Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: Movies

Irrational Man (2015)

If you’re depressed, sometimes, all you need is a little crime.

Philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) isn’t exactly in the right place of his career, or his life currently. For one, he’s just taken up a new teaching job at a Rhode Island college, Braylin, for summer courses and he’s always bored. He’s also going through something of an existential crisis where he contemplates suicide daily and can’t seem to maintain an erection, even when he’s with the lovely and super horny Rita (Parker Posey). And now, to make matters worse, he’s starting to find himself fall head-over-heels for a student of his, Jill Pollard (Emma Stone), who feels strongly about him too, even though she’s already gotten a boyfriend (Jamie Blackley). Though Abe doesn’t want to have any sort of romantic relationship with Jill because it would be inappropriate and unprofessional of him, he still can’t seem to hold back on his affections. So basically, Abe is not feeling too happy about his life right now and needs something to wake him up from this metaphorical slumber and put him back on-track. What will wake him up, though? Or better yet, will it even be legal?

It’s hard to talk about a movie like Irrational Man, because from what I know, not many people know about the twist that occurs about half-way through. Even though it was definitely hinted at in the months of pre-production and filming, many people I have spoken to, or at least have read reviews of, claim to have not known anything of the twist. Honestly, that surprises me a bit, but because I am a nice, kind, and generous human being, I will decide to hold back on spoiling anything related to the twist.

To be with Stone....

To be with Stone….

Which is a shame, because it surely makes this movie a lot harder to review now.

But what I will say about Irrational Man, in relation to that twist, is that when it comes around and shakes things up, Woody Allen’s writing gets a whole lot sharper. What’s interesting about a lot of Woody Allen’s movies is that they’re very hard to classify as “dramas” or “comedies”. He’s definitely had many that are either the latter, or a combination of both, but he doesn’t quite do the former nearly as much as he should. Even though Cassandra’s Dream was a bust, Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors forever rank as two of his better movies because they show Woody Allen in a different light than ever before. Sure, he may be able to deliver on the funny when need be, but when he wants to deliver a dark, sad and sometimes harrowing story, he can still hang with the best of them, even if there is a small wink at the audience every now and then.

And with Irrational Man, it seems as if he’s definitely come back to being slap dab in the middle of being a comedy, but with many, many dramatic undertones. Sometimes, that can cause a bit of a problem with this movie as it’s never full-known whether Allen himself is intentionally trying to make a drama, or if a lot of his dialogue just comes off in an incredibly stilted way, that it seems like comedy, but either way, there’s something more interesting here to watch than there is in say, something like To Rome With Love. Even if the bar isn’t set very high with that one, it’s still worth pointing out as a lot of Allen’s recent movies are very hit-or-miss nowadays.

Still though, there’s a lot to like here.

With Allen soon approaching 80, it’s not as if he really has anything new or interesting to say about life, love, relationships, poetry, literature, or anything else that’s discussed in his sorts movies, but there’s still something entertaining about the way in how these characters talk to one another. While the philosophical squabbles don’t really go anywhere, it’s interesting to see the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone deliver them to one another; the dialogue may not be as sharp as a tack, but it’s something different than what we’ve seen from these two before and it offers some entertainment just based solely on that level. There are bits that are funny, as well as there are ones that are just plain dramatic, but no matter what, it’s neat to see how Allen, no matter what number movie he’s on, seems to get certain stars to deliver his dialogue to the best of his ability.

Or, to be with Posey?

….0r, to be with Posey?

And with that said, Phoenix himself is pretty good here in a lighter role than from what we’re used to seeing from him. Phoenix doesn’t too often get to do comedy nowadays, and while he isn’t exactly supposed to be the most hilarious guy in the room here, there’s still some shadings of slight humor to be found if you look closely and deep into the cracks of this character and this performance. At the same time though, there’s still a lot going on with this character that’s a tad unsettling, and it just goes to show you the kind of talent that Phoenix is, to where he’s able to make you laugh along with him, as well as be disgusted by him as well.

The perfect antihero if there ever was one; something that Allen doesn’t write much of anymore.

Stone is quite good here, too, and gets to show that she’s a bit better at handling Allen’s dialogue than she was able to do in Magic in the Moonlight. The only problem that there is to be found with this character is that, sometime by the end, she goes through a change that makes her go from this lovable, doe-eyed and naive schoolgirl, to this Nancy Drew-like character who picks up on all sorts of clues that are miraculously dropped in her way. Once again, I’m being as vague about this fact as humanly possible, but it is something that didn’t seem too believable to me, even if Stone does try her hardest to make it work.

Because no matter what, it’s hard to hate this face. Maybe this face, but not this one.

Okay, I’m done now with my crush.

Consensus: A tad darker than most of Allen’s recent outputs, Irrational Man is slightly uneven, but benefits from solid performances from the cast and a smart twist that keeps certain themes from growing old.

7.5 / 10

Think it over, Joaquin. You've got some time.

Think it over, Joaquin. You’ve got some time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Scientology be damned when Ethan Hunt is on the case!

Now that the IMF has been disbanded for the fact that they are considered unreliable and dangerous, superstar agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is forced to go rogue. However, Ethan believes that he has got another mission left in him that will take him to ultra shady group that is “the Syndicate”. Ethan has an idea that the Syndicate is apparently up to no good and is planning on wiping out the entire globe, but in order to stop this from happening, he needs to get to the head of the group (Sean Harris) – which, considering how top-notch and professional this group is, is a lot easier said then done. But Ethan is inspired enough to take matters into his own hands, even if that means bringing some of his old friends and colleagues around one more time, even if that means that their jobs will be at-stake in doing so. However, another problem standing in Ethan’s way is a fellow agent by the name of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who he isn’t quite sure of which side she’s actually on. Which not only spells problems for Ethan’s mission, but also his heart that seems to be taken a bit with this mysterious lady.

Unlike most movie franchises out there, each installment of Mission: Impossible feels as if they are their own kind of movie, rather than just a carbon-copy of the one that came before it. With the first, we got Brian De Palma’s version of Hitchockian Bond movie, filled with all sorts of gadgets, twists and turns; in the second, we got John Woo’s wild and crazy action-thriller, chock full of explosions, fire, and yes, even doves; with the third movie, we got another one of J.J. Abrams’ frenetic kind of thrillers that seemed so intense, that they were about to blow-up from all the intensity; and then, with the fourth movie, we got Brad Bird’s version that hearkened back to the glory days of old school blockbusters, where times were a lot simpler then. Now, with the fourth movie, as being directed by Christopher McQuarrie, we get a slightly gritty-take on the Mission: Impossible story, which is what most people know McQuarrie to do well with.

Look out, Bourne!

Look out, Bourne!

However, at the same time, it’s still a solid action-thriller in its own right, regardless of if it follows some sort of style-pattern. Sometimes, all you need is a whole heck of a lot of action and fun thrown into your sometimes confusing story, just to make sure that everything works out as fine as can be. The Mission: Impossible movies, from what it seems, will continue to last on for another couple of years (so long as Cruise continues to sign-up for them), and honestly, I’m fine with that; it’s constantly finding new and interesting ways to re-invent itself, pick up some neat tricks along the way, and continue to set the bar for action-thrillers in its same vein.

Sort of like the Fast and Furious franchise, except for the kind of crowd who prefers wine, as opposed to Colt 45.

And in no way is that an insult to either groups of these movies; not only are those franchise’s movies fun, but they can be enjoyed by practically anyone who decides to check them out and see what they’re working with. You don’t need to see all of the Fast and Furious movies to enjoy just one, just like you don’t need to do the same for these Mission: Impossible movies – they sort of just work on their own. That’s how most action movies should be, and while it sounds incredibly easy, it’s a whole different story when watching a bad thriller and realizing that the action stinks, the story stinks, and basically, just everything else about it stinks.

If you can’t do an action movie right, then what can you do?!?

Because even though these movies have something of a plot to work with, it’s really just about the set-pieces and how far they can keep the audiences invested, regardless of how far-fetched they can get. This happens many of times in Rogue Nation, where we see scenes of Hunt holding his breath underwater for nearly three minutes straight, dangle above a French opera without a single person taking notice, or, as famously-known, hang on quite loosely to an airplane as its taking air. There’s plenty more where these examples come from, and while they may all sound ridiculous, they’re still a whole bunch of fun to sit through, watch, and think of what’s going to happen next; even if, you know, it’s already fully well-known what’s going to happen to some of these characters by the end of the tale.

There's definitely more than a little Captain in her.

There’s definitely more than a little Captain in her.

And even though Rogue Nation may be a bit of a step-back for the franchise (especially after the fantastic and very surprising Ghost Protocol), it still is, once again, a very solid action-thriller. It gets just about all of the beats right in terms of the action-department, is just long enough to not overstay its welcome, and seems like it’s still staying true to its heart by giving us the character moments in between all of the running around and explosions to make things seem a whole lot more human for the meantime. Do we really need them? Not really, but they’re fine to fall back on if you need to take a chill pill and just watch as a bunch of people talk to one another, spouting all sorts of exposition that don’t mean much else other than just, “We need to catch the bad guy and this is how we do it”.

That’s literally what every line of dialogue in Rogue Nation ends up leading towards, but there are a few surprises to be found along the way.

But the surprises don’t necessarily come from the likes of Tom Cruise, or Jeremy Renner, or Simon Pegg, or Ving Rhames, or even Alec Baldwin – they’re all fine, it’s just that who they’re playing (with the exception of newcomer Baldwin), has been done before and doesn’t feel like any sort of variation. They’re are all perfectly serviceable in a movie that’s more or less concerned with how deep of a situation it can throw its hero into, only to allow for him to break out of it in some miraculous way, nearly ten minutes later.

Nope, the real surprise of this cast comes from the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, someone I haven’t seen before, but here’s to hoping that now, that’ll change. Ferguson not only acts the part of a bad-ass, femme fatale that may or may not be playing both sides at the same time, but also looks like it, too. Much has already been said about how the Ferguson’s image is getting sexualized by the advertising for this here movie, but honestly, I think it works in her favor. Not only is Ferguson gorgeous, she’s also in incredible shape to where when you see her riding a motorcycle in tight leather, you don’t just automatically think of how hot she looks, it’s more about how much she could probably kick your ass. Also, the fact that Ferguson is something of an unknown actress to most of the mainstream media, works in her character’s favor as she could literally go anyway; there’s no pre-made clause that states she has to be the hero at the end, or gets the man. She’s not a huge actor just yet, so therefore, the mystery stays in her favor.

Although, let’s hope that she doesn’t continue to stay a mystery for too long.

Consensus: Rogue Nation is another exciting crowd-pleaser to add to the Mission: Impossible name, even if it’s not nearly the best the franchise has had to offer.

8 / 10

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Unexpected (2015)

Being pregnant most definitely seems to suck. But being with someone who is pregnant, seems to suck, too.

Samantha Abbott (Cobie Smulders) is coming at a bit of a crossroads in her life. Though she’s been a high school science teacher for quite some time, the school she currently teaches at is closing down, which means that in a few months, she’ll be without a job. Her dream job as a tour-guide in a museum looks to be opened-up for her, and while she would most definitely be jumping at the opportunity right away, she now has to deal with something else major in her life: Her pregnancy. Coincidentally, while Samantha finds out that she’s pregnant, a smart student of hers, Jasmine (Gail Bean), also does, too, and they end up spending a lot of time talking about pregnancy, what they want to do, and what’s next for them. Considering that Jasmine was one of Samantha’s more promising students, she takes it as her duty to make sure that Jasmine gets into a good college, while also still being able to keep the baby at the same time. Of course, life doesn’t always go as some expect it to, and this is where Jasmine and Samantha run into problems – sometimes separately, sometimes together.

Anders Holm or John Gallagher Jr? Seriously having a hard time making that one out.

Anders Holm or John Gallagher Jr.? Seriously having a hard time making that one out.

Folks, it’s an old saying, but it’s a very true one: Never judge a book by its cover. If you look to your right, you’ll notice the utterly disastrous hack-job of a poster that is Unexpected‘s. While I’m pretty sure this movie had plenty of praise surrounding it early on, it’s hard to not wonder just what the hell the movie’s deal is: Is it bad, hence the terrible-y photo-shopped poster? Or, is it a good movie that didn’t care too much about advertising or anything like that, because they knew what they working with as is, was worth checking out? It’s definitely the latter, but lord almighty, that poster is terrible.

Anyway, aside from all of that, Unexpected is a pretty great movie and shows that it doesn’t matter what you have at your disposal, in terms of budget or scope – as long as your movie has a believable, breathing and human heart, then it’s all going to work out just fine.

And while some of you may be thinking, “Oh great, another pregnancy dramedy where characters act-out and piss people off all because they have a human growing inside of them,” I can assure you that co-writer/director Kris Swanberg is a whole heck of a lot smarter than that. Sure, some of the acting-out and pissing people off comes into display, but it doesn’t have much to do with the pregnancy, as much as it just has to do with the day-in, day-out frustrations with life itself. Rather than just focusing solely on the life event of pregnancy and all of the hell, as well as pleasure it can put people through, Swanberg uses the whole pregnancy angle to talk more about how people’s lives are affected when things don’t fully go their way.

