Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 5-5.5/10

Jimi: All Is by My Side (2014)

I think we’re all in agreement here that Jimi Hendrix was a talent-less hack, and that Yngwie Malmsteen is the greatest guitarist to ever touch a six-string.

Back before he was setting his guitar on fire, doing solos with his teeth, or playing the Star Spangled Banner on one instrument and one instrument only, Jimi Hendrix (Andre Benjamin) was just another, up-and-comer in the music world who was trying to make it big in any way that he could. However though, in the music-biz, it’s normally about who you know, much rather than how exceptional of a talent you may be. In Jimi’s case, this is good because he’s not only a solid guitar-player, to say the least, but he is also quite close friends with the likes of Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) who, at the time, was pretty close with the Rolling Stones. She sees something special in Jimi and decides to get him hooked-up with a manager and a bunch of promising gigs. Things eventually turn sour between the two once Jimi is introduced to the native-Brit, Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell), who he strikes up a relationship with. Linda is pretty jealous of this, but she’s also afraid of what this may mean for the rest of Jimi’s career to come.

How can one be so interested, in somebody who is just not all interesting? Oh wait, money. Never mind!

How can one be so interested, in somebody who is just not all interesting? Oh wait, money. Never mind!

There’s an interesting note about the production of Jimi: All is by My Side that actually puts the whole film into perspective. Because the film itself wasn’t allowed to use any of Hendrix’s actual, recorded-songs due to copyright issues, writer/director John Ridley is pretty much left to fend for himself and build off of a part of Jimi’s life that doesn’t have any of his original classics we all mostly know and love. Then again, by the same token, it doesn’t seem like much of that problem affects Ridley’s movie as he more or less is just focusing on Jimi Hendrix before he got big and even had the opportunity to record something like, “the Wind Cries Mary“, or “Little Wing“; instead, we see a Hendrix before all of the fame and fortune hit him like a ton of bricks and he became, as what some would call him, “the greatest guitar player of all-time”.

For better, or worse.

However, where Ridley makes the big problem with this small biopic of his, is that he doesn’t do much to help the heart and soul of this movie to begin with, Hendrix himself. See, here, Jimi Hendrix is something of a shy, soft-spoken musician who definitely has a talent worth paying attention to, but he hardly ever makes a single decision for himself to further himself, and also his career. He mostly takes a back-seat to those around him who constantly push, pull, and struggle to put him into places that will not only make him more famous, but them also a lot richer.

You could say that this is just how the music-business just is and to that, I’d say, sure, you may be correct in most cases. However, when you’re movie is supposed to be focusing on the kind of complex, interesting person Hendrix truly was off the stage, it doesn’t quite help. Not because it makes him seem like a pawn in his own chess-game, but because it doesn’t do much to make him even seem like has anything to bring to the story at all. This movie could have literally been all about the people who talked to and interacted with Jimi Hendrix during his early days, and without even having him show up, you could have had a very intriguing movie. But once you put Jimi Hendrix, the main subject of this piece, then all I’m left to do is take what’s given to me and what’s given to me here is that Jimi Hendrix was not only a bit of a dope, but a not-so interesting one, either. He’s just dull enough in this movie to make it easy to understand why so many of his songs are in fact, covers, and not just original pieces of his own.

But that’s a different discussion for a different day, as what we have here, is simply a movie that deserves a better main protagonist. Because, as hard as Benjamin tries with Hendrix, he just really goes nowhere. Even though his character does go through some personal and emotional transformations over the course of the near-two hours, hardly any of it rings true, nor does it really seem to go anywhere. It’s also not very subtle, either, seeing as how once Hendrix gets the tiniest bit of popularity to his name, he automatically starts beating the crap out of his loving, adoring girlfriend – which wouldn’t haven’t been such a problem, had these not been scenes made-up of total fiction.

Obviously occurred while Agent Carter was on-break.

Obviously occurred while Agent Carter was on-break.

And speaking of said girlfriend who gets the crap beat out of her, Hayley Atwell is actually very good here as the kind of character we’d see in this type of movie and not want to like, let alone, sympathize with. But because Hendrix is supposed to be a charismatic figure, albeit a flawed one, we feel more for her, than we ever do for him and it puts Atwell’s performance into perspective. She makes Kathy Etchingham seem less like a whoring-around groupie who wants to sleep with the next big act, and more of just a woman who falls for a certain guy, who just so happens to be famous, and actually wants to make it work with him. Even despite, you know, the odds totally stacked-up against them both.

Imogen Poots also plays another one of Hendrix’s female acquaintances who doesn’t quite get a chance to take their relationship as much to the next level as Etchingham does, but still feels the want and need to. And we actually want her to, too, because not only is Poots likable and sweet as Linda Keith, but she’s also a realist who seems like she could slap Jimi, wake him up, and have him smell the cauliflower. Because, honestly, who knows what would have happened to him had he not broke it off with both of these lovely ladies. Maybe he’d still be alive, jamming out for all the world to see. Or maybe, rather than burn-out, he’d just fade away.

Oh shit. Wrong member of “the 27 Club”!

Consensus: Despite compelling performances from Hayley Atwell and Imogen Poots, Jimi: All is by My Side mostly suffers from the fact that it never offers any sort of interesting insight into its lead character, and mostly falls back on tired, old rock movie cliches.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh, just give me "Purple Haze" already!

Oh, just give me “Purple Haze” already!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

KRussians love the cold, so what the heck could a little radiation do to them?

During 1961, when the Cold War was running hot and wild all over, the Russians needed a way to really hurt their enemy: the U.S. So, what they got all packed together was a newly-made submarine that packed nukes in hopes to add more blow and potentially come close to winning the war. They had a stubborn, but inspired captain (Harrison Ford), they had a co-captain that was just as inspired, but also more friendlier (Liam Neeson), and a butt-load of other fella’s that knew their way or two around a submarine, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s just say that radiation could start to leak out, infect the whole ship, and get just about everybody aboard sick or near-dying, that’s what.

I don’t know how they did it, but somehow Kathryn Bigelow and everybody else involved with the production of this flick got made, which is probably more of a sin for them, than it was a victory, since it had no chance of ever being able to connect with the mainstream, American audience. Why? Well, that’s because the story is focusing on a bunch of Russians during the Cold War, who were practically carrying weapons that were destined to hit us and us alone, while also trying to make us feel sympathy for them as each and every one started to die from the spilled radiation on-board. It does sound very strange once you get to thinking about it, but despite the cast, the crew, and the obvious, but hokey message behind it all, the movie was made, widely-released, and then got back the numbers that were apparently $35 million domestically, on a $80 million dollar budget.

"A captain always go down with his ship. Make sure somebody tells Chewwy that."

“On this mission, can I bring my trustworthy friend named Chewwy along?”

All of this number-throwing and speculation does eventually lead somewhere, and that’s to say that this is a movie that was destined for death right away. Nobody, not even the most hardcore hippie in the world wants to lay down their rights, views, or themes inside of their heads, and take some time and effort out of their days to watch a story about REAL Russians, who went through REAL problems, and actually, REALLY died. It’s asking a lot of Americans, and it came as no surprise to anyone that this movie bombed it’s ass out of the water, which should also bring up the question as to whether or not this flick was even really worth all of the hate/bombing?

Kind of, but not really.

The idea behind this movie that really keeps it moving and interesting is knowing that what you see really happened, no matter how much speculation there may or may not be. Granted, that usually comes with the material, but it’s something that is easy to forgive here since Bigelow actually seems to take a tender love and care with this material, and more or less expresses each and every one of these crew members as humans. They’re corny and one-dimensional ones, but knowing that these characters are in fact based off of real-life people, makes you feel a little bit more closer and more sympathetic to the material, even if you know that what they are dying from, most likely could have killed us, had they actually succeeded in getting to their destination. I guess that’s a spoiler but since I’m typing on this computer about this movie and you’re reading this, wherever you may be, that it isn’t totally a spoiler, as much as it’s a little tidbit that you may or may not know going on.

Okay, it’s not a spoiler! We didn’t get nuked, dammit!

Anyway, Bigelow has an assured direction and I’m surprised that despite her having an actual vagina, that her movies more or less are aimed towards men, and men alone. I mean hell, I think we only get one scene of some actual, female tail here and that’s probably for about a good two minutes or so. Everything else after those two minutes is practically dude, dude, dude and whether or not you’re the straightest dude out there in the world, then you may not want to bother with this, however, gay men will be in heaven right here, especially if they have a fetish for dudes with a Russian accent. Regardless, Bigelow’s choices for what material she wants to bring to the big-screen next is always surprising and usually impressive, considering what she does with that material once its up on the screen.

But something here tells me that I wish there was more effort along the way to make this more than just a standard flick about a bunch of dudes in a submarine that are arguing, yelling, and acting angry at one another, as they come closer and closer to death. The feeling of remorse and death is in the cold air throughout this whole movie, but it never swamped me as much as it swamped the characters in the actual flick. It just felt like I was watching people die, without barely any feeling whatsoever as to what was happening, or to whom. It just tallied-up it’s death-toll and continued to make it’s moves; almost sort of like a horror movie, but you can’t kill the slasher. He just continues to kill and kill away, no matter how hard you try to stop him or keep him away. Oh wait, that is actually a horror movie!

And it’s not like the reason I didn’t care was because I’m some political a-hole that can’t at least feel some sort of sympathy for the other side in any way, shape, or form; it’s just that the movie cares more about the submarine jargon and what these people have to do next, rather than the people themselves. That can create tension and suspense in the air, but that still doesn’t give us a lick of sympathy for these guys and in the end, it just felt like the film lost all of our hearts and minds, because it wanted to continue to rattle down what’s happening to the submarine and why, but never actually explaining it.

For instance, I don’t think I stand alone for when I say that I’m not very submarine-savvy, so, when I have a flick that’s telling me that this thing blew up in this part of the submarine, which also blew up this rod and so on and so forth, I’m practically left with my tongue half-way down my throat. I don’t know what half of these characters were saying, what it meant for them or the ship, and how they could get around the problem. I just sat there listening in, trying to understand, get a grip of what was going on, but ultimately come to the conclusion that everything everybody said was bad, bad, bad and would most likely lead to death, death, death, if they don’t get up off their asses, kick out their egos, and get to work right away. That’s what it came down to me understanding with this movie after awhile, and by “after awhile”, I mean a good hour-and-a-half. Then, I realized I had all but 40 minutes left of the movie, and I felt like I was missing out on something, somewhere around here.

But anyway, back to what I was talking about before, was the fact that this movie still got made, produced, and green-lit, despite featuring a premise that was surprisingly unheard of, especially from an American-made production. Well, one of the key reasons behind all that is mostly that Bigelow was able to rope in big star, Hollywood actors like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, who are, oddly enough, playing the two, main Russians-in-command here. It’s weird seeing both of these highly-recognizable stars don a Russian accent, but it’s even odder to see Ford because not only does the guy not do very well with the accent, but his whole act is just so polarizing to begin with.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

Think about it for a second, he’s Indiana Jones; he’s Han Solo; and hell, for God sake, he was even the President of the United States, so where the hell did the idea for this “American-hero” to be portraying a Russian that not only protected his country til the day he died, but also to any cost?!? Never made much sense to me and never seemed to work for Ford, or the character he was portraying. It seemed like a parody after awhile, as if Ford was payed a huge chunk of money just to goof-around and work with a spotty accent. Problem is, it wasn’t a parody and there was no joke here. It was mega-serious, all of the damn time.

Poor Liam Neeson too, because the guy actually does a serviceable-job here as the second-in-command (despite not even bothering with an accent), but has a character that’s so prideful and in-the-right all the time, that there never seems to be a moral dilemma for this dude as if he knows what he should do next, whether it would be the most moral move or not, or if he’s going to be able to pat his friends on the back. I got it from the first couple of minutes, the guy was a nice dude that obviously cared for his crew mates and wanted what was best for them, as well as his country, but it’s an act that got stale after awhile, as if he would have never made a bad call ever. Peter Sarsgaard remains the only other crew-member that’s the most recognizable, even today, and is okay, but really obvious as he plays the wussy that eventually stands up for himself and is forced to come up big when they need him the most. Corny.

Consensus: Bigelow’s intentions are surprisingly heartfelt and well-mannered, even if the rest of the movie that’s supposed to make K-19: The Widowmaker pop, lock, and drop it as if we are on-board with these guys, doesn’t do either of the three and just hangs there.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Even they know they deserve a better movie. Then they died.

Even they knew they deserved a better movie. Then they died.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Life After Beth (2014)

Every guy likes a little biting here and there.

After the death of his beloved girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), Zach (Dane DeHaan) is left something of a mess. But it’s fine because he can at least sit around and confide in Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), which he does to the point of where he’s on a first-name basis with them and even tokes up a bit. This makes Zach more than happy, however, something strange happens the next day: Beth’s parents don’t answer any of his calls or door-knocks. They’re ignoring him to the point of where it’s like the past 24 hours had never existed. But that strangeness doesn’t even begin to measure up to the next bit of shock that hits Zach: Beth’s alive. And though it’s weird that she’s alive, this means that Zach can finally spend all of the time in the world with Beth, as if she had never gone away before in the first place. Forget the fact that she’s super-excited about everything, or that her breath smells like garbage, or even that she gets a little too rough when her and Zach are getting intimate, Beth is back, baby! Better than ever, though, she is not and Zach is about to find out possibly what’s going on. Not just with Beth though, but many other countless deceased person’s who all somehow come back to life at approximately the same time.

Holding hands in a pool. Gosh, it must be love.

