Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 6-6.5/10

War of the Worlds (2005)

“Stop using your technology now!”, he types on his laptop.

Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), an ordinary, blue-collar man doesn’t have the greatest life a man like he should have. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto) doesn’t really trust him and is currently pregnant with her new husband; his kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), he doesn’t really see, so therefore, they don’t really connect with him all that much and usually end conversations with angry shouting; and his house itself, is dirty, unorganized, and a mish-mash of stuff he has no use for anymore. His life can be so miserable at times, that if an alien attack were to randomly occur, he’d probably be better off. Well, wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happens! The aliens do invade Earth and although their motivations aren’t known just yet, they’ve taken extra precautions and have deactivated every piece of technology on the planet, leaving each and every human to be scrambling all over, without any idea of what to do. This leaves Ray, along with his kids, to run around like chickens with their heads cut-off, too, but he’s inspired enough to try and find shelter, as soon as possible. Problem is, he’s still facing problems with his family and it might just linger in to the mission of getting to safety.

Tom Cruise running.

Tom Cruise is scared.

So rarely do we get to see Steven Spielberg lash-out any form of anger that may be within him. However, for the first hour of War of the Worlds, we get to see Spielberg at his angriest and, above all else, most playful. People are zipped to ashes; cars are flipped; buildings are destroyed; and everybody’s running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. On the other side of the camera, though, is Spielberg who, it’s not hard to imagine, may have had a huge, cheek-to-cheek grin while filming all of this.

Not only does he have the dough to play with whatever he wants to play with, but he’s doing so in a style that feels as if it’s also giving a big old “F**k you” to every other director out there who specializes in these kinds of summer, blow-everything-up blockbusters (basically, Roland Emmerich). While the carnage and destruction is fun and exciting to watch, Spielberg also doesn’t forget to show the impact of this, where he understands that people are, yes, dying right in front of our eyes. At the same time, though, he still can’t get past the sense of wonder of just how great everything looks, sounds and feels; while the alien spaceship special-effects feel a little weak, all of the terror that they do cause, doesn’t and helps make it capable of getting past those problems.

And honestly, the main reason why I’m focusing solely so much on the first hour or so of this, is because after it’s over, everything slows down, and we now have to focus on these characters a bit more, the movie gets pretty lame.

It’s almost as if Spielberg signed onto this in the first place, because all he wanted to do was chuck things around and see stuff blow up, but then, remembered that there had to be some form of a human story here, with actual, human-like characters, and instantly got disinterested in what he was doing. This makes the rest of the film, not only feel like a bore, but feel like Spielberg himself is just going through the motions, already too tired and strained from all of the effort he put into the first hour of this movie. Because with Spielberg, you can’t forget that when worse comes to worse, he’s always got to focus on that family-drama.

Which, in some cases, isn’t all that bad. Though it’s a plot-trope he tosses in more than he should, he does get these occasional bursts of smart energy where it seems pertinent to helping flesh the story out a bit more, and therefore, have the movie impact its audience a whole lot harder.

In the case of War of the Worlds and Tom Cruise’s on-screen family, it feels as lazy as Spielberg’s done before.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

For one, there’s nothing really interesting to this family that makes it easy for us to want to get behind them the whole way through and see if they end up surviving the whole disaster by the end. Cruise’s Ray character is so average, that it doesn’t really matter, because all he’s really doing, once you think about it, is just running around and ducking under and behind certain surfaces; Dakota Fanning’s daughter character yells and screams the whole time and it used as an obvious crutch for Ray to have to make tough decisions; and Justin Chatwin’s son character is such a pain-in-the-ass and annoying, that when it came around for the time to, possibly, leave the movie for good, I could care less. In fact, I wanted him to get the boot earlier!

Because these characters are so poorly-written as is, watching them as they try to survive this disastrous situation, really does not prove to be a fun time. There’s nothing to be compelled by, nor is there any real interesting bits of character-drama to be found; everybody’s just sort of feuding with one another because, well, they’re family and that’s what family’s seem to do. However, due to the fact that Tom Cruise is in the role of the patriarch and it’s his family we’re talking about, then of course you know how it’s all going to go.

I won’t say much more, but I think you get my meaning if you’ve ever seen a movie with Tom Cruise in the past decade.

Hell, even longer!

Then, as the plot progresses, Tim Robbins shows up in the movie as a weird, violent and overly dramatic dude who camps out in the middle of the woods, strapped-to-his-boots with guns and whatnot. Because Robbins’ character is all about having guns protect himself from whatever dangers may be out there, the movie paints him in such a crude-light, that it’s downright distracting. Robbins doesn’t help matters either, as he genuinely seems to be just over-acting as much as he can. And shame on Spielberg for not telling him when to tone it down, take it easy, or call for lunch.

Basically, he stopped giving a hoot and it’s not the kind of Steven Spielberg that I don’t think anybody wants to see.

Consensus: Despite a very strong first-half, War of the Worlds soon runs out of ideas, looses track of itself, and rely too heavily on familiar family-drama that’s shoe-horned in to just have us root and cheer on Tom Cruise, once again.

6 / 10

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Freeheld (2015)

Love one another. Also, stop being dicks.

Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) was a loyal, dedicated and passionate cop in Ocean County, New Jersey. She was respected and adored by her peers, was best-friends with her partner (Michael Shannon), and when it came down to getting the job done, she did everything she could to make that happen. However, the one fact about her life that she had to hide and, ultimately, caused her to lose a lot of respect from those said peers, was the fact that she was gay. Nobody knew about this little tidbit in her personal life until she was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to pass off her pension benefits to her partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Problem was, board of chosen freeholders didn’t see that as “right”, due to the fact that Hester was gay, so instead, decided to shut it down. Devastated by this news, Laurel knows that there’s nowhere else to go with her voice then to the court again, but this time, with more and more people by her side, voicing their opinions on her, and showing how she is granted this god-given right, no matter who she holds up a home or romantic relationship with.

Awkward first encounters between two very attractive people. So sad.

Awkward first encounters between two very attractive people. So sad.

It’s a shame that, no matter how kind, or smart, or meaningful the message they’re trying to get across may be, message movies, generally, suck. Actually, that’s not correct; they’re just not all that good. Most of the time, message movies come off like after school specials that you’re more likely to see on Lifetime or TLC, than actually anywhere on the big screen, where your money, attention and time is absolutely needed.

And Freeheld, like other message movies, feels just like that. However, that’t not to say that the movie, to use a word I used earlier, sucks, it’s just that, considering its good intentions, its solid cast, and an interesting director (Raising Victor Vargas‘ Peter Sollett), it’s disappointing. That doesn’t mean that they’re message isn’t worn across their sleeves, or that they don’t get it out clear enough, it’s just that it feels lacking in an actual story, with genuine, relateable characters.

Everybody here, from Laurel, to Stacie, to Laurel’s partner, and especially to the freeholders, all feel as if they’re stand-ins for a message. Laurel, of course, is the hero of this story who, after all of these years of putting her life on the line for the greater good of Ocean County; Stacie is the misunderstood little girl who is in desperate need of love, comfort and a hug; Laurel’s partner, Dane, is the gold-hearted friend of Laurel who stands by her no matter what; and the freeholders are, as expected, mostly just a bunch of ignorant dicks, with the exception of Josh Charles’ character, who feels a little more conflicted than the rest, but also begins to break into speeches that people probably think how conservatives actually talk. This isn’t to say that the cast doesn’t at least try with these types, but by the same token, it’s just a shame to see them all having to perform within these compounds where, maybe, just maybe, they’re allowed to branch out and make something new or interesting of these characters.

But sadly, they’re mostly all one-note.

Moore’s Laurel has hardly a bad bone in her body; Stacie doesn’t get as much attention as she should, but seems like she means no harm to anyone; and Dane is just a nice guy. Moore’s fine, as well as is Page and they share a nice bit of chemistry together, but Shannon is really the only one who seems like he’s really giving it his all here and coming out just fine. Well, it was especially nice to see Shannon play, once again, a normal, everyday dude, but to also see him shed some of his more sensitive angles that we don’t usually get a chance to see him dance with. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when he’s yelling and giving people those crazy eyes of his, but it’s always nice to see it when he plays a guy who seems like he wouldn’t hurt a fly because he wanted to.

No, this is not some unsold CBS pilot.

Not an unsold CBS pilot.

And for some reason, even though Freeheld‘s been hiding him in all of the ads, but Steve Carell is actually here as Steven Goldstein, the founder of the well-known advocacy group, Garden State Equality. Carell is funny here and constantly makes every scene he’s in, exciting and entertaining, but still feels like he’s just playing more of a caricature you’d see in a parody of Goldstein on SNL, rather than an actual person himself. Still, he made me laugh and his constant use of “sweetheart” and “honey” makes some of the most masculine-of-masculine men in the movie shiver, which is always fun to watch.

Homophobia. Fun? Who knew!

Anyway, other than the cast who clearly seem to be on their A-game here to make something work, Freeheld is all too concerned with passing its message along, that it just feels like a conventional bore. There are more types here than just the ones I mentioned up-top; there’s the overly-homophobic, downright rude cop who disowns Laurel from the very beginning, there’s the angry people who come to intimidate Laurel and Stacie for causing such a ruckus, there’s the closeted cop who begins to find courage once Laurel pleads her case, and yeah, there’s probably more that I forgot to mention.

But you get the point – this movie is as cliché as you can get. It has a nice heart and I more than agree with the point it’s making, but it does so in such an ordinary, run-of-the-mill way, that it makes me wonder why they even bothered making this movie to begin with? Because surely, they wanted to bring some interesting points up about humanity and the way of life, right? Or did they just want to make a movie about a lesbian woman’s final years and how she fought for equality, without any grey areas thrown in whatsoever?

I’m thinking more of the latter in Freeheld’s case, sadly.

