretty much put him on the map back in the day and all because it was pretty much his brain-child: he directed it, wrote it, funded it, produced it, advertised it, gave birth to it, and practically did everything else one person can do a for movie. Heck, I even think the guy played the bagpipes for the score? Probably didn’t, but it’s always a nice thought. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that this is his baby and it’s a film that shows this guy has some real talent, so any problems here, are all put onto him. Thankfully, there’s not too much I can throw against his Boston-ass.

What I liked most about this flick was Burns’ writing and just how natural it felt. Take it for granted, this whole movie is dedicated to a bunch of dudes just sitting around, shooting the shit, talking about what’s on their minds, what’s on their weenies’ minds, and what they think about when the ladies aren’t around. That would definitely bore the hell out of some people, but not me. I actually enjoyed everything that these guys talked about and a lot of it came off as very true. I know I may sound like I’m jumping the gun here because I’m only 19 years of age (for now, ladies?) and I wouldn’t know a single thing about love, marriage, sex (I sort of do now, ladies?), or kids for that matter (I hope I don’t, ladies!!??!?!), but what I do know, is men (sounds a little strange, but you know what I mean). And what I know most about men is that they all talk like about their problems in this sort of way, and react to their problems just like they do in this flick as well. It all feels real and that’s one of the best things that this movie has to offer.

It was the 90's! Give the guy a break!

It was the 90′s! Give the guy a break!

Other than knocking down a pretty solid screenplay, Burns also does a great job behind the camera even though he doesn’t do anything flashy. There’s this very grainy look that makes the film seem as if it’s filmed in documentary style and made me feel like I was there, with these guys while they go through all of this tough shit with their lives. But other than the look, nothing else Burns does here gets in the way of the story which is great. Oh wait, there was that annoying-ass Irish music score that came in almost every single 5 minutes that obviously was there because it went along with the theme of these guys being Irish and all, but did it really need to be here? Especially in a film like this. I don’t know, it just bothered me because it made me feel like I was watching Braveheart.

The only other annoying aspect of this flick was how sweetie-pie everything begins to get by the end of the movie. Before the last 30 minutes or so, these characters were hard-hitting, talking about all of this bad shit, and actually doing some bad shit while they were talking about it, but by the end: it all goes away. Then, once the paths have apparently been cleared, we get some cheesy scenes where everything end nicely, with a little cherry at the top. A bit too too nicely you may wonder? Damn skippy! But trust me, I’m not trying to give away any spoilers here or anything, but you’ll start to see it all once a certain-part in the end shows up. d

Bummer too, because everything Burns was doing here beforehand felt honest and real. It’s almost as if he was speaking for men all-over-the-globe (especially from New Yaaark, booo!), and to see him sort of cop out in the end and get all sentimental with us, seemed like a bit of a cheat. Kind of as if Burns was too afraid in going that extra-mile and really hitting us dudes where it hurts the most (you know where that is, ladies). Also, while I’m at it, why not bag on Burns some more? To top that all off,  they played it all of with some crappy and depressing track from Sarah McLachlan. You know, that chick that makes you want to kill yourself for not saving an animal from the pound. Yeah, no reason for her to be in this kind of a flick, let alone, any flick for that matter. Please don’t find and kill me, SPCA. Please.

"So, yeah. I told her, "why don't we bring another chick to bed?" For some reason, she didn't budge."

“So, yeah. I told her, “why don’t we bring another chick to bed?” For some reason, she didn’t budge.”

Aside from all of that though, Burns lifts himself up with a pretty good performance that definitely makes you wish you saw more of his character around, but then again, you got to give it to a guy who isn’t trying to just steal the spotlight in his own show. Instead, he gives it to two other dudes that play his brothers, Mike McGlone and Jack Mulcahy. Both of these guys are good here and it’s a real shame that, along with Burns, they haven’t really been doing much. Well, that is except for McGlone who I see from time-to-time in Geico commercials. That’s right, one second the guy is in a critically-acclaimed film that premiers at Sundance, and the next second he’s cuing up jokes for Elmer Fudd. Funny where your career will eventually take ya, that’s why I stay far away from Hollywood and relish ion the days of appearing in small, indies. Hopefully that stays and hopefully I start making money. Aww, fuck it! I’m going to Hollywood and moving out of my parent’s basement!

Consensus: With plenty of great insight to what really goes on inside dudes’ heads, Edward Burns makes his directorial debut, The Brothers McMullen, a very funny and realistic comedy that touches on some hard-hitting issues with life for the male-gender, it just doesn’t know how to resolve them in a realistic-way. Or maybe it was realistic, who knows.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Always count on that one chick to ruin the bro-talk.

