That’s why you gotta fly high, Marriott Inn-style, baby.
It all started on a very-rainy night with a woman getting run over by a limo-driver (John Cusack). After this, the man tries to save her life by bringing her to a motel in the middle of the desert, owned by an odd man named Larry (John Hawkes). There’s no such luck, until a cop (Ray Liotta) with a prisoner in his custody (Jake Busey), comes on by. There might be hope, but there somehow isn’t, considering the more and more people that show up, the more deaths there are. But here’s the kicker: nobody has a single-clue exactly as to who’s killing all of these people in the shadows. It could be anybody. Hell, it could even be YOU, the viewer!! AHHH!!
This movie is such an obvious rip-off of an Hitchcock movie, it’s not even funny. Everything from the strange-o characters, to the tense setting, to the mystery, and hell, even to the actual motel itself. It looks exactly like the one that Norman Bates rented out for anybody that strolled-along, almost to the point of where the actual sign itself continues to flicker on-and-off to portray just how shady the area actually is. Yes, it can get pretty obvious where the creators took their inspiration from, but the distractions go away once the story starts, and ultimately: where the fun really begins.
Going into this movie, thinking that you have a hot-head for detail and knowing what’s good when it comes to any movie, may just have take your high-hat off for this one because it’s a total puzzle in every stretch of the imagination. Every time a new character is brought to our attention, more of a mystery is presented to us, and just when we think we know exactly what this story is all about, where it’s going, and who’s going to end up being the slasher behind the closed-doors; the movie still toys with us and gives us something new to think about. There were countless times in this movie where even I thought I had it all figured-out, but somehow I was stooped, once again.
Movies like this where you can’t trust anyone, not even the director himself (in this case, James Mangold), always are a treat for me to watch because it’s very rare where I actually get to check out a movie that makes me second-guess myself, almost every step of the way. No matter what I thought was right, I was usually wrong. Even by the end once all of the pieces seemed to start to come together, once more, I was slapped in the face with a disapproving look. Not to say it was an insult or anything, but it was more of a slap to wake up, and look at the finer-details in order to see if I could really get on with this movie, and what it was trying to pull.
But most movies like this, with all of the twists and such, remind me of a young-at-heart relationship between two people. At first, all is good. You see where things could go, you get happy, and you start to appreciate everything that you have in front of you, even if you may be stepping-out of your comfort-zone a bit. Actually, maybe even a bit too much for yourself. However, suddenly things go awry and you realize that maybe not everything was as perfect as you once thought it was, and now it’s time for a slight-change. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to over-do everything, show the other person how much you care, and rather than gaining their love and support back, you gain other thoughts and feelings that you didn’t quite want in the first place. You know, the baddie one.
That’s how this movie felt to me. Once everything got ready and going, I was happy and ambitious. I expected the movie to keep me puzzled, glued-in to what was going on, and shock me, every time that it felt like it wanted to. However, things got a little crazy at a certain point that I eventually started to realize that maybe this movie was turning it’s wheels a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the movie for being fun, clever, and original in it’s own type of way, but after awhile, it only went on for so long and so far, that is, until I started to question whether or not this movie even believed in the twists it was throwing at the wall and seeing what stuck, and what sort of just surely, but slowly continued to slide-down the wall.
Then, on the other side of the stadium, I am a bit torn with this movie because I enjoyed myself, had fun, and continued to second-guess myself, even when I was sure that I was correct in my pretentious, critical-ways (hey, it comes with the job). So therefore, I guess it’s all just a judge of character. Whether or not you are able to take the numerous twists the movie begins to launch into the story, is all up to you. For yours truly, some of it worked and seemed smart, whereas some of it didn’t quite work so well and actually seemed goofy. Oh well, that’s just me. Make up your own minds, kids!
But no matter what crazy shit a movie tries to pull, you at least have to give it credit for getting a cast such as this assembled, and allow them to do whatever it is that they can do to make a movie as goofy as this work. Nobody is really playing very far and away from what we’ve seen them do before, but at least they own it and are game for this type of material. At least. John Cusack is good as the ring-leader of the group, who knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to pull it all off so no more people get killed. You see that he has a past where the guy used to be a cop, but suffered a problem that left him emotionally-strained and messed-up in the head, therefore, he left his duty. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, right? Keep on guessing.
Ray Liotta plays, as you could expect, a cop that has a huge chip on his shoulder with a dangerous criminal in his custody, and a bit of anger-issue. However, as obvious and conventional as this may sound (even for a character played by Liotta), Liotta makes him work because you constantly believe that there is more to this dude than he lets in, even if the character himself doesn’t seem to admit it. Liotta is always good at playing these types of roles, even if it sort of has become a trademark of his by now. That’s fine, though, because the guy seems like he would do the right thing if he had to, but does that mean he’s really a good guy? Keep on guessing.
The only one here who really seems to have a clear-enough conscience not be considered a prime-suspect in all of the killings, is a whore with a heart of gold played by Amanda Peet. I usually love Peet in everything she does, but she seemed a bit annoying here. It wasn’t Peet herself, as much as it was more of her character for having that loud, obnoxious Southern-accent that continued to ring in my ears, even when she wasn’t yelling at somebody for looking at her hot body. Yeah, blame us for this, Amanda!
But they aren’t the only ones in this movie, they’re just the main stars that may (or may not) attract the audience to the wider-show. There’s plenty more where that came from, and they are all great. Clea Duvall plays a young, just-recently married gal that’s having problems with her d-bag hubby; John C. McGinley’s character’s wife is the one who gets hit in the first place and is good at being awkward and twitchy, without reminding me of the legend of all this; John Hawkes is a fun-fit as the type of dude you’d expect to own a motel out in the middle of nowhere (meaning he’s a bit of a creep-o); and lastly, the lovely and equally-as-creepy Rebecca De Mornay is here as an aging, but still very uptight actress that believes she deserves more than she’s given. Art imitating life? Just maybe.
Consensus: Most of what Identity has to offer and whether or not you’ll be able to go along for the ride, is all up to you, the viewer. Twists and turns will occur, and it all depends on whether or not you are game for them. Me, I was quite game, but I will admit that there is some goofiness underneath the blankets of a story that seemed drench in mystery.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!
This is how they do Westerns in the land down undaaaaa, undaaaa!
During the 1800s, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are captured by the ambitious-sheriff Stanley (Ray Winstone). Along with their psychopathic, blood-thirsty bro Arthur (Danny Huston), they are wanted for a brutal crime. However, both sides of the law don’t really seem to come together until Stanley makes Charlie a seemingly impossible proposition in an attempt to bring an end to the cycle of bloody violence. Will it work? Or will the bloodshed just continue on like it always does?
The film starts off with an action-packed opening, filled with guns shooting, girls screaming, and a bunch of Aussie accents that sound totally bad-ass. This starts off the film perfectly but also gets you off on the wrong-foot. See, it makes you think you’re in for a non-stop, blood-soaking, shoot ‘em up type of Western, when in reality, it’s the slow, melodramatic type where instead of shooting one another, they like to montage about their feelings. Just one of the very smart surprises director John Hillcoat gives us, that doesn’t feel like a rip-off of every other Western to come before it.
After seeing The Road, I realized that Hillcoat has a knack for setting a fine pace not only through his direction, but through his cinematography. The whole film takes place in the Australian Outback and you get a feel that this is a dirty, sweaty, and hot-ass place to be living in and it starts to set in pretty quickly that it all takes a big part of the story considering these people hate living in it, almost as much as you do looking at it. But as dirty and grimy as this flick may be, there are still plenty of beautiful visuals here to just soak up in your system. Whenever you have a film that can perfectly capture what the bloody red sky can look like when it starts to get dark in the middle of the day, then you know you have a keeper on your hands when it comes to visuals.
However, it’s not just all about the look, as dirty and sometimes beautiful it can be, it’s actually all about the tone and pace of the story that really takes over you. Is this film a slow Western that decides to take its time on its story rather than its grisly shoot ‘em up battles? Yes, but that does not mean it’s boring in the least bit. In fact, this film kept me on the edge of my seat at certain points because you don’t quite know where exactly this story is going to turn up, and where it does end up; you are damn sure as hell happy that writer Nick Cave decided to go with it. Hillcoat and Cave work great here together because they keep the story flowing smoothly and methodically, and make it seem like they are constantly on the same pace with what they want to show and how they want to show it. Through Cave’s writing, we get a glimpse at these characters, what they’re all about, what they’re motivations are, and why it all matters, but it isn’t just a bunch of guys weeping on about how they just killed for the first time, because there is violence.
And wow Nelly! When it hits, you won’t soon forget it.
The violence here is actually pretty awesome and even though it doesn’t take up the whole story with constant destruction, whenever it does pop-up; it’s bloody and gory to the core, but doesn’t feel like it’s just there to shock us and have us ready to vomit. Nope, it feels reasonable, if that’s all these characters have going for them is taking another person’s life. You can believe that some of these sick, psychotic son-of-a-bitches would actually go to these levels of violence, just to get their revenge and it feels real rather than feeling like something the creators felt like this movie needed. Can get a little cartoon-y at times with the blood-spurting out and all, but you can’t go wrong with violence that feels deserved, especially when you’re talking about a good ‘ole Western. Darn toooootin!
If there was something about this story that I didn’t like it was that I feel like it dropped the ball on the one thing that would have really made itself matter: it’s moral theme. All of the best Westerns, even the shoot ‘em ups that I’ve mentioned about 500 times in this review, all have one central message that is always looming underneath the surface, and then comes out of nowhere by the end to really make us start thinking. That’s exactly what I thought was going to happen with this movie and I think that’s what they thought as well, but the problem was that it doesn’t end up really being about much in the end. Yeah, there was some discussion about loyalty to family and responsibilities, but when you soak it with all of this bloodshed and bad-assery, does it really matter?
The answer to that is: well, not really. All of the violence and tension for the movie works, but giving it more meaning in terms of how it could have affected our train-of-thought, would have definitely made it more important. Hey, it’s fine for being all about the blood, the guns, the bullets, the horsies, and the hay stacks, but I wanted more. Hell, I needed more! Then again, I don’t really need all of that philosophical shit when I’m watching a movie about a bunch of cops and robbers, going around, shooting one another.
But everything gets better when you think about this awesome, all-star studded cast. Guy Pearce looks pretty damn intimidating as our anti-hero (if you want to call him that), Charlie Burns, a guy who just shows up and wants to do the right thing, even though the rest of his family really can’t. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s what goes through his head so I’m probably just making shit up about him. The guy probably killed families and robbed banks for all I know. But what I do know is that Pearce has that rugged look and feel to him that makes you believe that this guy could kill anything, or anyone that he wanted to, but he just chooses not to unless he actually is pushed to “that edge.” Then, all hell breaks loose and Guy Pearce at his finest.
Somebody who really shocked me in this movie was Ray Winstone, because it isn’t the type of character you’d expect to see him playing, despite it also seeming like the type of dude he was practically born to play: the rough and tough dude that you don’t want to fuck with (that is, unless your Gandhi). But it still has him starting-off like he’s going to play that type of role with him seeming like the type of guy that just wants justice done, and will do anything to get it, but sooner or later, his true colors get shown off to us, and to the rest of the people around him. Once all is said and done and things seem to get a bit too heavy for him, we all see him for the big baby that he really is. Probably one of his least-intimidating roles the guy has ever played, and that’s a good thing because the cockney-gangster bit was getting sort of tired after awhile. The lady who has him come out of his shell and be a bit of a whimp is Emily Watson who is good at seeing why such a masculine, strong dude like him, would fall head-over-heels in love with this girl, and weep at her feet. Okay, she’s not that perfect of a human-being, but she is pretty damn gorgeous so I can definitely see why.
On the other side of the fence, you have Danny Huston playing another one of his evil roles, as the broski Arthur, and gives off a very creepy performance that makes you feel like this guy is going to do some bad shit, whether or not the person he does that to deserves it. He just wants to kill people for the sake of killing people and that’s what makes all of Huston’s roles pretty much scary as hell. Honestly, when has that guy ever played anybody that’s remotely nice in a movie? 21 Grams doesn’t count cause the guy is barely even in it! Don’t worry, I’ll wait here….
Consensus: The blood and guts that are spilled throughout the run-time of The Proposition make this movie worth the watch, as well as the cast, but underneath the surface; there doesn’t seem to be much else other than a bunch of guys just wanting to kill one another and possibly ride off into the sunset when the fun’s all over. So simple, yet, so twisted.
8/ 10 = Matinee!!
These penguins were definitely putting on a show. There’s no way they could be this cute.
The film depicts the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. In autumn, all the penguins of breeding age (five years old and over) leave the ocean, their normal habitat, to walk inland to their ancestral breeding grounds. There, the penguins participate in a courtship that, if successful, results in the hatching of a chick. For the chick to survive, both parents must make multiple arduous journeys between the ocean and the breeding grounds over the ensuing months.
Is it me, or are penguins not the most freakin’ adorable animals on the planet?!? Whenever I went to the zoo, I always loved watching them do their own thang, whatever it was, but I never imagined that I would feel this much for them. Yes, I know sound very unMAN-like, but there’s a soft-side to me as well and animals are the ones who always get me to express it the most (ladies?). That said, the rest of this review may make some of you laugh at and lose all respect for me. If that’s the case: then so be it! I love those furry, little things and no one’s going to tell me otherwise!
Co-creators of this flick, Luc Jacquet and Michel Fessler, deserve some huge love for all of the footage they were able to capture here considering the type of problems they had to go through. If it was below freezing for the penguins, chances are: it was freezing for them. Then, therefore, whenever anything bad happened to these penguins, they just had to sit there and let it all go down because that’s the way nature is. If it was me seeing a little penguin being ready to get chewed-up by some hawk, I would step right in there and do what mommy should have been doing, but maybe that’s why this movie wasn’t given to me. What I’m trying to say here is that these two dudes definitely went through a lot to get all of they needed to get and in the end: it all payed off for them.
