About these ads

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 5-5.5/10

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

About these ads

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

The Sacrament (2014)

Hey, if a Southerner has a certain way with words, I too would follow him anywhere.

Fashion photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) gets a strange letter from his sister (Amy Seimetz), who he knew went away to a rehab of sorts and is inviting him. Patrick decides to tell his buddies (Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen) this and considering they’re both journalists who love whenever a good story comes their way, all three of them take the trip out to see just what this secret place is really all about. What all three discover, at first, is a pretty shady place considering it has guards defending it with AK-47s and tells them to turn off their cameras or don’t come in at all. Eventually they’re allowed in and they see the type of safe haven this place was being hailed as by Patrick’s sister. There’s food, a hospital, goats, and heck, even a day-care center for the young, as well as the old. It seems like the pretty ideal place for anybody who has ever came at a crossroads in their life and needed a change, and mostly all of that can be credited to a man everyone knows as “Father” (Gene Jones). Though he hardly comes out at all, Father decides to do an interview for the camera-crew, which is when strange things start happening around the camp and the three guys realize that maybe there’s something dark and sinister lingering beneath what’s being shown to them as “perfect”.

With his past two flicks (the House of the Devil, the Innkeepers), if there’s one thing that Ti West shows, is that he knows a thing or two about creating, building up, and maintaining tension. In both cases, we get a sense that West is just reeling us in, more and more, for something big and completely terrifying to happen, yet, we don’t care all that much about it because we’re so swept-up in having him distract us with other stuff. That other stuff being character-development, ideas, and a feeling of some “fun” in the air.

Exactly how I feel whenever I show up to a party two hours late.

Exactly how I look and feel whenever I show up to a party two hours late.

However, while West still shows us here that he knows a thing or two about making tension, he still loses everything else that made his movies so worth while in the first place: Their personalities.

And it’s not like West’s other movies have shown him to have a keen-sense of humor in any way, but he’s shown us that he’s able to tell one story, while simultaneously hinting at us that there’s another one just brewing somewhere in the deep end. Here though, it feels like there’s nothing else here except for what Ti West presents: A found-footage horror movie documenting a cult, that clearly resembles the same one of Jonestown. I guess just stating that fact in and of itself could be seen as a bit of a “spoiler”, but to be honest, you get the sense of what’s going to happen as soon as we enter the camp.

We all know that there’s some dark, mysterious and disturbing force hidden behind all of the happiness and smiles, and while the mystery itself may keep us interested, it’s not hard to see what the end-result of it all is going to be. The only aspect that really could keep us even more glued are the characters, and for the most part, they’re all pretty boring. Which is a shame because when you have a hand-held camera film such as this, the one thing you can depend on working are the characters themselves and whether or not they’re worth rooting for, even if/when they make/say stupid decisions. West hasn’t really written anybody out to be at all interesting, just as plain as you could see them.

Which is very disappointing considering the great cast he’s assembled, who are all, essentially, people that he’s worked with in the past five years or so – AJ Bowen plays the main reporter who wants to ask all of the questions and get down to the bottom of this cult, while still dealing with issues at home with he and his pregnant-wife; Joe Swanberg plays who is basically “the camera guy” and says some snappy line here and there, but doesn’t get nearly as much to do here with his face blocked; Amy Seimetz is, at first, quite chilling because you never know what to make of her character, but as she begins to get more and more developed, then Seimetz’s starts playing a bit more over-the-top and crazy. Maybe that’s how she was told to play it, I don’t know, but I will say that it’s a very B-ish performance in a movie that never knows whether it wants to be smart, sophisticated, and trying to get its point across, or just be another freaky, fun, and chilling found-footage that wants to place us, the audience in front of all the action.

Not exactly the type of welcome wagon I'm sure anybody feel comfortable with.

Not exactly the welcome wagon I’m sure anybody feel comfortable with.

In fact, the only time whenever the movie seems to have any sort of bright ideas just rolling around, is whenever Gene Jones shows up as the almighty and alluring “Father”. I’ve never seen Jones in anything before, and although I definitely might have and I just totally forgot, I’ll make sure to never make that same mistake twice considering he’s great here and never allows himself to get too far, or too deep into this movie’s own wackiness. Jones, for what it’s worth, plays mostly everything subtle and by being able to hind behind those dark, thinly-rimmed glasses of his, we never truly have an idea what he’s thinking, or going to do next; all we know is that he’s a simple man who has a certain power over all of these people, and you can totally feel it everytime he’s in front of the camera and talking about God knows what (no seriously).

However, he’s not really in the film all that much, and it shows. Whenever he’s not around, his presence is felt in the air, as if he himself is a guardian angel just looking down upon everybody else around him. Okay, maybe that’s giving the dude too much credit, but I’ll put it like this: When the best part of your whole movie is in it for about 15 minutes, you may have yourself a huge problem. And a huge problem is exactly what Ti West has.

Next time, dude, stay away from the hand-held cameras. It’s a style just waiting to die out.

Consensus: Ti West still has his sense of creating tension, yet somehow, with the Sacrament, he can never quite maintain it as well as he’s been able to show in the past, which is mostly due to the fact that the story is conventional and at times, too wacky to be taken as seriously as it wants to be.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Suck that, Matt Lauer!"

“Suck that, Matt Lauer!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Having cancer doesn’t really have to be all that bad, now does it?

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shaliene Woodley) is your typical sixteen-year-old girl; she’s sassy, wants to have fun, listens to cool bands, loves her parents, and is taking up classes when she can. She also wants a fake ID, so you know she’s exactly like every other teenager that’s ever lived a day in their lives. However, what separates Hazel from most other teenage girls, is that she’s suffering from cancer. She gets by with her oxygen tank that she hauls around wherever she goes, but for the most part, she knows that anytime, at any place, she could be gone from this world. However, Hazel isn’t all about soaking in her own misery and decides to look at it in a relatively positive light; yet, she doesn’t care too much about telling others about it. That’s why when she’s forced to go into a support-group for fellow cancer patients, she couldn’t be less miserable. That is, until she meets a charming, older guy by the name of Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), whom also is suffering from cancer. The two strike a bond that automatically has them deciding whether or not they should be together, considering that their fates are unpredictable, yet, they still stick together and see where it can go. But don’t forget, for most people, when one has cancer, it hardly ever fully leaves the body forever, until the end of time. Sometimes, it can come back and ruin lives more effectively than ever before.

Considering that I myself am a young adult, I’ve heard my fair share of talk surrounding the novel of this movie. Many girls loved it, some didn’t, and most dudes hated hearing about it. I didn’t necessarily care, however, what I did hear was that it was a lot better and smarter than many of those other young adult, sappy-romance novels that never cease to keep on being released to mass-mediums. That’s what got me slightly interested about this movie; thinking that maybe, just a big maybe, this novel-adaptation could be different and change the game for other young adult novel adaptations from here on out.

Don't worry, concerned parents, I can assure that it's only grape juice in their glasses.

Don’t worry, concerned parents, I can assure that it’s only grape juice in their glasses. It just so happens to look as if they are consuming champagne under legal-age.

Sadly, my mind was wrong.

However, according to the rest of the theater I was in, I’m a total idiot and have no idea what I’m talking about. Why is that? Well, for starters, all of the young tweenie-boppers in my theater loved this movie – they laughed at every joke (regardless of whether or not it was actually “funny”), went “aaawww” whenever somebody said a romantic-line (even if it was schmaltzy beyond belief), and cried whenever something bad was about to happen to one person, or had already happened (okay, I’ll give them that, some of the stuff was pretty sad). And there’s no reason they shouldn’t have loved it – they’re are this movie’s target-audience.

That’s why whenever a movie is released and a certain group of people, or persons, adore one movie (regular, everyday citizens), and a certain group of other people, or persons, don’t wholly agree (critics), there’s a huge backlash, where words are exchanged, death threats are thrown out, and subscribers are lost till the end of time. That’s one risk any human takes when forming their own opinions and decides to make it public for the rest of the world to see; that’s the risk I took, and honestly, I’m a better person for it. Not because I like to inadvertently tell certain people to “fuck off” whenever I damn well please, but because it allowed me to see just how differently my mind works from other’s.

And trust me, I don’t do that because I want to think differently like others and be considered “hip”, or “cool”, or “annoying” (I usually am considered this by others regardless of what I say), but I do that because it’s my voice. Hear it or not, it’s my voice. Deal with it.

The reason why I’ve gone into total “preach-mode” is because I know, as soon as this review is posted, so many human specimens are going to get on my ass because I: a) didn’t love this movie with all of my heart, b) haven’t read the book, or c) all of the above. And that’s fine, but there’s a reason why I don’t like certain movies – and it’s not to just break from the norm and show everybody how much of a rebel I am. Because see, something with this movie was just not clicking for me.

The acting from Shaliene Woodley was fine, in fact, she downright saves this movie, so it definitely wasn’t her. No, it was more that the tone to this movie just felt so one-note the whole entire time. I get that this is something of a cancer-dramedy in which these characters sort of understand that they have cancer, know it sucks, and do whatever they can to make their situation better by just noticing it and moving on, but for the first hour, that’s the whole movie. There’s hardly any drama, and just all comedy; comedy which, mind you, wasn’t all that funny and felt terribly tacked-on.

For instance, this character of Augustus who, on paper, sounds like a total dream boat that any girl, cancer patient or not, would go buck wild for (maybe even some curious guys, too, but that’s a different story). He’s smart, funny, chock full of wit, spirited, loves to have himself a good time, and is never against using a metaphor he doesn’t like. In essence, he’s what every girl wants their boyfriend to be, but the problem is: He’s only “real”, in a movie sense. Somebody like Augustus may exist out there, but if that is the case, I do not want to know him. To me, every time Augustus showed up and spouted some line that was supposed to make him sound “witty”, I got even more and more annoyed by his character.

That’s not to say Ansel Elgort isn’t good as him – more often than not, the dude really does try. However, he’s just given some really lame material that has him doing the same act, practically the whole damn time, and even when he does get serious, he’s so far gone into “goofy” territory, that it’s hard to take him at all serious. And yes, I know that because he has cancer, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, and I’m not saying that she shouldn’t, it’s just hard for me to really get behind a character that feels so fake, annoying, and around as a “type”, rather than an actual human being that I would meet in real life, have a cup of Joe with, talk to, and enjoy my time with.

Oh, just do it already! Spare us!

Oh, just do it already! Spare us!

