Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: 7-7.5/10

The Reader (2008)

Even the Nazis had to get a little freaky from time-to-time.

When Michael Berg (David Kross) was younger, he fell for a woman, Hanna (Kate Winslet), who was nearly twice his age. She taught him everything that he needed to know about life, cooking, books, family, women, and most importantly, sex. But because he was so young and hardly knew anything that he wanted with the world, let alone who he was going to spend it with, the years went by and Michael began to get more and more interested elsewhere. For one, he took up with a new girlfriend of his own and started focusing on his career. Because of this, Hanna inexplicably got up, left and disappeared from Michael’s life, without a note or anything. Saddened by this, Michael does eventually move on with his life and grow up to be a dashing, handsome, but sadly, flawed middle-aged man (Ralph Fiennes). But Michael is brought back to Hanna through hearing of a trail she’s being put through for war crimes she committed under the Nazis. While Michael never knew about this secret past of Hanna’s, he knows that it doesn’t make her a bad person. At the same time, however, Michael doesn’t know if he can bring himself to relive his very lustful younger years.

I know of many men who would do anything to be in that same bathtub. Just get that other dude out, though!

I know of many men who would do anything to be in that same bathtub. Just get that other dude out, though!

The Reader is the kind of movie that makes you want to punch somebody in the face. Because, for as long as it is up on the screen, you assume that it’s going to be these sweet, saucy, sexy and lurid fantasies that came true for this one dude, all those years ago when he was hardly even 15. But what works about these scenes isn’t that they are just chock full of butt, boob, penis and vagina, but that there is a small layer of fine sensuality felt within it. Most people would have a problem watching a movie that makes the case for a boy who has just hit puberty, hanging around and having all sorts of steamy sex with this much-older women, but Stephen Daldry doesn’t.

And that, to me, makes me want to give the dude credit. Not to mention a solid bro-five, but that’s for later when were singing dicks out at the bar, joshing around and laughing about all the good times.

But yeah, anyway, the movie.

So yeah, what Daldry does best is that he shows that this relationship, while definitely controversial and frowned-upon for sure (and also illegal, but hey, who cares!), is just that – a relationship. In between all of the humping, the pelvic-thrusting, the orgasms, and smoldering hot baths, these two actually strike-up something of a nice chemistry between one another. While she teaches him in how to make love to a woman so that he’s not the only one who enjoys it (which always happens, sorry ladies), he, unbeknownst to him for awhile, teaches her how to read. Sure, you could make the argument that she’s teaching him more about the ways of life than he is to her, but still, the fact that this movie shows that there’s more going on than just bodily-fluids being swapped, helps us connect to these characters.

And then, it all changes up.

About half-way through, the movie goes from being a very explicit coming-of-ager, to being another Holocaust/WWII drama that likes to prey on the fears of those who are easily vulnerable to these types of movies and love to tear up. In a way, this makes the movie feel less interesting and lose its sense of focus, but there is an interesting spin put on that whole sub-genre of film. Rather than focusing on the plight of those affected by the Holocaust (like, for instance, the Jews that Hitler killed), the Reader asks us the age old question that we don’t see too often explored in movies: Can we have sympathy for those who were on the other side of the Holocaust?

It’s easy to have sympathy for those who were personally being persecuted and discriminated against, but is it that easy to have the same kind for those who were apart of the SS? Cause, after all, sometimes, those people were the same ones who were just taking orders from the higher-ups, in hopes that they’d be done with the war as soon as possible, so that they too could go back to their normal lives. And hell, had they decided not to go through any order handed down to them, then they too may have followed the same fate as their prisoners.

But that’s why there’s a boldness to the Reader that I enjoyed and couldn’t stop wrapping my head around.

For one, we never know quite for sure that Hanna was apart of the SS, until we do, and it makes us wonder as to whether or not we can push certain truths to the side, no matter how harsh they may be. After all, she’s a woman who was just doing what she was told to, by those much more powerful than her. And it’s not like she still acts or thinks the way she does today, right?

Still can't stop thinking of K-Wins. Nor should he.

Still can’t stop thinking of K-Wins. Nor should he.

Cause after all, what we do see from Hanna, is that she’s a loving and caring woman. Sure, she can be a bit grumpy at times, but she’s got a reason to be. It should be noted that Winslet is great in this role as Hanna, even though I don’t believe it’s the role she should have won the Oscar for (Revolutionary Road would have been my one and only choice). But all that aside, Winslet is great in this role because she allows for us to see the sometimes broken-hearted woman that lies inside this rather rough and tough exterior that Hanna presents to the world around her. The role itself may have been written-out to be incredibly over-the-top and hammy (what with the over-extended German accents and all), but Winslet finds certain narrow paths to make it much more subtle and it works, especially when we get to the end of the movie and wonder whether or not this woman actually does deserve to be persecuted for these war crimes she’s being called upon.

Cause, honestly, does she?

Well, the movie brings these questions up, yet, doesn’t seem too interested on answering them. That’s fine, too, because it seems like they’re the kind of questions that deserved to be brought up in a manner that has people hitting themselves in the face, over and over again, trying to figure out what conclusion they can settle on. However, it does allow for the movie to end on a sour note that feels more interested in pushing its message across and lose the main focus of this story: Michael himself. Without him, we’d have no reason for this story to exist, but as soon as Ralph Fiennes shows up, it’s almost as if the character gets pushed to the side and all of a sudden, Lena Olin shows up, gets pissed-off and we’re left thinking, “What was the point?”

Sure, some kid got boned a lot, but other than that, did we really need that extra half-hour tacked-on at the end to remind us that, hey, the Holocaust was bad, guys? Probably not, but for some reason, Daldry included it anyway and makes me wonder just where the main focus was here. Did they use Michael’s sexual awakening as a manipulative path into talking about the Holocaust? Or, did Daldry legitimately want to talk about the Holocaust?

Eh, whatever. Too much questions.

Consensus: For awhile, the Reader is alluring, smart, and interesting coming-of-ager anchored by a wonderful performance from Winslet, but loses focus in the later-half and feels like it wants to tell a different story than it set out to do.

7 / 10

Is that a smile I see?

Is that a smile I see? Eh? Maybe? Nah, never mind!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Intern (2015)

White People: the Movie.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has come to a point in his long life where he has to make a decision: Either, sit around and enjoy his retirement, like most men his age do, or, continue to work whatever jobs he can to make something out of the rest of his life? Obviously, Ben goes with the later once he goes in for a meeting with a start-up, fashion-based e-commerce company, for the coveted role as the “senior intern”. Ben, as expected, gets the job and is then transferred over to being the main intern of the CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). where he basically does all the work she asks of him. This means that Ben does a lot of driving around, running errands, getting coffee, and just generally, being there for whenever Jules needs him. The two, through their time together, get along, get to know one another, and eventually, start to see how one another can learn from the other’s career. However, Jules’ professional life is starting to get in the way of her personal one and it’s up to Ben to help her get through it – that’s if, he even knows how to.



Like most of Nancy Meyers’ movies – there’s not much of a plot to go along with the Intern. Basically, we get an older-guy, thrown into a much younger, much quicker work-environment, where it’s up to him to see if he can still hang with today’s generation. That’s basically it. And if you’re like me, you’re already hitting your forehead with the palms of your hands thinking about all the cliches this movie most go through.

Oh wait, let me guess, because Ben is older, he doesn’t know how to technology? Or better yet, because he’s old, he doesn’t understand some of the slang that these young people around him are constantly coining every five-to-seven seconds? Or how about the character of Jules? Let me guess, she’s one of those workaholic types that’s an absolute pain in the ass to be around, but somehow, everybody still sticks with her because her company is just so goddamn successful? And because of this dedication to work, she’s also got a terrible and lonely personal life, with no one else to go home to except her cat Fiffy?

Well, thankfully, I was wrong.

See, Meyers decides to take this movie one step past all of the conventions we expect to get with these sorts of stories, and instead, give us something, although so incredibly happy, light, and pleasant that it’s practically sickening, more realistic and smart. Yes, the Intern is as sweet as a two-for-one deal at Krispy Kreme, but there’s a nice attention to these characters that Meyers presents and highlights as her strength; no longer do her characters feel as if they’re just acting all silly and wild for shit’s and gigs.

Now, her characters, especially with Ben and Jules, seem to be actual, living, breathing, loving, caring, and emotional human beings. Neither one, despite what they may seem like from a first gaze, are types; mostly, they’re just familiar characters that also happen to be very likable. And surrounding them, are even more likable characters that, although not getting the same amount of attention as the two leads, still add their own two cents to a story that, thankfully, includes them to begin with.

But really, this tale is about Ben and Jules and with good reason: They’re strong, well-defined, and have lovely, if somewhat complicated personalities.

Ben may be a bit more easy to enjoy being around than Jules, but even he sometimes seems like he could have some problems of his own. For one, he himself has to do deal with the fact that he is definitely getting up there in age and, in a decade or so, may not even be alive. So therefore, he sets out to actually make something of the time he has left on this Earth, as best as he can. I know this sounds so incredibly schmaltzy and corny, but trust me, there’s enough depth to go along with this character to make him, as well as the situations he gets thrown into, work.

Not to mention that De Niro is quite charming here, showing us a certain happiness we haven’t seen on the screen for quite some time. Of course, whenever he’s in a David O. Russell film, De Niro seems to be as dedicated to the craft as possible, but here, he seems like he’s settling in just nice with this role. However, he doesn’t seem like he’s being lazy or phoning it in at all; his character is just a genuinely laid-back dude who tries to approach everyday, as maybe his last. But he, nor the movie, is cloying about this aspect – you can just tell by the joyful expression placed on De Niro’s face throughout.



But really, this is Hathaway’s show to steal and she does wonders with her role as Jules Ostin, the boss of her own start-up company that may be growing to be something bigger, better, and more recognizable. From the beginning, it seems like Ostin’s going to be an incredibly difficult person to be around, let alone, work for, but as we soon see, she’s actually fine to be around. I don’t want to say she’s “lovely” or “great” to be around, because there are times when it seems like she’s strict and slightly mean, but then you remember: Oh wait, she’s the boss of this company. She’s the one who has to keep it running and in order to do so, she’s got to keep a tight ship. Sometimes, that means hurting a few people’s feelings and getting on with your day/life as if it never happened.

Basically, she’s every boss I never had. They were all terrible, evil human specimens.

But I digress.

Like I was saying before about Hathaway, she’s great with this character because shows certain shades and layers to this character that we might not have gotten in another film. That Jules genuinely seems to care about her company, her family, as well as her employees, makes it all the more reason to sympathize with her when she decides to choose one over the other, and then see what happens when she does make those decisions. Sometimes, the ball in his favor – other times, it is not. But always, Hathaway’s Jules stays relateable and above all else, human.

