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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 9-9.5/10

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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Stand by Me (1986)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Amen.

Amen.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Boyhood (2014)

Officially feel ancient right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty ironic, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Like Father, Like Son (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Obvious Child (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, how time has changed.

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Raid 2 (2014)

Man, I need to work-out more.

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

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

"Hadouken!"

“Hadouken!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Final round. Fight!

Final round. Fight!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Joe (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or something.

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

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

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

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

Shit.

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ‘em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Rushmore (1998)

Rebellion, love and angst. You know, the perfect mix for any 15-year-old.

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a 15-year-old high school student who absolutely loves the hell out of his school, a little, privately-owned joint called “Rushmore”, that he’s in on academic-scholarship. He loves it so much, that he practically starts, runs and is apart of every group/activity there is to be apart of at the school, which definitely makes him feel inspired most of the time and probably look good in the eyes of future-colleges he aspires to go to, like Harvard or Oxford, but is taken a beating on his studies. However, he doesn’t really seem to care too much, since he sees himself as willing to pull any strings that he can in order to get what what he wants, when he wants. That’s why when the beautiful, yet mysterious teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams) comes along his way and stuns him, he can’t help but fall weak at the knees and do whatever it is that he can do to have her fall in love with him, despite the age-difference. Also, an older, but dedicated friend of his Herman Blume (Bill Murray) seems to take notice of her as well and even gets in the way of Max’s plans, which is exactly when things start to get very tense, very angry and very sad for all three of these individuals lives.

For anybody, high school is a pretty rough time. Not only is your body changing, but so is your mind and brain, and with that, you begin to think and feel differently than ever before. In other words: You begin to get older and grasp what it means to be “an adult”. That sounds scary and all (which it definitely is, so RUN AND HIDE!), but for some people, they can’t wait for that moment to come around when they finally get rid of that adolescence that’s been holding them down for so long, to where they can take that next step into adulthood where they’ll have more responsibilities, more ideas of who they are and most importantly, more freedom than ever before. For some, it happens quicker than others, but it does eventually happen and it’s kind of scary, dare I say it.

I'd pay to stay at that table.

I’d pay to stay at that table.

However, what happens when you’re already somewhat of an adult at an early-age? Well, that’s where Max Fischer comes into play and show you the result of what happens when a kid who is way too smart, way too knowing and way too tactical for his own age or good, just so happens to fall victim to one of the most powerful, earth-shattering forces in the world: Love. Yes, love is definitely one of those first baby-steps we take into adult-hood and needless to say, it’s not all that it’s made out to be, especially not in today’s day and age where most of the adolescent-relationships we see occur nowadays, only last for a year, or even less.

Anyway though, that’s besides the point. The point here, is that this is a Wes Anderson movie we have on our hands, folks, and it’s definitely one of the first instances in which anybody actually took notice of this guy and saw him as the real deal. Which is why it’s pretty interesting to have seen all of his films now (some of them, more than once) and see just what was to come with his style, his themes and his character-developments, all through this movie.

But as I could definitely go on and on about how Anderson’s work here, practically shapes-out everything that was next to come, I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on one aspect of his writing-style that Anderson seems to truly love and utilize more often than not, which is that he loves it when two opposing-sides/personalities, come together and clash head-on. Not only does he love writing us vibrant, lovable and colorful characters that are quite hard to forget, he also loves seeing them when they are at their lowest, or highest, in self-esteem. Because, honestly, whenever anybody is upset by anything, their anger usually gets the best of them and they show ugly-sides to them that they don’t ever want anybody to see. Anderson loves this about his characters and it shows that he loves to give his characters some depth, but also make us realize that they are actually people we’re dealing with here, faults and all, baby.

That’s why when watching a character like Max Fischer, you can’t help but feel like Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and exactly whom it was that he was doing it with. I definitely bet that back in ’97 or whenever this flick was made, that Anderson took a real bold step with choosing relative-unknown Jason Schwartzman for this lead role as Max Fischer, but it was a gamble that paid-off big time as not only did it make Schwartzman a bigger-name, but gave us such an iconic character in the form of Max Fischer – the character I think every teen, male or female, should shape a small part of their lives around, for better, and especially for worse.

See, what makes Max Fischer so interesting as a character is that you don’t necessarily know how to pin him down; he’s kind of cool, in a real nerdy, preppy-way, but he’s also kind of a jerk that steps over people’s feet, just to get by in the world and make himself better. However, on the other hand, he’s also really smart and despite being quite naive about the possibility of having this much-older woman be his special, one and only someone, there’s a part of him you can definitely see knows exactly what it is that he wants to do with life, and how he’s prepared to get by in the world. He’s got the look and body of a 15-year-old kid, but the mind of a 40-year-old, been-there-done-that kind of guy. He’s a little bit cool; a little bit nerdy; a little hopeless; a little bit selfish; a little bit arrogant; and a little bit too ambitious. However, the fact remains is that he is human, and more important: He’s a 15-year-old high school student that’s just trying to understand his life, one embarrassing situation at a time.

But as much as I could harp on and on about how rad and well-written Fischer is, the fact remains that Jason Schwartzman does a very awesome job with this role, nailing all the deadpan delivery Anderson needed to have this character feel a bit more raw, without ever trying to be too real. When he raises his middle-finger up to those who look down on him, you can’t help but want to get up and join him; when he tries to kiss Ms. Cross and gets denied, you can’t help but want to give him a hug and go get some ice cream with him; and most of all, when he’s trying to impress those around him and do cool things, you can’t help but want to join in on the fun, because he’s just that awesome to be around.

Bill Murray, being Bill Murray. What else could ya ask for?

Bill Murray, being Bill Murray. What else could ya ask for?

So yeah, kids, if you need a role model in your life, look no further than Max Fischer. The kid’s got all of the answers. Or, at least some of them.

The one person you don’t want to have as a role model is probably who Bill Murray plays here, Herman Blume. By now, each and everyone of us know that Murray is a Jack-of-all-trades; not only can he be hilariously off-kilter and goofy, but he can also dial-it-back and be subdued, giving us a very humane, down-to-Earth person that we may have never thought was there in the first place. But back in ’98, before Wes Anderson came around, he was sort of just known to us as Bill Murray, a guy who can be, and is, downright hilarious. Here though, Murray finally got a chance to show everybody that he could actually act, and by doing so, he gave us a very sad, very emotional look at a guy who is just depressed with life. Herman Blume not only hates his kids, but he hates his wife, his job, his salary and even hates rich people, despite being one of them. That’s why when you see him absolutely light-up whenever Max is around, it’s sweet to see since you know that this is a down-and-out guy, finally finding someone he can connect with and be around, and not actually hate.

