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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 6-6.5/10

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Thankfully, I’d still have my Dorothy Doors. Nobody’d ever look down one of them.

It’s the year 2023 in America and it’s Purge Night. This means that the government is allowing everyone and anyone to go out there, commits all sorts of crime, for a certain amount of time, without any police authority ever taking control. Sounds ideal for those nut-balls out there in the world, but for the common-folk who don’t enjoy killing people – it’s a bit of a disaster. On this one night in particular, we follow three stories: a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car accidentally breaks down on the road, moments before the Purge actually begins; a mother (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter (Zoe Soul) who are kidnapped by a bunch of men dressed in SWAT uniforms for unknown reasons; and a lone, silent man (Frank Grillo) who has a clear mission and is planning on following that on throughout the whole night. That is, all until he ends up gaining a conscience about half-way through and decides to save the mother and daughter, making them have to come along for the ride as he continues to finish what he set out to do in the first place. But on a night like “Purge Night”, nothing is ever going to be easy.

Okay, so it’s obvious that the big question concerning this sequel is, “Is it better than the first?” Well, coming from a lad like me who actually didn’t hate the first, but though it was mildly interesting disappointment, feels like that is the case here and I can’t say I’m too surprised. I knew that there was a whole bunch of promise in the first movie, but due to the fact that it didn’t have such a big-budget or cast-members, it seemed like it was a movie that could be remade, time and time again, except with more money and characters involved. Because all that movie really did was make a home-invasion thriller, with the fact that the cops can’t be called; as a result, making it something like a Funny Games, just with more blood, violence, characters, and less self-aware thoughts.

#TrueDetectiveSeason5

#TrueDetectiveSeason5

But with this sequel here, we get a bigger budget, which also means, more ground to cover. Which, yes, as a result, does mean that we get plenty of more violence, blood, and murder in all sorts of places now that everything can be spread out all across L.A. without there being any problems whatsoever with the studios. And because of that, the movie is definitely better; the violence, without sounding like a psychopathic nut-case, is pleasing because we get to see a lot of bad things, happen to bad people; the characters actually seem to have personalities, as well as smart minds that are capable of thinking rationally; and the ideas that carry-on from the first, are explored a lot more in an effective way that makes you think that maybe this Purge thing should not be happening. It gives this premise, this rather imaginary world more of a purpose and shows that, little by little, step by step, installment by installment, this franchise could really take the world by storm.

That said, it will definitely take some time and I don’t think we’re all that there yet. Because while this movie can sometimes be a compelling piece of violent fun, there are still some bits and pieces that need to be worked on. For instance, James DeMonaco, despite this practically being his “love child”, doesn’t seem like the perfect director for this material. You’d think that with the story spilling out all over on L.A.’s streets, that there would be more havoc, carnage and overall craziness, but there isn’t much of that. Sure, we hear people yelling, screaming, getting killed and all that fun stuff, but we never really get a sense that this is happening everywhere these people turn, which I think in a place like L.A., totally would be occurring.

Maybe it’s not quite all that far to be putting the blame on DeMonaco, and more of on the studios that back him up with all their wads of cash, but there was still a feeling of disappointment, from an action stand-point. Now, I don’t want it to seem as if I was asking for there to be a death every five or six seconds in the movie, but it did feel a bit “tame”, all considering what this plot truly is about and where it goes. Not saying you won’t enjoy some bouts of violence, blood and action, but when it does show up, it’s not quite filmed perfectly and makes you wonder why we haven’t put the shaky-cam thing to rest by now.

I mean, seriously: Everybody but Paul Greengrass hates it! Just put it away and bring it out every so often, like as if it was your acoustic-guitar you had from college and are bringing out at a fancy schmancy dinner party. That would be perfect and it would definitely show all of these action movies that, in order to excite or please us, they don’t have to constantly shake the camera as if they are in the freezing cold without any mittens; just have good action-sequences that are worthy of our full, undivided attention.

If the Raid 2 can do that, why can’t anyone else?!?!

Anyway, the one neat aspect about the Purge being such a big hit amongst and attracting anybody who automatically hears that title uttered in everyday conversations, means that the casts don’t have to be filled with big names to attract more people. That would most certainly help, but I think any Purge movie, is good enough than no Purge movie at all, regardless of who it is starring. And that’s why I like this cast so much: We’ve all seen these people before in countless other things, and although some of us may be able to tell them apart better than others, it’s still nice to see them getting work in a mainstream flick.

"Warrrrriorrrrrsssss commmeee outtt toooo....ergh! I mean, hey, let's Purge, guys!"

“Warrrrriorrrrrsssss commmeee outtt toooo….ergh! I mean, hey, let’s Purge, guys!”

Mostly though, I’m just speaking about the inclusion of Frank Grillo here and his lead role as Leo, the cold, stoic, soft-spoken bad-ass that has a plan and wants to stick to it as much as he can, with keeping just enough of his morality in tact. If you’ve ever seen Grillo in any of the numerous stuff he pops up in, you’d know the guy is the real deal and always leaves you wondering, “Why isn’t that guy a bigger name yet?”. Regardless of why that is, it doesn’t matter because Grillo’s a quality actor and handles this role very well, considering all he has to do is act tough, beat the shit out of people, and still be gentle enough to be considered “a good guy”. It’s a great role for Grillo to get his name out there and it’s also one that shows everybody he’s due for a Punisher re-boot.

You know, just saying.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re pretty fine, although there are some weak-links to be found. Real-life couple Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford are fine together, although I felt like he was a bit too stiff to play the common-dude-turned-bad-ass that occurs later on in the movie, as it occurs with just about every one of these characters. Carmen Ejogo is a lovely actress I’ve always enjoyed seeing in anything, and though I wish there was more for her to do other than look scared and frantically run around, having her around is still better than not. However, the weakest-link of this cast is the one who plays her daughter, Zoe Soul. I get that the character was a mid-teen that was trying to grasp what’s up with the world around her and how she wants to make a difference in it, but man, she would not shut up. Rather than having her play a character that is, essentially, “the cute kid” role that’s given to the ages that range from five-to-twelve, here, Soul plays the “too-smart-for-her-own-damn-good teenager”, and it’s the kind of role I don’t hope to see from here on out.

Although, like with the shaky-cam, nobody in Hollywood will listen. Story of my life.

Consensus: With a bigger budget and more ground to explore, the Purge: Anarchy is better than its predecessor, although it’s still clear that there’s plenty of improvement needed for this franchise to really work wonders and be more than just “a gimmick movie”.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!! 

Oh, Cynthia. Such a silly girl.

Oh, Cynthia. Such a silly girl.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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The We and the I (2013)

Take a cab next time.

It’s the last day of school for these high school students from the Bronx and they’re already to get a start on their much-anticipated summer. However, in order to do so, all that’s standing in front of them is a very, very long bus ride from school, all the way to their each respective stops. On the bus, is obviously the bus driver and a few civilians here and there, but for the most part, it’s mostly the student-body who take over everything; being that they’re young and rowdy and all. And with practically the whole school being on the bus, that means we get all of the usual cliques and social groups one sees in high school: the bullies, the nerds, the smelly kids, the drama queens, the homosexuals the skanks, the stoners, the musicians, the tools, etc. We even get an old lady that makes to fun of kids’ penis sizes. So yeah, this bus has got everything and everybody you could imagine, which also means that there’s going to be a whole lot of drama, too. And when there’s drama, there’s always a bad fall-out, no matter what the problem may be.

Whenever Michel Gondry’s name is attached to anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, you always have to expect the unexpected. Which, in most cases anyway, means that there’s going to be a whole lot of strange things popping out, left and right, up and down, exactly when you least expect it. Some may call this “pretentious”, whereas others may just simply call it “artistic”, or even “original”; but whatever the word is, it doesn’t matter, because Gondry likes to make movies that absolutely surprise us and take us back for a moment. Sometimes those bold decisions on his behalf work exceptionally well, and other times, they don’t, but for the most part, the surprises we get from him are a hell of a lot better than those we probably get from our parents on Christmas morning.

Basically me in high school. Nope, the one in the middle. Yes, the one with the wig.

Basically me in high school. Nope, the one in the middle. Yes, the one with the wig.

Sorry, mom and dad. Love ya guys, but I’ve about had it with socks for the fourth year in a row!

Anyway, like I was saying about Gondry and the flicks he chooses to do, it’s always a surprise with him, which is why when I heard that he decided to direct a movie that took place solely on a bus, with unprofessional actors, I was sort of confused. Was the dude really that desperate to save as much money as humanly possible without pissing his studios off enough? Or simply, was this just another case of Michel Gondry pulling a fast one on us and showing us that, even if he’s been around for a little longer than a decade, he’s still capable of surprises in his rather storied-career?

For the most part, it’s a little bit of both, but more so leaning on the later. Which isn’t to say that what Gondry does here isn’t respectable – it totally is. What Gondry is able to do, is that he’s able to make one, single location seem to expand into being something more. And although there a whole bunch of flashbacks/dream-sequences in which we get inside a certain character’s head when he/she is speaking about something, the real feeling of there being a larger world outside of this bus is solely by these characters and listening to them talk. When a character here speaks, you believe them in everything they’re saying; not because they feel so real, but because they look so real as is. You automatically buy them as young kids just getting out of high school (mostly because they probably were in real life), but you also buy whatever it is that they’re are going on and on about.

Most of the time, too, what it is that they’re talking about isn’t very interesting at all – the subjects range from being about parties, drinking, smoking, hookin’ up with hotties, the usual drama crap, etc. – but since these characters look so real, you are slightly interested in hearing what they have to say. Just like you’d probably be if you met someone at a party and they just started going on about whatever comes out of their mouth next – it may not be interesting, or even remotely “cool” to listen to, but hey, if they’re talking and they’re the only thing in front of you, then that you’ll listen. Or, you could be a total dick, leave mid conversation and act as if you’ve never met that person in your life. Ever.

Then, it all comes down to a judge of your character really. So the choice is up to you on that one.

And most of the time, the script doesn’t really try to go for anything deeper here than “problems high school kids have”, but it’s still slightly nostalgic in the way that it reminds you of the early days of summer in which you didn’t know what to expect next, except just fun with friends, That’s what summer is all about in the first place, and even if you haven’t yet had that “ideal summer” in your life, then don’t worry, because it’ll come your way. And if not, just watch this movie and have that feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Basically me before high school. Yes, both of them.

Basically me before high school. Yes, both of them.

That’s not to say though, that because this film is so pleasant in its look and design, that means that it’s easily a great film, with barely any problems, because it totally is. For starters, while the idea of casting non-professionals in these roles may have been a bold one on Gondry’s behalf, not all of it works out quite well for him. Some of these actors feel as if Gondry just plopped the camera right in front of their faces and gave them some cue-cards on how to act when and where, and just let them roll with it. While that would work and feel as natural as natural can be for some great actors, here, there are some weak-links that feel like they’re trying too hard, or not trying at all. The ones that don’t seem to try at all and just be themselves are fine, but when you have maybe seven or eight cast-members who feel like natural, realistic teens talking, out of a cast that features maybe 20 or so, then you’ve got some problems.

Not a lot, but some.

Not 99, but maybe 30. Don’t know why there’s a random Jay-Z reference thrown in there, but hey! Whatever!

Consensus: In his typical, quirky-fashion, Michel Gondry takes some surprisingly bold moves with the We and the I, most of which work and show that he’s capable of a bare-bones dramedy, while some, don’t and show that maybe he went a bit too deep into his mind.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Where I'll be living once my parents kick me out when I turn 45.

Where I’ll be living once my parents kick me out when I turn 45.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Another Earth (2011)

So, you’re trying to tell me that there is another Dan the Man? I gotta meet this a-hole!

After a terrible incident, brilliant MIT astrophysics student Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) lands herself in jail for quite some time. That’s why when she gets out, not everything is as normal as she once had imagined. But, she eventually strikes up a relationship with a composer who has just reached the pinnacle of his profession (William Mapother), even though he is suffering from a severe bout of depression. Also to add a bit of insult to injury, there’s a duplicate Earth that appears in the sky that nobody on “real” Earth has any idea to make of it, although there’s plenty of discussions and ideas floating all around.

The whole idea behind this movie, is a pretty cool one to say the least. There’s this other planet, that features imitations of us, doing the same things we do, acting the same way we do, and even living out our lives the same way we do. Even as unlikely as that may be, it’s still pretty cool and gives this flick a sci-fi edge that can’t be ignored.

However, I wish the actual creators of this film knew that because holy hot damn does this baby not make sense!

Okay, first of all, let me just start off by pointing out where this film did not make single bit of sense to me. The times that they explain “Earth version 2″ makes no sense because it seems like the planet has seem to come out of nowhere. I highly doubt that a planet would just pop-up in our atmosphere without anybody realizing anything in the first place, and then come so close to our planet, without ever causing any chaotic imbalances. For example, Earth version 2 is so close to our atmosphere that it pretty much seems as if it’s going to hit us straight-on and nothing ever changes. The waves don’t pick up, fires don’t ever ignite, light never changes, and hell, there wasn’t even gusts of wind that ever seemed to get vicious.

"It says that I have to be 'moody and silent'. Now, how the hell do I do that?"

“It says that I have to be ‘moody and silent’. Now, how the hell do I do that?”

Granted, the whole film looked miserable with it’s hand-held approach, but nothing ever seems to put these people in danger by the fact that this other planet may possibly collide with their own. I’m not a huge science fan or anything, but even I myself know a thing or two about our globe and what would happen if any other the size of our own came close to us. Maybe a science-major knows more of this than I do, but if so, then so be it. I might just be ignorant and all.

Anyway, all that science-babble aside, the movie’s pretty fine. It just takes awhile of getting used to once you realize that this movie isn’t going to be sci-fi based at all; it’s just going to feature some elements to make a rather human-story, seem even more human.

The main theme behind this flick is the idea of being forgiven because of the proposition of another life being out there. The idea of another life is obviously replaced by the symbolism of the other Earth that’s out there and still offers up the same ideas, but it’s well-done and thought-provoking. Can we be forgiven for something as terrible as the act committed here in this movie in another life? Or, will the guilt of that act always be with us no matter where our minds, bodies, or souls travel towards? It brings up a lot of good points and I liked the way director Mike Cahill brings that out in this production that literally seems like he got it made in his backyard.

