Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 2010s

The Night Before (2015)

Screw the eggnog! Roll up a fatty!

Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been best friends since high school. For the past ten years, in a way to keep in touch or what have you, they’ve decided to spend Christmas Eve performing all sorts of tasks and activities that, at one time, they thought were “fun” and “exciting”. Now though, they just seem tireless. Most of this has to do with the fact that both Isaac and Chris have, in ways, grown-up and moved on with their lives – for some reason, Ethan has not. Isaac is a soon-to-be-father and Chris is a famous athlete, whereas Ethan is still trying to make ends meet as a musician. This year, however, the tradition seems as if it’s getting a bit tired, Isaac, Chris and Ethan all plan to go harder than ever before. For one, they’ve got a crazy, Red Bull Hummer, not to mention that they’ve also received three tickets to a special party they’ve been wanting to get invitations to since forever. Now that they finally have them in their hand, they hang around and wait to see where this party is actually at, which then can also lead to them having at it with one another and revealing some truths about one another that, between besties, can always hurt.



One of the main issues surrounding the Night Before stems solely from the fact that it features not one, not two, not three and sure as hell, not four, but five writers working on it. In addition to writer/director Jonathan Levine and star Seth Rogen, there’s Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir, are also here to work out the kinks in the screenplay and see what they can have work as “funny” or as “heartfelt”. Now, if this seems like maybe too many writers on such a small-scale flick, that’s because it is.

The Night Before is the classic case of a movie that, had it played it smaller and not really tried to incorporate so much else, could have really succeeded. Normally, it’s made up to the reviewer/critic to judge based solely on what’s presented on the screen, not what we wanted or expected, but with the Night Before, I can’t help but feel like there’s a missed-opportunity to be found here. While I was all on-board for a comedy-drama about these three pals getting together to enjoy Christmas Eve one last time, for some reason, the rest of the movie didn’t want to agree with me.

In fact, the strongest parts of this movie actually do come around once these childhood friends, start to get in each other’s faces, and let them know just exactly how they feel for the other person. Here is where the Night Before‘s writing is the strongest; rather than making us have to choose a side that we must agree with at all times, the movie just lets it all play out and not get in the way of the characters or their own, respective stories.

Granted, this doesn’t always happen, but when it does, there’s something engaging and smart about the Night Before that makes it seem like so much more than its publicity.

But the movie isn’t always like this, and it’s where the film bites off a bit more than it can chew, is where it began to lose me. For one, there’s literally a subplot concerning Anthony Mackie’s character searching for and chasing around a simple lay he had in a bar bathroom one night and now believes that she stole his weed. The movie plays this all out as some sort of joke and as much as I’d like to say that there were a few belly-laughs to be found here, none of which ever seemed to have much of an impact on me. Instead, I just wanted to hear and watch as these guys talked more and more about where they see their lives next and then start bickering just for the hell of it.

Apparently, they're not as happy at the lack of feelings being said, like I am. But still.

Apparently, they’re not as happy at the lack of feelings being said, like I am. But still.

There’s another subplot of sorts concerns Rogen’s Isaac who finally gets a time to break free from his pregnant wife and therefore, is allowed to do what he wants. This means that he gets high-as-hell on shrooms and always seems to imagine the people around him as some sort of mystical figure. It’s a silly subplot, but then there’s some more. Michael Shannon shows up as the guys’ go-to drug dealer and, though he’s actually quite hilarious, still feels like he’s in there just to take up more time or what have you.

Regardless, the cast all seems to be willing and able to try.

JGL has a perfect balance between sadness and charm that works on just about every gal and it’s great to see him give it his all, despite not liking her very much to begin with. As for Rogen, he’s funny and seems like he has to get home all of the time. And Anthony Mackie, being the stand-up guy that he is, gives his relatively conventional character a small bit of heart and personality that makes it easy for us to sympathize when it seems like all else is going South.

There’s plenty more, but that’s not the point. The point is that the Night Before wants to do so many things that, on paper, seem like they’re so exciting, and that they might possibly rip the rest of the world apart. The ending itself may be sweet and hint at the idea of sticking close to your friends until the end of time, there wasn’t nearly as many scenes dedicated to that. Instead, it’s worried about where Seth Rogen is accidentally going to puke next.

Consensus: Despite fine performances and a few bits of insight, the Night Before doesn’t feel fully-realized enough to make it all to work.

6.5 / 10

Ugly Christmas sweater party or not, who gives?

Ugly Christmas sweater party or not, who gives?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Mad scientists don’t tend to be charming. Or good-looking, either.

Though he works as a hunchback in the circus, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) dreams of doing something more with his relatively pathetic and sad life. One day, everything changes when a young medical student by the name of Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) literally jumps into his life, whisks him off and takes him under his wing as a close friend, as well as confidante in whatever science project he’s working on. Though Igor isn’t always too sure just what the hell Victor is always up to, he knows that it interests him and something that he wants to be apart of; however, Igor also wants to be able to finally live his life, once and for all. This means that he starts to see an attractive gal (Jessica Brown Findlay) who takes his heart, as well as his world by storm. While this is all happening, though, Victor is currently on the run from the police, who want to take him up on charges of having his experiments go a bit too far and doing more harm, than actual good.

Oh yeah, and it looks like these two are going to start making out and bang a whole lot.

Oh yeah, and it always looks like these two are going to start making out and bang.

In all honesty, I really don’t want to write about Victor Frankenstein. You may have realized that once this review goes on and I just continue to ramble on and on about unnecessary things that may, or may not have something to do with this movie, so that’s why I’m letting you now. This is not a movie I want to talk about, or really dedicate 1,000 words to, but you know what? Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what I want and it’s more about what each and everyone of you dear readers (all five of you) want. And if what you want is to know whether or not to see Victor Frankenstein, well then, I’m here to help out.

Even if, you know, you shouldn’t really go out to see Victor Frankenstein.

While I know I may make the movie sound like a terrible piece of garbage, in all honesty, it really isn’t – it’s just an incredibly dull, jumbled-up mess of some good movies, and other bad ones. What director Paul McGuigan seems to be doing here is combining dark comedy, creature-features, dark, gloomy period-pieces, and drama, all into one movie; it’s an admirable attempt, at best, but judging by how the movie turns out, it’s quite easy to tell that none of these elements were meant to work well together. Again and again, McGuigan tries to make each and every story development gel together in some way, but mostly, it seems like he’s losing himself in the process.

Which is to say that no real element here actually works or feels fully flesh-out enough to register. If anything, the movie is much more concerned with being an eerie, creepy, and rather over-the-top creature-feature that Hammer, back in its heyday, would have definitely loved to create. But then, you take into account all of the needless character-drama, random bits of comedy sprinkled throughout, and odd, but obvious homoerotic feelings here, and it just feels like a mish-mash of, possibly, a better movie out there?

I don’t know.

See, what’s odd about Victor Frankenstein is that it feels like a movie made for no one. While it would have been a solid horror flick filled with jumps, scares and boogie-men, the movie feels like it wants to go a bit further than that. However, at the same time, it doesn’t; instead of actually becoming more dramatic about its characters and their situation, the movie back-tracks and focuses on the gooey, disgusting creatures that they create together. Though there’s plenty of action here, none of it is ever fun, tense, or scary in the way that the movie wants it to be – although, I will admit, it is quite loud. In fact, it’s so loud that afterwards, my ears were ringing for quite some time.

Like a lot.

Like a lot.

And then I saw Creed and everything got better.


My ears.

My self-esteem.


Like I said before, as you can probably tell, I don’t really care much about Victor Frankenstein; while I’m absolutely all for what this movie was trying to be initially, after awhile, it loses so much of its original heart and soul, that I stopped caring. The only reason I continued to stay awake and actually watch, was because Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy are such good actors, it’s hard for them to ever be boring. While this is maybe less so in Radcliffe’s case (who is, sadly, given the unfortunately boring role of Igor), McAvoy still lights up the screen every chance he gets as Dr. Frankenstein. The movie may have annoyingly written him off as a quick-witted, funny scientist, who also happens to be mad, McAvoy makes it work and see this well-known character in a new light. Sure, he may be a bit crazy, but he sure does know how to get a party started.

Radcliffe, on the other hand, feels as if he was just given a set of guidelines to follow, told not to inch away from it, and decided that it was probably best to listen. Granted, I’m not raining on his parade for following his job and being a good worker, but still, he’s definitely a whole lot more boring to watch when compared to what McAvoy is doing here. Not to mention Andrew Scott who, like he does on Sherlock, gets to really play-up the weird eccentricities of his character, even though he’s supposed to be the smartest one of the bunch. While this movie may not definitely ruin Radcliffe’s “adult” movie roles, it still shows that he may have to take a few more extra steps in ensuring that he doesn’t get stuck doing unnecessary junk like this.

Then again, if the money’s good, how can you blame him? How can you blame anyone?

Consensus: Even if it tries to do something different with its story, Victor Frankenstein can’t seem to make up its mind of what it wants to be about, or who it’s targeted towards. So, it just ends up being a mess.

4 / 10

In fact, it probably would have made for a better movie. Now, where's that at for the holidays?!?

In fact, it probably would have made for a better movie. Now, where’s that at for the holidays?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Creed (2015)

And yet, Rocky’s statue isn’t at the top of the steps anymore.

Shortly before he died at the savage hands of Ivan Drago, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) had an affair with a woman that led to the birth of a son, Adonis. While many years later, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) doesn’t keep the “Creed” name and instead, decides to go with his biological mother’s last name, “Johnson”. However, no matter how much Adonis may want to make it seem like he’s not like his father, he’s still following the same path; not only does he want to become a professional boxer, but he also wants to do so in a matter that gains him respect and gratitude from those around him. Though Adonis is quite wealthy and doesn’t have to be fighting, he still feels like he owes it to himself, as well as his daddy’s legacy, which is why he decides to take a trip to Philadelphia and track down his late father’s old buddy/trainer/opponent, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). While Rocky is reluctant to train Adonis at first, eventually, he gives in and decides to teach the young man a thing or two about not only controlling his mind in the ring, but out of it, as well. This leads to Adonis trying to make a name for himself in the world of professional boxing, where the conversation always seems to lead more towards who his father is, and less about what sort of talents he actually has as a boxer.

Fedora or no fedora, Sly will still throw down.

Fedora or no fedora, Sly will still throw down.

A lot of people are worried about Creed. The reason for this has solely to do with the fact that the Rocky movies, minus the first, are all pretty silly and, dare I say it, bad. While Rocky will forever and always be considered a classic (as well as it should be), the other various sequels feel as if they do nothing more than just hurt that movie’s great legacy, rather than assist it. Don’t get me wrong, the sequels are all still fine and entertaining, but each and everyone has taken on a different sort of following that has less to do with the underdog, likable spirit of the first movie and more with how over-the-top and cheesy everything in the late-70’s-to-early-90’s were. Therefore, because of these movies not being quite as up-to-par as the iconic original, Creed is looked at as, yet again, another cash-cow for the Rocky franchise.

But have no fear, everybody: Despite it being the seventh installment in said franchise, Creed is possibly the best Rocky movie since the first.

Granted, it’s not saying much, but still, pretty much is.

The main reason as to why Creed works so well and isn’t just another heartless, soulless piece of franchise cinema, is because the talent involved with it, really do seem to genuinely care about where they take this story next. It’s actually quite surprising that no one has yet to even try and create a movie focusing in on Apollo’s family, but regardless of how long it took, it’s great to see that it attracted director Ryan Coogler, who, with Fruitvale Station a few years ago, showed a fresh, young and energetic voice that was desperately wanting to be heard. While Creed is maybe less preachy and topical as that movie, Coogler still does a nice enough job in adding just enough heart and emotion that makes this seem like more than just a traditional boxing movie – it’s got plenty more heart than that.

And of course, most of this can all be chalked up to the fact that Adonis Creed/Johnson, is a pretty well-written character to have your movie revolve around. While there’s no denying that the character of Rocky Balboa will forever and always remain legendary, there’s something sad and heartfelt about Adonis’ road to boxing that makes his journey all the more engaging. Though most fighters are simply fighting because it’s all that they are able to do and make money with, Adonis is doing it more to figure out just where he comes from and exactly who his father was. He doesn’t specifically say this from the very beginning, but it’s clear that, from the very beginning, he’s boxing for a reason and he’ll continue to search for it until he finds it.

