Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: 6-6.5/10

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Old Hollywood was so much more interesting.

Being the known and so-called “fixer” for Capitol Pictures during the 50’s, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has got a lot on his plate. One concerns a disgruntled director (Ralph Fiennes), who can’t seem to get his actor to deliver the right lines. Another involves a singing cowboy known as Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), who wants to be a bigger star and may also need a date for the premiere of his new flick. Then, there’s rising star DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who suddenly becomes pregnant before production and is in need of someone to take care of her. And then, last but not least, there’s the issue of superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), someone who has gone mysteriously missing, while his latest film, Hail, Caesar!, is in the last stages of production. Reasons surrounding the why, or better yet, the who, of the capturing of Baird isn’t answered, but Mannix will not stop until he finds Whitlock and everything goes back to normal. However, there’s mounting pressure from all sides, especially when twin gossip reporters, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), come snooping around, wanting to know what the latest scoop is.

Nothing like a 50's-era 'stache.

Nothing like a 50’s-era ‘stache.

It’s nice to know that talented writers and directors like the Coen brothers are still trusted enough in Hollywood, to be allowed to do whatever it is that they want, with whomever they want, and however they want to. That’s why a movie like Hail, Caesar!, a polished, lovely-looking throwback and tribute to the old, post-war days of Hollywood where people were more naturally good-looking, all smoked, and seemed to be living lives of absolute luxury. And it’s no surprise that the Coens have actually gone so far as to make a movie like this, considering that most of their movies have an old-timey, screwball-appeal, but now, considering that their flick is placed in the early 50’s, they’re allowed to be as goofy and odd as they want to be, with the obvious wink-wink at the audience of what’s being made fun of.

Which is to say that, yes, Hail, Caesar! is actually a funny movie. There’s a lot of side-jocks, puns, and goofy occurrences that the Coens use here that make the movie not only entertaining, but also exciting. You don’t know what trick or trade their going to pull out of their hat next and it goes without saying, that while not all of the jokes or gags land, they are still seen as efforts from two people who clearly know and understand the form of creating a joke and allowing for it to land.

This is all mentioned to let the record state that Hail, Caesar!, the actual movie itself and not the movie-within-the-movie, is not a very good Coen brothers flick, but a fine one.

The main issue with Hail, Caesar! is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a energizing plot driving it. Sure, there’s a lot going on here, that Mannix, the protagonist, has to deal with and solve, but mostly all of the subplots come and go as they please, without their being much pushing everything forward. Rather than feeling fun, spirited and frothy, Hail, Caesar! surprisingly finds the Coens in a more subdued state, where they aren’t working as quickly as we’ve seen them before, but focusing more on the details of each subplot, as well as certain characters.

Which is fine and all, but nobody in Hail, Caesar! is really all that interesting, or as compelling of a character as the Coens may think. Mannix himself seems to be an intriguing specimen, who not only works as a collective fixer in Hollywood, but also a hardcore, dedicated family man, but really, he’s here to just service other colorful and sometimes, weird characters. Clooney’s Whitlock is clearly a take on Kirk Douglas, which doesn’t go much further than that; Johansson’s Moran is an old school dame, who definitely has a lot of sass, but not much more; and Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle, perhaps the standout of the flick, is perhaps the only given more to work with in general.

In fact, it’s the scenes with Hobie Doyle that work the most.

You can do it, George! Let that emotion out!

You can do it, George! Let that emotion out!

Whether he’s trying to nail a simple line in a very fluffy period-drama, or charm the pants off of his date, there’s something sweet and lovable about Hobie Doyle that not only makes you want to see more of him, but maybe wish that the movie was just about him and his rise in Hollywood. Ehrenreich is a likable enough presence to have us buy into the boyish charm of this character, while at the same time, still seeing him for a human being, even among all of the fakes and phonies that sometimes show up here. Though he’s been around the pond quite a few times, it seems like Hail, Caesar!, if anything, will be the launching pad for Alden Ehrenreich.

And everybody else is fine here, too. Actually, everybody who does show up, whether they be large roles, supporting roles, or simply, extended cameos, every member of the cast is clearly game for this material and want to add their own two cents in any way that they can. Is there perhaps too much of everyone here? Of course there is! However, it’s also sort of fun to watch the likes of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in a Coen brothers movie – something I’d never thought I’d see, but I’m glad I did and could definitely get used to.

But really, that’s all that Hail, Caesar! is: Fun and fine.

The movie’s not particularly deep, or special in that it brings some new sense of fun and charm to the Coen brothers style. If anything, it just shows that they’re capable of doing whatever movie they want. So what if it doesn’t always work or constantly excite us? Sometimes, the best movies are those that set-out to just entertain and leave it at that! Is it disappointing considering what we know from the Coens?

Most definitely, but hey, I’ll take fun and fine, over depressing and boring any day!

Consensus: Hail, Caesar! won’t stand as the best film of the Coens storied-career, but still proves that their attention to humor, fun and detail will never go away, no matter what environment they’re working in.

6.5 / 10

No, C-Tates. We salute you!

No, C-Tates. We salute you!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Pride and Glory (2008)

Keep it in the family. Even corruptness.

After a bunch of his fellow cops are shot dead in what was supposed to be a drug-ring raid, Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) returns to the detective field to figure out just who killed these cops and just exactly how it all happened. And because his daddy (Jon Voight), his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich), and brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), are all apart of the force as well, it should make absolute sense that he should have no problems getting the right kind of answers he so desperately seeks. However, what Ray begins to find out, though, is that the details surrounding the killer and what happened are a bit shady. For one, nobody can find the supposed-shooter, and to make matters worse, it turns out that perhaps some brothers in blue may also be a little bit dirty. Which is expected, but there’s a possibility that these dirty cops may have been involved with the killing of the other cops, leading Ray to start questioning all of the cops around him, including his family. Obviously, they’re all appalled and shocked by Ray’s findings and accusations, but at the same time, there’s still some truth to it, and this is when everybody involved starts getting desperate and finding a clean way out of this dirty situation.

"Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?"

“Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?”

If you’ve seen one cop movie, generally, you’ve seen ’em all. Hardly do they ever stray away from the norm of what we’ve all come to know and expect with a cop movie, which begs the question: Why does Hollywood keep making them? Is there really any huge sell or draw in them that makes people flock out to the theaters to check them out? Or is that Hollywood can’t get over its weird affection and interest in the brothers in blue, so they still continue to make movies about them, not offering anything new or interesting to say about them, either?

Well, whatever the answer may be, Pride and Glory doesn’t really do much to make sense of it.

Although, Pride and Glory is a different kind of cop movie; for one, it’s about dirty cops, being, well, dirty and corrupt as all hell. Given today’s political climate, you’d think that this would be a hot-button topic worthy of being touched upon and prodded at, but director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t really seem interested in diving deep into that discussion. Instead, he just sort of wants to show off his dirty cops as they were; doing stuff they shouldn’t be, pointing the fingers at others, and telling lookie-loos to “mind their own business and shut their mouth”. O’Connor may have some sort of interest in what drives a seemingly normal, everyday cop, to become a drug-dealing, money-stealing baddie, but he doesn’t quite show it.

Most of the time, O’Connor allows his movie to fly-off the rails with fine actors going a tad bit over-the-top. Gifted character actor Frank Grillo is sadly the clearest example of this as his cop character, albeit a dirty one, wants absolutely each and every person in the movie to know it. It’s almost as if any and all subtlety was lost here and O’Connor told Grillo to “just have fun”, and he really did. Problem is, all of the yelling, punching, kicking, and gun-slinging doesn’t do much to help create a character, but further highlight a type that needs to be done with.

But Grillo isn’t the only one who is dialing it way, way up.

Colin Farrell is intense, doing his best De Niro impression here, but once again, his character feels like he has no rhyme or reason for breaking bad. Sure, we get the idea that maybe greed took over and he couldn’t stop himself, but we can only assume that because we never see this character actually be a good cop – we just see him as this dirty one, who can’t be trusted with anything. There’s an unpredictable nature to Farrell that he brings onto the screen each and every chance he gets, but mostly, it just ends with him yelling or acting out in some way.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

I mean, hell, the guy almost hot irons a baby! What the hell!

Edward Norton, thankfully, dials it down a bit more and seems to actually be more interested in diving dig into his character’s psyche. Issue is, this tends to make his character feel a bit more boring and dry than he probably should, which is an even bigger shame because he’s the lead protagonist we’re supposed to stand behind, root for and spend all of our time with. Norton has solid scenes with just about everyone around him, but when it comes to pushing the story-line along, there’s a never ending sense of normality that overtakes Norton, as well as the movie and it’s hard to get away from.