There’s a few scenes that highlight this, but there’s one important one that comes around the end, wherein Jules breaks down about what she wants out of life and how she’s absolutely terrified of it all falling apart. At times, the scene can be funny because of what she blurts out in a mostly serious way, but it’s all revealing and shows just what really goes on behind this character when she isn’t working all day and night. She, like you or I, wants a certain level of happiness and fulfillment in her life and she’ll do anything to make sure it happens – even if, at the same time, that means she loses other meaningful aspects of life. People who dislike Hathaway because of her off-screen personality, will hopefully wake up and realize that even though she may be a bit of a grating presence when she isn’t smiling for the cameras, still can act and work wonders when she wants to.

Consensus: With a smart direction and script from Nancy Meyers, the Intern is an incredibly sweet and charming tale that may be a bit too lovely, but still features character that feel like real people we could meet on the streets, or in the office.

7 / 10



Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Twin Falls Idaho (1999)

Brothers can be so clingy, sometimes.

Penny (Michele Hicks) is a hooker who gets dropped off in front of a shady-looking motel in Twin Falls, Idaho. Though Penny has no idea what she’s getting herself into, she sure as heck couldn’t have expected to stumble upon her two customers being who they are: Conjoined twins named Blake and Francis (Mark and Michael Polish). Initially, Penny storms out because Blake and Francis are only something she’s heard of, but never actually seen in real life. But, Penny soon remembers that she needs to go back and get her purse, which is where she apologizes to both Blake and Francis, in hopes that she’ll at least end the deal on somewhat good terms, even if she isn’t actually going to go through with “the deed”. However, for Penny, she sees Blake and Francis as two guys that she can help out and get to be more sociable with the world around them; even if they all know that it’s hard to actually believe that the rest of the world would actually accept them for they who are, and not look at them as some sort of circus freaks who wandered off. This is where Penny, Blake and Francis learn more about one another and grow closer, even if the rest of society can’t help but turn their heads.

How I imagine every guy acts whenever Michele Hicks enters a room.

How I imagine every guy acts whenever Michele Hicks enters a room.

There’s not much of a plot to Twin Falls Idaho. And you know what? That’s okay. While Mark and Michael Polish seem to try a little too hard to draw some sort of over-aching story to this movie, in a means of keeping things rolling, anything resembling a story-line is far from what they really care about. Instead, the Polish brothers would much rather like to focus on these characters, their odd quirks, intricacies, and lives that, in all honesty, probably wouldn’t have gotten the same kind of front-and-center attention in much larger, more mainstream pieces.

Except if your name is David Lynch and even then, I don’t know if you can consider him “mainstream”.

Either way, Twin Falls Idaho works well because it has a heart carrying it along. The plot, like I said before, tries to be something more than what it is (aka, filler), but once you get past all that, you realize that the Polish brothers do seem to care about these characters and how they interact with one another. Obviously, the lives of Blake and Francis are tragic enough to take over a whole movie as is, but the Polish bros. also incorporate Penny’s story which is definitely just as important to keeping the central main-frame noticeable.

Through Penny, we see how Blake and Francis get by, even despite their situation. Because they are literally attached at hip, there’s no need for the other to yell or scream what the other has to say – quite simply, they just murmur. And eventually, we find out that one has a weaker heart than the other, therefore, making it absolutely essential that the healthy one stays alive and well, or else it’s goodnight for the other. While the subject of surgery does come up quite a number of times, the movie doesn’t set out to use it as a way that shows just how wonderful life can get for these two if they just break apart; sure, it would be a bit of a better convenience, but it’s something that they’ve been living with for so long, that they aren’t setting out for that kind of treatment.

It should be noted, too, that even though the Polish bros. may not be the most talented actors around, they still do solid jobs here and seem like they genuinely have the sort of chemistry that two twins in their situation, would definitely have. They’d bicker and bite at one another, but at the end of the day, they’re all that the other’s got, so it makes sense that they’d get along and love the other. Though it can be a bit hard to tell the other apart, because they truly are identical, it soon becomes clear that one has more to work with than the other and that’s fine, too. Neither actor is bad, nor good, they’re just fine.

No. This is not a TLC documentary.

No. This is not a TLC documentary.

As well as they should be! They wrote the damn movie, after all!

Michele Hicks, who some would probably know a whole lot better from her days on the Shield, does a good job as Penny, showing that there’s more of a heart and shred of humanity to this character than we’d expect from what she does for a living. So yeah, basically, Hicks plays the “hooker with the heart of gold” cliche portrayed in these types of movies, but there’s a tiny understatement to the way this character is played and written, that makes it seem less noticeable. Though she’s the one pushing these guys out the door and into the rest of the Earth’s populations eyes, they’re still the ones who have some growing up and understanding to do on their own – she doesn’t help them, nor does she need to.

And it should be noted that Twin Falls Idaho isn’t constantly trying to be a sappy inspirational-tale of over-coming one’s disadvantages. While one person could definitely grab that from having seen this movie, it’s more about actually enjoying the life you’ve got, while you’ve got it, and not really worrying about who may push you back in the shadows. People will point, whisper and take pictures, but at the end of the day, it’s how you care and experience life that makes the world around you better.

Okay, so maybe it is a bit sappy.

Consensus: Despite an over-reliance on plot, Twin Falls Idaho still works as an odd, but heartfelt slice of life that we don’t usually see get the light of day, unless it’s for harsh laughs or horror.

7 / 10

Seriously! Which one is which?

Seriously! Which one is which?

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Movie Channel

Blind (2015)

Everybody’s got somethin’ wrong with them.

Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) is, for unexplained reasons, blind. She wasn’t always blind, but right now, at this point in her life, she can’t see and she’s just trying to adjust. She’s thankful to have her husband around to help her whenever she needs it most, but for the most part, she’s left all alone during the day, with no one to talk to, or bother with but herself. While Ingrid’s going on dealing with her own issues, there’s other people having their own problems of sorts. One concerns an older guy that’s too busy looking at and jerking-off to porn, rather than actually going out there and trying to meet a nice girl; another one concerns a mom looking for love; and then of course, there’s Ingrid’s own husband who seems as if he’s finding it hard to deal with the situation he’s just been thrown into, as well, which leads him to possibly mess around a bit. But the real kicker is this: Are any of these stories real? Or are they all just wild and imaginative stories taking place inside of Ingrid’s head, so that she can pass the time more efficiently?

Seriously. So creepy.

Seriously. So creepy.

The answer, we may never know.

On the surface, Blind seems like the typical kind of art house fare that tries to be big and about something, but more often than not, feels like it’s over-stepping its limitations. Then, add on the fact that this flick is Norwegian, and already, I feel the sweet, sweet aroma of pretentiousness hitting me slap dab in the face. But surprisingly, Blind is not that kind of movie I expected it to be.

While it definitely starts out appearing to be a sad, look-at-me-crying-over-here kind of foreign drama, it instead turns out to be something much more playful and exciting. In a way, you could look at Blind as being Norwegian’s version of Stranger Than Fiction, but without ever trying too hard to bring its feel-good message to home. Most of the character’s here and the situations they’re in, all feel real and relatable, which makes most of Ingrid’s stories, albeit entertaining to watch, interesting at the same time.

Of course though, the movie does run the risk of allowing for certain subplots to over-take the central plot, which sort of does happen. After awhile, it does become clear that whatever Ingrid is going through, although tragic, doesn’t really do much to keep the movie afloat. The one subplot that really reached far was the one about the middle-aged dude who loves his porn for sure. I apologize that I’m blanking on the names of the characters and/or the names of the actual actors who portrayed them, too, but it should be known that this role was written perfectly for this fella.

He’s not just a creepy fella we literally first meet as he’s jerking-off to porn, but someone who is easy to feel sad for. We get to realize that he hasn’t done much of anything with his life, even though holding out much promise early-on, and it makes us want to see the best happen to him. And this is why, when writer/director Eskil Vogt gives this character the spotlight, the movie’s at its most insightful.

Any other times, it’s just interesting. Which is fine, too.

I guess.

Where Vogt deserves credit is in keeping this movie evolving into being something more than just your traditional story about a random list of subplots that somehow, in some way, connect and further prove the fact that everybody on this planet is connected. Instead, it’s a movie that shows just how wacky and wild the imagination can run whenever it needs to be; though Ingrid may have her own problems to deal with, she finds a certain solace in making these stories up and, in ways, connecting to them on her own. While the whole idea of the gimmick is that we never exactly know whether these are actual stories to begin with doesn’t distract from the movie, or feel cheap, but instead, just add to the interest-factor.

Sometimes, we just have to let it all out.

Sometimes, you’ve got have to let it all out.

I know I’ve used the word “interesting” or at least some form of it, a lot, but honestly, that’s what this movie is. It’s as Charlie Kaufman wrote a script, decide he wasn’t all that happy, gave it Vogt and said he could do whatever he wanted with it. There are occasional bits of humor and fun, but overall, it’s just a neat tale that definitely deserves to be checked out. Not just because it has a neat and fancy gimmick, but because it does something with that to help put us in the same mind-set as the character that we’re watching and studying.

Which was, again, another smart decision on the part of Vogt.

Sure, while Ingrid’s own personal story may not be the most exciting one of the bunch, she’s still the centerpiece of the movie and keeps its heart in-place, even when everything seems to get a bit out-of-whack. For one, Ellen Dorrit Petersen is very good in this role and shows that there’s a lot of different shades to this character than just, initially, seeming sad. Of course she’s upset about the condition she has, but she doesn’t cry or whine for our pity; instead, she tries to do something about it and find ways to make her herself feel better and get more accustom to it. It’s still a bit beyond me why Petersen decided to bleach her eyebrows, but either way, it worked as it made this character definitely pop-off the screen a whole lot more.

Whatever that accounts for.

Consensus: With a neat gimmick to work with, Blind is a fun tale that doesn’t always make perfect sense, but is at least a joy to watch because you never know where it’s going to end up next, or what it’s going to say about its characters.

7 / 10

"See this?"

“See this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Nurse Betty (2000)

NurseBettyposterThe bigger question is: Why the hell do people still watch soap operas?

Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is a lovely, young woman from Kansas who is simple, loves her hubby (Aaron Eckhart), and loves to watch her favorite show, the popular daytime TV drama A Reason to Love. Betty is such a nice girl, that it’s almost insane to see what happens to her when her hubby is killed by two drug-dealers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), and then decides to flee the scene of the crime, in order to find and locate her favorite character from that show, Doctor David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Problem is, Betty is so disillusioned as to what the hell is going on that she doesn’t see David Ravell as a character from a show, but an actual character in real-life. Yep, she’s nutso!

It may came as sort of a shock to some of you out there, but this flick was actually directed by Neil LaBute, way before he started hanging out with Nicolas Cage and bees. However, this one wasn’t written by him but still features a lot of his trademarks: d-bag characters, dark humor, a bit of misogyny, and a double-entendre’s galore!

You know, what everybody loathes and loves about LaBute’s pieces of work.

They don't make cardboard cut-outs like they used to.

They don’t make cardboard cut-outs quite like they used to.

