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

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

About these ads

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

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2013)

Those Mandy Lane’s, they’ll do damage to a guy’s head.

Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is the dream-girl that all dudes go head-over-heels for. There’s nothing really amazing about her personality, it’s just the beauty of what she looks like is what really does it for these dudes, hence why she gets so many date-offers and such, yet, turns them all down. She’s a shy girl that obviously wants to have a lot of friends, but there’s always something holding her back. What it is, we don’t quite know, but that mystery is what the guys love about her the most. That, and the fact that she’s slam-spankin’ gorgeous! So, Mandy gets an invitation to one of her friend’s ranches out in the middle of nowhere for the weekend just to hang out, drink, have some sex, smoke some weed, and do all the sorts of reckless abandonment that teenagers partake in. However, the weekend gets a little bit weird during the night, and not just because all of the dudes obviously are trying TOO hard to be with Mandy, but because people start going missing and there are even gun-shots heard somewhere in the distance. Are they being hunted? And if so, by who? Is it all just for Mandy?

If you know the whole story behind this movie, you’ll know that people have been waiting like the Dickens for this thing, and it’s not because it’s great or outstanding or anything of that sort. It’s all because the Weinsteins, seeing as how they couldn’t make a profit off of a teen-centered, grindhouse flick, decided to sell the movie to a company that not soon after, went out of business, leaving it stuck without anybody to carry it, or have a release-date at all. People saw it, wanted it out there for the world to see, but it just didn’t seem like that was going to be happening, or at least not for awhile anyway.

"So, you like things? Things like me?"

“So, you like things? Things like me?”

Fast forward 7 years later, and I’m still trying to figure out what the wait was all for.

Director Jonathan Levine is a guy who has gone on to bigger, better things in the past couple of years since his directorial-debut hit, and was never seen, but here, he shows a very promising career that we all know he was capable of maintaining. The guy shows a nice taste for showing movies about young people, their lives, and who they are, yet, he never goes any deeper than just “kids do stupid stuff, nuff said.” That’s about as far into these characters as we go, and even though I’ll give the guy credit for allowing his movie to show these kids doing a hefty amount of drugs, partying, and drinking in a way that feels realistic and not glamorized in the least bit, he never goes anywhere with it. He just shows them for being young, dumb teenagers, and then shows them as they get killed, which made the flick a bit harder to enjoy, mostly because it isn’t interesting.

Once the kills start to happen and the horror-aspect of its story start to file in, then we see what Levine’s true intentions of this movie were, and it’s less about making a statement on the loneliness faced by these teenagers’ dull, meandering lives, but more how his horror flick is better than most out there. Levine seems to take a stand on the fact that he knows the typical genre-conventions that come with horror movies, but rather making something smart or original with those conventions, he sort of does the same stuff, with less flair or enjoyment added to the proceedings. In fact, you could probably go so far as to say that the movie is probably weaker than the ones that Levine seems to pointing the bad finger at in the first place.

With blood-flavored corn-syrup splashed on her, I'd still tap.

With blood-flavored corn-syrup splashed on her, I’d still tap.

And it’s not like the movie’s “bad” per se, it’s just obvious that the horror-aspect doesn’t mesh well with these teens as well as it should, and that’s mainly because there’s no feeling behind it. We sort of want most of these kids to get killed because they’re so boring and annoying to be around, and live rather monotonous lives, even though we shouldn’t feel this way. Levine sort of wants us to feel sympathy for most of these teenagers that can’t seem to make a run for it when they easily should know when and how to, but it never hits us that we should. We just watch as each and every character gets hacked-off, one-by-one, with no feeling of remorse or sadness whatsoever. Not saying that we’re supposed to be happy about these young kids having their lives ended so early and morbidly either, but we should have some feeling involved with it, shouldn’t we?

Needless to say, it was strange seeing Amber Heard in this role as Mandy Lane because of how young, but still gorgeous she looks. Granted, it’s been only 7 years since she made this movie (which would have made her around my age, 19-20), but you can tell that she was always a beauty and the perfect-fit as Mandy Lane, aka, the girl who practically takes over every guy’s mind whenever she walks by, or just so happens to even get close to making eye-contact with them. She’s mysterious in her own way and you want to know more about her, and Heard allows us to be intrigued and interested by her as well. She lets us in as much as she can without spoiling everything about her and it had me going for the longest time. Heard isn’t really given much to do other than just silently sit there, gazing at all of the happenings surrounding her, and that was fine, because she nails it. The rest of the cast I can’t say the same thing for, however, it is fairly obvious that all of them are talented and deserved to show up in more stuff like they have. Some I’ve seen before, some I haven’t, but at least they do well with the thinly-written characters they’re given.

Consensus: Though there are some interesting aspects surrounding All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, they get thrown to the side for the grisly murders, overuse of blood and gore, and non-stop horror conventions that take over the last act.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Losers. Can't wait till they all just die."

“Losers. Can’t wait till they all just die.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Riddick (2013)

It’s been 13 years now, and the dude still can’t get normal eyes?

A lot has happened in the 9 years since we last saw our favorite anti-hero Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), and not all of it’s good. After becoming the sole ruler of a planet he learned to hate, he soon finds himself feeling too odd for the job, and is soon kicked off this planet and left to scrounge for himself in a more dangerous, grungy planet (much like the one he was running around on in Pitch Black). For awhile, things seem to be looking alright for Riddick; not only has he found a way to keep after himself, but he’s even got a newfound friend in some sort of dog/creature/thing. He’s as happy as he can be and knows when he has to get down a dirty, but he also knows that he has to get the hell off of this awful planet before it’s too late. That’s when he decides to call for help to a bunch of bounty hunters, in hopes of stealing their ships, but little does Riddick know that these bastards are all here for one thing and one thing only: Him. And trust me, they aren’t going to leave until they get him.

As you all have probably seen on this blog in the past couple of days, I’ve been doing a little bit of meet-and-greet with the past two entries of the Riddick franchise and suffice to say: I’m not all that impressed. Yes, the first one is good in a type of dumb, B-movie way, but that second one? You know, that over-bloated, over-long, over-budgeted mess? Yup, that’s the one that really left a sour taste in my mouth and had me expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. Because when you think about it: No movie starring Vin Diesel is really going to be considered “good”. It’s mostly going to be entertaining, and mainly in a dumb way.

Not only is it a crappy sci-fi flick, but it's sequel to one that he did before, so of course Karl Urban's got to show up, even if it is for about 2 minutes.

Not only is it a crappy sci-fi flick, but it’s sequel to one that he did before, so of course Karl Urban’s got to show up, even if it is for about 2 minutes.

So, with that in my mind, I’m glad to tell you that this is the best of the franchise, even if I do say that with a whole slew of reservations. Great, so where do I begin? Oh yeah, that’s right: Writer/director David Twohy himself.

I’ll give Twohy some honest credit, he’s one of the very rare directors that will take a rather “crappy” franchise, and continue to come back to it each installment, adding a little something new here and there, just to spice things up. However, I think the spice that he delivered with the last two, weren’t anywhere to be found here, and if they were around, lingering, then they were terribly misguided. Take for example, the opening 20-25 minutes of this movie. When we first meet Riddick here in this flick, we see him all alone on this planet, looking for food, finding shelter, and basically just reminiscing over the decisions he’s made in the past, good or bad. It’s very intriguing because it starts off slow, small, and with barely any dialogue from Diesel. It’s just a lot of heavy-staring, male-posturing and fighting; and I didn’t have a problem with that really. It was just weird seeing this come from a big-budget, relatively mainstream movie in a major franchise.

However, I get what Twohy was doing this all for, he wanted to get us all familiarized with the character once again and give us plenty of time with him, because once the first 20-25 minutes are over, then the bounty hunters come swooping in, and things start to get away from Riddick, and more towards these less interesting, far more annoying characters. But the problem isn’t mainly the shift in the middle (even though it’s clearly evident when watching how drastic of a change in pace and story-telling it is), it’s mostly that the flick is close to being 2 hours long, but it feels like 4. No movie like this should be a near-2 hours; that is unless it’s fun, exciting, and keeps the pace going at a nice speed to where you don’t even bother checking your watch or cellular device. But the pace here is slow, meandering, random, and very uneventful, even when it should be.

The moments that Twohy obviously wants to pack a heavier punch with than before, don’t really hit hard or have you feeling the full adrenaline-rush like the first one did. I’ll give Twohy credit for giving us some time with this character and laying down the groundwork for what was to be his story, told once again on the big screen, but when it comes to actually giving us a story that pops, snaps, and delivers when it needs to, I just can’t. Too much time is spent focusing on these characters, and putting even more of an eye on a premise that should have been done in practically 90 minutes or less. It would have been that simple, but seeing as how Twohy and Diesel rarely get to work their assess off in Hollywood nowadays, it’s no wonder why they wanted to spend as much time and money in front of our eyes, just in case we never see them together again.

Who knows, this may just be the last Riddick movie we ever get? Keep an open mind, folks.

But as much bashing as I am doing of this movie, I can’t say that I didn’t have fun and at least enjoy the loud brashness of this material. Yes, it’s god-awfully dumb, stupid, innate and corny as can be, but could have I expected anything different? Or, scratch that, anything more “sophisticated” to make my brain do a little work? Hell no! I mean, look at it: The summer season ended not too long ago and I’m still reeling for some loud-ass explosions, nasty brawls, hot girls, even hotter locations, and some extra cheese added on, in any way I can get ‘em. If this is the movie that’s going to give them to movie, then that will suffice. God, man! I’m going to miss summer!

The testosterone is just killing me!

The testosterone is just killing me!

And even though this may or may not be his last outing as Riddick, Vin Diesel still knows how to play this character, and still make him interesting and fun to watch on screen. This time around, we get to see more of a humane-side to him than ever before, and he’s actually a lot dirtier now too. And I’m not talking about the fact that he doesn’t take showers, I’m talking about his potty-mouth. Seeing him actually talk and interact with actual human-beings and use all of his wit to his advantage made this movie a whole lot more enjoyable to watch, and made me feel like Riddick himself was the smartest guy in the room, no matter how determined the other characters around him were. Diesel always seemed like his heart was in this character, and it’s glad to see that he can still pull it off, last outing or not.

