Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 9-9.5/10

Cop Car (2015)

Stealing cop cars in real life, sure as hell aren’t as easy as stealing them in GTA.

Two kids, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) walk through a field that eventually leads to a creek where, for no explainable reason, a cop car is left abandoned. Seeing as how these two kids are chock full of piss, vinegar and energy, they decide to take it for a spin, or two, or three. Hell, they decide to take it out everywhere they can, going 100 mph, and not giving a single crap about the world outside of them. Eventually though, the man whose cop car that is originally (Kevin Bacon) comes looking for it and with a good reason: He’s got some pretty naughty, downright incriminating stuff in the trunk of that car that he wouldn’t want anyone seeing, let alone two kids who just so have happened to stumble upon it. This is where the cop decides to track these kids down, get his car back, drive them back to their guardians’ homes, and getting back on with his life. Problem is, the kids look in the trunk of the car and needless to say, what they find, is not good.

That's how it always begins.

That’s how it always begins.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Jon Watts in the next couple of years. If you haven’t already, then consider yourself prepared. Because with Watts taking over the new, hopefully improved Spider-Man reboot set to come out in two years time, a lot of people are wondering just what it is about this guy that would give a studio like Sony so much hope that he’s the one to get the job done right and in a way that can hopefully let people forget about the past two Marc Webb movies (even though, to be honest, they weren’t terrible, just ill-timed).

Well, I don’t know if Cop Car was the evidence Sony needed, but it sure as hell is for me.

Because, for one, it’s great and it’s absolutely surprising that I’d think this. For one, Cop Car seems so simple in its grindhouse-ish premise that the only way for Watts and company to go, were down; they had kids, they had cops, they had guns, and they had mystery, which gives them all of the perfect ingredients to make something sleazy, dirty and at least partially fun. But there’s something strange about Cop Car in that it’s essentially two movies, rolled into one, not-even-an-hour-and-half flick, and they’re both very good.

On one side of the spectrum, you have a coming-of-ager involving two kids we literally know nothing about other than that they like to cuss, spit, and cause all sorts of chicanery wherever they go. Basically, they’re like all kids and that’s all you need to know about them; Watts doesn’t put much of an effort into getting down to the nitty gritty of what makes them tick, he just presents them as kids, who are different from one another in certain ways that it’s easy to identify with one from the other. Already, this movie had me won over because it felt like dialogue for real life teenage kids, but then the situation itself gets hotter and heavier and the movie really started to work its magic.

See, once these kids steal the cop car and everything around them starts getting a whole violent, we all of a sudden see that these kids are, as expected, kids. They can’t make full sense of the world, so that when they are held at gun-point by an evil dude, they ask him quite simply, “Are you going to shoot us?” They don’t even know that, no matter what, they’ll get shot and probably killed; to them, life is like a video-game and because of this, they don’t take the real life consequences into account when thrown into a predicament quite like this.

And then, there’s the story involving Kevin Bacon’s cop character, which is still pretty strong in its own right.

Like with the two kiddies, we literally know nothing about Bacon’s character, other than that he’s a small-town cop, is clearly up to no good, and may be a bit more sneaky than he originally lets on. This part of the movie is well-written and compelling, obviously, but without Bacon, or his acting-skills, I don’t know how well this character would have done with such limited-detail surrounding him. Everything we need to know about this character is the way in how he desperately carries himself from one objective, to the other, all in hopes that he’ll be able to get his cop car back and ensure that his dirty little secrets never get out.

Just look at that mustache! It's so terrible, you have got to think there's some sympathy in him somewhere!

Just look at that mustache! It’s so terrible, you have got to think there’s some sympathy in him somewhere!

Bacon does wonder in this role because he makes us think that this character, despite him having clearly done bad things in his life before, may be a bit of a good guy. We never quite know with his character and it’s interesting to watch as he constantly digs himself out of certain obstacles that seemed to continuously pile-up in his way, no matter how much closer he believes he is to reaching his goal. Do we want him to reach it, too? Or, do we just want all of his dirty laundry to get seen by the right eyes and for his life, as well as his police career, to be all over and done with?

We never fully know and that’s the main reason why Cop Car works as brilliantly as it does.

Though I won’t divulge into too many details about what happens in the last-act of this movie, I will say that it gets very violent, very quick, and in some very gruesome ways, too, but it all feels so deserved. See, with the violence in this movie against something like, I don’t know, say Terminator Genisys, is that people in that movie get shot, die and evaporate into the air all willy nilly. No harm, no foul, no problems. But here, when people get shot, they die, and there’s nothing special or glamorous about that at all.

I know this sounds so damn obvious to state (in a review no less), but it’s the truth that more movies like Cop Car should exist, if solely for the fact that it highlights gun violence and death for what it actually is: A traumatizing event. In light of today’s events, this resonates quite an awful lot and while it may not get that same sort of message across to others, quite as well as it did to me, it still matters that it’s being portrayed as such in a movie about kids, cops, guns, drugs, and criminals. Because all of these elements co-exist in real life and are all too close together.

Something that’s quite saddening indeed, but hey, at least we’ve got a new Spider-Man movie on the way!

Consensus: As small and short as it may be, Cop Car is still a near-perfect thriller, mixed with a smart, endearing and compelling coming-of-ager that makes it all come full circle.

9 / 10

Go on! Try to get five stars!

Go on! Try to get five stars!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Inside Out (2015)

Whatever characters are in my head, they are some pretty messed-up individuals.

Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is a twelve-year-old girl who is going through a bit of growing pains. After living her comfortable, lovely little life in Minnesota, her and her family all of a sudden have to move out to San Francisco, where she doesn’t know a single person and has to join a hockey team that she doesn’t seem to want to. However, to help her out through this whole turning point in her life, just like they’ve been there for her from the day she was born, are five personified emotions that live and work inside of her head: Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and the one who pretty much has all command over what happens, Joy (Amy Poehler). For some reason though, on Riley’s first day of school, Sadness can’t stop touching all of Riley’s happy memories, therefore making them sad, which, as a result, makes her more sad as a result. Things end up getting so out-of-hand with Sadness, that she screws up the whole system, which in turn, makes Riley into something of a mean, nasty and cruel girl to those around her. Now, it’s up to Joy and Sadness to figure out how they can fix the whole system so that Riley can get back to her old self – even if, you know, her old-self still needed some growing up to do.

Oh, Psych majors are going to have a field day with this one!

Oh, Psych majors are going to have a field day with this one!

I’ll start it all off by stating this: For the first time in what seems to be five years, I cried during a Pixar movie.

While that may have been an obvious statement at least a decade or so ago, when it seemed like Pixar excelled at doing that on a yearly-basis, the past few years haven’t been so kind to the company to where it would be the first thing on everybody’s mind. For one, they’ve ran into the problem that they had been working with such a great platform, for so very long, and seemed to be striking gold everywhere they went, that they were totally set-up to fail. Shame that it had to start with the dreadful Cars 2; go on a tad bit with the initially promising, but ultimately disappointing Brave; get very desperate with the prequel Monsters University; and then, suddenly, bow out of actually releasing a movie all year last year, something they haven’t done in I don’t know how long. What this seemed to be was just another case of a talented, original studio that have been breaking all sorts of ground with just about everything they put out, tragically, run out of any original ideas to pass-out to the masses.

Thankfully though, Inside Out is exactly the step back in the right direction for Pixar, and all of animation as a whole.

While the premise to Inside Out may already seem a little too heady for its own good, let alone a kids movie, have no fear as the creators do a terrific job of laying just about everything out perfectly to where we understand just how everything works. From the way Riley reacts to something, how she feels about her day, or to even what she dreams about when she sleeps at night, are all touched upon, but believe it or not, there’s still a bit of mystery hidden beneath that continues to let the film surprise us more and more. While it would have been easy to lay out all of the cards on the table and let us see it play its hand, Inside Out takes itself one step further as it not only continues to surprise us, the audience, with all of its terrific little tricks and goodies, but even surprise itself.

Whereas a movie such as this could have easily seemed like it was just making itself up as it went along, Inside Out seems like it knows where it wants to go and why, however, they let us join in on the ride, too, and hardly forget that they’re teaching the audience about what they’re doing, alongside entertaining them, too, of course. And the whole tinkering around with this plot and the certain surprises it offers alongside the way, are what makes the movie so funny to begin with. Though Inside Out has plenty of jokes aimed towards the kids (slapstick and such), there are equally just as many jokes, if not more, targeted towards those who may not even have to be adults to fully appreciate.

Be ready mom and dad, the next couple of years are going to be a whole lot not at all as peaceful as this.

Mom and dad, be prepared, the next couple of years are not going to be nearly as peaceful as this.

Literally, one could be 14 years of age, watch Inside Out, and laugh their rumps off at a passing-line that they didn’t see coming, nor will they fully remember when all is said and done with; however, if they pay attention long enough, they’ll be rewarded. So few movies actually congratulate its viewers on giving their whole heart and attention to what it’s presenting, and it’s such a great feeling to get that here with Inside Out – a movie that’s more about making fun its own self, rather than pointing a finger at the audience and making fun of them for not fully understanding what’s going on. Sure, some of the jokes are more on the “mature” side, but if you pay close enough attention, you’ll hear ’em, you’ll get ’em, and you’ll laugh at ’em.

And sometimes, that’s all you need with a comedy.

Then, of course, there’s the dramatic side to Inside Out and, like I said before, it absolutely obliterated me. While I must admit, a premise such as this is right up my ballpark (adolescence, growing, coming-of-age, etc.), Inside Out handles it so well to where it feels like it’s writers actually know a thing or two about going through that period of time where you’re growing up and starting to make a little sense of the world you’re in. You’re not fully there just yet, but you’re working your way there, and it’s a very scary, but always rewarding time in your life; trust me, I’m still going through it and I’m nearly 22!

Anyway, what at first seems like a neat conceit to tell a story about growing up, Inside Out soon turns out to be a heartwarming tale that uses its own mechanisms to show us how we all operate as we get older. Even though most of us grow out of adolescence and feel as if we are ready to take on the world with a fresh new start, the fact is that we really aren’t; sometimes, we need to depend on the good will and love of those around us. They could be friends, family, or confidantes who you don’t even think twice about on a regular-basis – it doesn’t matter who, they’re there for you when you need them and even if you don’t think you need them, trust us, you do.

Heck, we all do!

But the movie also brings up another important aspect that doesn’t just have to do with growing up, but has to do with life as a whole. What the character of Joy represents is being happy and pleasant, all of the time, 24/7, never bringing other people down, and never having a worry in the world. This is a good mind-set to have, most of the times, but occasionally, you still need to bring yourself down to reality and look a bit on the gloomier side of things; which is exactly what the character of Sadness represents. While she’s not always about being depressed about every event in one’s life, she still realizes that people need sadder moments in their life, just to balance out all of the joyful ones; no one wants to be around a person who is always chirpy, nor does anyone want to be around a person who is always downer. Sometimes, they want somebody who is slap down in the middle and that’s the most important fact about life that Inside Out brings to light, especially for the kiddies that will go out and see this.

God, I’m so happy to be back to loving Pixar movies!

Consensus: Even despite its overly ambitious premise, Inside Out never loses its energetic muster to stop being entertaining, fun for the whole family, and most of all, heartwarming, proving that important messages about life can be in anywhere you look – you just have to search a bit closer.

9 / 10

Yup, they're inside of each and everyone of our own heads. And no, they don't symbolize the government!

Yup, they’re inside of each and everyone of our own heads. And no, they aren’t metaphors for the government!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Project Nim (2011)

Despite the poo-throwing, chimpanzees are still like us.

Meet Nim – he’s a little chimp that was taken from his mommy when he was just under two weeks, given to a family full of people, and all for the sake of a science-experiment, done by Herbert S. Terrace, professor of psychology at Columbia University during the 1970’s. What Terrace was trying to experiment with Nim was to figure out whether or not a chimp could figure out how to speak full sentences, by adapting and being brought up into a human world. And so far with Nim, things are good, but after awhile, they start to go South. Both literally and figuratively.

Whenever you see a little chimp on TV, the zoo, or anywhere else for that matter, you see how they interact with you, one another, and to the rest of the environment that surrounds them. It’s crazy to think that our species somehow adapted from them and became big, old, and dirty things, just like them. However, at the same time, it’s pretty simple to see why we could have adapted from them to be what we are because of how similar we are in certain ways. This movie doesn’t just show that, but it makes us wonder whether or not people should actually even go through with seeing that for themselves. Yes, no matter how tempting it may be to dress a little chimp up in your tighty-wighties, it may not be right in the long run.

Just a tad bit of food for thought.

The fact that chimps are so similar to us in many ways, is only barely touched on as director James Marsh doesn’t seem all that concerned with figuring out whether or not they are us, but more as to whether or not they can be us. You think that raising something, anything to be like you, to live by your rules and standards, with no matter how hard you try, will work, but that’s the problem: It usually doesn’t. That’s what happens here with Nim and his life, but it isn’t the way you’d expect it to all play out.

Hey, come on! It was the 70's.

I’ll just have you all know that she is not a teacher assigned to teaching Nim; she was just so stoned during the 70’s that she’s actually trying to talk to him.

Many questions are brought up in the way to make you think for yourself, rather than having Marsh and all of the subjects point to you and tell you what you should have planted in your mind about this real life situation. For instance, one of the big questions goes right back to the beginning: Was it right for Nim to be brought up as a human in the first place? Obviously the chimp was there for medical research, so maybe, yeah it was right in the name of science, but what about humanity? Well, that’s where things start to get a little fishy and complicated.

See, taking any living thing out of their element/space, will most likely not be met with positive reception. Yes, that living thing may learn how to use the bathroom, speak, and get things done the way they need to, but it surely may not be fully happy with where it is, had it been in its original spot in the first place. I sound all vague for the sole reason that I’m not just talking about Nim and what they did to him in the first place, because Nim is only the clearest, most popular example. I’m talking about everyone, everything, and hell, anything, for that matter. If you take anything outside of this world, whether it be a human or an animal, you are most likely going to run into some problems down the road with that living thing coming back to it’s original-self. Which, in the case of chimps, is a pretty scary thing because those mofo’s can do some damage.

Real damage, too.

That’s what brings me onto my next question that this movie brings up and that’s whether or not the way Nim acted in his later-years was because of the fact that he was constantly shipped from person-to-person without any sole figure to care for him long enough to leave a lasting impact? Or simply, if because the actual teaching itself was bad. Seeing Nim go from a new person, almost as each and every year goes by is heartbreaking to watch in many ways, but mainly for the fact that we know that the chimp is only going to act out a bit more and be even more confused, especially when you put him in a spot that he isn’t used to, and is trying to shake the cobwebs off the from the old place he use to stay and be accustom to. It’s sad because we know if we were Nim, we would have no clue as to what the hell to do with our lives and probably be just as confused as him, but considering it’s a chimp and he’s supposed to be watched over by “professionals”, it does make you wonder about the people involved, more than the actual experiment itself.

Like all pre-teens, Nim just wants to get behind the wheel and show all the ladies his new caddy.

Like all pre-teens, Nim just wants to get behind the wheel and show all the ladies his new Caddy.

Every person that was a ever a substantial part of Nim’s life, all get to share a bit of the spotlight here in a way I wasn’t expecting. The family that was there first for him, to the professor that monitored his whole experiment, to the people that were trying to run experiments on him by using needles filled with HIV and hepatitis – they all get a chance to tell their side of the story and it’s well-done too. As I said before, Marsh never gets in our face and tells us what we need to think about each and every person. He just hands out these people to us on a silver platter, gives them a chance to tell their story, and allows us to make up our own minds about what the hell we should think about them.

