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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 2000s

George Washington (2000)

Who hasn’t chopped down a cherry tree in order to prove that they couldn’t tell a lie? Wasn’t true? Oh, whatever!

A group of young kids ranging from the ages of 9 to 13, all live in a small, terribly depressed rural community in North Carolina. Most of these kids’ days are spent running around and causing all sorts of havoc in trailer-parks, garages, abandoned buildings, swimming pools, and practically anywhere else in this place that they can find and have some peace and quiet with. And for the most part, they aren’t really doing anything bad or terribly immoral; they’re just acting like kids. They hit, make fun of, and play around with one another, but mostly all of them are friends, which is why they continue to hang around each other, just about each and everyday. Then again, there’s not much else to do in this tiny-town, so they might as well, right? Well, things get shaken-up a bit for this group of kids when a tragedy accidentally happens to one of the kids, leaving most of them in shock and without even the faintest idea of what to do next. One kid in particular, George (Donald Holden), sees this as a way for him to break out of his shell and become what he’s always wanted to be: a hero. Eat your heart out, Bowie.

Before he started smoking all sorts of weed with Judd Apatow’s crew, writer/director David Gordon Green was in fact a young, small-time film maker just trying to get his name and his vision out there for the world to see. And finally, after years and years of short films in his native Texas, he got a chance to, at 25 years of age, to show everybody his debut, his vision. What’s surprising the most about this movie, and the fact I pointed out about Green being 25 around the time of this being made, is how it feels like it could have easily done by a much older, much more skilled-professional. Not just in the way the movie looks, sounds, feels, and moves, but of the themes it deals with.

Directing traffic? What a hero!

Directing traffic? What a hero!

Sure, the movie disguises itself as dealing with kids, in the same vein as something like Stand By Me, but this is very far from that type of movie. Kids do talk like kids and mess around with one another, but most of them are just trying to grow-up and grasp whatever it is that life has thrown at them. Doesn’t matter if it’s something they are imagining in their heads to block-out the harsh realities of what their lives have turned-out to be; or even if what it is that they’re imagining is real and they don’t know what to do with it. Either way, these kids are growing up in front of our faces and trying to get a firm grip on their lives from when they were just small tikes and had no idea what was up with the world, to now, where all of a sudden, everything is happening so quickly and so unexpectedly.

Watching these kids talk, goof around, run around, cause mischief, talk to girls, get upset, have all sorts of feelings, and just basically be kids, made me feel like a kid again. Which I don’t think is what Green wasn’t trying to do; it’s clear from the fore-front that he’s going for as much of a gritty, realistic display as much as he can possibly do. Most of it works, but some of it really does back-fire on him, especially in terms of how terrible some of the improvisation from these young kids can be.

And no, I am not trying to rag on these kids who were clearly inexperienced and literally working in their first, and for some, possibly last movie ever, but it’s up to Green when using these kids, to know if they can handle improv or not. The fact of the matter is simple: They can’t. Though most of these kids do try and seem real, mainly whenever they’re given free reign to go on and on about girls, sometimes they stumble and seem like they’re not really going anywhere with what they’re saying. Even worse is the fact that some of what it seems like Green has written for these kids to say and try to emote with, doesn’t make them always seem like kids. They’re basically a bunch of a 9-to-13-year-olds going through existential crisis, but not much of it rings true.

Once again, that’s not to hate on the kids in the roles, as much as it’s Green’s fault for not taking notice to this problem and coming up with a way to fix it. But, to be honest, there’s a few more problems going on here for Green than I would like to speak-out against, but hell, so be it!

The movie is downright beautiful in the way it’s camera is positioned in certain scenes, how well the narration from this 13-year-old girl is, and how the new-agey soundtrack makes me feel as if I was meditating. Together, all elements fit perfectly and made me feel like I was in a museum, gazing at all of the art-work that was on display. However, rather than having some annoying, nuisance-of-a-tour-director constantly in my ear, nagging on and on about “HOW SIGNIFICANCE THIS PAINTING IS WHEN COMPARED TO MODERN-DAY CULTURE”, I had the sound of somebody who was just speaking to us as if she just met us and we were asking her to try and tell us a story. Any story, it didn’t matter. I loved that feel with this movie, and it’s so easy to see why Green was the talk-of-the-town when he first came around, getting all sorts of Malick-comparisons and what have you.

Please don't light a match, please don't light a match...

Please don’t light a match, please don’t light a match…

But, as lovely as all of those details are when looking at this film, I couldn’t help but feel like barely any of it connected with me. With the exception of the tragedy itself (which I won’t dare to spoil), the only time I really felt like this movie’s story gripped me emotionally was whenever Paul Schneider showed his young, blissful face around. Most of that has to do with just how much I actually like Schneider as an actor, but most of it also has to do with the fact that his character is the only one who seems like she would ever pay attention to. Because, quite frankly, except for our hero-of-the-half-hour, George, Green never really focuses on anybody else; and if he does, he doesn’t do it enough to where we feel any plight for them, or the shitty situations they are sometimes thrown in to.

Honestly, I’m all fine with Green flowing by his own set-of-rules and not really bothering with much of a plot-driven narrative, but too much of this feels spontaneous; almost to the point of where it takes away from what could have been a very emotional story, with an impact left on its viewers for days. Instead, some of it just comes off like an experiment of certain moods, feelings and ideas, that never come together fully as a cohesive-structure. It’s just different strands of interesting routes, and that’s about it. Obviously Green would go on with his career to shape some of those problems out, but if I had saw this back when it first came out, I may have not been as happy, or doe-eyed as it seems like every critic on the face of the planet was. Then again though, that was the year 2000, which was also the time before David Gordon Green showed his love for a Minotaur’s Dick.

That was no typo.

Consensus: For somebody who was as young and promising as David Gordon Green was back when it was first released, George Washington works as a huge set of ideas, that work in their own, small circles, but never fully come together as well as they should to leave any sort of emotional-impact.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Frog wasn't in the budget. Green borrowed that from his buddy and has yet to give it back. Hollywood, right?

Frog wasn’t in the budget. Green borrowed that from his buddy and has yet to give it back. Hollywood, right?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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The Fountain (2006)

Next time I decide to watch this, someone remind me to smoke a crazy amount of weed.

The plot is confusing, but I’ll give it a go anyway. Modern-day scientist, Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman), loves his wife (Rachel Weisz) and wants nothing more than her love and her life to be there with him. However, she has caught a very serious case of cancer and is starting to fade away. In the meantime, she gives him her book that she wrote, which tells the story of a 16th Century conquistador, finding a Tree of Life where sap that grants you everlasting life is lying somewhere in there. While this story is going on, there’s also another where a man from the future, chills out in a bubble for reasons I can’t totally specify right now. Just watch and you’ll see.

I’d be a friggin’ fool if I sat here, wrote about how much I knew exactly what this flick was about, and told you that I’m the highest-mofo there is on the totem-pole. Because, honestly, let’s face it: I’m still not a 100% sure I know everything about this flick. However, I know enough (roughly 80%), so I’d say that’s worth some credit, right? Well, either way, this flick is still a bit of a head-scratcher but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or astrologer to get what the hell this flick is all about. Just know this: It’s a movie that’s about a guy trying to save his slowly-dying wife, from, well, dying. If you know that, you’re good and probably a lot better off than most people who probably walked into this back in the days of 2006.

Also, another pointer before watching this film that may or may not judge how much you like this flick is that it’s directed by Darren Aronofsky. Yes, that Darren Aronofsky. So, there ya go. Two pointers for the price of one review. Continue to read if you’d like. If not, sit down, shut up, and see what the hell I gots to say.

Thanks for sticking by if you’ve gotten this far. Really do appreciate it.

It's what they call: burning love. Geddd it.......

It’s what they call, “burning love”. Geddd it?!?!?

Anyway, what makes this flick such a mind-teaser is because even if you do feel like you have it known, from beginning to end, there’s still probably one or two scenes that may throw you off your grind and have you re-think what it is you just came to the conclusion with. For some, that may annoy the hell out of, but for others (such as yours truly), it works and makes the film more worth the watch and wait. It’s what makes it special in the way that it doesn’t is that it can be taken in in many, different ways; but no matter where your mind wanders or what type of philosophical babble you may speak about with your hip and cool friends at PBR-tasting parties, you still can’t get past the fact that this is a story about a man, who is trying to save his wife. It’s a story that’s been done to death by now, but given the ideas and themes that Aronofsky presents, it takes on a whole, new meaning.

Since the flick takes place in three different ways, you never know what is true, what’s really happening and how it affects the actual people you think you’re watching. All you can know is whatever you decide to believe in. Sounds stupid, I know, but using your noggin is mainly what these types of movies are made for. To see this couple go through their ups and their downs, is not only beautiful, but warms your heart as well. That’s why when everything starts to turn sour for them, you really feel it and get right behind them, in hopes that everything will work itself out. However, that’s just not the hand that life deals ya sometimes.

That’s why watching this touched me. Granted, I wasn’t crying myself to sleep after I saw this, but the themes of everlasting love, doing whatever’s in your will-power for the one you love, and never losing hope in the face of doom, really resonated with me. Not saying that I’ve ever had to deal with anything quite like that, but the feelings of having to go through such situations and crises as that, resonated with me. You can tell that this story came from a real soft-spot in Aronofsky’s heart and as much as he may focus on the look, the visuals, and the hypnotic score, the story is what really keeps it grounded in a sense of reality and drama, no matter how loose the ends may get.

Speaking of the way it looks, it’s downright beautiful. Apparently, the story behind this movie is that not only did Aronofsky had to delay this for about a whole two years, but also had to cut-back on the budget as well. Supposedly, it went from $70 million, to $35 million, and yet, this is what they came up with. To be honest, I’m shocked that the studios let Aronofsky get away with this, but better yet, I’m wondering just how the man got it to look like that at all. It’s a beauty of a film from start-to-finish and feels more like a bunch of moving-images that capture your eyes, as well as your wonder. Even if you hate this flick’s story because you have no idea what’s actually going, at least you can feel at peace just gazing at the masterful artwork on-display here. Beauty of a film, if I’ve ever seen one.

However, I still can’t sit here and lie as if I know it all about this flick and also say that it’s the masterpiece some have made it out to be. For me, as much as I didn’t mind the story, the ideas, the themes, or the direction, I still feel as if this was made by some kid who got way too high one night, sat down, got a whole bunch of paper, found a typewriter and decided to pen a script about all of the mind-bending jumble he came up with and thought was as smart as the dickens. No offense to Aronofsky, because the guy’s got what it takes as a writer, but some of this feels like it’s a bit too big for even his own ambitions, and a lot less in the mind-set of coming up with something all of us can understand in one, simple language.

Like that scene from Spider-Man 2. Except with more under-lining themes of love and immortality. I think.

Like that scene from Spider-Man 2. Except with more under-lining themes of love and immortality. I think.

I know I may sound like a total and complete brat who can’t handle movies that challenge my sense of thought, but some of this is overly-ambitious. Hell, I’m still wondering if it all makes sense and I don’t know if that’s a knock against him for his pretentiousness  or me for my own stupidity. Either way, not everything will touch you and it sure as hell will have you confused, which is why I think Aronofsky could have toned things down a tad bit more than he did. Then again, maybe I just needed to be one of those kids that got way too high.

Because then, I would have seen the world for all of it is. Man.

The only people apart of this movie who didn’t seem to inhale one ounce of them special-stogies, were it’s two stars: Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Both are amazing, but both attribute so much in their own, separate ways. Jackman is amazing in this role because no matter what suspicious activities he may try to pull off to pull his own ego, we know that he’s a good guy and would do anything for his wife, even if that meant putting his own life at risk. Within the past couple of years, we have all come to know and appreciate what Jackman’s been able to do as dramatic-force, but here, he really steps up his game and has us reel and feel for a dude that seems to deserve our sympathy. But he never begs for it, and that’s why this guy is so good at playing it straight and laced-up.

Weisz is also amazing in this role because she gets to show everybody why the hell it is that we love her so much, and what makes her character worth caring for. Not only is she a nice person, but she’s a very pleasant person that seems to want the best for her and her hubby. It’s a shame that her and Aronofsky aren’t together anymore, because if anything, it seems like he really knew how to film her and make her look as beautiful as she always seems to be. I’m going to miss their pairings. But who knows, maybe time will settle and they’ll reunite one more time. That’s if, James Bond backs out of the way. That sneaky, little devil him.

Consensus: Will most of you out there understand The Fountain from start-to-finish? Hell to the no! But will most of you at least get the general idea of what it’s trying to say, without understanding why? Probably, yes! It’s a very good movie that may bite off a bit more than it can definitely chomp down on, but Aronofsky’s ideas and themes, resonate with any person that has either loved someone, been loved, or cared for a person, ever in their life. If you’re not that person, just watch Requiem for a Dream. Then, you’ll smile and appreciate life, you heartless wretch.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Look at the stars, honey. They remind me of life, all of it's beauty, and how we should live our lives. You know?"

“Look at the stars, honey. They remind me of life, all of its beauty and how we should live our lives. You know?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Dogville (2003)

Always keep a lookout on those small villages.

One night in the sleepy, quiet town of Dogville, Tom (Paul Bettany), the self-appointed town spokesman, hears a gun-shot, followed by a woman arriving in his town a couple seconds later. Her name is Grace (Nicole Kidman) and she’s on the run from her mobster daddy (James Caan). Whatever the reason may be, Tom does not worry about and hides her just in the nick of time. Now that Grace is hiding out in this small town, she’s going to have to hold her own in order to stay away from the authorities, as well as not piss off any of the town-folks themselves. Grace tries to do whatever she can and at first, everything seems pitch perfect for her to be there. But once Grace starts messing up a bit and the authorities continue to breath more and more down the town’s neck, well, then the peeps themselves start to get a little wacky and wild with Grace’s presence being known and felt, and it’s Grace who ends up on the bad end of things.