Consensus: Not without its heart in the right place, Freeheld brings an emotional story to the big screen, but doesn’t seem to do much with it that’s interesting, challenging, or anything that we haven’t already seen before many, many times before, in many other message movies in the same vein.

6 / 10

Pictured: Good vs. Evil

Pictured: Good vs. Evil

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pan (2015)

I’ve always felt like Peter Pan needed a little more Nirvana.

Everybody knows the story, but you know what? Imma tell it anyway! When he was just a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) was left on the front-stoop of an orphanage by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) who obviously couldn’t take care of him. Fast forward 12 or so years later, and Peter has grown-up a little bit, trying to make ends meet in England during WWII. One fateful night, however, he’s kidnapped by a mysterious group of pirates and taken away to this strange fantasy world known as Neverland. Here, Peter finds out that he can fly and has all sorts of mystical powers, but is currently on the run from Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who, for one reason or another, just wants to get ahold of Peter because he has some sort of magic powers and is, for lack of a better term, “the chosen one”. Along with a newfound friend named Hook (Garret Hedlund), Peter will venture all across Neverland to escape Blackbeard and, hopefully, be able to find his mom, whom he believes to still be alive and setting up shop somewhere in this magical world of Neverland, where practically anything is possible. So long as you put your mind to it.

I guess "Polly" was off the table?

I guess Polly was off the table?

There’s a line early on in Pan that perfectly summarizes what it is that this movie thinks of itself. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook character says something, in his awfully mouthy and odd Southern accent, along the lines of, “You came here in a floating ship, I think the idea of what’s real has all but flown out the window.” Once again, I highly doubt that those are the actual words he said, but you get the point; this is basically a case of the writers and director getting together and saying, “Hey, guys. Let’s make a fun movie here. No bull. No crap. No nothing. Just fun”. And that’s what Pan actually is.

For awhile, that is.

Eventually, what happens to Pan, is that it forgets about its cheekiness and instead, delves way too deep into its own mythology where mermaids, pirates, floating boys, and white women playing Native Americans. Which, on paper, sounds so incredibly fun, and it is for a good amount of the film, but once it loses its silly edge, it gets extremely dull and boring. All of a sudden, we’re being told the story of Peter Pan once again, which is fine and all for new viewers who may have not previously known about this story already, but to the countless others who already know each and everything about it, it’ll prove to be a bit of a bore.

Which is a shame because I like what Joe Wright seems to be doing here. He knows that because the tale of Peter Pan is, essentially, a fairy tale, that he should approach it as such. There’s a whole lot of self-aware jokes here that are winking so much at the audience, that it practically breaks a bone or two in doing so. Which, honestly, is fine with me; some of the best kids movies, are those that work as well for the parents, just as they do for the kids. Sure, some of the jokes may go over the little kiddies’ heads, but honestly, they’ll be fine anyway!

After all, it’s a Joe Wright film, which means that everything’s pretty, gaudy, over-the-top, and as colorful as a Gay Pride parade, which means that for the kids, they’ll have plenty more to focus on than just the subtlety within the jokes, or the fact that the pirates in this movie endlessly chant Blitzkrieg Bop and Smells Like Teen Spirit together. Is it all weird? Kind of. But I’ll take that in my kids movies, rather than watching some same old, recycled story that just caters to the younglings and not give a single hoot about who else may be coming out to watch this movie.

Because, without us older-people, how would these kids be able to get to the movies in the first place?

But, like I said, this all begins to go down the tubes once the second-half of the movie comes into play. In fact, if I was to be even more specific as to when the movie begins to turn the other cheek, get all mega-serious and lose its sense of wacky fun, is when we’re introduced to Rooney Mara’s whitewashed Tiger Lily. That’s not to say that the casting of her to begin with is more than enough to take you out of the film (although it is quite ridiculous), but it’s the part where I realized that the movie didn’t really have anywhere else to go, or anything else fun to do. It was just going through the same old motions. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

While I’m at it, though, I guess I should point out that I’m not just pissed at the movie for casting a white actress in the role of an obvious and rather iconic Native American character, but because they cast Rooney Mara in the role, a talented actress who deserves a whole lot more than just this. Yes, it’s ridiculously cynical that the studios felt like they couldn’t have cast a Native American in a role that was most definitely made for one, but it’s also a waste of a supreme talent that deserves to be elsewhere and more often than not, actually shows it. Most shots of Mara here are of her just sleep-walking through her lines, occasionally letting something resembling a smile or a chuckle crack through and it just makes you want to hope that she got a solid paycheck here, so that she doesn’t have to bother with these kinds of big-budget, mainstream pieces again.

Let’s hope that she just stays in the beloved indie world, like she always has.

Aside from Mara, everybody else seems to be having fun, although nobody’s ever given that one, big push they needed to make them stand-out from the rest of the film. Hugh Jackman is clearly enjoying his time playing Blackbeard, but doesn’t get enough opportunities to seem sinister and instead, just comes off like a running-joke. I know this is a kids movie and we don’t necessarily want our villain beheading innocents to prove his menace, but at the same time, we don’t want him to just become a gag that the movie can point and laugh at, especially when we know he’s going to have to have that final showdown at the end. Garrett Hedlund is also having fun too as Hook, even though he’s merely just a sidekick that falls down, gets beaten up, and looks silly.

And Amanda Seyfried is hardly even here. Poor girl.

Consensus: Joe Wright is throwing everything at the wall with Pan and seeing what sticks, which can sometimes be fun and exciting, but at other times, can get a bit tiring and odd, even when it seems like the cast are having the times of their lives.

6 / 10

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won't any longer.

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won’t any longer.

Shallow Grave (1995)

ShallowposterThere’s more to life than friends. Like money, baby!

Three ordinary, middle-class friends (Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor) all share a flat together and, generally, seem to be having a good time. However, they’re are in search for a flat-mate who they can hopefully sponge off of when the time comes around. They search through some – most of whom, they make fun of and tease for being lame – until they eventually settle on a person that they feel safe enough to have around in the house. This silent man (Keith Allen) eventually settles in and, wouldn’t you know it? Within a day of his residency, the dude’s already OD’ed on a bunch drugs, leaving behind his naked-body, his belongings, and most importantly, a briefcase full of cold hard cash. Seeing as how they don’t want to lose the money, the three pals decide to get rid of the man by dismembering him and burying what’s left of the body. Surely, they think this is a smart idea that will leave them alone with nobody else, but themselves and all of the money they get a chance to spend, right? Well, time begins to roll on and it becomes clear that the money’s starting to change these friends for the worst, and will continue to do so, until it’s probably too late.

"Can't a man get a little privacy every once and awhile!"

“Can’t a man get a little privacy every once and awhile!”

It’s difficult to judge a director’s debut after having seen everything else they’ve had to bring to the table. Especially when that director’s Danny Boyle. Because obviously, in the past two decades or so, Boyle has turned out to be one of the most vibrant, exciting and interesting directors on this planet. Not only does he find new stories to work with, he also never seems to make the same movie twice. While most may seem like they’re going to be one thing, all of a sudden, about half-way through, Boyle himself decides that he’s bored and switches up genres.

This is the Danny Boyle us movie-fanatics have all come to know and love, which is why it’s a bit of a shame to look at his first film and realize that, well, he wasn’t always this great?

Sure, the Beach is a perfect example of Boyle-gone-wrong, but Shallow Grave still stands as his first film. So, with that said, yeah, it’s pretty messy. Like I mentioned before about Boyle liking to change genres up about half-way through his flicks, he does so here, but it’s not all that effective, nor is it really believable. That these three characters are as normal, plain and simple as you can get, the fact that they start to turn into wild, crazy and downright evil loonies, doesn’t make all that much sense. It would make sense if the movie ever made a mention of any of these character’s having something of a dark history or past, but because Boyle doesn’t seem all that interested in actually giving us a chance to know who these characters are, it just seems random and as if Boyle had a premise he needed to fulfill.

This isn’t to say that Boyle doesn’t make Shallow Grave worth watching, or better yet, fun, but after awhile, the style can run a bit deep. The camera, as expected from Boyle by now, zooms, runs, flies, and jumps all around scenes, and also gives plenty of beautiful moments that only the eyes of Boyle could have found. There’s a certain creepiness to the way the outside world is shown in such brooding darkness, that when we do eventually find ourselves in these people’s bright, shiny and lovely-looking apartment, it’s effective. It does drive home the point that Boyle wants to make with this story about how rich, fame and fortune can make anybody sell their souls and turn evil, but that falls on deaf-ears once all of the blood and gore comes around in the final-act.

Nobody in the cast is really to be blamed for that much, either.

Imagine those kids living on top of you.

Imagine those kids living on top of you.

It’s nice to see Eccleston, Fox and McGregor in such early, fresh-faced roles, but they do seem as if they’re trying to compensate for some of the script’s problems. Though these characters are mostly obnoxious, self-centered and unlikable, doesn’t mean that the movie itself has to be bad; there are loads of movies that focus in on/revolve around mean, nasty characters and yet, still work. However, the difference between these characters is that we never get to see anymore light shine through them than just what Boyle’s presenting. We have an idea of who these characters are early on, but eventually, the alliances start to change, revelations are made clear, and people start getting hurt. When this all begins to happen, too, there’s supposed to be a feeling of some sort of emotional or remorse for what’s about to happen, but because we don’t really get a chance to find out who it is that these characters actually are, makes all of the bloodshed feel empty.

And once again, this isn’t to say that Shallow Grave is a bad film by any chance; that it’s a movie made by the hands of Danny Boyle already puts it higher on the list of most other films. But, having seen what he’s been able to do with such solid flicks like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine (or at least half of it, anyway), 127 Hours, Trance, and hell, even the Olympics’ opening-ceremony, it makes this movie pale a lot more in comparison. He was a first-time director trying to hone his craft, work his own sense of style and make sense of it, which definitely makes the movie an interesting one to watch, but by the same token, also makes you happy that Boyle eventually got his act together not too long after this.