By the end though, O’Connor decides to stop sitting around and let everything and everyone, within Pride and Glory, run wild.

This means that guns are shot, people are beaten-up, noses are bloodied, faces are battered, people start shouting, and out of nowhere, which was, at one point, a slow, almost meandering drama, is now this wild-and-out, action-thriller where people can’t stop beating the hell out of one another. Is it exciting to watch? Sure. Does it feel like a whole completely different movie? Oh, most definitely and it’s an issue that seems to make Pride and Glory, yet again, just another cop movie.

Although still plenty more watchable than season two of True Detective.

That’s for sure.

 

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Pride and Glory is drenched into too many cop movie cliches and conventions to really do much, other than just mildly entertain those looking for some entertainment.

6 / 10

"We're brudders. We ain't eva gain to brake apaart."

“We’re brudders. We ain’t eva gain to brake apaart.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Goosebumps (2015)

Welcome back, nightmares.

Pissed-off about having to move from the big city to a small town in Delaware, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) is already restless. However, when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door, he can’t help but fall head-over-heels and get easily distracted. But soon, Zach finds out that Hannah’s father is famous author R. L. Stine (Jack Black), whose best-known work is with the Goosebumps book series. And even though Stine makes it so that Zach doesn’t see his daughter, because these two are teens, they find a way to do so, regardless of what daddy wants the most and unfortunately, it leads to some very tragic circumstances. The main which being that the original copies of Stine’s books open up and release all sorts of evil monsters, goblins, ghouls and dummies get released out into the open, where they begin to wreak havoc on just about every citizen of this small town. Seeing a show they need to fix this bad situation, Zach, Hannah, and R.L. band together to try and stop this predicament from getting even more dangerous than it already is – which will mostly rely on having R.L. create a new book.

There's the Abominable Snowman.

There’s the Abominable Snowman.

If you were a kid growing up in the 90’s, chances are, you read a Goosebumps book. It doesn’t matter which title, or which one (I did prefer the “choose your own destination” ones later on in life when I became older and boring), because you were intrigued by the book-covers, the titles, and most of all, the idea of being apart of the cultural wave that it seemed like all of your fellow friends were abuzz about. And even if you didn’t read a single Goosebumps book, or care to bother to figure out what they’re about, you still got the gist of them all: They’re scary stories, written to have kids scared to go to sleep at night.

Which is why the Goosebumps movie is perfect for any and all audience-members, as it doesn’t matter if you’ve read a single book, or not – either way, you’re going to enjoy the movie.

That Goosebumps isn’t made to just appeal to the dedicated fanboys of the franchise, already puts it in line with some of the better kids movies. Though there’s definitely some scary stuff that may take some kids, as well as parents off-guard, there’s nothing here that’s meant to offend or disrupt anybody’s natural-born home life. If anything, the Goosebumps movie sets out to entertain you, make you feel safe (which is odd considering that it’s supposed to be a “spooky tale”), have you laugh, and, if everything works out perfectly, give some kids newfound interest in the books that haven’t quite picked up steam since the early days of the 21st Century.

So in that general aspect, yeah, Goosebumps is a fine movie. It doesn’t set out to light the world on fire and is, for most of the people who don’t know much about the franchise to begin with, accessible. There’s no real in-jokes or references to the books that will surprise people or have them pointing at the screen in self-adulation, but mostly, just laugh in the way you would with any normal comedy. Except, in this movie’s case, it’s a kids movie and a solid one, at that.

And this is definitely thanks to the fact that Jack Black’s R.L. Stine is actually kind of a dick.

There's, of course, Slappy.

There’s, of course, Slappy.

Even though the movie got the go-ahead from Stine himself, it’s still interesting to see how he’s portrayed as a bit of a pompous a-hole who loves to brag about his books, doesn’t like to be mentioned in the same sentence as “that hack” Stephen King, and likes to explain the difference between hims domestic and worldwide sales. Sure, he’s not a total and complete deuche that you want to punch him in the face, but he’s still one in that entertaining way where you want to hear him talk about himself more and more, just because he’s so ridiculously in-love with himself, that it’s not hard to laugh at it all. Of course, Black is to be credited with this, too, as he doesn’t fully dive into “Jack Black territory” that most of us have come to know, expect and basically hate, and shows that he can a solid screen-presence on the screen, even if he isn’t the star of the show or the one everyone has come to seen.

And heck, after the Brink, I think Jack Black deserves any kind of love he can get.

Aside from Black’s Stine, everybody else does a solid job, too. Though I’ve seen Dylan Minnette play this role before as the self-aware, but everyday teenager, he’s still likable enough to let it work its magic; Odeya Rush is, of course, beautiful, but her character has a bit more personality to her than just that; and Amy Ryan, though may seem oddly-placed here, still works fine as Zach’s mom who occasionally shows up and delights us all.

Then again, when is Amy Ryan not a delight!

Consensus: Like most kids movies, Goosebumps doesn’t try to re-invent any wheel, but instead, entertain the whole family with fun, humor, and a nostalgic adoration for its source material that definitely deserves a new audience.

6 / 10

And, uhm, some hug ant-creature-thing. Yeah, don't know if I read that book.

And, uhm, some hug ant-creature-thing. Yeah, don’t know if I read that book.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Walk (2015)

Everybody in NYC just gets to do what they want!

Frenchman Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) had lifelong dreams of entertaining huge groups of people that he would literally do anything to garner people’s love and adoration. For instance, at a young age, he would perform acts on the streets where he would do all sorts of magic tricks and whatnot, ask for money at the end, and then, get chased down by police, sometimes getting, and other times, not. However, Philippe felt as if his life wasn’t fulfilled to he most extreme point yet, which is why, by in the early 70’s, he got the idea of walking across a wire between the two towers of the newly-built World Trade Center. Problem was, as you could expect, that security would be tight and tough on this plan, which is why Philippe, along with a few of his pals, got together a crack team to pull it all off. Whether or not they’d be able to pull it off was one obstacle they had to overcome, but actually making sure that the daredevil Philippe himself would actually survive the stunt and not fall to his death, was a whole other one to digest and come to terms with.

Guess they've never seen Man on Wire?

Guess they’ve never seen Man on Wire?

If you’ve seen Man on Wire, you’ve basically seen the Walk. Sure, one’s a documentary, whereas the other is just a theatrical re-telling of that whole story, with glitzy and glamorous actors, visuals, and a tad bit more background on things that may have needed more clarification the first time around. Does it really matter which one you see first, or at all? Sort of, yes. Definitely see the documentary, but if you just so happen to catch the Walk before that one and think there isn’t something more to the story than just a dude walks a tight-rope across the Twin Towers, then please, go see Man on Wire as soon as possible.

You’ll be surprised and happy you did, especially since the Walk is, for lack of a better term, mediocre.

However, it does have good qualities in that it features Robert Zemeckis, once again, playing around with neat and cool-looking visuals that definitely grab your attention. Mostly though, this comes at the end of the flick where we’ve wadded through all of the character and story-stuff and now, after much time and dedication, finally get to see as Petit walks across the wire and perform for thousands and thousands of on-lookers. Is it worth the wait? Kind of, yeah.

What Zemeckis always does so well with his movies, rather than focus in on the visuals, is how he makes them all seem so real, and almost as if you’re right there, at that exact moment while it’s happening. Though there’s definitely a few shots during this final sequence that look a bit chintzy, for the most part, Zemeckis does a good enough job at putting us right then and there with Petit, not knowing what’s going to happen, or how this whole stunt is going to work out, if at all. Of course, if you’ve seen Man on Wire previously, you already know what happens to Petit, but still, there’s a small feeling of suspense in the air that carries this final sequence on longer than it probably should have.

Then again, like I’ve said before, this final sequence comes after everything else Zemeckis has to give us with the Walk and it’s quite painful to sit through.

Most of this has to do with the fact that the script is very hokey and already suffers from the problem that the documentary on this tale has already been told, and it’s not just that it was amazing, but also painted a perfect portrait of just about everyone and everything involved with this miraculous stunt. Sure, there was maybe one or two points of conversation not touched on in the documentary, but really, that’s just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking – basically, Man on Wire does an amazing job of giving us every side and factor of this story to make it worth telling and getting invested in.

Okay, going to throw-up now.

Okay, going to throw-up now.

The Walk, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to do any of that, so instead, just gives us a whole bunch of scenes where Joseph Gordon-Levitt, using a very silly French accent, runs around all spirited and such, performing tricks, and always exclaiming that he’s “going to walk between the Twin Towers!” Granted, this is most definitely how the real life Petit was at the time, but really, it goes on for quite some time. Then, Ben Kingsley walks in as his mentor of sorts, and hams it up so incredibly that it’s actually quite fun to watch. All of his scenes are just him teaching Petit how to walk a tight-rope and somehow relating those teachings to the rest of all that life has to offer, but Kingsley seems to be having fun, so why not!