It also deserves to be said that Michael B. Jordan, as usual, is stellar as Adonis. Jordan, as he’s done with his past few performances, has shown a genuine sincerity to each and everyone of his characters who, may not always make the smartest decisions out there, but have nice enough hearts that you want to see where they go and what happens to them next. That Adonis is already made to be a superstar like his late, great father, makes him coming to terms with what that all means, quite touching and honest – something that a Rocky movie hasn’t been in quite some time.

Oh, and yeah, while I’m at it, I guess I might as well talk about Rocky, the character, considering that, after all, this movie is sort of about him, too.

There’s no denying the fact that Sylvester Stallone is a good actor; while he definitely has certain limitations to his range, the guy has a few handful of key, interesting performances that shows he’s capable of taking a character and doing wonders with him. Granted, he needs the right guidance to do so, or he just ends up looking and sounding like a blubbering mess, but nonetheless, Sly Stallone is a fine actor. His only problem is that when he’s not appearing in bad flicks, he’s directing himself, and that doesn’t always tend to get the best performance out of him.

However, with Coogler’s direction, Sly digs deeper into Rocky than ever before; rather than just seeing the funny, charismatic and simple Italian Stallion from Philadelphia, we see someone who is coming to terms with the fact of his own existence. There’s plenty talk in this movie about how Rocky is old and may be joining the likes of Paulie and Adrian quite soon, which is not only hard-to-watch, but even harder to fully accept – this is Rocky, dammit! He’s the one and only underdog!

Is anybody else struck by the uncanny resemblance this scene has to this scene in Magic Mike? Just throwing that out there.

Is anybody else struck by the uncanny resemblance this scene has to this scene in Magic Mike? Just throwing that out there.

How can he lose! Better yet, how can he die!

Well, as the movie, as well as Sly’s powerful performance, shows, it’s quite simple: He just can. He’s older now and his bones don’t quite work as well as they used to. That’s why, when we get scenes of Rocky and Adonis training together, whether it be through soft-boxing, punching the bag, jumping rope, jogging, or walking up those infamous steps, it’s hard not to get a twinkle in your eye, a smile on your face, and a warm, fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach. In a way, it almost seems like Sly himself, is genuinely happy portraying this role all over again, but like I said, it isn’t just another one of those performances we’ve seen from him before. He’s more raw, understated and interesting than he’s ever been before and it shows just the kind of talent Sly was and, in ways, still is.

He just needs the right people to guide him along every so often.

And because there’s plenty of emotion concerning these characters, the fights themselves pack on an extra punch as well. That we know Adonis needs these fights more than anything, makes it especially hard to watch as he continuously gets beaten to a near-bloody pulp, just to prove that he has what it takes. In a way, it’s almost self-abusive, but it’s still compelling to watch because we care for Adonis and the reason for why it is that he’s fighting. Not to mention that Coogler, too, does a great job at filming these boxing-sequences that make them still feel fresh and exciting.

On a side note, though, Creed also works best, just like the original Rocky, as a nice little postcard of Philadelphia. Being from and currently living in Philadelphia, it was great to see my city not just get a whole lot of attention, but also be discussed and portrayed in a way that makes it seem like a lovely city where anyone can come, find themselves, and achieve all sorts of greatness. For some people living in Philly, they may not believe this all to be true, but still, it’s great to see my city get a much-deserved spotlight, as well as also give me something to point at when talking to my friends about what location, was shown when.

Basically, I’ll just be a tour-guide from here on out.

Consensus: Like it’s well-known predecessors, Creed is a conventional boxing flick, but still features enough heart, emotion and good performances that make this seventh installment still an interesting, if also, fun watch.

8 / 10

Looks like he's got his, "Yo Adrian!" yell down perfectly.

Looks like he’s got his, “Yo Adrian!” yell down perfectly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Brooklyn (2015)

If Jay-Z raps about it, you know it’s a pretty cool place.

Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl from Ireland who’s getting a bit tired of the mundane life she’s currently living. She has a nice job, and gets along with her sister and mother just fine, but doesn’t know what’s really keeping her. That’s why, when she hears about a boat leaving for the U.S., Eilis gets hops aboard, and heads for Brooklyn, New York. While she’s initially homesick and scared, Eilis begins to get used to the way New York is and all of the promise it holds for her. Not only does she have a cashier job at a fancy store, she’s also caught the eye of a local Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen). Though Eilis isn’t quite experienced with boys, she decides to give Tony a chance anyway and eventually, the two start to hit it off; despite their two very different backgrounds, they still find ways to connect and make each other happy. However, a situation at home forces Eilis to come back to Ireland, which then makes her reconsider what she’s been doing with her life and leave her to wonder whether or not she wants to stay home, or go back to Brooklyn, where anything and everything is possible?

Is this love?

Is this love?

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite writers of all time. Most of his stories are humorous takes on life, but never do they ever feel as if they’re getting too ahead of themselves, or bordering on “parody”. If anything, they feel like honest-to-God, understandable tales told from the perspectives of people who, quite frankly, are a lot like you or I. They’re not these extremely lovable, likable, or attractive people in these larger-than-life predicaments – most of the time, they’re just average people living life as well as they can.

It sounds so damn ordinary, but that’s actually the kind of beauty behind Hornby’s writing.

That’s why Brooklyn, another piece written by Hornby, feels like it couldn’t have been written by anybody else; it’s funny, poignant, relateable, and most of all, sweet. Hornby has, and probably always will, continue to keep on telling coming-of-agers till the day he can’t write anymore, which is fine with me; none of them ever show signs of slowing down, nor do they show a writer who has clearly lost track of time. Which is why it’s quite shocking to realize just how good Brooklyn is, and just how much it feels like a Nick Hornby movie.

For better, as well as, maybe, for worse, no character here is presented as a terrible specimen, nor are they treated as later-day saints. Mostly everybody in this flick are normal, everyday folk that you’d probably meet on the street, have a talk or two with, and leave, not quite remembering anything special about them, but at least remembering that a conversation did in fact take place. Once again, I know that all of this sounds incredibly mundane, but for some reason, in the hands of Hornby, it feels like so much more. And most of that, of course, has to do with the fact that we’ve got, yet again, another very strong protagonist from Hornby who, like all the rest, feels like a real person and not just a made-up type Hollywood execs like to think are real.

What’s perhaps the most interesting element about Eilis, as well as Saoirse Ronan’s performance, is how that, no matter how many twists, turns and absolute surprises her life takes, she always stays believable. Because this is a female character in the lead role, it would be easy to have the film be all about her just trying to choose between what mate she wants in her life, which one she doesn’t, and leaving it all at that. However, Hornby and director John Crowley are smarter people than that and know that Eilis doesn’t just need men in her life to make herself happy or survive; they’re certainly a nice acquirement, but they are, in no way, shape, or fashion, the reasons for living.

All Eilis needs, is her own smarts, independence, and most of all, need to want to make those in her life happy.

But the movie never tries to lionize her, or anybody else surrounding her. There’s quite a few characters, like Emory Cohen’s Tony, who feel like they could have easily been one-dimensional caricatures, but instead, go a bit deeper than that. As Tony, Cohen gets to blend both sides of this character’s persona; there’s the strong, meat-head Brando-type, while on the other side, there’s the sweeter, more romantic type that’s all about getting married and starting a family with whoever catches his heart first. Cohen’s great in this role and the chemistry he and Ronan share, despite the romance itself may coming on a bit too quick, still feels genuine enough that it gives us something to wish and hope for by the end.

Or, is this?

Or, is this?

And not to mention that, yes, Ronan’s great in this role. Ever since she’s grown-up a bit more, Ronan hasn’t quite had the best movies to work with; though she’s had plenty of roles to stretch herself and make us forget that she was that little girl from Atonement, the movies themselves have always, well, underwhelmed. However, as Eilis, Ronan gets the perfect opportunity to not only make us adore the hell out of her, but also view her as a full-on, smart-thinking, and understanding grown-up who has an idea of what she wants in life and is going about figuring that all out for the time being. Ronan’s got this bright beauty to her that makes it hard for the camera to turn away, and even harder for us to not pay attention to her.

Basically, I can’t wait to see what else is coming up for Ronan in the near-future.

But like I said about Brooklyn – it’s everything you expect from a movie penned by Nick Hornby. It’s not just, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious, but also quite insightful about certain aspects of life like family, love, marriage, and perhaps, most importantly, finding yourself in one location. With recent events, it’s nice to see a flick that not only shows the type of inspirational promise that America, at one point, promised for the whole outside world, but in ways, still does to this very day. People who wanted to start anew, or find themselves, were able to, just by hopping on a boat, train, or plane, and come straight to America. In all honesty, that’s what this country was made from and it’s lovely to get a little reminder that, regardless of what one may read, there’s still plenty of promise within America.

Like love. Like work. And basically, just life itself.

Consensus: Funny, honest, and best of all, heartfelt, Brooklyn is a tremendous coming-of-ager that gives a glimpse into one young woman’s life, without ever trying too hard to get in the way of it and instead, just allow for her to tell her own story, the way it was meant to be told.

8.5 / 10


Aw, who cares! You just do your thing, Saoirse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The 33 (2015)

Above ground is cool with me.

In August 2010, 33 Chilean miners, most of whom, were down-on-their-luck and needed the money the job provided, began work in the San José mine. Despite there being warning signs that the mine may not be all that stable and may, sooner than later, come toppling down, the owner of the mine turns his head the other and demands that work be done. Well, wouldn’t you know it? The mine ends up collapsing, leaving all 33 miners trapped and without any contact with the outside, or all that much food and/or water to keep them alive, well, and for the most part, sane. The miners’ families are all grief-stricken and want answers immediately; the same kind of answers that the shady mining company, aren’t willing to provide. Instead, everyone has to rely on the power, strength, and influence of the government who, through Minister Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), decide to get the ball rolling on having a drill blast through the mine, to get the miners out and back with their families. However, while all of this is going on, the miners are starting to lose all sorts of hope and sanity, which, as expected, tends to lead to some very tense, albeit dangerous situations.

Never too late to turn back around, fellas.

Never too late to turn back around, fellas.

It’s very difficult to dislike a movie like the 33 because, like so many other flicks, has its heart in the right place. It seems to be telling this true tale as a dedication to those brave souls who stand up against all the odds stacked against them and persevere. In this case, the 2010 Chilean mining disaster is the true tale recreated for sentimental value and honestly, if you have no clue what happened, to whom or anything about it all, then you may walk away from the 33 learning something new about life and feeling fine with your day.

However, if you, like myself, were there watching the news to see everything play out then honestly, it’s all going to be a pretty tepid recreation of events that were a whole lot more emotional to watch on actual, live television.

Except this time, everyone’s speaking in English.

Why? Well, because it’s clear that the people behind the 33 knew beforehand that people weren’t going to head to see the movie, had it all been in Spanish. So instead of actually sticking to the natural dialect that mostly all of these people here would be speaking, the movie calls on all of its actors, some of which aren’t one bit Chilean, to do accents that start as being distracting and continue on as being such.

And this isn’t to say that the cast here don’t do solid jobs, despite the accents, because they all do. Everyone seems as if they’re putting their 100% effort into making this hackneyed script, despite all of its inherent problems, work, as well as trying to get our minds past the fact that such actors like Bob Gunton, Juliette Binoche, and Gabriel Byrne, are trying to do Chilean-accents. None of which ever actually work or are believable, but the movie’s insistence on hoping that audiences come out to see the flick, can get quite annoying, especially when it seems to get in the way of what should have been a very powerful tale told on the screen.

But one of the main problems with the 33 is that with the true story being so recent, hardly anything here is a surprise. That’s why when you’re watching as these Chilean miners are losing their hard-hats and trying to get out of the mountain, there’s hardly any tension. We know how it all ends, and really, it’s kind of hard to care; the movie itself also doesn’t help itself out by not really delving deeper into these characters and making their personalities jump off the screen so that we’re rooting for them more and more.

The only member of the cast who at least gets some time to shine as one of the miners is Antonio Banderas as Mario Sepúlveda. Because Mario in real life was so electric and fun, it’s no surprise that Banderas himself seems to have fun with the role and is therefore, able to allow for himself to break away from the rest of the group. Everyone of the other miners, in all honesty, I wasn’t able to tell apart, except for a few character-traits or just what they looked like.

He's also "Super" apparently, too.

He’s also “Super” apparently, too.

The only exception to this was some dude named “the Bolivian”, and it was only because everybody else hated him.