So when the two actually do start fighting over this gal, it’s amusing to watch, in a funny way, but also a bit sad since you know they are friends, and they are hurting one another’s feelings. But it’s all for a good cause, right? Well, I’d say so, because Ms. Cross is a catch for any guy that’s able to nab her down, thanks mostly to Olivia Williams perfectly-nuanced performance. She’s pretty, British, charming and pretty easy-going, but we do know that there’s a huge path of sadness just brewing all beneath her, and it makes you wonder if either of these guys deserve to be with her, or if she should just give up on dating alone and live the rest of her life in solitude and sadness. Doesn’t sound too ideal, but I guess when you have two wild cards like Herman Blume and Max Fischer fighting over you, then I guess it’s the only possible solution really.

Consensus: Wry, snappy and chock-full of angst, Rushmore finds Wes Anderson at his meanest, yet, still finds a way to give us characters that we can not only love, but identify with, making their adventures together all the more rewarding by the end.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

What a smug a-hole. But damn is he cool or what?!?!

What a smug a-hole. But damn is he cool or what?!?!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Juno (2007)

Just as long as you’re a quirky hipster-teenager, not a single person will be mad at you for being preggo!

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) isn’t your traditional, normal high school teen in the way that she holds herself. She knows a lot about people, life and society to the point of where people cast her a bit as an “outside”, however though, that doesn’t bother her because she’s just happy being herself, in her own, wide world of quirkiness and faux-clever pop culture references. But now her world is about to be shaken-up a bit now that she’s been impregnated by her best-buddy, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). He clearly has no idea what the hell to do when he hears this news, and neither does she, but she decides not to take “the easy way out”. Thus bringing her to the idea of having the baby, but then giving it right to hopeful parents Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), who have been wanting a baby for quite some time, and have even gone as far as to place ads in the papers. It seems like the right thing for Juno to do, however, she still can’t help herself from causing a bit of ruckus in the meanwhile.

Many people have spoken-out against this movie for being what is clearly a “mainstream attempt” at trying to do a quirky, hipster movie, that you’d most likely see in a small, run-down movie theater with at least five or six other people, and then hear about years later, with it gaining a cult-following and loyal fan-base and such. Reason being, the script by Diablo Cody is filled to the core with numerous amounts of slang, phrases that seem like they’d only come from “hip” people’s mouths and more inside-joke pop culture references than you or I could ever shake a stick at. Hell, it even opens up with a rotoscoped credit-sequence, done to the tunage of Barry Louis Polisar.

Look at that thing! So rad, man!

Look at that thing! So rad, man!

If that doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me! I’m hip! I’m cool! I’m “with it”!”, then I don’t know what does.

Usually whenever a movie has me thinking this in the first couple minutes, it’s usually all downhill from there. But that wasn’t the case here. Surprisingly, Cody’s writing began to work more and more, even when more of an onslaught of absolutely random references came into play. However, that also made it so much more entertaining to watch as I could not only find myself laughing, but feel like I’m in the presence of real teenagers who sure, talk a bit funnier and more colorful than you or I, but act and behave as if they were us. Early pregnancy aside, I could still see myself talking, hanging out and getting to know some chick just like Juno, and being picked to pieces for either saying something really dumb, or being intimidated by her presence. But I could say the same thing about meeting Juno, about everybody else here.

The fact is, although its a rather showy script, it’s always believable and never loses that sense that we are placed into a world that exists in the 21st century, with characters who have grown-up on Nickelodeon, Slurpee’s and the almighty “Hamburger Phones”. Yes, they do exist and yes, they are awesome.

But once all of the playful wit of this movie leaves, then comes in the huge heart it has and it really takes you by surprise. One second you could be laughing at how Juno tries to match wits with some older dude about how Iggy Pop is such a bad-ass, to then be soaking your eyes out crying because of some beautiful speech her dad gave to her about finding that one and only special someone and why that does inf act matter. The movie definitely plays with that balance more than a few times than it ought to, but Cody and Reitman seem like they have a perfect idea of when the right time to play a moment up for laughs is, and when it’s the time to start letting the tears flow. More often than not, the former got the best of me, but the latter came in with a surprising thunder and really touched. Especially during the last ten or so minutes when the whole story, all of the characters and subplots, come together and get tied-up in a nice, neat little bow-tie.

How perfect that is to see actually happen in a movie for once.

Of course though, the one’s who really make this movie work so well, just as much as both Reitman and Cody do, is the ensemble cast, mainly Ellen Page in the lead as “anti-hero” of sorts, Juno MacGuff. Page got a lot of praise for this role, and some could say it made her a bon-a-fide “star”, and while I’m not up for a discussion on whether or not that’s fully, entirely true (it isn’t), I will say that Page deserved all of the chatter being made about her because she fits this role like a glove. She’s quick, funny, and always up to say something you don’t expect her to, but she’s never a big meanie. Sure, she can be a bit of a sassy-pup to those who deserve it, but to everybody else around her, you know, the one’s that actually matter and care for her, she’s always kinder to and definitely doesn’t take of them for granted. She’s unpredictable for sure, but she’s never a “bad person” per se, which is what I think makes her so damn likable and watchable in the first place. That, and the fact that she’s edgy, without being overly so. Good for Page though, as I think that she’s a solid actress who is sadly still trying hard to live this iconic-role down. One day, I think, she will. But until then, we have this to adore and appreciate.

Please be my parents! Please!!

Please be my parents! Please!!

Michael Cera also does a nice job as Paulie Bleeker, despite still being in that “George Michael“-frame. However though, he was good at showing what a guy like him would do if he was suddenly thrown into the same situation that he is obviously incapable of handling. Also, the relationship that he and Juno have is a very well-done one which would have made for its own interesting rom-com. Even the friendship Juno has with her bestie, played by Olivia Thirlby, is well-done because she’s just as sassy, if not more than Juno’s snarky-ass, which also makes their time together all the more enjoyable to watch.

But this isn’t just a movie for, and starring all teenagers throughout the world! Believe it or not, there are some performances from adults here, and for the most part, they’re pretty outstanding. As I’ve mentioned before about his one scene, J.K. Simmons is great as Juno’s daddy that isn’t the typical toughened war-vet, hard-ass daddy you usually see in these types of movies. He definitely loves his daughter and accepts her for everything that she is, despite her making one dumb decision and getting pregnant as a result. Still though, he stands by her and wants what’s best, without getting in the way too much. Same for Allison Janney’s step-mom character who isn’t the evil, cackling step-mom that holds everything against her step-daughter for not being biologically related to her. In fact, one could say that she’s more concerned and protecting of Juno, and doesn’t want people bad-mouthing her all because she’s a teenager, who just so happens to be pregnant. Even the two performances from Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are great too, and, believe it or not, would have definitely worked in their own, little movie. However here, they’re both believable as a married-couple that may not be perfect together, but definitely seem to want the same things in life and within each other, even if their vision does get a bit blurred at times.

Mainly though, everybody works perfectly together and makes this something more special than just an-hour-and-a-half rom-com with pregnancy involved somehow. I would have definitely liked to seen more of this cast do what they do best, but hey, I’ll take what I can get when I have a cast that is this good, and given this much meaty-material to work with. If only more ensemble-pieces handled its cast as well as Reitman does. If only.