Always count on that one chick to ruin the bro-talk.

The Rock (1996)

Well, at least he didn’t apologize for this movie.

General Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris) feels as if he has been wronged by the country that he served for so damn long and decides to prove his dissatisfaction. How? Well, he rounds up a group of fellow troops who feel the same, get them into Alcatraz, take it over, hold hostages, threaten to use a bomb on the whole city of San Francisco, and keep a countdown of when the shit goes boom. There to save the day is explosions and chemicals expert Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), but he has a special guest with him, retired agent John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery). Mason is the only man who knows his way in and out of Alcatraz, and uses the government’s help to his advantage. Bastard.

We all know Michael Bay. Love him, hate him, adore him, disagree with him. No matter what, we all know a Michael Bay movie when we see one. Explosions, skinny-clad women, macho-posing, bad one-liners, and a whole shit load of action. Nothing more, nothing less. Good, now you know what you’re getting yourself into, let’s get this ride going.

Everybody considers this to be Bay’s best and even if that isn’t true (I’m still a fan of the first Transformers, don’t ask me why), I can still see why people have thought so, even up until today. It’s one of those movies that has such a solid premise, that it’s almost hard to live down the bad-assery. First of all, you got Alcatraz as the setting and any time you have your action and craziness occurring there; you can’t blow it. Secondly, the cast is pretty top-notch with a bunch of dudes that may not have been the biggest and the best box-office names at the time, but still showed you that they could beat some beef when they had to. And no, not that type either.

What he has in his hand right there could destroy everything on this planet. Yerp, we're boned.

What he has in his hand right there could destroy everything on this planet. Yerp, we’re boned.

And lastly, and probably the most important: it’s just fun. It doesn’t matter how much detail I get into this flick, all that matters is that this movie is all the fun and excitement that it should be and that’s it. You got the usual car-chases, the explosions, the gun-battles, the bombs, and even a Mexican stand-off in case anybody thought that not everything was possible. In Bay’s world, anything is possible and he’ll show you too, just with enough craziness and nuttiness to go along on the side. If you can’t handle it, then you shouldn’t have even bothered giving it a look in the first place. You can say that about most directors, but Bay is the prime-example where you have to know if his name is attached or not. Sounds crazy, I know. But there are people out there that hate him THAT much. Poor guy. Just needs a hug. Maybe Megan Fox will lend a hand?

Does that mean it is anywhere near the type of film you want to see to tease your brain and make you think? Absolutely, positively not! Then again, with the name “Michael Bay” attached, you couldn’t and probably shouldn’t expect anything more. That said, this movie is pretty stupid and some situations did make me laugh, albeit the unintentional ones. One of the goofiest gags throughout this movie is how the countdowns always seem to change drastically. At one point, we are stuck watching as the movie reads “9 hours till detonation”. That’s fine. Seemed reasonable and it seemed like time did pass on. Then, out of nowhere, about five minutes later, the movie reads “52 minutes till detonation”. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! What the hell happened to the pass 8 hours and 8 minutes? Did they just suddenly go by as soon as the people closed their eyes? Once again, maybe I was thinking a bit more than the movie, but that’s just a personal, random nitpick from yours truly. Once again, don’t think too much of it. I didn’t, and I had a great time.

Most of that good time is courtesy of the fine sets of bad-asses that Bay was able to assemble in almost every role, short to large. Sean Connery has always been known as one of the biggest and best bad-asses of our generation, and he totally proves that as John Mason. Some will laugh their asses off once they initially see the ged-up Connery’s decking, but after awhile, you get by it all once he gets a shave, a shower, and ready for action. After this hits, then it’s all feet-to-the-floor with him and the charm never stops. Even when Connery isn’t beating the shite out of somebody, he’s always finding a way to burst-out some snappy line that either he made up himself, or it was written for him so beautifully. There’s this whole subplot about him and his daughter that’s touched on a tad bit much, but who cares! It’s Sean Connery, in a movie, playing a bad-ass. Pipe down and enjoy!

Then, on the other end of the spectrum: there’s Nic Cage. If any of you out there know and love Nic Cage, the way that I know and love Nic Cage, then this is going to be one hell of an entertainment-ride for you. What’s so funny about Cage here is that since his character is such a dweeb-a-tron that doesn’t really know how to move in hand-to-hand combat and is as nerdy as you can get, then that means Cage gets to play around with that aspect, the way we all know Nic Cage loves to do. It’s hilarious to see him act like a total and complete nut, and even though there isn’t much else underneath this guy other than the fact that he’s get a preggo girly-gal at home and a pretty suit car, we still love the hell out of the guy. Then again, if you aren’t a fan of Nic Cage; you’re most likely going to hate every second he speaks. Yep, it’s like THAT.