Both Jasmine and Samantha have certain plans for their futures, but because of their respective pregnancies, they feel as if they not just have to put those plans on-hold for now, but for possibly ever. While Samantha may be all hell-bent on getting Jasmine into college and all settled-in, she seems to constantly forget that she’s got her own problems to deal with and is only just pushing them off, creating more problems of her own, and acting as if there’s nothing totally wrong with her own life or career, for that matter. This may make it sound like Samantha’s a mean, reprehensible character that needs to help out the young, African American kid, only to make herself feel more important, but that isn’t the truth. In a way, she’s a lot like most people; focus on other people’s problems as a way to forget about your own and eventually, they’ll just float away into space.

However, with pregnancy, the problem just doesn’t float away into space. If you decide to keep the baby growing inside of you, it’s a permanent job that will require a whole heck of a lot time, attention and dedication to keeping that creation of yours as happy and as fully-function as it can possibly be. While Unexpected focuses on this idea ever so slightly, it’s not the bulk of the film; wisely enough, it’s mostly about these characters growing up, learning more about life, as well as one another in ways that they never thought they would, had neither one gotten pregnant around the same time as the other had.

But don’t get worried, folks, as this isn’t the Blind Side for young women.

Yup, that's definitely a tell-tale that

Yup, that’s definitely a tell-tale that “something” is going on.

Nope, Swanberg, like I mentioned before, is a lot smarter than that and shows that while Samantha and Jasmine may get along over certain matters of life, in no way, fashion, or shape are they the same person. Sure, they may be going through the same problems in terms of pregnancy and how to handle it all, but when they step outside of that situation, they still have a lot of differences between the two. Rather than point this out and make it seem like a huge problem, the movie instead embraces that fact and shows how these two are willing to work past those differences and make something of an appropriate friendship.

And honestly, it works as well as it does due to the talents of both Cobie Smulders and Gail Bean. While I’ve never seen Bean before, I can easily say that she handles herself well in this role as Jasmine. Though there isn’t an awful lot of heavy-lifting for her to do here, she still blends right into this role as a young teenager who, above all else, just wants things to work out for her, her family, and her on-the-way-child. There’s a certain layer of innocence to her that makes this character all the more realistic and makes me feel that I’ll be seeing more of Bean in the future.

But really, it’s Cobie Smulders who really nails every beat of this movie and shows why exactly it is that she should just drop anymore TV or Marvel roles, and just stick to indie-dramas. With Results and this, Smulders has proven herself to be a very reliable actress when it comes to playing a character as realistic as humanly possible; without ever trying, Smulders makes us see every inch of who this Samantha character is. She may not always make the best decisions, but she still has a good enough heart within her that makes it easy to see the convictions of her actions, which at least makes her sympathetic. Of course Smulders is funny, but honestly, we’ve seen her be able to do that many, many times before and it’s not anything new or surprising.

Now, her sinking into a raw, dramatic-role? There’s something I very much want to see more of.

Consensus: Smart, endearing, and sweet, without ever trying to be too much of either, Unexpected is a small surprise of a film that proves why Smulders deserves more roles of this nature, as well as puts newcomer Gail Bean on our radar’s for the future.

8 / 10

See, now why not just use that image right there and not try to Photoshop everything altogether? God, this is Web Design 101, people!

See, now why not just use that image right there and not try to Photoshop everything altogether? God, this is Graphic Design 101, people!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

SupermanposterNic Cage as Superman. Take my money. Please.

Way back when in the mid-to-late-90’s, there was a little movie called Superman Lives that was going to be made, but for many, many reasons, didn’t. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t come close to hitting the big-screens and forever being apart of the Superman film franchise. Director Jon Schnepp decides to take it upon himself to figure out all that there is to know about this infamous project. From the director (Tim Burton), to the writers (Kevin Smith wrote the first script), to the artists, to the producers (Hollywood hotshot Jon Peters), and to the cast (yes, Nicolas Cage), Schnepp takes a look at every aspect of this project, what went wrong, who was to be blamed, and exactly how far along everybody was in the process before it all went away and the movie itself would be nothing more than just a wild and wacky wet-dream for all comic book nerds everywhere.

In today’s day and age, superhero movies are constantly everywhere you turn. Just when you think you’ve gone a day or two without hearing of some new info about what a certain DC or Marvel movie is up to, something happens where people hammer-away at one another, arguing about what they want to see, with whom, and why. Basically, the world in which we live in now is a fanboy’s paradise and because of that, it’s easy to understand why so many people are hopping on-board of the superhero movie train.

Are you sold now?

Are you sold now?

Believe it or not, though, there was a time when the world wasn’t quite like that. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago, either.

It’s crazy to imagine a Superman movie not being made, but in 1998, it was most definitely plausible. And Superman Lives, the movie that was supposed to be made, is something of film-nerd fare; all of the odds were stacked against it, but somehow, it seemed just weird and ambitious enough to actually work, even if it never got made in the first place. Many years after plans for this movie fell through, we’re still here left wondering, “What would it have been like?” Would it have reached the same campy, but lively and colorful heights of Burton’s Batman? Or, sadly, would it have become something of a spiritual cousin to Joel Schumacher’s dreaded, but all-time camp-classic Batman & Robin?

Honestly, the world may never know. But it’s great to see that some regular Joe like Jon Schnepp seem so invested in the past happenings of this project, because he really digs in deep with this movie here. Of course, seeing as how this is about a movie that was never made, it’s understandable that Schnepp wouldn’t have the biggest budget to work with and on occasion, that can work against him. Every so often, when describing scenes within the film, or other scenes in general, Schnepp feels the need to use cheap-looking reenactments where people are dressed up like Superman and other comic-book figures, and it’s not at all used for irony. Schnepp doesn’t seem to trust his audience well enough to take his word for whatever scene is being described and allowing for the audience themselves to use their own imagination; or, as he utilizes in most cases, just continue to show art-work from the pre-production stages, of which there is insane amounts.

But all that aside, I have to give a lot of credit to Schnepp for at least setting out to make a movie that covers everything that was working for, as well as against this lost project. While Schnepp gets a bit too carried-away with focusing on the actual comic book side of this character, as well as the stories the movie was going to be adapting, I realize that it’s a complaint that won’t matter to those who like that sort of stuff. Maybe I’m just more inclined to wanting to hear about who stabbed whose back, why, and how that affected the film from ever being made?

But that’s just me. I’m an addict for drama.

Well, what about now?

Well, what about now?

Despite some of these small tangents, Schnepp still keeps his movie on-track with focusing on both the bright and creative,as well as the dark, ugly, and dream-crusher side of Hollywood. By having interviews with the likes of Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, and oddly enough, Jon Peters, Schnepp is able to highlight many different approaches to this infamous project, as well as the whole legend that is Hollywood. With Burton, we see the weird, but artistic side; with Smith, we see the nerdy, but funny side; and with Peters, we see, well, Hollywood itself.

While it should be noted that Schnepp doesn’t seem to really be putting the blame of why this movie-idea never came to actual fruition, he clearly seems to have an idea of who started problems with it all in the first place: Jon Peters. Much has already been said about Peters in the past, so it’s no surprise here when certain cast and crew members speak of their bad altercations with Peters and how he would, on random occasions, put workers into head-locks to prove how tough and in-control he was. Even if this seems like Schnepp picking on Peters, there’s a few times during Peters interview where he makes it clear that everything said about him, may in fact be true; he doesn’t come right out and say that he’s a dick, because he doesn’t have to. He acts like it as is and it’s telling that Schnepp doesn’t harp on this fact too much, but instead, just allows for it to play out.

But like I said before, Schnepp does an effective enough job to where we see how hard it is actually to make a movie, regardless of who you have working on it, or even what it’s about. Schnepp’s intentions may not be to show how hard it is to make a movie in the first place, but it certainly comes off as a cautionary tale for most of those who may want to think twice about getting their ideas on a piece of paper, so that some big-wig, studio executive can take it for themselves, tear it all to pieces, and basically, make sure you’re name is never seen near it again.

Because honestly, if a Superman movie starring this guy can’t be made, then what can be?

Consensus: For any fans of the folklore surrounding Superman LivesTDOSLWH will definitely help answer some questions about what exactly happened, as well leave some others up in the air.

7.5 / 10

Okay, well if you're not sold by this, then I'm afraid that there's no more helping.

Okay, well if you’re not sold by this, then I’m afraid that there’s no helping. Just enjoy Zak Snyder and Batfleck!

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Pilot

Danny Collins (2015)

John Lennon once tried to reach out to me, too. Then, I woke up.

Danny Collins (Al Pacino) feels as if he’s been on top of the music world for as long as he can remember. He’s still on-tour, making money, throwing parties, and set to be married to a much younger woman. Despite the fact that Danny hasn’t written any new music in nearly a decade, he’s happy enough with himself and his career that he doesn’t care too much about what the nay-sayers may be spouting about. That all begins to change one day, however, when his manager (Christopher Plummer) hands him a letter written in 1971 by John Lennon, asking that Danny come visit him and Yoko Ono to make music and see what sort of chemistry they’ve got between one another. Danny now feels like his career needs a reboot, with him dropping out of his latest tour, cancelling his engagement, and going back to visit the son (Bobby Cannavale), the daughter-in-law (Jennifer Garner), and granddaughter (Giselle Eisenberg) that he never got a chance to know. However, it’s not going to be so easy for Danny to come back into their lives, especially considering that he’s been out of them for quite some time, which was all his doing in the first place.

Definitely not a Motel 6.

Definitely not a Motel 6.

You can tell exactly where Danny Collins is going to go right from the start. It’s so obviously calculated and written in a way that, even if you haven’t seen a single movie ever made, you’d still know what’s going to happen, when, where, and why. There’s many movies I’ve seen where there’s been hardly any surprises to be found within the plot itself, yet, by the same token, there’s little pieces of honest insight to be found that the formula can get tooled around with enough to where it doesn’t matter; sometimes, you just need a little shake-up here and there.

And that’s exactly what Dan Fogelman does here.

While Fogelman may be a little too pleased with himself and the way he’s written these characters, the way in how he keeps each and every character interesting is what really surprises. You know that Pacino’s Collins is going to be a self-centered sham that thinks the best way to cope with past hurt and pain, is to buy people nice, pretty and shiny things, but there’s more to him than that. And you’d think the same thing with Garner’s character, who honestly seems like she’d be so against Collins to begin with (and with good reason), but we soon realize and find out more about her that makes it seem like she too wants Danny back in her family’s life, even if she knows it will all fall apart eventually.

Everything and everyone, initially, seems so written in a way that makes it seem as if they’re just going to be types in this conventional plot, but because they’re given new shadings here and there courtesy of Fogelman, they make the plot seem a tad different. Don’t get me wrong, what you can expect to happen at the end, most definitely will, but it’s not all beautiful and perfect; these characters are still definitely hurt from something and Fogelman doesn’t forget about what makes them all tick. This is Fogelman’s first time being both behind the writer’s desk as well as the camera, and I have to say, the guy’s impressed me here. While he’s not doing anything necessarily ground-breaking as a director, he keeps a nice pace to where we get just the right amount of details of these characters and what makes them breathe, while also feeling like we’re leading to something worth sitting by.

Every family needs a little helping-hand here and there. Even the picture perfect ones.

Every family needs a little helping-hand here and there. Even the picture perfect ones.

Sounds obvious, I know, but when you take into consideration many other movies, it’s nice to feel as if every scene on-display has a purpose and isn’t just thrown in there so we can get random scenes of actors acting actor-ly.

But where Danny Collins really excels, is with the cast who, let’s be honest, had they not all been cast in their own, respective roles, wouldn’t have allowed this movie to work as well as it most definitely does. Danny Collins, the character, may seem like one that Al Pacino has played many, many times before, but what he does so well here is that he cools down all of the wild and wacky eccentrics we’re used to seeing Pacino put-on full-display. The only time that he totally mucks it up, is when he’s acting as Danny Collins, the celebrity figure – every other chance he gets to show that there’s more to him than just a presence on the stage, is when he’s with those he wants to surround himself with. Sure, he’s still a bit of a ham, but he’s a sympathetic one that uses his lovely charms to make those around him happier and feel better about themselves. And as expected, Pacino is great at displaying every ounce of humanity within this character.

However, Pacino gets some solid assistance from the great supporting cast. Bobby Cannavale fits perfectly as Danny’s estranged son who is going through his own personal problems, yet, still seems like he wants to connect with his dad despite all of the problems he’s been through over the years; Jennifer Garner is sweet and subtle as the wife that doesn’t want to control too much of what happens between Danny and her husband, yet, also doesn’t want it all to fall apart like before; Christopher Plummer is a great source of humor here as Danny’s manager, but also has a sweet side to him that makes it easy to see why he and Danny have been together for so very long; and Annete Benning, despite seeming like a total stuck-up gal in the earlier portions of this movie, shows that she’s got more of a fun and zany side to her that’s perfectly compatible with Collins’. And heck, even Josh Peck’s pretty good here.