For example, there’s an old guy, there’s a junkie who hates talking to his sister, there’s a guy who is going to be a father soon, there’s Lou Diamond Phillips playing some guy, there’s Oscar from the Office playing a guy with two wives, and last, but not least, there’s some dude who dresses up and sings like Elvis. There’s at least ten or more characters here that I haven’t even touched upon, but you get the picture; it’s hard to ever get a clear picture of who is who in the cave. And not just because it’s all dark and gloomy, but because none of them seem to have any actual personality-traits other than what’s on the surface.

Don’t get me wrong, the 33 is still a perfectly serviceable movie that you could most definitely take your grand-mom to. It’s inoffensive and despite a few sex jokes aimed at women, the movie doesn’t do much to really be playing for the more mature, adult crowd. What it wants to do is tell this story and leave it at that. While I wouldn’t say they did a perfect job at doing, there’s also the feeling that perhaps the movie wasn’t trying to achieve any sort of greatness. Maybe with it being Oscar season and all, I’m expecting so, so much more, but oh well.

Consensus: The 33 has plenty of distracting elements working in it (the miscast actors, the poor script), but is just okay enough that you’d watch it, not hate yourself, and then forget about it as soon as you left the theater. Taken into consideration, of course, that you didn’t already know the real story of the Chilean miners going in.

5 / 10

"Don't lose hope, man. We've still got another hour of this movie to fill."

“Don’t lose hope, man. We’ve still got another hour of this movie to fill.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Love the Coopers (2015)

CoopersposterNobody does Christmas quite like the Coopers. Or the Kranks, either.

Christmas time is one of the greatest times of the year. It’s the time where everyone gets together, kicks back, drinks some egg nog, and allow for the good times to roll. And that is exactly what the Coopers want, however, it’s a lot easier said, then actually done. Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman and Diane Keaton) are planning on having everyone over their house for one last Christmas dinner, due to the fact that their marriage has been so hot as of late and they’re thinking about calling it quits. Meanwhile, grand-pop Bucky (Alan Arkin) has found himself smitten with a much-younger waitress (Amanda Seyfried). Also, Sam and Charlotte’s daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meets Joe (Jake Lacy) at the airport and decides that she wants him to pretend be her boyfriend, just so that her parents won’t get on her case for not having a steady-man. At the same time this is happening, Hank (Ed Helms), Sam and Charlotte’s son, is going through his own rough patch, as well, where he’s not only in desperate need of a job, but lost all of the respect from his kids and ex-wife (Alex Borstein). Then, there’s Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), who got nabbed in the mall for stealing stuff, and is now spending most of her time in the back of a cop car, trying to find out more about the officer (Anthony Mackie).

They're bored.

They’re bored.

And need I not forget to mention that Steve Martin, of all people, is narrating this?

So, yeah. As you can tell, there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on in Love the Coopers (which is a weird title as is, because there clearly seems to be a comma missing somewhere, but hey, that’s neither here, nor there), none of which is ever one bit interesting, smart, well-done, funny, or enjoyable to watch. Which is a damn shame, because seriously, look at that freakin’ cast!

No, I’m serious. Look at it!

Why are there so many great and talented names attached to this? I find it hard to believe that the script could have attracted any of these people because, quite frankly, it’s pretty crummy and hardly ever flirts with being something that names like these would want to work with because of its intrigue. Steven Rogers’ seems to want to be this lovely, bubbly family-holiday flick that deals with dysfunctional families in a fun, light-hearted way, but by the same token, also doesn’t. Instead, the movie wants to focus on failed-marriages, infidelities, homosexuality, puberty, divorce, loneliness, unemployment, missed opportunities, and most of all, death.

Now, let me ask you this: Does this sound like the lovely, little holiday comedy that you’d throw on the tube with your family every December 25?

Hell to the no!

And trust me, this isn’t me saying, “Oh, no. You can’t have a holiday flick about sad issues. No siree! Happiness all day, every day!”. In fact, there’s a certain part of me that wants to applaud this movie for actually trying to do something a little darker and deeper with this overly-familiar tale, but really, it falls on its face. There are so many instances in which the movie makes it seem like it wants to break down the walls and be as dramatic as it can possibly be, but at the same time, still end the scene on a fart or dog joke. The balance between wacky family comedy, and sad, emotional drama, never seems to come together in a way that makes it easy to not just enjoy this movie, but actually understand just what it’s getting at.

The movie, for the most part, seems like it wants to simply say, “Families are what’s most important in life. So love each and every member of your family, especially around the holidays”. Once again, it’s a fine notion that I have absolutely no qualms wit, but the movie itself doesn’t really seem to back any of that up. For one, everybody here in this film is basically terrible to one another, whether they be in the same family, or not; mostly all of them dread going to this family-dinner which, mind you, doesn’t happen until an hour in. Before this, we’re left watching each of these characters go on about their days, bitching and moaning about how they are not at all looking forward to this dinner that, honestly, nobody dragged them to be apart of in the first place.

Then, once the dinner actually gets going, it feels so random. People are all of a sudden nasty to one another, revelations drop out of nowhere, and above all else, none of it feels real. It’s almost as if director Jessie Nelson needed to have some sort of tension to keep the film moving along, so instead of actually building everything up in a smart, understandable manner, it all just feels thrown in as a way to make sure that there’s a crazy outcome with the dinner.

They're especially bored.

They’re especially bored.

Well, the outcome does happen, and although it is indeed crazy, it doesn’t at all work.

But really, the most mind-boggling fact about Love the Coopers is the ensemble it was able to attract and just how many of them are clearly wasted here. It’s hard for me to go into great deal about this cast and spend more time on this movie than it already deserves, but let me just put it like this: Everybody here clearly seems bored. Nobody’s at all giving it their 100% and is, instead, just phoning it in so that they can collect their paychecks and be on with the rest of their famed-careers. However much money they were promised to do this thing, honestly, I don’t know; what I do know is that they all seem like they’re clearly in it for the cash and want to be gone from it all as soon as possible.

The only exception to this is June Squibb who, as usual, gives a lovely, spirited performance as Aunt Fishy. Why exactly they call her that? Well, we don’t know. And although that same question is brought up, the movie never decides to answer it, which not only feels like a cheat, but also feels like an act of revenge that the movie’s taking out on Squibb for being the only one who actually gave a hoot about being in this movie.

Everybody else? Eh, not so much. And I can’t really blame them.

Consensus: Love the Coopers is another film in the long line of Christmas ensemble flicks, but wastes its great cast on a poor script that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a light-hearted comedy, or a sad drama about family. Neither of which, are actually ever interesting to watch.

1.5 / 10

Hell, everyone's bored! So just go home already!

Hell, everyone’s bored! So just go home already!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spotlight (2015)

Of course Thomas McCarthy would know a thing or two about journalism.

In 2001, with the internet slowly rising to become the top source for news and information, the Boston Globe felt as if they had struck gold. Through their investigative unit known as “Spotlight”, the Globe came upon a bunch of sources and stories about Massachusetts priests molesting children and then covering it all up with fancy lawyers and lingo that made it seem like a crime wasn’t committed. While the Spotlight team realizes that they’ve got something really strong and ground-breaking to work with here, they’ve got to do more uncovering and following to get the full story. And, well, due to the fact that Boston is a primarily Catholic-based city, it makes sense that just about everyone and their mothers are pleading with the Globe not to release this story. However, these journalists know better than to let such issues get in their way of telling the full story and uncovering what the truth about these priests are, what they did to these kids, who are mostly all now adults, and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It's the dude with the tie.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It’s the dude with the tie and facial-hair.

As most of you can probably tell, Spotlight is the kind of movie that’s made exactly for me. Not only do I love journalism movies that feature journalists, doing journalism-y things, but I also love it when the journalists in the journalism movies use their job, their smarts, and their skills, to take down big institutions. Whether it be the government, hospitals, or the Catholic church – any huge institution that gets a much deserved dressing-down, then you can count me in.

Which is to say that, yes, Spotlight is not only a great movie, but possibly, for now at least, my favorite flick of the year.

One of the main reasons why Spotlight works as well as it does can all be traced back to writer/director Thomas McCarthy, who is hot of the heels of the disaster that was the Cobbler. What’s so interesting about McCarthy’s previous films (even including the Cobbler, sadly), is that they’ve mostly all been small, simple, and understated human stories that deal with the big emotions, but in a very subtle kind of way. While much of the style is still the same, with Spotlight, McCarthy is now dealing with a bigger story, that takes on a whole lot more fronts and ends than he’s ever worked with before. Still though, despite what troubles this may have caused any director in the same shoes as he, McCarthy handles it all perfectly, making sure that the story that needs to be told, is done so in an efficient, understandable and most importantly, compelling manner.

That the way Spotlight‘s story begins to unravel once more revelations come to fruition, as well as the way it begins to blend-in together, makes all the more reason why this movie is a true testament to the art of journalism, as well as those who work within it. Just like the best parts of a movie like Truth, Spotlight loves that feel and utter rush someone can has when they feel as if they’re walking upon something that could make their story, as well as the certain heartbreak and utter disappointment they can feel once they walk upon something that could feasibly break their story. There’s a certain bit of joy and pleasure one gets from watching people, who are not only great at their job, do everything in their absolute power to make sure that they keep doing their job to the best of their abilities, while also not forgetting the true reason for it all.

And while a good portion of this movie is a dedicated to the world of journalism, it’s also a dedication to those who are passionate and inspired to uncover the truth.

But, trust me, it’s not as hokey as I may make it sound; while McCarthy’s movie definitely flirts with certain ideas of self-importance, he never falls for the fact that the story he’s telling is BIG, EMOTIONAL and IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. There’s an argument that Mark Ruffalo’s and Michael Keaton’s characters have where they’re combatting between the two different oppositions of this story; whether it be to tell it to sell some copies, or to expose the problems that have been going on for so long. It’s not only riveting, but also very smart, as it definitely reminds us why this story matters, but does so in a way that gets us back on-track for what needs to be told – which is, that the Catholic church covers all their wrong-doings up, and it’s time that somebody called them out on it.

Once again, though, this may sound all incredibly melodramatic and corny, but trust me, it isn’t. McCarthy doesn’t let the story get out-of-hand with overt cliches, but also, makes sure that the characters in this story stay true, realistic and above all else, actually humane. Nobody in this movie is ever made out to be a superhero for what it is that they’re doing; most of them, quite frankly, are just doing their job. While they definitely feel the need to tell this story and make it so that their points are seen, they also understand the utmost importance of faith and Catholicism, which, all being residents of Boston, means a whole lot.

No! Don't go on the computer! It's the devil!

No! Don’t go on the computer! It’s the devil!

And though the movie may not dig as deep into these characters as possible, it still does a fine enough job of making us realize just who these characters are, what their part of the story is, and just why exactly they matter. Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is always jumping around and running to the next piece of information that, despite the sometimes pushy Boston-accent, is quite entertaining to watch, but at the same time, we still get the idea that this guy loves his job so much and will do anything to keep himself alive and well.

Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer is the sweeter one of the ensemble, who is there with the abuse victims when they’re airing their disturbing stories out in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable; Liev Schreiber’s Marty Baron doesn’t have much of any personality whatsoever, but still feels like the voice of reason for this story, when it all seems to get a bit haywire; John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. also feels like the voice of reason, but at the same time, still very much like Roger Sterling (which is a compliment); Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt Carroll has a neat little subplot about finding out one of the accused priests live in his neighbor and how he goes about finding that out is well-done; and Stanley Tucci, is very energized here, but also seems like the most understandable character in the whole flick, showing a person who not only cares about the cause he’s fighting for, but also knows that he has a civic duty.

However, as great as everyone is, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show, with just one look.

There’s a scene towards the very end of Spotlight where it becomes very clear just what this story means and the sort of effect it’s going to have – and it’s all on Keaton’s face. Though I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of what occurs during the end, but after everything that has come along with the story – from the facts, to the sources, to the edits, to the fragments, to the re-writes, to the push-backs, and to everything else that has to do with it – the movie makes us understand what it was that these journalists were fighting for. Keaton, who is superb, as expected, throughout the whole movie, doesn’t fully want to believe that the Catholic church would have been involved with something so dastardly and maniacal as the evidence proves. However, though, he eventually does come to believe that evil can be real, not to mention that it can take all forms, shapes, and sizes. But rather than pissing and moaning about it, late night at the bar, he, as well as his fellow co-workers, are doing something about it. There’s a look in Keaton’s eyes as he sees this all happen and then, he accepts it, metaphorically pats himself on the back, and moves on with his job.

That’s what journalism is all about and that’s why Spotlight is one of the best flicks of the year.

There. I’m done.

Consensus: Gripping, intelligent, and above all, important, Spotlight takes on its subject without ever editorializing or leaning one way, but instead, telling its story as it was ought to be told, with some of the best actors in the game today.