With this movie, we’re able to see that LaBute has a funny bone and even though none of his actual trademarks are here as a director or writer, we still get a feel for the guy and the type of material he likes thrown at him. Later in his career, that wouldn’t do much to help him, but before it all went downhill, LaBute was a pretty big, freakin’ deal at one point and it’s flicks like these that show why. While you’re laughing, you’ll actually find yourself following a story that’s clever, but is also very informative in the twists and turns it takes and at times, you may not know whether you should or shouldn’t laugh at what’s going on.

Yeah, it gets pretty serious, pretty quick.

Which, to say the least, can sort of be the problem, tonally speaking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bunch of fun that made me laugh, feel suspense, and question these characters and their motivations, but the tone felt a bit off to me. This is apparently clear especially around the last-act where, all of a sudden, we have characters shooting one another, murdering, bleeding, trying to save fish (once you see the film, it will make sense), and people yelling out for their loved-ones. It’s all very drastic, serious, and actually scary, considering we’ve spent so much time with these characters and all that they do, and now we actually have the possibility of seeing them be killed-off, in front of our eyes, is a pretty freaky sight. Not to always say that this movie’s most glaring problem is it’s tone, but when it doesn’t work, it shows and seems like the writers of this flick (John C. Richards and James Flamburg) may have needed a bit of LaBute-flavor to spice things up. Then again, that’s just the way I feel.

After Death at a Funeral, I don’t know what to believe anymore, but a comeback of sorts is clearly is in-store for Mr. LaBute.

I just know it!

But aside from that, everything else is pretty stellar about this movie, especially the cast. One of the biggest and best aspects of this flick, is Ms. Renée Zellweger as Betty Sizemore, our lovable klutz for the next two-hours. Say what you will about Zellweger, her scrunched-up face, her random marriage to Jack White, and her obvious, public drunkenness at the Oscars, the gal is one hell of a charmer and shows that she can make any character work, especially one that’s so strange like this. The fact that Betty is all in a daze and believes everything she sees is real, and not fictional like her favorite TV show, is more than enough to poke-fun at a character and make her seem like a total nut of a person, but Zellweger makes her more than that. She’s got a beautiful smile, a nice look to her, and is actually a sweet person, once you get past the fact that she’s a bit too cuckoo for Coco Puffs. But still, the movie plays off of her with such ease and Zellweger is more than up to the challenge when it comes to that. Without her and her earnestness, I don’t know quite how well this role, hell, this movie would have worked.

If this was the South, they'd be more than just fucked. They'd be dead.

“Next time, no driving Ms. Daisy.”

Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play the two dudes that are after her, and work very well together, despite them seeming like an odd-match at first. Rock is the straight-laced, comedic-man that is more like the voice of reason, whereas Freeman is the down-and-out hitman, that’s on his last job, wants to retire, and is starting to see more visions than he ever planned on, sort of like Betty in a way. Both have this odd-contrast between the two, but still do well at showing how goofy they can be, but also still have you a bit scared of what they could do next.

Greg Kinnear is also a nice fit as Dr. David Ravell, aka the person his character in this movie plays on the show that Betty loves to watch (make any sense?). What I liked about Kinnear is that he’s a bit of a dick because he’s a famous star that mostly older-housewives love, and seems to have it all go to his head. Yet, still respects and loves Betty for the fact that she’s able to be “in character” the whole time that they chat, but little does he know: She’s serious. Dead serious, in fact. It’s fun to see him play that idea up as we all know Kinnear is more than capable of playing a deuche.

He’s just got that look, I hate to say.

Consensus: While going through a few tonal issues, Nurse Betty still works as a dark, twisted, but surprisingly funny piece of LaBute fiction that may not have his trademark style, but still seems up the same alley.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a dick in this too. Much of a surprise to no one.

Oh yeah, and he’s a dick in this too. Not much of a surprise to any one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?


Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fort Tilden (2015)

Tilden1Hey, at least the beach is free.

20somethings Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) share an apartment together in New York and basically, do nothing. Harper constantly collects money from her rich daddy, whereas Allie is joining the Peace Corps for a mission in Liberia, if only so that she can tell people that she’s “joining the Peace Corps”. Together, they’re best friends who love to make fun of others around them, but at the same time, like all best friends tend to do after a certain amount of time, get on each other’s nerves. This begins to happen a whole heck of a lot one day when, for no reason other than to just relax, Harper and Allie decide to go to the beach. Problem is, getting there’s not as much of a joy as they’d expected it to be, what with transportation, money, responsibilities back at home, and all that. Mostly though, it’s Harper who seems to be holding the trip back, and this is something that irritates Allie so much that she eventually reaches her breaking point and puts their friendship into perspective.

Or so I think.

Always grumpy, never happy.

Always grumpy, never happy.

A problem with talking about a movie like Fort Tilden is that it’s so simple, easy-to-follow, and limited in its scope, that it’s hard to talk about its strengths, without sound so ridiculously repetitive. That these characters spend the whole movie constantly moaning and complaining about everything in their life, for nearly an-hour-and-a-half only makes more sense considering that I’m having a hard time recalling what it is about this movie that really worked for me. Was it that these two characters perfectly portray the millennial, me-me-me lifestyle? Or, was it that it’s a movie that didn’t seem to try too hard to be anything other than a small character-study of two characters we don’t get to see much of?

It’s a little bit of both, but ultimately, what it all comes down to is that the movie doesn’t pull away any sort of punches.

This is mostly in the department of how these characters are written, what they say to one another and others, and how it affects them, as well as those around them. Because Harper and Allie are annoying, snarky, mean, and are always putting others down for shallow reasons, it would make sense that spending a whole time with them as they try to helplessly navigate their way to the beach would just be downright dreadful, right? Well, if that sort of thing bothers you and you don’t think you can get past those problems, then sorry, move onto the next item.

However, for those of you who think that there’s more to that, then stick around cause eventually, you’ll find it. Though co-writers and directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers don’t exactly make these two characters the nicest human beings alive, there’s something sympathetically pathetic about them that makes it seem like all of their mean-spiritedness comes from a place a passion; the same kind of place that, had it been tuned-down a whole bunch, probably would make these two some very likable ladies. But because they aren’t likable and are never stray away from making people feel worse than they sometimes do, it makes them all the more interesting.

It would have been easy for Bliss and Rogers for Harper and Allie to eventually have their comeuppance, get together, turn the other cheek and play nice, once and for all, but they aren’t concerned with this at all. They know that these characters, for better and for worse, may never, ever change; they may always stay miserable, hurtful and nasty forever. But they’ll still be awoken to the world around them and realize that maybe, just maybe, their problems aren’t the only ones in the world that are worth caring about.

Two people more annoying than these two? Say it ain't so!

Two people more annoying than these two? Say it ain’t so!

Although Allie knows this more clearly about Harper, they still share enough of the same views and ideas that makes it understandable why they’re besties in the first place. They both love to sick the fangs into others around them that they meet and they most definitely love spending money on stuff that they can’t actually afford, but still want anyway. But together, there’s something about them that seems a bit off and it constantly makes this movie tick – almost as if some metaphorical bomb were to go off.

And eventually, it does, but the way in how it’s handled, is still smart for a movie that could have clearly gone the sentimental route.

It should be noted, too, that Harper and Allie are as good as best friends here, if mostly due to the fact that Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty share incredible chemistry together. Though they’re a lot more Valley Girl than most portrayals of the millennial generation would have you believe, they still feel raw and honest, as if Lena Dunham had gotten tired of working for HBO and wanted to show the real people she hangs out with on a regular-basis. Maybe that comparison is already scaring people away, but have no fear: Girls and Fort Tilden are a little different from one another that makes it easy to enjoy one, but maybe not the other.

But like I said, Elliott and McNulty do well together and also help but their characters through the way they hold conversations together, or in some cases, argue. Harper is a lot more childish than Allie and because of this, she’s holding Allie back a lot from what it is that she wants to do with her life. Anybody who has ever had a friend, best or not, can totally understand how this feels and how it is you go about addressing the situation – they’re still your friend, however, it’s time to tell them what’s up and you don’t want to seem too much like a dick. So basically, the best way to go about it is just to be passive aggressive, hope they don’t get too offended, and see what you two can do next. Unless they’ve totally ditched you and you’re on your own. For now, that is.

Because besties always come back. No matter what.

Consensus: Fort Tilden, despite seeming repetitive at times, is insightful, funny and honest enough that makes it worth a watch if you still can’t get enough millennial flavor to hold you over till the next season of Girls.

7 / 10

Of course Reggie Watts is driving around on a bike.

Of course Reggie Watts is driving around on a bike.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Tom At The Farm (2015)

Stay away from farms. No matter what the stipulations are, just keep away.

After the death of his boyfriend, Tom (Xavier Dolan), is left utterly speechless. That’s why, even against his own best wishes, decides to travel out to the country and go to his funeral, where he meets the rest of his family. Problem for Tom is, nobody knows that Tom is the recently-deceased’s lover; everybody just assumed he was straight. Though Tom does get a bit close at times, he decides to keep to himself and not say anything to the family about the truth; however, that doesn’t stop the recently-deceased’s brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), from getting all up in Tom’s business from the first second he lays eyes on him. Though Tom doesn’t want to disrupt what the family has already going with themselves, Francis takes it upon himself to torture and toy around with Tom; some of it has to do with the fact that he himself is opposed to homosexuality, but some of it may also have to be because Francis actually has feelings for Tom. Weird feelings, but feelings nonetheless. And it’s these feelings that makes Tom feel as if his life is in danger and may need to do whatever he can to get away from Francis, as well as the farm, as soon as humanly possible.

Console grandma and leave!

Console grandma and leave!

It’s weird that Tom At The Farm is just getting its U.S. release date now. A few years ago, while vacationing out in Canada, I actually had the opportunity to check it out at a local theater and thought it was only a matter of time until it hit the States, won everybody over, and all of a sudden, made me the coolest guy ever, because I saw it before everyone else. But the weird thing here is that, nearly three years after its completion, it’s just now getting its stateside release.

Why is that, honestly? Is it because Xavier Dolan’s latest (Mommy) seemed to do so well that studios eventually had hope for more Dolan movies? Or, is it because the movie’s terrible, has been collecting up dust for so long that eventually, Canada got sick and tired of it and just wanted to pass off the horrid stench of it to the U.S.?

Well, thank the high heavens, it’s not anywhere near that last idea.

That said, Tom At The Farm does have its fair share of problems. Dolan, as young as he may be, has already been criticized an awful-lot for being what some describe as “pretentious”, “too artsy”, and “repetitive”, and while I may not agree with all those terms, while watching this movie here, as well as his others, it’s hard not to notice a trend and wonder if he’ll ever break out of it. For instance, there’s a lot of showy scenes where Dolan lights a scene a certain way, hits the slo-mo button, and blares some odd pop-song in a way that may make hipsters think is cool, but to others, may be a tad bit annoying. Annoying, not just because it’s a neat trick that Dolan uses well and instantly makes people jealous of, but annoying, because it feels unnecessary, especially given how strong this movie is already.