Consensus: Most will definitely know if Juno is right for them or not, judged solely by the first ten minutes. But if you just so happen to be one of those people that take the bait and enjoy the show, you’ll find yourself not just happy you stuck-through, but ending it all with a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your stomach, like coming-of-age, rom-comers should do.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

That's to all ya haters out there. You know who you are, too!

That’s to all ya haters out there. You know who you are, too!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Her (2013)

If Scar-Jo was my computer, then yes, I’d consider it. Her, or Bea Arthur.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future, L.A. writer Theodore Bwombly (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in a bit of a rut. After his wife (Rooney Mara) asked for him to sign the divorce papers, he’s been a bit slacking in terms of getting a move-on with that, his love life, or just getting out there and meeting new people in general. I guess you could consider him “antisocial”, although he does still hang-out and pal-around with an old friend of his (Amy Adams); but other than that, he’s practically all alone up in his big apartment, where he sits around, plays interactive video-games and even ends some nights with eventful bouts of late-night chats with complete and total strangers. This all changes once he discovers a new operating-system by the name “OS1″, which promises him “the closest thing he’ll ever get to a real, honest human-connection”. Theodore believes this, downloads the system and eventually, is graced with the presence of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who, at first, Theodore feels a bit odd with. Which, yes, is expected considering that she’s just a speaking-system that he just so happens to be stuck with, but over time, the two begin to grow closer as they help each other out in ways they never expected to, like in discovering life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and heck, even sex. So yep, it gets pretty crazy and passionate, but eventually, like most romances do, problems do arise, uncertainties are brought into the equation, and feelings are hurt; and a relationship with an operating-system doesn’t make that any further from happening. In fact, maybe even more likely to happen.

Must've been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

Must’ve been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

I know some of you may have already been lost at “human falls in love with operating-system”, and trust me, with anybody else behind this, I would have been too. However, this is not just directed, but written by Spike Jonze and from what I can tell you, the guy’s pretty damn amazing at what it is that he does, especially when it comes to making magic with something as odd and as unique as this. But considering that Charlie Kaufman isn’t around to lay-down the ground-work for him this time around, it makes you wonder: Can Jonze handle all of the pressure when it’s placed upon himself, or, does he simply fold and make this something that’s “too strange” for anybody to even like?

Well, for the most part, Jonze succeeds. And then some.

First things first, this movie would not work at all if it weren’t for the fact that Jonze himself was actually able to get us to believe the relationship that our main character Theodore has with his operating-system. It makes a slight bit of sense that someone as sad, lonely and clinically-depressed as Theo would actually have a relationship with somebody he wouldn’t have to see, touch or even impregnate in order to fall in love with, but it makes total sense why it is that he falls for her, and why it is that you actually want to see them together in the end, despite all of the obvious problems surrounding that outcome.

For instance, like what most relationships are based-on, is the way in which both companions actually do something for the betterment of the other. Theo allows Samantha to experience life in its finest, most complete-form; whereas Samantha allows Theodore someone he can vent-out to, be encouraged by, gain some insight from and most of all, actually connect with. Sure, she definitely is a computer when you get right down to it, but she’s more than just a bunch of data filled with numbers, codes and chips. She’s actually a “thing” that has feelings, emotions, wants, needs, pleasures, desires, dreams, ideas, insecurities, doubts, and anything else you could name that a normal, everyday human-being would have. The only difference here is that she’s an operating-system that you can talk to and engage with through a little speaker in your ear, or anywhere else.

In fact, I’m only going to say this now considering I’m already on a roll and I kind of want to get this out of the way, is that the problem I sometimes had with this movie was that it wasn’t always clear how Theo and others around him could constantly chat-it-up with Samantha, despite it obviously being clear that he needed an ear-piece in, in order to do so. I don’t know, maybe it was something that I missed, but once others could hear Samantha as perfectly and as understandably as Theo did, it kind of had me scratching my head. Didn’t bring this movie down an awful-lot, but did bother me a tad bit whenever it showed up.

Anyway, back to the good stuff, of which there is plenty more of!

Like I was saying though with the relationship between Samantha and Theodore, although it may clearly be an odd relationship between two, highly unlikely candidates, Jonze makes it work solely through the way in which he channels ordinary feelings, emotions and happenings that go on during any relationship, whether it be good ones, or bad ones. While doing this though, he also channels through the step-by-step process in which a relationship builds into being over time, which is something that surprised me the most in how honest, and sometimes heart-breaking it was to take note of.

At first, the relationship is blossoming with countless acts of sex during the day; plenty of late-night talks that go on and on about seemingly nothing; getting comfortable with another person to the point of where you think you know them from the inside, to the outside; aspirations for the future in which one party would be able to meet the other parties’ friends, families, confidants, etc.; the action of getting a place together, moving and even looking for a house pet by any chance; and even the slightest, yet clear discussion about the possibility of moving even more forward and “getting serious” about what it is that these two people into question have together, that possibly, could last forever.

That all seems like the quintessential, go-to sets of standards of what it’s like to be involved with a romance when its first stages, and when it begins to move further and further on into being something deadly, freakin’ serious. It’s what we all know and live by, and that’s just the way basic humans are. It’s neither good nor bad; in fact, I’d say that it’s freakin’ beautiful.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

But, as we all know, there are those problems that casually show up when two people get together and start swapping as many emotions with one another, as they do fluids and it seems like it’s nearly unavoidable, no matter how perfect you think you got it. Eventually, tensions do arise when people start to experience new things; change in ways that they themselves realize, but are too scared of telling the other person; passions begin to go away; eyes start to linger elsewhere; minds don’t seem to cling together as well anymore as they used to, and instead, more or less clang together; and the worst of all, finding something, and/or someone else that seems better for you in many more ways than one.

These happenings are usually what one can expect when a relationship that was once beautiful, passionate, romantic and heartfelt in every sense of the word, suddenly goes South. And what sucks the most is that you don’t know how, you don’t know why, and you sure as heck don’t know what to do in order to you to stop it from ending and being tarnished in the ground forever. All you know is that what it is you have with this person, is real, honest, lovely and altogether, very painful when you get to look at it. When a relationship ends, it doesn’t just end with a whimper, but it ends with a bang in which a connection that two people shared together, seems like it could be gone. And in some cases, possibly gone forever.

Yes, it’s all so very sad and yes, it can be avoided in some situations (trying to re-ignite the flame by getting freaky with it, bringing in the shrink, asking for advice, etc.), but in reality, it’s inevitable. I truly do hate to sound like the miserable, cynical, “love sucks” a-hole that would much rather watch a movie about two people falling in love, than actually going out there into the field, making myself known and experience some lovin’ for myself, but that truly isn’t the case here. I’ve been in plenty of relationships (or in some cases, “something” that was close enough to being one), with plenty of different gals over the year to realize that this transition from absolute adoration for the other person, may not always last. And sometimes, it may even get so ugly and negative to the point of where it’s not even worth sticking around for. But people do try, and more than likely, they succeed and end-up sticking with that special someone of theirs forever and ever, or at least for a very long time.