This device also allows for us to see who the people really, truly were that cared for Nim, who cared enough to just get their names in the papers and record-books, and what people just did not give a single crap at all about a sign-language speaking chimp. I won’t give away the people that you see as bastards and what people you see as latter-day saints of the animal world, but you will see just how wrong it is for some people to treat an animal, regardless of the importance behind the poor thing. Sure, it’s an animal, but that doesn’t mean that they are any lesser than us. Every person in this movie knows that simple fact, but they just don’t care too much about. They don’t care too much about Nim, they don’t care too much about the research, and they sure as hell don’t care too much about actual animals, either.

That’s why when we see Nim get all pissed-off and angry at the people that pushed and tugged at him all of his life, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the furry dude. It’s downright scary sometimes, but we know where it’s all coming from and you don’t point the finger at him, as much as you do to the fellow ding-bats that didn’t really bother too much with him. But, when Nim is happy and when things begin to look up for him, you feel a certain sense of joyfulness and pleasure in the simple things in life. Simple things like playing, hugging, kissing, eating, climbing, sharing, talking, communicating, etc. All of those things in life are as simple as you can get, and it reminds you just how beautiful the world can be, if you can look at them through innocent, little eyes like Nim’s. Sure, he was a chimp that was experimented on to see if they could get him to form full-on, grammatical sentences, but he was also a chimp that showed everybody what it was like to live the life of somebody that just wanted to be happy, to understand the world around him, and pretty much, get everything that he wanted.

Hmm.

Now, who does that sound like?

Consensus: What you think is just a simple movie about a chimp-experiment gone somewhat wrong, turns out to be a thought-provoking tale of what makes us living, who is to blame for it, and whether or not all things deserve to live life in the shoes of others, all packaged into Project Nim, one of the most heart-wrenching documentaries about animals, that you don’t need to see on the Discovery Channel.

9 / 10

Now why can't I do that and not be slapped in the face?!?!?

Now why can’t I do that without being slapped in the face?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

It Follows (2015)

Remember kids: Don’t be silly, wrap your willy. OR DIE!

Taking place in the bored suburbs of Detroit, a deadly sexually-transmitted disease is being passed around amongst horny, free-willed teenagers who don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Which is exactly what happens to Jay (Maika Monroe) when, after a night of fun, dinner, and sex, her date informs her of the tragic news: She has been infected with a disease that will take many forms of people that only she can see and follow her around, until it gets its grip on her, and kills her in graphic, disturbing ways. Apparently, the only way that Jay can stop the disease from doing this to her, is to have sex with somebody and pass it onto them; though it’s not entirely proven that this will get rid of the disease, or even the threat, it’s still something that makes those who infect others, feel better about themselves and free. Jay wants to get rid of the disease, but she doesn’t want to really infect anybody, so instead of dropping her drawers and having sex with some sucker, she decides to fight against the disease. It may, or may not work, but Jay is willing to fight till the end of her days to ensure that she is clear of all disease.

Remember when you were younger and your parents gave you those words of wisdom, “Don’t have sex. And if you do, be smart about it and use protection.” Well, that’s sort of the idea that It Follows is tapping into, except it’s not really trying to say anything smart, ground-breaking, or revolutionary; it’s literally just a story about a deadly STD that gets passed around to a bunch of horny, sex-crazed teenagers who are just exploring their inner-most desires. The movie never tries to judge any of these characters for partaking in these many sexual activities, nor does it seem like it wants to make a note about any sort of real STD’s that are out there today (*cough cough* HIV *cough cough*), and there’s no problem with that.

How I imagine every girl feels after sex with me: Happy, pleased and not-too disappointed. At least that's what I hope.

How I imagine every girl feels after sex with me: Happy, pleased and not-too disappointed. At least that’s what I hope.

Why? Because this movie’s freaking scary! That’s why!

And if you’re a horror movie, especially one being released in the year 2015, and still find a way to be scary, then you, my friend, are allowed to do whatever you want. Have sex with my girlfriend; kill my dog; steal my car; rob me; etc. Whatever you please to do to me, it doesn’t matter – as long as you’re effectively scary, then you are basically given free reign and that’s what I am giving it writer/director David Robert Mitchell. Not that he cares if he gets it either way from me, but still, it’s the idea of it.

Anyway, what Mitchell does oh so perfectly well here is that yes, he gives us the scary, but he does so in a way that’s surprisingly inventive, despite not being particularly original. There’s a lot of neat tricks and trades that Mitchell does with his camera that puts us in the same spot as the protagonists and allows for us to see what they see; doesn’t sound like much, I know, but when your general premise is that they’re being creeped-on by a deadly, unknown force that only they themselves can see, it does a lot of damage. Not only does it totally feel like the “it” is coming straight after us, but it puts us right in the driver’s seat of that rush that makes us want to run away with the protagonists to somewhere safe for the time being, in hopes that we’ll be ready for the next time this threat comes creeping up on us.

And what’s so odd about It Follows is that the threat, despite being as clear as day and only able to walk until it comes and kills you, is still effectively terrifying in its own way. Some of this has to do with the fact that Mitchell makes up the rule early on that the “it” is allowed to take any sort of form it wants, which usually leads to it looking like old ladies, or fully naked, menstruating zombies, but also because Mitchell’s score is so odd and screechy, that whenever it comes into play, you can’t help but get involved. Sure, the score feels like it’s borrowing a whole heck of a lot from John Carpenter’s Halloween piece, but it still works because it comes in at the right times and only seems to add more fuel to the fire of what is this movie’s scare-factor. Had the movie not already been as scary as it is, then the score would have come-off as loud, over-bearing and manipulative – but because the movie is already hella scary, the score serves as a nice companion to help making those scares even more compelling and worth while.

Speaking of those scares, Mitchell is a smart enough writer to understand that we don’t need the constant jump-scares to have us jumping in our seats. Like I mentioned before, he utilizes the idea that we know “it” is coming for us, and rather than trying to pull any cheap editing-tricks, he literally just films it so matter-of-factly that it’s subtlety in the fear that we’re supposed to be feeling, is almost so slight, it actually works for the movie, rather than against it. Mitchell doesn’t even go so far as to explain where this disease came from and what exactly happens to you when “it” finally gets its firm grasps on you – all Mitchell tells you is that it will come after you, never leave you alone, and when it finally does get you, will do horrendous, barbaric things to you and your body.

Young, brash, and horny teenagers. Oh, how I fear for them so!

Young, brash, and horny teenagers. Oh, how I fear for them so!

So basically, just don’t get caught by it as all.

I know I’m writing a lot about It Follows, but that in and of itself is a bit delight for me. It’s so very rare that I see a horror movie that not only scares the hell out of me, but actually seems like it’s trying to build something of a story altogether, too. Sure, the characters are a bit weak and underdeveloped, but then again, they don’t necessarily have to be in order to service this movie; all they have to do is have that want and dire need for sex, and they’re just fine. And because the movie doesn’t judge any single one of these characters for having sex, or even deciding to pass the disease around, mostly everyone here comes off sympathetic and relatable.

Cause honestly, who can ever forget a time when they weren’t sexually-charged in some way, or fashion? We were all teenagers once and when you’re at that time in your life, all your thinking about is sex. No matter where you at, or what you’re doing – sex is constantly on your mind. If people try to tell you otherwise, then they’re gosh darn liars that just never got that chance to have sex after Junior Prom with their hot date. It Follows knows that each and everyone of these characters are, for the most part, thinking about sex just about everywhere they go and because of that, the danger lurks everywhere.

How long before this STD grows larger and larger? In fact, how many more people does it have to kill before people get the hint to either use protection, keep a better watch over yourself, or just cut out sex altogether? Also, when will people stop spreading it onto others so that when they don’t have to deal with it, they get to feel better about themselves and their day-to-day happiness, where the other person feels like absolute crap because of the one instance of physical action had to happen?

Hey, wait a minute? I thought this wasn’t an HIV allegory!

Consensus: Without trying too hard at all, It Follows is one of the more effective, terrifying and, believe it or not, thoughtful horror movies to come out in recent time that doesn’t rely on a gimmick, or a conceit – just unabashed, unadulterated scares to remind you of the possible dangers of sex.

9 / 10 

How I imagine AIDS looks. Doctors?

How I imagine AIDS looks. Doctors?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Citizen Kane (1941)

In the end, being rich and powerful never quite works out.

Rosebud“, for one reason or another, was the final, dying word of a rich and powerful man. But what does it mean? The life of tycoon and publishing powerhouse Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) is a documented legend. But his last word remains a mystery – one that intrepid reporter Thompson (William Alland) intends to solve.

Anytime you ever hear anybody mention the best movie of their desired genre, you always hear that it’s the “Citizen Kane of *insert genre here*”, which pretty much means that this movie is considered one of the best of all-time and deserves to be watched by all, movie buffs and non-movie buffs. I can definitely see why, but I still wouldn’t go as far as to call it a “masterpiece”.

Unpopular opinion, I know, but bear with me, folks.

Let me just put it like this: Orson Welles kicks ass in everything he does and shows that he has such an original and inspired mind whenever it comes to taking over your own film. The dude not only stars in this flick, but he also directs, produces, co-writes, films himself, and even made sure that no studio exec tinkered with his final product. You can call Orson Welles a control-freak, but when the final-product ends up turning out as good as this, all unpopularity can be brushed aside.

Not that Kane, you sillies.

Not that Kane, although, how awesome would that be?

Which brings me to the way the story is told to us and why Welles was such a master at his craft. The film starts off with the death of Kane (not a spoiler because it happens in the first two minutes), then we get a very sharp newsreel that tells the life of Kane in almost three minutes, and then goes on to show you that the whole film will be about this one reporter, learning about the story and life of Kane, just through flashbacks and discussions with other people that knew and loved him very well. I know, I know, I know, you’re probably sitting there right now wondering what’s so damn special about some plot-device that seems to happen all of the time, but the fact that Welles first gives us the big picture, only to go to the smaller details and trust us our minds to know what’s going to happen next, is something of genius, especially back in 1941. It was damn inventive for its time and it’s still a plot-device that works now, especially considering well it’s done.

Another inventive aspect behind this film was the camera itself and how everything is filmed in it’s noir/art style. There’s a lot of neat shots that that hold themselves here throughout and it’s very inspiring to see because it adds a mood to a lot of these scenes and shows you that Welles wasn’t afraid to move the camera around just a bit, you know, to convey emotions and keep this story going at a very smooth, but relatively rapid pace. The music also enters the film perfectly and adds a dark feel to this whole product and it sticks with you every time you hear it because it usually sounds so bleak and freaky. Those two words right there may not go perfectly well together, but you get the gist of what I’m talking about.

But what really separates this film, from all of the others that were coming out around this time is that it can still be easily enjoyed all these years later. I have never seen this flick ever before in my life, (kill me now, I know) so the first time I ever got to see this flick, I was surprised by how brisk of a pace it had and just how much it kept me glued to its story. Welles takes a great deal in making a story that’s compelling, but also very truthful in how it speaks about human nature. This movie is all about how absolute power corrupts even the best of men, regardless of what it is that they do for a living, or want to do in their lives. The more you get, the more you start waste away the things that mean the most to you and even though this is no shocking revelation in the year 2015, it’s still great to see and hear it all from a flick like this. Welles was only 26 when he made this and it only shows me that I got about four more years left until I come out of my cave and make the next best thing for Hollywood.

Wow, bro.

Wow, bro.

Yeah, no pressure at all.

However, as much of a masterpiece that this film may be regarded as, I still do think there are problems that this film does have here and there. The main problem with most films from these days are that there are parts that are more dated than others, and here, I didn’t find much of that and barely anything that annoyed me either. Except, there was one big problem I had with this film and that was Dorothy Comingore’s performance as Kane’s second little honey-bunny of a wife, Susan Alexander. At first, seems like a very nice and sweet girl who makes it obvious as to why Kane would fall for her in the first place, but once she starts to get bigger and bigger with her Opera career, she predictably starts to get more and more needy, whiny, and annoying. This was an obvious character arch that Welles went for here, but her performance annoyed me more just because all she did was yell and scream, but it wasn’t realistic or understandable; it was just hammy. It almost seemed like she was in her own movie altogether, which didn’t bode well for the rest of the movie.

But, where there is one bad performance, there is one that’s amazing and rises above the rest. I’m talking about Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, and gives one of those brilliant performances where we see little snippets of a man, but due to Welles’ powerful acting, we feel like we know this character for everything that he was, as well as what he wasn’t. Welles has this strong delivery with his lines that makes it seem like he’s always talking with a purpose and every single line that comes from Kane’s mouth is just another powerful piece or artistry, whether or not Welles had intended for it to be heard as so or not. Though, there are small shadings of this character that, if you’re paying enough attention, you’ll be able to find and relate to, even if by the end, Kane does become something of a dick. Albeit, a very rich one. Which is to say, with money and fame, comes sadness.

Wah.

Consensus: Though not all of it holds up, Citizen Kane is still a wonderful piece of film-making for what it introduced to the film world, the themes that still hold up well today, and the fact that Welles, even at such a young age, was able to make this baby his own and threw himself into the history books because of it.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Anticlimactic."

“Anticlimactic.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Inherent Vice (2014)

Note to self: Don’t do insane-amounts of drugs while trying to solve crimes.

It’s 1970, and hippie private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) plans on living it up in every which way he can. That means an awful-lot of hangin’ out, smokin’ pot, and just enjoying his care-free life. That all changes though when an ex-love of his named Shasta (Katherine Waterson), comes around and informs him that her boyfriend, real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), was kidnapped and hasn’t been heard of since. Some say he’s dead, but Shasta doesn’t believe this and wants Doc to drop whatever it is he’s up to (which is seemingly nothing), and find out what has happened to him. Doc agrees, but as soon as he gets started on the case, many other cases start falling into his lap. For instance, an ex-junkie (Jena Malone) is worried that her rocker-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) isn’t in fact dead, as previously reported, and has been kidnapped. Then, a local gangster (Michael K. Williams) asks Doc to delve deep into a possible union between real estate agencies and the Aryan Brotherhood. And there’s many more where that came from, and no matter how far Doc may get into solving these mysteries, Det. Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) is always there to stop him, get involved, and see that the cases are done in an efficient, legal way.

"Is your refrigerator running...?"

“Is your refrigerator running…?”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, there’s a lot going on in Inherent Vice, and not all of it makes sense. At first, it definitely seems so, but once starts off as a simple, ordinary mystery about a disappearance, soon spirals into being about so much more. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t. But because this is a Paul Thomas Anderson (one of my favorites currently working today) movie, it’s mostly all worth watching.

Mostly.

But, like I said before, because this is a PT Anderson flick, there’s a certain mood surrounding Inherent Vice that makes it seem like the kind of movie he hasn’t ever tried his talented-hands at before. Though some may get a glimpse at this and automatically assume that PT is going straight back to his Boogie Nights days, those same people will probably be utterly disappointed when they find out that this is not at all the case. Sure, the movie may sometimes sound and look like that hip and happenin’ film, but for the most part, Anderson’s tone is a lot different here than usual, and it brings a large amount of sadness and, dare I say it, depression to what could have been considered some very groovy times.

And it’s not that Anderson hasn’t made a sad movie before, it’s just that he hasn’t quite made one in this vein; while it’s a colorful and bright movie, there’s a grainy undercurrent felt in it that makes some of the funniest, wildest moments, seem like they’re coming from somewhere of a nightmare. An enjoyable nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. To be honest, too, I think Anderson prefers it this way.

