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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 2010s

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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The Guard (2011)

Why can’t more cops be this cool?

An unorthodox Irish policeman named Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. As you could imagine, things don’t gel so well between the two as one’s kind of a dirty, lazy drunk that likes to sit around on his romp while everybody else solves crime, whereas the other one wants to get on the case right away, no frills attached. Not to mention that there’s a bit of a race problem between the two, seeing as how Irish, when they get drunk, well, tend to say some stuff that aren’t always nice.

While I was watching this movie, something really strange happened to me. While watching this movie and found a lot of similarities between this and In Bruges because right from the start, it’s pretty obvious. You get a bunch of lovely accents, Brendan Gleeson acting like a charming fool, dark situations, blood, violence, and they’re all done for laughs.

Another strange happening that occurred to me was the other day before I saw this movie, I was actually checking out the drug-induced trip that was Spun, and thought to myself, “Wow, this director seems like he’s making a music-video. I wonder if he was one of those before this movie? Hmm?” Sure enough, it turned out that the director of that one was, and better yet, that the writer/director of this movie, not only was trying to make a movie like In Bruges, but was also the freakin’ brother of that same writer/director! Goes to show you what I know and it made me feel like I was on-top of the world of with my movie knowledge, that will probably all get thrown-back in my face once I go to the next local Quizzo and fail miserably at the “Movie Round”.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink 'em out.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink ‘em out.

Yeah, that’s reality for me, folks, and it’s not something I, nor my parents are too fond of being true.

Damn. What a disappointment I am.

Anyway, similarities aside, the writer/director of THIS movie, John Michael McDonagh still does a great job in his own right and starts us off perfectly with what we’re to expect from the rest of his movie. There’s definitely a very goofy side to this movie that isn’t afraid to show itself, poke a little fun at the whole buddy-cop aspect, and also make a lot of the more serious cliches of a crime movie, seem totally stupid and ridiculous. Like his brother, John Michael seems to be playing around a bit with the conventions we are all so used to seeing from movies of this nature and it kept me on edge wondering where he was going to go next with this story, and what exactly he was going to throw at me next. While making me laugh, I presumed.

That’s why this film’s humor, is so rich in the way it’s delivered. We’ve all seen dark comedy used in crime movies, especially from the likes of Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and countless others, but this movie really uses the dark comedy aspect to its strength and doesn’t seem forced in the least bit. Rather than giving us an act of violence and trying to make it all light by adding a cheeky line in there, John Michael still uses the same exact formula, but instead, makes it feel deserved and pretty goddamn funny if you ask me. I liked this film’s sense of humor, and it mostly just all felt very Irish to me as everybody is mean, cruel, and pretty damn depressed. That is, until they get a couple of Guinness’ in your systems, and then they’re a bunch of partyin’, happenin’, drunken fools.

Like true and tried Irishmen.

Where I think John Michael screws up a bit with this movie and the tone he’s going for is whenever he decides to get a tad bit more serious on us, and sadly, it doesn’t work. Most writers/directors are able to make the transition from goofy, lighthearted comedy, to straight-up, serious drama, but I don’t think he is one of them. For instance, any time the movie focused on Boyle and the meetings he would have with his, equally-as-cheeky mother who was slowly dying, the film got very dry, very serious, and very boring for me to actually keep my interest. Some people can make this transition work, but if you can’t, it’s just all the more glaring in the end as we never really catch on to any of the actual drama John Michael has in store for us. Instead, we just want the guy to keep on throwing more and more comedy at the wall, without worrying who it does, and doesn’t offend.

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

However, when it comes right down to it, I cannot, for a second go wrong with an all around solid performance from Mr. Brendan Gleeson himself, who is just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Sgt. Gerry Boyle. Gleeson has always been a guy that’s known for his dramatic-power in big-budget dramas where he usually plays a supporting character, but when it comes to comedies, he’s just as good, if not better just because of this undeniable amount of likability to him that shines through every scene he has here. Right from the start, you know that this cop isn’t going to be your usual, heavy-duty copper that takes everything so seriously. He’s more of a reasonable dude that doesn’t take everything so damn seriously, likes to make sarcastic jokes, and most of all, just likes to have a wee bit of fun for the hell of it. Now why couldn’t someone like him pull me over on the Freeway, Thanksgiving Eve?

Bastards.

And while it does seem weird to see Don Cheadle, of all people, in a very Irish-flick, the point is sort of in that description; he’s meant to be out-of-place and therefore, we draw jokes at him. It’s also a joke that hardly gets old, which mostly has to do with the fact that Cheadle and Gleeson work so well together, they seem like two guys you could really see connect together, given under circumstances of course. But watching as they build some sort of a friendship/connection, is interesting enough and gives more substance to a movie that could have been a down-and-out comedy, with bits and pieces of violence and action sprinkled in.

Consensus: Though the tone can be a bit all-over-the-place at times, the Guard still works because of its goofy sense of humor that, never gets annoying, nor takes away from giving us a lovely chemistry between the unlikely pair that is Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink. That's it.

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink…… That’s it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2014)

Age is only a number, you young whippersnappers!

Elaine Stritch was a woman of many talents. She could sing, dance, be funny, make people laugh, give a hell of a show, etc. But her best talent of all, was just being herself. Even if she was a brass, sometimes mean, older lady that usually gave those around her a hell of a hard time, she always gave it her all, no matter what it was she was working on. It could have either been as Jack’s mom on 30 Rock. Or her numerous appearances on Broadway. Or even the recordings she did for songs she sang in the past. No matter what she was doing, Elaine Stritch gave it her all and most of the time, came out on top, even if she had to knock a couple of people down a notch or two, just to prove that she’s the hardest, longest working-lady around.

All up until the day she died in her sleep, which, tragically, happened on the wee hours of July 17, 2014.

It’s hard to review a movie, let alone, a documentary, when the subject called into question has just recently passed away. Something else that makes the task a bit harder is knowing that the documentary is highlighting a certain part in said subject’s life that is not only some of their last months/years alive, but also that at the end, the movie lets it be known to us that the subject plans on retiring in 2015. Or in 2016. Or in 2017. And so on and so forth.

Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!

Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!

That little note at the end shows us all exactly the kind of hard-worker Elaine Stritch truly was, even up until her final days alive, but in order to totally understand that fact about her, you’d have to see this. Because, not only does director Chiemi Karasawa really get us up close and personal with the woman that was Elaine Stritch in front of the camera and her many friends/family, but who she was when the lights were turned on, the curtain dropped, and the show was over, which was a very vulnerable, self-conscious soul that wanted to always make those around her happy and feel pleased with what it is that she’s done for them. Which, when initially watching this flick, you’ll be surprised to see because Elain Stritch was no lovely walk-in-the-park to be around.

That’s not to say she was a terrible person, she was just an unpredictable one that usually controlled whatever conversation she was having, with whomever that person may have been. Such personable celebrities like Tracy Morgan, the late great James Gandolfini (who this film is, oddly enough, dedicated to), Tina Fey and even Alec Baldwin, all come to tell their story of how one Elaine Stritch put them in their place, just upon meeting her for the first time. They also go on to say that she was never afraid to speak her mind and call it like it she saw it, which, in the business that is the movie-making business, is usually more of a fault, than a positive. However, that was the beauty with Stritch, both off and on the screen: She was able to get past it all by just giving the crowd and everyone else exactly what they wanted from her.

She’s like any other performer out there in the world, except she’s not; she’s her own kind of beast that goes by her own rules/ways of doing things, and if you don’t like it, then piss off and find somebody else that can do it nearly as good as her. The problem was, nobody could and that’s why Stritch is truly a talent to be missed.

Now, I do realize that this whole “review”, has turned into being more of a “tribute” to the late, great actress that was Elaine Stritch, but it’s just what can happen when you see a movie about somebody at the end of their road (though not really), and how they continue to live on a day-to-day basis, doing what it is that they want, how they want it, where they want it, and however they want it. And Elaine Stritch do exactly this, is interesting; she’s the type of old lady (although she prefers to use the term “older) that can be cranky and get on people’s case about something meaningful to her, but she isn’t the kind of old lady that’s lost her edge, nor her smarts about the business or how to approach she things. She still sang, performed and sure as hell acted until she called it “quits”, and even then, she couldn’t fully sit down and stay down. She had to get back up, find some work to do and shows the world she’s still got it and never going to throw in the towel.

Watch out before you call her "grand-mom".

Not the one you want to call “grand-ma”.

Of course though, as is the case with life, it all caught up with her, which gets highlighted in this movie very much. Stritch’s many problems with diabetes and alcoholism is explored many of times, showing us that Stritch had many demons deep down inside of her, most of which, she wasn’t willing to let be shared in this movie, until push eventually came to shove. However, the movie doesn’t use this as a way to show us its subject, and make her seem more sympathetic; she doesn’t ask for our sadness, nor do we really want to give it to her. We want her to feel better about life in any way that she can, and because Stritch wants that just as much as we do, it’s pleasing to watch her whenever she’s performing in front of a crowd, regardless of the size of it, or whether or not said performance is to be her last.

Either way, for Elaine Stritch, swan song, or no swan song, the gal continued to go on and didn’t want to sit still. That’s not only a testament to the kind of performer she truly was, but to the old era of Broadway stars that did everything and lived like stars. They were all so very talented, but Stritch in particular was the kind of star that made you wonder: Does age really matter? Because, just as long as you’re able to keep some of your sanity, as well as still being able to be inspired by the thrill of working and performing, then no, it doesn’t. Just live like Elaine Stritch:

Continue to perform and do things, the way you want to do things. Because as long as you give it your all, then everybody’s happy. Most especially yourself.

Consensus: While it certainly takes on a new life, post-death, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is the kind of documentary that not only praises its subject for all the work she’s done throughout her storied-career, but also has us see what it was that really made her the way she was, both in front of, as well as behind, the camera/stage.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You go, Elaine!

You go, Elaine!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Begin Again (2014)

Just pick up anything and play! But don’t forget to cover something from Frozen. That seems to be the “hip” thing to do nowadays.

After Dan (Mark Ruffalo) gets dropped from the music label he helped build, the man dives into a bit of a drunken-stooper. And somewhere along the night, he ends up in a bar where he hears a song being performed by a small, rather sweet British gal by the name of Greta (Keira Knightley). Though the people around him don’t really think much of her song and only use her as background music, Dan sees, hears and feels potential, which is why he doesn’t hesitate a single second to get her information right after the performance. Though she’s a bit reluctant to start diving right into recording and all that, Greta eventually gives in and Dan finds any which way he can, with anybody he can find with enough time on their hands, to help him record at least two or three songs of Greta’s own doing. But both of their troubled-pasts may come back to haunt them if they aren’t lucky enough, especially in Greta’s case where her ex-boyfriend (Adam Levine), also just so happens to be the hottest and coolest, up-and-coming talent out there in the mainstream today.

After finally seeing Once and really enjoying all that it set out to be, I must say, I was relatively excited for another movie in which John Carney would be jumping back into the world of musicals. However, where as that movie was a small, intimate musical that looked as if it had been made for a dime and a Big Mac, this one is a lot larger, broader and definitely with a bigger-budget. All that aside though, all that matters is that the songs are not only catchy, but actually good and feel like they build to something more than just a couple of neat hooks here and there. There has to be emotion, there has to be feeling, and most of all, there has to be inspiration for the songs we hear and the reason for which they exist.

You know it's true love when they start taking selfies together.

You know it’s true love when they start taking selfies together.

A sort-of musical that comes to my mind is Inside Llewyn Davis which, through the songs played by that titled-character, we got a glimpse into who he was and what it was that he felt as a person. Sure, the songs themselves were catchy and well-constructed, but there was so much more heart and soul put into them, that it felt like a person really letting us know who he was, rather than some dude who is trying to be heard on the radio. You know, not like the songs that we have here.

And yes, that is to say that most of the songs here are catchy, in that, as soon as I left the theater, I was humming the tunes to the songs, but totally forgot about them as soon as I got into my car and hooked up my iPod to the aux. But that’s also to say the songs never really feel like they’re giving you more information about these characters than we already know, or have heard alluded to before. Save for the opening-track that Greta plays about feeling lost and abandoned in the Big Apple, which actually gives us a clear view into who this character is and why it is she feels this way. Every other song, though entertaining to listen to for the time being, don’t really have much of an impact.