Although, yeah, the Beach is a terrible movie.

That’s something I will always stand by.

Consensus: Seeing as how it was his directorial-debut, Shallow Grave remains an interesting, albeit mildly interesting picture in Danny Boyle’s filmography, although it’s clear that he had to brush up on his skills quite a bit.

6 / 10

"The more champagne, the merrier", somebody has had to say.

“The more champagne, the merrier”, somebody has had to say.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Mistress America (2015)

Freshmen are so immature anyway! Just hang out with the older-crowd!

Tracy (Lola Kirke) has just started her freshman year of college and already, she’s not a huge fan of it. For one, she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life; she wants to be a writer, but in order to so, she needs to join up with the school’s writer’s group, who aren’t as welcoming as she’d like. Also, Tracy doesn’t have many friends that she can continuously hang out with. Even though she considers Tony (Matthew Shear), a fellow aspiring novelist, a solid friend of hers, he soon starts taking up with a girl that she’s a bit jealous of and doesn’t really care for. So one night, out of pure boredom and desperation, Tracy decides to call up her soon-to-be-step-sister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is a lot different from what she’d expected. Because Brooke’s a lot more eccentric and fun than a lot of the other people Tracy knows, they start to hang out more and more, where Tracy starts to mooch off of Brooke more and more, even though Brooke doesn’t even care to notice because she’s currently too occupied with plans of having her own restaurant. But eventually, the truth about Brooke’s past comes into play and it isn’t before long that Tracy realizes Brooke isn’t all that she’s made-out to be.

One hipster...

One hipster…

For better, as well as for worse.

I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Noah Baumbach. Somehow, he was able to film a whole, 85-minute narrative-flick, starring both Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke, in secret, without anyone knowing, and have it still feel like a well thought-out movie. Though it definitely seems like a lot of it was made-up on the fly, for the most part, Baumbach knows the story he wants to tell and even though it’s not going to tear down the walls like he did with Frances Ha, he’s still going to give the world a little piece of indie-cinema.

Doesn’t make it a great movie or anything, but the intentions are good and sometimes, that’s what matters.

Problem is, though, Mistress America feels like it’s trying too hard. But not in the way you’d expect Baumbach’s movies to be. In most of his other flicks, Baumbach seems so intent and keen on making his characters so unlikable and grating, that he sometimes forgot how to tell a story and make it some bit of compelling. Here, however, he loves his character’s so much and wants the audience to feel the same way, that he, once again, forgets how to tell a story and make it compelling.

Which isn’t to say that the first-half or so of this movie isn’t. Baumbach’s biggest strength here is that he portrays what it’s like to be a college freshman and have not a single clue what the hell to do with your life. Not too long ago, you were a clear-headed person with enough inspiration for what you wanted to do, but then, literally out of nowhere, you’re thrown into this great, big, and new world where you’re the tiniest fish in the sea and left without anyone to latch onto or follow. Everybody else seems to be going somewhere, but you, on the other hand, don’t, and it’s, at times, both frustrating and miserable.

This is how Tracy feels and Lola Kirke does a great job with the role, as a whole. For one, Tracy’s naive enough that when she eventually meets a person who wants to be her friend and hang around with her, she can’t help but follow that person’s each and every move. At the same time though, she’s also smart enough to use this for her personal-gain where she is, in ways, using Brooke. Sometimes, it’s to help create her story, other times, it’s to get a free meal and night out on the town. But overall, Kirke feels like a fully-realized and understandable young adult.

Something that Brooke never quite feels like.

...meets another.

…meets another.

However, because she’s played by Greta Gerwig, there’s a certain amount of likability to her that makes it easy to get past the fact that this character is nothing more than just a type. She’s the kind of character you’d find in an episode of Girls that Lena Dunham would use as a soap-box moment to make a point about the type of self-involved young women that she loathes (even if she herself may be one). Which is fine for a half-hour long show, but for a near-hour-and-a-half movie that depends on this character for a sense of morality, it doesn’t quite work.

Because the main protagonist is so in love with Gerwig’s character, it only makes all the more sense that the movie would act the same way and while it’s sometimes funny to hear what ridiculous things this character has to say, after awhile, it becomes clear that it’s a crutch the movie falls back on. Soon, the last-half comes in and while it’s quick, random, and constantly moving, it also feels randomly thrown in there. It’s clear that Baumbach wants this to be his “screwball comedy”-try, but it makes a lot of these characters sound cloying and irritating.

It’s a nice effort, though. It’s just a little too late.

To be fair though, it should be noted that these characters do eventually get their comeuppances. While they may not be as serious or as life-changing as they probably would be in the real life, they still feel like a nice treat from Baumbach showing that the real world does exist. Even though half of the movie seems like it took place in some ultra-witty land where everyone has a snappy comeback to anything ever said to them, there’s still a glimmer of harsh truths to be found; the truths where people have to learn to grow up, stop depending on others, and see what they can make of themselves while they’re at it.

Basically, what Baumbach’s always been talking about since he got started.

Consensus: Despite some charm, Mistress America loves itself a bit too much to really be all that hilarious and ends up taking away from the more insightful aspects.

6 / 10

And they're now hipsters together!

And they’re now hipsters together!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Time Out of Mind (2015)

You may be jobless, dirty and smelly, but hey, at least you look like Richard Gere!

George (Richard Gere) is a homeless man and, from what we can tell, has been for quite some time. He literally wakes up in somebody’s bath-tub, only to be kicked out by the landlord (Steve Buscemi) and thrown back out on the streets. On the streets is where George occasionally lives and breathes; other times, he gets into a local homeless shelter that may be a permanent place for him, if he can get past the psyche evaluation and plays nice in general. In this homeless shelter is where he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen), a fellow homeless man who talks his ear off about anything and everything. George, however, doesn’t really care because he’s sometimes too tired, too drunk, or to “out of it” to really care. Mostly though, George cares about his daughter (Jena Malone), who basically wants nothing to do with him, even though he constantly persists in trying to get into contact with her. Because even though George doesn’t have much hope in his life, the only one around is his own flesh and blood – someone who doesn’t even want to see him.

Is this really the same guy who was named "World's Sexiest Man" in 1999?

Is this really the same guy who was named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999?

Basically, Time Out of Mind is plot-less. It’s literally two hours of watching as Richard Gere wanders around the streets of what is, presumably, New York City, doing what most homeless people do. Beg for change; sleep; drink; eat scraps from the garbage; and sleep some more. So, if you can handle all that for, like I said, two hours, then you might find something to take away.

If not, well, you may have a more rewarding time doing something else. Like, I don’t know, actually giving money to actual homeless people on the street.

But that said, there’s a lot of props given to writer/director Oren Moverman for not at all trying to shy away from the hard reality that is homelessness in the United States of America. With his last two films (the Messenger and Rampart), Moverman has taken a sad story, and found ways to make it even bleaker; probably more so with Rampart than Messenger, but as is, Moverman likes to revel in the dark and depressing details of life. And that’s a lot of what Time Out of Mind is.

However, that in and of itself works because it doesn’t try to sensationalize or turn its back towards the true issue at hand. Then again though, the movie isn’t at all a “message movie” – it’s just one tale in the midst of a whole bunch of similar tales, most of which are just as tragic as the next. In this aspect, Moverman reminds us that homelessness, as a whole problem, takes over its cities and while there are people that are willing to help out those who may need a bite to eat or some dollar bills for whatever they decide to spend them for, it’s all too slight and gets further and further away from the real issue at hand: These people need our help.

Like I said before, though, the movie isn’t one that’s important, or simply, about something more.

It’s literally about this one homeless man, trying to live and get by in a world that, like he says, “doesn’t say he exists”. And as this homeless man, Richard Gere does a fine job portraying George as humanly simplistic as he can. Normally, when you have these attractive, mostly recognizable actors playing in these roles that are supposed to be raw, gritty and down-to-Earth, it can sometimes feel phony. But surprisingly, due to the make-up and Gere’s down-playing of the role, he fits into it well.

The only reason why I’m not more on-board and in awe of this performance as others may be, because it seems like Gere himself is stuck in a movie that’s awfully repetitive. Then again, that may be the point. That homeless people themselves seem to go through the same patterns on a regular basis, helps make all the more sense as to why Gere’s George is literally going through all the same sorts of motions, day in and day out. We see him wake up, deal with hecklers, try to get whatever money he can scrounge up, use that money to buy either booze or food (sadly, it’s mostly booze), and every so often, have contact with a fellow homeless person, or aide that just wants to give him a helping hand.

And that’s basically the whole gist of this movie.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

There are scenes where George goes to the food stamps office to apply, but even those scenes feel like they’re being replayed where he’ll come in, argue with the clerk, and then unexpectedly leave. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with a movie that gets into a sort of rhythm that puts us in the same mind-frame as its lead character, but when it’s literally two hours if the same motions, happening again and again, it gets to become a bit tiring. Especially since Overman himself, doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere with this tale, or with George, the character.

As we see of George is a broken down, beaten-up guy who, for whatever reasons, is homeless and left without anybody to care for him. It’s sad and even though we see him try to mend relationships with those he hurt, the scenes themselves never seem to go anywhere. We just see George walk into a room, piss-off his daughter, and that’s pretty much it. He leaves, goes onto beg some more, and see where life takes him next.

Once again, I get that this was probably the point Overman himself was going for, but in hindsight, it doesn’t help the movie much, or Gere’s performance.

Because even though Gere seems to be trying his hardest to inch out any sort of humanity within a character who is just as simply-written as you can get, he, and everybody else, aren’t left with much to rock and roll with. Jena Malone’s character seems one-note in that she’s always angry when her dad’s around; Buscemi’s not in it all that much to really register; Kyra Sedgwick plays a homeless woman who strikes up a little something with George and has the only bit of humor to be found at all in this movie; Ben Vereen has the best performance as Dixon, another homeless man with a heart of gold and a personality that could charm the socks off of a real estate agent.

