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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 7-7.5/10

Hateship Loveship (2014)

Nothing stranger than a gal who doesn’t mind cleaning up beds after people soil them.

Quiet, reserved and slightly off-kilter middle-aged caretaker Johanna (Kristen Wiig) has to move when her last employer passes away, which then leads her to her new job: Taking care of a young teenager named Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). She is currently living alone with her grand-father (Nick Nolte), while her alcoholic father Ken (Guy Pearce) is out-and-about, saying of how he’s trying to get his act together and start up his own Motel. At first, Johanna seems to do her own thing and not really get in anybody’s way, that is until Sabitha and one of her friends find and read a note that Ken has written Johanna. The note itself is harmless and practically meaningless, as it’s just Ken scribbling down his thoughts about how he appreciates Johanna looking after his daughter while he’s gone and whatnot; however, Sabitha decides that it’s time to have some fun with these two adults, and decides to make fake letters for Johanna to respond to. This continues on for quite some time, and gets very serious once Johanna herself even gets an e-mail address, but where it really goes overboard is when Johanna shows up at Ken’s dilapidated place, expecting him to great her with arms wide open, when in reality, he’s sleeping, high, confused and already in a relationship. Still, that doesn’t mean a relationship between the two can’t happen, or even work-out, right?

You’d think that after the smash-success of Bridesmaids, that Kristen Wiig would have taken just about every big, payday-gig Hollywood had to throw at her, right? Well, think again, crazy ones! See, with Wiig, she’s done just about the exact-opposite: She’s used a lot of her “star-power” as pull for these small, relatively low-key indies that she gets apart of, not to just make her shine better as an actress, but actually have audiences see her in a different-light than ever before.

Yup, she loves staring. Just accept it and move on.

Yup, she loves staring. Just accept it and move on.

Cause, Christ, after doing this for about seven years, you’d think that audiences wouldn’t ever take you seriously again!

Well, that’s what’s so surprising about Wiig – not that she’s good at playing-up the whole “drama” aspect to her acting skills, but because she’s able the compelling element in a movie, without barely uttering a word. For people who have wanted to see Wiig just shut it for at least an hour or two, then here’s the movie for you, because she does a whole lot of staring. And also a lot of awkward-pausing, stuttering, more staring, making-out with herself in the mirror, making food silently, and yes, even more staring. However, it’s not as boring or as repititious as I may make it out to be, because there’s always an under-lining thought throughout this whole movie about just who this Johanna woman really is.

Most of that mystery can be attributed to some fine character-development, but it can also be attributed to Wiig herself who, despite only saying more than a couple of paragraphs throughout the whole movie, is by far the one element this movie has that keeps it moving. You can tell that she’s a nice lady, but you can also tell that there is something brewing inside of her, which may either be some sexual-tension she wants to release, or just words that have been stuck inside of gut for the past 20 or so years. Either way, we want to watch her interact with those around her, it’s just hard to see how those people react to her and her way of not responding in a normal, thought-provoking manner like most human beings are pleased with.

But screw human beings, you know!!??! What a weird species, man!

Anyway, despite all of my love for Wiig and what she does here, I don’t mean to take anything away from anyone else in the cast, nor the movie itself. In fact, I’d say that despite the movie being practically just another, slow, quiet and subtle indie-drama, it was one that I rarely ever felt a false note rung with. I would have definitely loved it if the movie went into more depth with these characters, particularly Ken, who spends most of the movie looking like he’s tired, beat-up and doesn’t know what to say. Sure, Guy Pearce is great in the role (then again, when is he never?), but once he and Johanna actually start hanging out and “talking” (notice the parenthesis), I couldn’t help but feel like all of the movie’s steam that it had been building up for so long, just went away and evaporated into the air. It disappointed me a bit, although I do see where they were going with this direction, as well as what it was trying to say about these characters. Can’t say I really agreed with it all that much, but hey, I’m not a director making a movie with the likes of Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, Kristen Wiig and Hailee Stenfeld, so what the hell do I know, right?

Eh. Teenage girls.

Eh. Teenage girls.

No, really. Somebody help me out here. What the hell do I know?!?!

Well, I guess I can sort of help myself out and answer that I know fine performances when I see one, and there’s plenty to be found here. I already mentioned that Pearce and Wiig are great in their roles, but it’s that Hailee Steinfeld who really left an impression on me with her role here as the 17-something Sabitha, the kind of girl I would approach in high school and talk to, but never really become close with, all because she’s a bit shallow for my taste. Then again, what 17-year-old girl in high school isn’t a bit shallow? Heck, that’s how half of me and my girlfriends met – by being shallow!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that Steinfeld plays the role of the “coming-of-age, female-teenager” very well, without over-doing it at all. She seems catty and mean whenever she’s talking about Johanna and other people she doesn’t like; but also a sweet, endearing little gal whenever she’s chatting it up with her grand-pop, late at night, while chewing on some Honey Combs. See, she’s just like you or I! Except she’s an Oscar-nominated actress, appearing alongside the likes of Nick Nolte and whatnot!

God, I really have to get my act together already. Jeez Louise.

Consensus: More of a pleasant, little viewing-piece, rather than something that lasts in your mind for a long time afterwards, Hateship Loveship still boasts good enough performances from the A-grade cast to ensure that our minds won’t linger too much from the conventional material.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

But seriously, that stare doe.

But seriously, that stare doe.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

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Oculus (2014)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Tell me, do these jeans make my butt look big?

When Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) were both very young, they saw their father (Rory Cochrane) shoot their mother (Katee Sackhoff) in cold blood. The case gets thrown out as a standard case of murder in the first-degree, however, the kids think differently. See, they think it’s all because of some strange, ancient mirror they had ever since they moved on, which ironically enough is exactly once all of the weird, creepy stuff started to happen to this family in the first place. Nobody believes these two, seemingly crazed-kids, so the government sends Kaylie away to an orphanage, where she’ll most likely be made fun-of her life and taught to be independent; whereas Tim becomes a bit of a nut-case, and is sent to a mental-institution, where he is studied and tested, while he’s also trying to come to grips with what it is that he really saw: Was it a dream-like sequence to get their minds away from the grim reality of this grisly murder, or is this mirror actually possessed by some sort of demon. Neither of the two really know for sure, which is why, 10-12 years later, the two reunite at their childhood home where the murder occurred and play their own little game of Ghost Hunters. Except, it’s just them, and the mirror that’s been haunting their lives for the past decade or so.

Trust me honey, there's nothing wrong reflection. Nothing. At. All.

Trust me honey, there’s nothing wrong reflection. Nothing. At. All.

While it may seem like every horror movie that comes out nowadays, may be an exact carbon-copy of the last (a statement which does hold some truth), there are those very surprising exceptions that take the horror-genre, and sort of spin it on its ears. These types of movies don’t really commit such an act by coming up with a new, inventive way to tell their story, but instead, realize that what makes and breaks horror movies nowadays, is whether or not they can be entertaining. Sure, everybody can be pissing their pants by showing them every jump-scare in the book, but is that really fun to watch? Expecting a scare to happen, so that when it does happen, you jump a little bit less than you would have, had you not known anything about any horror movie, ever made?

Personally, I think where most horror movies really make their gravy is in just how much fun they can have with toying and teasing with the audience’s expectations; and in Oculus, there’s plenty of that. However, it’s not the type of toying and teasing you’d expect from a movie like the Cabin in the Woods, where it’s clearly obvious that the creators behind it think that are a lot smarter than average the movie-goer. It’s more like the kind of toying and teasing you do with a dog when you’re playing fetch with it – you take it this way, that way, and all of a sudden, you surprise them and have them absolutely excited.

Bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got in the tank right now.

Though this is his first-outing behind the camera in a big-screen feature, Mike Flanagan shows that he has the chops to do a bit more new, and exciting things with the horror-genre. Not only does he bring us into his story with interesting, somewhat sympathetic characters, but he never allows for this story to get too over-blown or insane. Actually, that’s a lie. He totally does. In fact, that’s probably my biggest problem with this movie is that when all is said and done, and that abrupt-as-hell ending hits you, it comes too quick. But even worse, it doesn’t exactly make much sense.

But see, this is where I start to get a bit jumbled-up in my own words now. Because the aspect where this movie really works, is in the way it is able to just keep on messing with us, having us look at one thing, while surprising us with a completely other, different thing. Which, yes, is fine and all, but after awhile, some of it does start to make you scratch your head and wonder just what the hell is going, or how did that happen. Not going to give too much away, but I’ll put it like this, that mirror likes to do a lot of tricking, without ever treating, so be ready for that.

However though, like I said before, that whole aspect of not knowing what’s going on, is sort of what works so well for it in the end. This is a horror film in the sense that we get scares, ghosts, blood, teeth pulled-out, murder, screaming, people with freaky, glowish-eyes, and all that other jazz, but it’s also a lot more like a thriller as well. Mainly because instead of making this an all-out gore-fest where people in the crowd go “yuck!” and “ew!”, while covering their eyes and simultaneously throwing up their dinner, Flanagan keeps his sights on building up suspense to where you feel like anything could happen with this story, at just about any second. And I don’t mean that because it’s a fun movie, I mean that literally, because it gets confusing-as-hell.

Horror convention #208

Horror convention #208

But I don’t want to harp on that too much, because the fact of the matter is this: It’s a fun horror movie. That’s all you really need. Sure, the performances from the cast are good; Karen Gillan in particular that seems like she’s never heard of comedy a single day in her life and delivers every line in a straight-forward manner, which actually works and makes us look at her as a bit of a cook-ball, which is what this movie definitely wanted to have going for it. However though, this is less about them and more about the show. The show that keeps on going, regardless of how nonsensical it gets. Which, granted, is about ten minutes into it, but really, are horror movies really the type of movies you want to be realistic about?

Yeah, didn’t think so. Just enjoy and shut up!

Consensus: While Oculus doesn’t set out to try and re-invent the horror-wheel, it still does a fine job at building tension, characters and a twisty story to exciting proportions, even if you may not be coming out of it totally convinced you know everything that happened.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Wait? We're supposed to be playing twins?"

“Wait? We’re supposed to be playing twins?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Draft Day (2014)

You thought on-the-field was tough? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, ya pansy soccer fan!

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has it pretty rough for a man of his age and stature. He’s the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that hasn’t been all that successful in quite some time; his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) may possibly be pregnant; and to add insult to injury, the most important day in all of sports history, next to the Super Bowl of course, is coming up: Draft day. Oh yes, the NFL draft. Where dreams are both shattered and made, sometimes, even occurring at the same time. For Sonny though, his main problem isn’t just dealing with his boss (Frank Langella), the head coach (Denis Leary), or even the main-prospect he’s looking into (Chadwick Boseman), the main problem he’s having is getting the deal he wants, while also making sure that everyone around him is happy with his dealings at the end of the day. Not just him, or his co-workers, but the franchise as a whole. Which, if you know a thing or two about any sport whatsoever, is a lot easier said, then actually done.

I’d probably say that the biggest worry somebody will have when going into this movie is whether or not they know enough about the NFL, the draft, how it all works, and why it all matters. To put it simple, it’s like this: College ball-players get a chance to be drafted onto any NFL team that is actually in the draft, which also leaves these teams’ managers, scouters, whatever, to start making all sorts of deals and promises that they can’t clearly keep. But basically, what you have is a bunch of guys who bicker at one another, doing whatever they can to make sure the team they represent gets the best player, or, even more important, the better deal.

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

So, if you know all of that going into the movie, you have nothing at all to worry about. All you have to do now is just sit back and watch, because for the next two-hours, you’ll be treated to a bunch of grown-ups arguing, wheeling, dealing, yelling and do whatever the hell they can to make sure that they aren’t getting screwed-over in any way. The idea for the premise to revolve around that may seem pretty boring, which is why director Ivan Reitman throws in so many different strands of plot, but somehow, it actually works.

I’m not a huge football-fanatic, but I had my time where Sunday was dedicated to sitting in front of the TV, with chips, soda and my dad by my side. And that was before you all got spoiled with your RedZone, so don’t even give me any lip! Anyway, one of the events that got me more jazzed-up than the Superbowl, was actually the NFL Draft. Reason being is that for so damn long, about a year ahead in advance, there are so many predictions about how it is all exactly going to go down, in what particular fashion, that I couldn’t help but want to just wait and see what went down, and see if all of the predictions were absolutely right, or just a bunch of sports-writers getting too wild and crazy for their pay-grade.

That same feeling I had way back when, translated into my feelings with this movie, as I really did have no clue where this story was going to go, in terms of who Sonny was going to sign, who he was going to lose, if he was going to be fired, and whether or not everybody involved with the organizations would get what it is that they initially wanted. Not only did that keep me watching and interested, but it made everything else that was happening to Sonny, easier to get past, as poorly-written as most of it was. See, this is the type of movie where having Sonny deal with the problems that usually run rampant in a manager’s head come draft-time, isn’t enough. Instead, we need to have all these sorts of different subplots where Sonny is mean to interns; may possibly be a daddy; doesn’t pay his child-support; isn’t pleasing his mommy as much as he should; and so on and so forth.

While all of that may create more stuff to be happening during this movie, barely any of it feels worth our time. More often than not, it just feels like filler for a movie that could have easily been a lean, mean, hour-and-a-half indie in the same vein as Margin Call or Glengarry Glen Ross. Actually, there are times when this movie does feel very “Mamet-y” in the way the dialogue moves most of the plot, and how so many grown-up men love just being dirty and not always being honest when in circling-around a deal. Those moments of this movie not only rang true for me, but genuinely had me entertained. Sometimes, the conversations these guys have are funny; they’re sometimes insightful; and hell, even sometimes, they’re a bit emotional. But they always add something more to this story, which is where I feel like mostly everything else here doesn’t.

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants "peace".

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants “peace”.

Most of what does work here can definitely be attributed to the fact that Reitman allows for these scenes of just straight-up dialogue, flow and roll as they please. However though, most of that definitely has to be attributed to the well-stacked ensemble Reitman was somehow able to assemble here, particularly Kevin Costner. I’m glad to see K-Cost back in the mainstream, however, 3 Days to Kill was not that type of movie I wanted him doing. It was fine and all (and the same could be said for him), however, that movie had more problems than it needed to have. Here though, Costner is actually given some good material worthy of his talents where he gets plenty to do. He gets a chance to be mean and a bit vindictive; funny when he’s using that comedic-timing of his that is almost nonexistent, but he somehow is always able to get by with; a bit romantic when he has some painlessly-cheesy scenes with Jennifer Garner; and even has a couple of moments as Sonny where he drops the facade of the hardcore, take-no-prisoners businessman, and just lets us see a heart and soul to this guy. The movie could have easily gone in a different direction with this character and had him come-off as flat as a football field itself (hayyoh!), but it doesn’t. It keeps its focus on him, who he is as a person, the type of person he wants to be, and how he gets by in the world.