Granted, there are a lot of scenes and moments in this flick that come off as a bit pretentious where these people all seem to be talking way too philosophically about nothing, but in the realms of the atmosphere that Cahill creates, it seems reasonable and that’s what I liked most about this flick. It is a very grim tale, but it also shows you the ways that certain people forgive others and forgive themselves in the meantime. The romance that is even created between these two, feels real because they both need each other in their lives but there is still an ounce of mystery and tension because there is that one big secret that keeps them apart and the way they get through it is something that came off as very real.

But then when you have a story like this, along with a pretty neat idea about another Earth being out there, you would think that this film would really pack an original and emotional punch but somehow just doesn’t. The explored territory is dramatic, but not very original or refreshing. The way this relationship goes between these two people is at first interesting because it’s usually how all strangers start off by getting to know one another, but then there is this one scene that sort of blows that whole romance-angle out of proportion and makes it seem a bit melodramatic. That bummed me out too because it seemed like this film was really going to hit that romance angle hard, along with that other Earth idea, but instead comes off as a bit disjointed where one subject gets more attention than the other. Could have really went somewhere, but just never fully amounts to the greatness it could have achieved.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

The real greatness behind this film lies within Brit Marling as she not only co-wrote this flick, but also stars in it as Rhoda Williams. There’s something about Marling that caught me off-guard right from the start where she seemed like this type of gal that has a lot more to her, rather than just being a plain, simple, and pretty blonde. Instead, she seemed more complex than that and her character shows that. Rhoda is pretty much a mess and there are a lot of key scenes where we see how she lives with the life she now has after this horrible incident and it comes off as very interesting and in a way, I would have liked to see her own film dedicated strictly to that idea. Marling always seems like a compelling figure in this film and I felt totally behind her character even though she committed this horrible act and it’s just another layer that was able to added onto her already three-dimensional character.

Then, there’s William Mapother, who is always good in everything he does and proves it once again here. It’s crazy to see the transition this guy goes through from being a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, to all of a sudden changing up his ways and becoming more stand-offish to people after this horrible incident. It seems very real, as that’s how Mapother plays it as so, but how he starts to go back to his old ways and look at life with a smile again, also seems very realistic and shows you how complex this guy can be in his own right. They had a nice chemistry together that didn’t just seem like two people who were lonely and needed a nice hump or two, but more of a connection to a human instead. It’s a really nice element to this flick and I could have only wished they focused on that a lot more.

Consensus: The premise is interesting and the performances are wonderful, but Another Earth does suffer a bit from not going further, and digging deeper into the promise it creates.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Legion (2010)

Angels vs. demons, with God and Satan somewhere hanging out in the back.

When an angel named Michael (Paul Bettany) takes it upon himself to rebel against God’s plan of wiping out the entire existence of the human race, the whole world gets thrown into a battle of good versus, and Michael is thrown right into the middle of it. Problem is, he gets thrown on Earth in the middle of the desert with a group of ragtags that literally have the worst luck in the world right now. There’s a diner’s owner (Dennis Quaid), his son (Lucas Black), the head-chef (Charles S. Dutton), a man who looks like Tyrese Gibson and just so happens to have a gun on him, as well as baby-momma issues (Tyrese Gibson), and an upper-class, stuck-up family just waiting for their car to be fixed so that they can get the hell out of this deserted hellhole and back on with their rich, extravagant lives (Kate Walsh, Jon Tenney and Willa Holland). However, the reason Michael has taken to Earth in order to save humanity from existence is because of the diner’s waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), who also just so happens to be pregnant; aka, the last hope this world has left. Now it’s up to these groups of ill-matched peeps, along with Michael guarding their sides, to take down whatever force God has prepared for us, the human race, to face off against.

And for one thing, it sure ain’t pretty.

Yes, that scene actually does occur in this movie, and yes, it is easily the best part of all.

Don't know what you think, but that looks like a sign from God or something.

Don’t know what you think, but that looks like a sign from God or something.

But if you, like myself, watched that scene and absolutely laughed your ass off, then you’re in for a treat, because most of this film plays out exactly like that. It doesn’t matter if the special-effects look cheesy, the dialogue is clunky, the characters are incredibly under-developed, or even that the whole idea of God creating these dangerous, powerful monsters to destroy the rest of the human population, only to have each and every one of them easily kill-able by a couple of bullets or a nice smack in the head, is a bit ludicrous. Nope, it doesn’t matter how terrible this movie can get, because for one thing, it’s pretty fun.

Yes, I know that not everybody in the whole wide world can just lay down their swords of disdain and hate for anything that’s not considered “a work of art”, but trust me, if you like old, cheesy, 80′s flicks like Maximum Overdrive or even the Terminator, then this is an absolute blast from the past, that just so happens to be a movie made in the new millennium. But still, you get my drift: Expect this movie to be utter garbage and somehow, you will have fun.

Now, that’s not to say that this movie is totally amazing and perfect because it’s so dumb and over-the-top and knows it, because there are more than a few problems that this movie ran into and brought it all down as a matter of fact.

What takes this movie away from being very fun is that, like any other movie ever made in the existence of man, there does need to be some cooling-down time so that we can get to know our characters, their plight, what keeps them living on and on, and why it is that we should keep on rooting for them. I get that this needed to happen, but whenever you have quality-actors like Charles S. Dutton, or Paul Bettany, or even Dennis Quaid delivering lines like, “Show me your teeth!”, you just know that you’re in for a good, old fashioned, goofy-as-hell treat. That’s why when things slow up and get a bit serious, things are boring and they only get worse as time goes on.

But then, just as I would start to get annoyed with how serious and melodramatic this movie wanted to get for me, it pulls something completely out of its ass like a walking, talking, and sinister demon-child, and just had me rolling around in my seat. Sure, you could look at this as something as “total and complete crap”, but that’s sort of the point. There’s some messages to be brought about following God’s plan and how it’s up to us to interpret for ourselves what it is exactly that God wants us to do, or not to do, that totally gets lost in the shuffle of blood, action, and F-bombs; and with good reason, because all that stuff was really bringing down the vibes, man.

I spy with my little eye, five different people who definitely lost a bet or two.

I spy with my little eye, five different people who definitely lost a bet or two.

All this movie needed to do was give me some actors like Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, and even Kate Walsh enough moments where they got to be crazy and/or shoot something, and then I was good. And thankfully, I got to be of witness to that, more than times than one human being probably should be exposed to. However, I enjoyed it and I think that if you’re going to get a random ensemble such as this together, you need to allow them to do as much as possible, with at least something of a script. It doesn’t matter if the script is awful and even makes some of the actor’s doing the line-readings a little embarrassed – all that matters is that they seem like they’re having a fun time, even if the movie they’re in is as deadly serious as you can get.

That’s why when you have a talent like Dennis Quaid who is able to be gruff, mean, and a bit silly at the same time, it’s a joy to watch because you know that he’s in on the joke, even if the movie doesn’t like to show it off too often. As for somebody like Bettany, well, I feel bad for him because while this is a rare leading-role for the guy, he’s way too stiff and just seems like he showed up late to a party that everybody was already high and drunk at. Maybe that’s exactly how it was on set, so if that is the case, then Bettany deserves an Oscar. But for his work here, I feel bad that somebody as talented and as reliable as him still has yet to be given that leading role that puts him on the same marquee as many other supporting players who went big time.

Yet, he will always be remember for his bum. Poor Paul Bettany, man. Poor him.

Consensus: Can Legion be placed in the “so-bad-it’s-good” category? Most definitely so, and if you don’t think it, then lighten up, grab a drink or two, and give this one more watch and see how many times you laugh at somebody like Dennis Quaid guzzling down a Busch Light.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Hereafter (2010)

Jason Bourne: Ghost Whisperer.

Three different stories across Earth come together because of one major factor one experiences in his, or her life: Death. There’s George (Matt Damon), who has a “gift” in which he can speak with people’s lost ones through the after-life, and considers it more of a curse than anything else. Then, there’s French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) who has a near-death experience when she vacations to Thailand during the infamous 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and finds herself in a bit of a trance-like phase afterwards when she has to get back to functioning in everyday, normal life. And lastly, there’s twin-brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who both stick by one another as their drug-addicted mum gets worse and worse everyday, only to then be left alone when one of the twins die in a car-accident. All three people deal with death in their own ways and somehow, through the sheer power of fate, chance, or maybe even luck, connect while still looking for the same answers: Just what exactly happens to one when they die? Is it all just dark and blank? Or, is there more beauty and wonder to being dead?

At the time of this movie’s release, Clint Eastwood was 80-years-of-age and still going strong with life (as well as with the ladies) I presume. However, even a bad-ass mofo like himself has to at least accept the reality that yes, even he may die one of these days. And yes, for a man of his age, that could mean anytime soon.

"Come play with us, Danny."

“Come play with us, Danny.”

Though that sounds morbid and all, I only mean it as a way to understand his inspiration in deciding to direct a movie such as this. See, it’s all about the idea of death, what happens to us when we succumb to it, and what is there left to do after? Do we all just float around like ghosts, spooking people in horror movies and occasionally being spotted in strange photos? Or, do we live in this glow-y, supernatural after-life in which we all just hang out, party it up like no tomorrow and just wait for our loved-ones to eventually join us whenever their time on Earth is up? It’s never been proven which actually happens or not, and even though there are some people who like to say that they know exactly what happens, there’s still not enough fact to fall back on.

That said, Eastwood’s movie makes a pretty interesting claim that it doesn’t matter if we know or not, living this life on Earth is what matters most. We have to make the best of it and not get bogged down by the fact that people we know are dead and that we will be soon; we just got to keep calm and chive on, or so I’m told.

Which brings me back to what I was originally going on about: Eastwood’s age meaning something. Because see, even somebody of Eastwood’s respected stature among masculine-men, has to eventually realize that he soon will die and be gone from those he loves, or anybody else in the world for that fact. Once again, I know it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t – at least not in Eastwood’s case who is actually leaving a large body of work behind him as his legacy, where most people have just their regular, everyday lives. Still, not saying one person’s death is less important than another’s, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprise if the reason as to why Eastwood decided to get behind this movie and direct it, had a little bit to do with the fact that he himself is getting up there in age and closer and closer to being gone.

And with Eastwood here, his direction is very surprising. The choices he makes (like barely any score heard in the background, dim-lighting, long-winded scenes of dialogue) keep this movie interesting, in a small, contained way. It’s not something we often see from Eastwood or his flicks, however, it’s something that made me think that even though he’s older, he still has new, creative ways to show that he can shake things up, if only ever so slightly. You get a sense that Eastwood not only wants to pay attention to the themes about dying and the after-life, but also to the story and these characters, without really trying to get in the way of what it is that they do with their time on Earth. It would have been easy for him to do so, too, but Eastwood, being the dignified man he is, leans back and just lets most of the characters speak for themselves with their actions, wants, and needs.

However, there was something terribly “off” to this whole feature. And before anybody gets on my case and makes a point that “not every movie has to be played at a pace of 110 mph”, I will say this: It was not the pace of this movie that bothered. Even if it was slow and calm, it did not bother me; in fact, it did quite the opposite, it kept me watching. But no, what the real problem was that most of the movie felt like a smaller-scaled, less eventful indie that didn’t rely on the sheer-spectacle of its story, or the budget it was granted, but more of its characters, their feelings, emotions, etc.

But for some reason, by the end, Eastwood starts take steps further and further away from this mode of filming, and gets quite sentimental after awhile. Worst of all, he has most of this story ring false notes that I wish I didn’t see coming, but sadly, did. Meaning that when they did happen, they brought down the emotions going into this story and why it mattered to us that these three characters eventually find peace, love and happiness with their lives.

For instance, the character of George is a great example of what I’m trying to say. Here’s a guy who starts the movie out by contacting somebody’s dead wife and shows that what he has, is a total gift and is not a lie whatsoever. However, he doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who can talk to the dead”, whom everybody swarms and attacks, hoping that they too can speak with their lost, loved ones. You feel sympathy for him because he just wants to live a calm and peaceful life, yet, at the same time, also feel bad for him because he’s lonely and can’t really tell any person that he wants to be with for the rest of his life, who he really is, or what special talents he has deep in the pits of palms.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don't know yet.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don’t know yet.

It should be noted that, as usual, Damon is great in this role as George, because he’s pretty much the everyday man. Sure, he may have a unique talent that puts him in a different category from “everybody else”, but Damon plays him well to where it seems like this is just your ordinary, average dude who just wants to be happy, man. However, what ruins George by the end is that he makes some decisions that seem terribly contrived and only allowed so that he can eventually meet-up with the two other main characters in this movie. Didn’t quite work for me as much as I would have liked, and believe it or not, probably would have been a lot better off had it just been avoided in the first place.

With a movie like this, it’s almost expected that these three would eventually cross paths, but I feel like since their lives were each so miserable and painful as they were, that being separated from one another would make the movie more interesting, albeit, believable. But, as expected, Eastwood went with the conventional-route and made sure that these three eventually find ways of meeting one another and affect each other’s lives in big, meaningful ways; as hackneyed as they may have been.

As for the other two, or should I say, three, in this cast, Cécile de France and both Frankie and George McLaren are fine in their roles, although the latter two may not fair as well as de France. It’s not that I like picking on child actors, but when kids give bad performances, I recognize it and here, with both Frankie and George McLaren, they clearly can’t handle the material as well. Then again, they’re twins playing, essentially, the same character at most points, so I guess that’s a gimmick Eastwood himself couldn’t resist in trying out for size.

Sadly, it pains me to say that Clint may have been beaten-out. Yup, I went there and I find myself wanting to come back as soon as I just typed-it.

Please don’t hurt me, Clint.

Consensus: Hereafter is definitely made more interesting by the fact that somebody of Clint Eastwood’s stature and talents would get behind it, but sadly, even he succumbs to the more schmaltzy, sentimental happenings that overtake the last-half or so.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women, am I right men?

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women. Am I right guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Cold in July (2014)

Next time, just watch who you shoot. Better yet, ask for their names and possible family members that may come around and extract revenge.