To say that Inherent Vice is “confusing”, would be as conventional as I could get as a writer – not only has it been said many of times from many other writers, but it wouldn’t really do much justice at all to a film that I feel like is confusing, but can still be enjoyed despite this. See, whereas the Master was a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about Scientology, it was also a character-study that functioned as such. Here, with Inherent Vice, we have a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about a few mysterious cases, yet, it’s also a hilarious look at this strange, underground world in California. This is a world where not only does everybody do some sort of drugs, but that they also have plenty of secrets, which, if you wanted to dig deep enough, could actually find out are all connected in their own sick, twisted ways.

However, simply put, this is just me diving deep into what this movie may, or may not mean, and as a result, making myself sound like a pretentious-ass. Because, in reality, the real enjoyment behind Inherent Vice is that it goes from one bizarre-o situation, to another, and it’s hardly ever dull. Random? Sure, but boring? That word doesn’t exist in PT Anderson’s dictionary and it makes this movie one of the funnier pieces of comedy I saw all year. That’s not to say that it’s all meant to be hilarious, but sometimes, just watching a crazy situation, with zany characters involved, get even crazier, just adds so much joy and happiness that it’s hard to hate on.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Even if it doesn’t all add up to making total, complete and perfect sense, it’s still enjoyable and that’s where I think most of Inherent Vice works.

To go on about all this and not at least mention the cast would be an absolute crime, because everybody who shows up here, no matter for how long or little, all leave a lasting-impression that deserve to be mentioned, and remembered. Leading the wild race here as Doc Sportello is Joaquin Phoenix, and once again, he proves that he will never play the same role twice, nor ever lose that interest-factor surrounding him whenever he shows up in something. Phoenix fits right in as the “come on, man”-type of hippie that Sportello is and it makes it easy to root him on during this case, even if you never are too sure what’s going to happen to him next. He’s not necessarily a blank slate, as much as he’s just a simple, uncomplicated protagonist that makes it easy for us to identify with him, even while he makes some brash, weird decisions throughout the adventure we share with him.

While Phoenix may be our main point-of-reference here, he’s not the only one worth speaking of. Owen Wilson finally gets a lovely role for himself to dig deep into as Coy, the missing rocker-boyfriend, and mixes in well with the rest of the hippies surrounding him; Jena Malone is sympathetic his sad girlfriend who just wants him home, so she can live happily ever after with him and their kid; Katherine Weston plays Sportello’s ex-flame that has this fiery, yet understated mystery about her and the way she carries herself in certain scenes that she started to cast as much of a spell on me, as she had on Sportello here; Benicio del Toro is fun as Sprotello’s zany lawyer who always has the best ways to get him out of jail; Reese Witherspoon is smart and sassy as Penny (Reese Witherspoon), Sportello’s attorney girlfriend who may be just using him so that she can give the FBI what they want; Maya Rudolph has a nice-bit as one of Sportello’s nurse-secretaries and seems like she’s winking at the audience just about every second she gets; and Martin Short, with maybe nearly five minutes of screen-time, is way more hilarious than probably the whole entire season of Mulaney has been.

None, however, I repeat, NONE, measure up to the types of greatness that Josh Brolin brings to this movie as Bigfoot Bjornsen, Sportello’s mortal enemy/confidante.

See, what’s so lovely about Brolin here is the way in how Bigfoot is written: He’s rough, tough, gruff and a mean son-of-a-bitch who clearly doesn’t care for the likes of Sportello, or the fellow pot-smoking, lazy hippies that he associates himself with. Therefore, he and Sportello have a bit of a rivalry, where one may get a certain piece of info and get ahead of the other, in whatever case they’re covering. It’s fun to watch these constantly try and one-up one another, but most of this is because Brolin is so dynamite in this role, that he nearly steals the whole movie from everybody else. Every scene Brolin’s in, whether he’s deep-throating a chocolate-covered frozen banana, ordering more pancakes in a foreign language, or getting ordered by his wife to have sex with her, he’s an absolute blast to watch. You can never take your eyes off of him, and he’s happy with this; for once, in what in seems like a long time, Brolin looks as if he’s having a good time with the material he’s working with. But the difference here is that he commands your attention every time he shows up, making you think about whether or not this character is actually a good guy, or simply put, just a guy, with a hard job, who just wants to solve his cases.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

It’s as simple as that, but Brolin makes it so much more.

But, I’ve just realized that most of what I’m writing about here, may only add to more of the confusion within Inherent Vice and for that, I apologize. It surely is not my intentions, as I clearly want each and every person to see this, even if they aren’t expecting to love it, or even understand it quite nearly as well as they may have been able to do with Anderson’s flicks in the past. And honestly, I don’t even know if Anderson totally wants people to make perfect sense of this movie and how all of the small, meandering threads of its plot-line tie-in together, but he doesn’t ever lose his confidence in trying his damn-near hardest. Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s admirable that he would try in the first place and I think that’s what matters most here.

Sure, making damn sure that your plot, the twists it has, and the characters who weave in and out of it, all make perfect sense as to why they even exist first and foremost definitely matters, but when you have a movie that constantly goes from one scene, to the next, without ever missing a beat of being interesting, then all is forgiven. Maybe you could say I’m giving Anderson too much credit here, and I would probably say “you’re right”, but for some reason, I can’t help but praise this guy anymore than he already has been. Especially here, because it seems like plenty has been said about this movie, without ever getting to the core: It’s entertaining.

While not “entertaining” in the sense that it is constantly exciting with numerous amounts of gunshots, explosions, and car-chases (although some do happen here); more so, it’s in the case that we’re given a simple plot, with some simple characters, and to see it spiral out into absolutely bonkers area’s is what makes it such a blast to watch. One can definitely take this as a serious piece of pulp crime-fiction that’s supposed to make perfect sense, every time that it offers a new plot-thread, but another one can definitely takes this as a serious piece of film-making that, if you want to, you just take for what it is, see what happens next, and just enjoy the ride. I know that it’s hard for me to recommend a movie based solely on that, and not lose some sort of credibility, but I don’t care right now. I feel about as safe and comfortable as I can with recommending this movie for anybody, so long so as they just let it start, go on, and end, exactly as it is. The deep and heavy-thinking can come later, but while it’s on the screen, just let it go and see how you feel.

If you still hate it, then so be it. At least I tried.

Consensus: Maybe not the most comprehensive piece of his career, Paul Thomas Anderson still works his rear-end off to make Inherent Vice one of the crazier experiences at the movies this holiday season, but also allows for it to constantly stay compelling, funny, and most of all, entertaining. Even if all the numbers don’t add up.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Sort of like the Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Sort of like the actual Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Birdman (2014)

Val Kilmer, here’s your future, bud.

At one point in his career, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was on top of the movie-world. Not only was he selling movie tickets out the wahzoo by playing a superhero character by the name of “Birdman”, but his popularity was at its highest-peak where it wasn’t that fans knew exactly who he was and loved him, but because he was respected amongst his peers as well. However, that role for Riggan was quite some time ago and now, in the present-day, things aren’t going so fine for poor old Riggan. For starters, he’s washed-up and senses his popularity is waning so quickly that he could be considered practically nonexistent. He plans on changing this, though, by producing, directing and even starring in a stage-adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He’s got the cast in line and while there’s the occasional hiccup here and there, Riggan is feeling confident enough that this show will not only be a smash hit, but bring him back to the world wide hemisphere of pop-culture where everybody will know and adore him, just like they did before. Problem is, aside from the fact that the show runs into quite a few problems, is that Riggan has a voice inside of his head that not only pushes him to do certain things, but even bends the differences between fiction and reality.

Consider Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance, which is its full-title), the perfect Alejandro González Iñárritu film, for people who aren’t fans of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s work. Because see, while the impression is with all of Iñárritu’s films so far is that they are dark, depressing, and downright ugly in its depiction of human being’s lives, there’s something fairly different about Birdman. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s a meta-comedy that sometimes jumps right over that hoop into satire, making it a huge leap in terms of versatility for Iñárritu, but there’s still that sad feeling we get here with our main character, and the situation he’s thrown himself into here.

However, rather than making us ache from his pain and suffering, Iñárritu focuses most of his attention on just letting the movie itself run loose, without ever trying to hit us over the head with some random melodrama; he just lets his movie glide right along, at a perfect-pace. And considering that this movie is shot in a way to make it like one, long tracking-shot (courtesy of cinematography genius Emmanuel Lubezki), it’s a wonderful combo, albeit a very surprising one.

Batman vs. the Hulk? Fuck yeah!

Batman vs. the Hulk? My money’s definitely not on the character once played by Eric Bana.

Because yes, if anybody out there has ever seen either Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, or all of them (like yours truly), then they’ll know Iñárritu is all about showing us that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and that, well, life can pretty much suck for everybody. But though I like most of his movies, I myself am even glad to see this change-of-pace for Iñárritu; not because it shows that he can do more than just make me want to leap off of a bridge, but because the guy’s got a perfect tendency here to just let his movie go on its own tangents, seeming as if it could practically fall apart at any moment.

Which, for a movie that’s about a Broadway play being produced and the people involved with it, seems perfectly fitting. It not only puts you on-edge practically the whole time, but gets you up, moving around, and constantly paying attention to what is happening, what is being said, and what a certain character is doing, and to whom. Which, yeah, I know, sounds incredibly obvious, but there’s something fun and vibrant about this movie that just keeps you awake here, even when it seems to go off into these strange places that I don’t even know if Iñárritu himself could fully describe in perfect, full-on detail.

You sort of just have to go with it and see where it takes you – which is a perfect summation of the whole experience I had while watching Birdman.

But even while Birdman is an exciting and rather fun movie, there’s also a couple of moments splashed throughout here where the hip b-bop score is turned off, the camera settles down (although, to be fair, it is constantly moving no matter what is going on), and Iñárritu allows us to focus in on these characters, their relationships to one another, and exactly what they should mean to us. Cause, trust me, this goes a long way for a movie as brutal and as a painstakingly honest as this.

Yes, earlier I alluded to the fact that Iñárritu has made Birdman as a comedy of sorts, but sometimes, it’s so harsh and on-point about who it’s poking its finger at, it’s almost like a horror movie. Everything and everyone from the actors to directors, assistants to lawyers, Hollywood to the stage, the Baby Boomer Generation to the current Generation Y, and hell, even from the fans to the critics – no one here is safe from the sharp-edge knife that Birdman is waving around. Which is, of course, hard to stomach at times, but incredibly hilarious that it feels like maybe Iñárritu has almost too much knowledge on the subject matters at hand and really has a grind to ax. But nonetheless, it’s a constantly hilarious that has more to say then just, “Yeah, people who act are usually pretentious dicks”. Instead, it’s more like “Yeah, people who act are usually pretentious dicks, but hey, they’re people, too.”

So yeah, it’s not all that mean.

Regardless though, where Birdman the movie really excels at, like I was getting to talk about early before is whenever Iñárritu just lets his cast do the talking for him. Sure, Iñárritu employs a directorial-style that’s, literally, all-over-the-place and constantly moving, but when he settles everything down to a low-volume and allows for his story to really tell itself, then it makes the whole experience of watching this movie all the more enjoyable, if incredibly emotional as well.

But still, if you look at the cast, there’s still some hilarity to be had; most especially with the character of Riggan Thomson. The reason being is because, well, think about this: Riggan Thomson is an aging, washed-up actor who hasn’t had a role to keep him relevant since the days of him playing a superhero-ish character back in the good old days. So yeah, it would seem pretty perfect to cast somebody like Michael Keaton in the role because, well, that’s practically his story. Which is to say that, yes, this is total stunt-casting at its most painfully obvious. But it’s stunt-casting that actually works.

This is mostly due to the fact that the role of Riggan Thomson is a rich one that finds Keaton (a favorite of mine ever since the early days of my childhood), showing all of the shades in his acting-ability; the guy can be funny, mean, nice, determined, sad, and most of all, angry as hell. It’s the kind of comeback role that so many older actors wish they had come their way, which makes it all the more of a joy to see Keaton relish in it and actually make us care for this Riggan Thomson guy, even if he is sort of distasteful dick at times. Because yeah, he treats his ex-wife and daughter like shit sometimes, but at the end of the day, you feel bad for him because he’s put so much work into making this play work that you sort of want him to succeed, while also learning a major life-lesson to hopefully turn things around for himself, as well as those who actually care about him.

I sincerely do hope that Keaton gets a nomination for his work here. Not just because it will put his name back on the map like it deserves to be, but because it’s a role that literally goes in all sorts of different directions, yet, never rings a false note.

How I imagine Emma Stone greets the day every morning. Except probably with that damn Brit next to her.

How I imagine Emma Stone greets the day every morning. Except probably with that damn Brit next to her.

And trust me, this could have been a big problem for everybody in the movie, had nobody been able to adapt well to Iñárritu’s style; because it’s all filmed in one shot (or at least, edited in a way to make it appear so), the camera is constantly on them, watching their every move, whether it be a physical one or a mental one. That’s to say that everybody here feels perfect for their roles and makes it seem like they actually are having real-life conversations with one another, giving us more of the impression that we are right there with them, along for the ride that is this play being made.

Another actor who gets away with stealing this movie a bit for his bit of stunt-casting too, is Edward Norton as the pretentious, Marlon Brando-ish thespian, Mike Shiner. Anybody who has ever worked with Norton, the person, will tell you that the guy’s a handful, which is why I found it incredibly fitting that he’d play the same kind of person that’s like that both on, and off the stage. Shiner’s a smug a-hole and is definitely all about himself, which allows for Norton to really just take the piss out of his image and play all of this up. But, like with Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, whenever there’s time for us to see more in Shiner than what’s originally presented to us, the movie makes sure to do this in an understandable way, with Norton’s dramatic-abilities coming into full play.

Most of these scenes come from when he’s around Emma Stone’s character, Sam, the ex-junkie daughter of Riggan. Stone’s charming here, as usual, but she’s got more of an edge to her here that makes it seem like she’s more than just about being sassy, she’s downright pissed-off and willing to let everybody know it. This side to her is exciting and it makes me wish she’d just step away from making movies with Spidey, and testing out her obviously capable abilities as one of today’s best-working actresses. And trust me, there’s plenty more where she came from – Zach Galifianakis is hilarious as Riggan’s co-producer that’s all about making sure the show does in fact go on, while also fearing that he may be out of job if this all goes South; Naomi Watts gets a rare chance to be funny playing an actress who wants to make it big with her first appearance on Broadway; Amy Ryan has a few sweet scenes as Riggan’s ex-wife; Andrea Riseborough deliciously plays Riggan’s co-star who he may, or may not be, having a child with; and Lindsay Duncan plays the New York Times critic that Riggan despises the hell out of, yet, wants nothing more than to impress the shorts off of, if only so that she can give him a good review and not have to worry about people dismissing his play.

Don’t have to worry about that here, Riggan. You’ve got me sold, man.

Consensus: Loose, wild, perfectly-acted, and altogether, fun, Birdman is a hilarious satire that takes a bite out of everybody involved with the entertainment-business, while also not forgetting about those said people and remembering that they all have feelings, too.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Fly away, Mikey. There's a better career ahead of ya. I promise.

Fly away, Mikey. There’s a better career ahead of ya. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Gone Girl (2014)

Anybody down to get married?

On the wee early hours of July 4th, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home to a bit of a shocker: His wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has mysteriously disappeared. Seeing as how this could possibly be a kidnapping, Nick decides to call the local authorities, in which two detectives (Kim Gordon and Patrick Fugit) get called onto the scene to investigate. While they do initially believe that Nick doesn’t have the faintest clue of what happened to his wife, the way everything is laid out just points towards him. However, they continue on with their investigation and keep themselves as subjective as possible. Problem is, the same couldn’t be said for the media who, upon hearing of this mysterious case, jump on it right away and focus most of their attention on Nick, his efforts to help find Amy, and just whether or not he actually has anything to do with it in the first place. This leads Nick to hire an attorney (Tyler Perry) that will not only help with his public persona, but also may help skewer the investigation away from him. But the truth is out there, just waiting to be exposed, and it’s up to everybody to discover what really happened to Amy.