9.5 / 10

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Room (2015)

Give me a free Netflix account and I’ll stay in a room for as long as you want.

Being held captive for five years, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), have come to terms with the situation that they’re living in. For the past five-to-seven years, they’ve been living in this warehouse that they call “Room”, and find interesting ways to make life for themselves in there as vibrant and as lovely as humanly possible. But now that Jack is getting older and, as Joy hopes, wiser, he’s going to have to start coming to terms with what’s “real” and what’s “make believe”. For instance, Jack doesn’t know that there’s actual life beyond Room, and this is something that Joy tries to hammer into his brain so that he too, will get the urge to want to get out of this place and back into the real world. And since Joy thinks he’s ready, she gives Jack a few tasks and it’s up to him, to see whether or not they get out of Room alive and well, or if they fail, yet again, left to rot away in this little little prison cell that they’ve been sadly thrown into.

It's so hard....

It’s so hard….

Movies like Room, are the type that I love to talk about, but at the same time, ones that I hate to review. For one, it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be seen, hardly knowing anything about going in. While so many of the ads and trailers for this movie have done everything but keep it subtle and unknown to the general audience just what happens with the plot and where it goes once it gets past the half-way mark, I, to those of you who may be reading wherever you are in the world, will do everything in my strength not to say just what happens in Room. Cause, from what mostly everybody knows, is that Room has something to do with a mother and son being locked-up and kept in this square-box.

That’s basically it.

Anything else about this movie, it’s probably best to steer clear of knowing about, because it not only ruins any chances of knowing what to expect from this movie, but by the same token, being able to suck it all in. Because in all honesty, Room snuck up on me and most likely, it will on you, too. You think you’ll have a general idea of where the story is going, see the wheels turning, and then, all of a sudden, you’ll have no clue and feel like possibly the dumbest person in the room. However, rather than feeling terrible and depressed about this fact, you’ll soon change your tune once you realize that it doesn’t matter, because Room, the movie, is so amazing.

It’s the kind of movie that plays with so many raw, gritty emotions, but handles them in such an effective, smart way, that it not only makes you want to praise director Lenny Abrahmson for not allowing this material to get as sappy and as melodramatic as it could have been, but also want to cry your eyes out. And honestly, the latter is what I did – on many occasions. While it’s not necessarily difficult to make me tear-up at a movie, it’s also not an easy feat, either; there has to be a certain feel of emotional connection and believeability to start the water-works.

Which is why they started so many times throughout Room. There’s these small, individual moments of absolute human-to-human emotion and heart that, quite frankly, I found incredibly hard to handle. But the movie never plays any of this up, ever; instead, it plays everything so low and matter-of-factly, that you’ll hardly notice that it’s working its magic on you.

That’s just the kind of movie Room is: You won’t expect it to work as well as it does, but honestly, that’s the real beauty of it, as well as many other smaller movies like it.

Which is why it’s so great to see Brie Larson get so much love and acclaim for it, as I feel like she’s literally on the verge of breaking-out and taking the whole world by storm. As Joy, Larson gets plenty of hard and heavy acting to do, but it never feels overwrought, or even obvious, as if she’s got the Oscar voters watching on-deck; instead, she feels exactly like a woman in her position would feel. While she wants to love and protect her son from every cruel thing that the world has to offer, she also doesn’t want him to forget that the world can actually be cruel and is, in ways, not as fair as it’s made out to be on TV.

And speaking of her son, Jacob Tremblay, despite being hardly eight when this flick was being made, gives a superb performance as Jack. What’s so smart about the character of Jack is that, well, he actually isn’t smart. Nor, for that matter, is he the kind of smart-ass, precocious child character we’re used to seeing in movies; rather, he’s just a kid who has no idea what sort of situation he’s into, except only to know what he wants to know or has been made to believe through TV, or certain things his mommy has told him. What makes this performance so spectacular, isn’t that he plays up this naivete with the wonderful sense of child-like wonder we so rarely see from actual child actors, but how he acts when he’s told that this world he lives and believes in, is nothing more than just pure fantasy. He’s upset, heart-broken and above all, confused. Which is exactly what any kid is like when they find out something they’ve been made to believe as true, actually isn’t.

...to find pictures that don't spoil Room.

…to find pictures that don’t spoil Room.

*cough cough* Santa Claus *cough cough* Easter Bunny *cough cough* any other mystical figure who comes to give you treats or gifts *cough cough*

And while I know that I’m being ridiculously vague with this whole review, but really, it’s for your own good. Just know that Room, is a near-masterpiece. There are certain bits of the story that felt maybe a tad too unexplained, but really, they’re basically just moments and ways for me to complain about stuff that doesn’t matter.

Just, please, pretty please, do yourself a favor and see Room.


Consensus: Smart, effective, well-acted, and most of all, emotional, Room plays with a lot of big, heavy feelings, yet, never over-does any of them and instead, feels like a human story everyone can connect to and take something out of, regardless of if they’ve ever been in the same situation as the characters, or not.

9 / 10

So I'm just gonna keep it like this.

So I’m just gonna keep it like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Enter the Void (2010)

People in rehab, don’t check this out.

Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a young American currently living in Japan. We join him in his apartment just as he takes a hit of DMT, which provokes a long, hallucinogenic trip sequence. However, within the next few minutes, he is shot by police during a raid and his soul is left to roam about in the after-life as it goes from past, present, and future forms of Oscar’s life.

Gaspar Noe is not one of those directors whose pieces of work are meant to entertain you and/or make you happy. They are more or less the types of films you watch, by yourself, while sitting in deep and dark misery, by yourself, and are ultimately left to think about for days on end, by yourself. That’s why this movie, just like with the case of Irreversible, attracted me right from the start as I had no idea what to expect, what I was in-store for, and whether or not me or my insides would be able to handle all of this material. Thankfully, everywhere from my head, to my toes were able to handle Enter the Void.

But still, there were some close-calls.

The groundwork for a sweet and simple story is all here and ready to be completed, but there just isn’t any deliverance it seems like on Noe’s part. Instead, the guy seems more concerned with the style; it’s a smart decision on the guy’s part if not the wisest one. No matter how groggy or stupid this story may get (and trust me, it definitely gets that way, but more on that later), Noe’s direction always kept me alive, awake, interested, and constantly watching as to where it was going to end up next. Just like with Irreversible, Noe films this all in one-shot, or, at least that’s how he makes it seem with the invisible cuts that take place every now and then. It’s a gimmick, but ultimately, it’s a gimmick that works and makes this flick hard to turn away from.

Why the hell would I want to watch my sister getting boned in the after-life?!? There's gotta be a way to find Eva Mendez somehow.

Why the hell would I want to watch my sister getting boned in the after-life? There’s gotta be a way to find Eva Mendez somehow.

But yeah, it’s a beautiful flick and Tokyo couldn’t have been a better spot for Noe to film this deep, dark tale in. People who feel as if they got the real, inside scoop on the underground world of Tokyo just by watching Bill Murray and Scar-Jo roam about in their crisis-phases, haven’t seen anything yet until they see this movie. Every shot is filled with color, whether they be bright or dark and it’s the way that Noe is able to manipulate certain color schemes or patterns in a scene is where this flick will really mesmerize you as you feel like you know what each color in the flick means, but yet, you don’t care too much to think about it too deeply because it’s just so astounding to look at. It does look very CGI-ish, but it’s also the right kind of CGI that feels necessary to the story and isn’t just up on the screen to be flashy and/or showy.

As you can probably tell by my constant rambling and ranting, Noe’s problem isn’t that he isn’t an inspired-director – actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Noe seems to understand the type of vision and look he wants to give to every single scene in his movie and never steps away from showing us the gritty, disturbing aspects of it that would most likely turn movie viewers away from, right away. However, by the end of the movie, you’re going to feel like that’s all he has to offer.

The first hour of this film is probably where it’s at it’s best where we see this guy’s life, literally from his POV and we get a sense of who he is, where he’s come from, and how he’s become, who he is now; which, in this case, is just another druggie at the bottom of the sewage pipe-line. It’s fun, vibrant, exciting, and actually heartfelt considering we see and know everything there is to know about this guy in order for us to care about him and the setting he surrounds himself with. But by the time that first-hour clocks in and we are introduced to his soul and the adventure it takes, then things begin to shake up a tad bit.

And not in the good way, either.

There’s a part of me that thinks Noe had every notion to make a compelling and complete story about the afterlife, but that story just got lost in a vision that’s almost too much, for so little. The last 30 minutes of this film just continued to constantly beat me over-the-head with everything in it’s will-power and as much as I was game for that first hour where things were electric and wild, I was feeling like it was game over, long before the movie was ever actually over. There’s plenty of sex, drugs, nudity, and money-laundering that goes down in the first hour, but it felt necessary to the story; whereas the last hour or so, just felt like Noe went on over-drive and couldn’t stop himself.

Take for instance, the whole sequence where we get a long glimpse inside the infamous Love Motel the movie makes several references to throughout. We see people boning in some very graphic ways, as well as doing drugs and being naked, but yet, it doesn’t serve a purpose and just continues to go-on-and-on-and-on, until Noe finally woke up from his deep slumber of style and realized, “Oh crud! I have a story to tell!”. I highly doubt those were the words that went through his head, but still, it’s so damn obvious that the guy just lost himself in his own style, without even remembering why he was there in the first place. Enter the Void could have ended at any second and it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Heck, even when the guy did end the movie, not only is it disappointing, but it also makes no real sense.

Nowhere in the U.S. looks like. Only Tokyo, especially when you're on drugs.

Nowhere in the U.S. looks like this. Only in Tokyo, especially when you’re on drugs.

The idea of seeing the world you lived with and are leaving behind, definitely seems like the type of material that would have any person tearing-up and reflecting on their own choices, but that isn’t this film. Which is fine, of course, as it’s much more about the way that we look at death through the microscope of our own lives. With Irreversible, Noe at least got the style down, but the substance was what helped it work more. Here, we’re just given the style that makes you never want to take drugs ever again, nor make you want to have sex with more than one person at a time. Highly doubt that the flick was going for that at all, but it’s the type of effect I could see this movie having on the squares of society.

But if there’s anything else that Enter the Void gets across, it’s that, once again, Paz de la Huerta truly does love not wearing clothes.

Like, at all.

Even though it does make sense as to why she’s constantly in her birthday suit the whole time, it does get a tad ridiculous and annoying. I mean, hell, the she’s cooking breakfast with her lady-parts, basically! Throw some slacks on and step the hell away from the eggs! Huerta doesn’t really get much acting to perform, but she has a nice body and, if anything, I guess that’s got to count for something.

Consensus: Enter the Void is as crazy and wild as you’d expect from an auspicious auteur like Gaspar Noe, which can, for the most part, mean that the story is left on the back-burner for pretty-looking visuals and gimmicks.

6.5 / 10

Reminds me of myself after New Years. Minus the drugs, the gunshot, and the death.

Reminds me of myself after New Years. Minus the drugs, the gunshot, and the death.

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR.com

Miss You Already (2015)

MissposterHug your bestie and never let go.

Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They were both there for each one’s first kiss, first bout with sex, and basically, everything else. So it would make sense that Jess is there for Milly when she gets diagnosed with breast-cancer, right? Well, yes, definitely. Problem is, Jess has a bit of a problem in her own life and it features getting pregnant with her husband (Paddy Considine) before heads-off for a few months to an oil rig. Still though, as hard as she might, she tries to be there for Milly, even while she’s going through this painful, and obviously scary time in her life. Because together, even though they may both be sad, they’re never lonely and find ways to make the other feel better; not just about themselves, but about life in general. That’s why when Milly starts acting-out in un-Milly-like ways, Jess is surprised and, at the same time, angry and doesn’t know what to do. Not to mention that, after many times of trying, she’s now pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Milly because she feel as if it might make her feel worse than she already does.

They were together for what appears to be a birthday.

They were together for what appears to be a birthday.

It’s obvious that Miss You Already’s intentions are good. Everything from the message, to the characters, to the plot-line, and hell, especially to the humor, everything about Miss You Already is so clearly not trying to offend anyone who has either had cancer, known someone else who has, or lost someone to it. Therefore, a lot of the promotion for Miss You Already, as well as many other “cancer comedies” (I hate using that phrase, but somehow, it’s become a thing), has been hiding the fact that the key character in this movie, does in fact have cancer. This isn’t because the producers and creators behind this flick are embarrassed because of it – but because they know that it’s very hard to sell a movie about cancer as is, let alone, a light-hearted one.