Now, there’s something you don’t see every day!

Consensus: Everything about Danny Collins‘ plot is predictable, but there’s a certain amount of heart and sweetness guiding it along, even despite the ensemble’s fantastic work.

8 / 10

Just imagine Rod Stewart, as portrayed by Al Pacino and there you have him: Danny Collins.

Just imagine Rod Stewart, as portrayed by Al Pacino and there you have him: Danny Collins.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pixels (2015)

Nerds will save the world from ultimate destruction. Not Adam Sandler.

In 1982, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) thought he was the ultimate champ at arcade games. Turns out, however, he was wrong when he lost in the final round to the likes of Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage). Now, over 30 years later, Sam’s life is a bit depressing – he’s middle-aged, single, and works a job as a electronics repairman. His best friend, on the other hand, Will Cooper (Kevin James), just so happens to be the President of the United States, so at least he has that going for him. Everything in their lives change one day when, out of the blue, old-school video games start attacking them; nobody really knows why, but all anybody can make up is the fact that these attacks are serious and that cautionary action should be taken right away. But because beating these arcade games takes a certain type of skill and persistence, the U.S. Army can’t defeat them, which brings President Cooper to ask the aid of Sam, Eddie, Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), and a fellow gamer from the past named Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad). The fate of the world, now rests solely in their finger-tips.

All of the kiddies will love Q'Bert, until they realize that little 'effer curses up a storm.

All of the kiddies will love Q*bert, until they realize that little ‘effer curses up a storm.

Movies like Pixels make me wonder what’s wrong with me. Not just a movie-viewer, however, but as a person. See, while I am all for despising the likes of Adam Sandler and all of the pieces of utter feces he’s been putting out lately, there’s something about Pixels that I couldn’t help but like. Sure, I know there’s clearly a huge hatred for this movie already and more or less, I’m definitely in the minority of this thing, but for some reason, I enjoyed myself during Pixels.

If any of you readers want to write me off right here and now, I will not be offended. In fact, I would welcome you as smart, conscious human beings, who clearly know who they do and don’t want to read. However, for those of you who are at least slightly interested in where I’m going with this, then I say, thank you and please bear with me for as long as you possibly can.

Still here?

Good! Let’s get going!

As is, Pixels is better than most Adam Sandler movies we’ve been seeing in the past decade. I realize that’s like saying it’s better to get shot in the head, then to jump on a live grenade, but still, it’s something that needs to be said. Because while Pixels could have easily been another case where Sandler gets all of his pals together, both in front of and behind the camera, to just goof around and hurl whatever they want on the screen, for no other reason other than to take up people’s time, it actually doesn’t turn out that way. It’s still produced by Happy Madison, but rather than getting the most generic-of-generic directors around that Sandler usually aligns himself with, Chris Columbus steps up to the plate and does a relatively fine job at keeping the pace constantly moving.

Columbus, having directed the first two Harry Potter‘s and many other blockbusters, is already used to these kind of big-budget, wild extravaganzas. And though some people may already be fuming with anger that I even dropped the name Harry Potter in a review about an Adam Sandler movie, it’s not like this is so incredibly distasteful that it should never be watched. Believe it or not, there is a plot here that moves, there is some humor to be found that isn’t just Sandler’s same old brand of making fun of easy targets, and when you get right down to it, there are some fun performances from those involved.

Is that to say the movie is perfect? Hell to the no!

But like I’ve stated before, Pixels is in no way, shape, or form, quite like Sandler’s recent disasters. That’s not saying much at all, but when you go to an Adam Sandler movie and don’t have the feeling of wanting to rip out your ears, eyes and brain, then it’s definitely something that’s more positive than bad. Whatever that may mean for some of you, I do not know, but for me, it means that at least Sandler was able to get some help this time around and not make this into another Grown Ups, produced by Nintendo.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene's a whole lot funnier.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene’s a whole lot funnier.

Like I alluded to earlier in my first paragraph, Pixels makes me wonder what’s so wrong with me? See, even though everybody on the face of the planet seems to be despising this one literally as soon as they walk out of the theater, for me, I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I realized that there were certain problems in the comedy-department as some jokes worked, whereas others totally failed, or that solid actors like Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox are here to just practically do nothing, but to me, the overall fun feel of this movie was enough to let all of those issues slide-on by.

Because, once again, this movie could have been a whole lot worse, but thankfully, it wasn’t.

Maybe that’s a judge of my character, and less about others, but still, if there’s something wrong with me to where I enjoy certain movies like Pixels, and despise the absolute hell out of a movie like Paper Towns, then so be it. Everybody has their guilty pleasures, as well as their own minority picks; one person does not think the same about one thing as another person does, nor do most people conform to what others are sticking with because it’s, for lack of a better term, the majority to roll with. I, for one, have never been like that and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

So if a silly movie starring Adam Sandler has to remind me of that, then so be it. I’ll keep being me, ya’ll can keep being yourselves.

So, have I lost all of my followers yet?

Consensus: Despite obvious problems in certain departments, Pixels is still entertaining enough to be one of Sandler’s better movies in recent memory, even if, once again, that’s not saying much to begin with.

6.5 / 10

I'll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrionne, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

I’ll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrion, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

 

Paper Towns (2015)

These teenage girls need to stop acting so “mysterious”. Especially when you ask them for their number.

Since he was very young, Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) has been living across the street from Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) – a childhood friend of sorts that he hasn’t kept in contact with much as they’ve gotten older. Not that he hasn’t wanted to, he just hasn’t tried to, as constantly mulling over the mystery of who she is and what she could be up to is better than any human interaction with her whatsoever. But one fateful night, Margo sneaks into Q’s room, takes him out on an adventure where they prank mean kids from their school, and basically, give Q the greatest night of his life. Sadness then ensues when, for some unexplained reason, Margo leaves without telling a single soul, leaving Q to wonder just what happened. Did she die? Or, did she just want to get away from the rest of the world that she knew because it became too much for her? Q thinks about it more and more, but he soon starts to see little clues that Margo may, or may not have left for him to see, which then leads him to set out on a road trip to find Margo, see what she’s been up to, and find out if they’re meant for one another like he believes they are.

Cause being cool, calm and collected just didn't suffice.....

Cause being cool, calm and collected just didn’t suffice…..

So yeah, if anybody remembers last summer, I wasn’t so hot with the Fault In Our Stars. While some would say that it was just another case of some angry, soulless, and unlovable person taking all of his years of disappointment and frustration out on a sweet movie about two kids with cancer falling in love with one another, others would say it’s just another case of some person not enjoying a movie for the sole fact that it’s annoying. And in case you couldn’t tell, I sided more with the latter, but I had my reasons, people!

Other than the fact that, you know, I am soulless, angry and unlovable, by choice.

With that film, it felt like the characters spoke in such a stilted and overly quirky manner, that it was almost as if John Green knew he was working with a conventional love story and needed to spice it up so much that he just made each and every character sound as if they learned a new phrase to coin because it makes them appear “cool”, or “hip”. Now, I know that he didn’t write that movie adaptation, nor did he write this one, but he still laid the groundwork enough to where it’s obviously clear that he thinks this is the way actual, real life teenagers talk, or at least, should.

Let’s hope they never do, because honestly, the first hour or so of Paper Towns is downright treacherous. Granted, the whole movie is no easy cakewalk either, but at least by the end, director Jake Schreier decides to throw some interesting tidbits of insight in there for good measure, Problem is, there’s a whole other hour-and-a-half where these boring, almost carbon-copy versions of teenage characters walk around, talk somewhat “cool”, and go on aimlessly with their rather uneventful days. Not saying that this isn’t how real-life teenagers go about their days normally, but when you’re making a movie, and you have a crummy script to work with, you need a little more than just a conventional teenager-types lulling around the hallways, as they wait around for the next plot-point to come hit them on their noggins.

And honestly, once the eventual road trip does get going, there’s still not much for this movie to offer. Every character feels as if they’ve been hashed-out of a whole slew of other, way better movies that have come before them, so that when they do get to the parts of the movie where they have to break down, open-up each other’s souls to one another, and show their true colors, it’s hard to feel anything. We’ve seen the dorky characters in these types of movies try so desperately to get the girl, just like we’ve seen the dorky characters try to hide the fact that their dorks to begin with.

It never gets old!

Cause just leaving a text or sticky-note just didn't suffice....

Cause just leaving a text or sticky-note just didn’t suffice….

Now, if there is something interesting that Paper Towns brings to the table for teenage romance dramedies that Fault didn’t really bother with, is that it takes a plot-conceit and finds a way to pick it apart in a way that’s thoughtful. With Margo, we get who is basically, another version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl; she acts on instinct, says odd things, capitalizes certain letters of a word, and leaves ridiculous tips of where it is that she may have ventured off to next. While this character already had me running for the exits as soon as she started going on about the whole “paper town metaphor”, thankfully, she’s not in it too much.

Which, in essence, is a bit of a shame because I feel, given more time to do so, Cara Delevingne could have stretched this character a bit more. While Delevingne herself basically has to play one-note, she does so in a charming way that makes me feel, had the script not been written as if it were ghost-written by wannabe hipsters who listen to the Dirty Projectors, that she could have gone to some interesting places with this character. But, for better and for worse, she’s cut out for most of the proceedings as she’s left in the background as everybody searches for her. The movie still finds a way to bring her back and discuss how her thoughtless actions actually have consequences, which is the only interesting food-for-thought I could find here, but eventually, it’s all just left in the dust.

Along the way of the road trip, of course, these characters learn more about one another than they may have ever done before, but before long, it’s practically all uninteresting. Though Nat Wolff surprised the hell out of me with how deep, dark and willing he was able to go with his performance in Palo Alto, it seems like he’s taken a step back and playing someone who is far more boring and predictable; as if the movie would have gone on and been fine without him even bothering to show up for work. He tries as Q, but ultimately, he turns out be like everyone of a John Green-type: Awkward, but charming.

Something that, as someone who was a once a fellow teenager, doesn’t exist.

But dare to dream, kiddies!

Consensus: Like the Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns features overly cloying dialogue that’s not able to do much for the plot, or these characters, considering we’ve seen them done before and they haven’t much anything new to offer.

3.5 / 10

Cause a simple hand-shake or hug just didn't suffice....

Cause a simple hand-shake or hug just didn’t suffice….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Southpaw (2015)

From what I hear, the more jabs to the head, the merrier!

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) faced all sorts of adversity over the years to make himself one of the best boxers in the profession today, and still be able to come home to his beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and kid (Oona Laurence). However, all of that changes when tragedy strikes and Billy is practically left to fend for himself. Due to all of the blows he’s taken to the head, not only is he a punch-drunk, fumbling mess, but he’s also lost all sorts of control over his emotions, which puts him in a lot of legal trouble. This all eventually leads to his house, car, money, and worst of all, kid get taken away in hopes that he can change his act for the good. Problem is, the only way Billy can get back on top, is through boxing – a sport he has been told, time and time again, that “he should retire from before it’s too late”. Still though, Billy sees his fight against the current champ, Ramone (Victor Ortiz), as his comeback one, regardless of what the nay-sayers may spout on about. To get back in shape, Billy enlists the help of Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker), a trainer who only helps out younger boxers, and nobody else. However, in Billy’s case, Tick is willing to make an exception.

That is, if Billy changes his act a whole bunch.

Hey, you two! Stop PDA'ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

Hey, you two! Stop PDA’ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve practically seen them all. Of course, there are the noble exceptions to the rule (Raging Bull), but for the most part, each and every movie that concerns with the sport of boxing, plays out like another take on Rocky. Underdog has dreams; underdog faces adversity; underdog faces set-back; underdog gets back on his feet; underdog sets out to defeat the champ. It’s all been said and done before, many, many times and you know what?

Southpaw isn’t going to change that formula.

Thankfully though, it’s the kind of movie that’s lucky to benefit from a talented cast who, despite having to deal with a very over-dramatic and sometimes corny script from the wild and wacky mind of Kurt Sutter, make better because they’ve come ready to play. Case in point, Jake Gyllenhaal who, believe it or not, is actually taking up a role written for Eminem. While I would have definitely liked to see how that played out, in hindsight, I’m still glad that the second person to get the call was Gyllenhaal, cause not only is he proving himself to be one of the better actors we’ve got around working today, but he’s able to throw himself into any role where it doesn’t matter who was supposed to be in it originally, or not. Gyllenhaal’s going to make you believe it should have been him all along and that’s why he works wonders with Billy Hope – the most conventional character he’s had to work with since Bubble Boy.

Which I know sounds terrible, but it actually isn’t; Gyllenhaal’s more talented as an actor now, than he ever was before, and it’s great to see him sink his teeth deep into what could have been a total paycheck gig. Though it most definitely is the kind of role that’s paying for Gyllenhaal’s pad in Malibu, he still gives it his all, showing the sadness and sometimes, vulnerability to this character of Billy Hope. He’s conventionally written in that he’s an underdog who brought himself from nothing, to something, only to have to do it all over again, but Gyllenhaal takes it some steps further, by showing that this character really needs to box for his life.