What really took me along with this flick was some of the natural images and sights these guys are able to catch. And no, I’m not just talking about the sky (even though it did look pretty)! I’m talking about the scenes that would show us just how these penguins really are. We see plenty of beautiful scenes where the penguins find their mates, have intercourse, get the egg, watch as the egg grows older until finally, the egg has hatched and then a new penguin is born. It’s great to see scenes like this that shows us that penguins can be so happy and live beautiful lives, just like us. The simple things in life are what get us the most, and it’s very smiley-inducing to see our furry-friends get so worked up as well. However, it’s not always smiles and happiness with these little guys and girls. Life does throw you some sadness in there as well.
Even though I mentioned all of these beautiful things we see happen with most of these penguins, I somehow forgot to mention the fact that in between each and every single little event, danger seems to show itself at every stop and the mother and father are barely ever together with their baby, because each one is always out getting food. This is some real sad stuff but it gets worse once we actually start to see some of these little guys die and have their lives put into danger. There was this one scene where a hawk comes into attack one of the little penguins, and the whole time I was so scared for them and just wanted somebody to beat the shit out of that hawk. Then again, that’s the way nature is and I’m glad that I didn’t have to get involved with this flick, or else nothing would have been accomplished. There is also another very memorable scene where we see a mother mourning the death of her little baby and soon get jealous, and try to take another one. This scene made me well-up like a girl who just got stiffed before prom as it really made me feel like these penguins have to go through so much, just to produce an egg and keep it living. But as much depressing stuff as there may be, the film never loses that beauty to it. Some scenes will just make you smile from the joy of watching nature like this, work itself out right in front of you. Shit. I seriously got to start watching Discovery Channel more.
If there was any problem that I had with the direction of this film was that it was a little too obvious what these guys were trying to say about these penguins. I get it: they are just like us! Except for the sole-fact that they can’t run and also don’t go to the market for the food to support their family. That’s why putting all of the obvious-remarks into a film like this seems so cheap and obvious. Note to all of these documentaries out there: stop comparing humans to certain animal species. We are all alike, now let’s just cut the crap already!
I bet pretty much all of the people went into this film, not giving two shits about penguins, but walked out caring for them, loving them, and knowing everything from start to finish about them. And there is only one man to thank for that all: Morgan muthafuckin’ Freeman. Honestly, who else would be a better fit to narrate a story about a bunch of penguins that sometimes stay in one place, while other times, they move around. Freeman’s voice, is sort of like the voice from God, and he has this slight calmness to him that makes you feel like he actually knows a lot about these penguins and actually cares for them. Obviously, a lot of his stuff was written so it wasn’t just him who thought of it all on the spot to tell how he really felt, but I still couldn’t get past the fact by how relaxing Freeman could make this movie just by using his signature voice. I’m still trying to figure out what to call “his voice”. How about “Morgan Freeman’s voice”? Yup, sounds about good to me.
Consensus: March of the Penguins not only makes you feel happy to live in a world where penguins still can roam the Earth all happy and whatnot, but just make you happy to be alive in a world that is Earth, where the most-fascinating creatures live and around somewhere. You just have to find them yourself. Or watch documentaries like this that do the ground-work. Your choice.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!
Apparently, Steve Irwin’s death wasn’t the worst moment in Australia’s history. Too soon?
Northern Australia during the breakout of WWII was a bit of a mess, but at the center of all the craziness, pain, anger, and agony, there were two people (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), who came from two opposite sides, to somehow meet together in the middle and find a love that was greater than any other force in the entire world. She, Lady Sarah Ashley, was a richy-rich, stuck-up lady from England who came overseas to help her husband out with his cattle-business, whereas he, Drover, was just a man who just took the cattle, and helped them across the acres so he got his money and went on his way. In the middle of them both, there is a small, Aboriginal child by the name of Nullah (Brandon Walters).
Baz Luhrmann is sort of like a poor man’s version of Terrence Malick. All skills aside, the guy makes a film every once and awhile, hypes it up forever, and they usually meet all of the hype. Over a career that spans 30 years, the man has only made four movies (five, if you include The Great Gatsby coming out this Friday), and each of them have been pretty good. However, whatever your tastes-buds are, you can’t lie about the fact that the guy loves the material he puts on screen, and always give it his 110% full devotion and time. Hence why his films take awhile to come out. However, maybe the guy went a little too far this time. Just a bit, I’d say.
It’s obvious that before the idea of this movie even came about, Luhrmann watched and studied the old-school MGM movies of the 30′s, 40′s, and early 50′s. Why is it obvious? Well, if you take away the beautiful visuals, the color, the action, the blood, the murder, and some other disturbing images that would have been pretty taboo back in the day, then you have your typical, feel-good epic that would have been made back in the day with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, and probably took the whole world by storm. However, those were simpler and more modest times, nowadays, our more-current viewers don’t really have the steam and time for all of the melodramatic moments that Luhrmann seems to embrace, but not really think through.
For instance, there are plenty of scenes in this movie where everything is so happy-wappy, so joyful with glee, and so damn smiley, that it’s near-laughable. That’s not to say that the actors involved with these moments don’t try their hardest to get past the obvious-corniness of the material, but they can’t help but fall prey either. It’s almost inescapable with corn-ballish material such as this. But then some weird things would start to happen with this movie, and I found myself getting more and more lost out of nowhere.
The idea that this flick tackles two subjects, both gripping in their own ways, at the same time really makes it seem a tad uneven, as well as up-and-down with it’s transition. On one end of the arena, we have the love story between Jackman and Kidman, which is probably the best element of this whole flick. Both are great workers in their own right, but the way they’re characters were playing-off of one another at first, had me worried that it was going to be too light and rompy to be taken seriously. But somehow, they made it work because they legitimately do seem like they have sexual-chemistry that can’t wait to get you all hot, sweaty, and ready for the lovin’ to take ahold. If I was Keith Urban, I’d be a little ready to put the fist-a-cuffs up next time I saw Wolverine. Then again, I’m not Keith Urban. Which altogether means that I’m not a million dollar-selling, country artist that is married to Nicole Kidman. Nope, I’m Dan O’Neill, who blogs and watches movie. Wow. Life sucks.
Anyway, those two whether they are together or not, make this movie work and keep it moving at a pace that draws your attention in, but it didn’t seem to draw Luhrmann’s attention all that much, considering he’s more concerned with the other aspect of the movie it wants to cover: the Aborigines. The Aborigines were a very important part of Australia’s history, which makes total sense as to why Luhrmann would make them a key-focus in this story of times that are changing, and the love story in-between it all, but it doesn’t fit well as it seems to not be Luhrmann’s strong-suit.
The strong-suit that I’m talking about is how the man can’t seem to really get his point across, without being as obvious as an albino, dressed in all white, playing hide-n-go seek. Yeah, that obvious. Scenes where they are merely showing the types of racism the Aborigines would face are somewhat disturbing, but also don’t fit well in the context of this movie when you have a bunch of people palling-around with one another and believing in the spirits from up-above. Obviously Luhrmann does not like the treatment that the Aborigines faced during this period, but he doesn’t show his feelings in a strong-enough way to really impact you and instead; sort of makes you wish that he didn’t try to explore it anymore than he already did. Shame too, because it’s a piece of Australian-history that is one of the most important, and should never be forgotten. However, you can’t help but want to forget about it, especially when it’s getting in the way of the sexy-time between Jackman and Kidman.
Seriously, they were about to make me faint!
But this review would not at all be complete if I didn’t talk about Luhrmann’s inspired-attention to detail, that never ceases to amaze me, no matter how melodramatic the material may be. Every scene in this movie feels as if Luhrmann not only paid close attention to it, but wouldn’t go asleep for days until he nailed exactly what he wanted to see. Sure, some of the scenes seem choppy due to lame-o special-effects and green-screens galore, however, it’s still something to see and marvel at, considering you know the type of film maker Luhrmann is. I disliked the hell out of his rendition of Romeo & Juliet, but the man always gave me something to go googely-eyes at, which made the movie slightly-better. That’s the same exact formula here, except there’s more to this story than just an age-old love story that we’ve heard, countless-upon-countless of times. This is a story that does have a heart, does have a vision, and does have inspiration, it just gets lost somewhere in the muddle of it all. Thankfully, Baz keeps his head above it, and keeps us watching. How the man does it: I will never know.
Consensus: Modest and old-fashioned to a fault, Australia may not be the type of movie you watch time and time again due to the unevenness of the material, and cloying-parts of the story that seem to pokes it’s ugly head out every so often, but is one of those movies you watch to enjoy, marvel at with the flair for visual and colors, and get ready to sweat, especially once you see Jackman and Kidman lock bodies, and prepare to make love. Oh yeah, baby.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
Who’s being punished here: us or the criminals?
Former FBI agent Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) still has not been able to get over the murders of his family. Therefore, he takes his anger and revenge out onto the streets where he continues to tally-up a vigilante record that makes every cop in the state of New York, jealous and on the look-out for any suspicious activity. The latest leader in suspicious activity occurring in NYC is Jigsaw (Dominic West), who used to have a pretty face that all the ladies used to love, but is now ruined, all thanks to THE PUNISHER!!
After 3 movies, and no success whatsoever with the box office or the critics, it seems that the Punisher character may have to be put to rest and left in the comics. Why? Well it’s simple: the guy’s just too goofy of a comic book hero. Actually, scratch that. He isn’t even a “hero”. He’s just a dude that goes around, killing people, in the name of what he believes is right. Oh, and it’s always bloody, gory, and not for the faint of heart. That means that these types of movies, are usually made for the older, R-rated crowd, so fuck the little kiddies who want to see shizz like this and that. This is the real shit, men! If you don’t like it, then back off and take your snobbery elsewhere!
Some of you may be a bit confused as to where the hell I was going with those last couple of sentences right there, but don’t be alarmed: I am too. What I’m trying to say is that this character is hard to adapt to the screen successfully for the sole-reason that the character itself has such a fan base that is so divided, it’s hard to really get the name or product out there. That’s why when a film like this comes around, it isn’t made for the New York Film Society or any other group as prestigious as that; it’s made for the bumbling idiots that like when people get their heads smashed in just for the sake of it. No, not psychos. But people who like to see it played out on film where nobody is harmed. I hope at least.
That’s why seeing a movie like this is so hard because being a critic that has a standard built-up after all of these years, it’s so damn hard to just drop it all down, and let a completely dumb movie like this take over. After awhile, I got used to it and it did, but that’s REALLY saying something. To say that this movie is stupid, would be the equivalent to patting it on the back and giving it a cookie for being a good boy. THIS MOVIE IS FREAKIN’ IDIOTIC! I kid you not!
If you don’t know this within the first five minutes, you might just be screwed for the rest of the hour and a half because this is as low on the totem-pole as you are going to get. The script is almost non-existent by how utterly dunce-like this is and makes every piece of dialogue seem like each one of these actors (talented ones, mind you) are just stretching their inner-souls to make something useful come out. Whoever wrote this movie, I feel bad for you and your career because this is like an IQ level of 48 and lower. I kid you not. It’s freakin’ stupid. That’s if you haven’t been able to tell by now.
However, you don’t see a movie about a vigilante that goes around, “punishing” people for the sake of revenge for a well-written script, with perfectly-rounded characters, and an emotional-arch. You want to see blood, guts, guns, bullets, violence, necks snapped, explosions, heads smashed in (like I said before), and campy-as-hell people getting their insides taken out. That’s the type of stuff you want to see and if that’s it: you’re gonna have a field day with this one. Can’t say that I didn’t have fun either, it’s just that this is one of those flicks that is sometimes so hard to get by with all of the terrible qualities, that the positive qualities that make it fun and exciting, really seem to fade away.
But taking this type of movie in as it is, you could do worse. Actually, A LOT WORSE. With a movie like this, you can’t expect much and expect to get much out of it. You just go in, get ready to see some people shot, stabbed, hacked-up, or murdered in any type of way, and expect to smile or go “oooooooohhhhh” by the end of it. Those are the types of people that this movie is made for, and even though I can’t say I’m one of them, I still do appreciate a nice, mass-slaying every once and awhile. Not always, but when it’s done in a fun, unadulterated-way, then I’m rarely ever disappointed.
Even though I’m a huge fan of Thomas Jane as the Punisher and in general, I still have to give some kudos to Ray Stevenson for at least giving Castle some snarl and edge to him that you didn’t really see quite as well last time. Granted, that movie was more concerned with painting Castle as a human-being that still struggled with the reality that everybody he practically knew has been massacred, but that’s not what this movie, or this version of Castle is about. Even when the movie does try to tackle themes and ideas like that, it fails miserably. Thankfully, Stevenson keeps his head above the water and it’s a shame that this guy doesn’t get more leading-roles his way.
Then, on the other side of the coin, you have Dominic West as Jigsaw, and god is this guy chewing the scenery! I mean, every single second he is on-screen, he sounds so ridiculous with his over-the-top, New Yarrrrk accent, and has the goofiest-look that I couldn’t even take seriously after awhile. I get why the guy looks the way he does and I understand why the comics made him that way, but for everybody in this movie to just sit-around him, and act normal as if he doesn’t look like a freakin’ cheap-o, Halloween mask I’d get if I was in a total rush for one before I got sloshed at my dorm room party. West is okay, but this material for him just blows and makes me wonder if he lost a bet, or was just trying to stretch his wings out a bit and get some mainstream exposure. Whatever the predicament was, I feel bad for him and everybody else in this flick that actually took the bait to work with this screenplay. Screenplay, in the sense that it’s just a bunch of words, thrown-together on a page with a bunch of scenes labeled; “Bam! Boom! Bop! Crash! Bang!”
Consensus: If you want a movie that’s going to satisfy your dramatic, and emotionally-powerful needs; then Punisher: War Zone is nowhere close to doing that. But if you want action, blood, gore, and cheesy one-liners, then you’ll be in-store for a bat-shit crazy time.
5 / 10 = Rental!!
White blood is not cool! Give me red!
Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) was a murdered cop who is mysteriously reborn as the masked crime fighter called the Spirit. The Spirit roams throughout the streets of what he calls, “his city”, loves it’s women, and fights crime whenever it rears it’s ugly head. The only problem is that his arch-enemy, Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), is a bit more than he can handle and as his past continues to come right back at him, he finds it harder and harder to get past what might just be his final battle. Everybody else, except for him, hope it truly is.