Which, for a movie that prides itself on its love for music and the thrill one gets when they are in the act of creating something, is definitely a disadvantage. Especially considering that with his previous-musical, Carney was able to construct something sweet and everlasting that could be connected with, even if you weren’t a musician to begin with. Here, it feels like in order to really connect with any of these characters, or what it is that they’re making, you have to at least have some foot in the door of music, or else it may not matter much to you whether or not they all end up getting a record deal at the end.

Also not to mention that Carney is extremely sentimental here with his script; it’s the conventional story of a girl, fighting all against the odds stacked up against her trying to make it big, while the man she’s investing her future in is still suffering from his divorce and the disconnect he feels with his daughter. If you’ve heard of that plot-line before, don’t worry, so have I and Carney continuously milks it for all that he’s got, even if he knows he’s soaking up in the sap. Which can be fine if there’s more sentiment added onto the sap, but here, we get some thinly-written characters who are here to just service the plot, aka, “the jams”, baby.

"Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!"

“Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!”

Which wouldn’t be such a problem with most movies, but when you have a cast this stacked, it makes you wonder just how nice that paycheck was looking. Mark Ruffalo is okay as Dan and has some nice one-liners, but feels like he’s too amped-up on coffee most of the time, which is rather strange considering he’s supposed to be playing a down-and-out bum with a drinking problem; Keira Knightley is given more to do as the meek and kind Greta, while also showing off her mighty fine pipes which service these songs for what they are; and Hailee Steinfeld for what seems like the umpteenth time I’ve seen her playing an angst-fueled, angry teenage girl that clashes with all adults around her, does a nice job and shows that she’s one of the better, brighter talents out there.

The one who actually surprised the hell out of me here was Adam Levine as Greta’s ex-boyfriend who, believe it or not, cheats on her and leaves her for a big career in music, where he loses his identity and even grows a big, hip beard. Sound like somebody you know? Anyway, what’s so good about Levine here is that while it could have been quite easy for him to just play his normal deuchy-self, the guy does well showing us a true character that not only loves his girlfriend, but actually wants to see what this whole rock ‘n roll lifestyle is about. In a way, he feels more human than anybody else here which, I imagine for most significant-others for other big-time musicians out there, may in fact be terrifying.

Consensus: Light, frothy and pleasant for its near-two hour run-time, Begin Again may not ask much of its audience except to just enjoy the numerous songs it plays, which, depending on the kind of viewer it’s speaking towards, may or may not be enough.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Hide the cone. Don't want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Hide the cone. Don’t want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Life Itself (2014)

Yup. Two Thumbs Up.

For some people, Roger Ebert was just a guy who watched an awful lot of movies, and said whether or not he liked them by going “thumbs up”, or “thumbs down”. But to others, he was more than just a film critic; he was a man who genuinely loved what it was that he did and found anyway he could to make it better. Whether it was by posting a positive review on a movie that barely anyone had ever heard about, or by just speaking his mind and not backing down from when others went against him, Roger Ebert had opinions and thoughts, and he wasn’t going to back off from speaking his mind and letting the world know about what he thought. Of course though, as with most humans, Roger ran into some problems with his excessive drinking, but soon found happiness in the form of one woman named Chaz, who he falls in love with and gets married too. Right from there on, Roger realizes that there’s more to life than just movies; sometimes, you have to care for others and continue on the legacy of good-tidings. Of course though, he never forgot about the movies. Not even until the day he tragically passed away at the age of 70.

I feel like if you’ve lived long enough, or have at least paid enough attention to movies as a whole, you know a thing or two about Roger Ebert and the type of influence he has on most people who watch movies. And I’m not just talking about the critiques who just about everybody despises, I’m talking about a natural, everyday film-goer. For awhile too, Roger was the premier film critic that everybody paid attention, and actually listened to, regardless of if they fully agreed with his end rating of a movie or not.

And seeing as how I was a big fan of Roger Ebert, his reviews, At the Movies (even throughout its numerous incarnations that didn’t involve Roger himself), and film criticism as a whole, I knew that this was really going to pull at my heart. After all, without Roger Ebert, there probably would have never been a DTMMR to begin with, and thus, there wouldn’t have been an excuse behind all my countless hours of sitting in front of keyboards and screens.

What the hell is that "thing" he's holding in his hand?!?!

What the hell is that “thing” he’s holding in his hand?!?!

But like I said before about this movie, it’s meant to be made for anybody who was ever touched by Roger and what it was that he did and that’s why most of this flick works. Director Steve James knows that most of us connect Roger to At the Movies, with George Siskel of course, which is primarily why he focuses so much time on that aspect of his life. We see how him and Siskel sometimes got along and sometimes didn’t, both on and off the screen. They didn’t hate each other, yet they didn’t love each other either; they were just two guys who loved the absolute hell out of movies, and were never willing to settle for the other’s opinion.

In all honesty, it’s probably the most interesting part of this documentary; in fact, dare I say it, we could have probably had a whole documentary about their beginnings together and how they, with time, eventually got to like one another and be somewhat considered “pals”. There’s true, honest and real human drama in the stories we are told by those closest to the both of them and whenever James puts his focus on them and lets that story play-out, it’s easily what makes this documentary so interesting to watch and listen to. Even if it is apparent that it’s more about their relationship, and less about Roger and his life, it still glues you in to what you hear next, and by whom.

With that said though, it isn’t like every territory James explores that has to do with Roger and his own personal life isn’t interesting at all, it just sort of pales in comparison. However, there’s still plenty of interesting detours James takes with this documentary and with Ebert’s life that makes things more compelling. For instance, James highlights the fact that Ebert was something of a hero to those that made the movies he reviewed. He was more than just a dude who sat in front of a screen, watched something, and then dissected it moments later; he’s like as I’d like to imagine every other film critic, professional or nonprofessional – a man who truly loves his craft and the business in which he works around. And because of that, he would constantly champion certain movies by certain directors, and give those movies more exposure than they could have ever expected before in their lives.

Because, if there was anybody a common, everyday citizen was going to listen to when it came to “what’s good?”, and “what’s not?”, it sure as hell was Roger Ebert. And sure as hell not some 20-something blogger….

But what really hits us hard is when we see these certain stories told to us by the likes of Ramin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay, and even Errol Morris, who show that if it wasn’t for Roger, they would practically have no film career to begin with; Bahrani himself even goes so far as to befriend Ebert and his whole family! This all truly shows you not only the importance of film criticism in general, but what it really does matter for when somebody sees your movie and talks about it. It doesn’t matter if it totally blows, or is the next best thing since Citizen Kane - it’s a film that, for the most part, is worth seeing. It could touch somebody’s life, while not do anything for another. You never know, and that’s why the art of film deserves to exist in a world such as this.

The man truly is a legend. Not once batting an eye while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him right in the face.

Not once batting an eye away from his work while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him in the face. The man truly was a legend.

Like I was saying though, James doesn’t always hit the mark when he’s exploring Ebert’s life and totally forgets to go even deeper into certain parts that I would have liked a little bit more clarification on (most definitely his later-years when he was diagnosed and before he passed away), but it’s the disease itself that James really goes on and on about, in a respectable, but bold manner. He doesn’t shy away from showing us the harsh living conditions Roger, Chaz, and the rest of his family has to live through in order to keep him alive, and he sure as hell doesn’t shy away from showing us just how hard it is for all of them to have to go on with it, day after day, but it’s the reality of the situation as presented to us. I’m sure there were many people out there who had no freakin’ clue at all about how truly painful or serious this illness was and for that, I’d definitely like to commend James. Not only does he highlight those last few months/years for Roger that may have not been the best of his life, but it shows us that he hardly ever gave up on doing what he loved most: Watching and reviewing movies.

For, if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be hardly near as many film critics out there as we have today. And, for better, as well as for worse, we have that to thank him for.

Or better yet, give him a solid thumbs up.

Thank you, Roger.

Consensus: While not a perfect documentary, Life Itself still gives us a glimpse into the life of Roger Ebert who made a career out of speaking his mind, loving what it was that he did and always, I repeat, always making sure that the business in which he worked in continued to get better and better, even after he was long gone. And I think it’s safe to say that, on his part, mission complete.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Hercules (2014)

The stone age totally needed a whole lot more Rock Bottoms.

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) was born as a demigod; meaning he was both a human, as well as powerful, immortal God. And while there have been constant stories whispered in the shadows about him and all of the numerous battles he has won, not everybody’s sure as to what the true story is. Is he a human after all, that can live and die just like us? Or, is he simply a God-like human who was put on this Earth to protect those who need him the most? He doesn’t answer that, nor does any of his long legion of trusted associates, who join him along on every mission/task he has. Their latest “adventure” of sorts, is from Cotys, King of Thrace (John Hurt) who propositions them with a hefty amount of gold, in which all they have to do is train his army to be the most ruthless, fearless army on the planet, as well as be able to help him overtake these other armies that have been ruining his various lands. Hercules doesn’t like to be considered a “mercenary”, even though he totally is, but he takes the job anyway and somehow finds himself connecting with the King’s daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) and starting to realize that something may not be all that fine with this mission. Something rather mysterious seems to be going on, actually.

Apparently, earlier in the year, there was another big-budget Hercules reboot that starred Kellan Lutz and while I heard nothing special about it, nor had any intentions of seeing it (it was January after all), it made me think about how, once again, Hollywood seemed to be running out of original/innovative ideas. Last year, it was two “secret-service-men-saves-president-from-terrorists” movie; now this year, it’s two Hercules movies. One starring a male model, the other, starring the Rock.

"Who turned the lights on?!?!?"

“Who turned the lights on?!?!?”

Which one do you think is better?

My thoughts exactly.

See, because while I do sneer at the fact that this is a movie directed by Brett Ratner, for some reason, that never bothered me during this movie. Sure, Ratner doesn’t necessarily have a certain style or trademark that allows his movies to be considered “his own” (except that most of them blow), but you know when you’re watching a movie and it happens to be bad, which as a result, also ends up being directed by Brett Ratner. So when I actually walked into this movie, I wasn’t feeling to happy. Dwayne Johnson (I guess I’ll give up and just call him that from now on) is always somebody I can smile about seeing, but Brett Ratner? No thank you very much on that!

Somehow though, the movie worked for me, which may, or may not have anything to do with the fact that Brett Ratner was the one sitting behind the camera (presumably doing cocaine off of hooker’s asses). A part of me wants to say it is, but another part of me still wants to fight it and not give into the idea that a movie coming from the sweaty, hairy palms of Brett Ratner, might actually be considered “good”. And the only reason why I highlight this fact so much, is because the movie’s a whole bunch of fun and shows that, despite his terrible reputation amongst those in the biz, Brett Ratner is capable of directing a “good” movie; better yet, he’s actually capable of a directing a “fun” movie.

And with the story of Hercules and Dwayne Johnson in the lead, you really do need some element of fun to keep everything moving surely and fine. Which, here, usually consists of us watching as Johnson lurks around the screen like the huge, HGH-fueled monster that he is, occasionally making jokes, cracking a grin, patting little aspiring boys on their heads, and, every once and a blue moon, freaking out from his troubled-past. But, for the most part, this movie just consists of him kicking ass with every inch of his square body and if you’re like me and grew up on seeing that occur on a daily basis, then yeah, this movie’s going to be a total blast for you.

If you aren’t used to seeing the People’s Champion lay the smackdown on some jabronis, then you may want to watch the 1995 Disney-animated flick. That has a lot more substance than this movie, and is perfect if you’re looking for something with more of a deeper meaning. Because here, you’re not really going to find it, although the movie totally does try and ultimately, fails. In fact, the only times where I really felt like I may have lost total interest, is exactly when the characters started talking, getting all dramatic and focusing on Hercules’ problems. I get that the movies needs those elements in order to round the character out some more and not just be an non-stop barrage of violence, action, and arrows, but it could have been done slightly better. Then again, you could say that about any movie really.

"Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!"

“Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!”

Like I was saying about Johnson earlier though, the man is perfectly fine as Hercules – he’s never really called on to do any heavy-lifting that may result in him popping a blood vessel or pulling a groin muscle – he’s mostly just told to look tough, be his usual charming-self whenever the script calls on it, and be willing to kick anybody’s ass. He does that oh so perfectly here, which isn’t really a surprise at all, considering he’s done it for about his whole entire career. And we, as a society, are so much better for it, too. Wrestling fans, or not.

And like how it is for Johnson in the lead role, the rest of the cast isn’t really called onto do much either. Except this time, they have to be a bit more cheery and likable. Which, when you have a supporting cast that includes the likes of John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, and Ian McShane, do you really expect much else? No, not really. Just like you sure as hell don’t expect Brett Ratner to make something that could be considered “good”, but hey, here we are.