And Gordon-Levitt seems to be having fun, too, but really, his character is so one-note, that it hardly matters if he’s trying. It’s already made abundantly clear to us early on that the only form of Petit we’re going to get is the fun-loving, constantly excited, joyous person, and that’s it. Gordon-Levitt is more than up to the task of playing this character and shining more light on his more human-features, but really, Zemeckis doesn’t quite care about all that. What he really wants to do is get to the Twin Towers, show us that his visuals are as rad as they could ever be, and remind us that a man like Petit existed, whether any of us care or not.

But hey, at least it gives everyone a movie to see! In 3D, no less!

Consensus: With a hokey script, the Walk suffers from treading the same waters that the way better documentary Man on Wire did, even if it does offer some fun and lively jolts by the end.

6 / 10

Yeah, uhm, don't look down.

Yeah, uhm, don’t look down.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

No Escape (2015)

White people should just stay home, apparently.

After disappointing in the states, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) takes his family on a business trip to a foreign country where he hopes to not only impress his wife (Lake Bell), but also get out of this work-slump that he’s been in since the recession of 2008. However, little does Jack know that the native residents of this foreign land don’t take kindly to people like Jack, nor do they take kindly to the water company that Jack represents. So, without him really knowing, Jack and his family is being targeted for representing America and its selfish, rude ways of sticking their nose into other countries’ business that they don’t need to be bothered with in the first place. While Jack, nor his wife really have any experience in kicking ass, or taking names, what they do have with them is the will to live, as well as the inspiration in making sure that their two daughters survive this hell-zone. Because even though they don’t know where to go, or even how this is all going to end, they are, most definitely, going to try and get out of this situation with a fight.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Even if it comes close to killing them.

For a good portion of its running-time, No Escape is actually a damn solid thriller. Director John Erick Dowdle starts things off nice and slowly by introducing us to these characters, the gritty, but odd scenery they’re thrown into, and lets all of the craziness happen, but doesn’t over-do it. Once Owen Wilson’s character goes out for the morning newspaper, there’s a slight chill of discomfort in the air; it’s almost as if we, yes, know that something bad is going to happen, but because Wilson’s character is such a middle-class boob and clearly has no idea what to do in the face of violence, we’re already in-suspense and waiting to see what goes down. Then, the movie focuses on what’s going on with Lake Bell’s character, her two daughters, and the hotel that they’re staying at, and instead of just being tense and somewhat fun, it’s now absolutely terrifying.

Because really, what No Escape wants to be, is a real-life thriller that makes you feel like, if you were given the same misfortune as these characters to be stuck in the same situation, that you’d have no clue what to do either. Rather than having a bunch of pre-calculated, James Bond-like ways of thinking and gadgets to save yourself from an angry hoard of killers, you’re just a simpleton who may have no actual prior experience with violence or tense situations such as these. So therefore, you have to act on intuition, as well as your gut-feeling and this can sometimes lead to the dumbest, perhaps most risky decisions you could make, but because you want to live, and want those that you love to live, too, you’re willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what.

This is perhaps the biggest fear that No Escape taps into and it’s why, for at least the first 45 minutes, it’s a solid action-thriller that puts you directly in the shoes of its protagonists and makes you actually believe that, well, this could actually happen to you.

Of course, a lot of the movie is completely far-fetched and a bit silly, but at the same time, it’s interesting to see how the movie switches the idea around of racism being against white people, and no other race or color. A lot of people have called No Escape “racist” and “ignorant” for not naming its supposed “villains”, or being more descriptive in just who it is that they represent (are they Cambodians?), but really, it’s doing something that not many other blockbusters in the same vein do and that’s focusing on white people being targeted for the color of their skin and how, no matter how hard they try, they can never be taken in as innocent.

Sound familiar?

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

Well, that’s because it definitely should and it makes me wonder why so much of No Escape, while occasionally smart, if anything, intriguing, also seems to fall apart. For example, the movie really wants to throw the grisly, heinous violence in our faces, which is fine, but by the same token, also wants us to see this movie as something of a cheery flick about sticking together as a unit, regardless of what trepidations stand in your way. While there’s no problem with this message to begin with, in a movie as dirty and disgusting as No Escape, it almost feels like a cheat – kind of like Dowdle himself couldn’t come up with the right tone to tie everything together.

That’s why, after a solid hour or so, No Escape starts to get, not just very silly, but very messy, trying to make sense of its violence, add some context, and most importantly, act as if it’s “important”, when in reality, it’s not. If anything, No Escape is just another shoot-em-up action-thriller, that also happens to take a ripped-from-the-headlines circumstance and give it a realistic treatment – anything added, honestly, feels unnecessary and silly. After all, this is the same movie that features Owen Wilson chucking his two daughters from one fifteen-story building to another, and hardly encountering any strength problems or injuries in the process.

Then again, it’s pretty interesting to see Owen Wilson in this kind of role and it also calls into question just how much thought may have actually gone into No Escape. While the movie could have easily cast a Jason Statham, or a Tom Cruise, or hell, even a Matt Damon in the role and act as if they’re just the everyday man pushed to the brink, the movie actually goes so far as to cast somebody as plain, ordinary, and dorky as Wilson, which works in helping it make it seem like this character has no clue what he’s getting himself into, or how to get out of it. Same goes for Lake Bell, who does get a tad annoying with her constantly pushing and bothering Wilson, but doesn’t get in the way as much.

If anything, however, the one character I’d probably like to see get his own movie is Pierce Brosnan’s Hammond, a variation on James Bond, that’s perhaps more realistic. Not only is the man wiser beyond his years, but he’s also a nice guy who can strike up a conversation about anything and generally seems to know what he’s talking about, regardless of what the topic may be. At the same time, however, there’s this idea that the guy can’t be messed with and what this does, whenever his presence is felt, makes you feel all warm, cozy and safe inside, even if you know full well, that it may not even matter.

Something we want to feel with James Bond, but come on – the guy’s too busy getting laid half of the time!

 

Consensus: One-half a surprisingly effective, if ugly-looking thriller, No Escape starts off strong, but soon dives into trying to take on a bit more than it can chew and lose itself in unexpectedness hokiness.

6 / 10

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there's no escape!

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there’s no escape!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Experimenter (2015)

Doesn’t matter how many volts it is, being shocked freakin’ hurts!

In 1961, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) concocted a psychological experiment that, on the surface, seemed simple and easy, but once looked at deep enough, turned out to be quite disturbingly complex. What Milgram would do in this research study, was have one person be on one side of a glass door, get them strapped-up to a machine that delivered electric shocks and have the other person involved with the study ask them to reiterate phrases that they say. If the person on the other side of the door got it wrong, the person in control of the electrical volts were supposed to deliver as high of a shock as they were instructed to do so, no matter how much pain or anguish the person on the other side of the door sounded, or better yet, appeared to be in. Obviously, people question what to do next and whether or not to deliver the shock because, what they think at least, is that the other person is being shocked, nearly to death – little do they know is that said person being shocked-to-death, isn’t actually being shocked at all and is just testing to see how far and willing these subjects are able to go with the shocks.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that. Or in general.

And that, my friends, is what we call in the psychology biz, “the Milgram Experiment“.

Everything about the whole Milgram Experiment and the ideas about humans that it brings up is actually pretty interesting. Milgram, as he tells us quite often throughout, is trying to test the limits of just how far humans will go when they are given, as plainly defined, an assignment; while nobody apart of the experiment may actually be bad people who enjoy inflicting cruel and unusual punishment onto random strangers, at the same time, they’re given this assignment to do and have to keep with it, no matter what. So of course, they trudge on along and continue to zap, and zap, and zap away at the other subject, without wholly fighting the system that is telling them to do so.

If this sounds a whole lot like the Nazis well then, you hit the nail right on the head. Milgram himself, as he tells us constantly throughout the movie, tells us that his parents were apart of the concentration camps before they came to America and it’s interesting to see how this needle-and-thread narrative constantly gets weaved-in throughout, even while we’re learning of just what kind of person Milgram actually was. While writer/director Michael Almereyda has a lot to work with here, in terms of handling the biopic-form of this person’s life, as well as throwing that person’s own ideas into the narrative, he doesn’t lose himself on the material, either.

At the same time, however, it’s hard not to watch Experimenter as two different movies into one, with one being definitely far more interesting and better than the other.