As I said though, Miss You Already has good intentions flying right out of itself, but at the end of the day, those good intentions aren’t used on anything except a bunch of a lame-gags that try to cover up the fact that this subject material is downright depressing.

And it’s not like the comedy aspect of telling cancer stories doesn’t work. Take 50/50 for instance – what that movie does so brilliantly is that it not only goes deep and dark with the terrible realities cancer provides, but also show that there’s some fun and humor to be had in the situation as well. However, that movie’s humor was more based on the actual characters themselves, their reactions and, in general, they’re day-to-day livings. Miss You Already is less subtle than this and instead, feels the need to endlessly barrage us with half-baked jokes because, well, they don’t want everything to be so serious.

Once again, I’m not saying that movies about cancer, should not at all feature comedy, but it does have to be done in the right way to where it feels necessary to telling the story; to just have it around as a way to break-up the tension, isn’t suitable. And the main problem with Miss You Already, is that it never actually realizes that it not only can get by on not having any comedy in it whatsoever, but actually isn’t all that funny, either. But because nobody ever finds this out, the movie feels more obnoxious, than actually heartfelt; for every sad character revelation, we get a scene or two dedicated to the characters yelling and shouting gibberish because, uhm, comedy?

I’m still not sure, but either way, it wasn’t working.

Which is to say that Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette’s on-screen chemistry, doesn’t work much, either. Collette, as usual, is clearly down for every journey this movie takes her and it works well in helping to develop this character. While it seems that early-on, the movie may try to hide away any fact that the person with cancer may actually be not the most perfect human being on the face of the planet, surprisingly, it doesn’t and much rather, shows just how selfish and sometimes manipulative Milly can be. This is where Collette’s performance works best, as we’re supposed to know that we should care and sympathize for her, but because she’s acting like a bit of an a-hole, it’s actually pretty hard.

As well as for a wedding.

As well as for a wedding.

Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, doesn’t quite fare as well on her own. For one, she seems oddly miscast; while the character she’s called onto play is supposed to be a sweet, sincere gal that cares for Milly and all those around her, for some reason, her own personality seems lost in the shuffle. I’m not saying that Barrymore can’t play this kind of role, but because it’s so limited to her just being “Milly’s friend”, it sort of feels like all of her development was left by the wayside because, well, one has cancer and she deserves the most attention. Nothing wrong with this, either, but considering that most of the flick is being told from Jess’ perspective, it’s rather difficult to ever care for her, or what she’s up to.

Due to this, Barrymore and Collette’s chemistry doesn’t work so well. It seems as if Miss You Already was literally the first time these two had met and rather than doing any sort of cooling-down, or ice-breaker for the two, director Catherine Hardwicke just decided to have them meet for the first time, on the set and act as if they were lifelong besties. Had these characters been the actual opposite, then that method probably would have worked, but whatever the method used here was, it doesn’t show any signs of helping because they never seem like best friends, nor do they actually seem as if they do any time relating to one another, or better yet, making us realize why they’re considered “best friends” to begin with. Most of the time they spend together, consists of Jess taking care of Milly and, occasionally, passing off an in-joke that nobody in the audience is ever supposed to understand.

Meaning, what’s the point of ever telling the joke to begin with? If we’re never going to get a chance to understand what the in-joke actually means, or where it comes from, then why the hell should we care?

Consensus: Miss You Already has its subject material’s best intentions at heart, but overall, seems like it’s trying so hard to be both, funny, as well as dramatic, that it loses any charm in the process that would have been vital to making the story hit harder.

5.5 / 10

Oh, and how could I forget that they were together for this unexplained, but seemingly happy moment together! What pals!

Oh, and how could I forget that they were together for this unexplained, but seemingly happy moment together! What pals!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Suffragette (2015)

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like much good has come of this.

During the early 20th Century, women in Britain were able to do a lot of things. They could work, get married, breed children, cook, clean, smoke, drink, and a whole bunch of other things that are most associated with living. However, the one, and perhaps, most important task that they could not, hell, were not allowed to do, was vote. Because of this, many women stood-up and let their voices be heard, spearheading the suffrage movement; it’s also the same movement that one woman named Maude (Carey Mulligan) doesn’t quite care for to begin with. For one, she knows that her job is valuable, her husband (Ben Whishaw) loves her, and that she doesn’t want to lose her, so she decides to just keep her mouth shut and move on. That changes one day, however, when she’s recruited by Edith New (Helena Bonham Carter) and brought to an appearance by the suffrage movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). Now, Maude understands what the fight is all for, and although she risks not just her family, but her own life as well, she’s still very inspired to do the right thing and make sure that women are granted their given right.

"I wish I were a gal, too."

“I wish I were a lass, too.”

Like most other civil rights movies, Suffragette likes to point out just how ridiculous it was that a certain group of people couldn’t do something, because of an even more ridiculous ideology that, in hindsight, doesn’t seem to ever make much sense. In this movie’s case, the certain group is women, and the ideology is the right to vote; why women weren’t allowed to vote for so very long is based on pure sexism, but that’s about it. While it would have been one thing for the movie to dive deeper into exactly why so many British men/politicians thought that this idea was right, the movie doesn’t ever go for that.

Instead, it just focuses on a few stories of a few women who may, or may have not existed during this movement, but hey, that’s what movies are all for.

And honestly, the best parts of Suffragette are when it’s focusing on all the backlash these women received for making their voices heard. There’s something incredibly disturbing about watching a group of women getting beaten and clubbed by a group of policemen because they, “were felt as a threat”. There’s also the not-so violence backlash these women faced – whether it be through losing their jobs, their families, or being tossed aside from the rest of society as “trouble-makers” – it’s all sad, but serves a greater purpose to make the movie’s message go down a lot less smoothly.

But the problem with Suffragette is that it also deals with these women’s lives which aren’t all that interesting, if I’m being frank. Not to say that I had a problem with the movie trying to focus in on these character’s lives and show how they were affected by each and everything, but at the same time, it was still hard for me to wholly care when everything was laid out in such a conventional manner. Take, for instance, our lead protagonist, Maud, and her story; though I’m sure she shares her story along with many other women, hers, above all the rest, is given the most focus and attention because she doesn’t actually start out as a suffragist.

In fact, she was actually recruited into it all, and the hows and whys of that all, are probably a little more interesting than the character herself. Which isn’t to say that Carey Mulligan doesn’t do a solid job in this role, because she does, but still, it’s very much the same kind of Carey Mulligan performance we’ve seen her do a hundred times before, but in far more prettier clothes and wigs. She’s emotional, sad, and supposedly dirty and ragged, but somehow, her hair still finds a way to be in the right place at that right picture perfect time. Don’t worry, I’m not ragging on Mulligan for being beautiful, however, most of the movies that she does, can’t seem to help but pay as much attention to this aspect of her, and sort of put the rest of her versatility on the back-burner.

No matter how much pain or strife she goes through, that Carey Mulligan is always ready to make sadness, beautiful.

No matter how much pain or strife she goes through, that Carey Mulligan is always ready to make sadness, beautiful.

The only exception to the rule is, of course, Shame, for obvious reasons.

And everybody else here is fine, too, if a tad underused. Helena Bonham Carter seems like she had a more fun and fiery performance here, but is mostly just called on for some witty one-liners to deliver when the movie needs a joke to clear the air; Anne-Marie Duff is also fine, but it seems like her backstory and what her character goes through during the duration of the film, is actually more interesting than Maude’s, but hey, that’s just me; Ben Whishaw plays Maude’s husband and, as expected, is sort of there to just serve as a needed window-dressing; Brendan Gleeson gets a meaty role as a police inspector who may, or may not be pleased with these suffragists, and to see how he constantly fights with himself over what the next best move to make, is very engaging; and Meryl Streep, despite being advertised heavily in the promotion for this movie, is hear for maybe five or ten minutes, and that’s about.

But, in true Meryl Streep fashion, she’ll probably win an Oscar for it. Just you wait.

In case you couldn’t tell, though, there’s a lot of interesting subplots going on here, but sadly, none of them get nearly as much attention as Maude’s does and that’s a bit of a problem. It isn’t a problem that Maude’s was actually given some attention to begin with, but because she’s the main one, and it’s not all that compelling, it does feel like she’s taking a bit away from the rest. Once again, she doesn’t ruin the movie, but she does keep it away from being as smart and as powerful as it could have definitely been, considering the message and all.

Consensus: Though the message is strong and the cast is fine, Suffragette still suffers from a less-than-engaging main story, that doesn’t always blend in well with the rest of the proceedings.

6 / 10

You go, girls!

You go, girls!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

Sadly, this is the closest thing we’ll get to Saturday morning cartoons nowadays.

Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang is back and, for the most part, everything’s still pretty much the same. Lucy still has a bone to pick with Charlie; Sally still annoys Charlie; Peppermint Patty still has a crush on Charlie, or Chuck, but tends to spend most of her time playing hockey; and well, you get the picture. And while Charlie’s life is still pretty casual and normal, it’s about to get turned inside out when a new, red-haired girl moves in across the street. While it’s obvious that from the very start, Charlie Brown has no idea on how to talk to her or get her attention, he still tries his hardest by changing certain aspects to his life that will, well, make him more attractive to this unknown, rather mysterious girl. Meanwhile, Snoopy and Woodstock are having their own adventure of sorts, where they find themselves in a tense, exciting bout with the Red Baron that also finds them bothering getting in the way of everybody else’s lives.

And of course, there’s still no parents anywhere to be found!

Everybody loves Charlie Brown. Not like me and my friends at all.

Everybody loves Charlie Brown. Not like me and my friends at all.

A lot of people will and most likely have already, taken one look at the Peanuts Movie and say, “Childhood-ruiner!” And while I am definitely not all for classic cartoons getting film-feature reboots, I’m not totally against one that actually seems to have the fan’s best intentions at heart. Because yeah, even while the movie may definitely be made for the sole sake of money and nostalgia, that doesn’t always mean that the heart and soul of what made the original cartoon so great, has to be gone, right?

Well, that’s why the Peanuts Movie is a nice little surprise.

For one, it’s a movie that’s a lot like the cartoons, in that it never seems to slow itself down. That the movie is nearly an-hour-and-a-half, this gives the film-makers free reign to be as wacky and as crazy in this universe as they see fit. This means that there’s at least a joke a second, and though maybe not all of them work or deliver, they still seem to be thrown in there for the sole sake of keeping everyone entertained. From the adults who are reliving those glory days of waking up way, way early on Saturday mornings, to their kids who may have no clue who the hell Charlie Brown or Snoopy even are to begin with – everyone has a chance to enjoy this movie and it’s what keeps it, at best, entertaining.

And because the movie is aiming for all parties here, that means that a lot of what the older folks in the crowd remember and adore most from the original cartoons, they will get and probably have a ball with. There’s plenty of call-backs and references that some of the only most dedicated fans will understand, but that isn’t all that there is to this movie. It does realize that there’s more people to entertain and because of that, more often than not, there’s plenty of slapstick. But the cartoon was like that, too, so I can’t hate on it too much for that fact.

The only thing that I can get on its case for is not knowing what to do with itself after the first hour hits.

The running gambit that most animated flicks roll with these days is that, while they can be funny, exciting and pleasant, they also have to keep themselves at a fair pace so that they don’t over-do it all too early on in the proceedings and lose the audience about half-way through. Well, the problem with the Peanuts Movie isn’t that they necessarily lose all the sense of fun or excitement in the air – it’s more that they lose what to do with the plot they have. Considering how simple and easy it seems to make a movie that just solely features Charlie Brown trying to capture the eyes of this red-haired girl, it’s a bit of a surprise that, even at only an-hour-and-a-half, the movie may still be a bit too long.

Which isn’t to say that a plot as narrow and straight as this, has to be as short as humanly possible, but there does come a point in this movie that it seems like the creative talent behind it forgot what they were shooting for. At one point, it seems like they were all determined to make a story about Charlie Brown’s affections, and then, all of a sudden, the tide changes and we’re now focusing in on Charlie Brown’s low self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the movie trying to focus on both of these plot-lines, but by the half-way mark, it shows that the people behind this movie may have lost a little steam.

Poor girl has no clue what she's getting herself into.

Poor girl has no clue what she’s getting herself into.

Instead, the majority of the movie just begins to focus in on Snoopy and his imaginary rivalry with the Red Baron. This is, of course, fun, but also takes away a bit from the rest of the movie and what it was trying to do. And yes, while I’m most definitely sure I’m thinking way too hard about an animated movie about the freakin’ Peanuts, I still can’t help myself. I’m definitely a sucker for any sort of animated movie and considering what Inside Out was able to do early this year, it goes without saying that the bar has been raised pretty high, regardless what kind of animated flick you actually are.