The whole gimmick behind this whole film is that it all, with the exception of maybe one scene, takes place in this small town. However, the small town of Dogville isn’t what you’d expect it to be or look like. In a way to make the flick look like a stage play on screen, or to also cut down on production-costs, writer/director Lars von Trier designs the set where you can see everything, without any walls, doors, or blockades separating us from these characters and denying us the access of seeing all that they do. On top of that, the flick is also filmed with a digital-camera, which made it seem more like I could have filmed the same thing with me and my buddies. So yeah, it’s a bit hard to get used to for about the first ten or so minutes, but mind you, this is a near-three-hour flick, so take into consideration that for at least ten minutes, you may be a tad bit uncomfortable with what’s going on.

A window?!??!? First rule of von Trier-ism broken already!?!??

A window?!??!? First rule of von Trier-ism broken already!?!??

Then again though, this is a Lars von Trier film, so for those whole near-three hours, you might be uncomfortable the whole way through. And trust me, you shouldn’t be ashamed to feel so because it’s what the dude excels in the most, but here, something feels different about it all. First of all, I loved how von Trier set this story up in a way to make us feel as if we are right there in the middle of this town, right from when Grace pops herself in, to the end where the town has been practically turned inside out. It works because as the hysteria and panic within this community begins to swell-up and lose all of control, we feel the same emotions as well and it becomes a hard film to get through on many levels. One of those levels being that von Trier never strays away from showing us some dirty, messed-up stuff that he’s been planning in his head for quite some time. But like I said, something feels different about it all this time.

See, rather than feeling exploitative and provocative, just for the sake of being so, there’s a point to von Trier’s madness: To convey fear. The movie jingles on that idea every once and awhile, until the final ten minutes rolls up and takes it to the extreme, but it works because it’s so very true. Coming from a human being as well, it’s very hard to admit because this flick is inexplicably making fun of how humans react to a little bit of change, in a way that makes them go mad or insane. We, as a society, all feel the need to continue to go on with our days, the same way as if they were the way before. However, once a little diversity in that day comes around to shake things up a bit, then we lose our grips of what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

I would totally like to go into a little more detail and explore why I have came to this conclusion that I have, but only going on further would spoil the movie and have you expect the unexpected, which is not what this flick is all about and surprisingly, may take the fun out of it all. I can’t say that the flick is “fun” per se, but it’s a challenging piece of work that asks you to reflect on your own minds, your own ways and your own style of living, but also asks that you take note of the next time you feel fear. How do you respond to it? Do you act irrationally? Do you keep your place in check and not lose sight of what’s really meant to be fearful of? Or, do you do nothing? The flick goes more and more in-depth with this idea than it should, but I have to say that for once, watching a von Trier movie and seeing all of the ugly stuff that he pulls out of his rump and having it all make sense and cohesive to what he’s trying to get across, I was satisfied. I was emotionally torn-up, but I was also satisfied with what von Trier brought to the forefront, to make us take a look at. It may not be something we want to even acknowledge is present in our lives, but it’s always there. Von Trier knows this; I know this; hell, everybody knows this!

You can’t escape it, because fear will always be there. No matter what.

There’s probably more themes to shake a stick at here, but this is neither the time, nor the place for me to do so. Maybe when I’m in my superficial, artsy-fartsy film class next semester, but as for right now: I have a movie to review, and performances to praise. Main one being the one from Nicole Kidman as Grace, a name that sticks so perfectly with her act and the final conclusion this flick comes to meet. Kidman’s always been a knock-out actress, there’s no questioning it. She’s always been able to take a role, however crazy or simple it may be, do whatever she wants with it, and always give us a performance that knocks all of her other ones out of the park. However, I wouldn’t have been surprised if people were a little skeptical about whether or not Kidman would be able to handle von Trier’s style or treatment of his characters, especially the female one.

"And so kids, that's what the ending to Antichrist means. Or so I think."

“And so kids, that’s what the ending to Antichrist means. Or so I think.”

However, all those skeptics can kiss Kidman’s firm-behind because she does an amazing job as Grace, giving us a performance that’s more physical than emotional. And no, that’s not me being a dirty boy. Kidman has those expressive, beautiful eyes that are able to convey any sort of emotion – whether it be sadness, forgiveness, regret, vulnerability, love, or happiness, give her an emotion to express, and she’ll do it ten times better than you’d ever expect her to do. She’s just an amazing actress, and despite her character being a bit too repetitive and weak-minded, Kidman pulls through and gives us a three-dimensional character that we care about, not just because of all this bad stuff happening to her, but because she’s the only one with a bright head on her shoulders.

Everybody else here seems to be a bit too crazy for their own good, with the exception of Paul Bettany as Thomas Edison, the philosopher and free-mind thinker of the small community that takes a liking to Grace right off the bat. Bettany’s always been a quality actor and even though I feel like his Southern-accent was a little suspect, the guy still gives us a good character that seems like he has all of the right intentions one person could want or need; he just doesn’t know what to do with them or how to show them in a way that could be suitable for both Grace and the rest of the community. Sometimes, both aspects don’t ever seem to come together, but you have hope that he’ll do the right thing no matter what, even if he does get a pushed-up against a wall many more times than one.

The rest of the heavy-stacked cast is very good too, even if nobody shines brighter than the other. They all do wonderful jobs, but it’s Kidman’s and von Trier’s show for the taking, and they won’t let you forget about it, either. Not even when the credits show up, which are some of the darkest, but hilarious credits I have ever seen scrolling in my life. Seriously, try to watch them without cracking at least a chuckle or two by the irony. The end.

Consensus: As with most of von Trier’s movies, Dogville is most likely going to be a hard pill to swallow for some, but once you get by all of the dark sexuality and titillation of the material, you’ll find yourself surprisingly compelled and interested in what von Trier has to say, whenever he gets to that breaking-point.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No wonder why everybody's so cranky and mean: No toilets!!

No wonder why everybody’s so cranky and mean! There’s no toilets!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

When life blows, just sing avant-garde tunes.

Selma Jezkova (Björk) is a Czechoslovakian factory worker who struggles with life, but is trying her best to make the best of what she has. She loves and adores Hollywood musicals and how they put her into this new world, where happiness, song and dance is abound. But the reality is pretty harsh: Not only is she losing her sight, but she knows that her son will soon, too. This is why, with all of the money she earns and receives from both work and her neighbors, she saves up in order to make sure that her son can get a surgery on his eyes when he turns 13, just so that he doesn’t have to go through the same eye-sight problems that she’s having. However though, things in Selma’s life begin to go very, very South and eventually, she finds herself in a bit of a pickle, where she can only rely on her friend (Catherine Deneuve) and that’s about it. Well, her, and also, her daydreams where she places herself in a modern-day musical, where she, and whoever else around her, are the stars of the show.

I bet by just uttering the name “Lars von Trier”, people already know what to expect from a movie of his. However, a musical? I don’t think that thought would ever cross into anybody’s minds when thinking of von Trier, however, this is the same kind of guy that likes to surprise his audience, keep them on their tip-toes and not give them what they want, and be satisfied with himself.

And she thought signing autographs was bad enough!

And she thought signing autographs was bad enough!

And if what it is you want is a positive-thinking movie, about happy people, doing nice things for one another, then you’re definitely in the wrong part of town, folks. This is Lars von Trier for Lord’s sakes – the guy who isn’t afraid to put his foot in his mouth in public, nor is he afraid of what the MPAA may have against his movie’s content. He’s a balls-breaker, but best of all: He’s a story-teller, and no one should ever forget that.

Like I mentioned before, you’d never expect someone as drab and as downbeat as Lars von Trier to make a movie in which light, fun and upbeat musical-numbers come completely out of nowhere, but then again, they aren’t really the kind of musical-numbers you’d usually see in something like Grease, the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, or anything else for that matter. The purpose these musical-numbers serve is that they give the lead character, Selma, an escape from the nightmare her real life becomes. They give her life new meaning and allow her to look on the bright side of things, even if the fact of the matter is that her life absolutely sucks and is only going to get worse from there.

That’s why, as jarring as it initially may be to see von Trier’s characters moving around, dancing, signing and performing as if they were on Broadway, you get used to it after awhile. Also, you realize that the reason why von Trier has these frothy-notes included here is more to poke a bit of fun at the way Hollywood makes light of all of life’s brutal, harsh realities; much rather than applauding Selma’s daydreams as being images that help her get by in life, he looks down on them with a cold, dark and satirical scowl, while still showing that they are needed for her and her life. In a way, he’s almost satirizing Hollywood’s love of the musical, in all of its lovely, delightful-form, which is why it’s sometimes funny to see how over-the-top and how out-of-place these musical-numbers can be and show up in.

However, they all serve a purpose, and that is to blur the lines between what is real, and what isn’t.

And though I want to get very much into detail about where this story and how dark, disturbing and truly terrifying it gets, I can’t help but steer clear from that, due to the fact that once I’ve said one big reveal, I’ve said too much. Then again though, by knowing that this is a Lars von Trier movie, you can already tell that while the story may start-off simple, easy and relatively peaceful, it only continues to get worse, and worse, and worse over time, where people act and behave in disgusting ways. Disgusting ways that, mind you, are exactly what von Trier loves to discuss and show in his movie; he believes that this is the way in which the human-condition actually is, and doesn’t shy away from showing just how evil one person can be, when push comes to shove. I don’t know if I myself, fully believe in von Trier’s juxtaposition, but I do like how he embraces this fact with his characters, and how he shows them in all lights – positive, negative, realistic, etc.

Which is why I find it so hard to have any problems with his movies, especially this one, because while I do realize that these characters are supposed to be written in a humane, fully-dimensional way, I still can’t help myself but to hate most of them. Yet, at the same time, still understand them and the reasons behind their actions. Take, for instance, David Morse’s performance as the neighbor who spends time with Selma, confiding in her and, sometimes, even trying to push her into giving him some money, in order to support his wife, as well as make sure she won’t leave him when she finds out he’s broke. It’s no surprise that Morse is great in this role, but what really surprised me was how this guy was supposed to be painted as something of a “villain”, yet, he’s actually somewhat sympathetic because there’s a connection in the way his choices and decisions are so drastic, that you can tell they come from a deep place in his heart. We’re not supposed to like him, nor are we supposed to empathize with him because of how much of a evil dude he turns out to be, but somehow, it’s hard to hold so much anger towards him.

Don't mess with her too much, pal! We all know what happens when somebody messes with her too much....

Don’t mess with her too much, pal! We all know what happens when somebody messes with her a little too much….

Same goes with just about everybody else in this flick. Peter Stormare plays the kindest character of the whole movie, a guy named Jeff who, obviously likes and wants to be Selma’s boyfriend, although he goes about it in a creepy, stalker-y way; Catherine Deneuve clearly cares and loves Selma for the gal that she is and supports her through thick and thin, but does put her nose where it doesn’t belong most of the time and comes out looking a bit like a dummy; Cara Seymour plays Morse’s character’s, shopaholic wife, who wants to believe that Selma is a nice woman, but also doesn’t want to hold anything against her husband for going about his business in a sneaky way; and even Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who shows up at the end as a prison-guard, doesn’t act like the butch, angry-as-hell woman she appears to be, but instead, turns out to be a woman who cares deeply for Selma, during her time of grief and sadness. All of these characters look, feel and sound real, even if their actions don’t always make us happy with them. Yet, we still see where these said actions come from.

But of course though, I saved the best for last with Selma. I think for anybody that knows who Björk is, knows that her music is a little bit strange, or better yet, “of a certain taste”. However, for one thing, she is a musician, and never in my mind, did I ever imagine her as an actress; a very good one, at that. There are some parts in this movie where you can see that Björk was probably left to fend for herself with this movie and with this role, which probably has to do more with von Trier’s style, but it works so well for the character of Selma, in making her a sweet, natural woman that cares for people and believes that all humans are inherently good, yet, makes some unsympathetic choices.

However, like I was speaking about before, they are all choices that come from a brutally real, honest place in her heart and soul, which is why it’s so surprising to see how great Björk is here. Sure, when she’s wailing around, singing and dancing about how grand and beautiful life can be, she’s stunning to watch, mostly because she’s in her element. But, when she steps out of those scenes and has to do more like emoting, she’s even better, which makes you wonder why she hasn’t acted in barely anything since. Sure, von Trier’s directing probably took a huge-toll on her, but what Björk does so well here is that she creates this wonderful, simple lady and gives her so much to work with, even when life seems to consistently be disappointing for her. Which, throughout the last-hour of this movie, it totally does. However, Selma keeps her hopes high, he standards for what it means to be “human”, her smile, her good-will, and most of all, her singing, dancing and daydreams about the perfect, Hollywood musical playing out in her head. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? The answer is up to!

Consensus: As usual, like most of Lars von Trier’s movies, Dancer in the Dark continues to get disturbing, just as it story begins to develop more, but what really keeps it moving at a fine, thought-provoking speed is the performances from everyone involved, and the attention to detail von Trier gives every single one of his characters, no matter how reprehensible some of them, as well as their actions, may be.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Seriously. How could you have a problem with that face? I mean, just look at it!

Seriously. How could you be mad at that face? I mean, just look at it!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Yards (2000)

Screw family! I’d just stay in prison!

Leo (Mark Wahlberg), a recently released convict, finds himself on the right track as he has a job lined-up for him and everything. But that all goes South once he finds out that his boss and company are up to some shady-business. The business is owned by his uncle (James Caan) and ran mainly by his bestie (Joaquin Phoenix). So yeah, basically the guy is having a lot of problems being able to separate right from wrong and family from enemies, but to top it all off: His mother (Ellen Burstyn) is sick, and not getting any better. Isn’t coming home just grand?

This is one of those rare movies that somehow found it’s way of sinking in beneath the cracks, without anybody ever knowing about it or even mentioning it, unless they were some prestigious film critic that had the privilege to see it in theaters, or some ultra-fan of Marky Mark. It was just one of those movies that had its stars and its premise, but didn’t have the backing it would have had, had it been released in today’s world. Thankfully, that’s what On Demand is for – to remind me what an idiot I was before when I watched this movie.