Like I said though, K-Cost is just the beginning of the familiar-faces in this movie. There’s plenty more where he came from and they are all pretty damn fine. The previously mentioned Garner is alright as Sonny’s co-worker/lover/possible-baby-momma, who has to be a bit cute, a bit feisty, and a bit ballsy to make us believe that she could easily hang around a guy’s sport like football, all of which, Garner does a nice job with. She’s not annoying, let’s just put it that way.

Others include Denis Leary as the Cleveland Browns football coach that barely ever sees eye-to-eye with Sonny, yet, does have plenty of ground to stand on and make us see why; Ellen Burstyn is charming and lovely as Sonny’s mommy, who is clearly still grieving over the death of her husband, Sonny’s dad that he can’t seem to get out of the shadow of; Chadwick Boseman shows us why he is on the verge of near super-stardom right now with his role as a possible NFL-prospect Sonny looks into an awful lot; and Frank Langella, as you could imagine, plays the owner of the Cleveland Browns like the rich and powerful d-bag you’d expect him to play. There’s plenty more where that came from, but you may just have to wait around and see just who exactly does show their bright and smiling faces.

Consensus: May tack-on a bit more than it needs to, but when it comes to the actual process of drafting possible, football-prospects, Draft Day is entertaining, funny and heartwarming, which is thanks to both a charming script and cast, most notably Kevin Costner carrying the whole ship on his back.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like me at parties where I don't like anybody there. Actually, just parties.

Sort of like me at parties where I don’t like anybody there. Actually, just parties in general.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

George Washington (2000)

Who hasn’t chopped down a cherry tree in order to prove that they couldn’t tell a lie? Wasn’t true? Oh, whatever!

A group of young kids ranging from the ages of 9 to 13, all live in a small, terribly depressed rural community in North Carolina. Most of these kids’ days are spent running around and causing all sorts of havoc in trailer-parks, garages, abandoned buildings, swimming pools, and practically anywhere else in this place that they can find and have some peace and quiet with. And for the most part, they aren’t really doing anything bad or terribly immoral; they’re just acting like kids. They hit, make fun of, and play around with one another, but mostly all of them are friends, which is why they continue to hang around each other, just about each and everyday. Then again, there’s not much else to do in this tiny-town, so they might as well, right? Well, things get shaken-up a bit for this group of kids when a tragedy accidentally happens to one of the kids, leaving most of them in shock and without even the faintest idea of what to do next. One kid in particular, George (Donald Holden), sees this as a way for him to break out of his shell and become what he’s always wanted to be: a hero. Eat your heart out, Bowie.

Before he started smoking all sorts of weed with Judd Apatow’s crew, writer/director David Gordon Green was in fact a young, small-time film maker just trying to get his name and his vision out there for the world to see. And finally, after years and years of short films in his native Texas, he got a chance to, at 25 years of age, to show everybody his debut, his vision. What’s surprising the most about this movie, and the fact I pointed out about Green being 25 around the time of this being made, is how it feels like it could have easily done by a much older, much more skilled-professional. Not just in the way the movie looks, sounds, feels, and moves, but of the themes it deals with.

Directing traffic? What a hero!

Directing traffic? What a hero!

Sure, the movie disguises itself as dealing with kids, in the same vein as something like Stand By Me, but this is very far from that type of movie. Kids do talk like kids and mess around with one another, but most of them are just trying to grow-up and grasp whatever it is that life has thrown at them. Doesn’t matter if it’s something they are imagining in their heads to block-out the harsh realities of what their lives have turned-out to be; or even if what it is that they’re imagining is real and they don’t know what to do with it. Either way, these kids are growing up in front of our faces and trying to get a firm grip on their lives from when they were just small tikes and had no idea what was up with the world, to now, where all of a sudden, everything is happening so quickly and so unexpectedly.

Watching these kids talk, goof around, run around, cause mischief, talk to girls, get upset, have all sorts of feelings, and just basically be kids, made me feel like a kid again. Which I don’t think is what Green wasn’t trying to do; it’s clear from the fore-front that he’s going for as much of a gritty, realistic display as much as he can possibly do. Most of it works, but some of it really does back-fire on him, especially in terms of how terrible some of the improvisation from these young kids can be.

And no, I am not trying to rag on these kids who were clearly inexperienced and literally working in their first, and for some, possibly last movie ever, but it’s up to Green when using these kids, to know if they can handle improv or not. The fact of the matter is simple: They can’t. Though most of these kids do try and seem real, mainly whenever they’re given free reign to go on and on about girls, sometimes they stumble and seem like they’re not really going anywhere with what they’re saying. Even worse is the fact that some of what it seems like Green has written for these kids to say and try to emote with, doesn’t make them always seem like kids. They’re basically a bunch of a 9-to-13-year-olds going through existential crisis, but not much of it rings true.

Once again, that’s not to hate on the kids in the roles, as much as it’s Green’s fault for not taking notice to this problem and coming up with a way to fix it. But, to be honest, there’s a few more problems going on here for Green than I would like to speak-out against, but hell, so be it!

The movie is downright beautiful in the way it’s camera is positioned in certain scenes, how well the narration from this 13-year-old girl is, and how the new-agey soundtrack makes me feel as if I was meditating. Together, all elements fit perfectly and made me feel like I was in a museum, gazing at all of the art-work that was on display. However, rather than having some annoying, nuisance-of-a-tour-director constantly in my ear, nagging on and on about “HOW SIGNIFICANCE THIS PAINTING IS WHEN COMPARED TO MODERN-DAY CULTURE”, I had the sound of somebody who was just speaking to us as if she just met us and we were asking her to try and tell us a story. Any story, it didn’t matter. I loved that feel with this movie, and it’s so easy to see why Green was the talk-of-the-town when he first came around, getting all sorts of Malick-comparisons and what have you.

Please don't light a match, please don't light a match...

Please don’t light a match, please don’t light a match…

But, as lovely as all of those details are when looking at this film, I couldn’t help but feel like barely any of it connected with me. With the exception of the tragedy itself (which I won’t dare to spoil), the only time I really felt like this movie’s story gripped me emotionally was whenever Paul Schneider showed his young, blissful face around. Most of that has to do with just how much I actually like Schneider as an actor, but most of it also has to do with the fact that his character is the only one who seems like she would ever pay attention to. Because, quite frankly, except for our hero-of-the-half-hour, George, Green never really focuses on anybody else; and if he does, he doesn’t do it enough to where we feel any plight for them, or the shitty situations they are sometimes thrown in to.

Honestly, I’m all fine with Green flowing by his own set-of-rules and not really bothering with much of a plot-driven narrative, but too much of this feels spontaneous; almost to the point of where it takes away from what could have been a very emotional story, with an impact left on its viewers for days. Instead, some of it just comes off like an experiment of certain moods, feelings and ideas, that never come together fully as a cohesive-structure. It’s just different strands of interesting routes, and that’s about it. Obviously Green would go on with his career to shape some of those problems out, but if I had saw this back when it first came out, I may have not been as happy, or doe-eyed as it seems like every critic on the face of the planet was. Then again though, that was the year 2000, which was also the time before David Gordon Green showed his love for a Minotaur’s Dick.

That was no typo.

Consensus: For somebody who was as young and promising as David Gordon Green was back when it was first released, George Washington works as a huge set of ideas, that work in their own, small circles, but never fully come together as well as they should to leave any sort of emotional-impact.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Frog wasn't in the budget. Green borrowed that from his buddy and has yet to give it back. Hollywood, right?

Frog wasn’t in the budget. Green borrowed that from his buddy and has yet to give it back. Hollywood, right?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dave (1993)

Luckily Barack doesn’t have too many impersonators out there. OR SO WE KNOW OF!!!

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is a simple, small-town man that wears big-rimmed glasses, rides his bike to and fro work, and also run a temp service that isn’t quite as big on making a whole lot of money, as much as it is just all about getting people jobs and having them make money. Oh yeah, and he also has an uncanny resemblance to the 44th president of the United States, William Harrison Mitchell. That eventually comes to work out for him in the future when he’s called upon to be an impersonator for the President in public appearances, just to avoid any problems whatsoever. However, it just so happens that on that same night, the President happens to suffer a stroke while banging his secretary, which leaves all of his right-hand-men stumbling without any idea of what to do. Allow the country to run wild with the sudden-death of their president? And by doing so, do they leak any dirty secrets about what he did during his time as presidency, minus the whole “cheating-on-his-wife” thing? Well, the simple answer is “no”. Instead, they all decide to let Kovic take over the position as acting-President, but only until the actual President himself wakes up and is ready to get back to doing his job. But what if he doesn’t seem to wake up? Even worse, what if the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that this man placed in her husband’s position, actually isn’t her husband?

Yes, there’s so much drama going on here that only a politician during the 90′s would know all about. Ammiright?!?!?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Anyway, so yeah, this movie always gets talked-about when you discuss the subgenre of “political comedies” and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the first of its kind during the Clinton-administration, but it’s one of the very rare political-satires that doesn’t really destroy any sort of political-agenda that was being thrown around during that time. Instead, it sticks to whatever “people get jobs and we all stay happy forever and ever” idea it has about politics. Sure, the fact of the matter is that that would never, ever happen in real life, but sure, when you’re watching a movie, let alone a comedy, you don’t really need reality to come in and hit you in the face. All you need is some nice, pure escapism in the finest form and that’s exactly what Dave is, with some snappy jokes thrown in for good measure.

That’s not to say that the movie is at all “dated”, it’s just that some of the humor probably doesn’t hit me nearly as hard, or as effectively as it probably did for those back in the early-90′s. It’s not that I don’t know a thing or two about politics, it’s just that most of this film seems to be playing it so damn safe most of the time, that it’s really hard to find much of anything to really laugh at in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of quips made here that may, or may not catch you off-guard, but they are hardly surprising, nor are they really slap-happy hilarious.

However, where I think most of the film focuses its strengths on is just the overall pleasant, carefree pace that Ivan Reitman sets, which carries the movie through some very sketchy-waters. For instance, there’s the sequence in which the President and the First Lady head-off to a homeless shelter in which they just stand there, say hi to people they wouldn’t bear to be around, had their not been cameras around, and basically just muck it up for the press surrounding them with all of the cameras flashing and recording their every step. We always see this in politics, and it could have easily been seen as a snotty thing for a the President and his wife to do here, however, Reitman handles it with care and always makes it seem like this Dave guy does genuinely mean well, even if he doesn’t know a lick or two about actual politics itself. Especially not how to run a country.

I mean, sheesh! We should have all been happy with Bush Jr. just by looking at this guy! You know?

Too far? Okay, anyway, back to the movie itself.

What you could also attribute most of Dave’s charm to is the performance from the always lovable Kevin Kline, doing another one of his sweet, happy-guy acts. My only complaint about Dave, and well, practically every other character with the meager exception of one in particular, is that we never really get an impression for who these people were before this movie. Yeah, we get the idea that Dave was always a nice, peaceful soul that tried to make those around him happier in life, just by solely giving them what they want, but why is he like that? Better yet, why is it that he’s alone in his life, despite being what some clearly see as “the nicest guy on the face of the planet”. Nobody says that about him in the movie, or even to his face, but it’s pretty much implied with just how much Dave is able to make everyone around him smile, cheerful and just overall, feel better about themselves and their lives.

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

Sort of like how I was, until I started drinking. Then, it was all downhill from there.

Anyway, like I was saying about Dave, I wish I got to know more about him. I guess that was the point of not getting to know who he really is as a person, considering he has to practically impersonate another the whole movie, but just more detail would have gone a long way for him, Regardless though, Kline works well with Dave, giving us a guy we can all stand behind and love, even if he is just being the type of guy who doesn’t ask for much in the first place, and doesn’t want much in return. He’s just that type of cool guy, and that’s mostly how I’d like to imagine Kline is in real life.

Same goes for Sigourney Weaver in terms of her character, although her character doesn’t clearly go so far as “wife who hasn’t the dong in awhile”. Hey, it’s not like Weaver can’t play that role-up to perfection, but I think we’d be able to give her just a bit more to work with. If only a bit, that is. We also get treated some amusing, side roles from the likes of Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney, Ben Kingsley as that one character I said has some of his past told to us, in a way that isn’t at all manipulative, and a despicable-as-hell, but-clearly-loving-it Frank Langella as what we pretty much expect him to play, “the baddie”. Once again, you can tell that they definitely elevate the material to being a bit more than what it is, which is all we really needed in the first place.

Consensus: Though Dave doesn’t really bite with its satire as much it should, that still doesn’t take it away from being a mildly funny, tame and rather pleasant comedy that’s big on likable characters, rather than laughs. Either way, something here is bound to be liked.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you're right.

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you’re right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Breathe In (2014)

Just let the middle-aged, suburban-daddy live a little, dammit!

Keith (Guy Pearce), Megan (Amy Ryan), and Lauren Reynolds (Mackenzie Davis) live a relatively simple, carefree life. Keith is a music teacher at a high school and sometimes steps into to play cello in the local orchestra; Megan stays at home, drives people everywhere, collects cookie-jars and always seems to have a smile on her face; and Lauren, being that she’s on the verge of being legally considered an “adult”, is going through some growing pains that consist of drinking, parties, loud music, boys, having sex and keeping her self-esteem up (you know, traditional, high school girl stuff). They also live in a big old house in the middle of the suburbs, so they live pretty comfortably; that is, until foreign exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) walks into their lives and kind of, sort of, maybe screws everything up. Not really, because while she clearly is reeling from a tragedy and just wants to live life in the city, Sophie tries to fit in at the school, get along with the family and see if she can get more and more away from her life of pursuing a music career. A music career that, mind you, Keith is very fond of. Maybe a bit too fond of.

Yeah, you know where this is going.

"Freebird?"

“Freebird?”

Which is exactly why I’m bringing this up here and now, because it’s the one aspect behind this movie that ruins it: The fact that you’ve seen this story done a gazillion times before. Oh, let me guess, the patriarch of the family must be going through some mid-life crisis where all he does is want to bask in the greatness of what was once his younger-years; oh wait, no, don’t tell me that his wife doesn’t really care for his aspirations that dive away from what she wants him to be and look like; and no, no, no, do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell me that the new girl that starts living with this family just so happens to be a bit wiser for her age and starts flirting all over the place with Keith! No, no, no! You’ve got to be kidding me!