But still, even the one that is off worse, isn’t terrible. The only issue with the part of the movie focusing on Milgram’s personal life, is that Milgram himself, isn’t all that intriguing of a person to begin with. Sure, the studies he concocts are, but overall, him as a person, is quite dry and uneventful, which calls into question why we needed such a film dedicated to telling his whole story, and less about the study itself. Of course, Almereyda does fine with showing us plenty of the study happening, but it’s sometimes so effective and compelling to watch, that it’s not hard to wish that it was just the whole film, with Milgram occasionally looking towards the camera to talk to us.

See? Winona doesn't even trust him.

See? Winona doesn’t even trust him.

Still though, Almereyda does some neat things with the biopic-form, in that he definitely understands that the material he’s working with isn’t all that exciting or eye-popping, so instead, he finds ways to make it so. There’s a random scene about half-way through where Milgram and his wife are driving in front of what’s clearly a walled-in background, but for some reason, it’s done on purpose. It’s meant to campy, odd, dated, and over-the-top, but so is the rest of the film, which doesn’t totally work, but is still interesting to think about and wonder why, among everything else, why Almereyda decided to do such a thing?

Is he trying to say something about people’s perceptions? Or, is he just trying to keep our minds off of material that’s not really all that strong to begin with?

Either way, it doesn’t matter because it makes Experimenter a bit more watchable than it probably could have been had it just focused in on Milgram, his life, and leaving it at that. This isn’t to say that Sarsgaard doesn’t do a fine job in the role of Milgram, as he has that perfect blend for dull weirdness, but at the same time, it’s hard not to imagine what could have happened to this character, had there been maybe more to him. We see him act around his family and such, just as he does at the office and none of it’s really intriguing; his studies may be, but he himself, isn’t really something to speak about, let alone see a whole movie about.

Again though, Experimenter isn’t a very long movie. At nearly an-hour-and-a-half, it moves on by, showing us all the study, making us wonder what we’d do in the same position, and providing plenty of food-for-thought about the whole human race. Will it have you not trusting people for the rest of your days? Maybe, not maybe not. But either way, it’s worth checking out, if only because it will bring some energy to your brain during the dead of winter that is January.

Consensus: Though it’s two movies into one, Experimenter brings up enough interesting questions and ideas about the human condition that makes it worthwhile to look past some of the flaws in its narrative.

6 / 10

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they're not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they’re not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Daddy’s Home (2015)

Some kids are lucky enough to have a dad in the first place, but to have two that are Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy?

Brad Taggart (Will Ferrell) wants to have kids of his own, but due to a mishap at a dentistry, he unfortunately can’t. That’s why, when he meets Sarah (Linda Cardellin) and finds out she has two kids of her own, he’s more than happy to take on the duty of being their stepfather. While their father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), is sort of out of the picture, the kids still love and adore him a whole lot more than Brad, who they just see as “the guy who’s married to their mom”. Brad’s fine with this as he’ll try to do anything he can to win them over, which he does come very close to, until Dusty decides to come back home and stay around for his kids. Obviously, the kids are happy to see their daddy, which makes Brad feel as if he has to overcompensate for something. So, he and Dwight have a battle of wits, of sorts, all to decide just who isn’t the better man, but who is the better father and more equipped to handle a whole family-unit.

"And don't ever forget, always say 'hello' to ya mothers for me."

“And don’t ever forget, always say ‘hello’ to ya mothers for me.”

If anything, Daddy’s Home proves just how great of a comedy the Other Guys was. Even though it was basically just a romp on the buddy-cop genre, featuring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell playing off of one another the whole time, it was still so funny and wacky, that it didn’t mattered that it was a bit messy and if nothing more, just an enjoyable comedy. That’s why, when watching Wahlberg and Ferrell unite here together again and try to recreate some of that same magic, it’s hard not to feel like some of the spark may be missing; after all, the Other Guys came out around a time where Wahlberg was trying so desperately hard for everyone to take him ridiculously seriously and didn’t even bother to show his mug in a fun-spirited comedy that, quite frankly, made him look like a goober.

But at the same time, the issue with Daddy’s Home lies in the fact that it never quite knows what it wants to be. For instance, believe it or not, Daddy’s Home is rated a friendly PG-13, whereas, from the look of this, it seems like at least an R. Still though, the movie still flirts around with the idea of being this raucous, raunchy R-fest that likes to poke jokes at balls, fertility, and sex, whereas another good portion of this movie just wants to poke fun at kids and still be able to cuddle up with them at the end of the day. No matter which way the movie has it, it doesn’t work and seems a bit confusing.

Still though, there were parts of Daddy’s Home that had me laughing and when I looked back on it, quite enjoyed.

Most of this comes back to the fact that everybody in the cast, no matter what they’re working with, can’t help but be charming, funny and above all else, entertaining to watch. Ferrell, as usual, is overly-earnest and sweet as Brad, a role he has played many times before but this time, seems so dedicated in actually developing more and more as the flick rolls on, and Brad gets thrown into some very weird predicaments. That Brad hardly ever turns into a bad guy, makes Ferrell seem like he’s one-note, but there’s more to this character than just being a total and complete softy, which is how the movie could have presented it and left it at. Instead, the movie shows that this sweeter-side to his persona is, perhaps, what makes him the most lovely presence to have around.

The sweet babies I couldn't imagine these two making together.

The sweet babies I couldn’t imagine these two making together.

Of course, I’m definitely getting way too deep into thinking about Daddy’s Home like that, but hey, it goes a real long way when a comedy adds a bit more heart to its characters when it isn’t just embarrassing the hell out of them. And yeah, as Dusty, Wahlberg’s a fine fit; he’s both suave and cool, but at the same time, more than willing to let himself be the butt of any joke tossed at him. Together, Ferrell and Wahlberg still have great chemistry that doesn’t get used as much as it probably should have been, but for what it was worth, there were still plenty of jokes and gags to be found between the two that are, for lack of a better word, humorous.

And the cast goes on and on with the likes of Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer, Bill Burr, and Bobby Cannavale, all seem to try with their material and may not always come out on top, but still deliver enough to add a little bit of something on the top. Basically, it was just nice to see them and see the film not trying to ruin any of their personalities in the meantime; while Daddy’s Home could have easily been the movie to have them all look stupid and foolish for actually taking this gig up in the first place, it instead, rewards them for being able to play along for as much as they can. In a way, they’re all sort of like dads who know when it’s time to relax and take a chill, but because they love their family so much, continue on with whatever they’re doing to keep the smiles up.

Yeah, definitely thinking about this one too much, but so be it! I laughed, surprisingly, and well, so should you!

Consensus: Daddy’s Home isn’t perfect and definitely doesn’t allow for Wahlberg and Ferrell’s chemistry to shine on perfectly through, but is still funny enough to make it an enjoyable comedy to sit through and not be worried about who is being wasted on what jokes.

6.5 / 10

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Macbeth (2015)

Insanity, vanity, and wine, don’t always mix well.

Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) and Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) are married and, at one time, were at least happy. Now, after having lost a child, they are not – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want the same thing. Though Macbeth supports King Duncan (David Thewlis), Lady Macbeth still convinces that it is his time to take the crown and get rid of King Duncan while he still can. And get rid of King Duncan, is exactly what Macbeth does. This leads him and Lady Macbeth to become both King and Queen, where they are not only given each and everyone’s respect and adoration, but generally seen as people you should not try to double-cross. That’s why, when it becomes clear that Macbeth himself is going a bit mad and losing control of, not just his mind, but his empire, people start trying to bail and escape from Macbeth’s rule. Obviously, Macbeth is not too happy about this and decides to use his power to take matters into his own hands. Eventually, people start to get so tired and angry with Macbeth’s psychotic tendencies, that they start to get together and form something of a rebel alliance – one that will ultimately prove to be Macbeth’s undoing.

aaa

Not Game of Thrones with Fassbender, but wow. How amazing?

Among many other things, of course.

So yeah, it’s very hard to make a Shakespeare adaptation nowadays without making it seem like you’re just taking up your time to make a movie and because, well, you could. In a way, everything’s been done by now and unless you have a truly unique, interesting way of telling the story, your adaptation won’t do much except just make people actually want to go back and read the original-text. Because as everybody knows, people love Shakespeare, and if there’s something they love more, it’s a good Shakespeare adaptation.

Something that Macbeth sort of is and sort of isn’t, but that’s sort of the point.

What director Justin Kurzel seems to be doing here is give everyone that kind of Macbeth adaptation they expected to see, yet, at the same time, still find ways to make it even more bleak and unrelenting than ever before. Clearly, for anyone who has ever read the original story or seen other adaptations, it’s clear that this is a pretty hard task, but it’s one that Kurzel seems perfectly equipped with handling. Kurzel’s last film, the Snowtown Murders, was basically an adaptation of Macbeth, but not really; while it was clearly based on a true story that’s as grim as anything in here, it’s also, at the same time, a tale about how evil can take over one man to make him do terribly inhumane things that no sane man in his right man would ever think of committing.