The world is chock full of surprises, ain’t it?

Consensus: With Brett Ratner at the helm, and Dwayne Johnson in the lead sporting a loincloth and a club by his side, Hercules is exactly what you’d expect from it to be, except maybe a tad too heavy on the drama.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion.....

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Lucy (2014)

Screw marijuana! Can these drugs be legal?!?

After being fooled by her one-week boyfriend, American tourist Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is somehow made to be a drug mule of sorts by the mob. The drug she’s given to stay in the pit of her stomach accidentally leaks out into her nervous-system and allows her to use more than the normal 10% of her brain. Meaning that Lucy now has superhuman strength and can control just about anything with her mind. And for the most part, she uses it to her advantage; she extracts revenge on those who had done wrong to her, she gets free rides, she kills whomever gives her a hard time, and she takes down all of the drug-dealers that are also involved in this drug-circle. However, the dosage continues to grow for Lucy and, slowly but surely, she starts to lose control and forgets to remember how to decipher what’s considered “real”, or, what’s “just because of the drugs”. Eventually though, Lucy realizes that she needs to chill out and get rid of all this stuff from her body, which is exactly where biology Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) steps in and sees whatever the hell it is that he can do for her, before it’s too late and her mind is totally lost forever.

There’s been a lot of talk about this here film and how it’s pretty much just another version of Limitless, except with a bigger-budget, and also, instead of the dashing, scruffy-look of Bradley Cooper, we get the luscious, natural beauty that is Scarlett Johansson. And while some of that may be true, I can’t help but think the two movies are different. Most of that has to do with the way in which the drug itself is used and how dark things can truly get, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Luc Besson is a better director than Neil Burger; problem is, you’d just never know it.

"Uhm...this is out of my level of expertise. I'm just the narrator, hon'."

“Uhm…this is out of my level of expertise. I’m just the narrator, hon’.”

See, though Luc Besson struck the iron while it was hot back in the day from ’90-’97, the dude hasn’t really been in his element since. It seems like, ever since the Fifth Element, everything that was fun, exciting and wildly original about Luc Besson and the movies he created, had all but disappeared and thus, we were stuck with watching him try his daft hand at comedy late last year with the Family, which, for the most part, failed. That wasn’t the only bad movie Besson has done in the past decade or so, but it’s definitely the main one that made me wonder what the hell happened to the dude and whether or not we were going to get all of that magic back once again.

Thankfully though, with Lucy, it seems like Besson is back in his comfort-zone, but with a whole lot more craziness ensuing. We get to see him use a hell of a lot of special-effects, and while they don’t always look good, it’s still nice to see Besson at least trying harder and harder at new things to incorporate into his movies, rather than just depending on blood, bullets, and action to save the day. Because, sure, while we all love that from him, there needs to be a bit more to that. Like, I don’t know, say a story, or better yet, an interesting protagonist.

And, believe it or not, Lucy has both of them! Although neither the protagonist, nor the premise may be as smart or as well-handled as Besson has done with ones in the past, it was still refreshing to see him give us something more. But to be honest, story doesn’t really matter here because when Besson wants to get nuts, he allows himself to do so and it’s a joy to see. The movie clearly doesn’t want to be taken seriously and more often than not, is capable of using its black comedy to its advantage. While some of it feels random and a bit strange, it was still something I liked to see in a movie that could have easily been as serious as a human-drama with its B-movie premise, but instead, do quite the opposite.

Sure, there’s plenty of moments where this movie dies down and focuses a tad too much on its characters and their plight; mostly the parts with Morgan Freeman’s character talking about life, humanity, animals, and only God knows what else – but they’re very few and far between to where it doesn’t really bring down the movie a whole lot. And for a movie that runs just barely underneath the hour-and-a-half-mark, that’s something to be happy about. So rarely do we actually get a movie, let alone, a summer blockbuster, in which we are in, and we are out in a matter of reasonable time and pace. I get that most movies like to take their time and expand on their story, hence the longer run-time, but most of the time, these movies do not need to run the risk of being longer than two-and-a-half-hours and therefore, running the risk of losing its audience. However, the pleasure of watching Lucy is that it’s simple and doesn’t take much time at all. It’s quick, punchy and absolutely wild, all under the painless hour-and-a-half-mark.

Hey, it's like Oldboy! Except not really.

Hey, it’s like Oldboy! Except not really.

Only wish other movies this summer would have learned that lesson early on. Looking straight at you, Michael Bay.

And as our titled-character, Scarlett Johansson is fine as Lucy, showing us that despite her small frame and raspy voice, she’s still able to be a bit of a bad-ass chick. Just give her a couple of machine-guns, a blonde-poof, a blood-stained tank-top and woolah, you have a female character that cannot only kick ass and take names, but is smart enough to take maters into her own hands when the going gets going. She doesn’t just hang around and hope that the nearest dude can save her from her problem; she gets up off her lovely romp and starts to get stuff done, her own way.

Don’t know about you, but if there’s a female action-hero I’d look up to the most – it’s Lucy. And that’s all you need to know about her, Jack. Or, whatever masculine dude it is that wants to know why he should see a movie about a gal who has super powers and starts tearing shit up.

Consensus: Whereas it may not be the smartest piece of action you’re likely to see the rest of this summer, Lucy is still a return-to-form of sorts for Luc Besson who seems like, for once in a long while, he’s having a great time with what he’s filming.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Coming for you, motherhood."

“Coming for you, motherhood.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Wish I Was Here (2014)

Somewhere out there, James Mercer is pissed that he didn’t get a paycheck.

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is an aging, near-40-year-old dad who is struggling to make ends meet with his life. He works, but as an actor, which only means that he sometimes gets a role, and sometimes, he doesn’t. Basically though, he just day-dreams and longs about the good old days in which he and his brother (Josh Gad) used to dream about being in some sort of futuristic, sci-fi world where they were the good guys and everything that they wanted to happen, did in fact happen. However, the reality of it is that Bloom’s life kind of blows: His kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) get kicked out of their private Jewish school; his father (Mandy Patinkin) is slowly dying; his wife (Kate Hudson) is working a dead-end job that she hates and gets hit on by a co-worker at; and worst of all, the family is on the end of poverty. Without knowing full well what to do, Aidan decides to home-school his kids into being the best that they can be, while at the same time, seeing if he can be there for his dad when he needs him the most, especially during this critical time.

Though I clearly wasn’t in the intended age-group, Garden State still worked like gangbusters and gave me the impression that Zach Braff was capable of doing wonderful things with his career when he wasn’t being goofy, yet lovable J.D. Dorian. That said, Garden State was released nearly ten years ago and it makes you wonder exactly why it took Braff so damn long to get something out in the first place. Sure, people will say it was because no major-studio would back a project of his choosing (hence the infamous KickStarter campaign), but personally, I think it’s because Braff didn’t have much of a story to really work with. Maybe, just maybe, Garden State was all he had to say or do for the movie world, because when it comes right down to it: He’s sort of left treading the same waters.

He still obviously can't get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

He still obviously can’t get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

Because, in the case of Wish I Was Here, as much as it pains me to say, it seems like Braff just remade Garden State, but this time, set it in Hollywood, get a bigger-budget, and involve less hipster-ish things to be found. Because yes, Braff is almost 40 and with that title comes going through the motions that most adults go through, and that’s what we all call “adulthood”. And it’s a shame to see somebody as lively and as charming as Braff to get older, grow up a bit and have to deal with real issues that most adults have to deal with on a daily-basis, but he’s only human dammit, so I guess it was inescapable.

However, him being older in age and in the brain, doesn’t excuse this film from being a mess; much rather, a mess that doesn’t know what it wants to say. I already made a mention of this being like a sort-of remake of Garden State, but the real fact is that this movie doesn’t have a clue what it wants to do, whereas every move that movie made was clear, inspired and brought the whole piece together. Here, with Wish I Was Here, you can almost see Braff fumbling with this story, what it means, what he’s trying to say, and how we’re all supposed to make sense of it. Which, in all honesty, would have been fine really, had anything in the mess been all that interesting to begin with. But there isn’t anything of that nature.

Seeing Zach Braff in a movie and his wife being Kate Hudson is interesting, I guess, but they’re kind of a traditional-couple that doesn’t quite feel like anything we haven’t seen done before. In a way too, we sort of feel bad for her and have a problem with him, because while he’s off trying to live his dream (aka, sit at home, mope, whine and not do shite with his life), she’s out at work, with people she hates, doing work she downright distastes, and practically supporting the whole family. Hudson’s fine in this role and has more than a couple of scenes where her charm comes out, but her character seems like she’s just a stepping-stool and after awhile, you’ll wonder when she’s going to get fed-up with all of this crap, take the kids and leave Braff’s bum-self.

And that’s not saying Braff is at all bad in this movie – in fact, he’s very much still Zach Braff, if that makes any sense. He’s still quick-witted, smart, charming, a tad goofy, and capable of being serious when he so damn well pleases, but his Aidan Bloom-character just isn’t all that fascinating to begin with in order to have us want to see where his life goes and why. We know that he wants to support his adoring-family, while also maintaining a respectable career as an actor, but sooner or later, it gets to be a bit tiresome to see him constantly try hard and then end up bummed out about life. I get that’s how life works in general, but it’s not something I want to watch for nearly two hours, especially not in this pretentious of a way.

Also, with that being said, the movie does feel like its every bit of two hours, which really does this movie in. And because of its length, more of the movie’s weaker-points begin to show a lot more. For instance, the whole subplot with Bloom’s brother, could be taken out completely and there would be nothing at all wrong with this movie. Not only would it trim some film, but it would also spare us the corny message Braff ends up summing this film on.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Basically, by connecting each and everyone of the subplots he has cobbled-up here, Braff lets us know that parenting is hard, and that’s about it. There’s a lot more talk about the Jewish faith, where we go when we all die, some of his thoughts on that, and why family is important, but it never quite builds to anything. All it is is filler for Braff to keep his movie long, over-stacked and as pretentious as he can possibly make it. And yes, I know I sound terrible and all, but seriously, was this really the type of movie us fans donated money towards? Something that just repeats exactly what Braff did nearly ten years ago, except this time, have it include family, and death, and the Jewish faith?

I don’t think so and honestly, if I were Zach Braff, I’d feel a little ashamed in myself. That’s not to say that everything in this movie is terrible; more often than not, the choices Braff makes as a director are as bold as they could come from somebody not being fronted by a major-studio. However, more often than not, Braff falls down with whatever message he’s carrying, and while he does get back up to fight again, and again, and again, you have to wonder when he’s going to just stop, give it up and let us realize that maybe he doesn’t have much left to say at all.

Except that the Shins are a really rad band. Man.

Consensus: While it may be nice to see Zach Braff both in front of, as well as behind the camera after all of this time, Wish I Was Here still can’t help but feel like a disappointing retread of ideas, themes and messages he’s explored before, to a much better result.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's all of your money, people. Hope it was all worth it.

“Hey, aren’t you that guy from that show where you played the doctor who was sort of goofy and had all of these day-dreams and it was funny?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Thankfully, I’d still have my Dorothy Doors. Nobody’d ever look down one of them.

It’s the year 2023 in America and it’s Purge Night. This means that the government is allowing everyone and anyone to go out there, commits all sorts of crime, for a certain amount of time, without any police authority ever taking control. Sounds ideal for those nut-balls out there in the world, but for the common-folk who don’t enjoy killing people – it’s a bit of a disaster. On this one night in particular, we follow three stories: a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car accidentally breaks down on the road, moments before the Purge actually begins; a mother (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter (Zoe Soul) who are kidnapped by a bunch of men dressed in SWAT uniforms for unknown reasons; and a lone, silent man (Frank Grillo) who has a clear mission and is planning on following that on throughout the whole night. That is, all until he ends up gaining a conscience about half-way through and decides to save the mother and daughter, making them have to come along for the ride as he continues to finish what he set out to do in the first place. But on a night like “Purge Night”, nothing is ever going to be easy.

Okay, so it’s obvious that the big question concerning this sequel is, “Is it better than the first?” Well, coming from a lad like me who actually didn’t hate the first, but though it was mildly interesting disappointment, feels like that is the case here and I can’t say I’m too surprised. I knew that there was a whole bunch of promise in the first movie, but due to the fact that it didn’t have such a big-budget or cast-members, it seemed like it was a movie that could be remade, time and time again, except with more money and characters involved. Because all that movie really did was make a home-invasion thriller, with the fact that the cops can’t be called; as a result, making it something like a Funny Games, just with more blood, violence, characters, and less self-aware thoughts.