Holding hands in a pool. Gosh, it must be love.

So, without getting smacked in the comments section, I’ll just say this: If you don’t know where I’m heading with this premise, you might be a little dense. I’m not calling you dumb or totally idiotic to the point of no return, but come on, it’s quite obvious where this story’s headed. And sadly, that’s probably the biggest problem with Life After Beth – while it’s obvious what the main twist/”reasoning” behind Beth’s re-arrival into the story actually is, the movie hardly does anything entertaining or funny with it.

Actually, that’s a bit of a fib because for all that he tries here, writer/director Jeff Baena does add a few neat tricks to the formula of what this story turns out to be, what with the inclusion of jazz music and attic-sex and all. However, it’s simply not enough to fully keep the movie hilarious, or even slightly interesting. Which, for a movie that runs right underneath the 90-minute time-limit, can be a bit of a problem; though it shouldn’t at all feel like a long slog, the fact that its story doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t already expect it to, or at least do so in a refreshing, fun kind of way, the movie feels at least an hour longer. If that.

Though this is mostly because Baena’s fault as a writer and director who doesn’t seem to really know how to make a one-joke premise constantly thrive with energy, the cast still tries with all that they can. Aubrey Plaza has been a joy to watch in practically everything she’s appeared in since people actually realized her talents in Funny People and how she plays the exciting, constantly moving-around Beth is no different. Her dead-pan style may not be used quite as often, but there’s still a joyful feeling to watching Plaza just let loose with material that shouldn’t suit her, but certainly does when you see her actually act it out. It’s no wonder why her and Baena are dating in real-life.

That bastard.

Anyway, I digress, because the rest of the cast is actually fine, too. Dane DeHaan may be running all over the place, Shia LaBeouf-ing his rear-end off, but it still works for him because the guy’s quite charming, even when all he’s really doing is just whining and moping around that things in life are a little weird for the time being. Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly are wonderfully odd as Beth’s parents who seem like alright people, but are a little strange in their own ways and how the movie plays into that is one of the smarter decisions Baena’s able to go through with. Especially with Reilly who, like with most of his roles, shows that he can be a cool, chilled-out fella, but is also a dad, and a responsible one at that. Though there’s not much more depth to his character than that, it’s still a worthy-try on Reilly’s part and it made me wish that there’d been more focus on him, rather than what the hell begins to happen with this plot.

Okay, mom and dad! You're cool, so stop!

Okay, mom and dad! You’re cool, so stop!

Because had there actually been more detail given to all of the characters here, not just Reilly’s, then there’d be a way better movie. The jokes would hit harder; the characters would feel more “sympathetic”, than “cartoonish” as they often do; and what ends up happening to the plot would actually be compelling and have some sort of emotion. Beth and Zach seem like the sort of cute, happily-in-love high school couple that we often see in movies such as these, but their relationship doesn’t get any deeper or more-involved than that; they’re in love because Zach is sad that she’s initially dead and that’s it. We never see it, understand it, or better yet, just don’t even seem to care.

But there is a part of me that wonders whether or not this would work a whole lot better as a short. Sure, all of the nitty gritty details of what happens in the later-half of this movie would definitely have to be taken out, but as a short, Life After Beth probably works best. All Baena would have to do is give us some amount of character-development, throw in the conflict, then the twist, and eventually, the final resolution that they have here in this film. Because everything else, as sometimes entertaining as it can sometimes be, doesn’t really add up to much other than being a cool idea, or one that’s fit for a better movie.

However, this is just a suggestion from a stay-at-home blogger. Take with that what you will, Jeff Baena.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining in spots, Life After Beth seems like it wants to do something different with the subgenre it tackles, but eventually, just gives way to filler that doesn’t go anywhere, or do anything for its audience. Except, well, bore them.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay. Do you finally get what I was alluding to before?!?

Okay. Do you finally get what I was alluding to before?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Boxtrolls (2014)

Had this movie just been about actual “trolls“, it probably would have been a lot scarier. Missed opportunities.

Underneath the town of Cheesebridge, a small population of trolls live and oddly enough, they have adopted a young boy (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) as their own. The name he’s given is “Eggs”, which mostly has to do with the fact that the box he is dressed up, was previously one used for containing eggs. Another box contained fish, so the troll now filling that is called “Fish”. So on and so forth, you get it. Anyway, Eggs and the rest of the trolls all run into a problem when a nasty, mean and cruel pest exterminator by the name of Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) who plans on getting rid of every Boxtroll there is to be found. He also hopes that this will make him look like a hero to the rest of the townspeople and therefore, give him a shot at becoming mayor, or at least, a man of higher-power. So obviously this puts the Boxtrolls into some real, major danger of being extinct, but once Eggs joins the real world and meets the quirky, spunky daughter of the main mayor (Elle Fanning) things change and he might just find a way to save his lovable friends and so-called family once and for all.

Pictured from left to right: Generic Boxtroll #1, Generic Boxtroll #2, Generic Boxtroll #3, Generic Boxtroll #4, Generic Boxtroll #5.

Pictured from left to right: Generic Boxtroll #1, Generic Boxtroll #2, Generic Boxtroll #3, Generic Boxtroll #4, Generic Boxtroll #5.

Laika, as they had done with both Coraline and Paranorman, have proven that they’re able to deliver on both the visual-department of their movies, while also with the story as well. Sometimes, their stories get a little too dark for even the target-audience these movie seem so keen on attracting in the first place, but for what it’s worth, they’re one of the very few animation-companies that strive on giving every demographic a little something to chew on and appreciate. I don’t want to say they’re one of the few ones left, but considering the slide Pixar has recently plummeted down, I can’t help but put most of my hope and faith into another group of animators out there.

And with that said, it should be noted that the Boxtrolls is as pretty-looking as any of the other Laika movies. The combination of hand-made creations and thinly-done CGI works, especially so here. Everything and everyone inside this small town of Cheesebridge seem as if they either need a shower, or live in a place as screwed up as everybody around them thinks. Sure, you don’t get too many points for looking strange, but you do get credit for making the strange actually look nice and well-done. Here, that’s what Laika does and it’s totally a compliment to the types of talents that they have working in their studios.

But, when all is said and done here, there’s just not much of a story and ultimately, that ends up tearing the whole piece apart.

It’s one thing to introduce your never-done-before, relatively interesting characters and not really have them be interesting other than just socially awkward, or plain and simply weird; however, it is another whole thing entirely to have these characters and hardly ever focus on them at all. Much rather, what adds insult to injury is to spend most of your movie focusing on the human characters involved with the story. Which honestly, wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had the human characters here actually been the least bit interesting or believable in terms of their intentions and why they deserve to be paid attention to in the first place. However, what happens here with the characters in the Boxtrolls, is that they fall for being thinly-written at first, and hardly ever given a second, or third, or maybe even fourth glance at to see if everything adds up well enough,

Take, for instance, the villainous character of Archibald Snatcher, the one who wants to be rid of all these Boxtrolls so that he can get going with his term in office and live happily ever after, eating cheese for the rest of his days. It’s obvious that we’re not supposed to like, or even care for this character – he’s the evil son-of-a-bitch who wants to basically kill those little, cuddly characters we get introduced to early on as not just nice creatures, but ones that aren’t at all what the rumors he’s been spreading around about them say at all. You feel bad for them as a result, of course, but there’s also an idea that’s supposed to be here where we feel some sort of sympathy for our lead villain here, even if he is just being a total dick. Surely, there must be at least some sort of reasoning that would put all of his evil, immoral actions to light?

A match made in Laika-heaven.

A match made in Laika-heaven.

Nope. Not at all, actually. This dude’s just a dick, for the sake of being a dick. Which, once again, wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had we not been given so much time to spend with just him and only him, but we get that and it hardly ever seems to end. The scenes with him, as well as the rest of the human characters, feel like they are never-ending and only add insult to injury. Not because we, the audience, actually decided to see this for fine animation (which we get), but because we wanted to actually see the Boxtolls (you know, the titled-chaarcters), and hardly get any of them.

Sure, maybe the characters of Eggs isn’t so bad, especially considering that he’s a weird, little boy who continues to be as such, but honestly, there’s nobody here that’s really keeping it altogether. Even when the movie does focus on the infamous, but hardly-seen Boxtrolls, it’s hard to ever be able to tell any of them apart. Maybe Fish and that’s it – every other Boxtroll just feels like a carbon-copy of the one that was created before it and only add less to their appeal. They’re meant to look and seem ugly, but they’re also supposed to be charming, funny, and the types of creatures we’d actually want our kids going to sleep with plush dolls of. But not these Boxtrolls. They aren’t really fun to begin with, but they’ll probably give your kid nightmares.

And honestly, what parent wants to pay for all that therapy? Especially all for something like this, no less?

Consensus: As usual with Laika films, the Boxtrolls benefits from looking crisp and inventive, but the story is anything but and instead, lingers on certain plot-threads nobody cares about. Not even the kiddies.

5 / 10 = Rental!! 

Of course the leader of these Boxtrolls had to be white!

Of course the leader of these Boxtrolls had to be white! What? No dark-skinned men and/or women in Cheesebrigde?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Gambler (2014)

Albert Camus and gambling. How could I have not seen the similarities before?

Literary professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t seem like he’s happy about his life. For one, his grand-father just died and has practically left him little-to-no money. Bennett also happens to have a gambling problem, that gets him into all sorts of trouble with powerful kingpins of the underground poker world. And, to make matters slightly worse, he has a job that he absolutely hates, where all he does is practically yell at each and everyone of his students, telling them that not only are they “not great”, but they’re also wasting his precious time. So yeah, Bennett doesn’t necessarily have the best life in the world of all person’s lives, but he does have a possible-girlfriend (Brie Larson), a very rich mom (Jessica Lange), and nearly seven days to settle all of his debts before it’s too late. But a week isn’t so bad if all you have to do is cobble up a couple hundred thousand dollars, right? Well, wrong.

One of the main problems with the Gambler lies solely within the lead character himself, Jim Bennett. For starters, he’s not a very likable, nor sympathetic one to say the least, but he also is quite repetitive without hardly any rhyme or reason. And then, there’s the fact that Mark Wahlberg, of all people, was cast in this role as a literary professor at what seems to be a very prodigious university somewhere in California. Both go hand-in-hand with what makes the Gambler a poor movie, but they’re both hard to describe to a person who hasn’t seen the movie. It just feels, while watching it, very mis-matched and awkward. Almost like a blind date you set up between two mutual friends; you know that they may have similarities and be a nice match, but you’re not sure how they’re going to approach one another.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

It’s a bad simile, I know, but it’s all I got to work with since this is a very frustrating movie.

First off, the lead protagonist of Jim Bennett isn’t a very likable one, which is fine and all if a movie at least shows us that there is something to him that’s not only interesting, but turns him into something of a tragic-figure. However, the writing for Bennett is too repetitious and simple to make him as anything but; Jim Bennett is, simply put, a dick. But he’s the worst kind of a dick – he’s that kind of rich, self-entitled, whiny dick that you see at a dinner-party, who everybody crowds around and listens to all because he seems like a smart, know-it-all dude, when in reality, he’s just a bone-head who pisses, moans, and cries about everything in life, when he doesn’t really need to. Everything’s been practically handed to him on a silver spoon and the only problems that he ever faces in life, are ones that are completely made because of him and nobody else.

Yet, the movie makes him out to be some sort of martyr that we’re not only supposed to feel bad for because he’s so pissed off and angry about life, but also because he apparently has a gambling problem; one that’s never really brought out well enough to be classified as such. What I mean is that while you see certain movies about people with addictions, mainly gambling addictions, you know that they are, the way they are, is because they love the trill of winning whatever big con it is. In the case of gambler’s, they love the excitement of winning a bet and absolutely chase that for as long as they can. Here though, with Bennett, we never see his utter joy and/or pleasure for winning; we just see him bet a lot of stupid hands in the game of Blackjack, lose, and then continue to dig himself in a deeper-hole for no other reason other than, well, he can.

To me, this not only makes him an unlikable, nearly insufferable character to watch and have to stick with for two hours. Not to mention, it also wastes the talents of Mark Wahlberg, an actor who, when given the right material to work with, is strong and impressive, but seems like he is way out of his depth here as, get ready for it, a literary professor who may have reached his mid-life crisis already. I know it sounds like a joke, but judging by how this movie portrays Bennett, as well as the rest of its story, it isn’t. It’s pure, unabashed drama, and it’s hard to take in as fact or compelling.

You’d think that casting-directors would think twice about putting Marky Mark in roles of teachers, but oh well.

Though, to be fair, I have to hold back on the hate of Marky Mark’s performance, because he’s not all bad; you can tell by the fact that he lost about 60 pounds, that he truly is trying with this role. But the problem remains that he’s just not believable enough in this role as a professor who just preaches about the monotony and shit-heap reality that is life. There are some instances in which we see the good, old school Marky Mark come out (mostly in scenes where he’s acting smarter than the person he’s talking to and/or ready to brawl), but overall, it’s a mixed-bag of a performance, that could have easily been avoided, had Wahlberg not been cast in a role that clearly doesn’t suit him well.

Then again though, it all comes back to this character of Jim Bennett; he’s not nice, not interesting, and sure as hell isn’t compelling enough to make this movie work. He’s just a blank-slate, that’s made even worse by the dumb, idiotic decisions he makes in life that not only impact his own life – one that he’s already made pretty clear he doesn’t care for. But, even worse, he impacts those around him who love him, care for him, and actually care about their own, relatively pleasant lives as human beings. He doesn’t care, so therefore, we’re supposed to care.