Because without it, what is he?

Just another average Joe, working a 9-to-5, having to come home to a wife, two kids, dog, and white picket fence? Or, is he a guy that has to constantly wade through the thick, the thin and do what he can to provide love and support for those he cares for the most? The movie itself seems to lean more towards the latter, but Gyllenhaal, even despite the fact that he got himself all jacked-up and scary for this role, constantly makes you wonder where his mind is heading toward and thinking of the most.

And of course, Forest Whitaker’s great as Billy’s trainer, as well is Rachel McAdams as Billy’s wife, but the reason why I’ve high-lighted Gyllenhaal’s performance so much is because he’s clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and proves to be the best part of it when all is said and done. Sure, Southpaw is entertaining in that it features plenty of boxing, running, training, cursing, and rap music, but at the same time, it’s a little too hard to take seriously at times, even if it so desperately pleads and begs you to do otherwise.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

You can, once again, chalk that up to the fact that Kurt Sutter is here writing this thing, but you can also add on the fact that Antoine Fuqua directed this and even though he’s had some good movies in his past, he’s no master of subtlety, that’s for sure. Every time it seems like Billy’s going to lose his shit and break something in his way, have no fear, because he will. Heck, every time that you think Whitaker’s character is going to have something inspirational to say to give Billy more hope, don’t worry, because he definitely does. It’s not much of a problem because Whitaker and Gyllenhaal are both pros at what they do and share incredible chemistry with one another, but after awhile, it’s get to be a bit disappointing when you know that they’re working with mediocre material.

Granted, you should always take a movie for what it is, and not what it could have been, but in this case, I’m making the exception. Whereas, on paper, with the premise and cast involved, Southpaw could have been a huge, hot and heavy Oscar-contender (like it was originally planned to be), with the likes of Sutter and Fuqua combined, their brand of unsubtle melodrama takes over everything and has it play out a bit more soap-opera-y. It’s what we’ve got, so I shouldn’t complain too much, but man, imagine what it could have been with some other people involved. Like, I don’t know, say, Marty Scorsese?

Yep, that sounds like a perfect idea. Somebody call him up next time.

Consensus: With Gyllenhaal in the lead role, Southpaw turns out to be a lot better, but can get so over-the-top and silly at times, that it takes away any sort of momentum that it can sometimes build for itself.

7 / 10

Good thing Rach wasn't around.

Good thing Rach wasn’t around, cause she’d definitely want to butt in…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Boy Meets Girl (2015)

Love-squares get so much steamier when you throw a transgender person in them.

Ricky (Michelle Hendley) is a young woman from Kentucky who wants to go to college in New York so that she can pursue a possible fashion career. Ricky was also born a female in every which way, except physically, and it’s taken her many of years for her, as well as many others around her, to accept that fact for what it is. Her best friend Robby (Michael Welch) absolutely does and sees Ricky as the friend of his he’s known since he was a kid; everybody else in the town knows Ricky, too, except one girl by the name of Francesca (Alexandra Turschen), who is, predictably, interested in Ricky and her “situation”. However, the interest soon turns into attraction, which leads Ricky and Francesca to contemplate having something of a relationship with one another and see if it could work. Because the only reason why it wouldn’t work isn’t because Ricky still has a penis, or that Francesca is going “through a phase”, but because the latter’s actually engaged to David (Michael Galante), a soldier who is currently station in Afghanistan.

Oh, what a lovely little surprise he’ll stumble upon when he gets back!

It's alright to appreciate the bangs.

It’s alright to appreciate the bangs.

Believe it or not, despite the terrible title, Boy Meets Girl is anything but. Though it may read like a melodramatic and predictable-as-all-hell rom-com, the fact that it has a transgender-angle to it isn’t the only element that makes it seem “different” – it’s also because the movie actually takes time with its characters and just what it is that they bring to this story. That Boy Meets Girl features a transgender lead in a role made for a transgender woman, only makes the movie more interesting and insightful, even when it seems like writer/director Eric Schaeffer seems to lose his way a bit.

But more on that bad stuff later! On with the goods, because there are plenty of them to be found here!

What Schaeffer does well with Boy Meets Girl is that he gives each and everyone of these characters a living, breathing, and distinct soul that allows them to be seen more as “types”. For instance, the smart-ass, find-a-joke-to-make-anywhere role of Ricky would gotten annoying real quick, but we soon start to see that there’s a reason why she’s like that in the first place and makes her react in the sarcastic manner that she so often does. The way in how Schaeffer continues to go back to this may be troubled, but it still helps stretch this character out a bit more and shows that there’s more to her that’s laying under her very soft skin.

The same goes for all of these other characters, too. Welch’s Robby seems like a nice dude who genuinely doesn’t care if Ricky is a boy, a girl, or somewhere in between, he just wants her to stay her, and that’s it; Turschen’s Francesca, while a bit naive, by the same token, also feels like she may actually like Ricky as a person, regardless of it’s as a friend or not, she just wants her in her life; and Galante’s David, despite coming into play late in the movie, comes off as the most interesting character of the bunch as his initial anti-homosexual bashing, eventually starts to show glimpses of humanity that makes us understand why he is the way he is.

All of these characters and actors are great and all, but it’s really Michelle Hendley’s movie from beginning to end, as it totally should have been. Most of the credit that goes to Schaeffer right away, is the fact that he chose to actually cast a transgender woman in the role of a transgender woman. Whenever there’s a show or movie about transgender persons, it’s mostly used as a way to highlight just how “deep” and “far” a straight actor is willing to go dressing in the other sexes clothes and being seen in a different way that they aren’t used to being seen in (Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, or Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, among others). That’s not saying that there’s anything wrong with getting well-known actors in your roles for transgender peoples – it’s just that it can often times ring false if the actor or creator isn’t lucky enough.

With Hendley, Schaeffer is more than lucky.

Because Hendley most likely had to go through a lot of what her character is currently going through, the performance comes off as more raw and believable; every ounce of hurt, or pain, or even happiness that’s found in herself, seems realistic in a way that isn’t made to keep the plot moving. Hendley’s definitely well-equipped as an actress and even though her character gets thrown into some awkward situations here and there, it’s definitely not her fault – she’s as strong-willed and as personable as you can get with a lead like this. Here’s to hoping that we see more of her in stuff, regardless of if the roles call out for transgender workers or not.

Because honestly, does it really matter?

Two very different women, I have to say.

Two very different women, I have to say.

But now that I’ve gotten through all of the happy, most definitely positive stuff, it’s about time to highlight some of the problems to be had that keep Boy Meets Girl from really shaking up the rom-com genre. For one, I don’t feel as if Schaeffer is as skilled of a director as he may be a writer. Though this movie would have definitely had a smaller budget than most movie’s of its kind, there’s still something amateurish about the way Schaeffer seems to position his story and camera; sometimes, dialogue-heavy scenes run on for days-on-end, without ever seeming like they have an end in sight, nor do they really have much of a rhythm for the whole film.

This may sound like absolute gibberish coming from my finger-tips, but honestly, while watching Boy Meets Girl, I couldn’t help but feel as if the movie would start up, only to slow back down again, therefore, killing any sort of momentum it may have had going for itself. Surely the equipment couldn’t have been as stellar as the bigger productions out there, but there’s sometimes no excuse for a movie that feels as if it’s been chopped-down and edited in a frenetic way. Then again, I see many mainstream movies with way bigger budgets have this same problem, so maybe it doesn’t matter too much what it is that I say.

Where Schaeffer really screws up though, is that it runs on way too long; which is definitely saying something considering the movie isn’t over an-hour-and-40-minutes.

For example, there’s an ending to this movie at around the 80-minute mark that makes it seem like all is over and said with, but miraculously, there’s more. Schaeffer doesn’t forget that there are two other people’s story-lines to wrap up and it’s not only a smart move on his part, but works out well for the movie, too. Problem is, it adds on a lot more than it probably should, not to mention, it actually rings a lot more true than the main story-line’s wrap-up. Don’t want to get into any spoilers here, but once certain characters start professing their loves for one another, without it ever seeming to make sense, there was a part of me that felt as if I maybe missed a scene or two while I was checking my watch.

Then, after this, the movie goes on and on, with way moire than a few endings – most of which, mind you, don’t quite work. To me, it felt like Schaeffer wanted to wrap this whole movie up so neat and tidy, that he forget just how many endings it took to get to that neat and tidy ending. And honestly, did the movie ever need one? Probably not, because life is not at all neat or tidy.

Trust me. Hell, trust us all.

Consensus: All pacing and writing issues aside, Boy Meets Girl is equipped with a smart bunch of cast and characters that makes it feel like more than just your average rom-com, that also happens to star a transgender woman playing a transgender woman.

6.5 / 10

Someone always needs to keep the pig-tails alive and well.

Someone always needs to keep the pig-tails alive and well.

Photos Courtesy of: Consequence of Sound

Creep (2015)

Yes, he’s definitely a weirdo.

Small-time film-maker Aaron (Patrick Brice) is willing to do whatever sort of work for whatever amount of money; he’s like most young, aspiring directors out there who are just trying to survive on anything that comes their way. Whether it’s weird or not, at least Aaron is getting a paying gig and to him, it’s the most exciting day of his life, where all sorts of possibilities are up in there. All of the excitement goes away, however, when Aaron meets his subject – a man by the name of Josef (Mark Duplass) who claims to have a malignant tumor, for which he was given about two-to-three months left to live. Not to mention, Josef also has a wife and new baby on the way, which is why he wants Aaron to follow him for this whole day, filming his each and every move, so that one day, his child can see just what kind of guy its daddy was. And while things start off a bit oddly between the two, it eventually escalates into something that Aaron was not at all expecting and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

How can you say "get outta here" to a face like that? Even as deranged as it may seem to be?

How can you say “get outta here” to a face like that? Even as deranged as it may seem to be?

Though some may already see the word “found-footage” being used an awful lot in sentences about Creep, have no fear, because the movie’s a whole lot better than the genre it plays around in. Which isn’t all that of a surprise considering we know that neither Patrick Brice (the Overnight), nor especially Mark Duplass (every indie dramedy that you’ve ever loved) wouldn’t ever align themselves with something as plain and as generic as the found-footage genre and do nothing with it. That isn’t to say Creep doesn’t fall for the occasional, manipulative jump-scare to put us back into our seats whenever we get too comfy and cozy thinking this is going to be some sort of character-drama, but it’s done so in such a way that the scariness of the material isn’t the actual “boo”, it’s more of what lies behind the said boo.

Make any sense? If not, please do let me explain.

What Brice seems to be saying with Creep is that the way we humans in society connect with one another nowadays, is strictly through technology/internet. Sure, Catfish practically said the same message many years ago in an effective manner (even if the message has gotten blurred over the years), but Brice and Duplass both deliver the message in such a way that makes it feel all the more effective; while Josef is easily a character we could dismiss as nothing more than a plain and simple weirdo, the movie also shows that maybe he’s a weirdo because that’s the way the world has manufactured him as. He lives for that connection with somebody, and when he doesn’t get it, he overreacts like a spoiled child would – that’s if the spoiled child had some homicidal ideas floating around in his head. But either way, this character of Josef is most definitely a product of this generation, where there’s hardly any room whatsoever for privacy, or general human connection.

It’s all, as they say, “up in the cloud”.

And as Josef, Duplass, as expected, is terrific. Because Josef isn’t just a crazed dude who clearly has huge problems, Duplass gets a chance to show-off different skills we haven’t seen him utilize before. Josef’s nature is so unpredictable and off-putting, that you never quite know where he’s going to go next, what he’s going to say, or even where he’s going to show up to scare Aaron. His overly touchy feely manner is definitely strange at first, but then it starts to turn deadly soon later, and this is where Duplass really excels at showing a character we have no full clue about and we sort of want to know more of. That’s not to say that we ever get to liking this character, but just like how Aaron feels, there’s something intricately sad and vulnerable about Josef that’s hard to resist and dismiss as “evil”.

Although Brice may not be the best actor out there and doesn’t always handle this material well when he definitely should, he does a fine enough job of sitting off to the side so that Duplass can steal the movie away from him. Because as we learn early on, this whole movie is meant to be about Josef and Josef only, everything else that comes with it, is just the final product of what getting to know and be around Josef is like. In other words, it’s absolutely dangerous and terrifying, but because Aaron seems like a relatively smart dude who isn’t always fooled easily, it’s safe to follow behind him. He makes some dumb decisions along the way, but honestly, what horror movie-protagonist doesn’t?

Someone find me that mask for Halloween. Gotta be a dollar store around here somewhere.

Someone find me that mask for Halloween. Gotta be a dollar store around somewhere.

Sidney Prescott doesn’t count!