While Diesel does do his whole “low-volume delivery” thing that everybody knows, and I guess, love him for, the rest of the cast ain’t so bad either, it’s just that they’re characters are sometimes so bad and so thinly-written, it’s damn-near offensive. One of the most glaring examples of that statement is Jordi Molla as the sleazy creep-of-a-leader of the bounty hunters who (literally) wants Riddick’s head in a box. No joking, you see the box many of times! And when he’s not trying to intimidate the hell out of Riddick, however that’s humanly possible, he’s losing control of his boner over Katee Sackhoff’s character, who makes many mentions of being a lesbian, but still seems to get all hot and ready for Riddick whenever he comes around, so I don’t know. Maybe I’m over-thinking it a bit too much, but at least she’s good, and isn’t as terrible as Molla’s character was. Honestly though, does every Mexican baddie have to speak a line of Spanish at least twice in every movie? Better yet, does it always have to be non-subtitled? I know, I’m a spoiled, middle-class American. Just saying though.

Consensus: All obvious flaws with pacing, running-time, and direction aside, Riddick never fully takes itself seriously, so neither should you and instead, should just embrace it for being one of the last big, stupid summer blockbuster, even if it is September already.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I can see clearly now, the sun-proof goggles are gone."

“I can see clearly now, the sun-proof goggles are gone.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Pitch Black (2000)

I could actually see everything that happened. Bullshit title.

A transport shuttle carrying more than 40 passengers, main one being a ruthless, sadistic criminal named Riddick (Vin Diesel), finds itself in the middle of a meteor storm, and nowhere left to go but down. They crash-land on a nearby planet that seems deserted with the only things left rummaging, or if they are living, they are deadly creatures that come out in the night. But that’s all fine and cool because the planet they are on has 3 suns which means that there is no darkness, so therefore, no need to worry about their lives being in danger, right? Well, think again, bloody chaps! What just so happens on this fateful day is a lunar eclipse where the planet goes black and leaves the crew left to fend for themselves, with any supply of weapons or light they have, just so that they can repair their ship and get the hell off of the god-forsaken planet. However, the only that can really help them out, is the same said ruthless, sadistic criminal I mentioned before, and he’s more than likely to help, just as long as he’s calling the shots and nobody else. Obviously this doesn’t bode so well with the rest of the crew, considering he’s a criminal and all but they have bigger fish to fry, so escaping from this unknown planet it is!

I never quite understood what the whole “attraction” behind the Riddick franchise was, but two sequels later, what does it matter what I think? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously “nothing”, however, I still wonder how a low-rent, B-movie without any real stars or main attraction going on behind it, made such a killing at the box-office that it was able to spawn two more movies over the course of 13 years. Hell, we still have yet to see the Independence Day sequel we all want and deserve, but we’ve gotten 2 Riddick movies instead? Hmm. Seems strange, and maybe it’s something I’ll never be able to wrap my head around. I don’t know.

"It's hot. Yeah, I know. Quit bitchin'!"

“It’s hot. Yeah, I know. Quit bitchin’!”

What I do know is that despite me being a tad bit interested in what this flick had to offer, I had to say that I got off on the wrong foot with it, as I feel like many others probably did back on their initial-viewing. The movie opens with a chaotic frenzy of shaky-cam, people yelling out total gibberish (aka, “spaceship jargon”), and a bunch of loud noises that consist of “boom”, “bang”, “crackle”, “pop”, and many others of that nature. It definitely got me feeling like I was right there with this crew in this spaceship as it went down, while also having me on the verge of throwing up as well. I know I sound like a bit of a wimp and all, but seriously: The opening-sequence to this flick is just total overkill of the shaky-cam method and had me expecting the worst of what was next to come.

Thankfully, things slowed down and cooled-out after that, but lord did I have a crackling head-ache!

Anywho, the flick does work in a way because of David Twohy’s vision that surprisingly captures a sharp, refreshing glimpse at what it would look like if you too were on the same planet with all of these buffoons. The alien air is is bleached-out, as if the cinematographer sprayed Sunny D all over the camera to give it a cooling, relaxing feel. But while doing this, he also creates a sense of the unknowing, where we too are placed on a world we know nothing about and is most likely filled with all sorts of cool things, creatures, and materials. This aspect of the movie actually had me pumped-up and ready for action, especially when things began to get all dark and tense and for a long while, it was still working.

Twohy knows how to place us in the dark (literally and figuratively) effectively, as he allows us to guess who’s going to get bumped-off next, why, what these creatures are, and just how the hell they’re going to all get out of this planet alive, if at all. It’s very tense at times and it creates an atmosphere where anything that could go wrong, probably will happen, and won’t be “Hollywood-ized” either. This is a B-movie after all, which means that there’s going to be plenty of gruesome deaths, blood squirting out wherever humanly possibly, monsters ripping people to shreds, a slew of curse words that you aren’t supposed to say out in public (unless you’re legally permitted to), and even more corny lines than you could possibly shake a yard stick at, however, there is some bit of fun behind it as well. As stupid as it could be, it did get tense at times and honestly made me wondered who was going to make it out of this hell-hole, even if it was easy to predict one person surviving at the end. Not going to throw away who it is, but if you don’t get it by now, just stop reading. Please.

Sorry, boys: She'll more than likely kick your ass than accept your dinner date request.

Sorry, boys: She’ll more than likely kick your ass than accept your dinner date request.

Where this flick, as well as many other B-flicks of this nature and of this genre fail, is in the character-development process where we are given the standard bits and pieces for things that are supposed to be living, breathing human-beings who are capable of having emotions and feelings; yet, has a script that shows completely otherwise. With this cast of motley characters, we get all of the same conventions we’ve seen before: The head-Muslim who constantly believes that a higher-power is to be blamed for all of this bad stuff happening; the geologist who knows everything about this planet, even if they can’t tell what planet it is that they are on; the morphine-addicted cop who’s all about getting the baddie, at any, and I do repeat, AT ANY cost; the teenage kid who holds an infatuation for the said baddie, but also has a bunch of secrets on his own; and the inspired, yet too-big-for-her-britches pilot who wants to show dominance and force, but can’t help but have a vagina and be criticized and treated harshly for the fact. In case you couldn’t tell, you got every character here that we’ve ever seen before in a movie where a group of random people get thrown together, have to deal with a situation in any way they can, where ego’s and different ideas come clashing together like pans on New Years, and this time, it proves nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen before.

With the exception of maybe two characters in this flick, everybody’s pretty cut-and-dry. Either they are sympathetic human-beings that know what is right and feature no gray area, or they are totally and utterly despicable, as if “being humane” was nowhere to be found in their blood-stream. That’s okay and all, but with a talented cast such as this, it does feel like a bit of a bummer to see them stoop to this type of material, even if they do try their hardest.

But like I said, there are two exceptions here in this movie and they are non-other than Radha Mitchell as head-pilot Fry, and Vin Diesel as Riddick, the role that seemingly put him on the map of super-stardom and rightfully so. Not only is Diesel good when it comes to showing that the guy can kick just about anything/anybody’s ass, but also allows us to see a bit of a humane-side to this dude as well that isn’t used in a manipulative manner. We actually see Riddick as a sort of human-being, one that you can’t always trust, but know to trust enough that he will get you out of whatever sticky situation he can or even cares for to begin with. That’s not to say Mitchell is chopped-liver neither, because the gal does her work here and does it well. Her small-ish, frail body works well for her character that seems like she has all the balls, mentally, to carry this crew to safety and get them off the planet, but doesn’t have the physical balls to nut up and shut up when push comes to shove. She’s good with this character and gives her all that she’s got, even if Diesel is the one who steals the show here. Then again, I bet you knew that already.

Consensus: A B-movie in the sense that it’s stupid, cheesy, and thinly-written, but Pitch Black also has a slight bit of fun with itself, especially in the way Diesel commands the screen with every ounce of talent that he’s got, showing us just what was next to come for this uprising star.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The ladies still love themselves some Vin. Even with oddly-colored, mutant eyes.

The ladies still love themselves some Vin. Even with brightly-colored, mutant eyes.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Closed Circuit (2013)

Good thing I don’t live in London. Seems like they’re government is crazy.

Over 120 people were killed after an explosion was set-off in very busy London marketplace, and the main suspect is an Turkish immigrant known as Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). After his defense attorney is mysteriously killed, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) rises on the scene and is given the opportunity to work with special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall). Seems fine and professional and all of that, except it isn’t because the two had an affair that destroyed Rose’s marriage some years earlier. However, the court can’t know about that, or else they would both be out of a job and would lose this case; one that surprisingly ends up being very serious and detrimental to the government, because people begin to wind-up dead, just as more and more information comes out about it.

The best way to really, and I do mean REALLY, get a thriller pumping, is just to add the threat of the government. Once they’re involved, then you know there’s nowhere safe to go, nowhere to hide and no way you can come out of this unscathed in one way or another. Mostly all thrillers end the same with the government prevailing and showing us that no matter how hard us determined human-beings may try, the government is always going to be one step ahead of us and ready to lift their magical, power fingers in order to come out on top. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles and although this movie does give us very subtle hints at what type of powerful wrecking force the government can truly be, it never seems to go anywhere with it.

It's the paper-guy. He can't be trusted. KILL HIM!!

It’s the paper-guy. He can’t be trusted. KILL HIM!!

See? Didn’t think all of my jabbering and ranting had a point, now did you?