And because we don’t care about him, or the actions he makes, there’s hardly any tension to be found in the Gambler. Sure, some of the scenes where Bennett’s betting his life away on what seem to be ordinary games of Blackjack, do have some real suspense to them, but it’s only because of the way they’re filmed. It’s not that we’re held in suspense because Bennett may actually die if he loses whatever hand he’s playing with, but because director Rupert Wyatt actually seems to care for how this film looks and feels. Even if his lead character is terribly-written, he’s still trying and that, for the most part, at least made it watchable.

"The King stay the King." Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

“The King stay the King.” Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

Although, Wyatt isn’t the only one trying here. It’s the rest of the supporting cast that show up every so often to not only make things a little bit brighter, but make a lot of these self-important speeches the script frequently lapses into actually interesting. John Goodman has the brightest end of the stick as a bald loan shark that Bennett meets with on a few occasions, and talks about how America is build on “fuck you”. It’s a lovely bit that adds some flair to this film, but also counts as one of the rare speeches here that actually works and doesn’t seem like the writer behind it is just trying his hardest to sound smart.

The one’s who don’t really come away as nicely as Goodman does with his speeches, are Michael K. Williams, Alvin Ing, and Anthony Kelley; with the former two playing actual mob bosses who Bennett runs into conflict with, and the later just being a student of his, who is constantly on the discouraging end of Bennett’s many rants about paying attention in class and not trying to get by in the academic-world because of athletics. None of these characters really seem believable, and it’s even more evident once they open up their mouths and start going on about stuff we either don’t care for, or have much of a foundation to really build our own feelings on. We’re just sort of sitting there, wondering what it all means, and end up not caring at all.

The only impressive part about this supporting cast is that the two female roles, played by Jessica Lange and Brie Larson, actually feel pertinent to the story and add some dramatic-heft to a piece that definitely needed it. Lange plays Bennett’s mother and has maybe two dramatic scenes where you can definitely tell she loves and cares for her dastardly son, but wants to be rid of his problems and hopes that he does to. And Larson, who I’m glad was cast here, at least makes some sense of her character’s motivations, especially when we’re supposed to believe somebody as lovely and chirpy as hers would fall for someone as downtrodden and inexplicably depressed as Bennett. They are two fine performances in their own rights, that go a long way.

Especially for something as disappointing as this.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining and interesting, but mostly, where the Gambler loses points in is because its lead character is terribly-written, and suffers even more from a miscast Mark Wahlberg playing it.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ladies, don't act like you aren't impressed.

Ladies, don’t act like you aren’t impressed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hellion (2014)

Growing up problems? Crank up the Slayer!!!

13-year-old Jacob (Josh Wiggins) is an angsty troublemaker that loves to start fires, run from cops, and teach his little brother (Deke Garner) how to be just like him. This mostly has to do with the fact that they’re mother just passed away, but it also has to do with the fact that the two boys’ father, Hollis (Aaron Paul), is hardly ever around. And even when he is, it’s usually with a beer in his hand and a slurred-speech. Needless to say, they’re a pretty messed-up family that’s just barely getting by. But that all changes when child services come around and takes Jacob’s little brother away from him and puts him with their Aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis). This pisses Jacob off to no end and he starts to act out a whole lot more, although he now also focuses more of his attentions onto his passion: Motor-crossing. Also, Hollis starts to undergo a little transformation of his own by not just putting down the bottle, but also when it comes to getting his kids all back in one house together.

"Betch."

“Betch.”

Most coming-of-agers that mean well, tend to do well for me. Not because I was once a kid, but because it seems so hard to write childhood, and to do so in a non-judgmental way, that it always earns a pass from yours truly. Problem is though, there is such a thing as seeing the same type of coming-of-age flick, being told to me, time and time again. Though it might be dressed up with a different cast, title and narrative, the story still remains the same: Growing up is hard to do.

This is obviously nothing new to express in the world of film, but where I think writer/director Kat Candler slips up at times is by not really delivering anything new or intriguing about this idea. Sure, we get that growing up, especially when done inside a broken home, is downright difficult and can either make or break a person into being who they are for the rest of their lives, but is that it?

To me, it’s not that Candler’s film isn’t well-done, it’s just so typical.

You can’t tell me that as soon as we saw Aaron Paul’s character leaving his home with a six-pack of booze, flowers, and going straight to the side of a random street, that he wouldn’t be going to visit his obviously-deceased wife’s burial-spot? Or, better yet, that when our lead character starts to get involved with what seems to be his passion, that he’ll do so with anger and hate, only to then not really do well with it all? And, honestly, how easy was it to pin-point the moment that the tubby kid of the group would start to become the overly excessive and vulgar one?

It’s all here and it’s all been done before. That’s not to say that movies like this can’t bring something neat or enjoyable to the mix of others in its same genre, but Hellion feels like it’s treading familiar-waters that don’t really feel like they need to be touched in the first place. Though, where Hellion works the most is with the performances and how each and everyone of the cast-members dig deep into their characters, giving off a very raw feel that kept me watching, even when the story seemed to just disappoint me and go into predictable spots.

By now, I think everybody knows Aaron Paul’s a quality actor and is able to bring any type of fiery energy to whatever he does and as Hollis, he’s very good. But it’s not because he’s constantly excited or yelling “betch” all over the place, it’s because he actually dials it down. Hollis is the kind of deadbeat dad character we get in these kinds of movies, except that he’s written a bit better as not being an asshole, as much as just a troubled dude who needs to pay a bit more attention to his kids. Because of this small detail, Hollis seems more like a little lost puppy who, for better and for worse, is doing the best with this “fatherhood” thing that he can. It may not always work for the guy, but the effort is there and that’s what matters the most.

Anyway, what Paul does so well here is that he channels all of the sadness this character clearly has, and keeps it all in. He never really breaks away and loses his total mind, so much so as that you can tell he’s about to crack open at any moment. The same goes for Josh Wiggins as Jacob, who has more of a showier-role here, but is still believable enough that it makes me wonder just how much of what he was doing is actually acting, or is just him being a kid, plain and simple. Regardless of whether or not he’s actually reading a script, Wiggins still gives off this tense feel to a character who, honestly, was already brimming with it early on. Wiggins, right here and now, is a young talent that I’m interested in seeing what he has next on his small plate.

Suck on that, Maleficent!

Suck on that, Maleficent!

But the one I really was impressed by here was Juliette Lewis as Pam, the well-meaning, but incredibly hated sister of the deceased mother. See, what Lewis does so well here, that she doesn’t quite do in many other movies, is that she dials most of her expressiveness back. She’s like Paul in that, whenever you see one of them show up in something, you know that you can expect them to be jumping up and down with nonstop energy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as much as it’s just a thing I’ve noticed after having watched these two in many movies.

For Lewis though, she’s already given the hard task of making a character like Pam seem sympathetic in nature, even though every character in the movie is clearly against her from the start. She’s made out to be like some sort of stuck-up, prude-ish woman that just wants to ruin this family’s little unit, but in reality, she’s trying to keep them together and in it for the long haul, even if that means some line of separation has to be made for the time being. You feel bad for Pam because you know she’s doing the right thing, it’s just that everyone around her is so hell bent on getting back to normal, that she’s made out to be the villain. It’s not hard to feel bad for Pam, the character, and that’s not just to do with the situation her character is written into, as much as it’s Lewis’ need to back-off and play it straight-laced, rather than as a woman who so desperately wants a child of her own and will do anything to make that dream a reality.

She’s the real revelation of this movie. It’s just a shame that she wasn’t thrown in a better one.

Consensus: If you’ve seen a Southern coming-of-age drama in the past five or six years, most likely, you’ve seen Hellion already, except with a few very good performances worth checking out.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That poor bike. We all know what's next for it with that kid at the helm.

That poor bike. We all know what’s next for it with that kid at the helm.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Captive (2014)

Hide yo wife, hide yo husband, and most of all, hide yo kids.

Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) leaves his young daughter inside the back of his car to go and pick up some pies for dessert later, and moments later, he comes back to find out that she’s not there and is nowhere to be found anywhere in sight. How could this happen? Better yet, why? Well, that’s when two detectives (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman) jump onto the scene and investigate every inch of this case that they can, even if they end up rubbing Matthew the wrong way quite a few times. Still though, they remain dedicated to finding this little girl, even if literally means exploring certain avenues that they wouldn’t normally go down. But now there’s a problem: One of the detectives has gone missing, which not only hinders the effectiveness of this case, but now puts another one at the top of the pile. Meaning that Matthew may never get to see his little girl again. This is when he decides to spring into action and take matters into his own hands, even if that means risking his own life.

I don’t get why people still constantly want to work with Atom Egoyan. Sure, I understand that the guy has made some top-notch films back in his day, but from what I’ve been seeing of him recently, they aren’t well-done. Most importantly though, they contain top-dollar ensembles who, in better movies, would make any film nerd want to get out their cushioned-seats, hop onto their bikes, and get to the nearest movie theater that’s actually playing one of his movies. But sadly, they do nothing but just disappoint. That’s why when I went into the Captive, I expected it to be bad, regardless of how bright and shiny that cast-list may seem.

The beautiful babies I'd imagine these two as having.

The beautiful babies I’d imagine these two as having.

But here’s the real kicker, everyone: I actually enjoyed the Captive.

Although, yes, most of the times, I know I wasn’t supposed to. See, there’s something strange going on with this movie and the way Egoyfan frames it, in that we literally get to see who the villain is in the first five minutes, whether or not the girl is actually alive, and which detective has gone missing. Over time though, the narrative jumps all over its time-line to where the actual abduction is actually somewhere around the half-hour mark, which is, for some odd reason, just after we’ve been introduced to one of the detectives and their job-meeting. This continues on for a good part of the movie to where we’re told to put the pieces of this puzzle together in our own ways, which isn’t necessarily a hard task to complete, it’s just an unnecessary one.

Why Egoyan felt the need to tell this story using a nonlinear method, is totally beyond me. In fact, it makes no sense at all, considering that we’re supposed to have some sense of tension with this case, who did it, why, and when they’re going to get caught. Other than the last aspect, we already know everything and it seems random that Egoyan would choose to use this device.

However, that said, when the film gets going and starts to tell its story in a conventional manner, it surprisingly gets better. But, once again, it got better for me in the way that it wasn’t supposed to. Because, for starters, this movie is quite over-the-top. Sometimes, certain lines that are supposed to hold a great deal of emotional heft, come off as too melodramatic, and we’re watching an episode of One Life to Live. Which isn’t really because of the cast, it’s mostly because the material they’re given is sometimes so goofy, that they can’t help but over-act and dial it up to nearly eleven. Though being unintentionally hilarious is bad thing for any movie to have, it worked for me here with the Captive and at least gave me plenty of chances to laugh-out-loud, even though I knew full well I wasn’t supposed to.

It isn’t like this all of the time, but when it is, I found myself enjoying myself. For better, and for worse.

But then something even stranger began to happen with me and this movie – it got better. And no, this does not mean that the laughs stopped, but more so that the tension that was supposed to be there throughout the whole piece, surprisingly showed itself and made me wonder where the story was going to go next. There’s a neat sequence in which Reynolds’ character may have possibly found his kid’s nappers and decides to sternly confront them, mono-e-mono. Not only is it a nice bit of acting on his part, but it’s then followed by a fun, relatively exciting car-chase that goes all over the snowy streets of Canada, where apparently nobody else seems to be driving. But that’s neither here nor there.

And I guess now would be the part to discuss the cast here and to say that while mostly everybody’s good, they’re stuck with material that’s clearly beneath them. Case in point, Ryan Reynolds. See, as of late, Reynolds has been making a huge effort to break away from the big bucks and the mainstream flicks, and just test himself as an actor, by taking smaller, more indie-based flicks. It’s not only interesting to see his choices, but to see what he does with them and how he’s able to still be his own, charming-self, yet, blend in well with a director’s certain sense of style.

"Yes, ma'am. It's what the kids are currently calling it 'memes'."

“Yes, ma’am. It’s what the kids are currently calling it ‘memes’.”

Here, in Egoyan’s film, Reynolds gets a chance to be funny at certain times, but is still incredibly believable as the grieving father who will literally do anything to find his kid. He’s not necessarily trying anything new that he hasn’t tried before, but he’s still exceptional in a film which, quite frankly, didn’t deserve him or all the effort he seemed to put into this performance. Same goes for Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson who try their hardest as the two detectives assigned the case, although their characters feel a bit underdeveloped, even though Egoyan focuses his main sights on them and what it is that they’re up to.

Sadly though, not everybody fares as well-off as these three. Like I said before about the script being cheesy and mostly over-the-top, this usually entails certain cast-members to read their lines either by yelling so dramatically, you wonder if they’re making fun of the script, or if they’re just confused about why Egoyan is even bothering with it in the first place.

The perfect example of this is Mireille Enos as Matthew’s wife who has a few break-down scenes where she’s yelling at and beating Matthew because she believes it’s all his fault their daughter is lost. Enos is a great actress and is one I always love to see because of how much she challenges herself, but here, she’s so wacky, I couldn’t hold back my laughter during a scene which, obviously, seemed like it didn’t ask for that. Kevin Durand and Bruce Greenwood are two other victims of Enos’ same problem, except that they have it worse seeing as how they’re the baddies and all, and one of them even has a mustache.

Come on, now! That’s like the oldest trick in the book!

Consensus: Poorly-written, unintentionally hilarious, and a waste of a very talented cast, the Captive may be ridiculous, but it’s fun to laugh at, enjoy for as long as it’s on the screen, and most likely forget that you ever saw.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

The local truck stop. That's usually where all the bad shenanigans go down.