And the reason why I’m being so over-dramatic, is because I don’t know why writer/director Drake Doremus didn’t decide to shake things up a bit with this simple-premise. You know, rather than just giving us a straight-laced, obvious story about the possibility of a family-man being unfaithful to his wife, under his own roof no less, he could have thrown a little twist or two here and there. But nope, it’s all pretty simple from the start – Keith’s eyes will begin to wander towards Sophie, they’ll begin to chat, flirt a little, and eventually, it will get so strung out of control that he’ll come to a crossroads in his life where he doesn’t know who he wants to be with for the rest of this life: The young, blissful 18-year-old Brit, or the middle-aged, boring and more controlling house-wife he’s been with for the past 20 years?

Ugh, ugh, ugh! Conventional, conventional, conventional!

However, maybe I am being a bit too hard on this movie, because while Doremus may not fully run away from the conventions of the overly-familiar plot-line he’s working with, he still finds some ways to breath new life into them (pun intended). Rather than focusing on the sexual-tension between Keith and Sophie, and how much of it continues to boil and boil over time, we get a sense as to why, in a way, they should try to spark something up with one another. I know it sounds all wrong and immoral for me to stand behind an act of adultery, but that’s only because the movie makes a pretty good case for me as is; Keith is a bit of a sad-sack that has lost all of the joys that his life once was, what he wants it to be once again. Whereas Sophie, on the other hand, sort of wants the same thing, even if her main-objective is to get out into the city and feel the high-life, which she makes a mention of many times, but instead, has to sit around this house that’s literally in the middle of suburbia and be bored to death.

Not only do we feel bad for them both, but we also see why they’d need one another for a sort of escape from the outside world. Sure, we don’t need to necessarily support the act of sneaking around and, for the most part, getting away with it all, but we can still understand it, and I think that’s the idea Doremus was trying to get across. For that, I can at least forgive him for some of the conventions he still falls for with this story, but I still feel like there could have been so much more potential reached, had he decided to do something a little different here and there. Nothing too much, just a shock once or twice and I would have been fine.

But, like I said before, this is less about the plot-devices and how they’re used, and more about the actual characters, and the actors and actresses playing them – all of which, are fantastic. Guy Pearce seems to always be great in anything that he does, but really sinks his teeth into this character of Keith Reynolds, the kind of aging-daddy you want to share a beer with and just let him know it will be alright, rather than going out and chasing some tail. Sure, he’s a bit of a nerd, but he’s a likable, if sympathetic, nerd that just wants to break loose, if only for a short bit. Nice to see him still be able to get some quality-roles, even at his age and his star-power. But then again, this is the indie-world, and anybody can be in a lead-role; just as long as they’re good, that is.

Yuck! You three and all your happiness make me sick!

Yuck! You three and all your happiness make me sick!

The rest of the Reynolds family are good: Amy Ryan seems like she could somebody like Megan really annoying and cloying, but instead, makes her a sympathetic, small-minded woman that just wants best for her family, even if that means breaking down her hubby’s spirits every once and awhile. Actually, no, scratch that, ALL OF THE TIME! Damn women! Am I right, guys? And also, the gal who plays Keith and Megan’s daughter, Lauren, seemed very familiar to me, if only because I knew the face and the voice and knew I saw it/heard it from somewhere quite recently, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. That is, until about half-way through, that I realized Mackenzie Davis was the little lady playing Lauren and I remembered that she was in That Awkward Moment, which I saw a couple of months back. Crazy how the world works, right?!?!? Needless to say, the girl is quite great and gets a lot more to do here, than she did in that movie where you had Zac Efron flexing his hardcore-abs just about every second of every day.

God, if only I was young again.

While the ones who play the Reynolds clan are great and all, the real stand-out is who plays Sophie, Felicity Jones. The weird fact surrounding Jones and the fact that she’s playing Sophie, is that Jones is 30 years old, whereas the character she’s playing, is supposed to be an 18-year-old. However, what works well and sort of connects the two strands of detail together, is that Sophie is shown to be a lot smarter and wiser than the many other 18-year-olds around her, which not only makes us believe her character a little more, but see why she’d hover over towards a man like Keith, and vice versa. She has those eyes that makes you think she’s thinking about a hundred-million different things at the same time, and you’re always on-edge with whatever choice she makes next, and how it will affect those around her. Jones was great in Doremus’ last flick, Like Crazy, and here, she seems to only be growing and growing with each and every role. I really hope that the Amazing Spider-Man 2 makes her a huge name, because the woman definitely deserves it. Also, I hope that means she’ll start playing ladies her own age.

Consensus: There’s absolutely no doubt that the story, or the themes presented aren’t the least bit inventive, but where Breathe In doesn’t get points for originality, it does get it in well-written characters, fine performances from the cast and an attention to setting and mood that has us at least believe in what we’re seeing.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, uh, you ever heard of the Replacements? Pretty dope, right? That is what you kids are saying nowadays?"

“So, uh, you ever heard of the Replacements? Pretty dope, right? That is what you kids are saying nowadays?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Blood Ties (2014)

Never go against the family. It don’t matter if you’re Italian, Irish, Jewish, Scandinavian, or Purple! You just don’t do it!

After being released from jail for murder, Chris (Clive Owen) is looking towards his newfound freedom with a bit more hope and ambition in his eyes. He doesn’t want to go back to the world of crime, so instead, takes a job at a small-time mechanic where he cleans the floor, scrubs toilets, and takes out the trash; however, when he’s not doing such fine and exciting activities, he’s chatting it up with the young assistant they have there (Mila Kunis). However, one thing leads to another and Chris, through luck-of-the-draw, finds himself back in the world of crime where he’s hustlin’, dealin’ and killin’, like a true New York gangsta, circa 1974. Which, for Chris, would be fine, however, his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), just so happens to be a cop who is constantly getting heckled for being there for his brother and still associating with him, even when it becomes clear that he may be the main-suspect in a couple of crimes happening throughout the city. But, it’s family. Whattayagonnado?!??!

We’ve all seen it before – the 70′s crime-drama, with all sorts of drugs, gangsters, guns, cops, hot gals, New York – but there’s some refreshing about a good, old-fashioned crime flick. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve been watching a bit too much of the Wire and can’t stay away from movies about a bunch of cops and robbers, and the evil, little maniacal ways both sides try to screw with one another; but I absolutely fall silly for it. That is, most of the time, when it’s done right.

It was the 70's, so by that time, this was 'ight.

It was the 70′s, so by that time, this was ‘ight.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that co-writers James Gray and Guillame Canet clearly have an idea for what it is that they want to do with their movie, which will probably please some by its simplicity, or, absolutely bore others. There are some bits and pieces here where you’ll feel the more-than-two-hour time-limit that it has, but other times, you might just not give a hoot, because each and every one of these performances are so compelling to watch in the first place.

But, then again, most of that has to do with the wring which, necessarily, isn’t all that flashy to begin with. However, where Gray and Cane’t writing-styles really come together is in the building of tension through human-relationships, rather than just through a bunch of shoot-outs or heists. Everytime you see Chris and Frank in the same room, or anywhere near being in the same vicinity of one another, you automatically feel like all hell is going to break loose, regardless of if they see each other or not. There’s just a sense, or a feeling in the air that these are two brothers that love each other until the day they die, but definitely can’t stand to be around the other, especially when one seems to have a lot more shit on the other for “selling out”.

Yup, if you’ve ever had a problem with a sibling of yours (brother, sister, father, mother, house-pet, etc.) this is the movie for you. Then again, most of whatever James Gray touches turns out to be that way. Another aspect about his movies that will probably kill some viewer’s minds is how he takes his near and dear time; not just with this story, but with these characters and who it is that they are. This was fine for me – not because I’m familiar with Gray’s work and expected it, but because most of the characters are written in a way that makes you actually care about them, and see whether or not this story gets so out-of-hand that bodies start dropping and emotions start flying, along with bullets, most likely. Though it may take awhile to get where it needs get going to, Gray and Canet keep this movie flowing at just the right pace: Not necessarily a snail-like speed, maybe the tortoise-who-beat-the-hare pace.

Dumb analogy, I know, but it’s all I got, people! All I got!

Where most of this movie loses points in, is that it’s not really anything spectacular or terribly original to where you can differentiate it from the rest of the crime-dramas that come out every now and then, especially ones that take place during the 70′s. Don’t get me wrong, the look and feel of this movie definitely transported me to the deep, dark and dirty days of 1970′s-era NYC, but the story itself, minus the inclusions of cell-phones, could have literally taken place at anytime in the Big Apple, after say, I don’t know, the 1930′s or 40′s. It’s just that conventional, but that doesn’t make it bad really; just makes you wish Canet and Gray decided to play-around a bit more, rather than just spending all of their time on the characters.

He's not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won't come over and beat us to within an inch of our lives.

He’s not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won’t come over and beat us within an inch of our lives.

Then again though, can’t hate on them too much, because the characters they were able to draw-up here, are what keeps this movie in balance. Which is to thank both Gray and Canet, as well as the awesome ensemble. Don’t know if anybody else out there saw Clive Owen playing a “rough and tough, NYC gangster, bad-boy” coming, but hey, the guy does a great job with it. He’s not only able to hide his British-accent very well, but he’s also able to make us crap our pants even more when he shows up and not totally know what to expect from him next. He’s a bit of a live-wire that does have his chill moments, but it’s clear that they are very few, and far between.

As for Billy Crudup, who plays his cop-brother Frank, he does a fine job giving an unsympathetic character enough substance to where we can get on his side, even if we don’t particularly agree with him. See, the main problem that his character has is that he’s got this whole subplot going on with Zoe Saldana’s character, in which they used to date, and he’s all of a sudden, thrown her latest boy-toy in the slammer for “reasons unknown”. Therefore, we kind of see Frank as a bit of a manipulative dick that uses his power and authority for the betterment of himself and his wee-wee (you know, a cop), but Crudup is at least able to let us slide by that problem with his character and realize that, at heart, he’s a kind guy that goes through thick and thin for the ones he loves. The only thing that’s getting himself into some foggy-water is that the people that he loves and sticks up for, aren’t the best cast of characters.

Since I was just speaking of Saldana, I think it should be noted that where this flick really screws up in, is that it doesn’t take much care of its female characters. It’s weird, too, because when you have such heavy-hitters as Mila Kunis, previously mentioned Saldana, Marion Cotillard, and even Lili Taylor in your movie, and you don’t do much with them, except them give them a couple of scenes where they stray near the boys, does seem like a huge waste once you really get down to it. And it’s not even like the writers made these females out to be as nothing other than “whores”, “sluts”, or, “total and complete beotches” (well, except for maybe Cotillard’s character who is literally a “whore” and screws guys for money; therefore, making her a “slut”); it’s more that the writers just didn’t take the time to give any of them much more than what you see on the surface. They are strong-willed, smart and independent, but you don’t see that fully play-out to where everybody gets a say in this story.

It’s just simply a boy’s show. Which is why we also have James Caan here as well. Can’t ever go wrong with that guy just showing up and doing his thing.

Consensus: Though conventional and, in certain ways, unoriginal, Blood Ties is still able to get by solely on the well-written characters, and the ensemble that give most of these characters lives worth checking out. If only for two-hours out of your day. That’s all.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Billy, I love you like a son. But don't ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?"

“Billy, I love you like a son. But don’t ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Nymphomaniac: Volume I (2014)

Let us talk about sex, shall we?

During one fateful night, an old man by the name of Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) stumbles upon a brutal, beaten and battered-up woman by the name of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Though he does not know much about her, other than the fact that she does not want to have the police or ambulance called in at all, he decides to take her back to his place where he treats her to tea, his warm, cozy bed and even a small pastry as well. During her stay, Joe decides to tell Seligman her life’s story from when she was a youngin’ getting in all sorts of racy, sexual escapades, to the present-day, where it’s clear that she’s seen plenty of a lot and isn’t afraid to talk about it all. In between these stories, the two get into conversations about nature, fishing, nymphs and, randomly enough, cake forks.

Oh yeah, and people do bone, but that’s not the point, you dirt balls!

By now, I’m pretty sure that most of you ladies and gents have heard a thing or two about Lars von Trier’s, self-proclaimed, “Sex Epic”, which, as dirty as I may sound, is something I was looking forward to. No, not because I want to see dongs go in and out of all such places for the sake that I don’t have to worry about SPAM attacking my computer’s hard-drive, but because in the way that I know von Trier’s movies, I know that when he puts his mind to something, it works perfectly.

Whatever you two on my right do, just DO NOT, look to your right. I repeat: DO NOT LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT.

Whatever you two on my right do, just DO NOT, look to your right. I repeat: DO NOT LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT.

Okay, so maybe Antichrist was a bit too wacky, maybe even for his own disciples, but that’s another discussion, for another day. The fact of the matter is that when Lars von Trier decides to make a movie, no matter what it’s about (mostly stuff that isn’t in good-taste), you’re going to want to see it, just to understand what all of the fuss about it is for. And when you just add sex to the equation, hell, even in some cases, “real sex“, then you know all hell is going to break loose!!

But here’s what’s so shocking about von Trier’s latest: Despite it featuring a whole bunch of hot, attractive people participating in sexual-acts, it’s never actually hot, or even sexy. Instead, von Trier pulls the rug right from underneath us and just shows us these acts of sexual-promiscuity as if they were happening in real life. Sure, depending on what type of person you are, this may seem like the hottest thing since Janet Jackson’s nip-slip, but for others, it’s not really all that titillating to begin with. Most of that has to do with the fact that von Trier simply doesn’t care too much about the acts, and more or less actually cares about the story itself, and building characters; mainly in our female-protagonist, Joe.

Now, the one problem with this movie is that you can totally tell it’s a first-parter in a two-part series. First of all, that idea upsets me as is – I feel as if the producers and everybody else behind this should have just bit the bullet and made this a three-hour epic of sorts, because when this part of the series ends, it just ends. It doesn’t really stand on its own, and even during the end-credits, we’re shown a “teaser” of what’s next to come in Nymphomaniac: Volume II. I don’t know whose idea it was to think that we needed to cut-down something like this, nor take away Lars von Trier’s edits, but whatever. I guess it’s the reality I have to stick with, regardless of if I like it or not.

So screw me, right?

Anyway, where I was trying to go with that is in our lead character of Joe, we get to see a lot of Charlotte Gainsbourg just looking depressed, angry and very downtrodden. Which is all good since the gal owns it perfectly, but she isn’t nearly as much the star of the show as Stacy Martin is, playing Joe in her younger, wilder days. Martin, despite being a model, actually has a great screen-presence that commands your attention. But not just with her always naked-body or constant O-faces, but with the way she’s able to hold the screen by just being silent. You never know what it is that she’s thinking and you’re always left to wonder what she has to say next, if anything at all. In fact, I got the same impression from Gainsbourg’s performance as the older-Joe, showing us that these two gals are actually the same person, and didn’t really change all that much; except for the fact that their skin got flabbier and more wrinkly. But such is the case with aging, right?!?!?!