Sorry, everybody. Maybe I’m just a depressed, angry asshole that doesn’t like fun.

Like I said earlier though, Woodley is probably the saving-grace to this movie because she feels somewhat real when placed against everybody else. But what brings Woodley down is that the way we’re introduced to Hazel Grace, makes it seem like she’s something of a rebel herself; she doesn’t want to be treated like a cancer patient, she doesn’t want anybody’s pity, and she sure as hell doesn’t want to do all of that corny, “falling in love” crap that she sees done in the mainstream media. However, without saying too much that would jeopardize my respect with fellow bloggers, she starts to fall for those corny cliches and it makes it seem like the movie didn’t really think all of those ideas out well enough. It just threw it on there to show that she’s somewhat different, and that’s about it. Woodley’s still good, but man, it just sucks when a character gets written one way, and turns out another way, without any real, believable transition to be found anywhere.

And before I head off into a cabin in the woods where I’ll most likely be hiding for the next week or so after this is posted, I will say that I did tear-up a bit by the end. However, that’s only because I feel like I had finally given up on trying to stiff-arm this movie into making me tear. Because, for the whole two-hour run-time, you can feel this movie just reaching deep inside of you, trying to get anything close to resembling an emotion of sadness or sentimentality, and it downright annoyed me. But, like I said, before the movie was up, I succumbed to this movie’s over-powering strength and felt one, teenie, tiny, small tear run down my right cheek. I should have taken a picture or something, but I assure you, it was nothing compared to the kinds of tears I produce while watching Hardball.

Please, don’t anybody show this review to my father. Something tells me I’d be without a roof over my head for quite some time.

Consensus: While its heart is in the right place, the Fault in Our Stars is just too one-note and unbelievable, for so long, to where when it does get serious and melodramatic, it feels drastic and needy, rather than understandable and heartfelt. Also not to mention that Augustus can get real annoying, real quick after he’s introduced.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

We get it, you're adorable. Damn, meddling kids.

We get it, you’re adorable. Damn, meddling kids.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Youth in Revolt (2010)

What revolution would choose Michael Cera as their leader? Oh, Scott Pilgrim you say? Never mind, I can totally see it now.

Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is one of those loner dweebs who always dreams about the women he may meet, fall in love, and run off with one day, but it never becomes reality. That is, until his mom’s boyfriend (Zack Galifianakis) decides that they have to stay in a trailer park in the woods for the summer, just so he can lose the heat surrounding him after he sold a shitty car to some Marines. Not that it even matters in the grand scheme of things, but anyway, when Nick is there being lonely once again, he feasts his eye’s on this local named Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). Automatically, Nick falls head over heels for this gal, but the problem is: He’s still a virgin and needs to find a way to impress her so that he can lose said virginity. Enter his bad side, also known as Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera), a lean, suave, and cool guy with a mustache that has a way with words, as well as the ladies.

It seems like hipsters are taking over the whole world, and it was only a matter of time until movies started to be next on their list as well. I don’t really care for hipsters and to be honest, most of them bother me. But here’s the weird thing about me: I actually like hipster movies. Some come to my mind like The Science of Sleep, Juno, and especially, my favorite of all, (500) Days of Summer. I don’t know what it is, but hipster movies always strike a chord with me almost no matter what, but they have to work and not try too hard. Movies such as this, make me reconsider why I even bother with hipster movies, but then I just watch (500) Days and fall in love with Zooey all over again.

GoshWhat a babe.

Now that's what I call RANGE.

Now that’s what I call RANGE.

Anyway, what works about this movie is that when it does want to be funny and is at least inspired with how it uses it’s comedy and where it comes from: It’s very funny. I can’t put my pinkie finger on certain moments that made me die laughing, but there were maybe one or two where I really had to hold my stomach from ripping-open. Other moments I found myself chuckling and thinking, “Oh that sure is witty”. But something kept feeling like it was “off” watching this movie.

I don’t know if it was the tone that likes to be playful at times, then dark, then romantic, then dramatic, and do it all over again, or if there was just no story here at all, really. The more that I think about it and have it juggle around my head some more, I feel like it’s more of the latter, but the former definitely had something to do with it as well. The movies tries to go for this cool, edgy-feel to it but never quite succeeds until that bad side of Cera’s character shows up. But other than those very few and far moments, the movie never really connected with me and made me feel like I was watching something like Rushmore, seeing this small kid go up-against everybody else in the world around him. Nope, instead I just found myself bored to the tip with this character and also by the fact that he felt like he needed to try and be hip and cool to be with the girl he loved. Just run away, or something dude. That simple.

Then, comes the whole story-aspect where there actually doesn’t seem to be one at all. There are some twists and some turns that show up to throw us all off-course, but doesn’t really hit us that hard. You feel as if this is the type of movie where random plot-points just showed up to keep us on our toes, but it didn’t work like that. We were just left with a movie that tried so hard to be funny, and tried even harder to give us a wacky and wild story. Both aspects of this movie seemed to fail, despite some charm and humor with parts of the screenplay, but especially with this whole cast. Jeez, thank the high heavens for them.

Michael Cera has been playing the same character ever since his days of Arrested Development. Is it bad? Not really. However, it does show you that the guy needs some fine-tuning every once in awhile, just to remind us that this cat is an actor, and one that can actually make us laugh, despite him always being a bumbling nerd that can never seem to get a sentence completed. That’s why his performance here as Nick/Francois is a bunch of fun to watch because he plays that nerdy-aspect really well, like we all know he can do, but also decides to get a little bad-ass here and there, and does very well with that as well. Even though we already know when Francois is talking and acting, because of his get-up and whatnot, we still feel like we’d be able to tell the two characters apart, even if they didn’t share the same-screen almost every time. Nonetheless, Cera is good in both roles and it shows that the guy maybe had more to him after all.

In character, playing the character of Fred Willard, the real person.

In character, playing the character of Fred Willard, the real person.

Another member of this cast I was very surprised by was a little-unknown named Portia Doubleday, as Shenni, the apple of Nick’s eyes. Doubleday is good because she’s awesome at combining this sweetness to her character, but also the naughtiness of her as well. Her character can really make you feel as if she’s the most-fragile creature on the face of the planet, and then can change it up to where she might even have your pants rise up just a tad bit. She’s great at making us feel like there’s more to this character than she fully lets on, and that’s what I liked most about her and maybe the most about this flick. It’s weird that I haven’t seen her around as much as I would have thought after a movie like this, but she may have a bright future ahead of her. I’m just waiting around for it.

Others in the cast are fine, but they are mainly here just for window-dressing. Fred Willard is the only one out of the whole cast who really made me laugh, considering almost every scene involves him being slightly creepy, sort of naked, and always up to no good. Sort of like the real-life Fred Willard, so who knows if this guy really is acting or not? You never know with crazy Fred. Oh, and Rooney Mara’s here when she was still hot, still spicy, and without any dragon tattoos whatsoever. At least none that we know of.

Consensus: To most peeps who like these types of hipster movies that go out to one crowd, and one crowd only, Youth in Revolt will be a funny, empowering hour and 30 minutes, but for a person that wants more story, more cohesiveness, and just more laughs, you’ll be left disappointed.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Why didn't I go to prep school? Why oh why?

Why didn’t I go to prep school? Why oh why?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Sorry, Jen. But together, these two are really hot.

After having a chance meeting in a foreign country some odd years ago (five or six, neither ever knows), John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) Smith live a comfortable life where either one talks to one another, yet, still live under the same roof and go to couples-counseling in hopes that things will get better between them two. However, when both find out that they are not only living separate, secret lives as super-duper spies, but that they are also part of feuding spy-agencies, then things got a whole lot more tense between the two; not to mention deadly. Oddly enough though, this newfound information ignites a spark between them both and for the first time in a long time, John and Jane both find themselves happily in love with one another, banging and eating all over the floor. Problem is, it may just be too late as the spy-agencies soon find out that these two are actually married in real-life and decide that it’s best to take them both out because it’s, “bad for business”. Whatever that means, right?

Herein lies the film that started it all; the famous, highly-attractive Hollywood couple that will be synonymous with Generation-Y’ers till the end of time; and definitely the duo that J-Aniston still wants to get back at all of these years later. Ladies and gentleman, here is the beginning of what we know to be known as Brangelina. Heck, it’s even got its own WikiPedia page! If that doesn’t just scream “culturally significant”, I can’t tell you what will!

Oh stop!

Oh stop!

With most movies that have more talk about what’s going on behind the scenes usually means that the final-product itself isn’t anything worth chatting about it either. It just serves as a platform for a conversation to get started on about; although today, one could just mention either Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie respectively and end up finding themselves still talking about their togetherness, and less about the actual movie that brought them all together.

And as you can tell, I’m doing the same exact thing I’m going on about, because it’s sort of the truth: The movie that brought these two superstars together, really isn’t all that memorable.

“But surely something must have been well-done enough to where it would actually attract such picky A-listers as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Dan? So what is the problem?”, you might respond with, and honestly, my answer might be a general, “I don’t know”. Maybe these two were attracted to the idea of starring in a movie together, or better yet, maybe they just saw plenty of big bucks in the idea as is. It doesn’t really matter because either way, the movie is still very “meh”.

Most of that has to do with the premise itself which, on paper, seems very promising, fun and witty, and for the most part, is. However, the movie knows this a little too much and can’t help but remind us each and every chance it gets that, “Our premise is so goofy and our co-stars are so in love with one another, that we can’t help but be pleased!” These are the types of movies that linger on being “smug”, and there are more than a few occasions in which Mr. and Mrs. Smith finds itself creeping over to that side.

What keeps it away from doing so on most occasions? Well, it’s the main selling-point this movie had to roll with in the first place: It’s lovely co-stars.

And yes, it’s also said that usually actors who hook-up in real life, have terrible chemistry in the movies they’re starring in together, but here, with Jolie and Pitt, that isn’t necessarily the case. They’re good together and you can really tell that the two have a little twinkle in there eye whenever the other is in the same scene with them, however, they don’t get to show it off too many times. Because the premise is sort of a joke in and of itself about this married-couple hiding their real selves from the other and not really doing much of anything together as a unit, Pitt and Jolie aren’t really given too many opportunities to do a whole lot of on-screen flirting. More or less, they’re spending scenes together in awkward silence, which yes, is the point, but after awhile, does seem like a waste of some incredibly talented-individuals, who just so also happened to be shaken’ the high hoots behind closed doors at the time.