In case some of you don’t know what I mean by that, I reviewed this movie a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away and thought that the movie plain and simply blew. Now, maybe those weren’t my exact words or anything, but the fact of the matter was that I was bored, annoyed and just tired from watching this movie about a bunch of a-holes, act like bigger a-holes to one another, and make it seem as if family is some sort of reason for allowing a person to almost die. I wasn’t having any of it, and gave the movie a low rating. But after these years, I think I’ve come to realize that this is just one of those movies that’s a nice watch, but you got to be in the mood for it.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut on and everything.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut going on? Oh, now I see what type of living he’s going to be making nowadays.

Even though the movie may be advertised as a slam-bang, action-thriller with Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime and Johnny Cash acting all sly on us, it’s totally not. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime, and Johnny Cash to be found here, but it’s not the way that most mainstream movies would paint it as. Writer/director James Gray is a step above that in the way that he has everything all slowed down so that not only can you get in the mood for what’s about to unfold, but also get involved with the characters as well.

If anything, that’s what the movie really blew me away with: The characters. Gray captures what it’s like to be and live in a close family that does almost everything and anything for each other, even if that means sticking their heads in a little bit and killing some people in the mean time (hey, it’s family, right?). He shows how everybody interacts with one another, who likes who, who doesn’t, what their type of relationship is, the why, the where, the who, and the be, being, been. All of that fun and nasty stuff is included here to give us a full picture of what to not only expect from these family members, but why.

That’s why once everything gets all wacky and crazy at the end, it’s still somewhat believable because we feel like we know these characters, and can come to expect them to commit dumb actions, given the circumstances. Some are conventional and obvious with their actions, but the way they are painted with morally-corrupt souls, than just normal, generic assholes, is what takes you for a left turn. Not everybody is bad, but the ones that are, stay in your mind and really mess with it, especially just as everything begins to boil down as to “who is going to betray who next?”. That aspect of the movie is fun to see, but given the character-development, it’s more than just a bit entertaining.

However, Gray’s sense of style doesn’t always work with me. For my first, initial-viewing, the slowness bothered the hell out of me to the point of where I was snoozing left and right. After these years of seeing worse movies that take it’s slo-mo pill for the sake of being slow; I thought I’d get used to it. But that’s where I was slightly wrong. See, Gray’s style is that he lets a lot of scenes just linger on and on until they really get under your skin. That works for a good couple of scenes, but after awhile, it goes on too long and seems like it’s the only trick in the book that this guy had to play. I don’t mind when my action isn’t non-stop guns and explosions, but don’t slow everything down just to have it all settle in. With time, it will. Trust me, my friend.

A bastard, a bitch, and a poor child with no morally-right future. Now say cheese!

A bastard, a beotch, and a poor child with no promising-future. Now say cheese!

As slow as the movie was at times, it still didn’t take away from the final-product, nor its performances. Marky Mark was pretty solid as Leo because he isn’t called on much to do except to look concerned, and to brood the whole time with his angry face. He does it very well, even if it does feel like his character’s blandness gets lost in a sea of overly wild members of the cast like James Caan and Joaquin Phoenix. Caan is great as the slimy, untrustworthy step-uncle that seems like he means well and all, but in all honesty: Just wants money and fame. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get that dream of his. Whatta bastard. Joaquin Phoenix is fun to watch as Leo’s best buddie because he gets a chance to show that wild side we always see so much, but also show you how much a person can get so tangled in a web, without ever having a clear enough head to know when the hell to get out. Phoenix is good at showing those contrasting sides, and it’s what makes his character more than just a fuck-up. He’s a sympathetic fuck-up, at the most.

For the ladies, you still have a pretty solid troupe, but nobody really worth going crazy about. Charlize Theron is good as Erica, Leo’s cousin and Joaquin’s girl, because she’s able to get past the fact that she is a beautiful woman underneath it all, and just let her character win you over. She’s a bit grimy and dumb for staying with a d-bag like Phoenix’s character, but you see where she’s coming from and it’s not hard to feel for her once everything goes South. Theron’s always a capable actress, and doesn’t let herself get up-staged when she’s right next to vets like Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn. Both are good for what it is that they are called upon to do, but that doesn’t seem as if it’s really saying much, once the ending hits you like a ton of bricks.

Consensus: James Gray may use a couple of the same tricks a little too much, but he still keeps The Yards interesting and compelling with it’s three-dimensional characters, the situations that they are put in and the decisions they are forced to make. Some of which, won’t make you too happy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don't look like this.

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don’t actually look like this.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo,

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a man that likes to think of himself as something of a genius. He has many faults, yet, he never admits to them, and is starting to find out that it may just come and bite him. While he and his crew of rag-tag misfits get to embark on a series of wild adventures, soon, and totally out of the blue, walks in Steve’s estranged son, Ned (Owen Wilson), who he may, or may not have known actually existed in the first place. But, Steve sees this not only as a way to gain another loyal crew-member, but to spend some more quality-time and get to know the son he never knew was out there, which starts to become an after-thought once a journalist (Cate Blanchett) steps onto the ship and begins to catch both Steve, as well as Ned’s eyes. Also, on the side, they are looking for an exotic sea-creature known as the “Jaguar Shark”, who killed Zissou’s old-buddy. Problem is, nobody knows if it exists or not, not even he knows.

Even though I’m a fan of Wes Anderson, I have to say that even I can get a bit skeptical of his work. When you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you have to expect all of his trademarks, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, there is a slight spin on those said trademarks, but most of the time: What you see from a Wes Anderson movie, is most likely what you are going to get. And if you don’t like it, then suck it!

Or, if put in a nicer-way, just don’t pay to see it, or something like that.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

And most of the problem with this movie is that nothing really seems to be working at all for Anderson, in probably the first hour or so. It isn’t that it’s boring because people are just standing around and talking, it’s more that it never seems to be going anywhere. It’s almost as if Anderson thought it would be easy enough to give us a bunch of wild, crazy and colorful characters, have them do their thing, and that would be enough to hold our interest, as we waited for something to actually happen. It began to worry me a bit, mainly because I know what can happen when Anderson gets a little too up-in-his-own-ass sometimes.

Yeah, it can get bad, people. VERY BAD.

However, things did in fact pick-up, and I think it occurred right when Zissou and his crew start their journey, wherever the hell it may lead them. Most of the charm that we see Anderson utilize so well when he’s on-point, gets done quite efficiently here, but it also seems to show everything coming together. Of course there’s a lot of the same close-ups and strange-cuts that we have come to know (and sometimes love, sometimes hate) from Anderson, but there was more originality to the way he framed certain scenes and gave it an extra-spunk of color that made this film a lot more goofy than I was expecting.

Actually, “goofy” is probably the perfect word to describe this movie as, mostly because that’s exactly what I saw it as once the whole journey began. Don’t want to give away what happens on this journey that spices everything up and makes it go into a totally different direction than I was expecting, but just like me, you’ll be surprised regardless and its a whole lot of fun as well. It seemed like Anderson really took a liberty with a story of his, put his trademarks on it and gave it an unpredictable feel that completely comes out of nowhere. In fact, it actually gets a bit darker, as many situations take on a very serious, very violent-turn for the worst. But it’s never tonally-jarring, and that’s why Anderson’s movie works as well as it does in the final hour or so, rather than in the first hour, where it doesn’t seem like he knows what to do, or where he’s going. He’s just moving along on the current. You know, sort of like a boat on the sea.

Though, what doesn’t work so well here is when Anderson decides that he really wants to touch our hearts by getting to the core of these characters, and how well it doesn’t translate. See, there are a couple of moments by the end where you realize that Anderson really wants us to start crying like big, effin’ babies and grab whatever towels near us that we can find; however, it doesn’t work that way. For the most part, I was having a good time with this just being as goofy as possibly could be, with some darker-elements under-lining it all, but once it took that other page that makes it a lot weightier, it didn’t feel right. Nor did it gel with everything else that happened before. Doesn’t make it terrible, just makes us, the audience, confused as to whether we’re supposed to laugh, cry, feel warm inside, angry, or all of the above. At the same time, no less.

But, like most of Anderson’s movies, it’s the cast that really shines here as he’s seemingly able to get a wonderful performance out of everybody he has here. And of course, that also means we get to see Bill Murray show up and do his dry-wit thing in a Wes Anderson movie, but this time, it’s playing Steve Zissou, who, in case you didn’t know, is based on a real-person. Still though, that doesn’t seem to faze him much since it’s practically the same type of performance we usually see from Murray, in all of his glory. Without saying anything at all, Murray is able to speak volumes to us about his character by keeping that sad, expressionless face throughout the whole movie, and still be the most likable character somehow. He’s a bit more of a dick-head here, than he is in other of Anderson’s flicks, but there’s still a bit more to who he is, why he is the way he is and what makes him a guy worth seeing a movie made about, that keeps us going with liking him and his company.

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsical features!

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsy!

There’s also Owen Wilson who, much to everybody’s surprise here (including mine), is probably the one who steals this movie away from Murray as he seems like the perfect fit for a guy who is so innocent, so clean and so well-intentioned, that it’s so hard not to just love the guy right from the start. I’ll admit, Wilson has never been a favorite of mine but he totally had me won over here with a performance as Zissou’s long, lost son that he never met until now. There’s a lot of development to this character that makes him more than just another, “Southern bumpkin”-like character that he first starts off as coming-across, which makes it nicer and more pleasant to watch when he and his daddy do form a bond and continue to do son-father activities together. Even if the activities are shark-hunting and fossil-discovering.

Cate Blanchett plays the untrustworthy journalist, that’s doing a report on Zissou and his crew and handles a lot of the comedic-material very well, as well as having a believable romance with Wilson that I thought could have had its own flick, if at al given the chance to come to fruition. Willem Dafoe tests out his comedic-abilities as Zissou’s left-hand man, Klaus Daimler, and has a funny running-gag going on between him, Zissou, and Ned, where he just wants to be loved and treated like the best on the crew. It’s a side of Dafoe that I wish we saw more of, rather than just seeing the nutty, second-coming of Harry Osborne in everything that he does now.

Hold up, though! I’m not done, yet! Jeff Goldblum isn’t here as much as I would have liked as Zissou’s rival, Alistair Hennessey, but is still a lot of fun to watch as he just acts like, well, you know, Jeff Goldbum; Anjelica Huston is spicy (and surprisingly), very hot in her role as Zissou’s wife that doesn’t really want much to do with him since he’s such a fuck-up in his personal, and professional life; and it was a “nice welcome-back to the big-screen” for Bud Cort, who is a guy I haven’t seen awhile and does a nice job as Bill Ubell, the guy that’s forced to watch over production of this trip to make sure the funding of it is alright. Sadly, there was no Maude to accompany him. Wah.

Consensus: May not always work when it’s supposed to, but when the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou finds a way to gel all of its different elements together, it’s a surprisingly fun, heartfelt time, with an extra-ounce of whimsy, due solely to Wes Anderson and his quirky ways.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So many ego's just going head-to-head right there.

So many ego’s just going head-to-head right there. And Bud Cort.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ‘em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Ice Harvest (2005)

When your town has more than two strip-clubs, you know you need to get outta there!

In the small city of Wichita, on the eve of Christmas, Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer who makes a note of backing-up mobsters, has just seized $2.1 million from a mobster that employs him. However, Charlie can’t do all of this stealing on his own, so he includes Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), a guy who is more used to this type of stuff. The two originally planned on getting the money and high-tailing it right out of town, but there’s a huge snow-storm that hits them, making the roads nearly impossible to drive on. So, as befuddled as they may be, Charlie and Vic decide that it’s best if they just stick it out til the morning, lay low and make sure that the gangster whose been looking for both of them (Mike Starr), doesn’t actually get them, and everything will go according to plan. But, as we all know with these sort of heists stories, not everything works out so perfectly for everybody involved, and more often than not, ends with some blood being shed. Well, in this case, plenty of blood actually.

It’s a shame that Harold Ramis has left-us. No, not because there’s no longer any hope that he’ll show-up in the unnecessary Ghostbusters 3, but because he truly was a talent in front of, as well as behind the camera, that always seemed to know when it was right to hit our funny-bones, and when it wasn’t. Sure, most of us know that he made such comedic-classics like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and even Analyze This (I guess it’s considered a “classic” in some circles), but know of us really know that he had a bit of a darker-edge to him as a director; the kind of edge not many of us got to see until later in his career.

"Yeah, fuck life."

“Yeah, fuck life.”

Some would even say, too late in his career, but I digress.

When looking at a plot like this, you can’t help but automatically think of Fargo, or any other Coen Brothers flick ever made, because that’s exactly what it is: A dark comedy about people being bad, in a small-town and having to make some deadly decisions to ensure their safety. Of course though, what usually is able to make or break these flicks is in its way of being able to balance out the heavy, dramatic elements of the violence, bloodshed and death, with all of the humor that can usually come from a movie when you have likable, colorful characters involved with said elements. Here, Ramis is clearly capable of handling both sides of the coin, as we get from an early impression, that the movie is going to be all about whether or not these guys can get out of this town with the money, and try to stay alive as well.

Instead, what we eventually get here is a story about a guy we can’t particularly like, nor can we particularly hate neither in the form of Charlie Arglist. Same could be said for just about everybody else in this flick – most notably, a drunken-friend of Charlie’s (played by the always-lovable and cheery Oliver Platt), who also just so happens to be married to his ex-wife. The guy may make an ass out of himself throughout the whole movie, but it’s an act that never gets old, which is mostly thanks to both Platt’s acting, as well as the script being able to give him more than just what is on the surface.

But I couldn’t help see this in just about every other character here, which allowed for the movie to be more than just a small-time caper-flick. It gave us people to care about, even if they weren’t particularly likable or morally perfect, and best of all, heightened the story’s emotions just a tad bit more. Even if all of the back-stabbing, twists, turns, surprise deaths and double-crosses became a bit tiresome by the end, I still gave a crap about what happened to most of these characters, besides not wholly showing us why I should feel this way. I guess I just did, and I guess that’s attributed to Ramis and his way of being able to juggle heart, humor, violence, sadness and character-development, all while rarely missing a beat. And even if some beats were missed (like in the last half-hour when a familiar-face shows up and is too cartoonish for their own good), they weren’t too noticeable that they distracted me from all that worked so well with this picture.

"They call me, "Daddy Long Legs". Know why?"

“They call me, “Daddy Long Legs”. Know why?”

