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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

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

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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

Leatherheads (2008)

Total fiction. George would never do anything that would harm that beautiful, majestic face of his.

Believe it or not, back in the mid-20′s, football was not as big of a thing as it is now. Or, should I say that it was “big”, but it sure as hell wasn’t considered as a professional type of sport that you could play, be respected for, and actually making a living off of. Hell, some fans and players probably still wish the sport was still like that today, but hey, whattya gonna do? Dodge Connelly (George Clooney) was one of the aging-stars in this time and era who finds out that his team is folding under because of budget-restrictions and lack of money coming in and out. However, along with a sneaky reporter (Renée Zellweger), he hatches up a plan to get a very popular college player, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), on his team so that the team can get back to playing and that he may get some money in his pocket. But once love is thrown into the situation, then nothing ever goes as planned.

George Clooney obviously loves old movies because, well, let’s face it: everybody still considers him, to this day, “the next Cary Grant.” So, when you have a comparison like that, you have to at least take pride in it, especially when you’re as talented and powerful as Clooney is in Hollywood. Literally, the dude could say that he wanted to a movie about him and another dude taking reading the phone-book for two hours, and with a snap of his finger, everybody would be on-board, already having a release-date ready. That’s just the type of person Clooney is, and even though he never lets you forget about it, I can’t say I hate it because the guy makes good movies, stars in good movies and never seems like he’s just phoning it in for the sake of doing so. 110% is what Clooney always puts in, and even though it may not always work, at least he tries, right?

"Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some."

“Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some.”

Being that this is his third outing as director, Clooney had a lot to live up to and making a movie about football back in the 20′s seemed a bit odd. But hey, it’s George Clooney, so what the hell can go wrong? Well, to be honest, not much, but what does go wrong, hits you straight in the face and makes you wonder why he made something like this in the first place. It’s not like it was a terrible move on Clooney’s part to make an old-fashioned movie, about the early days of pro-football, but the question remains: Why?

The areas of this movie that Clooney’s skill works very well is in the first hour or so of this movie, which is when we are being introduced to our characters, our story, and our setting, all of which are finely detailed in their own rights. But obviously, Clooney’s strong-suit here is in starting this movie on the right foot by allowing the comedy and goofiness of this all to just keep us entertained and not really take itself too seriously. It’s funny, quick, witty and very screwball-ish that it doesn’t seem disingenuous to the plot or it’s characters. Hell, it takes in 1920′s, so why not just make a movie that could have been seen or made during the time of flappers and Prohibition?

You know, the good old days.

Nonetheless, most of this is pretty damn entertaining because Clooney never settles for anything less when it comes to capturing the right tone and feel of a screwball comedy that could have easily been made by Billy Wilder, had he been alive in ’08. The problem with this movie is that when he does begin to get further and further away from the screwball elements of this movie, a into more darker and dramatic-territory, then things get a little hectic.

And this occurs around the hour-mark, because this is when the tone really gets lost in the shuffle of trying to be frothy and playful, while also focusing on these characters and the harsh-realities they have no chance of escaping. I know that the movie is supposed to be all about how the game of football changed from being a small hobby on the side that a bunch of guys who loved doing it, to a sport that almost everybody and anybody aspired to be apart of, all for the riches and expenses, rather than the fun of the game, but that point came and went as it pleased. Clooney didn’t seem to bother to focus on that aspect of the story as much as he wanted to with the love-triangle; the same love-triangle that started off fine, but just got nonsensical. I can handle it when characters act like idiots because a little tail is thrown their way, but after awhile, I kept on wondering, “Why are these guys still fighting for this chick, when it’s clear who she wants to fully be with?” I don’t know, maybe it was just me.

But even though the dude does screw up being a director this time around, at least he’s good as the leading man and shows that he still has the wit, the charm and the perseverance to make any role of his work. Dodge Connelly is a bit of a strange role for Clooney, but not as obvious because you can still tell the guy loves the sport that he plays, loves what he has to do, and really wants the money. He’s the type of fast-talker you don’t want to see at a Christmas party because he’s too busy talking your ear off about how you and him should get together some time, look over the paper-work, and see just where they could go next with this idea of his. However, he’s still a guy we like, which is solely due to the fact that Clooney just has that “thing” about him that makes him so cool to begin with.