But that’s what life is all about: Finding someone, getting to know them, falling for them, handing yourself to them on a silver-platter, realizing that they’re everything you could want in the world and basically, just finishing it by sticking together, or calling it quits. Either way, it’s a fact of life that I’ve been through many of times, and although I’d like to think that each and every time I step up to the plate, I’ve learned something new, tricky or life-changing about “The Game of Love“, reality hits me with a curve-ball and reminds me that I really don’t. But hey, that’s not a bad thing. That’s just life; I’m human, you’re human, we’re all human and that’s what humans do: We make good decisions and we make mistakes, but we always get back-up and ride the horse again.

That’s why watching the relationship between Samantha and Theodore develop over time to the point of where I wouldn’t see “an operating-system and a human falling in love with one another”, but rather, “two emotional, sensitive and compassionate-beings falling in love with one another, that also happen to be an operating-system and a human.” And to see these two as they realize who it is that they are when they’re around the other, and certainly away, really did touch me and had me remember all of the relationships I’ve had in the past. But most importantly, I thought about the memories: The good times, the bad times, the sexually-active times, the romantic times, the frustrating times, the upsetting times and how each and every one has shaped me into the person who I am today. Not just in the relationship-world, but in the world in general.

Jonze taps into this reality about our lives oh so beautifully, that isn’t all about the heart, the romance, or the drama, because, believe it or not, there is actually plenty of comedy to be had here. Most of the comedy to be found here stems from the fact that everybody in the future relies more on technology than ever before, but they aren’t cheap jokes. Like it’s not the type of, “Oh, look how funny it is that that person can’t stop texting at the table,” joke, but more sophisticated in the manner that Jonze shows us that we rely on technology so much, that it would totally break-down our lives if it were to go away in some shape, or form. It’s funny, but it’s also true. Brutally so, too.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we've all been there.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we’ve all been there.

Also, one aspect of this movie that a lot of the laughs seem to come from are with the performances of both Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson who both have some pretty hard tasks on their hands, but handle it effortlessly and make this a romance one won’t soon forget. Though Phoenix has never been known as the main source for comedy, but here, he’s pretty damn funny, but in a subtle manner. The way he uses his eyes or facial-expressions to make clear to us whatever emotion it is that he’s feeling, really worked for me and not only made me crack-up more than a few times, but made me feel more for this character of Theodore, who, in essence, is a hurt, beaten-up, heart-broken man that’s left with just about little to nil direction left in his life of where it is that he wants to go or what it is that he wants to do next with it. However, he’s not a boring loser and after awhile, once we get to spend more time with him and see who he is as a person, we realize that he’s just a really nice, fun-loving type of dude that used to be cool, happenin’ and the life of the party; it’s just been awhile since he’s been able to do so and he’s finally getting that chance. Phoenix is wonderful here and for a guy who has been of his for a long, LONG time, let’s just say that I’m happy to see my man Joaquin not only lighten-up the mood a little bit, but smile as well.

Sheesh! When was the last time we saw that dude crack a cheek-to-cheek grin on his face?!!?

As good as Phoenix is though, he somehow gets over-shadowed by the fact that Scarlett Johansson, using only her voice, is able to make us think-up, dream-about and visualize a character of who it is that she would be, as Samantha. I don’t know if I’m alone or not in this voice, but I’ve always thought that Johansson had a wonderful voice and it was about time it was put to the test that was more than just her singing out some classic, gold oldies. Now, we have her voice that practically takes up half of what we hear in the movie, but it never gets old and the character itself, is written so richly, that you understand why somebody like Theodore would fall head-over-heals for it. Heck, you may even ponder the question yourself! Regardless, the chemistry the two have together is pitch-perfect and not only makes you believe in their relationship when it’s beginning to pick-up speed, but when it surprisingly starts to fall-apart. They both seem perfect together and like they know what the other person wants in a relationship, but you know that with them, like with any other relationship out there in the world, conflict is inevitable, and so is the parting-ways between two people. It’s just all a matter of moving on, remember everything that you’ve been through and knowing that life does, and will continue on, that is really important.

Consensus: Her may have a weird premise on-paper, but it works out as perfectly as any other romance put-to-screen in a long while and will more than likely bring a few tears down the cheeks of many on-lookers, as well as having plenty of high-school sweetheart’s getting drunk-dialed in the middle of the night from a sobbing, incoherently rambling ex of theirs. But that’s perfect though, because love truly does make one person do the darnedest things.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who "that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself", was. And then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who “that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself”, was. Then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and a whole lot of money. Oh my!

Meet Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio): He’s a womanizer, a drug-addict, a go-getter, a hard partier, and most of all, a full-fledged billionaire, and this is his story. We follow Jordan through his early days as a licensed stock broker on Wall Street, where he learns of the ins and the outs from a seasoned-pro (Matthew McConaughey), but eventually, finds himself out of a job and inspiration for life once the stock market crashes. From there, Jordan finds another job in which he’s still working the stocks, however now, he’s found a way to rip people off, and benefit from the extra cash money he has flowing in by the weeks, and then by the days, and then it’s by the hours, and sooner or later, it’s by the minutes of each hour, of each and every single day. So basically, Belfort discovers a way on how to keep on getting richer, and best of all, how to keep on partying and living life until you can’t no more. Sooner than later, though, the FBI starts snooping around and that’s when Jordan begins to find himself backed into a corner that he may not be able to get out of, or one that he may be able to, but will have to take those nearest and dearest down in the process.

Most of you can probably tell by now, but I’ll say it anyway: This movie is a freakin’ blast. Yes, it does clock-in at 179 minutes (that’s near-three hours for those of you counting at home), and yes, it features countless acts of debauchery in which drugs are consumed, women and their body parts are fondled, Big Bens are thrown high up in the air and the “f word” is used more times than it ought to be, but if you can stick through all of this and keep the blood pumping, you’re going to find yourself having one of the best times at the movie theaters.

Was it all politically correct to call it "midget tossing" back in the late-80's/early-90's?

Was it politically correct to call it “midget tossing” back in the late-80’s/early-90’s?

Just exactly like I did, and here’s why.

It’s not easy to make a film about a bunch of stockbrokers that are knowingly ripping people off, in hopes of gaining a heftier wallet and more gifts to bring to the parties, in which we don’t actually hate them and instead, actually rather loathe them, but with all of the movies he’s made in the past (including this), Martin Scorsese has proved himself to be more than up to the task, and then some. Scorsese is approximately 71-years-of-age, but this movie does not show an old man working inside of his comfort-zone, nor one who seems like he can just get as much enjoyment from the spoils of this movie, as much as his subjects in his movie are. Nope, instead, Scorsese continues to find more and more ways in which he can try something new, or, for lack of a better term, never slow down.