But like I said, all those problems go aside when you realize that Dolan, for all his repetitiveness, is a pretty solid story-teller. However, what makes Dolan feel like a true talent is that it doesn’t even seem like he’s trying; rather than giving us everything we need to know about these characters, their situation, and what to expect with this story, right up front and center, Dolan allows for everything play out in a timely fashion. He’s vague on certain details, but eventually, you start to see some threads and pieces of an odd puzzle come together in a way that works for the movie both as a thriller, as well as a character-study.

That we know early on that Tom is a homosexual helps us identify with him and a person put in his situation; while he means to do well, at the same time, he also may be causing a lot of trouble and interruption. A part of him knows this, however, doesn’t want to wholly believe it. He’d much rather just pay his respects, find his lover’s family, know who they are, feel as if he’s completed an objective in his life, and try to move on.

Always hated being backed-up in a corn-field.

Always hated being backed-up in a corn-field.

Then, there’s Francis who isn’t as cut-and-dry as Tom may be.

For one, there’s something completely unsettling about Francis the first moment we see him. There’s a certain feeling that this character knows what’s up with his deceased brother and Tom’s relationship, isn’t happy about it, and wants nothing more than for Tom to leave him, his family, his farm and never be seen, or heard from again. This is understandable, but Dolan’s writing takes it one step further to show that there are some homicidal tendencies within Francis that have less to do with the fact that he doesn’t like homosexuals because he doesn’t agree with their life-style, and more to do with the fact that Francis may in fact be jealous of this life-style and has a hard time controlling his temper, his wants, his needs, or most definitely, his pleasures.

Same goes for Tom and eventually, the movie turns into a cat-and-mouse game between two unlikely protagonists; one of which is clearly more evil than the other, but at the same time, still human enough to where it doesn’t seem like his transformation is all that made-up. This Francis dude may just be as nutty and twisted as some people make him out to be, and it’s from here on where Tom At The Farm gets to be a little bit conventional. It’s still interesting to see how things turn out for both of these characters, but what ultimately started out as an interesting look inside the mind of a sexually-deprived man, soon just becomes a slasher-thriller – albeit one with less blood and gore.

More sex, though. Which is always a good thing, no matter what movie you are watching.

And it should be noted that both Dolan and Pierre-Yves Cardinal are both very good in their roles. Having seen all of Dolan’s movies, I’ve come to learn that, when he gets the chance to do so, is much more willing to take the back-seat in his movies. That’s neither a good nor a bad thing, it’s just a thing. But here, it works out well because it gives Cardinal plenty of opportunities to push this character, as well as this movie, further and further into the realms of darkness that nobody will be able to expect.

Those damn Canadians.

Consensus: While Dolan’s been better, Tom At The Farm is still an effective, odd and eerie thriller that works both as a character-drama, as well as a bit of a real-life horror flick, however, the former definitely works a lot better than the later.

7 / 10

With those eyes looking at you, kid, I'd head straight for the city and never look back.

With those eyes looking at you, kid, I’d head straight for the city and never look back.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

No Detox, but hey, at least we get a musical biopic!

Growing up as just a bunch of young bucks in Compton, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), all wanted to make a difference as the hip-hop group N.W.A. Sure, they wanted to rap, make money, party hard, and have a great time, but what they really wanted from life, was to have their voices be heard and, in some ways, maybe even change the world. Well, when music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) gets ahold of them, that begins to happen. With the release of their seminal album, Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. became one of the most notorious and controversial groups; most of it had to do with the fact that they’re songs were great, but also because they were so racy, that they attracted plenty of attention from law enforcement who didn’t appreciate their songs about police brutality and violence. But even though they were on top of the world and absolutely loving it, too, personal problems began to come into the fray where certain members weren’t getting as much money as they were promised, respect, or wanted to do something else with their careers.

"Yo Dre?"

“Yo Dre?”

Basically, what happens to every band ever formed.

Everything about Straight Outta Compton is as generic as you can get with a musical biopic. The rusted, ragged roots; the first taste of fame; the money; the expensive cars; the lavish mansions; the wildly kick-ass bangers; the tension between members; the idea of “selling out; the break-up; and of course, the eventual reconciliation are all fine points of the musical biopic that are covered here and even then some. In other words, Straight Outta Compton is nothing more than a dramatization of a Behind the Music episode and while that sounds terrible, director F. Gary Gray surprisingly keeps it away from being so.

I say “surprisingly” not because it’s hard to make a musical biopic enjoyable; in all honesty, all you really need is good music, good acting, and a good pace, and everything’s all fine and dandy despite the conventionality of it all. But the reason I say “surprisingly” is because having seen Gray’s past movies, I’m surprised to see that he didn’t lose any sort of conviction with this story and how it handles each and every bit of it. While it would have been easy to just end Straight Outta Compton as soon as N.W.A. breaks up and fill-in the blanks with post-script (as most musical biopics do), Gray takes it one step further and focuses on what happened to each and every member after the break-up. It’s a wise choice on Gray’s part because half of the story of N.W.A. is how they went from being the best of friends, to openly dissing and ripping one another apart in harsh, but legendary diss-tracks, that nobody in their right minds would ever forgive somebody over.

And this is all to say that the movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and honestly, it does not need to be.

Though, the interesting aspect behind the long-winding run-time is even though it’s clearly long and definitely needs to be trimmed-down, the movie moves so quickly and enjoyably, that it’s hardly noticeable. There were plenty of moments in the later-half of the movie where I felt like they could have definitely wrapped things up more efficiently than they did, but all in all, the movie never had me checking my watch. Gray keeps the story moving and constantly interesting, even if it does seem to cover the same ground and get a little phony after awhile.

But like I said, it’s a musical biopic that went through all of the same hoops and holes that most others do, and still, it felt fresh, if only because it was actually fun. Even when the hearts and emotions get heavy by the end, the movie still never loses its sense of entertainment; which is to say that it’s a treat for anyone who has been clamoring for this story to be brought to the big screen. There are the occasional flip-ups where its obvious that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had some influence over which light a certain occurrence was shown in, but overall, it seems to paint a full picture that makes you feel like you know why this group was so important to the world of music, why they didn’t last, and why their own respective members deserved to be praised until the end of time.

"What up, Cube?"

“What up, Cube?”

Hell, it’s even better than some documentaries I’ve seen.

And while I’m sort of on the subject of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube producing this, it should be noted that they did a nice job of getting a good cast in these roles, even if none of them really have to stretch themselves too hard. Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., is an absolute spitting-image of his daddy that you may have to wipe your eyes every so often to remind yourself that it isn’t actually Ice Cube up there on the screen, but his living, breathing, walking, talking and rapping sperm. Corey Hawkins is also a good fit as Dre, not because he looks a little like him (even with a slight hint of Asian), but because he handles the material well when we see the “true” Dre come out. And then, as Eazy-E, the heart and soul of the group, Jason Mitchell is very good and perhaps the most impressive of the young fellas, showing a huge level of depth to a person who would sometimes be classified as a “goof-ball” and all around “lady’s man”.

But whenever these guys are up on the screen next to Paul Giamatti, there’s almost no comparison. Clearly, Giamatti’s the most skilled actor out of everyone here and he shows that off, each and every scene he gets, because he’s constantly evolving into a human being you don’t want to believe exists, but sadly does. All problems with Jerry Heller aside, the movie paints him in a portrait that’s fair; Heller himself has even on occasion spoke of how he’s “just a man for money”, but the movie never makes him out to be sniveling, evil person that most of these movies like to paint the manager as being. He’s just another guy in California trying to make a quick and easy buck, no matter at what costs; sometimes, he’s nice about it, sometimes, he’s not. But he’s a businessman through and through, and Giamatti plays every side of that perfectly.

But poor Suge Knight! What did that guy ever do!

Consensus: Conventional and overlong, Straight Outta Compton feels like it could fall apart at the seams, but somehow, director F. Gary Gray keeps it all together in an entertaining way that makes it feel like the story of N.W.A. is, once and for all, complete.

7 / 10

"We've got somethin' to say."

“We’ve got somethin’ to say.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Irrational Man (2015)

If you’re depressed, sometimes, all you need is a little crime.

Philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) isn’t exactly in the right place of his career, or his life currently. For one, he’s just taken up a new teaching job at a Rhode Island college, Braylin, for summer courses and he’s always bored. He’s also going through something of an existential crisis where he contemplates suicide daily and can’t seem to maintain an erection, even when he’s with the lovely and super horny Rita (Parker Posey). And now, to make matters worse, he’s starting to find himself fall head-over-heels for a student of his, Jill Pollard (Emma Stone), who feels strongly about him too, even though she’s already gotten a boyfriend (Jamie Blackley). Though Abe doesn’t want to have any sort of romantic relationship with Jill because it would be inappropriate and unprofessional of him, he still can’t seem to hold back on his affections. So basically, Abe is not feeling too happy about his life right now and needs something to wake him up from this metaphorical slumber and put him back on-track. What will wake him up, though? Or better yet, will it even be legal?

It’s hard to talk about a movie like Irrational Man, because from what I know, not many people know about the twist that occurs about half-way through. Even though it was definitely hinted at in the months of pre-production and filming, many people I have spoken to, or at least have read reviews of, claim to have not known anything of the twist. Honestly, that surprises me a bit, but because I am a nice, kind, and generous human being, I will decide to hold back on spoiling anything related to the twist.

To be with Stone....

To be with Stone….

Which is a shame, because it surely makes this movie a lot harder to review now.

But what I will say about Irrational Man, in relation to that twist, is that when it comes around and shakes things up, Woody Allen’s writing gets a whole lot sharper. What’s interesting about a lot of Woody Allen’s movies is that they’re very hard to classify as “dramas” or “comedies”. He’s definitely had many that are either the latter, or a combination of both, but he doesn’t quite do the former nearly as much as he should. Even though Cassandra’s Dream was a bust, Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors forever rank as two of his better movies because they show Woody Allen in a different light than ever before. Sure, he may be able to deliver on the funny when need be, but when he wants to deliver a dark, sad and sometimes harrowing story, he can still hang with the best of them, even if there is a small wink at the audience every now and then.

And with Irrational Man, it seems as if he’s definitely come back to being slap dab in the middle of being a comedy, but with many, many dramatic undertones. Sometimes, that can cause a bit of a problem with this movie as it’s never full-known whether Allen himself is intentionally trying to make a drama, or if a lot of his dialogue just comes off in an incredibly stilted way, that it seems like comedy, but either way, there’s something more interesting here to watch than there is in say, something like To Rome With Love. Even if the bar isn’t set very high with that one, it’s still worth pointing out as a lot of Allen’s recent movies are very hit-or-miss nowadays.

Still though, there’s a lot to like here.