Even with all of the mud and gook, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Even with all of the mud, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Renée Zellweger is also a blast to watch and listen to as Lexie Littleton, an untrustworthy reporter for the Tribune, who shows all of the fiery sass and sexiness that we’ve always seen from her in past rom-com roles, but never really got to see placed in a period where all ladies acted and talked like this. Okay, maybe Chicago, but to me, that doesn’t count because half of her lines were sung, rather than spoken. Nonetheless though, the gal’s great here in the way that she’s able to hold her own against the dudes, show-off some of that brassiness to her act that we haven’t seen in awhile, and also make us feel a bit more for her than we should. Even though I don’t like it, most journalists seem to get a bad-rap in movies and for once, it was nice to see a movie that portrays a journalist as a person that loves their job, and does whatever they can to get the right facts, by any means necessary.

John Krasinski is also here as the happy-go-lucky, always positive-thinker, Carter Rutherford. I’ve always had an admiration for Krasinski because the dude is able to make us like him, even when his character is a bit off of his rocker. It’s also nice to see him not play a character that’s practically Jim, and seeing him just shine it up as Carter, make us fall in love with him almost as much as everybody else in this movie does, reminds me why I go to bat for the guy every chance I get. Then again, it’s a role that’s seemingly there so that everybody else can work around it, respond to it, and do a lot better than, so maybe it’s not the role-of-a-life-time for the guy like many, including himself, may have hoped. It’s still good though and makes me hope he’ll challenge himself a bit more in the future.

Consensus: Being that Leatherheads doesn’t just star Clooney, but also has him directing as well, you should already know it’s a good movie, while definitely still not as good as we’ve seen the dude do in the past. Namely, three years ago with Good Night, And Good Luck.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Stop being so happy!!

Just trying to make the moments he has next to George last forever. Don’t blame him.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

One could only imagine the type of dirty dealings Alex Trebek does on the side when he isn’t correcting dorks.

Many out of you out there probably know who Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) actually is just by his pop-culture relevance. He hosted the Gong Show, created the Dating Game, was infamous for his crazy personality on-and-off the screen and, from plenty of sources, apparently had a long-standing battle with drug-addiction that not only took over his professional, but most of his personal life as well. Oh and he was also a spy for the CIA too, apparently. Yeah, didn’t think about that one now did ya?

Whenever Gong Show reruns would show up when I was around, I’d always be wondering what the hell was up with the host. The guy always seemed like he was one step behind on everything else that was going on around him, which would have only made more sense if it was just that he did blow two seconds before the cameras began rolling. Much to my surprise though, the guy was actually part of the CIA, wrote an autobiography about it and even had a movie directed about his wild and crazy life. This is where I started to have second thoughts about this guy; but nope. My opinion still remains: Chuck Barris is a frickin’ nut.

Like the old joke goes: "Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude's bought her a martini."

Like the old joke goes: “Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude bought her a martini.” Or something of that nature.

Much more of a surprise to me was to find out that not only was there a biopic made about his wild life and times, but that it was also directed by one George Clooney. Apparently, Clooney found something quite interesting about this guy’s life that he wanted to make a movie about it all, adapting from the Barris’ own autobiography; and therein lies the problem.

See, since most of this is coming from the point-of-view of Barris and not really anybody else around him, we never know what’s real, what’s real fiction, what’s a bunch of crap that he just made-up in his head and what was done by Clooney, all for the sake of entertainment-purposes. Thankfully, most of it all seems legit in Barris’ own, twisted way and because of that, the movie comes-off as more of a biopic, rather than just a sensationalized, Hollywood story about a top-dollar guy in the showbiz. It’s a little bit weird; it’s a little bit twisty; it’s a little bit sad; it’s a little bit compelling; and it’s a little bit interesting. Which, when put altogether, made it worth watching for awhile.

But still, I was actually very surprised by the fact that even though this seems to be one of those wacky, larger-than-life stories you’d only get in the movies, but is also happens to be true, it still happened to be like every other conventional story where a guy has hope in this world, shows signs of promise, does well for awhile, then, sooner than later, begins to self-destruct by one bad decisions, after another. Can’t say I hold it against this film or Clooney too much, considering all that he’s doing is actually giving us the story that he read and whole-heartedly believes in, but material like this should be popping off of the screen. Not seeming like something we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but this time, just so happens to focus on a pop-culture icon thrown into the ring of the CIA. Strange and oddly compelling as it sounds, sadly, it does not play-out that way.