But what ultimately puts Creep a step above most of the found-footage horror bull-crap we seen thrown at us just about every other month, is that it seems to understand why a genre like this can still work. At times, it’s easy to see where this plot is going and it makes you wonder if it was or wasn’t intentional in the first place, but there are a few nice twists and turns that not only keep this movie smart, but quite fun. Though the first hour is full of all sorts of talking and odd moments that come out of nowhere, after such is when there’s some thrills and chills to be had.

However, that’s not to say that they’re manipulative in any sort of way. Brice takes his time with allowing for his tension to build up and up and up, so that when the final one-two punch does eventually come around and hit us square in the face, it leaves a lasting impression. That’s what we need more with our horror movies – lasting impressions. Sure, some horror movies like to go out on a bang, but how many times do you feel as if you’ve been tortured and toyed around with in a good way that makes you think about what it is that you just went through long after? I can’t think of many, which is probably why Creep is definitely deserving of a watch.

Consensus: While it may seem to go down some predictable routes, Creep still gets the job done with the smart chills, twists, and message about the way our world works, even if it may get lost over some people’s head when all is said and done.

8 / 10

Always need a loving embrace before the deadly weapons come out.

Always need a loving embrace before the deadly weapons come out.

Photos Courtesy of: Logan Bushey

Lila & Eve (2015)

Mother knows best.

Lila (Viola Davis) is a single mother living in Atlanta with her two boys. One of whom, is tragically killed in what seems to be a random hit-and-run. Lila doesn’t know how to handle this sort of grief, so she just sits in her bedroom all day and night, sobbing, and trying to figure out just where her son’s case is going to end up next. Though the police promise Lila that there are being some moves made in finding out who killed her son, she’s still skeptical. However, where Lila gets the most comfort in is going to weekly meetings she has with mothers who have also had to deal with their own children being taken away from them too soon. There, Lila meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), a fellow woman whose daughter died recently and doesn’t seem too intent on speaking to anyone – except for Lila that is. Eventually, the two strike up something of a relationship that finds themselves having fun together and making the best of their incredibly crappy situations. On one fateful night though, when Lila and Eve are around the house, they stumble upon a gun, which leads them to think of what they should do with it. Store it for later? Or take it out and get some full-fledged revenge, baby?

Yeah, total scum. Why on Earth would I want to be with that for the night....

Yeah, total scum. Why on Earth would I want to be with that for the night….

Sadly, Lila & Eve decides to go with the latter, which isn’t even getting to the root of the movie’s problems. However, while we’re talking about it, we might as well discuss the stance this movie takes on vigilante violence/revenge; while it doesn’t seem to necessarily telling you to step out on the streets now and look to blow some peeps up because they pissed you off in some way, the movie isn’t really taking all of the negative after-effects that can happen, too. For instance, Lila hardly ever takes into account that the people she may be killing, aren’t just somebody else’s sons, just like her late one, but also somebody else’s brother, or nephew, or whatever. Either way, the people that they kill are all somebody’s loved ones, which wouldn’t have been so put-upon, had Lila and Eve not gone to one of their funerals.

It’s actually quite morbid really, and it made me wonder just where the hell this movie’s heart actually was. With the heart and the humanity? Or with the thrill of seeing some criminals get shot in total and complete cold blood? It’s more of the latter in this movie’s case, however, it does so often make an attempt at being a lot deeper and heartfelt than it actually is – a stumbling mistake that they should have given up with right away.

But don’t worry, it gets worse because the movie then throws a bunch of twists and turns at the fences by the end, just to make sure that they’ve shaken things up anyway that it can. Problem is, the twists are so very obvious and feel as if they’re hitting Nicholas Sparks material. The twists don’t add much to the story, nor the point it’s trying to make about moving on in life and depressing, but the way the ones behind this see it, that’s all fine.

It isn’t and it’s a shame.

In fact, a damn shame because, yes, Viola Davis is actually in the leading role as Lila. And you know what? Believe it or not, Viola Davis is actually pretty good here! Surprising right? No. But what is surprising is that she even decided to bother with crap of this magnitude.

Oh no, Shea Whigham! Leave while you still can.

Oh no, Shea Whigham! Leave while you still can.

As Lila, Davis tries to dig as deep and as far as she can to reach the inner-core of this character, make us feel her pain and understand exactly what it is that she’s going through. At some points, it does work, which is probably only because she seems to be trying, but the script lets her and her talents down a little too much. Though you’d believe Davis as something of a bad-ass killer, the later-half of this movie that portrays her as being as such, doesn’t quite register. None of that has to do with Davis, though – her character is just written in such a way that she’s supposed to be as generic as humanly possible. Davis may try to shake things up every so often, but sadly, it doesn’t always work.

Same goes for Jennifer Lopez, who, I’m afraid to say, isn’t really that good here. Sure, you can definitely blame that on the crappy writing and even more crappy character she has to play with, but there’s also a weird feeling surrounding the way she portrays this character. She’s supposed to be trashy with her slang and general love of cigarettes? But it’s really hard to buy, or take seriously because it’s, well, hello, Jennifer freakin’ Lopez.

Girl hasn’t missed a booty work-out a day in her life, how the hell is she supposed to look like some low-level, dirty and beaten-up call girl?

If anything during the viewing of Lila & Eve to worth remembering at all, is that this is the second time Lopez and Davis are together in a movie since Out of Sight. Not only is that movie great in and of itself, but it also offers up Lopez’s best performance to-date. Davis is in it for only a short while, but trust me, her presence is felt throughout. So basically, what I’m saying is that, above everything else, just watch Out of Sight and keep it like that.

Consensus: Though Davis clearly seems to be trying her hardest, Lila & Eve turns into a joke of a movie that can only be associated with Lifetime.

3 / 10

"Hey, wanna go kill people."

“Hey, wanna go kill people.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Trainwreck (2015)

There’s more to life than booze. Like pot.

When she was younger, Amy (Amy Schumer) was always told by her dad (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is nearly impossible. Many years later, she’s seem to taken that note of advice to heart, where mostly every other night, she spends it drinking, smoking, partying, and going home with some guy that she doesn’t even remember the next morning. Her sister (Brie Larson) has turned out for the best with her husband (Mike Birbiglia) and step-son, but Amy just can’t seem to bring herself to want and/or be happy with those sorts of things – she’s already too happy enjoying her independence. That all begins to change, however, when Amy’s assigned a story for her magazine on a sports doctor, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Though it’s not necessarily smart for a journalist to get involved with her subject, Amy just can’t help herself one night and sooner than later, realizes that she’s in something that she’s always fought so hard against: A relationship. But because Amy is so commitment-phobic, she’s finding it hard to not let her personal issues get in the way of something beautiful she and Aaron could have, even if he too struggles with it from time to time.

It’s hard to make a good romantic comedy nowadays. Sure, a movie can try its hardest to spin the genre on the tops of its head so many times, in so many fancy ways, that even the most downbeat and depressed person can find something to be happy about. But sometimes, what ultimately ends up happening is that the movie turns out to be a pretentious piece of bull that’s trying so hard to please you in an ironic way, that it’s downright annoying. I’ve seen many rom-coms in my life that have been different enough to work (500 Days of Summer), I’ve seen many that try to be hip and cool, but just turn out to be gag-inducing (plenty of indies), and that will probably never change.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

However, there’s no denying that Trainwreck‘s a good rom-com.

Even in today’s day and age.

What Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow both do perfectly together here is that they blend their own certain styles of humor that it feels like one, cohesive whole, rather than just a splattering of ideas thrown at the wall like spaghetti. Schumer actually wrote this script and while most of it may definitely seem like the normal kind of banter we expect from Apatow projects, it’s surprisingly mostly coming from Schumer’s pen, paper, and mind. Sure, there’s definitely some improv to be found among the talents on-display here, however, Trainwreck is Amy Schumer’s baby, through and through, and there’s nobody who can get in the way of that.

Which isn’t to say that Judd Apatow tries to sneak in and take it all away from her – in fact, it’s all quite the opposite. Apatow allows for there to be many moments dedicated solely to just Schumer herself, acting, being charming, and building this character, rather than relying on non-stop scenes of people just rambling on and on about whatever comes to their mind first. Though this aspect of Apatow’s movies can still illicit laughs, here, it would have mostly felt unnecessary and random.

Because at the center of Trainwreck, there’s this fully-realized and developed female character who feels as if she was written in a smart way that she’s not only relateable to anyone out there, but still human enough to not be judged as harshly as she herself may want you to. That the movie doesn’t slut-shame Amy’s character, nor make her forget about the errors of her ways, proves that Schumer set out to make a human, rather than just a character that can stand in while everyone around her cracks jokes and moves the story right on along. Like I’ve said before, it’s totally Schumer’s movie and it’s better off because of it – she never forgets what’s driving this story, nor does she ever let herself take over the screen too much.

Which is to say, that when she’s letting others deliver the funny, they more than do so.

You’d think that with a cast as varied and nuts as Trainwreck, that there’d most definitely be some weak-spots to be found among the group, but somehow, that doesn’t happen. Every performer who shows up is more than up to the task of delivering the funny, making their presence known, and then leaving to let the movie get on with itself. And the reason why I used the word “performer” is because it’s a little hard to classify a group of actors, when you’re talking about the likes of John Cena, or Lebron James, or even Amar’e Stoudemire; okay maybe Cena’s more believable as an “actor”, considering his profession, but as for the other two, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen either show-off their thespian skills before.

However, both of them, as well as plenty of others are pitch perfect with their comedy. Especially James, who comes off like the sassy best-friend type that these kinds of movies seem to have, but instead, because it’s Lebron James and the writing’s a whole lot more knowing, it never comes off like a conceit. Instead, it just comes off as Lebron James being very funny in a role that, believe it or not, was written perfectly for him. Sure, he’s playing a heightened version of himself, but at least he can actually “play” around in the first place, yuck it up, and not take himself at all too seriously.

Kobe's not this charming. Trust me.

Kobe’s not this charming. Trust me.

Good for him, because who knows? When that basketball career of his dries up, there may be a bigger, brighter future out there for him in front of the camera.

So long as he doesn’t get stuck with starring in a Kazaam remake.

Anyway, Lebron’s not the only one who gets a chance to shine and show the comedy-world what they are capable of doing, and why you can depend on them some more in the future. Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller (lovely little We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion, if there ever was one), Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Dave Attell, Marisa Tomei, Jon Glaser, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, and 100-year-old Norman Lloyd, among others, may or may not seem like the perfect choices for your rom-com, but they somehow assert themselves well enough here that they prove why they are. As usual with Apatow’s movies, some roles tend to lean more on the excessive side (Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert and Chris Evert), whereas other go unseen (Barkhad Abdi and Jim Norton were apparently cast), but there’s no denying that Apatow’s able to draw out some of the most odd, sometimes shocking moments of comedy from these talents, whether you expected any of them to deliver on them or not.

But at the center of all the mayhem occurring with this ensemble, is Amy Schumer and Bill Hader who not only have perfect chemistry, but really give some personality to these otherwise stock characters. Schumer’s boozy, free-wheeling character seems like she’s on the brink of self-destruction, but the movie makes it clear that it’s not necessarily a problem for her, nor is it a problem for us; Schumer’s just so charming and funny about everything, that it hardly registers at all that she’s slowly dying on the inside. Same goes with Bill Hader, who’s Dr. Conners feels like he could be the butt of every joke, yet, turns out to be the smartest character of them all. And even then, he’s got some problems worth solving.

Then again, don’t we all?

Consensus: As is the case with Apatow movies, Trainwreck is a tad overlong, but is still hilarious, well-acted, and insightful enough that it’s maybe his most polished work to date and proves that there’s plenty of room to grow for not just him, but Amy Schumer as well.

8 / 10

People in love - so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

People in love – so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Ant-Man (2015)

Never be afraid to dream a little bigger. Unless Kevin Feige says otherwise.

After being released from prison for a robbery he committed on some company he worked for many years ago, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finally gets a shot to take back his life and make amends for the pain he’s put his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter through. Problem is, Scott’s past is so shoddy, that he’s finding it harder and harder to get a job, start anew and move on from what he once was. That’s why when one of his buddies (Michael Peña) brings up the idea of pulling off a vault-heist on some old dude’s house, he’s initially hesitant, but also realizes that cat-burglarizing is what he’s best at – whether he likes to admit it or not. Little does he know that the old man’s house he’s robbing is Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who once worked for Stark Enterprises and left when he realized that one of his inventions were getting used for all the wrong reasons. But now, with Scott, Hank has found his perfect guinea pig for his pet-project: Ant-Man.

Puns intended.

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor....

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor….

Already going into Ant-Man, there was a feeling of disdain from yours truly. Most of that has to do with the fact that, not only does it seem like the Marvel machine is growing to be more and more of the same entertaining, but generic thing, time and time again, but that there’s hardly a chance for anyone to come in and try to shake that formula up. Case in point, Edgar Wright – someone who is able to make many movie-nerds foam at the mouth at the possibility of him both writing and directing something. And heck, put his own sense of zany style in a Marvel movie, where a bigger cast and budget would be at his free reign, you bet your bottom dollar that the hype-train just gets more and more packed.

But sadly, and predictably, I guess, things didn’t pan out so well.