The local truck stop. That’s usually where all the bad shenanigans go down.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

I don’t know how I’d feel if Nic Cage’s mug was the last one I saw before I died.

Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) is a EMS paramedic working in New York City and has to put up with some pretty crazy stuff on a regular-basis, but now that he’s pulling in three nights on the job, it’s getting even worse. Not only does Frank seem to be losing his damn mind over the stuff that he sees, but he’s not really sure if he can handle his job, or even his life any longer. That sort of changes though once a grieving woman (Patricia Arquette) comes into his life and puts everything into perspective. Well, sort of.

I’m pretty sure that within the past-decade, people have pretty much accepted the fact that Martin Scorsese is a guy you can trust with any movie he does. When I first heard about Hugo, I’ll be honest, I was incredibly skeptical of him diving right into a PG-rated, 3D-movie. However, all my reservations went out the window once I realized that it was the Scorsese charm that eventually took over me. But yet, stories about kids finding a movie-legend aren’t what we associate Scorsese with. We more or less associate him with the violent, bloody, gritty tales of the crime-world and that’s why I was really looking forward to this flick, even though it seemed like it was one of his least-known pieces of work to have ever come out.

"Nic Cage to the rescue", is something, I assume, that no person on the verge of death wants to hear.

“Nic Cage to the rescue”, is something, I assume, that no person on the verge of death wants to hear.

However, this just made me want to watch Hugo all over again.

And maybe even check out Leaving Las Vegas one more time for old, good times sake. Although, I don’t think “good times” can be associated with that movie.

Anyway, right from the start of Bringing Out the Dead, I could tell taht this was going to be a very strange, dark movie-experience and it only seemed right that I compare this to a Scorsese classic, meaning Taxi Driver. Not only do both stories feature guys on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but they even feature two guys who just act-out in violence and pure craziness to get over it. It’s pretty obvious how the two stories are alike in many ways, but, in other ways, they aren’t and I think that’s where the problem for this film really lied.

See, in Taxi Driver, you actually care about the cause which Bickle is fighting for, despite it being based on a huge sense of lunacy. He’s an anti-hero in the fullest-form – he’s not the greatest guy out there in the world, but it’s easy to sympathize with him because of how many times he’s been pushed and shoved to the ground, even though he himself felt as if he was doing the right thing. Here, with this guy Frank Pierce, it’s hard to really feel a connection to this guy, considering that he’s more manic-depressive than anything else. Yeah, everybody’s had a crappy job that they don’t want to stay up for, or even go to in the first place, but that doesn’t mean everybody feels the need to go off, crash cars, break windows, or beat the ever lovin’ crap out of some homeless people because of their misery. Maybe some people do, but I’m pretty sure those people aren’t psychologically-cleared to do any type of work in the first place.

And this hurts the movie. Rather than being interesting in the slightest, the story just feels like a drag and almost like it didn’t really matter to anybody involved, not even, dare I say it, Scorsese himself. There is definitely an cool, even compelling story here of a guy that can’t cope with the work that he has to do and has to find an escape from it all, but all of that feels used for a bunch of hyperactive, insane moments that come out of nowhere, just because it’s the seedy underworld of New York City. Showing me scenes of an EMT trying to save failing patients is something that grips me, but if you just continue to throw gratuitous shots of drugs, sex, violence, and blood at us, then I don’t really care and can sort of tell that you don’t either. I mean, I get it, downtown NYC is a very, very messed-up place, but constantly reminding us of this by showing a homeless person, a hooker, or even a drug addict every five seconds or so, makes it feel less gritty, and more lazy than anything.

Also, the fact that this movie is nearly two-hours long really kills it, as well as any type of momentum it wanted to build up.

But, for what it’s worth, there is some joys to be had with Bringing Out the Dead, even if they don’t solely come from Scorsese’s direction or Paul Schrader’s script – it mostly comes from the wild fire cast who, with what they’re given, are called upon to just be crazy and do just that. And this is clearly some good news for the king of crazy himself, Nicolas Cage, but for some reason, it’s not quite his most memorable performance. Not even in the slightest, actually.

It's alright, Nic. You two would only be together for two more years anyway.

It’s alright, Nic. You two would only be together for two more years anyway.

Practically everybody bad-talks Cage for the types of movies he takes, or just by simply phoning it in one too many times, and yes, I do sometimes agree with these criticisms. Cage is one of my favorite actors working today, and always finds ways to make even the most dreadful material, the slightest bit interesting, but here, he’s sort of just going through the motions, although he has a couple of bright spots here and there to show. The character of Frank Pierce is a bit of a strange and not one that I find fully believable since he’s such a freakin’ nut with his up-and-down personality. But, like I expected, Cage found a few ways to make me laugh here and there and just fall in line with his nuttiness. The character gets a bit boring by the end, but Cage tries and tries again, only to then, I guess, give up and realize that maybe this is just not going to be his highest moment.

It’s fine, though, because the dude had plenty more to come after this.

The rest of the cast is pretty fun, too, with a few familiar faces bringing a lot more excitement to a movie that seemed to desperately need it. John Goodman doesn’t really show his face all that much as a fellow EMT of Pierce’s, but is still pretty funny and cooky to watch as the one dude who always wants to bail on a bunch of sick/dying people, and instead, eat Chinese food and sleep. Hey, it’s not such a bad motive to have in life, but when you have to save people’s lives, it’s not the best way to go about your life. Tom Sizemore plays one of Nic’s more loonier, off-the-wall EMT’s and does what he always did before he got sent-off for doing too much blow: Play gritty, asshole characters that you can’t help but hate, and actually like. Ving Rhames is surprisingly the stand-out of this whole cast as the one EMT who seems to always have God on his back and mind throughout the whole job, yet, is still most dangerous EMT of them all that had me cracking up so damn much. Watching him and Cage just play-off of one another was a delight to watch. In a way, too, it made me wish the movie was just about them two driving around, picking up sick/injured people, having random conversations, and just living another day on the job. If only.

Consensus: Martin Scorsese finds slight ways to keep Bringing Out the Dead interesting, if only through visuals, but also can’t seem to get past the fact that the script is way too uneven for it’s own good, and doesn’t really ever generate any emotional-spark, or even give us enough to feel compelled by.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Probably thinking about stealing the Declaration of Independence.

Probably already thinking about stealing the Declaration of Independence.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

St. Vincent (2014)

Are we calling Bill Murray a saint? I think so.

Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) isn’t the type of guy you want to be around when he’s in a bad mood; or generally, any mood. He’s a hard-drinking, gambling, and womanizing scuzz-bucket that’s hardly nice to anyone he’s around and likes it that way. It keeps him further away from being annoyed by people and just makes his life a whole lot simpler. However, that all changes once a mother (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), move next door. Because they’re all by themselves, the mommy has to constantly work long and hard, which leaves the son alone and without anyone to watch over him. This is where Vincent gets roped into being the baby-sitter of sorts, but only because he’s getting paid $11 an hour, mind you! But even though Vincent’s crass and teaches Oliver the ways of the world that his mother wouldn’t be too happy with, Oliver still sees some goodness in Vinny and wants to keep on hanging around him, even if there seem to be problems in Vincent’s personal-life just constantly tallying-up.

By now, the legend of Bill Murray is a great one. He’s the kind of out-spoken guy in Hollywood that has a few friends, as well as many enemies, but still finds himself charming the hell out of everyone. Not to mention the fact that whenever he shows up at a random house-party, the internet practically breaks wide open, showing us just how cool and down-to-Earth somebody of Murray’s star-status actually is.

Out of the way, kid!

Out of the way, kid!

Another alleged claim that adds more appeal to Murray’s legend is the fact that he supposedly doesn’t have an agent. Meaning, if there’s anybody out there who wants to work with Murray in any way whatsoever, they have to get a hold of a special phone-number of his, where they can leave their number for him to get back to them on. Now, of course some of this may not be all true, but it sort of shows; Murray is known to be quite the selective actor and is practically the only movie star who can get away with doing whatever he wants to, with whomever he wants to. Not because he’s Bill Murray, but because the dude’s a solid worker and has shown on more than a few occasions that he’s not just hilarious, but emotionally-involving, whenever the material needs him to be so.

I say all of this, because it’s a real surprise how bad St. Vincent can sometimes be.

Sure, not all of it is bad and mostly, Murray’s not to blame for it, but here’s my question: How can somebody who is as selective and, well, usually consistent in what he chooses like Murray is, get drawn to something as conventional as this? Is it the fact that it’s a coming-of-ager that has Bill Murray being his usual dick-head-ish self one second, and then lovable the next? Or, is it simply that these are the only right offers that Bill Murray gets nowadays?

Whatever the answer may be, it doesn’t totally matter because the fact is that this movie is definitely a mess. Although, it’s not a terrible mess. Most of this is because the cast, especially Murray, seem like they’re really giving it their all here. Even if they don’t fully end up working for the film as a whole, at least they added something. Like, for instance, take Naomi Watts as the pregnant stripper/hooker Vincent constantly hangs around/bangs – the role is terribly-written, not funny, and makes Watts herself, a highly respectable actress in her own right, have to use this wretched Russian-accent that isn’t the least bit believable. However though, while it may not work, you still have to give it to Watts for trying, even if it doesn’t fully work out all that well in the end.

Which is kind of weird, considering that we have Chris O’Dowd here playing Oliver’s priest/school teacher who isn’t really hiding his Irish-accent and is, instead, sort of just rolling with it and finds a way to make us laugh and totally believe in the fact that he would be in this school, and in this story. And heck, even the same could be said about Melissa McCarthy, because while this is a role for her in a comedy, she isn’t necessarily always doing something funny. But even when she does, it doesn’t consist of her knocking things over or randomly flipping people off; she’s subtle and restrained in the way she allows for her comedy to fly and hit us, and it works. More importantly though, it shows us that Hollywood needs to get their shit together and realize that McCarthy has a real talent that isn’t just in her slap-stick, but in just finding ways to make any situation she falls into funny.

And no, I do not mean the practical “fall”, either.

But, at the end of the day, this movie is really all about Bill Murray as our title-character and what’s there to say that hasn’t already been said? Yes, Murray’s fine, funny, dead-pan, and smart, even when you least expect his character to have such features. Yet, there’s a feeling here that had this movie been better, or, had this character been written less about, that Murray would have a real winner on his hands here. Not just with the movie itself, but this character.

"Sorry, youngster. Adults at talk here discussing the possibility of a female-led Ghostbusters reboot that Hollywood may not ever produce because we can't have good things."

“Sorry, youngster. Adults at talk here discussing the possibility of a female-led Ghostbusters reboot that Hollywood may not ever produce because we can’t have good things.”

Because yes, while Vincent is Murray’s typical a-hole character that he loves to play and can practically do in his sleep, the script gets in the way too many times in trying to get us to like Vincent more. Vincent, the character, being nice to this kid was enough for me to gain my sympathy, but then they felt the need to throw in the whole angle with his wife being in a nursing-home that really just felt manipulative and way too sentimental. But then, I was proven wrong, when the story itself goes on longer than it totally needed to and continuously forces Vincent’s personal problems down our throats, especially once Terrence Howard’s bookie character shows up and makes nefarious promises.

It all gets so very conventional, corny, and overly sentimental that, by the end, I just thought to myself, “Why couldn’t they just let the story tell itself?” Better yet, why couldn’t they just shed off about an half-hour of this, let Bill Murray and all the actors do their things, tell a simple story, and leave it at that? “But it doesn’t make for an emotionally-powerful story, man”, one might say to me, or, “Dude, like it’s all dramatic and stuff, bro”, another may preach. Well, I understand that but sometimes, all a story needs to do in order to pack that wallop every writer hopes to deliver on is to just be simple and see how it impacts those watching.

That’s all this movie needed to be and do, but instead, it took away from the legend that is Bill Murray.

Damn them.

Consensus: The cast, especially Bill Murray in his full-on form as the title character, all do fine with what they’re given, but St. Vincent feels the constant need to over-complicate its story and add on more layers than it needs to, while also ending up being overly sappy and sentimental.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

It's hard to be king.

It’s hard to be king.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Mysterious Skin (2004)

“Alien life-forms” are usually my safe words as well.

Brian (Brady Corbet) is a shy introvert, obsessed by his own possible UFO abduction, while Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a cruel and icy beauty who sexualises his every encounter. As each of them follows their own very different journey, they seek to come to terms with the incident that has scarred their current lives and, to their surprise, unites them, even when they least expect it.

With material like this, there’s a part of me that knows how disturbing it is and wants to say what it’s all about to warn those out there, but there’s also a part of me that knows that’s wrong. See, I’m a critic, but also a lover of movies and I know that the one key element to enjoying a movie is being automatically surprised, just as soon as you walk into something. That’s why I’m going to tip-toe around the big surprise this movie has to offer as much, and as well as I can.

So, for those who haven’t seen this movie yet, don’t worry, consider yourself free from spoiler-harm.

As for those who have seen the movie and are reading this, see how close I come to spilling the beans. I sure hope not.

My type of crowd. Except with more earrings.

My type of crowd. Except with more piercings.