#TrueDetectiveSeason5

#TrueDetectiveSeason5

But with this sequel here, we get a bigger budget, which also means, more ground to cover. Which, yes, as a result, does mean that we get plenty of more violence, blood, and murder in all sorts of places now that everything can be spread out all across L.A. without there being any problems whatsoever with the studios. And because of that, the movie is definitely better; the violence, without sounding like a psychopathic nut-case, is pleasing because we get to see a lot of bad things, happen to bad people; the characters actually seem to have personalities, as well as smart minds that are capable of thinking rationally; and the ideas that carry-on from the first, are explored a lot more in an effective way that makes you think that maybe this Purge thing should not be happening. It gives this premise, this rather imaginary world more of a purpose and shows that, little by little, step by step, installment by installment, this franchise could really take the world by storm.

That said, it will definitely take some time and I don’t think we’re all that there yet. Because while this movie can sometimes be a compelling piece of violent fun, there are still some bits and pieces that need to be worked on. For instance, James DeMonaco, despite this practically being his “love child”, doesn’t seem like the perfect director for this material. You’d think that with the story spilling out all over on L.A.’s streets, that there would be more havoc, carnage and overall craziness, but there isn’t much of that. Sure, we hear people yelling, screaming, getting killed and all that fun stuff, but we never really get a sense that this is happening everywhere these people turn, which I think in a place like L.A., totally would be occurring.

Maybe it’s not quite all that far to be putting the blame on DeMonaco, and more of on the studios that back him up with all their wads of cash, but there was still a feeling of disappointment, from an action stand-point. Now, I don’t want it to seem as if I was asking for there to be a death every five or six seconds in the movie, but it did feel a bit “tame”, all considering what this plot truly is about and where it goes. Not saying you won’t enjoy some bouts of violence, blood and action, but when it does show up, it’s not quite filmed perfectly and makes you wonder why we haven’t put the shaky-cam thing to rest by now.

I mean, seriously: Everybody but Paul Greengrass hates it! Just put it away and bring it out every so often, like as if it was your acoustic-guitar you had from college and are bringing out at a fancy schmancy dinner party. That would be perfect and it would definitely show all of these action movies that, in order to excite or please us, they don’t have to constantly shake the camera as if they are in the freezing cold without any mittens; just have good action-sequences that are worthy of our full, undivided attention.

If the Raid 2 can do that, why can’t anyone else?!?!

Anyway, the one neat aspect about the Purge being such a big hit amongst and attracting anybody who automatically hears that title uttered in everyday conversations, means that the casts don’t have to be filled with big names to attract more people. That would most certainly help, but I think any Purge movie, is good enough than no Purge movie at all, regardless of who it is starring. And that’s why I like this cast so much: We’ve all seen these people before in countless other things, and although some of us may be able to tell them apart better than others, it’s still nice to see them getting work in a mainstream flick.

"Warrrrriorrrrrsssss commmeee outtt toooo....ergh! I mean, hey, let's Purge, guys!"

“Warrrrriorrrrrsssss commmeee outtt toooo….ergh! I mean, hey, let’s Purge, guys!”

Mostly though, I’m just speaking about the inclusion of Frank Grillo here and his lead role as Leo, the cold, stoic, soft-spoken bad-ass that has a plan and wants to stick to it as much as he can, with keeping just enough of his morality in tact. If you’ve ever seen Grillo in any of the numerous stuff he pops up in, you’d know the guy is the real deal and always leaves you wondering, “Why isn’t that guy a bigger name yet?”. Regardless of why that is, it doesn’t matter because Grillo’s a quality actor and handles this role very well, considering all he has to do is act tough, beat the shit out of people, and still be gentle enough to be considered “a good guy”. It’s a great role for Grillo to get his name out there and it’s also one that shows everybody he’s due for a Punisher re-boot.

You know, just saying.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re pretty fine, although there are some weak-links to be found. Real-life couple Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford are fine together, although I felt like he was a bit too stiff to play the common-dude-turned-bad-ass that occurs later on in the movie, as it occurs with just about every one of these characters. Carmen Ejogo is a lovely actress I’ve always enjoyed seeing in anything, and though I wish there was more for her to do other than look scared and frantically run around, having her around is still better than not. However, the weakest-link of this cast is the one who plays her daughter, Zoe Soul. I get that the character was a mid-teen that was trying to grasp what’s up with the world around her and how she wants to make a difference in it, but man, she would not shut up. Rather than having her play a character that is, essentially, “the cute kid” role that’s given to the ages that range from five-to-twelve, here, Soul plays the “too-smart-for-her-own-damn-good teenager”, and it’s the kind of role I don’t hope to see from here on out.

Although, like with the shaky-cam, nobody in Hollywood will listen. Story of my life.

Consensus: With a bigger budget and more ground to explore, the Purge: Anarchy is better than its predecessor, although it’s still clear that there’s plenty of improvement needed for this franchise to really work wonders and be more than just “a gimmick movie”.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!! 

Oh, Cynthia. Such a silly girl.

Oh, Cynthia. Such a silly girl.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Sex Tape (2014)

Should have learned their lesson from Pamela and Tommy Lee’s horn-honking dong.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) are the type of couple that, at one time early in their relationship, were constantly having sex. And when they weren’t having sex, they were thinking about where and when to have sex next. They just did it because they were young, horny and in love. However, as with most relationships, that all came to an end once Annie became pregnant and the two decided that they wanted to get married, have another kid, get jobs, buy a house, and eventually, turn into the same old and boring couple that they didn’t want to be when they first started out together, but sadly, became exactly like. And to make matters even worse, the two aren’t even having as much sex as they definitely would like to. That’s why Annie and Jay decide to clear out one night together where they’ll have sex and do everything they used to do when they were young – except that it doesn’t happen like that at all. In fact, barely anything happens. So that’s when the two come to the idea that they need to film themselves having sex for one reason or another, which totally works, especially since Jay deletes the video as soon as it’s over.

But does he?

And right from there, you have an-hour-and-a-half adventure movie of sorts in which we have this married-couple running all over everywhere in order to snatch iPads and find any way that’s at all possible in which they can delete this sex tape from all existence. While that should totally sound like buckets of fun, made even better with Segel and Diaz in the lead roles, it doesn’t transpire into much except just a couple of chuckles and plenty of missed opportunities.

Kids? A family? Breakfast and coffee in the morning? Ew! Boring!

Kids? A family? Breakfast and coffee in the morning? Ew! Boring!

Save for one sequence in which we get to spend a lovely 20 minutes with Rob Lowe’s wild and crazy corporate exec character that seems like he’s going to be a total square from the beginning, and then turns into a total loose cannon once the Scotch has been poured, the Slayer is turned on and the lines have been snorted. This whole sequence is easily the best, most hilarious part of the whole movie; not because Lowe is so damn funny (which he is), but because this movie actually seems like it wants to surprise us with showing this rather nerdy, all business-like guy, and have him totally be somebody else that’s not only crazy, but fun to watch be crazy.

That Rob Lowe, man. He truly is something else.

That being said, the rest of the movie is kind of a blur in my mind, only because it never seemed to surprise me with the things in which it was doing, or in how it wanted to make me laugh and why. I guess when you’re talking about a comedy, those two elements sort of go hand-in-hand, but for Sex Tape, they’re sort of different. See, we know we’re supposed to be laughing at this situation and how screwed-over this married-couple truly is, but there’s really no point in caring, so watching them think they are one step closer to solving their problem, only to have it then slam back in their face, was actually where most of the laughs came from. Not because they’re terrible people in any way, but because the movie itself never seems to know what to do with either of them, except have them run around, yell and talk about how angry they are with one another, as well as the situation they’re in.

And if that sounds like the quintessential piece to creating near-perfect character-development, then you and Jake Kasdan may have a lot in common, because that’s all he seems to think is needed here for Annie and Jay, our married-couple-in-peril for the next hour-and-a-half. Though a part of me wants to give these two characters a slide because Diaz and Segel are so believable in their chemistry together, another part of me wishes that there was more to these characters than just that they’re angry and desperate-as-hell. That’s all we really get to know about them and personally, it wasn’t enough to really care.

"Four-some anyone?"

“Four-some anyone?”

In fact, a more interesting movie could be made out of this in which the Sex Tape actually goes viral to the whole public, and the bond between the two is eventually tested. Would Annie and Jay be absolutely ashamed of having others see them butt-naked and boning? Or, would they just let it all slide off their backs as if nothing ever happened and just move on with their lives? Sure, placing these questions in would mean a darker, more dramatic movie, but I feel like it would have placed itself to being a rare comedy that not only makes people laugh, but has a lot to say as well.

Would it work? Who knows. But what I do know is that there was a huge element to this movie missing and that was its laughs. There needed to be more and most of all, there needed to be more coming from our leads. I mean sure, when you have a supporting cast featuring the likable-talents of Rob Corddry, Nat Faxon, Ellie Kemper, Nancy Lenehan, and a surprise appearance from somebody I swear to myself I wouldn’t spoil, it’s hard to complain, but when they over-shadow who are supposed to be your main focus-points throughout the whole presentation, it’s a bit of a problem. But what makes it an even bigger problem is that you have two likable peeps such as Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel in these roles, where they aren’t given much to do at all, except, like I said before, just run around, yell and talk about how angry they are with one another. Sure, they do an awful lot of banging as well, but honestly, who cares about that in a R-rated studio-comedy? I know there are some pervs out there who totally disagree with me, but trust me, you’d have a much better time just watching some of the most famous sex tapes made just to get what all of the hype is about.

Or just straight-up porn. Your choice, my friend.

Consensus: Most of the laughs in Sex Tape come from the supporting players, rather than Diaz or Segel themselves, although it’s clear that they are trying their hardest and just coming up empty on a route, relatively unfunny script.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

I'm usually the one with the roller-blades on. I'm freaky like that.

I’m usually the one with the roller-blades on. I’m freaky like that.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

A Long Way Down (2014)

If I ever have to be stuck in the same room as these people, remind me to just kill myself right then and there.

Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) was once a very popular day-time talk show host who found both his professional and personal life ruined when a recent sex-scandal involving him and a minor became known to the public; Maureen Thompson (Toni Collette) is a meek single mom who is struggling with taking care of her handicapped son, while also barely having any personal life to speak of; J.J. Maguire (Aaron Paul) is a struggling musician, working as a pizza delivery-man and is living with the news that he has brain cancer; and Jess Crichton (Imogen Poots) is the daughter of a very wealthy politician who she doesn’t care for and has just been recently dumped. All four of these people are so different in their own ways, yet, they share one common interest: They all wanted to jump off of the roof of the Toppers Building, on New Year’s Eve, which is where they all met in the first place. Eventually, the four decide that it would be best to continue to meet up, talk and see if they can maybe raise awareness for this sort of problem, however, not everybody is so willing to do so, or even capable because of how truly messed-up they are.

Though the reception for this hasn’t been too lovely to say the least, there were two factors really driving me more and more towards this. For starters, the cast is pretty impressive – more importantly because they cast Aaron Paul as an American in a very-British movie, something I was not expecting in the least bit from him. And secondly, this movie is an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel of the same, who also just so happens to be one of my favorite writers. No, I have not read the book and after seeing something like this, I feel like I should.

Oh, come on, Pierce! Live a little, take that shirt off, and show the ladies that you still like your martini's shaken, not stirred!

Oh, come on, Pierce! Live a little, take that shirt off, and show the ladies that you still like your martini’s shaken, not stirred!

Not to get a better impression of what this film was leading towards, but to somehow wipe the horrid taste of this flick out of my mouth.

Which, for someone such as myself, is really a shame because whenever I see a Hornby-adaptation, I feel like I can always hear or feel his style through the movie; but not here. All of that fun, that wit, and all of that humor seems to be lost here on a bunch of characters that seem as thin as the pieces of paper they originally appeared on, but aren’t likable, or even interesting to get to know better. They’re all pretty miserable, annoying people that try to make each of their lives better, but instead, just annoy the hell out of each other by being as unpleasant as they are humanly capable of. Which, if you wanted to know, is for the whole duration of this movie.

Now sure, there are some nice touches here and there – mostly due to the way the cast handles some of the more schmaltzier moments – but I really couldn’t get past most of this movie’s problems. It has an interesting premise for sure, but the movie can’t do much with it. It just has these characters talk to one another and, presumably, get on each and every one of each other’s nerves, only making the idea of suicide seem all the more reasonable. I know that was a low joke, but you get my drift: These characters are unlikable and to make matters worse, the cast can’t really do much for them either; which is to say that mostly everybody acts the same here, as they’ve acted in about five of their past pieces of work.