After shooting and killing a masked intruder, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) believes that justice has been and there’s no need to harp on his act of violence. However, the intruder’s father, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) thinks differently and wants to see his side’s justice be done. Therefore, he concocts his own idea of revenge, which means terrorizing the rest of Dane’s family. Thankfully for Dane, he gets caught in the act and is jailed. One night though, out of pure curiosity, Dane decides to check up on what’s happening with the case and realizes that the man he shot and killed was not the man the police said it was; even worse, he finds out that the police want to get rid of Russell so that he won’t dime out the cops on their plan. Dane still has a bit of a conscience left and decides to save Russell from impending doom, where they end up figuring out just what’s really going on with all of this. What they find out is shocking and sends both Russell and Dane, along with Russell’s old friend who works in the CIA (Don Johnson), on a mission of sorts, where Dane wonders if he should stick to his comfy life as a middle-aged, suburban father, or pick up a gun and start shooting.

It’s hard to discuss a movie like this, because every plot-point counts. There’s many different twists, turns, roads, alleyways, and roads that this movie takes throughout its near two-hour run-time and honestly, to give any of them away would be an absolute wrongdoing on my part. In fact, half of the fun to be found in this movie is the twists that show up and add more fuel to the story.

See! He doesn't want to do it!

“Peek-a-boo!”

Now, that’s not to say they all work, but most of them at least add enough to the story that makes it seem like it’s diving deeper and deeper into its own, gritty, seedy underworld of sex, drugs, violence and all sorts of other bad happenings. In most movies, I would have a huge problem with this aspect of its story-telling; however, here, with Cold in July, I felt like it worked well enough for the story that it seemed the slightest bit reasonable. It all fell into that idea of, “in the dark South, anything bad can, and will most likely happen”, so I just decided to run with it and have fun while I could.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t anything wrong with just allowing a violent movie to be just that and soak in its extremities, but there has to be more substance to all of the savage, bloody killings and murders occurring. There not only has to be some heart found, but any bit of development with the characters involved, in order to give the proceedings to follow some sort of heightened emotional-connection. But here, there isn’t much of that, which mostly just comes down to the fact that the characters aren’t very interesting, nor are they given much time to just breathe.

For instance, take the character of Ben Russell; who is, essentially, a character perfectly-suited for Sam Shepard’s talents. He’s tall, lean, mean, keeps to himself, and has a penchant for killing and shooting things whenever he deems necessary. To call onto a legend like Shepard to do that, is perfectly fine – in fact, it’s downright genius. However, that’s all Ben Russell is. Nothing more. He’s just a guy who doesn’t talk at all and believes that when justice needs to be done, it must be done by any means necessary. We’ve seen that character done-to-death a million times and the way he extracts justice from that certain person is displayed here in a relatively fresh way, but doesn’t add much to the character of who Ben Russell actually is.

I get that’s sort of the point (he’s quiet and reserved), but considering that he’s the main reason why this story is happening the way it is, I would have definitely liked to get more of a glimpse into the way he saw the world and who he was. Same goes for the CIA-buddy that Russell is friends with, played wonderfully by Don Johnson. Thanks to Johnson’s lovely, old-timey charisma that rarely ever doesn’t show in anything he does, this character is given some sort of personality and complexity, but not enough to where we’re the ones getting behind his case and what it is that he wants to do.

"Hey sonny. Gotta light? Maybe even a dead body of a serial killer in your trunk?

“Hey sonny. Gotta light? Maybe even a dead body of a serial killer in your trunk?”

Instead, the movie is all about the revenge, the blood, the guns, and most important of all, the violence which mostly takes over the last-half of this movie. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with that because we get a chance to see some fine, well-set action-sequences that a younger Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez would probably wet their pants over (or even present versions of themselves now), but there’s not much humanity to it. They’re tense sequences as is, but if there had been more emotion thrown in there, one could only imagine how much harder they’d be grasping the arms to their seats.

The one who sort of walks away from this movie relatively well is Michael C. Hall who plays this Richard Dane-fella as a somewhat scared, family man that flinches before he pulls any trigger. More often than not, that aspect will shock most fans of his who only know him from his Dexter days; for anybody who has ever witnessed an episode of Six Feet Under, will probably see this as a sort of return-to-form for him. In fact, this performance could even be seen as a meshing of the two, very different acting-styles Hall has shown to the world: He’s like Dexter in the way that he kills and hunts people down with a source of inspiration burning deep down inside of him, whereas he’s sort of like David Fisher in the way that he’s not ready for all of this violence in his life, and wants to stay in his safe, middle-class world. If anything, this is a great performance from Hall, and goes to show you that the guy should continue to keep on doing movies, even if his character may not be as rich as the characters he’s played on television in the past decade or so.

Okay, maybe those last few seasons of the former weren’t as amazing, but you get what I mean: More movies for Michael C. Hall and I think we’ll all be better-off as a society.

Consensus: Cold in July is a revenge-tale dripping with all sorts of blood, violence and Southern-fried sweat, and while that’s good fun and all, the material never goes as deep as it should with its message, or its characters.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

These three hanging out and sippin' on some brews? Sure, why not! As long as they are working with the same accents!

These three hanging out and sippin’ on some brews? Sure, why not! As long as they are working with the same accents!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Sneakers (1992)

It’s like Hackers, but for the older dudes.

Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) is the head of a kick-ass security testings team that seems to do just about everything and anything right. They crack systems for companies that pay them to test their weaknesses, in hopes that they’ll never run into that problem when the real deal comes around to town. Everything seems to be going all perfect for Bishop and his crew, until some government officials get jealous of him and have a bone to pick, so they decide to blackmail him into stealing a highly valuable sort of black-box. What happens next is a crazy game of lies, deception, double-crosses, and most importantly, smiles. Smiles for everyone!

Everybody loves themselves a good spy movie. Better yet, they love themselves a spy movie with a whole lot of gadgets. The cool thing about these gadgets is seeing what it is that they can do: spy on you on when you think you’re alone; manipulate your voice even without you yourself speaking; and they can even change your whole identity and you would not know at all, until Customs had to take you aside for a “check-up”. Basically, these little gadgets are not things you want play around with, especially when you have somebody’s life in the palm of your hands, but there’s also something fun and exciting to all of that.

"I told you man. She really does eat out of that cup afterwards."

“I told you, man. She really does eat out of that cup after the other’s done.”

If you’re not on the receiving end of these gadgets, that is.

However, this movie knows the dangers of these little gadgets, but doesn’t let all of that get in the way of a fun time. The tone is a lot lighter than most “spy films” of the genre and in a way, it works. A lot of the humor here is surrounded by all of these guys being one, big motley crew of sorts that were just sprung together with barely any rhyme or reason – other than just the fact that they all know how to do some pretty smart stuff when it comes to being super, dee-duper smart spies. This was pretty cool to see as I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see Mister Tibbs and Dr. Detroit share the same screen, ever, but that’s the whole fun behind this film and what makes humorous.

The problem I ran into with this flick is that the plot is so damn thin that it barely interested me at all. I get that not all spy flicks like this are going to have original and breathtaking story-lines that change the game, but at least give me something more to work with here. All of the plot twists that occur within the last hour or so, are all terribly predictable and don’t add much to anything other than having some gullible people in the audience be totally shocked. I mean honestly people, do you really think the guy is going to give his prized possession up in a fair way by just simply handing it over to him? Give me a break!

Also, the plot seemed to really start-and-stop with itself like it had all of the time in the world to tell it’s predictable story. There were literally times when I started to doze off because nothing interesting at all was happening on-screen and that was a real bummer since I thought there was going to be a lot more heist-y stuff going on that would at least catch my attention. And even when they did come up and liven everything up for me, they were gone very soon and never really heard from again, only until the last hour. Could have been more wild, could have been more exciting, and could have been more energetic.

But I guess that’s why they had two old dudes in the lead for this flick.

Guess the one who does the soonest? (Hint: It's not the guy who was 65 at the time)

Guess the one who does the soonest? (Hint: It’s not the guy who was 65 at the time)

Speaking of those two old dudes, it’s great to see Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier, as well as the rest of the ensemble. Robert Redford seems like he still has that cool wit and charm to his whole act, even if he is a bit older; Sidney Poitier still has his act as the tough son-of-a-bitch when it comes to being in the police force, but he still has some great lines that had me howling just because it’s him saying them and you can hardly ever be bored with him; Dan Aykroyd was fine as a person called “Mother”, and he has some nice lines in here as well, which isn’t much of a surprise, because he’s Dan Aykroyd for lord’s sakes; Mary McDonnell was a little feisty fire cracker that doesn’t let this become a total sausage fest and brings out some great lines to go against everybody else’s; David Strathairn plays the main blind guy who has his time to shine, and it’s a very well-deserved scene because Strathairn is so good with what he does, but is so pushed to the back, it made me a bit upset; and then you got River Phoenix in one of his last roles ever. It’s not a big role for him, but it’s still a nice reminder as to why this kid had so much potential to be great in the first place.

The one who comes completely out of nowhere and steals this film for all of the wrong reasons is probably Ben Kingsley as Redford’s old friend, now-turned-enemy, Cosmo. Without me even knowing beforehand, I had no idea that Kingsley was even in this until I saw the opening credits flash his name and it kind of got me pumped up wondering when, or where he was going to show up and do his thing. When he finally does show up and do his said thing, it’s laughable because of how ridiculous he looks with his pony-tail, and how terrible the American accent he’s trying to pull off is. Really, he steals every scene he’s in because it’s so funny to just watch him struggle with this accent and make a character mean and detestable, when all he seemed like was one, big push-over that you could easily just beat the crap out of. It’s weird though, because ten years later, he would totally prove me, as well as I’m sure many others, wrong.

Maybe it was the British accent that made him do better in that one.

Consensus: Sneakers fancies itself a good time and with the twisty plot, fun spy gadgets, and charming ensemble, which makes it hard to not join in on the fun, even if the story itself may weave in and out of cohesiveness.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sorry. Not impressed.

Sorry. Not impressed, Gandhi.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Valkyrie (2008)

But I thought Hitler died in a movie theater explosion? Stupid Hollywood and their tricks for making up history as they go!

After permanently losing his right eye and arm, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is forced to come back to Nazi Germany, with a newfound respect from those around him, as well as a new mission on that he sets his sights on the most: Assassinating Hitler and making Germany a peaceful country once again. The problem isn’t that Hitler’s the most powerful man in Germany, whom almost nobody can double-cross and succeed at doing, but getting each and every person on the same page, so that the plot goes perfectly according to plan. There are people in high places involved, too, it’s just that they are so nervous, that they second-guess themselves so many times, that they either kill themselves, spill the beans to others, or screw up the plan while it’s going on. However, for those who are inspired to take down Hitler, they don’t back down, not even when the slightest misstep rears its ugly head. Which, during this plan, occurs many times – maybe moreso than anybody involved would have wanted. But such is the case when you’re trying to take down the powerful, almighty Führer.

First thing to mention, that is more than likely going to screw people over while watching this movie (if one decides to do so), is that every actor here, whether they be English, French, American, or, obviously, German, has to play a German character. There’s nothing different about that – heck, if an actor is called upon to do some sort of accent that isn’t of their own native-tongue, then there’s no doubt in their mind that they shouldn’t take it. However, what’s so strange here is that almost nobody in this cast, not even the German actors (as hard as they are to come by), even flirts with doing a German accent.

"So, the one Jew says to other Je-...... Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?"

“So, the one Jew says to other Je-…… Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?”

Perhaps the biggest criminal of this is Tom Cruise who, in the first few minutes, does a bit of German to show that he’s got the chops to be on-par with Liam Neeson in every which way; but a mere seconds later, he’s back to his original, American-dude accent that almost everybody is able to recognize right away and is distracting practically the whole way through. It makes sense if you English lads like Tom Wilkinson, or Kenneth Branagh, or even Bill Nighy in these German roles, cause at least they have an accent as is to work with, but Cruise, he has nothing. It’s just him talking, and acting like he’s Jerry Maguire all over again.

Except this time, instead of, “Show me the monaaaaay!”, it’s, “Heil Hitler!” Which, while we’re talking about it, he only does once, so relax over there ya Scientologists!

And it’s not that Cruise is bad really, it’s just that he’s playing Tom Cruise, which is neither good or bad, it’s just Tom Cruise. Especially so here, considering he doesn’t seem like he’s really trying to go for anything else other than the heroic, determined-type we’ve seen him throw himself into role, after role, after role. Nothing wrong with that, because the dude’s a pro at those types of roles, but it does get old after awhile when it seems like all you’re seeing is the same guy, play the same role, in the same kind of movie, except with different scenery around him. In this case, it’s Nazis, but honestly, throw in a scene of Cruise on the hood of a car, with that iconic track playing somewhere in the background, and you’ve practically got another Mission: Impossible movie.

Except, once again, their being Nazis and all.

The rest of the cast is fine, too, mostly because they’re easier to not be distracted by when they’re trying to sound a lick at all like German-folk, but there’s nobody here in particular that’s spectacular. Everybody’s fine and serviceable with what it is they have to do; which, most of the time, just consists of them clicking their heels, staring into space very intently, and sweating bullets, which was probably because Bryan Singer decided to douse all of them with Aquafina bottles before shooting. So yeah, that last part doesn’t count.

And speaking of Bryan Singer (all “under-aged boys parties”-jokes aside), the guy does what he can here with this material. He clearly wants to make this move, sizzle and spice like a Hitchock thriller, while at the same time, still harp on the fact that an evil man like Hitler actually existed and had immense power over thousands and thousands of people. However, what takes away from most of what Singer does here, is that it’s a story we all know the ending to. Okay, maybe not all of the little, itty, bitty, gritty details, but what we know is that the plan failed, Hitler lived, and all of those who were involved with the conspiracy theory in the first place, we’re all eventually killed anyway. So yeah, it sort of ends on a dim note, but that’s the kind of note we can expect from a movie like this, because that’s exactly what happened.

"Stop hanging out with the pirates!"

“Stop hanging out with pirates!”

It’s not like I’m saying that movies that have an ending we already know about, can’t be fun or exciting anyway possible, because they totally can. However, in order to do so, there needs to be a drive, or a certain feeling of emotion involved with the proceedings that makes us feel, even for a split-second, like this story’s outcome could happen differently than what we already know. It’s highly unlikely, but so are plots to plenty of movies; that’s why we need movies to go for the gold whenever they can, having us believe in the unbelievable, and throw all of our cards out on the table, as if we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The problem is, we know what’s going to happen next, and Singer never gives it that drive. Nor does he do much else to keep the proceedings exciting. Just by-the-numbers, by-the-books, and that’s it.