Anyway, what really got to me the most about this flick, wasn’t just how director Gregg Araki handled this material, but how he filmed the whole thing. I’ve never seen anything else that this dude has done in his whole career, but he doesn’t seem like a guy I would like by just how unprofessional everything looks. The first 20 minutes where we are introduced to our character’s first 15 years of living is pretty neat and filmed with a very fast-paced direction that not only made me feel like I was in for something different, but also in for something that was going to be taking risks, as it should. Problem is, the fast-paced direction starts to leave the film and all of the quick-editing little tricks Araki utilizes here and there, soon starts to become a bit choppy where some scenes feel like they’re too rushed, and others just feel like they haven’t gone on long enough. Sometimes it’s better to actually focus on a plot-structure and let certain scenes just play out like they’re supposed to.

Now, to where this story effed up and oh, did it eff up alright. Usually when you have a tough subject like the one they deal with here, you, the director, have to show it in a way that doesn’t seem grotesque, but also doesn’t sugarcoat anything either. You just have to get it right slap dab in the middle and the problem is that Araki can’t seem to get there. Instead, it seems like this guy was trying to have his cake and eat it too, where he would show many dirty scenes with a people sexually mortifying one another, and then, in the next scene, change it all up by trying to tug at our heart-strings with a story that doesn’t feel so fully-developed. Basically, any type of movie where you have two men performing in a sexual act, people will feel uncomfortable, but it’s up to you as a director to not try and throw it in our eyes and make us feel like we need to leave the theater. Araki seems like he just wanted to shove a whole bunch of explicit sex scenes that would capture the people’s eyes, but then also give them something that may make them cry. For me, it didn’t work and it’s just another reason why I feel like this film really needed to be checked out before it went off and gotten released.

Also, where the hell was the message of this movie? In the first ten minutes or so of the movie, I got what this film was trying to say and even though the characters didn’t, it just seemed unneeded like all of the hour and 40 minutes was wasted. Though there’s a lot of frank-talk about sexuality and how the smallest change in a person’s cycle can have the biggest affect on them when they’re older, without them ever knowing it, I didn’t really feel like Araki got to that point. Instead, it was almost as if he got lost in all of the teens performing in naughty acts of sex, drugs, and violence. Almost as if he was trying to pull-off a Larry Clarke movie, but a bit tamer.

Notice how I used the term “a bit”.

This kid's supposed to be a geek? You don't say?

This kid’s supposed to be a geek? You don’t say?

Despite the problems I had with Gregg Araki’s student film-like direction, the performances of this film are what really saved me. Brady Corbet is solid as this young nerd Brian who believes that he was abducted by aliens when he was a little kid, but sooner or later, in a predictable fashion, we start to find out that it’s all one big cover-up in his head for something far more serious and disturbing. This story may not play-out as interesting as I may make it sound, but it still kept me glued to the screen because Corbet seems to play that innocent, dorky role very well, even though it’s obvious that this kid is a whole lot younger than the film makes him out to be.

But the real performance to watch for in this movie, and actually the only real reason to see this movie in the first place is the performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil McCormick. JGL has been, for a very long time now, a big up-and-comer in film and has proved role-after-role that he can do whatever he pleases and make the best of it. This was one of those early performances that showed he had the guts to tackle a role as emotionally-daring as this one where he pretty much goes around, bangin’ dudes for money, and showing no remorse over it whatsoever. JGL makes this whole character work just by being the risk-taker his character seems to be and a couple of scenes show that he’s more than just a kid who gets paid for getting frisky with dudes; in the end, he’s a kid that still has problems deep down inside of his mind all because of a childhood happening that scarred his life forever. It was great to watch JGL here and even though it’s by far, not his best performance ever, it’s one of the first ones that showed he had what it took to be a dramatic heavy-weight. Even if the rest of the film can’t really seem to keep up with him.

Shame on you, Gregg Araki. Shame on you.

Consensus: Disturbing and hard-to-watch as it may be, Mysterious Skin still feels like it’s not saying much about these ugly happenings, to justify exactly why we have to see so much of them in the first place, although it does give us plenty of reason to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet.

5 /10 =Rental!!

Supposed to be his mom, folks! His mom!

Supposed to be his mom, folks! His mom!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Judge (2014)

Usually it’s the dad bailing the son out of jail, not the other way around. But hey, I’m not from the South, so whatever!

Henry “Hank” Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a hotshot lawyer who always defends the obviously-guilty, and somehow, always ends up winning. However, his shattered personal life is starting to catch up with his successful professional-career, when he hears news of his mother’s passing. This puts him on a journey to go back to where he started from; which, in this case, would be the small town of Carlinville, Indiana where, unsurprisingly, his estranged father (Robert Duvall) is still the town’s respected judge. But see, even his personal life begins to catch up with him when, on one fateful night, the Judge supposedly runs over and kills the town degenerate. And normally, nobody would care, because the guy was a total prick, but the family does and they’re taking the Judge to court! Not to mention, they’ve equipped themselves with one of the meanest, cruelest lawyers in the world, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). This seems like the perfect opportunity for Hank to stand up and defend his father, but since their relationship isn’t the most ideal, he hesitates. That is, until he realizes that maybe his father needs him, and now, more than ever before for reasons that will shock and shape his life, whether he wants to accept it or not.

So while this movie seems like total Oscar-bait from the plot, to the cast, and even to the subject-matter itself (courtroom genres are usually a big plus in the eyes of the 80-90-year-old Academy voters), there’s just one big element keeping it away from making that a reality: Director David Dobkin. Sure, to some, the name may not mean much. Well, let me put it in terms to make you understand: Dobkin is the director of such hits as Wedding Crashers, the Change-UpShanghai Knights, and Fred Claus.

Judge1

“Vera Farmiga with arm-tat” is totally “slumming it”.

Yes. Fred freakin’ Claus, everybody! The movie still finds a way to pop-up in everybody’s head, even if it’s as relevant as a box of Chia Pets.

And while at least more than half of those movies are fine, entertaining-pieces of cinema, they’re mostly all, immature, R-rated comedies that make people stand up, laugh, hit themselves silly, go home, and continue on with their everyday lives, but now continuously quote “that hilarious movie they saw with their buddies last weekend”. Those are the same kinds of people that, mind you, don’t really seem like they’d be all that enthused by the Judge, even if it does have a few of those “hee hee” moments.

But then again, I can’t hate on a director who wants to actually branch-out and try something new for once. Sometimes, the most unique movies come from those creators who were pigeon-holed as being a director of one certain genre and sticking to it, and decided to tell the world to “kiss off” and do something different, regardless of how much it would set people back. Though I’m drawing blanks on a few examples, I know they’re out there! But sadly, David Dobkin’s the Judge won’t be joining that list because this is a mess, and understandably so. Dobkin is a director that’s too inclined to just throw in a poop or fart gag, so that when he has to deliver on these strong, compelling moments of drama, they don’t quite mesh so well with the many scenes we get in which we think Downey’s character has possibly hooked up with his own biological daughter.

Not only does this create a jumble between tones, but it makes you wonder what could have happened, had the Judge been given a director that’s more comfortable with both sides of the table. Because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, there are a few scenes of drama that are well-done and make some of this material, as well as the characters, slightly interesting. But then, moments later, after this touching scene has occurred, Dobkin will make a kind-of-a-joke about how Duvall’s character is incapable of controlling his bowels. And no, I am not kidding you, some of that is actually played up for a joke and it feels oddly-placed.

And that’s pretty much how the whole film is: Sometimes interesting, sometimes not. Most of this is because Dobkin isn’t all that capable of handling drama and comedy together, and also, because his movie just gets more and more conventional as it runs on along. Which was fine because I knew it was going to turn into that after a certain while, but nearly two-and-a-half-hours of waiting till a conclusion that we can already pin-point from a mile away, is a bit too much. Especially when one has to deal with all of the rough patches Dobkin goes through in order to build up to the predictable climax.

But if anything, the Judge makes you wish this kind of high-caliber cast had been given a better movie, because mostly everybody here is good, and sometimes, trying way harder than they need to. Though Robert Downey Jr. is, essentially, playing the same snarky character we’ve seen him do since the beginning of his career, there’s something slightly refreshing in seeing it done now, as an actual person, rather than as Tony Stark, or Sherlock Holmes. Not saying that either one of those characters are bad, but if it came down to RDJ having to play human beings for the rest of his life, as opposed to multi-million-dollar franchise “names”, I’d be happy with him just being Charlie Chaplin again.

RDJ just can't handle this right now. Like OMG.

RDJ just can’t handle this right now. Like OMG.

As long as he stays away from the drugs, that is.

Same goes for Robert Duvall, an actor who, because I haven’t seen him in quite some time, totally left my mind as being a capable actor. But here he is, pushing 83 and giving a good performance as the grumpy curmudgeon that is our titled-character. Though most of the movie is Duvall growling and looking pissed, the scenes he has with Downey Jr. feel like they come from a soft spot in both of their hearts, and to me, really struck a chord. Even if the rest of the movie was manipulative, over-stuffed, over-long, jumbled, and messy, these two being on screen together and just acting their behinds off was more than enough for me.

That said, David Dobkin should just stick to hand job-gags. Those seem to work out best for him in the end.

Consensus: Despite a strong cast trying with everything each and everyone of them have got, the Judge turns out being a jumbled-up mess of comedy, drama, family-dynamics, courtroom arguments, and ill-placed jokes, all coming to a predictable end.

 5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Grrrrrrrr!"

“Grrrrrrrr!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The November Man (2014)

But it’s not even his month yet! What an arse!

Veteran CIA officer Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is lured back into the profession when an old confidante of his turns up dead. This leads Devereaux next in line for the killing, so he goes on the run, which also, unsurprisingly, pits him against his protégé (Luke Bracey) in a violent game of cat-and-mouse. But there’s a bigger story here than just these two guys trying to kill one another; apparently a big member of the Russian government is involved with a prostitute-scandal that he wants to keep silent. However, that’s not going to fly with Devereaux and this is when he stumbles upon a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who may have all the information he needs in order to have all the dogs called-off and allow for him and his rival to chill out and sip on a few cold ones. That is, if they don’t kill the other first.

So, why on Earth did I decide to review this? Better yet, why did I even bother watching this in the first place? It had crap ratings, a crap release-date, crap box-office returns (okay, they’re not as bad), and honestly, will most likely be forgotten by the end of the year, rather than nominated for a Razzie or two (which, believe it or not, isn’t as bad as being “totally forgotten”).

Well, the short answer? Because I don’t know. Maybe a part of me just wanted to get away from the drama-heavy usual pieces I sit around watching and just enjoy myself, even if it was for only an hour two. Okay, maybe that answer was a bit longer than I had wanted, but honestly, I feel like that response puts into perspective of what I’m trying to get across here about the November Man: It’s nothing special, but eh, you could do worse.

Tryin' to catch Pierce ridin' dirty....

Tryin’ to catch Pierce ridin’ dirty….

Actually, you could do a whole lot worse with a piece of R-rated action-thriller such as this, but somehow, director Roger Donaldson finds a way to class this up ever so slightly, that it makes the final-product more than just a bunch of blood, guts, bullets, and, ahem, octane. It’s a sort of spy-tale in that we get a bunch of international men of mystery, end up colliding with one another in a game full of twists, turns, hoops, and holes, but also has a bit of an aggressive edge to it that made some of the violence a bit shocking.

In fact, if there was a problem I had with the movie, it was that the gruesome violence seemed to happen so abruptly, it almost seemed like the movie didn’t want to make it any more than just what they presented themselves as being: Bloody bits of violence and action. Which, yes, is fine if that’s exactly what you’re going for in your movie, but I feel like Donaldson was aiming for something a little bit deeper than that, and he doesn’t fully achieve it.

He tries to make us care for these characters, understand their plight, and cheer that whatever situation they’re in, they get out of them alive. Most action movies use this aspect, and use it well, but the November Man feels slightly odd in that we never really get to the point of where we can feel anything for any of these characters. Not because because they’re written poorly (which they are), but because the actions they make, don’t always allow them to shine in the right light. Which is a problem considering that almost every action these characters make, is a bad one that can either rub us the wrong way, or make us wonder who in the hell we’re supposed to cheer for.

It’s obvious that the movie wants us to mainly be on the side of Peter Devereaux, its hero of sorts, but he only comes off more like the idea of “a hero”, and more of just, simply put, “a dick”. See, even though Pierce Brosnan is playing Devereaux as another side of James Bond, there’s not much charm or likability to this guy that makes us want to reach out to him like we do with Bond. Sure, the character of Bond himself has some problems, mostly with the boozing and the women, but when it comes down to getting his mission done, in an efficient way, where hardly any innocents are hurt, Bond is there to save the day, for lack of a better term.

A Bond actor and a Bond girl, but not a Bond movie? Da 'eff?

A Bond actor and a Bond girl, but not a Bond movie? Da ‘eff?

However, that’s not Peter Devereaux and while I like Brosnan playing up his “good-guy” image of Bond, this time would have been more effective, had he already not done so in a much better, much more entertaining movie, the Matador. That said, Peter Devereaux is a ruthless bad-ass that definitely shoots first, and takes names later, so if you’re into that sort of sociopathic thing, then yeah, he’s definitely your hero. However, if you’re like me and appreciated it when the people you’re supposed to be rooting for have at least a few good qualities to their personalities, then you may be a bit out of luck here with Peter Devereaux. Brosnan definitely tries with this character and more often than not, comes out on top, but sadly, it’s not the kind of performance he can be happy with, years after the fact when he’s looking at his career in hindsight.

But I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from my original point about the November Man: It’s quite fun. Though it may be gritty, full of senseless acts of violence, somewhat mean-spirited, and confusing whenever it focuses on its convoluted, unnecessary political-subplot, there is some excitement to be had here, especially when people are shooting one another and do whatever they can to kill the other. Sounds a bit scary, I know, but that’s how most action movies are.