In a time before Dan the Man was the esteemed critic he is today, he was just a young lad going to the movies, seeing what he could find, and making up his mind on what he thought. That’s right, it was all in my head before I ever started typing down crazy crap! But during that time, the Christmas season of 2008 was where I single-handedly, self-financed AMC for the sole reason that I was there almost every other day. This was the days before I was able to get into screenings so in ways, I had to pay and in other ways, I just snuck in. I was a bad, bad cat, but not as bad of a cat as I thought I was until I saw this movie. Then, maybe I thought it would just be best to live off of Netflix for awhile.
Even after the 4 or 5 years since I’ve seen this; little of this movie has changed. I still remembering it sucking, even until this day, except now I have a clearer-view on what does and what doesn’t work in a movie. Especially shitty ones like these, where almost nothing works. Sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. The only positive-element of this movie that was worth watching and waiting around for this second-go around was Gabriel Macht as the Spirit and the cat that followed him around.
Macht has never been the type of actor to really knock it out of the park in a role, mostly because he’s never really gotten the spotlight. He’s usually been known as “that guy” in big-budgeted, shit-boxes like Bad Company, Whiteout, Because I Said So, and many, many more that I’m almost too ashamed to admit that I’ve seen him in, let alone actually viewed (the shit I do as a critic). So, this is why his performance as the Spirit is actually pretty good because he gets a chance to take over the film, do his thing, show some wit, have his charm, and be done with it. Is the guy anywhere near spectacular? Hell to the no! But in a movie like this, you need something that keeps you going, and he was exactly that for me in this movie. No wonder why the guy hasn’t really been given center field ever since this, but it’s a damn shame because the guy handled the pressure well. It’s everybody else who screwed him over.
No matter what crap he shows up in, Samuel L. Jackson is always the best part of it all. He’s always loud, crazy, yelling, and finding ways to have fun, even if he is the only one but even his performance here as the Octopus felt like he was parodying himself in a Funny or Die video. Not only is the Octopus a shitty villain to begin with, but this guy is literally all-over-the-place in terms of if he’s trying to be goofy, scary, intimidating, or even worth the fight at all. One second, he’s beating the crap out of the Spirit with a toilet, then the next second, he’s dressed-up as a Nazi talking about lord only knows what. It’s strange to see Jackson in such a role like this and have it not work, considering that he is usually the most entertaining aspect of any movie. ANY MOVIE.
But enough of the man meat, what about the ladies?!? Well, they are probably even worse and that’s not a rift against of their acting-abilities at all, it’s just the hands that they were dealt. Eva Mendes plays the Spirit’s old-squeeze who shows up looking all hot, sexy, and bad-ass, and does nothing with it at all. I mean, she shows her back-side once but if that’s all you got going for you in a role, then you’ve got major problemos. Scarlett Johansson seems like she should have been having the time of her life as the Octopus’ side-kick, Silken Floss, and she might have very well been, but we would have never known since she dead-pans to the point of near-boredom. And I’m talking on her part, not mine, even though, once again, she could have easily been having a ball with this role. Then, sadly, there’s Sarah Paulson as the Spirit’s current gal-pal, Ellen Dolan, the nurse with a heart of gold and the leniency of a nun, and does nothing at all with this character. Sad to say, too, because I love this girl in almost all she pops up in.
The reason why I’m paying so much attention to the cast, right off the bat, is because the main problem with this movie lies solely with them. Not their performances (even if they do suck), it’s more that the script has nothing go for it. It’s not fun, it’s not entertaining, and terribly disjointed. I never knew if whether or not this movie was trying to be funny, tongue-in-cheek, or just a serious, superhero movie with action. Very, small amounts of action. I never knew what the hell Frank Miller was trying to do and from the looks of it: neither did he.
Is it purrty as hell? Damn straight, but it only goes so far as to seem like a distraction to people who care about more meaningful things like plot, character-development, and action. None of that is here and even when it attempts at tackling anything like that; Miller and Co. miss terribly. It was a boring as hell experience that I remember so fondly for boring me to near-tears when I saw it all those years ago as a young guy, and still sucks all of these years later. Whether or not this review will make you want to see it yourself and take out of it what you can, is totally up to you, yourself, and you (I know: close, but no cigar). However, if I am going to advise anything: stay away from this movie. If one of your hardcore, nerdy friends say it was rad, kick them in the ass, slap them ion the face, or do something that has them wake up, smell the roses, and realize that their asses are wrong. DEAD WRONG!!!
Consensus: The Spirit is one of those movies that seems like on-paper, it would have been bucket-loads of fun, but is nowhere near that with a dry-personality, performances from a talented cast that seems as if they are lost in the whirlwind of a storm of confusion, and nothing really fun, exciting, or remotely interesting to stick around for. Just see it for the kitty and let that’d be it.
1 / 10 = Crapola!!
Is it wrong to say I was getting pretty hungry during this thing?
Back in the day, two girls who became morbidly-obese before they even reached high-school, decided to take it upon themselves to sue McDonald’s for making them “fat”. The court (as they usually do), threw the case out and said that they couldn’t prove anything, because they weren’t so certain that any of the fat or extra-weight they gained was from the actual food. That’s where Morgan Spurlock comes in to show them all who’s boss, by eating Mickey D’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, getting all of the menu items at least once, and always agreeing to have his meal “Super Sized”, but only if the cashier asks.
Way back when this flick was released, it was a pretty big deal for many reasons, but the main which being that it showed us all that fast-food restaurants are practically the devil’s that we always give into. Let’s face it, we have all had our fair-share of food from fast-food joints and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you realize that the crap you’re eating, is in fact bad for you, and shouldn’t be eaten excessively. But back in pre-Super Size Me days, people didn’t really think about this at all and just continued to eat-away at the Big Macs, the nuggets, the McGriddles, the McMuffin’s, and the worst of all, the extra large sodas.
However, this movie came around and really changed all of that and made us realize, “Woah. Chicken McNuggets aren’t just real, actual chickens they get from the farm?” Now, I’m pretty sure not everybody was as stupid as I may make them seem, but the truth is, people didn’t care or think about it as much as they do now. Vegans are all over-the-place (they’re annoying, but all over-the-place nonetheless), Whole Food Markets are popping-up everywhere, and slowly but surely, more and more places that do serve meat, show that they are at least taking care of the animals that they take the meat from, just to ensure that you don’t start tearing-up whenever you take a bite out of a cheeseburger, because you just destroyed Babe’s future. Yet, while at the same time, Mickey D’s is showing-off it’s new and improved menu-item; the one, the only, Fish McBites. Let’s face it, as much as we try our hardest to change the world by the way we live, eat, sleep, drink, and just be, the big corporations are going to stay the same by running business their way, and telling everybody else to hit the high way. It’s the way the world works, but getting a documentary like this really slaps you in the face and makes you realize it’s a sad reality we have to live with. But, it can get better. Which is what exactly happened after this movie, even if Mickey D’s doesn’t like to admit so.
Morgan Spurlock deserves a lot of kudos here, not just for changing certain elements of the fast-food industry as we know it, but by how much effort and dedication he put into making this work. If anything, the guy risked a pretty good job at having heart-disease, let alone, dropping over and having a straight-up heart attack. He knew this all from his doctor’s, who all told him to stop his ass before it gets more than just serious, but yet, still continued to trug along to not just prove his point, but to also give us something to look at. I may be in the minority here, but when Spurlock started paying-attention to the fast-food industry, the way it works, the way it makes it’s money, the way it manipulates, and the way kids are being thrown into this world where a Whopper is exactly what you want for din-din, rather than some soup mom-mom made.
There’s a lot to explore and discover with this journey that Spurlock takes, and the guy deserves all of the credit he seems to still be getting nowadays, just because he never lets-up with his experiment, nor does he ever give up on showing us what’s in-between the finer reading that we may not all be seeing. Some of the scientific-numbers that him and his doctors pull-out of their asses, did sort of come-off like a foreign language to me, but I guess in it’s context, it all meant that his health was failing and getting worse as he continued to pound-away on those wonderful sausage, egg, and pancake breakfasts that never get old. Sarcasm, indeed.
However, being older, wiser, and more knowledgeable of the world around me, who I am as a person, my needs, and my wants, I’ve come to realize that Spurlock feeds us a lot of shit, that may be more than just the food that he’s talking-out against. Be ready, people. This section of the review is about to get really, really rant-y. Here’s the problem that I ran into with this flick: I don’t necessarily agree with Spurlock’s assessment about how the fast-food companies are to be blamed. Granted, fast-food companies are generally considered detestable and in no way, shape, or form the right people you want to give all of your cash to, but they aren’t really the one’s to be blamed here. In fact, we, as human beings are more to be blamed.
For instance, the movie actually brings up the point fairly-early when it says how certain people should make up their own decisions, and shouldn’t feel the need to go about something, like food or whatever, if they have a choice. People have the choice to choose between eating at home, eating at a fancy, schmancy restaurant, or, eating at a fast-food joint. Seriously, the choice is all up to that person and whether or not they want to go with the extra-fatty food, or just chill out and take it easy on carbs. That’s all up to the person, but yet, we are still there pointing the finger at those people because they give us an option? Doesn’t seem right to me and it’s almost a child-ish way of thinking where we can’t make up our own minds and blame ourselves for how fat we got, so instead, stick it straight to the people, who made the product that got us fat.
If you don’t want a Big Mac, then don’t get one! But if you do want one, or two, or three, or four, or five, or six, then don’t come bitchin’ to me about how much you ate, how fat you got, and how Mickey D’s are a bunch of a-holes that don’t deserve to make the money that they do. In no way am I sticking up for the people from these corporations, but the way that Spurlock rests with his case and shows us that it’s okay to blame those fast-food places for the reason that we’ve all become big and fat; seems so immature to me. It’s almost like we take the whole responsibility idea, and totally throw it out the window because somebody is allowing us to buy a product that they made. Didn’t seem right to me and in the end, seemed a tad too liberal for yours truly.
Then again, all of this could just be me, my views, my opinions, and the ways that I see life, but do we really want to go about our days just doing stupid shit and blaming it on other people for our misfortunes? Like those kids from Colombine: they were some effed-up individuals that nobody decided to help, listen to, or be there for, but at the end of the day, it’s all because Marilyn Manson made some scary-ass tunes about how evil and wicked he is. Once again, not sticking up for Marilyn Manson at all, but it doesn’t seem fair when a guy is just doing something that he likes to do, and gets blamed for something, you know, because people don’t like him and some kids decided to shoot-up their school. Doesn’t seem right to me, and makes me feel like the society that I live in is filled with a bunch of babies that make their own mistakes, but still can’t take the full and utter responsibility.
Okay. End of rant. I promise.
Consensus: Back when it was first released in 2004, Super Size Me was and, in a way, still is an important documentary about how our world loves to eat, loves to be fat, and loves to blame other people for our problems, but the liberal-approach to that latter aspect ruined most aspects of the film for me, despite Spurlock being as dedicated to eating shit food than I’ll ever be.
7 / 10 = Rental!!
Jeremy Renner plays Jeffrey Dahmer, who was also known as one of the most notorious serial killers of all-time. He killed over 17 men and boys, after he usually manipulated them into sex, drugs, and drinking, but also was able to get away with it for a pretty long time. Here’s a glimpse into his life, or at least his later-life that some may or may not find all that settling.
No matter who you, chances are that you have heard of Jeffrey Dahmer. Yeah, that dude was very messed up and going into this movie, that’s exactly what I was expecting. Sadly, I just got a really good glimpse of how freakin’ creepy Renner can be. You know, when he isn’t around, defusing bombs and such.
David Jacobson hasn’t done much since this movie hit the indie-theaters, which is a shame because the guy gives us a nice glimpse into the life of a guy that I’m sure none of really wanted to see for ourselves anyway, but yet, couldn’t keep away from neither. Why that is that we always want to see more and more about these sick, sadistic killers lives is beyond me. But then again, I’m the one who’s wondering and I’m also the one who not only watched the movie, but is reviewing it as well. So, screw me, I guess. Anyway, back to the review I just mentioned.
Jacobson does a pretty good job at keeping his direction very low-key, and never going anywhere near to over-exposing his subject. This isn’t your normal type of slasher movie where we see people constantly being hacked up into little pieces and then the killer eating them with ketchup on top, it’s more subdued in the way it tells the story, as if it most likely happened. I liked that approach and I like Jacobson’s very low-budget look that made it seem like this could be happening in any place, town, or city. There could even be people like this, who live right next door to you without you ever knowing. It was a nice way to touch on a subject like this and that’s honestly what I thought I was going to get, but that’s the exact problem with this flick: it never goes that extra mile.
When I say “extra mile”, I mean that this flick could have easily gone into extra depth about this infamous figure and showed us what really made him tick, but it never does. It does show us things that happened in his past that irked him and kind of set him to madness, but we never get inside of his head or see things the way he sees them. We get a couple of clear-cut examples as to when and how he went totally ballistic, but never anything to where I could say “oh, I see why he does this as a chore/hobby of his.” Now, I’m not saying that there should be or ever is any excuse to murder people, let alone 17 boys and adults, and there wasn’t any here at all, it just needed to give me something that I could hold onto when I was watching a person like Dahmer up on-screen. Jacobson seems to get the story, but not the subject if you know what I mean.
But other than not doing much with its subject, the film also suffers from being somewhat, dare I say it: boring. A couple of murders happen here and there, and we get a pretty crazy montage of Dahmer doing his dirty stuff with his boys in a midnight gay club, but other than that, nothing else really all that exciting happens. The movie just sort of meanders around from to scene to scene without any real genuine suspense or thrill behind it. Instead, we’re just sort of watching a guy be weird and plan to do some even weirder things. I didn’t go into this expecting a slasher along the lines of Halloween or Scream, but I just wanted something more to keep me glued. I guess I’m just a little brat because I have probably mentioned the word “more” about 10 times already in this review. Actually, if you have seen this movie, there’s something for memorable about that word “more” that comes into play in this movie. I don’t want to give it away but if you watch the movie, then you’ll understand. Until then, stay in the mysterious dark of not knowing.
