About these ads

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 6-6.5/10

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

About these ads

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

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

What has this Ryan dude got himself into now??!?!?

After saving his family and the Prime Minister of England from a slew of crazy Irishmen, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is now an assistant to the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence when all of a sudden, his longtime friend Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) is diagnosed with cancer. This is tragic news for both Greer and Ryan, but both know that a job has to be done, so that’s when Ryan decides to take over the job as the Deputy Director of Intelligence, where he is assigned his first assignment: Recover $650 million from the Colombian drug cartels that was left over there by one of the President’s good buddies. Ryan is more than willing to complete the task, but he finds out that there is more brewing beneath the surface than just some money being needed. Apparently, some of the President’s closest advisers are involved with these same said drug cartels and want to keep on continuing to make more money, while also getting rid of Ryan and his boy scout-ways. However, as we found out before, Ryan doesn’t go down easy and won’t back down from a challenge, no mater whom it may be coming from.

Patriot Games was no beauty, but it was at least a relatively small, inspired and taut thriller that worked well when it was showing off the mechanics of the technology that surrounds Ryan and his skills, rather than the fists he uses in fights. And compared to this movie, it was a hell of a lot shorter, clocking in at less than two-hours which, still felt long, but nowhere near as long as a near-two-and-a-half-hour movie like the one we have here, which makes this one feel like any other sequel out there: Overlong, over-exposed, over-stuffed, and worst of all, over-directed.

I wouldn't advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that's just me.

I wouldn’t advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that’s just me.

But while I do feel like director Phillip Noyce got his vision better this time with the action, there’s still a weird feeling with the story that didn’t quite keep me as interested here as it did with the last movie. For instance, the novelty of the first movie where it was just this one situation, with these handful of characters, felt like it was a smaller, more-intimate thriller, for lack of a better term. It made you feel as if you were right there in the moment, with these characters, figuring out what was going on, how they were going to solve it and whether or not they were all going to make it out alive. Problem is, that was when Jack Ryan was just a small-timer in the CIA, but now, he’s taking orders directly from the Big Man himself, which already means that the issues are going to be expanded and a whole lot more jumbled.

That’s why I can’t get too pissed at this movie for giving me a story that covers a larger map of where it goes and how, but I can be pissed off at the fact that it was just so damn convoluted. It seems like with any movie that concerns politics, there’s always got to be a slew of lies, deceptions and back-stabbings, which is exactly what we get here, however, there’s just so many that you lose count of who is screwing who over, and why. In fact, half of the people whose names were said, I couldn’t really match the faces with, all because the movie would focus on this one character for a couple minutes, have them leave and then, all of a sudden, let us know that that character was an important player in the rest of the proceedings we were about to be a witness of.

Think Miller’s Crossing’s Mink, but instead of one character played by Steve Buscemi, you have ten different ones, all played by people less charming and lovable as creepy blue eyes.

So, in essence, when the movie does begin to get closer and closer to its climax, it became to be such a chore for me to keep up with who was who, what they were doing, for what reasons and what the major ramifications of them were. That’s why I just gave up and decided to enjoy the action. Which, no surprise whatsoever, was a smart decision on my part because Noyce definitely got that part of the movie down perfectly. Not only does the action come at you at a full 100 mph, but it also feels very tense, as if the whole movie leading up to it was meant for just this one moment. They aren’t action scenes just thrown in there because they were needed, they feel like they enhance the story and keep it moving at a nice pace. That’s what I wish I saw more in my action movies, but I highly doubt I’ll get. So be it.

Tuco?

Tuco?

And, like usual, it’s always a joy to see Harrison Ford acting in a actioner, regardless of who he’s playing, and his second outing as Jack Ryan, shows that he never gets old as the character, even if he is getting a bit old himself. Once again, Ryan’s less of a bad-ass, and more of a smarty pants who knows what to do at any situation and, if he has to, will get his hands dirty. Ford definitely shows no signs of slowing down with this character, which is why I feel like he could have gone on and did ten more of these movies, and we’d still have a great time with him. However, like what seems to be the case for many major motion-picture franchises nowadays, Ben Affleck came, he saw, and he conquered. That Boston bastard.

The most disappointing aspect behind this flick is even while it does put all of this focus on all of these numerous subplots, characters and emotions, we never really get to see much of Anne Archer or Thora Birch as Ryan’s wife and daughter respectively. Makes sense since this movie is more about the government and its non-stop clusterfucks, and less about the family-dynamic inside the Ryan household, but still, a little bit more development would have been perfect. Especially since Archer, even with her shortened screen-time, shows that she’s still a cool wife that’s willing to take the fact that her hubby could die at any second, and she’d be the one to take over the fam-squad. God, that woman sure is a breath of fresh air that I so desperately need in my life. Tired of all these young bimbos. They don’t know shit about the 70’s like my girl Anne does.

Consensus: Like most mainstream sequels usually are, Clear and Present Danger is quite overblown, loud and excessive to the point of where it’s numbing, but still does feature some fun and exciting moments amongst all of the numerous subplots that are hard to keep track of, characters that we don’t care about and less-focus on the ones we do care about, meaning the rest of Ryan’s family, including the new baby boy!

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Jack's still got it. Oh, and so does Harry.

“Knew I should have taken the keys out.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Black Sunday (1977)

I just thought that the Good Year blimps did would tell us that “Ice Cube’s a pimp”. However, I was a dead wrong. It’s apparently a WEAPON OF DESTRUCTION!!

After stumbling upon a possible terrorist plan, Israeli anti-terrorist operative Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) decides that it’s time to take matters into his own hands and catch who exactly it is that’s behind this, what their plan is and when exactly their going to pull this all off. Even though he doesn’t know yet, we do, and it just so happens to be a very angry, very evil Dahlia Iyad (Marthe Keller) who’s been setting up this plan of her own for awhile, but hasn’t gotten the “go-to” just yet. But once almost every person that’s above her in the food-chain perishes, gets found out, or simply backs away from this plan, she too decides to take matters into her own hands, enlisting a Vietnam vet (Bruce Dern), who also happens to be a frequent pilot for a Good Year blimp that goes over football stadiums on the day of the games, just to get a couple of nice action shots here and there. And heck, the Good Year blimp is so awesome and handy to have around, they even enlist it to do its job on the most special football Sundays of all time: The Super Bowl. See where this one’s going?

Get your head in the game dammit!

Get your head in the game dammit!

What may have seemed like a pretty illogical and nutso idea to have back in the days of 1977, gives off a very creepy, slightly eerie feeling watching it now, in the 21st Century. For instance, back in those days, the idea of a group of terrorists taking over the same Good Year blimp that hovers over the Super Bowl, where all sorts of fans, players and even high-ranking politicians go to sit back and relax, and attaching the bomb to it with all intents of a mass murder, seemed like one of those Hollywood, big-budget movie-making “what if” ideas. It would have been the same idea some guy probably made to a hot-shot executive saying how the people would love it and totally venture out to go and witness just what it’s all about.

However, in the year 2013, where things like 9/11, school shootings, the Afghanistan war and the Boston Marathon Bombings, seem to pop-up in every U.S citizen’s minds on a day-to-day basis, not only would it not be played for such a “gee, wouldn’t this be crazy?”-feel, and more of a “this could actually happen” one, and therefore, never get made. That’s why movies like these, no matter how dated they may actually be or feel, still hold plenty of thoughts and ideas that can be looked at in a current-mind, rather than one that’s just looking at it as if it was 1977 all over again. That’s not the type of world we live in now, and that’s why, at times, this movie was definitely a little hard to watch.

All of that thought-provoking yammering aside, this movie is still a movie and it should definitely be taken in as that, regardless of when it was released and the subject content it involves.

If you’re going to have a movie that’s all leading-up to a huge, bloated and disastrous climax, it makes sense to want to build-up to it by creating characters, spending time developing them, as well as the situation, what’s at stake here and why everything we are seeing and hearing now matters, especially when we know that everything’s going to blow up into itty bitty pieces during the last 20 or so minutes. And for the most part, the movie does a relatively effective at job at doing that, however, it does take quite awhile to get going and even when it does actually get its foot moving, it never really escalates to much.

Actually, that’s incorrect, because there are quite a couple of cool, tense and action-packed sequences that happen here, and made me feel like it was working to something big, while also still giving us tiny pleasures in between. There’s a chase-sequence between a terrorist member and the whole police squad that starts off in a hotel, then spills out onto the gritty streets of L.A., and then, for one reason or another, ends up on a beach in the most ironic scene of all. It’s a nice scene that practically comes out of nowhere, however, it grabbed me by the throat and took me for a ride. There’s even another scene like that in the form of a boat chase that doesn’t look half-as-bad as it sounds. So yeah, there are some moments where this movie really kicks into high-gear, before going balls-out crazy in the end, and it kept me sticking with this all, even though I felt like there was nothing really interesting happening underneath this at all.

Mainly though, I have to discredit the writing for that, because while these characters do seem pretty standard in terms of their motivations for doing the things that they do, there’s never really much more to them. The late, great Robert Shaw is the determined agent who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and dishes out more violence and pain than the actual violence and pain he’s trying to stop from happening, and has a couple of scenes where you get that he’s trying to stop these terrorists because it’s his right as a citizen and as a human being, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that. We know he had a wife, two kids and has a daughter that he rarely so often sees, but there’s not much more to the guy other than that he wants to stop this terrorist attempt from actually happening. It does make him a great guy and all, but not a very interesting one to watch, despite how hard Shaw tries to make this guy practically jump-off the screen at us. Instead, he’s just jumping onto Good Year blimps, but more on that second.

Pen exploded I'm going to assume?

Pen exploded I’m going to assume?