Yet, the moment in which these two come alive, is when they both find out that their secret spies, which yes again, is the point; they’re bored with their simple, carefree home lives and just want to live a little. In a way, Pitt and Jolie, at the time of filming this movie, were probably the same kind of people – Pitt wanted an escape from his faltering-marriage with America’s Sweetheart, whereas Jolie herself was looking to settle-down a bit and get serious with somebody who didn’t wear her blood across their neck, and/or wasn’t her brother. Maybe I’m looking way too deep into this than I should (actually no, I totally am), however, I can’t help myself. Not just because I’m obsessed with these two and their career’s in general, but because there’s not much else to talk about with this movie.

No, seriously! Cut it out!

No, seriously! Cut it out!

Personally, they’re the only reason to see this. Any reason why you’d laugh during this would be because both Pitt and Jolie are charming enough to make even the dumbest line/moment work. Everything else is sort of a mess. Like, for instance, the whole action-sequences themselves aren’t filmed right; Doug Liman is a fine director that clearly knew what he was doing with the Bourne Identity, but doesn’t seem to realize that action scenes work best when we care about everything that’s going on and is at least given to us in a fun, exciting way. Here, bullets fly; grenades explode; punches are thrown; and upper-class, suburban homes burst into flames. And yet, I didn’t give a single hoot about any of it.

Except for Jolie and Pitt themselves, who are clearly doing fine without hearing anything I have to say.

Love ya Brangie. Sort of made that up, sort of didn’t. Whatever.

Consensus: Most of the talk surrounding Mr. & Mrs. Smith has to do with what happened in real life between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and basically, are the only real reason this movie deserves to be seen – a time-capsule for what everybody was talking about in the mid-21st Century.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Maleficent (2014)

How could one not be petrified to death of those cheek-bones?

When Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was just a blissful young fairy, she was full of all sorts of life and cared for all of those around her. She loved and protected the forest she lived in; had fairy-friends that she would often fly around with; and even made herself a human-friend in the form of Stefan (Sharlto Copley). They had a great friendship that lasted until he became King – an honor he received by cutting-off Maleficent’s wings, and therefore, robbing her of her innocence. So obviously Maleficent wasn’t too happy about this and decided that she would do whatever she could to extract revenge on him in any way possible, even if that meant cursing his newborn daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). With the fear that his whole family is in danger, Stefan decides to send his daughter away with three fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), where they will watch over her and take care of her. However, the problem is that these fairies do a pretty lackluster job at doing so, and instead, leaves Maleficent herself to care for Aurora and watch over her through her formative years; making the bond between the two of them stronger than either could ever imagine. Especially for Maleficent who, if she’s not careful, may actually start caring for this little kid she calls “a beast”.

Though most of you may think that these constant, live-action re-workings of classic fairy-tales may not work for someone such as myself – it’s surprisingly the other way around. In fact, more or less, I actually commend more of them to be made. Not only do I feel like it gives our future generations a better understanding of what these stories actually are and look like, but it also shows us what these types of stories could be with actual, real-life human beings in the role, regardless of how much CGI may be floating around them.

And in the case of Maleficent, there’s a whole lot of CGI floating around here, and then some.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

While what I just said may have given off a negative connotation, I’ll have you know, that is totally not the case with this movie. See, first-time director Robert Stromberg has truly created something beautiful here; colors, locations and fantasy-like worlds all blend together to give us an idea that were in some place totally original, despite looking like every other fantasy world ever created. It’s a hard task that Stromberg is able to pass, and pass well, which may not seem like much of a surprise to anyone who knows that he’s worked on movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland in the past.

However, is there such a thing as a movie looking “too beautiful”? Personally, I don’t believe so, but there does come a point where you have to wonder just when do the visuals end, and the story begin. And here, there isn’t ever a really story that begins, or even ends for that case; it sort of just accompanies the beautiful, awe-inspiring visuals that keep our eyes busy and preoccupied, so that we don’t realize what little story there actually is here.

But considering that this movie is a little over an-hour-and-a-half (a huge surprise to get in the first month of the summer movie season), the lack of a story/drive, is really noticeable and actually makes a lot of the problems with this movie shine even brighter and harsher than before, when all it was that we had to pay attention to was how purrty everything looked.

Like, for instance, with the exception of our titled-character, there is not a single interesting character to be found throughout this whole movie; instead, everybody is just a bunch of walking, talking, and behaving cliches. Sharlto Copley plays King Stefan who is basically just a selfish, deuchy man that continues to get more and more insane, just as his facial-hair begins to get more and more ridiculous and over-bearing; the three fairies are ditsy klutzes used to be something of “comedic-reliefs”, yet they are neither; Sam Riley seems like he wants to break out and show off some charm as Maleficent’s side-kick that she can turn into any creature she can think of, but anytime it seems like he’s just about to, our evil queen (aka, the movie) turns him into a crow, or a wolf, or a dragon, therefore killing any possibility that he may have some fun in this thinly-written role; and Elle Fanning, for once in her short, but storied-career, gave me a performance of hers that’s not the least bit intriguing, because, for the most part, all she has to do is look up to Maleficent and gaze into those mesmerizing eyes of hers.

That’s pretty much it. Could have called up Dakota for that job, if you ask me.

But that’s not even the bulk of the problems with this movie; like I alluded to before, there’s really no story here. In case you didn’t know, this is an origin-tale that throws us right into this story, this world, and this character that we’re clearly supposed to care for, but once Maleficent turns the other cheek and becomes an evil beotch, then the movie sort of just moves along at its own pace, while at the same time, not really doing anything. Sure, we get to see some shading to the character of Maleficent and how she’s not all that much of a despicable witch after all, but it’s not enough to warrant a whole movie made about her, her adventures, and the problems she must overcome as an evil witch scorned with hatred and revenge for another man.

Come to think of it, it’s always about a man, isn’t it? These Disney movies always love to brag and show off how much they’re about “girl power” and how much having a man in their life doesn’t matter, but when it really comes right down to it, it’s always a man that they’re fighting for, or because. It’s never that a woman lives her life because she wants to by her own free-will; it’s always because a man had some inspiration in the matter, somehow, someway. Always seems a bit weird to me, but maybe I just think too much.

And this is what sort of brings me to my next point about the most important aspect of this whole movie: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. It’s cool to see Jolie in a role like this that nobody could ever see her actually accepting to do, but I guess motherhood has had a bit of an affect on her life as of late and it’s about time that she finally decided to take some roles for herself and bring some of that extra-dough. Whether or not that’s actually the case, it doesn’t matter because at least we still get to see how good she is when she’s given enough material for her to chew on and work with to the bone. She’s always been known to do that, as well as show everybody how damn beautiful and dazzling she looks; so with an iconic villain like Maleficent, you think that she’d be working wonders with this role. Right?

Ripped right out of Shrek.

When did everything become Shrek all of a sudden?

Well, that’s the problem, once again, with the movie: It doesn’t give her enough to really run wild or have a good time with. There’s a certain charisma that Jolie brings to this role that allows us to see her more human than ever before, but there’s just not enough camp to this performance where we really get the sense that she’s having fun. She’s never going through the motions, however, she’s never really showing all that much of an effort that would really put this movie over the edge into being something you need to see, if only for her.

Most of that’s the movie’s fault, and less of her own, but it’s still a fault that this movie should be held accountable for. And not just because it doesn’t give one of our best-working actresses today enough material to really go nuts with, but because it makes Maleficent, the character, seem like sort of a jumble of ideas. I’m all for getting behind a villainous character and showing them in a slightly sympathetic-light, but with somebody as memorably and recognizably scary as Maleficent, it doesn’t really do her any justice for us to see her as a character we not only stand behind, but actually come to like. Not saying that it can’t be done, but when it comes to this character, one who is quite frightening even in animated-form, then you really have to know just what you’re going to do with her and why. If you don’t, then don’t bother.

And you sure as hell don’t waste any of Angelina’s good old time. Especially when she’s got to go back to that hunk of man-meat every night.

Consensus: Easy on the eyes with its beautiful production-designs, Maleficent proves to be a movie that’s a lot about what it seems to be on its lush-surface, but when one really gets down to it and digs a bit deeper under that said surface, there’s not much to be found. Just a waste of a great cast, most importantly, a more-than-willing Angelina Jolie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ugh. I can't believe she wore that to this party. Like what a betch."

“Ugh. I can’t believe she wore that to this. Like, what a betch.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Winter’s Tale (2014)

Sometimes, love just doesn’t make any sense. In this case, nothing makes sense!

In 1895, while on the run from his adoptive father, deadly gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) decides to make one last score in a house that seems to include some very wealthy people, who also may not even be home in the first place. He gets to the vault and starts working his magic, when all of a sudden, Peter realizes that he’s not alone in the house. It just so happens that the patriarch of the family (William Hurt), left his daughter, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) behind and Peter has no idea what to do, except just act natural and talk to her. And wouldn’t you know it, they actually have something in common and start up something of a relationship! The problem is, Beverly is slowly dying of consumption and needs to be with a man, and soon. Peter believes he can be the man to make the sweet lovin’ to her, but he also realizes that time is running out before Pearly and his men find him and decide to take his life away.

While that may sound all simple and carefree, like an ordinary romantic-drama should be, there’s something particularly strange about this movie. See, it’s a fantasy movie, that has flying horses, demons, 120-year-old-women and time-travel, but for some reason, in the mind of someone like Akiva Goldsman, apparently fantasy just means “throwing whatever shit you can think of on the screen, without any rhyme or reason.” And don’t get me wrong, I like that type of movie, but there has to be some sort of ground-rules to allow for everything to make sense. If not, there’s no reason for your movie to exist, except to just show everybody how crazily creative you can get.

And I hate to break it to you, Akiva Goldsman, but you’re not all that creative. In fact, you’re kind of a bore that doesn’t seem to know where to begin a story, where to go with a story, and just how exactly to end it. Which may all sound weird considering this is the same guy who wrote A Beautiful Mind, but anything that worked there, totally doesn’t here. Then again, those are two different movies in their own right, so the less I speak about that comparison, the better.

"What's so wrong with a man embracing his horse?"

“What’s so wrong with a man embracing his horse?”

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, that’s right, this movie. It’s a mess. It truly is. Certain things happen, then don’t happen, and then do happen again, for no reason except to just happen and keep the plot moving along. Which, once again, is fine, just as long as there are some ground-rules being laid down for us to make note of anytime anything completely out of the ordinary happens. We sort of get some of that when a demon character shows up and tells another demon what they are, and aren’t allowed to do, but it was told in such mumbo-jumbo, that I didn’t really get any of it, nor did I care. Also, the two actors in that scene just seem like they are on completely separate planets, let alone in the same movie.