Pierce Brosnan is a crotchety old dick that seems like he could be a nice guy, but doesn’t seem like he wants to be and only wants his last shot at fame instead; Toni Collette is charming at times, but even she’s so quiet, you wonder if she would have been better written as a mute; Imogen Poots runs around, yells at people, makes fun of them, gets all up in their business, and gets upset when others don’t take so kindly to her constant line of questioning; and Aaron Paul, bless his heart, is basically just Jesse Pinkman here, except this time, without their being any meth around whatsoever.

Which, honestly, is kind of a shame, because this movie barely has anything that resemble the slightest amount of something “fun”. Now, I know that this is a flick about suicide and people coming to the end of their roads, but still, something like this doesn’t have to be such a dramatic-bore. Especially in the middle-act when we get a chance to see all of these workers make some magic together and let loose a bit. But nope, we never get that. Instead, we just get more and more talk about suicide, why they hate their lives, and why they are annoyed of the other person they’re with.

Betch.

Betch.

In all honesty, if I wanted to sit around a room where a bunch of people said how much they disliked the person sitting across the table from them, I’d just go to my Grand-mom’s place for Sunday dinner. But, I don’t want to. So, when I want to watch a movie that features some very talented people, I want to at least see more than just a bunch of arguments and nagging. I want to see some emotion, heart, insight, and most of all, fun. There’s hardly any of that here and although the film definitely likes to act as if it has a funny-bone located in its body, the mark just never hits. It’s just unfunny and uninteresting.

On second thought, Sunday dinner at my Grand-mom’s doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it.

Love you, ‘Gams. See you then.

Consensus: Though it is clearly packed with a promising premise, and an even more promising cast, A Long Way Down just never knows what it wants to do with either of it, so instead, just becomes a ill-advised bore that no one wants to talk them off the ledge.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Wah. Go home and shut up!

Wah. Go home and shut up!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The We and the I (2013)

Take a cab next time.

It’s the last day of school for these high school students from the Bronx and they’re already to get a start on their much-anticipated summer. However, in order to do so, all that’s standing in front of them is a very, very long bus ride from school, all the way to their each respective stops. On the bus, is obviously the bus driver and a few civilians here and there, but for the most part, it’s mostly the student-body who take over everything; being that they’re young and rowdy and all. And with practically the whole school being on the bus, that means we get all of the usual cliques and social groups one sees in high school: the bullies, the nerds, the smelly kids, the drama queens, the homosexuals the skanks, the stoners, the musicians, the tools, etc. We even get an old lady that makes to fun of kids’ penis sizes. So yeah, this bus has got everything and everybody you could imagine, which also means that there’s going to be a whole lot of drama, too. And when there’s drama, there’s always a bad fall-out, no matter what the problem may be.

Whenever Michel Gondry’s name is attached to anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, you always have to expect the unexpected. Which, in most cases anyway, means that there’s going to be a whole lot of strange things popping out, left and right, up and down, exactly when you least expect it. Some may call this “pretentious”, whereas others may just simply call it “artistic”, or even “original”; but whatever the word is, it doesn’t matter, because Gondry likes to make movies that absolutely surprise us and take us back for a moment. Sometimes those bold decisions on his behalf work exceptionally well, and other times, they don’t, but for the most part, the surprises we get from him are a hell of a lot better than those we probably get from our parents on Christmas morning.

Basically me in high school. Nope, the one in the middle. Yes, the one with the wig.

Basically me in high school. Nope, the one in the middle. Yes, the one with the wig.

Sorry, mom and dad. Love ya guys, but I’ve about had it with socks for the fourth year in a row!

Anyway, like I was saying about Gondry and the flicks he chooses to do, it’s always a surprise with him, which is why when I heard that he decided to direct a movie that took place solely on a bus, with unprofessional actors, I was sort of confused. Was the dude really that desperate to save as much money as humanly possible without pissing his studios off enough? Or simply, was this just another case of Michel Gondry pulling a fast one on us and showing us that, even if he’s been around for a little longer than a decade, he’s still capable of surprises in his rather storied-career?

For the most part, it’s a little bit of both, but more so leaning on the later. Which isn’t to say that what Gondry does here isn’t respectable – it totally is. What Gondry is able to do, is that he’s able to make one, single location seem to expand into being something more. And although there a whole bunch of flashbacks/dream-sequences in which we get inside a certain character’s head when he/she is speaking about something, the real feeling of there being a larger world outside of this bus is solely by these characters and listening to them talk. When a character here speaks, you believe them in everything they’re saying; not because they feel so real, but because they look so real as is. You automatically buy them as young kids just getting out of high school (mostly because they probably were in real life), but you also buy whatever it is that they’re are going on and on about.

Most of the time, too, what it is that they’re talking about isn’t very interesting at all – the subjects range from being about parties, drinking, smoking, hookin’ up with hotties, the usual drama crap, etc. – but since these characters look so real, you are slightly interested in hearing what they have to say. Just like you’d probably be if you met someone at a party and they just started going on about whatever comes out of their mouth next – it may not be interesting, or even remotely “cool” to listen to, but hey, if they’re talking and they’re the only thing in front of you, then that you’ll listen. Or, you could be a total dick, leave mid conversation and act as if you’ve never met that person in your life. Ever.

Then, it all comes down to a judge of your character really. So the choice is up to you on that one.

And most of the time, the script doesn’t really try to go for anything deeper here than “problems high school kids have”, but it’s still slightly nostalgic in the way that it reminds you of the early days of summer in which you didn’t know what to expect next, except just fun with friends, That’s what summer is all about in the first place, and even if you haven’t yet had that “ideal summer” in your life, then don’t worry, because it’ll come your way. And if not, just watch this movie and have that feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Basically me before high school. Yes, both of them.

Basically me before high school. Yes, both of them.

That’s not to say though, that because this film is so pleasant in its look and design, that means that it’s easily a great film, with barely any problems, because it totally is. For starters, while the idea of casting non-professionals in these roles may have been a bold one on Gondry’s behalf, not all of it works out quite well for him. Some of these actors feel as if Gondry just plopped the camera right in front of their faces and gave them some cue-cards on how to act when and where, and just let them roll with it. While that would work and feel as natural as natural can be for some great actors, here, there are some weak-links that feel like they’re trying too hard, or not trying at all. The ones that don’t seem to try at all and just be themselves are fine, but when you have maybe seven or eight cast-members who feel like natural, realistic teens talking, out of a cast that features maybe 20 or so, then you’ve got some problems.

Not a lot, but some.

Not 99, but maybe 30. Don’t know why there’s a random Jay-Z reference thrown in there, but hey! Whatever!

Consensus: In his typical, quirky-fashion, Michel Gondry takes some surprisingly bold moves with the We and the I, most of which work and show that he’s capable of a bare-bones dramedy, while some, don’t and show that maybe he went a bit too deep into his mind.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Where I'll be living once my parents kick me out when I turn 45.

Where I’ll be living once my parents kick me out when I turn 45.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Another Earth (2011)

So, you’re trying to tell me that there is another Dan the Man? I gotta meet this a-hole!

After a terrible incident, brilliant MIT astrophysics student Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) lands herself in jail for quite some time. That’s why when she gets out, not everything is as normal as she once had imagined. But, she eventually strikes up a relationship with a composer who has just reached the pinnacle of his profession (William Mapother), even though he is suffering from a severe bout of depression. Also to add a bit of insult to injury, there’s a duplicate Earth that appears in the sky that nobody on “real” Earth has any idea to make of it, although there’s plenty of discussions and ideas floating all around.

The whole idea behind this movie, is a pretty cool one to say the least. There’s this other planet, that features imitations of us, doing the same things we do, acting the same way we do, and even living out our lives the same way we do. Even as unlikely as that may be, it’s still pretty cool and gives this flick a sci-fi edge that can’t be ignored.

However, I wish the actual creators of this film knew that because holy hot damn does this baby not make sense!

Okay, first of all, let me just start off by pointing out where this film did not make single bit of sense to me. The times that they explain “Earth version 2″ makes no sense because it seems like the planet has seem to come out of nowhere. I highly doubt that a planet would just pop-up in our atmosphere without anybody realizing anything in the first place, and then come so close to our planet, without ever causing any chaotic imbalances. For example, Earth version 2 is so close to our atmosphere that it pretty much seems as if it’s going to hit us straight-on and nothing ever changes. The waves don’t pick up, fires don’t ever ignite, light never changes, and hell, there wasn’t even gusts of wind that ever seemed to get vicious.

"It says that I have to be 'moody and silent'. Now, how the hell do I do that?"

“It says that I have to be ‘moody and silent’. Now, how the hell do I do that?”

Granted, the whole film looked miserable with it’s hand-held approach, but nothing ever seems to put these people in danger by the fact that this other planet may possibly collide with their own. I’m not a huge science fan or anything, but even I myself know a thing or two about our globe and what would happen if any other the size of our own came close to us. Maybe a science-major knows more of this than I do, but if so, then so be it. I might just be ignorant and all.

Anyway, all that science-babble aside, the movie’s pretty fine. It just takes awhile of getting used to once you realize that this movie isn’t going to be sci-fi based at all; it’s just going to feature some elements to make a rather human-story, seem even more human.

The main theme behind this flick is the idea of being forgiven because of the proposition of another life being out there. The idea of another life is obviously replaced by the symbolism of the other Earth that’s out there and still offers up the same ideas, but it’s well-done and thought-provoking. Can we be forgiven for something as terrible as the act committed here in this movie in another life? Or, will the guilt of that act always be with us no matter where our minds, bodies, or souls travel towards? It brings up a lot of good points and I liked the way director Mike Cahill brings that out in this production that literally seems like he got it made in his backyard.

Granted, there are a lot of scenes and moments in this flick that come off as a bit pretentious where these people all seem to be talking way too philosophically about nothing, but in the realms of the atmosphere that Cahill creates, it seems reasonable and that’s what I liked most about this flick. It is a very grim tale, but it also shows you the ways that certain people forgive others and forgive themselves in the meantime. The romance that is even created between these two, feels real because they both need each other in their lives but there is still an ounce of mystery and tension because there is that one big secret that keeps them apart and the way they get through it is something that came off as very real.

But then when you have a story like this, along with a pretty neat idea about another Earth being out there, you would think that this film would really pack an original and emotional punch but somehow just doesn’t. The explored territory is dramatic, but not very original or refreshing. The way this relationship goes between these two people is at first interesting because it’s usually how all strangers start off by getting to know one another, but then there is this one scene that sort of blows that whole romance-angle out of proportion and makes it seem a bit melodramatic. That bummed me out too because it seemed like this film was really going to hit that romance angle hard, along with that other Earth idea, but instead comes off as a bit disjointed where one subject gets more attention than the other. Could have really went somewhere, but just never fully amounts to the greatness it could have achieved.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

The real greatness behind this film lies within Brit Marling as she not only co-wrote this flick, but also stars in it as Rhoda Williams. There’s something about Marling that caught me off-guard right from the start where she seemed like this type of gal that has a lot more to her, rather than just being a plain, simple, and pretty blonde. Instead, she seemed more complex than that and her character shows that. Rhoda is pretty much a mess and there are a lot of key scenes where we see how she lives with the life she now has after this horrible incident and it comes off as very interesting and in a way, I would have liked to see her own film dedicated strictly to that idea. Marling always seems like a compelling figure in this film and I felt totally behind her character even though she committed this horrible act and it’s just another layer that was able to added onto her already three-dimensional character.

Then, there’s William Mapother, who is always good in everything he does and proves it once again here. It’s crazy to see the transition this guy goes through from being a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, to all of a sudden changing up his ways and becoming more stand-offish to people after this horrible incident. It seems very real, as that’s how Mapother plays it as so, but how he starts to go back to his old ways and look at life with a smile again, also seems very realistic and shows you how complex this guy can be in his own right. They had a nice chemistry together that didn’t just seem like two people who were lonely and needed a nice hump or two, but more of a connection to a human instead. It’s a really nice element to this flick and I could have only wished they focused on that a lot more.

Consensus: The premise is interesting and the performances are wonderful, but Another Earth does suffer a bit from not going further, and digging deeper into the promise it creates.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Boyhood (2014)

Officially feel ancient right now.