Same that I say about Shaw’s character, can’t quite be said about our two terrorists for the whole two-hours-and-a-half, although they do seem pretty standard in their own rights as well. I’ll give credit to the writers for at least giving us bad-ass chick that not only screws her way to the top, but makes the most of her time looking down on those beneath her and doesn’t piss and moan about how she doesn’t get as much respect as the dudes. Yeah, she’s a terrorist and all that’s trying to kill thousands of innocent people, but the movie does make it seem like she’s basically doing this to gain some street-cred for the d-bags that authorize her what, and what not to do. Bruce Dern probably gets off a bit better as the disgruntled vet that, wait for it, wants to get back at his country and teach them a lesson that they’ll never forget. Dern does find some real heart and humanity within this character and we get the sense that underneath all of the disturbing memories and PTSD, that he was actually a nice, kind, gentle and warm-hearted man; it’s just that the war beat it all out of him. Literally.

But while we’re waiting for this climax to eventually happen, we’re all subject to these people just doing the usual chit-chat where they say what they’re going to do next, why and when exactly. It all feels like exposition, and rarely ever feels like actual human beings talking to one another; let alone human beings that are about to be apart of something as big and as terrifying as the Good Year blimp running into a football stadium and killings thousands of people. Even when the climax does come up, it is the fun, exciting and tension-filled spectacle you expected to get, but then, it suddenly becomes a bit goofy. I know it was 1977 and all, but the special-effects for this were just a bit too cheesy and after awhile, it began to take me out of this story that was supposed to be happening up in the air above thousands of football fans, and just made it seem like I was watching something that happened in an L.A. sound-stage with only 15 or so more people watching. Also, to top it all off, we have one of John Williams’ first scores and while it can be a doozy at times, it feels wrong for the material because of how dark, cold and brutal events we’re seeing on screen. But to him, it was just another battle between Luke and his daddy. Oh, the days of vintage-Williams.

Consensus: While it holds a very scary, threatening light in today’s society, Black Sunday is still a supposed “epic” that’s not as thrilling as it should be, nor is it as interesting either. It just moves along a steady-pace, telling its story and has us all awaiting for the huge, bloated and over-the-top climax that delivers, and then somehow, doesn’t.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sunday3

Quite fitting, don’t you think?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

To see all of the other various reviews and picks going on with the Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap, check out my buddy Nick’s site, the Cinematic Katzenjammer! It’s a good time, no matter what the occasion may be!

The Frighteners (1996)

Marty McFly, Ghost Whisperer.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) isn’t the most moral man around, but he gets by with what he can; which is showing up to funerals of the recently-deceased and throwing his business cards around, in which he goes under the title “paranormal expert”. Some believe it’s phony bologna, others like Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), believe he really can speak and reason with the dead. And they aren’t incorrect in their thinking either, it’s just that maybe they don’t quite know how much Frank does in fact talk to these ghosts. In fact, he talks to them all the time and even has a scam-plan running with them where he’ll tell the ghosts where to go and whom to spook, so that he can get a call, show up and practically save the day, all for a healthy price, of course. So yeah, he may be a bit of a scam-artist, but he’s making a living at doing it and nobody knows how he is, so there’s no problem with that a single bit. That is until the Grim Reaper shows up and tries to put all of Frank’s, as well as his fellow ghouls’ shenanigans to a much-needed, much long rest. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m talking about death. He’s going to get rid of them forever.

Since Peter Jackson was making his name pretty well-known during the early 90’s in his native New Zealand, it only makes sense that eventually Hollywood would catch on, give him a call and see what they can do about making him a bigger name in their neck of the woods. Just ask any foreign director who made their names known with a big hit on their shoulders, and they’ll practically tell you that Hollywood has a knack for doing this, and the results usually aren’t pretty. Sometimes they can be, but other times, they don’t quite work out as well as maybe the Hollywood producers had originally planned on.

"HERE'S MIKEY!!"

“HERE’S MIKEY!!”

This is one of those cases.

Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t like Peter Jackson’s inspired vision was ever lost in the process of this movie being made, edited and marketed to a wider audience. In fact, I’d probably wager that that’s where the main problems for this movie arises in that he couldn’t quite make up his mind as to whom he wanted to appeal to, other than just his usual band of misfits who loved all of his movies before his big break in Hollywood. That’s why there’s a slight problem with this movie and it’s tone; it never quite knows whether it wants to be a dark comedy about death, the after-life and the effect it has on those who are alive, or a slap-stick, full-blown comedy about a bunch of silly willy ghosts that like to do crazy things, even if they are just souls floating throughout the atmosphere. Jackson never quite finds that balance either, and it becomes painfully clear that this flick would have definitely benefited from that.

Then again though, I have to give Jackson still a bunch of credit for at least sticking to his vision, and making this something of his own natural beast. Every moment of horror, sprinkled with just a dash of humor, feels exactly like something you’d get from a Jackson movie, even if there aren’t loads and loads of blood or gore thrown all over the place. It’s weird that even though this is an R-rated movie, that there wasn’t as many ketchup packets to be seen here. It’s not like there were too many moments arouse that needed a nice helping of some red paint, but it wasn’t like the movie was necessarily supposed to be tame or anything. But still, Jackson gets past this and does give us a reasonably fun and light horror flick, that’s probably more about the thrills, than the chills.

However, those chills and thrills begin to somehow go away by the end, and the movie seems to get bland. Suddenly, Banister’s back-story comes to light and while it surely was interesting to see who he really was before all of these crazy ghosts came into his life, it still brought down the speed and fun of the first-half. It seemed like Jackson wanted to bring some depth and emotion into this story, which would have gone a real long way, had the movie not been so light on its feet in the first place. Because the movie was so wacky and wild for the first hour, once it gets deep into dark themes like death and the people who succumb to it, it feels strange and out-of-place, as if Jackson had intended for this to be apart of a whole other movie entirely. Instead, he just got stuck with a goofy movie starring Michael J. Fox and all of the ghosts he hangs out with, one that’s even an old Western cowboy who humps a statue. Yup, it gets that silly, which I was fine with, but once again, gets lost in the shuffle of an overly-serious last-act. One that also takes a cop-out ending, which really bummed me out more than anything else here.

My grandmom's wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

My grandmom’s wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

Speaking of the Fox, the guy does pretty well as Frank Bannister, giving us his usual wise guy, up-to-no-good persona we usually see from him. He always has some wise-crack to say in passing and seems like a pretty good guy, underneath all of the conning, lying and money-grubbing. Even when the movie does get a bit serious and dive right into Bannister’s life, it works for a short while because we know there’s more to this character and we know that he ain’t so bad of a dude, he just needs to stop messing with people’s minds and their wallets. Then again, the same could be said for those a-holes on Wall Street, and we all know that there’s nothing more to them!

Trini Alvarado, despite being quite the cutie, is rather bland as the supposed love-interest/admirer of Bannister’s and is okay with what she has to do, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. She’s just another pretty-face, that just so happens to fall for the strange guy on the outside. If only those types of chicks were real, then I wouldn’t have to worry about going to the clubs every night, on the prowl and looking for wife-to-be #3.

Consensus: You can definitely spot where and when Jackson’s creativity and original vision of this story comes into play, however, you can also see where and when the movie begins to lose its punch and energy, making the Frighteners seem like something more of an uneven affair.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Ladykillers (2004)

Not the type of lady-killing I do at the clubs, but same idea. I guess.

A charlatan professor by the name of Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, PhD (Tom Hanks) moves into the house of an older, African American woman widow (Irma P. Hall) for what seems to be a nice place for him to relax and jam with his gospel band. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as Dorr is up to no good with a cast of criminals that plan to rob the bank of a gambling casino, just through an underground tunnel. It may work, or it may not, but with the widow around, things prove to be pretty tense for the boys. Well, that and the fact that they are also a gang of misfits that don’t quite come together so perfectly on what they need to do next in their two dollar-plan.

The Coen Brothers love to have fun. I know that, you know that, Frances McDormand knows that, your parents know that, hell, in fact, I’d wager that even a person whose only seen one Coen Brothers flick could tell you that. That’s why the opportunity for them to remake a somewhat-classic film, may bring groans and moans from their dearly-beloved fans, but it’s what the Coens want to do, and they do have a knack for choosing their fine pieces of material, so yeah, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us, right?!?!?

Well, kinda, sort of, not really, but yeah. Here, I’ll explain:

What these two guys specialize in is taking a genre that can be tired and conventional and spin it totally on its head. That’s sort of what they do here with this movie, but even when they don’t, it still seems like the guys know exactly what they’re doing, any given moment; it’s just whether or not we like seeing them go through the motions with it. For the most part, there was some enjoyment in seeing them go through the motions as they made their steps in the mud, here and there, but other times, it felt like they could have been doing so much more with this material. Almost like they took this job because they had nothing else better to do during ’04, so they thought, “Why the hell not?!?!?”

Could totally just see them sitting around for a cup 'o tea, if they weren't robbing some casino.

Could totally just see them sitting around for a cup ‘o tea, if they weren’t robbing some casino.

Still, I have to give it to the guys for at least knowing how to enjoy themselves, where they allow others to join in the fun as well. Even if the movie does feel repetitive, predictable and slightly unoriginal, you never get the sense that this wasn’t made by the Coens. Their trademarks are still in full-force (quirky characters, heist-gone-wrong, gospel music, long, drawn-out scenes of dialogue), but they don’t win you over quite as well as they used to, especially once the heist begins to get going.

Once the movie begins, we are introduced to the older, black widow, then we meet Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, then we get a montage of the other cats that will be joining in this heist, and that’s about it for the hype-up. Then, once we see them all, it’s on with the heist. It felt quick and ready-to-go, but for me, I need my heist to take it’s time of where it goes, just so I can get a feel for the characters, the plot and the actual heist at-hand. Here, it just seemed like the Coens weren’t ready to settle down and wanted to get right into the action, which makes sense since this isn’t a very serious piece of work, at first. However, once it does become that way and we start to see that these are characters we’re supposed to care for and understand, it never fully comes together as we’re never given anytime whatsoever to be with these guys or see who they are before the heist, during it, and after. Maybe I was asking a bit too much, but with the way things turned out at the end, I kind of felt like my feelings were understandable. At least to me, that is.