Hes angry, in case you couldn't tell.

Hes angry, in case you couldn’t tell.

Last, but certainly not least is Ed Harris as the army general who calls this whole thing on and tries to go through with it. Harris is another actor that can be a nut when he chooses to be, and this role is no different. At first, you automatically think that he’s just an idiotic dick that has no real reasoning for doing the things he’s about to do, and you pretty much write him up as a unsympathetic dude right from the get-go. But, as time goes on and people start to piss him off more and more, you see a conscience come out of this guy and it’s believable. Well, at least as believable as you can get in a Michael Bay movie. But that’s still enough credit to Ed Harris who can almost do no wrong. That’s not just in my book, but a lot of others’ as well.

The rest of the cast is filled with a bunch of character actors that you have seen a hundred, million times before but just have never been able to match the name with the face. David Morse, Tony Todd, and Bokeem Woodbine play some of Harris’ fellow soldiers that help him out and do whatever they can to go through with their plan; whereas Michael Biehn and William Forsythe are among the ones that try their hardest to help out Connery and Cage. Whether or not it’s actually successful, I’ll leave to you. But, there’s plenty more where this came from and it’s always fun to play the old-fashioned, “name game” every once and awhile. Even if it is, once again: a Michael Bay movie. Okay, now I’m starting to get serious about that hug, dammit!

Consensus: Everything you’d want in a fast-paced, fun action film, is exactly in The Rock. You got guns, bullets, blood, cheese, bombs, explosives, corny one-liners, and a rare but fun Cage and Connery team-up, just to make sure you have as much enjoyment as you can, without having your brain intact.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Look how much fun they're having!!

Look how much fun they’re having!!

Payback (1999)

I miss the old days when the crowd used to cheer for the Jew-haters.

Porter (Mel Gibson) is one of those crooks that you don’t want to mess with because he’s smart, tough, quick-witted, and always a step-ahead of the baddies. But yet, somebody has still found a way to mess with him and even better: has taken $70,000 of his hard-earned cash away from him and left him for dead. However, whoever that was didn’t quite do a good job considering he’s still alive and wants revenge.

After seeing Parker a couple ways back, I never knew this but thecharacter that Jason Statham played, Parker, has been played many times before by some pretty famous faces. Faces like Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, and most recently (as recent the year 1999 can get), everybody’s favorite Jew-hater: Mel Gibson. That’s right, before it became common-practice to basically hate the guy with cold-blood, “Melodramatic Mel” was actually a movie-star, and a pretty good one at-that. Then again, you probably already know that since the guy just about kicks ass in anything he shows up in. This movie; is one of those instances. 

The movie’s tag-line reads, “Get ready to root for the bad guy”, but somehow, the guy isn’t all that bad. He’s a crook; yes. But he isn’t the crook that kills innocent people, women, children, cats, dogs, parrots, nuns, priests, etc. So, basically, he’s just a good guy that just so happens to be on the wrong side of the tracks and even worse: just so happens to be Mel Gibson (aka, everybody’s favorite action hero). And by, “favorite action hero”, I mean way back in the 80′s to the early 00′s, you know, before “the stuff” started to happen?

Anywhoo, other than all of that hooplah that nobody cares about, the flick itself is pretty damn fun and had me feeling as if I was watching an old-school crime movie, told by one of the greats. Writer/director Brian Helgeland isn’t necessarily what I would call a “great”, but the guy does know a thing or two about throwing out a solid, crime story, sprucing it up with some fancy twists and turns here and there, and allowing the guns, fights, and explosions to take their wind and keep things moving when it may fall-asleep due to a lame subplot. But it doesn’t feel forced, it feels good for the story and natural and every time the movie would go through some sort of change where a character would reveal something, or a new and crucial plot-point would somehow make it’s way to surface, I felt on-board with it all, as if I was just apart of some cruel, but fun game Helgeland had in-mind the whole time. I make it sound more sick and twisted than it really is, but trust me: you’re more than likely to have fun with this.

"Hey, your job's being a hooker. You all love flowers, right?"