But I guess that’s the way Goldsman not only directed his cast, but the movie as a whole. You can tell that there’s a really soft, sweet and endearing romance at the center of this movie, and there are times when he allows for it to just sit, relax, tell itself, and breathe. But then, moments later, Goldsman can’t help his urges, so he decides to throw in some weird ideas about the light and how it reflects on where a person is directly located on a map. I know. It’s weird and it don’t make a single ounce of sense, but I think that’s sort of the point.

Or maybe it isn’t. Personally, I don’t know and I shouldn’t care when a movie is as wild as this, but I do care and I have no clue as to why. Maybe because it seems like with a movie like this, where you can be so random and insane and still find a way to bring some emotional-connection to the proceedings, there’s always something to enjoy. But everything here was so odd and out-of-left-field, that it wasn’t. It just kept on making me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell was going to happen next, for what reason, and where was it going to lead to. And then once it did lead to that next scene, it was the whole rinse and repeat act. Rinse and repeat.

Like I alluded to before, too, there is an actual heartfelt story in the middle of all this craziness, it just doesn’t get as much of a spotlight as it should. With this love story (aka the main reason why any guy would get dragged into seeing this in the first place), we’re supposed to root for both Peter and Beverly to get together. Not only does it seem like Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay have legitimate, natural chemistry, but it’s believable why these two would be drawn to one another in the first place; she’s dying because she hasn’t consumed and is a bit picky with her boys, whereas he’s just got too much going on with his wacky lifestyle to even worry about a beautiful girl like her. They get a few scenes together where they really feel like honest love birds and I have to admit, they’re what kept me going with this movie.

"Do know, I de devil, me mate."

“Do know, I de devil, me ladey.”

It was only until Russell Crowe with his Elmer Fudd, mixed with a drunk Irish guy-act got in the way of everything and had to spoil the party. It’s not like Crowe is bad per se, he’s clearly trying to have fun with this role and give it all he’s got, but he’s really trying here, almost to the point of where the movie seems to just sort of let him run rampant with whatever he’s doing and forget to even make sense of hiss nonsensical ramblings; which there are many of, sadly.

But it does get worse and though I’d like to spoil this for everybody and say why this is the case, I’m going to take the higher-road and allow for you to see for yourself, if you wish. If you don’t, I can’t say it’s your loss. You do what you want to do, just know that this movie’s nuts and drugs may not help.

Once again, just saying.

Consensus: The romance at the center is what keeps Winter’s Tale, for the most part, grounded in some emotional consciousness, but everything else is just so weird, unbelievable, and out of the blue, that any connection we may have had to the story gets lost in the nonsensical shuffle.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

How I dance with the ladies. Except a whole lot more grinding.

How I dance with the ladies. Except with a whole lot more grinding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Painted Veil (2006)

Women just never give the man the lovin’ they deserve. Tsk tsk.

Rich, spoiled, and bored English gal Kitty (Naomi Watts) thinks she’s met the man that will sweep her off of her feet, or at least, sweep her away from her mother, in the form of Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton). The two are clearly opposites and don’t seem to have much in common with one another, except for the fact that they want to be married and get away from their past lives. However, Kitty soon starts to get bored of Walter, and finds herself gravitating more towards his confidante, Dr. Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber), in which the two participate in a sordid affair of sorts. Walter isn’t dumb though and knows what’s going on when he isn’t around, so he makes Kitty a deal: Come with him to a cholera-infested village in China, or, get a divorce from him and see if her lover will want to get married too. Seeing as how Charlie doesn’t want to leave his own wife, Kitty has no other choice but to go with Walter where they both taste the dirt and do what they can to make time past, and maybe, just possibly even fall in love with one another. You know, like they originally thought that they did. But this time, for real.

What’s interesting about this movie, isn’t by the way it looks or sounds, it’s more about what it is. In one way, it’s a love story about a married-couple, but at the same time, it’s not a love story about a married-couple. These two may be married, but they sure as hell don’t love one another, and it was intriguing to see that play out, in a period-piece during the 20′s no less.

"Girl? Whatchu say?"

“Girl? Whatchu say?”

However, as interesting as that may have been, it didn’t really do wonders for me while I was watching it. See, even though I’m a young lad that’s chock full of hormones and energy, I truly don’t mind a slow-burner; in fact, sometimes, I more than welcome it. There’s nothing better to me than a movie in which all of the cards are laid-out on the table, shown to me in a comprehensible way, and made so that I can get a hold of everything I’m being told and just exactly what it is that I’m seeing. That’s usually what works so well about slow movies such as these, however, in order to make them fully work, there has to be something deep, hard, and meaningful burning deep down inside, and I just could not find that here.

Well, for the most part, I could at least decipher everything that was going on here, because not everything’s subtle. These two not-so lovebirds make it very clear to one another on many occasions that they do not love the other, and I have to say, everytime that happened, I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s played with the utmost sincerity, as if we’re supposed to be utterly shocked by these two characters not only fighting, but wanting nothing to do with the other. Also not to mention, the fact that it’s hard to feel any sympathy for either of these characters.

First of all, this Walter Crane guy is a bit of a geek – that’s pretty evident early on. Not only is he practicing in the medical-field, but he lets Kitty know, early on, that he’s a “bit clumsy”. Yeah, we get that. So, when they share one day together of doing Lord only knows what, he professes to her that he loves her, wants to get married, and needs an answer ASAP. Personally, I feel like maybe one or two dates is a bit too soon, but I guess if you feel it, then you feel it, and in the case of Walter Crane, it was instantly.

I guess I was supposed to feel sympathy for this nerdy guy because it’s clear that he doesn’t have a way with women (despite looking like Edward Norton whose dated gals like her and her) and maybe doesn’t have the best track-record, but it’s hard to care for him when he finds out that maybe he isn’t her type and then forces her to come on this life-changing trip of his. It’s clear he’s upset and confused, but still, come on, man, who was the one that practically threw it on her to get married. He even says at one point, “I knew why you married me in the first place”, or something along those lines. Then what the fuck!

It’s as if you brought a grizzly bear into your home and gave it honey. Then, moments later, you find out it still wants to claw the shit out of you, chomp your head off, and you still being like, “But hey! I brought you into my house and fed you!” Most bears are just wired that way, they can’t be fixed or helped in any way to think differently, so for you to bring it into your home, with your resources, and treat it your certain and expect the same in return, is just a bit dumb; bears are just wired differently. Maybe that’s a dumb metaphor, but I think its slightly understandable: It’s hard to feel bad for someone who gets a bunch of problems brought onto them, when anybody could have seen it coming from a mile away.

Now that I’m done with Crane, it’s time for Ms. Kitty who, despite being the cheater of the two, I actually felt a little bit more sympathy towards, if only because she didn’t try to be anything that she wasn’t. Sure, she was a total brat that only wanted to get out of her boring house and her annoying mom, but at least when her and Walt have their arguments, she doesn’t try to hide the fact that she was somebody else he didn’t already know about. Yes, I get that she is the one who decided to take the sanctity of marriage and shove it right down the sinkhole, but at least she wasn’t imposing upon anybody that she was anything else. If she was my wife, I’d be pretty pissed too, but that’s only because my wife would be somebody I know I’d feel safe and comfortable with loving and marrying; unlike how this Walter guy was with his wifey-poo.

God, what an idiot.

"Ah. Love that smell of cholera in the morning."

“Ah. Love that smell of cholera in the morning.”

Anyway, while neither character really put me in their sympathy-corners, I must say, the performances from Norton and Watts are, as expected, pretty good. Norton, despite his character being such a dunce, actually gives this Walt guy a real compassionate heart which, for what it’s worth, makes him seem like a genuinely nice guy who actually goes out of his own way to save these people all dying of cholera. He doesn’t have to, but he chooses to, and you can feel his compassion through Norton’s performance; it’s just such a shame that he wasn’t as compassionate or as smart when it came to choosing his women.

As for Naomi Watts, she gets to do a lot of pouting and staring, but she does very well with it. Though she’s the one character we’re supposed to clearly not like the most out of the two, Watts still makes us believe that there is some room for change in her personality and when that does happen, it seems understandable and barely ever tacked-on. It may be a bit corny in the way that it is presented to us, but that’s not any of Watts’ fault. Hell, it hardly ever is in her case.

Together, the two fix themselves together a nice chemistry that makes you feel like they truly do detest the absolute guts out of the other when they’re fighting; falling head-over-heels for one another when they are, well, you get it; and just happy to be in each other’s company. The movie never really throws any of this on us – it’s more about what these performers can do with the characters and material given to them, and you can hardly ever ask for a better pair than Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. All their character’s problems aside, they do what they can and most of the time, it’s good. Not great, but good enough to be seen.

Consensus: Though the Painted Veil includes the hard task of making its audience like, sympathize and understand its two relatively unlikable characters, it mostly gets by because Norton and Watts are so good at doing what it is they do: Act.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Shit. Did you remember to lock the side-door?"

Shit. Did you remember to lock the side-door?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Wolf Creek (2004)

This summer, kids, just stay home.

Three college graduates are finally ready to embark on their summer and all of the fun times that they could have. So, they decide that what better way to get started than to go back-packing in the mountains of Australia? Better yet, how about the infamous Wolf Creek, where the hike itself is apparently three-hours long and is practically in the middle of a desert! Yep, that sounds pretty great! And for awhile, it is – the three drink, party, kiss, sleep, camp, sit by a fire, play guitar, tell goofy stories, and look forward to what’s next lying ahead of them – however, things go a bit South once their car breaks down in the middle of this said desert. But, thankfully, there’s a local outback man by the name of Mick (John Jarratt) that assists them in their time of need. And for the longest time, that’s what it seems like is actually happening, despite the culture-clash between these young rascals and this older, stranger redneck-like man. Something weird happens though when the three wake up the next day, only to find themselves tied-up, trapped, and kidnapped by Mick, who isn’t exactly as kind and as helpful as he once seemed. Instead, he’s more of a murderer that loves himself a bit of torture. You know, for the fun of it.

Anytime a horror movie opens with “based on true events.”, you know you’re in trouble. Not because the movie is just making that up to give it some sort of significance (which it sort of is), but because you know that the real facts of whatever true story it’s talking about, will be lost in the shuffle of crazy, loose ideas that some director wants to throw onto the screen. Which is fine and all, if you’re doing a movie that isn’t based on some real, grisly killings that “allegedly” happened, despite their being little-to-no evidence found, or even witnesses, then you have to realize that your juggling fire.