When I said that this was a movie that clocked-in at nearly-three hours, most of you probably ran for the hills and never looked back; but what I didn’t say was that it was a near-three hour movie that never, not for a single second, slows down. Sure, there are some moments where we see Scorsese let go of his style and just let his ensemble do the speaking for him, but it’s all Scorsese, all of the time, and it never lost its sense of energy that made it such a blast to watch for its first five minutes of being on screen, let alone it’s 2-hours-and-59-minutes. And needless to say, some of it could have definitely been chopped-down and even taken-out, but with what Scorsese himself has here, it’s pure dynamite by how quick, fun and energetic everything is, without taking a brief moment for silence or to catch your breath.

In other words, if you can’t handle a near-three hour movie that never cools its brakes, you may want to look elsewhere, because once Marty and the rest of his gang get this bus going, they aren’t stopping and it makes you feel like Scorsese himself may never, ever quit making movies. And I would have no problem with that whatsoever, because if he shows us, so late in the game, that he can still hang with the best of them, get moving when he needs to, and also be able to keep his blood-pressure at a reasonably healthy rate, then we don’t need anybody else other than him. If he’s going to keep on branching out and trying new things, then who needs someone that could be, “The Next Martin Scorsese”. It would surely be nice to get someone else who can master the art of the multiple over-head narrations, or the constant zooming-in camera movements, but as for right now, at this moment in time, I’m fine with Marty Scorsese sticking around for however long he damn well pleases to. I just hope that he continues to make movies as exciting, entertaining and hilarious as this.

But everything that I’m saying about Marty, and how he seems to still be open to new and cool things to play around with, could be said for his cinematic muse, Leonardo DiCaprio. Anybody who has ever followed my blog and knows my history, knows that I am a huge and adoring fan of Leo, and he did not disappoint me a single second here. Heck, in fact, I’d say that he surprised the hell out of me here, showing that it is possible for somebody who’s nearing-40, and who has already shown his talents as an actor, to still shock us by letting us know that he’s capable of doing more than just yelling, emoting and being upset; in fact, just like he proved with his Oscar-worthy performance last year in Django Unchained, he can actually be quite funny and steal the scene from some of the most charming, and spirited screen-presences out there.

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Not only does Leo get show his lighter-side with Belfort, in terms of making wise-cracks and just being the lovable, handsome devil that knows what to say, and when to say it, he also gets to branch-out a bit and pull-off some really impressive scenes where it’s just him, and him alone. There’s the one scene that everybody seems to be talking about in which Leo begins to feel the side effects of decade-old Quaaludes, and begins to fall limp in every part of his body; almost to the point of where he’s practically dragging himself and crawling to his car. It’s the scene that everybody seems to be talking about, and with good reason: It’s funny, it never ends (in a good way), it’s probably the quietest scene in the whole movie, it’s bizarre and the best of all, it shows us that even somebody like Leo DiCap, the same guy who has been taking serious-role-after-serious-role for a good chunk of his career, can handle something like “physical comedy”, and pull it off with perfection. There’s even a couple more scenes where he’s getting the rest of his stockbrokers all locked, cocked and loaded for whatever it is he wants them to do, whether it be getting richer or throwing down a sweet-ass party, and he absolutely owns each and every one of them, showing us, once again, that if you give him character, you give him a drive, you give him a capable director and you put a camera in front of his face, he’s going to make some magic happen and absolutely over-power everybody else around him.

That’s why, when you look at an ensemble as wide and as fun as this, you really do have to give a whole bunch of credit to somebody like Leo for never letting this movie loose, because his shoulders are the ones in which this flick solely rests its fate on. While everybody here is charming, fun, crazy and anything else but boring, he’s the guy who keeps the train on its tracks, making us realize that these were in fact, real people, who screwed over real people, just like you or me. Though Scorsese may never seem to go any further than “look at all these rich guys and all the debauchery acts they’re committing”, the movie is still a powerful indictment on the fact that these were guys who messed our economy over, and we’re the ones who had to pay for it. It sucks big time, and even though this movie has a good time getting itself away from that fact, we’re still the ones who have to suck it up and move on with our lives, while they are the ones who get to live freely and still be able to do what they want.

Sucks, I know, but it’s all in the name of a good time, right?

Anyway, needless to say, I’ll be pulling for Leo to land his Oscar this year, as I do every year, but let’s face it: He’ll be lucky enough to nab a nomination. Which blows, because he’s so electrifying here, you’ll wonder what else he’s got in-store for us and whether it will be back to his old ways of playing the same old,”troubled and tortured smart guy role”, or if he’ll continue to surprise us and show that he’s got more in his tank than what we know of? I don’t know what side he’ll most likely lean towards, but what I can is that Leo will definitely keep on being one of the best working today, and one that proves to me, as well as to everybody else, time and time again, that nobody can steal the spotlight away from him. Nobody!

Yeah, I’m a bit of a Leo DiCap fan boy. Deal with it.

"Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I've moved on to bigger, and more critically-acclaimed things. Sorry, guys."

“Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I’ve moved on to bigger, and more respected things. Sorry, guys.”

Like I was saying before though, Leo may own this movie, but he isn’t the only that’s actually “good” in it. Jonah Hill is a laugh-out-loud riot as the equally as demented and sick buddy of Jordan’s, Donnie, who starts to show some pretty dark shades to his character as time goes on; Matthew McConaughey appears in about two or three scenes early on in the movie and is a whole box of fun, even giving us some insight into the person that Jordan himself aspires to be, and most likely, will be once he gets his paychecks in order and balance; Rob Reiner is a welcome-presence to see back on the screen, this time, playing Jordan’s dad who handles all of the money, and doesn’t like to ask questions about where it comes from and what it’s for, but still somehow can’t get away from being just a little curious; Jean Dujardin shows up as a Swedish bank-owner that Jordan doesn’t particularly like, but does business with to keep the feds off of his ass; and speaking of those feds, Kyle Chandler plays the FBI Agent whose leading the whole sting-operation against Belfort and his trusty band of misfits, and somehow forms a nice rivalry between the two, despite only having about two scenes together where they actually do match wits.

Oh, and last but not least, Margot Robbie is as perfectly-suited for this Scorsese flick, as much as she’s easy-on-the-eyes, because while she does definitely get full-on naked at various times, she never feels like an object that’s an easy stepping-stool. She can hang with the big boys and she proves that she won’t be taken advantage of, even when it’s clearly obvious that all Jordan wants her for is a nice fuck and a gal to watch over the rest of his family, as well as his empire, just in case he just so happens to be gone for a short while. She’s what every man in the world wants: Smart, brass, good-looking, and a fire-breather in bed, but also the same type of girl that won’t put up with your shit, no matter what. In other words, each and every one of my ex’s. Damn them all!

Consensus: Running on a near-three hour time-limit may take some viewers away from spending time with the Wolf of Wall Street, and the excessive amount of drugs, sex, crime and violence that it depicts, but those who are willing to, will find themselves rewarded with not only one of the most entertaining flicks of the year, but also one of the most impressive that shows us that neither Leonardo DiCaprio, nor Martin Scorsese are down for the count and might just have a few more hits left in them.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Blackfish (2013)

Kids, next vacation, you’re going to Universal and you’re going to like it!