Though I could keep on talking about Ramis and practically give him a “tribute” of sorts, what it really comes down to with this movie what makes it work is John Cusack in the lead-role as Charlie Arglist. Cusack’s not really stretching himself here by playing a cold-hearted criminal, with slight ounces of humanity, but he does so well with it that you don’t really care if you’ve seen him go at this sort of thing. You get an early-impression that Charlie isn’t a good guy, but you still see that he cares for those around him, he just has a bad way of showing it most of the time. But still, as much as we dig deep into who this person is, we still get the idea that Charlie really wants that money, but most of all, he wants to get it while being alive. When watching, you won’t be able to help feeling the same either.

Same sort of goes for Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Vic, although it’s clear early on, just by the casting of Thornton alone, that he’s not always up to being good all of the time. Still, when we do get to see him, he keeps on surprising us and makes us think just what his next move will be, and how he’s going to affect Charlie, or anybody else around him. Connie Nielsen is also here as the stripper that Charlie is practically head-over-heels for, and is playing it like an old-school, noir dame where she smokes, talks smack and is always showing some skin. Heck, her name is even Renata! Doesn’t get anymore old-school than that! Anyway, she’s hot-as-hell, but also shows that her character may have a whole lot up-to-her-sleeve, that isn’t for the greater-good of Charlie’s well-being, nor anybody else’s for that matter. She’s just exactly like a real woman, screwing-up every man’s life that just so happens to be in her path. What a devil.

Consensus: Gets a bit too loose by the end, but for the most part, the Ice Harvest is a little dark, a little funny, a little mean-spirited, a little dirty, a little smug, a little sweet and pretty damn surprising in the way it goes about telling its plot, and introducing to us characters that have layers. Wow. A comedy with meaning. Gosh, I’m gonna miss Harold Ramis. RIP bud.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You'd have that same mug if you lived in Witchita, too.

You’d have that same mug if you lived in Wichita.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

It’s all in the title, folks.

This is going to be a bit of a struggle, but I’ll get through it somehow. Anyway, the story goes a little something like this (I think): Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) boards a plane in order to protect and guard a key witness (Nathan Phillips) in a crime he is investigating. There seems to be no problems whatsoever with the flight once it first gets off and running, as there are plenty of fun, vibrant people from all walks of life gathered together to reach their destination of L.A. However, there seems to be one problem, and one problem only that nobody on-board ever anticipated: Fucking Snakes, man! Snakes are on this motha fuckin’ plane!

So yeah, as you can tell, I didn’t really have to go into too much detail with that premise, because it’s all pretty simple: There are snakes, who are very high, that also just so happen to be on a nearly-packed plane, where nobody is expecting these sorts of mofos to come right at them as they put on their gas-masks. Sure, you could say this is terribly stupid, and if you did say so, I wouldn’t hold it against you one bit. In fact, I’d applaud you for at least noticing the sheer-stupidity that comes along with a movie when you’re title is in fact Snakes on a Plane.

So fake, but so cool!

So fake, but so cool!

However, I would hold it against you if you weren’t the slightest bit interested in seeing something like this, because even the reprehensibly idiotic movies have to have at least something worth seeing, right?

Well, I’d say have to say yeah, because this is what happens when you take your B-movie premise, your B-movie title and a meager-enough budget to make something that’s not only quite dumb, but actually know that it is, not try to make any mistakes by adding unnecessary melodrama and give it all you got. Because hey, if you fail at making a dumb movie, you’re just a terrible person who should never work a movie camera in your life ever again. Just saying, but it’s true.

Thankfully though, director David R. Ellis knew exactly what he was getting himself into with this kind of material and doesn’t step-back once from pushing it over that extra-step into total “crazy town”. Think about it, when all you have is an-hour-and-a-half-movie dedicated to snakes on crack, slithering around, eating and killing people in whatever possible way you could imagine, you have to have a bit of fun, right? Hell yeah! And that’s why Ellis, deserves credit here for not trying to get too serious here or too dry. Sure, the humor is pretty awful, and so are most of the lines, but at least the guy doesn’t focus on them too much in hopes that people catch onto that aspect of the movie and have an even better time with it.

That would have definitely helped, but I think Ellis was fine with just relying on the action, tension and pure fun of watching some dude’s junk get attacked by an Anaconda. Especially when your target-demographic for something like this is drunken-teenagers, then you have to give them what they want, and that’s boobies, banging, blood, snakes, guns and Samuel L. Jackson yelling, screaming and doing whatever the hell he wants.

And yes, I did just spell-out your recipe for “What Makes an Awesome Movie”. You can all thank me later when you’re rolling in the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars.

But once again, I know I’m stretching it a bit here trying to go into this as much as I can, with as much detail as possible in order to have your opinion swayed on this in any possible way whatsoever – but I really can’t. All it really comes down to is whether or not you’re willing to put-up with a bunch of talented-people, yelling some cheesetastic lines, running away from CGI snakes and, at the end of the day, trying to look as if they aren’t doing it just for a paycheck. Maybe some of them are, but that’s not the point; the point is that this is a movie that realizes it’s not made for those who want to see a piece of grand cinema.  In fact, they’re much more attuned to the movies that don’t need much thought or even plausibility; just expectations of pure schlock, craziness and fun. That’s all.

Totally slumming it here. But it's all for a good cause!

Totally slumming it here. But it’s all for a good cause!

People nowadays go out and see something like Sharknado, or Croctopus, or whatever animal-and-natural-disaster-equation you can come up with, for the pure fact that they are going to see something that isn’t weight, isn’t thought-provoking, and sure as hell doesn’t need to be seen with a clear mind. And there is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with that, because sometimes, when done right, those types of movies can work all sorts of wonders. In ways, they can make people laugh their assess off; in other ways, they can even go so far as to transport that viewer into a whole different world where nutty shit happens, just for the sake of pure entertainment. Now, I don’t know what any of ya’ll out there think, but isn’t that the whole point of going to the movies in the first place? Sure, you want to see those real heavy, real dramatic and real life-changing pieces of film where you can’t seem to get its memory out of your head, nor can you stop allowing it to affect you and your daily-life. Those movies are all fine and dandy, but when I want something to be in front of my eyes, not only entertaining me, but not trying to make too much room in my head, for it to pick my brain to pieces and leave me in whatever shape it leaves me in, I’ll go with something like this. Not saying you totally should, but give it a whirl and see what happens.

But hey, don’t just listen to me, let Samuel L. tell you what it’s all about. Oops, wrong one! But you get the idea.

Consensus: Undeniably stupid in every aspect of its existence, but that still doesn’t keep Snakes on a Plane away from being a good time for anybody who wants pure, unadulterated, non-thought-provoking fun for a quick hour-and-a-half.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, you heard me! MUTHAFUCKA!

Yeah, you heard me! MUTHAFUCKA!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

About a Boy (2002)

Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.

Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can totally relate.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can relate.

You know, the unlikable people.

But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.

You know, like you’re supposed to be.

And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.

That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.

But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid's slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid’s slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.

Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!

Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job! Just stay away from those hookers and you’ll be fine.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

We Are Marshall (2006)

Nothing like a good ole fashioned game of pig skin to bring the small-town back together! That, and some random hick.

During a dark, windy and stormy night on November 14th, 1970, a flight carrying 37 members the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, as well as the coach and other personnel, suddenly crashed and killed everybody on-board. The small town that the Thundering Herd represented, not only lost most of their football team, but friends, families, neighbors, doctors, dentists and, plainly put, people that they knew and cared for. This obviously leaves the town absolutely devastated and in total shock, meaning that the football-program itself will have to be shut-down for quite some time. That is, all until a couple of players who were on the injured-reserve decide that they want their team back and irk Marshall’s president (David Strathairn), to not just find more players and more money for the team, but an actual coach that believes in them. Enter Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), the smooth, fast-talking and charming-type that’s practically able to get whatever it is that he wants, whenever he wants, due to his cool ways. However, finding players, getting together a stacked-team and being able to live up to the legacy that the original team had before they tragically passed, is a lot easier said, then actually done. But with the help of former assistant-coach Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), Lengyel may have a shot at making his dreams, as well as the rest of the town’s, dreams come true.

Quick! Whose tie is more retro?!?!?

Quick! Whose tie is more retro?!?!?

When you see a sports drama, that’s “based on a true story”, you already know what to expect. Stirring, inspiring pep-talks; people rooting and hollering for their home-team; a lot of grown-men crying and getting upset; and finally, the one, big game that settles the score on everything. We’ve all seen it before and done a million times, but is there such a problem when that formula isn’t played with too much, but at least given some sort of subtle-nuances to make the whole thing seem slightly different? I actually don’t know and personally, that’s probably not the question I should be asking for something as simple as this.

Basically, this is, yet again, another sports movie in which we have a bunch of people looking for inspiration anywhere they can turn to, but in this case, it just so happens to be the football-field. Never understood why so many sports movies feel the need to teach us all about life through sports, as if that is the only segue into learning everything, about anything that has to do with. Sure, maybe people who watch sports love it and feel as if they are apart of something, but for those select few who can actually play sports and excel at it, feel as if they are apart of something more, leaving those other, unworthy human beings out of the equation.

Anyway, I am ranting.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s tired formula, the sports drama is, but there are the occasional moments when a movie gets it just about right to where it isn’t offensive to those who don’t play sports, but nice enough to those who do and have barley anything else to live for. But in this movie’s case, it’s battling more than just being about the sport of football. See, instead, this movie is actually dealing with some bigger themes –  themes like forgiveness, guilt, moving on, depression, death, love and realizing that you can’t take anything, or anyone, for granted on this Earth, because you never know when they’re going to leave you. Yes, this movie definitely has a lot to talk about and discuss, but with McG at the helm, it’s less emotional, and more ham-handed.

McG obviously comes from the huge institution of film where the main curriculum taught is “tell, don’t show”. Doesn’t make him all that bad of an action-director, because when you want to see people beat each other up, cars chase one another, or things explode, you want to see that sort of stuff happen on-screen and not be at all implied! However, when you have an emotional-story such as this, a very true one, mind you, where subtlety is key to make us feel for everything and everyone involved with this story, you need that type of director to give us those moments that we could only get, due to the human-condition. The way a character acts, reacts or just is, is what makes this movie’s succeed in being able to tell us everything we need to know about a certain character and how exactly they are feeling.

McG, for all of his slam-bang, action-thrilling ways, sure as hell doesn’t have those types of skills in his repertoire, so instead, he just allows the actual scenes of football being played to take over and take us by storm. And for the most part, they do work as they look nice, making you feel as if you are watching people from the 70′s, play football in said decade, while also allowing you suspend your disbelief for the shortest second of time, even if you already do know what happens in the end, to these characters, to this football-team, and to everything else that surrounds it. That aspect of the movie, McG gets right, but whenever he’s called on to give us a strong, dramatic-scene filled to the core with believable, heartfelt emotion, the dude sort of drops the ball. Not because he doesn’t care for the situation most of the people were put into, but because he doesn’t really know what to do with these moments. He just wants people to get up, cheer on their home-team and hope that they forget about their own, actual lives for a short moment-in-time.

Once again, nothing wrong with that, but when you have something of a true story that’s as ripe with emotion such as this, you can’t help but feel disappointed that they couldn’t get more of a capable-director to work on this.

"Power to the people that be!"

Power to the people that be!” What? Too early for that?

Dude should have just stuck with the explosions.

Rather than being able to do it himself and give us the emotionally raw and brutal feelings we need for a story like this to fully grip us and really speak volumes, McG mainly depends on the cast for this, mainly one Matthew McConaughey. I’m so happy to see that McConaughey is back in good-graces with just about every film-nerd out there nowadays, because not only has the dude been putting in great work in some god-awful stuff over the years, but he’s also been trying his hardest to at least show the world that there’s more to him than just good looks and nice, toned-body. The dude can act, and as Jack Lengyel, he gets plenty of chances to do so, mostly whenever he’s just trying to charm a person in their boots and make them see his optimistic, sunny-side-up view of everything that’s occurring. Most of what McConaughey has to work with isn’t perfect, but the dude keeps on bringing energy to the movie whenever possible and makes the movie a bit better. It’s not the most perfect performance that we’ve seen from him (especially not within the past decade), but it’s one that showed us that if you gave him a movie to lead, he could still do so. Good old boy charm and all.

The rest of the cast is pretty good, too, although it does make me sad to see that Matthew Fox maybe couldn’t have gotten the lead role in this. Sure, he may not have as much wit or as much light-heartedness as McConaughey does, but the dude is still a very solid actor and gets to show us many times here, why that is. Same goes for Anthony Mackie, playing one of the players who was originally on the injured-reserve during the crash, and gives us the most compelling, if only, memorable scene of the whole movie. Don’t necessarily want to spoil it, but when you see it, you’ll be happy to see that the dude is making good use of his many skills as an thespian. Others that are also good are David Strathairn as the stuck-up, nerdy president of Marshall who doesn’t want to give up on the program, but realizes that there is a dilemma with bringing it back, while also trying to honor those who have fatally-fallen. And Ian McShane, despite those evil, deadly eyes of his, doesn’t get quite nearly as much to do as everybody else does, and it’s a damn shame because he’s always a presence to make notice of, no matter what garbage the dude does. And he’s done plenty of that in his long career.

Consensus: Though We Are Marshall tries hard, it can’t quite get past all of the numerous conventions and clichés that the sports genre has set-in-stone for ages, and will continue to do so, even if the true stories themselves that the movies are based on, actually have emotional-resonance to them.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT!!"

“ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Charlie’s Angels (2000)

Yes guys: Girls this hot can indeed kick your perverted-asses. So watch yourselves!

When danger is looming and the world is on the brink of self-destruction, who is there to save the day? Well, the mysterious and unknown Charlie is, but he isn’t the one doing the action, he’s just simply pulling the strings. Who he has in his place to take over things and make sure that all is fine and right with the world, he has three of his kick-ass, female agents, who he also calls his “Angels”. We have Natalie Thompson (Cameron Diaz), the bookworm who is oblivious to the dudes around her (except for the ones who want to end her life), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore), the tough girl who finds herself in more beds of other men than she probably should be in, and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu), the class-act who longs for a life outside of being a secret-agent with her Hollywood star boyfriend (Matt LeBlanc), but just can’t help but kick some butt when it comes around her way. Together, the ladies, along with John Bosley (Bill Murray), their informant, find out what’s going on with secret weapons and tools that have suddenly go missing, and may just endanger not only themselves, but their beloved-Charlie as well.