But yeah, Martin is great and although I know we’re more often likely to see Gainsbourg a lot more in Volume II, I still hope that we don’t fully kick Martin to the curb, because she’s actually very good and the type of female-actress I could see popping-up in more of von Trier’s stuff, forcing her to do all sorts of crazy shit that I won’t even dare to mention.

Dude’s a crazy bastard, in case you didn’t know.

"We're still talking about fishing, right?"

“We’re still discussing the art of fishing, right?”

The rest of the cast that von Trier is able to assemble is, as usual, quite impressive, given the fact that it’s a known-fact by now the type of stunts he pulls in order to get emotionally-draining performances from his actors and actresses. But yet, time and time again, talented, well-known people still sign-up to be in his movies, so who am I to judge, you know? I guess whenever we see a Lars von Trier movie, we should come to expect that Stellan Skarsgård will show up in some form, which I’m fine with since the guy’s a great actor and shows that he’s more than capable of handling whatever weird material von Trier throws his way. Here, as the friendly guy that looks over Joe and takes care of her, in a not-at-all-creepy way, Skarsgård is given a task in which he has to constantly relate Joe’s nutty escapades to other aspects of life, like literature, food, and especially fishing. However, his character never seems like he could be replaced or gotten rid of entirely; he’s there to serve as a voice-of-reason to Joe’s story as she’s telling it and for that, he brings some much-needed perspective. I look forward to seeing where this talk leads them and best of all, to see if they end-up shacking the boots. Crossing my fingers and holding out hope over here.

The newcomers to von Trier’s world of depravity are inspired, if even stranger than I expected. Having Christian Slater, Shia Labeouf and Uma Thurman in your movie is usually very interesting, which here, it still is, it’s just odd since they all have to carry-out British accents that sort of go in and out. However, it’s almost as if von Trier wanted this to happen, just so that he could screw with our minds even more. That, or the fact that nobody who actually was from Britain wanted to work with him in the first place, so why not get three has-beens and an actor that almost everyone in this world hates a bit more than Justin Bieber? See, I know how von Trier thinks, baby! Probably not a good thing to say, though.

Nonetheless, they’re all fine with what they do: Slater poops and pees himself, while having nightmares, but still has enough time to chat with his daughter (Joe) about leaves and each one of their meanings, or something like that; Labeouf, despite seeming as if he is trying a bit hard, is actually pretty hilarious as Jerome, the guy that Joe loses her V-card to, only to then stumble upon him later in life where he’s a bit of a deuche that tries hard to get laid, but can’t help but get the stiff-arm (much like what probably happens to Shia Labeouf in real life); and Thurman, with her one scene, steals the whole movie as the shamed wife who comes to Joe’s place, just to mess with her, the guy she is screwing (Thurman’s character’s husband), and the other guy Joe is screwing, all while her kids look on in absolute fear and silence. It’s nice to see von Trier give some of these actor’s new-lives as actors willing to hang with him and his demanding directorial-process. Though I know that there’s plenty of more faces and talents to come in the next installment, so I guess for now, I’ll just have to wait.

Damn you, whomever it was behind that sham of breaking this up into two movies! Damn you!

Consensus: Though there’s plenty left to be desired for what’s next to come in Volume II, Nymphomaniac: Volume I sill gives us all the dark, awkward aspects of the human-condition, with plenty of sex sprinkled throughout, and never never having it seem distracting or gratuitous.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I think it's gone.

Yeah, I think it’s gone.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Yards (2000)

Screw family! I’d just stay in prison!

Leo (Mark Wahlberg), a recently released convict, finds himself on the right track as he has a job lined-up for him and everything. But that all goes South once he finds out that his boss and company are up to some shady-business. The business is owned by his uncle (James Caan) and ran mainly by his bestie (Joaquin Phoenix). So yeah, basically the guy is having a lot of problems being able to separate right from wrong and family from enemies, but to top it all off: His mother (Ellen Burstyn) is sick, and not getting any better. Isn’t coming home just grand?

This is one of those rare movies that somehow found it’s way of sinking in beneath the cracks, without anybody ever knowing about it or even mentioning it, unless they were some prestigious film critic that had the privilege to see it in theaters, or some ultra-fan of Marky Mark. It was just one of those movies that had its stars and its premise, but didn’t have the backing it would have had, had it been released in today’s world. Thankfully, that’s what On Demand is for – to remind me what an idiot I was before when I watched this movie.

In case some of you don’t know what I mean by that, I reviewed this movie a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away and thought that the movie plain and simply blew. Now, maybe those weren’t my exact words or anything, but the fact of the matter was that I was bored, annoyed and just tired from watching this movie about a bunch of a-holes, act like bigger a-holes to one another, and make it seem as if family is some sort of reason for allowing a person to almost die. I wasn’t having any of it, and gave the movie a low rating. But after these years, I think I’ve come to realize that this is just one of those movies that’s a nice watch, but you got to be in the mood for it.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut on and everything.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut going on? Oh, now I see what type of living he’s going to be making nowadays.

Even though the movie may be advertised as a slam-bang, action-thriller with Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime and Johnny Cash acting all sly on us, it’s totally not. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime, and Johnny Cash to be found here, but it’s not the way that most mainstream movies would paint it as. Writer/director James Gray is a step above that in the way that he has everything all slowed down so that not only can you get in the mood for what’s about to unfold, but also get involved with the characters as well.

If anything, that’s what the movie really blew me away with: The characters. Gray captures what it’s like to be and live in a close family that does almost everything and anything for each other, even if that means sticking their heads in a little bit and killing some people in the mean time (hey, it’s family, right?). He shows how everybody interacts with one another, who likes who, who doesn’t, what their type of relationship is, the why, the where, the who, and the be, being, been. All of that fun and nasty stuff is included here to give us a full picture of what to not only expect from these family members, but why.

That’s why once everything gets all wacky and crazy at the end, it’s still somewhat believable because we feel like we know these characters, and can come to expect them to commit dumb actions, given the circumstances. Some are conventional and obvious with their actions, but the way they are painted with morally-corrupt souls, than just normal, generic assholes, is what takes you for a left turn. Not everybody is bad, but the ones that are, stay in your mind and really mess with it, especially just as everything begins to boil down as to “who is going to betray who next?”. That aspect of the movie is fun to see, but given the character-development, it’s more than just a bit entertaining.

However, Gray’s sense of style doesn’t always work with me. For my first, initial-viewing, the slowness bothered the hell out of me to the point of where I was snoozing left and right. After these years of seeing worse movies that take it’s slo-mo pill for the sake of being slow; I thought I’d get used to it. But that’s where I was slightly wrong. See, Gray’s style is that he lets a lot of scenes just linger on and on until they really get under your skin. That works for a good couple of scenes, but after awhile, it goes on too long and seems like it’s the only trick in the book that this guy had to play. I don’t mind when my action isn’t non-stop guns and explosions, but don’t slow everything down just to have it all settle in. With time, it will. Trust me, my friend.

A bastard, a bitch, and a poor child with no morally-right future. Now say cheese!

A bastard, a beotch, and a poor child with no promising-future. Now say cheese!

As slow as the movie was at times, it still didn’t take away from the final-product, nor its performances. Marky Mark was pretty solid as Leo because he isn’t called on much to do except to look concerned, and to brood the whole time with his angry face. He does it very well, even if it does feel like his character’s blandness gets lost in a sea of overly wild members of the cast like James Caan and Joaquin Phoenix. Caan is great as the slimy, untrustworthy step-uncle that seems like he means well and all, but in all honesty: Just wants money and fame. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get that dream of his. Whatta bastard. Joaquin Phoenix is fun to watch as Leo’s best buddie because he gets a chance to show that wild side we always see so much, but also show you how much a person can get so tangled in a web, without ever having a clear enough head to know when the hell to get out. Phoenix is good at showing those contrasting sides, and it’s what makes his character more than just a fuck-up. He’s a sympathetic fuck-up, at the most.

For the ladies, you still have a pretty solid troupe, but nobody really worth going crazy about. Charlize Theron is good as Erica, Leo’s cousin and Joaquin’s girl, because she’s able to get past the fact that she is a beautiful woman underneath it all, and just let her character win you over. She’s a bit grimy and dumb for staying with a d-bag like Phoenix’s character, but you see where she’s coming from and it’s not hard to feel for her once everything goes South. Theron’s always a capable actress, and doesn’t let herself get up-staged when she’s right next to vets like Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn. Both are good for what it is that they are called upon to do, but that doesn’t seem as if it’s really saying much, once the ending hits you like a ton of bricks.

Consensus: James Gray may use a couple of the same tricks a little too much, but he still keeps The Yards interesting and compelling with it’s three-dimensional characters, the situations that they are put in and the decisions they are forced to make. Some of which, won’t make you too happy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don't look like this.

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don’t actually look like this.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo,

Veronica Mars (2014)

High school is always such a drag without murder-conspiracies swelling around.

It’s been nine years since teenage detective/professional snooper Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) was last seen in her hometown of Neptune, California, and that’s how she would like to keep it. She’s got a nice lawyer-job coming her way in New York City, a boyfriend that she wants to get serious with and sees all of her hard work and time finally paying-off. That is, until she checks out the news and one day and spots an old-flame of hers (Jason Dohring) is embroiled in some sort of murder-scandal. Veronica doesn’t know what to believe, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and see what really happened, who was apart of it and even see if she wants to continue her ambitious-life in NYC, or just stay in Neptune for as long as she possibly can. Because, come to think of it, her high-school reunion is coming up. And even though she sure as hell doesn’t want to be spotted at one of those petty social-events, she might just decide to take one for the team and see if she can get ahead of her case; you know, the one that she’s decided to go out on a limb for herself. Nobody else. Just her. Veronica Mars, baby.

In case any of you lovely humanoids were wondering, the answer is “no, I never watched the original, Veronica Mars television show in its entirety”. I’ve seen a few episodes here and there, and with those few episodes, not only did I realize that it wasn’t exactly my cup-of-tea at the age of 12/13, but that those times would probably be the last I ever heard of the show in general. It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to actually do some research of my own, then I realized: People love the hell out of this show.

"Token black friend", and "token nerd friend", all in one place. So lovely!

“Token black friend”, and “token nerd friend”, all in one place. So lovely!

I don’t know what the case was for me – maybe I wasn’t fully established as an “entertainment-junkie” by that time, or maybe it was just that something about the show really did bug me. Either way, I was surprised to see that so many people adored this show. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to watching it all in its entirety, then again, maybe not.

Regardless though, the fact of the matter remains that this is in fact a sequel-of-sorts of what happened after the show ended its original run and if you’re like me who was worried right from the get-go, here’s some friendly advice: Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the show already. The movie starts things off quite perfectly in giving us the events, happenings, ideas and themes from the show, in a neat, little “Previously On”-like method. It works because, for somebody like me who had barely any clue just who these people were or why any of them even mattered, it kept me glued-in and absolutely did the homework for me, allowing the movie to work its magic as it went along.

In fact, if there is any criticism I may have against this movie, it’s that some of it was a little too “insider-y” for me at times. That’s more of a negative towards me as a viewer for not catching up on the show beforehand, but I think for some people, it will be a bit jarring, especially if they haven’t seen the show beforehand, or understand some of these characters’ significance to the overall plot and setting. Basically, every once and awhile, a certain character will show-up who clearly is meant to be there for the die-hard fans to go nutso over, which is fine. The only problem is that, like I said before, the rest of us will find it a bit jarring and left in the dark. The good news is that that doesn’t always keep on happening throughout the whole movie, because once you eventually get used to the surroundings built here, you’ll find it to be a pretty fun time. As did I.

What works well with a movie like this is its central character, Veronica Mars. And what that really boils down to is the fact that she is so perfectly-played by Kristen Bell, it’s hard for me to imagine anybody else ever playing her before, let alone filling her shoes for a reboot or something. Bell is always lovely, funny, spirited and energetic, and always seem to make the most out of whatever crapola she accidentally shows her face up in. But, all of those bad movies she took her time to do, all cancel-out with Veronica Mars, because it’s the role she was born to play, the one that put her on the map and made us see her for an up-and-coming talent, and it’s so damn easy to see why.

As Veronica Mars, Bell gives us the impression that she’s always one step ahead of everyone around her. Whether it be in a physical or mental way, either way, Veronica Mars always has a trick up her sleeve and does a pretty fine job at making those around her feel like small, meaningless imbeciles. Which, granted, is fine because most of the people surrounding here are in fact, small, meaningless imbeciles. But Mars, being Mars, just calls it like she sees it, which not only makes her character sympathetic throughout the whole movie, but also makes believe her as somebody that can get done, what needs to be done, in order to do good for those around her; even if that does mean she’s doing the right thing for people she doesn’t particularly care for.

Everything I’m saying about Veronica Mars is probably no surprise whatsoever to fans of the show, but for me, a newcomer to this sort of thing, I found myself happy with this character, with Bell and totally understanding as to why her character, as well as her show, was so loved and beheld in the first place.

Slim pickins. Right, gals?

Slim pickins. Right, gals?

Damn you, CW! Damn you!

Though this is clearly Mars’s show that she gets to flaunt and run away with practically the whole time, the rest of the cast is pretty good, too, with a few cameo surprises thrown in there for good mix of fun treats. Jason Dohring is alright as Mars’ old boy-toy that she decides to help out after all of these years, and while I do see why so many ladies would fawn over him and his rockin’ bod, I can also see why the guy hasn’t quite been known or seen since he’s done Veronica Mars. He’s not necessarily a stiff, but most of the funny lines people are given here, feel genuine and make us laugh. Him, on the other hand, just makes you feel like he hasn’t acted in quite awhile and still has some rust left in the tank. That’s why when certain faces like Ken Marino, Krysten Ritter, Gaby Hoffmann, Ryan Hansen and plenty more from that, show up, do their thang and be funny, then it works like gangbusters and makes us laugh along with the ride.

You can tell that everybody is happy to be back with the gang and hoping that they are able to do this again in the near-future, even though it doesn’t seem too promising. Still though, one reunion, is better than none. Especially when your amongst a fine group of characters like these.

Yup, consider me sold on the whole phenomenon surrounding Veronica Mars. Adding it to my queue now as we speak!

Consensus: Going in and already being acquainted with the original source material may help you connect the dots when watching Veronica Mars, but is definitely not a “must”, as it still works on its own terms as fun, witty and energetic comedy, disguised as a detective tale.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Phones are like toates better at doing that sort of thing! Like, hello! This ain't 2005, or whatever, anymore!

Phones are like toates better at doing that sort of thing! Like, hello! This ain’t 2005, or whatever, anymore!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Bad Words (2014)

Still have yet to see any of these spelling bees give the word, “Icup”. You’ll get it.