For one, Wright left and the powers that be within Disney were left scrambling far and wide for the next possible replacement to pick up the slack and see if they could make water out of ice. With Peyton Reed, most people involved with Marvel and Disney felt as if they found the most suitable replacement available and honestly, I can’t hold many qualms with that decision. Even despite the fact that Reed’s previous directorial efforts include the horrendous Yes Man and Break-Up, clearly they were working against a deadline and came up with whomever they felt was more than willing and capable of handling the job.

Sure, Reed’s no Wright, but then again, who the hell is? Though Reed’s directing-style may borderline on “generic”, he still handles a few action set-pieces well enough to where we get the same sort of imagination and frivolous fun that we would come to expect with Wright. If anything, Reed’s style is so mediocre, that it helps not get in the way of what could have been a very pushy and needy movie. Sort of like a pet who wants you to pet it, so it just cozies up to you, never leaves you alone, and stares deep into your eyes until you give in and give it what it wants.

Pretty sure you can’t pet ants, but you get my drift.

So, with that all said, it’s worth mentioning that Ant-Man turns out to actually be a bit of a better movie than I expected from all the controversy surrounding it in the pre-production stage. One of the main reasons that Ant-Man works well, is because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get out there in this huge, Marvel universe, and tell a bunch of other stories that it doesn’t need to bother with; instead, it’s focus is solely on Scott Lang and whomever else is around him. Some may be annoyed at the fact that other Marvel superheros don’t get the time of day like they do in other flicks, but somehow, it works in this movie’s favor; it helps keep things simple, contained and most of all, entertaining, without ever trying to be more complicated than it needs to be.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

Still though, that’s not to say that this movie doesn’t feel as if, considering what Marvel’s been up to in the past couple or so years, a bit of a disappointment. And this most definitely has to do with the fact that there were so many hiccups before filming even got started, because something does feel a bit “off” about Ant-Man while watching it. Maybe the fact that there were literally four writers on this thing has something to do with it, but also due to the fact that the movie itself doesn’t always set out to blow our minds.

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that; in most cases, all you need is a good time to get you through everything. But something feels odd in this movie where the humor can sometimes feel tacked-on and random, as if it were just thrown in there so Marvel could keep up with the formula that their movies hold so dear to their hearts – exposition, action scene, character development, witticism, rinse and repeat. The jokes themselves are a bit hit-or-miss, but whether or not they’re funny isn’t really the point – what is, is whether or not they feel like they deserved to be tossed in there when they are, and they sort of don’t. I’m glad at least one of the four writers made an attempt, but sometimes, it’s best to just take a back-seat and let things move for a little while.

But when things go wrong in movies such as these, it’s always best to depend on the cast to save the day, which is what they do.

Well, sort of.

Paul Rudd, as usual, is charming, funny and cool as Scott Lang, even if it feels like he’s never quite given that opportunity to shine, break out from his comfort-shell and prove exactly why he deserves to be taken seriously as this superhero. None of that has to do with Rudd himself, though, as it’s most definitely the script’s fault for not spending more time in fleshing him, or anybody else at. Because where it stands, mostly everybody here is fine at playing these characters on a superficial, surface-area level and that’s about it.

Such talented folks like Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Martin Donovan, Michael Peña, and Michael Douglas, all play their characters in such a way that makes it seem like they just came ready to play around for awhile and that’s it. Once again, not their fault, it’s just a bummer considering that with these names, you’d expect something so much better. Way better, actually.

If only Edgar Wright stayed on.

Consensus: Without trying too hard, Ant-Man is a perfectly serviceable piece of superhero blockbuster, but considering the company it keeps, it can’t help but feel like a small step down.

6.5 / 10

Until next year, bro.

Until next year, bro.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Longest Ride (2015)

Art enthusiasts and bull-riders rejoice! You’re somehow compatible.

Though Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) live right by one another, they’ve never met and honestly, why would they? They’re both complete opposites with him being a handsome, daring bull-rider, and her, a college student from New Jersey looking to get her foot in the art world. But somehow, due to a chance meeting and date, they somehow realize that they’re perfect for one another, even if there are the occasional problems that ensue when you’re young and still trying to make sense of the world, as well as who you want to spend it with. Both of them eventually learn of all of life’s joys and hardships through an aging man by the name of Ira (Alan Alda), who they stumble upon after he has a car-accident. What Ira tells them about, is the story of when he was younger (Jack Huston), and met the love of his life, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Through his memories of his sometimes tragic past, Luke and Sophia grow closer and realize that they may be the ones the other needs to help keep them happy and always willing to be their best selves.

With Nicholas Sparks movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That means, there’s not much of a point in discussing what doesn’t work in them – if only because hardly anything does. They are as contrived, cliched, and saccharine as you could possibly get, and while some may not be as terrible as others, there’s no denying the fact that they’re really not worth checking out. Like, at all.

Can't wait to see when their families finally meet.

Can’t wait to see when their families finally meet.

However, in order to wade through all the crap, it’s up to us, the regular, common folk who doesn’t fall for these types of movies, to figure out which ones are slightly more commendable above the rest. The Notebook of course comes to mind as the one and only Sparks movie that’s worth watching (if only for Baby Goose himself), but other than that, it’s all pretty much the same old junk. Two love-sick people meet, fall in love, have some sort of conflict, and wouldn’t you know it? By the end of the story, somebody either has cancer, has been dead for the whole time we’ve been watching them, or is a total and complete, murderous psycho. It’s the formula that, no matter how many times we see it, never seems to die away an everlasting, painful death.

But for better, and especially for worse, the Longest Ride takes that formula and does something s relatively interesting with it.

“Relatively”, being the keyword here, people. So please, bear with me.

What the Longest Ride has going for it that most of the other saptastic Sparks pieces lack, is that the central couple actually seems to have sparks of chemistry between each other. Both Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, despite seeming like the sort of cutesy, overly attractive types that you see in these roles, actually do put some effort into how their characters bond with one another, even if it’s all incredibly calculated and predicted from beginning to end. You can’t tell me that once Eastwood helps up Robertson from a mechanical bull mishap, that she’s instantly going to fall right in love with him, as she stares deep and hard into his eyes, getting lost in the maze that is his hunky exterior.

Sure, we’ve all seen this done before, but what Robertson, Eastwood, and director George Tillman, Jr. admittedly do, is that they light some sort of fire between these two characters that it makes whatever happen to them next, feel like it has a certain kind of believability. You believe that Eastwood’s narrow-headed character would think the Expressionism art Robertson so loves and desires, is stupid and not deep at all, just like you’d believe that Robertson wants Eastwood to stop bull-riding, aka, the only source of employment that he’s able to live well off of. I’m not saying that where their story goes, it’s all understandable and therefore, not corny as all hell – because it totally is. I’m just saying that, considering what I’ve seen some of these on-screen couples get into with these movies, it works a bit better here.

That’s not to dismiss that there’s also a whole other relationship going on here that, unsurprisingly, isn’t all that interesting and just adds way more material onto this already hefty material than there definitely needs to be.

Which does sound a bit crazy, considering that the other relationship portrayed here involves not just Oona Chaplin or Jack Huston, but also Alan Alda, because they’re all fine in everything that they do; it’s just that here, it feels like they’re wasted on a lame script that doesn’t deserve them. According to the movie, Alda is supposed to be playing a 90-year-old-something Jewish man (even though he doesn’t look a day over 60, even despite all of the machinery of make-up and hair), who, at one point in his life, looked like Jack Huston. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t think either one look like the other in any sort of fashion; even though Huston has this sort of timeless look and feel to him that makes it easier for him to blend into any decade that he’s placed in, playing a younger-version of Alda doesn’t seem to fit so well with him. Chaplin’s fine in her role as the love of Huston/Alda’s character life, but she even feels too one-note, as she’s constantly sunny, happy and charming, no matter what sort of curve-balls get thrown into her way.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

And then, there’s the whole conceit that the plot never gets tired of using and it’s as tiring done the fourth time, than it is for the ninth, or tenth time.

Because the movie is telling two stories at once, in order to go back and forth between the two and make it easier for the audience to understand what is happening, the movie uses this narration from Alda that’s supposed to be his diary/journal entries, chronicling his life with Chaplin. Problem is, every entry literally feels like it was written two seconds after the two had a date, and is actually less of a diary of one’s feelings or thoughts, as much as they’re just Alda telling us what happened with his character and this other one. It’s so obvious and unnecessary, that once you get to the two-hour mark, you’ll start to wish that the movie just took out that whole angle and stuck small and simple with Robertson and Eastwood’s story. Because at least with them, you would have had something sweet to fall back on when the silly moments came around.

On a side note, though, I think it’s worth pointing out the fact that literally three, out of the four main cast-members in this movie are in some way related to other actresses or actors. Eastwood is clearly the son of Clint; Huston is the grandson of John, as well as nephew of Anjelica and Danny; and Chaplin, well, is the daughter of Geraldine and grand-daughter of, well, I’m not even going to say it it’s so obvious. If anything, this proves that Hollywood, in case you haven’t been able to tell by now, is as nepotistic as you have probably heard. People get on Will Smith’s case for pushing Jaden and Willow to the front of each and everything he does, but just look here! That’s not to say that none of these actors have talents worth looking at and enough to cast in your movie – it’s just that maybe, quite possibly, there’s other actors out there more willing for these kinds of roles, that are maybe less-known or less connected than these ones here.

Just a food for thought, I guess. Because, before you know it, whatever spawn Brett Ratner produces, will soon be taking over Hollywood and demanding that we see their over-budgeted messes, no matter how many people actually dislike them.

Can’t say you’ve been fore-warned.

Consensus: Despite a lovely chemistry between Robertson and Eastwood that makes it slightly less painful to watch, the Longest Ride is still like mostly every other Nicholas Sparks movie in that it’s stupid, contrived and way too overlong.

4.5 / 10 

She doesn't know what she's getting herself into....

She doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Glass Chin (2015)

Don’t be afraid to bag groceries for the rest of your life. There’s some pride in that.

Down-on-his-luck ex-boxer Bud Gordon, was commonly referred to as “the Saint”, but he’s been anything but. He’s got a girlfriend (Marin Ireland) that he’s trying to settle down, but can’t stop cheating on her; has a job as a boxing-trainer, but still can’t keep himself away from working as a guy who looks for loansharking victims; and wants to open back up a restaurant of his that was recently closed down, but in order to do so, he has to rely on whatever the odd, eccentric gangster J.J. (Billy Crudup) tells him what to do and when. Bud may not have a perfect life, but he’s just getting by and wants to continue to do so, even while his night job with his “co-worker”, Roberto (Yul Vasquez), gets more and more dangerous by the minutes. Eventually though, it all comes to a head and Bud’s left to wonder what his next move should be – either, risk everything in his life, or take another easy pay-out for himself and his possible new restaurant? Bud doesn’t know what to do, but he’s going to rely on his ability to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t know what that is just yet.

"Hey, we get Freud, too."

“Hey, we get Freud, too.”

Everything about Glass Chin sounds so very familiar and generic, but somehow, writer/director Noah Buschel finds interesting little ways of how to spin it just so that it doesn’t come off like that one bit. Instead of making this movie about how an ex-boxer found redemption both in-and-out of the ring, it’s more about how this ex-boxer copes with making enough money to support him and his girl, with whatever work comes his way. Though, once again, that may all sound conventional, it doesn’t come off that way; more or less, it seems like the kind of movie made about people we don’t too often see get the spotlight quite as much.

These types of characters here in Glass Chin are mostly all down-on-their-luck, not just Bud, but they have so much more to them that makes them worth watching. Sometimes. they enjoy a little movie, other times, a nice night on the town, getting plastered and reminiscing on the old times. These characters here may all have their quirks that set them apart differently from one another, but they’re all placed into a certain group that’s similar and it makes me appreciate these kinds of movie all the more.

Though Buschel had every opportunity to make this movie so much more than it appears to be, he fights the urge to do so and mostly, just keeps his attention set firmly on Bud and all that happens with him and his life. And by “firmly”, I do mean as-firm-as-a-glove; Buschel has a neat style here where he performs a lot of long takes, sometimes likes to go with a close-up on a character’s face who seems like they’re talking directly to you, and other times, make the colors so jumpy and distinctive, that the characters themselves fall into them.

However, no matter what tricks Buschel uses, there’s always somebody talking here. And it’s always intriguing to hear and watch as it moves the plot along.

Because even though a lot of these characters could be generally considered “the numbskulls of society”, they occasionally drop a smart line about life every now and then, just to remind you that they do an awful lot of thinking, too. They aren’t just placed into one area of society, forgotten about, and allow for their brains to fry – they’ve think, too, and you know what? They want to let others know.

Sometimes, what these characters say or talk about, can border on unique, or plain and simply odd, but it’s always interesting to listen to. Buschel has a knack here for writing dialogue just how these sorts of people would talk, even if they do sometimes go on rather long tangents that either, seem to go nowhere, or have a point, but take forever to get there. The one character that this is proven so perfectly with is Billy Crudup’s slimy and weird J.J.; though you know he’s definitely up to no good and is more than likely to screw Bud up in any way he sees fit, there’s something oddly charming about him to where you just want to believe that he may be as nice of a guy as he presents. You know he isn’t, but still, you hold-out some form of hope.