But still, I’ll take a fun piece of animation that, while may be trying to cash-in on nostalgia, also, takes advantage of the fact that it’s got a colorful universe and bits of characters to work around and play with. While the jury is still out on whether or not we’ll get another one of these movies in the near-future, it remains to be said that, well, for now, they’re just fine.

Now, where’s my Hong Kong Phooey reboot!

Consensus: Despite not being a very ambitious piece of animation, the Peanuts Movie is still a nice flash of nostalgia for the older ones in the crowd, as well as a eye-opening for the younger ones who will now, hopefully, look further and further into this product.

6.5 / 10

Nobody gets in between the love of a man and a dog.

Nobody gets in between the love of a man and a dog.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spectre (2015)

Hey, at least it’s not another remake of Home Alone.

After the events of Skyfall left him depressed and battered, 007 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is now back on the hunt, except this go-around, it’s on his own time. Because while things back at MI6 headquarters may not be going as swimmingly as he’d like, Bond is still going to make sure that he gets his job done, so that he can feel a whole lot better about himself. Or something. This time around, Bond, is going after a shadowy criminal organization who may, or may not, have had something to do with the death of M, and/or also may be connected to some of his past adversaries. But in order to follow the bread-crumbs, Bond will have to go through and meet all sorts of colorful characters. One, is Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) a psychologist he comes to have a relationship with, whereas another is a jacked-up, bulking henchman (Dave Bautista), who wants nothing more to do than just beat the hell out of Bond. There’s also Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man believed to be dead but for some reason, is actually alive and hunting Bond because, well, he’s evil and he can do that sort of thing.

Do you really need that gun to be menacing?

Do you really need that gun to be scary?

The Bond franchise has been around for such a long time that it’s no wonder that, every once and awhile, we get a crummy movie. While they don’t come every year and are, in ways, considered to be “events”, Bond movies can sometimes range from being “awesomely rad”, to just being “fine”. Though most people want to put Bond up on a peddle-stool that refrains from it ever being compared to any other thriller released, ever (because it’s Bond, dammit!), the fact remains: Bond movies, too, can also be mediocre.

Which is exactly what Spectre is.

But for the longest time, it isn’t. In fact, it’s actually a pretty solid Bond flick that reminds me of some of the best parts of Skyfall, which makes sense because Sam Mendes is thankfully back for another go-around. The best element that Mendes brings to these Bond movies is that he not only allows for the stories to be more dramatic and emotional, but also puts an over-emphasis on the “gritty” aspect of these movies that separates them from the rest of the pack. While there’s plenty of gorgeous-looking women, cars, martinis, dudes, guns, locations, and buildings, there’s still an inherent darkness to it all that makes it seem less like a glamorized version of being a high-class, smart and talented spy, but also more humane.

Sure, the glitz and the glamour is what Bond fans come to expect with these movies, but Mendes and the rest of the crew he’s with do nice jobs of keeping the stakes relatively high, while also building more complex relationships between these characters. This is also to say that the story, while a tad confusing at certain times, also stays compelling. While we’re never sure of where the story is going to end-up, we’re still glued to the screen enough that it doesn’t matter how much exposition they’re throwing at us – we’re just trying to see how and where all the cards fall. We know that there’s bad people involved with doing bad things, and that’s pretty much all there is to it which, given the complexity of most of the Bond story-lines, is fine.

But then, the movie gets a bit ahead of itself.

For one, Spectre is nearly two-and-a-half hours and after a long while, totally begins to feel like that. One of the main reasons for this is that the story takes a nosedive into being “slightly confusing”, to just plain and simply, “huh?”. Though it’s never made fully clear just where the story is going, and effectively so, too, the movie then decides that it wants to totally and completely throw the audience in the dark by giving us a villain in the form of Christoph Waltz who, literally, shows up outta nowhere, starts going on and on about Bond’s past troubles, and decides that he wants to do bad things to Bond because, well, it’s a Bond movie and there needs to be some sort of threat posed to Bond.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a Bond villain being as bad and as distasteful as he can be, but there has to be a reason. To just simply have some evil, cackling baddie show-up and start throat-punching every one in sight because the box for “bad villain dude” needed to be checked-off, isn’t a good enough reason – in fact, it’s what every Michael Bay movie has ever done. You could even make the argument that, even while Javier Bardem’s villain in Skyfall didn’t have much of a rhyme or reason for being around, he still at least served a greater-purpose in pushing Bond to his deepest and darkest limitations; in a way, he was baiting-and-switching him, which not only allowed for us to see Bond in a different light, but also give us a glimmer of hope that, hey, maybe the bad guy, for once, has a point.

That said, despite Waltz being a talented scene-chewer, he doesn’t have much to do with this villain and instead, is left to just rant and rave about Bond, all the bad things he’ll do to him, and other stuff that, quite frankly, I don’t care enough about. His only purpose here is to be some sort of obstacle for Bond to hurdle over, which seems kind of unnecessary, because Dave Batista’s henchman character definitely filled that requirement perfectly. He’s big, scary, menacing and totally bad-ass, and does this all without barely even speaking a word!

She's cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

She’s cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

He’s Bond’s rival because of his brawn, not his brawn, which in Spectre‘s case, would have probably been a better road to go down.

And because the movie is so fixated on what Waltz’s baddie is up to and concocting, the rest of the ensemble and story sort of gets thrown-off to the side and feels more like filler. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, and new-blood to the franchise, Andrew Scott (Moriarty!), all seem like they’re here because it’s a Bond movie, and well, Bond needs to have his adversaries on the side, just in case he needs a cool gadget or two. Same goes for Léa Seydoux who, despite being a charming, fiery-presence on-screen, also seems like she’s around because Bond needs a hot lady to bang and randomly, fall head-over-heels for. I won’t really go into too much detail about Monica Bellucci here, other than to say for a 51-year-old, the gal still looks great.

Now, why wasn’t she the Bond girl?

And for his fourth go as Bond, Daniel Craig still does a fine job at portraying both sides of this character. There is, of course, his exterior (the stiff upper-lip, the charm, the nice way with words, etc.), as well as his interior (the fact that he’s been through so much violence, disturbance and loss, that it’s beginning to take its toll on him). Even though Craig himself has been coy about whether or not this will be his final time donning the Bond penguin suit (personally, I think he’s got one more in him, but that’s just me), it still remains to be said that he’s still got some juice left in his system to be going through the motions, but at the same time, be able to show that there’s more to this character we deserve to know and understand.

Hopefully, we’ll get that.

Sooner than later, maybe.

Consensus: At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Spectre is overlong and jumbled, but still provides plenty of fun, exciting and tense, spy-oriented action that still makes it worth a watch.

7 / 10

Ain't nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond.

Ain’t nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond. Except Jason Statham, of course.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Red Riding Hood (2011)

He won’t puff, nor will he huff. But he’ll probably just moan.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young girl living in a small, peaceful little village with her parents (Billy Burke & Virginia Madsen) who plan to keep her safe from any harm that may come her way. The only reason why I even mention this to begin with is because this village of hers was, many, many years ago, attacked by a big, bad, and blood-thirsty wolf. Why? Well, nobody knows, but they don’t want to take any chances so they settle something of a peace treaty with him. They stay in their neck of the woods, he stays in his own, and that’s about it. Problem is, the wolf is hungry again and decides to come back to the village and wreak all sorts of havoc. This leaves the small village no other choice than to call upon the likes of a werewolf-hunting priest (Gary Oldman), who is a bit of a pro at these sorts of things. However, he begins to take a stranglehold on the village and leave everybody wondering just who is the beast. Is it the sexy, but mysterious Henry (Max Irons)? Or, is the sexy, mysterious, but also angry Peter (Shiloh Fernandez)? Or, quite simply put, is it Valeria?

Oh, what drama!



One of the biggest problems with Red Riding Hood, among many others, I assure you, is that it has no reason to exist. Sure, you can say that about a lot of movies made by Michael Bay, but it’s also kind of incorrect; his movies are created solely for entertainment and because he has a gigantic hard-on that he needs to be rid of. While his movies may borderline near-stupidity, they still have reasons for existing, even if the reasons themselves may be incredibly silly.

But in the case of Red Riding Hood, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. What it seems like producers in Hollywood wanted was nothing more than just a Twilight-ized version of the old folklore tale, Little Red Riding Hood. One reason it was made to begin with was most definitely for money, but then again, I bring up the question: How? How could something that seems so odd, nerdy and better yet, limited, in terms of whom it may actually reach and intrigue, be given all this money, with all this sort of talent, just for the hope that it will bring in all the same sort of big bucks that director Catherine Hardwicke was able to reel in with Twilight?

Well, whatever the reasons may be, who knows. And honestly, who cares!

Because really, Red Riding Hood‘s a pretty crummy and whether or not it exists, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s a pretty terrible movie that seems to have been dead from the very first second it arrives on the screen. While I can assure you that I was not in the least bit expecting a masterpiece of any sorts that discussed the interesting ways that humans and nature can interact and learn how to get along, I still wasn’t expecting something to be as boring as this.

Which is a big shame, because we know that Hardwicke is a fine director. However, here, it doesn’t seem like she’s actually directing anything; scenes just sort of happen and everything rolls on in a continuous fashion. There’s no real tension, no real fun (with a few exceptions), and most of all, there’s no real drama. Meaning, most importantly, there’s no romance to be felt, which is exactly what it seems like producers were going for in the first place. That the handsome male duo of Max and Peter are as dull as they come, already spells out problem for Valerie, as it seems like the movie wants to be smart about how it treats her viewpoint and the way she tells this story, but in the end, is only concerned with which dude she wants to bang first.

And that’s not normally something I have a problem with, but here, it was so boring that I didn’t even care whose bone got jumped, by whom, or even when it happened. I just wanted the movie to stop happening and end.



This is all to say that throughout Red Riding Hood, I felt extremely bad for the cast and crew involved, as it seems like most of them were definitely strapped for cash and needed something to pay their heating bills. Amanda Seyfried is always an interesting screen presence, but most of the movie here takes her personality away and leaves her to just be on the side as everything else sort of happens around her. Which, like I said before, is a big shame, because it’s a fantasy tale, told by the viewpoint of a woman, but sadly, they go nowhere with this character, or Seyfried’s talents as an actress.

Same goes for just about everybody else who dares to show their face in this. Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke are just hanging around as the parents, only called on for emotional cues; Fernandez and Irons are just hot, and that’s about it; Julie Christie tries as the grand-mom, but really seems to be in a whole other movie, completely; and Lukas Haas, well, is just here. The only one who dares to make this movie any bit better is, unsurprisingly, Gary Oldman.

Oldman’s always a great performer, but here, it seemed like he came ready to play and didn’t care what everybody else in the movie was doing. Oldman probably saw that the movie was about the classic Riding Hood tale, realized that it was probably a bit of a goof, did it, and decided that, because he’s Gary Oldman and all, can do whatever the hell he wants. So what if everybody else around him is sulking and drop-dead serious? Gary Oldman has a voice to use and holler with, so screw all that other nonsense! I wish I could say that I was sad to see Oldman in this movie here, but honestly, it seemed like the guy was having a blast and helped me to sort of do so, as well.

Although, when he’s gone, everything else about Red Riding Hood falls apart and that’s about it.

So be it.

Consensus: Despite the onslaught of talent, Red Riding Hood is too dull, aimless and boring to actually do much of anything fun or interesting with its old tale and instead, try its hardest to appeal to a broader audience who, quite frankly, probably won’t be interested in this anyway.

2.5 / 10

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Truth (2015)

Just get a blog. You can make anything up!

As producer of the well-known and landmark news program 60 Minutes, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) had plenty of huge stories to work with and break to the public. One in particular came around the time of the 2004 Presidential Election, in which files were leaked to Mapes that practically said that then-President George W. Bush didn’t actually complete any of prerequisites needed to become a member of the National Guard and instead, received special treatment. Knowing that she has something hot, heavy and ground-breaking on her hands, Mapes goes through all of the proper channels to ensure that the story is in fact true, but also worth sticking her neck out for. After time, she does find out that this story is true and, without any more time wasted, she gets the national news anchor, Dan Rather (Robert Redford), to break the story once and for all. Which it does and it breaks down as many barriers as CBS expected it to, if not some more. But then, people start questioning the evidence, which means that it isn’t before long until they start questioning every aspect of the story, from the information, to the leaks, and to Mapes’ own personal political beliefs themselves.