This whole review that I’ve done so far may make it seem like I didn’t like this movie, but I actually didn’t mind it. That’s mostly thanks to the one guy who saved it all for me and really kept me going for this whole movie: Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer. Renner has been a guy on my watch for the longest time and I definitely think he’s going to be the next best thing for Hollywood when the time comes around. However, it’s these roles in lesser-known movies that he does is what really gets my hopes up for him higher than ever before. Renner is absolutely amazing as Dahmer, because he plays it subtle, without over-reaching his grasps into how psychotic he can make this guy seem to be. He just is, plain and simple. Just looking at this guy from afar, would have you guessing right away that he’s crazy as shit, which he is but Renner gives him this very charming act that works not only the people in this movie, but us, the audience as well. He seems like you average, every day dude that just so happens to be one of the craziest mothaeffa’s around and Renner plays that to the brim, showing barely any emotions the whole time, but still being able to release a cold chill about him that settles in throughout the whole movie, even when it seems like everything is calm and collective. It isn’t, and just by watching Renner’s performance, you can tell that this guy has got presence whether or not he’s saying or even doing anything. He just needs to be there, on-the-screen, to really keep your pulse beating. Great performance from Renner and it’s honestly a role that should have gotten him way bigger, way back when. Thankfully, he’s on the top of the food-chain now, and it doesn’t seem like he’s coming down. Thank the movie heavens for that.
Consensus: Dahmer is one of those movies that makes you feel like it’s really going to get deep down inside the mind of a serial-killer, especially one as notorious as Jeffrey Dahmer, but it never hits that peak. It just sits there, acts a little weird, and lets Jeremy Renner take over the show. It’s not as bad to watch because Renner is so good, but there could have been more than just a weird guy, who did bad things.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
Come on, it’s family. Just get along with one another so Christmas can be a whole lot better.
Three close brothers, Son (Michael Shannon), Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs) hear the news of their estranged fathers death and decide to go to the funeral, and basically talk a whole bunch of shit on him. Predictably, this causes a lot of ruckus and anger with their step-brothers, which makes things a whole lot more tense for everybody involved.
Two years ago, a little film named Take Shelter, took everybody by surprise and showed us the type of talents that lied within writer/director Jeff Nichols. But, for anybody who was a big-time film nerd and had been keeping this guy on their radar, would know that 4 yours prior, he had another little smash-hit of his with a film that seems to go hand-in-hand with his second one. It’s pretty neat to see what directors debuted with as they are sometimes terribly bad and you can see why they’re called “directorial debuts”, and other times; they have you realize just how damn good these guys really are behind-the-camera. This, is one of those latter cases.
What I liked so much about this flick was how the film had me interested right from the start. Of course it has a slow and deliberate pace that may bother some, but for me, I was intrigued right from the beginning. Right off the bat, I payed attention to every single little thing somebody said because it made me understand all of these characters, what they do, who they are, and what’s their significance in this story we have here. For the first 15 minutes or so, nothing really exciting happens other than just a bunch of people going around and shootin’ the shit with one another, but it’s all very interesting and had me set from the get-go, believe it or not.
A lot of that has to go to not only the direction of Nichols, but his writing as well as it seems like he has that pitch-tone perfect ear for natural dialogue that just doesn’t feel like “movie talk”; it feels like real people talking. But it’s not all about the talking here, because once those first 15 minutes go out of the way, something then changes in the film and there is all of a sudden this time and place where things get very intense, very surprising, and very emotionally-charged. I can’t go into this flick any more without giving certain plot-points away but what I will say is that the places this film takes and goes really do work and will actually surprise you by how dark it is and just by how much it makes you feel. It catches you off-guard, and becomes more than just a movie about a bunch of hicks talking, drinkin’ blue ribbons, and listening to Allman Brothers.
Of course, as you could probably tell, this flick pits one gang of brothers, against the other gang and that may come off as a very obvious and conventional piece of story-telling, but the way Nichols handles it is anything but. Instead of making us realize who’s right and who’s wrong in the situation these guys find themselves in, Nichols shows how both sides of the equation are both kind of dicks and don’t really use their head when it comes to making decisions. They just use the idea of revenge and it gets them all wrapped-up and hell bent out of shape, until one dumb thing happens after another, and then everything just spirals out of control until there’s nothing left to gain revenge about or for. It’s just a bunch of sad and lonely dudes who can’t help but feel the need like they need to sucker somebody next. Nichols shows this in the most perfect way possible and it’s true sign of what this guy can do with a rather-conventional plot, and still make it as insightful and surprising as any other story.
Now, where I do think that Nichols messed himself up a bit in was how a lot of this material is a bit too subtle for it’s own good. Everything in this flick is pretty much understood from start-to-finish with barely any moments of confusion whatsoever, but there’s just way too many scenes and snap-shots of people standing around, drinking, sitting, hangin’ out, and staring into space without really uttering any words. I get that this gives us the essence of what real life is exactly like, but it never seems to go anywhere and could have maybe benefited from some more talking or just a total cut of all those scenes in general. Then again, I can’t really say that there are really any unnecessary scenes in this film at all, so maybe the cut wouldn’t have done it any good.
Most people will probably be surprised to see how there is absolutely no familiar faces in this film whatsoever, that is, unless you’re not going to count the man, the myth, the legend, aka Michael Shannon in the lead role as Son. No seriously, his name is Son. I guess big daddy couldn’t find time in his day for originality. Anyway, back to the man, the myth, the legend: Michael Shannon. As most of us know by now, Shannon is the master at playing it subtle but can bring out the scariest and most painful reactions from anybody, just by a twitch of his crazy-eyes. The guy looks like a loon, but there’s something very genuine and comforting about him that makes us stand behind his character as the more reasonable brother of the three. There’s something about Shannon that has us love this character right from the start, even though there is a huge pound of mystery surrounding him throughout the whole story, we still like him and trust him to do the right thing in the end. We hear some strange things come up into conversation about him from other characters and whatnot, but never anything to the point of where we feel like he’s a complete psycho. He’s just a dude that just so happens to have done some bad shite in his life. Haven’t we all?
There’s a whole slew of other characters in this film that do some great jobs, and I was surprised since I haven’t seen any of these people, show up in anything else. That surprises me too, considering just about everybody does an excellent job with everything they’re given. Except, there are a couple of side performances here and there that show up and seem a bit poorly-acted depending on who’s delivering the lines and all that. But like the scenes of people staring-out into the fields, it didn’t get to my head too much when the dialogue was as natural and interesting as it was here.
Consensus: It may follow a conventional plot line, but Shotgun Stories is anything but that in terms of everything else. The writing and direction from Nichols is superb without ever being showy, and the somewhat unknown cast all do excellent jobs with their roles, that seem to add on extra layers to a story that could have easily been played off as your run-of-the-mill, revenge story taking place in rural Arkansas.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
If you were a superhero that had a budget to go by, wouldn’t you be a bit sad too?
Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is having problems with his emotions, his self-esteem, and the way he acts. Therefore, he begins to take these new pills for a scientific experiment in hopes that they will improve his life-style, but his way-of-thinking as well. However, thinks start to go weird for Les as he starts to realize that maybe there’s more to these pills than he initially expected.
Superhero films, no matter who the superhero is or what the superpower may be, are usually always fun and exciting to watch. Even the shittiest-superhero movies are at least entertaining to watch, especially around the Summer time when nobody gives a shit about what they see, but just want to get away from the hot sun, and chill out in a beautifully, air-conditioned movie theater. But what happens when it isn’t the Summa, Summa, Summatime anymo, and you expect some quality to your movies, let alone ones that involve superheroes? Also, what about those little superhero films, that are just waiting to get loved and noticed by everybody? What happens to them? Well, they get put on Netflix Instant streaming and watched by d-bags like me. Hey, may not sound like much but it’s sure as hell better than nothing.
Writing/directing-team Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore obviously have an intriguing story on their hands and start it off pretty well by showing us just how a person like Les would respond to the type of superpowers he ends up receiving with the consumption of these mysterious pills. Most people would have no idea what the hell is going on, while others would probably think of this as their time to shine, go out there, do good for the rest of the world, fight crime, and try their hardest to save others, from whatever danger may be lurking around the corner for them. This is obviously the road that Les goes down and for the most part, it’s pretty entertaining because you don’t know where this story is going to end up and you don’t exactly know what Les is going to do next. I liked that unpredictable-nature of this story but sadly, it went away real, real soon.
With a micro-budget like the one that have at their disposal here, Haberman and Passmore are able to do some lively and innovative things with the plot and the special-effects, but the plot itself suffers from that considering it’s tone is all over the place. At first, it starts off as a comedy where this lovable goof goes out trying to be a superhero and fight evil, but then it turns right into a dark drama that seems to do the same things over and over again. This wouldn’t have bothered me so much because I feel like this certain type of story needed a dark side to it, but the film gets very, very dark and almost a little too depressing for my liking. But it didn’t really feel like it had any reason to be that way in the first place. Yeah, this dude Les is a guy that’s easily picked on and made a fool of, but it’s never to the point of where I felt as if he’s going to go and jump-off of a bridge for that reason, nor did I feel like he was the type of dude that needed a new-direction in his life, as severe or life-changing as this. He’s just a little sad guy: that’s all. That’s why I had no clue why this flick continued to shove down our throats how sad and self-wallowing his life is.
Even at a lean, but not-so mean 82 minutes, the film does seem like it drags in certain parts which sucked even worse, mostly because I was totally on-board for this flick right from the start. There were some moments in this film that really touched me (like when Les and that girl from the market actually have a conversation), but they are only sprinkled throughout, as if they were the only parts of heart this flick had to offer, and the writers/directors decided to throw them in when they found it was necessary. Also, I know that the film was made with such a small budget that they couldn’t do as much as maybe Joss Whedon or Christopher Nolan has been able to do in the past, but I still feel like there could have been more action and violence to convey the sense of reality that Les found himself out of so much. It also would have been more exciting than just watching Les run away every time something bad would happen, because that’s all that he ever did.
The only real reason why I have to give this film any sort of recommendation is because of Michael Rapaport’s awesome lead performance as Les Franken. Rapaport has always been that one guy who stands-out in big ensembles like Cop Land or True Romance, but he’s never really been given his shot to just shine and strut his own stuff. Thankfully, he is given that shot here and nails it by making you feel something for this schlub of a guy. There’s a lot of goofy things going on with Les but you never once feel like he’s going to hurt anybody on-purpose or do it to anybody that doesn’t deserve it already. He’s just a regular guy that’s finally getting tired of putting up with all of the shit he suffers on a regular-basis from all of the people around him. Great performance from Rapaport and I honestly think that if the script and direction knew what to do with him here, he would have gotten noticed more and hopefully be moving his way up the ranks more and more. Also, be on the lookout for a very young Josh Peck as a nerdy stoner. Probably a better performance here, than the one he had in that shit-pile known as Red Dawn. Just saying.
Consensus: Special is nothing all that special (gedd it?) because of its constantly-shifting tone and micro-budget that keeps it away from doing anything miraculous, but at the center of it all, still has a great and dedicated rare lead performance from Michael Rapaport, that is worth seeing if you’ve always liked this guy in the random shite he shows up in.
5 / 10 = Rental!!
Those psycho-hillbillies with knives in their shoes, yeah don’t worry; they’re just serial killers on the run.
After their ranch gets raided by the police, Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon) and Baby’s father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) escape and decide what better way to feel as if they have fought the law and that they won; then going around, and killing more people than they did before! However, it’s only a real matter of time until the law catches up with them, and eventually tries to win. But these three aren’t going down without a fight or a murder, that’s for damn sure!
Rob Zombie definitely has a lot going for him in terms of what he uses with his sick, twisted-mind that so many people thought was just good for yelling, “Draaagullaaaaaaa!“, but the guy wanted to prove us wrong and ended-up making his directorial-debut with House of a 1000 Corpses. Even though it’s been awhile since the last time I saw that movie, I do remember fondly being a tad scared but also thinking that it was pretty stupid, overall. That’s why the idea of a sequel to a movie I didn’t really care for in the first place, let alone a horror movie I didn’t care for, was not something on the top of my list to see. Somehow though, Zombie not only proved me, but everybody else wrong as well. Maybe people do like to see other human-beings mutilated and murdered on-screen. My mistake.
If Zombie does anything right here, it’s that nails the look and feel of this movie with a really cool, ultra-retro 70′s-vibe that plays throughout the whole run-time. You can just taste the sweat; you can just smell the dirt; and most of all, you can imagine you yourself being in a wrong place, at the wrong time, and not having any clue what to do, especially when these bag of psychos walk through the front door. That’s something that Zombie does well here, and that’s getting us right in the mood right from the start with a bunch of dark, but ironic scenes of murder, mutilation, torture, and psychological and physical-games that aren’t right for everybody to play. Trust me on that. Zombie may be a crazy/scary lead-singer of a metal band (a pretty bad-ass metal band, I have to say), but the guy has a fine taste in classic-rock and mixes a lot of choice-tunes from the likes of Allman Brothers Band, Muddy Waters, and the best usage of all, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don’t want to give away where, why, and how the song finds it’s way into the movie, but once it kicks in; you have to trust me that you’re going to be stunned. I was and it may be awhile until I hear that song the same ever again.
However, this is a horror movie no matter how much funny, zany things Zombie throws in to lighten-up the mood and it’s not a typical horror movie where your shorts will be scared off. It’s more like one of those horror films that has a bunch of freaky people, that do bad, violent things to innocent people, but plays more on the unpredictable-factor of the whole story rather than the actual torturing of those said, innocent people. This idea for a horror movie is a lot different than what we are used to seeing in horror movies nowadays like Saw or Hostel, where everything is all about the torture, the pain, and exploitation of people being torn to shreds, as we all sit and watch with our popcorn in our laps and our extra-large sodas by our sides. This one is more about putting you on the edge of your seat and have you wondering just what the hell is going to happen next and in that regard, it does it’s job very nicely. Or should I say, Mr. Zombie does his job very nicely.