But these characters are memorable in their own ways, all because they have their own set of quirks that make them stand-out from the rest. However, they aren’t the finest creations the Coens have ever brought to screen. Take for instance, the character played by Ryan Hurst, Lump: The dude’s the quintessential dummy that plays football, doesn’t have much going for him in the brain-department and just stands around with his mouth open, barely saying anything at all. Why? Well, it’s simple: It’s because he’s too dumb to even know what’s going on. Once or twice, it’s funny, but knowing the Coens and knowing how they role with their goofy characters, by giving them a set of quirks and trademarks that fit perfectly well together with the rest of the movie, it feels as if these guys ran a out of ideas, and decided to go down that obvious-route. Nothing ill to say against Hurst because the dude is fine with this role, it’s just that the character gets annoying after awhile, and seems like the Coens were scratching their heads for ideas and just crapped the most conventional one out onto paper.

But, not everybody suffers from the same problem that Hurst does as Lump, because they all have good characters to work with and do what they can to make them work. Tom Hanks was a freakin’ laugh-out-loud riot as the silver-tongued gentleman, G.H. Dorr, and shows that the guy can practically play anything and make it work ten times better than you’d least expect it to. I know, it sounds crazy that I’d ever be doubting Hanks’ role in a movie, but there have been the occasional times where things haven’t always worked out for him. Here though, he’s fun, entertaining, charming and interesting to just listen to as you know there’s mroe than just a caricature behind that whole facade. You just know it. He uses a lot of big words, most of which will probably go over the smartest person’s head, but Hanks handles it all with perfection and seems like he actually does know these words, rather than just reiterating them in a way that’s attractive enough for the camera. Hanks is the anchor to this flick, and always seems to be having the time of his life. As he should, cause the dude’s one of the best working right now.

A random bit of casting here is Marlon Wayans as the brass, black dude that works at the casino these guys are planning to rob and is funny, but also a bit sympathetic as well, despite him always cursing and going on about one dude bringing his bitch to the Waffle Hut (trust me, it’ll make sense once you see it). I’m really surprised that Wayans gets choice roles in movies like this and Requiem for a Dream, yet, always goes back to making shit like this and that. I’ve never understand why so many acclaimed directors choose this guy to be in their movies, never understood why he’s been so good in them, but most of all, I’ve never understood why the hell he doesn’t just stay away from the crap he makes with his family. I get that you are supposed to be there through thick-and-thin with the familia, but when they begin to take your career down; you gotta move on and tell them you’ll see them at the next Christmas party.

Does knitting really excuse hearing?

Does knitting really excuse hearing?

Then again though, that’s just me. I guess I didn’t learn a single thing from the Godfather.

Rounding out the cast of characters is J.K. Simmons and Tzi Ma as the other fellas apart of this heist, and are both good. Simmons has impeccable comedic-timing that usually works in everything he does, and Ma rarely ever speaks but is funny, a bit goofy, and slightly intimidating as well. Both are good, but don’t leave much of an impression on you, as much as Irma P. Hall does as the widow these guys are staking out in. Hall is funny because she’s always yelling and complaining about something new, but also has a bit of a sweet side to her as well, where you can see that she’s a nice lady, but she’s just getting all old and alone. Sort of like all elders out there in the world. Difference between them and her, is that most of those folks aren’t getting robbed blindly by a bunch of random misfits.

Consensus: The Coens have done way, way better and far more original movies than the Ladykillers, but they still seem to be having fun, and allow the cast to do their thing. Not the most memorable one out of their flicks, but still a bunch of joy to be had.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

I'd prefer it to be raining this, but that's just me.

I’d prefer it to be raining this, but that’s just me.

Homefront (2013)

Them Southern belles and boys don’t take too kindly to British lads around their parks.

After a drug-bust goes slightly wrong, DEA Agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) and his little girl Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) relocate to a small, abandoned Louisiana house where they are practically left alone and allowed to resume their normal, everyday lives as if nothing ever happened. It seems to be going well for awhile too, that is until Maddy violently retaliates to a bully, breaking this kid’s nose and everything. The boy’s mother (Kate Bosworth), despite looking like she’s constantly in need of a meth-fix everytime she shows up, somehow starts up all the right trouble, giving Phil Broker the kind of unwanted reputation that usually drives out new-folk to this small town. It gets so bad, actually, that she even goes so far as to call up her drug-dealing, big bro Gator (James Franco) who knows a thing or two about Phil’s past that puts him and Maddy in some serious danger. Then again though, Phil being played by Jason Statham and all, we know he won’t go down without a fight.

First things first, I think it’s best to tell everybody right off-the-bat that this flick is written by none other than Mr. Sly Stallone himself, which already gives you the idea that not a single ounce of this movie should be taken seriously. Because, in the past couple of years, with the movie’s he’s been participating in, it doesn’t seem like he has, so why the hell should we, you know? Some part of me wishes that this movie took that idea and ran with it, but instead, this is what we’re left with: A big, dumb, brainless action-thriller, somehow disguised as deadly-serious, slow-burner.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath's still got time for his daughter.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath’s still got time for his daughter.

And that’s the biggest mistake I think Sly could have ever made with this material.

With a movie this outrageous, it almost feels like you just have to make it something that’s quick, loud and to the point, just so we don’t realize all of the cracks with the important elements that go into making a movie. Elements like say, acting, writing, directing, originality, and so on and so forth. Nope, you can’t find much of that here, and even when you do, it’s not of any great quality to really call home about. Instead, we’re mainly just presented with something that should have been a totally fun, exciting and well-worth it time-burner, but we get something that takes its time a little too much.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m fine with a movie trying to tell its story, set-up its pace and give us characters to care about, mainly through developing them and showing dimensions, but this isn’t that type of movie. It’s much more of something that should be balls-to-the-walls crazy, over-the-top and nutty, as if we were watching a movie dear ol’ Sly himself would have actually starred in way back when. Heck, I don’t know why he didn’t star in this one as it was! Sure, he’s a bit older now and most of the fighting scenes would have looked hella cheesy and tacked-on with him moving around, but who cares. His type of silliness would have made this movie at least somewhat charming, rather than just emotionless, but sometimes fun.

But you know, I can’t really get on a flick like this, because when it’s having fun, it’s a good time to be around for. The only problem with all of the fine action set-pieces is that once we actually get to the point where one occurs, it takes a long while for us to get to the next one where we have to pay attention to the characters, the directing and the most simplest of them all, the acting. Now, I’m not saying that any of these actors in these roles are per se, bad, it’s just that they don’t necessarily bring anything to the table, nor do they make the material better or worse with their presences being felt. They’re just there to act like window-dressing for a whole bunch of explosions, guns, bullets, drugs, sex and violence. A whole lotta violence too, may I add.

Jason Statham, whether you love him, or you definitely hate him, there’s a certain charm about him in these movies that somehow works, if only just for his character. He doesn’t really try to dig any deeper with this wholesome daddy, yet, savage beast known as Phil Broker, but he gets the job done more than he doesn’t. Especially when he’s just kicking ass, taking names and saying some sort of cocky one-liner that’s only funny to the people closest to the speakers who can actually decipher what the hell he’s saying underneath that freakin’ accent. Seriously, I get that the guy is born and bred from England, but he needs to help us out a bit with that “talk” of his. I mean, seriously. It’s literally been eight or so years since the last time he was in a Guy Ritchie movie. Help us out, pal!

However, the strangest thing behind this whole movie is that this is being advertised as yet another, big, dumb, stupid, action-vehicle starring Jason Statham, and somehow, these really well-known, very talented stars got involved with the supporting cast, making you wonder why they even signed up to do this in the first place. But after awhile, it becomes clear: They just want to stretch their wings out a bit. That’s not a bad thing neither, considering some of these names in here do desperately need to show us that they still got the goods to sell us on anything it is that they do, but there’s nothing at all for them to do.

Yeah, I mean that's trashy, right?

Yeah, I mean that’s trashy, right?

The most prime example of this fact would be James Franco’s Gator. We all know that James Franco loves to switch things up with his career, whether he’d be playing a wanna-be-gangsta, Allen Ginsberg, or even himself, it doesn’t matter because Franco’s one of the brightest and bestest talents right now that loves doing cool things with his career, and seems to always succeed at pulling them off, no matter how random or obscure those decisions of his may be. This is where I think he goes a bit too far with those odd choices, but it’s less of his fault, and more of the script, although he’s definitely partially to be blamed, too. The problem with Gator isn’t that he’s a bad dude, it’s just that he isn’t very interesting or even worth even being scared by. You sort of always know that Statham’s going to kick this guy’s ass no matter what, and most likely go home with a win at the end of the day. Franco definitely could have made this character interesting, compelling or even fun to watch, but oddly enough, Franco kind of straight-faces his performance the whole time, despite this guy being a backwater meth-dealer, which is already plenty enough substance to make a person want to go crazy with a performance. So basically, if you put these two problems together, you just get a lame character, with a very strange and dull performance from Franco.