And with the story of Macbeth, that’s exactly what Shakespeare is trying to say. While he was obviously a bit more subtle with it than I may be making it out to be, that idea of one man losing all control of his mind, while still clearly in power over a large group of people, is still here and obvious in every shot, frame and scene. While it may get a tad repetitive with Fassbender just constantly acting out like a nut case and just making everyone around him feel genuinely terrified and scared for their lives, Fassbender’s still good enough that it’s easy to get past. Though this isn’t his best work we’ve seen him do this year, it’s still hard to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on the screen as he commands just about every scene.

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That look, those eyes, so French.

Marion Cotillard does the same, however, her role is a whole heck of a lot more subtle than Fassbender’s.

For one, everything she’s thinking or feeling, at any given moment, is displayed on those huge, bright eyes of her. Cotillard is known for giving these kinds of small, subtle performances where you have an inkling of how she’s feeling just by looking at her beautiful face, but here, it especially works because you know that, deep down inside, she’s the heart and soul of this story. It’s a pretty dark heart and soul, but a heart and soul nonetheless, which is why it’s great to get the scenes with her when it’s just her trying to calm her hubby down, or at least try and make sense of his madness.

As for the rest of Macbeth, it’s, as expected, some very gut-wrenching and disturbing stuff, most of which, is actually beautiful to watch. Kurzel layers his film with a certain code of orange that’s not just interesting, but occasionally, distracting; there’s so many shots here of beauty that, really, it seems like overkill and almost as if the ones behind this movie knew exactly that they were making something beautiful and had to tell the whole world about it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the film for trying to look good, but there was a small feeling that, almost every time some pretty shot was seen on the screen, that those behind the camera were just absolutely pleased with themselves.

Nothing wrong with liking what you’ve done, but you know, relax a little bit.

Instead, what Kurzel does is just tell the story, as it was, in some ways, originally presented. While there’s certain lines and/or scenes that are missing, the general idea is that Kurzel’s going to keep the native tongue and try his hardest to make us roll along with it. Because of this, the movie can sometimes be a bit difficult to read into or understand, but because the performances are so good from just about everyone, they help spell certain things out. And then, after awhile, it’s easy to just remember that, eventually, every scene is going to lead into someone or something getting stabbed, slice, or killed in a disgusting, disheartening way.

Just how Shakespeare liked it, clearly.

Consensus: The performances from Fassbender and Cotillard are so good in Macbeth, that they make it easy to get through some of the more confusing parts of it, as well as see more than just a bunch of blood, gore and violence, which ultimately, this story can just be all about.

6.5 / 10

aaaa

Hail to the king, baby.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

What a dick, that Moby was.

Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is the first mate of the Essex, a ship that’s set out for the sea where the crew on-board will go hunting whales for oil. While Chase is experienced and inspired enough to be the captain, due to political issues, he is not given that honor – instead, it’s given to George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker), someone who is new to the sea and hasn’t ever captained a ship before. Regardless, Owen and the rest of the crew set out and while along the way, they discover a whale by the name of Moby Dick. Dick is not just huge, but actually quite violent and doesn’t appreciate the mates on this ship going around and spearing his fellow friends of the sea – therefore, Dick lets the crew have it. This leaves the crew, most of whom are awfully unexperienced, stranded and without any food, water, or possible resources to survive. This leads crew member to fend for themselves, start pointing the fingers, and, most of all, try to stay alive, by any means. Which, in this movie’s case, means a whole heck of a lot.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

Moby’s got a lot on his plate when he’s going up against Thor…

Oh, and the whole story is being told to us through Brendan Gleeson’s character who, at a very young age (Tom Holland), was actually on the Essex and got to experience this all first-hand. Which, in all honesty, is a bit weird when you consider that Tom Holland is playing Brendan Gleeson, 19 years earlier; meaning that, the near-two decades that has passed, were some really rough and screwed-up ones. It doesn’t make much sense or seem all that logical, but I guess the idea is that, well, the dude saw some pretty screwed-up shit.

And that’s exactly what In the the Heart of the Sea is.

Most of the ads for the movie will have you thinking it’s just Thor taking on Moby Dick for at least two hours, but it’s actually a lot more different and slower than that. Instead, we get a tale that’s all about surviving at sea, and having to make some pretty rough, drastic decisions when push comes to shove and it becomes apparent that, well, you may be dead if you don’t, I don’t know, eat that person’s heart, or, I don’t know, stay on an island while everyone else is leaving searching for more help. Surprisingly, it’s a movie that’s more about human nature and how most humans act in situations that are as deadly and as scary as this.

Problem is, none of the characters in this situation, are actually ever interesting. What Ron Howard tries to do here is give us a small play-by-play of who these characters are, what they do, and just why exactly they may matter to the story. Hemsworth’s Chase is a noble, brave superhero that knows what decision to make at every step and is always down to tango with big whales; Walker’s Pollard Jr. is a bit cowardly, but also doesn’t want to be seen as just “another captain’s privileged son”; Holland’s Thomas Nickerson is such a rookie, that he can’t handle the sight or smell of whale guts and constantly seems to be heading towards for Chase for peer-to-student counsel; Cillian Murphy’s Matthew Joy, is Chase’s best buddy who, no matter what, always has a bottle of some sort of alcohol with him at all times, just in case; and Frank Dillane’s Owen Coffin is, well, just the asshole of the ship who, no matter what circumstance they’re in, always has the gull to open up his mouth and piss everyone off.

Basically, everyone here feels like they’re supposed to be a lot deeper than they actually are, but really, they’re just a bunch of stick-figures drawn onto a big boat and we’re left to watch as they suffer, get skinny, try to eat, grow big beards, stay dirty, and contemplate whether or not it’s time to call it a day and just die already. This all sounds like some pretty grim stuff, which it is, but it’s not really as involving as it should be, given the cast and crew involved. Hell, that cast alone is enough to get me all pumped-up, but the fact that Howard doesn’t really give them much, is a bit of a bummer.

aaaa

….Abe Lincoln (the vampire hunting version)…

We know they can all do better, so why are they stuck here?

That isn’t to say that In the Heart of the Sea is bad, it’s just a tad disappointing. I’m perfectly fine with the movie being a whole lot slower and more melodic by focusing on what happens to these guys after Moby Dick comes in and ruins their lives, as well as their ship, but in order for it to really connect, it has to be, at the very least, heart-wrenching. There was never that feeling here and it was an issue that constantly plagued this film, no matter what interesting avenues it seemed like Howard was taking.

But really, whenever the movie is focusing on the boys of the ship taking on and, in a way, battling against Moby Dick, it’s enthralling, fun, unpredictable, and most of all, exciting. We don’t know where these bits of carnage are going to lead, who is going to perish, and just what the outcome of it all is going to be, so we sit there, watch and wait to see what happens. This is perhaps where the movie’s most impressive, as it’s not only frequently beautiful throughout, but clearly has a love for the sea that’s hard to ignore.

Not to mention that there’s actually something of a message deep down inside of this movie about hunting whales for oil and it’s a noble one, at the very least. Given that the movie may get a tad preachy by the end, I don’t want to jump into saying that this is, first and foremost, a “message movie”, but there is something here that Howard has to say and it isn’t terrible. It just goes on to say that sometimes, nature deserves to stay the way it is.

Screw with that and well, who knows? Nature may bite back.

Consensus: Given the talented cast on-board, In the Heart of the Sea should be a more grueling and compelling watch, but aside from the sheer beauty and excitement the film has whenever the whales show up, the movie never gets a chance to be.

6.5 / 10

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….and most importantly, Peter Parker.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

First is the worst and you know what? Second is not the best.

Taking place about ten years after the events of the Phantom Menace, we now see that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has grown up quite a bit. Though he is still learning a lot under the guidance of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), he’s also beginning to understand his strength and power, while also using it for the greater good of the world. But now that Anakin’s a whole lot older too, that means that he’ll be experiencing life in different ways than ever before. That’s when Queen Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman) reenters his life and reminds him of all those feelings he had for her when he was just a kid. And since Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme after an assassination attempt on her failed, he’s made to spend a lot more time with her in which he gets to know more about her, discuss life, politics, romance, and most of all, realize that he may actually be in love. While this is all going on, the Galactic Republic and Jedi council are also trying to prevent from there being an all-out war from a separatist movement with the help of a clone army.