“Hey, your job’s being a hooker. You all love flowers, right?”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to call this movie a “noir” of sorts as it has that cool, and slick look and feel to it, while giving it a visual-flair where everything is all grainy, as if the world these criminals live in, features people that are all color blind and can’t tell if that bottom light on the stop light is green or gray. This old feel, really made me feel like I was in for a treat, with a guy that knew the type of story he wanted to tell, how serious he wanted it to be, how goofy he wanted it to be, and what extremes he would go to ultimately have us never knowing what to expect next. Watching these crime-thrillers, you always want to never be in the clear about anything, and it’s just awesome when you finally get a movie like this to just allow you to sit down, relax, drop your brain for a bit, and also be ready to see a story goes places you didn’t expect. And even if you did expect the story to go into some places that it does, at least they do it in such a way that’s jokey-wokey, rather than all serious and unknowing. And even if they don’t do it that way: who the hell cares?!?!? It’s fun, exciting, and twisty, and just exactly what I like in my crime-thrillers. Especially from Mr. Mel Gibson himself.

Despite Porter not being all that much of an anti-hero as the promotional tools would probably have you think, Gibson is still pretty damn good at this character because he has the charm, he has the gruff look, but he has the acquired set of skills that always puts him ahead of the others around him, and never lets you lose the fact that this guy is always doing something for a reason. He’s a no-nonsense type of dude that may do something odd, strange, or typically out-of-the-ordinary, but don’t be fooled because it may just be another move that Porter has set-up for a trick in his sleeve. Gibson, before he was out yelling and howling at Jews and female cops, was actually a pretty cool and sly dude that people liked and cheered-on in movies and if you miss any ounce of that thrill, then definitely see this movie because it is Mel Gibson in full-effect here. For better, or for worse, depending on wherever the hell you stand. You can probably tell where I stand, and I’m staying there. Me, and Jodie Foster.

"Take this, JEWS!!"

“This is for killing Christ, Jews!!”

The rest of the cast is filled to the core with the likes of people you have all seen before and like, you just don’t know it yet. Maria Bello is always a great actress no matter what the material it is that she’s given and she’s good here as Porter’s love-interest, but feels a bit too much like a weak piece of service, the way her character and her plot brings down everything else. Granted, she does bring a nice level of action and excitement into the story when you least expect it, but all of the scenes with her and Gibson just had me taking a ticket to snoozeville, and hoping to come back to life before it was too late. Lucy Liu shows-up in one of her earliest roles as an S&M call girl that beats the shit out of guys, gets it right back, and does it all for the pleasure and money. It’s also very, very stereotypical but hey, I guess Lucy needed some way to get her foot in the door. There are others here, like Gregg Henry as the main chump who betrays Porter; David Paymer as a snarky, cab-driver that made me want to punch him square in nose (unintentionally and intentionally); and Kris Kristofferson as a big, bad mob boss that Porter ‘effs with by the end, and poses the biggest and most worthwhile threat of all. Everybody’s good and adds a little som som to the proceeds, but it’s Gibson’s show and he takes over. Big-time, bitches.

Consensus: Payback is a routine thriller that doesn’t have a whole bunch of new tricks to show on-display, but is always a blast to watch because of it’s twists, action, and utter coolness from the script, and Gibson himself.

7 / 10 = Rental!! 

Well, at least she got Kill Bill out of the deal.

Well, at least she got Kill Bill out of the deal.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Dinosaurs never have been, and never will be the same.

Two dinosaur experts, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler Laura Dern), are invited to test out a soon-to-be theme park from a millionaire named John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). Hammond has it all: he’s got the glitz, the glamour, the look, the style, and most surprisingly; he has dinosaurs. That’s right those things that you thought were exterminated almost 70 million years ago are in Hammond’s park, and are causing a ruckus like you’d expect. However, when that ruckus turns from playful to deadly in a matter of 24 hours, all hell breaks loose and it’s time for everybody to get their asses the hell of that damn island.

It’s been a long, long time since I made a return to this wonderful, but scary island but it was still a trip worth taking, even if it was in 3D this time around. Here’s the thing about the 3D since most peeps will want to know right off the bat: it’s nothing worth even talking about (even though that is exactly what I’m doing). The 3D is cool at times and definitely makes you feel as if you are a lot closer to the action than ever before, especially when it’s just jumping right out at you, but other than that; it’s nothing special that would really make me want to go out and see it, again and again. Even though I did see it in theaters, it was all because it was free, early in the a.m., and best of all, with my daddy waddy. Father-son bonding. Ain’t nothing else like it.