Anyway, where I was getting at with that paragraph was that the movie definitely wants to be like one of those frenetic, paranoid thrillers from the 70′s, but never fully amounts to that. And I don’t mean that in the way that the movie doesn’t generate any type of suspense or tension in the air, because it sure as hell does; it just never quite gets to that point where I understood that this was a “Two small-time lawyers vs. the big-ass government” type of story. It only kicks in with about 10 minutes left, and that’s where I really understood what was going on, for what reasons, and who exactly was all involved with this cluster-fuck. Only then did I get a chance to pain the full-picture, but everything leading-up to it was just a tad too confusing for me.

Not because I need every single clue, hint or plot-twist painted out on the walls for me, it’s mainly just because the story never sits with one aspect and pays attention to it the most. We get that these two got it on back two years ago, and rather than making that the fore-front of the movie and paying attention to how this whole case causes a strain on they’re relationship, the movie only alludes to it from time-to-time, and suddenly, out of nowhere, becomes ALL about it by the end, just as things with the political-conspiracy is starting to heat up. That bothered me, not just because it seemed unnecessary or stupid, but because it probably would have made the movie more effective and more suspenseful, had we cared for these characters and their relationship, but we sort of don’t. We just sit there, watch them as they fumble around, look behind their shoulders everytime they turn a corner and throw subtle hints that they just want to get on top of the table right now and go at it like never before. Some of that sounds fun, but most of it isn’t.

However, as much of a thrashing as this movie may be getting from yours truly, I do have to say that I got tense very often. It isn’t like the flick totally loses all sense of its mystery and what it’s actually about; it actually pays close enough attention to the case, therefore, allowing us to feel more compelled when we begin to realize what’s happening and what this cover-up means. Once we get painted a clearer-picture, it all makes sense and takes you by the throat and throws you along, I just wish it happened earlier, and with more character-development.

"Screw this case! Let's just screw one another, for old time's sake!

“Screw this case! Let’s just screw one another, for old time’s sake!

That said, I can’t get on the cast’s case all that much because everybody does their best with what they’re given, even if it is only for a short amount of screen-time. Rebecca Hall is still one of those actresses that has yet to really do anything for me, but she shows that she’s getting bigger and better roles now, especially with her performance here as Claudia Simmons-Howe. Hall’s a bit sexy, but she always seems inspired to do the right thing, which makes it a lot easier for us to actually root her on and care for her when the shit hits the fan. Eric Bana, despite having a pretty piss-poor British accent attached to his vocal-chords, does a nice job being smart, confident, and slightly heroic as Martin Rose. Together, they show that they do have chemistry, but since they aren’t on-screen together all that much and aren’t really given much to do with one another other than just look scared and shout out facts of the case, it only feels like a missed-opportunity.

The rest of the cast is pretty rad too, especially because they have some real heavy-hitters here. Jim Broadbent is probably the most sinister he’s ever been here as the Attorney General of the case, and shows that he can not only charm us, but make us wet our shorts at the same time when he wants to; Ciarán Hinds is a lovable presence to watch on screen, but you know that there’s always something up with him that you can’t quite put your finger on just yet; Julia Stiles randomly shows up as a New York Times journalist whose role shows not much purpose, but it still made me smile seeing her working again, so that’s something to commend; and Anne-Marie Duff, for all of the sexiness that she has, really scared the hell out of me as Melissa, somebody you expect to be a goodie-goodie in all of this, but somehow turns out to be the decider in all that happens. Overall, a solid cast that I wish was given more to work with, even though they do make the best of what they have here.

Consensus: Even though it doesn’t really get tense and edgy until the final 10 minutes or so, Closed Circuit is still an okay watch if you don’t have much else to do with your life, just don’t expect much in terms of character-development or shocks.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Something's out of place here, and it isn't that red dress.

Something’s out of place here, and it isn’t that red dress.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Sadly, as much as it pains to me admit it: Jim was right.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is still the same old, lovable dork everybody remembered him as being three years ago. He still wants the ladies, he’s still awkward with his dad, and he still tries to save the day dressing-up as his alter-ego, Kick-Ass. However, times have changed since everybody’s favorite, real-life superhero came out and started saving the world, one dead drug-dealer at a time; now, it seems like everybody on the street who’s ever wanted to do something nice, is dressing-up as their own creation and getting ready to go head-to-head with the various baddies who run throughout New York City. Heck, they even have their own team, which is lead by the mysterious, but deadly force of nature known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Things start to get a little shaky however, once Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), aka, the Red Mist comes back to seek his revenge for his daddy’s death, but this time, has a new name and a dangerous posse along with him for the ride, wreaking havoc and disaster everywhere they show up. With Kick-Ass, the rest of his team, and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), D’Amico’s war-path of revenge may come to an end.

Despite it having its haters, I rather enjoyed the original Kick-Ass. It definitely had its moments where it went a little too far with its action, and definitely felt like it was a lot cooler than it actually was, but overall, it was fun, exciting, gory, and a nice change-of-pace from the usual, CGI-driven superhero flicks we usually get, and got that fine summer of 2010. Hence why I was looking forward to this sequel so much, even if it felt like the type of movie that didn’t need a sequel, nor did it really need to expand on its story. But you know what? It’s the summer; it’s action-y; and it’s Kick-Ass, so why the ‘eff not?!?

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Well, here’s why not….

Nice transition on my part, I know.

Where I feel like this flick definitely hits its problems in, is its tone. The first movie took its violence seriously, but never too seriously to the point of where we couldn’t laugh or at least be amused by the image of some druggie getting decapitated. The point of Matthew Vaughn’s direction in that movie was to show violence in a form that didn’t make you feel guilty, but showed you violence that still meant something, without being overly-exploited. Here, under the new wing of Jeff Wadlow, it feels overly-exploited and nonsensical, which wouldn’t have been bad had the movie not tried taking itself so seriously at times. I get that the movie isn’t trying to condone these (sometimes) disturbing acts of violence, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it should really be glamorizing it all that much either.

But as the movie goes, it then continues to gets weirder with its view-point and its tone; which I thought wasn’t possible at all, but apparently I was dead wrong. What happens with this movie is that it gets very, VERY serious, and throws in pieces of action that would make any die-hard, action-junkie jump in the air, fists raised, but at the same time, also is too disturbing for anybody to really cheer for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pulling a Jim Carrey here and/or getting soft in my old age or anything, it’s just that I know when you can mix comedy and action together, in order to make the transition between the two seamless, and this movie’s transition is noticeable, if not off-putting. A scene by the end when one of these superheros named Night Bitch (witty, ain’t it?), gets attacked by the main group of baddies, and is shouting, screaming in fright, and looks like she’s about to be the victim of a very vicious, a very scary rape. I don’t know about you, but to put a “hinted” rape scene in any movie, whether it be a comedy or a drama, gets me feeling a bit uneasy, especially when it’s thrown into a movie like this, where it seems like they’re going for the yucks, but also the “Hoorahs!” and the “Yays!” of its heavy-male demographic.

However, I realize that I’m sounding more and more like a prude here, so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead of myself and before I lose my membership to Hardbodies Gym. Anyway, what I was saying about this movie is despite the tone being oddly “off”, the movie still has its moments of sheer fun and visual-grandeur, maybe it’s just not as smartly-written or as thoughtful as the first movie. Maybe so, but that said, it’s still a good movie that will have you all ready for the inevitable, final show-down between the goodies, and the baddies. Which is credit to Wadlow as the director, because even though we know where this story is going to go and how it’s most likely going to end, he throws in his own subtle-tricks of amping-up the story’s tension, little by little, piece by piece. For that, I have to stop busting his balls and give credit where credit’s due, but I also have to say that Matthew Vaughn was such a better director for this material; one that I hope they are able to get back if/when they make a third.

Look out, Aaron. You don't want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage's.

Look out, Aaron. You don’t want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage’s.

Though we all know he’s one sexy mofo underneath that whole, “I’m a total geek! Just look at my glasses and frizzy hair” facade, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still serviceable as Kick-Ass, even though he isn’t given much heavy-lifting to do with this story. Instead, that honors given to Chloë Grace Moretz who not only steals the show when she’s being the feisty, fiery, little bad-mouthed gal that she is known as with Hit Girl, but also when she’s just living the life of a 15-year-old, high-school freshman. Yes, believe it or not, Moretz is getting a bit older and it’s about that time for her to start taking on more mature roles, and if this counts as the beginning for her, well, then she’s off to a pretty good start. Not only is it funny to watch her try to fit in with “the cool clan” of her grade, but to watch as she fails, time and time again. Sometimes it’s hard to watch because of how true it is about certain social-cliques within high-school, but Moretz’s unabashed sense of knowing that she can whoop any of their asses, makes it all the better just to sit back, and wait for her to extract her revenge whenever she sees fit. And when she does, trust me, it’s going to be deserved, if not disgusting. VERY disgusting, that is.

While Nicolas Cage isn’t here to steal the show like he did in the first one as Big Daddy, Jim Carrey is more than able to take his spot and do a little bit of scene-stealing as well, even if it isn’t the type of performance you’d expect from the guy. Not only is Colonel Stars and Stripes a bit of a nut when it comes to violence and the way he uses it on his victims, but he’s also a bit of an endearing figure, especially when we find out that he’s an ex-mobster, now turned born-again Christian. It’s a very strange role for Carrey, one that he doesn’t go too over-the-top with, but still owns and has a great time with. Shame that he abandoned any type of love or support for this flick, because the movie could have really benefited from it. And even though he’s still treated as more of a joke than he was in the last one, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is still enjoyable to watch as Chris D’Amico, now with his new name: The Motherfucker. Not much originality lies in the pens of those script-writers, but at least they know how to make a joke work a couple of times.

Consensus: Though the first one added an extra feeling to its punch, Kick-Ass 2 still delivers on the action, the violence, the humor, and the fun turns from its cast, but also doesn’t know whether it wants to be a serious superhero movie with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it, or a comedic superhero movie, with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"When the camera's are on, I'm your best friend. No need to worry. But when they're off, ehh, go fuck ya self!"

“When the camera’s are on, I’m your best friend. No need to worry. But when they’re off, ehh, go fuck ya self!”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Planet Terror (2007)

Muscle cars > zombie apocalypse.