Not a piece of obvious symbolism at all.

Not at all obvious symbolism.

By that, I mean that you can do what you want with a story, but once you throw that subtitle up there, you have a certain image to protect. You can get dirty and dark with the details of the story, but to mess around with it so much to the point of where it seems like a director is just using it to shock more and more people, feels wrong. And worst of all, almost reprehensible.

For instance, there’s a scene somewhere by the end that I won’t spoil too much, except only to say that it involves a knife and a spine. Maybe you’ve already heard of/seen it before, but either way, it’s a pretty graphic scene that shocked the hell out of me when I saw it originally. That’s the way most horror movies should be: Dark, disturbing, and as bloody as you want it to be, where you can get the viewer actually cringing. However, the more and more that I thought about this display of graphic violence, I began to feel like it was totally unnecessary, especially given, once again, the fact that this is “based on true events.”.

Sure, if that scene happened in a Eli Roth or Saw movie, people would have easily been going nutso for the rest of time (I guess they still are), but since this is supposed to be based on real-life, actual murders of young people, it seems gratuitous and takes on an even darker meaning than ever before. Which, I guess for a horror movie, is a good thing. But here, I didn’t see it that way. I saw a director, Greg McLean to be exact, using a “supposed” real-life tragedy to frame all of the bloody, gory images he’s had in his head for quite some time and was only waiting for that moment to shine and show everybody in the world what he has.

For the most part too, I can’t really get on McLean’s case too much, because it really does seem like he has the look of this movie down. Like with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (an obvious comparison, I know, but it’s all I got to work with right now), a lot of the action in this happens during the day, which somehow, gives it a creepier feeling. When it’s dark, you have no idea what to expect next, which is totally scary. However, with the day-time, you totally know what to expect next, and for some shocking reason, that works even more. McLean clearly has an eye for the long and moody outbacks of Australia, and paints them as how they should look: Lifeless, mean and unforgiving.

With that McLean definitely redeems himself as a horror director that knows what it is that he’s doing with the style of this movie, it’s just a shame that his material didn’t quite pop-off like it should have.

"Scope's are for wimps."

“Scope’s are for wimps.”

And while I’m talking about it, I think I should mention that while most of this movie was a little too much, it still worked when it needed to. It was a clever little game of cat-and-mouse that had some surprising twists here and there, even if the characters still made the same old, dumb mistakes like they usually do in these types of movies. For instance, at one point during the movie, a baddie is knocked-down, on the ground and clearly unconscious, so one of the victims decides to end him right then and there, you’d think, right? Well, yeah, you would definitely think it, but rather than finishing the baddie off, the person just runs away and hopes to god that the villain doesn’t wake up. Felt dumb to me and made it seem like this movie needed a story, just to justify its run-time and the ending it would eventually get to.

And when it does, needless to say, it’s what you’d expect – a whole lot more of that “true story” bullshit that doesn’t make much sense and almost makes this whole thing seem like a waste of time. It isn’t, but it sure as hell does come close.

Consensus: The fact that Wolf Creek takes most of its story away from what are supposed to be “real events”, makes all of its brutal, grisly scenes of torture and murder seem almost gratuitous, although it may still provide to be thrilling for some other viewers more-attuned to that type of stuff.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Crocodile Dundee, who?

Tourists better think twice now.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Where the Truth Lies (2005)

The partners that travel, do everything else together. Even murder groupies.

Famed comedy-duo Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) were at the peak of their fame during the tail-end of the 50′s. Morris was always the wise-cracking funny-man, that always acted-out and was goofy; whereas Vince was the reserved, kind and gentle British straight-man who was always there to apologize and make nice for Morris’ behavior. They were successful  had a lot of great shows; held a weekend-long telethon for a Polio charity that became something of a staple for television at that time; messed around with plenty of women; made a chunk of money; and seemed as if they could never, ever stop being rich, famous and powerful. However, one day, that did in fact happen when a dead body was discovered in one of their hotel bathtubs. Though both claimed to have no idea who the body was and how it even got there, it didn’t matter, the rest of the world already saw them as criminals, therefore, they were. Their fame died-down, they broke-up, and less than twenty years later, they’re reliving it all over again when journalist-turned-author, as well as Morris-Collins enthusiast, Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman), comes into these guys’ lives, trying to get to the bottom of the story, but also getting mixed-up in a whole lot more than just the narrative of that night in question.

Wow!

Woah!

Back in the day, when this movie was first released, their was a lot of talk surrounding this movie and the fact in which it was rated NC-17 after the MPAA didn’t like what they saw. Writer/director Atom Egoyan, as predicted, was upset with this, so, as an act of rebellion and to also make a dignified-point, he released it without a rating at all. The scene called into question was a graphic sex scene in which Bacon’s character was indeed making some sweet lovin’ to a very-naked woman.

That doesn’t sound like much of anything different from what we usually see in movies nowadays, right? Well, here was the difference: Firth’s character comes up from behind during the scene and therefore, engages in a little bit of a threesome, although it doesn’t end like so. It’s a pretty quick scene, and given the run-time and plot itself, seems rather minor, but apparently, the MPAA didn’t like the homosexual ideas being tossed-around, therefore, they slapped it with an NC-17 rating. A rather unfair one, if you ask me, but then again, when was the last time the MPAA actually gave a movie a harsh rating and it made sense.

Okay, sure, Shame needed to be more than just NC-17, but that’s not the point!

Anyway, the reason why I highlight this aspect surrounding the film, than anything else, is because there really isn’t much else to talk about. There’s plenty more sex where that came from (even one including two women going at it), but that’s Egoyan really seems to color this film with to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack of spicy, saucy, neo-noir thrillers. If there wasn’t all that many sexual-escapades shown to us in the most straight-forward manner, then what we’d have would be just another, smoky, dark, and mean tale of celebrities doing bad things, ad there never being a clear answer as to what exactly happened when the lights went down, and who exactly was responsible.

As I’ve said before, that’s nothing new in the genre of thrillers, or even mystery-tales, and that’s why I think Egoyan threw in so much sex, drugs, nudity, lobsters, champagne, twists, turns and curve-balls (most of which, don’t even work); he doesn’t have much to work with, so he hides behind a coating-of-paint to give us the impression that we’re working with something else on a higher-level. Better yet, a different level, and it just doesn’t come off that way. Instead, it seems like a regular thriller, with too many twists by the end. Which is a bit of a disappointment, considering that the first act of this movie is actually pretty good and gives you an idea of what to expect of the rest of the movie.

It takes place both during and around 1957 and 1972, giving us the idea that this is going to be a classic-tale of mystery, intrigue, and what classified a person as a “celebrity” back in those days. Once again, it isn’t uncharted-territory, but Egoyan seems very interested in the look and feel of this movie, and for the longest time, I took the bait and followed along with him. He isn’t necessarily “basing” this story off of anybody in particular, but just any celebrity in general that may have been caught with a scandal that the mainstream media may, or may not have, heard about. Everything looks colorful, sensual, misty and as if all of the budget went into the production-design, without there ever really being a false-note to be heard or seen.

Then, sadly, it all goes downhill, especially during the 1972 story-angle that’s forced down our throats just about every ten or so minutes. The first problem with this angle is that the turns and twists continue to get thrown at us, and almost none of them make sense. They aren’t necessarily confusing that when we’re first told the explanation for something happening, we automatically scratch our heads; it’s more like once the twists actually get explained to us, then everything gets a whole lot more foggy. They also never seem to build to anything except that “celebrities lie”.

No shit! Tell me more!

WOW!

WOAH!

Another problem with this angle is that Alison Lohman is pretty bad in this movie. Usually, I think Lohman’s a sweet, heartfelt presence to have in a movie, but here, she’s given something she is not at all capable of being: Sexy. Not saying Lohman isn’t attractive (she totally is, I’d take her home in a heartbeat, heck maybe even bring up the topic of marriage), but what she has to do here is act, look, and sound like she’s a raspy, old school dame that would exist in those noirs released during the 30′s-to-the-50′s, but she’s just too small and innocent. In a way, it’s almost like she’s just a little girl thrown into this cold, dark and menacing world where grown-ups play and have no time for silly, little willy nillies like her. There are times when Lohman is okay, but her unenthusiastic-narration isn’t doing much to help her, and neither is the fact that she’s placed against two class-acts like Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth.

As usual, Bacon is great here as Lanny Morris, the wild, crazy and typical prankster in front of the camera, but more quiet and calm behind it. Bacon is great at being a lovable goofball, which is why it’s so effective once he has to turn the other cheek, be a bit of a dick and not really say much at all. It’s something we’ve seen Bacon do before and work really well with, and that’s no different here. As for Firth, he too is great at doing what he does best: Show a dark side to his collective and cool manners. Together, the two are great and seem like they could have really been a wonderful comedy-act to see in real life. In fact, if this movie really wanted to go for the gut, they could have just made it something of a biopic about these two talented guys whom worked together, traveled together, slept together, partied together and even committed crimes together, and it would have been such a better movie. However, what we have here is just a murder-mystery with a lame detective and a sex scene that hints at something more extreme, yet never materializes to much.

Like sex with me, I presume. Right, ladies? Or wait! No, that’s not right, ladies! Not at all!

Consensus: A little sexy, a little dark, a little mysterious, and a little entertaining for the first hour, Where the Truth Lies works well setting-up its story, which is why it’s such a shame once it all goes down the tubes during its last-half when unbelievable plot twists start showing up like clockwork.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh. Boo!

Oh. Boo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider, ComingSoon.net

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Like they say, “Once you go black, you never go back.”

When we last left Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), things seemed to be going relatively fine. Not only did he save the day, once again, but he got the girl of his dreams, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), patched things up with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and finally told his best-friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) about the fact that he’s not only Spider-Man, but that his father tried to kill him. Sure, the relationship between those two may be strained and even have Harry himself go a bit coo-coo with vengeance, but for the most part, Pete’s life is happy, joyful and one that makes him happy to wake up in the day. However, that all changes one day when he finds out that his Uncle Ben’s killer, believe it or not, is still out there, and he’s going by the name of the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). To make matters even worse, Peter’s finding it hard to keep things going steady at work, and is finding some stiff competition in the newsroom with aspiring, fellow photo-journalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Also, remember the girl of his dreams that he thought he won, hook, line and sinker last time? Well, she’s starting to get second-thoughts about dating a superhero. Oh, and as if that wasn’t all bad enough for Spidey, for some reason, there’s this black, venomous acid following him around and latching onto his suit, changing up his hair-do, and making him act in a totally different way, that may make him feel great and all, but pushes those whom are close to him, further and further away.