On top of that, too, the story itself doesn’t really get started-off until the first hour. As a director, Clooney seems like he has a nice mixture of Scorsese and Sodebergh going on here, and it made this movie move quick and light, while also still focusing on a character and a story that would begin to get more and more interesting, just as it unraveled. Where Clooney excels the most with this material is in all of the showbiz/behind-the-scenes stuff because it gave me a great glimpse of how hard it was for Barris to actually get any of his shows off the ground, and how hard it may be for anyone out there who ever had a single, creative idea in their mind and wanted to see what they could do with it.

However, where Clooney mis-steps is in that kept on going back-and-forth between three elements of this story that didn’t seem to mesh so well. One was a romantic sub-plot he has with a couple of ladies that he finds cool and charming; the other is about his life as a TV game-show host; and the last one is about his CIA shenanigans. All do quite well in their own, respective fields, but spliced together, it feels uneven as if you couldn’t quite tell where George wanted to go with this material. Did he want it to be a biopic? A comedy about showbiz during the 70′s? A character-study about where this guy came from and his mind? Or, just a simple tale about the CIA, and all of the intrigue that goes along with it? Not saying you can’t focus on all of these elements and pack them into one, completely whole story, but there’s a better way to go about doing so, and yet, still making it compelling in every which way.

Then again though, it should be noted that this was George’s directorial-debut and while he may have not done the most perfect job in all of the world, it’s still impressive enough to see why he’d go on to make many other movies in the near-future. Not all of them were great, but they are still as interesting as this and it goes to show you what one guy can do if he doesn’t just have the looks and the talents, but the aspirations and ambitions as well. For that, I give George credit, even if it may seem like I’m ragging on him quite a bit.

I’m really not though, George. I’m not nearly half of the man you are. If only.

But what this movie gave us the most, was a solid look at Sam Rockwell and just exactly who the hell he was. As Chuck Barris, Rockwell nails everything perfectly – his goofy-demeanor, off-kilter sense of humor, and overall weirdness he carried on throughout his day-to-day activities. He’s a nut-ball for sure, but he’s not necessarily a likable one. Actually, better yet, he’s a bit of a dick, an unapologetic one at that, which makes it a bit hard to care about this guy at first. However, Rockwell is so believable and charming as Barris, that you almost forget about all of the morally questionable choices he’s made throughout the bulk of this movie. At one point, you actually feel bad for him considering he is so out-of-his-league and just not at all ready for what the world of the CIA has to throw at him. Though we never do quite know exactly what did, or what didn’t happen in Barris’ life, we still feel for the guy and see him as a human, and not just another Hollywood hot-shot, who got too big for his britches and ended-up getting in all sorts of trouble. Rockwell was great here though, and totally does carry this movie on his own two shoulders.

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right then and there!

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right here!

Makes me even happier to see that he’s still putting in great work today.

Though, I do have to say that Rockwell does have a bit of help from his co-stars, one of which is Clooney himself as the main, CIA-operative that gets Barris involved with all of these sheisty dealings in the first place. Clooney’s good and definitely up to his old-school charming ways, but after awhile, just felt like a plot-contrivance that would conveniently show up to deliver bad news for Barris, just when things seemed to be going jolly-good for the guy. It was also awesome to see Rutger Hauer as one of Barris’ fellow-agents out in the field that definitely provides some near and dear insight, but soon becomes to be a bit of a mysterious guy himself, and not in the good way mind you. Still though, it’s great to see Hauer getting some meaty-material, as the dude definitely deserves more of it.

This isn’t just a man’s show though, because there are some ladies here that get a chance to show up, strut their stuff and shake the boys’ party up a bit. Julia Roberts started-off pretty good as another CIA Agent that Barris meets out there in the field, but soon becomes every other role that we’ve seen her play, time and time again. Sad to see, but I guess I’ve expected it by now, right? Then there is Drew Barrymore as Penny, Barris’ long-lasting girlfriend of sorts and is fine, even though her character is a bit weak here. It isn’t Barrymore’s acting that’s the problem, but it seems like her character was written in a way in which she always tells Barris that he needs to knuckle down, even though he never does so; seems to always stand by his side, even if he just continues to bang other chicks right from underneath her nose; and basically, just never get himself clean and off-the-grind. Actually, one time, it happens right in front of her face, and yet, she doesn’t say anything until five minutes later! Made no sense! All she had to do was a grow a back-bone and leave that bastard! Especially when I’m out there on the market! Like, holla!