Starting from his early days as a trouble-making six-year-old, to when he’s a rebellious, deep-thinking 18-year-old, we see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) go through a lot of changes. However, we also see a lot of changes happen to those around him. His sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), does constantly pick on him and get him in trouble for stuff that he doesn’t ever seem to do, yet, at the end of the day, is the one that sticks up for him the most. His mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), is something of a dysfunctional woman just barely getting by – with her kids, her house, her job, her relationships, her divorce, basically everything. And last, but surely not least, we have his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), who isn’t around as much, but definitely makes sure that when it is his turn to spend time with the kids, he never lets them down, nor does he ever take their precious time together for granted. For he knows that, sooner or later, they’re going to have to grow up, take responsibility for themselves and most importantly, make smart decisions. That’s what Mason plans on doing, although, like most humans do, he struggles to always get everything right.

So yeah, I stretched that plot-synopsis out a lot longer than it needed to be. Because, if I was just being honest, simple and easy (which I hardly am ever), I would have just said: Kid grows up for 14 years, most of which, we see occur in front of our own very eyes.

Basically, that’s Boyhood for you all in a nutshell. It’s the movie that Richard Linklater and movie-enthusiasts have been talking about for years because while it seems like an interesting concept, one has to wonder how it would all play out. Would it be a gimmick that just uses the fact everybody on screen is growing older and older, right in front of our very own eyes as a way to show something neat and cool to us? Or, would it give us a meaningful, heartfelt story about what it means to live life, grow up, learn, and just simply be human in every which way?

Aw, look at him. Just a cute, little kid reading a book with his mommy and little sister.

Aw, look at him. Just a cute little kid reading a book with his mommy and sister.

Well, thankfully, mostly due to Linklater being at the helm, it’s definitely the later.

For most of you who may not know, I love most of Linklater’s movies. His experimental pieces irk me only slightly, but when it comes right down to it, and Linklater feels like playing everything simple, he’s an absolute joy to watch. Not because he makes good, riveting pieces of work that compel you to your final hour, but because the movies he creates feel exactly like real life. And I know that sounds hokey and all, but in Linklater’s case, it isn’t at all; it’s mostly what he gets by on as a director and though he takes a step or two here and there into some strange territory, he always finds a way to bounce back and give us an heartfelt, naturalistic story that feels like real life, happening right in front of you.

And that’s exactly what Boyhood is. All two-hours-and-45-minutes of it, too.

And yes, while I do realize that that’s a lot for some of you more testy viewers out there who are probably still getting over the near-three hour desolation that was Transformers 4, I assure you, it’s not that much of a big deal. It goes by so quickly and easily, you’ll not only wonder where the hell all that time went in the first place, but also feel sad that it is actually all over. Because, for the most part, this is the type of film that, from the very beginning, feels like something more than just a simple story about a kid growing up, learning lessons, and eventually being a man that he sets out to be. Nope, this story’s about something more, something bigger than just this one kid.

Linklater knows that life is precious, life is something to behold, take care of and experience to the best of one’s ability, and through this Mason’s kid’s story, we see exactly how meaningful life can be. Mason’s story doesn’t really consist of many things happening, except that he wakes up everyday, goes to school, eats, does what he has to do, goes to sleep and the next day, continues the same cycle. It may sound boring, but it’s totally not because Linklater finds this rather fascinating.

In a way, it’s almost like Linklater himself wants to allow Mason’s story be anybody’s story. It doesn’t matter if your parents were ever divorced, or if your mom went from one dangerous drunk, to another, like clockwork, but what does matter is that you’ve lived a life up to this point. It doesn’t have to be an eventful one, nor does it have to be one chock full of unlimited fun and surprises; all it has to be is a life that you’ve wanted to be living, all up until this point. If you can do that, then Boyhood is the perfect movie to see because of how familiar most of what you will see is. While that may sound generic and all, there’s something rather endearing about watching somebody go through most of the same events that you yourself may have had to go through at one point. It not only has you feel closer to the story, but also understand that most people’s lives play out exactly like this: Sometimes, things happen; sometimes, they don’t. It’s not like how they do in the movies.

Pretty ironic, eh?

But anyway, back to what I was saying before about the gimmick: Yes, it’s pretty interesting. Not just in the way that it’s hardly ever been done before, but because it’s happened in such a high-profile way that’s deliberate and ended up working out. And by “working out”, I don’t mean that they were actually able to cobble up all this film together from all of these different years without their being many complications added into the mix, but by how the movie itself never seems to fall back on that reality. Sure, we see the kid grow up oh so suddenly, but it’s never made to have us drop our jaws and go, “Oh mah god! But look at all that facial hair!”. Instead, it’s just how you’d see someone in real life age: Day by day, parts of their body start to change and one day, poof, they’re looking like a wizard.

And this all brings me to our guinea pig of sorts for the whole two-and-a-half hours: Ellar Coltrane. Though I don’t feel comfortable with necessarily calling him a “newcomer”, I will say that I see a bright future ahead of him and it’s all because he seems like a natural screen-presence – sometimes for all the right reasons, as well as the bad. When Coltrane is a little kid, he seems to be living it up in his youth, asking questions, interested about the world that surrounds him and just wanting to cause any sorts of havoc that he can. He’s a typical kid and it only continues until he grows up, graduates grade school and becomes what most of us all know as a TEENAGER. Oh dear lord no! Say it ain’t so!

Well, I will say it because once Coltrane becomes a teenager, things get a bit shaky; shaky in the way that Mason starts to become more awkward around those around him and more angsty as a result as well, but shaky in the way that this kid runs a pretty close line to being considered “annoying”. He’s constantly going on about some big conspiracy theory he had in his head; doesn’t know how to talk to most of those around him (especially girls); and just seems like he’s pissing his life away on taking photographs, but never doing anything to take them to the next level or step. Generally, we could see him as “unlikable”, but the fact that Coltrane himself is mostly the same age as the kid the portraying, there’s a feeling you get where you want this kid to just do fine and chive on. He may not always make the right decisions, but when he does, it’s like an easy victory you get in the pit of your stomach when somebody you know or like does something you want them to do.

Oh, okay. Guess he's going through that "emo-phase" now, but hey, he's still a bit precious, right?

Wow. Okay. Guess he’s going through that “emo-phase” now, but hey, he’s still a bit precious……..right?

What I’m trying to say is that Mason becomes our buddy of sorts, and for others, maybe even another child. So when he wins, we win. And when he loses, we lose even worse. It’s a push-and-pull roller-coaster of emotions that will definitely pull you in from the very start and it only helps that Linklater himself hardly ever pulls any punches in delivering this story to us. Sometimes, we see important changes in his life occur; other times, we don’t. We get glimpses and peaks into his life at whatever present time and it’s always interesting, because it always feels real. Nothing life-changing, or sudden, or dramatic; just realistic and natural. The only way Linklater knows how to make most of his movies.

Like I was saying about Coltrane though, the kid’s great and definitely shows that he’s able to hold his own with those around him. I’m interested in seeing what he’s got next, as I think this role doesn’t perfectly summon-up who he is as an actor, but will definitely be a stepping-stone of sorts for a bright future.

Also helping Coltrane out as Mason’s older sister is Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, who feels just as natural as being a child, to being a teenager, as he is. Both create a wonderful chemistry that feels like the quintessential sister-brother dynamic: She looks out for him, but knows that he can make her seem “lame”, even if that isn’t his original intention. But the one’s who really help this movie out to move and move and move as much as it possibly can without moving too fast, is Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their parents.

I haven’t seen Arquette in a role as meaty as this in awhile, and it’s great to see her back in action, because she is such a lovely presence to watch on screen. It doesn’t matter if she’s being mean, funny, upset, ridiculous, or crazy; she feels like a real mommy that loves her kids, would do anything for them and wouldn’t stop at anything to ensure their safety/happiness. Ethan Hawke’s daddy character is the same way, albeit more charming and full of fun. Which, I guess, is sort of the point: He’s the divorced-daddy that sees the kids every so often, and always wants to make sure their time with him is the greatest they could ever have. He’s not the best guy in the world, but he continues to try each and everyday he sees them and that’s more than enough. Not just for them, but for us as well.

Because, essentially, their adventure, is our adventure. Even if we haven’t lived it before, we are now and there’s an inherent beauty in that.

Consensus: In essence, not much happens in Boyhood, but that’s also another reason why it’s wonderful in taking everyday life, and making it into an emotional, compelling and always interesting epic that not only stretches the form of current-day movie-making, but changes our perspective on our own lives as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

What the hell?!?! How did this happen?!?! Where did time go!??! Waah! I want my mommy!

What the hell?!?! How did this happen?!?! Where did time go!??! Waah! I want my mommy!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Dreamers (2004)

Three’s always a better party.

American university student Matthew (Michael Pitt) arrives in Paris during the year 1968, having no clue what to do with himself. However, he loves movies and he’s young at heart, so he ends up going the local theaters, as well as to whatever protests the young kids are holding around there. That’s where Matthew runs into the wild and blissful Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), twins that do everything together (and I do mean everything). Being that they’re all the same age and have the same interests in music, food and movies, they both take a liking to Matthew and invite him over for a dinner that goes sour. However, Matt stays the night over and the next day, finds out that both Theo and Isabelle’s parents are gone, leaving the house all to themselves where they can do whatever the hell it is they want. Predictably, this leads to a lot rough-housing and misbehaving, but things get a bit serious once Matthew loses a game of “Guess Which Movie” and is forced to have sex with Isabelle; something he obviously wants to do, but not in front of her brother, and definitely not nearly as soon either. But he does, and that’s when things get a bit tense between the three.

You have to hand it to Bernardo Bertolucci, the dude sure does love his sex. But also, he sure does love movies. And in a smart way, he’s able to combine them both here into one story that’s a love-triangle of sorts; one that’s an ode to movies as a whole; and another that has something to say about the changing of times during this French New Wave period. To be honest, though his intentions are noble, Bertolucci’s combination doesn’t always work and you sometimes have to wonder how much of this movie-talk actually pertains to the story itself, but there’s something neat that he does with this film.

"Yeah, I think that's exactly where the cold sore is."

“Yeah, I think that’s exactly where the cold sore is.”

See, a lot has been made about it’s NC-17 rating and to be honest, it’s quite deserved. The sex itself isn’t too graphic to where it’s practically a hardcore porno, but it’s all the nudity that gets the rating. For a good portion of this movie, these characters are naked and just absolutely flaunting whatever they’ve got, while they’re dancing, talking about movies, smoking a joint, drinking wine, listening to music, or just doing whatever the hell it is that they want to do. Why is that? Well, it’s because they’re young and it’s the dawn of the French sexual age in which practically everybody banged everybody, they all had a fun time doing so, and nobody cared either way.

And while for most movies, that aspect would seem forced, as if the creator behind it was just trying to shock you by featuring numerous shots of pubic hair and penises, not here. Bertolucci loves what it is that he has on display here, whether it be the characters, the movie’s they’re referencing and sometimes acting out, or just whatever political ideals they express to one another. Sometimes it can be a bit pretentious, but I was able to give it a slide because that’s just who these characters were: Young, full of ideas, always wanting to have a good time, and not waste a single second of their lives.

To me, it was fun to watch. Not because I got to see Eva Green naked on numerous occasions (although that was definitely something of a plus), but because these kids were fun to be around. Even though they felt like they were deeper than they really were, there was something rather endearing about the way they handled themselves regardless of what it was they were doing. Sure, they could be lying naked on the ground, or all huddled together in the tub or something, but it never seemed to bore me. Maybe it was because their constant-references of classic films gave the film-buff inside of me an extra, energized boost, or maybe it was because I was just enjoying hanging around these kids, as if they were my own friends I’d be around (presumably with clothes off, of course).

But either way, they were just characters I liked to watch and listen to. It didn’t matter if they were up their own asses on whatever they thought was “right” or “wrong” for the world, it was more that they had ideas about the world in general and were willing to express them with such passion and frivolity. They weren’t going to back down from any argument, even if they seem destined to lose it and because I too was once in their shoes (still am, sort of), I couldn’t help but smile. They’re not dumb, but they’re not smart either; they’re just young people, man.

And believe it or not, they’re the future. So don’t piss them off, pops!

Speaking of these kids, all three are great. Previously mentioned Green gets to do a whole lot with her female screen-presence, which is more than just being naked and it’s something of a sight to see, because she commands the screen with everything she’s got. Her character isn’t an easy one to pin down and when you start to see that there’s more to the mystery that surrounds her, you start to feel for this character as, at the end of the day, she’s just a woman looking for a love in her life. And although that love in her life may be her jealousy-ridden brother, Louis Garrel still brings out enough in this Theo character to make it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy; he’s just very passionate about what it is that he believes. Pretty much like most young people really.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I've had with the older bro's of the gals I've bedded. Only slightly.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I’ve had with the older bro’s of the gals I’ve bedded. Only slightly.