Spelling bees are usually meant for those kids who study all night and day, learn every word in the dictionary, its meaning, its usage in a sentence, its tense and even its place-of-origin. These kids duke it out in a civilized, calm manner, with hopes in that they’ll get the chance to shine in the spotlight for a bit, get a check and even get a chance to meet some pretty famous people. And hell, they should – they’re kids, they studied long, hard and diligently, so why the ‘eff not? Well, hate to break it to these little kiddies, but 40-year-old Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) thinks differently. Through some loophole he miraculously discovers, Guy is able to forge himself into The Golden Quill Spelling Bee competition where he’s up against fifth and sixth graders, and even allowing his whole story to be told to the mainstream media, in the form of a reporter (Kathryn Hahn). As one could suspect, everybody is downright appalled that somebody this rude, crude and downright evil would actually commit such a reprehensible act, but then again, Guy Trilby is a reprehensible guy, so what do you expect?

Jason Bateman, man. We all know you’re funny and everything, but gosh. How are you still able to surprise us?

Fuck ACME, right?!?!?!

Fuck ACME, right?!?!?!

Well, it’s quite simple: He’s a genuinely-talented guy that knows how to make any piece of comedy work. Even if it does mean that he works in junk like Identity Thief. Yeah, let’s just move on from that one, shall we?

Anyway, what I am trying to say here is that we all know Jason Bateman for being a lovable, heart-of-gold, dead-panning smart-ass. It’s an act he’s been perfecting for quite some time and personally, I don’t feel as if it is ever getting old. However, it’s surprising just how many times Bateman hasn’t really gone out on a limb and gotten really wacky and nutty with himself. Sure, there was the Change-Up, where he had to play some-odd version of Ryan Reynolds, but it seems to be that only myself and a few others actually saw it, or better yet, even liked it.

But also, that’s why it is so cool to see him behind the director’s chair with this one, because not only does he get to show us a new skill he may have never utilized before, but he also gets to show us that the dude can still be a likable guy, even if he is playing an absolute and total dick. And an absolute, total dick is exactly what Guy Trilby is; however, he’s an entertaining and relatively lovable one at that. Most of why Trilby gets by as a character, is because Bateman is so likable to begin with, that it doesn’t matter if he’s using racist-comments towards everyone around him, or the fact that he’s antagonizing sixth graders just trying to get ahead of a 40-year-old, grown-man in a spelling bee competition. What does matter is if we get to see that there’s anything more to the guy than just that.

And with both Bateman’s acting and directing, we get to see Guy Trilby for all of his faults, his positives and just what makes him downright human. Honestly, he’s not a great guy, but there are brief snippets where we get to see that he can be a kind guy, even if that does entailing him taking a ten-year-old boy out to steal lobsters, get drunk, eat fast-food and see a pair of boobs. I didn’t say he was perfect, dammit! All I said that he tries to do what is right for both him, and this little boy named Chaitanya Chopra, played wonderfully by Rohan Chand. Together, the two have a nice bit of chemistry that works well and really gives the movie that extra amount of depth the material needed to be than just a “Spellbound meets Bad Santa“-flick.

I guess you can credit most of that to Bateman’s directing, his acting, or the script from Andrew Dodge that isn’t perfect, but still gets most of the beats right. It’s funny when it needs to be funny, but in a mean-spirited kind of way that makes you think you shouldn’t be laughing, yet, still can’t help yourself but to do otherwise. Especially once you see Guy terrorizing and getting inside the heads of all these poor, desperate kids. Sure, it’s terrible to watch, but in a good way that only a dark, R-rated comedy can do and that’s why it’s definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re in the mood for a good couple of hearty laughs.

Why no "Amy Winehouse hairdo" joke wasn't made is totally beyond me.

Why no “Amy Winehouse hairdo” joke wasn’t made is totally beyond me.

Or, if you just want to hear Michael Bluth make derogatory-comments about Arabs, fat people and girls, among others. Never thought I’d be using that in the same sentence, but like I said before: Jason Bateman can still surprise me, even if it is quite late in his career. True comedian right there, people.

By the end, the movie does begin to get a tad repetitive and obvious, as several plot-twists come to the forefront in a heavy, not-so-subtle way. It’s nice to see people like Philip Baker Hall, Ben Falcone and Allison Janney show up in stuff no matter what the occasion may be, but here, the material doesn’t suit them all that well to begin with, or give them much to do. More so Hall than anybody else, as it seems like Bateman really wanted to draw some drama out of just having him around, however, takes the movie down a whole notch along with him. The only one who can bring it back up, other than him and Chand of course, is Kathryn Hahn who, once again, shows us that she can balance-out humor and heart, without making the constant switches and twitches seem all that jarring. Still see a bright future ahead of this gal, even if she is pushing 40 and late in her career. Then again though, could say the same about Bateman and look where he’s going. Oh, Hollywood and all of your talented, over-40 people!

Consensus: May get too dramatic by the end, but with an assured-direction and lead performance from the always-hilarious Jason Bateman, Bad Words works by balancing out its side-splitting, crude humor, with plenty of heartwarming moments to make you think differently about the material you’re watching, as predictable as it may be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Whatta douche.

Whatta douche.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a man that likes to think of himself as something of a genius. He has many faults, yet, he never admits to them, and is starting to find out that it may just come and bite him. While he and his crew of rag-tag misfits get to embark on a series of wild adventures, soon, and totally out of the blue, walks in Steve’s estranged son, Ned (Owen Wilson), who he may, or may not have known actually existed in the first place. But, Steve sees this not only as a way to gain another loyal crew-member, but to spend some more quality-time and get to know the son he never knew was out there, which starts to become an after-thought once a journalist (Cate Blanchett) steps onto the ship and begins to catch both Steve, as well as Ned’s eyes. Also, on the side, they are looking for an exotic sea-creature known as the “Jaguar Shark”, who killed Zissou’s old-buddy. Problem is, nobody knows if it exists or not, not even he knows.

Even though I’m a fan of Wes Anderson, I have to say that even I can get a bit skeptical of his work. When you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you have to expect all of his trademarks, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, there is a slight spin on those said trademarks, but most of the time: What you see from a Wes Anderson movie, is most likely what you are going to get. And if you don’t like it, then suck it!

Or, if put in a nicer-way, just don’t pay to see it, or something like that.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

And most of the problem with this movie is that nothing really seems to be working at all for Anderson, in probably the first hour or so. It isn’t that it’s boring because people are just standing around and talking, it’s more that it never seems to be going anywhere. It’s almost as if Anderson thought it would be easy enough to give us a bunch of wild, crazy and colorful characters, have them do their thing, and that would be enough to hold our interest, as we waited for something to actually happen. It began to worry me a bit, mainly because I know what can happen when Anderson gets a little too up-in-his-own-ass sometimes.

Yeah, it can get bad, people. VERY BAD.

However, things did in fact pick-up, and I think it occurred right when Zissou and his crew start their journey, wherever the hell it may lead them. Most of the charm that we see Anderson utilize so well when he’s on-point, gets done quite efficiently here, but it also seems to show everything coming together. Of course there’s a lot of the same close-ups and strange-cuts that we have come to know (and sometimes love, sometimes hate) from Anderson, but there was more originality to the way he framed certain scenes and gave it an extra-spunk of color that made this film a lot more goofy than I was expecting.

Actually, “goofy” is probably the perfect word to describe this movie as, mostly because that’s exactly what I saw it as once the whole journey began. Don’t want to give away what happens on this journey that spices everything up and makes it go into a totally different direction than I was expecting, but just like me, you’ll be surprised regardless and its a whole lot of fun as well. It seemed like Anderson really took a liberty with a story of his, put his trademarks on it and gave it an unpredictable feel that completely comes out of nowhere. In fact, it actually gets a bit darker, as many situations take on a very serious, very violent-turn for the worst. But it’s never tonally-jarring, and that’s why Anderson’s movie works as well as it does in the final hour or so, rather than in the first hour, where it doesn’t seem like he knows what to do, or where he’s going. He’s just moving along on the current. You know, sort of like a boat on the sea.

Though, what doesn’t work so well here is when Anderson decides that he really wants to touch our hearts by getting to the core of these characters, and how well it doesn’t translate. See, there are a couple of moments by the end where you realize that Anderson really wants us to start crying like big, effin’ babies and grab whatever towels near us that we can find; however, it doesn’t work that way. For the most part, I was having a good time with this just being as goofy as possibly could be, with some darker-elements under-lining it all, but once it took that other page that makes it a lot weightier, it didn’t feel right. Nor did it gel with everything else that happened before. Doesn’t make it terrible, just makes us, the audience, confused as to whether we’re supposed to laugh, cry, feel warm inside, angry, or all of the above. At the same time, no less.

But, like most of Anderson’s movies, it’s the cast that really shines here as he’s seemingly able to get a wonderful performance out of everybody he has here. And of course, that also means we get to see Bill Murray show up and do his dry-wit thing in a Wes Anderson movie, but this time, it’s playing Steve Zissou, who, in case you didn’t know, is based on a real-person. Still though, that doesn’t seem to faze him much since it’s practically the same type of performance we usually see from Murray, in all of his glory. Without saying anything at all, Murray is able to speak volumes to us about his character by keeping that sad, expressionless face throughout the whole movie, and still be the most likable character somehow. He’s a bit more of a dick-head here, than he is in other of Anderson’s flicks, but there’s still a bit more to who he is, why he is the way he is and what makes him a guy worth seeing a movie made about, that keeps us going with liking him and his company.

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsical features!

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsy!

There’s also Owen Wilson who, much to everybody’s surprise here (including mine), is probably the one who steals this movie away from Murray as he seems like the perfect fit for a guy who is so innocent, so clean and so well-intentioned, that it’s so hard not to just love the guy right from the start. I’ll admit, Wilson has never been a favorite of mine but he totally had me won over here with a performance as Zissou’s long, lost son that he never met until now. There’s a lot of development to this character that makes him more than just another, “Southern bumpkin”-like character that he first starts off as coming-across, which makes it nicer and more pleasant to watch when he and his daddy do form a bond and continue to do son-father activities together. Even if the activities are shark-hunting and fossil-discovering.

Cate Blanchett plays the untrustworthy journalist, that’s doing a report on Zissou and his crew and handles a lot of the comedic-material very well, as well as having a believable romance with Wilson that I thought could have had its own flick, if at al given the chance to come to fruition. Willem Dafoe tests out his comedic-abilities as Zissou’s left-hand man, Klaus Daimler, and has a funny running-gag going on between him, Zissou, and Ned, where he just wants to be loved and treated like the best on the crew. It’s a side of Dafoe that I wish we saw more of, rather than just seeing the nutty, second-coming of Harry Osborne in everything that he does now.

Hold up, though! I’m not done, yet! Jeff Goldblum isn’t here as much as I would have liked as Zissou’s rival, Alistair Hennessey, but is still a lot of fun to watch as he just acts like, well, you know, Jeff Goldbum; Anjelica Huston is spicy (and surprisingly), very hot in her role as Zissou’s wife that doesn’t really want much to do with him since he’s such a fuck-up in his personal, and professional life; and it was a “nice welcome-back to the big-screen” for Bud Cort, who is a guy I haven’t seen awhile and does a nice job as Bill Ubell, the guy that’s forced to watch over production of this trip to make sure the funding of it is alright. Sadly, there was no Maude to accompany him. Wah.

Consensus: May not always work when it’s supposed to, but when the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou finds a way to gel all of its different elements together, it’s a surprisingly fun, heartfelt time, with an extra-ounce of whimsy, due solely to Wes Anderson and his quirky ways.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So many ego's just going head-to-head right there.

So many ego’s just going head-to-head right there. And Bud Cort.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Non-Stop (2014)

If only they gave Liam Neeson a line like this, then we would have had a masterpiece on our hands, folks.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a burned-out Air Marshall who has about had it with whatever it is that he does. He drinks, he smokes, he’s not a pleasant guy to be around and always stares at a picture of his daughter. So yeah, you kind of get the idea that the dude’s not fully on-point, but he’s at least smart and determined enough to know that when there is danger in his path, he will not stop until it is gone. That’s why when he gets a series of odd text-messages from a number he doesn’t recognize, inside of his secure-network no less, Bill can’t help but feel like he has to get to the bottom of this. To make matters worse, the texts from this unknown person, are telling him to transfer a large amount of money, to a certain account number that, when checked-on, just so happens to be Bill’s. Something is definitely going awry aboard this plane and Bill is going to find out what exactly is causing it, although his tactics aren’t always supported by those around him.

Another year, which also means, another Liam Neeson-starer. To be honest though, I don’t mean to say that in a disappointed-tone, because I actually like Liam Neeson and even the movies he’s been choosing to do. Sure, most of the movies rely on him being a tall, angry bad-ass that, at one point, eventually picks up a gun and shoots it, but overall, his movies aren’t always so bad to watch to where I feel like I’ve seen the same formula done over and over again, until it’s practically rinse, recycled and repeat.

That’s why, somehow, I was actually looking forward to Non-Stop, because not only does it feature Liam Neeson in, yet again, a starring-role where he plays a tall, angry bad-ass that picks up a gun at some point, but also doesn’t seem like your traditional-thriller. Sure, it’s got the whole “who is the secret person texting me these bad things”-angle going for it, but the way in which the story gets twisted, turned and skewered around to make it look like Liam Neeson is the baddie after all this time, really intrigued me. Even then though, I wasn’t too sure who was going to be the baddie by the end of this, which, just by judging a trailer from the year 2014, means a whole heck of a lot.

"Are you the guy with his phone up to his ear? Oh wait, dumb question! Never mind!"

“Can you hear me now? ‘Kay, cool.”

But like I was saying, what was key to this movie’s suspense and excitement was that we have absolutely no clue whatsoever who the baddie is, why that person is doing it and how exactly are we going to find out. It’s all what keeps us in the dark just enough to ensure us that the long-winding, suspenseful-wait for the big reveal at the end, will be ultimately rewarding and worth it. And even if it totally isn’t, at least we were thrown on a wild ride, right?

And honestly, I think that’s all this movie seemed to be going for. Jaume Collet-Serra definitely knows how to wrack-up tension here, but to do so in the right way that doesn’t feel manipulative. Maybe there were a bit too many red herrings thrown in our direction for good measure, but it all felt necessary after awhile, if only because it made the story all the more twisty and surprising. A thriller like this doesn’t have to be a game-changer, all it has to do is keep us guessing, again and again, even if the story itself does continue to get even more and more implausible; which, sadly to say, actually does happen here.

Yes, Jaume Collet-Serra does begin to lose it quite a bit by the end when all hell truly begins to break loose and the person(s) we get revealed as the baddies, not only have a crummy reason but sort of seemed obvious all along. Actually, that’s a lie. No it didn’t, but the movie made it seem so, just by the sheer-fact that the reasoning why wasn’t quite well-written or even all that believable. Not even a lot of the stuff that Bill is somehow able to do in such a small time-frame mostly doesn’t even seem all that logical, but when you have a thriller done in a tense, assured way like this, you can’t help but forget about all of the plot’s shortcomings and enjoy the ride for as long as you can.