Yawn.

So in a way, I guess I have to give Singer some credit for at least sticking to history as much as he could for the film’s sake, without ever allowing it to get too boring or preachy, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder what the point was about this whole movie. We know that it wants to show us that Hitler was a bad man and that nearly everyone close to him wanted to stab him right in the back, but it doesn’t seem like anything new; person gets on top of their throne and now all of a sudden, everybody wants to take the throne away from said person. It’s a traditional story-route we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but I guess the only real aspect of this movie that separates it from the rest is that the person in that throne is, well, Adolf Hitler.

Oh, and also Nazis.

Consensus: Both Tom Cruise’s and Bryan Singer’s intentions are noble and make Valkyrie, for the most part, interesting to watch as the plot unfolds, but the problem is that we get what happens what happens at the end, and we can’t help but not really care for these generic characters more than we need to.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else."

“Huh? What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Railway Man (2014)

He’s been working on the railroad, all the goddamn day.

Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) meets Patti (Nicole Kidman) on a train and the two automatically strike-up a conversation, therefore creating a connection as well. And rightfully so, because they seem to have a lot in common – despite his love of trains, they are both soft-spoken, reserved, and shy, but expect to be happy with that one other, special person, that is if that person ever comes around. They think they’ve both found that special person in one another, so they automatically decide it’s time to get hitched and start their lives together. Which is all fine and dandy at first, but once Eric begins to have panic-attacks and freak the ‘eff out over something he’s imagining in his head, then it all gets a bit sketchy. Still, Patti loves Eric enough to stick with him and figure out just what’s up with him. Through his buddy Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard), she finds out that Eric was once a young, dashing soldier in the British military during WWII when Japan made them surrender and took them into their prisoner-of-war camps. In this camp, Eric experienced all sorts of hell and torture that he doesn’t wish to talk about, but may get the chance to confront them head on when he hears that one of his captors (Hiroyuki Sanada ) is still alive and at the spot where he was treated like dung all those years back.

My problem with this movie right off the bat began when I realized that everything was going and moving a bit too fast for me, as well as for itself. See, we hardly get any introduction into Eric Lomax, other than he’s a smart, rather nerdy-chap that sort of, kind of, maybe, has a way with the ladies, as long as the ladies enjoy his constant blabbering about trains and railways. Nor do we get much of anything to Patti, despite her being played by Nicole Kidman and more than deserving of some development before we are thrown right into things. But nope, we see them get placed on the same train together, somewhat hit it off, and then, all of a sudden, they’re happy, frolicking on beaches, kissing, making-love and married – all in the span of a five-minute montage.

Love at first train flight.

Love at first train flight.

That felt a little too quick to me, but then, it gets a bit worse. See, once we are introduced to Eric in the present-day and his life he has with Patti, then things switch around to the days of when he was in the army; more specifically, the event in which his whole squad practically got captured and taken in as hostages. This, I kid you not, occurs quicker than Eric and Patti getting married, and made me feel as if I maybe started a bit too late and missed a reel or two. Because surely, no movie would just toss us into a whole bunch of action we don’t really have any reason for seeing in the first place, right?

Well, nope. In the case of the Railway Man, the first half-hour is very hard to get through. Not because it is slow or taking its good old time (which it does in many cases throughout the whole film), but because we never get any understanding of any of these characters. We just notice that they’re sort of sad, distraught and trying to make best with what they can. That’s a trait all humans have, but what else did they have?!? Not much else really, and that’s why I was wondering if I was going to give a single hoot about this trip Eric was going to take, why it mattered and just exactly what kind of person he was before he got married and started having crazy hallucinations.

Thankfully though, I got that, and then some.

I guess I should go into the idea of how most of this story is fact, but that shouldn’t get in the way with how you view it. In fact, I’m not even going to place a link to the actual details of the true story, because I don’t think it needs to be read beforehand. Because what works so well with this movie is the fact in how it continues to build its story through flashbacks and the present-time it presents, yet, never feels like a gimmick. In fact, it’s one of the very few movies I’ve seen in quite some time, where the flashbacks didn’t get in the way of what was really going on and mattered; they served the story, and all of the emotional-notes it was supposed to hit.

Sure, it’s a story of forgiveness and it is no doubt that most of this story may have been a bit fabricated to get away from the really, REALLY brutal and grim details of what went on in those camps, but the movie never seems like it’s pulling away many punches either. It focuses on this Eric guy, what he went through in the war, and how it has made him the person he was back when he was alive. It’s actually very sad to watch, considering we know that there are plenty of others just like Eric out there, right now, that we can’t really seem to do much for except just pat on the back, hug, talk to and let know that everything is going to be alright, even if they’re going to be stuck with those nightmares for the rest of their natural-born lives.

It’s a sad reality, but it’s one that will never stop to be true. Regardless of what you’re feelings of the war may be.

Not the sort of dreams I have, but hey, that's just me we're talking about here!

Not the sort of dreams I have, but hey, that’s just me we’re talking about here!

And as usual, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman are both great with what they do here as Eric and Patti Lomax. Moreso of Firth because he has plenty of screen-time to himself, although I feel like his character went through so many characteristic-changes over the course of a whole, three-to-four-hour conversation that he was suffering from something more than just PTSD, and more like being bipolar, but maybe that was how he was in real life. I didn’t know and honestly, I didn’t care too much about it because Firth is so good here and it made me happy to see him getting another meaty role that’s worthy of his talents.

Kidman, however, doesn’t really have much to do except look upset, smile occasionally, and be on the verge of tears just about everytime Eric is acting up. It’s nice to see Kidman and Firth get a chance to work together, but it’s a bit of a shame that this has to be the movie, where they don’t spend too much time together that doesn’t consist of them shutting the other one out, or not talking at all. Sometimes, it’s a bit frustrating because you know there could be so much more emotional fireworks had there been maybe one or two more scenes of them just talking, but I guess those parts of the script just got written out.

However, as good as Kidman and Firth are, the one who really steals the show is Jeremy Irvine, who plays the younger-version of Firth’s Eric. The only time I’ve seen Irvine in something else was War Horse, and while I may not see all that much range within his acting-prowess from those two movies, I can still see that this guy has plenty of promise. For starters, it looks like he really got into this role as a brutalized, tortured soldier that is in a whole other game than he expected to be and it makes us all feel sympathy for him. Especially when he’s getting water-boarded and yet, still decides to stick with his story. Don’t know about you, but that takes some damn courage.

Not saying that it’s ever happened to me, but man, does that just look terrible or what!

Consensus: Takes awhile to get adjusted to, but once the Railway Man gets the wheels turning, the story hits the emotional notes it’s supposed to, which is mostly thanks to both Jeremy Irvine and Colin Firth’s great performances.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Thomas the Tank Engine my rump!"

“Thomas the Tank Engine my rump!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider, ComingSoon.net

Brick Mansions (2014)

Though parkour got determined “uncool” once everybody jumped ship to this whole YouTube thing.

In a dystopian Detroit (aka, present-day Detroit), numerous abandoned brick mansions have been left for all sorts of criminals to stay, linger and just do what it is that they do best: Commit illegal activity. But since they’re separated from the rest of middle-class society, it doesn’t really matter, which is a strategy the Mayor clearly takes pride in, even if its with rather demented intentions. Regardless, inside these brick mansions lies drug-lord Tremaine Alexander (RZA) who has been looked after by the FBI for quite some time, in particular, undercover agent Damien Collier (Paul Walker). Reason being? Well, let’s just say that Tremaine had a little bit of something to do with the death of Collier’s death; which is exactly why he doesn’t say “no” to a raid that would include Damien taking him down, once and for all. The only hitch is that he has to go in there to detach a bomb, but also, to get a better feel for the ragged, musty apartments he will soon be venturing into, he has to go with someone whose lived there for quite some time. Enter Lino Dupree (David Belle), a parkour champion that wants to get his woman, as well as his respect back, even if it may come at a price by teaming-up with a cop.

It may be no news to anyone out there, but I’m going to restate it again: Paul Walker did in fact pass-away last December, and he left behind this movie as his last, fully-filmed piece-of-work. Sure, he has some scenes in the upcoming Fast & Furious installment, but apparently they’re doing some weird stuff with his brother or something that I’m not too sure will work, but either way, that’s only a few scenes; this right here, Brick Mansions, is a full movie. So for that, it should definitely be seen.

That's not Rick Ross! So don't get your panties all up in a bunch about how RZA's "turning to the darkside".

That’s not Rick Ross! So don’t anyone get their panties all up in a bunch about how RZA’s “turning to the darkside”.

And of course, in most cases, some movie being some person’s final film wouldn’t mean diddly-squat in whether or not it should be seen, but in the case of this, it actually deserves to be seen more for what it does, rather than who is in it.

See, even though this is a movie that is downright, utterly idiotic in every way, it knows it is. So, rather than just trying to go for a heavier-meaning and be something that it’s not, the movie just sticks to the basics: Be fast, fun, exciting and don’t linger too much on the over-the-top plot. And for the most part, the movie does all of that so well that I never cared how preposterous this story got. For instance, there’s a nuke in this that gets directed towards Detroit for no other reason other to than just kill a whole bunch of people. It doesn’t make any sense, and even the villain himself, doesn’t really fully believe in it. But it’s a movie, so why the hell not!

That’s why you can’t go into a movie like this and expect something life-changing or thought-provoking, just go into it expecting to have a great time and not even worry about what else is going on with the world around you. All there is to a movie like this, is what’s in front of you and how well-done the display is. Sure, the camera does get a bit frigidity at times and the dialogue more than often sounds like somebody taped a person’s lips moving, only to then add their own voices in at a later-date (Especially whenever David Belle has to deliver lines), but still, it’s all meaningless stuff that’s easy to get by. So basically, just enjoy the damn show is what I am trying to say. As simple and easy as that.

However, like I was talking about before, the one aspect surrounding this movie that’s a bit hard to get past is the fact that yes, Paul Walker is gone from our world, and even worse, is gone because of a car-crash he was involved in. Which, yes, if you love to be “that guy”, is ironic, but also in the front of your mind when watching something like this, considering he has about one or two scenes where he, and the car he’s driving is in the process of being involve with a crash. Heck, he even screams in absolute fear at one point, if only to make us feel even worse for what we’re watching.

Pssht! I could do that if I wanted to.

Pssht! I could do that if I wanted to.

Though that’s only one or two scenes of this whole nearly-hour-and-a-half-movie, it should be noted that it does make you think about his death and how really sad it is, even if he wasn’t always the best actor out there. But talented actor or not, the guy was fine with what he did, which was just staring into space, delivering a tough-guy line every so often, and doing whatever silly, over-the-top action-stuff he was told to do, with precision that made it seem like he could do that type of stuff for the rest of his life and never get bothered with it. It’s a shame we’ll never get to see that actually happen, but it’s nice to see a movie like this that shows us what he did so well in the first place and why, even though he wasn’t necessarily an “acting legend”, was definitely the kind of guy you could get for this type of movie and actually count on to give you 110%, each and every time.

Yes, I know that some may be wondering if this is actually being written from me or some sort of Paul Walker-sympathizer, but nope, this truly is Dan O’Neill and I am truly sad about the passing of Paul Walker. He wasn’t amazing, but he was able to do whatever somebody threw at him. And in the world of film, that means a lot. A whole heck of a lot, actually.

Consensus: On the outside, Brick Mansions is incredibly dumb, and on the inside, it’s even more dumb, but it doesn’t matter because of how much fun it seems to be having with its B-grade plot, special-effects, action and idea of not wanting to last in your mind long enough, but just wants to give you a good enough time. Also, it wants you to remember Paul Walker, and the talent he was, even if he wasn’t all that flashy to begin with.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh, Paul. You were such a hunk. You will be missed.

Oh, Paul. You were such a hunk. Even while carrying a deadly-weapon. You will be missed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dead Man (1995)

Less dames, more drugs. The way Westerns should be.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a small-time accountant who was promised a job in the town of Machine, so he decided to leave his simple life in Cleveland to go out and get it. Problem is, when he arrives, it’s too late, so he decides to spend the rest of his night with drinking, some sex and murder. Wait, what?!? Yes, believe it or not, this little, scared man William Blake actually shoots another man (Gabriel Byrne), who also happens to be the son of a very wealthy business-owner (Robert Mitchum), who then, as a result hires three hitman to find Blake and kill him. Though William Blake has no idea where he is going while on the run, he receives assistance from a local Native American by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer), who keeps on confusing him with the poet William Blake and doesn’t ever seem to want to stop speaking in metaphors or what have you. It’s never made clear exactly where Nobody is taking William Blake, but along the way, they meet a whole bunch of crazy characters. Some are good, and some are just downright bad. So bad that William Blake may have to break-out of his shell and start shooting people up once again, like he’s being advertised as often doing.

Jim Jarmusch is clearly a guy whose style is for his certain type of audience. Doesn’t mean it can’t necessarily work for those who are considered to be “outsiders”, but that does mean it may be a bit harder for those people to actually understand his movies for what they are, be able to discuss them at hip wine-tasting parties, and, believe it or not, actually “like” them.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere, they'll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere in the 21st Century, they’ll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

Yes, believe it or not, such a thing does exist where you watch a movie and come to like it, even if it some of those out there don’t necessarily feel your same feelings. Which, as much as I hate to say it, is exactly what happened with me and this movie; I know that plenty of people love, adore and hold it as a “classic”, but for me, I just couldn’t hop aboard that train. Though I admire Jarmusch for having a vision that doesn’t glamorize the western like so many movies we see do, I’m still confused to hell as to just exactly what this movie means, or even if everything I saw happen, did in fact happen.

And while that feeling usually sits well with me while watching certain movies, I felt like this one sort of skates by on that idea, rather than developing beyond it. Sure, you can throw me all sorts of narrative-curveballs to confuse the heck out of me just for the sake of doing so, but once it seems like a person is just doing so in order to jazz the whole piece up a bit more, then it doesn’t wholly work for me like it should. That’s just me though, and when it comes to the disagreement between me and this movie, I can’t help but hold a grudge against it.