Consensus: There seemed to be plenty of promise in the source material of Chuck Barris’ life, but sadly, despite all of the best intentions of Clooney, Charlie Kaufman and the good ensemble, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind just never seems like anything more than just your standard, traditional biopic with lots of CIA-stuff and showbiz-satire thrown into the mix. Other than that, not much else.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

There's always got to be that one last guy who never gets the hint that "the party's over".

There’s always got to be that one, last guy who never gets the hint that “the party’s over”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

That Awkward Moment (2014)

Moments are only awkward, if you make them be. There. I said it.

Three, twenty-something friends since college, decide that they’re going to keep on doing what they’ve been doing for awhile: Stay single, get ladies and party hard, with no commitments at all. Both Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) have been keeping up with this life-style for quite some time, but due to his recent split from his wife, Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) joins in on the fun and learns a thing or two about being back in the game. And while everything starts off fine with these guys getting laid every which way from Saturday, eventually, feelings do come into the mix of things and surprise these guys more than they ever wanted to be surprised. For Jason, he starts up a relationship after a one-night-stand with Ellie (Imogen Poots); Daniel begins an intimate-relationship with one of his long-time girlfriends and “wing woman”, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis); and as for poor Mikey, the guy gets back together with his wife, although it’s not fully clear whether or not they’re actually, full-on “back together”, or just “having fun”. For all three of these guys, though they definitely want to stay in the single game for a long time, they end up realizing that maybe it’s time to start settling-down, especially if you’ve already found that special someone to do it with.

We get it, Zac! You're sexy as hell!

We get it, Zac! You’re sexy as hell!

Though I am probably wrong, you don’t usually see a movie being totally and centrally targeted towards “the bros” out there. Sure, you see Apatow flicks where guys are always talking amongst themselves about dicks, farts, weed, boobs, pop-culture and all sorts of other things we associate with Apatow movies, but so rarely do we get movies where young, single and free-wheeling guys, are just being themselves. Reminds me of the good old days with movies like Swingers and…..well yeah, Swingers.

Like I said though, maybe it has been, or maybe it hasn’t been a long time since the last time we just had a movie that solely focused on a group of dudes, the booze they consume, the parties they venture out to and the ladies then end-up snagging by the end of the night, all while still maintaining their “bro code”. It reminds me of the times me and my buddies hang-out, where all we do is talk about whatever comes to our minds first, mainly girls; the same type of girls none of us will ever get. But hey, that’s why you have your guy friends around, right?

Anyway, my point is, since movies like this don’t come around so often (or maybe they do and I just don’t know), they have to work and seem somewhat believable, so it isn’t just a bunch of d-bags spouting-out their ways of picking up insanely-hot woman, and how they are practically rubbing it in your face for not being like them, and getting these insanely-hot women. But sadly, it can be just that. While I do think that these performances were charming enough to win these characters over with me, I could only handle it so many times when I saw a guy like Zac Efron pick up a lady, or two ladies, a night, and say how he craves and wants more. But then, all of a sudden, wants a relationship, and still can’t help but call-up the last-second “booty-call”. It’s fine and all because Zac Efron is a good-looking guy, with a jacked-up body who can easily get any woman in the world that he wanted, but I just don’t want to see a movie about that.

And NO, it has nothing to do with jealousy. There’s just a fine line to where it becomes watching an actor play a role of a guy who is a bit like him, to playing a role of a guy that is him. Got a bit annoying after awhile, and although I did like Efron here and felt like he handled himself well with the script’s calling for humor, too much of his male, macho-posturing could only go on for so long with me until I had to spend the next 12 hours at the gym, trying to rip my body-up just as good as his.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. Damn you, Zac.