Something I never thought was possible, but hey, I guess anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

The rest of the cast fair-off a bit better than Franco, however, it’s obvious that they definitely try all that they can do to make this work as well. Sometimes, painfully so. Winona Ryder does what Franco should have done, and gives her biker-trash girlfriend enough craziness to actually make us want to feel like we want to watch her, however, it’s pretty hard to watch when all you know that she’s doing is just acting all crazy, just to act crazy and try to steer our minds away from the bad script; Frank Grillo plays, YET AGAIN, another villain but he handles it fine and shows that he can still steal the show, even if he does show up with only about ten minutes left in the movie; and Kate Bosworth, despite never impressing me before in her long-storied career, somehow becomes the most believable and most interesting character out of the whole bunch, despite her practically yelling, hootin’, hollerin’ and looking like she’s in desperate need of a shower, everytime it is that we see her. Never been too big of a fan of hers, but I’m always ready to be impressed and surprised. And hey, it’s like what I said before: Anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

Consensus: While there are spouts of action, fun and tension to be found in Homefront, they still don’t add to much of a movie that’s worth investing time in, or even really caring for. You just want to see the explosions, the violence and the asses being kicked, so you can be on your merry way. Is that too much to ask?

5 / 10 = Rental!!

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He'll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He’ll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Best Man Holiday (2013)

14 years may have done damage to some people, but not to these sexy, attractive and rich A-listers. Damn you Hollywood and your plastic surgery.

The whole gang is back together again and this time, 14 years later to be exact, they’re all hanging out during the Christmas holiday. A lot has changed since we last saw Harper (Taye Diggs) propose to Robin (Sanaa Lathan), and believe it or not, they’re still together! However, they are running into a bit of problems: He can’t seem to get another “best-seller” on his resume, and she can’t seem to get past the fact that she’s looking VERY pregnant. But that’s all fine and dandy now, because they’re going to be heading out to Lance’s and Mia’s (Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun) mansion for Christmas, where they’ll most likely be joining everybody else. And they do, and it’s a grand-spanking time. Except for the fact that there’s something very serious brewing underneath the surface with this little get-together, that may have more meaning than just “being with old friends”. Something is happening to someone, and everybody’s eventually going to have to find out what, why, to whom and how they’re going to get through it.

Let’s get right down to it, people: Holiday movies, no matter how crappy or non-crappy they may be, are still something to see for many reasons. But the main which being is that it gets you in holiday-spirit, where sharing is caring, giving is living and being thoughtful is, well, I don’t really have anything that rhymes with that but you get the point. Holiday movies are still movies to see because they get you right in the spirit of the holidays, and probably has the end-result of the movie itself turn out a lot better. Especially one that’s a sequel to a movie that already wasn’t even a holiday-placed movie in the first place.

Believe it or not, poor man's Jon Hamm ends up being the most interesting dude.

Believe it or not, vanilla ends up outshining these guys. Just because everytime I saw him, I thought he was Jon Hamm.

But hey, whatever sells tickets, right?

While a sequel to a movie that happened 14 years ago, does seem like a bit of a Hollywood cash-in job designed for the people who were fans of the first, and can still remember most of it to actually go out and see this, it’s surprising how much of it didn’t feel lazy or done just because. Instead, a lot of this movie centers on what made the first one such a joy to be around: The chemistry between everybody in the cast. As usual, the guys all get to hang out with their wangs out, talk about chicks, talk about their sex-lives, ladies they’ve banged, problems in their lives and so on and so forth; and the ladies get to do the same as well, except about guys, and their nails (obviously). But the chemistry is heightened more due to the fact that everybody in this cast has returned to these characters, and are getting older, having to deal with more and more problems as they go along in their lives.

The insight for this movie doesn’t go as deep as the first one did, but what this movie does so well here is that it just lets all of these characters interact with one another, acting as they always have around each other, without a change in the beat or rhythm. Sure, a lot has changed in the past 14 years, and some of the problems certain characters had when the first one ended are certainly still there, but the endearing heart and love these characters have for the other never leaves this movie, and made it a pretty damn good time to sit around and watch, in a pretty-stacked theater, no less. One could even argue that the movie could have just been dedicated to these characters sitting around the dinner table, eating, chatting and insulting one another, and it probably would have been a fun time, if not a better one.

However, but of course, that does not happen as there are certain things like “plot”, “character-development” and “emotions” that need to be shown, hence where most of the problems come from in this flick.

Without spoiling it too much, because it doesn’t seem like many reviewers are talking about it, there’s a twist that comes out and about during the half-way mark and it changes the vibe of this flick from “funny, feel-good”, to “dark, sad and really preachy”. Once again, I’m afraid to give it away, but once a character reveals that something is going wrong with them and that there’s more of an underlining reasoning for this little get-together to be happening, then everybody puts on their serious-faces and start praying to god, which annoyed me more than anything else that this movie even bothered trying.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t matter that I’m not a religious man by any stretch and it doesn’t matter when a flick tries to show off its religious agenda in a way that wants you to join in prayer along with them, but once the flick started showing those who don’t have much faith in god as those who are dumb and ill-advised, then I just about lost my cool. The trailers and ads haven’t really been high-lighting this hidden-agenda that writer/director Malcolm D. Lee and the rest of his cast clearly has, which makes me wonder who he’s really trying to aim this towards. Because, while the latter-half of the movie is clearly very serious, very god-oriented and preachy, the first-half is, oddly enough, a very sexual, dirty and rather raunchy adult comedy that no character of the Bible would want to see, not even Judas. So, whatever the reason was for this switch in the half-way mark, regardless, it didn’t work and ended up taking away a lot of the pleasure I was having from the first, way-better half of this movie.

Thankfully though, that’s where the cast comes in and shows me why they are all so deserving to pop-up in more things than they usually do. I’ve already talked about my fondness for Taye Diggs as an actor and, once more, gives it all he’s got as Harper, but with more of an “adult”-spin on this guy that I didn’t think was even possible to notice. Sanaa Lathan and him had chemistry in the first movie, which is sometimes evident here, except for the fact that they are always bickering and fighting with one another, that you almost forget that they loved each other for so long, only to stay married for another 14 or so years. I guess they can blame those problems on her pregnancy, but seriously, how many freakin’ times have we seen that angle done by now?!?

The rest of the gang fair as well as they did in the first movie, except that some characters subplots are a little more thinly-written then they were before. For instance, Nia Long’s character’s problems is that her life is so dominated by her work-life, that she can’t just settle-down and get her freak on with somebody, even if it is somebody as dashing and charming as Eddie Cibrian (somebody I wish the movie gave more attention). Seemed like this was the same dilemma her character was going through in the first movie, and while it was easy to forgive there, it just seems old and tired by now, especially since Long herself doesn’t get nearly as much screen-time as she should have.

Same freakin' mug he's had for the past 12 of his movies!!

Same freakin’ mug he’s had for his past 12 movies!!

Can’t say the same for the rest of the peeps in the cast, although they do have some pretty poorly-written subplots going for themselves as well. Harold Perrineau and Regina Hall surprisingly make a believable couple that’s gotten more prestigious with their owning of a private school and whatnot, however, their whole conflict surrounds the fact that a video from the old days of Hall’s stripping has popped-up on YouTube, and is already the latest talk of the town. The video they show is pretty damn tame and uneventful, which makes me wonder whether they got that mixed up with something like Dailymotion. Hey, gets me all of the time!

Though he’s definitely the most successful, most famous actor to come out of the original, believe it or not, Terrence Howard still gets probably the same amount of screen-time and development as he did in that movie, as he does here, but makes every second of it count. Whenever things begin to get a little too serious for its own good and in everybody’s in need of a little laugh or chuckle. Howard’s character is there to bring it, even if it is with something like a simple weed or sex joke. Doesn’t matter which, because the guy’s so damn funny, and makes you realize why he’s the only one out of this cast to really get the most recognition.

Oddly enough, I felt like by the way they left things off with the first movie, he and Melissa De Sousa’s character would have gotten hitched-up or something, making sense why she’s there for the reunion all of these 14 years later, but nope; instead, they treat her like the same old, conceited and annoying beotch like she was in that movie, which made me wonder why she was even involved with this movie in the first place. It’s clearly obvious that nobody liked her in that movie, so why the hell did they even need to bother to call her ass up and get her back with her “friends”? Made no sense to me, but I guess the producers were just begging that they bring a name like “Melissa De Sousa” back to the cast. Because, you know, if you saw that name on a billboard from miles away, you’d be in that line right away.

Alright, I’m done being a dick. For now.

Consensus: Better than most sequels tend to be these days (especially one that takes place 14 years later), The Best Man Holiday shows off its clearly charming and happy cast for as long as it can, until it begins to get too serious, over-long and obviously preachy, making you wonder what the point of this movie’s existence was in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Underneath the passionate embracing, they hate each other. Aka, exactly what happens in 14 years, people.

Underneath the passionate embracing, they hate each other. Aka, exactly what happens in 14 years, people.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Last Vegas (2013)

Think The Hangover, but with menopause.

After getting married and living each other’s lives apart from the other, four old friends (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline), all get together and reunite for a crazy weekend in Vegas, that’s most likely going to be full of non-stop drugs, women, booze, nakedness, bad decisions and moments that remind themselves of the good old days. However, while two of these old friends seem to still be on good terms and having a grand old time (Kline and Freeman), two others don’t seem to be, and most of that stems from the fact that Billy (Douglas) is marrying a gal much younger than he is (art imitating reality?), which is an act that Paddy (De Niro) doesn’t quite condone, nor does he really care for Billy in the first place because of something weird that happened between the two and another girl when they were kids. But nonetheless, all four friends are back together and have as much money as they can spare to have a good time, but they have to realize that they are in fact old guys, and they have to be careful with what they choose to do, that is, before they go too far. Nah, screw that. They just want to have a good time and party like it’s 1959 all over again!

While I would bargain that maybe say, I don’t know, 20 years ago, the pairing of acting legends such as Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline would have not only meant tons and tons of hype that would have already caused earthquakes as soon as the first whispers of it happening were heard, but would have also meant box-office gold right from the start; 20 years later, I have to say that it’s pretty easy to accept the fact that this wouldn’t be happening, or heck, even coming anywhere near to that occurring. And that’s not because these actors are terrible, untalented or were simply “overrated” back in those days; it’s more of the fact that the past 20 years haven’t been too kind to each of these guys, and the material that they choose has kind of suffered because of it.