Mind you, I didn’t watch this movie in it’s infamous Unrated version and that kind of makes me curious just how freakin’ dirty and disgusting it may have been because with this rated-R version, Zombie over-stepped a shit-load of MPAA rules that was sure to make those old-timers keel-over in their fine, leather chairs. To an extent, all of the blood, guts, action, violence, bushes, boobs, asses, and murders all work in making this flick one hell of a ride from Zombie’s mind. But it can only go on so far until it becomes a bit repetitive. Let me just state this: I get that a horror film has to feature a bunch of crazy killers on the road, torturing people and not leaving anybody for granted, but after the third scene of human-torture, it got to a point of where I sort of had enough already. I mean I wasn’t tired of it because I couldn’t handle the sight of somebody getting emotionally and physically ‘effed with, but more of the fact that I just didn’t care for it much. After the hour-mark hits it’s, things just begin to feel like Zombie was pulling something out of his bag of tricks that he kept on using, mostly because it pleased the same damn people in the theater. Move on with the story, give me some plot, and most of all, show me more than just a bunch of acts of unneeded torture.
Then, something strange happened. I guess Zombie heard my complaints (I wish) and decided, “Hey, maybe it is time for a little bit of a story to get thrown in here!” Well, the story that I had in my-mind, was definitely a lot more entertaining and thought-provoking than the one Zombie had on-display. See, the first flick had these three pieces of shit look exactly like that: pieces of shit. They were essentially, a bunch of villains that you could only get in a sick, sadistic horror-movie straight from the mind of Rob Zombie and there was nothing else to it than that. Somehow though, Zombie got the bright idea in his ass and decided that maybe it was time to make these three pieces of shit, seem like they have souls, make it seem like they have lives that are worth living, make them seem like, well, dare I say it: human-beings. Well, sort of. Zombie tries to make us care for these characters that don’t do a single, good thing throughout the whole hour and fifty minute time-limit and because of the fact that they are able to tell witty jokes when they are about to off somebody is why we’re supposed to care for them? I don’t think so, and to be honest, I wasn’t buying it. They are pieces of shite that I wanted to see dead regardless of what they tried to make us think otherwise. Instead of standing behind their backs, the whole time I was cheering for the police officers, for the poor, defenseless people they tortured and messed-with, and even Zombie himself to actually grow a pair and not let these characters get all sentimental and have us care for them.
Even though their characters aren’t worth loving, the performances from the trio of leads may have you think otherwise. Sid Haig is a riot as Captain Spaulding and is weird, sick, twisted, and a bit believable as the old man of the group that seems to know the most, seems to have the most sense, and even seems to be the only one who doesn’t kill people right away. Bill Moseley is also good as Otis and has some funny-lines here and there that have us shocked by his character, but I felt like something was missing to really have this guy play with your mind and play with the conventions of the usual, horror-film bad-guy. He sort of just acts like a dick and does bad things, but there isn’t anything else more to him than that. Wish I eventually got that and didn’t just sit around and see him torture the hell out of people. Then again, it’s a horror movie so I can’t go too crazy asking for much. We all know why Sheri Moon Zombie is in this flick as Lady, (other than the fact that she is freakin’ smoking hot) and it’s kind of a sad reason too, because the girl kind of blows. She tries way too hard to be this witty, weird girl that can stand-up on her own, but also doesn’t take shit from anybody else, either. I didn’t really care for her, feel fear from her, and instead, just thought she was trying a bit too hard, just like her hubby who was sitting behind her probably slapping her as the whole way through. And holy hell, I do not blame him!
Consensus: The Devil’s Rejects definitely shows an improvement over House of a 1000 Corpses with a cool and fun direction from Rob Zombie that makes the guy seem like he has his head on the right shoulder this time around, but yet, it is a horror movie that feels a bit repetitive and doesn’t have us give a single-lick about our three leads, no matter how hard it tries to manipulate us into feeling that way.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
Rocky Balboa’s only real competition: a woman!
In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time. That all changes when Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym, but also walks into his life. Maggie wants to box, but Frankie ain’t about teaching girls to box since it’s considered a joke around the league and his buds that have respected him forever. However, Frankie sees something in her and realizes that maybe there’s more than just a woman underneath it all; there may even be a true fighter. And I’m not just talking about in the ring either, folks.
You have to really give it to Mr. Clint Eastwood; the guy just never stops. Most 82 year olds out there, wake up at 7 a.m., have a nice piece of toast for breakfast, watch golf, sit on the porch, read the paper, talk about the good old days with whoever’s present (sometimes nobody), watch the news, go to sleep at 9, and do the same thing all over again the next day after that and so on and so forth. However, that’s not how Eastwood rolls, nor is it how he likes to spend his latter-years, and even though the guy has had some stinkers in the past, you still have to see that this guy has some real talent left in him and he shows no signs of stopping.
What I liked most about Eastwood’s direction here is that he takes your ordinary story about a trailer-trash girl who has high hopes of one day being the next big thing for boxing, and turns that cliché into something heartfelt and real. No matter what form of advertisement you saw of this film, everybody had it being planned-out as the “female Rocky“, but that really couldn’t be any further from the truth. You feel like all of these character’s motivations are understood, realistic, and best off all, believable to where you can hold everything closer to heart. It’s also a sure thing of beauty to see the relationship between Frankie and Maggie build over time, almost to where he becomes a father-figure for her and she becomes a daughter-figure for him. It all sounds so predictable, mushy, and ham-fisted but it’s surprisingly not, which is mostly because of how much of this rings true to not only these characters minds, but also their souls. You can tell that each and every character starts to wear their hearts on the sleeve by the end, and for that: I think I decided to join along in the heart-wearing festivities.
I haven’t gotten choked-up at a film in quite some time, so by the end, when I started to tear up just a bit, not only did it make me feel good but it also made me realize how great of a director Eastwood can be if he just plays it light and assured. So many films from Eastwood, especially lately, have all been about him trying too hard to get in the way of the story and because of that, he makes some big mistakes in the process. Some of which, actually cause him to lose control of his whole movie, then that’s where he leaves his actors to pick up the pieces. That is different here as you can tell that Eastwood is not all about getting pigeonholed into another genre flick; instead, he’s more about telling the story from his heart and that’s evident through this compelling, but always-subtle direction.
Even though this film did work for me so well in so many ways, there were other problems I had with this flick that made me take away from my final grade. One of the main elements of this film that bothered me was Maggie’s, trailer-trash family that was so one-dimensional that every time they were on-screen, I couldn’t help but laugh, which was something I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to do in the first place. I get it, they’re a bad bunch of siblings that only care for themselves rather than the down-and-out daughter that’s doing everything she can for them, but every time they showed up (which was usually the most emotional scenes out of the whole film) I couldn’t help but think that the only way to get rid of these stereotypical characters in a good way was to have Eastwood take out a .44 Magnum and blow ‘em all away. Obviously, he didn’t feel like doing that this time around but it would have been the best solution to getting rid of these characters and their annoying ways of speaking and acting. Seriously, what a bunch of grateful asses.
Another big element of this film that I couldn’t take in for certain was the champion boxer Maggie ends up facing. Not only is this chick as one-dimensional as Maggie’s familia, but she is also unbelievably ruthless and cruel, to the point of where I don’t really think she would even be allowed to fight in the ring again, let alone, hold the crown for a big bout. Both of these elements may not mean much now, but in hindsight, when they are placed in some real, dramatic scenes, you can’t help but feel like you’re being cheated just a teeny, weeny bit. Hey, I didn’t say Clint was always perfect.
Speaking of Clint Eastwood, this guy is pretty stellar (no surprise there) as the notoriously cranky boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn. Eastwood starts the role off with his usual grumpy, old fart character that we usually see him pull-off so well, but by the end, he starts to reveal some dramatic-layers within his acting that I didn’t even know really existed and even though I did, I still haven’t had the privilege to see them in awhile. Of course, we’ve all seen Eastwood pull out some of his dramatic chops every once and awhile, but not as much as we see here and it’s something of total beauty to see because you feel for his old man, mostly cause you know that this guy is a good man. He’s an old fart that yells, cranks, and pisses on everybody, but he’s still a person none the less and should be treated as one for that. Throughout the whole movie, you can tell that he is trying to forgive himself for all of the time he has spent away from his daughter and more on in the ring, but you realize that Maggie is the one last hope of forgiveness for him and for that, you root him on as much as you do for Maggie.
And as for Maggie, the gal that’s playing her, Hilary Swank, gives yet again, another top-notch performance of hers as the trailer-trash boxer, but this time; with more layers to a character that could have easily been deemed as “conventional”, “obvious”, and “not worth spending more than 2 hours of your time with”. Maggie is a character that annoyed me at first, considering she seemed like she was just too damn happy and optimistic to be in the boxing atmosphere, to be training, to be getting into shape, and to be trying to make a living off of punching the hell out of people in the face, therefore, made her too much for me at first. But then I thought to myself: who cares!?!? Give me more! Well, that’s what I got and I have to give a lot of credit to Swank for pulling this role off perfectly because not only do we see her for the bad-ass that she can be whenever she’s in the ring, but we also see her as a very sad, lonely, and hopeless little girl that just can’t make right with her family, or her life. Pretty sad stuff, but Swank makes it hopeful with her performance and it was a good choice for Best Actress that year.
Oh, and in case I forgot to mention already, but Morgan Freeman is here as Eddie, the washed-up boxer who works/lives at Frankie’s gym. Freeman narrates this movie, and of course, it’s as classy and stylish as ever, but his voice is only used to enhance the story-telling, his performance is a whole, ‘nother thing completely Freeman is always a solid actor and always gives it his all no matter what the shit-pile may be, but his performance as Eddie is as rich and emotionally-powerful as it’s gotten for him, recently at least. Eddie is a bit of a smarty-pants that may not have the best past for a human-being, ever, but he still is somebody that you love and feel for just because you know that underneath it all, this guy is hurting from the life that he could have had in the ring and for some reason; just never did. Freeman has this one, special scene where he talks about his last match and it’s not only a great scene, but one of the best in Freeman’s career. Underneath all of that narrating he does, it’s still nice to see him pull his acting-chops out every once and awhile and amaze us, as we all know he can do. These three are amazing and keep this film grounded in emotional honesty, and brilliance.
Consensus: This may look like your normal, predictable sports drama that we have all come to know, see, and sometimes love/hate from this genre, but Million Dollar Baby is different than that category most movies get sucked into. With a steady and sturdy direction from Eastwood, characters to care for, emotional-truths behind people we want to hear speak, and a trio of solid performances, it’s better than those types of movies and one that you won’t soon forget, long after you’ve seen it for all that it is.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
Don’t ever invite the one person that may stop the marriage, to your actual wedding.
A mother named Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son named Claude (Zane Pais) live together and are constantly angry at the things around them. They go to visit a relative (Jennifer Jason Leigh) over the weekend, for that person’s wedding but the problem is that the soon-to-be husband (Jack Black) of that husband, isn’t exactly Mr. Charming. But in Margot’s eyes: almost no one is.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem like the right kind of guy for me. His films are filled with characters that are so damn unlikable, that you would much rather shoot them than be in the same family as them, and the dialogue has that natural feel to it, but also gets very weird and quirky for no reason at all. He always seems to base his movies in reality, but a type of reality that is pessimistic, miserable, and downright uneven. Maybe that’s how life is, but for me; it doesn’t seem so. That’s why Baumbach never seems to deliver the goods and this flick is no different.
The biggest problem I hit with this flick was that barely anybody here drew me in, nor did they even have me compelled by what they were going to do next with their lives. Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about them. Sounds harsh but the film is just dedicated to each one of these characters either constantly fighting with one another, acting strange just for the sake of it, saying how they really feel at random and sometimes, unnecessary moments, and getting into arguments where it gets so heated, they’re about to kill each other the next second. I mean I know family can be a bitch at times, but never as bad as they are displayed here. Almost every single scene that goes by, nobody ever seems to enjoy each other’s company and it never changes. Whether or not Baumbach meant for us to share the same misery these characters were feeling, is totally beyond me.
I mean, I get it. Not everybody in the world we live in is going to be as sweet as pumpkin pie but this film takes that a little too far to where it’s just an annoyance. Watching people practically beat the ever, loving shit out of the other in a verbal, and sometimes physical war. What makes it even worse is that this film is one hell of a sloppy piece-of-work because Baumbach never seems to be able to make a cohesive story here, and resorts to just snipping together random, short shots of these characters either reacting with each other, or just standing there looking mad/angry/sad. It’s cool what Baumbach can handle his characters without ever having any real plot to work with, but he doesn’t succeed at that here and I think it’s mainly because he trusted too much in his writing to win everybody over. Qurkiness can only go so far, and it went a bit far for our man, Noah, here.
This was even more of a shame to see in this flick is because of the movie that came before this, The Squid and the Whale. It’s probably my favorite Baumbach flick and shows that the guy can handle quirkiness, but also throw in some real, honest emotions to-spare where we feel for the characters involved, no matter how self-centered or despicable they may be. It seems as if Baumbach tried to do some of that here, but it doesn’t have as much steam as that indie-gem had. The characters from that movie were pretty damn unlikeable, but at least they had some sort of sympathetic side to them, deep-down inside. You had to look far for it, but when you found it all out, it worked wonders for the flick and it seemed like Baumbach tried to do the same thing here, just without any likeable-traits whatsoever. I can’t lie, there were some parts of this film that had me interested and made me laugh, but they were also very few and far my dear. Very few and far.
Even though the characters and story-line sort of blow, the cast still owns and show exactly why they deserve roles like these, no matter how detestable they can be. Nicole Kidman is great as the confused, bitchy, and often terrible mother that can’t seem to get her head around whatever it is that she wants in life. Kidman has always been a powerhouse in every performance she’s given, but she’s allowed to play a more mean character than we usually see from her and I think she handles it well. Since every scene consists of her bitching everybody-out that’s around her at that time, it’s not very hard to see exactly why a gal like this would own at playing such a evil mother. Yes, she even bitches out her own son. Damn woman!
Jennifer Jason Leigh always has had a knack for coming off as very sunny, bright-eyed, and likable and her role as Pauline really worked for her in that aspect. The fact that she’s so happy with life and her sister is such a huge bitch, really seemed strange to me, but then again, I guess that’s what happens in life. Life can take you down different paths of life, and I guess that’s what this flick was trying to show us with these two sissies that just so happen to be blood-related, but yet have completely, different out-looks on life. Still don’t know how a hot momma like Leigh ended-up with Jack Black, but hey, that’s what movies are made for, right? Speaking of the one and the only, Jack Black, he’s actually very good as Malcolm, Pauline’s soon-to-be-husband and brings a lot of that comedic-timing to this movie (that is so rightfully needed) and also has some nice dramatic touches as well. Malcolm is probably the most realistic and chill character of the whole film, and it’s never fully explained why the hell Margot hated him so much to begin with. He was the only guy in this film that made me want to continue watching and actually give it more of a shot than it deserved. Never thought I’d say this about any movie, but Jack Black was the best part of it. God, now that I think about it: this movie really must have sucked.