As for Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, they fair a lot better by just being charming, without really trying to show-off. Both of their characters are thrown into odd positions where they get put into these relationships, but don’t actually want to brag about it or even tell anybody; so, they keep to themselves and seem like modest, young gentleman for doing so. Made them seem a lot cooler, nicer and maybe with a bit more set of morals than Efron’s character had, although he’s the one we’re supposed to cheering for to get the girl in the end. Personally, I was cheering on Jordan’s character, and it wasn’t because I like him in general, but because he was tapping somebody’s ass he’s very comfortable with and enjoying it: His own wife’s! Good for him, man!

How is "banging in the shower" considered "an awkward moment"? It's the way of life! Just ask the guys at the Golf Club!

How is “banging in the shower” considered “an awkward moment”? It’s the way of life! Just ask my high school football team-mates.

But it’s not like this whole movie is a total dude’s fest from beginning to end, because the lucky ladies that do get thrown into the mix, actually hold their own. Imogen Poots is good here as the sassy, but adorable love-interest of Efron’s character and while her accent can be god-awful at times, she still does a nice job at giving us a reason why we should believe that she’d fall for this guy’s charms, let alone actually stay with him, once she began to find out how much of a dick he could be. Same goes for Mackenzie Davis as Teller’s girlfriend who doesn’t have a really strong back-story going on between her and Teller’s character, but still has a cool-enough presence to where you don’t mind her being around and trying to be funny. Also, you have to commend an R-rated, rom-com that doesn’t show any nudity from the ladies, and in fact, only comes close to showing man-ass, or man-dong. That’s it, and I actually thought that was a smart decision. Showed that we didn’t need to rip these ladies’ clothes off to make them attractive; they just were.

Aside from all that nonsense, the movie itself is funny, but only due to the fact that the cast is so charming. When everybody’s clearly having fun being around one another, it’s a good time. Though the movie itself clearly likes to think it’s “more than just your traditional, average rom-com”, I can’t help but say that, “it isn’t”. There are some bits and pieces of insight, but none really go so far as “Man, relationships with girls are serious, man”, or, “Settling down is hard, man”; and even most of the plot-conflicts end up being resolved quite easily and obviously. Nothing ever really feels at-stake here and while you like these characters and their relationships with one another, if one was to cut all ties with the other, nothing would really make me sad, wishing for the day they re-connected. I would just hope that they found better people to be around, or possibly a new love in their life. Either way, I’d just hope they were happy. That’s strange, right? I don’t know. Don’t listen to me when I ramble.

Consensus: At times, That Awkward Moment can be entertaining, funny and charming, all due to the wonderful, young cast on-display, but that’s pretty much all there is to this plain material. Oh, but it does feature the best cameo of 2014, so far! Trust me, stay for the end credits. You’ll thank me when you see it.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

It's as if Hollywood graduated all of its hot, young, attractive and promising males-under-30 and let them act as if they were over-30. Cappuccinos, scarves and all!

It’s as if Hollywood graduated all of its hot, young, attractive and promising males-under-30 and let them act as if they were over-30. Cappuccinos, scarves and all!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Labor Day (2013)

Escaped convicts always make the best stand-in daddies. Honestly don’t know why they aren’t more frequent.

13-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith) and his depressed mother Adele (Kate Winslet) are going through a bit of a rough-patch right now. Mainly her though as she’s trying to get over the recent-divorce from her ex (Clark Gregg) and find her way back into being the normal, spirited gal she once was. However, Henry has it pretty bad too, with puberty and all, but he doesn’t think he has it all that bad when he just so happens to stumble upon an escaped convict by the name of Frank (Josh Brolin), who then urges them to come with him and not be suspicious in any way. At first, both Henry and Adele are frightened of this man, but sooner than later, they begin to realize that he’s got a heart of gold, but also just so happens to be a murderer – a murder he consistently lets us know is “not what it appears to be”. As time goes on though, the three all begin to bond, with Adele and Frank even going so far as to start doing a little hanky-panky, which leads them to their next stage: Move-away and become a real family? Or, just let the law take control and send Frank back to the slammer, where he rightfully belongs? Decisions, decisions people.

It pains me to see a movie like this, where one of the most promising directors in the longest while, Jason Reitman, tries something new and slightly bold, and somehow, falls on his face. Not flat on his face, but you can definitely tell that his “smart idea” of changing his directorial-choices up a bit and going for something that’s far more dramatic, romantic and in some cases, suspenseful than what we’ve seen him do in the past, definitely wasn’t fully thought-out.