"Is my eye-shadow fine?"

“Is my eye-shadow fine?”

There’s about one too many speeches in Truth that feel just like that: Speeches. In Aaron Sorkin pieces, whenever somebody breaks out into a speech, it may sound so incredibly random and obvious, but you roll with it because Sorkin’s writing can be so compelling, that people stopping whatever they’re doing to lace into a five-minute monologue about die-hard Republicans, for some reason, feels believable. It’s Sorkin’s universe and if somebody wants to ramble on and on for no reasons other than to get a point across, then so believe it.

Problem is, Truth wasn’t written by Sorkin and could have definitely benefited from that. Not just because there’s so many speeches here that feel ham-handed or silly, but because they come at inappropriate times that don’t add much to the actual story the movie’s telling, other than to get some a political viewpoint across. And within Truth, there’s a very interesting story to be told and more often than not, it does get told; however, because it has such an agenda to get across, it feels like it’s doing a dis-justice to said story.

Then again, though, it is a movie about journalism and as most of you may now, I’m an absolute sucker for those kind,

That’s why, whenever Truth focuses in on the pre-publishing sides of getting a story together (mapping everything out, finding sources, following the money, etc), it’s a very entertaining look inside how a news outlet as widely-known and ginormous as 60 Minutes, gathered up all their info to make a story. Once again, you don’t have to be a journalist to appreciate these scenes, but if you are one, these scenes will all add a certain level of excitement; though we all know how the story ends when everything is said and done, there’s still a slight feeling that things may go down smoothly that makes it all the more enjoyable. Take away all of the political maneuvering the movie does tend to take, and deep down inside, you have a solid piece of how 60 Minutes brought together one of its biggest stories, decided to go with it, and watch as all the pieces fell.

Had it stayed like this, too, Truth would have been great. However, it doesn’t and that’s when it starts to get very preachy and become something else entirely.

To say that writer/director James Vanderbilt may have had an agenda when creating this movie, is an absolute understatement – the dude has an ax to grind and wants everybody to know! Which, in a way, is fine. Had this movie been about a fictional story, that closely follows this actual, real life story, it probably wouldn’t have felt pushy. But, because Vanderbilt is using this true 60 Minutes story, and the eventual fallout, as a place-mat for his thoughts and feelings, it comes across as off-putting.

While it’s fine that Vanderbilt had a point to prove with this story and didn’t just go through the same motions of telling it as straight as possible, there’s still a feeling that he’s taking more away from the actual impact the story could have had. Take, for instance, Cate Blanchett’s Mary Mapes, someone who feels as if she deserves her own biopic by now, starring Blanchett, of course. Mapes, from what we’re told in this movie, is a tough, rugged, and dedicated journalist who is so willing to go to the deepest, darkest depths to make sure that her story is heard, that she sometimes risks losing those closest to her.

Gasp! Journalism!

Gasp! Journalism!

Sounds corny? Well, that’s because it is.

However, Blanchett being Blanchett, is so terrific here, that I hardly even cared to notice. Instead, I just let her do her thing and see what more I could find out about this character as the story rolled along. But, as the movie continues, we start to get more and more scenes of Mapes breaking out into yammering speeches about the state of journalism, politics, and ethics – all of which don’t feel pertinent to telling the story and instead, the perfect time for Vanderbilt to get on his soapbox and yell for a little while. The movie does bring up some interesting points about political bias’ mixing with journalism, but at the end, all they do is hint at the possibility that Mapes may, or may not have, overlooked some facts with this story, just to get her political point across. Whether or not this is true to begin with, remains to be seen, but it’s not really a point that seems to work or feel well-thought out.

The same problem goes for Dan Rather, who is, oddly-enough, played by Robert Redford. The movie never really digs any further into portraying Rather as anything more than just a great, lovable guy who is willing to tackle any story, so long as Mapes was there to okay it. Redford’s fine here, however, it’s too distracting to see him play someone else who is already so famous to begin with. And given that they aren’t given a whole lot to do, Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, and Topher Grace all do fine in their respective roles as the fellow journalists who helped to layer-out this story into being more.

But honestly, Truth is mostly Vanderbilt’s time to stand up, speak and drop the mic.

And that’s it.

Consensus: Boasting a solid cast and interesting look inside an infamous event in journalism history, Truth is two-halves of a great movie, until it gets preachy and can’t seem to keep its mouth shut.

7 / 10

Gasp! Even more journalism!

Gasp! Even more journalism!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Burnt (2015)

Chefs don’t have to be hot. But it certainly helps.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a respected chef among his peers and confidantes, however, his personal life has begun to take a toll on his work. Excessive use of drugs, booze, and women, have led Adam to go straight and sober, where all he has to focus on now is his kitchen and the food he produces. In an attempt to rebuild his career to where it was once before and gain those three Michelin stars he’s been so desperately fighting for, Adam’s old friend, Tony (Daniel Brühl), sets him up in his hotel’s kitchen, where all sorts of people come by and languish in the food that he and his kitchen have made. And with an all-star staff including the fiery, but ambitious Helene (Sienna Miller), Adam thinks that his lifelong goal my finally be on the horizon. Problem is, Adam’s past life with drugs still haunt him until this very day, which tend to make him more tense and angry to those who least deserve it; something that may ultimately cause Adam of gaining those three Michelin stars and also send him back to the bottomless pit of life that he tried so hard to get out of.

He's tense.

He’s tense.

Burnt hasn’t had a very easy trip to the theaters and honestly, it’s a bit of a shame, too. For one, it suffers the problem of coming out within a year of Jon Favreau’s Chef movie, as well as featuring the two co-stars from the biggest of 2014 (American Sniper). You’d think that with the latter problem, the studio would find a way to make that work to their advantage, but for some odd reason, there hasn’t been much of a focus on the fact that this is, yet again, another pairing of Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. Except, this time, instead of being in the battlefield, they’re in the kitchen.

Which, isn’t all that different, from what Burnt shows.

And honestly, the best parts of Burnt are when they are in that kitchen, prepping-up the food, getting in formation, scoping out what sort of crowd they have to work with, and most of all, fighting and bickering at one another. Though director John Wells may get a bit carried away with his constant chopping and cutting of certain shots, it did help add a certain bit of excitement to scenes that, quite frankly, could have just been nothing more than food-porn at its worst. Instead, we get to see how these people work and maneuver around in the kitchen, seemingly doing what they love to do. They may not get paid much and not have all that much time to spend at home with their families, but what they’re doing with their lives (which is making grub for rich snobs), is honestly all that they need in their lives to make themselves go home happy and feel as if something was accomplished in said day.

Which is to say that everything else that takes place outside of the kitchen in Burnt is, honestly, not as exciting, fun, or interesting to watch. Instead, it’s just predictable and boring, as most redemption tales can tend to be if their lead protagonists aren’t all that intriguing to watch or dissect.

And in the case of Adam Jones, this is sort of true. While the character may be poorly-written, you can tell that Bradley Cooper, being the grade-A talent that he is, truly is trying to make this character pop-off the screen and be more than just your average, ignorant, misogynistic and mean dick-head. There’s a few scenes where it’s actually entertaining to watch as he berates each and everyone of his co-workers for not stepping up their games, but in the end, all it really adds up to is him just showing us more and more reasons why we shouldn’t like him, nor ever actually root for him when we’re supposed to.

Once again, though, none of this is Cooper’s fault; he’s so talented at what he does, that being a huge prick, in his own way, can come off as being slightly “charming”. It’s just that so much of the movie is about his personal life and the issues he seems to be having, that it feels like it isn’t really giving him much to work with. Sure, we get that he’s sad that he was once a total and complete junkie who couldn’t make a dish, but really, is he that great of a guy to begin with? Favreau’s Chef showed that, through cooking and creating food, he was making himself, as well as those that he loved, better because of it; Burnt just shows that cooking is Adam Jones’ way of coping with all of the problems he used to have in his life, but at the same time, doesn’t seem to actually be treating any of those around him, who may genuinely care for his sorry-ass, any better.

He’s still a prick and that’s about it.

She's tense.

She’s tense.

Still, those surrounding Cooper do fine jobs, too. Sienna Miller and Cooper have such great chemistry together that it’s absolutely no surprise that they work well here, sometimes playing-off of one another’s personalities; Daniel Brühl gives a heartfelt performance as Jones’ childhood friend, even if a revelation about this character does settle in to the story awkwardly and seemingly out-of-nowhere; Omar Sy is fine as Jones’ trusted confidante who, like Brühl’s Tony, has a revelation about him that’s a bit odd; and Matthew Rhys does a great job as one of Jones’ arch-rivals who is not only as much of a vindictive dick as Jones, but is also a bit more humane, and it shows quite well.

The whole cast here is fine and in no way do I blame them for any of the movie’s short-comings. But to be honest, I don’t even find that many short-comings to be had with Burnt; sure, it’s a bit messy and definitely feels as if it’s taken more than a few trips to the cutting-board, but honestly, it still works because it constantly keep its story moving. Even if Adam Jones is, like I said, not a very strong character, everything surrounding him can be, which helps make it go down like nice bowl of rice pudding.

Had to throw in a food metaphor.

Consensus: Burnt may not be perfect, but is at least entertaining and well-acted enough to where it feels like a better movie about cooking, rather than its central character.

6.5 / 10

But together, they're oh so in love.

But together, they’re oh so in love.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)

Silly Americans: Always ruining elections.

During the 2002 Bolivian elections, politician Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida) was in desperate need of some help. His campaign wasn’t so succesful, he was made out to be a fool in the press, and basically, didn’t have a shot in hell of winning this election. So, in a pure act of desperation, he called upon the help of Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), a controversial figure within the political-campaign world because of how far and able she is willing to go to ensure that her candidate not only wins, but actually proves to be the one person everyone must trust, no matter what sort of shady facts may be lying in said person’s past. However, Jane is a bit of a mess; she’s not only battling depression, but also not very sociable and relies more on sitting off in corners, rather than giving her own two cents in when it’s so desperately needed. Now, to make matters even worse, Jane’s going up against political consultant Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), a former confidante of hers who she has more than a few drops of bad blood. With Candy on the opposing side, Jane feels more dedicated and passionate than ever to winning this election, even if that does mean that she has to do a bit of soul-searching on her part to understand just what this election actually means to the Bolivian peoples.

Bald vs. Bold.

Bald vs. Bold.

There’s something about Our Brand is Crisis that makes it so annoying to watch, which is that it thinks everything that it’s saying about how political elections are nothing more than just shameless, utterly ridiculous self-promotion and lying, is smart or new. Neither of which, it actually is, but nobody seemed to tell director David Gordon Green, writer Peter Straughan, or producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Like the latter two did with the Men Who Stare at Goats, they’re helping to produce a story that they think has some satirical bite, but in all honesty, just doesn’t.

Instead, it’s just boring, dull and most of all, predictable.

Which is a bit of a shame because it seems like there was some promise here. Granted, the fact that Green was attached should have already brought some interest in, but from what it seems like here, he’s doing nothing more than just a for-hire job, where he’s told to stay within the lines, never itch out, and always make sure that the audience knows what’s going on. Nothing here shows that Our Brand is Crisis is a David Gordon Green, which may work in his favor further down the road when he wants more people to forget about the types of mainstreams bombs he can sometimes produce, and focus more on his smaller, more indie-based flicks he came to prominence with.

You know, everything that the Sitter isn’t.

But still, it’s clear that from the very start, Green had no chance in hell of making this work. The script by Straughan is, for lack of a better word, unfunny. The movie thinks that pointing its finger at these characters and waving it around in a mocking way should bring laughs, but it doesn’t because nothing here is ever funny, nor is it ever well-done. The whole movie is supposed to be surrounding how desperate and willing this campaign team is to have their electoral win, so they stoop as low as they can get, but for some reason, the movie never seems to want to focus on that. Sure, we see Joaquim de Almeida do some foolish things to make himself look better and more approachable, but really, the movie is mostly focused in on this Jane character who isn’t really all that interesting to begin with.

"Oh my! Something interesting is calling!"

“Oh my! Something interesting is calling!”

To be honest, nobody in this movie is ever actually interesting, per se, but at least they aren’t given as much of a full-dimensional arch as Jane is. Granted, Sandra Bullock is more than up to the task of making this character work and seem any bit of likable, but she just isn’t. There’s been a lot of talk about how this character was originally written for a man that, only until Sandie expressed interest, they decided to change the character up as well, which makes perfect sense. Had this role been filled with a man, there’d probably be less prat-falls, throwing up in trashcans, and random freak-outs – however, because there’s a woman in this role, and it just so happens to be Sandra Bullock, the movie feels the need to have her do all of these things, as if she’s in the third Miss Congeniality.