Give it five minutes and they'll all be battling for who gets to use the pisser next.

Give it five minutes and they’ll all be battling for who gets to use the pisser next.

Granted, I’m always down to see what happens when a bunch of acting legends who never shared the same screen before, get together, do what they do best and have a great time while doing so; but for all of these guys, it seemed a little too late. Then again, I kept the open-mind and believe it or not, wonders actually occurred for me. Not only did the movie have me laughing, but the legends involved with this movie weren’t just doing shop to get that paycheck and hopefully, have enough money to get the pool cover, but in fact, they’re actually putting their hearts and souls into this material, just in order to make it work for us and have us all laughing at them.

And yes, I am saying “at”, because while these guys definitely do seem to be embracing the fact that they are old fellas now, the movie never really celebrates the fact that they’re old, and most likely just pokes jokes at the fact that they can’t quite get it up like they used to, have bad knees, aren’t able to move around with the best of them and are probably creeping more girls out, than bringing them back to their rooms at night. But that’s what being old is all about, so why not share a laugh or two about it, right?

Well, sad to say, no. Old people jokes have never been funny, which means that any Viagra joke you throw in there, just does not deserve to be laughed at or even acknowledged. Not because I’m a softy and have a kind heart when it comes to those before me, but because those jokes have practically been done to death by now, and it’s time for a change. And if not time for a change, then at least give me somebody who can take this cheesy material, and at least transcend into some form of enjoyment, by any means possible.

And yes, these four acting legends are in fact those peeps who can take this cheesy material, and make it about a hundred times better just by showing up, having fun, being themselves and proving to the world that they not only still got it, but can probably make you laugh a lot harder than most of the popular comedic-talents out there in the world today.

While his track-record has probably been better than the other three involved, Michael Douglas is still doing Michael Douglas better than anybody else in the world can, which is a good thing (I think). He didn’t really need to stretch outside of boundaries to really get inside of a character like Billy (guy marries girl almost three times his age, ringing any bells?), but he still seems to be having a good time, palling around with some guys you never see him around with as much. The scenes he has with Mary Steenburgen, who plays a local jazz singer, actually add more to the film, rather than take away from it, which is weird considering that it doesn’t concern any hard-partying, drinking, doing blow or getting down-and-dirty, it’s just fun and somewhat sweet, which is a nice side-dish this movie offers from all of the craziness going on in it.

Yeah, well I do feel like the Kevin Kline in real-life wouldn't care if a girl took her top off. Say, I don't know, maybe a red bikini-top?

Yeah, well I do feel like the Kevin Kline in real-life wouldn’t care if a girl took her top off. Say, I don’t know, maybe a red bikini-top?

Mainly when talking about that craziness, I’m referring to Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman’s performances as their two characters are probably the most vibrant and exciting characters in the whole movie, and they continuously steal the show everytime the camera just keeps it placed on them. Freeman gets a couple of choice scenes where he gets to show his comedic-ability to great effect (the Red Bull rant is something that his Oscar-winning turn in Million Dollar Baby couldn’t even touch), but believe it or not, despite not being the biggest name out of the four, the one who walks away with this all is actually Kevin Kline, mostly because he’s working with the type of fun, electrifying and charming material he’s been so deserving of his whole life, and hasn’t quite gotten it since he won his Oscar all those years ago. The story surrounding Kline’s character is done well, only to be shown as a stupid and poor-attempt at trying to get him to remember why he loves marriage so much in the first place, but whenever it’s just Kline saying or doing something goofy, the movie is a blast to watch. He and Freeman have great chemistry that makes you feel like they’ve been buddies all their lives, but its Kline who just owns the screen everytime it’s given to him, like I expected it to be. I’ve been rooting for Kev all these years, and I’m glad to finally seeing it pay-off.

Though I didn’t mention him with his fellow costars, Robert De Niro is still charming and worth watching, even when he’s mucking it up a whole lot as Paddy. However though, it’s obvious that out of the four, he’s the only who really needs these types of movies to keep reminding us that yes, he’s still talented, and yes, he’s still got what it takes to have us both laughing and crying at the same time. He did that last year with Silver Linings Playbook and i can only hope that it continues on from here on out. That also means no more pieces of junk like the Family or Killing Season either, Bobby!

Consensus: The material that these legends have to work with in Last Vegas, surely isn’t the best they’ve ever been dealt, but that doesn’t phase any of them a bit since they absolutely make every second count, have a ball with one another and as a result, give us a movie that may not be perfect, but still feels like an opportunity to see four acting legends team-up together, that wasn’t a waste of precious good time, talent or money.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Hopefully this means that they're waving "bye" to bad choices in the future. Then again, probably not.

Hopefully this means that they’re waving “bye” to bad choices in the future. Then again, probably not.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Body of Lies (2008)

Leo’s gone rogue! And Russell’s eating too much! What’s going on with the world?!?!?

CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegian, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Problem is, Hoffman isn’t quite exactly who he says he is and turns more heads than one man should be doing. Which will not get past Ferris’ head since he’s Mr. Smarty Pants over there.

I remember back in October 2008 when this film was being advertised, all my buddies and I made a promise to go out and see it. Sounded like a reasonable plan for a Friday night when girls or booze weren’t around. The one problem was that our ages from somewhere around 14-15, which meant we couldn’t see this unless we wanted to try the risky, but totally worth it sneak-in maneuver. We tried, but it didn’t succeed and we were bummed to say the least. After seeing it all of these years later, I wonder why the hell we cared so much in the first place.

Guess I wouldn't be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie too.

Guess I wouldn’t be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie, either.

There’s one thing you have got to say about Ridley Scott: The dude never half-asses a movie of his. From a technical standpoint, he does his job by making this film look as gritty and as dirty as he can get it, much like he did with Black Hawk Down. Since the film takes place in the Middle East, it makes sense that the camera look a lot grainier and sandier as if Scott just picked one up off the ground, dusted it off, and started filming. But it isn’t as amateurish as I may make it sound, because it actually adds a darker look onto the flick and it gets even better once the action actually starts to kick in. The action, as you could probably tell by now, is filmed in the trademark, crazy and kinetic way that we all know and sometimes love Scott for (less so for his late brother), but it brings a lot of energy to scenes that otherwise could have come off as generic and a bit unneeded. Still, they were thrilling, fun, and got the job done.

Needless to say, for the first hour or so, I was really digging this film. I thought that Scott really had his ass on the right track here with setting the story and making it appeal to anybody who isn’t necessarily a CIA-expert, while also making the movie itself quite suspenseful and feeling as if it could go, at any second, anywhere it wanted to. Somehow though, Scott seemed to lose himself along the way, which cause a problem the movie itself never seemed to recuperate from.

Right after Leo’s character gets bitten by a dog and has to go to the hospital for a series of rabies shots, the film takes a wild turn into a somewhat romantic-territory as Leo starts to fall for the nurse that treats him. Not only did it practically come out of left-field and add nothing to the story, but it seemed like such a tacked-on way of getting us to care more and more about Leo’s character, when I think that having Leo in the movie itself, playing that character is already sympathetic enough since the guy is able to win anybody over (even when he is playing a 19th century slave owner). All we needed to know about him was that the guy could do his job and get it done just in time to get screwed over by the head-honchos he works for. Not much else needed to be added, but Scott thought otherwise and ended up screwing his own movie over as a result.

It gets to so strange at one point, that you begin to feel like you’re dealing with two separate films: One, a dumb romantic flick based on a character’s smarts and another’s dullness, and the other one, a spy thriller that started off strong and fresh, but got very convoluted once too many characters started showing up and throwing their ulterior-motives around. Eventually, the romantic angle does go away for a bit and we are once again involved with the whole angle of this film that made it so fun in the first place, but by this time, it seems to have already lost a lot of its momentum. It’s weird too, because as they were building this story up and up, I felt like I should have really been along for the ride and wonder just what the hell is going to happen next to all of these characters but instead, I didn’t really seem to care all that much. Even when they hit the climax they’ve been itching for the whole time, it still feels undeserved and a bit anti-climactic.

Totally not his type. But apparently Ridley thinks differently.

Totally not his type: Born in the 80’s.

With that being said, the film does rely on its performances to make everything better and for the most part, they are worth depending on for quite some time until it becomes apparent that nobody can save this plot. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fine job as Ferris by giving this character more of a reasoning to be upset when it’s practically him versus the rest of the world. Come to think of it, that sounds like the same character he played in Blood Diamond, Inception, Shutter Island, and so many more. So yeah, it’s nothing new that Leo hasn’t already touched before, but at least he tries and show tons of effort in making this character, and ultimately the movie he’s in, work. Same goes for Russell Crowe who seemed like he was having fun, even if all he did was talk on the phone. I don’t know if eating cheeseburgers everyday for two weeks was the way to feel like you’re in the role but hey, I guess it worked for him and worked for us too, I guess.

Even as good as these two are, they aren’t the most interesting ones out of the bunch. The one who probably stole the most scenes for me was Mark Strong as Hani Salaam. The whole thing with Strong is that no matter what film his name pops up in, you always know he’s going to be the villain. Does he play the villain well? Yes, but could he actually spread his wings out and try something else other than that? Yes to that rhetorical question as well. That’s what he does here but this time, he plays around the idea of whether or not you know he’s the bad guy or not. He also adds a whole bunch of suave and relaxed coolness to him that makes him steal every scene, as well as not make him seem the slightest bit of gay whenever he calls another dude, “my dear”. Lately though, it’s cool to see him start to loosen up a bit and play around with other roles, even though it is a shame that Low Winter Sun seems like a bust. Poor guy. He deserves so much better, he’s just got to smile more so Hollywood producers know that he has the ability to.