Aside from the 3D elements that are relatively lackluster at best, let me just get back with the movie and say that it’s still as fun and entertaining as much as it was all those years ago I watched it as a kid. I remember being scared of the big-ass dinos, I remember gripping my seat when those kids were running all-over-the-place in that kitchen, and I especially remember those freaky fuckers that used to spray poison/venom out of themselves, just as soon as they gave you the warning sign to “run the fuck away, now!”. Fond memories going into this movie and I was so happy to see none of them really tarnished, even if some glaring problems come in the way now that I’m a more sophisticated, and uppity-uppity film critic.

Lights off, idiot!

Lights off, idiot!

Some of the problems I seemed to have had with the script was not that it was lame or anything, it’s fine for what it is and what it tries to do, it’s just that when the initial plot where there is running, chasing, and panic all throughout the area, I felt like it could have been handled better, and written better without all of the plot inconveniences  For instance, the character of John Hammond just seemed like an idiot for even bothering opening up this park, for one reason and one reason only: there’s not enough security. The fact that the dippy was even thinking of opening up this park, where dinosaurs can easily get out of their safe-spots, just by knocking down a couple of wires, seemed really idiotic to me and not something that a rich millionaire would even forget about. Then, it goes on about how he’s cloning these dinosaurs from other gene-pools and turning them all into female, even if that proves a problem for evolution within this park, along with the rising tensions. I get that the guy had a passion and inspiration to create this park and allow everybody to see it, but you got to think things through man before you go all nutso on us.

There’s other problems with the script in certain areas, but the fact of the matter is that this movie is still fun, still entertaining, and still freaky, despite being released almost 20 years ago. Shit, I was actually three months away from entering the world when this movie came out. I’m getting old, man. The movie holds up in many ways because it shows what Steven Spielberg can do when he has a vision and that includes having a ball with his material. Some of it is a tad serious, but rightfully so. It allows us to feel worried for these characters as they constantly try to run and hide from these dinos, without losing a leg, arm, shoulder, knee, or life. It’s pretty scary even after all of these years, but I like how Spielberg was able to transition it back-and-forth, between serious and fun. It’s not light entertainment by any stretch, but if you bring your kid to it, I highly doubt they’ll be scared for life. Granted, they may wet the bed every night and never, ever want to see a dinosaur again, but that’s just life my friend. Quite frankly, it’s your call if you want to take them to see it, not mine. So please, don’t sue me if the kid ends up in a nut-ward or a serial killer. Just saying.

Another factor of this movie that works and also shows how much fun Spielberg seemed to be having while filming was the ensemble-cast he was able to assemble and make ready for this “dinosaur on a rampage” flick. Might have been a hard-sell at the time, but somehow, the man was able to get a lot of heavy-hitters that are still doing great work, even to this day. Laura Dern and Sam Neill are good as the couple that loves dinosaur bones as much as they love each other, and are good at what they do, whether they be together or separate  Dern is good at playing-up that tough, female-role where she can do almost as much dirty work, if not more than the boys in town; whereas Neill is good at playing-up his role as the type of dude who doesn’t like kids and doesn’t even want him, but yet, finds himself almost acting like a daddy when the shit hits the fan. Bedtime stories and all.

"What a pretty puppet."

“What a pretty puppet.”

Samuel L. Jackson shows up and is good in his couple of scenes where he infamously utters the line, “Hold on to your butts.” A bit corny, but it’s classic because of Mr. Jackson. Or Samuel L. Whichever one that mofo desires. Despite the problems I had with his dumb-ass character, screen-vet Richard Attenborough was actually very good at giving us a glimpse into a man that has too much money, too much ambition, but not enough smarts to fully think things through. I felt bad for him, until I realized that he allowed his grand kids to show up for this wonderful weekend. I guess he won’t be invited to Christmas din-din any time soon. And lastly, need I not forget about the one, the only, Mr. Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, aka, the rock-star scientist who always lays low, always lays cool, and always has something hilarious or witty to say. It’s classic-Goldblum, whadda ya expect?!?

Consensus: Though the extra-dimension isn’t needed, Jurassic Park still holds up as one of the best, and most entertaining Spielberg flicks because he never seems to lose that fun-aspect that makes it such a ride (they actually have a pretty sucky one in Universal), and also the serious side to it all where you feel like anybody could die at any second, you just don’t know how to expect it coming. Trust me, not as gruesome as it sounds so show your kiddies and see what they have to say. Unless they get traumatized for the rest of their lives. Once again, don’t blame me for not listening to your inner-soul.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

If all parks ended their tours like this, family-trips wouldn't be so painful.

If all parks ended their tours like this, family-trips wouldn’t be so painful.

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