Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: 9-9.5/10

Ratatouille (2007)

Some French people are so pretentious, that they’d actually think a rat who cooks food is “neat” and “ground-breaking”.

Though Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat stuck living the countryside, where he has to search for and steal whatever sort of grub he can find, he still dreams of doing something better with his life. In this better life of his, not only is he appreciating his food more, but also making it himself and dedicates plenty of his time to reading a cookbook from the late, but well-known Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett). One day, however, Remy is forced to take up a different path than he normally does and, much to his surprise, finds himself in Gusteau’s restaurant’s kitchen. Here, Remy feels as if he can let his talents run wild, but how can he? For one, he’s a rat, and as most people know, rats and kitchens don’t quite go well. Then, there’s also the fact that he’s a rat and can’t be understood by humans. So yeah, the odds are stacked-up against Remy, but once a new chef named Linguini (Lou Romano). Despite Linguini’s awkward persona and general lack of prior experience in the kitchen, Linguini happens to be Gusteau’s kid, which gets him the job in the first place. But because Linguini is so desperate and willing to keep his job and make sure that he doesn’t disappoint his supposed father, he actually decides to take lessons from Remy and learn how to not just be a better cook, but in the process, become a better person, as well.

Take that dairy!

Take that dairy!

It’s still surprises, even until this very day, how an idea like this worked? I know it sounds so simple, but really, a movie about a rat making food? It’s so stupid and silly, in fact, that somehow, it made perfect sense why it would all work out. Because Ratatouille is, of course, a Pixar picture, there’s going to be a whole lot more effort, heart and emotion put into play; not to mention that because Brad Bird works on it, there’s going to be a chock full of inspiration, as well.

Which is exactly what Ratatouille is.

Pixar movies, from the very beginning, have always followed a sort of pattern that they so rarely stray away from. Granted, there are certain variations on the structure but, for the most part, there’s always this general sense that every Pixar movie is made out to be the very same as the last one, given the obvious differences in terms of plot, characters and general location. But it’s hard to get on Pixar’s case because they’ve always been known to kick some fine ass; though they definitely had a rough streak of three years-in-a-row with Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, they still bounced back with Inside Out, showing that not only were they able to get back their creative-genius, but remind people why they fell so hard and deep in love with their movies to begin with.

It’s honestly a manipulative system, but it’s one that I will always continue to fall for, so long as Pixar continues to churn out actual, good movies that don’t feel like they exist to sell a whole bunch of T-shirts and toys.

Even though, yes, that’s exactly what they’re made for.

But despite all of this, Ratatouille is the kind of Pixar movie that makes you wonder just how they do it all. Because, for one, Ratatouille is a funny movie in that it’s not only just cute, but quite witty; there’s certain jokes that are clearly written in a smart-enough way that only an adult paying attention would be able to understand. Of course there are definitely jokes made for the younger-ones out there, but they mostly have to do with obvious slapstick – the adults are the ones who get treated to jokes about French people, food, and critics.

Speaking of which, Ratatouille isn’t just a movie based on the pure humor and fun of its gimmick. Sure, watching Remy and Linguini get together, work in tandem, and create all of these fancy dishes for even fancier people, is more than enough to make you want to step into the kitchen and whip up your own concoction, whatever it may be. Though we’re all talking about CGI food and whatnot here, it’s still hard not to get wrapped-up in everything and start to feel the adrenaline and fun one gets while creating something and absolutely loving every second of it.

Once again, this is an animated flick I’m talking about here, people.

But then again, it’s Pixar, so we all know what I’m talking about.

Like I was saying before, the heart of Ratatouille is what really helps it out in the end. What’s perhaps most interesting about Ratatouille is that there’s no real one, key moment where the water-works are demanded to start working. In other Pixar movies, this is very much the case; the first Toy Story has Buzz realizing that he’s an actual toy and not a real astronaut from Star Command, Monsters, Inc. has that tearful goodbye with Boo, and, as everybody knows, Up has the first ten minutes. Of course, there’s plenty more of these moments in other Pixar movies and I promise you, they don’t sound as obvious as I may make them out to be – you just know to expect one when you’re watching a Pixar movie.

That’s why it’s so strange that Ratatouille, despite featuring some nice moments of heart and kindness, doesn’t really have one of those moments. Then again, it doesn’t need one, because it’s already as sweet and as endearing as can be. Bird, despite working with animated characters who look like over-the-top caricatures, is able to give each and everyone their own bit of back-story/personality that makes them feel like actual characters with personalities that we can identify with.

Rats are cute and all, but they shouldn't be allowed in kitchens. No matter if they sound like Patton Oswalt.

Rats are cute and all, but they shouldn’t be allowed in kitchens. Regardless of if they sound like Patton Oswalt.

The most perfect example of this is the prestigious food critic, Anton Ego, as voiced by the late Peter O’Toole. As most people know, critics don’t always get the soft side of the blade in movies – that’s why, whenever a movie comes out that portrays critics as being something other than miserable, cruel sad-sacks that hate their own lives so much, that they have to project their negative feelings onto other people’s hard work and dedication, it’s quite a lovely surprise. Here, we get the feeling that Anton is, yes, a very intimidating and picky figure, but, just like he states in the movie, it’s all for a reason. He loves food so much, that when he gets food that he doesn’t like or think is actually “good”, he spits it back out.

He loves his trade and he will do anything to ensure that the best players in said trade, continue to get the praise they deserve.