But, like I said, to which extent does it matter?

Consensus: Gere does a fine job in the lead role, but overall, Time Out of Mind feels too much like a repetitious slog that may, or may not have a point to go along with the story it’s telling.

6 / 10

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Visit (2015)

Grandparents are so weird.

Paula (Kathryn Hahn) is, after all of these years, finally connecting with her parents, who now want to meet the grand-kids they’ve heard so much about, but have never actually seen. Even though she’s got a trip planned with her boyfriend, Paula still allows for her kids, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) to go and head out to rural Pennsylvania, where they’ll meet their grandparents and spend a week at their house. In order to document for their mom, Rebecca brings a video-camera with her along the way, which even inspires Tyler to do the same. Once they get there, they soon realize that there’s something awfully aloof with grand-mom and grand-pa. Grand-mom (Deanna Dunagan) likes to run around in the middle of the night, in the nude, banging on doors, and, generally, creeping Tyler and Rebecca out; whereas grand-pa thinks that people are always following him and acts out in strange ways, as well. Though they’re told that all of this weird behavior has to do with their grandparent’s age, Tyler and Rebecca still want to figure out just what the hell’s going on by snooping around and trying to understand their family’s history a whole lot more.

And maybe even figure out why they aren’t allowed in the basement.

Old crazy dude with a shot-gun = not good at all.

Old crazy dude with Chekov’s shot-gun.

By now, it’s a common-known fact that M. Night Shyamalan has become something of a punch-line. While his career started off all bright, pretty and inspired, ever since the Village, it’s been plagued with nothing bad decision, after bad decision. In fact, the movies got so horrible that eventually, people started turning on the ones that actually made Shyamalan a trusted house-hold name (like the Sixth Sense and/or Unbreakable). And while it can be definitely be argued that he hasn’t made a good movie since 2004 (giving the Village a whole lot of credit here, I know), there’s still something about him that makes me feel like there’s maybe just one good movie left in him.

Is the Visit “that” movie? Kind of.

Which, yes, I know may not sound like much at all, but considering what we’ve been seeing from Shyamalan in the past decade or so, it’s actually quite the statement. While it’s nowhere near the genius of the Sixth Sense or earlier-parts of Signs, the Visit is still a fun movie that shows Shyamalan is capable of taking the found-footage format into certain areas that we least expect it to be, especially with him at the helm.

Did the movie really need to be filmed in this format? Not really, but it helps add a certain level of eeriness that can sometimes be so strange, it’s actually entertaining. However, whereas with the Happening, where we were laughing at how incredibly serious Shyamalan seemed to be taking his goofy-as-all-hell material, this time, it seems like he’s actually in on the joke and knows that what he’s presenting, is indeed silly. There are moments where it seems like Shyamalan wants to make this story a whole lot more serious than it actually appears to be, but these are the moments that he actually focuses the least on.

Most of the time is spent in the dark, where we don’t know what’s lurking in those shadows or behind those closed-doors; all we do know is that whatever we see, will be creepy and possibly, make us jump out of our seat.

Does that mean that the movie’s actually “scary”? Kind of, but not really. However, there isn’t a problem with that because Shyamalan’s intent doesn’t seem to be giving us the jeeper’s creepers; he mostly just wants to give us a fun, little “boo” moment every so often, keep our minds awake, and our eyes dead-set on whatever comes next. Whether this movie can be best classified as a comedy, or as a horror-thriller, doesn’t seem to matter because it takes away from the fact that, basically, Shyamalan is having a good time here.

And honestly, when was the last time we saw that?

That said, there are still problems to be focused on and show that, even though he’s getting better and back to his old ways, Shyamalan still has some issues to get past. For one, the final-half gets so ridiculous and so insane, that when we realize that it’s actually supposed to be a heartfelt tale of these kids’ own journey to get over the abandonment from their dead-beat dad, it feels odd. At one point, the movie was an uproarious, campy-as-crap creep-fest that features a barn full of dirty diapers, and then, randomly, becomes a super-dee-duper serious piece of melodrama. It doesn’t feel right and in all honesty, sort of makes the last-half seem like it was directed by a different person.

Don't follow. Just run!

Don’t look down that well. You never know what you’ll find.

But then again, the movie does get by on the fact that it is fun and the cast is mostly to thank for that. Though they are basically playing kid-types that movies such as this love to write snappy dialogue for, Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge are both good enough performers to get by some of the more annoyingly straining lines of dialogue. For instance, Oxenbould’s Tyler likes to rap, which occasionally leads to scenes where someone will give him a word and he’ll find a way to put in his jam; think of the “milkshake” dude from Before Sunrise, but instead of free-verse, cheap-ass poetry, it’s some kind who thinks he spits game like Tyler the Creator, but instead, is a lot more like Kid ‘N Play. It’s all so cloying and irritating, but Oxenbould is just charming enough that it’s easy to get past and just accept as a quirk.

As annoying as it may be.

DeJonge’s character fares a lot better as Rebecca, although she has a bit less of a personality to work with, other than that she wants to be a director one day (hence the reason for filming this whole trip in the first place). Hahn doesn’t show up quite enough to make me happy she was involved to begin with, but I was able to get past all of this once McRobbie and Dunagan came on the screen and took this movie by-storm. Though both of them are just supposed to be “weird” and “creepy” and hardly anything else, there’s a certain bit of humanity within them that makes us think that quite possibly, these older-peeps are just old and that explains why they act so strangely. We know it’s not, but there’s the silver-lining that that’s reasoning, which makes the movie more compelling to sit by.

And oh yeah, there is a twist here in the Visit, but it’s not the kind that Shyamalan has, sadly, made a career with. The movie doesn’t depend on it and isn’t used a crutch; it’s just a neat piece of narrative story-telling that makes the movie a bit more tense. Something that all twists should do, but has become running-gag for Shyamalan’s career.

Let’s hope this takes him out of the gutter and back onto the main streets.

Consensus: With a simple premise and approach, the Visit is a slight return-to-form for M. Night Shyamalan that still shows there’s plenty of room for improvement, but is also a reminder as to why he was such a hot-button director so early in his career.

6.5 / 10

The perfect consequence for being apart of the "Me generation".

The perfect consequence for being apart of the “Me generation”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Probably the tamest movie I’ve ever seen that says “coke” about 15 times. And I’m not referring to the soda, although if it were the late 1800’s, I would be referring to both I guess, right?

Detective David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is all about following the rules, getting the job, and having the law come out on-top, at any means necessary; Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is far different in the way that he’s so cool, calm, relaxed, and mellowed-out, that he doesn’t really care if he gets the job done or not, he just wants to look cool and smokin’. They’re polar-opposites, but they get strung together somehow and have to solve a drug-ring of coke on the streets, lead by millionaire Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Together, they have their fair-share of problems, but together, through the insistence on getting along and the help of their ears and eyes of the street, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), they finally realize that the law always prevails. Or something of that nature.

It’s strange to think that a man who has been known for his fair share of R-rated, raunch-fests, Todd Phillips, would ever stoop so low as to go for a PG-13. But somehow, with this, he did and his struggle with actually trying to keep to that rating without over-stepping it at all. As I said up-top, there’s plenty uses of the word “coke” and nothing but; girls make-out with other girls; the F-bomb is dropped once (and randomly); partial-nudity is seen (sort of); and the word “shit” gets dropped about 5 or 6 times. It’s just strange because we know that when Phillips turns on the dirty-jets, he has a fun time and lets loose like no other, but what we mostly know is that when he does get down and dirty: he’s a lot funnier as well.

Whatta fun time!

Whatta fun time!

And trust me, it’s not that this flick isn’t funny, because it sure as hell does have it’s moments of comedic-inspiration that are more than likely going to win you over; it’s just that the tone itself is a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that the flick tries to go for a satire of an episode of the original Starsky & Hutch, and at other times, seems like it’s trying to be a straight-forward comedy that makes up it’s own jokes, is in it’s own little universe, and doesn’t even know about the other show. Hell, it even plays out like a failed-pilot of the original, except with more knowing-humor and a switch-up of the lead characters.

Since the movie never seems like it knows what it wants to be, or how for that matter, some comedy hits and some of it misses. More of it hits than actually misses, but knowing what Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell, and even Phillips are capable of, it comes as a bit of a disappointment. The jokes they use get a bit stale after awhile, especially the part where Starsky is high on cocaine and gets into a dance-battle, even though he doesn’t know he’s high, and become the same old, “70’s-fashion-was-so-corny”-type of humor. Nothing as witty or as smart as Zoolander or even Old School here, just a bunch of repetitive jokes made towards the decade it’s apparently supposed to take place in, even if it feels like we’re just watching a bunch of current-Hollywood stars play dress-up and act like their in the 70’s. I don’t know if being a tad bit anachronistic was the movie’s point or not, but if it was; it probably would have been a lot smarter and funnier in that case.

But in all honesty, I can’t discredit this movie too much cause the cast seems to be having fun and is mostly the reasons why we find ourselves laughing at times, despite it seeming a bit desperate at times. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are seemingly playing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. They both seem to be enjoying themselves, not having to stretch their acting-muscles all that much, and getting a chance to dress in some fine, sexy 70’s digs. Together, they’re a bunch of fun and keep this movie cracking, but after awhile, you start to think how much of this movie was made because they really wanted to make a Starsky & Hutch movie, or how much of it was made as an excuse for the two to pal-around with one another? One has to wonder, and sometimes, it feels like the latter-aspect. It’s fun to watch them, but it feels like their having a bit more fun than we are and that poses a problem, especially when they’re trying to steal the laughs out of you.

Come on! Gimme more!