A little too intrigued by that light.

A little too intrigued by that light.

Same goes for each and every other character here.

Corey Stoll’s Bud seems like a dope that doesn’t always use his head when it comes to making any sort of decision, but you just hope that his mind is in the right place for this moment in his life and that he’s not going to screw it all up due to greed; Yul Vasquez’s Roberto may or may not be on Bud’s side, but you have a feeling he is looking out for the guy, even if it’s to save his own ass; Marin Ireland’s Ellen wants to stay by her man, but he continues to test her patience with all of the screwing around and disappointing that, even if it’s sad to think of her doing so, she might have to get going, pack up her stuff, an leave Bud once and for all; and Kelly Lynch’s Mae is, just, well, sexy. Can’t expect much else from her.

Each member of the cast is good here and give their characters certain level of dimensions that you definitely won’t see coming. Sure, some are more interesting than the other, but they all matter to the story and prove that if you have a good enough cast and characters to work with, then the plot will sort of fall as it pleases to do so. All of the other stuff is just unnecessary used for those who can’t handle themselves if something isn’t blowing up, or if a person’s getting shot.

Those are the kinds of people not made for Glass Chin and that’s why there’s something so special about it.

Consensus: With a talented cast at work, Glass Chin goes farther and beyond its basic-cable premise, and becomes an insightful, dramatic glimpse into the live’s of character’s we don’t always get glimpses of.

8 / 10

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Self/less (2015)

If I die, just give me Channing Tatum’s body. Just please.

Billionaire industrialist Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) may live a comfy and cozy life, but slowly and surely, he’s dying. For one, he’s miserable with the life that he’s lived, where all he’s done is worked, worked, and worked some more, therefore tarnishing any sort of relationship he could have had with his daughter (Michelle Dockery). And now, if that didn’t hurt enough as is, to add insult to injury, he’s got cancer and given a few months or so to live. None of this is good for Damian, however, he has a plan in mind: Use a radical medical procedure referred to as in some circles as “shedding”. Though this is basically Damian swapping bodies with a much younger man, the body itself was grown in the lab – or so Damian was told by the head honcho running the procedure, Professor Albright (Matthew Goode)! But now that Damian has this handsomely new body (Ryan Reynolds), he’s able to do all sorts of things he wasn’t able to do in his other, much older body. As time rolls on though, Damian starts to realize that something’s up with the body he’s been placed into, and there may be a little more shading dealings surrounding the body to begin with.

This is what Ryan Reynolds does to all those who fib to him.

This is what Ryan Reynolds does to all those who fib to him.

Self/less is a troubling movie, for one, because it seems like something that could have really worked. Basically, it’s remaking the 1966 Seconds for a newer, hipper crowd, toying around ever so slightly with the ideas of the less-memorable All of Me, and then, giving us some Bourne-like action to hold the thrill-junkies over. Basically, it’s a win-win for everyone! Geeks! Romancers! Film-lovers! People with ADHD! Guys that love stuff that goes boom!

But sadly, that’s not what happens.

Instead, Self/less is mostly just a movie made for people who like to have intriguing ideas in their head about life, body-swapping, and one’s psyche, while all this action and havoc is occurring. Even though, the movie totally forgets about these ideas about half-way through and just focuses on how many noobs Ryan Reynolds can pone for some odd reason. The action itself is as standard as you can get (no shaky-cam, thank the heavens), but after awhile, it gets a bit tiring to see Reynolds mo-down folks for some sort of reasons that have nothing more than to do with the simple fact that they gave told him a little white lie about how the procedure came to be an actual procedure.

Some may say the eventual reveal hidden from within this movie may be a whole lot more than just a “little white lie”, but what makes the action a bit odd and sudden, is that it seems like Reynolds is only doing it to serve a plot, not actually get some sort of revenge. He’s pissed and wants to solve this problem; so in by doing so, he kills whomever is wearing nurse slacks that’s associated with this sheisty company? I don’t know if it all fits.

However, what I do have to give Self/less some credit for is at least allowing for Ryan Reynolds to show, once again, why he deserves far better roles than what he’s been getting for a short while now. Sure, the Voices was a perfect example of what it is that he can do, when having to toy around with a new character of sorts, but after the Woman in Gold and this, I’m starting to feel as if Reynolds is going down the same path like before. Don’t get me wrong, the dude is still charming as all hell and clearly seems to be in on the material, head-to-toe, however, at the same time, the movie’s not really concerned with if he can act or emote well; they just want him to get all wacky and wild as if he’s giving fans an early preview of what they can expect from Deadpool.

Which definitely sounds rad, but here, it’s not so much so. It’s just oddly-placed.

Take this scene, add on at least ten more minutes, and you have all of Ben Kingsley's screen-time in Self/less.

Take this scene, add on at least ten more minutes, and you have all of Ben Kingsley’s screen-time in Self/less.

But the strangest fact surrounding Self/less, isn’t that it practically abandons its smart ideas for a generic, action-driven, route plot, but that it’s directed by Tarsem Singh and doesn’t seem like it at all. If anybody’s ever seen a piece of his, whether it be his movies, or countless music videos, you’ll know that Singh puts a lot of effort into the unique look of his product. The dude does not hold back on the style, and while some may have a problem with that because it seems like his first priority and nothing but, it definitely takes over the fact that some of the stories he’s working with, absolutely blow.

The Cell? Honestly, you can’t tell me you remember what happened at the end of that movie. However, you remember that J’Lo was hanging on a bunch of chains over what looked like jello at one point? Or, better yet, that Vincent D’Onorfrio dressed-up like Buddha, or someone like that? See, that’s what Tarsem Singh, for better and for worse, excelled at – hiding the fact that his movies had crappy story-lines, with all sorts of beautiful and awe-inspiring window-dressing.

See though, that’s what’s the oddest fact about Self/less: Singh’s distinctive style is hardly anywhere to be found. Some cool blue-ish colors are used in certain scenes, but other than the fact that he holds a steady-cam practically the whole way through, that’s all Singh has to offer here. It’s almost as if Singh himself felt the need to prove to whatever studio that he was able to sit back and let his stories do the talking for him, but by doing so, totally loses the muster his movies have when watching them.

Sure, they may be low on substance, but holy shit do, are they a beaut or what?

Consensus: Without Singh’s distinctive taste for style on full display, Self/less turns into nothing more than an ordinary action-thriller, albeit, one with some smart ideas and an intriguing premise to work with.

5.5 / 10

Burn, baby, burn?

Burn, baby, burn?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Minions (2015)

At least Hollywood’s not discriminating against the minions. Just yet.

Many, many years before these little yellow guys got shacked-up with Gru, they were left to fend for themselves from the beginning of time. However, the one aspect of the minion’s lives is that they’ve always had a boss to tell them what to do and to basically keep them in line whenever their hijinx proved to get out of hand a bit too much. That’s why three of the minions, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (Pierre Coffin), all set out for an adventure to see if they can find a boss that they can stick with and not be so lost. They eventually stumble upon New York City during the late-60’s, where all sorts of hustle and bustle is occurring; eventually too, the minions see an ad for a villains convention lead by the most notorious and sexiest villain of them all, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Now, all the minions have to do is get into contact with Scarlet, impress her enough so that she takes them all on as trusted servants, and do as she says. But the minions soon realize that there’s a difference between helping out evil people, and those who are just considered “villains” – a lesson they would come to learn more and more about as the years would go by.

Though I’ve never been quite a fan of the Despicable Me franchise so far, there’s no denying that the minions themselves have mostly been the best parts of those movies. That’s not to say that the likes of Gru or any other aspects to the movies have charmed me, it’s just that when I look back at it, I mostly remember the minions as the ones who made me laugh and enjoy myself the most. Everything else was just sort of, meh. So with that said, you’d think that a full-length movie dedicated to just them would be right up my alley, correct?

Love at first drought.

Love at first drought.

Well, not really. However, I’m not too surprised by that.

See, when you have characters such as the minions, it’s best to use them in smaller doses on the side of the main-plot, rather than making them the center of the attention, all of the time. That’s how it is for most sidekicks in any major franchise/story/idea/anything, and even if you could try to pull an Avengers 2 and give the minions some extraneous subplot that makes them more substantial to the story at-hand, I don’t know if it would totally work for these characters. These minions are best when they’re around to show up for a little while, speak in some gibberish, hit one another, and just generally act like goof-balls. It’s what they’re known for and, for all the kiddies at least, they’re loved for, too.

Problem is, the act does run a bit dry after awhile and it gets to a point where one can only handle so much of the nonsensical gibber-jabber these characters partake in, or the constant slapstick that seems to shove itself into the plot whenever the director thinks that maybe there’s one too many jokes for adults. And honestly, that shouldn’t be a problem, because there aren’t many of those jokes to begin with. Then again though, there’s nothing wrong with that because these sorts of movies have never prided themselves on equally being for every member of the family; the folks at Pixar, as was evident from Inside Out, definitely do. However, those behind the Despicable Me franchise never did, and so therefore, there’s nothing totally wrong with that.

It’s just something that will make an older-person watching this make the time go on a bit longer, even as the youngsters are yucking it up and loving just about every second of it.

And you know what? They totally should! Minions, just like Despicable Me, is harmless in the best sense of the word – nobody’s going to have to worry about a joke being done in poor-taste, nor will they have to worry about kids going around and beating one another. All the minions set out to do, much like the movie itself, is to shine another small spotlight on those little yellow people you always see in the other movies, but never get the full attention quite like you may or may not want them to.

Did Sandra do green-screen for this? Or does Andy Serkis just take that over from now on?

Did Sandra do green-screen for this? Or does Andy Serkis just take that over from now on?

For me, maybe I didn’t need a whole movie dedicated to them, but considering that the movie hardly even runs 70 minutes, and doesn’t seem to be promising anymore sequels to this story in particular, I was willing to roll with it. Even if they aren’t the most engaging screen-presences for the whole time, the movie still throws in some energetic and colorful “human” characters to brighten things up in a comprehensible way that makes the plot all the more zany. The likes of Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush, and Sandra Bullock show up here to lend their voices and they all work well. Even if a recent animated flick like the Spongebob Squarepants movie proved that you don’t always need big-time names to lend their voices to your project to be any bit as successful as the last one to come before, it’s still nice to see at least some of these characters be more lively because of the personality behind them.

Even if, once again, they could have gotten any trained voice-actor and everything would have probably been a-okay. But hey, I guess you’ve got to worry about who will see your movie and who won’t.

And honestly, about the movie, despite what I may make some think, did make me laugh on occasion and enjoy some of the stylistic choices the directors took with the 1960’s setting. This already makes it seem like it’s actually putting in more of an effort than other animated movies that try to just cash in on a brand-name or fancy idea. Sure, they’re already using a previous idea from their other movies, but at least Minions didn’t feel like the total cash-cow that it could have been, where it’s so obvious that they want your money, that nobody seems enthused to even be showing up for work, making movies for all the world to see and enjoy.

So yeah, at least they’ve got that going for them; if anybody cares about that at all.

Consensus: The title characters themselves may grow a bit tired after awhile, but Minions, the movie, actually provides some laughs and fun along its short and sweet adventure that’s already setting up the many more Despicable Me movies to come.

6.5 / 10

Bananas with eyes aren't usually my first snack of the day, but if it's all I got, I mean, might as well.

Bananas with eyes aren’t usually my first snack of the day, but if it’s all I got, I mean, might as well.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2015)

The Coen Bros. really do need to take it easy on the poetic licensing.

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a young, but shy office worker living in Japan, who also just so happens to have a love/obsession with the 1996 Coen Brother’s flick, Fargo. She’s watched it so many times, that even her video-tape is starting to rip open. But why exactly is Kumiko so in love with this movie? Is it because she’s a huge fan of the Coen Brother’s quirky writing-style? Or does she have a thing for North Dakota accents? Actually, it’s neither; Kumiko believes that the movie holds the map to buried-treasure that Steve Buscemi hides underneath a whole bunch of snow at the end. Though this treasure does not exist, Kumiko doesn’t believe it and decides to save up all of her money so that she can travel to the States and find her buried-treasure, all for herself, once and for all. However, in order to do so, she’ll have to get rid of all those in her life in Japan; like, for instance, her family, her job, and most importantly, her pet rabbit.

Believe it or not, somebody was actually able to get a movie funded where the main character believed that Fargo was a real-life account, rather than a fully-fictionalized narrative feature. So right then and there, I have to give the Zellner Bros. some credit for finding some ways to get the money they needed to tell this story, have it get filmed, and then, make sure it was seen for a rather large audience. Because honestly, odd movies like these are hardly made nowadays, especially ones that feature an international cast and are filmed in two separate countries.

And the Oscar for Best Supporting Bunny goes to.........