But where Jarmusch’s vision does work is in, like I said before, the way he paints a pretty strange and bizarre portrait of the old-school West. Sure, there’s what we usually see in any Western – hookers, gun-slingers, booze, saloons, Native Americans, cowboys and beans, but they’re all shown in a way that’s a lot more muggy than what we usually see. That mostly has to do with the black-and-white font Jarmusch uses, but most of it also has to do with the fact that this movie dives into some pretty strange places that may definitely surprise someone seeing this for the first time.

Certain characters will be killed-off in such a care-free, nonchalant way, that it almost seems like Jarmusch is just making it up as he goes along; which is a bit jarring at first, but still totally works for the movie. It’s almost like watching a real life Western play-out in front of your own two very eyes, where people get shot, people die and they’re forgotten about just like that. Maybe it’s too realistic? I wouldn’t say that, but it’s definitely a change-of-pace for someone who was brought-up on all the great Spaghetti Westerns of the world.

Represent, yo.

But then again, like I said before, for every neat, relatively normal sequence Jarmusch introduces, there’s a strange, off-kilter one that follows it and it doesn’t always work. Instead, it feels like he got a bit bored and decided to throw some neat, little style-points in there for good measure. But rather than enhancing the story, it only makes it seem like he was high while filming.

Once again, maybe that’s just whatever my weird mind-frame makes up as it goes along, but it’s my thoughts nonetheless.

At the center of all this craziness (believe it or not), is Johnny Depp as William Blake, in what is a pretty low-key, surprisingly normal performance from a guy whose made a whole career out of doing the exact opposite. Maybe moreso now, than before, but still, watching Johnny Depp play a normal, human being is a bit refreshing, because it makes it still seem like he hasn’t totally lost his mind and is always waiting to make us see him in a new, refreshing light. That is, whenever he stays the hell away from Tim Burton.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he's way past that age-difference.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he’s way past that age-difference now.

Anyway, what’s so cool about the character of William Blake is that he starts-off so dorky and simple, that when he starts to turn the other cheek and take matters into his own hands, it’s pretty believable because he doesn’t do it in a jarring way. He sort of just changes one subtlety about him, and that’s about it. He just continues on being William Blake; except instead of being a scared, little accountant from Cleveland, he’s a sly, skillful gunslinger from the town of Machine (and no, I am not making that up). I guess you’d never consider Johnny Depp to be “bad-ass”, but there’s something about his performance as William Blake that makes it seem like maybe you could.

There’s plenty more in this cast where Depp comes from, and each and every face is as lovely to see as the last. Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, the Native American that comes to save the day for William Blake and kind of, sort of, maybe becomes his best-friend along the way, despite not really connecting with him all that much; Michael Wincott plays a hitman who doesn’t know when to shut his trap, yet, is still entertaining to listen to; Iggy Pop, Jared Harris and Billy Bob Thornton show up as a bunch of dudes that want to bang J-Depp; and Alfred Molina gets a lovable, but small bit as a salesman that isn’t all he appears to be. The familiar faces run deeper than those that I’ve just mentioned, but don’t worry, they’re all fine. Even as weird as it may be to see Gabriel Byrne for all of five seconds.

Consensus: While it’s definitely for those who adore every single, little thing about Jim Jarmusch’s directorial-style, Dead Man still works as a different kind of a Western you don’t usually see portrayed in the movies, where everybody is still getting shot and killed for money, but it’s a lot more depressing and acid-induced.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sad to say, this isn't the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Sad to say, this isn’t the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Cuban Fury (2014)

Sorry, C-Tates, but the Brits may have this one.

Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) used to be a huge-lover of dancing. One in particular – salsa dancing. He and his sister (Olivia Colman) were dance partners, who were coached by a dance legend (Ian McShane), and were destined for great and wonderful things in the world of dancing. However, at around age 13, Bruce lost all interest when he was beaten-up by a bunch of bullies who consider him a bit of a “wuss” for wanting to wear tight-clothing, prissy-shoes and dance his fanny off. Right away, this took Bruce away from the idea of dancing, and more towards the idea of just being an average Joe. Fast forward many years later, and well, that’s exactly what he is – he’s single, works a dead-end, 9-to-5 job, has a co-worker he can’t stand (Chris O’Dowd), and hangs with a bunch of buddies who only talk about girls they think are hot, despite them all being married and with kids. However, one shine of light walks into his life with a new boss of his (Rashida Jones), who, believe it or not, actually has an interest in salsa dancing herself. This is when Bruce decides that it’s time to go back to his old ways and start moving and grooving his rump, all in hopes to win the girl of his dreams. The only problem is that it’s been quite awhile since he’s stepped foot on a dance-floor, which not only means he’s a bit rusty, but also out-of-shape. Way, WAY out-of-shape, to be exact.

Eyes ahead, buddy!

Eyes ahead, buddy!

We’ve all seen Nick Frost before, usually as the lovable, goofy side-kick that is there to serve the story, but isn’t necessarily the one our main focus-point is on. Which, for most people, including Frost himself, is fine. There are just some actors and actresses out there who are better served as supporting-players that are there for rare delights, rather than being the center of attention, where they are more than likely going to be spoiled after about an-hour-and-a-half of just them.

But, seeing as how Frost has been in the game for quite some time, it makes sense that now he would get the chance to be the star of his own show, and what a unique show it is to see him apart of. Never thought I’d imagine him dancing, nor did I imagine him playing the straight-man, but here he is: Not only doing a lot of salsa dancing, but barely ever cracking a joke that doesn’t fall flat on its face like it is supposed to. It’s strange to see anybody whom we often proclaim as being “the goof-ball”, not be as such, but Frost, believe it or not, does well with it.

Then again, he isn’t given too much else to do other than just be charming, while also being a normal-person, but he handles it all fine. Heck, even the dancing, which, from what I hear, is mostly him, is impressive as well. Definitely didn’t seem like an easy-feet, given the fact that he is, strictly speaking, not in the best shape for being a salsa dancing, but that clearly didn’t get in the way of being apart of this movie. He’s happy he’s starring in it and the feeling is mutual.

Overall, it’s a pretty happy movie.

That’s why it’s hard to come down on a movie like this for being so conventional and obvious. You can tell every note that’s going to hit, from a mile away and there are almost no surprises. Maybe even worse, is that it’s not really all that funny. There’s many jokes made at the fact that dancing is sort of, kind of, maybe not for straight-dudes who are in touch with their masculinity and the ladies they bring to their bed every night, and by now, they all seem a bit tired. Even the character of Bejan, an ultra-feminine fellow dancer, played charmingly by Keyvan Novak, seems like the kind of “gay best-friend”-type you’d get in a rom-com. The only difference of him being here is that he just so happens to be the gay-friend of another male, but that’s just about it. Nothing else is really be out-of-the-ordinary, or even shocking for that matter.

Popped-collar? What a dick.

Popped-collar? Total dick.

Instead, where this movie’s strong-suit really lies in, is the fact that it’s cast is having a fun time. In fact, the one I’d say whom is having the most fun out of all is Chris O’Dowd as Bruce’s co-worker who is an absolute and total dick. It’s actually the role we don’t see O’Dowd too often play, but believe it or not, he’s actually quite great in it and it’s nice to see him shake things up a bit. Maybe he’s a bit too over-the-top with the nasty and cruel things he says to a person, almost to the point of where you don’t even believe that he’s never gotten socked in the face recently by anyone, but I feel like that’s more of just how far O’Dowd may have been willing to go with his improvisations. Also, I can’t rain too much on his parade, considering that he’s the second cast-member in this movie that was actually able to draw some laughs out of me.

That other person who made me laugh a whole heck of a lot was Ian McShane, who I honestly feel like they just called-in at the last second, and he decided to show up whenever he felt like it. Whatever the reason was, it doesn’t matter, because he’s always funny and always stealing the show; just like you’d imagine every Ian McShane performance being written as.

I would hate to even forget to mention Rashida Jones’ love-interest character, or even Olivia Colman as Bruce’s likable, spirited sister, but the fact is this: They are just fine. Jones seems like she may be able to break-out of that Ann Perkins-mode she’s created for herself, but this may not be the movie to do so; and as for Colman, well, she gives some levity to a role that could have easily been written-off as “the sister of the main character who is there to shed some advice on his life, even though she may not have it all figured-out like she says” type of role. Yeah, it’s a long description, but you know what I’m talking about.

Consensus: Not as crackling with humor as much as it should be, Cuban Fury gets by on the utter-charm and likability of its cast, because everything else is pretty standard, even by comedy’s standards.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No Simon or Edgar around, it's finally my time to shine."

“No Simon or Edgar around, it’s finally my time to shine.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2014)

Sex isn’t the root to all evil. It just matters who you’re having it with.

When we last left-off with Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her life’s story, she was younger, happily-in-love with Jerome (Shia Labeouf), but had a problem: She couldn’t be fully sexually-satisfied. Most of that problem had to do with the fact that she was pregnant, but that’s also because she longed for something more. After all, she is a self-described Nymphomaniac, and Nymphomaniac’s need all the pleasure and sex they can get. Even if that does mean getting late-night spanks from a random stranger (Jamie Bell); going to see a sex-therapist (Katie Ashfield) to “get help”; and start working as a debt-collector for a brutal man known as L (Willem Dafoe). Eventually though, all of this screwing around, comes back to bite her in the rear-end, which also leads us to the present-day in which she is telling Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) everything that he needs to know about her. He’s still using every chance he can to bring up random facts about fishing, religion, family and art, but he may even have a little something to share with Joe as well. Maybe something that will make her seem in a different light?

Volume I of Lars von Trier’s two-parter surprised the hell out of me. Not because it wasn’t as disgusting or vile as I originally thought of it as being upon first hearing the term, “Four-hour sex-epic from the guy who made Antichrist“, but because it did a lot of stuff that we don’t see von Trier often do in his movies. For one, it was pretty funny. Many of times, I caught myself laughing at the pure-randomness of this material, like Christian Slater using a British-accent, or Joe ejaculating while watching her father lie-naked and die right in front of her eyes; however, I feel like that’s what von Trier wanted me to do. He was intentionally messing around with me, the viewer, and for that, I appreciated him, as well as the movie, a whole lot more.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Also, von Trier never seemed to be judging Joe for any of the dirty, immoral things she was doing with her body. She was having all sorts of sex with anybody she could find, yet, she was using it to her advantage. Rather than painting her as a total and complete slut, who doesn’t deserve the time of day, let alone, our warm, cozy bed, we get to see a woman, being a woman, who also happens to have plenty of needs. We never hate her, nor do we like her – we just see her for what she is. Von Trier was smart in using that method of story-telling and character-development to his advantage, which is why that first part had me expecting all sorts of greatness for this.

Sadly, no such thing happens.

The reason why I mentioned the whole hilarious, and non-judgmental-aspect of the first film, is because all of those elements that made the first one such a fine-watch, are pretty much gone here. Acts of hilarious randomness are replaced with dark, twisted confusion; whereas the idea of not judging our character, is replaced with a view on this character that is the least bit flattering. Now, of course it’s von Trier’s movie and he can wish to do whatever the hell it is he wants, with whomever he wants, but I feel like the transition from something so fun, light and exciting like the first-part, to something so dark, angry, mean and nasty like this part, would have been a lot more cohesive, had this film been shown in its original, straight, four-hour run-time. Had that been the format chosen, there wouldn’t have been such a tonal-difference between either parts, and how von Trier decides to switch gears up.

That doesn’t make this movie bad at all, it’s just disappointing is all. Where in Volume I, I thought I saw a quick, humorous-side to von Trier that I had never, ever known was there before; here, we get something that’s going back to the Lars von Trier we all know, and sometimes loathe: Evil, cruel and mean. He still pays close-attention to his characters, the situations they are thrown into, and how they react to them, but it’s not nearly as entertaining or interesting as the first movie. It just seems like von Trier ran-out of some ideas here and there, so instead of keeping with the frothy-pace of the first movie, he just decided to throw more and more crazy acts at us, in a way to both shock us and have us trying to make sense of what we’re seeing.

Problem is, that barely ever happens. It’s just Lars von Trier, being Lars von Trier. And I guess I just wanted more growth. May be a problem only I had, but it’s still a problem that continued to bug me, again and again.

"Yes, the glove DOES matter."

“Yes, the glove DOES matter.”

All that said, I can’t take away from what’s really working here, which is the ensemble von Trier packs a bit more from the first. Stacy Martin may have stolen the show in the first-installment, but this time, we finally get to see a lot more of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s portrayal of Joe, and needless to say, it’s another compelling performance from an actress that always seems to put in great work. Especially when she’s working with von Trier. Gainsbourg has a lot of crazy stuff to do here, such as getting whipped, brutally beaten, ripping her clothes off and having to kiss other woman. And while that may not sound like much of a range at all when all it is you’re doing is going through motions, Gainsbourg is still believable during every part. The only thing really holding her character back is that we begin to care less and less for her character, her journey and where it is she’s going with her life, because of the way von Trier’s light portrays here as. Shame too, because Gainsbourg is a solid actress who is clearly not afraid of stepping out of her comfort-zone; even if that does entail showing her bum.

Like Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård returns as the heartfelt, sensitive man who is always eager to see and hear where Joe’s story goes next, sometimes a little TOO eager. We get more shading to his character than ever before here, but, like with the character of Joe in this movie, von Trier’s starts to paint a portrait of this man isn’t as sympathetic as it was in the first place. That’s about as much as I’ll say about that, but it surprised me. Then, I got to thinking about it, and then it didn’t. Because, hell, this is a Lars von Trier movie, what do you expect to happen!??! Roses, happiness, peace and love to be spotted in every frame?!?!

Consensus: The drastic change in tone and character-development for Nymphomaniac: Volume II, may be surprising when compared to the first-part, however, it’s a surprise that we’ve seen von Trier use way too many times before and by now, it seems like the man may have to find new, and improved ways to tell his stories. More like Volume I was.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

To move forward in one's life, they must burn every car. I know that's not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

To move forward in one’s life, they must burn every car. I know that’s not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Eight Men Out (1988)

Seriously Joe! What the hell?!?