Consensus: Noah Baumbach at least deserves some sort of credit for making a story for Margot at the Wedding, solely out of random snippets of character emotions and happenings, but that’s not much when you consider how loathsome and mean these characters can be, without any sense of love or kindness in their hearts.
3 / 10 = Indie Crapola!!
You can only say so much about a sport where the objective is to beat the absolute crap out of the other person.
When respected jujitsu master Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) eschews a lucrative prize fighting career in favour of opening a self-defence dojo, it appears that he has chosen a peaceful path in life. The dedicated martial artist’s fate takes an unanticipated turn, however, when he is manipulated into participating in ultimate fighting championships by a group of unscrupulous actors and fight promoters. Mike is way in over his head and tries to find whatever it is that he can do to bring back his old life that he knew and loved before it all went to shite.
It may sound pretty strange, but this martial arts film is written and directed by David Mamet. Yes, Glengarry Glen Ross-David Mamet. It may seem like a weird-fit to try on and get used to, but much to my surprise, as I’m pretty sure everybody else’s as well, but Mamet actually practices jiujitsu in real-life and considers it a nice hobby of his, when he isn’t writing out characters that say “fuck” a lot. But don’t worry, people, this more of a Mamet film than it is a carbon-copy of Never Back Down, but don’t be surprised if you can’t tell a total difference between the two.
Mamet’s dialogue in this flick is, once again, very well-written. This time, instead of being just another pile of snappy one-liners that Mamet just continues to toss at the audience, the dialogue here is more natural than you would expect from this dude and it works in it’s approach to this story. This isn’t your non-stop, kick-ass martial arts movie. Instead, it’s actually more character-based and has a story that may draw you in a lot more than the actual fight sequences themselves. And although that may turn people off expecting a bunch of karate chops and take-downs left and right, for me, I wasn’t bothered at all. In fact, it kept me more involved with what was going on because there should always be more back-story to any extreme sport, especially one like martial arts.
But even when the fight scenes do come onto the screen, they actually work and bring a lot of energy to this film mainly because Mamet is able to get so up-front and personal with each tussle. There’s not many fights (maybe about 3 or 4 in this hour, 34-minute movie) but whenever they came on, I liked it and I think it’s obvious that Mamet just enjoys the art of ultimate fighting. This really isn’t the type of film you just got forced to do and it’s apparent that Mamet wanted to do this film and his curiosity and attention to detail, pays off here. People do say “fuck”, a lot too, but not like you’d expect them to and it’s not all about the cursing that makes this movie work which is what I actually liked for a nice change-of-pace.
However, as good as the script was, I couldn’t help but think he tacked on way too much here with this simple story. The main story itself is pretty much about this guy who can kick anybody’s ass, gets into some major debt, and is trying to find a way out of it the hard way. This in and of itself is a pretty simple story and even though it may not be the most original ever in the whole, widest world, you would think Mamet’s skills as a writer would be definitely more than enough to save it from the same old shit we usually see. But Mamet doesn’t stop there and continues to go on and on and on with this story, almost to the point of where it’s random. He tries a little too hard with such a simple story about the underdog coming out on top, but adding so many characters, so many random twists, and so many consequences that could either happen this way, or not, and show how it effects the rest of the story. Seemed like way, way too much for a story like this and actually lost me a couple of times.
All of this wasn’t as terrible as I thought, until I got to the final act and that’s where I noticed that everything came full-circle for me. In a bad way, of course. The final act comes on pretty strong with the right bit of tension but Mamet pulls the rug from underneath us, gives us something to think about, and adds yet another twist to the already-confusing plot developments. But what I noticed about this ending is that I wasn’t as glued to the screen because Mamet had so much going on, that the central story itself just sort of gets lost in the muddle of it all. Surely, there must have been an easier way to get our main character back in the square-circle, without having to go through all of these life hurdles and surely, there must have been an less predictable and ludicrous ending like the one they have here. It could have just been simple, plaid, and usual, but that’s not how David Mamet rolls and whether or not you like that about this dude, is all up to what you prefer in life.
Mamet’s plot may get lost, but at least his characters stay true and that’s because of the performances from the stars involved. Mike Terry is an awesome role for Chiwetel Ejiofor because the guy, once again, gets to prove that he has what it takes to be a leading man and turn in a convincing performance, no matter what the movie or role may be. Not only can the guy spout-out Mamet-dialogue like it’s his job (technically, it was) but he also shows that he has a lot of great physical skills and it surprised me to hear that this dude didn’t have any previous martial arts training because he looked like a pro at what he was doing. Good thing that Mamet focused the film mostly on him, too.
The two females in Terry’s life are played by Alice Braga and Emily Mortimer, who are both good but aren’t given much to work with. Braga is Terry’s bitchy, money-hungry wife that would leave him in a heartbeat for some extra moolah, and Mortimer is Terry’s newly-found friend/student that is going through a rough time but her story never fully gets developed enough for us to care about her. Shame too, because both can give off some awesome work when they can. As for everybody else, you have the villains like Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, Rodrigo Santoro, and surprisingly, Tim Allen who all turn in some good work as a bunch of shady baddies, but are just all over-the-place that it’s hard to declare which one was the “baddest”. My money is on Buzz Lightyear. That guy seems like a total dick behind closed doors.
Consensus: David Mamet definitely brings a lot of fun to this curious, passion-project of sorts but Redbelt features way too many ideas, twists, and characters going on at the same time, to do nothing else but add confusion and take away from the final-product. It’s not a thrill-ride, but a more-sophisticated look at marital arts, with the occasional beat-down here and there.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
In Tom Cruise, we trust.
Three separate stories somehow find their ways of connecting to one-another the way you wouldn’t expect (or maybe you’re a movie dick, and do expect it). Robert Redford plays a college professor talking to one of his most-promising students (Andrew Garfield) about what he possibly could and could not do for his future; Meryl Streep plays a reporter interviewing a Senator (Tom Cruise) about a new war-plan in the making; and two soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) get caught behind enemy lines without a hope or prayer in the world.
If a regular, everyday person gets pissed-off about the war and doesn’t agree with the intentions; then most likely, that person goes on throughout their day, keeping their thoughts and ideas to themselves, and occasionally blasting-out all of those thoughts and ideas whenever they get to shot to, either around a group of co-workers, friends, family, or total and complete strangers. Either way, this is the story of the everyday man who has a voice and that’s it. Hollywood stars are like us in the ways that they too have a voice, but they also have money, powerful friends, and in Robert Redford’s case; a camera, a crew, and a script as well. First problem right there.
Regardless as to whether or not you agree with the war, why we are over there, and whether or not it’s a waste of time and lives, you will find something to take out of this movie. There’s plenty of important ideas the movie is willing to spout-out at you that makes you feel like it knows what it’s talking about, and even better, has the best intentions at-hand. However, like with most movies along the same lines of this one, best intentions don’t mean jack-shit if you can’t give me a compelling story, compelling characters, and just an overall, compelling and entertaining piece of cinema for an hour and a half. That’s all I ask, that’s all I want, and that’s all I need to enjoy myself and if I get that, then hell, go to freakin’ town on the idea-spouting! But, if you can’t give me anything that’s the least-bit compelling, nor can you even give me an hour and a half movie time-limit (this runs a cheap-o 88 minutes), then buzz off!
That’s what I felt like saying to Robert Redford by the end of this movie because everything he tells us and lectures us on throughout this whole movie, is nothing more than that: just lectures. If I wanted to be lectured on how the war is bad, how it’s waste of time for our people to be over there, and how politicians continue to make mistakes about it, then I would have either taken a Political Science course, gone to a student-rally, or just went online, and typed in “Why the war is bad”, and thus, there would have been over 6,000,000 results and all for the price of $0. However, when you ask me to go out of my way, drive to the nearest theater-complex, and actually throw out about $9 or $10 for one of these lectures, then you can just forget it. Thank the high heavens I never payed a dime to see this movie, and according to the box-office results for this thing: apparently nobody else did either. Just goes to show you that the typical, American movie-goer wasn’t as dumb as we all thought they were. Then again, they probably went out to see Transformers that weekend so I guess that statement doesn’t hold much truth.
Also, it’s not even like everything this movie is trying to say is anything new, revolutionary, mind-boggling, or original that we haven’t already heard or seen said before. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 will probably tell you the same exact stuff that this movie is, but instead, with more insight, more humor, more personality, more entertainment, and just more of a “movie-aspect” to the whole product that will actually have you feel like you really made the right decision to see it. This movie, which is not a documentary, just tells you stuff that you have already heard before and doesn’t necessarily break any new-ground. It’s almost like Redford had this movie in his head ever since the war started, and then had to wait an extra 6 years until it was almost too late to where everything he said was relevant.
Though he shows signs of getting older as a director, Robert Redford still has the knack and talent to make himself work as an actor, and I guess that’s worth complimenting when you take the whole movie into place. Redford has a natural charisma to him, that still lies within himself, no matter how old or wrinkly his luscious face gets. The guy’s got charm to him, and it only gets better with age. However, the one who steals the spot-light away from him is Andrew Garfield, in a very early-role of his career as a student that has promise and has the brain to make a difference in this world, but just won’t take the bait on everything that he’s being taught. The kid’s a bit cocky and over-his-head with certain ideas, but Garfield makes it work and shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re up against a veteran actor like Redford, you can still do a helluva job and get your name out there for the whole world to see. I don’t know if that worked with this movie or not, but hey, at least he’s Spider-Man now, so that’s got to account for something.
The other story in this movie is with Streep and Cruise, who show that they have good banter between each other, but still feels like some of their weaker-attempts at making a crappy-script work. Cruise is charming as the manipulative, but well-intentioned Senator that has a tough job and knows it, and shows you that he can play slimy, but still make you like him and feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the whole charade of being way too cool for school. On the opposite-end, Streep is okay as the reporter, but it really feels like a role that should have been played by somebody else, like somebody younger, or somebody that isn’t as amazing as an actress as Streep, mainly because we expect more from her. Apparently her character is a little cuckoo for Coco Puff’s, even though it rarely shows when she’s able to keep her cool with the Senator, but that was probably just another attempt at trying to give us character-development from Redford, that just so happened to not work.
The last story is probably the least-interesting out of all of them, and that’s a real shame too because I like Derek Luke and Michael Pena and I feel like they can be really good in certain movies, when they’re given good scripts to assist them. This is not one of those scripts. Basically, all of the scenes we get with them are either they’re talking to a class about their political-beliefs, or they are stranded in a field, injured, and trying to not get killed. We’re supposed to feel bad for them and get a sense that this is like every poor solider that decides to sign-up for the war: but we don’t. It feels manipulative and shallow, as if Redford tried his hardest to take a jab at the military and also humanize it at the same time, but just comes off as forced.
Consensus: Redford’s intentions obviously mean well and aren’t to make everybody out there that he disagree’s with, look like total and complete a-holes, but Lions for Lambs features nothing else other than a bunch of ideas, lectures, and opinions that aren’t new, aren’t special, and don’t really serve any meaning, other than to show you that A-listers really know what’s up with the world. I call bullshit.
3 / 10 = Crapola!!
Of course now I feel bad for not paying a single-lick of attention in Science class.
Two scientists/best friends Aaron and Abe (Shane Carruth and David Sullivan) are always in their garage’s playing around and trying to create new machines that will benefit the rest of the world, and make them rich one day. However, when they decide to play around a little too much, somewhere, the realization of a time machine being built to perfection comes through to the both of them; but what should they do? Should they take advantage of it and allow all of their wildest dreams to come true? Or, should they just leave it be for the better good of themselves and mankind? You can probably which decision they choose to make. Damn sci-fi nerds.
I’m going to admit this now, before any of you decide to jump down my neck for the rest of this review: I am an idiot, that much is clear to me now than it has ever been to me in my entire-life. Going into this movie, I expected to be challenged, I expected to be pay attention, I expected to be screwed-with, and I expected to think for myself in ways I haven’t been able to pull-off since Inception (aka, a long, long time ago), but still, I found myself totally and utterly confused, way before it even was half-way through. Once it hits the thirty-minute mark, I thought, “Oh, well now I’m starting to get the hang of things and where this plot is going. Hopefully they keep on going down this route.” If there was ever a more perfect example of wishful thinking, I would really like to see it shown to me. Seriously, this movie fucked me over.
Now, that I got that out of the way, I just want to let you all know that no matter what type of shizz I may be saying about this movie from here on, don’t be fooled into thinking I hated this movie. In fact, I think I respected it more than I even liked it, which is really saying something because that almost never, ever happens. Some may be quick to call this “pretentious” and “pompous”, but I just can’t bring myself to utter those words. I can think of other words like “smart”, “imaginative”, and “detailed”, but that didn’t mean it added anything to my overall movie-watching experience.
Here’s the thing with this movie, the plot absolutely lost me about half-way through, almost to the point of where (I felt like giving up. I seriously did. I had my Wii mote handy and ready to change to see what else I had on my Netflix queue, but thankfully, I stayed true to my movie critic ways and kept on watching. But as much as I may have been totally mind-fucked by all of this, I still have to give writer/director/producer/magic man Shane Carruth all of the credit for stepping from out of nowhere, and giving me a sci-fi film that seemed actually possible. Not saying that any form of sci-fi can actually, and might just happen, but the way this dude presents the way these two guys build a time machine (without ever using that word), how they would take advantage of it, and just what sort of ways would they be able to maneuver themselves around it , was smart and something I did not think could happen with a movie like this. Once again, another instance where I felt like a total idiot since I can’t believe I ever doubted this guy, or his movie.