That said, Ego isn’t the only one who gets the lovely treatment here. Remy, as voiced by the lovable Patton Oswalt, goes through an awful lot of transformations here that help this character develop, despite being just a talking-rat; Linguini may have that nerdy shtick, but also seems to have it all come from a soft place in his heart, which helps make his growth, as a character, seem all the more believable; and Ian Holm, as the constantly paranoid and crazy Chef Skinner, also seems like he loves cooking so much, that he will do anything to make sure that his legacy stays alive and running, by any means. There’s plenty of other recognizable voices and nice characters here, both of which, go hand-in-hand oh so perfectly.

And you know what? Despite there being no big moment in Ratatouille, I still teared-up and awful lot!

Damn you, Pixar!

Consensus: Ratatouille is another addition to the long list of Pixar flicks that are not only funny, entertaining and heartfelt, but also have an endearing, rather inspirational message about always doing the right thing and being your best self. It’s typical Pixar, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

9.5 / 10

Paris. Still a beautiful place to see. So do it.

Paris. Still a beautiful place to see. So do it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spotlight (2015)

Of course Thomas McCarthy would know a thing or two about journalism.

In 2001, with the internet slowly rising to become the top source for news and information, the Boston Globe felt as if they had struck gold. Through their investigative unit known as “Spotlight”, the Globe came upon a bunch of sources and stories about Massachusetts priests molesting children and then covering it all up with fancy lawyers and lingo that made it seem like a crime wasn’t committed. While the Spotlight team realizes that they’ve got something really strong and ground-breaking to work with here, they’ve got to do more uncovering and following to get the full story. And, well, due to the fact that Boston is a primarily Catholic-based city, it makes sense that just about everyone and their mothers are pleading with the Globe not to release this story. However, these journalists know better than to let such issues get in their way of telling the full story and uncovering what the truth about these priests are, what they did to these kids, who are mostly all now adults, and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It's the dude with the tie.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It’s the dude with the tie and facial-hair.

As most of you can probably tell, Spotlight is the kind of movie that’s made exactly for me. Not only do I love journalism movies that feature journalists, doing journalism-y things, but I also love it when the journalists in the journalism movies use their job, their smarts, and their skills, to take down big institutions. Whether it be the government, hospitals, or the Catholic church – any huge institution that gets a much deserved dressing-down, then you can count me in.

Which is to say that, yes, Spotlight is not only a great movie, but possibly, for now at least, my favorite flick of the year.

One of the main reasons why Spotlight works as well as it does can all be traced back to writer/director Thomas McCarthy, who is hot of the heels of the disaster that was the Cobbler. What’s so interesting about McCarthy’s previous films (even including the Cobbler, sadly), is that they’ve mostly all been small, simple, and understated human stories that deal with the big emotions, but in a very subtle kind of way. While much of the style is still the same, with Spotlight, McCarthy is now dealing with a bigger story, that takes on a whole lot more fronts and ends than he’s ever worked with before. Still though, despite what troubles this may have caused any director in the same shoes as he, McCarthy handles it all perfectly, making sure that the story that needs to be told, is done so in an efficient, understandable and most importantly, compelling manner.

That the way Spotlight‘s story begins to unravel once more revelations come to fruition, as well as the way it begins to blend-in together, makes all the more reason why this movie is a true testament to the art of journalism, as well as those who work within it. Just like the best parts of a movie like Truth, Spotlight loves that feel and utter rush someone can has when they feel as if they’re walking upon something that could make their story, as well as the certain heartbreak and utter disappointment they can feel once they walk upon something that could feasibly break their story. There’s a certain bit of joy and pleasure one gets from watching people, who are not only great at their job, do everything in their absolute power to make sure that they keep doing their job to the best of their abilities, while also not forgetting the true reason for it all.

And while a good portion of this movie is a dedicated to the world of journalism, it’s also a dedication to those who are passionate and inspired to uncover the truth.

But, trust me, it’s not as hokey as I may make it sound; while McCarthy’s movie definitely flirts with certain ideas of self-importance, he never falls for the fact that the story he’s telling is BIG, EMOTIONAL and IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. There’s an argument that Mark Ruffalo’s and Michael Keaton’s characters have where they’re combatting between the two different oppositions of this story; whether it be to tell it to sell some copies, or to expose the problems that have been going on for so long. It’s not only riveting, but also very smart, as it definitely reminds us why this story matters, but does so in a way that gets us back on-track for what needs to be told – which is, that the Catholic church covers all their wrong-doings up, and it’s time that somebody called them out on it.

Once again, though, this may sound all incredibly melodramatic and corny, but trust me, it isn’t. McCarthy doesn’t let the story get out-of-hand with overt cliches, but also, makes sure that the characters in this story stay true, realistic and above all else, actually humane. Nobody in this movie is ever made out to be a superhero for what it is that they’re doing; most of them, quite frankly, are just doing their job. While they definitely feel the need to tell this story and make it so that their points are seen, they also understand the utmost importance of faith and Catholicism, which, all being residents of Boston, means a whole lot.

No! Don't go on the computer! It's the devil!

No! Don’t go on the computer! It’s the devil!

And though the movie may not dig as deep into these characters as possible, it still does a fine enough job of making us realize just who these characters are, what their part of the story is, and just why exactly they matter. Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is always jumping around and running to the next piece of information that, despite the sometimes pushy Boston-accent, is quite entertaining to watch, but at the same time, we still get the idea that this guy loves his job so much and will do anything to keep himself alive and well.

Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer is the sweeter one of the ensemble, who is there with the abuse victims when they’re airing their disturbing stories out in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable; Liev Schreiber’s Marty Baron doesn’t have much of any personality whatsoever, but still feels like the voice of reason for this story, when it all seems to get a bit haywire; John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. also feels like the voice of reason, but at the same time, still very much like Roger Sterling (which is a compliment); Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt Carroll has a neat little subplot about finding out one of the accused priests live in his neighbor and how he goes about finding that out is well-done; and Stanley Tucci, is very energized here, but also seems like the most understandable character in the whole flick, showing a person who not only cares about the cause he’s fighting for, but also knows that he has a civic duty.

However, as great as everyone is, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show, with just one look.

There’s a scene towards the very end of Spotlight where it becomes very clear just what this story means and the sort of effect it’s going to have – and it’s all on Keaton’s face. Though I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of what occurs during the end, but after everything that has come along with the story – from the facts, to the sources, to the edits, to the fragments, to the re-writes, to the push-backs, and to everything else that has to do with it – the movie makes us understand what it was that these journalists were fighting for. Keaton, who is superb, as expected, throughout the whole movie, doesn’t fully want to believe that the Catholic church would have been involved with something so dastardly and maniacal as the evidence proves. However, though, he eventually does come to believe that evil can be real, not to mention that it can take all forms, shapes, and sizes. But rather than pissing and moaning about it, late night at the bar, he, as well as his fellow co-workers, are doing something about it. There’s a look in Keaton’s eyes as he sees this all happen and then, he accepts it, metaphorically pats himself on the back, and moves on with his job.

That’s what journalism is all about and that’s why Spotlight is one of the best flicks of the year.

There. I’m done.

Consensus: Gripping, intelligent, and above all, important, Spotlight takes on its subject without ever editorializing or leaning one way, but instead, telling its story as it was ought to be told, with some of the best actors in the game today.

9.5 / 10

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Room (2015)

Give me a free Netflix account and I’ll stay in a room for as long as you want.

Being held captive for five years, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), have come to terms with the situation that they’re living in. For the past five-to-seven years, they’ve been living in this warehouse that they call “Room”, and find interesting ways to make life for themselves in there as vibrant and as lovely as humanly possible. But now that Jack is getting older and, as Joy hopes, wiser, he’s going to have to start coming to terms with what’s “real” and what’s “make believe”. For instance, Jack doesn’t know that there’s actual life beyond Room, and this is something that Joy tries to hammer into his brain so that he too, will get the urge to want to get out of this place and back into the real world. And since Joy thinks he’s ready, she gives Jack a few tasks and it’s up to him, to see whether or not they get out of Room alive and well, or if they fail, yet again, left to rot away in this little little prison cell that they’ve been sadly thrown into.

It's so hard....

It’s so hard….

Movies like Room, are the type that I love to talk about, but at the same time, ones that I hate to review. For one, it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be seen, hardly knowing anything about going in. While so many of the ads and trailers for this movie have done everything but keep it subtle and unknown to the general audience just what happens with the plot and where it goes once it gets past the half-way mark, I, to those of you who may be reading wherever you are in the world, will do everything in my strength not to say just what happens in Room. Cause, from what mostly everybody knows, is that Room has something to do with a mother and son being locked-up and kept in this square-box.

That’s basically it.

Anything else about this movie, it’s probably best to steer clear of knowing about, because it not only ruins any chances of knowing what to expect from this movie, but by the same token, being able to suck it all in. Because in all honesty, Room snuck up on me and most likely, it will on you, too. You think you’ll have a general idea of where the story is going, see the wheels turning, and then, all of a sudden, you’ll have no clue and feel like possibly the dumbest person in the room. However, rather than feeling terrible and depressed about this fact, you’ll soon change your tune once you realize that it doesn’t matter, because Room, the movie, is so amazing.

It’s the kind of movie that plays with so many raw, gritty emotions, but handles them in such an effective, smart way, that it not only makes you want to praise director Lenny Abrahmson for not allowing this material to get as sappy and as melodramatic as it could have been, but also want to cry your eyes out. And honestly, the latter is what I did – on many occasions. While it’s not necessarily difficult to make me tear-up at a movie, it’s also not an easy feat, either; there has to be a certain feel of emotional connection and believeability to start the water-works.

Which is why they started so many times throughout Room. There’s these small, individual moments of absolute human-to-human emotion and heart that, quite frankly, I found incredibly hard to handle. But the movie never plays any of this up, ever; instead, it plays everything so low and matter-of-factly, that you’ll hardly notice that it’s working its magic on you.

That’s just the kind of movie Room is: You won’t expect it to work as well as it does, but honestly, that’s the real beauty of it, as well as many other smaller movies like it.

Which is why it’s so great to see Brie Larson get so much love and acclaim for it, as I feel like she’s literally on the verge of breaking-out and taking the whole world by storm. As Joy, Larson gets plenty of hard and heavy acting to do, but it never feels overwrought, or even obvious, as if she’s got the Oscar voters watching on-deck; instead, she feels exactly like a woman in her position would feel. While she wants to love and protect her son from every cruel thing that the world has to offer, she also doesn’t want him to forget that the world can actually be cruel and is, in ways, not as fair as it’s made out to be on TV.