Back in the 1919 World Series of baseball, 8 players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the series away, due to them being offered a butt-load of money. Did it really happen? Is it all true?

It’s a small synopsis, I know. Heck, it may even be one of my smallest ever. But that’s kind of the point: It’s so known and explanatory that I don’t really need to go on. All you need to know is that the 1919 World Series will live in infamy, and here’s why:

I’m not going to lie, but I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world. Do I like the sport? Yes. Do I enjoy watching a game from time-to-time? Most definitely! Who doesn’t? So yeah, of course I know the story behind the whole “Black Sox Scandal” - who was apart of it, what went down and what the outcome eventually was.

And to be honest, I didn’t really need to see it done all over again.

For somebody who comes from a long-line of making indie flicks in his spare-time, I have to give writer/director John Sayles for doing a nice job with a bigger-budget than he’s used to working with, and still not seeming like he goes overboard at all. Usually when little-known directors break out and get a big, paying gig, they get a bit carried away with what they want to do or say with their next feature. However, I don’t think Sayles does that at all.

Instead, where most of his money seems to go is right towards creating of the early 20th Century, where baseball, Apple Pie and swindlers was everywhere to be found. It couldn’t have been that hard considering all he had to do was get a bunch of retro-looking uniforms, find an old-stadium, and get some older-looking stuff to throw in there, but regardless, he does a nice job and proves that bigger, does mean better. That is, in most cases anyway.

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don't say?!?!/

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don’t say?!?!/

Even when it comes to writing this flick, Sayles never really seems to lose himself and sticks true to what the dude’s made a career out of: Fine attention to enough of his ensemble. There’s a lot of talk surrounding this whole conspiracy these guys have caused and it adds another depth of drama that’s almost unexpected considering we know all of the details as to what does and what doesn’t happen. Every character has a bit of witty dialogue/banter with another character and it feels real, especially when you get two teammates talking to each other and having it almost feel as if you are watching two teammates talk it all out about the game and what they’re going to do next time and make it all better. For baseball lovers, this film would probably the ultimate pleasure, but for me, I could at least appreciate what Sayles was doing and how he just kept it simple and sweet, focusing on these guys the most.

Where I think Sayles runs into a problem with is that his story goes a bit too all-over-the-place at times and never really sets its sights on one character. Maybe he can’t be blamed for that problem, considering this is a whole baseball team we’re talking about here, but there could have been a bit more development on all of them, rather than focusing on just two or three, and getting rid of the rest only to have them show-up in the last five minutes as if they were there the whole time. The characters they do give us to sympathize with, have our sympathy, but not much else. They never really seem to have much of a conflict despite being involved with one of the biggest scandals baseball has ever had to deal with. Should have definitely came off a bit more tense and upsetting if you ask me.

The other problem I think Sayles runs into with this flick is the fact that in reality, we all know this story. People who don’t love baseball, barely even watch it, and couldn’t give two hoots about it all know the story of what went down during the 1919 World Series. That’s why it comes as no surprise to anyone when certain characters in the film are all upset by how they’re losing on-purpose. It’s a bit hard to watch some of these guys put themselves through so much to lose a game, but after awhile, it just becomes repetitive and feels like Sayles doesn’t have much hope for his own material, so he just relied on the typical baseball scenes to cool everybody off and keep them distracted. It kept me distracted for a short amount of time, that was, until I realized that there was no real core to the story’s heart.

It was just one big and simple conspiracy theory that we all knew about beforehand and didn’t find a new life in shaking things up this time around.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Where the film really succeeds, is in it’s ensemble cast that all do their best with what they’re given. Out of all of the characters, John Cusack comes off as the most-developed and sympathetic player as Buck Weaver, the one teammate who never took money from anyone and still got the blame thrown on him. His character is probably the easiest to get behind and it’s one of the first instances where we actually got to see Cusack flesh-out of his high school, dream-boy phase and actually man-up for once. He’s good with that here and comes off as the best character. The other character I was interested in a lot too, was David Strathairn as pitcher Eddie Cicotte, one of the most complex characters of the bunch. The reason why Cicotte is interesting to watch is because his character really isn’t a bad dude that just wants to be an asshole cause he loves to (unlike some of the other people on his team), but instead, is left with a problem where he knows he may never, ever get another shot at playing big-time baseball again and tries whatever he can to keep it going on and on, until he just can’t play anymore. It’s nice to see that in a character here, and Strathairn was definitely the perfect choice for the role.

There are others in this cast that do great jobs with their roles, but the one I was mostly disappointed in was D.B. Sweeney as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Instead of giving Jackson his own movie, or even a big part in this one, he’s sort of reduced to the unsung hero that just sort of sits in the background role that we have seen so many times before in sports movies, and almost never works except if you want the crowd to cheer. What bummed me out about this was how it seemed like Jackson was the most interesting and complex out of the whole team and was never really given that chance to shine and show his side of the story. Granted, the guy was a bit of a dummy, but a dummy that we could have still, somehow, fallen-behind and cheered-on as his world started to close in around him.

Hey, at least the game of baseball has found new ways to make controversy for itself, right?

Consensus: If you’ve seen one sports movie, hell, let alone, a baseball movie, then you’ve seen Eight Men Out without really knowing it. Although Sayles’ writing and casting-decisions does find a way to separate itself from the rest of the bunch.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It doesn't matter who did what, they're all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

It doesn’t matter who did what, they’re all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Big Bad Wolves (2014)

Torture is so meaningless. Just get the killing over and done with!

Three different stories and characters come clashing together after a child is abducted, raped and brutally murdered. You know, happy stuff. On one hand, we have policeman Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) who is determined enough that he believes he found the main suspect in this case, although it’s clear that his police-chief doesn’t want him causing too much commotion; the other hand, we have the suspect in question, Dror (Rotem Keinan), a high school teacher that has a bit of a troubled-life with his own wife and kids, but still maintains the position that he didn’t do it, nor has any idea what anybody is accusing him of; and lastly, on the other hand, we have the father of the abducted, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), who knows what he wants to do as soon as he finds out who may be the main culprit in this grisly crime: Find him, kidnap him, torture him, get him to talk and once it’s all said and done with, kill him. Sounds like a good plan, and heck, it gets even better once Gidi and Miki decide to join forces on beating the truth out of Dror, but one thing leads to another and, well, let’s just say not everything goes as planned.

As you can probably tell from just reading that plot-line, that things aren’t so pretty with this. There’s a lot of torture, there’s a lot of blood, there’s a lot of tension and there’s also a lot of yelling. Which makes total sense as to why major nut-ball himself, Quentin Tarantino, would state this as being his favorite film of 2013, only to have it paraded around on each and every one of this movie’s advertisements. But where most of Tarantino’s violent-fests seem to have some sort of a point to all of the havoc and mayhem being caused, for some reason, Israeli writer-directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado don’t really seem to be able to find that.

High school teacher with a troubled marriage = main suspect in any child-abduction case.

High school teacher with a troubled marriage = automatic suspect in any child-abduction case.

Instead, they seem a little too concerned with being able to balance out the comedy, the heart (or what’s there of it) and the queasy violence, in a way that doesn’t seem too tonally-jarring when it goes from one end to another. Which is fine, considering that both seem talented enough to pull it off and have it be entertaining, as well as unpredictable, for the longest time. Because truly, it is hard to show some guy getting his chest burnt, only to then follow it up with a joke about how it makes the man feel as if he wants to eat meat again. It’s a bit odd, but it actually works and had me enjoying myself for quite some time.

Not just because I felt like this was going to be one wild ride I’d truly never forget, but because I felt like it was going somewhere big, as if it was trying to teach us something new about the art, or idea of torture, and how it doesn’t really do much except add-on more excruciating pain than already necessary. And yeah, I guess the movie makes that point maybe once, or hell, maybe even twice, but not enough times, or in enough smart ways to make me feel like that was the first goal in the creator’s minds. Instead, it more so feels as if they just want to give us all the blood, violence, gore, torture and humor that they can throw at us, while making us feel like we’re going somewhere with all of this.

Which, once again, isn’t such a bad thing since the movie does it well at times, but it’s just not something that’s substantial enough to have me feel as if I’ll watch this over and over again, just to look for the small, complex subtleties that I missed-out on in the first-viewing.

You know, like a Quentin Tarantino flick. Then again, that’s a different discussion, for a different day, folks.

Where this film really succeeds, is when it focuses solely on the interactions these three characters have with one another. Whether they’re alone or all in the same room together, I was always interested in seeing what sort of dynamic the directors/writers could make with these two, somewhat different dudes, and how, in ways that they don’t even know of, they’re alike. But, like most of what else that has to do with this movie, it doesn’t go that deep – rather, it just focuses on these guys playing games on the other, whether it be mental, physical or a good old game of Twister.

Okay, the colored-dot sheet never comes out, but you know it’d be so much more interesting if it had.

"I'm here for the funeral. Yours, to be exact!!"

“I’m here for the funeral. Yours, to be exact!!”

For instance, the most interesting character of this movie I thought was Gidi, played very well by Tzahi Grad, who I would have liked to see a movie dedicated to him, actually made. What works so well for this character of Gidi is that even though he is committing all of these reprehensible, immoral acts of torture (then again, what torture isn’t considered either “reprehensible” or “immoral”?), you can tell it comes from a really passionate spot in his heart. We all know that he loves his daughter to death and only wants to know where her body is, just in order to get some sort of closure. It’s sad to watch for what seems to be such a strong-willed, manly-man, but thus fate have it, looks can be deceiving. Because, deep down inside, behind all of the male-posturing, the constant-threats directed towards others and questionable choices he makes throughout these two-hours, therein lies a pretty sweet, tender guy that wants his daughter back and can’t get her back, but will try his hardest to get the closest thing to that. Grad is great in the role, but it’s the writing of Gidi that makes him so suitable as a protagonist. Or antagonist. It all depends on whatever stance you take on any war happening either now, or in the past.

However, I didn’t mean to focus mostly on Gidi in the last paragraph, just to show that the other two characters in this blow, because that just isn’t true. In fact, they are both fine and performed well by Lior Ashkenazi and Rotem Keinan, it’s just that they clearly weren’t given as much in the writer’s department as Gidi was. Which, once again, is fine, it just shows when you think about who the most intriguing character is, which one is the easiest to stand behind, who is the most shady and mysterious and who is the most bland of them all. I won’t spoil which one is which, that’s up to you to find out, but the results may, or may not shock you. Who knows, right?

Consensus: Though Big Bad Wolves may try to be a bit more than just a tongue-in-cheek approach to torture-porn, it doesn’t quite get there, and instead, can’t help but have us feel the pain, have a laugh or two and just enjoy whatever entertainment we’re given, minus any sort of substance.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess this is where it gets fun.

I guess this is where it gets fun?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Grand Piano (2014)

If giving the audience a great show isn’t enough inspiration, then how about your life?!?!?

A talented-pianist (Elijah Wood) finally returns to the big stage after suffering a nervous-breakdown nearly five years before. Apparently, he was playing one of the toughest, most impossible pieces every created, and in front of a sold-out, live crowd, he just couldn’t handle it all, leaving him to stay behind the curtain for quite some time, most likely shacking-up with his hot and famous actress wife (Kerry Bishe). Tonight, though, is the night where he tries to get all the magic back. Tonight, he’ll play along with an orchestra in hopes that he’ll be all fine and dandy, while also being able to win back the respect of his confidantes. However, while he’s playing, somehow, he begins to realize that somebody’s been messing around with his notes and sheet-music, threatening him by stating that if he messes up this piece by any note whatsoever, he, as well as his pretty wife will be shot dead by a sniper. Sooner than later, he is given an ear-piece where a random voice (John Cusack) comes through, yelling at him, shouting demands and making sure that everything goes to plan. Because if not, things aren’t going to be turning out too pretty.

The magic of movie-making is that you can literally do anything if you put your mind to it. It doesn’t matter how crazy, or out-of-this-world the premise may be, as long as you can keep on adding something new, fun, or even vibrant to the piece you’re working with, then plausibility doesn’t really matter. Well, in most cases that is. Mainly Hithcock’s films, where everything was over-blown, you just had to believe in it because the man himself took it all up with so much damn sincerity and heart.

"Quick! Gotta be back before intermission is over!"

“Quick! Gotta be back before intermission is over!”

However, while Grand Piano may not be anywhere near the same quality-like film in the same vein as a Hitchcock movie, it still deserves to be mentioned as something in which I feel like Hithcock himself would be a bit proud of. Sure, “Speed in an orchestra” doesn’t sound like all that of an appealing-idea, but if done right, it can turn out to be fun. Hell, even the original idea of Speed didn’t seem all that promising to begin with, but in the case of that movie, it continued to spin itself completely out-of-control; almost to the point of where we had to just surrender, let our imaginations run wild and enjoy the show.

That’s why that movie is considered an action-classic, something this movie may never, ever be considered, but still deserves to be seen, if only because it uses its unique-spin on the “ticking-time-bomb”-angle that most thriller use, and giving us all, as well as the budget itself, a run for its money. Sure, it’s an indie-film through and through – plenty of shots seem as if the CGI had been done through a DELL and the fact that we are condensed to this one and only place shows the limitations the film makers had on where they could exactly go with this story, but at the end of the day, it actually works well in the movie’s part.

It doesn’t matter that the movie doesn’t have quite nearly the budget of a Michael Bay flick; what matters is that it keeps our hearts racing, or blood boiling and our expectations dashed at any second. Most of this is predictable and better yet, often than not, you’ll be able to pin-point exactly when a certain character is going to come into play at what time, but there’s still plenty of times where you’re able to forget about that and just see what it is that director Eugenio Mira can really do to make us feel like we’re stuck in a situation we ourselves will never get out of. Though most of it is poorly-written and corny, we do feel like this and it helps that the movie always leaves us one step behind the baddie that’s doing all of this to begin with. Most thrillers forget that sometimes, being a smart audience-member, doesn’t always work and can sometimes be used against you. Especially once you’ve gotten on that high-horse, and can’t seem to get off of it due to how many damn movies you’ve seen.

I’m talking about me, of course.

"'Sup?"

“‘Sup?”