Alright. Alright. Alright. No, I am not channeling my inner-McConaughey. Nope, instead I’m trying to prep myself for this review here because this baby won’t be easy to talk about. Not because I have so much love and praise for it that putting them all into cohesive, understandable sentences and phrases would be a challenge in and of itself, but because this movie is chock full of surprises.

Which also means something else….SPOILERS!!

Picking up girls in a library. So Affleck.

Picking up girls in a library. So Affleck.

Yes, everybody. It’s that dreaded “s-word” that just about every person on the face of the planet hates to hear, but such is the case with movies like these: The more mysterious they are, the more easier it is for bloggers/writers/critics to spoil the fun for everybody and anybody else out there who may actually be looking forward to seeing this. Because honestly, most of the fun in Gone Girl is from not knowing what to expect next, how, why, where, and from whom. In that sense, it’s your typical David Fincher flick, however, there’s something more fun about this piece in particular.

See, while I have never read the novel of which this movie is adapted from, therefore, I don’t have much knowledge of how it is actually written, seeing this was a total treat for me. I had no idea what to expect, except a possible kidnapping, an investigation into this kidnapping, and a whole lot of mystery. And this, my friends, is what I always look forward to when I see Fincher’s flicks; I expect to be thrown about, tussled around, and taken in all these different directions, until I can’t handle it anymore and want to give up, yet, the ride itself is so much fun, that I just can’t help but keep on with the ride.

And with this ride in particular, it’s satisfying. Not because Fincher keeps us guessing every scene, of every second, with every character, but because, for once and awhile at least, Fincher really seems to be relishing in the material that he’s working with. Don’t get me wrong, when I watch films like Fight Club, the Game, and, to an even lesser extent, Panic Room, I continuously get the idea that not only is Fincher having a great time messing with our minds and our expectations of what to expect next, but that he’s having an even bigger blast just setting up all of these set-pieces and plot-threads. That’s not to say his other, more serious movies aren’t considered “fun”, it’s just that there’s a very dark and morbid tone to them, that where it seems like there’d be a time and place for some fun to be had, there’s nothing but sadness. Which, like I will say again, isn’t a bad thing at all, but watching something like this reminds me what it’s like to go to a David Fincher movie and just witness a master at work with his craft and having a ball with it all.

So, with that said, it goes without saying that yes, Gone Girl is a fun ride, from start to finish. And although I am quite compelled to say more about this movie and its story, I’ll stay away because the real marvel of this film is realizing just what the hell is actually happening in this story, as it is brought to our attention. There’s several twists, turns, and alley-ways this movie goes down throughout its near two-and-a-half-hours, and they’re all unexpected (that’s if you haven’t already read the book).

It should also be noted that while this film definitely takes some aim at the mass-media and, most importantly, biased news broadcasts, Gone Girl isn’t particularly a deep movie. There’s no real sense that what Fincher is creating here, is supposed to be any bit of ground-breaking, thought-provoking, or even revolutionary; instead, it’s just a simple mystery that goes through all sorts of hoops and constantly takes you for a whirl. Is it a bit disappointing? Sort of, yes, but only because we know Fincher is capable of much more than just keeping his stories as simple as they present themselves on the page.

But that said, I’d much rather have an exciting thrill-ride from Fincher, rather than a bold, ambitious piece that seems to miss its mark. Not saying that there are many of those kinds of movies out there, but those expecting this to get a whole bunch of Oscar nominations, may be in for a surprise. A pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.

Anyway, even though this is clearly Fincher’s show for the taking, from the beginning, to the end, he still doesn’t make the fatal mistake of getting in the way of his cast. Which was a smart move on his part, because he’s assembled a pretty talented bunch here. And seeming to be leading the pack is Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, the husband of the missing who everybody, with good reason, calls into question as soon as the story comes to fruition. A lot of people were pretty heated up about Affleck’s casting in the role and although I have not read the book, and therefore cannot attest to this, I will say that Affleck seems tailor-made for the part. Not only does Affleck just light the screen up with that boyish-charm of his, but he also makes us continuously wonder just whether or not he is actually as apart of his wife’s disappearance as the rest of these characters are leading us to believe. While we see that Nick Dunne is a nice guy at heart, albeit, a very troubled-one to say the least, we still know that there’s a human deep down inside of there and although it would be as easy as pie for us to write him off as “the baddie”, the movie makes it quite clear that we shouldn’t and instead, see his side of the story and make up our own conclusions. And most of this is thanks to Affleck for having us constantly question who to believe, and who exactly to root for.

"Uhm.....what's in the box?"

“Uhm…..what’s in the box?”

But although Affleck’s amazing in this role, the one who totally steals the show is Rosamund Pike as his wife, “Amazing Amy”. But see, here’s the double-edged sword of describing Pike in this role without spoiling any of the film’s real surprises: You really can’t. Much of this film is dedicated to her back-story and exactly what happened to her, and to give any of that away would be a total disservice to all parties involved here. So I’ll stay away from really getting into her character, but I will say this: Pike is downright amazing and don’t be surprised if she ends up getting a nomination come Oscar season. Maybe even possibly a win….

You never know, people.

And of course, the rest of this cast is great, if also, quite interesting concerning who Fincher casts in some of these roles. For instance, the casting-decisions of Tyler Perry as the PR-representative of Nick Dunne and Neil Patrick Harris as a slightly off-kilter ex-boyfriend of Amy’s were definitely bold choices; choices which, mind you, were willing to fail at any second. However, they both pay-off and believe it or not, give me more hope in Tyler Perry as an actor, much rather than Tyler Perry as a director (although this still has me scratching my head).

But there’s plenty more where these two came from and they’re all pretty phenomenal to watch, especially since each and everyone brings their own little flavor to this overall meal. Kim Gordon and Patrick Fugit play the two detectives that seem to be just as confused as the audience is in knowing whether or not Nick Dunne did anything to his wife and because of this, it’s interesting to see their conversations with him; Carrie Coon (a favorite of mine from the Leftovers) is great as Nick’s twin-sister and seems like she herself may be up to no good as well, although it’s clear that all she really wants to do is make sure her bro doesn’t get jailed; and Missi Pyle plays a television news-analyst by the name of Eileen Atkins who, get this, has a Southern-accent, likes to bad-mouth certain people in ongoing investigation, and does it all for “the ratings”. Now, tell me, who does that sound exactly like?

Oh, that David Fincher, man! He’s a pure-jokester!

Consensus: Maybe not as deep as Fincher’s previous-flicks, Gone Girl still serves as an exciting, enjoyable, and delightfully twisted tale of a marriage gone wrong, and even worse mystery that may, or may not be, exactly what you think it is.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Stop mugging it up for the cameras, Affleck!

Quit mugging it up for the cameras, Affleck!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Fight Club (1999)

Next time you want to buy those hip, new jeans from JC Penney, punch yourself.

In a country as wide as America, it’s hard not to get swept up in all of it. An normal guy who sometimes go by the names of either “Cornelius”, or “Jack” (Edward Norton) knows this, but he can’t help but still fall for the tricks that mainstream society has set up for him to get caught in. Because of this, he becomes an insomniac that binges all day and night on crappy sitcoms, expensive furniture and belongings, and occasionally goes to a job where he has to file reports on faulty cars’ systems. However, he eventually finds a cure for his insomnia in random support groups that occur all around him. Though he can’t really connect with any of the other members in these support-groups, he still finds some solace in the fact that he can go to these private places and just let all of his emotions out. That all changes, though, when a fellow “phony” named Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) starts showing up to the same meetings and ruining our protagonists’ peaceful vibes. This is when the insomnia continues, but this time, he finds another form of escape – however, this time, it’s not with a group, but instead, with a person.

The person’s name, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt); the person’s occupation, making and selling soap; and lastly, the person’s beliefs, well, that we should all just start letting our oppressed anger out and start taking it out on our follow man.

This is a hard movie to talk about, but not for the reasons that some of you may think. See, with a film as culturally significant and iconic as Fight Club, it’s hard to write a review/post, fifteen years later after the movie has been released and consumed, and bring up certain points that haven’t already been stated.

Well, technically, I could. Like for instance, I could talk about how incredibly sleek, grimy, and gritty David Fincher makes this movie look; or how the twist is a total shocker to any first-time viewer, yet, totally works when you see it countless other times; or even how mostly all of what Chuck Palahniuk was trying to get across about the state of our nation’s culture, our society, and the way in how our citizens were constantly being shaped into becoming what the rest of the world wanted them to be. Of course I could talk about all of this and while I’ll definitely dive into some of that here, simply restating these points would be lazy.

The perfect romance.......

The perfect romance…….

However, I’m going to probably do them anyway. Sorry, people. I’ll try and stay away as far and as long as I can, but such is the dilemma with Fight Club: There’s clearly a lot to discuss and argue about, but so much has already been said. Then again, on the flip side, the beauty behind Fight Club is that so many people can think about it differently. Because even though Fincher himself has sort of thrown little hints here and there about what the real meaning surrounding Fight Club is, he’s sort of left it all up to us, the viewer, and it’s not only a smart move on his part, but for us to actually follow through with it, as well.

I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a simple, relatively peaceful conversation about this movie and its meaning, that’s all of a sudden turned to something resembling a brawl. I’m totally exaggerating (maybe), but this is probably what Fincher and Palahniuk intended in the first place: They wanted their material to be dissected, interpreted, and talked about for days on end. Does it deserve to be? Absolutely, but there is something to be said for a movie that continues to still keep on popping up in pop-culture, and just real life in general.

Does that mean this movie is overrated? Not at all. But is it perfect? No, it is not. Fincher has definitely made some better movies in his storied-career and while this movie definitely comes close to being one of them, it just isn’t. However, that’s not really a complaint, as much as it’s just a statement from yours truly; Fight Club, for what it is, is a movie that deserves to be seen. If not a few times, just once then, because while it’s a movie that asks you to think outside of imaginary box you don’t know you have around your life, it’s also the rare studio-movie that poses some morally and ethnically questionable ideas about how a society is ran, and how those members in society feel when they aren’t allowed to express themselves for so very long.

For instance, take our unnamed protagonist, he’s your typical everyman – boring, easily influenced by conformity, and never true to himself or the beliefs he has lying underneath that clean shirt and tie. However, once he realizes that there’s more to the way the world can be ran, his especially, he can’t help but join in this free frenzy of anger, violence, and hate that stems from the inner-most core of man: The right to express themselves freely. And even though you could argue that he only does this because he’s so taken away with Tyler Durden and the way he carries himself through everyday, bizarre-o life, you could also look at the fact that this rage has been brewing inside of him for quite some time. It’s just until now that he finally gets a chance to let it all out, with a numerous amount of fellow men who feel the same as he does.

And since I already mentioned his name, I guess it’s right to mention the character of Tyler Durden himself: A wacky, wild and sometimes, border-line insane caricature of what every guy, no matter how hard they try to deny it, want to be. And honestly, what better actor to play this ideal-perception of a man, according to fellow men, than Brad Pitt himself. Not only is this pure casting-magic at its finest, but it’s also one of the sheer signs of genius that Pitt was beginning to show us; not just as an actor, but as a star who had the right to choose whatever project he wanted, without having to worry about how the rest of the world viewed him. Because yes, even though Pitt still gets to look hunky and jacked-out as humanly possible here, he’s still something of a grotesque character that you’re never too sure of. You know that he’s someone you can’t pin-point down if you saw him in a crowded room and met him for the first time, but then again, he’s the first guy you’d notice in that same crowded room.

....or is this?

….or is this?

This is to say that Pitt is wonderful in this role and absolutely crackles and pops with every second he gets to play as Tyler Durden. But that isn’t to say that Edward Norton doesn’t get to do anything effective here either as our main protagonist, because he totally does. It’s just less of a showier-role, which is totally saying something because Norton gets a chance to do everything we love seeing him do in just about any movie he decides to do: Get your attention right away, sometimes be funny, and make you wonder just what his character is going to do next.

The same could be said about the movie as well, because while Fight Club can’t necessarily be classified as something of a “thriller”, it’s still the kind of movie that will have you on edge. Not just with where it’s story goes, or the plot-mechanics of how, but why. Fincher does, much like what the novel also was capable of doing, bring up viewpoints on various forms of everyday society: Music, movies, television, fashion, commercials, etc. And while you could definitely say this a movie with an agenda, good luck trying to figure out what that agenda is.

Personally, I think it’s all about how we as a society are inherently already built to conform and give into mass-media. Or better yet, that fitting in and following along with the rest of the current is the right, relatively safe thing to do. Though I know this movie is speaking this mostly through/from the male viewpoint, I think this is a point that could be made for all members of society; stop doing what everybody else is doing, or what others say you should do. Stand up, scream, shout and do whatever you can to make yourself happy and express yourself. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go around, starting clubs where people beat the shit out Jared Leto, that doesn’t mean you should sit back, watch from the back-row, and sheep around with the rest of the flock.

Or, you know, at least that’s what I think it’s about.

Consensus: Audacious, bold, original, thought-provoking, and somewhat of a crowd-pleaser, Fight Club is the perfect blend of art and commerce, while also serving as a metaphor for the world in which we live in, and the chaos that’s always linger from within it.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Aww, who am I kidding!?!? Just show me shirtless dudes, beating the shit out of one another! Fuck yeah! Rebellion rules!

Aww, who am I kidding!?!? Just show me shirtless dudes, beating the shit out of one another! Fuck yeah! Masculinity rules!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images, Collider

United 93 (2006)

Staying right here on the ground and not moving.

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked by terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests. Three of them reached their targets. This is the story of the fourth that didn’t and the people that made that possible.

It’s been just a bit over a decade since that fateful day where more civilians were killed than any other day in history, ever. It’s something that we Americans are still hurting from but is also something that has made us stronger as a country. I know that I don’t usually get all this patriotic and loving like I am right here, but I’ll be damned if this film didn’t make me feel a little bit sentimental towards the country I live in!

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Anyway, enough of that, because while I do realize that this movie is definitely centered towards those who can remember that day, where they were at, and exactly how they were affected, I have to make a note that it is still a move nonetheless. Meaning, it can be viewed by many, regardless of what country they lie in. I bring this fact up because it’s so strange to see a director like Paul Greengrass (somebody who resides from England) tackle such a controversial subject/event such as this. And don’t forget people, this movie came out nearly five years after the attacks and if anybody who lived during the year 2006 will tell you: We as a country still weren’t willing to get over it. Add that to the fact that Greengrass’ track-record up to that point was good, but mind you, this was when people already got a helping of what he could do with the Bourne Supremacy, where people already knew he loved to shake that camera all over the place.

Hey, look! It's that dude who sings on Broadway!

Hey, look! It’s that dude who sings on Broadway!

So yeah, you could say that it was a pretty daring move on everybody’s parts involved to not only make this movie when they did, but to make it in general, with the lad behind it all.

Somehow though, I couldn’t imagine anyone else directing this. There’s something about Greengrass’ down-to-Earth direction that really gives you the impression that not only is this happening in real time, but that it’s literally happening right in front of your own very eyes. It feels, looks, and sounds exactly like a documentary, and because of that, it just looks, feels, and sounds real. Which is basically saying that it’s a terrifying experience to watch, because even though you know what’s going to happen in the end, you can’t help but get swept up in it all and root for the passengers, yet, at the same time, still can’t lose that sense of dread that sooner or later, it’s all going to end and these passengers are going to perish.