Not all small towns get along, but especially this one that seems to be located somewhere in the heart of Texas. And just to make matters worse, they’re thrown up against the wall and supposed to fight off a ward of zombies after an odd, toxic biochemical is released onto them. Why? They don’t quite know yet, except for maybe the government may be involved. However, they can’t, and they won’t worry too much about it because they have bigger fish to fry. Or should I just say: Bigger “zombies” to fry? Yeah, it’s corny, but that’s what I’m going for!

The idea of having a chick having an M4 carbine assault-rifle for a leg is probably one of the dumber one’s out there, even as cool as it may sound. That is, unless, you’re a character in a Robert Rodriguez movie, then it makes it perfect sense because you’re just another part of his crazy, insane puzzle that never seems to end inside that guy’s head. And that’s not a complaint at all. I like what Rodriguez brings to the table, whether it be weird, straight-laced, or something new he’s trying out. However, when he’s supposed to be back in his “original form” and is going up against non other than Mr. Quentin Tarantino himself; he can’t help but feel tame in comparison.

Its just what happens when you go toe-to-toe with an even bigger nut, if that’s even imaginable.

"Walking Dead who?"

Walking Dead who?”

But, despite whoever you put Rodriguez up against in a movie, no matter what: The guy always knows how to have fun with his stories and direction, and it is no different here. It’s obvious that this is a mesh between the George A. Romero zombie-flicks, and the eerie, horror movies from John Carpenter, but it seems like Rodriguez is doing more than just an homage, and actually expanding on his own story, with his own quirks and trademarks thrown in there for a great deal as well. The guy lets loose on what we all know and love about him; people get shot-up to oblivion, body-parts come flying out of nowhere, corny-lines are exchanged, and distorted colors seem to make everything on-display trippier. Basically, everything you expect to see from a “Robert Rodriguez zombie flick” happens and is seen here. For that reason, it’s very fun and will keep your eyes alive on the screen for quite some time, even when it seems like Rodriguez is maybe going a little too “nutso” with his own material. Then again, he’s a film maker and he’s allowed to, so who the hell am I to judge?

But what I think ruins Rodriguez and his flick as a whole, is that when it’s stacked-up to Tarantino’s Death Proof, it really pales in comparison. Now, in a way, Death Proof and Planet Terror are both different from one another. Death Proof is a bit serious with its subtle-approach and as a result, feels very down-played, whereas Planet Terror goes absolutely gung-ho with it’s story and never loses it’s pace; Proof is very dialogue-heavy, with lines that are as witty as you’re going to get, whereas Terror has some of the cheesiest lines you’re ever going to hear, but it’s on-purpose; Proof is more about the tension, dialogue, and characters, whereas Terror is all about the action, blood, and violence. See, as much as the two stories may have in common with one another, you can’t help but notice how different they are as well. Whether or not that was deliberate on both of these guy’s parts is totally left up in the air, but I think that’s where this flick hits a hard-place. Or at least Rodriguez does, anyway.

Maybe because I’m speaking from my own point-of-view, my problems with this flick may be a bit biased, but when it comes right down to it: Tarantino is just more talented than Rodriguez in the long-run. Some may call that a no-brainer and some may not, but what I do know is that I feel like Tarantino has a lot more resilience when it comes to the movies that he wants to do and why, where as Rodriguez is a little too random and sporadic. Also, Tarantino has never done a Spy Kids movie so maybe that’s where the sake of the argument lies as well. But I digress.

So yes, both sort of have the same styles in how they let their movies play-out and even tell their own stories as well, but in the end, Tarantino just has something more to him that’s attention-grabbing and as interesting, as anything that Rodriguez has ever really done. Now, I’m not saying that anything Rodriguez has done in his career isn’t good by any means necessary, but Tarantino just has something about him and his movies that make you want to go out there, start writing on a piece of paper, and start making your own movies. In a way, Rodriguez’s films can do that as well, but Tarantino is the automatically first guy I think about when it comes to inspirations/favorite directors.

Fairly uncomfortable I'd suppose, considering he "assault-rifle-instead-of-actual-leg" situation.

Fairly uncomfortable I’d suppose, considering he “assault-rifle-instead-of-actual-leg” situation.

Aside from that whole “Rodriguez vs. Tarantino” rant, the reason why Planet Terror just isn’t as good as I would have liked for it to have been was because it’s stacked-up against something that Tarantino did, and that movie’s name is Death Proof. Granted, Proof was no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it kept me alive, intrigued, and best of all, entertained the whole time; whereas with this flick, I felt myself, as well as itself, just meander along and didn’t really offer me anything new that I haven’t already seen done 100 times before in other, and sometimes, “better” zombie movies. That’s not to say that this flick isn’t any fun at all, because trust me: It is. Its just is a time-burner for the sake of being a time-burner and there’s nothing else to it other than that. Kind of disappointing when you think how this is by the same guy who did From Dusk Till Dawn, among many others, but I guess that’s what happens when you go up against a guy who’s won Best Original Screenplay more than once.

Where this film does feel a lot like a Tarantino movie, is in it’s characters that are goofy, wild, and fun as hell to watch. Rose McGowan fits perfectly as Cherry, the ex-stripper/wanna-be comedienne, because of her physical presence (her early strip-scene is one of the hottest openings I’ve seen in a long, long time), and her comedic-timing is actually pretty good which makes the whole idea of her being a “stand-up comedienne” seem pretty convincing. Freddy Rodríguez is alright as Wray, Cherry’s bad-boy, and does what he can but comes off as a bit of a stiff dude, without any real presence on-screen. Most of that screen-presence is used very well by steadied-pros like Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, and even a short, but lovable cameo from Bruce Willis. A pretty stacked-cast and everybody kicks it pretty hard here, but its a real surprise to me that the only one who really comes out on-top is Kurt Russell. And hell, that guys from a whole other movie!

Consensus: Robert Rodriguez injects Planet Terror with his signature style of goofy, over-the-top, wild fun that we all like to see in all of his movies, but can’t really stand-up against Tarantino’s far better, more interesting piece of work known as Death Proof. Sorry Robert. Quentin’s just more of a crazier son of a bitch than you are when it comes right down to it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't worry, I got enough money to work for 5 seconds."

“Don’t worry, I got enough money to work for 5 seconds.”

To check out my buddy Brandon’s review of the other part of Grindhouse, Death Proof, go on over to http://bkstareviews.blogspot.com/2013/08/death-proof-movie-review.html and let him know what you think! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

I Give It a Year (2013)

Speak for yourself Brits! Us Americans love staying faithful to our marriages! Sort of.

After randomly meeting one another at a party seven months earlier, Nat and Josh (Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) decide that they are in love, and have no one else they ever want to be with in their lives, which means only one thing: Marriage. Some say it’s too quick, some say it’s lovely, and some predict it to go on a year. After awhile, it seems like these two may actually last longer than a year and so on and so forth, but the cracks begin to show around month 3 or 4 when the thought of infidelity rears it’s ugly head in (as it usually does). For Josh, it’s in the form of his ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris), who has just returned from Africa after 4 years; and as for Nat, she begins to get very, very attracted to a billionaire playboy that she takes her wedding ring off for and flirts with, in hopes that he’ll do business with her and her company, but also seems to not mind the obvious sexual-tension brewing between the two. Both forms of attractions end up coming together, and it’s whether or not Josh or Nat really do love one another to stick through all of the thick and thin is what really counts.

The British have dominated the rom-com genre for a long while, but have somehow also fallen off the map as of late. They’ve definitely had a few good ones here and there, but nothing too special that brings us back to the days of Four Weddings & A Funeral, to Bridget Jones’s Diary and so on and so forth. Without being so obvious about it, I Give It a Year tries to rekindle those flames that were once around and about all those years ago and does so very well, mainly because it reminds us that this is a rom-com, one that actually features comedy. Let me repeat that: COMEDY.

Desperate role-playing: The tell-tale sign that you're hopeless marriage is now officially failing.

Desperate role-playing: The tell-tale sign that you’re hopeless marriage is now officially failing.

You see, where this movie had me going was that it was actually funny, even if I noticed it was trying a tad too hard to do so. Most of the laughs come from the inescapable awkwardness of the situations these characters throw themselves into, and even though it does seem to get a bit over-played at times, it still somehow made me laugh at others. Take for instance a scene where everybody’s playing a little sweet game of charades and Josh goes up. He has a word that’s hard to describe in a natural, normal way, so of course this being an R-rated, British rom-com, he decides to give out hints and clues the dirty way. Obviously this is meant to be seen as a painful and horrible experience for Josh and everybody involved, almost so horrible and painful that it’s downright near unbelievable, but I couldn’t help but laugh because the movie milks it all for what they got.

And that scenes only one example from this movie. There are plenty more where that came from and it definitely didn’t disappoint me in that regard, even when it did stray away from being awkward and tried to be witty, and “British”, for lack of a better word. Most of the time, it doesn’t work and seems like it’s a bit lazy, but other times, it had me laughing more than I expected to and for that, I have to give the film a high-amount of praise. It’s very rare when a rom-com can actually have me laugh-out-loud more than a couple of times, and do have me do it so in a way that’s refreshing and makes me feel like I’m spending my precious time and money on something that deserves to be watched and laughed at. And not “laughed at” in the bad sense; the good sense that you’d expect from a comedy, especially a British one.

But where the movie succeeds very well in the comedy aspect, it somewhat fails with the romantic one. It isn’t that the movie doesn’t have a romance at the center of it’s flick worth caring about, it’s just that it’s structure is so centered on watching as these two fumble around with their emotions, try their hardest to steer clear and away from sleeping around, and question their marriage to begin with, that you almost lose all sort any type of sympathy this couple had going for themselves to begin with. They do seem in love and they do seem like they were right for one another, but we are sort of just plopped-down in center of it all as they can’t seem to grab one another, make love, and mean it when all is said and done. Even when the flick does decide to explore some darker, meaner territory about their relationship and the future of it all, it all feels a bit too under-cooked, as if director Dan Mazer didn’t really care much for these characters and just wanted to do something that was considered new, cool, original, or altogether, “different”. He succeeded at that, but not in the way that allowed the story to have any certain impact or meaning behind it all. It was just there to shock people, and maybe it will succeed at that.