For better, as well as for worse. All depends on who it is you’re talking to.

Consensus: With numerous acts of bloody, disheartening violence, the November Man may rub some the wrong way, while entertain the hell out of others. Basically, it all comes down to what kind of person you are and what it is you like to do with in your spare time.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Cool guys still apparently walk from explosions.

Cool guys apparently still don’t look at explosions.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

No Vanilla Ice, no dice.

News reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) aspires to be more than just a soft-core journalist that has to cover stories about “staying in shape”, or “doing pilates”; she wants to make a difference, even if that said difference goes exactly against everything her editor (Whoopi Goldberg) stands for. That’s why, during her night of casually strolling around, she stumbles upon a possible story about a band of trusty superheroes saving the day from the almighty powerful and evil Shredder, April jumps right on it. Probably more so than she originally wanted to, because what she eventually finds out is that these so-called “superheroes” happen to be four life-sized, walking, talking, HGH-fueled, pizza-lovin’, witty, ass-kickin’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They take orders from their rat father (Master Splinter) and set out to save NYC from total mass destruction. This is when April and her level of expertise come into play when she finds out that wealthy businessman, and her deceased father’s old lab-partner, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) is setting out to wipe out the Turtles, sell their blood, make lots of money, take over the world, and something else, too. Either way, it’s something bad that he wants and the Turtles won’t stand for it. Not as long as they’re still happenin’ and cool.

90’s nostalgia, man: It gets me every time.

That said, I was in no way looking forward to another re-boot of the TMNT franchise, especially one that’s come out twenty years after the fact. Sure, there was that 2007 animated-flick, but to a true Turtles fan like myself, it doesn’t count. What does count, however, are the life-sized, dudes-in-costumes Turtles that kicked ass, ate pizza, danced with Vanilla Ice (see link up top), and befriended Elias Koteas.

Aaaah!

Aaaah!

These new, and I guess, slightly improved, CGI-versions? Eh, not so much! But hey, I’m a guy who loves film and most of all, I like to be entertained. So yeah, it doesn’t really matter if somebody’s defecating on my childhood or not, as long as you’re fun, then I’m pleased! I may not be totally ecstatic beyond belief that you’re somewhat destroying any sense of childhood I may still hold onto, but I will at least take your hand, come off to never, never land and yes, maybe even crack a smile or two.

And even if Michael Bay does just so happen to have his greedy, numbly paws in it, I’ll still stay along for the ride. Because in the summer, that’s all you need: Fun. If you can add a certain layer of nostalgia, then yeah, it’s definitely a little bit better than something like, well, I don’t know, say the Transformers franchise.

But that said, this movie is not perfect in the least bit. For the most part, it can be kind of a mess that doesn’t know whether it wants to take its story, its characters, or even its whole universe seriously, or if it just wants to be one, long, running-gag about how these turtles cannot only just say goofy things, but can also drop new millennium references every so often, too. Most of that stems from the fact that Johnathan Liebesman isn’t a very good director, and more or less, seems like he’s just copying each and every trademark we’ve come to expect from a Michael Bay movie. That’s not to say that the humor borders on racist or downright misogynistic (okay, maybe more of the later), but it is to say that you have to wonder just where exactly they were trying to go with this tone at certain points.

Cause sometimes, it’s a light, fun and frothy movie that seems to be tailor-made for the next generation of kiddies who may not have a single clue what a Vanilla Ice is; but other times, it seems like the movie wants to be exactly like the Transformers franchise, except without any robots or side-boobage. Instead, we have humans, Asians and turtles, constantly kickin’ the crap out of one another, without any blood shown. Meaning, it’s an extremely violent PG-13 movie, which is strange considering that this mostly seems to be advertised towards the younger ones who will want to rope their adoring, yet miserable parents into going to see it.

Does that make it a bad movie? Nope, not at all. But does it make it a confused movie that doesn’t quite know where it wants to go, who it wants to be for, or where exactly it wants to land? Most definitely. And although I’m glad to see that Bay didn’t produce a movie that borders being downright offensive, I still wish that he got a more than credible enough director to carry-out a job that could have just been laid down to “impersonate me and my directorial-style”. Because, when you get right down to it, that’s exactly what this movie is: A Michael Bay movie.

For better, and also for worse. Take with that what you will, parents.

And considering that Bay does have more than a few fingers involved with this movie, it may seem totally strange that Megan Fox would even bother to be apart of another project of his (of course, with all things considering), but whatever the stipulations behind her appearance here may have been, I have to say, the gal’s fine as O’Neil. Sure, she’s a lot foxier (pun intended) than you’d expect an April O’Neil-type to look like, but Fox does fine with just delivering her lines in a charming manner, that lets us know that she’s not only in on the joke, but doesn’t want to be just laughed at and pointed at either. She’s a woman, dammit!

Putting the silverware to good use.

Putting the silverware to good use.

Same goes for Will Arnett, too (except for the woman part), who easily steals the show as her cameraman/side-kick/creepy-dude-who-constantly-wants-to-get-in-her-pants, Vernon Fenwick. He’s funny, sarcastic and seems perfectly-suitable for Bay’s strange sense of humor. And I think it’s pretty easy to know exactly what kind of character William Fichtner’s is going to turn out to be when he shows up, but, as usual with him, he’s fine at just playing him. He’s a dick, he knows it and he has some fun with it. Well, at least as much fun as one can have in a Michael Bay-ish movie.

Now, of course, I’ve saved the best aspect for the last, meaning that the main attraction most people are going to want to see and know all about are our titled-characters themselves: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And like you’ve probably fondly remembered them as being way back when in your childhood, each one has their own respective personality, to decipher which one is which – Michelangelo (or “Mikey”), is the stoner that says stuff like “brah” and other witty stuff; Leonardo, the leader, who takes control of the group when everybody and everything seems to get a bit too out-of-hand; Donatello, the nerd, who wears large bifocals over his head/face to remind you every so often; and Raphael, the team’s bad boy who always promises that whatever mission he’s on, is his “last one”, before he branches off on his own, presumably to become the owner of a major trust-fund for roided-out turtles or something.

Anyway, all of them, with the inclusion of everybody’s favorite, metaphor-dropping rodent, Master Splinter, are fine and as charming as you expect them to be. They’re one-note throughout the whole movie, sure, but for what they are (which is, a bunch of turtles who can talk and do stuff like you or I), they’re nice. They’re not insulting to anybody out there and they sure as hell can’t be categorized on which race they may, or may not be.

And yes, coming from a Michael Bay-ish movie, that means a whole heck of a lot.

Consensus: Inoffensive, short, fun and somewhat charming for the time its on screen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won’t have you remembering the good old days of the cartoons or previous movies, but it will have you entertained for a short time.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

BAG has got some major competition on his hands now.

BAG has got some major competition on his hands now.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images

Fading Gigolo (2014)

Always count on a neurotic Jew to score you some major poon.

Fioravante (John Turturro) is an aging man living in New York City who has come to a bit of a stand-still in his life; his bookshop has just recently closed down and now his flower shop may be in trouble as well. However, his best buddy, Murray (Woody Allen), comes up with a plan that may be a bit ridiculous, but ultimately, may work out for both of them in the end: Become a male prostitute. Murray believes this is a good idea because he knows a couple of lonely women that are in need of some male lovin’ – especially a Jewish widower by the name of Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who, despite being all about her faith, and the strict guidelines that come along with it, is willing to give Fiorvante a shot and see what all of the fuss is about. However, problems ensue for all three of them once a local policeman (Liev Schreiber) discovers what’s going on, and wants to take them all down. Which won’t just ruin the business Fioravante and Murray have going on, but the relationship they’ve built with Avigal herself.

You’ve got to hand it to John Turturro – the dude isn’t just writing and directing here, but he’s doing so in a movie that has him being portrayed as a total ladies man, that each and every girl he meets is willing to pay nearly $1,000 to bang. Not saying that Turturro isn’t a charmer by any means, but what I am saying is that since he’s the one who is all behind this piece, it does seem like he’s giving himself so much credit, that it becomes nearly “a fantasy”. Then again, you could say the same thing about more-than-a-half of Woody Allen’s movies, so I guess it all evens out.

"Love truly isn't something another person can understand. You know?"

“Love truly isn’t something another person can understand. You know?”

And speaking of Allen, his inclusion here in the cast seems very reasonable, although quite distracting to the final product: The movie itself seems like something Allen would write and direct in his own spare time, yet, isn’t. Instead, as mentioned before, this is a John Turturro movie and, needless to say, not everything’s as lovely as we’ve come to expect from a Woody Allen movie, no matter how mediocre one may be. Most of that has to do with the fact that Turturro just doesn’t seem like all that much of a charismatic director. Sure, he has a neat story on his hands, but surprisingly, it’s a rather dull, unexciting one that doesn’t take full advantage of the “fun” premise concocted here.

Some of that could be attributed to Turturro’s rather bland writing and directing, but some of it could also be pointed right towards he himself, the actor. See, Turturro, despite being one of my favorites, was surprisingly boring here. Not only does it seem like he’s sleep-walking through the role, but has intentionally written himself out as being so, just so that he can use that as a tool to allow the supporting cast to shine on and on, like most of them do on more than a few occasions. But, there’s a problem with that, because although Turturro allows the others to do their thing, his character constantly stays in the spotlight and when you have somebody as uninteresting as Fioravante, it’s hard to really want to see what happens to his character next. This is all bizarre too, because Turturro, in almost everything I’ve seen him in, is as charming as he could possibly be. But here, he’s just dull and painfully so as well.

And like I said before, this allows the supporting cast to do whatever it is that they want to do and have a good time doing so. Out of everybody, Woody Allen is the one who really seems like he’s having a blast, by just playing his typical, neurotic self. It’s an act that never ceases to get old or tiring, regardless of whose script it is that he’s reading. And although Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara bring some much needed sex-appeal to this story, their characters seem more like the stereotypical rich, horny and bored housewives that need more sexy-time than what they get from their own spouses. While it’s fun to see this unlikely duo play friends and be a little sexy, they don’t seem real, just two characters cobbled up from Turturro’s own imagination.

"So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?"

“So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?”

The only character who really seems to be devolved from any bit of reality is Vanessa Paradis’ Avigal, who plays this sad, lonely and slightly scared Jewish widow. Though she is fine in this role and she and Turturro create some nice bit of chemistry, the whole idea that the Jewish community would be going absolutely insane over such a unity is downright extreme. Maybe I’m wrong and this is what happens in those small, intimate Jewish communities, but something tells me the portrait Turturro has created here isn’t just unrealistic, but somewhat insulting. That these highly respected Jewish men would capture a person and take them in for countless lines of questioning relating to their business-dealings seems so goofy, that it’s not even funny – it’s just stupid and seemed like a lame way for Turturro to bring out any bit of comedy that he could.

That’s not to say that the whole movie is bad, it’s just that you can tell that, in the right hands, it could have been so much better. Maybe had this been in the hands of a more capable creator like, well, I don’t know, say Woody Allen, then this movie probably would have been better off and been able to actually be more than just a ludicrous “sex comedy”. Instead, it’s a ludicrous sex comedy that doesn’t have much of anything interesting to say, nor does it really seem to know what it’s about. It just goes through the motions and depends on its charming cast to win everybody over.

Which, in a way, it does, but only because of that damn Woody Allen.

Consensus: While it gets by mostly on its charming cast, Fading Gigolo doesn’t really have any point or direction in which it wants to go in, so instead, just relies on cheap gags and unbelievable plot-points that border on being “fantasy”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don't ever get.

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don’t ever get.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Scoop (2006)

People love their magic, like they love their murder. That’s something people say, right?

Up-and-coming American journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) gets the story of a lifetime when deceased journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) somehow contacts her from the afterlife. The story goes like this: He knows that this wealthy, very powerful man Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the man behind all of these brutal murders that have been occurring around England and granting him the nick-name, “the Tarot Card Killer”. Though Sondra is slightly hesitant at first to believe in this, she takes the bait anyway and gets a local magician (Woody Allen) to join her. Together, they’ll pretend to be a father-daughter combo and try to win over the heart of Peter Lyman, while simultaneously looking for any clues, hints, or pieces of evidence they can find to make this story big and at least somewhat “legitimate”. But as time goes on, and the rouse gets to be a bit tiring, Sondra begins to fall for Peter, and even entertain the idea that he may in fact be the killer. This is not an idea the magician wants to put to rest, but it may be too late.

It’s kind of a known fact that despite Woody Allen being able to release a movie, just about every year, they’re not always amazing. And now that the guy’s getting way up there in age, the moments where he strikes gold are becoming more and more rare. Therefore, it’s up to us as an audience to appreciate all of the work that he does, because even though Woody Allen may not make great movies all of the time, a not-so good Woody Allen movie, is still way better than your usual, average bad movie.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

But somehow, this is the one that’s right on the verge of being considered “crap”, to being just “meh”.

And that’s not to say that this is Woody’s worst flick I’ve seen of his (Cassandra’s Dream was pretty god-awful), but it’s his most recent that I’ve seen of his that’s left me wondering just where all of his creativity and energy went. Surely he could have come up with something more than just a normal story about a journalist falling in love with her subject, while a murder-mystery occurs on the side? Maybe he was trying to hint at the idea of irony and how sometimes, things we don’t expect to happen, or better yet, people we don’t expect to act a certain way, do happen/act that way? Or maybe, he was trying to harmonize on the importance of life and how we all should savor it while we still can?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the guy a bit too much credit here. Because yes, even though this movie is not terrible, it still seems like Woody’s retreading on familiar waters. We’ve already seen Woody Allen make fun of the rather snobbish upper-class in Small Time Crooks, so whenever Woody takes it upon himself to make a few wisecracks towards them as a whole, it not only feels like he’s just yucking it up for no good reason, but also that he’s running out of ideas to write about or even explore. Even the lead Sondra Pransky, is basically just the female version of him and how he acts.