As morbid as it may sound to write or read, it’s the truth and that’s why this movie hit me so hard. Because rather than trying to go for some sort of political-agenda and say who was in the right, the wrong, or indifferent when it came to this situation, on this very day, Greengrass just stands behind the camera and films how it probably would have happened. He’s not offering any “rah-rah” patriotism about how these passengers all acted on the plane when they found out what was really happening, but rather, showing us what can happen when a band of practically strangers get together, figure out what predicament they’re in, and how they can get out of it. Which yes, sounds totally different when you think in the grand scheme of things, what was going on outside of this one aircraft, but when you’re watching this movie, you’re not really thinking about everything else that’s going on in the Big Apple and how the rest of the world is reacting to it – you’re simply thinking about how these passengers are going to get off of this plane and survive, if that’s at all possible.

Which, yet again, is a strange feeling to have, especially when you consider that you know how it ends. If you don’t, then I suggest you read more.

And that’s why, despite him having some bad-press surrounding his name and his “crack-cam”, Greengrass truly was the perfect choice to direct a movie such as this. He not only knows how to ramp-up the tension so well, that you practically forget about the actual, real-life ending itself, but he also reminds us that even the smallest gesture of humanity and bravery can matter. Like I said before, he’s not necessarily commending everybody involved and their actions, but he’s just shining a camera-light on what may, or may not, have happened and how certain people reacted to this specific situation they were tragically thrown into.

That’s what brings me to my next point and how this daring this film truly was. See, it’s one thing to portray an event in the history of the world that happened to, and was felt by numerous people from all over the globe. However, it’s another thing to portray an event in history that has a few specific amount of people involved, and to portray them, their stories leading up to, and during this event, is definitely a ballsy move. Not just because you have to worry about who you offend, or who you don’t, but because this movie right here is their legacy; if you’re bad-mouthing them and people know about it, then you, my sir, may have something of a lawsuit on your hands, not to mention many, many years of angry fan-mail pouring in by the thousands.

Guess the fact they were sweating buckets didn't set anybody off.

Guess the fact they were sweating buckets didn’t set anybody off.

But once again, Greengrass proved me wrong and showed that he can take any drastic steps he wants, he always comes out on top. In the case of the characters here in this movie, nobody’s really all that famous or well-known to the point of where one could say, “Oh, that guy was in that episode of Seinfeld!” And even if you could, it probably wouldn’t get in the way of being able to accept this “character” for who they are and what they resemble. Greengrass clearly did the bit of casting in which he got a whole slew of unfamiliar faces and names, just so that it would be so much easier for us, the audience, to not get distracted by seeing a famous person, play a character; especially not a character who is supposed to be based on someone who actually existed.

Nobody here is really outstanding in terms of acting and to be honest, even after all of these years, nobody’s really all that recognizable either (with the exception of Cheyenne Jackson and a blank-a-few-times-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance from Olivia Thirlby), which is good. In fact, it totally works in the movie’s favor. It makes you see each and everyone of these “characters” as who they’re supposed to be: Real-life, actual people that, sadly, were thrown into such a tragic situation as this. It makes you wonder about what they had to go through and how, even when it all ended, their families were affected. But no matter what, the movie reminds us that it’s because of these people and their bravery, that some lives were changed. For both better and for worse. But most of all, they changed history and had us remember that regular, everyday human beings, just like you or I, can change history by just getting up and not taking something we don’t believe in. Even if the end game doesn’t look so pretty.

But hey, that’s just what being humans all about: Making decisions, regardless of if they end well or not. You just want to help and save others, if that’s at all possible.

Consensus: Though it had everything to lose by simply just being made in the first place, United 93 turns out to be not just an effective piece of film-making, but a compelling and emotional look inside the lives of those who were on this one specific airplane, on this one fateful day.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Never forget, people. No matter where you are in this world, just never forget.

Never forget, people. No matter where you are in this world, just never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Take that Wall-E! This is real animation!

Writer/director/producer Ari Folman was 19 when he served in the Lebanon War in the 80’s. He did his job, his duty, and did it all for his country. However, after all of these years, Folman seems to have forgotten all that has happened, with the exception of a dream that he and two buddies of his have had where they emerge from the water, naked. Seems rather strange, but again, he doesn’t know if that’s real or just a dream. That’s where his former-soldiers help him out to tell him what happened, what they did, and what exactly went on in the Lebanon War. The results not only shock us while we sit and listen, but even them as well.

This is one of those hard flicks to categorize because not only is it a documentary, but it’s also an animated movie. When I first started watching this, I was terribly confused as to what the hell I was seeing. I knew I was seeing a bunch of cartoon-figures chat about the war and whatnot, but I didn’t know if the voices were going through the motions or if they were actual interviews. As you could probably tell, I wasn’t used to seeing my documentaries changedup like this but thankfully, I got used to it after awhile and that’s when things really started to set in.

First of all, let me just go right out by saying that the idea of shooting this movie in an animated-form was sure brilliance on Folman’s behalf. Not only does it allow these stories to hit the imagination that most of them are told in, but it allows you to sink into the material even more. These are real people, talking about real happenings that they either witnessed, or heard of during their time in the Lebanon War, and after awhile you just forget that it’s all told to you in an animated-form. Not only does this allow Folman to film stuff that would have been a bit too costly for him, had it been shot in a live-action way, but you just feel as if you are right there.

When in doubt, just dream of fully-naked women. That will get you by when it comes to war-time.

When in doubt, just dream of fully-naked women. That will get you by when it comes to war time.

On top of that, the animation is pretty damn good as well! Some characters look goofy, some animation seems cheap compared to others, and not everything works, but there is still always something to gaze at with this flick and with this animation. It’s also great to see a flick that uses it’s animation as a tool for telling a more compelling story, rather than to just get away with being dirty and grotesque. Some moments here are downright disturbing and seem like they would have been slapped with the NC-17 had it been done with real actors and real film, but nonetheless, it all feels suitable to the harrowing and disturbing tales these guys are all talking about. Seriously, some of this stuff here will mess you up.

This is one of those movies that totally took me by surprise because within the first ten minutes; I was already bored. I didn’t get what this movie was trying to talk about, the style of filming it was using, and whether or not everything I was hearing was real, or just stories that this dude wrote. But as time went on and I started to gain more and more knowledge of my surroundings here, then it all started to make sense. What’s so unique about my slow, but moving-knowledge of what was going down in the grander scheme of things, was sort of like what our main protagonist was going through as well.

Not only do we not have any clue what the hell happened or what we are about to hear, but neither does Folman. That’s why it’s so intriguing to see a flick not only put us in the same spot as the lead character (or whatever you’d call him), but have us grip on to reality just as he does. The whole idea behind this movie is that after the war, some men come to terms with the harsh-realities of what they just witnessed, or they just throw it to the back, forget about it all, and have it placed as dreams. That’s exactly what this movie touches on, in a way that I never expected to not only affect me, but show so strongly in animation.

And even with the animation, nothing of what you see here is going to be watered-down. You’re going to see some pretty disturbing stuff that will not only have you shadow your eyes away, but may also piss you off, as it did to me. Just knowing that these types of travesties actually occurred and, in some ways, still is to this day, really upset me to the high heavens because it made me feel as if there was no need for any of this violence or war. Now, some peeps may disagree with me and say it’s all about religious conflicts and that they need to settle their differences as soon as possible, but is this really the answer? Killing un-armed people in the streets? Destroying farms and live-stocks so people starve? Using a gun and a rank as a power-method;  getting rid of religions in hopes that they will one day, fade away into obscurity? Really?

Are these really the answers we all search for when we need to settle any conflict?

"Hey, how's the ki...AAAAHHH!!"

“Hey, how are the ki…AAAAHHH!!”

For me and my thoughts, this is just wrong. But to see it displayed in a way like this, really hit me even harder. Hell, I could probably type in some war-footage and find tons and tons of actual deaths and murders caught on-camera, but somehow this hurts me on the inside more. Something just didn’t sit well with me and had me feel as if this world, not only has it’s beauty, but it’s ugliness as well. It made me angry, it made me upset, but most of all, it made me happy to live ithe life I live, where I live it. Not saying America’s better or anything like that (because clearly, that isn’t the whole truth), but it does make me realize that the life I’ve been granted is one that I should be thankful for, each and everyday I wake up.

Sorry if this is beginning to sound like I just smoke a bowl, but that’s what happens to me when I see a movie that really has an effect on me; it has me thinking, talking and hoping that other people feel the same way as I do. And if not, then oh well. Still see this though.

Consensus: Depending on what your view of the Lebanon War is, Waltz with Bashir may, or it may not, connect with you, but if you have a heart, and a thirst for human-righteousness, it should still hit you hard and where it hurts the most inside.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Can't say that it's not an AIRport.

Technically, it’s still an airport.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

In Bruges (2008)

Who knew Bruges was such a happenin’ place! Full of fun, murder and all!

After a job goes terribly wrong, hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are sent away to Bruges to let the heat die down. This also allows for their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to think of their next move, so that while they’re in Bruges, not only can they enjoy the various sights, but they can wait on his call for further instructions of what to do next. In the meantime, the two hitmen go sight-seeing, although against most of Ray’s wishes; instead, he would much rather like to drink, do drugs, find some pretty ladies and have as much fun as one possibly could while vacationing in a place like Bruges. Luckily for Ray, there’s a local film crew around town filming something with a dwarf and a pretty gal (Clémence Poésy) that he automatically takes a liking to. However, the aftermath of his one job still continues to mess with his mind and threatens to ruin any possibility of being sane he may have. To make matters even worse, when the two guys eventually do get their call from the boss, it isn’t a pleasing one and may actually pit the two seemingly good friends up against one another.

But hey, that’s business, mate.

It’s a very rare occasion in which a movie that I have seen more than a handful of times, can not only just make me laugh nearly as much as I did the first time around, but can also keep me on edge as to where the story is going next. And with In Bruges, it’s an even rarer-occasion, because, generally, the film leans on its constant plot twists that take over the last-act of this movie; plot twists that I have seen many times before. So for a movie to excite me all over again, as if I was just watching it for the first time in my life, truly is a work of magic.

I think we all know she's in for a wild night ahead of her.

I think we all know she’s in for a wild night ahead of her.

Because, the fact remains, In Bruges is one of the better dark-comedies of the past decade, and not too many people know about it. Even if they should, they don’t. But while that may seem like a meaningless “idea that I think is actually a fact”, there’s something endearing about that aspect that works wonders for this movie.

For instance, the movie prides itself in being contained to this one, rather small part of Bruges; a place you didn’t think was a perfect setting for a film, but somehow, totally is. It’s a place that the movie mocks on more than one occasion, but also shows that there’s some beauty in the land these guys are vacationing at. I don’t mean in just the numerous museums or churches these two guys see, I mean in the people they meet and the things that happen to them, both good and bad. What I’m basically trying to say is that Bruges itself, becomes something of a character in a movie that’s named after it and it creates a small vortex of a world that, as they say in the movie, “Seems like you’re in a dream.”

All that philosophical shite aside (working on my Irish over here), this movie is still entertaining-as-hell no matter how many times it’s watched. You so rarely get that with any movie, but when you see as many movies as I do on a regular basis (more than any normal human being should ever have to), certain movies just fade in your mind and you lose the ability to love them all over again. However, with In Bruges, that ability isn’t anywhere to be found; in fact, I think I may love the movie even more now, then I did way back when I saw it in the early days of ’09.

Certain jokes I can catch up on quicker now, the story makes a whole lot more sense, and the performances from the trio of lead veers quite closely into being “perfect”; especially from Colin Farrell, the actor I’ve always had faith in, and here is exactly the reason why.

As Ray, Farrell is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode and destroy everything around him. You get the sense that he’s a young, brash asshole that doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, nor knows how to act like an adult, but that’s sort of the point of the character and makes Farrell act even better than before. He’s a bit of a punk that does and says bad things throughout the majority of this movie (as hilarious as they sometimes may be), but knows that they are bad, wrong, they should not be done, and at least wants to move on from those mistakes and see if he can turn his life around.

In other words, he’s a bastard with a conscience, and every single second of watching Farrell play him is a total pleasure.

Even more of a pleasure to watch is Brendan Gleeson as the older, much more experience hitman that’s something of a father-figure to Ray, although the movie doesn’t hit us over the head with that idea. Instead, it just allows us to see Ray and Ken as two guys, who have the same job, and are mates, yet, they are in a bit of a sticky situation that can go either way. They don’t know, and they don’t necessarily care. They just want to take each day as they come and both characters express that feeling in two very different ways. For Ray, spending his day is all about getting drunk, having a shag or two with a lady, and just overall, having a grand old time. Whereas for Ken, he’s much more simpler in that he likes to read a book or two, explore the land around him a bit, and at the end of the day, go to bed while watching the tube.

They’re both opposites, yet, they are very good friends that understand each other and at least try to make sense of where the other one comes from. Watching them speak to each other about such stuff like either Belgium art, guys who sell lollipops, kung-fu, is constantly fun and entertaining, while very interesting because we see certain shades of their characters come out that we didn’t expect to ever see, all throughout their conversations. It also helps that Gleeson and Farrell have a lovely chemistry that never feels false. Not even for a single second.

Look out, Oskar!

Look out, Oskar!

And to make matters even better, we have Ralph Fiennes here as the foul-mouthed, constantly pissed-off boss of theirs that isn’t around a lot, but when he does show up, is around to only take care of business his way. We hardly ever see Fiennes do a performance as nasty or as eccentric as this, which is what exactly makes it such a pleasant, if totally unexpected surprise. But what Fiennes is able to find in this character is some ounce of humanity that makes him more than just a dirty, cold-blooded killer; the dude has a code/conscience, and all he’s doing is following through with it. He’s a mean old son-of-a-bitch, but he’s at least a human one, and the fact that we get to see that aspect of the character is truly a testament to the kind of actor that Fiennes is.

But honestly, I’m going on and on about the cast, without mentioning the one who is really responsible for this whole thing coming together so perfectly: Writer/director Martin McDonagh. Sure, McDonagh’s style of blending dark comedy with humane-drama, and bloody violence, has all been done numerous times before, but there’s something oh so refreshing about McDonagh here that makes me wonder not only why he doesn’t do more movies, but also why many more writers and directors haven’t followed suit? Because what McDonagh does so amazingly well here, is that he finds out what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, and what keeps us on the edge of our seats when watching movies, and combine them all together to make a movie accessible enough for anyone to see.

I mean, I’m not saying that In Bruges is the perfect pint of Guinness for either mom, dad, or your younger sibling, but what I am saying is that if you and your pals are hanging around late one night, need something to watch that will not only interest you, but have you downright laughing and enjoying yourselves, then you could do worse. Far, far worse.

Moral to the story: Watch this movie and thank me later.

Now go!

Consensus: Hilarious, fun, superbly-acted, exciting, surprising, and sweet in spots you don’t expect it to be, In Bruges is a near-perfect dark-comedy/thriller more people need to see in order to realize just how much crap is truly out there in the world that everybody knows, and why little gems like this go so unnoticed, for so very long.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Something in that image doesn't fit with the rest of it....

Something in that image doesn’t fit with the rest of it….

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Stand by Me (1986)

If there’s a dead body just lying around, why wouldn’t you want to find it right away?

A group of twelve-year-olds who are bored and tired with their home lives do what any twelve-year-old would do to have some fun and an adventure: Go see a dead body. Though they’re a little bit different in terms of their personalities and what each of their home lives are like, they are all pretty good friends with one another and enjoy each other’s company, which is exactly why they don’t hesitate to leave for a day or so and check out what all this dead body-business is about. While on the road, they run into the usual problems such as finding food, getting chased by dogs, getting yelled at by old heads, running from a train on the train-tracks, fighting with one another, etc. But they’re biggest problem may in fact be the local bully (Kiefer Sutherland) who already doesn’t like them and especially doesn’t want to see them at this infamous dead body. Leaving this adventure to be a race of sorts, although, to be honest, it isn’t quite fair when you have a bunch of kids walking and running on foot, against a pack of wild, angry and crazed teenagers that can actually drive. But that’s besides the point. There’s a dead body, after all.