Consensus: Though it wasn’t the most fresh or original-take on the thriller genre, Body of Lies was still working well in its first hour or so, but then began to lose its head once too many subplots were thrown in there, especially a cheesy one featuring Leo and some nurse he thought was cute. Lame!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole "method thing"!"

“No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole “method thing”!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Desperado (1995)

Once you accept the money, then it’s time to sell your soul and join the mainstream.

Taking place after the first one with a new cast but relatively same story, a gun-toting mariachi (Antonio Banderas) travels to a Mexican town in search for the man who killed his lover and shot his right-hand, the same hand he used to be able to make sweet, sweet music with. After the mariachi shakes things up in town, the local drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) wants him dead and, if at all possible, brought to him so that he can be the one to do the righteous act of slaying. And so, the rivalry between the two heats up with the drug lord getting more and more paranoid, and our mariachi gets more and more cornered by all sorts of crooks, yet, is also able to find solace in the loving and caring arms of a gal who runs the local library (Salma Hayek). However, there’s something about this chicky that strikes the mariachi as strange. Could it be that she is in-debt to this local drug lord, or maybe, just maybe, is it that they share something a little more personal than just strictly doing business?

After he hit the big bucks and fame with his shoestring budget debut, El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez found himself prime and ready for big-budget, Hollywood filmmaking where not only would he be able to call the shots anyway he would want, but with anybody he wanted to. But as we all know, once some little nobody all of a sudden makes it big and gets his hands on whatever he wants, then things sort of go downhill from there. And to add insult to injury, we all know that simply “remaking” your first movie, with a bigger budget and cast on-display, is an even more drastic move on anybody’s part, especially Rodriguez’s.

Where the hell's the turtle?

I guess Rodriguez was just “too big” for the turtle anymore.

I guess you can’t blame Rodriguez too much for wanting to play it safe and practically do what he did no less than 3 years before, because even though his name was out there for the whole world to take notice to, the guy was still only 27 years old. And for a guy that young to be making movies this big, it has to be a pretty overwhelming feeling. I couldn’t imagine it, but who the hell am I, right? However, fear doesn’t excuse laziness, and that’s exactly the type of problem Rodriguez runs into with this movie.

It isn’t that the movie’s necessarily boring because it goes over everything that happened in El Mariachi, it’s more because Rodriguez doesn’t know how to give his story more substance in order for us to care. Instead, he just gives us piss-poor character-development that doesn’t do much for the actors in terms of what they have to work with, and also gives us too many scenes where people are doing more talking, than actual shooting, killing, or anything violent of a sort. Which is fine, as long as you can hold somebody’s interest with actual interesting, entertaining dialogue, which is not what Rodriguez gives this movie or the characters. Most of them seem to just ramble on and never go anywhere, except only to move the plot from one gun-battle sequence, to the next.

But then again, those gun-battle sequences I’m talking about, are pretty damn fun and flashy when they happen, and probably shows Rodriguez’s most inspired pieces of filmmaking to-date. So many wild and wacky stunts that defy human or scientific logic; so much blood that you could practically fill a pool with; and better yet, an unpredictable feel to each and every scene where you feel as if any character you see, could practically be offed at any given second. For instance, without giving too much away, a couple of characters who are introduced for a good and solid 2 minutes, suddenly bite the dust out of nowhere, which keeps you on-edge and ready to see what happens next with this plot, and the characters that inhabit it. This is where the fun of the movie really lies, and it’s what we have all come to know and love about Rodriguez, even if most of his films seem to only consist of these scenes, if done in a more over-the-top, balls-crazy way. But even then, they’re still fun and exciting to watch, and bring out the best in him. Hence why I can’t wait to see Machete Kills.

Hey, at least there's no Australian-accent.

Hey, at least there’s no Australian accent present.

And as much as I may get on Rodriguez’s case for taking the easy way out and doing nothing more than “remaking” his first movie, I have to give the guy credit because he found a suitable-enough cast to do it with and keep me interested by. Antonio Banderas was such a perfect choice to replace Carlos Gallardo (who still shows up as a fellow mariachi and band member to Banderas’ character) because he’s able to give us more substance to a character that feels like it needed none, yet, we’re still okay with seeing. Banderas has the look of an action-hero, that’s as tough, nasty, and vengeful as you can get, but also displays a certain heart and sweetness to him that gives you the idea that yes, this dude is not some cabron you want to mess with, but does have a heart when you get right down to the core of him. And the fact that Banderas did all of his own insane stunts, gives this movie even more of a feel of sincerity, despite it still being outrageously crazy and off-kilter at times. However, it also proves that Banderas is the hunk of a Mexican man-meat that almost any lady faints over. They just have to make sure that Mrs. Melanie Banderas isn’t around, or else catfights will most likely ensue.

The rest of the cast is good, even if they don’t get the chance to sink their tooth into their respective roles quite as much, or as well as Banderas does. Joaquim de Almeida plays Bucho, the drug lord who wants this mariachi dead, and displays a ruthless killer you don’t want to mess up a deal with. He and Banderas create a nice rivalry full of suspense and thrills, despite only sharing the same screen for no less than 5 minutes, and even then, it’s still pretty damn intense! Salma Hayek is fine as the gal that the mariachi takes a liking to, and vice versa, even if she doesn’t get much to do. Also, who the hell is going to believe that Salma Hayek not only reads books every single day, but also owns and continues to keep a library up and running? Sorry, just seems unbelievable to me. And there are quite a bit of nice cameos to be seen here, especially ones from people you’d know to see in a Rodriguez movie. Fellow pals like Steve Buscemi, crazy Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, and even Cheech Marin all show up, and do okay jobs with what they have to do; which still isn’t much, but it’s enough to make us happy to see their shiny faces. Okay, maybe not Trejo’s, but you get my drift.

Consensus: Exactly what you’d expect a big-budget, longer, and more attractive remake of El Mariachi to be like, except only that Desperado doesn’t feature anything much more interesting to watch other than a couple of fun action scenes, and alright performances from the cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don't you forget!

Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don’t you forget!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Ransom (1996)

Would you really put a price on your children? If they just to happened to be Jewish, then yeah, Mel wouldn’t think twice about doing so!

Self-made millionaire Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson) seemingly has all that a man could ask for, and then some. He’s got the loving wife (Rene Russo), he’s got the lovable kid (Brawley Nolte), and the job that pays well, and will continue to do so, long after he’s dead. However, all of that happiness and sunshine goes away once Tom’s son is nabbed by a bunch of kidnappers who are demanding $2 million. Tom feels like he should pay it, but with the FBI in on the case as well, he realizes that if he does pay it, he runs the risk of never, ever seeing his kid again. Then again, if he doesn’t pay it, he runs the same risk as well, but with more of a cloud hanging over his head. What to do, what to do?

You can only do so much and so little with ransom movies, which makes perfect sense as to why this flick felt like nothing more than a daytime soap-opera, with the idea of a kidnapping being the one aspect of the story to hold it down. In order for a flick to work like this, it has to be boiling and simmering with tension, as if the story itself and the characters that inhabit could literally go anywhere, at any time, just at the drop of a hat. But Ron Howard, as skilled of a director as he may be with most that he does, doesn’t quite have the skill to where he can take a simple premise like this, shoot it longer than 2 hours, and still keep everybody on the edge of their seats. That tension and suspense comes around near the 2-hour-mark, but everything else leading up to it feels like a slow-burner, without any real places to go.

"I'm sorry for all of the hurtful comments I have made in the past. Now, somebody find my fucking son you Jews and blacks!"

“I’m sorry for all of the hurtful comments I have made in the past. Now, somebody find my fucking son, you Jews and blacks!”

The places and areas that it does take a detour in, only feel like sad excuses for Howard to show everybody that this isn’t your typical, kidnapping flick. No siree, this one has more meaning and more of a point behind it. How? Well, because at one point, without giving too much away, Tom actually goes on a news station, gets in front of the camera, and puts a bounty on the kidnapper’s heads, stating that whoever finds these killers and his sons, will get double the amount of the ransom price he was originally proposed. This is one of the very rare smart ideas that I’m glad to see Howard take and it went on well for awhile, because you have to think about the media, and how much they love to twist the actual pain and agony that real families face, and take it in as their own story, made to be read and enjoyed by millions all over the globe. That’s what the media gives us and I could tell that’s the angle that Howard was trying to take with this material.

Then, well, it all crashed and burned, going right back to where it started from: A soapy melodrama.

And I hate to say it, but “soapy melodrama” isn’t exactly the right ingredient for a suspenseful, pore-sweating movie. Howard definitely tries to milk as much out as he can with this simple premise, but it to almost no avail. There’s no real point behind the kidnapping, the reasoning for doing so, or why this story is meant to be told. Which would have been fine, had the movie been a slam-bang, action-thriller that wasn’t asking us to use our brains too much or too often with the material, but those weren’t the types of waves I was receiving from Howard and co. Something felt like Howard was trying to reach for more than this material proposed, but ultimately failed at doing so. Meaning that instead of actually giving us something to chew and discuss on the way home, he just gives us a movie that’s in your head, and out of it a near-2 hours later.

Not so bad if you can make your movie the most entertaining thing out there, but Ransom is not that type of movie. It may have some spills, chills, and thrills, but not much else boiling underneath the surface other than two pissed-off people.

Would have been awesome if his character was a Lieutenant.....and named Dan....

Would have been awesome if his character was a Lieutenant…..and named Dan….

Speaking of those said, two pissed-off people, they’re actually played very well by both Mel Gibson and Gary Sinise, respectively. Gibson is a good actor with these types of roles because despite him seeming like a bit of a freakin’ nut behind the scenes, you can still that there’s an ounce of heart and humanity to the guy, and it shows every time he takes a dramatic role like this. Obviously he doesn’t get these types of roles coming his way anymore, but when he can make a role that seems to go totally against his bad-boy, hard-edged image, then I’m always able to welcome it with arms wide open. I’ll just have to let him know that I’m not Jewish before he approaches me.