With Allen soon approaching 80, it’s not as if he really has anything new or interesting to say about life, love, relationships, poetry, literature, or anything else that’s discussed in his sorts movies, but there’s still something entertaining about the way in how these characters talk to one another. While the philosophical squabbles don’t really go anywhere, it’s interesting to see the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone deliver them to one another; the dialogue may not be as sharp as a tack, but it’s something different than what we’ve seen from these two before and it offers some entertainment just based solely on that level. There are bits that are funny, as well as there are ones that are just plain dramatic, but no matter what, it’s neat to see how Allen, no matter what number movie he’s on, seems to get certain stars to deliver his dialogue to the best of his ability.

Or, to be with Posey?

….0r, to be with Posey?

And with that said, Phoenix himself is pretty good here in a lighter role than from what we’re used to seeing from him. Phoenix doesn’t too often get to do comedy nowadays, and while he isn’t exactly supposed to be the most hilarious guy in the room here, there’s still some shadings of slight humor to be found if you look closely and deep into the cracks of this character and this performance. At the same time though, there’s still a lot going on with this character that’s a tad unsettling, and it just goes to show you the kind of talent that Phoenix is, to where he’s able to make you laugh along with him, as well as be disgusted by him as well.

The perfect antihero if there ever was one; something that Allen doesn’t write much of anymore.

Stone is quite good here, too, and gets to show that she’s a bit better at handling Allen’s dialogue than she was able to do in Magic in the Moonlight. The only problem that there is to be found with this character is that, sometime by the end, she goes through a change that makes her go from this lovable, doe-eyed and naive schoolgirl, to this Nancy Drew-like character who picks up on all sorts of clues that are miraculously dropped in her way. Once again, I’m being as vague about this fact as humanly possible, but it is something that didn’t seem too believable to me, even if Stone does try her hardest to make it work.

Because no matter what, it’s hard to hate this face. Maybe this face, but not this one.

Okay, I’m done now with my crush.

Consensus: A tad darker than most of Allen’s recent outputs, Irrational Man is slightly uneven, but benefits from solid performances from the cast and a smart twist that keeps certain themes from growing old.

7.5 / 10

Think it over, Joaquin. You've got some time.

Think it over, Joaquin. You’ve got some time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

SupermanposterNic Cage as Superman. Take my money. Please.

Way back when in the mid-to-late-90’s, there was a little movie called Superman Lives that was going to be made, but for many, many reasons, didn’t. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t come close to hitting the big-screens and forever being apart of the Superman film franchise. Director Jon Schnepp decides to take it upon himself to figure out all that there is to know about this infamous project. From the director (Tim Burton), to the writers (Kevin Smith wrote the first script), to the artists, to the producers (Hollywood hotshot Jon Peters), and to the cast (yes, Nicolas Cage), Schnepp takes a look at every aspect of this project, what went wrong, who was to be blamed, and exactly how far along everybody was in the process before it all went away and the movie itself would be nothing more than just a wild and wacky wet-dream for all comic book nerds everywhere.

In today’s day and age, superhero movies are constantly everywhere you turn. Just when you think you’ve gone a day or two without hearing of some new info about what a certain DC or Marvel movie is up to, something happens where people hammer-away at one another, arguing about what they want to see, with whom, and why. Basically, the world in which we live in now is a fanboy’s paradise and because of that, it’s easy to understand why so many people are hopping on-board of the superhero movie train.

Are you sold now?

Are you sold now?

Believe it or not, though, there was a time when the world wasn’t quite like that. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago, either.

It’s crazy to imagine a Superman movie not being made, but in 1998, it was most definitely plausible. And Superman Lives, the movie that was supposed to be made, is something of film-nerd fare; all of the odds were stacked against it, but somehow, it seemed just weird and ambitious enough to actually work, even if it never got made in the first place. Many years after plans for this movie fell through, we’re still here left wondering, “What would it have been like?” Would it have reached the same campy, but lively and colorful heights of Burton’s Batman? Or, sadly, would it have become something of a spiritual cousin to Joel Schumacher’s dreaded, but all-time camp-classic Batman & Robin?

Honestly, the world may never know. But it’s great to see that some regular Joe like Jon Schnepp seem so invested in the past happenings of this project, because he really digs in deep with this movie here. Of course, seeing as how this is about a movie that was never made, it’s understandable that Schnepp wouldn’t have the biggest budget to work with and on occasion, that can work against him. Every so often, when describing scenes within the film, or other scenes in general, Schnepp feels the need to use cheap-looking reenactments where people are dressed up like Superman and other comic-book figures, and it’s not at all used for irony. Schnepp doesn’t seem to trust his audience well enough to take his word for whatever scene is being described and allowing for the audience themselves to use their own imagination; or, as he utilizes in most cases, just continue to show art-work from the pre-production stages, of which there is insane amounts.

But all that aside, I have to give a lot of credit to Schnepp for at least setting out to make a movie that covers everything that was working for, as well as against this lost project. While Schnepp gets a bit too carried-away with focusing on the actual comic book side of this character, as well as the stories the movie was going to be adapting, I realize that it’s a complaint that won’t matter to those who like that sort of stuff. Maybe I’m just more inclined to wanting to hear about who stabbed whose back, why, and how that affected the film from ever being made?

But that’s just me. I’m an addict for drama.

Well, what about now?

Well, what about now?

Despite some of these small tangents, Schnepp still keeps his movie on-track with focusing on both the bright and creative,as well as the dark, ugly, and dream-crusher side of Hollywood. By having interviews with the likes of Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, and oddly enough, Jon Peters, Schnepp is able to highlight many different approaches to this infamous project, as well as the whole legend that is Hollywood. With Burton, we see the weird, but artistic side; with Smith, we see the nerdy, but funny side; and with Peters, we see, well, Hollywood itself.

While it should be noted that Schnepp doesn’t seem to really be putting the blame of why this movie-idea never came to actual fruition, he clearly seems to have an idea of who started problems with it all in the first place: Jon Peters. Much has already been said about Peters in the past, so it’s no surprise here when certain cast and crew members speak of their bad altercations with Peters and how he would, on random occasions, put workers into head-locks to prove how tough and in-control he was. Even if this seems like Schnepp picking on Peters, there’s a few times during Peters interview where he makes it clear that everything said about him, may in fact be true; he doesn’t come right out and say that he’s a dick, because he doesn’t have to. He acts like it as is and it’s telling that Schnepp doesn’t harp on this fact too much, but instead, just allows for it to play out.

But like I said before, Schnepp does an effective enough job to where we see how hard it is actually to make a movie, regardless of who you have working on it, or even what it’s about. Schnepp’s intentions may not be to show how hard it is to make a movie in the first place, but it certainly comes off as a cautionary tale for most of those who may want to think twice about getting their ideas on a piece of paper, so that some big-wig, studio executive can take it for themselves, tear it all to pieces, and basically, make sure you’re name is never seen near it again.

Because honestly, if a Superman movie starring this guy can’t be made, then what can be?

Consensus: For any fans of the folklore surrounding Superman LivesTDOSLWH will definitely help answer some questions about what exactly happened, as well leave some others up in the air.

7.5 / 10

Okay, well if you're not sold by this, then I'm afraid that there's no more helping.

Okay, well if you’re not sold by this, then I’m afraid that there’s no helping. Just enjoy Zak Snyder and Batfleck!

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Pilot

Southpaw (2015)

From what I hear, the more jabs to the head, the merrier!

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) faced all sorts of adversity over the years to make himself one of the best boxers in the profession today, and still be able to come home to his beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and kid (Oona Laurence). However, all of that changes when tragedy strikes and Billy is practically left to fend for himself. Due to all of the blows he’s taken to the head, not only is he a punch-drunk, fumbling mess, but he’s also lost all sorts of control over his emotions, which puts him in a lot of legal trouble. This all eventually leads to his house, car, money, and worst of all, kid get taken away in hopes that he can change his act for the good. Problem is, the only way Billy can get back on top, is through boxing – a sport he has been told, time and time again, that “he should retire from before it’s too late”. Still though, Billy sees his fight against the current champ, Ramone (Victor Ortiz), as his comeback one, regardless of what the nay-sayers may spout on about. To get back in shape, Billy enlists the help of Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker), a trainer who only helps out younger boxers, and nobody else. However, in Billy’s case, Tick is willing to make an exception.

That is, if Billy changes his act a whole bunch.

Hey, you two! Stop PDA'ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

Hey, you two! Stop PDA’ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve practically seen them all. Of course, there are the noble exceptions to the rule (Raging Bull), but for the most part, each and every movie that concerns with the sport of boxing, plays out like another take on Rocky. Underdog has dreams; underdog faces adversity; underdog faces set-back; underdog gets back on his feet; underdog sets out to defeat the champ. It’s all been said and done before, many, many times and you know what?

Southpaw isn’t going to change that formula.

Thankfully though, it’s the kind of movie that’s lucky to benefit from a talented cast who, despite having to deal with a very over-dramatic and sometimes corny script from the wild and wacky mind of Kurt Sutter, make better because they’ve come ready to play. Case in point, Jake Gyllenhaal who, believe it or not, is actually taking up a role written for Eminem. While I would have definitely liked to see how that played out, in hindsight, I’m still glad that the second person to get the call was Gyllenhaal, cause not only is he proving himself to be one of the better actors we’ve got around working today, but he’s able to throw himself into any role where it doesn’t matter who was supposed to be in it originally, or not. Gyllenhaal’s going to make you believe it should have been him all along and that’s why he works wonders with Billy Hope – the most conventional character he’s had to work with since Bubble Boy.

Which I know sounds terrible, but it actually isn’t; Gyllenhaal’s more talented as an actor now, than he ever was before, and it’s great to see him sink his teeth deep into what could have been a total paycheck gig. Though it most definitely is the kind of role that’s paying for Gyllenhaal’s pad in Malibu, he still gives it his all, showing the sadness and sometimes, vulnerability to this character of Billy Hope. He’s conventionally written in that he’s an underdog who brought himself from nothing, to something, only to have to do it all over again, but Gyllenhaal takes it some steps further, by showing that this character really needs to box for his life.

Because without it, what is he?

Just another average Joe, working a 9-to-5, having to come home to a wife, two kids, dog, and white picket fence? Or, is he a guy that has to constantly wade through the thick, the thin and do what he can to provide love and support for those he cares for the most? The movie itself seems to lean more towards the latter, but Gyllenhaal, even despite the fact that he got himself all jacked-up and scary for this role, constantly makes you wonder where his mind is heading toward and thinking of the most.

And of course, Forest Whitaker’s great as Billy’s trainer, as well is Rachel McAdams as Billy’s wife, but the reason why I’ve high-lighted Gyllenhaal’s performance so much is because he’s clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and proves to be the best part of it when all is said and done. Sure, Southpaw is entertaining in that it features plenty of boxing, running, training, cursing, and rap music, but at the same time, it’s a little too hard to take seriously at times, even if it so desperately pleads and begs you to do otherwise.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

You can, once again, chalk that up to the fact that Kurt Sutter is here writing this thing, but you can also add on the fact that Antoine Fuqua directed this and even though he’s had some good movies in his past, he’s no master of subtlety, that’s for sure. Every time it seems like Billy’s going to lose his shit and break something in his way, have no fear, because he will. Heck, every time that you think Whitaker’s character is going to have something inspirational to say to give Billy more hope, don’t worry, because he definitely does. It’s not much of a problem because Whitaker and Gyllenhaal are both pros at what they do and share incredible chemistry with one another, but after awhile, it’s get to be a bit disappointing when you know that they’re working with mediocre material.