And speaking of her son, Jacob Tremblay, despite being hardly eight when this flick was being made, gives a superb performance as Jack. What’s so smart about the character of Jack is that, well, he actually isn’t smart. Nor, for that matter, is he the kind of smart-ass, precocious child character we’re used to seeing in movies; rather, he’s just a kid who has no idea what sort of situation he’s into, except only to know what he wants to know or has been made to believe through TV, or certain things his mommy has told him. What makes this performance so spectacular, isn’t that he plays up this naivete with the wonderful sense of child-like wonder we so rarely see from actual child actors, but how he acts when he’s told that this world he lives and believes in, is nothing more than just pure fantasy. He’s upset, heart-broken and above all, confused. Which is exactly what any kid is like when they find out something they’ve been made to believe as true, actually isn’t.

...to find pictures that don't spoil Room.

…to find pictures that don’t spoil Room.

*cough cough* Santa Claus *cough cough* Easter Bunny *cough cough* any other mystical figure who comes to give you treats or gifts *cough cough*

And while I know that I’m being ridiculously vague with this whole review, but really, it’s for your own good. Just know that Room, is a near-masterpiece. There are certain bits of the story that felt maybe a tad too unexplained, but really, they’re basically just moments and ways for me to complain about stuff that doesn’t matter.

Just, please, pretty please, do yourself a favor and see Room.


Consensus: Smart, effective, well-acted, and most of all, emotional, Room plays with a lot of big, heavy feelings, yet, never over-does any of them and instead, feels like a human story everyone can connect to and take something out of, regardless of if they’ve ever been in the same situation as the characters, or not.

9 / 10

So I'm just gonna keep it like this.

So I’m just gonna keep it like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

All the President’s Men (1976)

Can’t trust journalist nowadays. They’ll do anything for a quick dime!

Obviously based on true events, political operatives working for President Nixon broke into the Watergate Hotel to spy on the Democratic National Committee. Two low-level reporters by the names of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) come upon the story and have no clue what to do with. Because one’s an experienced journalist, and the other one isn’t so much as so, they aren’t really gelling together well and therefore, the story is being left with a big question-mark. That is, until Woodward gets a reliable tip and, as their editor (Jason Robards) tells them, follow the money that they begin to investigate the event and the mystery surrounding it. Eventually, the two discover that there’s an elaborate scheme at hand that involves all sorts of political espionage, sneakiness, and illegal activity, all being directed from, none other than the White House. Being the dedicated journalists that they are, Woodward and Bernstein go the most extreme lengths to ensure that their story hits the presses and is able to see by the rest of the world. Even if that does mean, on many occasions, risking their own lives and safety in the process.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Being a journalist helps make movie like All the President’s Men all the more great to watch. While there’s no doubt in my mind that somebody else who may not at all be involved with the world of journalism could, and most likely already has, found something to love and adore about the movie, it’s still something special to me that has me connect to this movie all the more, each and every time I check it out. For example, that certain rush and adrenaline that goes all throughout your body when you stumble upon a story that, at first, may not seem like much, but eventually, turns into something far more greater and powerful than you ever expected it to be. Then, to go out, follow your sources, catch up with people, back-up facts, put more info in the story, edit it time and time again, try your hardest to get it published, have to edit it one last time, chop it up as much as can be, and publish it for you, as well as the rest of the world around you to see, is just one of the many lovely feelings I get as a journalist.

So with that said, yes, All the President’s Men is a great movie for journalists who love to write stories and all of the other extra work that goes into them.

However, in its own right, it’s also a great movie that deserves to be seen because, well, it’s so damn well-done.

For one, it’s a thriller that is, believe it or not, thrilling. The reason I say “believe it or not” is because for anyone who has ever picked up a piece of paper or passed 8th grade history, will now exactly what the historical significance behind the Watergate scandal was and the countless other, ins and outs surrounding it. And because of that fact, All the President’s Men could have been nothing more than a glamorized, Hollywood-retelling of the story, but it’s actually not; in fact, most of what the movie is actually about, has less to do with the breaking of the story itself, and more about what certain emotions and feelings the story actually brings along.

Though the suits aren't always that nice.

Though the suits aren’t always that nice.

Of course, seeing as how this is directed by Alan J. Pakula, it’s obvious that a lot of All the President’s Men surrounds that idea of being paranoid in a society where, whether you want to admit it or not, the government is always spying on you and everything you do. You may want to believe that they’re spending all of your well-earned tax money on institutions such as school, the army, and programs to help out those who need it the most, but really, they’re just screwing everybody over. While I know that I sound like the kid who has gotten stoned one too many times, this is the same kind of point that the movie brings up and in an effective, never-hacky way.

The scenes where Woodward and Bernstein are out, covering their bases, trying to get more info, and meeting up in some of the shadiest spots to do so, are all filled with a certain bit of intensity that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next even though, you know, you know exactly what is going to happen at the end. The story’s going to be told; Nixon is going to be made an example out of; and Bernstein and Woodward are going to become the legends that they so rightfully deserve to be. However, there’s a certain chill in the air that makes it seem like Pakula can, and most definitely will, switch things up at any moment he sees fit. And honestly, because the movie’s so interesting and compelling, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with that; but because he sticks to the story and all the facts within it, makes it all the more of an impressive job of directing on his part.