"Don't mind this goatee-sporting man that just so happens to be wearing a sweat-top and baseball-cap next to me. He's just an old friend I just so happened to stumble upon."

“Don’t mind this goatee-sporting man, who also happens to be wearing a sweat-top and baseball-cap next to me. He’s just an old friend I just so happened to stumble upon while shopping.”

Reason being: There just isn’t much, or any at all spark to be found in this story that should have made it work.

The one aspect of this movie I will give Reitman some credit for is at least trying to give the audiences something new, in terms of an “adult romance”. And by that, I don’t mean that we see much sex between the adults, or nudity, or even that much of sappy, love-struck moments that would make even Nicholas Sparks get all red in the face; it’s an “adult romance” in the way that we see two, older-aged humans that have clearly experienced life for what it was has brought to them, and now how they want to continue on their lives with one another. It’s kind of sweet when you think about it and definitely gives you the idea that this is not something very “popular” with audiences out there. However, the fact remains that adults do in fact, “fall in love”, and it’s time that we started seeing more movies that depict that fact of life.

But to add on that, we should also be seeing good movies that depict that fact of life, not something like this. Which, I kind of do hate to say because I love Reitman; he’s the type of writer/director who’s not afraid to take chances, or depict characters that may not always be perfect, but feel like full-fledged characters we can actually care about and connect with. Here though, we have a bunch of broken-down, beaten-up people that would definitely seem like perfect matches-made-in-heaven for one another, but don’t really add up to much. It’s believable that somebody as repressed as Adele would look twice at a guy like Frank who, may even be more emotionally-disturbed than she is, but treats her like the Queen Bee she hasn’t felt like in some odd time. That aspect of the story definitely makes sense, but it just doesn’t play-out in a believable manner.

Which, I think, is to put the blame on Reitman for having this story be told in the point-of-view of Henry. Granted, I never read the book this is an adaptation of, so it could definitely be just a case where somebody is following by the guide-lines presented to him, but it doesn’t work. Not only do we get too much focus on Henry oddly and awkwardly talking to this fellow teenage girl (that, unbelievably, keeps talking about sex and how he should get ready to be kicked-out of the house because the adults he lives with are having too much of it), but we never actually get to see Frank and Adele develop much as a couple, or even soul-mates. We just see them sad, lonely and in need of some lovin’, which is all fine and dandy because we’re all human in the end, but we never quite see them talk, get to know one another, or even see them initiate the act of sex. We just hear their moans and groans, which is supposed to be played-up for laughs, but just feels like Reitman trying very, very hard to secure a PG-13-rating without over-stepping those boundaries or offending anybody in the process.

In this case, as dirty as I may sound to state this, but those boundaries needed to be taken-off and shoved in front of our faces, just like he’s done with all of his movies.

And trust me, this all hurts me to say because while I definitely did see promise in this material and in this director, I felt the most of it with the cast. Which I wasn’t wrong to think, because they are all actually fine and make this movie the least bit “watchable”. Kate Winslet gives us, yet again, another performance where she acts her ass off as a sad, slightly disturbed heroine that definitely does seem like a nice lady when she’s functioning, but she rarely is and doesn’t even bother to go out there in the real world. It’s kind of sad to see this type of character, really, and while, without saying anything, Winslet tells us everything there is we need to know about her character, Adele does become a bit more implausible as time goes on and she starts to change every aspect of her life, just to be with this man she’s known for all of four-five days. I get it, that’s the point, but the point didn’t work for me. Sorry.

One of the very rare instances in which it's "okay" to have your woman bake you a pie.

Hey, shouldn’t “the woman” in that equation be making the pie? Men? You with me on this?

We also have Josh Brolin here as Frank, who, like Winslet, is fine at displaying this type of character that seems like he was, at one point in time, a very nice and genuine guy, but has been through the ringer a bit too many times to where he’s a bit scary to be around. He’s still nice and definitely the right kind of guy to teach you how to throw a baseball, but is also a bit unpredictable as you never know when he could turn that other cheek, and commit some questionable actions. He already did once, so what’s stopping him now? Nada, that’s what!