Granted, you should always take a movie for what it is, and not what it could have been, but in this case, I’m making the exception. Whereas, on paper, with the premise and cast involved, Southpaw could have been a huge, hot and heavy Oscar-contender (like it was originally planned to be), with the likes of Sutter and Fuqua combined, their brand of unsubtle melodrama takes over everything and has it play out a bit more soap-opera-y. It’s what we’ve got, so I shouldn’t complain too much, but man, imagine what it could have been with some other people involved. Like, I don’t know, say, Marty Scorsese?

Yep, that sounds like a perfect idea. Somebody call him up next time.

Consensus: With Gyllenhaal in the lead role, Southpaw turns out to be a lot better, but can get so over-the-top and silly at times, that it takes away any sort of momentum that it can sometimes build for itself.

7 / 10

Good thing Rach wasn't around.

Good thing Rach wasn’t around, cause she’d definitely want to butt in…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Escobar: Paradise Lost (2015)

I thought Vinny Chase already did this movie?

Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) was known for committing many terrible acts in his life and sometimes, those who were closest to him were the ones who were on the receiving end of these said acts. One person who is about to find this out, up close and personal, is Canadian surfer bro Nick Brady (Josh Hutcherson). After he and his brother (Brady Corbet) are hassled endlessly by locals for using their land as a place to rest, Nick starts to date Escobar’s niece, who then invites him to meet her infamous uncle. Though Nick doesn’t know what to make of this larger-than-life figure that is Pablo Escobar, the two end up striking something of a friendship; with Escobar even going so far as to call Nick “a son of his”. While Nick is happy to receive this sort of treatment from Escobar, he knows that his true home is Canada and he wants to go back to it, however, little does he knows that when you’re with Pablo Escobar, you can never leave. And even if you do try to, good luck, because he will find you, hunt you down, and make sure you lose all those who are close to you.

He's just kindly saying, "Hello." No need to fret.

He’s just kindly saying, “Hello.” No need to fret.

While a lot of Paradise Lost has been advertised with Del Toro’s name and face pushed to the center, it’s actually the opposite when you look at the final product of the movie itself. Sure, Del Toro is in this movie plenty of times, getting his moments to shine and menace as the role he’s always been born to play, Pablo Escobar, however, it’s clearly Josh Hutcherson’s movie. That’s not to say that Hutcherson acts out Del Toro, but that is to say that Hutcherson’s character is clearly the main protagonist here that we spend an awful bunch of time with, getting to know, understand, and see as he gets himself out of whatever terrible situation he’s thrown into.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Hutcherson himself is actually very good in the lead role as the fictionalized Nick Brady; while I’ve been fine with his performances in the past, from here on out, I remain forever confidante that he can hold his own. Because the Hunger Games franchise is coming to an end, it’s time for Hutcherson to grow into his own as not only an actor, but as a man who is capable of handling adult-like roles. Here, as Nick Brady, he gets many opportunities to do so and it works quite well, especially considering the fact that a lot of what this Brady character goes through, can seem somewhat repetitive and boring.

While he does start off as something of a squeaky clean, overall good guy, Brady’s eventually taken down several dark paths that mostly question his sense of humanity. The actions that he’s called onto commit, are not only heinous, but quite surprising, and it’s interesting to see how this character handles each and everyone that’s thrown at him; while he doesn’t want to necessarily deny these choices he has to make, Brady is still wondering just how he can get by these decisions, and still keep a sense of dignity within himself. Slowly but surely, though, Brady starts to change in front of our own very eyes, and it’s very intriguing to watch coming from Hutcherson – someone who is so used to being seen as “a kid”, is now able to fully grow-up as a desperate, tough and unpredictable person.

And yes, Del Toro is good, too. But once again, it’s Hutcherson’s movie, and it all works, even if may piss-off those who were looking to see a movie where Pablo Escobar commits all sorts of dastardly actions.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Although we do get to see some of these actions, or better yet, the after-effects of them, writer/director Andrea di Stefano is more concerned with the plot itself and it shows. Not only does di Stefano know how to create tension, but he knows how to settle it all in a way that’s effective, as well as smart; it is, at one point, a social tale about all that Escobar did to Colombia and those who worked with him, but it’s also a compelling thriller. It goes down certain alleys you don’t see coming, but they also don’t feel cheap, either – they just add more danger to this tale than ever before and it allows the stakes to continue to rise, even if you know how it all ends for Escobar himself.

But then, at the end of the movie, there’s an odd feeling of wondering: What was the point of all that? Sure, we got to see how one character got so sucked into Escobar’s personality, that he was also the one who had to break away from it as soon as he realized he was in harm’s way, but other than that, is there anything else?

Hate to say it, but not really.

Maybe that’s exactly what di Stefano wanted to deliver on – a thriller of sorts – but it also feels like a missed opportunity to go deeper. Heck, having Del Toro around to play Pablo Escobar is already enough promise as is, so why not try to capitalize on it a bit more? The angle of focusing on Nick Brady was interesting, yes, but it also makes it feel very simple and easy, especially given the fact that this movie could have focused on so many more elements at play in this real life story.

Then again, the movie does cover a whole lot more ground that Entourage ever did in their third season, so I guess there is something to be said for that. And maybe, it’s just a case of me complaining about nothing just for the sake of doing so, but when your movie turns into a Colombian-version of Behind Enemy Lines, there’s a part of me that feels like maybe a few other angles could have been taken. Even if, you know, the angle they took worked as it was.

Consensus: Even if Del Toro isn’t around as much as Pablo Escobar, Paradise Lost is still a solid-enough thriller to be gripped by, especially due to the fact that Josh Hutcherson brings his A-game as well.

7.5 / 10

Can never trust a dude who rocks a 'stache that awesomely.

Can never trust a dude who rocks a ‘stache that awesomely.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Bigger, longer, uncut. And I’m not even talking about the movie itself.

A few years after Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) left his fellow stripper bros in Tampa, he’s struggling a bit to say the least. Sure, he finally got his dream job of owning his own custom furniture company, but can’t even afford to pay his one employee’s insurance, and not to mention, is living all by himself after his girlfriend (Cody Horn), left him because she “just wasn’t ready yet”. Eventually, the Kings of Tampa reach out to Mike and ask him if they’ll come along and join them as they travel from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for their last show before they bow out and get on with their real lives. Mike’s hesitant at first, but he soon gives in and realizes that the trip’s going to a lot harder to complete than he expected; problems arise, women come and go, and friendships are maintained. However, what Mike wants to do the most is break away from what his old boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), made him and the guys do. Instead, he wants to dance, shake, jive and strip the way he and his boys know how – it just takes a little creativity is all.

No matter how many people got on my case about it, I never tried to get the past that I actually quite enjoyed Magic Mike – or, as it was known back in the summer of 2012, “the male stripper movie”. Sure, it was filled with half-naked dudes, dry-humping, and dancing on top and/or around women, but because Steven Soderbergh was attached to it, it was surprisingly something more. While it was definitely a movie that featured males stripping to their skivvies for money, it was also a smart tale about growing up in the U.S. and living the American Dream anyway that one person can. Some prefer to work boring 9 to 5, whereas others prefer to get nearly naked for all sorts of women throwing dollar bills at them left and right.

Bro time is the best time. With clothes on, of course.

Bro time is the best time. With clothes on, of course.

With Magic Mike XXL, it’s less about the actual American Dream and more about the dream of, “man, being a male-stripper would be kind of cool”.

Because Soderbergh isn’t around this time again to direct (he does shoot the thing, as you can plainly tell in each and every shot), the movie feels more like it wants to be just a good time, without all that much thinking having to be done in the process. And that’s fine because director Gregory Jacobs understands that most of the people who come to see Magic Mike (see, not critics), may not care about whether or not there’s a heartfelt, compelling story about the human condition placed underneath – he knows that people will just want to see these guys dance, take their clothes off, and look buff as hell. Nothing wrong with that, honestly, it’s just a bit of a disappointment considering that the first one was actually a bit of a surprise by how much it sort of went against its target-audience; something most love and appreciate Soderbergh for.

But like I said, this isn’t a Soderbergh movie and even though the whole story of Magic Mike may not be as deep as the first, it’s still a bunch of fun to watch. The stripping scenes, as predicted, are a lot of fun but seem as if they’re more ridiculous and extreme this time around. That the plot is centered around these guys going on some sort of road trip, we’re now able to peak into all of these neat, little worlds where these guys can sometimes excel. We get to check out a drag club, a mainly African American club, a huge house filled with rich, older women, and, believe it or not, an actual convention for male strippers.

Highly doubt those exist, but for this point in time, I’ll let it all slide.

And with these new set-pieces, Jacobs gets his chance to light the screen up with as much crazy, over-the-top stuff as he wants, and it all makes sense. The art (or in this case, I guess lack thereof) of male-stripping is that you get as wild and as sexxed-up as you possibly can be, because the crazier and more fun you are, the more tips get hurled at you from incredibly horny women. Because male-stripping is such a wacky occupation to have secured in the first place, Jacobs finds himself in a safe place where he can go the extra mile with all of these stripping-sequences, and still be considered “believable”. I’m definitely sure that Jacobs and the rest of his crew weren’t wholly aiming for that element to the story, but it’s the little attributes like that, that help certain movies such as this all the more entertaining to watch.

Also, it helps that you have a solid cast to help work things out, which Magic Mike XXL does, and then some. Considering that Channing Tatum was basically playing a slightly heightened version of himself in the original, it’s no shock that C-Tates plays Mike this time around, the exact same way as before. He’s cool with the ladies, a good dancer, and all around bro that likes to party, but also wants a little more out of life than just fine women, fine cars, fine booze, and fine parties. Sure, we’ve seen Tatum challenged a whole heck of a lot more in the past couple years, but in all honesty, that doesn’t matter considering he’s fine as is here.

Eh. I've seen better.

Eh. I’ve seen better.

Now, when I first heard about Magic Mike XXL, I was very disappointed (but not too shocked) at the fact that neither Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, or Alex Pettyfer would be returning to their original roles here. While most of them are surely missed, the movie still does a fine enough job of filling up their roles, even if too manipulatively so. Though Horn isn’t here as Mike’s girlfriend, Amber Heard is sent in to pick up the pieces as a hipster-ish chick named Zoe, who sweeps Mike off his feet by how “artsy” and “cool” she seems to be with her tats and camera. Heard’s fine here, but her character does feel unnecessary, especially considering all she does is show up, flirt with Mike, and offer him something of a romantic love-interest to look forward to when he’s done his little trip.