But the one who really does something with his character and almost walks away with this movie is Michael Pitt as Matthew. Pitt’s great here because he goes from awkward and shy, to being an absolute lovely, spirited presence that soaks up in the moment and actually has a thing or two on his mind that he’d like to get. In fact, by the end, he ends up being the voice of reason and had this movie gone deeper into that aspect, I feel like we could have really gotten a stronger character here. Even more importantly, maybe even a stronger movie.

Because like what I was blabbering on about earlier, not all of this film works; specifically, what point it is that Bertolucci is trying to get across through these characters, their ideas, their speeches and most importantly, what’s happening all around them. What he tries to do is that I think he tries to get a point across about why it’s important that these kids stick up for what they believe in and how they should go about doing so, whether it be through a peaceful or non-peaceful protest, and while it’s nice to see him shed some light on these ideas, they never seem to go anywhere. And even when they do, it’s almost too late in the movie to where it feels shoe-horned in there to give it a bigger sense of meaning.

You know, more meaning than just a bunch of kids being naked and having steamy, hot sex. Which is fine and all, because the scenes are lit perfectly and give you the sense that they are literally loving it in the moment, but when it tries to be something more than just that, it sort of stumbles. Maybe had Bertolucci just made this an even smaller, more intimate character-study of these three characters, we probably would have had a tighter, better with a more lasting impact. But sadly, we don’t.

We just have a whole lot of shots of Michael Pitt’s penis and Eva Green’s bum. So you can’t say that there isn’t something for everyone.

Consensus: While it would like to be deeper than it really is, the Dreamers still works in giving us three wonderful performances from the main cast, as well as presenting a story that touches on more than just a whole lot of sex.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

This Is Not a Film (2012)

It actually isn’t.

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film-maker who is quite known for his movies pushing the boundaries and challenging the way that country’s government is run. So much so that he eventually lands himself under some serious hot water, when he is placed under house-arrest. Even worse though, he is given a 20-year ban on making, writing, or even producing a movie. Also to add insult to injury, he can’t leave the country either. Basically Panahi is supposed to just sit around all day, watch movies, go on the computer, feed his pet lizard, stay with his family, and wait around as a possible rebuttal is being drawn-up. But Panahi isn’t going to wait any longer; not just because he feels like pissing off the government anymore than he already has, but because he has ideas, dammit! And you know what? He’s going to try and film them to the best that he can. That’s when he decides to give his good buddy, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, a call to come over and help him film everything that he’s doing. Which, for the most part, consists of him talking about this idea for his next movie, his frustration with the situation he’s being thrown into, and the life he’s had, up until this point.

So yeah, this is a pretty tricky film in the sense that it’s a documentary, but not really; it’s about this guy’s life, but it’s also just about this one day in his life, as opposed to it being a biography of his life until this point. Any way that we’re supposed to know about Panahi’s childhood or his introduction into the filming-world is all up to us to find out for ourselves. Which yes, can be quite frustrating if you’re used to ordinary documentaries just telling you everything you need to know about its subject, but then again, this isn’t an ordinary documentary.

Still surprised I didn't see any FYC ad's going around town for that lizard. He practically steals the show.

Still surprised I didn’t see any FYC ad’s going around town for that lizard. He practically steals the show. Or whatever this is that they’re filming.

As if you haven’t been able to already tell so far.

But regardless of if we get any background info on Panahi or not in this movie, it doesn’t matter, because what it does so well is that it places us in a day in the life of this guy as he’s under this peculiar situation. And by “a day in the life”, I mean exactly that – we start the movie with this guy in his kitchen, eating some sort of bread, talking on the phone, and ending it all with him outside as the night crowd rages on. We start the film seeing him, and end it, seeing what he sees it. And that’s pretty much how the whole film rolls for the most part.

May sound like a drag to some, and for a good portion of it, it totally is, but there’s still something quite invigorating about spending a whole day with someone you just literally met, and seeing everything that they are seeing. Which is to say that there’s not much camera-trickery to be found here; we get a couple of glimpses into a flick of his past and even his iPhone’s video-camera, but other than that, everything we see is solely from the view-point of Panahi and whatever it is that his camera films. It can either be him mapping-out set-designs for his next “possible” movie, or him just sitting on the computer, browsing as his lizard crawls up on him and scratches him with its sharp nails.

Sounds monotonous and somewhat boring, but I think that may be the point. And because that’s the point, it’s not boring to watch. We get a sense early on that this is a man who is genuinely upset about the position that he is thrown into and rather than pissing, moaning and ranting on and on for days about it, he thinks of ways that he could get any sort of creativity out of his system that may at all be possible. Sure, it sucks for him to be stuck inside his house all day during one of the craziest days of the year, while his family is all out and about, but he makes the best of it and there’s something nice and rather endearing in seeing that.

However, that isn’t to say it’s just Panahi the whole damn time; right around the middle of the flick, we get a visitor in Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who doesn’t do much talking, but at least takes the camera for awhile and just films Panahi as he does whatever he wants (except go outside or make movies, that is). Because of him, this movie is possible and it makes us see the troubled, upset man that Panahi is. Yet again though, that isn’t to say he’s constantly whining about where he’s at and why he’s there; he understands why he’s being punished, by whom and is just trying to make it through it all. For that, it’s a bit of an inspirational tale, though it’s not hokey.

As I imagine Lars von Trier literally plans most of his movies out.

As I imagine Lars von Trier literally maps his movies out.

Once again, it’s just this guy’s life; more specifically, a day in his life. Not much happens, then again, not much needs to happen. Just seeing him let loose with all of the smart, creative ideas he has in his head and watching as he lets that spill out onto the floor around him, is really something of a sight; something I imagine almost each and every film-maker does with an inspired idea of theirs. Of course there are some brief detours (one in particular, a lady who knocks on his door trying to have him take her dog for her), but nothing to the point of where we lose our focus: Jafar Panahi. But then again though, there isn’t really much of a focus to begin with. We’re just watching him, his day, and occasionally hearing what he has to say, or seeing what he has to do.

As I said before too, some may find that utterly the most boring thing on the face of the planet, and I can’t necessarily disagree with that. Parts of it seem stale and uneventful, but that’s just how life is. Most importantly, that’s just how life is for this man, Jafar Panahi. He’s a creative-mind that wants to be able to use his talents, but can’t and because of that, he’s suffering and finding anyway he can possibly let all of his creativity out. Even if it does get him in some trouble.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s quite admirable.

Consensus: Though not an ordinary, conventional documentary by any means, This Is Not a Film still is unique in the way that it presents this man’s life, not through background info that reads like a WikiPedia page, but through this one day in his life where he has nowhere else to be except for his house, with his camera and with his creative-mind.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like the Blair Witch Project, except 21st century technology. And more accessible portable-devices.

Sort of like that scene from the Blair Witch Project, except 21st century technology. And more accessible portable-devices.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Cold Weather (2011)

Detectives are so mainstream, man.

A forensics-science major named Doug (Chris Lankenau) returns to his hometown of Portland and shares an apartment with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Doug doesn’t really have much ambition with his life, so he takes what he can get, even if that is getting a job at a local ice factory, where he meets a dude named Carlos (Raúl Castillo). Together, they form a nice friendship that kind of hits a rough-patch when Carlos starts trying to aim his sights on Doug’s ex, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), but not as much of a rough-patch as when the gal goes missing. In search of Rachel and a sense of life itself, the three all go running around like crazy, as if they were younger, smaller-budget versions of Sherlock Holmes themselves, which makes it even more ironic since they read him on a regular-basis.

The whole idea behind this flick is obvious, but also smart in a way as well. It’s a mumblecore movie, which means we get a whole bunch of scenes featuring young, twentysomethings just sitting around, drinking and/or smoking, talking about how much life blows, how much their parents blow, and when they aren’t doing that, they’re mostly just staring into space, contemplating what to do next with their lives. Most mumblecore movies seem to be like that, which gets it down for us on a real level, one that we can connect with a lot easier than most of these big-budget, shallow, mainstream flicks. However, this mumblecore is slightly different from the rest because not only does it play with the conventions of the same genre it’s to be considered apart of, but actually ends up being a mystery-thriller. But hold up, because the joke isn’t quite done yet. Rather than it being a movie about an actual mystery, with actual reasons for a bunch of thrilling moments, the movie features zip of that aspect.

"Wow. This pipe has given me the most excitement I've had ever since I turned 22."

“Wow. This pipe has given me the most excitement I’ve had ever since I turned 22.”

That’s right, the whole 96-minutes of this flick is basically about nothing. However, that’s the whole point of this flick: Nothing. Right when we meet these characters, we realize that most of them live empty, boring lives where the most excitement they have is either playing poker with two or three friends, getting drunk, or going to Star Trek conventions that feature some of the lamest characters of the whole franchise. It does take place in Portland, so it should come as a surprise to almost no one that these people are so bored and tired with their lives, which makes it all the more reason for them to get all hyped-up over the possibility of a crime that needs to be solved. I almost feel guilty calling it “a crime”, because once we actually find out what’s happening behind this mystery and all, it comes off as a bit of a disappointment by how uneventful and smart it actually is.

Then again though, that’s sort of the point of this movie.

Writer/director Aaron Katz seems to have a good grasp on what makes any movie, no matter how big or small, interesting. Yes, there are plenty of scenes where these characters are seemingly doing nothing, talking about nothing, and planning on doing nothing the next day and so on and so forth, but it feels honest and realistic. Also, Katz never shines a bad light on these characters either. So what if they’re uninspired and constantly dry? They’re actual people, you know? They have feelings, want to do human things, and also want to have fun every once and awhile as well. Showing these characters in that type of light is what saves this flick from being uninteresting and also gets it out of the genre of mumblecore, since most flicks associated with that genre either give every one who watches it a bad vibe right after.

However, that could just be me.

All of that can especially be said for our main protagonist, Doug, played very well by Chris Lankenau. I’ve never seen Lankenau in anything ever before in my life and I don’t think I will again anytime soon, however, the guy does well with a character that could have easily been a totally unlikable person from the start. Doug seems like he has all of the promise in the world to make something of his life, but is a bit of a loser in the way he just sits around, mopes all day, and gets lame-ass jobs that don’t pay much or give him much to do anyway. Then again though, that’s life so you got to take what you can get. But there’s a nice naturalism to Lankenau that made me feel like I was watching a dude practically play himself, without any strings attached. I don’t want to say he has much charisma going for himself to carry this movie, but he does have enough moments where you wonder if he ever acted before-hand, or just tried something out as a hobby. Wouldn’t be surprised by either decision of his.

Life is catching up with you, indie-boy. Better start running for the suburbs!

Life is catching up with you, indie-boy. Better start running for the suburbs!

The same type of naturalism that Lankenau has going for himself can be said about the two other actors in this movie, Trieste Kelly Dunn and Raúl Castillo. Dunn is great as Doug’s sister because there’s something about her that makes you not want to like her, but you still do because she’s just as bored with life as Doug is, she just has more to show of it. The scenes with them together are great and probably connected with me a bit more than the usual, average person because of the relationship my own sissy and I have. Sometimes we get pissed at one another and can’t believe how ridiculous the other one’s being, but we love each other, are always there to talk to, and like to have a good time with as well. That touched me, not just because of my own relationship with my sister, but because the writing between them two are the best moments, and Dunn and Lankenau feel like an actual brother-sister combo.

Castillo is also very good as the buddy that Doug makes at work, and actually has you believe that these two random people would spark-up a friendship, despite it occurring practically overnight. Castillo has a certain sense of naturalism and likability to his act and character that makes him seem like the only dude from this movie that could break out and make something of his career, just as long as he continues to get more juicy roles. Fingers crossed on that one. The one person of this cast that I didn’t mention is not mentioned for a reason and that’s Robyn Rikoon as the gal who goes missing. Despite having a name that sounds like she was a long, lost member of the Loony Tunes, Rikoon’s able to be taken seriously for a good chunk of the movie, until shit gets a bit serious and her acting goes a bit overboard. I don’t want to say how or why, but just to let you know that out of everybody else in this cast, she’s the only one seems to actually be “acting”, which is a problem for a movie that’s trying to be so real, and came close to pulling it off so well.

Consensus: Most will wonder why Cold Weather is so aimless and pondering with its premise, but soon will actually begin to realize that’s the point once the tension, the mystery, and the actual story begins to kick in.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yup, I'm bored already."