Come on! Gimme more!

On paper, having Vince Vaughn do his spastic, fast-speech act and Jason Bateman do his dead-pan act, team together, and play the smart, but slightly off-kilter baddies in a movie would seem like comedic-brilliance, but it never musters up any of the courage to really keep them funny or relevant all that much. Vaughn seems like he’s bored being serious and conning, whereas Bateman actually seems like he’s bored, and isn’t just using that to his and his character’s advantage. He actually seems like he’s bored and wants to get his check, so he could get the hell home and get ready to film another season of Arrested Development. Also, any movie that has thew chance to showcase Juliette Lewis and her comedic-talents as the dumb, trashy-chick in the movie, but squander that potential, has seemingly all but lost points from yours truly. The girl is not only a foxy mama, but she’s pretty damn funny, especially when she’s given the chance to be.

Others in this cast that show up do what they can like Snoop Dogg, who actually has some of the funnier-moments in the whole flick of funny people; Carmen Electra and Amy Smart show up to only make-out and provide some sex-appeal for a movie that didn’t need any, and when it finally got it’s chance to showcase it, made it seem more misogynistic than titillating; and actual cameos from the original guys, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who made it funny just being there, but once I got to thinking about it, made it almost seem like the film was making fun of them and how hell-bent-out-of-shape they seem to have gotten. Poor guys. Oh well, they probably got a nice, healthy paycheck from this. Just like Bateman. Although, needless to say, he probably made that paycheck last.

Consensus: Bits and pieces of Starsky & Hutch seem inspired enough to transpire plenty of inspired moments of comedy, but not too many as the flick struggles to make up it’s mind of what type of comedy it wants to be, or even make us laugh at all.

6 / 10

"1, 2, 3 and to tha 4, Huggy Bear is at tha doe."

“One, two, three and to tha foe, Huggy Bear is at tha doe.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

I Am Chris Farley (2015)

Sorry, Kevin James. But you were just a replacement.

As a chubby little kid growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Chris Farley always knew that he wanted to entertain people for a living. Did he want to become an actor, or did he want to become a comedian? Chris himself never quite knew, that is, until he started taking stage-acting lessons at a young age and realized that his passion was most definitely making people laugh and feel happy. As Chris began to tune his craft a bit more, then came the notoriety that even landed him a job on the most coveted comedy show ever, SNL. On this platform, every Saturday night, for millions and millions of people, Chris was able to entertain the heck out of anyone who cared to watch him – sometimes, he pushed himself far beyond his own reach. As time went on though, all of this fame, fortune, fun and adoration from those around him, came at a price that Chris wasn’t able to handle and it ended up taking his life at the age of 33.

Oh god. Not the "van down by the river" thing again.

Oh god. Not the “van down by the river” thing again.

There’s a lot of people that I know and talk to that aren’t quite sure what to make of Chris Farley. Was he the comedic legend that everybody makes him out to be? Or, simply put, was he just another chunky guy that liked to yell loud, fall down, and point at his own gut with a winning-smile? Cause so often know, we see a lot more of the later be displayed and it almost seems like rather than moving beyond those sort of stale jokes, Farley himself acted on them once again and brought them back to the mainstream. Even if they never went away, Chris Farley, for better as well as for worse, made “the fat guy” jokes funny again and it’s something we’re going to be forced to live with until the end of time.

Now, like I asked before, was Chris Farley a comedic legend?

Whatever the answer may be, depending on the type of person you are, it doesn’t matter. All personal feelings aside, I Am Chris Farley seems perfectly content with approaching Farley’s own life and career as if it were one big party the whole way through, filled with all sorts of drugs, sex, booze, fun times, celebrities, and smiling faces (all looking at him, of course). And in this sense of the documentary, it’s where director Brent Hodge really excels; not only is it impressive that Hodge was able to nail such celebrities like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, David Spade, and Lorne Michaels to talk about Farley, but he’s actually able to bring a lot more out of them than just, “Yeah, he was a funny guy,” and leaving it at that.

Instead, each one sheds light on how much they loved being around Chris and what it meant to them that he was making them happy, and busting his ass to do so each and every opportunity he got. While this may sound incredibly self-serving, it turns out it’s not; because Farley himself was such an entertainer and attention-whore, he loved it when he made those around him happy and laugh. This of course paints Farley in a positive light that makes it seem like who we got on the screen, was exactly who’d we get off the screen – another idea that the movie brings up.

That Chris Farley was, through and through, without any commercial interruptions, an entertainer, makes him all the more sympathetic. He truly cared about entertaining others and while his most-known buddies still work today and couldn’t care to do much of that anymore (aka, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and of course, Adam Sandler), it’s bittersweet to know that Farley never wanted to dumb himself down for anyone, or anywhere. The movie even makes a mention of how Black Sheep (the Spade-Farley movie that came out after Tommy Boy), may have been a forgettable piece of garbage, but was one that Farley tried his hardest in that even when it bombed, he still tried to bounce back.

Of course, he bounced back with Beverly Hills Ninja, but hey, they can’t all be winners, now can they!

I can only assume that this was taken while Joe Dirt 2 was being filmed, because there is no excuse for that look.

I can only assume that this was taken while Joe Dirt 2 was being filmed, because there is no excuse for that look.

But while all of the nostalgic stories of whimsy about Farley may be fun to listen to and all, there’s a part of this movie that feels like it’s missing. For anybody who’s familiar with Farley and his life, they’ll know that his later years were filled with all sorts of debauchery and sadness, most of which that this movie does shed a light on, however, not to the fullest extent that seems necessary. In order to paint a full portrait of a subject, a documentary should show you how screwed-up one’s life was before they passed away, rather than tell you through narration or text that pops up on the screen.

Hodge himself seems as if he was too enamored with Farley’s life when he was alive, well and making all sorts of people happy, that he forgets about the darkness that lurked within him. Now, I wasn’t expecting this to be some sort of hatchet job that makes Farley out to be like some sort of selfish d-bag, but there is something to be said for a movie that talks about the fact that Farley overdosed on drugs, yet, hardly alludes to the fact of how it makes those people feel today. To me, there feels like a necessary meat to this story that’s missing and almost makes it seem like Hodge, in a way to not push any sort of agenda too hard, didn’t decide to dig any further than what was presented to him through these tales of yesteryear with these many famous people.

Which isn’t all that bad, because even though Farley himself would have wanted the audience to be entertained, there’s still something to be said for a documentary that doesn’t paint a full-picture of its subject, especially when the subject died in such a shocking, tragic way.

But hey, there’s always the narrative biopic!

Consensus: The interviews that I Am Chris Farley is able to get, help make the documentary float on by in a pleasant, entertaining way, even if it does feel like there isn’t much room to go any further than just the happy times.

6.5 / 10

Never forget that lovely mug right there.

Never forget that lovely mug right there.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, Consequence of Sound, WGN-TV

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Run, Denzel, run!

Denzel Washington plays Army Major Bennett Marco, a career soldier who grows suspicious about his experience in Desert Storm after Squad Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), son of the powerful Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), becomes a candidate for Vice President. Something feels very eerie about Marco, and both of the Shaw’s and that’s why Marco is going to go out and settle the truth.

Jonathan Demme is a very skilled director that can go from making movies about Neil Young, to making one about a pilled-up Anne Hathaway that loves crashing weddings, and make it all work out in his own way. Of course, like with most directors, the guy has had his fair share of blow-outs (The Truth About Charlie, anyone?), but I think it’s safe to say that he’s definitely had more hits than misses and this flick is one of those rare hits, that somehow misses a mark it could have hit a littler harder.

What makes this flick work is that Demme puts us in the same state-of-mind as it’s main character is in, and has us disheveled and confused as he is, and never lets us know exactly just what the hell is going on. We get a lot of dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, ideas, drug-trips, and plenty more devices that are used to mess with our minds, just like our main character’s as well, and that’s what Demme succeeds at the most. He keeps us in the dark with what we think we know, and what we expect to happen next in a flick like this.

And yes, it most definitely works.

Just think about it: Naomi Watts would be OUR first lady.

Just think about it: Naomi Watts would be OUR first lady.

There are certain places that this movie goes, really will surprise you, in terms of twists and material. The twists are good and kept on flying when I thought they would end, but still added more and more layers of tension and mystery to a story that didn’t need it, but didn’t suffer from too much of it either. But in terms of material and where this flick goes with it, it can be pretty damn surprising. Certain things happen that you don’t expect to considering this is a mainstream thriller with A-list names and Hollywood producers, and you also don’t expect certain characters to get killed-off when they do. Basically, with a filmmaker and story-teller like Demme, nothing is as what it seems and you can’t seem to trust anyone. Once again, that’s the same sort of mind-frame that our main character takes and it’s a real delight to see that work so well by the inspired hands of Jonathan Demme.

Although, something just wasn’t clicking for me in the right ways that I was expecting it to. What I mean by that, is that the movie has all of these ideas, all of these mysteries, and all of these conspiracies to it, that enhance the plot as well as our confusion of what we think is actually happening, but never seems to get off-the-ground. The reason for that being is because it feels like Demme is so considered with laying down the groundwork of this story and telling us what he feels like we should know, that he never kicks the story into full-gear and having us feel like we are on a ride that’s never going to end, and shows no signs of it either.

Maybe the problem I had with this movie and this pace, was that I think I was expecting something more of a slam-bang, action-thriller, and that’s exactly what I did not get. This is more along the lines of a psychological thriller that takes it’s good old time to get where it needs to go, and doesn’t really worry about the people watching it, squirming in their seats and just waiting for the tides to change, and start having people beat the shit out of one-another and run away. That never happens and even when it does show signs of that actually occurring and speeding everything up: it still disappoints. If it wasn’t for this snail-like pace, Demme would have really been onto something here, but the guy just never lets his material move at a speed that cannot only gain our attention, but have us more intrigued in seeing where it all goes and ends-up.