Not to mention that, Redford and Hoffman themselves are quite solid here, as well. Though we’ve come to see Hoffman and Redford in more interesting roles in the time since they starred in All the President’s Men, it still goes without saying that these two are talented pros and make every second count. It also helps that their personalities allow for us to distinguish between the two and understand why they make the certain choices that they do throughout the majority of this flick; Hoffman’s Bernstein is a bit sneakier, whereas Redford’s Woodward, likes to keep things on the straight and narrow, even if he does begin to realize that that’s sometimes easier said then done in the world of journalism. And yes, that world is indeed one where even the most easy-going, level-headed dudes can, whether they intended to or not, break a person’s life in-half, all for the goal of telling a story the public needs to see.

So yeah, people. Start writing!

Consensus: Engaging and exciting, despite everyone knowing what happens at the end, All the President’s Men is both, a smart-thriller, as well as a nice bit of social commentary about the way our social climate worked and still does, even to this very day.

9 / 10

But yeah. Those phones, though.

But yeah. Those phones, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Steve Jobs (2015)

No one’s a genius until Aaron Sorkin says so.

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is one of the most inspirational human specimens to have ever graced this fine planet. For one, he paved the way we view and live according to technology. At the same time, though, he was incredibly difficult to work with and often times, found himself making more enemies, than friends. Not only did this carry into his work life, but his personal one, as well. And through three important moments in Jobs’ life, we see both of these sides play out and sometimes, clash heads. Though each story takes place in a different year (’84, ’88, and ’98, respectively) each one shares a similarity in that they all take place at conventions and feature Jobs getting prepped-up and ready to premier a recently-made piece of technology of his. While this is already a stressful enough time, now, he’s got everybody coming up to him, bothering him, and constantly making him lose sight of the bigger-picture that he has to work with. Co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), wants Jobs to give more credit to what he and his team did on certain items; a former fling of his (Katherine Waterston) has his kid that he refuses to say is actually his own flesh and blood; CEO of Apple, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), wants to always remind Jobs of what’s really at risk here; and always there for him, almost no matter what, is his dedicated, passionate assistant, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), who always stands by his side, even though we wouldn’t ever blame her if she did.

"Eh, maybe you're right, honey. These things probably won't ever catch on."

“Eh, maybe you’re right, honey. These things probably won’t ever catch on.”

So yeah, it’s clear that Steve Jobs is a bit contrived. Each one of these major moments in Jobs’ life, all of a sudden, now feature each and every person from his past coming into the fray, making their presences known, and giving us a certain shadings to Jobs that we may have not gotten had it just been him, all alone, in a room. While I assume that Aaron Sorkin would make that movie still interesting, it’s nice to see that, despite the obvious-nature of the structure of the plot, that he’s able to make it all go away once we realize that yes, this is an Aaron Sorkin-scripted flick. Meaning, everybody talks so electric and stage-y, that no one in the real world would ever speak the same.

Then again, that’s why most of us head out to see Sorkin pieces, and that’s why Steve Jobs, is amazing (the movie, I mean, although the person himself wasn’t too shabby, either).

Though it hits the two-hour mark and is filled with nothing but walking, talking, and narrowly-shot hallways, Steve Jobs never, ever gets boring, nor does it feel overlong. In fact, if there was a complaint I had about this movie, was that it wasn’t long enough; three acts in Steve Jobs’ life is fine and all, but had Sorkin taken it one step further and decided to focus in on a snapshot from way later on in Jobs’ life, it would have most likely been welcomed. After all, Sorkin is known for making even the strangest of conversations and topics seem, somewhat interesting and relateable; even if you aren’t a huge a techno-geek, Sorkin still puts you right by the side of Jobs so intimately, that everything he says, does, or gets pissed-off about (which is a lot), you feel it. It doesn’t matter if you know exactly how many bytes or megabytes have to go into his presentation – all that matters is that you can understand what somebody says when they state, “I hate you”.

But once again, because this is Sorkin, we get many variations on that well-known and understood term, which makes the movie all the more exciting. There’s a exciting feel in the air whenever people start talking in Steve Jobs and it’s one that hardly ever leaves, even in some of the more downbeat moments. Like, for instance, we’ll get one heartfelt scene of Jobs connecting with his she’s-not-actually-mine daughter, that’ll make you see him for the human that he is, and then, in the next scene, you’ll see him get into a verbal-sparring bout in public with Woz, where he practically tells him that “he’s nothing”, that’ll make you see him for the monster he was mostly alleged to be. Sorkin himself is perfect at this type of blending between different tones and/or feelings, and it’s no different with Steve Jobs.

Sure, there’s plenty to laugh at in a snarky way, but still, there’s a lot to be disturbed and saddened by, which is exactly the point of Sorkin’s script.

While Sorkin is, as usual, showing off his skills for writing snappy, inexplicably silly phrases, he is, at the same time, still building up this Steve Jobs character that we often think we know, but this movie actually shows you, warts and all. There’s no real hiding behind the fact that this Steve Jobs, as presented in the movie, was a stubborn, sometimes maniacal son-of-a-bitch; not to just his enemies, but to those who actually cared for and loved him. Sorkin knows this, understands this, and not until the very, very end, try to make amends for it; he sees Jobs for all that he was, and doesn’t hold back in reminding the audience that he could definitely be a terrible person. Did that mean he didn’t, on the rare occasion, commit a nice act for a fellow human being?

No, of course not!

He made iPods for gosh sakes!