I’m pretty sure that, by now, every person on the face of this planet has seen at least one episode of the classic, Charlie’s Angels 1970′s-era TV show, right? Okay, if not everybody, then definitely every man on the face of this planet has. And if they say they haven’t, well then ladies, get a flash-light, shine it in their pupils and question them harder, because they’re lying dogs!

Hate to say it, but if only they were wearing T-shirts. Then maybe, just maybe a "6" would have been handed-out.

Hate to say it, but if only they were wearing T-shirts. Then maybe, just maybe a “6″ would have been handed-out.

Anyway, I think what we all have, you know, as a society, garnered from that show was that it doesn’t matter if these women are extremely good-looking, hot and have huge jubblies, give them some corny lines, some action-moves and plenty of cool, unique gadgets, and woolah! All of a sudden, a woman that looks like Farrah Fawcett is able to give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money! And there’s nothing really wrong with that, however, you can’t do that type of story seriously for a single bit, which is probably why it’s a good thing the show only lasted until the early-80′s, once people had about enough of it with their non-stop array of campy-material (okay, maybe the 80′s were even worse, but you get my drift).

Basically though, what I am trying to get across is that it’s extremely hard for a movie to pull-off the same type of charm, magic and fun of the original material, without having it be placed in the same decade of the 70′s, or at least being able to show it all with a wink in the eye, and the tongue, placed firmly in the cheek. And it’s apparently clear that that’s exactly the type of notion this movie is going for: It wants to crack a joke about how goofy these gals look when they get in their kung-fu stances and start whooping the ever-loving crap out of everyone that strikes a danger to them, but at the same time, it also wants to still be able to revel in how awesome these girls look when they’re kicking ass and taking names.

Which, as much as I hate to make it sound like otherwise, I didn’t have a problem with because McG certainly does inject this movie with plenty of energy and style to make this feel like a music-video, done with a lot of fighting, sexy women and explosions. The only problem is that everything else he does with this movie, it not only doesn’t work, but it’s too messy for its own good. Certain scenes just don’t work together, and McG himself, as a director, only seems to feel comfortable with his movie when something is either ripping-off the Matrix and being shown to us entirely in slow-mo, or when he’s giving us a close-up of one of these ladies spreading their legs open. And not in that type of way either, ya pervs!

For awhile, it’s all fun to watch and whatnot, but when the movie wants to try and be a bit goofy and satirical with its material and where it seems to have come from, it doesn’t work and instead, totally misfires. Most of that has a problem to do with the fact that McG himself came from a long, long line of music-videos before he made his film-debut with this, and also, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the writers didn’t know if they wanted to give us anything more than plenty of action, and leave it at that. The plot doesn’t make sense; the jokes don’t quite hit; and the action begins to feel like the same sequence showed to us, over and over again. Needless to say, while it may not be anything to write home about, it definitely isn’t terrible. Just misguided is all.

Who needs that much tail when you're Bill Murray? Serious question...

Who needs that much hot tail when you’re Bill Murray? Serious question…

However, as misguided as the rest of the material they’re working with may in fact be, the cast still seems to prevail and make ends meet with whatever it is that they have to work with. The three, leading ladies are all fun to watch, but it’s really Cameron Diaz who gets to walk away with the spotlight placed firmly in her hand as she always seemed to make everything better for herself and for the movie, whenever she decided to give us a glimpse of that beautiful, lovely, cheek-to-cheek smile of hers. Along with her sweet-ass, white girl dance moves, Diaz is very charming to watch here and definitely comes across as the most distinguishable Angel of the three, if only because she seems to actually show some personality. That’s not to discredit Barrymore or Liu or anything, but it’s Diaz who reminds us why she was so young, hot and promising at one time in her life, where now, all she is, is another botox-surgery away from being a parody of herself, much like Ms. Farrah Fawcett ended-up becoming in her later-life as well.

It’s a shame to see a movie in which not only does Sam Rockwell and Crispin Glover get wasted as villains, but so does Tim Curry. Rockwell has a bit more to work with here than the other two, but he still doesn’t seem like he was given much at all to work with, other than a bunch of cocky-lines to sound intimidating with and a random back-story that would, for some reason or another, make sense as to why the plot is so convoluted and nonsensical to begin with. But, to look on the bright side, at least THE Bill Murray wasn’t wasted here, and for that, I have to thank the movie. Then again though, it’d be pretty hard to waste Bill Murray to begin with. He just doesn’t allow for such a wrong-doing to happen.

Consensus: You could definitely place Charlie’s Angels into the “late-night rental” category because while it’s not memorable, it’s still fun, but still seems like a waste of mostly everybody involved, as well as some funny material that never seems to materialize into being anything more than just a bunch of hot ladies, running around, kicking ass and using a lame-pun every now and then.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ouch.

With legs wide open…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Should we blame the tax-payers for the war in Afghanistan? Wait a minute, that’s us!

Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is one hell of a wild guy. He loves his ladies, he loves his booze, he loves his blow, but most of all, he loves the one main thing that’s nearest and dearest to his heart: His money. Eventually though, all of those fun times and partying, soon catch-up with him when a scandal between him and two strippers gets leaked to the public-media. Miraculously somehow, he beat the rap. How? Well, let’s just say he got two very smart and powerful friends of his, Joanne Herring and Gust Avrakotos (Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman), to help him fund resistance fighters in Afghanistan as they fought with the Soviets. Seemed like a pretty good idea to Charlie at the time, but little did he know of the consequences.

Pretty sure most of you know exactly where this story goes and is most likely going to end-up, considering after about two decades of Charlie Wilson’s high-minded ideas, we are still feeling the effects. That’s obvious to us all now, but back then, not many people knew of what would happen down the road and thought that everything that this man Charlie was doing, was the act of a Saint-like creature. Maybe so at the same time, but look where we are now.

But I digress. Being that this a movie all about politics and most of it takes place in the rooms where most of our politicians duke-it-out in a “Whose Ego is Bigger” competition, it would only seem right that Aaron Sorkin be given the reigns to write this movie and given a chance to do everything that he does best: Write snippy, snappy screenplays. And that’s all pretty on-display here, but with a slight twist this time around. Being that is the true story of Charlie Wilson and how he single-handedly manipulated his way into a war, was way beyond me and something I just could not believe. However, I did some research, and surprise, surprise! Most of it as all true and it’s only Sorkin’s job to not only show us that, but to also keep us entertained as well.

They're soooo gonna bone.

They’re so gonna bone.

The script never loses steam, as you can just tell that Sorkin is firing on this story from all cylinders. Yeah, there were certain moments where this flick got a tad too serious and had to show us the true problems with Charlie and all of the people around him, but not too much of it is placed on them and instead, what we get to see a lot of is Charlie being a slick, charming and sometimes, conniving politician. It’s all fun to watch and if anything, is actually a bit insightful since we get to see him slime his way around the office, without ever really saying what it is that he’s all about, or what it is that he truly feels. We don’t even really know if he’s a good guy or not, but what we do know is that he’s a smart guy that is in the position that he’s in for a reason. Got to give major kudos to Sorkin for making another political story that’s apparently based on “fact”, and making me feel like I was right there from beginning to end to see it all go down.

The other-half of the kudos has to go to the cast, whom are all great, do what they do best and make this script seem legit, as if they could have really been speaking this lingo themselves. Tom Hanks in the role of Charlie Wilson may seem like a bit of a miscast, considering the guy we all know and love as our everyday type of dude that just so happens to be a movie star, is in his first scene drinking, doing blow and hanging out with strippers. It’s a bit of a surprise to see Hanks play this cad-like dude, but Hanks’ charm always shines through and makes Charlie Wilson a great person to watch. You can’t really assure yourself that you’re going to like him at all by the end of the movie, but to watch Hanks use that inexplicable likability to his advantage and make everybody else around him, fall in love with him as quick as we all do, is a true testament to the actor’s skills. We all know by now that Hanks is a great actor, but even for someone like him, it’s great to see him stretch his wings a bit.

Julia Roberts plays his “gal-pal” of sorts, Joanne Herring, and doesn’t stretch herself nearly as much as Hanks, but is still entertaining to watch. Roberts just feels like she’s one of these bad, naughty girls that knows what it is she wants, knows what she likes and knows how to get it, so what does she do? She does whatever is possible to acquire her needs and not only does it work because she is still smokin’, but because the girl has a look and feel to her that is so damn spicy. Sorry if this sounds like all I am doing is complimenting Julia Roberts on how mighty fine of a dime she is, but she did a nice job here and I’m just giving her credit where it’s definitely due.

The one out of this cast that really stood-out is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos. Hoffman’s first scene where we see him yelling and arguing with his boss, is exactly what we expect from this guy and the meshing of his skills as an actor, with Sorkin’s skills as a writer, is like a match-made-in-heaven. Hoffman is so slimy and sneaky, that you never quite know what the hell this guy is up to, whether or not it’s the right thing to do, or what he has up his sleeve next. However, at the end of the story, he ends up being the guy with the best conscience of all of these people, and will definitely surprise you. He cares about humanity and he sure as hell cares for his country, but he also cares about getting the job done and doing everything right. Hoffman is a perfection in this role and I don’t really see how they could have casted anybody different for a person like this. Whether or not the real Gust Avrakotos was actually like this, is beyond me, but Hoffman makes this guy the one you can’t wait to see show up, speak, make fun of somebody, and just be a dick, like we all know and love him as being.

"Bring up a 10-bag, A.S.A.P.!

“Bring up a dime-bag, ASAP!

Despite all of the great, wonderful and beautiful things I may be saying about this movie, there’s still something in the pit of my stomach that’s holding me back from liking it just a bit more. See, with this lightning-quick pace we get from both Sorkin and director Mike Nichols, there’s never a moment where we actually get some time to sit-down, relax and let it all sink in. We understand the how and the why what we are seeing is relevant, but it never fully hits us like it should, mostly due to the fact that Nichols’ direction definitely seems to be hiding behind the fact that his material may not be all that weighty to begin with, or just a bit messy.

And don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve already made it clear-enough that I absolutely adored Sorkin’s script, it’s just clear that there could have been a lot more development with this material and the political-point it was trying to make. I wasn’t asking for anything along the lines of a Michael Moore documentary, but a bit more of a high-light on what was coming down the bend would have gone a long way. That, and the movie’s overall balance of comedy and drama. However, when you have an Aaron Sorkin-scripted piece of material, you have to be happy and just embrace for what it is. I guess.

Consensus: Sorkin’s witty and snappy script, the ensemble cast and ideas made about current-day politics are all terrific and all, but that’s all Charlie Wilson’s War is content with being: An enjoyable time, with not much else added to the proceedings. Just a whole bunch of pretty, shiny and entertaining stuff to show us.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Ahhh! The beaming light off of Hoffman's increasingly-large forehead.

Ahhh! The beaming light off of Hoffman’s increasingly-large forehead!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Elite Squad (2008)

Never thought I’d say this, but those poor drug dealers.

Rio de Janeiro is not a very nice place to live. It’s filled with drugs, sweat, crime, murder, more crime, sex, corruption, and a whole lot more crime. No matter how hard the local police-force try either, it seems like it’ll never be fixed, if mainly because most of the force is as corrupt as those committing the crimes in the first place. However, there is a certain certain force that takes matters into their own hands and makes sure that crime doesn’t begin to escalate, and more and more innocents are injured or killed. Their name - BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion. The captain, Nascimento (Wagner Moura), is the head honcho in charge here and always makes sure things go according to plan, even if he does have the occasional “snap-out” every once and awhile; but he’s getting treated for it and has a baby coming on the way, so maybe it’s not best for him to be around so much violence, death and crime, right? That’s why he decides to start training, brain-washing and beating-down several possible recruits to fill-in for his job, and he thinks he’s found it in both Neto (Caio Junqueira) and Andre Matias (Andre Ramiro). Both are good buddies, but are different in their ways, except for one key similarity: They want to enforce the law and take those down who go against them.

"What? All I said was, "What's up?""

“What? All I said was, “What’s up?””

We’ve all seen the Brazilian, gangster-thriller done before, right? Well, in case you haven’t, trust me, all you have to do is watch City of God and you’ll get a pretty clear picture of what these types of movies are like – violent, dirty, gritty, raw, unflinching, bloody, and usually filled with all sorts of coke, weed, heroin and other drug paraphernalia that I’m even afraid to admit to knowing, in hopes that the CIA isn’t spying on me. I may make it sound like any other ordinary crime-thriller involving gangsters out there, but that movie in and of itself is just about perfect and shows you exactly what one can do with the a tired genre like the crime one, and find a way to spin it on its head in an energetic, creative and original way.

But, as you know by actually visiting my blog, this isn’t a review on City of God, this is a review on Elite Squad, and what a damn shame that is, because this movie doesn’t really deserve your time of the day to be viewed, nor does it really deserve my precious time and effort to be reviewed. Although, since I am a dedicated film-nerd/blogger, I have to stick to my guns and try my very hardest to inform you people on any movie out there, good or bad.

And this is one of those latter ones, which is a shame because just reading that premise up above made this seem like something that would kick all sorts of fine-ass. Somehow though, it does, but not in the right ways. I’ll give director José Padilha credit for one thing, and that’s for at least making me feel like I was on the dirty, disgusting and corrupt streets of Rio de Janeiro, where anything could go wrong at any second, to any person, for any reason. In ways, with the hand-held camera-style Padilha so clearly loves and embraces, I felt as if I was watching a documentary where I was seeing a lot of these crimes being committed, on both sides. For that, Padilha deserves some admiration for sticking it to the streets and at least having me believe that I was watching something that could actually, believably happen on the real streets of Rio de Janeiro

However, that’s where the compliment begins and ends, because the rest of this flick is a mess, and it’s solely on Padilha’s part, and nobody else’s. The main problem Padilha runs into with this flick is that it’s so abundantly clear who he is siding with in this story, and that’s the police-force themselves. Sure, he shows them in some unflattering ways where police-chiefs are all about corruption, keeping your mouth shut and earning some dirty money on the side, but most of the time, he’s usually backing up these men-in-uniform, their actions and what they stand for. And it’s not like there’s a problem when you show your appreciation for the heroes who get stuff done and keep the crimes from happening more and more, but when you have those heroes putting plastic-bags over any possible criminal’s head, just to get bits and pieces of information out of them, the line between “glamorizing” and “being frank” gets blurry.