Speaking of the baddie, if there was any disappointing-factor of this movie, aside from the lame-o dialogue, it’s that John Cusack doesn’t get much to do other than just yell in Elijah Wood’s ear. Though I don’t consider this a spoiler, John Cusack does eventually get to show off that aging-mug of his, and while it’s definitely a face I was glad to see, I was ashamed that he didn’t really do much except get into a battle with whomever it was that he was fighting (I’m really trying not to spoil anything anymore). Just having Cusack in your movie is enough to make me pleased, but a little bit more of him would have went a long, long way. Actually, let me rephrase that: A little bit more of him doing something more than just talking into a walkie-talkie would have gone a long, long way and helped this movie give us a more memorable villain. Because, come to think of it, when do we ever get to see John Cusack embrace his dark-side? I mean, come on! Let’s make some good use of it, people!

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Elijah Wood in what seems to be his 50th movie in the past two years. Don’t take that as a complaint though, because not only does it show his range and his ability to show up in just about anything, but it also gives us more chances to see what this guy can do with every character he gets to play. Wood has never really lit the world on fire with his acting, but I don’t think he has to. He’s always sort of been there, being small and talking quietly, as if he’s absolutely petrified to have anybody hear him utter a word. That aspect of his acting works so well for this character and not only gets us on his side right quick, but also has us believe that he would turn the other cheek so quick and start fighting for himself. Once this does happen, it’s pretty rad and it makes you wonder what would have happened, had Elijah Wood been able to release these same type of anger-skills in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo would have definitely been more bad-ass, that’s for sure.

Consensus: You don’t have to surgically-remove your brain entirely, but just the parts of it that make you actually think like a normal, breathing human being would suffice when watching Grand Piano, which is basically Speed, with a piano. That is it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Meh, rough crowd anyway."

“Meh. Rough crowd anyway.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Never thought I’d be saying this, but man, I missed Gerard Butler.

Many years before King Leonidas decided that he wanted to get 300 of his Spartan brothers together and wage war against those sexy-as-’eff Persians, a young, Athenian warrior known as Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) threw a spear in the middle of a long-winding battle, piercing the Persian King Darius’ heart. It’s a simple, honorable death in the heat of the battle, but it also happens to leave Darius’ two children, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and Artemisia (Eva Green), alone, in-despair, and also feeling the wrath of revenge. Several years later, they get what they want when Themistocles and Artemisia’s armies go head-to-head with one another in a battle that will decide the fate of many soldiers. But, at the heart of this bloody, gruesome fight to the death, are Artemisia’s wants, needs and pleads for being accepted as the leader that she is, mainly by her own flesh-and-blood, her brother Xerxes. However, as we all know, he’s got a bit more on his plate than he could possibly chew for the time being.

Though it sure as hell won’t be winning be registered into the National Library of Congress any time soon, the original, Zack Snyder-helmed 300 was a typical “guys movie”; meaning, a movie made for dudes, by dudes, who love all sorts of blood, gore, swords, boobs, spears, shields, slow-motion, more blood, more gore, half-naked men, six-pack abs, Spartans, inspiring speeches, dudes getting kicked down deadly holes, and so on and so forth. I could have gone, and on, and on, but I think you get the drift.

The movie was dumb, innate, cheesy, overtly-misogynistic and loved to mess around with history as much as it could possibly get away with, but you know what? It’s fun, and will always continue to be fun no matter how many beers I drink, or happy-pills I take. Then again, I think whenever you drink more beers, or take some sort of “happy-pills”, anything gets a bit better.

But I digress.

"I am woman!! Hear me ROAR!!"

“I am woman!! Hear me ROAR!!”

What I am mainly trying to say here is that since the first movie was pretty much just all show, but no substance, the sequel itself doesn’t really have to do much except just deliver on the same grounds. It has to give us plenty of dudes getting their heads chopped-off; slow-motion shots that only add to the intensity of a single move or action; naked women (as much, or as little as possible, it doesn’t really matter); and also, give us the general idea that it doesn’t matter how many half-naked, ripped-like-kegs guys we have walking around, congratulating each other and/or being all up in one another’s personal-space, that the homoerotic feelings never go to be anything more but just “feelings”. Maybe I sound a bit like a homophobe (I assure you, I am not), but trust me, I know dudes the way I should know dudes, and they do not want to see guys all up in each other’s business, unless it’s to get at his neck about talking to his girl, or to pick a brawl. Either way, masculine, angry and energetic men just don’t want to see that. Nothing wrong with them, it’s just how they function.

But I digress.

What I am really trying to get at here is that director Noam Murro doesn’t really do much different to differentiate his style, from Snyder’s, but he doesn’t really have to in order to succeed. All that he had to do was give us enough action, blood, boobs and inspirational-speeches to make the hour-and-a-half feel like the best times of our lives, and that’s exactly what he does. And although, yes, it is incredibly stupid and not nearly as memorable as what Snyder may have done with the lean, mean material he had way back in 2007, it’s still fun. Take that from one guy to another, would ya?!?!

However though, the fact that this is a sequel to Snyder’s movie, it still can’t seem to get past the fact that it’s just not nearly as good, or as memorable as the first one will be, and still is to this day. For instance, with Leonidas, and most of what Gerard Butler was able to do with his muscle-bound charm, we had a true, bonafide and charismatic leader that yes, was something perfectly written for the movies, but was also the same kind of character you could easily get behind. He beats all of the right ass, he kicks dudes down holes (I know, I’ll never stop mentioning that, even until the day I die), he knows exactly what to do in the right situation, he bangs his lady like she needs to be banged before he goes away and best of all, he knows how to lead his troops and give them the speech they need to hear before going into battle, 300 vs. some-odd thousand. So basically, he’s exactly the type of bad-ass every dude on the face of the planet Earth wants to be, but being that he is from a movie and nowhere near all that realistic to begin with, these same dudes can only just sit around, and wait for the day to come.

That’s why, when you have somebody like Themistocles, you can’t help but compare him to Leonidas. Nor can’t you help but compare Sullivan Stapleton to Gerard Butler, in which case, as much as it may pain me to say, the later takes victory. It isn’t that Stapleton is a bad actor or anything, it’s just so obvious that what it is that the movie is doing, is trying to give us somebody along the same lines as Leonidas, although it definitely won’t happen since there isn’t just one and only King Leonidas, but there is just one and only Gerard Butler (and thank heavens for that).

"More expensive jewelry!??!?! Hell naw!!"

“More expensive jewelry!??!?! Hell naw!!”

Therefore, watching the rest of this movie and yeah, I guess, accepting it for what it is and not what it’s following, I couldn’t help but compare the two and realize that this a pretty useless sequel, that’s only needed to be seen for those blood-thirsty, gore-seeking, steroid-injected guys out there who have finally gotten a pass from their lady-friends for the weekend to get out to the movies with their guy-pals. Heck, maybe even a little bit of a pre-game before hand would do you even better? I don’t know. Just suggestions, guys! Trying to help my fellow brothers out!

But even if you men out there do get a chance to see this during the weekend, or whenever the hell you might see it, do know that you’re still going to get plenty of lady-action, that isn’t from either from the lady in your life, nor is it going to be between two gals in this movie. Nope, it’s all from Eva Green as the cruel, mean and nasty-as-hell Artemisia, the type of woman that most dudes fantasize about being with, but would never, not even in a million years, actually want to spend a night with, had they been given the chance to in real life. The whole story surrounding Artemisia is that she’s not just the brains behind the operation of Xerxes and the Persian army that he leads, but she’s also the brawn as well, by doing most of his dirty work in some very sadistic, brutal ways. However, that’s what makes her such an awesome villain, albeit, quite a bad-ass one that allows Green to chew-up the scenery as much as one human can possibly devour scenery, without ever seeming like she is in on the joke. Nope, she is drop-dead serious about this material and she absolutely goes to town with it, even making great use of a sex-battle sequence.

Yup, you heard me right, people: There is in fact a “sex-battle scene” and, for better and possibly for worse, it’s the best, most memorable scene of the whole entire flick. Dammit! Where’s Leonidas where you needed him?!?! Oh, wait. Never mind. Damn you, mythology!

Consensus: For all of its over-the-top proceedings that consist of blood, gore, violence, nudity, and more blood, 300: Rise of an Empire, there’s still an ounce of fun to be had, if you only know what to expect from the original, and even then though, you may be a bit disappointed. Remember what I said, boys: Get drunk beforehand, call up a cab, get your tickets, and enjoy the show! Even if you won’t be able to remember it come morning.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Spoiler alert. Unless you've never passed 3rd grade history.

Spoiler alert. Unless you’ve never passed 3rd grade history.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

We Are Marshall (2006)

Nothing like a good ole fashioned game of pig skin to bring the small-town back together! That, and some random hick.

During a dark, windy and stormy night on November 14th, 1970, a flight carrying 37 members the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, as well as the coach and other personnel, suddenly crashed and killed everybody on-board. The small town that the Thundering Herd represented, not only lost most of their football team, but friends, families, neighbors, doctors, dentists and, plainly put, people that they knew and cared for. This obviously leaves the town absolutely devastated and in total shock, meaning that the football-program itself will have to be shut-down for quite some time. That is, all until a couple of players who were on the injured-reserve decide that they want their team back and irk Marshall’s president (David Strathairn), to not just find more players and more money for the team, but an actual coach that believes in them. Enter Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), the smooth, fast-talking and charming-type that’s practically able to get whatever it is that he wants, whenever he wants, due to his cool ways. However, finding players, getting together a stacked-team and being able to live up to the legacy that the original team had before they tragically passed, is a lot easier said, then actually done. But with the help of former assistant-coach Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), Lengyel may have a shot at making his dreams, as well as the rest of the town’s, dreams come true.

Quick! Whose tie is more retro?!?!?

Quick! Whose tie is more retro?!?!?

When you see a sports drama, that’s “based on a true story”, you already know what to expect. Stirring, inspiring pep-talks; people rooting and hollering for their home-team; a lot of grown-men crying and getting upset; and finally, the one, big game that settles the score on everything. We’ve all seen it before and done a million times, but is there such a problem when that formula isn’t played with too much, but at least given some sort of subtle-nuances to make the whole thing seem slightly different? I actually don’t know and personally, that’s probably not the question I should be asking for something as simple as this.

Basically, this is, yet again, another sports movie in which we have a bunch of people looking for inspiration anywhere they can turn to, but in this case, it just so happens to be the football-field. Never understood why so many sports movies feel the need to teach us all about life through sports, as if that is the only segue into learning everything, about anything that has to do with. Sure, maybe people who watch sports love it and feel as if they are apart of something, but for those select few who can actually play sports and excel at it, feel as if they are apart of something more, leaving those other, unworthy human beings out of the equation.

Anyway, I am ranting.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s tired formula, the sports drama is, but there are the occasional moments when a movie gets it just about right to where it isn’t offensive to those who don’t play sports, but nice enough to those who do and have barley anything else to live for. But in this movie’s case, it’s battling more than just being about the sport of football. See, instead, this movie is actually dealing with some bigger themes –  themes like forgiveness, guilt, moving on, depression, death, love and realizing that you can’t take anything, or anyone, for granted on this Earth, because you never know when they’re going to leave you. Yes, this movie definitely has a lot to talk about and discuss, but with McG at the helm, it’s less emotional, and more ham-handed.

McG obviously comes from the huge institution of film where the main curriculum taught is “tell, don’t show”. Doesn’t make him all that bad of an action-director, because when you want to see people beat each other up, cars chase one another, or things explode, you want to see that sort of stuff happen on-screen and not be at all implied! However, when you have an emotional-story such as this, a very true one, mind you, where subtlety is key to make us feel for everything and everyone involved with this story, you need that type of director to give us those moments that we could only get, due to the human-condition. The way a character acts, reacts or just is, is what makes this movie’s succeed in being able to tell us everything we need to know about a certain character and how exactly they are feeling.

McG, for all of his slam-bang, action-thrilling ways, sure as hell doesn’t have those types of skills in his repertoire, so instead, he just allows the actual scenes of football being played to take over and take us by storm. And for the most part, they do work as they look nice, making you feel as if you are watching people from the 70′s, play football in said decade, while also allowing you suspend your disbelief for the shortest second of time, even if you already do know what happens in the end, to these characters, to this football-team, and to everything else that surrounds it. That aspect of the movie, McG gets right, but whenever he’s called on to give us a strong, dramatic-scene filled to the core with believable, heartfelt emotion, the dude sort of drops the ball. Not because he doesn’t care for the situation most of the people were put into, but because he doesn’t really know what to do with these moments. He just wants people to get up, cheer on their home-team and hope that they forget about their own, actual lives for a short moment-in-time.

Once again, nothing wrong with that, but when you have something of a true story that’s as ripe with emotion such as this, you can’t help but feel disappointed that they couldn’t get more of a capable-director to work on this.

"Power to the people that be!"

Power to the people that be!” What? Too early for that?

Dude should have just stuck with the explosions.

Rather than being able to do it himself and give us the emotionally raw and brutal feelings we need for a story like this to fully grip us and really speak volumes, McG mainly depends on the cast for this, mainly one Matthew McConaughey. I’m so happy to see that McConaughey is back in good-graces with just about every film-nerd out there nowadays, because not only has the dude been putting in great work in some god-awful stuff over the years, but he’s also been trying his hardest to at least show the world that there’s more to him than just good looks and nice, toned-body. The dude can act, and as Jack Lengyel, he gets plenty of chances to do so, mostly whenever he’s just trying to charm a person in their boots and make them see his optimistic, sunny-side-up view of everything that’s occurring. Most of what McConaughey has to work with isn’t perfect, but the dude keeps on bringing energy to the movie whenever possible and makes the movie a bit better. It’s not the most perfect performance that we’ve seen from him (especially not within the past decade), but it’s one that showed us that if you gave him a movie to lead, he could still do so. Good old boy charm and all.

The rest of the cast is pretty good, too, although it does make me sad to see that Matthew Fox maybe couldn’t have gotten the lead role in this. Sure, he may not have as much wit or as much light-heartedness as McConaughey does, but the dude is still a very solid actor and gets to show us many times here, why that is. Same goes for Anthony Mackie, playing one of the players who was originally on the injured-reserve during the crash, and gives us the most compelling, if only, memorable scene of the whole movie. Don’t necessarily want to spoil it, but when you see it, you’ll be happy to see that the dude is making good use of his many skills as an thespian. Others that are also good are David Strathairn as the stuck-up, nerdy president of Marshall who doesn’t want to give up on the program, but realizes that there is a dilemma with bringing it back, while also trying to honor those who have fatally-fallen. And Ian McShane, despite those evil, deadly eyes of his, doesn’t get quite nearly as much to do as everybody else does, and it’s a damn shame because he’s always a presence to make notice of, no matter what garbage the dude does. And he’s done plenty of that in his long career.