And the Oscar for Best Supporting Bunny goes to………

But sometimes, none of that matters if you’re final product isn’t all that great to begin with. Because one of the problems with Kumiko, is that it feels like the Zellner Bros. were only concerned with being able to get the right amount of funding for this piece, rather than actually worrying about the piece itself. To say that the movie takes its good old time is an understatement; Kumiko is a very slow, meandering movie where we only get to the United States with hardly an half-hour left to go.

Now, that’s not me being angry and stating that the movie should have had more action going on it, or should have been quicker; in fact, it’s very far from the truth. I appreciate slower movies that take their times to build characters, their situations, and just who exactly they are. Sadly, the problem with Kumiko feels as if it doesn’t really have much attention to give to its characters, but instead, just relies on odd quirks to carry itself along.

And the one who suffers the most for it is Rinko Kikuchi herself, who is basically playing another version of her character from Babel, someone who is already a mute as is.

Though Kumiko has few shadings to whom she is, the reason as to why she’s so foolish and naive is never made clear. Some of this would have helped to make her adventure all the more sympathetic and understandable, especially considering what she goes through beforehand already puts her through some emotional turmoil. Still, though, Kikuchi does what she can with this role, where it seems like she’s constantly trying her hardest to sink deeper and deeper into this character, but more often than not, it doesn’t seem to be fully paying off.

But I don’t want to make it all seem so terrible, as the movie does have some general positive things to say for itself. For one, it’s shot beautifully; jumping from the hustle and bustle of Japan, all the way to the snowy landscape of North Dakota probably couldn’t have been easy for any cinematographer to work out, but Sean Porter finds a way to make it so. The Zellner’s really do use these certain shots to their advantage, as it shows that there’s more of a world for Kumiko to travel out and around to.

Sorry, pal, but Bob Odenkirk did it better.

Sorry, pal, but Bob Odenkirk did it better.

Even if, you know, the travel itself may take forever to get to and may not even be all that interesting to begin with.

Though I often don’t like to compare two movies to one another in the same review, I can’t help myself with this one and one that came out around last month or so: Slow West. Though that movie had a more straight-forward premise, the director found different ways to tell it and, in all honesty, made it feel a lot slower (pardon the pun) and thinner than it needed to be. But with Kumiko, it’s the exact opposite; there’s actually plenty of promise with this plot-line, considering that it isn’t so cut-and-dry, but the directors here do the same thing. Make the pace a whole lot slower, and try to find ways to distract audiences from the fact that there’s not much of a story to begin with.

The problem with both of these movies is that they feel the need to meander as much as they possibly can, just so that the wheels can turn a whole lot more. It was less manipulative in Slow West than it is here, however, both movies signify what it’s like when you’re trying to mess with your audiences, but at the same time, not fooling them enough to have them see what it is that you’re fully up to. Maybe I make these directors sound a whole lot more vindictive and evil than they actually are, but it’s just something that I’ve caught one too many times with these kinds of movies and honestly, I don’t appreciate.

God, why am I so grumpy?

Consensus: The promising premise aside, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter has a poor-pace that makes it feel like it’s going nowhere, until it finally gets to its end and feels like a bit of a drag all the same.

5 / 10

Blends in perfectly.

Blends in perfectly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Escobar: Paradise Lost (2015)

I thought Vinny Chase already did this movie?

Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) was known for committing many terrible acts in his life and sometimes, those who were closest to him were the ones who were on the receiving end of these said acts. One person who is about to find this out, up close and personal, is Canadian surfer bro Nick Brady (Josh Hutcherson). After he and his brother (Brady Corbet) are hassled endlessly by locals for using their land as a place to rest, Nick starts to date Escobar’s niece, who then invites him to meet her infamous uncle. Though Nick doesn’t know what to make of this larger-than-life figure that is Pablo Escobar, the two end up striking something of a friendship; with Escobar even going so far as to call Nick “a son of his”. While Nick is happy to receive this sort of treatment from Escobar, he knows that his true home is Canada and he wants to go back to it, however, little does he knows that when you’re with Pablo Escobar, you can never leave. And even if you do try to, good luck, because he will find you, hunt you down, and make sure you lose all those who are close to you.

He's just kindly saying, "Hello." No need to fret.

He’s just kindly saying, “Hello.” No need to fret.

While a lot of Paradise Lost has been advertised with Del Toro’s name and face pushed to the center, it’s actually the opposite when you look at the final product of the movie itself. Sure, Del Toro is in this movie plenty of times, getting his moments to shine and menace as the role he’s always been born to play, Pablo Escobar, however, it’s clearly Josh Hutcherson’s movie. That’s not to say that Hutcherson acts out Del Toro, but that is to say that Hutcherson’s character is clearly the main protagonist here that we spend an awful bunch of time with, getting to know, understand, and see as he gets himself out of whatever terrible situation he’s thrown into.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Hutcherson himself is actually very good in the lead role as the fictionalized Nick Brady; while I’ve been fine with his performances in the past, from here on out, I remain forever confidante that he can hold his own. Because the Hunger Games franchise is coming to an end, it’s time for Hutcherson to grow into his own as not only an actor, but as a man who is capable of handling adult-like roles. Here, as Nick Brady, he gets many opportunities to do so and it works quite well, especially considering the fact that a lot of what this Brady character goes through, can seem somewhat repetitive and boring.

While he does start off as something of a squeaky clean, overall good guy, Brady’s eventually taken down several dark paths that mostly question his sense of humanity. The actions that he’s called onto commit, are not only heinous, but quite surprising, and it’s interesting to see how this character handles each and everyone that’s thrown at him; while he doesn’t want to necessarily deny these choices he has to make, Brady is still wondering just how he can get by these decisions, and still keep a sense of dignity within himself. Slowly but surely, though, Brady starts to change in front of our own very eyes, and it’s very intriguing to watch coming from Hutcherson – someone who is so used to being seen as “a kid”, is now able to fully grow-up as a desperate, tough and unpredictable person.

And yes, Del Toro is good, too. But once again, it’s Hutcherson’s movie, and it all works, even if may piss-off those who were looking to see a movie where Pablo Escobar commits all sorts of dastardly actions.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Although we do get to see some of these actions, or better yet, the after-effects of them, writer/director Andrea di Stefano is more concerned with the plot itself and it shows. Not only does di Stefano know how to create tension, but he knows how to settle it all in a way that’s effective, as well as smart; it is, at one point, a social tale about all that Escobar did to Colombia and those who worked with him, but it’s also a compelling thriller. It goes down certain alleys you don’t see coming, but they also don’t feel cheap, either – they just add more danger to this tale than ever before and it allows the stakes to continue to rise, even if you know how it all ends for Escobar himself.

But then, at the end of the movie, there’s an odd feeling of wondering: What was the point of all that? Sure, we got to see how one character got so sucked into Escobar’s personality, that he was also the one who had to break away from it as soon as he realized he was in harm’s way, but other than that, is there anything else?

Hate to say it, but not really.

Maybe that’s exactly what di Stefano wanted to deliver on – a thriller of sorts – but it also feels like a missed opportunity to go deeper. Heck, having Del Toro around to play Pablo Escobar is already enough promise as is, so why not try to capitalize on it a bit more? The angle of focusing on Nick Brady was interesting, yes, but it also makes it feel very simple and easy, especially given the fact that this movie could have focused on so many more elements at play in this real life story.

Then again, the movie does cover a whole lot more ground that Entourage ever did in their third season, so I guess there is something to be said for that. And maybe, it’s just a case of me complaining about nothing just for the sake of doing so, but when your movie turns into a Colombian-version of Behind Enemy Lines, there’s a part of me that feels like maybe a few other angles could have been taken. Even if, you know, the angle they took worked as it was.

Consensus: Even if Del Toro isn’t around as much as Pablo Escobar, Paradise Lost is still a solid-enough thriller to be gripped by, especially due to the fact that Josh Hutcherson brings his A-game as well.

7.5 / 10

Can never trust a dude who rocks a 'stache that awesomely.

Can never trust a dude who rocks a ‘stache that awesomely.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Fall (2006)

Wish my daddy told me stories like these.

Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is a very successful stuntman in Hollywood during the 1920’s. He’s been in plenty of movies but has found himself in a hospital, after a suicide attempt, where he rots his life away wondering just when he’s going to die, how he’s going to die, and where exactly that damn morphine is. He may have found all of the answers in a young girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who not only hangs out with him, but listens to him as he tells fantasy stories about pirates, gypsies, swords, guns, and all sorts of wild and adventurous things. But there’s more than just fantasy in the stories he tells, and together, they both find the solutions to all of their problems, no matter how different each one’s may be from the other.

Everybody knows that Tarsem Singh is one of those guys who knows what’s beautiful and what isn’t. Every one of his flicks (yes, even Mirror Mirror) all feel like fully-realized portraits that could have been painted by either Dali or Van Gogh, and inspired more and more people to take a brush, a can of paint, and a clear surface and start getting down to business, art style. However, the same can’t be said for his stories and even though I feel like we haven’t seen all that this guy has been able to do when somebody gives him a script, a story, and a huge budget, he’s still not there yet. Give him some time, and he will be but as for right now, the guy’s got some homework.

No matter what type of bad stuff I say about Singh’s writing, I cannot deny that this movie isn’t a piece of art, given to us on a silver platter for over two hours. Then again, almost any film nowadays is considered “beautiful” or “artful” because of what every person on the face of the universe can do with a keyboard, a screen, and a couple of clicks. But not Singh. Nope, this guy knows what actual-beauty looks like in a world like ours and not only is it great to see somebody embrace that fact, but show it off in the best way possible. Can some of it be considered showwy and too much?

Yes and no.

 

Looks like Lee Pace to me. Great job hiding yourself!

Looks like Lee Pace to me. Great job hiding yourself!

Yes, because, let’s face it, the only reason this story is told the way it is, is just so Singh can show everybody how huge his imagination is, and how much pretty colors his eyes can see. Directors like Terrence Malick and Ang Lee have the same eyes and same ideas when it comes to letting their visuals tell a story, but they aren’t as obvious as Singh is here. The guy wants everybody to see what he sees, and as nice as that may sound, it does seem rather indulgent at points, considering the story didn’t need to be told this way. Some may agree with me on that aspect, and some may not, but regardless, Singh does show off a bit too much.

Then again, it’s no for the sole reason that this movie is incredibly beautiful in every sense of the word. You get plenty of colors showing up when you least expect them to; visual tricks that you didn’t think were even possible; and a couple of large landscape shots that make me feel pissed I didn’t at least check them out on a big screen or anything else that’s larger than my 1999 Sony television. Or at least I think it’s Sony. Anyway, the movie is eye-candy for everybody who cares to seek their eyes on this thing and I have to give credit to Singh for showing us what you can do when you’re inspired, have some money to burn, and at least feel passionate about what you show on the screen. Once again, it doesn’t all work and seems a tad like over kill at some points, but if anything, Sing knows how to come up with a pretty shot.

Visuals aside, the movie doesn’t have a compelling story but at least it tries to.

Though the story at the center of the movie is very straight-forward and simple, Singh tries to go one step further with these wildly imaginative, over-the-top stories of fantasy and whimsy, and they more or less feel like manipulative opportunities for Singh to just break loose with what he’s got at his disposal. Which isn’t to say I didn’t mind these stories, they just to be a bit old, is all. It all started off perfectly by giving us a great deal of imagination, fantasy, fun, and humor to play with, and had me terribly excited as if the rest of the flick was going to be like this just about the whole way through, but it starts to lose its edge.

Somewhere along the lines, it seemed as if Singh, just like his main-narrator, had a strong start with the story he wanted to tell, then just lost all sorts of originality and decided to improvise his way through a story that could have touched almost everybody who ever heard it or saw it. The improv-idea of story telling actually doesn’t work and seems like a cheap excuse for Singh not to be able to come up with any spectacular ideas that may have kept us more glued to what was going to happen to this “story” and this “real-life story.”

Somewhere, imprinted in the sand, it says: "Lawrence was here".

Somewhere, imprinted in the sand, it says, “Lawrence was here”.

Although they’re saddled with something of a lame story, Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru are very good in each of their roles, whether they’re together or not, but too many of their scenes are dedicated to them just goofing-around with one another, getting along just fine, having fun, telling stories, and occasionally, getting a tad serious so one person can get a bit high for the hell of it. These scenes are sometimes good, and sometimes stupid because they go on and on without any point or message at the end of the road. There’s just a bunch of metaphors and foreshadowing between these two and whether or not Singh actually thinks this how people talk and tell stories in real life, is all up to him. However, it’s also up to me to tell him that this isn’t really how people tell stories and if you have a script that’s along the line of works like Aaron Sorkin, or Quentin Tarantino, or David Mamet, and can get away with i- then, good for you. But Tarsem, my friend, you just can’t.

Stick with making pretty images.

Consensus: Tarsem Singh definitely shows his imagination in beautiful shadings with the Fall, it’s just a shame that the story doesn’t hook quite as effectively as these said images do.

6 / 10

Hey, it's my backyard!

Hey, it’s my backyard!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

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