Not a, you know, supposedly smart and witty political satire.

It isn’t just Bullock who gets the shaft when it comes to actually being able to work with solid material worthy of her talents – in fact, there’s a whole, interesting supporting case to prove that. Anthony Mackie, as usual, is as charming as ever, but never feels like he matters enough to the story that when he suddenly becomes the ghost whisper to Bullock’s Jane, it’s random; Ann Dowd has a few fun scenes, but mostly, just sits around in the background; Billy Bob Thornton is acting like a dick here and that’s pretty much it; Joaquim de Almeida is given a lot to do, but at the same time, not really, because all he’s doing is presenting a character that we’re not supposed to know much about to begin with; Zoe Kazan does a lot of translating and speaking Spanish in a sort of dead-pan that made me miss Zooey Deschanel; and of all the rest, Scoot McNairy is probably the only one who gets the most laughs, if only because his character is played up for so much stupidity that it reminded me of Lacey from Pootie Tang.

And whenever a movie is able to make me think of Pootie Tang, I can’t be that mad.

Consensus: Considering the current political climate, it’s disappointing to see that not only does Our Brand is Crisis feature anything smart to say of political elections, but also isn’t all that funny or interesting, either, wasting a solid cast and crew who have better places to be.

3 / 10

Being hungover? Rom-com trope #72!

Being hungover? Rom-com trope #72!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Gift (2015)

High school is life.

Married couple, Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), have been encountering some problems as of late with their marriage, so they decide to move back to where Simon grew up. One day, during shopping, a person by the name of Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) comes up to Simon, to see if he remembers him from high school. Long story short, Simon kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, either. Plenty of time has passed, but to be a nice guy, Simon decides to invite “Gordo” over a fine dinner one night. It isn’t until long that both Robyn and Simon start to see that there’s something odd and off-putting about Gordo; he constantly leaves them gifts and comes over unexpectedly, asking for Simon, but stays longer than he probably should. Eventually, Simon gets tired of this and lets Gordo have it, which is when they think everything’s over with. However, Robyn’s fish are killed, her dog goes missing, and randomly, she starts having panic-attacks, which leads Simon to think that it’s all Gordo causing this and nobody else. But the main question remains: Why would Gordo go all this way to push himself into some dude from high school’s life, some twenty-odd years later?



Despite there being plenty more out there to see, I tend to believe sometimes that I’ve seen plenty of movies. Some were better than others, of course, but that’s not the point of my rambling – the point is that I think, after all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to know a lot about what to expect with certain movies. Therefore, when a story starts to lean down a certain direction, my brain automatically turns to the most conventional solution because, well, I’ve seen it all before. In all honesty, I wish I didn’t always think like this with movies, because it actually sucks a lot of the fun out, but so be it. I’m a miserable sack and I blame it all on movies.

But I digress.

The same directions that I’ve just alluded to, are the same ones I saw appear on countless occasions during the Gift. However, what’s different from this movie, as opposed to so many other ones out there that I’ve had the displeasure of seeing, is that it goes down a different way that I didn’t least expect it to. For instance, when Gordo starts showing up unexpectedly, inserting himself into this little couple’s life together, and making it known that he wants to be their friends, my brain was already saying, “Oh great. Here we go. He’s going to creep this family out so much that, eventually, they’re going to have to let him know straight-up, that their relationship is over. Then, Gordo’s going to get all crazy, start harassing the family, creeping them out plenty more, until, there’s a final battle between both sides that’s bloody and senseless.”And heck, once the dog ended up missing and the fish were killed, my mind had already turned off and let me knew that, yup, the Gift was going to be nothing different from any of the other “creepy neighbor thrillers” out there.

Once again, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, time and time again, writer/director Joel Edgerton turned down a different street and instead, opted for more fresh ways to tell this pretty familiar story. Take, for example, the characters Edgerton has created here – nobody here, even though the movie may sometimes lean a certain way, is considered to be a “good guy” or a
“bad” one. Mostly, everyone is just a person who may have better morals/social skills/earnings/personal issues/etc. than others and that’s all there is to them. This not only helps the movie feel like it’s more than just a thriller, but a character-study, as well heighten the tension in the air because, quite frankly, we start to care for these characters.

We care for them, not just because the movie wants us to, because after a bit of time, we get to know each and everyone of them. But it’s never over-done; we get certain, little inklings about a person’s life to where we’re able to conjure up exact ideas of how these people may be. And even though, it’s never fully clear who these people are. Maybe that was the cynical point Edgerton was trying to get across, but either way, it’s still an interesting thought to have in a movie that, honestly, could have been all about this couple getting terrorized and the creepy guy, continuing to be creepy.

Edgerton is a smarter talent than that and it goes without saying that, this being his debut and all, I’m quite impressed.

Not because Edgerton finds himself more off-screen, than in front of it, despite this being his movie and all, but because he seems to understand what it takes for a movie to be both smart, but also fun-in-a-silly-kind of way. This is especially evident in the final act when it becomes clear that this is less of a story about a creepy people being creepy, and more about how bullies continue to be bullies, no matter how old or experienced they get. Though the movie itself is smart and complex, the message it sends across, isn’t; however, it’s handled in a way that makes it seem like Edgerton was actually trying to say something here, as simple as it may have been.



But still, the characters here are strong enough that it doesn’t matter if Edgerton trips up on making sense of this movie. As Simon and Robyn, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are, respectively, very good here and help create their own characters well enough to where we see them as separate human beings, and not just a couple. To me, this was probably the most important aspect to making these characters work; while it’s easy to say that they’re in love, hence the fact they’re married, it’s what they do when the other’s not around that makes them into their own person and allows us to see them for all that they are.

For instance, whenever Simon’s not around, Robyn casually goes on a job around her neighborhood, re-organize the house, work on her computer, and do whatever else she feels like doing when she’s home all alone. Though these may seem unimportant when watching them, after awhile, the film uses this as a way to develop her character and make it known that, you know, she’s just a simple, sweet and easy-going gal; she may have had past problems with drugs, as we get more than enough hints at throughout, but overall, she’s a lovely gal. In fact, she’s probably so lovely, that it becomes almost baffling as to why she decides to stick with someone like Simon who, being played by Jason Bateman should already tell you, is a bit of a dick.

In fact, he’s a huge dick.

While this may seem like the same kind of role we’ve seen Bateman do a million times before, there’s something darker and meaner about this character that makes it feel slightly “different”. Instead of all is snarky comments being played for laughs, they’re now played for serious breaks of silence, where he makes a room a whole lot more tense for just saying what he feels and thinks. Bateman’s great here and it shows that, when given a solid script, the dude really can deliver. Same goes for Hall who, by now, we understand to be a pretty great actress. She not only handles the American-accent well, but also allows us to see that there may be a bit of a darker side to this character too, even if it doesn’t always show.

But perhaps, the best character of the bunch is, no surprise, the one being portrayed by the same dude who created this movie to begin with.

Though it’s made clear to us early on that Edgerton’s Gordo may be a bit of a weirdo who is best left in his own, little world of weirdness, rather than jumping in other people’s, there’s still something about him that makes him a character worth watching. While he may be socially awkward and odd at his worst, he is, in no way, a person who seems capable of murder, or any of the heinous acts he’s accused of throughout the flick. And once it becomes clear that he’s not really a bad person, we start to feel bad for him a whole lot more and wish that, not only would someone give him a hug, but also take him out, buy him a beer, and develop a long-standing relationship with him.

Still though, the dude’s still a mystery to us by the end and it’s what makes the Gift perhaps more thought-provoking than most thrillers of this nature that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Consensus: Working as both a character-study, as well as a psychological thriller, the Gift is a smart, complex and tense tale echoing in a new writing/directing talent in the form of Joel Edgerton.

8 / 10

Strange guy.

Strange guy.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunting Ground (2015)

Stay in school, kids. Or at home is fine, too.

Going to college, for most people, is an exciting time. It’s a place that they’ve been studying hard for practically the past five or six years and now that it’s finally here, they can’t wait but to just soak it all up. From the classes, to the teachers, to the fellow students, and especially to the party-scene, college is a magical place where everyone can find themselves and be inspired to do what it is that they want to do for the rest of their lives. However, it’s also a place that, especially for women, can be a very traumatic, disturbing time as well. It is estimated that nearly 20% of college females will be raped in their college years and through countless other stats, interviews with real life subjects who have been sexually assaulted, and several department-heads of colleges, we start to get a bigger picture of what’s really going on. Because, it isn’t just the rape that’s the only problem at hand here, it’s also the institutions themselves who, for their own self-interest, whether it be for donations, for sports, or for public reputation, throw these rape cases away, hoping that they’ll just eventually dissipate into thin air, as if they never happened in the first place. Problem is, they did happen and it’s about time that somebody did something about it.

Seen this one too many times.

Seen this one too many times.

A few years ago, with the Invisible War, Kirby Dick showed what it was like to be apart of something as distinguished and respectable as the United States Military, and to have been a victim of sexual assault. That movie, even till this day infuriates the hell out of me; not just because people are being raped to begin with (which is a huge problem that needs to stop, ASAP), but because of how every rape case is handled. Rather than actually setting out and stopping the perpetrators from possibly committing the same act again, the Army would much rather settle everything out of court, blame the issue on the victim, act as if it never happened, was just a common mistake, and move on.

And to be truly honest, college itself is no different from the Army in that general regard.

While the Hunting Ground may not be as powerful as the Invisible War was, there’s still something that hits very close to home that makes it all the more sad, disturbing, and most of all, enraging. That nobody involved with these colleges is doing anything to stop these rapes from happening by either, punishing the perpetrator in an effective manner, or making it so that these crimes continue to be reported, will make you heart pound and blood boil. Dick understands this, sees this and never steps away from this fact; that these rapes can be stopped by a simple procedure of kicking that student out and making their presences known, is what’s all the more upsetting.

But through it all, Dick never forgets that this movie is, first and foremost, about the subjects here who, sadly and unfortunately, been through a sexual abuse at the hands of people who are, quite frankly, sick and twisted imbeciles. No matter how dark or disturbing the stories may be, Dick realizes that it’s the courage of these subjects who make this movie work and matter most; without them, he would have just a bunch of stats that don’t really prove any point, but crunch numbers in an annoying, slightly vague manner. Dick knows that in order to get his point across in an effective way, he needs to have as many stories as humanly possible, just to get his point further across about how rape, in and of the act itself, is an epidemic that needs to be stopped.

What’s most disappointing about this fact is that it can be easily done.

There's a possible generous alumni that you've missed out on, colleges. Good job!

There’s a possible generous alumni that you’ve missed out on, colleges. Good job!

All it takes is for a teacher, or a disciplinarian, or someone higher-up in the college, to speak up, say something and demand that a just punishment be made. However, as the movie shows us, it’s not so easy for every person involved with the university to just do such a thing, and not expect to reprimanded right away. For one, some of these figures may lose their jobs, as well as their tenure. This, altogether with the fact that the institution wants to keep that pretty picture alive and well for the rest of the outside world to see, is genuinely upsetting, but it’s sadly the reality in which we live in. Rape occurs, and rather than punishing those who initiate it, they all go after the victim and put all of the blame on them.

Once again, this is just one of the many points that Dick brings to light in the Hunting Ground. While it may not be his most powerful, or effective work he’s ever done, it doesn’t matter, because the movie still gets its point across and asks for there to be justice for those who need it the most: the Victims. That nobody is looking out for them, or has their best interest in mind, really makes the world of college as a whole, especially screwy. Colleges will never go extinct, but if they do continue to act up and not change their ways, they may be in fear of losing many possible students. Some parents will not want to send their kids away to a school that allows such heinous, vile acts like rape, and they especially won’t send their kids away to a school where instead of being embraced for bringing it up to the people who matter, the victims are wrongfully persecuted, left to be made an example of, and, in most cases, told to leave the school because of the hostile situation they’ve created.

This is all malarkey and you know what? It’s about time that it was put to an end, immediately.

Consensus: While not his best, Kirby Dick’s the Hunting Ground is still a powerful, generally upsetting documentary that points fingers at the problem of rapes on campuses, shows that there’s justice to be done, and asks why it hasn’t yet, to the people who most deserve to hear those same questions.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Hell

Pictured: Hell

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


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