Here, Padilha seems to start off with the latter, where he shows that even though these guys do get their jobs done in an efficient manner, they’re still very messed-up in the head and not always honest people. But that all begins to change where we soon see that these officers are now carrying-out very violent, very disturbing actions in order to make their job a bit easier. Once again, I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t support and show our love for our local police-forces who are out there and risking their lives, so that our lives a bit easier, simpler and safer, but this movie really tests our patience with how far we’ll go to stand behind these men and root them on as they practically shoot, kill and violently torture anybody who slightly gets in their way. No, I am not a hippie, but I am a person who knows when “enough” is “enough”, and there came a certain point during this movie where I didn’t give a shit about any of these guys, what they were doing or who they were trying to find, capture and kill. All I wanted them to do was stop beating the ever loving shit out of everybody that they suspected to be a drug-dealer, even if that person was holding the slightest ounce of pot.

Poor old Johnny forget about those unpaid parking tickets.

Poor old Johnny forget about those unpaid parking tickets.

I mean honestly, sometimes you just have to say, “Leave me be, man.” And I felt like that many of times during this movie.

Even the fine performances from the cast couldn’t survive this movie’s mucky moral-siding. All of the officers that this movie focuses on and actually gives two shits about, are relatively compelling to watch and can be interesting at times, but later on, they just turn out to be a bunch of sick, twisted and sadistic nut-jobs that you’d neither want to help you out of a burning car, patrolling your neighborhood, or anywhere near your friends or family for that matter. Now, I don’t know how they do things in Rio de Janeiro, but in the U.S. of A, or practically anywhere at all in the world that isn’t Brazil, we don’t want these kind of crazies coming around, enforcing the law, and making sure all is well and doesn’t go bump in the night. We already got our hands full, you know?

Consensus: Those who want to take a life in the police-force will probably find Elite Squad to be somewhat “inspirational” to them, but even then, I don’t know if any person’s morality can stoop so low as to applaud these men for what they do in order to get their job done, all in the name of “the law”.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

I guess this is the part where you say, "Freeze with your hands up!". But it's cool, just fire away!

I guess this is the part where you say, “Freeze with your hands up!”. But it’s cool, just fire away!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Leatherheads (2008)

Total fiction. George would never do anything that would harm that beautiful, majestic face of his.

Believe it or not, back in the mid-20′s, football was not as big of a thing as it is now. Or, should I say that it was “big”, but it sure as hell wasn’t considered as a professional type of sport that you could play, be respected for, and actually making a living off of. Hell, some fans and players probably still wish the sport was still like that today, but hey, whattya gonna do? Dodge Connelly (George Clooney) was one of the aging-stars in this time and era who finds out that his team is folding under because of budget-restrictions and lack of money coming in and out. However, along with a sneaky reporter (Renée Zellweger), he hatches up a plan to get a very popular college player, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), on his team so that the team can get back to playing and that he may get some money in his pocket. But once love is thrown into the situation, then nothing ever goes as planned.

George Clooney obviously loves old movies because, well, let’s face it: everybody still considers him, to this day, “the next Cary Grant.” So, when you have a comparison like that, you have to at least take pride in it, especially when you’re as talented and powerful as Clooney is in Hollywood. Literally, the dude could say that he wanted to a movie about him and another dude taking reading the phone-book for two hours, and with a snap of his finger, everybody would be on-board, already having a release-date ready. That’s just the type of person Clooney is, and even though he never lets you forget about it, I can’t say I hate it because the guy makes good movies, stars in good movies and never seems like he’s just phoning it in for the sake of doing so. 110% is what Clooney always puts in, and even though it may not always work, at least he tries, right?

"Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some."

“Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some.”

Being that this is his third outing as director, Clooney had a lot to live up to and making a movie about football back in the 20′s seemed a bit odd. But hey, it’s George Clooney, so what the hell can go wrong? Well, to be honest, not much, but what does go wrong, hits you straight in the face and makes you wonder why he made something like this in the first place. It’s not like it was a terrible move on Clooney’s part to make an old-fashioned movie, about the early days of pro-football, but the question remains: Why?

The areas of this movie that Clooney’s skill works very well is in the first hour or so of this movie, which is when we are being introduced to our characters, our story, and our setting, all of which are finely detailed in their own rights. But obviously, Clooney’s strong-suit here is in starting this movie on the right foot by allowing the comedy and goofiness of this all to just keep us entertained and not really take itself too seriously. It’s funny, quick, witty and very screwball-ish that it doesn’t seem disingenuous to the plot or it’s characters. Hell, it takes in 1920′s, so why not just make a movie that could have been seen or made during the time of flappers and Prohibition?

You know, the good old days.

Nonetheless, most of this is pretty damn entertaining because Clooney never settles for anything less when it comes to capturing the right tone and feel of a screwball comedy that could have easily been made by Billy Wilder, had he been alive in ’08. The problem with this movie is that when he does begin to get further and further away from the screwball elements of this movie, a into more darker and dramatic-territory, then things get a little hectic.

And this occurs around the hour-mark, because this is when the tone really gets lost in the shuffle of trying to be frothy and playful, while also focusing on these characters and the harsh-realities they have no chance of escaping. I know that the movie is supposed to be all about how the game of football changed from being a small hobby on the side that a bunch of guys who loved doing it, to a sport that almost everybody and anybody aspired to be apart of, all for the riches and expenses, rather than the fun of the game, but that point came and went as it pleased. Clooney didn’t seem to bother to focus on that aspect of the story as much as he wanted to with the love-triangle; the same love-triangle that started off fine, but just got nonsensical. I can handle it when characters act like idiots because a little tail is thrown their way, but after awhile, I kept on wondering, “Why are these guys still fighting for this chick, when it’s clear who she wants to fully be with?” I don’t know, maybe it was just me.

But even though the dude does screw up being a director this time around, at least he’s good as the leading man and shows that he still has the wit, the charm and the perseverance to make any role of his work. Dodge Connelly is a bit of a strange role for Clooney, but not as obvious because you can still tell the guy loves the sport that he plays, loves what he has to do, and really wants the money. He’s the type of fast-talker you don’t want to see at a Christmas party because he’s too busy talking your ear off about how you and him should get together some time, look over the paper-work, and see just where they could go next with this idea of his. However, he’s still a guy we like, which is solely due to the fact that Clooney just has that “thing” about him that makes him so cool to begin with.

Even with all of the mud and gook, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Even with all of the mud, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Renée Zellweger is also a blast to watch and listen to as Lexie Littleton, an untrustworthy reporter for the Tribune, who shows all of the fiery sass and sexiness that we’ve always seen from her in past rom-com roles, but never really got to see placed in a period where all ladies acted and talked like this. Okay, maybe Chicago, but to me, that doesn’t count because half of her lines were sung, rather than spoken. Nonetheless though, the gal’s great here in the way that she’s able to hold her own against the dudes, show-off some of that brassiness to her act that we haven’t seen in awhile, and also make us feel a bit more for her than we should. Even though I don’t like it, most journalists seem to get a bad-rap in movies and for once, it was nice to see a movie that portrays a journalist as a person that loves their job, and does whatever they can to get the right facts, by any means necessary.

John Krasinski is also here as the happy-go-lucky, always positive-thinker, Carter Rutherford. I’ve always had an admiration for Krasinski because the dude is able to make us like him, even when his character is a bit off of his rocker. It’s also nice to see him not play a character that’s practically Jim, and seeing him just shine it up as Carter, make us fall in love with him almost as much as everybody else in this movie does, reminds me why I go to bat for the guy every chance I get. Then again, it’s a role that’s seemingly there so that everybody else can work around it, respond to it, and do a lot better than, so maybe it’s not the role-of-a-life-time for the guy like many, including himself, may have hoped. It’s still good though and makes me hope he’ll challenge himself a bit more in the future.

Consensus: Being that Leatherheads doesn’t just star Clooney, but also has him directing as well, you should already know it’s a good movie, while definitely still not as good as we’ve seen the dude do in the past. Namely, three years ago with Good Night, And Good Luck.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Stop being so happy!!

Just trying to make the moments he has next to George last forever. Don’t blame him.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)

Television, where have you gone?

During the mid-1950s, there was a man by the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy who saw many people around him as “communists”. Those people he found to be affiliated with this political party, regardless as to whether or not he had substantial evidence, would be put on trial, questioned, manipulated and practically have their lives ruined, all without much grounds to stand on. Not many people liked to see this happen, however, not many people voiced their disapproval in hopes of not being considered a “communist” as well. There was one man, though, that saw wrong-doings being committed and he was a pretty well-known figure at the time, that definitely had enough power and respect within his own industry to where he could get in front of the television, speak out his mind and say what he has to say loud, proud, and in front of thousands, upon thousands all over the nation. That man, was Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), and he was more than willing to take on McCarthy and all of his fellow “red-baiters”; but, as most of us know when you’re taking on the bull, you’re going to eventually get the horns.

You have to hand it to George Clooney – when he isn’t being charming, swift, lovable and the coolest mofo on the face of this planet, he’s always finding a way to express himself in a way that makes us see him as more than just a pretty face, with a pair of fresh, shiny teeth. Sure, he’s got the looks to make it as an actor, and he’s definitely got the skills to make it as both an director and a writer, but believe it or not, the guy’s also got a pretty big head on his shoulders, with some very bright, very insightful ideas that he’s not afraid to let public to the rest of the world. In today’s day and age, where celebrities are getting all sorts of clatter for speaking out with whatever controversial opinion they may, or may not have, you have to give someone as famous, as well-known and as respected as George Clooney is to, most of the time, let everyone know what he thinks about where society is headed, and why he thinks it’s either in a good, or bad direction.

So much lung cancer.

So much lung cancer in that right room.

However, in this case, George comes down to the conclusion that we’re all going in the later-direction; don’t worry though, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as faint as it may be.

I guess what I am trying to get across here is that, as both co-writer and director, George Clooney definitely has a lot to handle in terms of giving us a real-life story, that mostly everybody knows about and, if we’re being brutally honest, may not be all that interesting to put to screen in a big, showwy way, with a whole bunch of familiar, attractive faces attached to the roles. But that problem soon goes away once we realize that not only does Clooney get past the problems of making a story as well-known like this, still interesting, but he also finds way to keep us entertained, while also informed on the side as well. For every point being made about how you should speak up for yourself, regardless of what others out there may be saying; there’s always a cool glance or two about how television during the 50′s was done, how a story was put-together, who it went through first and just why the ratings were so freakin’ crucial during that time. So for anybody who doesn’t give a lick about what Murrow may be saying about McCarthy and his “unjust allegations”, then have no fear, because there’s still plenty of people smoking, beautiful black-and-white cinematography to gaze, and plenty of lovely faces that all adapt quite well to the 50′s setting.

And the people that Clooney was able to get for this movie, including himself, all do amazing jobs with what they’re given, even though it’s fairly clear that their characters come second to whatever message Clooney wants to get across. There’s nothing all that wrong with that since that message is exactly why Clooney is making this film, but in the case of Murrow, you get the idea that we never get to know who this person really was, behind the camera and dead-pan tone; we just know that he’s a patriot and sticks to everything he says, no matter how many times people spit in his face about it (figuratively, not literally). Maybe that wasn’t Clooney’s point, but it does create a bit of a distance between us and Murrow, especially once we realize that it’s his story that really matters most, even despite all of the Left-Wing propaganda Clooney is shoveling down our throats (in a good way, I promise).

But it’s easy to get past this problem with Murrow, as well as every other character here, solely due to the fact that the people in these respective roles are great and can do efficient work, when given the shot to. David Strathairn really excels here at giving us more than just a simple impersonation of the man we all know, and delivers each and every single speech with passion in his heart, and a fire in his eyes, without ever showing too much emotion or feeling in the process; except only to smoke and inhale, that is. It’s surprising to see someone as notable as George Clooney take on the type of role that would have been perfect for a “character actor”, but he works pretty damn fine as Fred Friendly, giving us a restrained, off-to-the-side performance we don’t usually see from him. Then again though, this is his movie, so maybe he didn’t want to be hogging-up the spotlight a bit too much now, eh?

Everybody else is great too, and shows you that Clooney himself probably picked each of these people so damn delicately, right down to the very bone of the role. Frank Langella has a few, wonderful scenes as the chief executive of CBS, William Paley, the man who practically runs the whole show, but never censors Murrow one bit, giving him a clear-conscience in the name of journalism; Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. show up and add some much-needed heart and humor to the proceedings as a married-couple trying not to get caught actually being married, due to it being against CBS policy; Jeff Daniels is clearly having a ball in his few scenes as Frank Stanton, another one of Murrow’s bosses who doesn’t like everything that goes down, but is still there to stand by and watch the fire-works occur; and lastly, Ray Wise does a pretty efficient job as Don Hollenbeck, CBS’s evening-news reporter who you just feel so bad for once you see him, and never lose a single ounce of sympathy for, all because you can tell this is clearly too much for him.

Basically, from the look, to the acting, to the setting; there’s clearly a little something for everyone here, and I think that’s where Clooney really excels at the most.

He gives us a story that is as thought-provoking now, as it might have been nearly 50 years ago, but not without giving those some moments where they can at least be interested in seeing why all of this matters, and how we, as a society, are being affected by all of this today. Because, once you think about it, Murrow isn’t just standing-up for his own right to free speech, but for all of ours as well. He does this in hopes that it will not only translate to news being spread more rapidly, but that we, as viewers, consumers and citizens, will grow smarter and more aware as to what is really out there, and what the truth is lying behind most controversies we see out there.

Aka, a total dick.

Aka, a total dick.