Gattlin Griffith shows some promise here as Henry, but he too gets bogged-down by some unbelievable twists and turns his character takes, and it makes you wonder if this kid’s scared, sheltered, or just dumb. Tobey Maguire also narrates the older-version of Henry, and while it’s nice to hear his smooth, gentle voice over the speakers when we least expect it, it still doesn’t add much to the film and just tells us everything that’s happen on-screen. Poor Tobey. From just standing-around and looking like a fool in the Great Gatsby, to this, it seems like the guy will almost never catch a break. Somebody give him a hug already!

Consensus: Winslet, Brolin and relative new-comer Griffith, definitely make Labor Day somewhat interesting, but everything Jason Reitman does as writer/director feels like he’s just trying too hard to be anything like he’s been for all of his other movies, and by doing so, doesn’t allow this story to ever pick-up any tension or blissfulness that it so clearly needs.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't be nervous, kid. Cause if you are, I'll freaking snap your mom's neck in-half. Like I said, don't be nervous."

“Don’t be nervous, kid. Cause if you are, I’ll freaking snap your mom’s neck in-half. Like I said, don’t be nervous.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ender’s Game (2013)

Kids will be kids, until they have to lead an army into battle. Then they’re just immature adults.

An alien race called the Formics has attacked Earth, and as you could presume, the citizens of that said planet aren’t too happy. So, that’s when they decide to set-up a military school in which they will enlist pre-teens to learn the tricks of the trade, be tested, be challenged and be the best that they can truly be, so that one day, they too can get a chance to fight in the war. The reason why a school like this even exists is because the government feels as if they get kids, whose minds aren’t as developed or as complex yet, then there will be no problems whatsoever with the enlisting or training-process. However, that’s where a boy named Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), comes in a screws everything up. Not only does Ender have something special within him that lead Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) can see, but also has a bit of an open-mind to any situation he finds himself in. Sure, that impresses a lot of the instructors, but doesn’t make him the coolest kid on the playground. But, it’s fine because Ender doesn’t care, all he cares about is putting his skills to the test and see if he can take out the Formic threat once and for all. Like with most war-fare though, there do come some prices one must pay.

So yeah, a lot has been said about this movie, but then again, it’s not necessarily about the movie itself. Nope, it’s more about how author Orson Scott Card himself was a bit of a loony and took it upon himself to let everybody know that he’s homophobic. Personally, whatever the guy wants to say or do, is fine by me. Sure, he may be a bit shallow and narrow-minded, but he’s a human, he’s entitled to his opinion and quite frankly, he didn’t make this movie, so why should I care? What I should care about here is the actual movie I have on hand here, and if it actually does its job in being some sort of meeting between Harry Potter and Star Wars, as I heard it being compared as.

Oh, young love. But they'll be dead soon, so whatever.

Aw, young love. But they’ll be dead soon, so it’s whatever.

It doesn’t meet those standards, but it’s not a total bomb. Here’s why:

For the most part, this flick is kind of weird. Director Gavin Hood clearly knows that he’s working with some heavy-duty source-material here that may not entirely be for kids, nor may it not entirely be for the adults either. In fact, Hood himself finds a bit of a problem in trying to find a cohesive, senseless juggle between the two demographics: For the kiddies out there, we have a few scenes of other kids playing video-games, goofing around with one another and getting into tiny scuffles; as for the parents, we have all sorts of war-fare, mixed with thought-provoking ideas about the humanity kept in one’s mind during war, the act of genocide itself and war crimes. So yeah, if you like your teen, sci-fi-thriller to be mixed with plenty of social-commentary, this is definitely the film for you.

However, it doesn’t quite work out that way, all due to the fact that we never know what this movie is working-up to, nor do we know what it’s trying to say. Most of the actual interesting stuff that does occur in this movie, probably happens in the first-hour when we see Ender go through this military school, where’s he’s made an example of, gets picked on and in some ways, picks fights with fellow students. It’s also interesting, if not tonally jarring, to see a movie that so clearly makes it a point to dehumanize these kids, just so that they can be “better soldiers”. A bit scary when you think about it happening to these small, innocent kids we see on-screen, but it’s even more frightening when we realize that it is actually happening out there in the real world that we live in. In some cases, maybe even right outside your door-step.