That’s not to say that ScarJo isn’t fine with this impersonation of sorts, it’s just that she’s just sort of there to take up a role that could have easily been done by Woody himself; although, to be honest, it would have been strange to see him constantly flirting and making out with the buff and macho Hugh Jackman. Then again though, it’s never too late to try something new out every so often!

And although I do kid around here and get on Woody’s case a bit, he’s sort of the best part about it. He’s quintessential Woody Allen and that’s always a pleasure to watch on the big screen, especially since all he does is act like a cynical, miserable bastard, yet, still be able to show some compassion towards those around him that treat him well. He had me laughing on more than a few occasions and it’s just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter how old Woody may get, the guy’s a charming little fella that seems to always play to his strengths and have himself coming out on top.

Now, that’s not to say that he’s selfish or anything, because Woody is more than welcome to giving the rest of his cast their own opportunities to shine, but none of them really leave as much of an impact as he does. Like I mentioned before, ScarJo is fine at playing a lovely-looking nerd that not only gets up swept up in the idea of love and romance, but even gets to forget who she is at one point. This was, of course, before Johansson became a dependable, respectable name in the business, so there are a few rough patches here and there, but most of that, I think, has more to do with some of the awkward-phrasing of the script and the lines she’s given, where she’s made to sound like Woody Allen, but just can’t pull that off perfectly.

I'm sorry. You were saying?

I’m sorry. You were saying?

Then again, nobody really can. That’s why we have Woody Allen in the first place.

Also, it was nice to see Hugh Jackman be the dashing man that he is and show us that even though there’s a lot mystery surrounding who he really is, you yourself can’t help but be charmed by his lovely ways. Makes it a lot easier to sympathize with our lead once she gets swept up in his life, but also makes you forget that he could be the prime suspect in this murder case after all. Ian McShane is also given a relatively major role as the deceased journalist who gives Pransky the story hints in the first place and is fine with what he has to do, but it’s pretty disappointing just to see him show up every once and awhile, say something vague and literally then disappear into thin air, because, well, he’s dead and the Grim Reaper doesn’t like it when dead people come back and talk to those who are living.

Honestly, now that I think about it, I would have much rather liked to seen a movie where the Grim Reaper himself and Ian McShane squared-off, mono-e-mono. Written and directed by Woody Allen, of course. The one and only.

Consensus: Not Woody Allen’s best, nor his worst, Scoop is rather pleasing because of its cast, but feels like a tired and tried piece of material that we’ve seen Allen himself do much too often in far better films of his own.

5 / 10 =  Rental!!

"I hate the media. All they do is get on people's cases. Like, I don't know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter."

“I hate the media. All they do is get on people’s cases. Like, I don’t know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Wish I Was Here (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

A strange part of me missed Shia LaBoots.

After the near-apocalyptic events that transpired in Chicago almost three years ago, the country has been on high alert keeping the lookout for any Transformers whatsoever. If there is a Transformer of any kind to be spotted, they are hunted down, destroyed and made as scrap metal so that the government can build better, stronger and safer ‘bots to better protect their world. But somehow, in Texas of all places, an independent architect by the name of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) somehow stumbles upon a truck that he thinks is just a simple, fuel-driven truck, but comes to realize that it’s a Transformer – better yet, it’s Optimus Prime. The government soon finds out and they are not too happy with this, but neither is Cade with having to give up the Transformers neither, considering he trusts Optimus more than he does some humans. This leads to a bit of a battle between the government and the rest of the Autobots that Prime is able to assemble, but somehow, there’s a new type of Transformer out there and not only are they conspiring with the government to get rid of the rest of the Autobots, but they’re as deadly and lethal as ever.

Even though he said so differently a couple years ago, somehow, some way, Michael Bay decided that it was time for him to bring us back, yet again, another Transformers movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, people – like with any of Bay’s movies, I don’t have total problems with the Transformers movie. Sure, they are incredibly dumb, loud, over-the-top, stupid and insane, but you know what? They’re actually kind of fun and when I go into any movie that has Bay attached to it any way, I always know that’s what I have to expect. Not high art, or even something close to being a “masterpiece” – just fun, fun, fun.

"Brawsh!!!"

BRAWSH!!!

But there’s a difference between a movie being “fun”, and a movie being “too much”. See, with this new Transformers, it isn’t that Bay doesn’t bring on the heavy-set action, explosions, goofs, special-effects, and violence, it’s just that it’s so much, for so damn long, that it’s less of a fun ride, and more like a ride that keeps on going up and down, left and right, without barely any intermissions or time to breath whatsoever. And even if there are some of those moments to be found throughout here, they’re lame, poorly-written moments that are supposed to be dedicated to character-development, but instead, come off as half-assed as you can get with a Michael Bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew what to expect when I walked into a Michael Bay movie, but when you’re forced to spend nearly two-and-a-half-hours with these characters, there has to be something keeping us behind them. And casting likable personalities such as Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller doesn’t cut it; they have to be at least somewhat well-written, with some reasoning behind their motivation to do the things that they do and why exactly they’re necessary to the plot. Am I asking too much from a Michael Bay movie? Better yet, am I asking too much from a Transformers movie? Probably, but I think if you’re going to push your movie into being almost three hours, there has to be something more to it than just big explosions, action-sequences and goofy, unfunny one-liners in the middle of all this tense action spilling out.

That being said, when the movie is fun, it sort of is a blast. However, that’s only because so much action gets built-up, that it’s almost like we’re being strong-armed into at least enjoying ourselves, even in the slightest bit. And that’s not to say everything about this movie, or what Bay does is absolutely godawful; in fact, I’d say that some of this shows Bay being as creative as ever, especially once the story itself gets tossed into China. But by the end, once all of the carnage has been done and about three states have been totally and completely decimated, you sort of have to ask yourself: “Why?”

An even better question would be: “What’s the point?”

Yes, I understand that it is the summer and that, yes, these are the types of movies we’re supposed to waste $20 on seeing, just so that we can get out of the hot air for once, chill out in the air-conditioned theater-lobbies, forget about the world outside, and just enjoy ourselves for the time being. That much I understand, get and absolutely love. To me, there’s nothing more than a summer blockbuster that knows it’s audience, what it’s made for, and doesn’t try to be anything else – just quick, fun, exciting, and engaging for as long as it is up on the screening. “Nothing more, nothing less”, I always like to say, and it’s something that I’d like to think most blockbusters are made with that in mind.

"Say hi to ya mothas for me!!"

“Say hi to ya mothas for me!!”

However, when you do have a movie like this fourth Transformers flick, it comes down to whether or not you yourself are willing to spend up to nearly $20 (popcorn and soda included) just for a nearly three-hour-movie in which there are two-dimensional characters, in a plot that doesn’t really matter so long as it includes big-ass robots, fighting other big-ass robots, while everything and everyone around them gets utterly and completely destroyed? If you’re totally all for that, then hey, go for it. I won’t try to tell you otherwise because clearly, your mind is already made up and ready to throw your ass in that front-row seat.

But for the others that may want a bit “more” bang (or in this case, “less) for their buck, then this may not be the perfect ticket for you. Because yes, it is a very fun movie, at times. However, at other times, it can be incredibly excessive, long, over-the-top, and destructive that by the end, rather than wanting jump out of your seat, wanting to fist-pump the air, as well as everyone else around you, go home, take a shower, lay down in your bed, and smile with a huge smile on your face going from cheek-to-cheek, you’ll just want to get out the theater as soon as possible, get in your car, drive home 5 mph under the speed-limit, get the hottest/longest shower you’ve ever had in your life, lay down, and just go right the hell to sleep, while feeling all safe and cozy that you’re in your own little comfort-zone.

Sounds extreme, I know, but with a Michael Bay movie: Anything bad or unhealthy for you, can and just might possibly happen to you by the end of one of his long, coke-winded adventures.

Consensus: Loud, abrasive, over-long and full of non-stop destruction, Transformers: Age of Extinction is the kind of movie you expect to see, not just from this franchise, but from Michael Bay himself, which may ultimately decide whether or not you want to spend three-hours in a movie theater watching his latest piece of “art”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

 

Yeah, totally not real. Lame.

Yeah, totally not a real dinosaur. Lame.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Bad Boys II (2003)

Are FBI agents really THIS gangsta with their speech?

8 years after they last joked around and solved crime together, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still cops in Miami. While Marcus has become something of a dedicated family man, Mike still sticks to his bachelor ways and doesn’t get too caught up in much, other than work, and keeping Marcus’ mind in check. But once Marcus’ sister (Gabrielle Union) shows up, Mike can’t contain himself and just has to go for it. However, he’s got to contain himself because he and Marcus have a job to do and isn’t going to be an easy one: Take down a powerful drug kingpin (Jordi Mollà), and find a way to do it without crossing too many boundaries to where it could practically be considered “illegal”. A little easier said then done, but these two dudes know what to do when it comes to getting rid of drug dealers off the streets, so nothing can stop them.

I know I’m going to get plenty of heat for the rest of this review, so I’m just going to come out right now and say it: I enjoyed Bad Boys II. No, I did not love it, and no, I do not disagree with anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, that the critics say about this movie. It’s a bad movie, but worst of all, it’s a Michael Bay movie so obviously you can’t expect anything smart, profound, or remotely intriguing to be happening on screen. All you have to do is expect that everything he filmed, was done so while he was under the influence of some insane-o drugs, and then you’ll be good. Anything else, well, then I’m ashamed to say it, but you have the wrong movie.

Who says "Black Men Can't Jump"? Answer is: Nobody, because they know they can.

Who says “Black Men Can’t Jump”? Answer is: Nobody, because they know they can.

That said, this movie is pretty damn bad and deserves most of the hate that its been getting for the past decade or so. Basically, there is no plot here, and there is no reason for this movie to exist. You get the feeling that Michael Bay not only made this movie so he would expand his wallet a bit more, but just so that he could go back to his roots and throw up a big middle-finger to the critics after he made the out-of-his-element Pearl Harbor. And you know what, that isn’t so bad because the guy’s good at action, if you like that type of style, however, he does indulge himself just a bit too much with the usual “Bay-isms“.

For instance, there’s plenty of misogyny to take a lick at. Take for example, Gabrielle Union’s character who happens to be a DEA Agent, which is good for her character and has her come off as a bad ass, but can’t do anything right. Anytime a situation or a deal goes wrong, she utterly panics and loses all sense of just what to do. It’s normal for a person to be like that, male or female, but this happens to her on 4 different occasions, and it makes you wonder just how the hell did she get the job in the first place. Also, on top of her sad-excuse-for-a-bad-ass-female character, there’s a plenty of T & A shots, as well as one in particular where the T just so happens to be seen coming from a dead corpse. And not only does Bay’s camera linger on it for awhile, it gets us right up in there, as if the female actress probably wasn’t comfortable enough taking a role from somebody who’s been compared to Hitler before, but now she’s got to worry about a crazy-ass mofo like Martin Lawrence all up in her business.

Poor gal, wonder what the hell happened to her career after this. Probably in an insane asylum somewhere, scarred from her “one, big break”.

And trust me, there’s plenty more wrong with this flick that we all expect to see, and usually still be angry with, when it comes to a Michael Bay flick. Not to mention the utterly-dreadful time-limit of 146 minutes, that doesn’t do the material any good, and makes it just feel as bloated and as repetitive as it already was before. You can tell that a lot of this needed to be cut-down and easily should have, but Bay pretty much knew that he couldn’t; not because he considers himself an “artist” per se, but because he probably saw all of the money that he and Jerry Bruckheimer spent on this freakin’ thing, and didn’t want a single penny of it to go to waste. In that general aspect: He’s a smart man, the type of smart man my dad would be proud of. However though, my dad is not a “movie critic”, so obviously he doesn’t care about a cohesive plot, compelling story-telling, smart characters, well-written dialogue, or the understanding of the laws of physics in an action film; he just wants loud, angry, booming, and fun violence, and I think that’s where my dad and I agree on the most with this movie.

Right before Will Smith was ordered to "treat her like the bad girl she is". Being in a Michael Bay flick, Will expected this.

Right before Will Smith was ordered to “treat her like the bad girl she is”. Being in a Michael Bay flick, Will expected this.

Wait a minute! Why the hell am I talking about my old man? This is me who’s typing. not that dude! Anyway, what I came to expect from this movie was none other than a big old bag of fun from Bay, and that’s pretty much what I got. The comedy is obvious and strained, but surprisingly had me laughing when it needed to; the action is over-the-top and nuts, but is also non-stop, and never lost the attention of my eyes or my mind; and the most surprising of all, I actually really enjoyed watching Will Smith and Martin Lawrence together.

Since the first Bad Boys, both stars branched-out on their owns, with Smith becoming a bigger star than Lawrence, mainly in action flicks, whereas Lawrence became something of a crazed-nut behind-the-scenes, yet still funny and popular due to his stand-up and the occasional Big Momma’s House flick. Yet, despite both of their careers heading in different directions, they both came together pretty well here and made the best out of the crap material they were working with. The rambling is over-played and makes you wonder what’s scripted, and what’s just them talking out of their asses, but you can’t help but be amused when two stars such as these, literally seem so pleasant and happy working with one another, that they’re whole heart and soul is put into just being together and goofing-around. Maybe I’m giving them, as well as this movie, a bit more credit then it deserves, but I know when fun is fun, and this, my friends: Is fun. There I said it. Now I’m ready to lose any loyal readers I had.