I think I stand for just about every guy when I say that as soon as I saw this movie, my life was changed a small bit. Some others can probably say it impacted them a whole lot more than myself, but there’s something to be said about a movie that has an effect on you in general, regardless of how little or large that impact was. For me, this movie made me realize that not only are the friends around me now, the ones I should pay attention to the most, but that my friends in the future will never be as important as the ones I have in the present time. And since I was at least 13 or so when I first saw this, the emotions didn’t fully hit me until I made my way into high school.

It's like my parents always say, "Don't play around with guns. But if you do, make sure it's back behind a diner."

It’s like my parents always say, “Don’t play around with guns. But if you do, make sure it’s back behind a diner.”

Things were different there – my friends, the overall atmosphere, girls, etc. Everything changed for me as soon as I got to high school, and it mostly had to do with the fact that I myself was getting older and realizing what mattered in my life, and what didn’t. And to me, what mattered was my friends. Now, of course most of my friends from grade school had all but vanished from my life come high school, but the ones that were that important to me in the first place, I stayed with and have been in touch with on a regular basis to this day, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Better yet, that’s not the point this movie is trying to make.

The point here is that while we all grow up, age, mature and do all of that lame, boring stuff that adults do, there’s still a special place in our hearts for the friends that were with us in our early years, when life and everything that came with it was a hell of a lot simpler then. That’s where I feel like Stand By Me gets being young so damn right: You don’t really think much, or at all when you’re a little kid and you’re with your friends, you’re just living, day by day, with whomever wants to spend it with you.

And honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids than Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern.

Although each of these characters have their own different personalities and eccentrics that make them who they are, they’re still so easy to relate to. Heck, you may even be able identify yourself with one of them (for me, it was always Vern because, sadly, I was “the fat kid”, although lovingly so), and that’s what this movie is all about. They’re kids and the way they interact with one another and just act in general, are exactly how you would have acted when you were their age, regardless of where you lived or what decade you were born into. All that matters is that you were a kid once, because if you were ever that, then this movie will hit home for you on more than a few occasions.

But who really deserves a bunch of kudos from me is director Rob Reiner himself who took the hard task of adapting Stephen King’s material, and not sugar-coating it a single bit. Because what works so well for this movie, as well as for these kids, is that they don’t really hold anything back: They cuss, spit, smoke, talk about boobs, give each other “two for flinching”. You know, the usual stuff that all kids do, but you hardly ever see in movies because too many people in Hollywood are afraid of offending anyone that wants to think differently about what the kids out there are doing nowadays, or have ever been like. And although I know that most of the respect for this movie should also be given to the screen-writers here who were responsible for adapting this material in the first place (Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans), I still have to tip my hat to Reiner for realizing that he was working with some troubling material and didn’t back down from showing in its most realistic, gritty-form possible.

And because that’s the idea that Reiner is sort of going for, the kids themselves hardly ever feel sensationalized as kids that are as cute as buttons. Sure, the actors playing them may have been on the shiny and nice sides, but they never feel like they were picked up out of a casting-call either and just thrown in front of us regardless of if they have any acting ability or not. Nope, these four kids can act and although some of their later-careers may not be able to prove this fact, let it be known that during the filming of this, most of these kids were actually the ages they were playing.

Sort of makes you think what you were doing with your life when you were 12 years old. For me, it was staying up all night, hopped-up on Mountain Dew and playing PS2 until I couldn’t see straight. But hey, that was just me. Some people have had more eventful childhoods, but for me, I liked it simple: Just give me a game console and plenty of soda, and I’m good to go, mom and dad. Now leave!

Anyway, like I was saying about these kid actors, they’re all pretty great and map-out each character very well. Wil Wheaton is great as our main-focus, Gordie, and seems more like a reserved, quiet kid that isn’t afraid to get a bit wild every so often, rather than just a total dweeb who needs to be outside more; Corey Feldman plays Teddy the way you’d expect a younger Corey Feldman to play a loose cannon of sorts, absolutely bonkers but fun all the same; Jerry O’Connell reminds us that, yes, at one time, before he started having all sorts of lovely and attractive sex with one Rebecca Romijn, he was a chubby little kid, and a pretty lovable one at that; and then of course, we have River Phoenix as the bad boy of the group, Chris Chambers.

I wouldn't do it, but that's just because I was born in the 90's. We had a thing called "Nickelodeon".

I wouldn’t do it, but that’s just because I was born in the 90’s. We had a thing called “Nickelodeon”.

Every time I watch this movie, an undying sense of sadness just overcomes me. Not because I miss being 12 years old again and going out on weekend camping-trips with my buddies, but because it’s a true snapshot of the wonderful and amazing things River Phoenix was primed and ready for in his career. Sure, as he got older, the performances only got better, but seeing as he was so young here, and how natural he comes off most of the time, it makes you wonder what else could have came of him and his career. Just a shame indeed, but at least we’ll always have his body of work to go by and show the future generations to come just what kind of legend of the big screen he could have been.

And the very same could be said for this movie in general, one that will most likely live on forever. Although it does limit its scope in being a story a coming-of-ager that takes place in the late-50’s, it doesn’t really matter. This is a film for all people out there who have ever had a childhood and knew exactly what it was like to just take the days as they come, and never, not once, have to worry about what the future held out for them. Because after all, you’re just a kid, so why worry? Just have fun and be with your friends. Because one day, sometimes when you least expect it, they may not be around ever again.

So it’s up to you, to cherish the moments you have with them and never let them out of your mind, or your heart.

Consensus: Funny, nostalgic, heartfelt, and full of all sorts of life lessons without ever being preachy, Stand By Me is the rare film that only gets better with age and can be passed on from generation, to generation.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Amen.

Amen.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Boyhood (2014)

Officially feel ancient right now.

Starting from his early days as a trouble-making six-year-old, to when he’s a rebellious, deep-thinking 18-year-old, we see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) go through a lot of changes. However, we also see a lot of changes happen to those around him. His sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), does constantly pick on him and get him in trouble for stuff that he doesn’t ever seem to do, yet, at the end of the day, is the one that sticks up for him the most. His mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), is something of a dysfunctional woman just barely getting by – with her kids, her house, her job, her relationships, her divorce, basically everything. And last, but surely not least, we have his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), who isn’t around as much, but definitely makes sure that when it is his turn to spend time with the kids, he never lets them down, nor does he ever take their precious time together for granted. For he knows that, sooner or later, they’re going to have to grow up, take responsibility for themselves and most importantly, make smart decisions. That’s what Mason plans on doing, although, like most humans do, he struggles to always get everything right.

So yeah, I stretched that plot-synopsis out a lot longer than it needed to be. Because, if I was just being honest, simple and easy (which I hardly am ever), I would have just said: Kid grows up for 14 years, most of which, we see occur in front of our own very eyes.

Basically, that’s Boyhood for you all in a nutshell. It’s the movie that Richard Linklater and movie-enthusiasts have been talking about for years because while it seems like an interesting concept, one has to wonder how it would all play out. Would it be a gimmick that just uses the fact everybody on screen is growing older and older, right in front of our very own eyes as a way to show something neat and cool to us? Or, would it give us a meaningful, heartfelt story about what it means to live life, grow up, learn, and just simply be human in every which way?

Aw, look at him. Just a cute, little kid reading a book with his mommy and little sister.

Aw, look at him. Just a cute little kid reading a book with his mommy and sister.

Well, thankfully, mostly due to Linklater being at the helm, it’s definitely the later.

For most of you who may not know, I love most of Linklater’s movies. His experimental pieces irk me only slightly, but when it comes right down to it, and Linklater feels like playing everything simple, he’s an absolute joy to watch. Not because he makes good, riveting pieces of work that compel you to your final hour, but because the movies he creates feel exactly like real life. And I know that sounds hokey and all, but in Linklater’s case, it isn’t at all; it’s mostly what he gets by on as a director and though he takes a step or two here and there into some strange territory, he always finds a way to bounce back and give us an heartfelt, naturalistic story that feels like real life, happening right in front of you.

And that’s exactly what Boyhood is. All two-hours-and-45-minutes of it, too.

And yes, while I do realize that that’s a lot for some of you more testy viewers out there who are probably still getting over the near-three hour desolation that was Transformers 4, I assure you, it’s not that much of a big deal. It goes by so quickly and easily, you’ll not only wonder where the hell all that time went in the first place, but also feel sad that it is actually all over. Because, for the most part, this is the type of film that, from the very beginning, feels like something more than just a simple story about a kid growing up, learning lessons, and eventually being a man that he sets out to be. Nope, this story’s about something more, something bigger than just this one kid.

Linklater knows that life is precious, life is something to behold, take care of and experience to the best of one’s ability, and through this Mason’s kid’s story, we see exactly how meaningful life can be. Mason’s story doesn’t really consist of many things happening, except that he wakes up everyday, goes to school, eats, does what he has to do, goes to sleep and the next day, continues the same cycle. It may sound boring, but it’s totally not because Linklater finds this rather fascinating.

In a way, it’s almost like Linklater himself wants to allow Mason’s story be anybody’s story. It doesn’t matter if your parents were ever divorced, or if your mom went from one dangerous drunk, to another, like clockwork, but what does matter is that you’ve lived a life up to this point. It doesn’t have to be an eventful one, nor does it have to be one chock full of unlimited fun and surprises; all it has to be is a life that you’ve wanted to be living, all up until this point. If you can do that, then Boyhood is the perfect movie to see because of how familiar most of what you will see is. While that may sound generic and all, there’s something rather endearing about watching somebody go through most of the same events that you yourself may have had to go through at one point. It not only has you feel closer to the story, but also understand that most people’s lives play out exactly like this: Sometimes, things happen; sometimes, they don’t. It’s not like how they do in the movies.

Pretty ironic, eh?

But anyway, back to what I was saying before about the gimmick: Yes, it’s pretty interesting. Not just in the way that it’s hardly ever been done before, but because it’s happened in such a high-profile way that’s deliberate and ended up working out. And by “working out”, I don’t mean that they were actually able to cobble up all this film together from all of these different years without their being many complications added into the mix, but by how the movie itself never seems to fall back on that reality. Sure, we see the kid grow up oh so suddenly, but it’s never made to have us drop our jaws and go, “Oh mah god! But look at all that facial hair!”. Instead, it’s just how you’d see someone in real life age: Day by day, parts of their body start to change and one day, poof, they’re looking like a wizard.

And this all brings me to our guinea pig of sorts for the whole two-and-a-half hours: Ellar Coltrane. Though I don’t feel comfortable with necessarily calling him a “newcomer”, I will say that I see a bright future ahead of him and it’s all because he seems like a natural screen-presence – sometimes for all the right reasons, as well as the bad. When Coltrane is a little kid, he seems to be living it up in his youth, asking questions, interested about the world that surrounds him and just wanting to cause any sorts of havoc that he can. He’s a typical kid and it only continues until he grows up, graduates grade school and becomes what most of us all know as a TEENAGER. Oh dear lord no! Say it ain’t so!

Well, I will say it because once Coltrane becomes a teenager, things get a bit shaky; shaky in the way that Mason starts to become more awkward around those around him and more angsty as a result as well, but shaky in the way that this kid runs a pretty close line to being considered “annoying”. He’s constantly going on about some big conspiracy theory he had in his head; doesn’t know how to talk to most of those around him (especially girls); and just seems like he’s pissing his life away on taking photographs, but never doing anything to take them to the next level or step. Generally, we could see him as “unlikable”, but the fact that Coltrane himself is mostly the same age as the kid the portraying, there’s a feeling you get where you want this kid to just do fine and chive on. He may not always make the right decisions, but when he does, it’s like an easy victory you get in the pit of your stomach when somebody you know or like does something you want them to do.

Oh, okay. Guess he's going through that "emo-phase" now, but hey, he's still a bit precious, right?

Wow. Okay. Guess he’s going through that “emo-phase” now, but hey, he’s still a bit precious……..right?

What I’m trying to say is that Mason becomes our buddy of sorts, and for others, maybe even another child. So when he wins, we win. And when he loses, we lose even worse. It’s a push-and-pull roller-coaster of emotions that will definitely pull you in from the very start and it only helps that Linklater himself hardly ever pulls any punches in delivering this story to us. Sometimes, we see important changes in his life occur; other times, we don’t. We get glimpses and peaks into his life at whatever present time and it’s always interesting, because it always feels real. Nothing life-changing, or sudden, or dramatic; just realistic and natural. The only way Linklater knows how to make most of his movies.

Like I was saying about Coltrane though, the kid’s great and definitely shows that he’s able to hold his own with those around him. I’m interested in seeing what he’s got next, as I think this role doesn’t perfectly summon-up who he is as an actor, but will definitely be a stepping-stone of sorts for a bright future.

Also helping Coltrane out as Mason’s older sister is Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, who feels just as natural as being a child, to being a teenager, as he is. Both create a wonderful chemistry that feels like the quintessential sister-brother dynamic: She looks out for him, but knows that he can make her seem “lame”, even if that isn’t his original intention. But the one’s who really help this movie out to move and move and move as much as it possibly can without moving too fast, is Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their parents.

I haven’t seen Arquette in a role as meaty as this in awhile, and it’s great to see her back in action, because she is such a lovely presence to watch on screen. It doesn’t matter if she’s being mean, funny, upset, ridiculous, or crazy; she feels like a real mommy that loves her kids, would do anything for them and wouldn’t stop at anything to ensure their safety/happiness. Ethan Hawke’s daddy character is the same way, albeit more charming and full of fun. Which, I guess, is sort of the point: He’s the divorced-daddy that sees the kids every so often, and always wants to make sure their time with him is the greatest they could ever have. He’s not the best guy in the world, but he continues to try each and everyday he sees them and that’s more than enough. Not just for them, but for us as well.

Because, essentially, their adventure, is our adventure. Even if we haven’t lived it before, we are now and there’s an inherent beauty in that.

Consensus: In essence, not much happens in Boyhood, but that’s also another reason why it’s wonderful in taking everyday life, and making it into an emotional, compelling and always interesting epic that not only stretches the form of current-day movie-making, but changes our perspective on our own lives as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

What the hell?!?! How did this happen?!?! Where did time go!??! Waah! I want my mommy!

What the hell?!?! How did this happen?!?! Where did time go!??! Waah! I want my mommy!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Like Father, Like Son (2014)

Those silly Japanese hospitals! Always mixing up kids with the wrong families! You know, just for shits and gigs! Ahaha!

Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a wealthy businessman that’s fueled mostly by success and the idea that whatever he has coming up next in the pipe-line, will feature even more success and pleasures than the last project he worked on. Even if that does keep him further and further away from his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), his son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya), and basically anyone else he ever meets. But, for the most part, Ryota is happy with life; most importantly, with his six-year-old son that he feels could be as successful as him, just as long as he dedicates himself long and hard to it. So when Ryota and his wife get a call from the hospital that helped deliver Keita to them, they’re a bit confused as to what this means; turns out, the child they’ve been raising for the past six years, isn’t really theirs. Instead, their biological child is with another family, whereas that family’s child is actually Keita. How this happened in the first place is a total jam and up to the lawyers to decide, but in the meantime, Ryota and Midori feel as if it’s best to test out their options and see whether they should switch Keita and be with their biological child, or, keep Keita with them because the bond is already there.

Basically, if you’re going to have a child, make sure it’s not in Japan.