Then we have Gary Sinise as the head-kidnapper who, despite being brought to our attention within the first 20 minutes, actually plays-up the psychotic-streak of this dude very well, actually making me believe that somebody so nutty and odd would actually go so far as to kidnap some millionaire’s son, just for the sake of fortune. That is until Sinise goes a bit overboard with this character, and has it come off more as a self-parody, rather than an actual character that you could believe handling himself in this type of situation, had it ever presented itself in front of him any other time. Together, they’re good because you never know who’s smarter than the other, but you know that their paths are going to eventually cross and when they do, all hell will break loose. It sort of does, but not in the way that you expect and I sort of liked that approach that Howard ended up taking. He goes for the over-the-top theatrics a bit by the end, but still keeps it grounded and humane enough to where you see these characters for all that they are, as random as they sometimes may be.

Consensus: Everything about Ransom should spark and sizzle with tension, but Ron Howard can’t seem to get it up and going, despite a wonderful central performance from Mel Gibson, showing us more power and depth to a man that’s thrown against his will and all that he knows with the world.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"I mean that: Your husband called me "the N-word"."

“I seriously heard your husband whisper derogatory statements about my race beneath his breath.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

All Is Bright (2013)

Chalk it up to the Canadians to ruin Christmas for us Americans!

Ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) gets out of jail and put on parole, and begins the rest of his life. However, once he shows up to the home where his wife (Amy Landecker) and kid live, little does he know that not only does she want nothing to do with him as she’s started a relationship with his ex-con partner, Rene (Paul Rudd), but that she’s told their kid that he’s died from cancer as well. Basically, nothing is going well for Dennis in his life and to make matters any worse than they could possibly already be, his parole-officer doesn’t really seem to care too much about his job and basically leaves Dennis without any job, source of income, or references where to get his life back on track. So, who can Dennis go to for help? Well, try that same dude who’s now banging his wife, and gets him hooked-up with a holiday job selling Christmas trees in the heart of NYC. Problem is, it’s cold as hell, they’re not selling any trees, and business isn’t quite as booming as they originally thought it would be, which leaves these two former friends angry at and tense-as-hell with one another.

While most of you probably already saw that I wasn’t totally fond of Junebug, I do have to say that given the talent involved with Phil Morrison’s first flick in 8 years since, I was a little excited. Not only do I love Giamatti, Rudd, and Sally Hawkins in almost all that they do with their lives and careers, but honestly, come on. It’s not even Fall yet, and we’re already getting Christmas movies. Now I don’t know about you, but that gets me extremely amped-up for the holidays and prepare for the cold, the tree, the presents, and most of all, the wholesome and happy feel everybody has in their minds.

That's what I am talking about! The Holidays, baby!

That’s what I am talking about! The Holidays, baby!

That’s what’s made me relatively excited for this movie even though, yes, it is still technically September. But who cares for technicalities, it’s the holiday cheer! Now cheer!

But the problem with this movie is that, save for maybe 2 or 3 scenes scattered throughout, the movie is not really cheery, happy, or even interesting. Some of it feels like Morrison was working on a very low-budget, didn’t want to hike-up his costs too much, so just had the movie and its story take place in the same 3 locations, throughout the whole hour-and-a-half and depend on character-development and the performances to swoop in and save the day, but they don’t even work in the film’s favor. The performances all feel like their own type of animal, whereas Morrison’s direction just tries too hard to be slow, sullen and a little too dark for its own pleasure. Reminded me a lot of Junebug in that aspect, but with better results, if only because of the cast. And hell, this movie doesn’t even have Amy Adams in it, so you already know which one’s more pleasant to watch.

However, most of you reading this will probably think my complaints of this movie not being pleasant, happy, and as joyous as the season it’s taken place in as “idiotic” or “incomprehensible”, and I wouldn’t really argue against you if that was the case. The movie definitely will appeal to some more, cynical viewers out there who may have a harsher-view of the world, so much so that they feel as if they can share their own opinions and feelings with this movie, and make some sort of connection. If that is the case, then good for you. But for me, myself, and my feelings: I just wanted this movie to turn its big ol’ frown, upside down. Now you tell me, is that too much to ask for in the end? No, I’m serious: Please, tell me! I want to know!

While I’m starting to jump away from the bad of this movie, let me just focus in on the goodness of it all, and that’s mainly the cast that came prepared to act and do what they do best: Be funny. Paul Giamatti is playing, once again, another version of Paul Giamatti, but the only difference here being is that he has a French Canadian accent to go with it. And even that goes in and out every once and awhile. However, that doesn’t matter because Giamatti is great at these sorts of roles and while some may find it unoriginal for him to be playing the same old, sad-sack character that we usually see him portray in any flick he shows up in, I can’t say I’m all that bored of it, especially since he throws his own little pieces of skill in there for good-measure.

For instance, Dennis isn’t considered a bad guy because he’s actually trying to make an effort to change his life. Sure, he was a crook and he got caught in the middle of his action, but at least he wants to make amends for all the mistakes he’s made in his life, despite life not really welcoming him in with wide open arms. In that aspect, Giamatti owns this role as Dennis because it shows him the world against him, and how he’ll never quite lay down, and let the world get the best of him, despite it being quite clear that he should. Still though, it’s Giamatti, and it sure as hell doesn’t matter who’s he playing, cause you love him and want to bear-hug him everytime.

They're dirty, so they obviously CAN'T be funny.

They’re dirty, so they obviously CAN’T be funny.

Same goes for Rudd, even though he’s playing a little more-against type than Giamatti may be. Nonetheless though, Rudd is still great at playing-up Rene’s charm, while also showing him as a bit of a snake-like character that has yet to divorce his own wife, yet, has no problem sleeping with Dennis’s. Yeah, if you think about it, Rudd’s character isn’t the most likable guy in the whole world, but he isn’t necessarily the most distasteful guy either, he’s just made some bad mistakes in his past that he’s sort of paying for now. Just like Dennis, his old buddy. The only difference is that Rene didn’t get caught, Dennis did, and look who paid the whole price.

See what I was talking about though with this movie’s dark view? It never ends, not even when Sally Hawkins shows up as a Jewish house-maid that comes by to pester Dennis every once and awhile, and believe it or not, actually have a nice dynamic going on between one another. She’s sort of miserable and bothered with life in her own, quirky way, whereas he’s the same, just with a more depressed, and worn-out look and feel. Their scenes are fun to watch, and bring out the best within both of each other’s acting-skills. Hell, I maybe would have even liked to see them get their own movie maybe, eh? Never mind, highly unlikely, but still. If only.

Consensus: The cast in All Is Bright excels at everything that they have to do with the thin-script, but it does come off as a bit of a bore at times, especially given the premise, where it takes place, and during what season. I mean, come on: It’s the Holidays for Christsakes!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

As usual, somebody's laughing, but Giamatti isn't. Story of his life, all in a nutshell.

As usual, somebody’s laughing, but Giamatti isn’t. Story of his life, all in a nutshell.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Junebug (2005)

Families from the North are so boring.

High-class gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meets a young, charming guy (Alessandro Nivola) and they instantly fall in love. They don’t really get the chance to know each other fully, but they do know that they want each other, and badly. So, why not tie the knot while the emotions are telling you to? Well, they do! But once their done with the honey-moon, all of the sex, and all of the other lovin’ that goes on, Madeleine has to get right back down to business and start recruiting for his next art-show, which somehow brings all the way to North Carolina. The artist she wants has an odd style, but that doesn’t matter because she’s unique so obviously Madeleine can’t pass up on that. Oh, and also, her hubby’s family just so happens to live there as well, which means that she gets the chance to meet the fam-squad, in all their Southern-glory.

Judging by what you read up there for that synopsis, you are probably already thinking that it’s going to be another goofy, wacky take on what would happen when a Northern, uptight, richy-rich had to be stuck with the backwood crazy in-laws. That is sort of the take on the movie, but it’s not as goofy as you may think. Because remember, it’s an indie flick, and if you know your indies, trust me, they aren’t going to play by the rules. But in a way, for once in my life, I sort of wish that they did.

A lot of the stereotypes you expect from a movie about meeting the in-laws is here: The disapproving mother; the mad, slightly jealous brother; the in-law that tries so hard to be nice, but instead becomes smothering; the reserved father, etc. And to be honest, all of the stereotypes ring true well-enough to where you understand why these characters act the way that they do when they’re around certain people. However, they also seem a bit tired here as the film tries too hard to make us feel for these characters/stereotypes, when it isn’t really doing anything in the first place. The script itself had some very high moments where I was expecting them to go a certain type of direction and really get us involved with these characters and their lives, but instead, the film would just cut-away or throw something quirky in there for harm’s sake. I get it, these Southerners are goofy, but that doesn’t mean that everything they do has to be stupid, silly, and/or out-of-this-world. They can be just like you or me and have a normal conversation, about normal things, and go through their days as everyday, normal people. Seriously, I’m no Southerner myself, but if I was, I’d be a bit offended with this.

"What's your name? Aww, fuck it. Let's get hitched!"

“What’s your name? Aww, fuck it. Let’s get hitched!”

I have to give the film some credit though, because it does try to bring some heart and emotion out of these characters, which it does succeed surprisingly well in. But most of that is thanks to the actors portraying them, the problem is something with the script that just isn’t giving them the brilliance most of them deserve. Something by the end of the movie happens, and I won’t say what, but it’s pretty sad and the film tries to capitalize on the emotion of it by showing all of the characters different perspectives on it, but strangely, it was a very detached moment I had with the flick. Yeah, it was kind of upsetting to see some of these characters all upset about something bad that has just happened, but did it make me care anymore? No, not really. Maybe with the exception of maybe one or two characters out of the whole slew, but overall, I just did not feel attached. Like something was missing, or that my copy of this made a skip by accident.