Consensus: No matter what anybody tries to shove down your throat (me included), Bad Boys II is a dumb movie that shouldn’t be watched if you want the finer things in the world of cinema, but if you know what to expect from Michael Bay, Martin Lawrence, and Will Smith, then you can’t help but feel like its done its job, despite you being in some serious need of brain-cells.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I feel like after this movie's done, one of our careers is going to down the crapper."

“I feel like after this movie’s done, one of our careers is going down the crapper.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Jersey Boys (2014)

Next time you think about getting involved with the music business, make sure you cut-off all ties with the mob first.

In the early 50’s, a small, sheltered Italian-American kid by the name of Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) hung out with his local crew, causing all sorts of shenanigans, wooing the ladies, and, every once and awhile, getting a chance to play a gig or two and hopefully make some money. However, they all knew one thing, and that was if they were to ever get serious or big in with their career as musicians in anyway, they’d have to put their former-lives on the back-burner and focus on the future. And for awhile, everything seemed to be going all mighty and swell for Frankie Valli and the boys – they had a new name (the Four Seasons), wives, kids, a whole lot of money, television appearances, and all of the fame any of them could have ever wanted. However, one member of the band, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), who was actually the founding one, brings them all down when his sketchy past of being apart of the mob and owing a whole lot of money comes back to bite him, as well as the rest of the Four Seasons, in the ass. But thankfully, they can always rely on the music, but more importantly, Frankie’s lovely, soothing voice of pure love and affection.

Or, so I’m told from my long, lost, Italian-relatives.

Anyway, first things first, I think I need to get this off my chest as soon as possible, so that’s why I am doing it now: I have never seen Jersey Boys on Broadway. Though I’ve always heard it was a show that’s right up my alley, I just never found myself seeing it and sort of relied on this film-adaptation to hold me over until I eventually cough up all the money I can to get on with my life and change that. Sadly though, I guess I didn’t realize that this adaptation was actually one done by none other than Mr. Clint Eastwood himself.

"It says here that we have "act and emote". What the hell's that mean?!!?"

“It says here that we have “act and emote”. What the hell’s that mean?!!?”

That’s right, people. You read me right: Clint Eastwood directed a film-adaptation of Jersey Boys, a musical about the happenin’ and swingin’ times of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons during the 50’s and early 60’s.

If that at all sounds strange, don’t worry, because it totally should. Eastwood has always been known for directing dark, heavy dramas that rarely so ever have moments of fun, happiness, or even a smidgen of music in them. Not saying that each and everyone of his movies are as depressing as they come, but having already seen my fair share of Eastwood-directed films, I can easily say that a musical is definitely a strange choice for Eastwood to be apart of.

And that’s one of the main problems with this movie: Eastwood’s direction. See, I don’t know what it is that pushed Eastwood himself to go through with it and give this adaptation a shot or two, but it doesn’t feel right. Maybe he had some money already thrown into the project, or just wanted to show everybody his light and colorful side, but whatever the reason is, it doesn’t quite show and the movie suffers because of it.

That’s not saying Eastwood does a bad job as director; in fact, I’m sort of glad that somebody with enough attention to detail and character-development was on board with something like this, which could have easily been a song-and-dance number the whole way through. It’s just that when you watch this movie, something feels slightly off. There’s at least a good hour or so of this material where the movie sets up these characters, the lives they’re born into, their personalities and their introduction into the music world. It’s the same sort of introduction we get to see in these biopics, but because this time, it’s during the 50’s, it makes it feel more timely and almost like a slice-of-life. It’s nothing outstanding, but for the most part, it kept me happy, smiling and having a good time with myself.

But then, sadly, something strange happens during the middle-half of the movie when all of the cards are laid-out on the table and there needs to be a conflict with this story. I get that what eventually starts to cause tension amongst the band is the same in the play, but that still doesn’t mean it has to be as corny as it is here. Because, for the most part, a lot of moments feel as stagey as they can get. Once again, I realize that’s what it’s supposed to be like, but it took away from the realism of the story, and made it seem like we weren’t really watching a legion of dedicated, childhood friends growing apart; it just seemed like a bunch of really good-looking, somewhat talented dudes acting like they’re angry with one another and want out of whatever they’ve got going on.

And to make matters worse, once this second-half rolls on in, everything gets melodramatic and really takes the air out of this whole movie. Not saying that it was perfect going into this half, but for what it was, it was fun and entertaining, just like any musical should be. It doesn’t have to be a life-changer of any sort; it just has to get you to want to tap your feet, smile, laugh, and have a good time, regardless of if you like musicals or not. However, what happens is that Eastwood doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with this material, or even how to keep it going on and on, so he creates this strange mixture of uninteresting drama, with musical-numbers that just feel shoe-horned in there so that people don’t get upset when the Four Seasons aren’t shaking or jiving their hips every so often.

"You think you know a thing or two about dancing? Trust me, son. You haven't seen nothing yet."

“You think you know a thing or two about dancing? Trust me, son. You haven’t seen nothing yet.”

Once again though, I’ll repeat, whatever interest Eastwood already had invested into this project, good for him. Not only does this movie show that his style can at least cross over to other film genres, but that he himself, is an aging-director that isn’t afraid to test himself out a bit and try new things. It’s actually quite a revelation to have a director of his age and his stature in the movie business to keep on pushing himself, and see what it is that he works with next, because so many directors just pack it in once they reach a certain age or mental-zone. But not Eastwood. Nope, that guy just continues to truck on along and from what it looks like, he’s not stopping anytime soon either.

But that still doesn’t excuse the inherent oddness of this material and it’s a shame that somebody as talented as him had to get bogged down by material that seems like it should have just stayed on the stage in the first place. Or maybe adapted by somebody who has a better, clearer idea of how musicals work when nobody’s singing or dancing, and just talking. That’s what most musicals need to survive and if they don’t have much of that, or it isn’t working well, then the musical itself is just a boring time.

And nobody wants that! Especially not during the summer!

Speaking of things that should have just stayed on the stage because they’re a lot better on it, the cast is relatively dull too. However, I guess there’s a reason for that because Eastwood cast mostly the same people who played these parts on the stage, in these same roles. Ordinarily, that should work because it’s not like these actors have to do or try anything different with a role they’ve probably done about 20 or so times. But that’s what’s so strange about this movie, because not everybody’s very good, while others just absolutely do wonders and show us why they deserve to be in front of the screen more than on the stage.

One person in particular who seems really out of his league is the one who is playing our main-focus, Franki Valli. It’s not that John Lloyd Young is bad per se; it’s just obvious he’s a bit out of his depth and unable to command the screen, despite him being the reason why this story is told to us. In a way, he’s our main protagonist and it’s a problem whenever you’re lead just seems ill-equipped to really make anything work. Sure, his singing is on-point (or at least the recording of his vocals are), but that’s all he has to show. Whereas with somebody like Vincent Piazza, who plays Valli’s best buddy, Tommy DeVito, seems like he was tailor-made for this role as well as the camera. That’s why it’s a no-brainer why Eastwood would decide to cast him again.

But John Lloyd Young? Eh, he could have done better.

At least Christopher Walken was around, so you know it can’t be all that bad.

Consensus: Though it’s nice to see Eastwood wanting to try something new and different behind the camera, Jersey Boys still can’t help but feel like a dull, unexciting musical that doesn’t know how to handle neither of its drama, or its musical-numbers, very well.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

There's four up there, but Franki Valli has already been accounted for. So who the hell is the fourth person? The drummer?

There’s four up there, but Franki Valli has already been accounted for. So who the hell is the fourth person? The drummer?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Ninth Gate (1999)

No babies and nobody named Rosemary. Just books.

A rare-book dealer named Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), is hired by bibliophile Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to validate a 17th-Century copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, by Aristide Torchia. Dean takes it because it’s a lot of money, a lot of honey, and a lot of time to go sight-seeing, however, the only sights that he actually gets to witness are murders, crime, and some sort of Satanic-worship; all of which, he has no idea about until they all start pile up.

No matter where you are or who you’re with, any time you bring up Roman Polanski in conversation it’s always the same old stuff: “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe he raped that little girl, and then fled the country. Wow.” Now, I know that last sentence may seem like a satire and in a way, it is, but the fact of the matter stands is that having sex with any girl, under the age of 18 when you are way above that, is just wrong. A lot of people will defend Polanski and say that he just had a messed-up life stemming from his early days during the Holocaust and because of what the Manson’s did to his family, but it doesn’t matter. Rape is rape, and that’s just how it is.

Yet, whatever side of the discussion you may be on, you still can’t deny that Polanksi is one hell of a director. As a fan of film, I myself usually have to be able to create a seperate wall from the artist, from the person, and sometimes, it’s a lot easier said then done. But in the case of Polanski’s, it’s a lot easier because his movies are quite good and he always finds exciting ways to show the world that he can try something new, even at his age.

And like any other of Polanski’s flicks, the Ninth Gate starts off with a load of intrigue and wonder. A simple, everyday man is assigned a task that may baffle him, but at the same time, is almost too appealing for him to deny, so he takes it, and only finds out until it’s too late that he’s in way, way in over-his-head. That’s the way most of Polanski’s flicks play out and that doesn’t make it good, bad, or anything – it’s just what we’ve all come to expect from Polanksi and the guy at least does that aspect of his story very well. He sets up the plot, the story, the characters, and the setting that we’re supposed to get used to and always allows us to fully drop our expectations of what may come next, and just expect the unexpected to happen.

However, that same idea is sort of what killed this movie.

"It says I have to act normal?"

“It says I have to act normal?!?!?”

Where I think Polanski loses himself is somewhere around the middle-act. Before all of that, he had me on-edge, wondering where this story was going to go, how it was all going to go down, and what type of twist and turns Polanski was going to pull out of his dirty bag of tricks next. That all went away once the flick gets a little too ahead of itself, and then got a bit too over-the-top. There were so many scenes in this movie that made me feel like Polanski was going for some sort of dark comedy, but then the next scene would come around and have something so serious, something so strange, and something so dramatic that it almost seemed like both scenes were done by two entirely, different directors that either weren’t on the same page, or just didn’t know where to go with the story. Either way, something was screwed up with Polanski’s direction here and no matter how much the guy gave me to feast my eyes on, I never felt as compelled as I felt like I should have. Especially, when I think about how this is the same guy has made movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, The Ghost Writer, and a slew of other, tension-filled flicks.

Still, I don’t know whether or not I can blame Polanski’s direction, or just that the writing wasn’t there. It feels like the movie had a clear idea of what it wanted to do with itself from the first hour or so, but then had a change of heart and went with the wacky, supernatural thriller route that can either make or break movies. For Polanski, in the past at least, they have been able to make him, but for this movie right here: It just about breaks him.

Now, that’s not to say that this whole movie is terrible, because it’s actually relatively entertaining for a long while. There’s just a moment in time during this movie, where it feels like all points for originality were gone, and then Polanski put on the auto-pilot, doing weird and strange shenanigans with his story, but being able to get away with it because it’s what we expect of him. That can be all fine and dandy if it’s compelling and feels like it’s going somewhere with it, but it never does feel like that. It just goes on and on and on, and meanders until you feel like the movie is just about over. And then, it once again continues to go on and on and on until you really feel like it’s over. And then, it meanders once again.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a long movie, and it shows.

Actually, this DID creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Actually, this did creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Whenever there is a will, well, there is always a way and thank the high heavens that Johnny Depp was that way. In today’s day and age of the Sweeney Todd’s, the Jack Sparrow’s, and the Tonto’s, it’s always nice to get a slick reminder that Depp can still play low-key, and play it very-well. His performance as Dean Corso is pretty damn good, not just because it’s Depp being more subtle with his facial-expressions than he usually is, but because the character he is playing is more distasteful than likable, yet, Depp changes our perception of the dude by just being himself. I didn’t love the hell out of this guy by the end, but I do feel like his character goes through enough of a transformation that is not only somewhat believable, but pretty cool in how no matter how crazy stuff gets around him, no matter how close to death he seems, he still stays cool, calm, collective, and always like himself. It’s just another day for Johnny Depp, and we’re just there to sit back, relax, and have a good time watching him.

Frank Langella is as sinister as ever as the mysterious millionaire that hires Corso, Boris Balkan, and does what we always expect from the guy: Just be a bad-ass dude. Langella loves these types of roles and it’s pretty damn easy to see why, because he’s so good in them. You never know what this guy is up to next and for the most part, you never know if he’s being bad or not. All you do know is that he’s not the type of dude to trust and one that shouldn’t definitely be dealt with more through the phone, rather than in real-life. At least that’s how I’d handle my business meetings with the dude. Lena Olin is quite gorgeous as the wealthy widow that wants exactly what Corso has, and will stop at nothing to get it. Olin is a quality actress, I just feel like her role was a little too tame and could have went further into the depths of hell, much like I was expecting from a gal of her talents. Polanksi never seems to have a problem with his actors, it’s just more of the fact that he has a problem with keeping his story up and running for the whole time is where he hits a dead end.

Consensus: Since it is Polanksi and you know that whenever you walk into a film his, you are there to expect thrills, chills, twists, turns, and loads of craziness unlike any other director, there is some fun in watching all this craziness spill out over time, but The Ninth Gate is one that sort of goes on and on, without much reason or rhyme, just strangeness.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks THAT good.

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks that good.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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