But other than that, everybody else is fine and more than welcome to participate in the proceedings.

Most people who moaned and complained about the fact that the original didn’t give a whole lot of development to the characters of Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, or especially, Kevin Nash – well, have no fear. Not only do these characters get plenty of development here, but they even get some of their own moments to shine and reveal something about their personalities. Bomer’s character likes to sing and meditate; Manganiello’s wants to settle down, get married and have a family; Nash’s wants to be, oddly enough, an artist; and as an added-on bonus, Adam Rodríguez’s new character, Tito, likes Frozen Yogurt and wants to sell it in the future. Other characters show up such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome, who had something of a relationship with Mike in his early days, Donald Glover’s Andre, who wants to sing, and Stephen “tWitch” Boss as Malik, who doesn’t have any development, other than that he’s probably the best dancer of the bunch, aside from Tatum himself.

It’s all so incredibly goofy, but it works well because it seems like it wants to make these characters more than just caricatures of puffed-up beefcakes – they’re actually human beings, like you or I.

And yes, we’re still talking about “the male stripper movie” here, folks.

Consensus: While not as exceptional as the first, Magic Mike XXL still provides plenty of fun for anybody looking to see these characters strip-down, dance and hump all the ladies, while also still getting opportunities to talk about their lives.

7 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Cause after this, it's back to the real world.

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Cause after this, it’s back to the real world.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Of course hipsters have found a way to make cancer ironic.

High school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) isn’t all that in love with himself. He’s self-loathing, whiny, and actually kind of selfish, but because he doesn’t try to stand out from among the rest of the high school crowd, he’s gotten along with just about everyone around him; even if they don’t know full well, just who the hell Greg actually is. The only person he does hang out with is Earl (Ronald Cyler II), someone he considers more of a “confidante”, if only because they film so many movies together where they parody Criterion classics. However, one day, Greg gets a bit of a wake-up call when his mom (Connie Britton) strong-arms him into hanging out with a classmate who just recently came down with cancer, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Greg does so, but because he’s such an awkward downer, the early times he spends with Rachel don’t quite go anywhere that makes her, or him feel better. But as time rolls on, the two start to hit it off, although the fact that death is always looming on the horizon makes Greg feel like he’s being too rushed for his own good; something that he apparently seems to be struggling with as the prospect of college becomes all too real for him.

There’s been many “twee” movies before Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and don’t worry, because there will be plenty of more. It’s just up to all of us to figure out what respective movie out of this subcategory is worth checking out, seeing as how it still works and is relatable enough, even despite all of its tendencies; or, if it’s just a piece of pretentious crap that only film school kids would love and adore. And thankfully, Earl is definitely part of the former.

It's hard to be pissed when Nick Offerman's around, though.

It’s hard to be pissed when Nick Offerman’s around, though.

Although it definitely does flirt with being a part of the later.

One thing to be said about Earl, is that it definitely loves itself. The whole plot-line surrounds the fact that all of these characters are so awkward and weird with themselves, that when it comes to honest, one-on-one interaction with another human being, it’s stumbling and odd. That’s the whole idea surrounding this plot and while it definitely offers up some neat little pieces of insight into teenage characters we don’t normally see these kinds of movies made about, the movie still thinks that having a numerous amount of scenes where characters stutter, mumble and dance awkwardly around what they want to say next, is the perfect solution for hilarity. Problem is, it isn’t and it gets to be a little annoying.

Though, the movie definitely does improve after the first half-hour or so. Some of this has to do with the fact that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon seemed to be struggling with how to find his footing with this material; which thankfully, he does, because the movie becomes something of a pleasant delight as it goes along. The movie may never fully get past hugging and patting itself on the back, but it does also realize that there are some real issues to deal with, rather than just shoving them off to the side, shrugging it all off, and moving on while moaning and complaining about how the world just doesn’t get them.

Sorry about that. A little tangent always seems to come from me when I talk about these hipster-ish types.

A girls room: The place any teenage male would want to be and yet, he clearly seems not to care.

A girls room: The place any teenage male would want to be and yet, he clearly seems not to care.

Anyway, as time goes on, Earl finds itself in a sweet place as it begins to discuss certain ideas that we don’t too often see in these kinds of movies. Whereas one movie would make the cancer all about the fact that life is ending, Earl takes it one step further and uses this as a device to explain what it’s like to grow up, realize that your future is right ahead of you, and it’s about time to take a hold of it. Don’t get me wrong, though, the movie doesn’t forget that there is a life in danger here at the forefront, however, it doesn’t also forget to explore the beauty in living one’s life, whether it was planned perfectly, or not. Sometimes, that’s the beauty of life – it can end up in places that you’d never expect.

And at the center of this flick, is the tender relationship that Rachel and Greg have – however, don’t expect it to go in places you’d normally expect it to (as the movie, once again, constantly reminds you of itself). While it would be so incredibly easy to pin-point exactly when Rachel and Greg would find certain interests with one another, start to get along, bond, and, eventually as time rolled on along, fall in love, this movie’s a lot smarter than that. Sure, they bond, get to know one another and definitely make each other better as a result, but they don’t have that one key moment where they fall in love, shout it out to the stars and decide to take a trip to the Anne Frank house.

Once again, I’m sorry, but sometimes, I can’t help myself.

As Rachel and Greg, respectively, Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann are both quite good in roles that seem to be tailor-made for their strengths. Cooke is smart, smarmy and funny, but she’s never too much of so to make us forget that her character is still dealing with some incredibly life-altering problems, and it’s these moments where she seems to break down and remind us of this that have the most impact. As for Mann, his character is more one-note in terms of how he constantly just shoulder-shrugs his way through each and every scene, but he makes it work with smaller, less-seen subtleties in scenes that you wouldn’t expect him to have it. Sure, he may be self-loathing and a tad bit self-righteous, but he also seems to clearly care for others when push comes to shove and definitely wants that human connection he hears is so much of the rage back home. And then, of course, there’s Earl, played wonderfully by Ronald Cyler II, who you should know is just as charming as the title makes him out to be.

Hence why he’s in the title.

Consensus: While some of its stylistic tendencies tend to get a bit excessive, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl still keeps its heart in the right place to make it affecting coming-of-ager, without really settling for the sappy moments these kinds of movies are expected to have.

7.5 / 10

Basically, Be Kind Rewind, the junior version.

Basically, Be Kind Rewind, the junior version.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Jurassic World (2015)

Next summer, just go to Six Flags.

A little over 20 years since the disastrous incident that occurred at Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is now up, running and pretty damn successful. It’s considered one of the more popular theme parks on the planet, where it features all sorts of dinosaurs, games, rides, and scientists working on genetically-modified dinosaurs. Wait, what? Yep, just like they were doing those many years ago, scientists at Jurassic World are now trying to figure out how they can make bigger, better and more efficient dinosaurs so that they can keep attendance booming over a large period of time. While the operation’s manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), sees no problem in this, one of the Velociraptor’s trainers, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), does and sees that it’s only a matter of time until the dinosaurs decide to bite back. Eventually, on one fateful day when two brothers (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting the park, the T-Rex that they have hidden away at the park gets loose and decides to run all sorts of havoc around the park. Now, it’s only a matter of time until too much damage is done and nobody can stop it; something that Grady, as well as some shady businessmen, want to make happen.

Let’s get one thing clear: Jurassic World is definitely the better of the Jurassic Park sequels. Sure, that may not be saying much, but considering that so many sequels/reboots/remakes/cash-ins seem to pop by every other week or so, without seeming like any life was put into them at all, it’s saying a whole lot. It’s saying that Steven Spielberg made a smart decision on taking a back-seat to his prized possession and allow young up-and-comer Colin Trevorrow take over the reigns; a job he does fine enough with to where there’s some brief instances of a sense of fun and wonder in the tips of his hands.

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

So yeah, it’s a good movie. Is it great? Nope, but sometimes, that doesn’t always matter.

Where Trevorrow seems to drop the ball a bit is in making sense of this story to its fullest extent. For one, it’s interesting that even though there’s so much talk about the theme park of Jurassic World itself, and in how it’s trying to be the biggest, best, and greatest thing to ever hit the Earth, makes me wonder what the message was trying to be conveyed here. In a day and age we live in where SeaWorld seems to constantly be getting hit with controversy after controversy, it’s almost idiotic to avoid discussing this in any way, especially when your own movie seems to be dealing with the same problems, in a theme park where animals are held, no less.

But what’s odd is that the movie doesn’t ever seem to know what sort of stance it wants to take. We don’t know if we’re supposed to feel pity for the genetically-modified dinosaurs and how they’re just acting out the way they would be, had they not been so held in captivity for so long, or if we’re supposed to feel bad for the human beings who are just trying to run away and save their own lives. In the original film, it was clear that we’re supposed to care for the humans, but also realize that the dinosaurs were acting out in menacing ways that made them deserve to be put down. Trevorrow and company, for some odd reason, constantly juggle between the two and it creates a weird jumble that never seems to be fully pinned-down.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of how the characters, despite the lovely cast playing them, are a bit on the bland side. One of the hottest, brightest, talented and most charming stars we have working in movies today, Chris Pratt, is given the hero role as Owen Grady and it doesn’t seem like it fully goes as deep as it should have. Sure, Pratt gets a chance to use some lines, look tough and constantly seem like he’s always in control, but he plays it in such a way that’s almost too straight; as if he was just playing Burt Macklin, through and through, and forgetting to drop out of character. Of course, this may have more to do with the writing that was made for him, which is a shame, but it puts into question as to why the writers didn’t decide to give Pratt, one of the funnier men in movies today, at least a joke or two to work with?

Just seems weird, is all.

Who is it that's supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham's daughter?

Who is it that’s supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham’s daughter?

Bryce Dallas Howard is sort of in the same boat as Pratt, where her character seems like she’s just window-dressing to a lot of action and a random romantic subplot that seems to come a tad bit out of nowhere. Then, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play her nephews who seem to be there to yell, run and scream a whole lot; Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, who will occasionally sound like he has a Southern accent, and then, suddenly, drop out of it; and well, there’s plenty more along the likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Irrfan Khan, and B.D. Wong, all of whom do what they can, but aren’t always given much to work with because of the visual-display on hand.

With that said, too, the movie itself is actually all fine. There’s just been so many complaints about the characters that it felt like it needed to be addressed, because while they’re definitely lame, they don’t destroy the movie. It’s still a fun time, which seems to be because Trevorrow still knows what it’s like to watch a movie as a kid – just as Spielberg seems to have always intended with his movies.

Though some moan and complain about the fact that the movie takes about an hour to get to any sort of dinosaur action, or any action of any sort, for that matter, it still seemed to work for me, the same way it did for me in Godzilla. Whereas that movie kept us in the dark about what it prized-attraction looked like and was capable of doing, Jurassic World seems to understand that we know what its star looks like and can do, however, when it’ll come into play is what really makes the anticipation all the more worth it. Once the T-Rex is unleashed and all hell breaks loose, the movie still keeps its fun tone alive and well, but at the same time, still terrifying to where it doesn’t seem watered-down like most PG-13 movies can be, especially when they’re made for a larger audience.