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I'll leave that up to you to decide

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So yeah, is Attack of the Clones better than the Phantom Menace? Well, yeah, of course it is. But then again, look at how low the bar has been set. Then again, I do have to give credit to Lucas for at least stepping back up to the plate with the Star Wars franchise, seeing what he could bring to the next installment and, while maybe not totally listening to the haters and their complaints, at least giving them something that they can still enjoy, regardless of if they’re old or new fans of the franchise.

And by this, I mean Lucas gives us plenty and plenty of action.

Sure, the problems with the story and character-development are still here, but they’re not on such full-display as they were in Episode 1; instead, they’re now just used as filler to get us from one action sequence to the next. In all honesty, I would much rather have that, than to be stuck watching as Anakin grew up and as Jar-Jar goofed-around and generally pissed everybody off. Speaking of the later, he’s definitely thrown on the back-burner, although, at the same time, it’s still a tad ridiculous that he’s now playing Padme’s senatorial representative.

Still though, hardly anywhere Jar-Jar anywhere is fine, because, like I said, there’s still plenty more to focus on here. One of Lucas’ strong suits has always been his skill of setting-up and handling action set-pieces, which here, all seem to work out well. There’s a nice piece between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett that not only remind us how crafty and skilled of a Jedia Obi-Wan actually is, but why Jango Fett was considered such a deadly assassin in the later movies. While he’s only seen as a kid here, the movie still sets up the fact that he’d grow up one day to be a scary, trained hitman just like his daddy. Of course, the CGI, despite being somewhat choppy, still helps these scenes to be more intriguing and fun-to-watch, although they were still clearly miles away from having everything look genuine.

And of course, yeah, the movie still does a nice job at setting-up what’s to come with this story next and just how exactly this galaxy gets set into the Clone Wars. Though most of us expect it to come very soon, while watching this movie, it’s hard not to get tense and be curious as to where all the pieces of the puzzle fall. While prequels can get annoying doing too much setting-up and not actually delivering on anything, Attack of the Clones does a nice job in that it sets a lot up for the next, action-packed installment, while still giving people a lot to lock onto here and, overall, be entertained by.

Once again, it’s not a perfect installment, but it’s still far better than anything that the Phantom Menace tried doing.

However though, the one key factor that keeps Attack of the Clones away from going anywhere towards being considered “great”, is that Anakin’s a lot older now and is played by Hayden Christensen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hate Christensen as an actor; sure, he’s definitely weak and doesn’t seem to have that certain screen-presence that grabs you from the very start, but I’m hesitant to call him “a terrible actor”. In movies like Shattered Glass and even to a certain extent, Life as a House, Christensen has shown that, with the right script to read from, as well as a talented director to help guide him along, he’s actually quite fine. Not terrific, but just fine.

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

But what he’s forced to work with in Attack of the Clones, is what sets him so far back and really, Lucas doesn’t help much. Though the script here is nowhere near as cringe-inducing and as scattered as the first flick, Attack of the Clones still suffers from a lot of the poor-wording and corniness of what we can come to expect from Lucas, and it doesn’t help that Christensen is, more often than not, the one delivering these sorts of lines. That his story-line is mostly focused on a supposed romance he has with Padme, already makes it hard to watch, but the movie constantly gives Christensen nothing to do except bitch, moan and act as if he’s never had a conversation with anyone else in his entire life.

Which is a huge problem because, well, Christensen is supposed to be the leading-force of this movie – he is, as we know, going to become the one and only Darth Vader. So why he’s such an annoying pain-in-the-ass, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that Christensen spends the majority of this flick whining or kissing, neither of which he does so in a compelling way. Is his poor acting-skills to be blamed? Potentially, yes. But at the same time, I’m still not going to rag on him too much considering I’ve seen him do well before and really, with Lucas, sometimes, you’re just left to fend for yourself.

Which, sadly, Christensen seemed as if he had to do here.

Anyway, the rest of the cast seems like they’re trying too, but like Christensen, aren’t allowed to do much beyond the boring stuff Lucas gives them to do. McGregor is more believable this time as a more seasoned, skilled and disciplined Obi-Wan; Natalie Portman seems like cynical this time around as Padme and is, sadly, left to drop the same corny lines as Christensen had to; Samuel L. Jackson gets more time as Mace Windu here and shows why he’s more of a bad-ass than most of the other Jedi’s hanging around; and Christopher Lee, despite seeming like he was a last second call to fill out a villainous role, does a nice job as Count Dooku, showing us why he’s so menacing and deserving of being a baddie that our heroes can’t seem to defeat.

Oh, and yeah, we get more of Yoda here. Which, honestly, never gets old.

Consensus: Despite the occasional script and tonal issues, Attack of the Clones is still a step-above the Phantom Menace, which may not be saying much, but still says enough if you remember Jar-Jar Binks and all the pain and torment he caused.

6.5 / 10

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kinky Boots (2005)

I don’t care what gay men say, but Crocs are amazing.

With the sudden death of his father, it’s all up to Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) to take over the reigns of his family’s traditional, Northampton shoe business called Price and Sons. But unbeknownst to the rest of the loyal staff, the factory is on the verge of bankruptcy. Charlie, in a chance encounter, discovers sassy cabaret star, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s Soho world of outrageous fashion and stylish, erotic boots for men, opens his eyes to an alien new niche market that he may try to exploit to keep his family’s company alive and well.

Don't judge a book by its cover. 'Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Don’t judge a book by its cover. ‘Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Pretty much I could just review this movie in one word, and that one word would probably just be: Formulaic. Seriously, every scene, every character-detail, every frame, every-line, every anything that happens in this movie, is obvious, predictable, and nothing new that you haven’t seen before. However, being “formulaic” doesn’t always mean “terrible”, especially when your movie has a bunch of dudes in stilettos and make-up, dancing and prancing around to all sorts of funky disco hits.

Which is basically Kinky Boots: All formula, but with enough flashy eye-shadow to keep you somewhat distracted.

But before I go on any longer, I might as well and just get it off my chest now and say that if it wasn’t for Chiwetel Ejiofor being in this movie, then there would have been little to nothing at all to talk about here at all. However, because he is in this movie and takes over the role of Lola, the movie is a lot more watchable and entertaining to watch. Ejiofor is one, diverse dude in terms of acting; the guy can, and probably has, played it all and he shows here that he’s not just a guy people take too seriously and all, because he can actually do comedy, and do it so well. It also helps that the character he’s playing, is also written well, too.

Lola is such a fun, lighthearted character that looks at anything everything around him in a way that’s pretty obvious when you take into consideration all of the other LGBT characters out there in movies, but Ejiofor does a great job with it and definitely kept me interested in where he was going with this character. There’s more heart to him as well, and even though it does seem obvious to have in a movie like this, Ejiofor actually makes us believe it’s true and have it come off as a bit less manipulative than you would expect.

Basically, in a nutshell: Ejiofor makes this movie better, everytime that he shows up on the screen and really, I wish there were more of him to go around.

Joel Edgerton ain’t so shabby either as Charlie Price, but definitely gets the far more boring character here. Nowadays, watching Edgerton appear in anything, adds a certain level of excitement as he seems to constantly challenge himself as an actor and have us see him in new, interesting lights. Here, as Charlie, he doesn’t get much of a chance to stretch his wings, and because of that, the performance comes off like a bit of a disappointment. Thankfully, the times have changed and Edgerton is taking over the world of Hollywood, one great performance at a time.

But still, it’s hard to really like this movie anymore because it’s just so darn cliché! But it’s also so darn cliché in that it begins to feel safe.

Gosh. What I wouldn't do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

Gosh. What I wouldn’t do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

For example, the movie contains plenty of men, dressed in drag, with make-up, wearing stilettos, having fake breasts, and dancing to awful covers of famous disco songs from yesteryear. This all sounds like a relatively naughty, but frothy good time, but Kinky Boots still tries to keep it all well-meaning enough so that it can hold on to that PG-13 rating it’s been luckily slapped with. There’s a part of me that wants to feel proud of the MPAA for not jumping down this movie’s throat due to it featuring LGBT characters and slapping it with an unnecessary R-rating.

Then again, the fact that the movie is, at the center, very safe, also feels like it’s keeping itself away from achieving any sort of greatness it should have had in the first place. Sure, we get to see Lola for what the character is, but really, it can often feel like surface-material; just enough focus so that the general, predominately straight audience doesn’t get too uncomfortable when there’s a full-grown, masculine man trumping around on heels, singing Olivia Newton-John. I’m most definitely thinking about this a lot harder than I should, but for some reason, my mind just can’t get by this fact and it’s what’s keeping me from loving this movie more.