But like I was saying though, the movie makes it a point to always “be about something”, but at the same time, never seems like it’s really going anywhere with its countless bits of action or scenes where we see a bunch of kids yelling out random codes/jargon/exposition, in order for it all to make a lick of a difference. We know that whatever threat these kids are battling, is something that may be deadly and strike them at any moment, but instead of actually seeing these kids go to war and get their hands a bit dirty, we’re just watching them go through simulations. Sure, the simulations, as well as everything else in this movie, look mighty pretty and definitely have you feel like you’re right there in the moment, but they’re just simulations. Meaning, they aren’t the real-deal, so why in the heck do we have to have a film that builds up to that, and only that?

And then, the strangest part of this movie comes through when we get a “shocker” of an ending in which we see that the government itself is up to some sheisty-dealings. Won’t give too much away as to the “how’s” and the “why’s”, but I will say that it didn’t surprise me much here. Also, the notes that the movie ends on are some pretty interesting ones that you wouldn’t quite see in something that’s as slightly aimed towards kids as this is (ideas about sacrificing thousands of fellow soldiers for the almighty “win”, risking anything and everything, etc.), but then it also seems to just straggle those ideas out, in a way to make us realize the actual tension this story is supposed to be creating. It never materials to much, other than just a bunch of smart ideas, that probably would have been better, used in a far less-messy movie. Not to say that it’s all pretty crappy, but once things begin to get heavy, then the weight of the actual story itself begins to crush all of the fun and life that’s trying to get-out.

Perhaps though, the most interesting aspect surrounding this movie is the handling of its lead character, Ender, a character whom, from what I’ve heard, isn’t the most likable protagonist in the world. I can definitely see that too, because while the kid definitely seems like his heart may be in the right place with certain decisions made here and there, somehow, there’s this under-lining sense of sociopathic behavior to be found and that comes out quite a few times in this movie. It’s not fully fleshed-out to where it provides a huge inner-issue for Ender, but is seen on occasion and makes you think that maybe he’s a bit of a nut-job that not only shouldn’t be the head of the military-force, but also shouldn’t be allowed to walk the same streets as regular-day citizens like you or I.

"Yes, I had a hard night of partying the other night. Anyway, moving on...."

“Yes, I did in fact “party hard” the other night. MOVING ON!!”

That’s why it seems like this character would be terribly unlikable, but he actually isn’t. Which, in a sense, is more of a credit to Asa Butterfield’s acting, rather than the way the movie portrays him, because while the kid definitely seems to be a bit of stuck-up arse that needs to always get things right, he’s not necessarily a “bad” kid, that does bad things, for bad reasons; he’s just a kid who has been thrown into a situation that he wasn’t expecting, but is more than willing to give a try. Butterfield is good here and shows that he could definitely grow-up into some real, leading-man potential in the next couple of years, but it’s mainly the character of Ender that keeps us watching this kid, all because we don’t know who he’s going to humiliate next, or who he’s going to mouth-off to either.

Like Butterfield, everybody else is good, too, it’s just that they are given some pretty shaky dialogue to work with that I don’t even Daniel Day himself would be able to handle (that’s a joke, of course he would, he’s Daniel freakin’ Day-Lewis for gosh sakes!). Harrison Ford tries, but can’t help but give a one-note performance as the Colonel who believes in Ender so much, that he’s able to growl for him whenever necessary; Viola Davis shows up for a few scenes to show that she has “humanity” because she doesn’t want these kids tested, but is basically told to “take that crap elsewhere”; Hailee Steinfeld shows that she has potential as a leading-lady in the future, but is given a lot of jargon to say and none of it really makes sense, so it would be kind of hard to decide whether or not she’s good here, based solely on that; and Ben Kingsley shows up with a whole bunch of face-tattoos that make Mike Tyson look like a wuss, and doesn’t do much here either. Nice to see him and Ford share the same screen though, even if all they do is deliver exposition when they’re around one another. A damn shame passing up an opportunity like that when you have two great talents in the same room. A damn shame.

Consensus: There may be a very strange demographic that this movie is for, but Ender’s Game can’t quite figure who or what that is, so instead, gives us all the special-effects, action, sci-fi elements and social-messages it can possibly handle, but doesn’t do much to really build towards anything that could be deemed “exciting”.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ask anybody in a galaxy far, far away from here, they'll tell who not to mess with."

“Stand-up straight when I’m talking to you, boy! Chewie would have!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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