So basically, come to this one for all of the action and fun, don’t bother even taking a glance at the characters; you’ll only leave pissed-off.

Consensus: Though definitely lacking in the story and character department, Jurassic World benefits from a fun and exciting feel that makes it a summer blockbuster worth checking out, even if the “other” sequels still leave rancid tastes in your mouth.

7 / 10

Meh. Whatever.

Meh. Whatever.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)

I’m still a kid and I don’t care who knows it!

After the Krabby Patty mysteriously loses the famous recipe to one of its most prized possessions, all hell breaks loose in the Bikini Bottom. Civilization breaks down, friends become enemies, and basically, it’s everything for themselves. However, Spongebob loves his little pineapple under the sea, as well as everybody around it so much, that he’s willing to go to the ends of the sea to find out what happened to the recipe, who has it, and exactly how he can get it back. But to do this, he may have to enlist the help of a known rival of his, Plankton – someone who has been clamoring for the Krabby Patty recipe for many, many decades, all due to a long rivalry with the owner, Mr. Crabs. All personal problems between the two aside, they’ll both have to look far and wide no matter where they go, even if they don’t know that it happens to be none other than Burger-Beard the Pirate (Antonio Banderas) himself, who is using the recipe to his own gain on dry land. Which, in case you haven’t been able to tell just yet, isn’t ideal for these sea creatures.

Having grown up in the late-90’s/early-aughts, many hours of mine were spent in front of television sets watching Spongebob Squarepants. I was there when the first episode aired on Nickelodeon (after the Kids Choice Awards, I think), and I stayed with it for quite some time, even as I started to grow older and my humor matured a bit (although, don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate a nice fart joke here and there). However, that was the beauty of Spongebob: I may have been young and laughed myself silly, eventually, I got older and realized that there will still plenty of jokes for me, the older version of myself, to chuckle at. Though it’s recently been watered-down by an over-reliance on kids humor, Spongebob will forever have a special place in my heart and will be the one animated show that I, one day, will hopefully get the chance to pass down to my offspring.



This movie may not be the one I rush my kids to see first, but I’ll still bring it up to them to remind them that hey, it’s out there and hey, it’s actually alright.

What worked so well about the series, and what those behind the movie didn’t forget about, was how the humor could be so strange and bizarre, but at the same token, still work. The reason for that was because the people who created Spongebob made it into this insane world where practically anything could happen, whenever it saw fit. Sometimes it would come out of left field, sometimes it would be expected, but most of all, it was usually funny. Here, with the movie, the same happens where we’ll get certain scenes that seem to have been made from the slight influence of some sort of hallucinogenic, and then, moments later, get a silly pun that practically everyone can take notice of.

And with that said, just like the show, the movie gets down the right amount of jokes made strictly for kids, as well as those for adults. However, they don’t necessarily overlap. Whereas kids will laugh at a character falling down, getting hurt, or ripping their pants, the parents will probably laugh at a joke aimed more towards them that actually deconstruct the Bikini Bottom a bit. But nonetheless, the jokes aimed towards the parents never get “too mature” to where they could be deemed “inappropriate”; they tread that fine line between and it helps to create a cohesive sense of humor, even while the plot progresses.

Now, with the plot taken into consideration, there is something to be said for a movie that probably didn’t need to go into live-action territory like it does so here. However, what’s so interesting about all of the advertising for this movie, is that it clearly pushes the angle down everybody’s throats that Spongebob and everybody else turn into real-life, 3D figures in a real, live-action environment – even if, you know, that doesn’t happen until the final-act. For the most part, a good portion of this movie stays in regular, 2D animation, as if it were just another episode and it works. It goes to show you that you don’t need all of the gimmicky, pyrotechnics to get the audience involved, or, at the least, intrigued in your product; all you need, sometimes, is a good story, with an even better sense of humor.

Once again, meh.

Once again, meh.

That’s why, when we’re all of a sudden placed into a live-action environment, the movie gets a bit iffy. The jokes still hit and the movie doesn’t lose its self-deprecating sense of humor neither, but it just feels unnecessary, especially considering the fact that the first two-halves of the movie worked so well, and it didn’t even seem like they were trying. Of course, the live-action elements benefit from the fact that Antonio Banderas is having a blast playing up his machismo as Burger-Beard the Pirate, but even then, his act gets a little old as we realize that he’s just there to service the plot and keep things moving forward.

Which calls into question: Do you really need much of a driving plot to keep Spongebob enjoyable?

No, not really, but whatever. Maybe I’m just looking a bit too deep into this thing. Because even while the creators make the smart move of not crapping on a part of my beloved childhood, I still am finding something to bitch and moan about no matter what. Which is to say, don’t listen to me and just enjoy Spongebob for what it is. I did so and I have been doing for the past 16 or so years.

God, man. I sure as hell am getting old.

Consensus: Without sacrificing its trademark wild sense of humor, Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water works as an extended episode that delivers fun for the whole family, as it’s been doing on television for the past decade or so.

7 / 10

Okay, that's more like it.

Okay, that’s more like it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spy (2015)

007 needs to smile more.

After an agent of hers that she’s been looking out for and bonding with over the past five years, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), has to take a leave of absence, desk-bound, under-appreciated CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) finally gets her chance to be in the field. Her task: Stop a Bulgarian crime lord by the name of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) from selling nuclear weapons. The only problem is that Cooper’s cover continues to get blown by either her own wrong-doings, or a fellow agent who has just recently decided to go rogue and try and take matters into his own hands. His name is Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and while he and Cooper don’t get along too well, it’s solely up to her to make sure that she keeps Rick away from the mission as much as humanly possible, while also still making sure that she’s keeping some level of anonymity for her own well-being. But as the mission gets more and more complicated, Susan realizes that she may have to get a little dirty if she not only wants to complete the mission, but to also stay the hell alive.

Though some people may bitch, moan and complain about the fact that writer/director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy seem to team up practically every chance they get time out of their schedules to do so (which seems like every other year, so far), there’s still no denying that they’re a match made in heaven. Both clearly know what the other wants, so therefore, they work well together in not only giving themselves 110%, but also giving the right kind of 110% when necessary. Because yeah, even though these two don’t seem to be challenging one another all that much, when the end result is still entertaining to watch, just as much as the last movie that came before it, what’s the real problem?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!? Just take my money already!

In all honesty, there is none! So stop complaining, people!

With Spy, McCarthy and Feig’s third team-up so far, the look, feel and overall idea of a spy movie is messed around with, but don’t be fooled by what this movie’s advertising may have you think, because it’s not a parody flick. Though it may have initially started off as such, eventually, the movie turns the other cheek to where it’s less about poking fun at the stylish cars, guns and women, and more or less poking fun at the lovably charming characters here. At points, it probably would have been nice had Feig tried to make more of a comment on the spy genre (especially since there seems to be so many damn movies coming from this genre nowadays), but if a movie is funny, then I won’t hold any gripes against it.

And yes, Spy is definitely a funny flick. Like with the Heat and Bridesmaids, where Feig shows his real, true strength in directing comedy is just allowing for it to draw itself out to where even the most normal, everyday situation, can turn into something truly odd and bizarre. Sure, while some of this praise can go to the cast and crew who definitely seem to be, for the most part, playing along with it and making it up as they go along, there’s still plenty to be said for Feig himself. After all, he’s the guy who gets to say when a scene begins, goes on, and ends and so he definitely deserves credit for at least knowing when and how to format his comedic scenes.

However, like with the case of the Heat, there’s still a weird feeling that maybe the action takes over a bit too much, especially in the last hour or so of this flick. There’s no problem with an action-comedy utilizing the later portion of that term to its fullest, and most absolute extent, but when it seems like it’s doing nothing much other than to just keep the run-time going, it gets a tad bit tiresome. The action’s fine and all, but any comedy that goes over two hours, definitely features some form of trimming, no matter who you are.

Talking about you, Mr. Apatow!

But, as always, a lot of this doesn’t hold up too well when compared to the fact that the movie is enjoyable and funny, but also a teenie bit more than just that. See, with Feig’s movies, he always puts an extra amount of detail into his characters to where, even if they are acting like cartoonish jack-asses, there’s still some form of humanity and personality to them that it all makes sense as to why they’re acting the way they do, with whom, and how. And because of this, most scenes that would generally just seem “funny”, end up turning into more hilarious territory, especially when you consider the smart writing that’s been put into most of them.

Look at J-Stath! The dude's having the time of his life!

Look at J-Stath! The dude’s having the time of his life! Let him do that more!

For instance, take Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. While Cooper is another instance in which McCarthy gets a chance to swear, yell, make fun of people, and kick ass, there’s a bit more to her character than just that and it makes a lot of what she does and say hit harder. Because Cooper, the character, is such a sweet and relatively gentle person, to hear and see her when she has to step up big time in the field, she turns into a whole different person where she’s loud, obnoxious and more than willing to lay the whoop-ass on whoever deserves it the most. Once again, this is another performance from McCarthy that we’ve seen before, but there’s so much fun in watching her do it and hardly miss a beat, that it’s hardly ever boring.

Not like it was in Tammy, that is, so lets be happy about that.

But even though McCarthy’s the lead, which entitles her character to the most development, she isn’t the only one. Rose Byrne, despite playing the main baddie, gets a chance to not just be funny again, but show some form of humanity within a character that just wants to blow the United States up, as most villains in these sorts of movies want to do; Jude Law plays the charming and handsome fella we usually see him play, but his character is a bit more of a dick than he lets on and it’s actually interesting; Miranda Hart plays Cooper’s best friend and confidante and gets a chance to show an even sweeter side to a job that you wouldn’t think could have one; and Jason Statham, well, what else is there to say other than he lights the screen up every chance he gets. And then some.

See, if there’s any complaint that I have about Spy, that I don’t believe I had with many other movies, is that it needed more Jason Statham. That isn’t to say that I’ve never uttered that phrase before because I detest Statham and think he’s a talentless hack – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think he is very talented, charming and fun to watch, but because he’s usually the lead in the movies he does, there’s a lot of him to go around and it makes me wish that wasn’t the case, at least not in those movies. Movies like Spy where we get to see the more charming and light side to his tense presence, makes it easy to see why somebody would want to hire him just for his comedic skills alone. He’s been funny in the Guy Ritchie movies that he’s done and he occasionally drops a little wittisome here and there in a dull action-thriller, but here, he’s on full-force and I wish I got more of it.

Meaning, producers and casting agents, give Jason Statham more funny material!

Consensus: Tad overlong, Spy runs into a slight problem of unevenness, but because it’s cast and crew are so talented and funny, it slides on by as an enjoyable time that also proves why we’re all lucky to have Melissa McCarthy in our lives, and why Jason Statham needs to do more funny stuff.

7.5 / 10

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it's funny.

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it’s funny.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz


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