Mainly though, I feel a bit bad for the cast because although they do get to stretch some of their comedic-muscles with this material, they feel a bit like “characters” and not actual, real people we’d see in a relationship or feeling the same feelings that these characters are supposedly having. Rafe Spall is a fine fit as Josh because he’s a bit of a goof and always seems to be getting into a bit of trouble, and has fun doing just that, but it doesn’t seem like the movie is all that concerned with going anywhere else with this character, other than just give us the fool we see just about every scene he’s in. Not to say that he’s bad, but it feels like he could have been a better-used character, had he been more rounded-out. The same could almost be said for Rose Byrne as Nat, even though she definitely enjoys playing the straight-gal in between all of these wild hijinx that ensue. Problem is, she too feels like a character you can’t believe in and only see as the type of woman who should have never gotten married in the first place or even bothered with settling down.

Stupid Americans! They never fit in!

Stupid Americans! They just never learn to fit in!

Everybody else suffers from the same problems, but they’re lucky that they’re at least a little funnier and used less, so it’s less of a distraction. Anna Faris gets a higher-billing than obvious main star Spall, which is definitely to appeal to a wider, American audience, and most will like what she does here because she seems to do it in every flick she’s apart of. Not to say that her act is getting stale or anything, but when she’s up against these fellow Brits, she does seem like the odd woman out who can’t quite hold her own when it comes to do something new with her act/image. It’s just being weird, slightly ditsy, and always awkward whenever the situation allows it to be. Simon Baker may have seemed like a strange choice as the other American here, but the dude has wit and charm that works, even if his character feels like a bit of a dick at the end of it all. Then again though, any guy who makes as much money as his character does will always be deemed “unlikable” and “unsympathetic”. In today’s economy, that’s just the way it is. Things will never be the same. Okay, they will be, but you know what I mean.

However, while these two try what they can and sadly fall victim to the lazy script, others in the cast really keep the laughs coming, going, and popping-up in situations when you least expect them to. Such talented stars like Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman, and especially Stephen Merchant, all get a chance to have their own, respective scene where they rip this scrip apart and just be funny. They all do so very well, that it’s a shame they aren’t in it more, or that they’re lovable wit, charm, and humor didn’t at least rub off more on the leads. If only.

Consensus: Rather than being a rom-com that is both hilarious, as well as heart-wrenching and honest about human relationships, marriage, and staying faithful, I Give It a Year only sticks with the former, forgets the latter, and loses it’s balance of dark and funny around the end.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Next best possible thing? A four-way perhaps? Maybe that's just me?

Next best possible thing? A four-way perhaps? Maybe that’s just me?

Valhalla Rising (2009)

It’s like if Conan decided to not talk. At all.

During 1000 AD, held prisoner by a Norse chieftain, a fearless mute warrior (Mads Mikkelsen) , aided by a boy slave, kills his captors making him somewhat of a free man, or thing, or whatever the hell you want to call him. He then falls in with a group of Vikings seeking a holy-land which begets a journey into the heart of darkness. The heart of darkness that most people don’t want to find themselves in, no matter how ruthless or dangerous they may be, which is exactly what this dude is, 10x

After seeing both of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s flicks so far, I realized that this guy isn’t always style, all of the time. Sure, he’s shown to be that way with Drive, Bronson, and by the way the reviews are turning out to be, Only God Forgives as well, but something tells me that the guy can do damage when he tones it all down, even if just a little bit. He does here, but it’s still pretty much the same shite, just with weirder happenings than ever before. And I do mean “weirder”.

Tales of vikings, barbarians, and warriors in the Ancient times isn’t the most intriguing pieces of work to my mind, but Winding Refn does something with that story that makes it so. Instead of making this an in-your-face, action thriller filled with cracked skulls, bones flying everywhere, and grisly killings, the film actually pays more attention to creating a certain type of atmosphere that actually allows for a story to breathe in between all of these moments of silence. There’s actually many moments of silence where it’s just long, sweeping shots of these characters doing nothing but sitting there, looking mad, looking dirty, and just thinking some very messed up stuff (or at least that’s what I assumed), but it actually helps the film in setting itself up for a very big conclusion as this story treads along, slowly but surely.  I have to give a lot of credit to Winding Refn for taking his own time with this flick and allowing there to be a tense atmosphere, as it worked and made me think twice about these types of conventions, we come to find in these stories.

Like that's going to matter against Mads.

Like that’s going to matter against Mads.

But the film really stands out with the certain essence of beauty that it has to itself, underneath all of the shocking violence. The mountains of grass-land in Scotland make this a perfect setting for a story like this as almost shot, has a type of Malicky-feel to it where I was looking at these characters, and looking behind them at the big, big world that they live in. That idea adds a lot more to this flick as well, because the whole basis behind this story is that these people are constantly trapped in a world that they can’t get out of, a world surrounded by God, and most of all, a world surrounded by violence and death. It’s a beautiful film to just gaze at, even if it is just the background you’re checking our. However, you can’t get past the fact that it’s also quite ugly in it’s own right, and if you don’t believe me, just watch the first 10 minutes of this flick and come back and tell me so.

This film isn’t a total bore-fest, even though I may make it seem though, because even with all of the long moments of deafening-silence, I still felt the need to gag at a couple of scenes due to the incredible amounts of gory violence that is shown here. The first 20 minutes aren’t “action-packed” per se, but they do feature some terribly disgusting violence that puts you into this setting that is utterly remorseful and gruesome, almost to the point of where you feel like nobody is going to leave this flick alive and with all of their bodily-organs intact. There was one moment that had me cough a bit, but it didn’t feel forced or exaggerated. It feel needed for the story itself and even though there wasn’t a butt-load of that in this flick, it still shocked me every time it came on.

Even though Winding Refn’s direction may be pretty inspired, in his own odd way, the film still suffers from a story that honestly made no damn sense, which would have probably still been the case, had I been under the influence of some crazy drugs. The whole story may have you think that this is going to be your typical story about a killer barbarian, that befriends a little kid, only to lead him on a long trip across the world, and they eventually find a peace between one another. That not only sounds too simple for this director, but also a bit too cutesy-bootsie. Something that Winding Refn does not enjoy but I sort of wish he did, because that would have made this story a whole lot better to actually understand.

"I think we found dinner. Oh wait, I'm not supposed to be talking."

“I think we found dinner. Oh wait, I’m not supposed to be talking.”

For the first 30 minutes or so, the film starts off by making sense but then it starts to get into all of this weird, philosophical-talk that seems to come out nowhere and rather than just letting it settle in every once and awhile, it gets used over, over, and over again almost to the point of where I wanted this guy to just kill anybody who chanted the word “God” or “My Lord” next. Maybe Winding Refn was trying to go for something higher (literally) when it came to this movie’s deeper meaning, but it just felt like he was trying too hard to take us out of the fact that this is a story about a killer barbarian who is looking for an escape goat out of the badlands. That’s all there is to it and to try and add anything else more, just makes it seem to desperate to be something more. Something that isn’t all about pretty backgrounds, brutal violence, and a slow-pace. Oh wait…

But if there is anything that may come close to saving this movie, it’s the lead performance from Mads Mikkelsen as the worst-named, but bad-ass barbarian ever, One-Eye. Not only is Mads one tough son-of-a-bitch throughout the whole film because of what he does to other people, but also because the guy never once even utters a word, but still comes off as the most intimidating mother ‘effer in all of Ancient Scotland. Seriously, just the look he gives everybody with that one eye of his is more than enough to have me shit my bed for weeks and he uses that to his advantage here because you can always tell what he’s thinking by the look in his eye, but you are almost never too sure. This character may sound more complex than Winding Refn ever gives him actual credit for, but Mads plays him up perfectly, giving him plenty of instances to show you that you shouldn’t fuck with him and that he also may not be such a terrible barbarian deep down inside. And if this guy has any feelings whatsoever, they don’t really come out too much, unless he’s chopping you up into teeny, tiny, little pieces. Basically, in a nutshell, this guy is freakin’ scary just by standing there and making your insides melt.

Consensus: The story gets very lost in the muck of whatever it was trying to get at, but Valhalla Rising is brought back to the promised land with an inspired, but very moody direction from Winding Refn, and a superb performance from Mads Mikkelsen that just goes to show you that you can still be cool, still be bad-ass, and still scare the shit out of everybody around you, without even uttering a word.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What's so spiritual about that?

What’s so spiritual about this?

Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)

Next time, make sure you spare some change.

Believe it or not, the flick is actually about a homeless man (Rutger Hauer) who hops aboard a train into a city that was once called “Hope City”, but has suddenly turned into a place that they have been now calling, “Scum City”. And scummy, is exactly what it is. People are killing one another, public terror seems to be an on-going feeling throughout the community, and it is all ran by a powerful kingpin named Drake (Brian Downey). The hobo finds himself thrown into all of this madness and violence and decided that he’s had about enough, especially once he’s set his sights on a single-barrel shotgun in a pawn store during a hold-up once all of this vigilante killing begins.

Much to my surprise, after thinking that this flick was non-other than a shitty-attempt at trying to be like the sloppy, “grindhouse” movies that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino strive so hard to go for every now and then, I actually found out that the director of this flick, Jacob Eisener, won a contest where his trailer would be attached to Grindhouse back in ’07. I’m assuming that the buzz for it was positive because here we had it, almost 4 years later and instead of being a less-than two-minute trailer, we had a movie that was less than a-half-an-hour. Like the movie it was attached to; a neat idea, just bad execution.

"Screw you Wal-Mart employee! I found it first!

“Screw you Wal-Mart employee! I found it first!