But still, all kidding aside, Sorkin’s script is just about perfect. Though the sappiness does begin to take over quite a bit towards the end, the script, as it is, takes over the whole movie and reminds us why most of us out there still stand by Sorkin, even when it seems like he loves to hear himself speak and yammer-on about lord knows what. Steve Jobs, because of Sorkin’s help, is more than just a biopic, it’s more of a character-study and it shows that sometimes, all you need is really interesting characters, mixed with great dialogue, to make a plan, simple scene, more riveting than anything ever presented in a Michael Boy movie.

Of course, you’re actors need to be solid players, too, but that’s a given. And with Steve Jobs, the cast is absolutely outstanding. Michael Fassbender, despite not being the first choice for this iconic role, still does a terrific job as our titular-neurotic, blending both sides of this man’s personality together so well, that you hardly ever notice that there’s a change in his psyche. After awhile, we just sort of come to know, accept and understand that whenever Steve Jobs gets pissed-off, he’s going to snap on whoever is nearest to him, and while it can be hard-to-watch and listen to, the mixture of Sorkin’s winning-dialogue, with Fassbender’s commanding presence, gels so sweetly, that it’s like these two were made for one another. Though we do get a chance to see plenty of the nice attributes surrounding Jobs’ persona, it’s the nastier ones that keep everything riveting, and it’s great to see Fassbender sink his teeth into each and every second of it, loving everything that he’s doing.

"Wanna do the walk-and-talk and see whose the best? Huh?!?"

“Wanna do the walk-and-talk and see whose the best? Huh?!?”

Also, speaking of someone whose acting-style blends quite well with Sorkin’s writing, is Jeff Daniels. This may come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever seen an episode or two of the Newsroom, but still, it deserves to be said that with Jeff Daniels, Sorkin may have found his go-to guy whenever he’s counting on a reliable source to deliver this dialogue and not make it seem hammy, or stitled. Which is why it’s all the more surprising to see Seth Rogen, in a very dramatic role, work well with the dialogue as well. Not that I ever doubted Rogen’s abilities as an actor, but still, it’s awesome to see him not just get a chance to stretch out his serious-acting wings, but to do so that works and doesn’t seem odd.

But no matter how much male-posturing and dick-measuring goes on here, it always comes down to the women.

In Steve Jobs, there’s two women that deserve to be mentioned, because they’re the ones who make these men get everything done, even if they don’t intentionally mean to – which, for a Sorkin piece, is saying something, because he’s not always revered for the nice treatment of his female characters. Katherine Waterston, despite being given the difficult role of playing an unlikable woman that constantly bothers Jobs, as well as the audience, does a fantastic job in showing the utter sadness and despair a woman in her situation may feel like. While she doesn’t always go about getting her way in the smartest manner possible, she’s still sympathetic enough to where you’d understand why she’s so miserable and needy.

Kate Winslet, on other hand, has a different character to work with as Joanna Hoffman’s, Jobs’ most trusted friend and confidante. While Hoffman does take an awful lot of crap from Jobs throughout the majority of this flick, there are still those instances in which we see her take control and remind him that, not only will she not put up with so much garbage, but throw it right back at him as well. By the end, the flick tries to bring up some honestly valid points about why Hoffman’s and Jobs’ relationship never became anything more than just business, but also, reminds us that it’s not all about sex to make a person love another; sometimes, it’s all about respect and care. Winslet is amazing in this role and, if things work out her way, she might be looking at another Oscar come that time.

Then again, I don’t want to cross my fingers.

Same goes for Danny Boyle as director. While it looks nice and definitely keeps itself moving at a fine pace, Boyle’s direction, does what it needs to do. I know that’s a surprise to be saying about Danny Boyle, but honestly, the movie didn’t need his direction to make things work as well as they do; it certainly helps, for sure, but the movie isn’t made or broken because of it. It just still works, which is probably all that it needed to be, because it’s my favorite of the year.

So far.

Consensus: The combo of an intelligent script from Aaron Sorkin and well-done cast, help allow for Steve Jobs to be more than just an acting-piece, and instead, an actual look inside the mind and life of an icon that we need to know more about.

9.5 / 10

One of these days, Stevie, this could all be yours. Just stop being an asshole.

One of these days, Stevie, this could all be yours. Just stop being an asshole.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Martian (2015)

Didn’t Christopher Nolan already make this movie?

After a crazy super-storm hits Mars, the Ares 3 mission is forced to abort their mission and head on back to Earth. Problem is, they do so without one of their members, a fellow by the name of Mark Watney (Matt Damon). Because he got by some space-thingy during the storm, everybody assumes that Watney died, but wouldn’t you know it? He wakes up the next day, stranded and no way to contact home. The only thing he’s got to work with is whatever gear the crew left back, which eventually equals out to a month’s left of food. Considering that it’s going to take nearly four years for NASA to send out another mission to come and rescue him, Watney’s got to come up with some neat, interesting and MacGyver-ish ways to create some food with what he’s got around. While he’s doing this and not trying to lose his freakin’ mind, back on Earth, NASA headquarters is figuring out a way that they can save Watney and to be able to do so in the most efficient way that’s not only safe to Watney, the crew, and the spaceship, but also to NASA’ public persona, as well.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Take all of those challenging, rather annoying aspects of Interstellar and Gravity, give them a sense of actual humor, throw in a Cast Away subplot (with no Wilson), and ensure that the audiences understand just what the hell is actually going on at any given time, and you have the Martian. And while I’m definitely not doing it any favors by making it sound like a carbon-copy of other, much better movies, I can assure you, that it’s better than that.