Thankfully, we have an A-list cast like this to save the day and thank the heavens for them. When you see a movie that Denzel Washington stars in, you automatically assume that he’s going to be the downright lovable, cool-as-shit Denzel Washington that we see him play, and master in just about every one of his movies. However, he’s a little different and shows that the guy can play crazy, pretty damn well, mind you. The guy’s still got some charm to where you feel like he’s a good-guy underneath all of the lost-marbles, but you still don’t know what to make of where he’s going, in terms of character and his motivations. No matter where this character ends up, Denzel is always compelling and always makes it easy for us to root him on, as if it’s him vs. the world, and we are on red corner’s side, just hoping he comes out of this alive and without a single-scratch on that voluptuous forehead of his. Yeah, I went there and I make no apologies for it either, bitches.

Not walking up the public-escalators? Yeah, totally crazy.

Not walking up the public-escalators? Yeah, totally crazy.

The one in this cast that I was really surprised by was Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, because not only does the guy portray his character’s smugness in such a way that really had me want to punch him in his corrupt-face, but he has the most challenging-role of all. For instance, Shaw is the type of character that is typically a bad guy because he looks bad, is on the bad guy’s side, and is rich, powerful, and smart. Pretty much any person that has those qualities in a movie, or life for that matter, fit the bill of being a total and complete villain that we just don’t like and want to see dead as soon as possible. I’m talking about in the movies, not real-life. Although I do think you could arrange that if you needed to.

But I digress.

What makes this character of Raymond Shaw so complex is that yes, he does fit the role of the type of guy you would normally hate and root-against in a movie like this, but there’s more to him than just that. You sort of feel bad for him because you can tell that he doesn’t really have the brightest-clue as to knowing what the hell is going on, and feels bad that he’s being played-with as a result of all of this confusion. Therefore, he has to take the higher, and sometimes more difficult road of taking everything he sees, hears, and thinks in stride and going about his business, but still having wonders in his head as to what the hell is right and what is wrong with his life. Schreiber plays this moral-dilemma so very, very well and shows the type of dimensions you can get with a character like this, no matter how one-sided he may seem on-paper. Schreiber is always a solid actor that continues to turn in good-work-after-good-work, and his role as Raymond Shaw, is one of the glaring examples of this.

Perhaps the one who really knocks this out-of-the-park, but didn’t surprise me as much was Meryl Streep as Raymond’s “mother”, Eleanor. I think it goes without saying that we all know and love Streep for being the powerhouse-force of in almost everything she does, but her performance as Eleanor shows a darker, meaner-side to the things that she can accomplish and show-off as an actress. She doesn’t necessarily chew the scenery, as much as she takes a look at it, contemplates whether or not to take a bite, and then, decides to eat the whole freakin’ thing and spit it right back out. Streep is the type of actress that can pull-off this hard-hitting woman role like gangbusters, and it was so glorious to see her play a character that isn’t all wholesome and happy; she’s actually pretty terrible.

Consensus: Demme doesn’t allow The Manchurian Candidate to fully pick itself up off-the-ground with fun and electricity in the air, but instead allows the eerie, and mysterious atmosphere kick in and mess with your minds as much as it’s messing with the lead character’s, and many other’s as well.

6.5 / 10



Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Pixels (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still here?

Good! Let’s get going!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, have I lost all of my followers yet?

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

6.5 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz


Boy Meets Girl (2015)

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

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

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

It's alright to appreciate the bangs.

It’s alright to appreciate the bangs.

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

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

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

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

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

With Hendley, Schaeffer is more than lucky.

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

Because honestly, does it really matter?

Two very different women, I have to say.

Two very different women, I have to say.

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

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

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

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

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

Trust me. Hell, trust us all.

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

6.5 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Consequence of Sound

Ant-Man (2015)

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

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

Puns intended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, sort of.

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

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

If only Edgar Wright stayed on.

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

6.5 / 10

Until next year, bro.

Until next year, bro.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Minions (2015)

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

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

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

Love at first drought.

Love at first drought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.5 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Fall (2006)

Wish my daddy told me stories like these.

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

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

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

Yes and no.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stick with making pretty images.

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

6 / 10

Hey, it's my backyard!

Hey, it’s my backyard!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

In Khaleesi, we trust. And the Governator, too. I guess.

After finally defeating Skynet once and for all, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends fellow soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to save his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), from imminent death, courtesy of terminators sent from the future. However, when Reese arrives in 1984, he realizes that things have gone a bit awry; not only is Sarah totally understanding of why it is that Reese is here to find her, but she’s even brought around another terminator that’s supposedly on her side, a T-800 she refers to as “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Now, the three must band together to ensure that they are able to stop Judgment Day of 2017 from happening, however, in order to do so, they’ll have to go through all sorts of crazy shifts and time-changes. While this may be an efficient way to stop the apocalypse from ever occurring, there’s also the fear that in the process, they’ll be running into all sorts of problems with local law enforcement, fellow T-800’s who want each and everyone dead, and another deadly terminator (Matt Smith) who sets his sights clear on screwing up each and everyone of Reese and Connor’s plans; something that Pops won’t let happen if he can help it.

Basically, there’s a whole lot of time-travelling going on in Genisys (misspelled, I know), but it’s surprisingly done so for a smart reason, even if the reason is a bit obvious. To get past the fact that T3 and Salvation were both pieces of garbage, the creators behind Genisys have made sure that their movie goes back in time to where the first began, change a few things around with that, and then jump all the way to the somewhat present day and woolah, it’s almost as if the third or fourth movie ever happened. We hardly ever get to go back to 1991 (when the second movie took place), but we don’t really need to because we already know that movie rules. Case closed.

Not naked? Boo.

Not naked? Boo.

Sadly, Genisys does not, in fact, “rule”, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the third and fourth combined.

Granted, that’s not saying much, but in a day and age where every sequel/remake/reboot seems like it’s so obviously just aiming for audience’s pockets with absolutely no shame whatsoever, it’s quite refreshing to get a blockbuster where there seems to be some sort of effort put into play. Sure, the movie definitely tries a bit too hard to make sense of itself, while at the same time, continuously shooting off more and more exposition, but it at least seems to be trying. Not to mention the fact that the movie sort of knows how goofy it’s premise can definitely get; many scenes here end with a character or two scoffing, “Oh, that totally makes sense”, in a sarcastic manner to give you the impression that the movie doesn’t want to take itself all that seriously.

A little seriously, definitely, but not too much so to where it’s turning people off by how unwilling it’s able to crack a smile and grin at itself. The jokes that these characters don’t always fly, and more often than not, feel like recycled gags that are thrown in to make a serious moment feel less of so, for no reason or another, but like I said before, at least there is some humor to be found. It’s all corny, mind you, but sometimes, there’s no problem with a little starch added to your meal. And speaking of the full meal, Genisys offers plenty of fun moments with its action-sequences.

After all, it is a summer blockbuster, so how could it not deliver on that front?

But like the two other movies before it, a lot of what bogs down a lot of the fun and excitement that can usually come from the action, is the endless need this movie feels to constantly hammer on and on about Skynet, what they’re capable of, what they’re up to, and just whom it is that’s working for them and calling all of the shots. Some of this is of course needed to create a villainous figure to identify with and root against, but the movie seems so hell-bent on just discussing the history of them and what they’ve got in-store, rather than doing a whole lot about it. Though they do eventually step up to the plate and fight the big baddies at Skynet, it’s after so much meaningless babble that it feels a little too late at times.

As with the first two movies of this franchise, everything worked best when James Cameron just kept his focus solely on the action between robots and humans. Anytime those movies focused on anything else, it was to help build characters and/or discuss what needed to be done next to keep the plot moving forward. It was hardly ever more difficult than that, however, Genisys makes it clear that they want to explain all that there is to explain about the mythology of this franchise and all of the players involved with it. Is this used as a way to inform new viewers? Or, is it a way to set-up more movies to come?

Talk about a face....lift.....

Talk about a face….lift…..

Because, oh yes, their definitely are more movies to come and honestly, I won’t be too upset when they come around. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t terrific, but it still feels much like a Terminator movie, rather than just a dark, gritty and lifeless cash-grab, something that the last two movies before this did. Because from here on out, there’s so many paths this franchise can take and it’s something to look forward.

The only aspect that has me a little worried with this franchise continuing on to be a possible juggernaut, is the cast. Surprisingly, Jai Courtney, somebody who hasn’t wholly impressed me just yet, is the one who comes off as the most engaged as Kyle Reese. While he’s definitely the most human character of the bunch, there are still small moments where Courtney gets a chance to show off some of his charm. He’s still a little stiff, here and there, but for the most part, feels like he’s actually interested in giving this character something of a personality that isn’t laced with 80’s cheese, courtesy of Michael Biehn.

Everybody else, as much as I hate to admit it, is sort of going through the motions. A part of me wants to believe that this is because the script seems less interested in building any compelling personalities for these characters, and is more concerned with who is doing what where and at what time, but another part of me believes that maybe these actors didn’t all come fully ready to play. Okay, by now, it’s clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is definitely just going through his same old moves again, and though he’s fine at it, it does seem to get a bit tiring now that he’s getting older. The CG is starting to show and the stunt-doubles are getting all the more recognizable; maybe it’s time to hang-up the leather jacket Arnold.

Just maybe.

Then, of course, there’s Emilia Clarke as the latest portrayal of Sarah Connor and she doesn’t fully fit in to the role quite well. Clarke has definitely proven that she can be a bit of a small-tempered bad-ass elsewhere, but here, she feels oddly-placed, as if she’s too young to play this sort of role, or too innocent. Which is especially weird to say, having seen her in all of Game of Thrones. And with Jason Clarke, as I’m sure you may know by now due to the incredibly idiotic trailers, his role as John Connor starts off simple, but then turns into something else completely and it’s a bit of a shame that Clarke isn’t given a chance to highlight any sort of emotion underneath it all.