And when I say the word “bad”, I don’t mean it in the way that it’s actually going for, I mean in a way that the movie can’t really be enjoyed all that much because it seems to try so damn hard. Listen, I get it: the movie obviously wants to pay homage to those old-school, shit-fests of the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s by being deliberately bad and cheap-looking, but all of the time and effort into making that happen, can only go so far. Eventually, it just seems like that’s all Eisener has going for himself and the movie he’s directing. The dude definitely has a vision that’s as grimy and raunchy as they come, but just topping all of that off with random spurs of violence, rape, gore, and mass-killings, only makes it seem like a waste of a smart sense of style.

That’s where the real shame in this movie actually comes; from the fact that Eisener seems like an inspired-choice for this type of movie, but just can’t get it fully together. The look of the movie is odd, but in a good way. Certain colors are distorted to give you the grainy feel of those oldies, but also to place you in a world that’s almost too barbaric to be considered reality. It’s as if once the hobo got on that train and got off of it, he landed in a world inside of his own head where violence, havoc, panic, and crime occurred almost every wee-bit second of the day. It’s a pretty strange atmosphere that Eisener sets up, as well as one that works in a freaky type of way; it just can’t sustain a whole movie, no matter how short or tepid it may be.

Once the killings do occur and blood and gore spills everywhere, the film has some fun with itself and allowed me to join in on it as well. There’s nothing like watching an old man, with a shotgun, going around and killing people that seem to deserve it the most. Films like Super and Kick-Ass, that are somewhat similar to this, are perfect examples of a movie that has it’s fair-share of gory, unabashed violence, but isn’t afraid to go one step further and talk about what it is that it’s portraying on-screen, and why, in a way, it’s the wrong thing to be watching. For some viewers, they may seem arrogant, but for me, it’s a smart move on the parts of the writers, a smart move that the writers nor Eisener seemed to even bother with here. And honestly, not every movie that has blood-soaked moments of pure, vigilante violence needs to do itself justice and have a point, but the way it was portrayed here, in a negative light, it almost felt like we were going to get that one key moment where we finally got a chance to hear and see “what the story was really all about”, but nope, it never happened.

Instead, Eisener and his gang seem more involved and inspired with giving us bits and pieces of violence that literally have us feeling as if we just got hit with the red paint, almost as much as the actors/actresses in the actual movie. Maybe fun for a Saturday night-viewing with a bunch of your drunken-pals, but for somebody who was just lounging out on the couch on a Monday afternoon, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment.

Happens to me all of the time.

Happens to me all of the time.

But somehow, someway, that’s where Rutger Hauer came in and saved the day with his oddly-subtle performance as the Hobo. Hauer isn’t doing anything ground-breaking or original with his role that we haven’t seen done before, especially by him, but at least he gives us more than what it seems like the script is asking for. That scene in the hospital where’s talking to all of the newborns is surprisingly compelling, even as missed-place it may be, being in a movie about a hobo who runs around, wielding a shotgun in hand and killing people. Actually, that’s pretty much all of Hauer’s performance, as it feels like he’s doing a lot better than the script needs for him to do, but being the pro that he is, he knows what’s up and gives it his all. Besides, when’s the last time you saw a flick titled “Starring Rutger Hauer”? Exactly.

And then of course, everybody else in this flick is completely bonkers; aka, exactly what the script is calling on them to do, which means they are neither good nor bad, just here. Brian Downey is crazy as Drake, the head honcho who runs the town and knows what goes into it and comes out of it; the latter of which is mostly made through his disposal. He’s having the most fun out of everybody, as well as Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman, who both play his sons that want to be just like him and commit just as much violence and crime as he does, except they do it to show who’s the better of the two. By the end of the day, nobody is really better than the other, although I was happy to see that Allen from Small Soldiers had a career that didn’t consist of talking to action figures that sounded like Richard Nixon. Poor guy. His career went all downhill after the Gorgonites left.

Consensus: Though it delivers on most of the insanely cheesy, B-movie gore, thrills, chills and splatter-moments that it promised right from the first trailer, Hobo With a Shotgun gets old after a long while and it’s all because the movie seems like a carbon-copy of what Rodriguez and Tarantino have been doing for years, but have pulled off more effortlessly.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"They just had to fuck up now?!?!"

“They just had to fuck up now?!?!”

White House Down (2013)

After this, I think Obama’s going to start hiring more male-strippers for around the office.

While Jeremy (Channing Tatum), an wannabe-Secret Service Agent member, is on a tour of the White House with his daughter (Joey King) in an attempt to win her love and support back, something crazy happens. No, not the fact that the President of the United States (Jamie Foxx) meets with the group and even talks to his daughter, but the actual fact that a bunch of terrorists, lead by a trusted Secret Secret member (James Woods) and a ruthless mercenary (Jason Clarke), have infiltrated the White House and are already making demands. Just about everybody in the White House gets either killed, leaves before shit goes bad, or is taken hostage, with the exception of Jeremy who finds that it’s no better time than to prove himself to the president, his daughter, as well as the rest of the world, than now.

Cue up the overly-dramatic action-score when you can.

First, we had Olympus Has Fallen, which wasn’t as bad as it seemed to look, and now we have this. Oh wait, scratch that! Firstly, we actually had Die Hard, and then these two came. Yeah, that’s about right. See, what it is about these flicks is that it doesn’t matter how much risky business you try to take with your premises, you’re always going to end-up being considered “a re-hash” or “unoriginal”. In this movie’s case, words like that are almost too hard to avoid, especially since Olympus Has Fallen has literally came out less than 4 months ago. That’s not to say that this flick loses points from the get-go for that reason and that reason alone, but it did make me wonder many times throughout the whole flick, “Didn’t I literally just see this?”

"Shit, please tell me they didn't just turn on Step Up 2."

“Shit, please tell me they didn’t just turn on Coach Carter.”

The answer to that hypothetical question is yes, and no. Yes, because the same plot-threads are shown in almost the same order, and no, because this movie is way, way, way, way more ridiculous than that one. Seriously, the idea that the White House would get taken over in the first place is pretty outlandish, but top off of everything else that happens in this movie after the 30-minute mark, then you got yourself bigger problems than you’d ever expect. Oh yeah, it gets silly. Real silly.

The setting-up of the story, the tension, and the suspension of belief is fine because Roland Emmerich knows the type of flick he’s about to hammer our brains with for the next 2 hours, so he probably felt like why waste our time right off the bat. However, once the terrorists invade, shit gets hot, and people start getting killed and taken-hostage, the movie gets insane, and not in the best way either. “Insane” in the type of way that it’s almost so crazy that all of this would happen, the way the movie tells it like happening, is almost too ridiculous and innate to take belief in. Then again, like I said, it is a movie directed by Roland Emmerich, who is not known for being smart, subtle, or even realistic for that matter; the dude just wants to see shit blow-up, by any means possible. Even if that means destroying every audience-member’s IQ level, then so be it.

But that’s what you can expect from Emmerich and when it comes to that aspect of the movie (the guns, the explosions, the mass-killings, etc.), the movie is as fun as you’re going to get for the rest of June and for the next couple of weeks (except for when this hits). People come to see a Roland Emmerich movie, to see a bunch of fun, unadulterated fun that you can’t quite get anywhere else; and if somebody argues against that point, you can definitely say that it’s probably the corniest-movie, you can’t seem to get anywhere else. That might just work because once the plot actually begins to thicken and more and more layers are added-on than you can even count on your plate, the movie becomes as stupid as you are going to expect it to get.

Everything from the convoluted terrorists’ plot, to the jawwing-sessions of the officers in the control offices, is all made out of pure randomness and stupidity, but it’s fun to watch, even if you’re laughing at the material and not with it, like Emmerich probably wants you to believe you can. Almost every character here seems like they have something to prove, whether it be an act of violence or an act of intelligence, and none of it ever rings true. It’s as if Emmerich knew how stale and cardboard these characters were, that he needed to give some of them a chance to strut their stuff, and show what it is that they bring to the table. Sort of like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies, where everybody gets a chance to shine so you can see why they matter and why you would actually feel some emotion if they have to get killed off in the next couple of minutes or so. However, comparing those two near-masterpieces, to this pile of cow-dung is almost an insult to Mr. Abrams, one that I hope he never sees or hears about.

If you are reading this, J.J., just to let you know: I loved Felicity. Please don’t remove my name from your contacts. Please!

Sweet, sweet America.

Sweet, sweet America.

With that said, it does call into question whether or not these wild cast of characters can actually handle Emmerich’s mostly-laughable material, and for the most part; some fare better than others, which is what we’re used to seeing with this guy’s films. Channing Tatum springs right into full-on, action-hero mode and is a fine fit as Jeremy, even if everything he pulls off throughout the movie (from the running-away from bullets, to the swan-diving into particular areas a normal human-being would practically be crippled after performing) is utterly ridiculous to watch, even when it’s Tatum performing them all. The dude’s got charm and likability, as I’ve always knew, but his character can only go on for so long until you start to realize that he’s just a one-note guy, without much else to him. The chemistry he has with Jamie Foxx is very good and feels real, especially because they seem to love the hell out of each other in real life. It works well in the film, but I feel like more scenes of them just talking, getting to know one another, and realizing how much they’re alike in ways a common-citizen and the president of the United States would never, ever know about beforehand, would have done them both better. Then again, I’m talking about a whole entirely, different flick with a different director and writer.

On the evil side of things, James Woods and Jason Clarke lead the band of baddies that take over the White House in the dumbest way possible, but still make for good villains because you feel their raw-intensity every time they’re on-screen. It’s probably cliche to even have Woods in a villainous-role, but the guy handles it well and with pride, whereas Clarke feels like he should have just had the whole movie to himself, mostly because he owns it as the main baddie, aka, the one that can actually kick-ass if he’s called on to do so. Starting with Lawless from last summer, to now, Clarke has really been showing his taste for versatility and it makes me wonder what else the guy’s got cooking up for him. I mean hell, when you can “out-evil” James Woods, the king of baddies, then you know you got promise, even in a schlock-fest like this.