However, I did love the Broadway show. So much fun! So yeah, see that instead.

I guess.

Consensus: Chiwetel Ejiofor’s spirited performance is just enough to save Kinky Boots from staying stuck in its pile of conventionality, where almost everything you expect to happens, happens, except this time, it’s with more gay people.

6 / 10

It doesn't matter who's wearing the shoes - if they look nice and sexy, then that's all that matters.

It doesn’t matter who’s wearing the shoes – if they look nice and sexy, then that’s all that matters.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Legend (2015)

Evil twin brothers aren’t just horror cliches, but actual, real life things?

Reggie and Ronald Kray (Tom Hardy) are literally identical twins who couldn’t be anymore different. Well, actually, that’s a lie. While they both handle themselves in certain public, as well as business situations differently, they both share the same love and need for violence, money and power. However, despite this shared interest, Reggie and Ronald don’t always see eye-to-eye. Reggie is the more calm, understated one of the two, whereas Ronald is clearly mentally-challenged, awkward and a nervous-wreck. While Reggie knows that his brother is a dangerous nut case to have around, he’s still, after all, his brother. That means that, no matter what idiotic, downright evil mistakes Ronald makes, Reggie always sticks to his brother’s side. Even though by doing so, it not only costs him respect, his marriage to his sweetheart Frances (Emily Browning), and his sanity, Reggie continues to stay at his brother’s side. Eventually though, all of this gets to be a bit overbearing for Reggie and it soon starts to ruin just about every aspect of his life; which isn’t something that’s happening to Ronald because, quite frankly, he’s not all that there to begin with.

That's Ronnie.

That’s Ronnie.

There truly is an interesting movie to be made about the notorious Kray Twins, and some of it can be found in Legend. While the movie runs 131 minutes, there’s at least an hour and five minutes of a movie that realizes it’s dealing with two ultra-violent, twisted gangsters who, believe it or not, just so happened to be identical twins. The other half of the movie, well, thinks it’s something a whole lot more serious and melodramatic which, really, it doesn’t need to be.

But before I go any further it should be noted that no matter where Legend goes, or what it tries to do, Tom Hardy is nothing short of amazing.

This may come as no surprise to anyone who has been seeing the evolution of Tom Hardy’s career as he’s went from small, British character actor, to huge, charismatic, fun and lively leading-man who’s not only great-looking, but also can command the screen. And as both of the Kray twins, Hardy is given the rough task of having to play two different characters, while simultaneously making us believe that we’re not just watching Tom Hardy act as twins and get past some of the camera-trickery that director Brian Helgeland pulls off. This is all made harder by the fact that, personalities aside, the only discernible physical traits that separate the two from one another is that Ronald wears glasses, and Reggie doesn’t.

But still, Hardy’s more than up to the challenge and making these characters feel entirely separate from one another. Though, perhaps what helps Hardy out the most is that Ronald is a whole lot more sadistic and over-the-top than Reggie, which means that Hardy has an absolute blast with this role. Every time Ronald’s in the movie, he’s constantly saying weird stuff, making everybody around him generally uncomfortable, and always making it seem like if someone were to say something that ticked him off ever so slightly, it would just set him off into a rage where anyone and everyone were in danger of losing their lives, or a limb with a hammer. Hardy makes this character, although fun and entertaining to watch, genuinely scary as you never know when the light in his head is going to set off.

This is also to say that Ronald, the character, is also all the more interesting and probably the best part of the movie.

Not only was he a gangster who was, in a day and age when this was never even talked about, openly gay, clearly mentally challenged, but at the same time, still sophisticated enough that he could handle on a conversation with just about anyone. Sure, those conversations tended to get weird and awkward, but they still shed some insight into just how this man thought and what he brought to the gangster world. Honestly, I wouldn’t have much rather seen a film about him, rather than been bothered so much with Reggie’s life, but sadly, this isn’t really the movie we get.

That's Reggie.

That’s Reggie.

Instead, we see Reggie’s life play out, as he not only meets the love of his life, gets married, and continues to try and stay alive and prosperous in the gangster world. It’s a pretty conventional story-line that most gangster flicks in the same vein and while it can sometimes work because Browning and Hardy are good together, here, considering the interest and excitement level there is Ronald, it tends to just bring the rest of the film down. Not to mention that we didn’t really even need a voice-over from Browning’s character practically the whole time, especially since she just tends to spell everything out that we can clearly see on the screen, happening in front of us.

But still, there are bits and pieces of Legend that are fun and show that Helgeland did set-out to make an entertaining gangster flick.

However, they’re mostly concerning Ronald, which makes just about everything that doesn’t concern him, uninteresting and seem like a waste of time. Not to mention that, like I said before, the movie is over two hours and starts to feel like it when the movie loses focus and instead, just wants to give us more scenes to sit, gaze and wonder how and why there is someone as talented as Tom Hardy in the movie world.

Which definitely is a good question to ask because, yes, Tom Hardy is a great actor and so is everyone else who pops up here. Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccelston, David Thewlis, and Chazz Palminteri all show up to do their actorly things and make Legend appear to be more than just a huge showcase for the talents of Hardy. Once again, that’s fine and all, but why isn’t the movie better?

Consensus: There’s no denying that Tom Hardy is great and a force to be reckoned with in Legend, but there’s also no denying that the movie he’s in is a bit messy, boring, and most of all, uninterested in probably what would have made the movie more of a compelling watch.

6 / 10

And that's somebody that we don't really care about.

And that’s somebody that we don’t really care about.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

Does anybody in law enforcement love, or trust one another?

13 years ago, Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was an FBI agent who had to work a very tough case. His partner at the time, Jess (Julia Roberts), had a daughter that went missing and wound-up dead. Automatically, everyone and their mothers started looking for suspects and while Ray knew he had the guy, locked and loaded, for some reason, said suspect was freed. The reasons behind this are a bit shady, but it left Ray, as well as his partner, and a confidante/possible flame of his, Claire (Nicole Kidman), in some tough situations. Now, in the present day, Ray believes he knows where this suspect is, what he does and just how he can get him back into the slammer, where he’ll hopefully live out the rest of his days in a jail cell. However, because Ray isn’t a cop anymore, he has to go through some legal hoops and curves to ensure that he’s not only doing everything by-the-books as humanly possible, but also to keep this suspect in jail and for good this time. Searching for this suspect also allows for Ray to get back in touch with former confidantes of his and remind himself of what it was that he left all those years ago.

Shades of gray = present. None = past. Got it?

Shades of grey = present. None = past. Got it?

Despite the original, 2009 Argentinian film having won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film all those years, for some reason, I just never got around to seeing it. Though I knew an English-language, big, bright and shiny, American remake is in the works and was more than likely going to tarnish the legacy of the original, I still couldn’t sit myself down in front of a screen and actually watch the movie. Call it bad timing, call it me being lazy, call it what you will – sometimes, stuff just happens.

But regardless of all that nonsense, having now seen the English-language, big, bright and shiny American remake, I’ve still got that feeling of not only wanting to watch the original, but also see how good it actually was to win the Oscar all those years ago.

See, for one, Secret in Their Eyes isn’t an awards-caliber movie; despite there being a nice amount of solid performances from just about everybody on-board here, the movie never once seems like it’s trying to reach for that infamous gold statue once. And in a way, there’s something refreshing about that, especially in a time like now, where it seems like each and every film was created for the sole purpose of being remembered and touted during the early winter of next year. Sometimes, it’s best to just have a solid, well-acted, and relatively fine crime-thriller and leave it at that.

And that’s exactly what Secret in Their Eyes is. It’s not setting out to light the movie world on fire, nor is it trying to have you remember by the year’s end and everybody’s trying to remember their favorite movies of the past year; it’s just trying to tell its story, give you a jump or two, make you think, and have you go home, feeling as if you spent a solid time at the movie. Though there is definitely a feeling that, considering the talented cast and crew involved, there could have been a bit more added to the proceedings, there’s also the feeling that it’s also not a remake made for purely cynical purposes.

That Secret in Their Eyes is targeted towards a much more mature, older audience, already sets it apart from most movies out there playing right now.

What’s interesting about the film is that we actually get a sense of who these characters are, amidst all of the troubles and turmoils this case may be bringing. Though it is a tad difficult to figure out which year we’re in (Ejiofor’s beard’s color is usually the clue), we still get a sense, through the relationships and personalities these characters have, of who they were both before, as well as after this horrendous murder. The movie doesn’t try to dig too deep, but because these actors are so good at what they do, they’re given that extra push that probably wouldn’t have happened, had some lesser-actors been cast.

Of course I’m not going to name any names, but you get the picture.