Also, the guy’s a pretty young director and it shows because the movie looks cheap, it looks gritty, and it looks like it was made from shit you’d sell on Craigslist, but that’s not an insult in the least bit. I actually liked that look to the movie, as it made me feel like I was watching a real story, with real characters, and some real fucked-up crazy shit going on that’s almost too hard for me to even think of as of right now. From an aspiring film maker perspective: the guy has talent and knew how to save money, the right way, in order for him to get this movie made, which seems to be on nickels and dimes. For that aspect alone, I give the guy mucho credit. But this is where the bad part begins. Be ready, because here we go.
The problem that I had with this movie is that I did not seem to get a single, fucking thing going on at all here. I get that these guys created a time machine, tried to find ways to manipulate it’s usage into making them filthy, stinkin’ rich, and eventually started to lose sight of their friendship and the life they once lived, but everything else in between, like a couple of plot twists and turns, just never came to me. I get that the movie isn’t trying to be like all of those lame, predictable sci-fi flicks that spells everything out for you and puts your mind at ease so they can tell you all that’s happening, but seriously; I needed my hand held here. I felt like I needed somebody to hold my hand, walk me through the street, and get me home on time, but instead, I just wanted to know what the fuck was going on.
Now, would I go so far as to say that this movie wasn’t made for me? Yes and no. The reason I say yes is because it’s heavy on it’s sci-fi jargon, in a way that’s almost comprehensible for a person who used to spend third-period Bio wondering what movie he was going to watch later that night. Also, the movie never gave me a second to let everything settle in, breathe, and catch myself up-to-place with all of the happenings and dialogue that seemed to come charging at me, almost a mile-a-minute. I felt totally winded, and that was at the 20-minute mark. I still had less than an hour to go, and I was scared-shitless of what may have happened to me next.
However, from the other deck of cards, I’d have to say no for one reason and one reason only: I usually love movies like this. Even though I see a crap-ton of popcorn fare (more than my little, fragile heart may be able handle), I still do appreciate the little, indie movies that allow you to think more than you would with something you could see at any local AMC theater. No matter what that movie may be, I always like to watch them, think for a bit, and come up with my own conclusions at the end. Sometimes they do lose me at points, but I am usually able to get myself back up and moving along with the pace, the story, and the characters that inhabit it.
But this is just one of those movies that made me re-think that idea of myself. It wasn’t that I realized I’m not able to think anymore, and whenever I do, I need somebody to write-out a freakin’ guide book on what everything means. No, in fact it was more that I realized that I have to look out for movies like these and be ready for them, even when I least expect them to come and slash me in the jugular. Did I hate this flick? No, not at all. But there is something that I could tell after viewing it and coming up with my own thoughts: a re-watch is definitely in the future and the re-review for that will definitely be up. As for right now, however, I’m sticking with this and just know that as much as this flick may have not been for me or my mood during the time that I viewed this (I was tired as hell from working-out, ALL. DAMN. DAY.), it still doesn’t mean it’s not worth your own trip to ride-along with, just as long as this cake you don’t mind taking a piece out of. If not, good luck my fellow friends. Good luck, indeed.
Consensus: Primer is a smart, hip-looking, and stylish sci-fi flick that could actually make a lot of sense in the grander scheme of things, but left me in the dark; WAY TOO MUCH. I get that the film wanted to lose it’s audience and see if we could keep up, but as for yours truly, I just wasn’t up the game just yet. Give me another year or so, then I might just be. But until then, I’m staying right where I am.
5 / 10 = Rental!!
Would it be safe to say that the Stations of the Cross was one of the first horror-stories ever told?
If you have never went to school in your life, took a religious course, or still consider yourself an “atheist” (word has totally lost it’s meaning by now, this is the story of Jesus (Jim Caviezel)’ last 12 hours of life. Not only was he betrayed by one of his most beloved followers (that damn Judas), but was also wrongfully-accused, put to death, and forced to be executed in front of everybody that couldn’t get enough bloodshed and gore for a day’s work. But, don’t feel so bad for Jesus, because he’s doing this for all of us, the decisions we make, the sins that we commit, and overall: for our lives.
This may be a surprise for some of you to hear (or see), but this movie caused quite the stir back in the early days of 2004 and with good reason. Not only is it one of the most famous and iconic stories of our day and age, but it’s one that so many people know by now, as well as the what, the who, the where, and the how. However, not everybody gets down to the nitty gritty details of just what sort of pain and agony our dear Jesus had to go through, just so us assholes on Earth could get away with having sex before marriage and robbing that liquor store last week. Don’t play dumb. You know exactly who it is that I’m talking about here.
That’s where Mel Gibson shows up, though, and makes us see this story for all that it was, without leaving any certain type of details that may (and definitely did) make Catholics, Jews, Priests, and the Vatican more pissed off than little Jimmy opening his mouth out about how Father McCarthy gave him extra sips of wine in the back of the Church. Then, of course, when you do re-enact a story like this, with all of the blood, the gore, and violence, you have to expect all of those “sacred people” to be up in arms and consider it a sacrilege, all because Jesus actually got his ass beat, before dying a very painful, agonizing death. Just to let you know, The Church; this shit actually did happen, so what the hell is so wrong with some dude showing it in all of it’s fame and glory.?!?!? Probably not the best choice of words, but you get my drift.
Anyway, aside from all of my religious beliefs (I have none, I think they are all just used as a conversation-stater for boring people), the movie still paints a portrait of Jesus and the Stations of the Cross, and not in the happiest-way either. However, that’s the point of the story and for that, I have to give Mel Gibson mucho credit for not backing down and allowing people to take away his image of what happened to Jesus during his last twelve hours. Everything we see, hear, and feel, is not pretty, but then again; what the hell do you really think Jesus went through when he was just doing this all for us and the sins we would definitely commit!?? Did you think they just handed him the cross and a fork-lift to get up on top of that hill, glue him to it, and just let him sit up there for a little while?!? Hell to the no!
What they did do was savagely beat the shit out of him, whip him until he was just about bones on the ground, and never let up, even when he couldn’t physically carry the cross no more. That is definitely not the type of gruesome story we get to hear when our religious-grandparents force us to go to Church, but that’s the story we all know and rarely ever see. That is until, Mel Gibson has a little something to say and absolutely holds no frills, or strings attached. He tells it as if the story most likely happened in real life, and never lets up when it seems like the violence is becoming too much for people. Even though the guy is a fucking nut behind-the-scenes and sometimes in front of, you have to give crazy Mel credit for having a vision in his head, sticking to it, and not allowing any person to stop him from showing it or skewer with it any way at all. In a way, I guess you could say he’s a lot like Jesus where he had a vision and a belief, and never let anybody stop him from telling it or showing it to the people around him.
Too much? Yeah, I kinda thought so. Anyway, moving on……
Although I can give credit where credit is due for Mr. Mel and having the balls to go forward with this story, I can’t give him credit for giving me a movie I want to see ever again. I mean that too: NEVER, EVER AGAIN! It wasn’t just that the blood, the violence, the gore, the torture, and the whipping became too much for me, because actually, by the 4th time actually seeing this, I think I’ve become more numb than ever before. But it wasn’t that, it was just that after all of this time the story still did nothing for me. It isn’t because I’m an atheist (I guess I am. I don’t know, and I don’t care, really), and it isn’t because I haven’t gone to Church in almost a year and counting, and it sure as hell isn’t because I usually cheated on every single one of religion tests they threw in front of me (loved sitting next to Lauren Baker 4th-8th grade), but it was just because the story and Gibson’s approach doesn’t offer us anything new, original, or thoughtful that we haven’t already heard or seen before.
We know exactly what happens in this story, and therefore, we expect to not get any surprises and in return; there aren’t any. The only type of surprises there could have been with this story was what Mel had to say about it, and we never get that. Instead, we just see Jesus get tortured, beaten within an inch of his life, his mommy crying, his followers act like pussies and back-stabbers, and at the end of the day, dying in total agony, discomfort, and excruciating pain. And oh, by the way, it’s all for 2 hours and 6 minutes which wouldn’t seem that bad if the movie continued to move along, but it doesn’t. It just keeps on getting slow, melodramatic, and a bit too obvious for it’s own good. I don’t know whether or not this is how the original story was framed (highly doubt it was), but something, somewhere, within Gibson’s direction was just not cooking well and just made this flick seem like it had to be seen, to be believed. That’s all fine and dandy, but don’t promise me boobs, when all I get is legs. That’s all I have to say about that.
As for the actors and actresses of this movie, they all do fine but most of their jobs are hard to pull-off considering all that they have to do is speak in a dead language, emote really hard, and pull off some nasty emotions. Overall, they all do fine but I can’t really say that anyone in particular is a revelation considering it’s mostly ordinary the same stuff around. Jim Caviezel is good as Jesus Christ because he is able to look as if he was near-beaten to death, pull it off without over-acting too much, and just seeming like a Saint-like creature, sort of like Jesus. This guy’s a good actor in most of the stuff he does, which is a shame because he will always and forever be remembered as “the guy who played Jesus in that one movie directed by that anti-Semite, Mel Gibson”. It’s a sad reality, but it’s the truth. Poor guy. And I’m talking about Jim, not that dick head named Mel.
Consensus: Passion of the Christ is the story we all know from the heart, feel the agony of, and in ways, learn something new from each and every time we hear it, but not this time. Nope, Mel Gibson has a the credit for at least achieving his vision and not backing down, but when it comes to giving us a movie that is worth watching for the whole sake of being enjoyed, learning something from, or being emotionally-driven; he does not succeed. Maybe that last aspect may work, all depending on how Holy that person is, but for yours truly: it didn’t much for me at all.
5.5 / 10 = Rental!!
At the end of the day, boys will be boys.
Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) were three childhood friends who lost touch over the years, all because of an incident that happened to one of them. All these years later, Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is found dead in the park, and it’s up to Sean to find out who killed her, why, who, what, where, and when, but somehow, Dave seems like the most prime-suspect out of them all. Whether or not he did it, is left up to these three to figure out.
Movies that try to deal both with a human-story and a mystery, never fully come together and seem to work all that well. However, Clint Eastwood seems like the type of dude who’s been in enough movies to realize that anytime you can add on real, honest human emotions; then anything can work. He also seems to know that if you can get an amazing cast, that is more than capable of delivering on every, single spectrum; then anything can, and most likely will, work. Clint knows the game he’s getting himself involved with and although he’s been racking it up in the age-department, the guy shows us he still knows what’s up with a good story.
What works so well with this flick is that in almost every aspect, something is always working. For starters, the mystery behind this flick is one that actually works, and one that keeps you glued to wondering just what the hell is going to be revealed, and possibly said, next. Most of these movies that try to add mystery to a human-story, never really seem to work and instead come off like a lame excuse to distract the audience who wants a fast-paced, exciting story, but this isn’t one of those flicks. We are never really told what happened to Katie in the beginning, other than the fact that she was murdered, by the park, and somebody called it in. After that, everything we hear, see, or try to grip and understand, are all news to us and it feels like we are learning everything, just as soon as each and every other character in this movie as well. Love a fine mystery-tale, especially when it’s done well and not for cheap-kicks.
Then, you get to the human-element of this whole story, which is really the anchor to it all and has everything come together like a fine string, between two Dixie cups. Every character in this movie, for no matter how long or how little you may see them pop-up on-screen, you still feel like as if you know them for all that they are, all that they were, and all that they ever will be. Sure, some are more pleasant to think about than others, but you still can’t help but be intrigued by the way that these characters interact with one another, and just how they find ways to connect around the a murder-case like this.
The most interesting character-relationships in this movie, were definitely the three boys we see at the beginning: Sean, Jimmy, and Dave (remember those names). At the beginning, we see how they were childhood pals, until something very disturbing and dramatic happened to one of them, and separates them all, while changing the course of their lives forever and ever. After we see this change in their childhoods, we then fast-forward to them being adults, moving on with their lives, and making ends meet, but still never, ever forgetting about that fateful day that impacted all of them, not just that one person. Throughout the rest of the flick, they always go back-and-forth about that moment in their lives, and they realize that it changed who they were, forever, but never really come to terms with how or why. They know that one person was actually hurt and had to pay the piper, but in the end, they were all hurt that day and never seemed to forget about it, nor heal from that pain. It’s interesting that they all see each other in one-on-one’s, but never show up altogether. It’s as if the movie wants you to see how separated they are, not just from each other, but the rest of the world around them. Maybe that’s just a bunch of babble from yours truly, but it’s something that I felt, and something that I saw and continue to think about even while writing all of this jibber-jab.
But trust me, not everything in this movie is as clear as I may make it out to be (or not). The movie has characters that you don’t know whether or not to trust, like, dislike, or even care for, but you still remained enticed by everything that you see them as. Eastwood also has an interest in each of these character’s lives and personality-traits, and shows how each of them react to certain situations differently. Some are cool, and some are nervous bumb-fucks. Some are suave, and some jittery-jatters. Some know all the right things to say, and others do as well, they just don’t know how to say it. You see all of these characters act and respond to the same situations, the same questions, and the same happenings, but yet; they are all different in their own ways, and watching that was just about perfect. It was even better to watch, if not just for the actual characters themselves, but the performances that were there to back them up.
When you have a story that’s so rich, so deep, and so compelling as this, with characters that are on equal-measure, it’s necessary to have a cast that can handle this, and that’s exactly what all of these heavy-hitters are ready to do, and do it in style. Sort of. Back when this flick first came out, everybody ranted and raved about Sean Penn and his performance as Jimmy Markum, but it’s rants and raves that were meant to be. Not only does Penn give one of the greatest freak-outs of all-time (second to this, of course), but he also gives us a deeply-layered, and beautiful glimpse inside the world of a man that’s trying to be right, trying to be good, and trying to be well-mannered, but just can’t because of his natural-tendencies. Markum is not a nice guy and is definitely not the type of guy you’d be easy and able to trust when it came down to getting business done the right way, but he’s trying and you can see that in every single scene that Penn shows up in. Most of the time, he’s a grieving father that’s just taken down, notch-by-notch, because of the fact that his baby girl is dead, but he continues to get back up, fight, and search for the truth. The ways he goes about it, the answers that he finds, and how he responds to those said answers, are not always the most “just” ways of going about your bizz, but Penn always remains stoic, compelling, believeable, and understandable in the way he never loses hope, even if death is staring him right in the face. It’s not as corny as I may make it sound. Trust me on that.