But it wasn’t the fact that these characters didn’t do much for me, it’s also the fact that the direction seemed a bit lazy. Director Phil Morrison seems like he’s trying so damn hard to make us feel like we are right there in the South by constantly having this movie move at a slow, death-like pace to get us in-touch with the way these Southerners live. You know, because no matter what happens during a Southerners’ day, they never feel the need to move around, run, or move at a fast-paced speed. It’s always got to be slow and steady, and with a film like this, trust me, it doesn’t win the race.

See what I did there? I’m a cheeky motherfucker sometimes, I gotta say.

As much as I’m ragging and tagging on this film, I can’t say that I absolutely hated it. The reason I say that, is mainly because of Amy Adams in what is one of the most energetic and spirited performances I have ever seen this gal give, which is saying a hell of a whole lot. I’m not going to lie, Adams has not always been a favorite of mine but she has never really been a hater of mine, either, if that makes any sense. I’ve always appreciated the amount of energy and class she’s been able to give in countless movies where everybody else seems like they’re just snoozing the whole time, and hey, she’s also got four Oscar nominations to show for it too, so you can’t go wrong with her on that boat. Her role here as Ashley, the extremely pregnant sister-in-law who, right from our first glimpse of her, absolutely lights up everyone and everything else around her in the movie, and doesn’t let-up neither. No wonder why the Academy felt like she deserved a nomination here!

Not pregnant, but, PREGNANT.

Not pregnant, but, PREGNANT.

Ashley is one of those goofy, naive characters that shows up in a movie or two and just annoys the hell out of some people, but Adams plays it different. You could almost say that all of the annoyance and constant wackiness to her character has something underlining it all and it’s an impending sadness within herself that really makes this character click the whole way through. We constantly see her struggle with being pregnant, not having a hubby that wants a baby with her, and jnot being able to get the love in return, that she seems to give so much away of. It’s a sad character if you really think about it, but Adams successfully disguises that with her sunny-side-up approach to everything in this movie, making her performance/character definitely the most memorable aspect of this whole thing. Honestly, she has to be because I just wrote two freakin’ paragraphs about her. And I never do that!

Then again, due to Adams being so lively all the time, she actually, slowly but surely, steals the show from everybody else and it’s pretty evident as to why: None of these characters have anything really going for themselves that’s worth shining a light on in the first place. Embeth Davidtz is the only one who comes remotely close to doing so as Madeleine, a character so nice and beautiful, that it’s hard to see why the family doesn’t love her right after the introductions have been made; Allesandro Nivola tries his hardest as George, but, despite being the main character that this story mainly surrounds itself around, he’s rarely in it and when he does show-up, seems a bit misplaced from the rest of the material; Benjamin McKenzie shows up as Johnny, George’s brother, and barely speaks at all throughout the whole film and is too much of an asshole to really have a care for at all; and Celia Weston plays Peg, George and Johnny’s mama, who’s good in some spots, but in others, seems like she’s trying too hard to be that disapproving mother who doesn’t think any girl is good enough for her boy. Trust me, that act, gets way, way old by about the 17th girlfriend. Give it up mommas!

Consensus: The more and more that I think about Junebug, the more I feel like it’s just a mixed-bag with plenty of smart ideas and moments of inspiration, but yet, never knows what to do with them, or how to have them all come out in a smart, effective way. The only way this movie is smart and effective, is all through Amy Adams’ break-out performance, which goes to show you why we’re still in love with her, all these years later.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

He can walk?!?!?

He can walk without crutches?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Insidious (2011)

Once the creepy kid in the house stops being creepy, then you know you’re screwed.

Young couple, Josh (Patrick Wilson), and Renai (Rose Byrne), realize that their family is growing larger and larger by the newborn, so they decide to move to a bigger house. No big deal. Once they get settled in and Josh goes off to his day-time job as a middle-school teacher, Renai is left at home with the baby, where she tries to make songs out of music career (even though it’s never fully explained if she is or isn’t, it’s just there); but then it gets weird when she starts to hear, see, and feel stuff around her in the house. Then, it gets even weirder when their oldest son falls off of a ladder in the attic, only to be placed into a “coma” a couple of days later, one that he doesn’t seem to be waking out of, and one that the doctors have no clue about, how it happened, why, or how to get him to snap out of it. Basically, all hope is lost for Josh and Renai, until they begin to get really, REALLY paranoid about there being some ghost-like figures in the house, so therefore, they call on a professional in the form of a happy-go-lucky paranormal investigator (Lin Shaye).

You got to hand it to James Wan, the dude knows how to make a mainstream movie, even out of an indie-budget. For a movie that apparently cost a reported $1.5 million, had very little CGI-effects, and barely all that much blood (with the exception of a bloody hand-print), Wan knows how to keep things scary and tense, even if he isn’t showing us everything that needs to be seen, in order to be scared by. Obviously for anybody who’s seen his latest-venture in horror with The Conjuring, knows that the guy is good at giving us very little, in order to give us a whole of uneasy feelings in the pit of our stomach; hence why the from first act, to somewhere in the middle, works so damn well.

"Darren? Is that you? Cause if so, this form of foreplay just is not working."

“Josh? Is that you? Cause if so, this form of foreplay just is not working.”

The score that screeches every time something SHOCKING or UNEXPECTED happens, does get to be a bit much at times, but when it comes to creating a sense of dread or fear, just by making us feel like we’re going to see something we’re not going to want to see, is a specialty that Wan seems to run with and actually love. Most of the scary scenes here do occur with the score, but when Wan keeps it quiet and sudden, you’re really on edge throughout most of it. The main scene that comes to my mind right away is the key one where Josh is running around the house late at night, and for some reason, the door keeps on swinging open every time he leaves it all alone. Every time he comes back, it’s open, and you can just feel that there is a presence in this house with him. You don’t know where it is, you don’t know what it looks like, and you don’t know how it’s going to show itself, but the anticipation to find out for yourself is what really gets you going throughout this whole scene. And hell, when it shows up, it’s pretty freaking scary.

But the problem is, once that scene is over with, and Josh realizes that this is all too true to an illusion, then the movie begins to fall apart by its own deception. Case in point: Wan’s direction.

First of all, what Wan set-up perfectly with this first-to-second-act was that this was going to be a horror flick, no doubt about that whatsoever; however, at the same time, it wasn’t going to be the same type of horror flick we usually see from the mainstream. It was going to be small; it was going to be quiet; and it was going to go back to the roots of horror, haunted-house idea and all. This had me all pumped-up for what was churning out to be a great, as well as very effective horror flick, one that didn’t need to change the game to work, but just be scary, that was it. Like I said though, around this time is where the movie began to slap me in the face, and in a way, began to slap itself in the face as well.

See, Wan betrays his own sense of direction by getting extremely goofy by the end, almost in a way that seems like it’s ripped out of an entirely different movie altogether. Without spoiling too much for the fellow-beings out there that haven’t seen this yet, I’ll say that the ending feels like a cheesy, homemade haunted-house you’d walk into if you had a first date with someone on Halloween night. You know it’s not scary, instead, it’s just random and over-the-top, but the person next to you/who you’re with is scared, and so you just sit there and enjoy the fellow person’s crazy emotions. That’s how I felt watching this movie, except, I wasn’t on a date with anybody, it wasn’t Halloween night, and I was all by my lonesome. Which basically means nobody was there to have me entertained by their fright.

All in all though, it’s Wan’s fault, and nobody else’s, that the movie falls apart and gets nutty by the end. And yes, although I do have to say it did look cool and it kept me intrigued the whole time, it felt like a bad move on his part, because what we were working with in the beginning was just doing so well, and was working so many wonders. Why the dude decided to change all of that up, and go for big, loud, and odd, really is beyond me. Then again, it was a mainstream horror movie, so maybe there were more powers at work here? Maybe, baby.

"Look! It's "something"!"

“Look! It’s “something”!”

Anyway, the other source of intrigue I had with this flick was the couple at the center, played by both Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. Both are good in everything that they do, but I feel as if they are almost too good for this type of material where they have to play somewhat clueless, somewhat stupid, but also scared by what may happen to them. Byrne can yell, hoot, holler and scream her way through just anything, while Wilson just has to be stand there, and he’ll already be the coolest, most happenin’ guy in the room; but when you put them together and place them in a haunted-house, where scary things happen. it doesn’t quite work so well. They’re nice people, and you care for them and their family, but they just feel like they’re slumming it down a bit too much, and could totally be using their skills for something better, and a lot more worth their time.

Same goes for both Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye, both very accomplished actresses in their own right, but feel oddly-misplaced here. Mainly Hershey who, I guess with how her career has recently been turning out to be, might just have to stick with these “creepy mommy”-roles for the rest of her life, which is a shame too, because she’s a solid actress when she’s given the right material. This isn’t it, and I could say the same thing about Shaye, although she comes off in a better light than Hershey, mainly because she seems more-equipped for this outlandish, nutso horror stuff. After awhile though, her only purpose in this movie is to shout out exposition and tell us what should happen, at any certain time. Boring!

Consensus: While Insidious does start off mighty fine with just the right amount of tension, chills, and suspense in the air, it all goes away once Wan realizes that he has a bigger budget to work with here than he originally thought, and decides to let ‘er rip with the non-stop costumes, ghouls, demons, creatures, and Tiny Tim music, as if that dude’s jams weren’t freaky enough.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

It's like college, man. Let's hope there's some Hendrix in that background.

“Well, what we have to do first is smoke whatever’s in this gas-mask, and then we’ll end up searching for the ghosts. Most likely, we’ll find them, or at least some figures that resemble what seems to be a ghost.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,453 other followers