But no, in all seriousness, that plot-synopsis reads out a bit like a comedy. You could easily see a light-hearted romp centered around the fact that a family who, for the last six years, has raised a child as their own, finds out that it’s not only theirs, but that they’re own child is actually with another family, that just so happens to be a bit lower on the totem-pole than they are. I already see the gold to be made in something like that, with plenty of poop, fart and pee jokes to be added somewhere in the script whenever I see fit.

"Now remember son, don't ever eat with a fork. That shit's for weaklings!"

“Now remember son, don’t ever eat with a fork. That shit’s for weaklings!”

However, that’s not how this movie plays out as; instead, it’s drop dead serious and dramatic. And it’s an amazingly smart decision because it not only makes us understand the seriousness of this situation, but realize that there are actual stakes involved with this controversy. Better yet though, it also gives us a key-hole’s view into these character’s lives, how they live, how they appreciate their family and what it is exactly that they want to pass on for future generations to come. Which, yes, does ultimately mean that the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate comes into play pretty heavily during this movie, but it isn’t done on purpose; mostly, it’s where the human-mind jumps to first.

Instead, what writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda decides to do is keep our attention focused solely on these family-dynamics, and how they are affected by each and every single decision one person makes.

For instance, to make it even clearer, it becomes apparent early on that Ryota has himself a bit of daddy issues. Not only does he distaste his dad for some odd reason, but that he’s trying his damn near hardest not to turn out exactly like, nor have his own kids do the same. He’s trying to be that ultra-serious, strict, do-your-homework-now-or-no-video-games kind of dad, and at first, you think he means well, but ultimately, just ends up being a dick for the way he treats everyone around him. Not just his son, but his wife, as well as people that he just meets and sees as “lower” than him.

In fact, if I had to really nit-pick for a problem that I had with this movie, it was that this character was so one-note after awhile, I wondered what it was exactly that made him such a likable, lovable guy to be with and want to have kids with in the first place? Maybe it was the money? Or maybe it was that he was in a cool, rockin’ band back in the days before he decided to get settled-down and take on some responsibilities? Who knows. All I do know is that this guy was pissing me off dearly and not a single second went by where I didn’t want to knock him square in the nose and ruin that pretty, lush-face of his.

But then, out of nowhere, something happened. Not only did I start to see some good inside this Ryota character, but I also realized that I’m even beginning to sympathize with him and hope that he, as well as his family, all get what they want in the end. Surely I don’t want to spoil why this realization comes so late in the flick, but I will say that, for one thing, Koreeda does not shy away from throwing in whatever naturalistic plot-twist he can find. But it’s not all done in a way that makes it seem calculated and obvious from the start as to what’s going to happen, but more or less that since life hands you surprises every so often, then so does this movie. That part worked for me and it kept me wondering just how this family was going to resolve their little situation, and whether or not certain relationships were going to be crushed or not.

"It says here that 'we're fucked'. What do you think that could possibly mean, honey?"

“It says here that ‘we’re fucked’. What do you think that could possibly mean, honey?”

Most of that comes from the fact that Koreeda gives each and every character a beating heart, a living soul and a thinking brain, but because he allows us to see the situation from each and everyone of these viewpoints, regardless of whether we like them or not. Some people think differently than others and while it makes sense why one person would want to take their own kid as their own, the movie brings up the idea that maybe, just maybe, being blood-related is what makes you a father, a brother, a mother, a sister, or any relative, of any sort. What makes you a relative is acting like one – caring, loving and making sure that everything is all fine and dandy with that certain someone, whether they be a blood-relative, or just a person you are related to through marriage or sheer chance.

Koreeda brings this idea up on numerous occasions and by the end, it’s presented in such an honest, bare-bones way, that I was practically swimming in a pool of my own tears. And no, not because this movie features little kids getting their poor little hearts broken on countless occasions, but because it shows the bond one can have with another, as long as it depends on a mutual love and respect for the other. That’s more beautiful than just being a family; that’s just an aspect of life that makes me happy to live, each and everyday I can.

But having my family around me is cool, too. Just tell them to stay out of my room.

Consensus: Though it presents an odd situation worthy and ripe with laughter, Like Father, Like Son‘s ability to play everything as dramatic and as emotional as it can possibly stomach, makes it one of the better movies of the year, leaving you to ponder about your own family and those that you’ve either treated wonderfully as if they were a relative, or like a crap, as if they were a total and complete stranger to begin with.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Okay, everybody! Now smile and say "Weirdest family portrait ever"!

Okay, everybody! Now smile and say “weirdest family portrait ever assembled”!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Obvious Child (2014)

Oh pregnancy, you just love sneaking up on people and ruining their lives at the most inopportune moments.

Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) has come to a stopping-point in her life. The place she usually works at is closing down soon; her stand-up comedy-gig is doing fine, but not nearly as great as she wants it to be; and now, to make matters worse, her boyfriend decides that now is the time to leave her for the chick he’s been banging all of this time. Obviously this leaves Donna a total wreck, in which she’s constantly at home, crying, getting drunk and leaving him angry voice-mails in the middle of the night, and it begins to affect her stand-up material. However, one night, it seems like she’s met a really good guy in the form of Max (Jake Lacy) because they flirt a lot, drink together, pee outside at the same time and even go home and have some fun, wild, drunken sex. And even though he’s not really her type, Donna was at least happy she got that out of the way; that is, until she finds out that she’s pregnant. Automatically, her mind goes right towards abortion, but she doesn’t know whether or not she wants to tell Max and freak him the hell out, or just do it by herself and hope that he never finds out. But that’s all pretty hard when he keeps on showing up everywhere she turns, wanting to go out on a date and just be with her – something Donna is too unsure about.

This may be a surprise to some, but Obvious Child is a perfect example as to why I love watching movies. Sure, I love them, for one, because I’m able to be transported into this whole new world, different from my own, where I don’t have to worry about certain problems that may be rolling around in my actual, real life during the present time. That’s one reason why I love movies so much, but there’s another reason too that I don’t talk too much about, and that’s the element of surprise.

How I think every guy likes to think of their ex right as soon as the relationship is over.

How I think every guy likes to think of their ex right as soon as the relationship is over.

And by “the element of surprise”, I don’t mean a movie that constantly throws a huge barrage of twists and turns at me until my mind eventually fries and turns into mush (as fun as that may sound). No, it’s more that when a movie surprises me with something it does, it says, or makes me feel, then I’m absolutely ecstatic and loving everything about life. It doesn’t matter if I’m two months back on my child-support; living in a cardboard box; have yet to move out of my parent’s basement since ’05; or it doesn’t even matter if I’m having a mid-life crisis of sorts. Fact of the matter is, when a movie surprises me, I’m happy and more than willing to roll with it, just as long as the movie stays reasonable.

And well, for the most part, Obvious Child is a nice little surprise that stays reasonable pretty much throughout the whole hour-and-a-half its on screen for. While that may seem like a short time for a movie that’s not only chock full of surprises, but laughter, smiles, heart, drama, poop jokes, abortion-talk, and stand up comedy, it’s nearly perfect.

Because see, with this movie here, it’s a very simple premise: Sad-sack girl gets dumped, sad-sack girl has one night stand, sad-sack girl gets pregnant, sad-sack decides whether or not to have baby, or get rid of it. It’s all so very straight-forward, but there’s something inherently beautiful about that, if not incredibly realistic, especially in today’s modern society where abortion itself may be a touchy subject, but is still a procedure performed more than a couple of times on a daily basis. Women have it and will continue to have it as long as dudes keep on forgetting to wrap their willies, and there’s no two ways of getting past it.

That’s the exact approach this movie takes to an abortion and doesn’t make any apologies for it whatsoever. It realizes that many people look down upon it as some sort of “practice from Satan”, but the truth is: Not all women want babies. Sometimes, women just want to live their lives without any prior obligations/responsibilities as is; heck, sometimes most of these women can barely take care of themselves, let alone a baby that they have to nurture, care for, change, wash, and breast-feed on a day-to-day basis. And for a movie like Obvious Child to not only approach this idea on more than a few occasions this way, but to actually go so far as to get everybody’s different, opposing viewpoints on the subject, really makes this movie a refresher of what is really going through most people’s minds.

But don’t be worried, because this movie isn’t just all about abortion (although advertisers would definitely like to continue to show it off as that way) – in fact, it’s more about the sad-sack girl I was talking about earlier, Donna Stern, and her problems in life and how it may have just gotten a whole lot worse.

It should also be noted that the movie makes it a big point to show Donna as a troubled, immature, and idiot-like girl that doesn’t always do, or say the right things, yet, still has enough about her to like that makes this whole small journey worth watching. Worth watching because it’s interesting to see this woman and how she lives her life, but also because it’s a slice-of-life from a person’s life we don’t too often see portrayed in the movies, unless they’re gritty, muggy and zero-budget indies (aka, Obvious Child).

But like I was saying before, Donna does some dumb stuff – most especially when she finds out that she’s pregnant and decides to keep it away from the guy who actually did impregnate her – but there’s something about the way she carries herself through her everyday adventures that makes her worth rooting for and hoping that, at the end of the day, she’s happy and satisfied with the way her life has turned out to be. She’s not that great of a comedian, but at least she tells jokes that gets enough people laughing to where she can do the same ones on her friends, make them smile, make them laugh, and as a result, do the same.

Also worth mentioning too, we’re introduced to her in the first ten minutes of this movie, we see her on stage, telling jokes about her personal life with her boyfriend (with her boyfriend in the crowd when this is happening), gets dumped, gets completely bombed, starts drunk-dialing him, and waking up the next morning feeling like shit. Usually, for any movie with any other different character, this would be too much for one audience to handle in the first ten minutes; but for some reason, it feels like a reasonable introduction to a character who may not be complex in every which way, but feels like a real person just like you or I. She likes to laugh, have fun, live life, and just be herself. For that, she’s totally worth loving for, even despite the selfish, thick-minded decisions she makes throughout our time spent with her.

Life is good when your whinin' and dyinin' with David Cross, who for some reason, isn't playing David Cross. Just some comedian who looks, acts, and sounds like David Cross.

Life is good when your whinin’ and dyinin’ with David Cross, who for some reason, isn’t playing David Cross. Just some comedian who looks, acts, and sounds like David Cross.

With all that being said too, I think it’s no surprise whatsoever that Jenny Slate is absolutely terrific as Donna Stern, and not for the reasons one may think. If you’ve ever seen Slate on programs like on Parks and Rec, or more infamously on SNL, you know that this gal can be quite funny when she’s playing “weird”. However, what Slate does so well here is that she just plays it normal; she’s not constantly mugging for the camera when she knows she’s being funny, nor does she over-do when she’s trying to show off her serious, melodramatic acting-chops. Like Donna herself, she’s just doing her, and I was so glad that she made that decision, cause I wouldn’t have wanted her playing anybody else.

Though the rest of the cast isn’t big, or better yet, filled with any sorts of big names that will have everybody running to the nearest theater, everybody’s fine with what they’re given to do and help shape Donna into more of a person, purely by judging how she interacts with every one of them. Most important to mention though, is Jake Lacy who plays the possible father-to-be of Donna’s unborn child, and is every bit of sweet, and nice, and charming, and dorky. So much so that it’s incredibly endearing that you want to see him and Donna get together, even if they are total and complete opposites that would never work as a couple, let alone as parents. Yet, this movie makes a good argument as to why they could be together and it would work out; maybe not as parents at first, but definitely as a couple who goes out on dates, makes jokes, goes to the bathroom outside in public, and just has a good time in general.

In a way, they’re the perfect couple. But not really.

And that’s just how life is: It’s not always perfect, in fact, it’s pretty damn messy. But it all depends on how you get through the muggy parts, and venture on to doing what’s best for you and what makes you yourself happy. If you can do that, then there’s no problems whatsoever.

So just keep on living. And next time, practice safe-sex. But if you don’t, do what you what you think is best.

Consensus: By approaching the topic of abortion with a realistic, understanding view-point, Obvious Child not only doesn’t judge anybody, or anything in particular, but is also just your average, simple tale about an average, simple woman. Yet, it’s always entertaining, insightful, interesting and most of all, heartfelt.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Wrongly-matched and nervous. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes upon the perfect 21st century couple.

Wrongly-matched and nervous. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes upon the perfect 21st century couple.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Just when you thought saving the world from evil, maniacal villains was enough.

Last time we left Peter Parker, he was trying to save the world from the havoc of a super-duper evil villain; win the heart of his lovely neighbor, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst); ace his college courses; still have a roof over his head; and be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing that he’s saved the day. And well, not much of that has changed a bit. Well, maybe instead of having the Green Goblin as a villain, he now has the incredibly smart Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the four metal arms that control his every action and thought, leading him to want to destroy the world that’s been so crummy to him as is. Or, you know, something like that. Also going on, Peter has a problem with telling his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) the truth about what happened to their dear old Uncle Ben, on that one, fateful night. And then of course, there’s Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is rich and powerful now, after inheriting the family business from his deceased-father and still having a bit of a problem with Pete and the fact that he takes the man who killed his father’s pictures all of the time.

I’ve seen this movie many quite a couple of times and it hardly ever ceases to amaze me. Of course when I was a lot younger, this was considered “the best movie ever made, by far”, but now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, it’s stooped-down to being “just as good, if not better than the first”. That’s just what happens with age, though, people. You get older, you learn a lot more and you know what you like, and dislike.

Here though, I like pretty much everything, even if I have seen this movie about ten or more times. That’s not an understatement either; I was brought-up on the Tobey Maguire – Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, which is why I have such a hard time loving these new ones, as well as being able to hate on the magic these two made in the first place. Sure, they’re definitely a lot goofier and lighter on their feet than what most of us are used to with superhero movies (thanks for that, Chris Nolan), but there’s something about their fun spirit and excitement that’s too hard to hate or ignore. Even when it comes close to running into “campy territory”, there’s still an essence that everybody involved is having a great time making this and for that, my soul just cannot hate any of them.

"Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured!"

“Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured without wearing a damn bra!”

Even the third one. But that’s a different review, for a different time (aka, tomorrow).

But anyway, like I was saying before, what Sam Raimi does so well here is that he does keep the same frothy, sometimes goofy and joy-free mood and tone of the first one, but ups the intensity of this by adding both bigger, bigger stipulations, but also giving us characters we can care and love a lot more than we did with the first one. It’s not like we didn’t get any character-development in the first Spider-Man movie, but it definitely didn’t go any further than “good guy”, or “bad guy”. Here though, we get characters, in a comic-book movie no less, that also happen to have dimensions and qualities that most human beings contain.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s because it totally is! However, Raimi has just about each and every moment here that’s dedicated to building and making these characters who they are, feel somewhat genuine. He also does something strange for a mainstream, superhero blockbuster in that he lets a lot of scenes where two characters may be having a heart-to-heart or talking about something rather emotional, play-out in total silence, as if he isn’t telling us when the sad moments are coming. We’re just supposed to know what to feel, and cry, shake, tremble, or smile on our demand.

We so rarely see that with superhero movies, but Raimi took a big time risk here, and it paid-off especially well.

Another risk he took was in actually showing us the shitty side of being a superhero. Most of the time, we always see the person in the suit, messing shit up, being a boss, saving the world and getting the girl, the glitz, and the glamour by the end of the day, but what most of us really don’t see is what goes on when that said person gets out of that said costume and becomes what most of us are: Actual humans. Here, with Peter Parker, we get an idea that not only does it suck being depended on just about every second of every day, at every location in the heart of New York City, but that it’s even more of a drag having to deal with all of your other problems when you’re not out saving the world, one criminal at a time.