Okay, so yeah, that’s a long premise. But it needed to be because let’s face it: This movie is a total, complete, over-stuffed mess. I knew that the second I walked out of the theater back in the early days of summer ’07, and I knew that less than three or four days ago when I found enough guts to go through with it and actually give this movie another try. Shame on me, but you know what? I gotta do it for all of you.

"Kame me, kame me...huh?"

“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

But, to be honest, even though I’m getting off of on the wrong foot and making it seem like I absolutely loathe the heck out of this movie, I can’t say that I really do. Because somehow, I was able to find little, itty, bitty, pleasures here and there throughout the movie. Now, whether or not these pleasures were indeed intended to be “pleasureful” is totally up to Sam Raimi and the creative-powers that be whom got behind this, but the fact remains: Spider-Man 3 isn’t all that terrible. It’s not good, that’s for certain, but it’s not shitty either.

Confused by what I’m trying to say? Don’t worry, I am too. Here, let me try to explain:

What I like to think of this movie as being is one, big, nearly-two-and-a-half-hour long “fuck you” from Sam Raimi. No, not a “fuck you” to us, the dedicated, lovely audience that spent all of our minimum-wages on seeing his past couple of Spider-Man movies, but more as a “fuck you” to those who tried to get in the way of his creative-vision way too many times before. Maybe I’m just making this all up in my head to make myself feel better, but there’s no way in hell that Sam Raimi, the creator of some of the greatest, most iconic cult films of all time, thought that this was a good idea. Or hell, even this! And oh god no, dare I even talk about this travesty!

No, no, no! I refuse to believe that the some mastermind behind Ash would ever stoop this low and give us something as painstaking as most of this movie can be! I don’t care what anybody says, I will stand by my grave if I have to! They always say that “money can’t buy happiness”, well, nor do I think that it can buy creative consciences either. It’s clear to me that Sam Raimi doesn’t know what to do with each and everyone of these subplots, so instead, he just crams them altogether in a way that’s incoherent, but wholly uneven. One second, you’ll be getting something out of a comedy-sketch in which Peter Parker is walking down the street, dancing, walking all fly, acting cool and hitting on the ladies, while some funky bass-action plays in the background; and then, all of a sudden, the next second, you’ll get a scene or two in which the Sandman talks about his dying-kid and how he does all of this crime and whatnot for her.

One second, it’s a laugh-out-lough, camp-fest; the next second, it’s a total downer that will make you want to say “party’s over”. I’m not saying that certain movies can’t be both frothy and dramatic at the same time, there’s just a specific-balance that these movies are capable of handling and maintaining, and it’s clear early on that Raimi is not able to do that. Whether or not this was him just having an off-day and deciding to hell with it all, is sort of beyond me, but there’s just so much going wrong here, that it’s almost too hard to think of it as anything else other than a ruse played on all of us, as well as the numerous Hollywood producers backing this thing.

Which is a total shame, because with all of the material and promise Raimi had at his disposal here, he could have done some wonders – given that he had a three-hour run-time and at least took away a villain or two. But what happens here is that we get just about three villains, four-to-five conflicts for Spidey (not including his own conflict with himself), three-to-four extraneous subplots that literally add nothing to the story, and a two-hour-and-twenty-minute run-time that goes by quick, but only because the movie is never comfortable enough focusing on one thing. Raimi always has to be moving from one end of the story, to another, which makes a lot of sense since he clearly has a lot on his plate to chew on, but made it seem like it didn’t really know what to do or say with its plot, or any of its characters. So instead, it just fell back on the same old, high-flying, CGI-galore action that was always there to make things better for these movies in the past.

Yup, they're totally boned from here-on-out.

Yup, they’re totally boned from here-on-out.

However, this time around, everything else is so poorly-developed, that it just feels like a cheat to get our minds out of everything else that’s going on so wrong with this movie – especially with the characters. And hell, if there’s anything about this movie that fuels me even more is how they wasted the whole potential that Eddie Brock/Venom had as a villain. Don’t get me wrong, I think Topher Grace is a fine actor that’s been trying his hardest since day one to get out of that Eric Forman-shell that’s been carved for him since, well, yeah, day one, but he’s not right for this role. I get what Raimi was trying to do with the casting of him – make him something of an over-the-top, immoral, sneaky and sly son-of-a-bitch – which yes, does work when he’s being Eddie Brock, the photojournalist for the Daily Bugle, but when he has to transform to Venom with about 15 minutes left of the movie, it feels like an after-thought. Almost as if the producers wanted Raimi to throw him in there for good measure, only to realize that the rest of the movie was stacked with so much to begin with.

And since I’m on the subject of new faces to this franchise, I have to say that I feel very bad for Thomas Haden Church here, because the dude is a great talent who just about makes everything better the minute he shows up in it. The problem with him here, as the Sandman, is that he’s given just about nothing to do. We get enough back-story to his character so that we can sort of see where he’s coming from, but it gets so convoluted once they start talking about how he apparently killed Uncle Ben in the past, that I just wanted them to stop with it all and move on. Give me the action, give me more scenes of Thomas Haden Church actually talking and showing some personality, and give me more of the core that really makes these movies tick in the first place: Pete and M.J.

It doesn’t matter what you’re own, personal opinions may be on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as working-professionals, but it should be noted that without them and their chemistry (or in some cases, lack thereof), this franchise would have fallen flat on its face as soon as it hit theaters. There would have been no “superhero movie boom”; no Spider-Man 2; no Amazing Spider-Man; no Amazing Spider-Man 2; nobody remembering who the hell James Franco was; and sure as hell no Spider-Man 3. Maybe we could have lived peacefully with that last aspect being gone and lost forever, but you get the picture – M.J. and P.P. gave these movies an extra oomph of heart and emotion that so many superhero movies try to recreate nowadays, but just can’t seem to get down perfectly.

However, here, the whole idea is that M.J. and Pete stop loving one another and grow apart, which kind of sucks to see since we’ve invested so much of our time in them, but by the same token, needs to happen in order for us to make them just a tad bit believable in terms of character-development and rounding the two out as individual beings, rather than just a couple. If this was done right, it would have been phenomenal to see, in a big-budget, superhero movie no less, but the movie really stumbles when it’s paying dear attention to this subplot. Pete eventually becomes a bit of a dick because of this venomous, gooey thing that keeps on attaching to his suit and making him act differently; and M.J. is coming at a bit of an existential crisis where she wants the focus to be constantly on her, her failing-career as a Broadway actress, and the fact that she’s been so loyal and dedicated to Pete, despite going around and starting to sleep with Harry, once again.

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don't just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don’t just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Tobey Maguire, god bless him, tries his heart out but once Peter Parker gets that new, emo hairdo, it’s all downhill for him from there; Dunst looks bad because Mary Jane is so unlikable and unsympathetic in her whiniest performance yet; and James Franco, believe it if you will, probably has the best performance out of everyone here, just by getting a chance to live a little and show some of that Daniel Desario charm that was so absent from the two other movies. Which is strange considering that right as soon as this movie came out, hit theaters, broke a bunch of box-office records and basically ended the franchise that came to be known as “Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man“, Franco started popping-up in some interesting movies like Milk, Pineapple Express and In the Valley of Elah that not only stretched him a bit as an actor, but also showed the world that he wasn’t going to be doomed by his infamous past as “Harry Osborne, snobby, prick-ish son of a crazy billionaire”.

So yes, if there is anything, heck, anything at all good that you can take away from Spider-Man 3, it’s that it allowed James Franco to break-out from his cage and start trying his hand at some weird, quite frankly, goofy shit. But hey, we’re better as a society for it. Because seriously, when was the last time you actually got amped-up for something either Kirsten Dunst or Tobey Maguire were doing?

I rest my case.

Consensus: Long, overstuffed, uneventful, confusing, incoherent, and definitely disappointing, Spider-Man 3 may go down in the history books as one of the weakest superhero movies made in the past decade or so, but it isn’t without its small pleasures found along the way, if only for its most dedicated, easy, and calm viewers.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I tan."

“Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I’m trying to get that summer glow.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Rio 2 (2014)

You’re the last of your species! Now, stay indoors and shut up!

Now that both Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) have fallen-in love and even started their own family, it’s about time the cracks within the relationship show. Jewel is still that fun, adventurous-type, like she believes every blue macaw bird should; whereas Blu is still sort of like a human, equipped with making pancakes, using a GPS to navigate from place-to-place and even allowing his kids to use technology. Adding more tension is when they both find out about another breed of blue macaw’s that are apparently somewhere out there in the middle of the Amazon. Seeing as this may be their time to find others just like them and hopefully get some excitement in their lives, Blu and Jewel, along with their three children, decide to take a trip out to there, where they stumble upon all sorts of birds that are just like them. Heck, one of them even just so happens to be Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia), whom she thought was long gone by now. So yeah, it’s a nice place where all blue macaws live in perfect harmony with one another, except for when a certain entrepreneur decides that it’s time to start making more paper, and cutting down all of the trees in the Amazon, threatening everything that these birds have made their sanctuary.

As most of you may, or may not have seen, I was actually very surprised by the original Rio. Not only was it a fun movie that made me sort of feel like a kid again, but it didn’t really need to do much to surprise or even shock me. It was just exactly what it was – an animated movie made for the whole family. Sometimes, those types of movies can be utterly cheesy and only work for those little ones who don’t know any better, but other times, they can actually work for everyone who decides to take some time out of their day and give it a try. That’s what the first Rio was. Its sequel though?

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn't want you.

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn’t want you.

Meh. Not so much.

Actually, not at all.

See, with the case of Rio 2, as is the case with any major-motion sequel, everything that worked so well in the first movie, is now re-amped with more of everything. Here, we get more vibrant colors popping out at us; more subplots that don’t need to inserted into here at all; more characters added in; and just more, more, more! And usually this is done to really keep us interested in what is going, while to simultaneously keep track of which characters, are doing what things, for what reasons, but here, you almost never get the sense that anything is happening.