What all of this really comes down to is whether or not we’ve learned from our past mistakes, and if we’ve moved on to informing those in the best, clearest ways possible. Have we? I don’t know. The state of television surely isn’t a pretty one today, with the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or 16 & Pregnant, or even an easy target like Jerry Springer, not only taking up most of our television-screens, but our day as well as our head-space, and sadly to say, it seems like it will never end. Are these shows entertaining? Sure, why not! However, can they, or better yet, are they only made to as Murrow himself would say, “distract, delude, amuse and insulate” us? I definitely think so! Now, would Murrow, had he been alive today, be at all pleased with that?

Honestly, I do not think so, but Clooney isn’t trying to beat that horse over the head with a hammer that’s nearly about to break; instead, he’s just trying to show us that television, like all news formats, can still be important, interesting and worth watching. Though the art of journalism itself has definitely lost some credibility over the years, and in ways, changed its own meaning, it’s still out there for us to read, see or hear about, and rather than just sitting on our pie-holes and listening to what other’s are telling us what to think, we should be out there, right now, allowing ourselves to speak freely and make up our own mind about whatever feels right for us. Who cares what those over-paid, sponsored-up hacks from ABC have to say, go with what you think and never let your own opinion, no matter how unpopular or popular it may in fact be, get shut-down. Stick to your guns, speak your mind and never let go of your stance. If you can do this and keep to it, then you’re only influencing others to do the same, and therefore, continuing on the cycle of people thinking, speaking for, and overall, just being themselves.

Now that is something I feel as if Murrow would be quite pleased with.

Consensus: Smart, well-crafted and powerful in the message it’s trying to get across about the future state of television and information, Good Night, And Good Luck is basically a history-lesson with many attractive, talented people giving it to us, but it’s never a boring one, or one that rings false. Just sticks straight to the facts, much like Edward R. Murrow himself.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If this guy doesn't make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don't know who will. Surely not Glenn Beck!

If this guy doesn’t make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don’t know who will. Surely not that joke Glenn Beck!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

One could only imagine the type of dirty dealings Alex Trebek does on the side when he isn’t correcting dorks.

Many out of you out there probably know who Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) actually is just by his pop-culture relevance. He hosted the Gong Show, created the Dating Game, was infamous for his crazy personality on-and-off the screen and, from plenty of sources, apparently had a long-standing battle with drug-addiction that not only took over his professional, but most of his personal life as well. Oh and he was also a spy for the CIA too, apparently. Yeah, didn’t think about that one now did ya?

Whenever Gong Show reruns would show up when I was around, I’d always be wondering what the hell was up with the host. The guy always seemed like he was one step behind on everything else that was going on around him, which would have only made more sense if it was just that he did blow two seconds before the cameras began rolling. Much to my surprise though, the guy was actually part of the CIA, wrote an autobiography about it and even had a movie directed about his wild and crazy life. This is where I started to have second thoughts about this guy; but nope. My opinion still remains: Chuck Barris is a frickin’ nut.

Like the old joke goes: "Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude's bought her a martini."

Like the old joke goes: “Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude bought her a martini.” Or something of that nature.

Much more of a surprise to me was to find out that not only was there a biopic made about his wild life and times, but that it was also directed by one George Clooney. Apparently, Clooney found something quite interesting about this guy’s life that he wanted to make a movie about it all, adapting from the Barris’ own autobiography; and therein lies the problem.

See, since most of this is coming from the point-of-view of Barris and not really anybody else around him, we never know what’s real, what’s real fiction, what’s a bunch of crap that he just made-up in his head and what was done by Clooney, all for the sake of entertainment-purposes. Thankfully, most of it all seems legit in Barris’ own, twisted way and because of that, the movie comes-off as more of a biopic, rather than just a sensationalized, Hollywood story about a top-dollar guy in the showbiz. It’s a little bit weird; it’s a little bit twisty; it’s a little bit sad; it’s a little bit compelling; and it’s a little bit interesting. Which, when put altogether, made it worth watching for awhile.

But still, I was actually very surprised by the fact that even though this seems to be one of those wacky, larger-than-life stories you’d only get in the movies, but is also happens to be true, it still happened to be like every other conventional story where a guy has hope in this world, shows signs of promise, does well for awhile, then, sooner than later, begins to self-destruct by one bad decisions, after another. Can’t say I hold it against this film or Clooney too much, considering all that he’s doing is actually giving us the story that he read and whole-heartedly believes in, but material like this should be popping off of the screen. Not seeming like something we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but this time, just so happens to focus on a pop-culture icon thrown into the ring of the CIA. Strange and oddly compelling as it sounds, sadly, it does not play-out that way.

On top of that, too, the story itself doesn’t really get started-off until the first hour. As a director, Clooney seems like he has a nice mixture of Scorsese and Sodebergh going on here, and it made this movie move quick and light, while also still focusing on a character and a story that would begin to get more and more interesting, just as it unraveled. Where Clooney excels the most with this material is in all of the showbiz/behind-the-scenes stuff because it gave me a great glimpse of how hard it was for Barris to actually get any of his shows off the ground, and how hard it may be for anyone out there who ever had a single, creative idea in their mind and wanted to see what they could do with it.

However, where Clooney mis-steps is in that kept on going back-and-forth between three elements of this story that didn’t seem to mesh so well. One was a romantic sub-plot he has with a couple of ladies that he finds cool and charming; the other is about his life as a TV game-show host; and the last one is about his CIA shenanigans. All do quite well in their own, respective fields, but spliced together, it feels uneven as if you couldn’t quite tell where George wanted to go with this material. Did he want it to be a biopic? A comedy about showbiz during the 70′s? A character-study about where this guy came from and his mind? Or, just a simple tale about the CIA, and all of the intrigue that goes along with it? Not saying you can’t focus on all of these elements and pack them into one, completely whole story, but there’s a better way to go about doing so, and yet, still making it compelling in every which way.

Then again though, it should be noted that this was George’s directorial-debut and while he may have not done the most perfect job in all of the world, it’s still impressive enough to see why he’d go on to make many other movies in the near-future. Not all of them were great, but they are still as interesting as this and it goes to show you what one guy can do if he doesn’t just have the looks and the talents, but the aspirations and ambitions as well. For that, I give George credit, even if it may seem like I’m ragging on him quite a bit.

I’m really not though, George. I’m not nearly half of the man you are. If only.

But what this movie gave us the most, was a solid look at Sam Rockwell and just exactly who the hell he was. As Chuck Barris, Rockwell nails everything perfectly – his goofy-demeanor, off-kilter sense of humor, and overall weirdness he carried on throughout his day-to-day activities. He’s a nut-ball for sure, but he’s not necessarily a likable one. Actually, better yet, he’s a bit of a dick, an unapologetic one at that, which makes it a bit hard to care about this guy at first. However, Rockwell is so believable and charming as Barris, that you almost forget about all of the morally questionable choices he’s made throughout the bulk of this movie. At one point, you actually feel bad for him considering he is so out-of-his-league and just not at all ready for what the world of the CIA has to throw at him. Though we never do quite know exactly what did, or what didn’t happen in Barris’ life, we still feel for the guy and see him as a human, and not just another Hollywood hot-shot, who got too big for his britches and ended-up getting in all sorts of trouble. Rockwell was great here though, and totally does carry this movie on his own two shoulders.

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right then and there!

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right here!

Makes me even happier to see that he’s still putting in great work today.

Though, I do have to say that Rockwell does have a bit of help from his co-stars, one of which is Clooney himself as the main, CIA-operative that gets Barris involved with all of these sheisty dealings in the first place. Clooney’s good and definitely up to his old-school charming ways, but after awhile, just felt like a plot-contrivance that would conveniently show up to deliver bad news for Barris, just when things seemed to be going jolly-good for the guy. It was also awesome to see Rutger Hauer as one of Barris’ fellow-agents out in the field that definitely provides some near and dear insight, but soon becomes to be a bit of a mysterious guy himself, and not in the good way mind you. Still though, it’s great to see Hauer getting some meaty-material, as the dude definitely deserves more of it.

This isn’t just a man’s show though, because there are some ladies here that get a chance to show up, strut their stuff and shake the boys’ party up a bit. Julia Roberts started-off pretty good as another CIA Agent that Barris meets out there in the field, but soon becomes every other role that we’ve seen her play, time and time again. Sad to see, but I guess I’ve expected it by now, right? Then there is Drew Barrymore as Penny, Barris’ long-lasting girlfriend of sorts and is fine, even though her character is a bit weak here. It isn’t Barrymore’s acting that’s the problem, but it seems like her character was written in a way in which she always tells Barris that he needs to knuckle down, even though he never does so; seems to always stand by his side, even if he just continues to bang other chicks right from underneath her nose; and basically, just never get himself clean and off-the-grind. Actually, one time, it happens right in front of her face, and yet, she doesn’t say anything until five minutes later! Made no sense! All she had to do was a grow a back-bone and leave that bastard! Especially when I’m out there on the market! Like, holla!

Consensus: There seemed to be plenty of promise in the source material of Chuck Barris’ life, but sadly, despite all of the best intentions of Clooney, Charlie Kaufman and the good ensemble, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind just never seems like anything more than just your standard, traditional biopic with lots of CIA-stuff and showbiz-satire thrown into the mix. Other than that, not much else.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

There's always got to be that one last guy who never gets the hint that "the party's over".

There’s always got to be that one, last guy who never gets the hint that “the party’s over”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Juno (2007)

Just as long as you’re a quirky hipster-teenager, not a single person will be mad at you for being preggo!

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) isn’t your traditional, normal high school teen in the way that she holds herself. She knows a lot about people, life and society to the point of where people cast her a bit as an “outside”, however though, that doesn’t bother her because she’s just happy being herself, in her own, wide world of quirkiness and faux-clever pop culture references. But now her world is about to be shaken-up a bit now that she’s been impregnated by her best-buddy, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). He clearly has no idea what the hell to do when he hears this news, and neither does she, but she decides not to take “the easy way out”. Thus bringing her to the idea of having the baby, but then giving it right to hopeful parents Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), who have been wanting a baby for quite some time, and have even gone as far as to place ads in the papers. It seems like the right thing for Juno to do, however, she still can’t help herself from causing a bit of ruckus in the meanwhile.

Many people have spoken-out against this movie for being what is clearly a “mainstream attempt” at trying to do a quirky, hipster movie, that you’d most likely see in a small, run-down movie theater with at least five or six other people, and then hear about years later, with it gaining a cult-following and loyal fan-base and such. Reason being, the script by Diablo Cody is filled to the core with numerous amounts of slang, phrases that seem like they’d only come from “hip” people’s mouths and more inside-joke pop culture references than you or I could ever shake a stick at. Hell, it even opens up with a rotoscoped credit-sequence, done to the tunage of Barry Louis Polisar.

Look at that thing! So rad, man!

Look at that thing! So rad, man!

If that doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me! I’m hip! I’m cool! I’m “with it”!”, then I don’t know what does.

Usually whenever a movie has me thinking this in the first couple minutes, it’s usually all downhill from there. But that wasn’t the case here. Surprisingly, Cody’s writing began to work more and more, even when more of an onslaught of absolutely random references came into play. However, that also made it so much more entertaining to watch as I could not only find myself laughing, but feel like I’m in the presence of real teenagers who sure, talk a bit funnier and more colorful than you or I, but act and behave as if they were us. Early pregnancy aside, I could still see myself talking, hanging out and getting to know some chick just like Juno, and being picked to pieces for either saying something really dumb, or being intimidated by her presence. But I could say the same thing about meeting Juno, about everybody else here.

The fact is, although its a rather showy script, it’s always believable and never loses that sense that we are placed into a world that exists in the 21st century, with characters who have grown-up on Nickelodeon, Slurpee’s and the almighty “Hamburger Phones”. Yes, they do exist and yes, they are awesome.

But once all of the playful wit of this movie leaves, then comes in the huge heart it has and it really takes you by surprise. One second you could be laughing at how Juno tries to match wits with some older dude about how Iggy Pop is such a bad-ass, to then be soaking your eyes out crying because of some beautiful speech her dad gave to her about finding that one and only special someone and why that does inf act matter. The movie definitely plays with that balance more than a few times than it ought to, but Cody and Reitman seem like they have a perfect idea of when the right time to play a moment up for laughs is, and when it’s the time to start letting the tears flow. More often than not, the former got the best of me, but the latter came in with a surprising thunder and really touched. Especially during the last ten or so minutes when the whole story, all of the characters and subplots, come together and get tied-up in a nice, neat little bow-tie.

How perfect that is to see actually happen in a movie for once.

Of course though, the one’s who really make this movie work so well, just as much as both Reitman and Cody do, is the ensemble cast, mainly Ellen Page in the lead as “anti-hero” of sorts, Juno MacGuff. Page got a lot of praise for this role, and some could say it made her a bon-a-fide “star”, and while I’m not up for a discussion on whether or not that’s fully, entirely true (it isn’t), I will say that Page deserved all of the chatter being made about her because she fits this role like a glove. She’s quick, funny, and always up to say something you don’t expect her to, but she’s never a big meanie. Sure, she can be a bit of a sassy-pup to those who deserve it, but to everybody else around her, you know, the one’s that actually matter and care for her, she’s always kinder to and definitely doesn’t take of them for granted. She’s unpredictable for sure, but she’s never a “bad person” per se, which is what I think makes her so damn likable and watchable in the first place. That, and the fact that she’s edgy, without being overly so. Good for Page though, as I think that she’s a solid actress who is sadly still trying hard to live this iconic-role down. One day, I think, she will. But until then, we have this to adore and appreciate.

Please be my parents! Please!!

Please be my parents! Please!!

Michael Cera also does a nice job as Paulie Bleeker, despite still being in that “George Michael“-frame. However though, he was good at showing what a guy like him would do if he was suddenly thrown into the same situation that he is obviously incapable of handling. Also, the relationship that he and Juno have is a very well-done one which would have made for its own interesting rom-com. Even the friendship Juno has with her bestie, played by Olivia Thirlby, is well-done because she’s just as sassy, if not more than Juno’s snarky-ass, which also makes their time together all the more enjoyable to watch.