For Peter Parker, life kind of blows – the girl of his dreams is with some total meat-head, his best-friend doesn’t trust him, he’s not paying his rent, he hasn’t told his Aunt the dreaded secret that may ruin their relationship forever, and he can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or wage. But when he puts that suit on, life is suddenly better, if only by a bit. Still though, it’s apparent that being a superhero, no matter how many people look up to you as a result, it’s still a hard life to live. That’s why when Pete decides that it’s time to take a sabbatical of sorts, we want him to get all of the rest and chillaxing he can get; but also, not to wait too long either. Because, let’s face it, he’s Spider-Man and he’s a pretty awesome superhero when he’s kicking all sorts of butt.

And kicking all sorts of butt is what Sam Raimi allows for Spidey to do, more times than he did in the original. Though there is plenty of dramatic moments here where it’s just a couple of characters or two just sitting around and talking, Raimi still never forgets about the action, which features some of the most memorable brawls of recent-memory. That bank-robbery that turns into a fight on top of a skyscraper? Damn! The train-battle? Gosh! The moment Octavius becomes “Doc Ock”? Well, yeah, it’s pretty disturbing, even for a PG-13 superhero movie, but man, it was awesome!

In other words, Raimi gives us all the goods an average, everyday moviegoer could want, especially if they were coming to see a Spider-Man movie.

And of course, the cast is great too, with a few even putting in their best work of the whole franchise. Tobey Maguire may get a lot of crap for being the good-looking nerd everyone aspires to be (myself included), but it’s totally undeserved because the kid can act and handles his own as Spider-Man, and most importantly as Peter Parker. In fact, if Maguire wasn’t putting in great work here, this movie probably would have failed considering mostly all of it is focused in on Peter Parker, the person, rather than Spider-Man, the superhero the person becomes. Maguire may get a bit too earnest for his own good at times, but it’s easily forgivable since he’s just so likable and easy-to-root-for, because you know that while he wants to be at his girl’s play more than anything else in the world, he’s got a world to save and maintain peace within. If that doesn’t sound like a total dream-boat, I have no clue what does.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let's just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let’s just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Speaking of “his girl”, Kirsten Dunst is another who seems to get a lot of crap from those who think she can’t act, and I think that’s terribly wrong. For starters, she totally can and as she’s gotten older, she’s only been able to prove that moreso, time and time again. However, back in those good old days of the early-21st Century, I could see why some people got on her case as M.J. definitely isn’t the best-developed or most believable character out of the whole bunch, but at least Dunst seems like she knows what she’s doing when she’s delivering some of the cheesy-lines to be heard here. Same goes for James Franco as Harry Osborne, another one not many knew what to make of back in the day, but clearly has made a huge name for himself by just being him.

God, how time has changed.

With the absence of Willem Dafoe as the main baddie, we get Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius and the guy’s very good, as many could probably predict seeing as how Molina’s been a stand-out actor, putting in great work, time and time again. With Octavius though, Molina not only gets to show a human-side to a person who could be seen as a total monster, but even makes us see those small spots of humanity, even while his mind is practically being taken over by the evil chip in his brain. Though he’s clearly not as hammy as Dafoe was (therefore, eliminating some of the fun), Molina still feels like a real person who has been utterly driven to do bad things, for bad reasons and under extreme circumstances. Sort of like how Sam Raimi must have felt doing the third movie.

But like I said: Different review, for a different day, folks. Just you all wait.

Consensus: With a perfect mixture of heart, humor, action, excitement, and fun, Spider-Man 2 will go down in the books as one of the best superhero sequels of all-time because it never forgets what makes its story kick as well as it does, while also not forgetting to give the audience the high-flying, ass-kicking action they come to expect with a product like this.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it's a freakin' subway he's holding back!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it’s a freakin’ subway he’s holding back!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Raid 2 (2014)

Man, I need to work-out more.

Taking place nearly right after the first one started, Rama (Iko Uwais) finds out that not only is his brother dead, but that he has no other choice but to be apart of this small, covert group of secret-agents that specialize in finding the crooked-cops and expose them for what they are. However, it all comes for a price, in which Rama has to now go undercover to work his way up-the-ladder where he’ll assist a head mobster’s son while he is in jail (Arifin Putra), in hopes that it will not only get Rama’s face and name known, but also give him a closer chance at finding his brother’s killer, who may almost be connected to the guys that Rama is trying to get in with. All sorts of twists and turns occur, which leaves Rama away from his family for more than two years, beaten-up, battered, and bruised, but with a new job where he is going to be the main enforcer of this heavy-duty gang, where he’ll still be undercover, taping and reporting everything that happens. Although, it does get hard for Rama to be able to differentiate how he feels, from what is the tru…aw, who am I kidding! They fight! A LOT. End. Of. Story.

The first Raid had a lot going for itself in the way that it was sort of this little movie that came completely out of nowhere and stunned just about every person who had seen it. there. It also helped too, that those said people who did see it and were blown away, couldn’t stop telling everyone around them about it; therefore, making the movie more and more famous by the whisper in hip, happenin’ coffee shops and dinner-parties. And while it took me quite some time to actually get a chance to see it, I had nothing else to do or say, except to just agree with everybody. I’m usually not one for conformity, but when it came to my feelings for that movie, I couldn’t help but join the crowd and move along.

"Hadouken!"

“Hadouken!”

Now, the problem here is this: Now that the cat is out of the bag with this movie, how will the sequels fair-off? Will they continue to keep to the same pattern in which there is barely any story at all, but plenty of kicking, punching, ripping and all sorts of fun, bloody violence like in the first movie? Or, will it go the familiar-route of most sequels and just be bigger, longer, wider, more bloated and just too much havoc and chaos going on to really give a crap about whatsoever?

Well, here’s the good thing about the Raid 2 – while it may follow the later-route in which it is bigger, longer, and more bloated, the action is never, ever too much for one person to handle. Actually, that’s a lie; it totally is. However, I mean that in a good sense because it’s exactly what you could expect from the creators behind this having more money to toy around with, but with so much more creativity and excitement thrown into the mix. Because even with the running-time being every bit of the two-and-a-half-hours that it is, for more than an hour of that, people get ripped-up, broken-down, destroyed, injured, killed, decapitated, and all sorts of messed-up, but it’s never, ever boring to watch.

In fact, that’s the key to making this movie work – always surprising the hell out of its audience. Hell, you’d think that by the year 2014, us moviegoers had seen it all with the Michael Bay’s and the Tarantino’s of the world, but once a gal walks through a subway car with two claw-hammers in her hands, then you know you haven’t. The first one had a bit of a problem with that, in the way most of the action-sequences did seem to repeat themselves just a tad bit, but here, there’s no problem with that whatsoever. It keeps on, keeping on and for that, it’s a fun time that you have to be apart of. I don’t care how squeamish you may or can be when it comes to the sight of somebody’s throat getting sliced-open, because this is the action-movie you need to see.

Not any of that Need for Speed or Sabotage crap. Or even whatever the hell it is that Michael Bay does, but as we all know, I don’t have much room to stand-in when it comes to the argument of whether or not his movies are in fact “good”.

So yeah, I’ll just let that one slide.

But like I was saying about this movie, it’s pretty awesome despite it’s nearly over two-and-a-half-hour run-time, which made me wonder why it had to be as such. It’s not to say that the story is bad by anything, in fact, it’s a pretty detailed one that kept me guessing for quite some time, even while the action wasn’t around and pumping up my blood-stream. There’s plenty of back-stabs, turns, twists and people committing acts of vengeance that made it seem like an old-school, Japanese-gangster movie, in which you never have any perfect idea as to who is on whose side, and for what reasons, until they’ve just shot somebody who you thought was their most trusted-confidante, in the back of the head, in total cold blood.

Now, could the story have been cut-down to size to ensure that this film wouldn’t feel long? Aw, hell yeah! In fact, if this movie was possibly a lean and mean two-hours, I feel like this would have been even better for me as is. However, the problem is that it does drag and once that final showdown comes around, there still was a small feeling that this movie had more than over-stayed its welcome. Once again, it was still fun and exciting to watch, but after about two-hours, I did begin to feel the five-hour energy-drink run its course.

In case you couldn't tell, you don't want to mess with them.

In case you couldn’t tell, you don’t want to mess with them.

Then again though, like I’ve been mentioning many a times throughout this whole review, none of that really got in the way of my enjoyment with this movie, especially once people started fighting as if they thought every fighting-sequence from the first was for a bunch of amateurs. I can’t really emphasize that idea enough, without even getting myself into a bit of a repetitive-jumble, but it’s the whole truth and nothing but. This movie is awesome and you’ll more than likely get excited just by somebody looking at another person in a way that makes it seem like they’re about to go at it right away. And once they do, it’s a better time than what most of you will have watching an action film this whole summer.

Well, until this soon-to-be-declared-masterpiece makes its way around.

Can’t help it, people. I guess I’m just too much of a Michael Bay fanboy.

Consensus: While it may be a lot longer, wider and packed with more subplots than the first, the Raid 2 has just about everything you’d expect to see with all sorts of fun, creative and exciting action-sequences that not only keep you glued to everything that is happening, but makes you long for the days of when one actually used to feel the pain occurring in whatever scene is on the screen. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Final round. Fight!

Final round. Fight!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Joe (2014)

In need of a father-figure in your life? Look no further than this guy. But with more facial-hair.

15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) is living a hard life in the deep and dirty South. Not only is his dad (Gary Poulter) a drunk, but he’s a mean, nasty, and cruel one, too. Any money that Gary ever makes from working his butt off, or any reward he gets whatsoever, always gets taken away from him and/or has him get roughed-up a bit as well. Joe (Nicolas Cage) realizes this and he’s about tired of seeing it. That’s when he decides to step into Gary’s life when he notices that the kid has some promise for this world and makes it his mission to make him a man of sorts. The only problem is that Joe’s troubled-past with the law, criminals, booze, hookers and smoking continue to come back and bite him in the ass. And somehow, that checkered-past of Joe’s, ends up finding its way into Gary’s life, where neither one of them know if they are going to live or die. All they do know is that they got a friendship together, and they’re going to stick together, regardless of what havoc may be coming their way.

Nic fuckin’ Cage, man. That’s all I have to say.

If none of you know this by now, then let me just regurgitate everything I’ve been saying for the past couple of years or so – I’ve never given up hope on Nic Cage. Never, ever. Yes, he makes shitty movies; yes, most of the time it seems like he’s just doing everything for the movie; and yes, he over-acts more times than he often should. But you know what? Deep down inside, underneath all of the confusing career-decisions he’s made in the, oh, I don’t know, say decade or so, I knew that he was doing it all for a reason.

Kid better hope that's not Nic's ride. Cause if so, he'd better run.

Kid better hope that’s not Nic’s ride. Cause if so, he’d better run.

Some of those decisions were probably made to get him some extra cash on the side, and as a result, therefore allowing him to do smaller, more-challenging roles that we don’t get to see him do too often. And as the titled-character Joe, we get to see everything Nic Cage that any adoring, dedicated fan would want to see: Some real, grounded acting.

See, with Nic Cage, it’s hard to figure out what kind of role you’re going to get from him – either A): you get a totally bonkers role in which he yells, screams, hoots, hollers and never dials it down under eleven the whole time, or B): you get a bit of the nuttiness, but in a more sensible, human-like way. We’ve seen more of the first part one too many times, but that latter one does show its face every once and a blue moon, and when it does, it’s a sight to see. Such is the case here with Joe; a role that Nic Cage may have not been born to play, but a role that I’m glad to see him play and pull-off so perfectly.

With the character of Joe, or at least, the way he is written, he’s made out to be the traditional, misfit father-figure a little boy from a broken-home would look up to. He may not be the most perfect human being in the history of humanity, but he at least knows what is right, what is wrong, and how he can make those lives around him a lot better. His relationship with Gary could have easily been an uncomfortable one to see play-out, but somehow, Cage plays Joe so damn well, that it always seems like Joe just wants to be Gary’s friend. Nothing more than just a simple pat on the back and a beer in his hand. So yeah, they’re unconventional buddies, but they are believable as such.

But before I go on any further and start making this a tribute of sorts to Nic Cage, I think I should throw some credit towards Tye Sheridan who, with a handful of roles in the past four years, has really shocked the hell out of me. He’s only 17-years-of-age right now, but with what I’ve seen from him so far, I see a real bright, and inspired future ahead of his. The role he has here, may not be all that different from the one he had in last year’s Mud, but the kid is so good at playing-up that “angry-youth” aspect of his characters, that it almost doesn’t. Also, whenever he’s on the same screen with the almighty Nic Cage, he never gets the show stolen from him. He handles his own quite well, much like what he did with Matthew McConaughey last year, and shows us that any and all kid actors have a lot to live up to now that he’s around.

However, he won’t be a kid for too long, which I hope only means that he’ll get better and better roles coming around his way. Or, the worse could happen and he could end-up like this guy.

Please don’t, Tye Sheridan. You have too much good going for you right now to just screw it all up.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right: Nic Cage. Like I was saying before, this is the type of role that seems tailor-made for what Cage does so well; he’s able to be a sympathetic character, that knows the difference between right and wrong, but by the same token, isn’t always thinking correctly and usually lets his anger get the best of him. With Joe, Cage gets plenty of chances to show the rage that’s practically brewing from inside of him the whole time, and it’s tense as freakin’ hell. You can tell by just looking in his eyes when he’s going to lose his cool and you automatically feel bad for whomever it is that’s about to feel his wrath, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Most of the time, they do, but there is that slight chance in which Joe is just going all nutso on someone, just because he’s been having a bad day or something.

But, like I’ve been alluding to this whole time, there’s a deep, understanding human-conscience to this guy, and you see that play-out many times during his few scenes with Gary. In fact, one of the problems I had with this movie was that a lot of it seemed to get so far away from Joe and Gary’s friendship, that I sort of wanted them to go back more times than they actually did. Not just because I wanted to see more of Nic Cage acting his ass-off (deep down, I really did), but because that’s the heart of this movie that kept it going, even when everything was as black as the coffee I had this morning.

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or something.

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or human. Who knows. He’s Nic Cage.

However, that’s neither here, nor there; what matters is what fuels this movie, and that’s the fact that David Gordon Green never really allows for it to get to dark to where it’s off-putting. It’s never really pleasant either (with the exception of a few scenes, which, oddly enough, are between Gary and Joe), but I wasn’t really expecting much else from this movie. Green is sort of now back in good-graces with the movie world as it seems to be that he is, once again, doing more smaller-scale, lower-budget indie-flicks, and it’s exciting to see. More important is that while he does have that visual-style that was so prevalent in his earlier-flicks, he doesn’t allow for that to take over his movie; there is still a story here, and it rarely ever seemed to lose my interest.

And I have to say, it’s pretty interesting to see such wild cards like Nic Cage and David Gordon Green getting together and making a movie. It totally worked to their advantage, clearly, but it’s just interesting to see what happens when two talented people are able to come together on something, understand one another, and work their rumps off. Obviously, for me, this is Green’s best flick since, say, I don’t know, All the Real Girls; but as for Mr. Cage, hmm, well, I’d have to say, it’s probably his best “real” performance since Adaptation. Which, incidentally was a little over a decade ago. Not saying that there hasn’t been some fine pleasures in between (surely this moment in his career will never leave my memory-banks), but it hasn’t been too pretty either. Here’s to hoping that Nic’s got some more promising-material coming up the pipeline.

However, by the looks of things, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Shit.

Consensus: Surely not the sort of pick-me-up if you’re a fan of some of Nic Cage’s, or David Gordon Green’s more mainstream flicks, but if you’re willing to let it take its toll on you, you’ll find Joe to be an emotional, gripping drama that you want to see all talents involved do more of.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

In most circumstances, I'd be scared of the kid with the gun, but under this circumstance, it's the guy without the gun.

In most circumstances, I’d be scared of the kid with the gun, but under this circumstance, it’s the guy without it that I’m scared of.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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