While I may have written the plot-synopsis up top as being a simple story of Blu and Jewel going on an adventure to the inner-levels of the Amazon for a happenin’, joyous good time, there’s actually plenty, PLENTY more where that came from. Remember those birds that were voiced by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx that were always singing, being hip and saying sassy stuff? Well, yeah, they’re here again, and apparently, they’re looking for cast members for their latest production they’re going to put on for Carnivale. That’s all fine and dandy. Not like it’s going to make, or break the movie. In fact, you need a subplot like this to bring some much-needed comedic-relief to this flick.

However, like I alluded to before, there’s plenty more where that came from.

Blu’s human-owner, voiced by Leslie Mann, is with her scientist hubby, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, and they are running all throughout the Amazon as well; Jemaine Clement’s villainous-character is back around and looking for vengeance for what Blu did to him all those years ago, but this time, has an admirer constantly behind him; Jewel runs into an old friend of hers that may, or may not actually be interested in her; and oh yeah, before I forget to mention it, there’s also sort of a subplot about one of Blu’s daughters wanting to break out her shell and get involved with everything, without getting too involved to where it isn’t deemed “cool” anymore.

So yeah, as you can tell just by reading that, all of those subplots are a bit too much for any film, let alone a kids movie that runs about an-hour-and-a-half, give or take. It’s too much for any kid to keep track of, but better yet, it’s too much for a movie that wants to be so playful and simple. It just takes all of the fun out of what could have been something exactly like the first, except maybe a bit better. That doesn’t happen though, and while it may not all be terrible (the song-and-dance-numbers are just about the only elements working for this movie), it still made me want to watch the first one all over again, just to get the memory of this dull movie out of my mind.

"Aw hay, hay, hay!"

“Aw hay, hay, hay!”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that god-awful, but you get the point. Could have been a good, escapist time if it stuck to its cards, but it didn’t. So therefore, it was just “meh”.

Meh, meh, meh.

As for the voice-cast that’s all returning, nobody is really outstanding; then again, nobody else is really all that bad either. They are just seemingly doing what they did in the first movie, and that’s it. The only one who is still slightly amusing to listen to is Clement’s Nigel, who is still funny when he’s vindictive and angry, but also has plenty of moments where we see his character as being more than just a “villain”. It was interesting to see that happen in a movie that seemed to be so distracted by everything else going on, that they’d actually allow for some neat character-development to actually happen. See, it’s just the little things that make a movie slightly better than what they should be. If only that transitioned well into the rest of the movie, then I would probably be singing a different tune. Not that I can remember any of the songs from this movie in the first case.

Consensus: With too much going in every spectrum of it, Rio 2 ends up being a jumble of many different strands of story, yet, barely any of them ever excite or intrigue one bit.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

That’s what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Puncture (2011)

Next time I go for my measles, I’m examining the hell out of that needle.

Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a young, hotshot Houston lawyer that also has a bit of drug problem. Actually, correction, he has way more than just “a bit” of a drug problem; it’s actually pretty hefty. However, he gets by on his smarts that earns him enough money to buy as many drugs and booze as he wants, while also still having enough left over to get himself a place at a local motel or something of that nature. His best-buddy Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen) is more of a straight-laced lawyer that usually helps him get all of the cases he can find, no matter how unusual or simple they be. However, one day, they sort of walk into one they weren’t expecting, and yet, aren’t too sure if they even want to attack in the first. What their case basically is, is this woman named Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a local ER nurse, gets pricked by a contaminated needle without ever knowing it, until she finds out it carries a major sickness. As both Weiss and Danziger dig deeper into the case, a health care and pharmaceutical conspiracy teeters on exposure and heavyweight attorneys move in on the defense, making them both unsure as to whether or not they actually want to go ahead on this case, or just leave it alone before any of them get hurt.

My mind was totally blown once the credits showed up and told us that this was all one true story that actually occurred way back back in the late-90′s. I mean obviously, dirty needles are not something people want around as it causes some of the worst diseases of all, but I never knew such a case was taken so far to get them away. It actually makes for a very interesting documentary that I’d watch on the History Channel, rather than one, long re-enactment, with some pretty faces.

Sorry Cap, you don’t always shine so well.

Looks like somebody accidentally found Cap at the tail-end of the 80's, man. Wait til Nevermind hits.

Looks like somebody accidentally found Cap at the tail-end of the 80′s, man. Wait til Nevermind hits.

Co-directors Adam and Mark Kassen (yup, they’re related) have clearly studied this story, from head-to-toe as they get just about every detail right. You can tell that it interests them by how much effort they are putting into making this unknown story, not just known to us regular, everyday-folk, but to also make it matter. In here, you have your typical Cold Case drama where certain pieces of evidence are gathered, deals are made and some corrupt politicians shed their true-skin, but it never feels like it’s always going to go somewhere you’ve seen a hundred, million times before. You get a sense that the Kassen’s care so much about this, and better yet, want you to care as well.

Problem is, the effort doesn’t fully-work.

What bothered me most about this flick is that it doesn’t really seem to know where it wants to go with itself. At first, it seems like they’re really going to dive right into the whole politics of this one case and reveal some a-holes to the public, that need to especially be seen. But then, it sort of goes the conventional-route and starts to talk about Weiss’ drug addiction; which is pretty evident that it exists throughout the whole movie, yet, never really brought up until half-way through and then becomes all about just that. Watching a person be addicted to drugs and fuck something up as big as this case that Weiss has here should be very nerve-racking and emotional to have to sit-through, but there’s barely any tension whatsoever. Most of that has to do with the fact that we never quite get straight-focus of who this story is really supposed to be all about.

Also, I couldn’t help but feel like the Kassen’s were just constantly shoving everything they had to say about the corruption and conspiracy that came along with the case, straight down our throats until we eventually just gave in and got right onto Wikipedia right away. Honestly, I would have felt like that if they just stopped preaching for a little bit and gave me some room to breathe and congest everything in. But nope, they just kept on going, and going, and going, until I didn’t know if they could go on anymore.

But you know what? They did.

Look out behind you, Johnny Storm! Oh, don't worry, Tony Stark will save you or something, right? Wrong superheros? Aw, screw you! Same people!

Look out behind you, Johnny Storm! Oh, don’t worry, Tony Stark will save you or something, right? Wrong superheros? Aw, screw you! Same people!

And you know who feels the side-effects of that the most? Chris Evans, that’s who!

Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is an absolute shame considering Chris Evans is probably the only aspect in this movie worth seeing. Reason why Evans is so good here is that he’s able to make us sympathize with somebody as distasteful and unreliable as Mike Weiss, yet, by the same token, make us hate his guts and wish he would just get his whole act together when he clearly needs to start doing so. Evans has always been a good actor in the stuff he’s shown-up in, but now that I think he’s starting to wind his time down as Steve Rodgers, and quite possibly dive into some far-more different directions for his career, I think we’re going to be able to see him really take advantage of that lovable screen-presence he’s always had on-display in many movies. The only problem is that their either barely-seen flicks like this, or Sunshine, or even the Iceman to a certain extent; or pieces of junk that just about everybody and your 13-year-old son saw, like Not Another Teen Movie, or What’s Your Number? or both of the Fantastic Four flicks.

And then of course, there’s some that sort of fails in both categories, like the Perfect Score or London. But I guess those two being forgotten about and barely-even seen is probably a good thing.

Not just for Evans, but all of us as a society.

Consensus: Anytime Chris Evans shows-up to be cool, charming, make us laugh and make us expect the unexpected from his character, Puncture gets a whole lot better. But, as predicted, without him, the rest of the movie sort of falls flat.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess ladies can rejoice that he's in a wife-beater. Even if he is supposed to be a drug-addled, two-bit loser. But sure, that's hot.

I guess ladies can rejoice that he’s in a wife-beater. Even if he is supposed to be a drug-addled, two-bit loser. But sure, that’s totally “hot”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Hail Cesar!

César Chávez (Michael Peña) was a man that believed in sticking up for himself and his people, even if it didn’t mean having to take matters into your own hands. César had a problem with the way Mexican farm-workers were being treated; they made very little, worked for very long and if they decided not to work any longer, then they would be forced to go back to their native country. So yeah, of course César saw this as “wrong”, which is why he decides not to stand for it any longer and get together as many of people he possibly can on his side, to face-off against the powers that be – aka, the head of these major companies making these workers work so hard, long and without much of a reward to show for it. Throughout César’s mission, he goes through his usual ups, his downs and even finds himself questioning whether or not there’s any reason to fight for a cause/group of people, that are clearly out-matched, out-numbered, and out-of-their-element when it comes to how the government does things and if they do so in a moral way, or let the sound of money and pride get in the way of doing what is right.

Well, there you have it, folks. It needed to happen sooner or later, but we have finally gotten the César Chávez biopic. Is it the one we deserve? Eh, not really, but I guess if there is one thing that this movie gets right, it’s that it informs those of us out there as to why this man mattered, why his cause was just and how much his impact has been felt on the world today. With that aspect of the film taken in and thought about, then yeah, director Diego Luna (yes, the actor) gets the job done. No questions asked.

"Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?"

“Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?”

However, when it comes down to giving us a heartfelt, emotional and complex story about one man’s struggle to fight for what he believes in, as well as staying true to himself, his values and those who are close to him? Eh, I wouldn’t say so.

See, where I think Luna runs into the problem with this movie is that he clearly loves and has so much respect for César Chávez in the first place, that you never get an sense that we’re watching a movie that’s trying to get us to know exactly who this man. Much rather, we get the story about what this man did, those he cared for and why he believed in sticking up for his people. That’s all we really get and even though I wasn’t expecting Diego Luna to throw out some random bits or pieces of info that would have César Chávez look as if he was a downright, despicable human being, I still would have liked to seen a little more detail into the mistakes he made along the way.

Sure, we get to see that he runs into conflicts with his wife, but only because she feels as if she’s being tied-down too much and not given the time to stretch her own wings and fly around for a bit. And sure, we get to see him have problems with other members of the group, but only because where as he wants to rebel in a calm, sophisticated, no-violence way, they all want to take out their dukes and start rumbling a bit. Oh, and sure, we see how much the law-enforcement acted so wrongly against him, as well as the rest of the group, but that’s only because their a bunch of racist, bigoted Southern assholes that have nothing else better to do with their time, money or house-maids, then just take out their shotguns and wailing it around some.