In fact, it’s way, way better than that.

For one, the Martian is a movie that never takes itself too seriously. While all of the trailers and ads have been promoting an ultra-serious, inspirational survival story, the movie’s actually a lot more fun and lighter than that. In fact, it’s humor is what just about saves it! At times, sure, it can seem like they’re playing “the joke card” a little too much, but if a movie about a dude stuck in an amazingly depression, isn’t depressing and finds ways to have me howling at the Lunar Eclipse, then sure, count me in. Hell, take all of my money!

Just make me laugh, dammit!

And while I wouldn’t necessarily tag the likes of Ridley Scott and “the comedy genre” together, somehow, they work perfectly with one another. Scott has been in desperate need of a winner these past couple of years, and now, seems like he finally has it. Sure, Scott isn’t trying anything new, experimental, or awfully hard that’s taking him into new areas that we may never see him try again, but there’s a nice feeling about that. For one, he’s not getting in the way of the movie and/or the wonderful script by Drew Goddard.

Secondly, he just allows for the story to tell itself. I know that this may sound like an easy compliment to give away – in fact, it may sound like something I’m just throwing out there to make my job a tad bit easier (you’re right). But no, seriously, making a movie with a story that seems as simple as this, and having it play out that way, yet, still being able to travel through little alleyways and side-streets to make it still seem fresh, exciting and most of all, original, is something extraordinary. Like I mentioned before, we’ve seen the Martian many times before in movies that, occasionally, are better. But the fact that this movie still finds a way to get you glued into its story, never let its grip get loose, and make you give a hoot about what happens to which characters, is a beauty to behold as it is.

There’s literally no reason we should care at all about Mark Watney, his crew, or those ass-bags back on Earth that work in a place called NASA (never heard of her), but as soon as Watney gets hit, the crew leaves without him, and NASA gets word of this, it’s an automatic adventure right from then on out. Now, to be honest, did we really need all of the NASA headquarter shenanigans? Probably not, but they help round the movie out a whole lot more and keep things exciting and above all else, interesting.

See, even though it is Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, watching him, and only him, try to survive on Mars, talk to cameras, listen to disco, use clever witticisms to express his feelings of the situation he’s in, and eventually, get a grip on the life he’s living and try to keep it going, probably would have gotten a bit boring and tedious. I mean, despite the recent flubs he’s been letting loose of, Matt Damon is, generally, a guy we all love to watch on-screen; he’s got that general, normal guy, everyday kind of feel where he seems like a bro you could hang around, enjoy his company, and go on happy about your day.

He wouldn’t give two shits because, well, he’s Matt Damon and he’s got celebrities to have brunch with.

A few years of community college and woolah! You're working for NASA, baby!

A few years of community college and woolah! You’re working for NASA, baby!

But what I’m trying to say is that yes, Matt Damon is a charming dude in practically everything he does, and that’s no different here with his performance as Mark Watney. Because Watney’s a wise-cracking, smart-ass dude that would much rather use sarcasm to mask his actual, genuine thoughts, Damon fits perfectly. He not only seems like the kind of dude who would have the next best, funniest thing to say in a conversation, but could also, in his own words, “science the hell out of this thing!” Not just because he works at NASA, mind you, but because he’s Matt Damon and he always seems like the smartest dude in the room.

Like I said though, the good thing about the Martian is that it takes its focus away from Damon’s Watney a bit and show just what the hell’s going on on planet Earth, what’s everybody trying to do to get him back home, and how it’s all going to come together. Now, the science in this movie I’m not too sure of, but I don’t think I needed to be – which is a good thing. Most sci-fi movies get themselves all tied-up in trying to explain too many loose-ends where it’s almost as if, rather than just actually giving us a random doohickey and letting us roll with, they have to go on and on about it as if it cares!

We get it! The thingy-ma-bob goes back in time! Cool! Move it along, folks!

But with the Martian, the science is there as a placement to show just how brilliant NASA is. And I kid you not, I am not joking here; the Martian is, in many words, an absolute, unabashed tribute to NASA, the powerful, enigmatic and brilliant minds that inhabit it and the inspiration it can give us all, so long as we think just like each and everyone of its workers do. This is as hokey as a blind girl touching a horse’s nose, but somehow, it all works and is, as much as I hate to admit it, inspiring.

Though the Martian is, basically, a sarcasm-laced, sci-fi survival tale, above all else, it’s a movie about the power of what can be done when you’re using your brain. If you think things through to the best of your ability and seem to know what you’re talking about, then you too, can learn to live and survive on a planet like Mars longer than anybody ever expected you to. All you have to do is put your mind to it, long and hard enough, and eventually, you’ll get there. If you don’t, then think harder or open up a book! Learn something dammit!

Gosh! I gotta go back to school!

Consensus: Exciting, compelling, emotional, and surprisingly hilarious when you don’t at all expect it to, the Martian is the best kind of sci-fi blockbuster that has you using your brains, but at the same time, still enjoying the wild and fun ride while it lasts.

9 / 10

I won't even dare tell you what that actually is.

I won’t even dare tell you what that actually is. Just know this, count me out for a trip to Mars anytime soon.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

In the Company of Men (1997)

Yup. This is how us dudes think.