Also, another quick note to make a point of is how some may feel a bit uncomfortable seeing a movie that has to do with a jacked-airplane, post-9/11 America. There are a few occasions where the movie indirectly makes a note of that event occurring and it actually made me feel a bit better. Not just because it showed that the creators at least took into consideration that that event would be exactly the first thing to come to these people’s minds, but that they aren’t too afraid to say it either. There’s also a couple of snarky-comments made towards the Muslim in the story who, just by his appearance, is already looked at in a suspicious-manner by just about everyone around him – and even moreso once things start getting racy up in the air. But like I said, it’s strange that a movie made in the 21st Century can be about an airplane being taken over by terrorists, and not just make reference to 9/11, but also how it still affects our psyche today, even just when it comes to taking a step on an actual aircraft. Maybe a bit too deep for a movie so thin, but hey, whatever.

Anyway, back to the movie on hand here.

Like I alluded to before, the reason why most of these movies do work is because of Liam Neeson’s presence, one that’s always been acknowledged, yet, never fully utilized in a role that had him command our attention, at every single second. Nowadays though, that seems to be all that Neeson gets, and we’re better as a society for it, because he absolutely runs wild with his role as Bill Marks. You already get the sense, early on, that Bill Marks is a pretty disturbed-dude, but Neeson actually takes that one step further and shows you how exactly that can affect not only his thought-process, but the whole situation he, as well as everybody else is in, in general. You want to feel bad for him since nobody seems to fully believe all that he’s saying and passing as “truth”, nor do you really get on his side either, since there’s always a shred of doubt in your mind as to what is really going on with this guy. Still though, in every step of the way, Neeson makes Bill Marks a compelling-figure that deserves to be picked-apart, if only because he’s played by somebody as commandeering and interesting as Neeson. Maybe one of these days, Neeson will shake the movie-world up again and show us that he’s got room on his shelf for an Oscar, but until then, I guess we have plenty of shots of him just holding-up guns and looking like a big, bad mofo.

Redheads are always deceiving.

Redheads are always so deceiving.

Can’t say that there’s much wrong with that though, as he’s definitely the right guy for the job.

But of course, Neeson isn’t the only one working his butt off here, as there’s plenty others in this capable-cast worth taking note of. Julianne Moore is charming as the passenger who takes a seat right next to Bill and cozies on up with him pretty quickly; Corey Stoll plays a NYPD cop and reminds me why I miss his ass so much on House of Cards; Scoot McNairy plays a passenger who tells a little white lie about where he’s actually going, only to find out that he’s made the biggest mistake of his life by doing so; Nate Parker plays a computer programmer and shows us that not all black people who are good with electronics have to look like Jaleel White; Omar Metwally plays the Muslim I made a mention of earlier and also happens to be a doctor; and even Lupita Nyong’o shows up here, in what seems to be a role she took, way before she even had a clue that 12 Years a Slave was going to make her a huge name. There’s plenty of more recognizable and notable faces that get paid attention quite an awful lot here, but what makes them all so worthy of our attention is that each and every one of them have enough positive-qualities to where you can believe their innocence, but just enough shadiness as well, to where if they were to turn that other cheek and be the ultimate baddie, then you wouldn’t be all that surprised either.

Basically, it’s a free-for-all where nobody is who they say they are, all up until they are finally found-out and taught their lessons. Sort of like my high school relationships.

Consensus: Kind of dumb, yet, also very tense, exciting and fun that allows Non-Stop to be another winner for Liam Neeson and his love of releasing a winter movie, just about each and every year. Good for him, but even better for us since we get to watch these movies and be entertained by them!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hate it when they all know the answer."

“Hate it when they all know the answer.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

It’s all in the title, folks.

This is going to be a bit of a struggle, but I’ll get through it somehow. Anyway, the story goes a little something like this (I think): Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) boards a plane in order to protect and guard a key witness (Nathan Phillips) in a crime he is investigating. There seems to be no problems whatsoever with the flight once it first gets off and running, as there are plenty of fun, vibrant people from all walks of life gathered together to reach their destination of L.A. However, there seems to be one problem, and one problem only that nobody on-board ever anticipated: Fucking Snakes, man! Snakes are on this motha fuckin’ plane!

So yeah, as you can tell, I didn’t really have to go into too much detail with that premise, because it’s all pretty simple: There are snakes, who are very high, that also just so happen to be on a nearly-packed plane, where nobody is expecting these sorts of mofos to come right at them as they put on their gas-masks. Sure, you could say this is terribly stupid, and if you did say so, I wouldn’t hold it against you one bit. In fact, I’d applaud you for at least noticing the sheer-stupidity that comes along with a movie when you’re title is in fact Snakes on a Plane.

So fake, but so cool!

So fake, but so cool!

However, I would hold it against you if you weren’t the slightest bit interested in seeing something like this, because even the reprehensibly idiotic movies have to have at least something worth seeing, right?

Well, I’d say have to say yeah, because this is what happens when you take your B-movie premise, your B-movie title and a meager-enough budget to make something that’s not only quite dumb, but actually know that it is, not try to make any mistakes by adding unnecessary melodrama and give it all you got. Because hey, if you fail at making a dumb movie, you’re just a terrible person who should never work a movie camera in your life ever again. Just saying, but it’s true.

Thankfully though, director David R. Ellis knew exactly what he was getting himself into with this kind of material and doesn’t step-back once from pushing it over that extra-step into total “crazy town”. Think about it, when all you have is an-hour-and-a-half-movie dedicated to snakes on crack, slithering around, eating and killing people in whatever possible way you could imagine, you have to have a bit of fun, right? Hell yeah! And that’s why Ellis, deserves credit here for not trying to get too serious here or too dry. Sure, the humor is pretty awful, and so are most of the lines, but at least the guy doesn’t focus on them too much in hopes that people catch onto that aspect of the movie and have an even better time with it.

That would have definitely helped, but I think Ellis was fine with just relying on the action, tension and pure fun of watching some dude’s junk get attacked by an Anaconda. Especially when your target-demographic for something like this is drunken-teenagers, then you have to give them what they want, and that’s boobies, banging, blood, snakes, guns and Samuel L. Jackson yelling, screaming and doing whatever the hell he wants.

And yes, I did just spell-out your recipe for “What Makes an Awesome Movie”. You can all thank me later when you’re rolling in the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars.

But once again, I know I’m stretching it a bit here trying to go into this as much as I can, with as much detail as possible in order to have your opinion swayed on this in any possible way whatsoever – but I really can’t. All it really comes down to is whether or not you’re willing to put-up with a bunch of talented-people, yelling some cheesetastic lines, running away from CGI snakes and, at the end of the day, trying to look as if they aren’t doing it just for a paycheck. Maybe some of them are, but that’s not the point; the point is that this is a movie that realizes it’s not made for those who want to see a piece of grand cinema.  In fact, they’re much more attuned to the movies that don’t need much thought or even plausibility; just expectations of pure schlock, craziness and fun. That’s all.

Totally slumming it here. But it's all for a good cause!

Totally slumming it here. But it’s all for a good cause!

People nowadays go out and see something like Sharknado, or Croctopus, or whatever animal-and-natural-disaster-equation you can come up with, for the pure fact that they are going to see something that isn’t weight, isn’t thought-provoking, and sure as hell doesn’t need to be seen with a clear mind. And there is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with that, because sometimes, when done right, those types of movies can work all sorts of wonders. In ways, they can make people laugh their assess off; in other ways, they can even go so far as to transport that viewer into a whole different world where nutty shit happens, just for the sake of pure entertainment. Now, I don’t know what any of ya’ll out there think, but isn’t that the whole point of going to the movies in the first place? Sure, you want to see those real heavy, real dramatic and real life-changing pieces of film where you can’t seem to get its memory out of your head, nor can you stop allowing it to affect you and your daily-life. Those movies are all fine and dandy, but when I want something to be in front of my eyes, not only entertaining me, but not trying to make too much room in my head, for it to pick my brain to pieces and leave me in whatever shape it leaves me in, I’ll go with something like this. Not saying you totally should, but give it a whirl and see what happens.

But hey, don’t just listen to me, let Samuel L. tell you what it’s all about. Oops, wrong one! But you get the idea.

Consensus: Undeniably stupid in every aspect of its existence, but that still doesn’t keep Snakes on a Plane away from being a good time for anybody who wants pure, unadulterated, non-thought-provoking fun for a quick hour-and-a-half.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, you heard me! MUTHAFUCKA!

Yeah, you heard me! MUTHAFUCKA!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Afternoon Delight (2013)

Sky rockets in flight….

Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is your typical, suburban mommy. She’s rich, she works-at-home, she cares for her kid, she has barely any sex with her hubby (Josh Radnor) and she routinely sees a therapist (Jane Lynch). But worst of all, she’s just bored. It’s that plain and simple. So, in order to fix that and get some spice back into her uneventful marriage, Rachel decides to go to a strip-club where she gets a private lap-dance from a much younger girl named McKenna (Juno Temple). The two don’t necessarily hit it off, as much as it’s just Rachel who sees McKenna as a possible source to not only cure her boredom, but make her feel like she is saving somebody from this world, if only it’s to take her away from the sex world. This is when Rachel gets the bright idea to have McKenna stay in her house and tell everybody that she is her “nanny”, while also trying to make sure that McKenna herself stays away from the pole, as well as her other job, being a high-class hooker. As the cracks in Rachel’s lie begin to show, so do the ones with her marriage, her friendships with her fellow neighbors, as well as her and McKenna’s relationship as well, which causes hell for just about everybody surrounded around them both.

Though it’s easy to characterize anybody who lives in the suburbs as “uptight”, “boring” and “stuck-up”, among other things, it’s not exactly fair. See, I actually live in the suburbs, even though I venture out to Philly for most of my natural, breathing-life, and I can’t help but see this differently sometimes. Some of the people that I do know that live in the suburbs, definitely don’t always have a firm grip on reality, or what actually is occurring out there in the world, so they just act like it’s all a big deal, and donate to a charity or some fund, just in order to make themselves feel better about their contribution to a needy-cause. That’s only “some” people I know though.

Dude's totally tucking it in right now.

Dude’s totally tucking it in right now.

As for the others that I know, they’re just as simple as you or I. Sure, they don’t always have the best clue on what is really going on out there in the world, but they aren’t necessarily dummies either. If you take them into the city where crime and violence supposedly runs amok, they won’t fret or freak-out. Yeah, they’ll be a bit tense and all, but who wouldn’t?!?!

But what I’m trying to get at here is that most of the ideas we think we have about those upper-class, suburbanites, aren’t always exactly true, and I think that’s the type of idea this movie tries to get across – not just in its message, but through its main character, Rachel. See, here is the thing about Rachel: You know that she’s this woman who longs for something more and isn’t too into-her-own-head to get all bothered and bugged about what most of her neighbors get all crazy about. However, you can also tell that she still wants to look good in their eyes, not seem like a total “rebel”, and just make sure that she keeps the peace between her and all them, without ever stepping on their toes, or offending them in any way. And to be honest, when you watch Rachel, you can’t help but just root her on because you know that she’s a lovely lady and means well, but the group of gals that she’s thrown into, aren’t really the right fit for her and are the type of walking, talking and living cliches we usually see of these upper-class, suburban women: Uptight, boring and stuck-up.

However though, that same dilemma built for Rachel, is what makes her such a compelling character to begin with. We want to despise her and look down on her for being so dumb and thinking that she could, or “should”, save a girl like McKenna, who has practically been screwing, lying, cheating and stealing since she first learned how to speak; but by the same token, we also can’t hate her because she has good intentions, she does nice things for people and, at the end of the day, she’s just like you or me, and has the same wants, needs and pleads. It’s what makes her so interesting to watch, not because we never know how she’s going to react next to McKenna’s dirty and gritty world, but because we never quite know how she’s going to react to those other women around her. You know, the women she’s supposed to fit-in with, but yet, just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing so.

Writer/director Jill Soloway definitely made a smart decision in making someone like Rachel, feel as real and as genuine as you could get, but she also made an even smarter-decision in casting someone like Kathryn Hahn in the role, someone who, in case you didn’t know, loves to be very funny, crazy and wacky, just about ALL of the time. And in all honesty, I think that’s what makes this performance so worth watching: We know Hahn’s background and we know how much she can make us laugh, but watching her sort of play-up the whole serious side of acting-skills and actually emote, is really surprising to see on-screen, not least because she isn’t any good at it. Because she totally is and makes Rachel someone we can sort of connect with, as well as empathize with, because we all know she wants to do the right thing, even if her intentions are in a bit of a jumble as to why, and for what reasons.

But, make no mistakes, we never hate Rachel, nor do we ever hate someone like McKenna either, which is mostly due to the fact that Juno Temple practically has this whole “young, sexpot”-act down to a T by now. Though we hear that McKenna comes from a sketchy-background, I never once felt like she was all that bad of a woman to have around the house, or bring out into public. Sure, she’s been around the block maybe one too many times, but leaving her alone with my kid? Eh, I could do worse. However, leaving her around my hubby while I was gone? Not at all! But, once again, Soloway makes the smart decision in giving somebody like Josh Radnor, another dude we mostly see as the charming, funny dude in stuff, a dramatic role, but also, a very believable one as a husband that loves his wife, his kid, his house, his salary and his buddies he smokes pot and surfs with, but still may have that lingering-eye a few times.

Very subtle.....slut.

Very subtle. Slut.

Still though, the movie doesn’t always entertain the idea that Radnor’s character may actually go behind his wife and cheat on her with McKenna, which is sort of a disappointment, because there are many times where it seems like this movie could have definitely benefited from some more emotional fireworks thrown into the mix. I mean yeah, we get a couple of scenes where we see Rachel try and understand who McKenna is, where she comes from and why she loves what she does (screwing), but there was never enough to fully wrap us into either of their stories. They were sort of getting to know one another, but at the same time, sort of not. They were, more or less, just peaking into each other’s lives to see what it was all about – which I get was probably the point, but Soloway never allows for there to be much tension added into the proceedings.

Instead, we get a bunch of characters who are definitely very interesting and may make you reconsider some previous-stances you may, or may not, have had on those who choose to live far, far away from the suburbs, so that they can live in peace in harmony, without much excitement in there to shake things up. You can call their life-styles “boring”, and hell, you can even call it “unrealistic”, but for some people, this is probably for the best. So next time, just let those suburbanites settle into their lives and move, as you do the same. Unless you are one, then in that case, get outside, get your ass to the city and see what life is all about!!! Woo-hoo!