You get the point now? It isn’t that Luna paints César Chávez as the most perfect person on the face of the planet, but it doesn’t really do much to show him at his faults either. Apparently he wasn’t that great of a father to his son either, which comes and goes as it pleases and only seems desperately thrown in there to create some more conflict and family-drama, when in reality, we don’t really need anymore of it at all. All we really need is an honest story about a man we should know a whole lot more about coming out of, than going into, but somehow, it ended up just being the same. Even for someone like me, who only knows the man of César Chávez, his influence and his impact, through the beautiful workings of WikiPedia.

Ah, what a wonderful and nifty tool it is to have the internet exist in today’s day and age. How wonderful indeed.

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

If there’s anything really worth seeing this movie for, it’s mainly for the fact that Luna makes a smart choice in giving Michael Peña a rare chance at a lead role for once and a lifetime, and the guy does an okay job with it. I can’t really say that it’s anything spectacular or even better than what we’ve seen him do in some smaller, supporting roles, but with what material he’s given, which is rather thin, Peña delivers. Same goes for America Ferrera who fits-in perfectly as Chávez’s wife, even though she’s given the conventional-role of “the house-mother that sits at home all day, does nothing and just wants to be apart of something fun and exciting”. It’s a role we’ve all seen written a million times before, and somehow, Ferrera makes it a bit more watchable and even creates a realistic-piece of chemistry between her and Peña.

The supporting cast has a whole bunch of familiar-faces, which are great to see and all, but none of them really stand-out among the rest; which, once again, may have more to do with the script, rather than their own acting-abilities. Rosario Dawson shows up every once and a blue moon during this as one of Chávez’s most-trusted supporters; Wes Bentley plays a free-lovin’, hippie lawyer-brah that backs up Chávez when he needs all the help he can get; and out of everybody here, the one who made the biggest impression on me was John Malkovich as one of the owners of these major-companies that Chávez and his people are speaking-out against. Malkovich is clearly soaking up the sun as, who is presumed to be, the baddie, but he actually gives a nice moment of humanism where we see him talk about his days of growing up as a Scandinavian immigrant in America, and how he had to work his way up the ladder to become the man who he is today. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a total and complete, money-grubbing prick that doesn’t give two hoots about his workers, their families, or their livelihoods, but it definitely does throw us a curve-ball in terms of the way we view this character. Love it when that happens in any movie, and I wish there was more of that in here.

Consensus: Though it boasts a few fine performances worth seeing, Cesar Chavez feels more like a tribute to the man, rather than an actual narrative, where we get to see him for all that he was, good qualities, as well as bad ones, alike.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Still pissed somebody hasn't filled his glass back-up yet.

Still pissed somebody hasn’t filled his glass back up yet.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Divergent (2014)

Conform, OR DIE! It’s like high school all over again!

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice (Shaliene Woodley) is like any other normal teen living in Chicago, except that she isn’t. See, what separates Beatrice from any other American teenager (see what I did there?), is that the world she lives in is a bit different. This is Chicago, after it’s been destroyed by all sorts of war, havoc and absolute mayhem where, to ensure safety among the common-people, society is broken-up into “factions”. The factions are meant to bring people with similar interests together, judged solely by their personalities or what they desire to be. In other words, they serve as a purpose to give most of these people reasons to live on and conform to certain ideals that are put down onto them. Beatrice is, at first, apart of the Abnegation team, where she grows her own food and clothes, and is basically a hippie. However, she has this weird ability where she is able to think for herself and question authority – something that the rest of society doesn’t accept, nor do they ever want polluting their minds. Therefore, rather than causing trouble, Beatrice joins up with the Dauntless team, where everybody goes to the gym, beats the shit out of one another, and parkours from one area, to the next. It’s a big step for Beatrice, however, it’s one that she tries her hardest to succeed at, which is mostly thanks to her non-stop training, as well as the fact that one of her teachers (Theo James) takes a liking to her and, in ways, may be exactly like her: A free-thinker that doesn’t listen to what everybody around them tells them. Aka, a “divergent”.

Dun dun dun!

Sorry that premise took so damn long to write, but I think in order to understand what all of this hullabaloo means, I have to go into some heavy-detail about the setting. Well, actually, I could have probably made it easier on both of us and just said it is something of a “Communist government, mixed with a lot more funky dress-styles”, but I don’t think that would have gotten the point across well enough. Just know that this is an adaptation of a young adult novel, that’s set in the post-apocalyptic future, features a female lead, has a lot of violence, political-themes and a romance at the center.

"Cut me out of Amazing Spider-Man 2, see what happens!"

“Cut me out of Amazing Spider-Man 2, see what happens!”

Oh, and by the way, it’s not the Hunger Games.

However, you probably wouldn’t really be able to tell the two apart, since it’s so damn clear that this is what this movie is being made-out to be. Which, granted, isn’t such a bad thing, just as long as the material can hold itself up. I mean, hell, even the Hunger Games, before it was actually considered “respectable” amongst humans that weren’t teenage girls of gay men, was being advertised and hyped-up as “the next Twilight“. Thankfully, that never turned out to be wholly true, but so be it; this is exactly where most major, motion-picture studios are going to be putting their money into and we all might as well accept it now, or suffer long, excruciating deaths from fan-girl mania.

But anyway, I’m just talking too much out of my rump. With this movie, Divergent, there’s nothing really new we haven’t ever seen done before, or hell, even heard discussed. Sure, the idea of everybody having to conform to a certain group, in order to feel socially-accepted or be left homeless, or even worse, dead is a neat one, but it feels like a retread of what most young adult flicks have been trying to do as of late. They continue to try harder and harder to discuss politics in an underlining way, but instead, come off more like their preaching and obvious, rather than actually being sly about it.

Though, what separates this flick from most of the other YA adaptations out there, is that director Neil Burger actually feels dedicated to this material, and isn’t too afraid of getting deep down and dirty with the places this story ends up in. First of all, it’s a pretty violent movie. Many young boys and girls are seen to be either shooting each other with fake, but realistic-feeling guns; throwing knives at one another; having sparring-matches where the loser is decided by whomever passes-out first; and be forced to take a test where they have to figure themselves out cruel, disturbing nightmares of sorts. In ways, it’s actually a bit more violent than anything either Peeta or Katniss have ever done, yet, it still feels like it’s not really doing anything. It’s just being harsh and putting its audience in an awkward situation where they have to watch a guy beat the crap out of a girl, all in order to “fit in” among a group of other fellow “He-Men Woman-Beaters”.

Burger, despite the fact that the material itself is a bit too jarring for even its target-audience, still at least puts enough effort into this where the action is suitable, yet, you will still be longing for more. Mostly though, that’s exactly where the cast comes into play, because everybody here, isn’t just talented, but more than capable of handling this material. It’s only really a matter of whether or not Burger gives them much to work with in the first place; and sadly, he does not.

The only two in this cast that Burger seems to utilize the most, and for all of the right reasons, are both Shaliene Woodley and Theo James as our new, “Edward and Bella”, or, for more of those tougher-fans out there, “Gale and Katniss”. Regardless of this obvious, yet very true, comparisons, James and Woodley are great together, all because you can feel the sexual-tension between them just getting more and more rich over time – as it should. Alone, they’re just fine: Woodley really is continue to grow into one of finer, more interesting young actresses of today; whereas James is a total hunk that will have the ladies swooning, even before he takes off his shirt. However, when they are together, whether they’re arguing over rules and regulations of how to become apart of the Dauntless, or just making small, somewhat flirty, talk, they’re constantly making this flick better and a whole lot more believable. In fact, I’d wager to say that the movie is worth just seeing for them, and them alone, as the attention to their characters and their relationship in the first-half, is what makes it so watchable in the first place.

But, as expected, things start to go off-the-rails by the end, as it becomes more and more clear that this story is dealing with a “higher-power”, as well as more of an ensemble that’s absolutely wasted. Also, not to mention the fact that the movie is close to being about two-and-a-half-hours long, which is long for any movie, especially a YA adaptation. Hell, it even makes Need For Speed feel like a Saturday morning cartoon!

He's so hot, and he acts like he doesn't know it. By doing so, he only makes himself even hotter. Gosh damn him!

He’s so hot, and he acts like he doesn’t know it. By doing so, he only makes himself even hotter. Gosh damn him!

Anyway, what goes so wrong with this story is that it begins to just get more and more serious, and therefore, getting way too over-blown to where you don’t really if they even plan on making sequels to this and want to cram everything in, or, if this is really how jammed-up the actual story is with all of its ideas. Either way, it feels like a little too much for the starter-up of a franchise and even worse, none of it really feels believable or exciting. It’s all pretty boring, if only because we’ve seen it done a million times before and, in most ways, better, too. They definitely leave a lot left open for a sequel, or hell, maybe even two, but most of the ideas here could have easily been placed into them, for the betterment of its high-strung, core audience.

Like I was saying earlier though, about the cast: It isn’t just Woodley and James that this movie has packed-in, there’s a pretty solid ensemble that I feel like any director, with any material other than this, would have utilized so perfectly. However, here, they all just feel like a good waste of talent, time and money (although I’m definitely sure most of these stars got a pretty nice beach house out of the ordeal).

After the Spectacular Now, it’s weird seeing Miles Teller and Woodley in a scene together where they aren’t making love or flirting, but such is the case here where Teller plays a huge dick that is constantly antagonizing everyone around him, especially Beatrice; Maggie Q seems like she’ll be the only voice-of-reason in this new world, as the first gal who realizes Beatrice hidden talents, but is only around for a few scenes where she gives people tattoos and doesn’t kick anybody’s asses (which, if you’ve seen a single episode of Nikita, you’ll know is a huge shame); Jai Courtney plays another muscle-bound a-hole that doesn’t take no wussies around his part of town; Mekhi Phifer is barely ever around, despite his character being the leader of the Dauntless’; Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn and Ray Stevenson made me happy to see them show-up in something for a change, even if they were given barely anything to do; and probably the biggest sin this movie achieves is that it wastes Kate Winslet, giving her the “one-note baddie role”, where all she does is act mischievous and order mass-wide genocides. And why is that, may you ask? Well, it’s because she’s supposed to be a bitch. Or something like that.

Who knows?!?! Who cares?!?! Right!??!

Consensus: The post-apocalyptic future laid-out for us is a bit more grim than what we’re used to seeing in YA novel adaptations, but aside from a sparkling chemistry between Woodley and James, nothing in Divergent really stands-out to separate itself from the rest of the same types of movies that have been released in the past decade or so.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Well, I hate to say this, but if these were my parents, I may have done it sooner.

Well, I hate to say this, but if these were my parents, I may have done it sooner. But, then again, that’s just me.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,435 other followers