But hey, at least J.K. Simmons is here and is funny. That’s all that counts, right?

Consensus: Neither terrific, nor a disaster, Terminator: Genisys works well with its action, and less with its nonsensical exposition.

6 / 10

"Something something, destroy Skynet, something something."

“Something something, destroy Skynet, something something.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Overnight (2015)

Always break-in the new neighbors.

Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) have recently moved to Los Angeles with their young son and have no idea what to do next. While Emily’s got a job, Alex is sort of just left at home with the kid, where he hardly knows anyone and doesn’t know how to go about actually acquiring any friends. Emily tries to push him more and more, but constantly, Alex doesn’t bother; he misses home just a little too much. One day, however, when watching their son in the park, Alex and Emily encounter another couple by the name of Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche), who not only take a serious liking to them, but even go so far as to invite them over to their house for a good time. Alex and Emily are nervous, obviously, but they decide to take the bait and wouldn’t you know it? They show up at the house and they’re having something of a fun time. There’s wine, pizza, good tunes, and a great overall mood. Then, Kurt brings out the bong and all of a sudden, things get very weird, very quickly.

It’s hard to not spoil a movie like the Overnight, due to the fact that it’s so simple in its shape, size and premise, that even go so far as to saying, “crazy stuff happens”, already feels a bit like a spoiler. There is truth to that statement, however, but the degrees to how far that crazy stuff is willing to go, what it reveals about these characters, and what it’s supposed to make us think about our own lives in general, all seem to not be as predictable. While it’s easy to think that this is just going to turn into another, old-fashioned sex-comedy romp in the same vein as something like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the Overnight tries to be a bit more.

Mah gawd. Toates awkward.

Mah gawd. Like, toates awkward.

Problem is, occasionally, the chances it has to be something more often feel like missed opportunities.

For instance, the movie actually has something very interesting to say about what it’s like for grown-ups, or, most importantly, parents, to go out there, make friends, and socialize as if they’re a bunch of freshmen getting started and situated on their first day of junior high. Very early on, the character of Alex states that “it’s weird” for him to actually go out there and try make friends with people when he’s a lot older than he was some many years ago. Sure, he wants to make friends and have more people to spend his time with, but at the same time, he doesn’t know how to go about it without being incredibly awkward because, well, he’s grown-up.

From here on, the Overnight works with an odd, but effective sense of humor where every discussion between these two couples can get pretty awkward; however, it’s not a crutch that the movie falls back on when it needs to. Instead, these awkward sighs, chuckles, small-talk, grins, etc., all bring out a certain level of honesty from within these characters and is eventually what leads to the later portion of the film. Now, this isn’t to get past the fact that the Overnight can be awfully funny, however, it isn’t always for the reasons you expect and most of that has to do with the fact that the cast do solid jobs in nailing down even the slightest hints of subtlety that make their characters more human and believable – even if some of the choices they make don’t always add-up.

But more on that in a little while.

Now, on with the awesome foursome here.

Adam Scott, as per usual with him, plays up his slightly nerdy shtick, but also allows for it come from a deeper place than him just relying on something we’ve seen him do before. As Alex, he gets a chance to reveal some insecurities that aren’t always well-written, but because Scott seems so into it, it’s okay to sit by and watch. And for Taylor Schilling, as Emily, she finally gets a chance to show the movie world, not only her comedic chops, but her dramatic ones as well. While she’s definitely the voice of reason in this whole thing, there’s still a feeling that even she wants to break out a bit and not be tied-down by the fact that she’s a mother, a worker, and a wife – sometimes, she just wants to have a little fun.

All lookie, but no touchie. Story of my life right there, folks.

All lookie, but no touchie. Story of my life right there, folks.

And with Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche’s characters, they definitely get this; however, it’s bit stupid at times. Sure, Schwartzman is great at seeming like he’s totally in on some sort of joke we aren’t too knowing about, and Godrèche gives off the idea that she’s a lot sweeter than her icy demeanor may have you think, but eventually, their characters begin to get a bit idiotic. For example, without saying too much, there’s a certain insecurity that Adam Scott’s character has, that Schwartzman’s doesn’t, and after this, it becomes all too clear that the movie seems like it wants to discuss real life, actual problems that adults have, and try to hide them underneath raunchy sex jokes about dicks, boobs, and butts.

In other words, it becomes a Judd Apatow movie.

However, whereas with Apatow movies, it’s clear that he’s trying to make a point and doesn’t quite know how to cut it all down to where we understand the point in a quicker, more efficient manner, writer/director Patrick Brice seems like he can’t help himself from throwing a sex joke whenever he sees fit. And then, sometimes, they’re not even jokes; in some cases, the whole idea is that this plot is going to lead to some very strange places in the bedroom and it seems oddly-placed, not to mention, not all too believable. It’s as if Brice knows what he wants to say, but still wants to appease those who were looking for a raunchy piece of sex-comedy.

And that’s what the audience will definitely get here with the Overnight – sometimes, it’s funny, other times, it’s not. However, there’s no denying that Brice, given the chance to maybe polish his script once or twice more, we probably would have had an even tighter movie than something that clocks in at 81 minutes or so.

Yep, believe it or not, could have been shorter.

Consensus: The Overnight is the type of sex-comedy that deals with real human issues that most of us all suffer, but still feels the need to point and giggle at penises and breasts, especially when it doesn’t need to.

6.5 / 10

Somehow, the dude wearing a cowboy hat in a children's park isn't the creep in this situation.

Somehow, the dude wearing a cowboy hat in a children’s park isn’t the creep in this situation.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Manglehorn (2015)

ManglehornposterWhen you’re sad and lonely, get a cat. Those little a-holes seem to help out.

A.J. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) lives a very quiet, care-free life. He lives with his cat that he loves so much, owns a key shop somewhere around town, goes out to eat when he feels like it, goes to the bank to flirt with one of the tellers (Holly Hunter), and will occasionally head on over to the local casino. Though he has a son (Chris Messina), the relationship the two have isn’t great to where they constantly keep in touch – except for only when the other needs money. But for some reason, Manglehorn is starting to think a tad differently about his life and realizes that maybe it’s time for some things to change. This pushes him to finally ask that bank teller out on a date, reconnect with his son, and above all, try and have something of a relationship with his grand-daughter. For some reason, however, there’s something in Manglehorn’s past that’s constantly keeping him away from doing that. Nobody really knows but him, so what is it exactly?

Last year, with Joe, David Gordon Green finally seemed to have gone back to his roots, and while he was at it, find the perfect suitor for his unique sense of style with the likes of Nicolas Cage. Sure, the movie may have depended a lot on the performance of Cage, but as a whole, it brought Green back to the good old days of when he made smaller, more indie-based flicks that seemed so strange oddly put-together, that they seemed like nothing more than crappy student films. However, for better or worse, they weren’t; they were David Gordon Green’s babies that he wanted to display for the whole world to see. What the world decided to do with them, was totally their choice.

First dates don't get anymore exciting than this!

First dates don’t get anymore exciting than this!

As it will be with Manglehorn – another flick that finds Green back to his old indie-world.

And just like with Joe, Green’s been able to find another talented star who is able to gel with his unique style with the likes of Al Pacino, surprisingly. Over the past year or so, Pacino has really stepped away from the big, mainstream lime-light and stick it straight with the indies, and while they may have not all worked out perfectly as a whole, there’s no denying that Pacino’s very good in them. Now, at this point in his career, Pacino is less concerned with making money and pleasing others, and more or less concerned with just challenging himself and showing the rest of the world that it doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still season and hone your craft.

With this character of Manglehorn, Pacino gets a chance to do so and it surprisingly works for the rest of the movie. Even though a lot of the lines that Pacino mutters are nothing more than a faint whisper, at times, there’s still a sense that there’s something more to this guy than he’s letting on. Pacino has the great ability to make it seem like he’s improving his ass off, even if the script is written exactly as how it’s coming out, and here, as Manglehorn, there are many instances in which it seems like Pacino’s just making it all up as he rolls on along. But somehow, once again, it works – it makes you see that this character may be a bit out-of-touch with the world around him and when push comes to shove, can be as charming as you or I.

That’s if, you know, you or I were Al Pacino, of course.

No, Harmony Korine. Just leave.

No, Harmony Korine. Just leave.

But anyway, what Pacino’s performance in the key role shows about the rest of the movie, is that when Green just allows for the camera to sit down and just observe whatever Pacino’s doing, or saying, or acting with, the movie’s something of a little delight. The scenes Pacino has with Holly Hunter and her character are at times sweet, and at other times, odd, but there’s no denying that there’s an engaging simplicity to them all that puts us all one step closer to these characters, rather than making it feel like Green’s style is getting in the way too much. Even the few scenes Pacino has with Chris Messina’s character run with the same kind of energy, although in a different manner, of course.

However, the problem that this movie runs into is that it feels like it’s a little excessive in certain details. Now, even though Green didn’t write this (Paul Logan did such), the movie still has his certain trademark for letting the weirdest little details sink in, but whereas his movies end with that and just allow for them to be a thing, Logan seems like he wants this tale to be about so much more. For instance, it’s never clear where exactly this movie is going, all of a sudden until the last half-hour and we realize that, oh wait, something’s troubling this character that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Honestly, I just presumed he was just an old crank and left it at that; anything else seemed to not exist, until it was coincidentally brought up later on.

Then, there’s the odd subplot of Manglehorn’s past life coming into the forefront of the plot, which never seemed to really go anywhere. Throughout the movie, we constantly get to hear little glimpses of a conversation some characters are having with one another about a past recollection of Manglehorn and something he did. Sometimes they’re heroic tales, sometimes they’re weird, but either way, they feel a tad unnecessary. It’s almost as if Green and Logan felt like having someone as talented as Pacino in the lead role wasn’t enough to make him interesting as is, so to add-on all of this supposed backstory would just help him out. Problem is, it didn’t happen and just goes to show you that sometimes, you shouldn’t get in the way of an artist and his art.