Consensus: Though We Are Marshall tries hard, it can’t quite get past all of the numerous conventions and clichés that the sports genre has set-in-stone for ages, and will continue to do so, even if the true stories themselves that the movies are based on, actually have emotional-resonance to them.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT!!"

“ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

About Last Night (2014)

Let’s face it, all meaningful relationships start with a one night stand.

Danny (Michael Ealy) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) are best friends who work together, go to the clubs and bars together, party together and even pick-up women together. Sure, Bernie’s a bit more of a loose-cannon than Danny is, but they enjoy each other’s company and never let a nice screw with a woman get in the way of their undying friendship. However, things change for both of these guys when they end-up getting involved with two women that not only take themselves by surprise, but each other as well. Danny starts seeing and getting very serious with Debbie (Joy Bryant), the type of girl that seems perfect for him, that is, until he starts having doubts about giving up his freedom and not being his own man; whereas Bernie has a bit of a “friends with benefits” thing going on with Joan (Regina Hall), all until she decides to drop the dreaded, “L word” and screw everything up for all of them. Not just her and Bernie, but Danny and Debbie, too, as they begin to run into more and more fights as they grow more accustomed to one another and realize that maybe there are still more fish out there in the sea.

As most of you may already know by now, I disliked the hell out of the 1986 original with practically most of my heart. So, that’s why, even though I had my reservations, I went into this with a slightly better mind-set. I knew it would be more of a “modern re-boot” of that story, change-up the humor a bit and, if at all possible, make me believe in any of these people banging, loving one another and deciding as to whether or not they should spend the rest of their lives with on another. The fact that I couldn’t believe that for a single second in the original, really killed it, but could they improve that problem here?

Oh no! She's wearing your shirt, man! SHE'S WEARING YOUR SHIRT!! Game over, man!

Oh no! She’s wearing your shirt, man! SHE’S WEARING YOUR SHIRT!! Game over, man!

Well, sorta, but not really. See, here’s the thing with this movie: While it isn’t a note-by-note remake of the original (thank heavens for that), there’s still plenty of times where they lift lines from that movie and it just comes off as a bit awkward. Especially if you take into consideration that the original source material is taken from a David Mamet play, which already makes me laugh thinking of people like Kevin Hart and Regina Hall actually delivering lines from that guy’s writing-style. But anyway, it’s not like the movie at all suffers for trying to be like the original, because in ways, it really isn’t.

It’s just your traditional, love-story that doesn’t start-off other than a simple meeting between two people who get to know one another, talk, have sex and see where they can go with their lives, and then into something very romantic, passionate and, well, melodramatic. I’ve seen this done once, twice and a hundred, million other times, but here, it felt a tad bit refreshing, if only because the movie was funny and took its approach to modern-day relationships in a very understandable manner. The movie wasn’t trying to tell us that one must find that right person for them, get married, have a whole bunch of kids and live like that way for the rest of their lives – it’s more or less saying that “Hey, if you find that special-someone for you, give it a try and see where it goes! If it doesn’t amount to much, at least you can say that you tried, right?” And I think that’s what makes this movie easy-going and a lot less preachy than the original, where that one tried too hard to stuff down our throats that these two people need a love in their life, regardless as to whether they were happy or not before.

I know I’m harping on the original a bit too much, but I think that’s the main reason why I did enjoy myself with this movie. It’s not totally different, but in the places that director Steve Pink actually “updates it”, makes it worth your while. It may not be the most insightful thing ever made about relationships, but with what this movie has to say about them, it’s funny to listen to and see play-out, especially since we actually have characters to care about here. And I’m not just saying because most of them fall in love with one another, which automatically means that we sympathize with their feelings and emotions, but because they’re actually well-written and three-dimensional people this time around.

The biggest improvement in terms of characters between this movie and the original is definitely within Danny and Debbie – they’re development as characters, as well as their relationship together. It probably helps that both Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant have a bit of a better chemistry than either Rob Lowe or Demi Moore had together, but even when they aren’t together and just doing their own thing, they’re still pretty entertaining to watch. Ealy has a laid-back, cool and suave charm about him that makes it seem like he’s ready to get tied-down at any moment, yet not want to sacrifice his partying-ways; whereas Bryant is a sweet, lovable and energetic presence to watch since she always tries to make her man happy and feel better about his life, while also making sure that she doesn’t get treated like crap in the equation neither. Together, they’re a believable couple that doesn’t always say or do the right things to one another, but their happy times together, more than make up for the stupid-decisions each one makes towards the other. That’s why it is easy to not only hope that they stay together until the very end, but at least be able to find somewhere, some place in their lives where they can be ultimately happy.

Sex in the bathroom-stall: We've all been there before, right guys? Come on! Help me out here!

Sex in the bathroom-stall: We’ve all been there before, right guys? Come on! Help me out here!

I know it sounds all sappy and whatnot, but hey, I liked these two together. They remind me of my younger-self when I was making all the ladies weak at the knees, but rather than making it with the loving, caring ones, I decided to go for the school slut. Typical move by yours truly, people. Don’t worry though, I’ve paid the price since then.

Boy, have I ever….

Anyway, everything that I said about Danny and Debbie’s relationship, can easily be said for Bernie and Joan’s, which is one of the biggest improvements/differences between this and the original. Not only did Joan or Bernie not seem to get together in the original, but they also were a bit too one-note for their own good (although it didn’t matter for Bernie’s case, because Jim Belushi is the man). Here though, both Regina Hall and Kevin Hart are great, not just by giving us plenty of laughs to hold our stomachs because of, but because they actually build real, fully-dimensional characters that you know are too crazy, too wild and too energetic to not be together by the end. I’ve always been a fan of Kevin Hart, and here, he made me laugh my ass off more than a few times, and the same goes for Regina Hall who seems to make everything more exciting whenever she just shows up. Put them together in one movie where they have a relationship full of all sorts of sex, passion, alcohol and heated-debates, you’ve got what many could consider “comedic gold”. Though the rest of the movie may not be able to match-up to them, what they both do when they’re given free reign to improvise, go wild and just be funny, it’s great to watch and definitely makes this movie a whole lot better than that shit-piece of an original. I know I keep going back to that, but it’s the truth: Just see this, and screw that bundle of crap. You’ll be doing yourself, as well as your significant-other a huge solid.

Consensus: Not the most unpredictable, nor game-changing rom-com seen in recent-time, but with sticking straight to its characters, their relationships and what makes them who they are, About Last Night is a lot better than the original and makes your time with these people not just quick and easy, but a good time nonetheless. And on Valentine’s Day, trust me, that’s all you’re going to want, you little romantics.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

He likes going to Dodgers games. Yeah, so unique.

He likes going to and enjoying a nice, simple game of baseball game. So unique!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Monuments Men (2014)

Tell ‘em, Nic! Nothing’s more important than stealing the Declaration of Independence and they know it!

During the final, winding-days of WWII, art-historian (George Clooney) is gripped with a task on his hands: Assemble a group of seven, fellow art-groupies, go through basic training, and find a way to gather and collect all of the ancient pieces of art, sculpture and paintings that the Nazis have apparently been hiding during the war. At first, once the men get taken into behind enemy lines in Germany, they realize that this whole mission may be a ball – one soldier (Matt Damon), comes close to even getting laid by a stern, but somehow stunningly hot French-gal (Cate Blanchett). But sooner than later, things begin to take a turn for the worse once the Nazis begin to see themselves getting more and more desperate as the days go by, therefore, having Hitler himself order that all art be destroyed, in hopes that it won’t reach their rightful, original owners. Smart idea on old Adolf’s part, but he soon realizes that he is no match for the Ocean‘s crew! With the exception of Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and even Rob Reiner. Yep, none of them are here, but at least we got Bob Balaban to spice things up, right?

George Clooney, the actor, is known to be a class-act that you can always count on to deliver, no matter what piece of material he may be in. He’s always got that cool-look, that charm, that wit and that swiftness to him that makes every dude in the theater lobby want to be him and discover his make-up team’s contact info; whereas he makes every lady swoon for the day that she may just be able to get snatched up into good old George’s hands. And ladies, if you’re less than two times his age, you run a pretty good chance at being his next-in-line!

"Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?"

“Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?”

But I digress….

While George Clooney, the actor, may be somebody we can trust and rely on to give great work, George Clooney, the director, isn’t always someone we can count on. Most of the time, Clooney seems to not only do stuff that only seems to interest himself and his buddies, but he more often than not, drops the ball on what could have been something cool and interesting. The Ides of March, for the most part, just relied so heavily on the performances from its stacked-cast, that I almost forgot Clooney even directed it, or even had a story written-out for it; Leatherheads didn’t have much of a chance of being anything spectacular, but at least he tried with it; Good Night, And Good Luck will always seem to be his crowning-jewel where everything he sets out to do, he nails to near-perfection; and then of course, we have his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that seemed to only get away with the fact that it had rich source-material to begin with, despite Clooney finding a way to make a story about a game-show-host-turned-CIA-agent somewhat depressing and rather boring.

So yeah, as you can tell, I know a thing or two about Clooney’s track-record as director and most of the time, it doesn’t always pan-out so well. That’s why I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, even despite it being pushed-back from its original, Christmas Day release-slot (apparently due to “special-effects problems“). However though, once again, I digress…

Anyway, what I am trying to get at here is that while Clooney may not always be consistent as a director, he’s always the kind of guy that interests me with anything that he touches his palms with, solely because it’s him, and he knows quality. Here, on the other hand, we have a movie that definitely seems like the type of movie he feels strong and passionate about, yet, never really seems to let come-off of the ground. But you’d never know if he felt any passion or love for this true-life story of heroism, and men fighting for what they truly believed in, because we never get the right details we should to fully believe in these characters, this story or anything else that happens. Yeah, I know that all of this is true, but watching this movie, you’d still never get a full clue as to what is happening, why, how and who was involved. For all I know, the actual, real-life soldiers who were involved with this mission could have been a rusty crew of old geezers that loved to make jokes while they were standing on deadly land-mines, hung-out and smoked cigs with Nazi soldiers wanting to kill them, and even crack some funny-ones while half of Russia’s army comes storming after them, wanting their heads, as well as the various paintings they can’t seem to get enough of.

But what’s so surprising to me about this movie, is that it never seems like Clooney knows that he’s messing-up by not giving us any reason to care for these people, their mission or the heart and soul they shed for these pieces of art; it’s almost as if showing us that they were willing to risk their lives for these paintings was already enough assurance that they do wholly, and fully care about these paintings. However though, it doesn’t work and it should have. Even if Clooney decided to give us maybe one or two minutes dedicated to these guys being wrangled-up and ready for the mission, it would have made a huge difference – we would have not only cared for these dudes, but cared about the mission they were setting-upon as well. Also, probably would have given this movie more of a drastic-feel to it, especially once these guys started getting perishing.

Somehow though, as much as I may rag on this movie, as well as what Clooney does as a director, I was able and more than willing to just let myself have fun and enjoy the old-style, nostalgic kind of war-flick that George himself was so obviously going for. Personally, I don’t think he hits all of the right notes, but if there was ever a war flick that I could sit-down and watch with my whole family, even my much-younger cousins, it’s this one. That’s not saying it’s great or anything, and surely doesn’t get past the fact that movie itself has its fair-share of faults and problems, but it definitely kept me entertained throughout most of the movie.

She's French, she's willing and best of all, you probably won't ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn't you tap that?!?!?

She’s French, she’s willing and best of all, you probably won’t ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn’t you tap that?!?!?

Once again, I stress the fact that it wasn’t perfect, but, if you have nothing else better to do for your Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or what have you, evening, then I can’t say this would be a terrible. There’s definitely plenty of other options to go and check-out before this, but if grand-mom and grand-pop want to spend some “quality time”, I’d say point their head in this movie’s direction, and you’ll definitely be promised a spot in the will. Sounds harsh, but I’m just saying.

Love you G-Mom and G-Pops!

Most of where my enjoyment with this movie came from was just through the cast and how, despite how thinly-written most of their material may have been, they still prevailed and kept me smiling. Like I stressed before, Clooney the actor is fine and is charming enough to make you see past the obvious-faults that this role only serves him to break-out into soliloquies every once and awhile about how men should always stand-up for what they believe in, no matter how looked-down upon it may be from others; Matt Damon is entertaining enough to watch as his second-in-command, James Granger, who is gone for quite some time and separated from the rest of the action, but is still somehow able to make his story the least-bit interesting, just by showing up and smiling (because we all know, once Matt Damon smiles, we all gotta smile!); and Cate Blanchett somehow makes a thankless-role as a French-spy, somewhat memorable by making her out to be a bit of a weirdo that also longs for a connection. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything exceptional. Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in anything he does, but he’s slightly less charming and “Bill Murray-ish” than he usually is, and less of that has to do with him as a performer, and more with just how the script does not use him; in fact, I’d say that they use Bob Balaban a bit more in the sense that they give him a scene where he gets to be somewhat “bad-ass”, as you’ve never seen him before (and trust me, you sure as hell haven’t!); John Goodman is his usual lovable, big-hearted, always cheery-self that also happens to be a soldier named “Walter“; Hugh Bonneville is fine as one of a British soldier who puts his life-on-the-line, as does everybody else, but gets to show his bravery in a slightly-memorable way; and Jean Dujardin, despite having an interesting role in Wolf of Wall Street, still feels like a previous Oscar-winner gone to a bit of a waste by now, however, I hope the tide turns around for him sooner than later. Because surely, we wouldn’t want another Roberto Benigni on our hands, now would we?

Consensus: Another misstep in Clooney’s directorial-catalog, the Monuments Men takes what could have been a very thrilling, exciting and emotional war-tale, and makes it uneven, poorly-developed and only entertaining in its bits and pieces, which is mostly thanks to all of the effort the cast puts into it.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!"

“Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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