And of course, with the story, there’s a lot going on that can, in some ways, be interesting, and sometimes, not so much. There’s a chase-sequence that happens in and around Dodgers stadium that is absolutely breath-taking and exciting to watch. There’s also, now that I think about it, a very neat interrogating scene both Ejiofor’s and Kidman’s characters that have them stretching out the whole “good cop/bad cop” cliche and doing something intriguing with it. And while I’m at it, there’s a few other scenes that are pretty cool to watch, but really, that’s about it.

Which is to say that a solid hour or so of this movie is really solid – problem is, it hits nearly two hours. That means there’s another hour of this movie that’s not quite up-to-par as the other half. Therefore, while watching the flick, I couldn’t help but tune-out. The mystery at the center, although a bit simple and obvious from the very start, doesn’t take as many times as you’d expect it to, all up about until the final act and there’s two twists that seemed a little silly for a movie like this that was, already, way too serious and stern with itself. Granted, had there been a third twist, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up and left the theater, but thankfully, they just left it at two – as odd as they may have been.

Oh no, Julia! A gun? So against-type!

Oh no, Julia! A gun? So against-type!

But really, the main reason Secret in Their Eyes works, is because the cast is so good. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Chiwetel Ejiofor does give, once again, a fine performance here, but there’s also something troubling about his character that I didn’t particularly buy. For example, there’s an arch surrounding his character which concerns his character, in something of a relationship with Kidman’s character; while we’re never too sure or not on whether they actually did anything intimate that would make them more than just office pals, the movie continues to hammer it into our brains that, you know, something could have happened.

Why? Because their attraction for one another is strong!

Well, the problem with Ejiofor and Kidman is that they don’t really have a chemistry together. If anything, throughout the majority of the flick, they feel like two people who just started working together at the same time and are just getting to know one another, slowly but also, steadily. This would have been a fine feeling in the “past” portion of the flick, but they still act like this together in the “present” part of the story and it’s weird.

Separated from Ejiofor, Kidman does a great job in a role that gives her plenty to do. While her chemistry with Ejiofor is, like I stated before, lacking, she still finds time and space to make sure that her own characters get built enough so that we have a feeling of just who the hell she is. And also, there’s Julia Roberts really dirtying herself up for a role that, although may seem like pure Oscar-bait, actually isn’t. In a way, it just feels like Roberts wanting to try something new and have the audience see her as this character, and not the beautiful celebrity that she is.

And considering that her husband is the one behind the camera, it makes sense that she looks every bit as anti-celebrity as she sees fit.

Consensus: While Secret in Their Eyes is, one-half a fine movie, and the other half is a bit mediocre, it still adds up to a solid crime-thriller that benefits largely from a talented cast.

6.5 / 10

What a love-triangle Chiwetel may hope he's involved with.

What a love-triangle Chiwetel may hope he’s involved with.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Night Before (2015)

Screw the eggnog! Roll up a fatty!

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

Sell-outs!

Sell-outs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.5 / 10

Ugly Christmas sweater party or not, who gives?

Ugly Christmas sweater party or not, who gives?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Knight’s Tale (2001)

KnightposterSir Lancelot always did prefer AC/DC.

Ever since he was a little boy, William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) has always wanted to be a knight and make something of his life. That’s why, when his master dies, William steps up to the plate and takes over his command; while this is obviously illegal to do, he’s going to get by on a phony name, as well as a certain type of skill in jousting. And after his first few matches, William, along with his fellow squire buddies (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk), get the idea that maybe it’s time to take this career a little more serious. After all, they’re gaining so much fame and fortune, that why should they even bother to stop? And now it seems like William has caught the eye of a princess (Shannyn Sossamon) who shares quite the chemistry with him. However, in the eyes of the man she’s supposed to get married to (Rufus Sewell), this is clearly not something good, which means that he will take whatever steps necessary into not just defeating William on the jousting-field, but off it, too. This is where William’s past comes to light and has him wondering whether or not his father would be proud of what he’s become.

Don't mess with these folks. I guess.

Don’t mess with these folks. I guess.

The whole gimmick surrounding A Knight’s Tale is that, yes, it’s a medieval story taking place in the 1400s, which also happens to feature characters speaking in modern dialects, references to modern-day culture, and, perhaps most infamously, a whole ton of rock music. In fact, if one were to go into this movie, not knowing absolutely anything at all, they’d probably be shocked to all hell; once these medieval characters start suiting up and, randomly, War’s “Low Rider” begins to play, it seems so random and completely out of nowhere, that you can’t believe it’s actually happening. Is it a bad idea?

Well, given the context of this movie – not really.

What works best about A Knight’s Tale isn’t just that it features rock music to push itself further away from the rest of the medieval action sub-genre, but also seems to exist in its own goofy universe. Writer/director Brian Helgeland has a nice understanding of what sort of humor works in a movie like this, and it was a nice change of pace to get a medieval action movie that wasn’t always so serious, all of the time. Instead, it had humor, cookiness, and above all else, rock music!

And honestly, the first hour or so of A Knight’s Tale is where it’s probably where it’s most promising. The movie takes its time with its story, allows us to get a fine understanding of these sometimes silly characters, and for the most part, doesn’t take itself all that seriously. While Helgeland doesn’t ask the audience of too much, he still does a nice job in giving plenty of joy to the two types of audience members out there who would see this movie – there’s, of course, the popcorn-friendly members who care about lots and lots action, while on the other hand, there’s also those more sophisticated types who appreciate when a fine joke or two is worked into a scene. In a way, there’s a little something for everyone here and it was nice to see a blending as odd as this, actually work out well.

But then, about half-way through, A Knight’s Tale changes up its tune.

For one, it loses any sort of focus on what made it so exciting and enjoyable to watch in the first place: Its keen sense of humor. Are there still some funny jokes placed in throughout the rest of the flick? Sure, but they come so very few and far between, that it almost seems like Helgeland ran out of funny material to work with. So, much rather, instead, he decided to focus more on our protagonist’s childhood and his soon-to-be-love-life; neither of which are actually interesting, but I guess because, after all, this is his movie, we’re forced to sit through and watch his life unfold before our very eyes.

One element that helps, though, is that William Thatcher, our main protagonist, is played the late, but definitely great Heath Ledger who, even after all of these years, had that certain aura about him that’s hard to really deliver back on. For one, he was a great-looking guy that clearly got the ladies’ and gay men’s butts in the seat, but there was more to him than just the good looks. Ledger also wasn’t afraid to make himself seem like the butt of the joke in certain scenes, nor was he afraid to show off his fun and adventurous side, even if that meant he didn’t always get the chance to look as manly and as tough as some producers probably would have liked for him to be. Either way, it’s still a fine performance from Ledger and reminds us all why he was so great to begin with, but even looking back at it now, it does feel like a bit of a mediocre role to work with.

Then again, Ledger, as always, makes it work.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Gosh. How I miss him so.

And as for the rest of the cast, they’re all lovely and enjoyable to watch, but like I said, the movie starts to fall for convention and lose focus about half-way through, and it leaves most of these members with much to fully work with. Shannyn Sossamon’s princess character is a bit different from the rest, in that she’s actually equipped with something of a personality and seems to share actual, loving chemistry with Ledger; Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk do that Abbott & Costello act quite well here; Paul Bettany is charming here, as usual, playing the author who knows how to make anything mundane, sound terribly exciting; Rufus Sewell is, once again, playing the baddie; and there’s also an early performance from Bérénice Bejo, as the princess’ right-hand girl. Even though she doesn’t have a whole lot to do, it’s still nice to see where her career got started. And in some ways, a whole lot more interesting, too, considering that she’s been nominated for an Oscar in the subsequent years and most of the members of this cast haven’t at all.

Except for Heath. Of course.

Consensus: Though the anachronisms are fun and add a bit of sizzle to a relatively lifeless subgenre, A Knight’s Tale begins to fall into the same old trappings of a sports movie plot. Except, this time, it’s jousting we’re talking about here.

6 / 10

What a man.

What a man.

Photos Courtesy of: Upside Down MoviesAntonia Tejeda Barros, Mettel Ray

Enter the Void (2010)

People in rehab, don’t check this out.

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

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

But still, there were some close-calls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And not in the good way, either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like, at all.

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

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

6.5 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR.com

Suffragette (2015)

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

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

"I wish I were a gal, too."

“I wish I were a lass, too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10

You go, girls!

You go, girls!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, where’s my Hong Kong Phooey reboot!

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

6.5 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Burnt (2015)

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

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

He's tense.

He’s tense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She's tense.

She’s tense.

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

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

Had to throw in a food metaphor.

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

6.5 / 10

But together, they're oh so in love.

But together, they’re oh so in love.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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