This a documentary discussing orcas, how they’re captured, sold, taken to SeaWorld and left to perform tricks and all sorts of shows for the pleasure of tourists and rich families. However, underneath all of the showboating and smiley faces that usually come along with these performances, is a very dark and sinister world that goes even deeper than orcas being mistreated, they’re downright tortured. But this is also a story told through one orca named Tilikum who, when just a wee, little baby, was taken away from his mother and taken to SeaWorld, where he was expected to perform acts, follow the rules, not hurt anybody, not get hurt, not screw up, and basically, just get used to the cram conditions he was set to live in. Apparently though, Tilikum didn’t listen all the way through, and due to him, SeaWorld has been held responsible for four trainer’s deaths, all of which they do not take sole blame for. And this is despite not only SeaWorld owning these orcas, but also paying and ensuring the safety of the trainers themselves, especially the most notable one, Dawn Brancheau.

In case any of you out there have been living underneath a rock for quite some time, you may have seen that this documentary has caused quite the stir among just about everybody in the world. Celebrities, activists, tourists, regular humans, and heck, even rockin’ bands like REO freakin’ Speedwagon themselves don’t want anything to do with SeaWorld all because of this documentary. Now if that doesn’t tell you at least something of this movie’s effectiveness, then I don’t know what will. Oh wait, yes I do: A nice, lean, mean and mashed-up, 1500+ word review from yours truly. Here we go, people!

Just imagine tears steaming down his face, and you'll understand the sadness.

Just imagine tears steaming down his face, and you’ll understand the sadness.

Some of you peeps out there may not know this, but I am quite the animal lover. No, that doesn’t mean I am a vegetarian, or don’t wear leather or fur, but I know when an animal is being mistreated and I, like many other humans out there I would suppose, don’t stand for it. Downright, I am one of those big softies that, even after kicking some tough dude’s ass at a bar, would go home, lay down on my bed and cuddle up with whatever pet was lying around my house. So basically, I’m a big softy because I love animals, but that’s just the way I am and I would hate to see any torture or mistreatment placed upon those little friends of mine, as well as ours.

That’s why documentaries like this, no matter how well put-together they may actually be, always get me up in a rut. For starters, I never did trust SeaWorld to begin with. Surely, I’ve been there maybe once or twice, but those were when I was just a little tike. Now that I’m older, wiser and more knowing, I’ve learn to not really trust a place too much that parades around a bunch of killer whales, as if they could actually be pals with either you or I. Like I said, I love animals and all, but there would be no way in my mind that I could see myself befriending a killer whale, hence why I give a whole slew of credit to the trainers who show up here to talk, not just for sticking with SeaWorld when they actually saw all of the mistreating that was going on behind the scenes, but because they took a risk each and every day, getting into that water with those whales, performing with them, training them and just trying whatever it is that they could do to treat them the best that they could, because they sure as hell weren’t going to get it anywhere else in that corporation.

And through these stories with these various trainers over the years who have either been with Tilikum, or who have worked at SeaWorld in general, we get a pretty good idea of what’s really going on behind the whole show of SeaWorld and why we can’t always trust what it is that we see, especially since all of these people themselves never did, and yet, they still stuck around! Why? Because they had a heart and a conscience, and they knew that if they left, then nobody would take care of their “pals”, so they stood by no matter what. Even when it got so dangerous, they had to be placed on another side of a steel barrier. If that doesn’t make you at least well-up a bit just reading that, then I don’t know what will.

Oh wait, yeah I do: THE REST OF THIS MOVIE WILL!

The best aspect about Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s direction here as a documentarian is that she clearly sides with the killer whales, the trainers and the people who are especially sympathetic to Tilikum’s cause, but due to their actually being some wrongful deaths involved in the mix of things, it never gets to the point where she’s so one-sided, that she loses the humanity behind the whole idea. The movie does deal with three or more deaths that were caused by killer whales, and shows/tells us even more near-death experiences some trainer’s have had and it’s some of the most suspenseful, exhilarating things you’ll hear in a movie this year. Which is odd too, because it’s all told to us through words and recollections. There are some video spots of these actual attacks happening on-screen for the whole world to see, and as good as they are, they somehow don’t match up to watching these people just tell us like it was, with all of their feelings and emotions right in front of us. It’s raw, brutal and altogether, very sad, because while you do realize that most of these people may still be coping with the fact that they were almost killed by somebody they considered “their friend”, but that they know that there are more experiences like that to come for other trainers, and they can’t do a single thing about it.

And honestly, that’s probably the most heart-breaking aspect surrounding this documentary: The fact that no resolution seems to be found in sight. Sure, watching as killer whales get taken away from their parents is more than sad, in fact, it’s downright torturous; but I knew that it couldn’t have been all that bad for the whale once they got to the big-budget, illustrious and wonderful extravaganza that was SeaWorld. Sadly though, I was terribly wrong and it really hurt me to see how it continued to get almost worse and worse, with no end to all of the problems in sight. I won’t even dare to spoil the ending to this documentary and what sort of note Cowperthwaite herself ends on, but what I can tell you is this: It will make you angry, upset, ready to punch a wall, free any Willy you stumble upon, and do all sorts of these other heroic, inspiring things that you can only see in movies about pot-smoking, free-loving hippies (of which this movie has none, except for one, and his fate isn’t quite desirable).

How in the blue hell can something that massive, be "poorly-treated"?

How in the blue hell can something that massive, be “poorly-treated”?

And that’s quite alright, since these are the types of documentaries to do so, especially one as perfectly-crated with just enough amount of respect for those who have fallen, those who stand behind the corporation that’s going to continue to commit their wrong-doings, those who were there with Tilikum and witnessed, first-hand, the name he lived up to over time, those who saw the corruptness to the corporation and still stood by it because they had “prior obligations”, and last, but certainly not least, those who know that it’s a problem, won’t stand for it and are making their voices heard. With all of these people getting behind the movie’s message and the movie itself, I wager that maybe, just possibly maybe, SeaWorld will cease to exist in the next 20, or 30 years, which also means that plenty of orcas will be allowed to roam freely throughout their large bodies of water, without having to worry that one day, they might just accidentally get picked up by a couple of hunters looking for a quick buck, sold to some head-honchos looking for more than a quick buck, being enslaved in tiny, concrete pools, and practically being forced to live the rest of their lives in a joyless, depressing and highly emotional manner. Yeah, I know I sound soft and sweet, as if I traded in my “Man” card for a whole big can of red paint, but trust me, once you see this, you won’t want to do anything else in your life other than stand up, get your voices heard and let SeaWorld know that you’re onto them, and you won’t be giving them a single one of your own dollar bills.

In other words: Fuck SeaWorld.