Tim Robbins comes very close to stealing Penn’s spotlight as Dave, an old-time friend of Jimmy’s, who also just so happens to be married to his wife’s cousin. Don’t know what that would make them in terms of family, but I guess they’re related, right? Okay, whatever. Anyway, Robbins is amazing as Dave, not just because Robbins knows how to play crazy like anybody’s business, but he really plays it up without going overboard in the sense that he’s way too insane to be considered the type of guy you’d want to marry, have, and raise a family with. He seems like an honestly-nice dude, that just so happens to have a pretty fucked-up past that gets in the way of his present-day happenings. That never makes him a bad person, but just the type of person you never know whether or not to trust, and what it is about him that’s so shady. Whatever it is, that mystery and that dark-shade of him, always stays there between us and that character, and it not only works in the movie’s favor, but Robbins’ as well. Both him and Penn received Oscars for these roles, and in my opinion: were both well-deserved. Then again, I think I share that same opinion with many, many others out there in the movie-reviewing world.
Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave’s wife, Celeste, who knows about Dave and what he did the night Katie was murdered, but doesn’t know how to accept the fact that maybe her hubby was the killer out of all of this. Harden is great with this role and this character because it gives us a sense that this woman loves her husband to death, but still doesn’t know if she can trust him in all of this, and finds herself in a dilemma between choosing between love, family, or being fair. She’s always nervous, she’s always twitchy, and she’s always scared, and some may call her performance one-sided for that, but Harden handles it perfectly, and never lost my interest.
Kevin Bacon seems like he got the shortest-stack of the bunch with a character that isn’t as interesting and sure as hell isn’t as memorable as these two, but still proves that he’s the man when it comes to owning roles like these, no matter how procedural they may be. It also doesn’t help that his character’s wife just so happened to have left him, with their baby, calls him almost all of the time, and never speaks. She just sits there, with the phone to her ear, in silence as the guy rambles on about nearly nothing. Still, Bacon is great through all of this, it’s just obvious that Eastwood wasn’t as concerned with this character as much as he was with the first two. Laurence Fishburne plays Sean’s fellow-detective who’s also investigating the case and is great with what he does, but is only there to give some slappy, side-comments and show how he isn’t as biased as Sean may be. Then again, Fishburne is always worth watching, especially in roles where he’s playing himself better than anybody else.
Even though the cast, the direction, the writing, the themes, and the mystery behind this whole movie, worked for me and had me loving just about every second of this, there is always a glaring-problem that never ceases to leave my mind when I think of this: the ending, or should I say: the final 10 minutes. Without spoiling all of the shite that goes down in the final-act, we leave with a dark, but reasonable conclusion that effs with our minds, our hearts, and our eyes, especially with everything we just saw for the past two hours. However, the movie doesn’t end there, just when it should have. Nope, instead, the movie felt the need to add on an epilogue where we not only get one, whole scene dedicated to Laura Linney’s characters, Jimmy’s wife, acting as Lady Macbeth-type character, but also feed us an ending that sort of contradicts the whole movie.
For instance, the movie plays around with the themes of people staying true their ways, their morals, and their nature, but somewhere, those themes get lost in a strange conundrum of characters not acting like themselves. It’s so hard to go into all of this without giving each and every thing away, but for the people who feel like they know what I’m talking about, you may be able to understand that some people realize some things about others, that they didn’t know before or has just become news to them, but yet, they choose to do nothing about it and go about their lives as if nothing happened. That would have been fine for one or two characters in this movie, but for the one that it does high-light, it seemed wrong, too theatrical, and a tad stupid, as if Eastwood really wanted us to feel like nobody was meant to be trusted, nor were they meant to be liked in any way, form, or shape. It’s not a happy-ending, per se, but it’s the type of ending that may piss you off because everything up until that point, was going swell, but had to end right there. Damn you, Clint. Why’d you have to go and ruin a good thing?
Consensus: The ending doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme of things, but everything else in Mystic River leading up to that, is still near-perfect with it’s powerful acting, realistic themes about life, and interesting character-traits and relationships that never always seem to add more heart and depth to this mystery, rather than just finding out who the baddie is.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
Kids can be brutal.
A group of misfit kids celebrate their youngest member (Rory Culkin)’s birthday, but are doing more than just letting the good times roll. Instead, they use the birthday as an excuse to mess with a bully (Josh Peck) and teach him a lesson or two about picking on kids who are younger and smaller than him. However, the kids don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into, especially when shite gets a bit too serious for their own good.
Throughout my high school days, I never really saw any bullying, ever. Yeah, of course I would see the occasional “booking” of a nerd going to math class, or a “taco” of another person’s book bag, but nothing too serious to the point of where I felt like some kid was going to get killed because of it. I said the same things and stated my ideas on the idea of bullying in that documentary, Bully, and all this time later, nothing still has changed. That’s why I’m glad I stayed away from being bullied or doing the bullying, just so I didn’t have the problem of seeing a kid go bat-shit like this.
First-time writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes does a magnificent job with this material, and makes a surprisingly moral tale out of a group of just 6 kids. Some of these kids are nice, some are kind hearted, some are bad, some are evil, and some are just plain evil. The film starts off like you’re going to see this bully finally get what’s coming to him, but in little time, you start to realize that this kid isn’t such a terrible person after all. In fact, he’s just as troubled as the dicks that put him up to this whole screwing with. But it’s not him that’s the only one that has problems, everybody else does too and if they don’t have problems, they at least have something that ticks away at them until the point of where they are absolutely losing their shit. This fascinated me because I thought that this flick was just going to be a mixture of Stand By Me and Bully (Larry Clark’s movie), but what I got instead, really tug at my brain and made me think a little bit.
It’s hard, actually, really too hard to make the “right” decision on what you would do if you were ever stuck in the same situation these kids get themselves caught in. Estes shows that these kids obviously can’t decipher between what is morally-correct and what is the best thing for them to do. I know that may sound similar, but trust me, when you’re a kid and you’re stuck in a situation like this one, they become two entirely, separate things. Yet, what also had me thinking about this film more was how Estes doesn’t really sympathize with any person in particular. Actually, everybody gets their own chance to show sympathy for their character and it’s very hard to choose who is the “right” person out of this situation. I know I’m being very vague about this “situation” but it’s really something you want to have no idea about going into.
My main complaint is that the second act is probably the most tense, if not the best part about this flick. Other than that, the other two acts (first and last) all pretty much suffer from being a tad too boring and predictable. The first act is obviously building up to what is essentially going to be our “party between the kids and the bully” so of course, the film takes its good old time, but maybe it was a little too good for it’s own self and that’s what bothered me. Then, the second act comes around and that’s when everything gets better and you really feel like this film has taken off of the ground. However, all of that goes to crap and then we get another slow/tedious-paced act that feels like Estes just wants to lolly-gag around with his film because he didn’t really know where to go after all of this.
It’s also a huge bummer considering everybody, myself included, pretty much guesses what happens to these kids on their little “party”, and that the only thing that’s really unpredictable is what they choose to do afterwards. You sort of know where it’s going to go after this all because there is only one way to go from here. It works as a thinking piece since it shows people doing the right things, and also doing the wrong things, but altogether doing something that only humans would do, especially in your right mind. But as a thriller; not really. Still don’t want to give it away even though I feel like I already have but it’s still pretty freakin’ easy to know just what the hell is going to happen, how, why, and when.
What I was really surprised about with this film was how good the performances were by this very young cast, most of which we’re under 20 around the time of filming. Rory Culkin plays the sweet and meek Sam, a kid who wants to get revenge on this bully but just can’t find any anger out of his heart to ever hurt another kid, let alone, a bully. Honestly, no matter how messed up and crazy those Culkin kids can be, they sure know how to act they’re asses off, even if they are only 8. Scott Mechlowicz was pretty damn awesome as the macho, slightly insecure dude named Marty and has that River Phoenix-thing going for him, which makes me surprised that he isn’t in more stuff as of late. The kid owns that bad-boy look here and even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s a hunk, he’s got good looks that could definitely win over the ladies and make him a household name in some cheesy, Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Not saying that’s the right path to go down, but it wouldn’t hurt. Okay, yeah nevermind. Maybe it would. Don’t do that.
Actually, the best out of this cast would probably have to be Josh Peck as the bully, George. Right from the start of this flick, you feel sorry for this kid because you know that he’s not a bad kid, he just has some serious mental issues that he can’t help no matter how bad he tries to fit in with this group of kids. He actually tries so hard to the point of when he does feel rejected, he starts to lose his temper and finds that the only way of covering himself is by spouting out insults at the other people. Obviously no normal kid with a head on his shoulder would act like this, but George isn’t a normal kid and that’s what sad. This film shows that bullies, no matter how mean or cruel they can be, are still humans too and should be treated as such. Peck is great in this role and I definitely wasn’t thinking about Drake Bell when I watched this, which was something that totally shocked me since I loved that show. As a kid, of course….
Consensus: Mean Creek suffers from being deliberately slow and predictable in its first and last act, but regains its momentum through heartfelt performances from this young cast, superbly-written moral themes about the right thing to do, and is also a solid reminder by just how cruel and ruthless young kids can be to one another, no matter who the victim is.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!
I thought all snipers had to do was just sit there, hold their breath, and shoot. That’s it.
Marksman Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) leaves the Army after a mission of his goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed once again, but this time: it’s a tad bit more serious. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country, even leading him back to that fateful incident where he was initially screwed-over in the first place.
No matter what action movie you venture out or stay inside to see, chances are; you’re going to get nothing but sure, mindless entertainment with a few, but also very little surprises. That’s just the way the movie-world works and as fine with that as I may be, sometimes, there are just some cases where I can’t turn my brain off anymore. Sometimes, I just gotta let loose. Sometimes, I just gotta let a movie have it. Sometimes, is one of those times right now!
Antoine Fuqua may not have the best track-record out there, but still a guy that I have enough faith in when it comes to action, using it right, and using it to his advantage, and for the most part; is actually what kept this film alive and well when it seemed to hit some dead ends. The action starts off fine and kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat a couple of moments, especially one car-chase scene that went all throughout the “fine” streets of Philadelphia. First of all, being a homeboy of Philly, I was happy to see my town be in a big-budget action pic where the streets were used perfectly and also, it was just a fun little piece of action that this film seemed like it needed to enhance and mostly, keep our minds off of the “plot”. I use that term “plot”, very loosely.
Most action pics are stupid. Duh, we all know that. But this one was a little TOO stupid for me to even have fun and enjoy at points. The whole idea that these dudes would just come up to a guy, have him come out of a life of solitude, and proposition an assassination attempt, without him ever gettin’ the willies from the guys, just really surprises me since I knew if I was in that situation, I would know something was fishy right away. Also, isn’t Marky Mark supposed to be a trained marksman that excels in this type of shit? Just a thought. So there we go, the beginning of this story already had me annoyed but it just continues to get worse and worse as more of these plot twists begin to unravel. I’m all down for plot twists when they make a story more interesting, but there were plot twists within the plot twists happening here and after awhile it became more laughable than actually entertaining. Then again, maybe “laughable” and “entertaining” go hand-in-hand in ways, too. Either way, something just was not clicking with me here and slowly, but surely, the movie started to lose me.
Then, the story continues to get worse as, for some freakin’ odd reason, they decide to get all political with our simple, action movie watching asses. Throughout the whole film, there is this under-lining theme of corrupt politicians that runs throughout and doesn’t come on strong until the very end where it all comes together (I think?). The whole movie plays out like a slight-thriller, with action elements, but then changes into where we’re supposed to feel of this as some sort of morality piece. I mean when I watch my dumb-ass action movies, don’t try to bog me down with a bunch of political themes that could be very present in today’s day and age. Why? Well because, I don’t give much of a shit about all that! That’s why I came here: to see Marky Mark get a sniper and start blowin’ people’s heads off left-and-right, not to understand what our dirty politicians are doing to poorer, foreign countries out there. Maybe for a different flick that may be the topic of the day, but not for this one.
Speaking of Marky Mark Wahlberg, say what you will about him, but the guy does do his best with every piece of material he’s given. The guy is a bona-fide star because he can take these shitty, action scripts and actually give them something more to hold onto because there is just something there with him and his charisma that works. However, I think his role as Bob Lee Swagger was the true point where I see him being a bit too dull for my liking. This guy, Swagger (what a cooooool name!), has a lot going for him that he’s one of the toughest mofos out there and can shoot just about anything that walks from a pretty sexy distance. However, this guy doesn’t really seem like he’s all that tough to begin with. Yeah, he shoots people and yeah, he kills them but what else can he really do? The guy barely has a personality and as much as he tries, Wahlberg can’t seem to really give him one. Wahlberg tries so, so, so hard with this role but in the end, it just comes off as another one of his dull, action-hero performances. Maybe that’s the script’s fault, and maybe it isn’t. Regardless, the two weren’t coming together and making sense.
The one who actually showed some real personality with his character was Michael Peña as the field agent that has nothing else really going for him, except for Swagger and finding out what’s getting jiggy with him. No matter what, you got to love Peña for what he is able to do with all of his roles and it’s great to see him have a bunch of fun with a character that is essentially one, big, effin’ cliche. The guy deserves all of the praise he’s been getting for awhile, and I think it’s time he just about broke out of that shell, and into our laps. If that makes any possible sense whatsoever.
Then, on the flip-side of the coin, you got Ned Beatty and Danny Glover as the two, terribly-corrupt government workers that just ooze evil in every scene. Both are good and show that they can work with a shitty script but after awhile, they’re evilness began to get ridiculous and over-played, almost to where it seemed very unbelievable that they would be at all nice or humane to the ones around them, let alone to each other. Oh, and then you got Kate Mara as Swagger’s old-partner’s wife. She definitely had a cute look to her but the way her character just lets Swagger into her life without ever knowing or seeing him ever before, did seem a bit unbelievable. Once again, another part of this story that seemed stupid, but was somehow needed to move the story right on along.
Consensus: Though Shooter is a loud, dumb, and stupid action thriller that makes no apologies for what it does, it somehow still comes off as a terribly-written piece of work that does nothing other than pull out a bunch of incomprehensible plot twists, only to add more confusion on to the final-product, that was already struggling as it was.
4 / 10 = Crapola!!