Consensus: As over-the-top, stupid, random, insane, and idiotic as White House Down truly is at it’s core, it’s still the type of fun and crazy movie you can expect from a director like Roland Emmerich, even if his cast from the outside looking in, seems to hold so much more promise for the material.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"I'm going to find that bastard who stole my wad of $ bills, even if it's the last thing I do!"

“I’m going to find that bastard who stole my wad of dollar bills, even if it’s the last thing I do!”

Monsters University (2013)

Now how much is a red cup going to cost?

Before they became pals working at Monsters Inc., Sully and Mike (John Goodman and Billy Crystal) were just your ordinary college student. They were young, ambitious, hopeful, happy, and willing to allow anything to happen, just as long as they finally had a chance to get their dream job. However, what some may be surprised about is that they weren’t friends right from the beginning and actually found more things to dislike about each other, than actually like. But through certain bits of challenges and obstacles, they will come together to realize who’s scarier, who’s wiser, and why they don’t like each other in the first place. Oh, and it’s also at a college so mind you; there may be some underage drinking involved.

Ending on the note that Monsters, Inc. did back in the day, it’s an honest surprise that they didn’t go forward with the sequel instead. We do like these characters and we would like to visit them again, but does it really have to be a prequel, especially one that takes place on a college-campus? I didn’t think so, but Pixar seems to really be scrounging the Earth for ideas, so it’s no surprise they re-hashed something that they knew would win over the older-crowd that still gives them money, day-in-and-day-out, thinking that they’re going to see the next Wall-E or Toy Story; as well as the new crowd that’s probably expecting something like Brave.

Those youngsters. What silly little creatures they truly are.

"Dammit, Mikey! Don't you dare mention the name "Boo". She doesn't even exist yet!"

“Dammit, Mikey! Don’t you dare mention the name “Boo”. She doesn’t even exist yet!”

However, I loved these guys so much in the first place that I wasn’t so depressed in seeing them when they were younger, more hopeful monsters, but at the same time, I wish the movie did more with the idea/premise. Basically, it’s just Revenge of the Nerds/Animal House, but with Pixar, so hold all of the f-bombs, the kegs, the nudity, the hardcore partying, drugs, sex, and pretty much everything else you’d come to expect and see with college, or a movie that revolves around college. That said, it’s a kids movie so I can’t complain about how mild and tame the material is, but I can complain about how unfunny the idea plays-out, which is a major bummer because Pixar has been known to take something, anything familiar to the common-brain and spin in it on it’s own head, with their own smart way. Sadly though, this wasn’t one of those “smart ways”.

The movie gets you with a couple of chuckles here and there, mostly through random references you may or may not catch, but overall, it’s a pretty dry experience. Nothing with this humor catches you off-guard like Pixar has been known to do, and is a lot more slapstick-y than it has been in recent years, mainly to get the kiddies laughing and happy. Which, once again, is dandy and fine, but what are the parents supposed to do? Just sit there in near-misery as their kiddie-bops laugh their rumps off by some monsters falling down a flight of stairs? Well, I guess so, but knowing Pixar the way that I do and sticking by them for as long as I have, I’ve come to expect more from them and know that they are about making the little tikes laugh, but also the older-peeps that brought them to the theater as well. Plenty of kids were howling like crazy at my screening, but the adults that surrounded me couldn’t really go along as it was just for them, and nobody else.

Poor parents. You deserve better. Except for when those innocent children all turn 14, then you’re dead to them!

But where Pixar really picks up the slack in is with it’s heartfelt message that is usually supposed to make the kiddies think, and touch the parents as if they were little ones as well. Actually, you could even go so far as to say that it’s Pixar’s strong-suit: if the comedy doesn’t work, get them long and hard with a message for everybody all over the globe to listen and feel something towards. However, what separates this flick from those others is that it’s message does not seem to really click with me as much as I would have expected, and I don’t know if that’s the flicks fault, or of my own.

Basically, the message is that all kids should not really set their standards too high, because if you live life long enough, you know that all of your dreams aren’t going to come true, but to also still settle for mediocrity. Personally, I believe that telling a kid that they should not believe in their hopes and dreams is bullshit because they’re kids and what else are they going to dream about, and also, I think telling them to settle for any sort of mediocrity is just plain and simply wrong. When the kids become older and begin to realize that the world isn’t going to hand them everything they want on a silver platter with a cherry on top, then I would say is the time to let your dreams go away and settle for whatever you can get. But when you’re a kid, and just about anything is possible, with your whole, bright future ahead of you, then I think you should stick to your guns, live the wild and young life you want to live, and if it doesn’t pan out the way you want it to, then big deal. Just don’t get yourself down when and if it does in fact happen.

However, that’s just me though, so maybe other parents want their kids to think the way this movie is telling them to. If that’s the case, it’s their prerogative, but mine is that kids should be themselves and be able to keep their dreams afloat, regardless of what the real world tells them is reality. Hey, I was a kid once too, and I had dreams. They sure as hell weren’t to become a movie critic of sorts, but they were dreams that I at least went for until I realized they had gotten too far for me to even grasp. That’s just the reality of the situation, but I can understand why some parents wouldn’t want their own kids having to go through with that themselves. Call it “babying”, call it what you will. It’s just life, man.

"I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world."

“I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world.”

No matter how far into mediocrity this flick went, the glue holding it all together was Sully and Mike, voiced terrifically once again by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Together, they make a great team and even though I don’t fully believe their obviously-adult voices as ones of college freshman, I was still able to enjoy myself and be reminded of what these guys were like in the first movie (which still ranks as one of my favorites as a kid, and still holds up for me, believe it or not). They’re fun to watch together, by how different and alike they are, but also by how they come together in ways that are believable and easy to understand, especially when you know what these guys are at the beginning of the first movie. I didn’t need to see these characters on the big-screen, but it wasn’t such a bad trip down memory lane once more.

Steve Buscemi also returns as Randy, who actually has an odd twist here that makes you understand why he is the way he is in the original; Helen Mirren plays up her “ice queen”-act as Dean Hardscrabble, the one and only monster who holds the all-time record for most scares, ever; Nathan Fillion is awesome and bad-ass, even with his voice, as Johnny, the head brother of the biggest fraternity on campus; and Joel Murray does an effective job as the older, but equally as goofy member of the frat, Don, who shows some chops for comedic-timing. And trust me, there is plenty, plenty more recognizable voices, and even some faces (I’m talking about the actual characters), that you’ll hear and/or be happy to see.

Consensus: Despite not being a flick we really needed to see after the original ended so perfectly almost a decade ago, Monsters University is still a pleasant, enjoyable movie for the family, but seeing as this is Pixar and knowing what it is that they can do with their originality, it does come as a bit of a disappointment, especially for most die-hard fans, if there are such people.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Like us all, Mike Lisowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

Like us, Mike Wazowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

The Bling Ring (2013)

If you can’t steal other people’s belongings, then how the hell do you expect to make it in Hollywood?!?!?

High school friends Rebecca and Marc (Katie Chang and Israel Broussard) find themselves bonding over their love for fame and fashion on the first day of class, which also leads them on to their next love: stealing. At first, it’s just small amounts of jewelry and money here and there, but after awhile, once the groups gets bigger, with two more added to the mix (Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga), and the fortune and star-appeal begins to get to their heads, they decide that they can’t stop while they’re on top and might as well go for it all while they still can. So, this leads them onto a slew of break-ins into some of the most famous stars’ mansions (Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, Megan Fox and Lindsay Lohan, among others). But since they’re young, stupid, and as vain as you can get, they eventually find things to get a bit too hot, almost too hot for them to control at a certain point.

Believe it or not, we live in a world where shit like this happens, gets placed on TMZ.com, and is considered “news”. However, it is real and does provide some compelling story-telling, so why not do it one better and make it a full-length feature-flick? Hell, to top it off, why don’t we throw in writer/director Sofia Coppola, a chick who seems to know quite a thing or two about fame, letting it all go to your head, and how it makes you feel like you’re everybody else, but also empty inside at the same time? Yep, sounds like the right ingredients to me, doesn’t it?

Have your popcorn handy, boys.

Have your popcorn handy for this one, boys.

Well, yes and no. More on the “no”, and less on the “yes”, but let’s stick with the positives and keep people happy, shall we?

We shall!

Anyway, Coppola being the inspired and stylistic director that she truly is, always has this movie popping. There’s always a wonderful color-scheme going on, some form of camera-trickery happening to take you off-guard, and shots that literally speak for themselves, without any needed dialogue whatsoever. All of those three trademarks we sometimes love and hate Coppola for, are all here to be seen and enjoyed, even if it doesn’t add much to the story in the long-run; save for one shot where Coppola keeps her distance from one robbery in a glass-mansion, where all of the action you see is through the windows themselves. Shots like that rarely show up in this flick, but when they do, they are very original and exciting to see but I think this flick needed more of that.

Okay, I promised that I would start off light and happy but screw it! This flick sort of pisses me off because of what it had the ability to do! See, Coppola has a pretty interesting story here on her hands, and what makes it even better is that it’s all real. Now, of course we don’t know how much of what actually happened is pure speculation or the truth, and nothing but it so help you God, but for the most part, either/or: it’s a pretty interesting subject that shines a light on what it means to be “famous” or what it takes to be considered a “celebrity”, especially in the day and age we live in where almost everyone is channeling somebody else more famous, in hopes that they’ll be noticed just like them. That’s the 21st Century for ya, folks, and as much as it may suck, it’s the reality of the situation.