Two male co-workers, Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy), are both angry and frustrated with women. So much so that they get to a point where they feel the need to plot and toy maliciously with the emotions of a deaf female subordinate Christine (Stacy Edwards). Something that, at first, plays out like a terrible, mean-spirited game, but eventually, turns into something far more serious and romantic for Howard.

If you go into a Neil LaBute movie, chances are, you know what to expect. His movies are mean, nasty, and most of all, angry. However, you can’t hate them if they’re, well, for the most part, well-done and written.

And sadly, that’s exactly what In the Company of Men, his directorial debut, is.

He's terrible.

He’s terrible.

The premise, right away, will turn most people away. Yes, it’s a cruel joke that two guys literally come up with after a night of shooting the shit and coming to realize that maybe women are all terrible and deserve to be manipulated and treated like crap. This is something that will most likely have audiences out of the film before the ten-minute mark and as well as they should be. There is some real painful stuff to be had here and when you see the grand scheme of things, it’s even worse. But somehow, LaBute makes it work.

Granted, this whole film is basically just one whole conversation after another that just so happens to be stretched-out to an hour-and-37-minutes. That would seem terribly boring for some, but with a screenplay like LaBute’s, it’s anything but. Every character here has an agenda, an idea, and their own way of speaking to one another. Some are shy, some are nervous, some are dicks, and some are just plain and simple people, but either way, you’ll notice that in this film, everybody is different from one another by the way they act and speak to one another, but yet, still have the same thoughts on most things as well. In a way, it’s exactly like a play (something that, obviously, LaBute specializes in), but it never feels too talky or meandering like some plays-turned-to-movies can occasionally feel.

As for being a huge piece of misogyny at it’s finest, I don’t really think that was LaBute’s aim and it shows. This whole film is definitely considered as one big cruel joke that goes on for way too long, but it isn’t the idea of these two dudes manipulating a deaf girl is what gets me, it’s the fact that LaBute is still able to bring some heart and depth out of these characters while they are doing so. If you look at it from afar, everybody in this film gets hurt in one way or another, and that’s sort of how life is. No matter who you may hurt, another person always gets hurt, and you’ll most likely get hurt once again later in life.

It’s some deep stuff, even if there is a deaf girl at the center getting toyed around with.

And just to show you how terrible and disgusting men can be, ladies, just take a look at the finest specimen/example to-date: Chad. Aaron Eckhart plays the mother of all slime-balls everywhere as Chad and from beginning-to-end is exactly what all girls think they see in the quintessential dick-head. Full of himself, powerful, angry, never nice, rude, manipulative, and most of all, just plain evil. But you know what’s even worse about that idea? It’s actually true because there are guys out there in the world that are just like Chad, and are just as hell-bent on showing the type of control they have over somebody and their emotions. Eckhart is almost too perfect in this role because the guy always feels like he knows what he’s doing, never makes a mistake about it, and rarely ever apologizes for doing so. You’ll come to hate this guy’s guts, but you can’t take your eyes off of him and there’s something inherently compelling about that. We all know people that are just like Chad and you know what? As much as we may hate them, they still never cease to amaze us with just how far they’re willing to go.

He's fine.

He’s fine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, playing his buddy/partner-in-crime is one of my favorite character actors ever, Matt Malloy. Malloy’s Howard is definitely the far more sympathetic one out of the duo as it seems like he genuinely does not care for this experiment, but is just participating in it to appear “cool ” in front of the eyes of Chad. It’s terrible to think that someone would actually want to stoop down to Chad’s level, but LaBute makes a pretty clear case in Howard; not just by showing that he’s still heart-broken over a recent break-up, but that he’s not exactly the one dude you call up for beers and to talk about sports. He’s much more sensitive and in-tune with his feelings, which makes his dates with Christine all the more interesting and, honestly, sad.

Then, slap-dab in the middle all these guys is Stacy Edwards as Christine, the deaf co-worker. Edwards is beautiful – there’s no denying that one bit. However, it works well for the character in that it doesn’t really matter that she is, or isn’t deaf; she’s still got something of a lovely personality and seems to genuinely care for those in her life. This makes it all the more painful and hard to watch when it becomes awfully clear that she’s falling for one of these guys more than the other and is just getting her heart tripped-up all the more. Edwards does a perfect job with this character (even despite not being deaf), but it’s LaBute who I definitely think deserves credit for the handling of this character.

LaBute catches a lot of flack for not writing his female characters as strongly as his male characters, but in this case, I think they’re wrong. For one, there’s more to Christine than just being “the deaf girl”. She’s fun to be around, enthused about life, and simply put, doesn’t ask for any sympathy concerning her situation. She’s just happy to be around people who make her happy and is taking full pride in having two men in her life, that are actually interested in her. That’s what makes it all the more upsetting to think about what’s to come.

Because we all know that there’s just no chance in this ending well for anyone.

Except for, well, Chad of course. That dick.

Consensus: In every sense of the genre, In the Company of Men is a horror movie without any murder, blood, or monsters, but with three solid performances and a whole lot of insight into how the human brain works for all sorts of different men out there, whether anyone’s willing to admit it or not.

9 / 10

She's great. But man oh man, do I just want to give her a hug.

She’s great. But man oh man, do I just want to give her a hug.

Photos Courtesy of: Werewolves on the Moon

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.


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.


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!!



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.


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


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