Especially when that artist is Al Pacino.

Consensus: Due to Pacino’s great performance, Manglehorn moves in certain areas that you don’t expect it to, to much surprise, that is sometimes both good, as well as bad.

6.5 / 10

I'd trust that grizzle with opening up my car.

I’d trust that scruff with opening up my car.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hungry Hearts (2015)

hungry_hearts_poster-620x842Know who you’re impregnating, before you impregnate them.

Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) randomly get stuck in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, and from then on, their lives are changed. The two fall in love, get a place together, get pregnant, and, well, wouldn’t you know it? They end up getting married! It’s great for these two young kids, and for awhile, they seem to be getting along quite fine. They have a child, and while Mina and Jude originally seem to be on the same page of how to raise it, what to give it to eat, etc., eventually, that all begins to change. Once Jude finds out from a doctor that all of the vegetables and non-protein foods that Mina is feeding their baby isn’t allowing for it to grow at the right pace it should be, he decides to take matters into his own hands where he feeds the kid all sorts of delicious treats like ham, turkey, and sugars – all of which Mina is totally against. This leads to a battle of wits and actual displays of violence that pit Jude and Mina against one another, all with their precious little baby in the middle of it.



Don’t be fooled by the Bruce Springsteen title here, people: Hungry Hearts is no picnic to get through. But somehow, I think that’s the point. Writer/director Saverio Costanzo takes a premise that would give off all sorts of insights that were so prevalent in Blue Valentine, and yet, take it a step further, in trying to talk less about messed-up relationships that don’t fit together well, and focus more on the fact that the people in the relationships themselves are messed-up to begin with, hence the reason as to why the relationship isn’t quite working out in the first place.

Like I said, happy stuff.

What’s initially interesting about Hearts, is that it doesn’t ever seem like it’s trying to make full sense of this romance and show how these two lovebirds are absolutely, positively made for one another. Instead, the movie goes on to show that while they may be pleasant together, the circumstances in which they met and eventually came together to get married, weren’t at all ideal. Then again, not everybody’s relationship is ideal if you think about it, but here, with Mina and Jude’s, it especially so in a way that helps the movie’s style in which nothing is glamorized in any sort of fashion. What you see on the screen, is literally what you get, warts and all.

That said, there’s something odd about Hearts from where it starts off as an insightful romantic-drama, to something in the same vein as Rosemary’s Baby. What starts to come into play in the later-half of this movie is literally a constant game of cat-and-mouse between Mina and Jude, which I will admit, does grab attention to itself, but at the same time, feels like something from a whole, entirely different movie. Though it’s hardly ever mentioned, there’s a slight idea going around in this film that Mina’s family has a long history of mental illness and because of this, she acts out in ways that could literally be classified as “insane”.

Once again, the movie utters maybe a line or two about this idea and that’s about it.

Which is definitely weird, not because it seems to come out of nowhere, but because the movie seems to lose all hope in saying anything interesting with its plot. Jude is passionate about saving his baby’s life and will do anything to keep that so, whereas Mina is just a crazy lady who wants to constantly feed her baby nothing but veggies, regardless of whether or not it’s killing it. That’s basically it and while it’s tense to see how Jude reacts to Mina in certain situations, at the same time, it feels like a disappointment considering the places this movie could have gone and definitely seemed to promise on and on about.



But if there is something that made this last-half, if somewhat believable to watch when it was easy to get through all of the crazy nonsense, are the two performances from Driver and Rohrwacher, both of whom seem very committed to this material, even if they are a bit too good for it. Driver, like usual, finds ways to challenge himself and step outside the boundaries made for him by Girls, and with Jude, he does a great job. While Jude is, at times, a very frustrating character by how much of a pushover he can be when it comes to how to raise his own child, there’s still a feeling of honest love that’s felt whenever he’s on-screen, and it helps his character be more likable throughout, even if you do want to ring his neck at certain points.

Something I’m pretty sure many people feel while watching him on Girls, but it’s still slightly different.

Believe it or not, though, it’s Rohrwacher who actually steals the show a bit from Driver, as she really seems to giving it her absolute all, even if the script doesn’t seem to be too bothered with her doing that. What I mean by this is that the movie seems to categorize her as nothing more than “a villain”, and while this isn’t a false idea to have when looking at her and her actions, it still seems like too harsh of a judgement. Rather than being well-rounded and making Mina’s convictions seem somewhat justified in her own nutty way, the movie instead just goes right ahead and points the finger at her. Not saying that she doesn’t deserve it, but after awhile, it became abundantly clear that the movie wasn’t looking for much more insight into this character.

However, that’s why Rohrwacher’s performance is so good, because we get to see certain shades to this character that the script may not have even had at first. Whereas Mina’s a nervous wreck just about every second of every day, Rohrwacher shows that it’s literally a battle she is having with herself, rather than her just lashing out and loving every bit of it. Even when she starts committing terrible actions to her baby, it comes out of a soft spot of love and compassion that, while you may not at all agree with, is understandable. Once again, not condoning any of this woman’s actions, but when put into perspective, it make sense why she acts the way she does.

Simply put, she’s crazy. That’s it.

Consensus: Despite a drastic tonal-shift about half-way through, Hungry Hearts benefits from two solid performances that make the movie hit harder than it probably should have.

6 / 10

Oh, what promise the future holds.

Oh, what promise the future holds.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

Science can get pretty kinky.

Two lepidopterists, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudson) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), spend a lot of time together. While they both practice bugs and all of that fine stuff, they’re more interested in the BDSM that they practice and who, or who doesn’t, get the chance to take command of the relationship. While Cynthia demands for Evelyn to do stuff, she responds in a way that’s calculated, and leads her to, sometimes, getting punished. On the other hand, however, Evelyn isn’t really upset with this; she, like Cynthia finds this fun, hot and something new to play around with, until it gets to be too much for both involved. However, what ultimately ends up happening is that, over time, Evelyn and Cynthia start to grow jealous of one another and clash heads a bit. While Cynthia is fine with taking absolute control in the bed and in the relationship, Evelyn is now starting to lean more towards something of a natural relationship where woman hold and love another, rather than sitting on each other’s faces and doing all sorts of other odd stuff.

Something as odd and bizarre as the Duke of Burgundy should be a whole lot more exciting than what it actually turns out to be. For one, writer/director Peter Strickland seems to be taking a very serious, very intimate look at two women participating in a BDSM relationship that can sometimes test them to their limitations. But then again, it’s very hard to do that with what eventually happens here, and yet, try to make sure that no people start cracking up.

Gotta always get prepared and dollied up for the night's wild proceedings.

Gotta always get prepared and dollied up for the night’s wild proceedings.

Because, honestly, when you have a movie where one character pees into another character’s mouth as a source of punishment for not cleaning out one’s panties, it’s pretty hard not to crack up.

But that’s what’s sort of strange about Strickland – he is so drop dead serious, that you almost have to go along with it. While it’s easy to be the most immature kid watching at home, there’s also a time and place for when one has to grow up a bit and realize that bodily fluids and sexual desires are just another part of daily human lives. Strickland knows this, sees this, and understands this, and because of that, he wants us to pay attention, as well.

And it’s very hard not to pay attention to what’s going on, if only because of all the sorts of fun role-playing that occurs here. However, whereas a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey gives the audience a plethora of scenes where its two characters are just having a bunch of fun, wacky and wild sex with one another, and leaving it at that, Strickland takes it one step further. In a way, Strickland actually wants us to get to know these characters and exactly what this BDSM relationship does to them as a whole.

While one person may have the most control on what happens, and doesn’t happen while in between the sheets, they may not have the same power or control when it comes to the actual relationship itself. That’s what happens here with Cynthia and Evelyn here, and while I won’t give whom it is in which position, I will say that it’s an interesting look at how quickly and drastically control can shift in a relationship, no matter how loving or miserable it is. If one person wants something better, and the other person knows that, it’ll most definitely take a toll; not just on one person, but the both of them.

And as Evelyn and Cynthia, both Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudson put in good work here, showing that both characters have complex needs, wants and pleasures that make them more compelling to watch, no matter what they’re doing. While it’s easy for some to get wrapped up in all of the sex games that they play with one another, the smaller, more subdued moments are what seem the most telling as we truly get to see what it is that they feel at that exact moment.

But, then again, there’s this problem that I continue to have with this movie where it feels like Strickland drops the ball a bit, especially in the last-half.

Somehow, somewhere, Strickland got a bit too ahead of himself. Even after having a solid first-two halves, Strickland loses a lot of focus and starts to get really strange, but in ways that aren’t very appealing. Not because, once again, they feature these two female characters doing odd things, but because the movie forgets that in order to make a lot of what happens, the focus has to be on the characters. They don’t have to be the most likable human specimens on the face of the planet, but they just need to have some sort of compelling aspects to their personalities that make them so worth getting invested in in the first place.

Here, Strickland loses that idea in his head and instead, starts throwing sheer craziness at us like an imaginative dream into one character’s vagina. You heard me right, people. No typo whatsoever. There is literally a sequence in which Strickland constantly puts his zoom in on a character’s vagina and we continue to go in and in, until, for some odd reason, bugs start flying all over the place. Have no clue what it means, really, but neither do I think Strickland does either; he’s just going along with the wacky flow and seeing who he can keep interested next.

And, well, job relatively accomplished.

Consensus: Without a sharp focus, the Duke of Burgundy isn’t as compelling it should be, despite the two solid performances and shocking scenes that occur through the run-time.

6 / 10

"Madam. Please be ready. I need somewhere to sit."

“Madam. Please be ready. I need somewhere to sit.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


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