But see? What I already discussed right then and there is what makes this movie/story so interesting to begin with, so when Coppola didn’t seem to do much else with it other than give us the same damn sequence of these a-hole kids going around, stealing shit from people’s houses, going to the clubs, taking pictures, showing off their gifts, and posting everything they took on Facebook, it seems like a bit of a missed-opportunity, albeit a repetitive one that gets old quick as soon as the third robbery occurs. I get the point that Coppola is trying to get across about these characters and what it is that they pulled off: their lives are so dull and monotonous, that the actions they commit are just about the same way. Nothing new happens, and yet, you aren’t totally satisfied and need more. That’s what a lot of people say about our generation and if these ass-bags are the clearest-examples of it, then damn, I’m sad to be apart of it. I’m apart of it, and that’s something I can’t undo, but I sure as hell do feel bad about it.

Back to what I was saying about Coppola though; the gal obviously seems to know what she’s talking about and trying to get across, but it isn’t as interesting or as compelling to watch as you might expect coming from a chick that seems like she knows so much about achieving fame, but not knowing what to do with it’s boring life-style. After awhile, it seems to become the same scene, over-and-over again, without any more insight to what’s happening, it’s cultural-effect on the mass medias, or the characters themselves. Actually, if there was anything about this movie that got me a bit fired-up, it was that the characters just aren’t the type of people you want to spend time with in any movie, let alone a movie like this; and that’s not because they’re detestable as it is, they just aren’t in the least bit interesting.

Each and every character in this movie is probably the most shallow you can get, and whether or not the real-life people were actually like this makes me wonder just if they changed and if so, how much? Then again, those are smart thoughts that are too smart for a movie that doesn’t seem to care about them, and only cares about showing what these characters do, whenever they aren’t bored with their daily-lives of going to class and sitting down on the beach. They’re boring and dull people that only care about the riches in life, rather than the pleasures that can be seen by the most simplest things in life, but we never get a chance to go any deeper because Coppola obviously puts her hand up and shows that she doesn’t want to judge them. Fine, don’t do that, but at least give me something, hell, anything else to really make me want to pay attention to these characters with. They all seemed to be wanting the same things, had no uniqueness to them that made them humane in the least bit, and never popped-off the screen, into my lap, and ready to have a wild time with. Instead, they just robbed, talked stupid shite, and acted like they were hot shit, while we all watched and wondered, “Why?”

They're all coming to my house, except for that dude on the left. Yeah, what the hell's he doing with them!!??

They’re all coming to my house, except for that dude on the left. Yeah, what the hell’s he doing with them!!??

The answer to that, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. No, literally, it blew away and probably never coming back. Smooth move, Sofia!

I even feel bad for the cast because even though they’re given characters to work with that could be fun and exciting to watch, they’re just dull and uninteresting and fall under the weight of Sofia’s insistence on not shedding a light on who they were. Works for a tiny bit, but once it starts to affect the performances, then enough is about enough! Katie Chang is good as the ringleader of the group who starts it all off with her kleptomaniacan ways and shows that there’s so much fun, joy, and feeling of empowerment when you’re going into these celebrities houses, and stealing their shit. Chang is nice and detestable in her own way, and is probably the most subtle of all, which does go a long, long way for this cast. Israel Broussard is a nice equalizer for her as Marc, the closeted-gay friend of hers that loves all the things that she does, including herself. His character seemed like he could have been the most interesting of all, but Broussard isn’t that much of a talented actor to pull it off and eventually, you just see him get dropped off in a pool of obvious cliches and happenings that you can see coming a mile away. Even Emma Watson’s character falls prey to this, only because she’s so remarkably dumb, it’s a wonder how she even got away with it all in the end. I’m talking about the character Watson plays, not Watson herself, although the chick is already known for stealing her fair share of shit from celebrities.

Consensus: Coppola’s style and unique-ways of telling a story her way, or the highway is what makes The Bling Ring a bit of an entertaining watch, but the lack of development with characters, reasoning, or cultural-significance makes it feel like an opportunity missed by a long ways.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry honey, you look good. Trust me.

Don’t worry honey, you look good. Trust me.

World War Z (2013)

Does every member of the undead have to be hopped-up on coke and speed?

Somehow, with no explanation whatsoever, the undead has suddenly woke up, only to now be blood-thirsty and biting every living human-being with their virus that spreads it on. Not only is it happening in America, but everywhere else all-over-the-globe as well and in the middle of it all is Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former United Nations member who gets called back to the line of duty in hopes to find a cure and beat this thing. Problem is, “the thing” that I’m referring to just so happens to be deadly, have little to no remorse, and as quick as lightning. So yeah, they’re pretty hard to get away from or kill.

Even though I can’t say I’m familiar with the Max Brooks novel, I do know all about the hooplah and controversy surrounding how this movie apparently only shares the same title, and that’s it. But that’s coming from a literary-side, if you look at it from a movie-side, you can already tell that this movie was landed in some hot water from the get-go as the ending had to be re-written, Pitt wasn’t talking to director Marc Forster, despite actually landing him the job in the first place, actual weapons were used instead of props, and a whole slew of other budget/editing problems as well. Basically, this movie was doomed from the start and it didn’t seem like anything it tried to pull, no matter how positive or cool; it still wasn’t going to make people happy or forget “what could have been”. Thankfully, the result isn’t as piss-poor as it may have seemed to be, but I still can’t say I’m typing this up with a smile on my face. More of a face of slick determination to say whatever the hell it is that I want to say.

Come to think of it, that’s my face for every review. Hm.

Even in the face of fear and death, Brad still finds a way to not only look sexy, but heroic as well. Whatta man.

Even in the face of fear and death, Brad still finds a way to not only look sexy, but heroic as well. Whatta man.

What I do have to give this movie some credit for is at least keeping the tension and suspense moving when it needed to. Forster has never been the type of director to really blow me away with anything that he’s brought to the big-screen, but he did a nice job at moving this story along at a fine pace, especially when he needed to do it in order to slide over the weaker parts of the flick, like story, or character-development, or any sense of meaning. That said, every set-piece that Forster gives us here is worth a watch, especially if you like big, action-packed set-pieces where zombies are flying-high, eating, and attacking human-beings, and the idea of having no idea what type of carnage you are going to see next. With that carnage, Forster is able to freak us out just enough to give us the willies, but if it weren’t PG-13, then we probably would have been more disturbed and messed-up.

However, seeing as this is a flick that wants to appeal to the wider-audience of zombie fans out there (and lord knows there’s plenty of them nowadays), you need to take in the fact that you’re not going to see huge loads of in-your-face blood, violence, and gore. Instead, you’re most likely going to see a couple of slides of blood on Pitt’s hands/t-shirt, violence that’s shown off-screen but heard, and moments where crucial parts of the body are hacked-off, but with barely any actual showing of the limbs or nastiness involved whatsoever.

It’s just so damn tame and feels like the movie was just trying too hard to get away with a PG-13 rating, and not even have the balls to go one step further and make it R. Honestly, in a day and age where Hershel’s getting his leg cut-off on television once a week, you’d think that movies would try to do the same, if not more considering they have more of freedom, but nope. They’re fine with just having a zombie movie without any close-ups on the freaky-looking zombies, or even giving us anything more than just a bunch of implied-bits of violence. That’s it. And trust me, I’m not some gore-thirsty freak that needs to see people getting cut up limb-by-limb, in full detail, but I would like to see more when you have a zombie flick, about people getting eaten alive and/or being beaten, just so they too can eat others alive. Just typing that wigs me out a bit, and that’s a weakness on my part, as well as many other’s, that this flick could have definitely capitalized on, had they not pussy-footed around it.

Also, as tense as this movie may be, the slower-parts do take over and try to give you some point of levity to these characters and the situation they are caught in, but it does not work. That’s not because the script blows or the characters blow, it’s just that the movie is so used to being big, loud, and CGI-packed, that when it comes to giving us the smaller, quieter moments that would make this more compelling and emotional; it drops the ball completely. Nobody here you really care for enough to where you want to see them survive, nor do they really make you feel like you could spend the end-of-the-world with them, and never got bored either. Every character here is just boring, dull, and uninteresting, and whenever the flick seems to want to get away from the killing and the human-flesh eating, there’s nothing else for it to go back to unless it wants to bore us to death. And when it does go back there, it does bore us to death. That much is true.

Yup, still sexy and heroic in the face of fear and death.

Yup, still sexy and heroic in the face of fear and death.

But I have to give Brad Pitt some amount of credit here because the dude knows what type of movie he’s in, and gives his heart and soul to making it work, especially with his performance as Gerry Lane. Pitt is in full-on, action-mode where he does a lot of running, hitting, shouting, commanding, and heavy-set staring, and does it all well with just the right amount of charm and likability to harvest our emotions over once the going gets going. Still though, the character doesn’t really have much else to him other than being nothing more than just an everyday dude, that comes up big when the people around him need him to the most. There is some form of gravitas given to this character because he’s played by Pitt, but not much else that you couldn’t seen done by any other actor on the face of the planet, which wouldn’t be a complaint for an actor in a role like this; but this is Tyler Durden we are talking about here! The dude should always have roles made for him, and put to perfection by him. Nothing more needs to be said on that.

Everybody else in this movie that shows up do what they can with the script, but as I said before: the movie doesn’t seem to give a shit about them, what they represent, or what they’re even trying to say, which is a total bummer because a movie like this could have really done something more than just being another dumb, loud, and action-packed summer flick. It could have put some more insight and humanity into the situation we had at hand here, but instead, appeals to the lowest common-denominator, which is all about big and angry things that go “boom”, “bang”, and “whack”. Whoever the members of the denominator are, will most likely be pleased with what they see here, but for the others who want a bit more with their zombies; it’s a huge bummer, if not as terrible as it looked right from the start. And yes, it did look THAT terrible.

Consensus: Considering it is the summer, and loud, big, action-packed movies like World War Z are common to see around and about, it should come as to no surprise to anyone that it is thrilling and fun at times, while also stupid, unengaging, and unoriginal by the same token. Expect nothing more but an alright time, and you’ll go home happy, if not needing more of your gore-fix.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

If that isn't the world's largest human/non-human pyramid, then I don't know what is!

If that isn’t the world’s largest human/non-human pyramid, then I don’t know what is!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,148 other followers