But this isn’t just a movie for, and starring all teenagers throughout the world! Believe it or not, there are some performances from adults here, and for the most part, they’re pretty outstanding. As I’ve mentioned before about his one scene, J.K. Simmons is great as Juno’s daddy that isn’t the typical toughened war-vet, hard-ass daddy you usually see in these types of movies. He definitely loves his daughter and accepts her for everything that she is, despite her making one dumb decision and getting pregnant as a result. Still though, he stands by her and wants what’s best, without getting in the way too much. Same for Allison Janney’s step-mom character who isn’t the evil, cackling step-mom that holds everything against her step-daughter for not being biologically related to her. In fact, one could say that she’s more concerned and protecting of Juno, and doesn’t want people bad-mouthing her all because she’s a teenager, who just so happens to be pregnant. Even the two performances from Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are great too, and, believe it or not, would have definitely worked in their own, little movie. However here, they’re both believable as a married-couple that may not be perfect together, but definitely seem to want the same things in life and within each other, even if their vision does get a bit blurred at times.

Mainly though, everybody works perfectly together and makes this something more special than just an-hour-and-a-half rom-com with pregnancy involved somehow. I would have definitely liked to seen more of this cast do what they do best, but hey, I’ll take what I can get when I have a cast that is this good, and given this much meaty-material to work with. If only more ensemble-pieces handled its cast as well as Reitman does. If only.

Consensus: Most will definitely know if Juno is right for them or not, judged solely by the first ten minutes. But if you just so happen to be one of those people that take the bait and enjoy the show, you’ll find yourself not just happy you stuck-through, but ending it all with a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your stomach, like coming-of-age, rom-comers should do.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

That's to all ya haters out there. You know who you are, too!

That’s to all ya haters out there. You know who you are, too!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Is smoking good for you? Go ahead and give it a taste yourself!

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the guy that most people consider the second-coming of Satan or a murderous flea-bag, among many other negative personifications. “Why”, may you ask? Well, he’s a lobbyist who speaks for world-wide smoking companies as they constantly get heckled by anti-cancer foundations, protesters, and above all, Senators trying to remove cigarette-usage from movie, television, books and all sorts of other media-outlets. Also, they’re trying add a warning-label on each and every pack as a way to scare every cigarette-purchaser that they will in fact die if they continue to buy and smoke tobacco. But Nick Naylor doesn’t let any of this get to him, because not only is he good at his job, but he’s one slick mofo when it comes to getting what it is that he wants, in the smoothest way possible. The only problem is that he’s finding it hard set a good and responsible for his son Joey (Cameron Bright), whom he rarely sees as is, but wants to show the bright, as well as the dark sides of corporate-America.

If any of you out there think that my opening-line was in anyway serious, then don’t be worried about my I.Q. level, because I was joking. I know; you know; parents know; dogs know; cats know; hell, practically all of us know that smoking is bad for you. If it’s not doing any damage to you now, give it 20 years or so, then you’ll start to feel the ramifications tobacco-usage. That’s not me being preachy, or even trying to sound like a dick, I’m just being honest and painfully clear. Because, let’s face it, everybody knows that cigarettes are not good for you, but does that matter? Hell no! But the that doesn’t stop half of the Earth’s population from going down to the local mini-mart and ordering a pack of Marlboro Reds, now does it?

Hell no!

It's a reunion of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes. Well, sort of.

It’s the reunion of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes finally together at last! Well, sort of.

But that’s the genius of this movie; it dives into the age-old statement that “smoking is not good for you”, and still finds a way to inject a whole bunch of humor and satire about how people can be easily conned into thinking one thing, that in ways, sometimes goes against the common-norm. Writer/director Jason Reitman gives us all of the mean, dirty, despicable and money-grubbing a-holes that we’d never want to meet in real life, but somehow, he makes them all interesting, fun-to-watch and downright believable. You could definitely see these types of people in the corporate-world; laundering money, making some dirty deals on the side, trying to spin whatever story they possibly can into a positive light and, through it all, doing everything to make a quick and easy buck. It’s America baby, and nobody plays clean when money’s involved.

What really pushes this movie over-the-edge and makes it more of an important life-lesson, than just a whole satire on the corporate-world we live in, is that it actually discusses a common-truth that all humans should hold near and dear to themselves. That common-truth being to stand-up for one’s view-point, and not always give into what everybody else is saying. Basically stick up for yourself and don’t just go along with the crowd.

Like for instance, this movie isn’t about whether or not smoking cigarettes is in fact “good” for you or not, nor is it trying to get you to consider if you should go out, buy a pack and start lighting away until the cows come home. Nope, it’s more about how people should be able to make decisions, solely based on what they want to do and whether or not they think it’s right to do. Sure, smoking isn’t good for you and you definitely shouldn’t start developing that as a habit if you know what’s best for you, but don’t be such a sheep and follow the herd. Get out there, do what you think is right for you, as well as others around, but don’t just follow the current. Go at your own flow, man.

Though “blaming the million-dollar corporations for our poor decisions” has been a societal-standard since the beginning of the first Mickey D’s, the movie tackles it head-on and gives us a wonderful protagonist, or antagonist (depending on which way you look at it), in the form of Nick Naylor as the type of guy that speaks for those who always seem to get a bad name. Do some of these big, money-grubbing corporations deserve all of the name-calling and slander in the press? Sure they do, but Nick Naylor is here to show us why we all make decisions in our lives, regardless of if we’re thinking right away. Some of the points that Naylor does make are valid (the whole “ice cream” bit will forever be a favorite of mine), and for anybody who sees him as “the villain”, is sadly mistaken. He’s the guy who knows the truth and skewers it in any way he possibly can without getting caught-up and looking like a dumb-ass. But he’s just so cool and charming, you don’t even care if he’s trying to get these smoking-companies more cash-flow, you just hope that he’s nice to those around him that matter most.

Somebody's in need of a sarsaparilla.

Looks like somebody’s in desperate need of a sarsaparilla.

Kind of strange actually, but Eckhart makes him this way, showing us that he’s not only still capable of being a bon-a-fide dick like we’re so used to seeing him be, but also able to spin it around in a way and see that he can be a nice guy, when the opportunity arises and calls on him to be so. He doesn’t always say or do the right things that may be for the betterment of everyone around him, but he does get caught in some sticky situations where he has to think what’s more important to maintain: His humanity, or his bank-account? More often than not, the latter is what he ends up falling back on the most, but when he does show sides of being a genuinely graceful dude, it goes a long way. Shame that Aaron Eckhart has really been blowing chunks at the screen as of late, but here’s to hoping that he may come back to doing commendable pieces of work for the big screen.

However though, I guess in the case of Aaron Eckhart: There’s nothing like “too many” paying gigs.

Then of course though, Eckhart isn’t the only one of this cast that shines – he just so happens to shine the most. Cameron Bright is the core of what gives this movie its “human-element”, and to watch as he and Naylor talk, get to know one another better and eventually build a bond over time, makes this more than just a “satire”; it’s actually something rather sweet and heartfelt. But still with a bunch of corporate-satire and smoking.

He’s the one who gets the most to work with though, as each and every one of these recognizable faces that show up here all do great jobs, no matter how meager or important their roles may in fact be. David Koechner and Maria Bello get some of the bigger-laughs as the two other, public spokespersons that Naylor frequently goes to dinner with; Robert Duvall constantly chews on his honking, wide-ass cigar as if it was a candy-cane and is absolutely loving every second of it; William H. Macy is playing the main State Senator who is speaking out the most against Naylor and the tobacco-companies he so proudly stands by and can’t help but be likable, underneath all of the contradictions he holds; and Sam Elliott, given what he has to do as a former spokesman for one of these tobacco-companies, injects a lot of heart, humor and surprising sadness into a story that desperately needed some to get to the heart of what this story means in the long run, and why people should at least try and stay away from cigarettes. At least try, that’s all we ask of you as a human-being.

Consensus: Thank You For Smoking is a movie in which most viewers will most likely be divided on, based solely on their political-standings are, but they can all at least come together on the fact that it’s a funny, smart, sly and sometimes heartfelt satire that takes a look at a bunch of people we don’t want to like or see in a humane-way, but actually do, in surprising ways.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If weed every becomes legal, you know this idea will be popping up everywhere.

If weed becomes legal everywhere in the world, you know this we’l be jammed down our throats.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Don’t trust your government. Because apparently, they have no clue what the hell’s going on half of the time.

The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), seems like he may be giving the good ole’ boys of America a hard time. Actually, probably a lot harder than either the president (James Cromwell) or CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) feel comfortable with! Apparently, a nuclear bomb that was mysteriously lost during a 1972 Israeli-Egyptian conflict, somehow finds its way back into prominence with the Russians who, in their sneaky ways, are making a secret bomb of their own. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t, but one thing’s for certain: America won’t be taking any chances with this whatsoever. This is when they decide to call in CIA Agent Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) who, having already written a book on Nemerov, seems like an expert of sorts on this type of stuff, and goes so far as to call him a “good man”. The U.S. government doesn’t agree with this and sets up defense as soon as they can. However, “as soon as they can”, may just be a little too late.

"I said, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!""

“I said, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!””

Let’s not forget that this movie was released only nine months after the 9/11 attacks occurred and, in case you were born just yesterday or have been living under a rock for the past 12 years, America still hasn’t quite gotten over it. And nor should we; not only was it one of the worst travesties to happen to our country in the past hundred or so years, but it showed every citizen that yes, our country is vulnerable enough to where a couple of terrorists could actually get into planes, strapped with bombs to their chests, run those said planes into the Twin Towers and during the process, even blowing themselves, as well as everybody within a 10-feet-distance from them, up into smithereens. The images, videos, sound-bites, etc. are still shocking to this day and it has us wonder if anything as tragic like that will ever happen again to our country.

That’s why, when a movie that not just discusses the same ideas of terrorism like nukes, mass-genocide and paranoia, but even goes so far as to give us a shocking sequence in which all of Baltimore is hit by a nuclear bomb, it comes off as a bit “in poor taste”, for lack of a better term. Though some of you out there may get upset with me “spoiling” what happens about half-way through, I think it deserves to be noted because not only is it the turning-point for this movie, but it also still does the trick, even twelve years after it’s initial-release, and a little near-thirteen years after the infamous attacks themselves. It’s still shocking, it’s still brutal and, even despite some choppy-visuals here and there, still feels somewhat realistic.

Strange to think that seeing certain stuff like that in movies still gets us to this day, but so be it. That’s what happened to us on that fateful day, and for most of us, we’ll continue to be scarred till the rest of our days.

But anyway, like I was saying about how it effected this movie, because before this sequence, the movie was rather by-the-numbers. Sure, some of it had energy and intrigue added to the proceedings, but for the most part, I didn’t get what was really happening, nor did I really care. Nobody feels all that fleshed-out, with the exception of Freeman’s Cabot who, as you probably guessed, steals the show every time he shows up. Hell, even when he isn’t around, his presence can still be felt and you’ll wonder just when it is that he’ll show his lovely face again, and give us a character that we both enjoy to watch and be around, but also respect enough to where if he was in the same room as us, we’d automatically shut our traps and let him do whatever it is that he wants. He just has that type of control and prowess over a movie, which is why he was the only real reason to stick with this flick for its first-half, because everything else, is rather boring.

Then, the already-mentioned nuclear attack happens and all of a sudden: Everything in this movie is cranked-up to eleven and everybody is going absolutely ballistic. Though you could argue that this later-half of the film is as conventional and plain as the first, you can’t argue that it wasn’t entertaining to watch a bunch of heavy-hitting, grade-A character actors like Bruce McGill, Ken Jenkins, James Cromwell, and Philip Baker Hall walk around a board-room, just yelling at one another. Even if certain lines like, “It’s the Russians who did it! Nuke ‘em!”, are a tad corny, they’re still fun to hear, especially when you have talented dudes like these delivering them. There’s also a stand-off between the Russian and United States government in which both presidents talk to one another through some sort of a computer-messaging system and though it may be a bit silly, it’s still suspenseful to watch and listen to. Yeah, typing on a keyboard has never been the most thrilling, nor exciting thing a movie can do, but here, it worked for me.

"Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something."

“Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something.”

However though, whenever we don’t focus on these powerful men screaming, figuring stuff out and yelling demands at one another, we focus on Jack Ryan as he ventures all throughout what rubble is left of Baltimore, which may have been exciting to watch, had Ryan’s story been all that interesting to begin with, but it isn’t. That’s not to discredit Ben Affleck too much here in the lead role, because while the guy definitely does try, the movie isn’t all that focused on him to begin with and only shines a light on him whenever necessary. I’m not saying that if you took him out of this film, it would work better, but you could probably have featured somebody awesome like Liev Schreiber’s very mysterious, yet ruthless spy in the same role, and it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

Then again, everybody out there in the world knows exactly who Ben Affleck is, and not Liev Schreiber. Hence why one is in main leading-role, whereas the other is in the strange, rather under-written supporting role. Sucks to say, but it’s true.

As it remains though, this is Jack Ryan’s story so when it does focus on him to really deliver the thrills, chills and elements of suspense, it isn’t that Affleck blows the chance to do so, it’s just that we don’t care that much. We see that he’s clearly a nice guy that has a bright head on his shoulder, but can’t fight worth of dick. Which means, that when he has to drop-down in the mud and get his knuckles dirty, it doesn’t fully work, nor does it make you believe too much in him. So it stands, Ford may have been the best Jack Ryan to-date, with Baldwin running a close-second. Sadly, that leaves poor Ben in last place, which isn’t so much of his fault, as it was more of just a wrong film, and wrong time. If Big Ben had been in either the Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, something tells me he would have been a nice fit and worked well with Clancy’s exposition-heavy dialogue. That’s not the case though. Poor guy. At least he’s onto portraying bigger and better characters than some chump named “Jack Ryan”.

Consensus: May not quite pick-up its full head of steam until half-way being over, but nonetheless, the Sum of All Fears is a well-acted, tense, exciting and rather visceral thriller that takes on a new life when you think about what our country had been going through at the point in time it was released, but also how the shots of a post-apocalyptic Baltimore still have us cringe a bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit's about to get real.

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit’s about to get real.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

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