Consensus: Most of what Afternoon Delight presents here are used more as just thoughts, rather than as a full-blown idea to keep the narrative going, but when you have such great performances from the likes of Josh Radnor, Juno Temple and most surprisingly of all, Kathryn Hahn, it doesn’t hurt to just sit back and watch as these people live their lives. Even as monotonous and dull as they may be, at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So if I just wanted to watch, would I have to chip in as well? Know what I'm saying, guys?

So if I just wanted to watch, would I have to chip in as well? Know what I’m saying, guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Event Horizon (1997)

Maybe it’s not the aliens we should fear, but ourselves? Then again, maybe not. They’re freakin’ scary!

Smart, but slightly off-kilter astrologist Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) creates a ship called the “Event Horizon” which, for one reason or another, can create small, black gravity holes and do a whole bunch of other cool and fancy things. The first crew to go aboard the spaceship onto a mission for Neptune, somehow vanish into thin air. Nobody knows how, why or where – they just know that one day, everything went dead. This is when Weir decides that it may be his time to finally go and see what has happened to those crew-members, and most importantly, to his creation, but not without some much-needed, professional guidance first. Enter the spaceship called “Lewis & Clark”, commandeered by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the type of no-nonsense guy you’d expect to see on such a high-class mission such as this. And for awhile, everything seems to be going all perfect, that is until some of the crew-members begin to see some weird images, that may or may not be actually “real-life” or just plain and simple “hallucinations”. Nobody knows, and yet they are all experiencing them, even Weir himself, who may be getting even more sadistic images in his head than the others.

"....well then you better go catch it!!!"

“….well then you better go catch it!!!”

So yeah, I bet you can already get your pen and papers ready and try to chalk this one up to being, yet again, just another carbon-copy clone of all sci-fi, lost-in-space movies like Alien, 2001, or hell, even Lost in Space itself. And to be honest, if you were to do so, you wouldn’t be wrong; everything that you see here doesn’t have much originality to it in terms of what new technology it introduces, or what sort of logic about its premise and high-tech gadgets it may make us try and believe. But there is something to be said for a movie that doesn’t really try to go out there and re-invent the wheel, but instead, just tries to keep things small, contained, claustrophobic, and straight-up in-your-face, like any good B-movie, you know?

Especially if that B-movie just so happens to be directed by this guy.

Yep, before Paul W.S. Anderson started forcing us to notice and pay attention to how hot his wife is, the guy was another ambitious, inspired and up-and-coming film-maker that had a predilection for big, loud and extremely dumb sci-fi movies. You could argue that his taste-preference hasn’t quite changed since then, but you also could, considering that it seems like he definitely put some thought into these movies, rather than just making the same damn video-game adaptation, time and time again.

I mean seriously, how many times can we honestly see Milla Jovovich blow-off some zombie’s head, while barely-clothed!??!?

But I digress. Mainly what I am trying to get across here is that Anderson is a bit of a joke nowadays (especially being that he’s usually considered “the lesser director Paul Anderson”), but back then, when he was just getting started, the guy showed that he knew how to frame a story, make it tense, make it go all-over-the-place and most of all, make it fun. While this movie definitely starts-off a bit too plot-heavy, eventually Anderson himself decides to throw most of that out of the window and just allow us to feast our eyes on a bunch of characters just losing their cool and not knowing what to believe and take-in as “real”, or “make-believe”. And needless to say, Anderson frames this idea perfectly and actually has us in the mind-set of not knowing just what the hell to believe, or what to expect next. Always fun when you have a movie like, no matter how original its plot may, or may not be.

I guess the "hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche" could work for a movie that takes in space.

I guess the “hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche” could work for a movie that takes in space.

As you could expect too, the dialogue is, at times, horrendous. The fact that it’s being delivered by some talented, and relatively substantial names, definitely gives it an extra-push to where it’s not as grueling as it may have been with lesser-people involved, but so is not the case here. Laurence Fishburne is definitely the stand-out in this movie because it’s quite clear that he knows exactly what he signed-up for, and lets there be a couple of moments of light in his eyes, shine through whenever necessary. However though, most of the time, he just stone-faces this material, and oddly enough, makes it work because of how strict and uptight this character is. Same sort of goes for Sam Neill who is able to make any sci-fi mumbo-jumbo sound the least bit credible, even if it is abundantly clear, right from the get-go, that he’s definitely a bit of a weird guy who, I for one, would not trust around me for a single bit on Earth with, let alone flying millions and millions of miles into space.

Everybody else that shows up here is fine, too, but I don’t really want to stress any of them all that much because this isn’t really an “actor’s movie”. It’s less concerned with them, and more concerned with how it looks, feels and entertains us as movie-goers, and with that idea taken into mind, the movie does a mighty fine job at doing so. You can clearly tell that most of this movie’s budget went right into the look that Anderson packs with all sorts of 90′s-CGI, that is dated, but then again, it’s the 90′s, so what else could ya expect?!?! And also, any movie that’s as up-front about its numerous amounts of blood, gore and violence as this movie is, always deserves a free-pass from me, especially since it is quite rare to ever get a sci-fi extravaganza that’s rated-R. Maybe that’s why this movie bombed in the first place, but that’s not the point. The point is that while the movie definitely may not have had everybody clamoring at the knees to see it on opening-day weekend, it still seems to have gain a pretty loving, and devoted cult-following; the same one I guess you could consider myself apart of, even though I probably won’t be going to any special events for it anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter. I think a Netflix watch is just enough for me.

Consensus: You can’t wholly expect greatness from Paul W.S. Anderson, but with Event Horizon, you can at least expect him to deliver the goods on a not-so original story that’s fun, exciting and a tad unpredictable, especially once crap begins to hit the fan for everybody involved. Including yourself, the viewer.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Jack Goes Boating (2010)

Dan does typing. Dan likes typing. Dan continues typing.

Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a meek, mild and closed-off guy that doesn’t really ask for much from others, so therefore, he never gets asked of much in return. He’s sort of just there, without really bringing anything to the table or to the world, even though he does have a pretty fine job as a limo driver. Through mutual friends, Jack gets set-up with a woman who is a little bit of the same as him (Amy Ryan), although a tad more scared of a human-connection, which she apparently has a dark history about. Together, they meet, they hit it off and Jack suddenly becomes interested in cooking, being a better guy and even learning how to boat, so that he can take him and his girl out on it. On the other hand, we have Jack’s best buddy, Clyde (John Ortiz), who is having a bit of his own lady problems; except in his case, it’s his long-term wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). All four do spend time together, hang out, eat food, get drunk and try to have fun, but eventually, problems do begin to arise for both couples and lead to some very sad, very upsetting truths being unearthed.

Usually when an actor goes to make that jump from being in front of the screen, to trying their hand at the back of it, most of the time, they tend to go for the small, sweet and simple stories that aren’t that big, or ambitious to pull-off well with a lot of skill. All they need is just a simple idea of how to handle a camera, and basically, just know how to film a movie, of which most actors-turned-directors have a clear idea of. Or at least they should have.

"So....uh, should we kiss? Or, I mean, we don't have to? Not if you don't want to, that is. You know? Okay...uhm yeah. Kiss, right?"

“So….uh, should we kiss? Or, I mean, we don’t have to? Not if you don’t want to, that is. You know? Okay…uhm yeah. Kiss, right?”

So, that’s why when Philip Seymour Hoffman decided that he wanted to try and shake things up a bit with his own career and get behind the action, it seemed like a no-brainer that he’d not only adapt a play he starred in back in the day, but also not try to really reach out of his limits as a director. Which, for some directors, would be rather lame, but for him, it works in its own condensed, easy-going way.

Sure, there’s nothing here about Jack Goes Boating that’s really life-changing or revolutionary in terms of what you’ll be thinking about when it ends, but does every movie need to change your life? Especially when all it’s about is a bunch of people with some very closed-off personalities who just so happen to know one another, and talk and fall in love? Yeah, I don’t think so and I have to give Hoffman at least credit for not really trying to over-step his boundaries as a director. If it was somebody like Scorsese, or Spielberg, or even Spike Lee behind the mantel, then yeah, I’d be a little ticked-off and disappointed considering I usually expected them to make something, out of anything, no matter how small or large; but as for Hoffman – the guy never over-steps anything that’s given to him. Instead, he just focuses on our four characters and gives them a chance to show us why they deserve to be looked at, thought about and discussed.

And even if you don’t go that far into your thought-process with these characters, there’s nothing all that wrong with that because each and everybody is good with their own respective roles, which is something to applaud Hoffman for in at least handing over the spotlight, on many occasions, to his supporters in this rather tiny cast. Even so though, it’s apparently clear that Hoffman really owns the screen whenever he gives himself a chance to do so, and it’s great to see him play this nervous, awkward and twitchy guy, but not done so in a way that we’ve seen him do before in something like Magnolia and Happiness (where he was a lot more creepier). Jack’s just a simple guy, who wants to impress this lady of his that he just met and practically fell head-over-heels for and we can’t help but want to see the big lug get his happiness, get the love of his life and best of all, get his boating-license. There are small goals these characters set for themselves, and just being able to watch them as they try their hardest to get to that point, truly is something worth seeing, especially in Jack’s case.

However, as much as this story may be Jack’s, it could have easily been Clyde’s as well, and it still would have been just as compelling, if not more. Most of that has to do with the character is written so richly to where you get a general idea that he’s a different person everywhere he goes, but that’s also because John Ortiz himself is so damn good in the role, making you think just what the hell he is going to do next every time he shows up. Ortiz has been one of my favorite character actors since I first checked him out in American Gangster, and I’m happy to see that not much has changed; especially here with his role as Clyde where he gets to show all sorts of sides to his character. Clyde can sometimes be too touchy and put people in an uncomfortable situation; sometimes too open to the point of where he’s revealing stuff his wife sure as hell wouldn’t want revealed in a million years; sometimes too happy and spirited to where he’s just simply over-bearing; and sometimes, he can be a bit of a dick, saying and doing the wrong things, to the wrong people, at the wrong moments. However, I never hated Clyde for doing these things because I truly did feel like he always meant well and never meant to hurt those around him. Mainly Jack, though.

Women: Always driving us men to drink.

Women: Always driving us men to drink.

The ladies get to do some fine work as well with both Daphne Rubin-Vega and Amy Ryan putting in some fabulous work that clearly challenges the guys in how well they can developed and looked-at. Rubin-Vega is great here and seems like the type of wife that can put up with Clyde’s crap for as long as she has, but also seems like the type of woman who doesn’t want to be tied-down too much, regardless of if it hurts her hubby’s feelings or not. We should dislike her for that, but we sometimes see just how pushy Clyde can be, so instead, we sort of sympathize with her and hope the two work it out. As for Ryan, she has a bit more of the “shticky” role where she gets to be odd, off-kilter and slightly neurotic, but never to the point of where it’s annoying. Rather, we always feel like we’re seeing a truly messed-up person who definitely wants love in her life, but just can’t get past that point into intimacy where she has to giver her whole-self to that one and only person. That’s why her scenes with Jack truly are nice to watch, especially their little kiss in the snowfall. Only Ryan and Hoffman could pull that scene off so well, but with Hoffman directing that, it feels all the more sweeter.

Poor guy. He truly will be missed. Another legend gone from the silver screen. But at least we have the memories. At least we have the memories.

Consensus: Essentially, Jack Goes Boating is the type of small, uneventful directorial-debut we expect to see from a well-known actor trying to make that stride over to the other side, but Philip Seymour Hoffman still shows that he was a good director, and definitely understood the tiny, simple and easy-going pleasures of these character’s lives, as well the fact of life itself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

At least he got a chance to reach his goal. Good for Jack.

At least he got a chance to reach his goal. Good for you, Jack.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Cutie And The Boxer (2013)

Art and love, for some reason, don’t always mix.

Meet Ushio and Noriko Shinohara: They’re both artists, they’re both married, and they’re both in love with one another. However, both sides feel different about all three of these aspects of their lives. Although, there is one common conclusion they can come together on: They’re struggling and living in poverty. And yes, it does suck. However, they both try to get through this as best as they can by creating art, holding shows, trying to get any bidder who’d be willing to throw away their money on one of Ushio’s infamous “boxing portraits” and eventually pay their rent, that’s already long over-do. It’s a hard life that these two have, but they live it together and through what we see of Noriko’s own art that she’s trying to get noticed, is that it’s always been an uphill-battle with Ushio. There are some very dark aspects surrounding Ushio’s past-life that we find out about, through himself, as well as Noriko, and we also begin to realize what sort of effect those dark problems have had on their child, Alex.

It should be of no surprise to anyone that, even in the 21st Century, making an honest living as an artist is a lot harder than it looks. Not only do you have to find a way to bring something new to the table that hasn’t already been done before, but you have to get the right exposure from all sorts of the right people. Thanks to the internet that we are so blessed with to have nowadays, it’s a lot easier for artists to get recognition and money for what it is that they create, but it’s still hard and it’s only going to get harder. We even see a scene early on in which both Ushio and Noriko try their damn near hardest to “sell” a potential buyer on one of their most unique paintings, yet, come-up short, all because it doesn’t hold any sort of “cultural significance”. Just goes to show you that being an artist can blow sometimes, but when you’re trying to get money for it, it’s probably easier to not even bother.

I could only imagine the type of "art" Bernard Hopkins or Butterbean would create.

I could only imagine the kind of “art” Bernard Hopkins or Butterbean would create.

However, one of the best aspects behind this documentary isn’t that it’s trying to make some long-lasting statement about the modern-state of art or how artists from all-over-the-world should be noticed, praised and given money; it’s more of a long-lasting statement about the most universal aspects a person can have in life: Love. And what comes with every love, is a story about the love itself – how it began, how it felt, how it carried-on throughout the thick and thin and, in some cases, how it still stands to this day. That’s why when you see and hear a love story like the one of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, you can’t help but get that warm-feeling in the pit of your stomach, but realize that love itself is one of the most powerful feelings one can have in their life and how, no matter what type of hoops and loops that said love may go through, the feeling never goes away.

Yes, I know, I know, I know! This is all beginning to sound quite like my Her review, but whereas that was a fictional movie about a man and his operating system falling in love and sharing life with one another, this one’s a true story about two aging-artists that still seem to love one another, but both have very, VERY different ideas about that love, and it’s all the better because of that. But for instance, whereas Ushio believes that his love with Noriko is one built up on a friendship and understanding that will never go away; Noriko is sort of the opposite. Norkio feels like she can be trapped by how much Ushio has caused strife in her life and holds plenty of resentment towards him for that. Sure, she loves him with all her heart, but there are some parts of that heart that makes her wish that she may have had taken a few different paths along the way.