Consensus: You don’t have to be a die-hard animal lover to understand the wrong-doings that Blackfish clearly speaks out against, and for that, the movie will more than likely have you upset, disgusted and downright appalled that something like this still stands, in a popular tourist attraction no less. But it will also make you want to speak up, have your voice heard and make a difference in your life, but also with these poor, little killer whale’s lives’ as well. Strange, right?

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

See? All the killer whale wants is a kissie, along with a side platter of blood and guts, but hey, we're losing the point!

See? All the killer whale wants is a kissie, along with a side platter of blood and guts, but hey, we’re losing the point!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

If only the world of journalism was this cut-throat, or entertaining to be around.

Everybody, meet San Diego’s top news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and come and see how good he looks. Yeah, Ron’s a bit of a fool of himself and definitely thinks he’s the greatest thing to come around since sliced bread, however, he isn’t alone. He has a fellow band of trusted and worthy reporters that hang around him and give him a lending hand whenever he needs it. Together, they work as a team and together, they’ve been practically #1 in the ratings, week-after-week. And everything seems to be going all fine and dandy, up until an inspired and determined female reporter, Veronice Corningstone (Christina Applegate), shows up and decides that it’s her turn to shine and become the first ever female newscaster. Mostly everybody scoffs at this idea, but once she proves them wrong and that she’s more than capable of telling the news and still having rather large, exquisite breasts, then the newscast team evolves and work with what they have, which also means that Ron’s out of a job. And to make matters even worse, Ron’s all alone and without his biggest and best buddy, BAXTER!!

Basically, plot does not matter at all with this movie. It’s only purpose is to actually move it from one outrageous, over-the-top joke to the next and while that would usually seek, kill and destroy any comedy out there, it does not do that to this one. Sole reason? It’s a dumb movie that knows it’s dumb and makes no apologies for it whatsoever. You sort of have to expect that going in, and if you don’t, then I don’t know what to say, you might be screwed over. Although, even to this day, it’s still hard to find somebody that doesn’t at least “like” this movie, let alone adore the hell out of it.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

It’s going to be hard to write an honest-to-God, non-rambling-mess-of-a-review on this so if I do run into a couple of tangents along the way before reaching my usual “Consensus” part of the review, I do apologize.

Anyway, with this movie, you have to know what to expect, solely on knowing Will Ferrell’s brand of comedy. It’s going to be loud, crude, rude, stupid and fun for everybody involved, which also means you yourself, the viewer. That’s why it doesn’t matter how many times you see this movie, whether you stumble upon it on television or decide to give it a re-watch to hype up the second movie (now who would want to do that?), it’s always a rip-roaring, gut-busting and funny-as-eff watch. Sometimes, you may even have to watch it alone, mainly because you’ll be heckling so loud, you don’t want to disrupt all of the others around you and whatever uneventful they may be doing that doesn’t concern watching Anchorman (we also call them “losers”). That’s what I did, and I still had a ball.

However, I could go on and on about how funny this movie is, but to really pin-point down exactly what it is that I feel is so funny, I just have to get on about it with the cast because, if you think about it, they’re really the ones holding this fort down. Sure, I bet some of the lines of dialogue were scripted, but only the parts that mattered in order to move the story along from one scene to the next. Instead, half of this dialogue feels, and probably was, more ad-libbed than anything else. With movies where half of their dialogue comes from somebody’s improv, it usually can, once again, seek, kill and destroy any comedy, but, once again, not this one. And certainly not with this cast of funny and deranged comedic-geniuses.

Will Ferrell was the one who got this whole gang/movie together and it makes sense why: He’s easily the best part of it all, which is not an easy thing to just state. The reason why Ferrell works so well as he does as Ron Burgundy is because he knows exactly what it is that he’s trying to do, every step of the way. He sees the comedic-potential in him speaking to a dog, as if the two actually understand each other, and he just goes for the gull with it. Same could be said for his “Yazz flute” scene; could have easily been a one-note joke stretched way beyond its means, but Ferrell takes it to places that go higher, stranger and way better than one could ever imagine. Also, in the brief moments that this flick does tend to show some depth, you do realize that there’s maybe more to Ron than just a macho ‘stache and an expert-way at getting the ladies; maybe he’s getting sick of it? Ferrell shows that there’s more humanity and heart to this guy that feels like he actually longs for some sort of emotional-connection in his life, that doesn’t just consist of constant partying, boozing and whoring around (on Whore Island, of course); he actually may want to settle down, get hitched up, have some kids and live a very happy, luxurious life. It may be that I’m looking way too far into this, and chances are, I definitely am, but Ferrell is the one who anchors this movie, gets it to where it needs to go and practically made me laugh the hardest.

Which, once again, is not an easy thing for me to state considering the rest of the ensemble is equally as hilarious and scene-stealing as he is.

Paul Rudd, as usual, made me laugh just by how goofy he was here, playing the charismatic ladies man, Brian Fantana. If you give Rudd the spotlight and give him time to do his thing, he’ll make you laugh. You know this, I know this, he knows it, hell, we all know it! That’s why it’s no surprise in my mind to see how funny he is here, especially when he’s plugging something as outrageous as “Sex Panther”; which, in case you were wondering, is in fact real, and costs an awful lot of “keesh”. Bam! Two Paul Rudd movie moment-references in one sentence! And though he’s definitely not as much of a household name as the peeps surrounding him may be, David Koechner is still a laugh-out-loud riot as the hee-hawing sports man of the news team, Champ, and gave the idea of wanting a man to get an apartment with you, an even more homoerotic-feeling than it ever had before. He may be the weakest-link of the main-squad, but that’s less of a take-away than it sounds since he’s still damn hilarious.

And Brick. Oh, dear ol’ Brick. He loves his lamps, he pulls out random hand-grenades, he wants people to come to his pants party and best of all, he killed a guy with a trident. I think the less said about him, the best. Cause, in case you couldn’t tell, he’s awesome. Thank you, Steve Carell. You too, are quite awesome.

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as "that guy from the Colbert Report and Bruce Almighty".

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as “that guy from the Daily Show and Bruce Almighty“.

But you know what’s really surprising about this movie, besides it still being equally as hilarious this time around, as then the first time I saw it all those years ago, is that it’s a dude comedy that still has a pretty kick-ass female character in the vein of Veronica Corningstone, played to perfection by Christina Applegate. And you know, I have to give a lot of credit to Applegate for at least taking a lot of shots that she does here in this movie because while there are many jokes aimed towards her heine, her breasts and her lack of a penis, she goes along with them, takes them with her, and even dishes some out on her own, showing the boys that she can hang. She may not be as hilarious as the guys, considering her character is definitely more serious than anybody else in the bunch, but she still gets away with a couple of laughs and seems a lot tougher than any of the guys that surround her, which is saying A LOT for a comedy of this nature.