“Yup, I’m bored already.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Like Father, Like Son (2014)

Those silly Japanese hospitals! Always mixing up kids with the wrong families! You know, just for shits and gigs! Ahaha!

Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a wealthy businessman that’s fueled mostly by success and the idea that whatever he has coming up next in the pipe-line, will feature even more success and pleasures than the last project he worked on. Even if that does keep him further and further away from his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), his son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya), and basically anyone else he ever meets. But, for the most part, Ryota is happy with life; most importantly, with his six-year-old son that he feels could be as successful as him, just as long as he dedicates himself long and hard to it. So when Ryota and his wife get a call from the hospital that helped deliver Keita to them, they’re a bit confused as to what this means; turns out, the child they’ve been raising for the past six years, isn’t really theirs. Instead, their biological child is with another family, whereas that family’s child is actually Keita. How this happened in the first place is a total jam and up to the lawyers to decide, but in the meantime, Ryota and Midori feel as if it’s best to test out their options and see whether they should switch Keita and be with their biological child, or, keep Keita with them because the bond is already there.

Basically, if you’re going to have a child, make sure it’s not in Japan.

But no, in all seriousness, that plot-synopsis reads out a bit like a comedy. You could easily see a light-hearted romp centered around the fact that a family who, for the last six years, has raised a child as their own, finds out that it’s not only theirs, but that they’re own child is actually with another family, that just so happens to be a bit lower on the totem-pole than they are. I already see the gold to be made in something like that, with plenty of poop, fart and pee jokes to be added somewhere in the script whenever I see fit.

"Now remember son, don't ever eat with a fork. That shit's for weaklings!"

“Now remember son, don’t ever eat with a fork. That shit’s for weaklings!”

However, that’s not how this movie plays out as; instead, it’s drop dead serious and dramatic. And it’s an amazingly smart decision because it not only makes us understand the seriousness of this situation, but realize that there are actual stakes involved with this controversy. Better yet though, it also gives us a key-hole’s view into these character’s lives, how they live, how they appreciate their family and what it is exactly that they want to pass on for future generations to come. Which, yes, does ultimately mean that the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate comes into play pretty heavily during this movie, but it isn’t done on purpose; mostly, it’s where the human-mind jumps to first.

Instead, what writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda decides to do is keep our attention focused solely on these family-dynamics, and how they are affected by each and every single decision one person makes.

For instance, to make it even clearer, it becomes apparent early on that Ryota has himself a bit of daddy issues. Not only does he distaste his dad for some odd reason, but that he’s trying his damn near hardest not to turn out exactly like, nor have his own kids do the same. He’s trying to be that ultra-serious, strict, do-your-homework-now-or-no-video-games kind of dad, and at first, you think he means well, but ultimately, just ends up being a dick for the way he treats everyone around him. Not just his son, but his wife, as well as people that he just meets and sees as “lower” than him.

In fact, if I had to really nit-pick for a problem that I had with this movie, it was that this character was so one-note after awhile, I wondered what it was exactly that made him such a likable, lovable guy to be with and want to have kids with in the first place? Maybe it was the money? Or maybe it was that he was in a cool, rockin’ band back in the days before he decided to get settled-down and take on some responsibilities? Who knows. All I do know is that this guy was pissing me off dearly and not a single second went by where I didn’t want to knock him square in the nose and ruin that pretty, lush-face of his.

But then, out of nowhere, something happened. Not only did I start to see some good inside this Ryota character, but I also realized that I’m even beginning to sympathize with him and hope that he, as well as his family, all get what they want in the end. Surely I don’t want to spoil why this realization comes so late in the flick, but I will say that, for one thing, Koreeda does not shy away from throwing in whatever naturalistic plot-twist he can find. But it’s not all done in a way that makes it seem calculated and obvious from the start as to what’s going to happen, but more or less that since life hands you surprises every so often, then so does this movie. That part worked for me and it kept me wondering just how this family was going to resolve their little situation, and whether or not certain relationships were going to be crushed or not.

"It says here that 'we're fucked'. What do you think that could possibly mean, honey?"

“It says here that ‘we’re fucked’. What do you think that could possibly mean, honey?”

Most of that comes from the fact that Koreeda gives each and every character a beating heart, a living soul and a thinking brain, but because he allows us to see the situation from each and everyone of these viewpoints, regardless of whether we like them or not. Some people think differently than others and while it makes sense why one person would want to take their own kid as their own, the movie brings up the idea that maybe, just maybe, being blood-related is what makes you a father, a brother, a mother, a sister, or any relative, of any sort. What makes you a relative is acting like one – caring, loving and making sure that everything is all fine and dandy with that certain someone, whether they be a blood-relative, or just a person you are related to through marriage or sheer chance.

Koreeda brings this idea up on numerous occasions and by the end, it’s presented in such an honest, bare-bones way, that I was practically swimming in a pool of my own tears. And no, not because this movie features little kids getting their poor little hearts broken on countless occasions, but because it shows the bond one can have with another, as long as it depends on a mutual love and respect for the other. That’s more beautiful than just being a family; that’s just an aspect of life that makes me happy to live, each and everyday I can.

But having my family around me is cool, too. Just tell them to stay out of my room.

Consensus: Though it presents an odd situation worthy and ripe with laughter, Like Father, Like Son‘s ability to play everything as dramatic and as emotional as it can possibly stomach, makes it one of the better movies of the year, leaving you to ponder about your own family and those that you’ve either treated wonderfully as if they were a relative, or like a crap, as if they were a total and complete stranger to begin with.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Okay, everybody! Now smile and say "Weirdest family portrait ever"!

Okay, everybody! Now smile and say “weirdest family portrait ever assembled”!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Snowpiercer (2014)

Public transportation really is a pain.

In 2014, the government is afraid that global warming will rip our worlds to shreds, so they decide to test out an experiment which will supposedly counteract it. The problem is, that doesn’t happen. Instead, nearly all life on Earth is knocked out, with only a few hundred or so left riding on this super duper, seemingly never-ending train called “the Snowpiercer”. It doesn’t seem ideal at first, but when the world outside of you is a frozen wonderland, you take what you can get; but don’t tell that to those who have to stay, live and survive at the tail-end of the train. They’re considered “the low-life’s of society” that live poor, dress poor, and eat these black gelatin-bricks, they’re are told is “protein”; whereas the rich sit up front, eat their steaks and live in total luxury. It’s been like this for quite some time, but finally, the poor have had enough of being treated like total and utter crap! That’s when Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) decides that it’s his time to step up, take charge and map-out a way to get to the front of the train, find the creator, find that engine, and basically, take over the train as a whole. Sounds simple enough, but with the riot-team this train has, getting there is only half of the mission.

It’s taken quite some time for us Americans to get to see this movie, but finally, Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut is here! And yes, even though I just recently got into him, I have to say, from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been impressed. I like how Joon-ho is seemingly able to take all of these different genres of film, throw them into a blender, add a drop of sugar or two, and somehow, still be able to have it all come out fun, exciting, interesting, original, and best of all, cohesive.

"Call me 'Cap', one more time."

“Call me ‘Cap’, one more time.”

That’s why, as ambitious as this project sounds, I was a little weary. Not because the reviews for it haven’t been good (actually, quite the opposite), but because it seemed like the type of film that gets so hyped-up in the States, because it’s so different/original from anything our lazy, cheeseburger-lovin’ asses see. It doesn’t matter if the film is bad or anything, as long as it features something else other than giant robots facing off against one another, then hey, strap me in coach, I’m ready to play. Personally, I don’t mind that with some movies, but maybe with this here flick, I was more inclined to be against it, solely because everybody and their weird, stay-inside-all-day-nerdy-brothers are loving the hell out of it.

But fear not, ladies and germs! DTMMR has seen Snowpiercer and yet again, DTMMR has given into what the rest of the world has been saying: It’s pretty rad.

That said, the movie isn’t perfect and I think that’s the most important fact to note right away. Because see, while this movie is all sorts of ambitious, strange and, for lack of a better word, “different”, it can be a bit messy. Not just with the action that spills out all over the place at times, but because the balance Joon-ho has here between having people beat the bloody hell out of one another, with said people sitting down, chatting about life and what it all means, isn’t very well-done. You can tell whenever the brakes on this movie are hit, because it doesn’t just slow everything down to a slower-speed, it slows absolutely everything down to a freakin’ halt.

That’s not to say that whenever the movie wanted to sit down, chat for awhile and be more than just “poor vs. rich; fuck yeah!”, it was bad or annoying, it was just clearly obvious that Joon-ho felt like he had to include those moments in there, just so that people wouldn’t be upset that there wasn’t any “substance” behind all of the brutal murders and acts of violence. And although those said brutal murders and acts of violence are a bunch of juicy-fun to watch and see play out, there was still a desperate need for this movie to be about something “more”. Not just in the existential-crisis kind of way where we all take a break or two from the action, to sit around and cry for hours on end about how, one day, we’re all going to die; but in the way that we’re given a story that feels like there’s a reason to it existing.

And for the most part, Joon-ho totally delivers on that point. Not because it’s fun to see a bunch of poor people dressed like chimney-sweepers from a Dickens novel, battle it out with a bunch of riot police, but because you get lost in their cause and what it is that they want. Although, I will admit, it was more interesting seeing as how this movie never quite addresses what it is that these poor ones are wholly fighting for; sure, they want to get to the front of the train, get to that engine, talk to the owner of it and become the big men and women on campus, but in all honesty, what exactly is it that they’re going to do when they get up there? It’s never really brought to our attentions (not just by the film, but by the characters themselves), which is why it’s so thrilling to see them battle their way to the front, and even more thrilling to watch them as they figure out and come to the realization that they have to think of something, and something quick if they want this train to be theirs.

That the film doesn’t feel the need to hit us over the head with non-stop “we’re the 1%” metaphors, really felt like a refresher. But was even more refreshing was just seeing an sci-fi/action blockbuster be exactly all that it should be. It has heart; it has originality; it has blood; it has violence; it has fun; it has sci-fi; it has themes about people taking over control of a situation that they either can’t get out of, or don’t want in the first place that almost everyone can relate to (looking at you, Grandpa); and, to add a cherry on top, there’s a wonderful ensemble cast to go along the ride with as well.

Also, another interesting note to be made about this movie, is it’s cast. Not only are there some pretty big names, but they all comes from different shapes, sizes and regions of the world that it feels so strange having them together, on the same screen at times. Sure, I expected Jamie Bell and John Hurt to eventually cross paths in the film world, but you could have never told me that you’d expect to see Ewen Bremner and Octavia Spencer just hanging out, side-by-side, giving their enemies hell. Then again, maybe you could; maybe, I’m just a strange duckling. But either way, it’s a pretty unique cast that not only works to the movie’s advantage, but also helps make the idea of the whole world being thrown onto this ultra-train all the more believable.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

You can’t just have a dystopian-set futuristic world in which survivors from all throughout the globe have survived, and there be all American white guys just hanging around and shooting the shit about the good old days of bull-shitting about the Bush administration. This is the world, man! And last time I checked: It’s pretty damn big!

But although the cast is huge and pretty eclectic, the one who really leads this to the finish line is none other than an American white guy as is: Chris Evans.

Yes, for most of you hormone-fueled women (as well as gay man), Chris Evans has definitely been the pleasure of your eye-lids for quite some time, but he’s changing that all up now with this role. Not by throwing some dirt on himself and growing a beard, but by showing us that he’s an actor baby, and that he can sure as hell do exactly that, which is act! I’ve always had much faith in Evans as an actor, and here, he’s given free reign to not only command this group of his and be a leader, but also command this movie into being something more than just a sci-fi tale full of havoc, blood and destruction. He gives it some levity; most importantly so during one of the last scenes in the movie in which he talks about his history on that train, why he needs to do what he needs to do, and the type of effect it’s had on him for the past twenty or so years. Not only is it one of the most emotional scenes of the whole movie (of which there isn’t many), but it’s definitely the pinnacle of Evan’s acting-ability and shows that he can play both tough, angry, and emotionally distraught, all at the same time.

A very impressive feat. Try topping that, Downey.

Consensus: Internally, Snowpiercer is a messy flick, but it’s hardly ever boring, intriguing, nor against a crazy, out-of-the-box idea it didn’t like, making it one of the better, more memorable blockbusters of the summer.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess they don't have showers in the future. Oh well. Works for me!

Guess they don’t have showers in the future. Yay! Now I’d have an excuse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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