Speaking of that path, we actually do get to see plenty of it in her art, which not only shows us the early part of her life where she met Ushio, fell in love with him, had his baby, got married to him and found herself in absolute debt most of the time, but also her current, day-to-day feelings about how she wants to make a name for herself, and not simply known as “Ushio Shinohara’s wife”. Though the movie could have easily painted her as something of a villainous figure that has it out for her dear, old hubby, day in and day out, it does exactly the opposite. In fact, we probably sympathize with her, more than we do with Ushio, but we also still see the traits that make them who they are when they’re alone, as well as when they’re with one another. We also get to see a lot of what Noriko has been through in her life with Ushio and how, no matter how many times her husband may think differently, there will still continue to be problems, just as much as there had been in the past. This could have easily made this a very sad documentary that painted this couple’s lives together as a uneventful, poverty-stricken existence, but doesn’t do so and shows that their love for one another, as well as the art that they create, does give them plenty of happiness to get through the day.

And in some cases, may even help them pay the rent.

Don't tell Ushio this, but I think his wifey-poo may be a bit of a better artist. Just saying.....

Don’t tell Ushio this, but I think his wifey-poo may be a bit of a better artist than he is. Just saying…..

That’s pretty much all that this documentary really talks about, although I must say, it does it quite well. We see these two as lovers and, on occasion, as artists. In fact, I wished that they would have shed more insight into the art that these two create, like for instance, how and why Ushio himself came-up with the idea of creating art by punching a blank-canvas with painted boxing-gloves. It seemed like an interesting form in which somebody would actually create “art”, but it’s never explained; rather, we see more about how much of a drunk he was, causing emotional and financial problems for both he and Noriko. Which is fine considering that it’s the main arch of the story, I just wish there had been a few more bits of insight into how this art makes Ushio who is today, or who he was back in the days when he was odd and mysterious, but also still well-known.

Maybe these are small gripes with the film because at the end of the day, this documentary really is the story behind Ushio and Noriko Shinohara: Their love, their lives and their passions. While you do get an idea that there was plenty of footage left on the cutting-room floor, what we still get to see here is a couple that made it through hell, came back, went through some more hell, and came back once again, only to get a smaller-version of that place they were previously at. Yes, it all sounds so sad, mopey and a tad bit depressing, but they have love and adoration for one another, and if anything, that’s what keeps them going the most in life.

Consensus: Without trying too hard to try and make any huge statement about the current-state of the art world, Cutie and the Boxer keeps it straight and narrow to the story of both Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two people who clearly love one another, but also have a checkered-past, that can bring out plenty of sadness, as well as happiness. Just like love itself, folks.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

For any annoyed house-wife who has just wanted to let their hubby "have it".

Pretty sure that this is how plenty of housewives must feel towards their husbands on a day-to-day basis.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (2013)

Cactus’ are pretty much useless, except for when you want to trip mad balls.

Snobbish, college-grad Jamie (Michael Cera) travels all the way to Chile for one reason, and for one reason only: To find a famed cactus that contains hallucinogenic material. It’s definitely something that Jamie feels excited for, and can’t wait to tell everybody about it. However, at a party one night, he may have told the wrong person when he meets a fellow-American named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). Crystal Fairy is a bit of a free-spirit who goes her own way and doesn’t care too much about the little things; which also just so happens to be the exact opposite of who Jamie is and he lets her know about it, and somewhere amid the conversation, accidentally informs and somewhat invites her to come along on this trip with him and a few Chilean friends of his. But Jamie doesn’t think much about it, all up until he actually gets a call from her saying that she’s ready-to-go. Many times on this trip, Jamie considers dropping her off somewhere along the way and practically abandoning her, but his friends think that’s not the cool thing to do. So, Crystal Fairy stays with these guys as they look for this cactus where she preaches, meditates, puts rocks in their drinks and gets them to open-up just a tad bit; all of which Jamie doesn’t like and thus why he butts heads with her the most.

He loves that cactus, man. No, I mean, he reaaaaaaally loves that cactus.

He loves that cactus, man. No, I mean, he reaaaaaaally loves that cactus.

You can just tell when a movie was clearly made all because the cast and crew had some time, money and ideas on their hands. Nothing wrong with that really, because I feel like any and all directors would love to be at that point in their career where they can just “do” a movie, all for craps and giggles. However, the only problem may be is that it almost feels a bit too much like they just don’t care and are doing it just to do it (looking at you, Sandler).

But, like I said before, making a movie just because, isn’t always a bad thing, as you can tell that there’s clearly a lot of talent and effort involved, so why not? And there’s the great aspect behind Crystal Fairy: It may be a minor movie, but it somehow works wonders without even seeming like it’s trying to. Writer/director/co-star Sebastián Silva clearly just came-up with this movie on the top of his head and it actually makes this movie feel like a realistic-look at a bunch of people that just want to go out onto the beach, drink some cactus fluid and trip insanely. Of course that premise alone could make for a pretty boring movie, but there’s something naturalistic to this whole movie to where it feels like you are actually watching these guys go out on a road-trip, only to be screwed over by the utter-presence of a female.

And while it’s clear that Silva definitely didn’t think this whole film through to where it’s perfectly-written down to the last character-arch, the situations and discussions he gives his character’s to deal with, all feel fully-realized and are ripe with a lot of interesting ideas. Though most of that ideas don’t come together as perfectly in the abrupt ending, for the most part, the movie’s funny without being over-bearing; dramatic without being ham-handed; and slightly compelling, without trying to throw too many turns and twists at us.

In other words, it’s just like real life. Except this time, real life that takes place in Chile, where all young people want to do is get a wild trip.

Speaking of these young people, they are all pretty fine, even though the two highlights in this cast are clearly both Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann who both show that those cute, adorable child roles they had all of those years back, are all but long ways back in the distance. We’re always so used to seeing Cera playing the awkward, twitchy and nervous guy who never finishes his sentences and doesn’t quite know how to talk to girls, let alone anyone for that matter, but here, he’s definitely a bit changed-up in terms of what who his character is. Jamie, for lack of a better word, is a dick – he’s the type of guy you probably met in high-school that offended you one day and you never talked to him again, and your life was never changed because of it because he’s so unpleasant to be around. He always picks people apart, says dumb things to make himself seem “cool” and just does not know how to be a nice guy, which could have been terribly annoying to watch, but Cera’s good with it. He shows us that there may be some attractive-features to this guy and his personality, but so far, from what we see, there isn’t many. But Cera’s good with this role and shows that he is a bit more versatile than what his previous, ten or twelve roles may have you think.

That's all I'm going to show you.....pervs.

That’s all I’m going to show you…..pervs.

But the real stand-out here is Gaby Hoffmann who has been making quite a splash as of late showing up in these adult roles, where you’ll have to rub your eyes maybe once or twice and think, “Is that really the little girl from Field of Dreams? And even Uncle Buck? Whaaaaaat?” Especially here, considering she gets full-on naked quite a few times in this movie, but isn’t done in a gratuitous or manipulative way for her to show us that she’s an adult now, with “things”; it’s done to give us the impression that Crystal Fairy truly is everything she claims to be, if not more. Now, to be honest, I know plenty of people out there in my life that are exactly like this gal, and while I always find myself somehow drawn to them, they always seem to get on my nerves when push comes to love, man. That’s why, when I first met Crystal Fairy here, I couldn’t help but side with everything Jamie was saying: She looked, dressed and acted weird, as if she was all doing it for the attention of others. However, as time went on, I began to see that Jamie was in fact “the weird one”, and really liked how open Crystal Fairy was as a person, and how she didn’t really hide herself from these people she just met. Hoffmann is fun to watch on-screen, not because she gets nakey quite an awful lot of times, but because she brings a lot of energy to the film, which is why when she’s not around, you can feel the movie sort of deflate. But when she does show up, she more than makes it a time to remember, and that’s all I’d like to say about that.

While some of you may think I’m being slight and a bit vague, there isn’t much more to this movie than that. It’s basically just a bunch of people, on the road, who do have a destination and run into some fun, wacky situations along that way. Most of them are entertaining, and others are quite inspired, but that’s pretty much it. It won’t change your life, it won’t have you remembering much after watching it, nor will it ever crack anybody’s “Top 10 Lists” (I actually don’t think it did), but it’s a nice piece of film that goes to show you that you don’t need a lot of big bucks to make a simple, but entertaining movie. All you need is a little time, talent and energy to want to make something.

Consensus: May be a slight feature altogether, but Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus is an alright watch, if solely to see what else it is that Gaby Hoffmann and Michael Cera can do, now that they’re all grown-up, primed and ready for whatever Hollywood throws at them.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yo guys, you feel that yet? Like, a burning sensation in my pan...I mean, brain!"

“Yo guys, you feel that yet? Like, a burning sensation in my pan…I mean, brain!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

In a World… (2013)

Make sure to say the title the right way and don’t be such a boob.

The world of the voice-acting isn’t one that’s been particularly kind to women in the past, and for the most part, never will seem to be. However, Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) wants to change that once and for all, although it may be a tad bit difficult with her dad being the famous, highly-acclaimed Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). But, like I said before, Carol is inspired to be the first ever woman to ever narrate a trailer and she will make sure that she gets that chance, even though her father, as well as her father’s protege (Ken Marino), may sometimes get in the way of her dream. Also, Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), has her own dilemma of sorts, but with her marriage to Moe (Rob Corddry) and how she can’t seem to swat-away the over-bearing feelings of philandering around with this Irish guy who continues to keep on flirting with her. And yet, another story also happens to be around here in which Carol may possibly have a new boyfriend in Louis (Demetri Martin), one of the dudes who is making her dream possible. Or at least something close to that.

It’s hard to hate on a movie that’s as pleasant and joyful as this, because while there are many faults to be found here, they all mean well. For instance, one of the problems that I have with Lake Bell’s direction here is that not only does she seem to carry too much weight, even for her directorial-debut, but she doesn’t quite know what point or “message” to end on when the story’s supposedly all said, done and over with. However though, I can’t hate on that aspect too much, as each and every idea of a story that she tries to cram in here, do actually work; and in other ways, they actually add more to the movie’s overall charm that’s easy-to-like and enjoy.

They're one pair of Chuck Taylor's away from being "full-on hipster".

They’re just one pair of Chuck Taylor’s away from being “full-on hipster”.

Thus, there’s my dilemma of sorts with this movie: While at times it definitely seems to be a sweet and entertaining piece of Hollywood-fiction, it still doesn’t know how it wants to say anything that is on its mind. Maybe I’m looking a bit too far into this movie than I possibly should be, but I can only allow myself to smile for so long, up until I finally realize that there is some nastiness at the bottom of the barrel, and I found some of that here. Even despite it being made with, once again, good intentions.

Anyway though, I could rant, and rave, and go on and on and on and on about this movie without really getting anywhere, so let me try and keep my mind at ease here and get down to the basics of this movie.

For her first time not just behind the director’s chair, but behind the writer’s, as well as the producer’s, Lake Bell does an alright job at keeping up the pace with this flick to make sure that it doesn’t linger on anything too heavy, for too long, as well as not trying to be too funny, for too many instances. She actually seems like she knows a thing or two about how to give us a good gag, and have it continue on throughout the whole movie, without ever seeming like it’s already been done-to-death. For example, Demetri Martin’s character is a very nervous, twitchy guy that always ends-up saying the wrong things, at the wrong time to Bell’s character, and gives us the idea that he really likes her, but doesn’t want to seem too weird or forward with the feelings he’s trying to get across. We’ve seen this idea done a million other times, in many other comedies out there in the world, but here, it feels fresh, vibrant and fun every time it pops-up, as if Bell herself knew what people would expect with a character who’d be written like this, so she decided to spice things up a bit.

But Martin’s character isn’t the only one she does that – she practically does this for each and every character that shows up here. Even down to the smallest, tiniest role, we get a sense that Bell actually took some time out of her busy day, to give us rich, well-written and charming characters that could be the same type of people either you or I would meet at a party someday. A lot of this credit goes to the cast, but it also goes to Bell as well for at least making sure that nobody is put to waste here, nor really as one-dimensional as they could have been in a lesser movie. These characters are also the main reasons why most of this comedy works, and keeps on surprising, even at what seem to be the most random moments.

Though, like I just said, most of this comes down to what the cast is able to do with these small, unimportant characters – all of whom seemed to be in Lake Bell’s mind the first day she took her pen to a piece of paper. Even for the character she herself plays, Carol, the type of slightly off-kilter, yet smart and witty girl that we usually see movies done about, but never as charming as she is done here. I don’t know if Bell meant to do this on purpose, as to give her a role in which everybody would see the talent she truly is and was never able to show before in the numerous supporting roles she’s done, but either way, it works for her and it works for this movie. She’s funny, sweet, kind and a bit of a smart-ass when she needs to be, but only to the people that deserve it, and it makes us feel a lot more for her, even when it seems like Hollywood, as well as everybody is working against her and her voice.

I don't blame her for not being able to see that huge, silver tape-recorder located right near he right-eye.

Whatever it is that’s on that computer-screen must really grab her attention away from the big, silver block tape-recorder near her right eye.

The rest of her family-unit is pretty solid, too, with wonderful character actor Fred Melamed getting a lot of moments to shine as the cocky, slightly arrogant father that thinks he is better than anybody, all because he’s been in the business for so damn long. While he would definitely seem like the type of guy you’d automatically hate in any other movie, he’s actually very charming here and sometimes, even seems like, at one time, he was a really nice guy that loved his wife, his kids and his whole family, but has been through this hard-hitting business-world we know as Hollywood, and it’s taken quite a toll on him so far. Even the actress who plays his much-younger, strange girlfriend, Alexandra Holden, doesn’t seem like the type of annoying, obviously idiotic gold digger we tend to see a lot in these movies depicting a relationship between an older, famous guy, and a younger gal; she actually wants him to reach-out towards his kids and as a result, be a better man that she can be proud of being with in the future.

And even Carol’s sister isn’t all that bad either, it’s just that her story may be the weakest one here, and practically expendable. However, Michaela Watkins is good, as well as Rob Corddry, as they both get a chance to show that they can actually act and emote quite well when they want to. But there’s plenty more where that came from along the likes of Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Ken Marino, and even surprise cameo’s from both Geena Davis and Eva Longoria, with the latter even going so far as to portray herself in a light that’s actually a bit mean. But hey, she’s the one who’s doing it, so it’s not that bad, right? I guess not! Good for her! Tony Parker should be sad.

Consensus: May not stay in your mind long after it’s over, but considering how much love, fun and pleasure went into making this, I don’t think that will bother anybody who decides to check-out In a World…, especially if they want to see just who this “Lake Bell person” is all about.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

If only Lake Bell let her beard grow-out and maybe then I'd be able to buy into the notion that they're biological father and daughter.

If only Lake Bell let her beard grow-out and maybe then I’d be able to buy into the notion that they’re biological father and daughter.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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