Trust me though, the cast does not end there, nor do the laughs. With this supporting cast, you get to see so many faces, some surprising than others, that you actually wonder if they’re actually there to be funny, or just show their faces and be ironic. The answer is both, but it’s perfect because they all get a chance to shine a bring a lil’ something to the table. For instance, the whole “Newsteam fight” is chock-full of cameos and surprises that I won’t dare to spoil for those who have yet to see this flick, but does more than just present us with a familiar-face and say, “Hey, look who it is! Isn’t that so crazy that he/she showed up to partake in this Will Ferrell-comedy?” Nope, instead, the whole movie keeps on giving us more and more of these faces to make us laugh, to make us love them more and also, have a great time. Which, at the end of the day, is what comedies are supposed to do in the first place. Sure, they can be thought-provoking comedies that have you toy around with the ideas of existentialism in your head, but that’s not how Will Ferrell and co. roll, so therefore, neither should you!

Consensus: Anything you’d ever expect from a Will Ferrell comedy, you get with Anchorman, and then some more randomness. So either take it, or leave it. Can’t go any deeper than that because the movie doesn’t want you to, and that was fine with me. Watch this, have a laugh or two, and stay classy. Or, if you stand on the other side of the spectrum, thanks for stopping by. But most importantly, stay classy.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, then I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

American Hustle (2013)

Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.

Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.

What long-haired red-head doesn't just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

What long-haired redhead doesn’t just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?

Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).

Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.

Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.

That handsome bastard him.

And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.

Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.

"Trying to out-act me kid, huh? Huh? HUH??!?!"

“Trying to out-act me, huh kid? Huh? HUH??!?!”

But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.

However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.

Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.

Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

25th Hour (2002)

I just hope that, in the midst of all this, Sal’s window has finally been fixed.

Within the next 24 hours, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will be going away to jail where he’ll most likely spend the next seven years of his life, after being caught with stashes of heroin in his couch. However, he doesn’t plan on spending the day in utter sadness, instead, he decides to spend it all with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad (Brian Cox), his childhood buddies who couldn’t be anymore polar opposite from him (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his loyal pooch. While Monty still has plenty going through his mind (like who ratted him out, how he’s going to survive his time in prison, whose going to look after his family, etc.), the whole day and night is dedicated to giving Monty one last amazing night that just so happens to also take place after 9/11. Yep, can’t forget about that.

Should come as no surprise to anyone that 9/11 was a pretty hot-button to press on with the media back in 2002, and it should come as no bigger surprise to anyone that Spike Lee was, and in ways, still is a very controversial director that lets you know about his view-point on any subject right away. The combination of both seemed like it would not only offend everybody still reeling from the aftermath of this horrific event in our nation’s history, but ruin this man’s career for the rest of his life, had he not treated this subject properly and with as much respect as he possibly could. I mean, think about it: It was only a year and some odd months after the Twin Towers were blown down, and already, a movie showing sights of Ground Zero was already coming out. Too soon, ya think!?!?!

Just a man and his dog. Doesn't get anymore peaceful than that.

Just a man and his dog. Doesn’t get anymore peaceful than that.

Well, come to think of it, this was a story taking place in NYC, and though it was a city full of paranoia, fear and anger, it was still Lee’s hometown, and he was not ever going to treat it with disrespect. However, this is no love-letter to the city either, as Lee definitely paints more than a few pretty upsetting pictures of the city he oh so adores and cherishes. There are many times he’ll cut-away to the constant hypocrisies of our time where we see many racist stand-points coming from the minds of citizens, practically hating on other’s because of their skin-color, race, religion or political ideas. And yes, of course I am talking about the obscenity-laced tirade Monty has in the bathroom of the bar in the beginning that is the voice of how most people felt during this time, and still do to this day. These aspects of daily society were always and criticized, but in the post-9/11 world, it felt like a protective-reflex that some of us still use to this day. It’s what changed our lives on that fateful day; Lee knows this, and he never lets us forget it. As we never should.

That said, despite Lee painting a beautiful, if not, terribly honest portrait of NYC, post-9/11-era, there is still a story to be had here, and a pretty damn beautiful one that continues to bring out more and more emotions within me, even as the viewings rank up. Monty’s life isn’t necessarily a complex one, but rich in emotion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a pretty simple life, that gets a pretty simple movie, yet, is only more than its means because of what Lee does behind-the-camera and the type of feelings he brings out. Not just with his direction, but with his characters and how they tell you everything you need to know about them, even right away when you first meet them.

The clearest example that I hate to give right off the bat, but so be it, is the character of Frank, played to perfection by the always amazing Barry Pepper. Right when we first get a glimpse of Frank, we already know who he is as a character, but most importantly, as a human-being. We see that he’s obviously a hustling, cocky a-hole that thrives on getting as much money from Stock Market investors as he can, regardless of whom it hurts and why. All he knows is that he wants more bang for the buck, so that he can go out at night, with some fine-ass-looking clothes, his brown-dyed hair and prey on whatever piece of filling he can find that not only suits his looks, but his egotistical mind as well. Right away, we judge him because he’s a prick, the same type we would love to be, but never actually admit to, and yet, we begin to see a human deep-down underneath those good looks, clothes and bundles of cash.

Once we realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this greed-fueled a-hole, then everybody else starts to make sense as well. Rather than seeing Monty as a drug-dealing, hustler-and-bustler, we see him as a guy that took whatever he hand he was dealt the easiest, and went through with it anyway he could, all before it came crashing down and ruining his life. Sure, he got the sexy girl, he got the riches, he got the fancy car and heck, he even got the dog-companion, but he still didn’t get a chance to live as free as he planned to, which makes him something of a tragic character, despite you still not feeling all that bad that he got caught in the first place. It’s a sad reality, yes, but it is still a reality that he had to knew was coming down the pipe-line, and is one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Whether he wants to accept it or not.

Exactly who I wish would show up to my "Going Away" party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

Exactly who I wish would show up to my “Going Away” party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

And while we get that Monty and Frank are real people, we begin to see the others flesh-out as well. Jacob, rather than being the quintessentially creepy, dorky teacher these types of movies love to throw judgment on, ends up seeming like the type of guy you actually root for, even if it is just so that he can bang his student in order to gain some confidence in his life; Naturelle may be called a “money grabber” and “gold-digging bimbo”, among many names, but after awhile, starts to seem like a girl who found the right man, fell in love and doesn’t want to lose a single ounce of him for five seconds, let alone seven, whole years; and then of course, we have Monty’s father who gets the same old, tired story about how he used to be a drunk and a bit of a shitty daddy once his wife passed-on, but doesn’t ever act like he’s trying to change for the good or that he’s trying to get rid of his past, because he knows that it’s there, he knows his mistakes, and he understands that he can’t keep spending the rest of his life trying to make-up for them, he just has to accept them, move on and hope for the best.

May not sound like the most beautiful, inspiring messages to be throwing around in a post-9/11 atmosphere like the one we have here, but it’s one that Lee artistically commandeers into making us realize our faults, mistakes and issues as humans, and has us wake up and realize that it’s in our blood to do these types of bone-headed decisions, and it’s not right to continue to blame ourselves, or anybody else around us. It’s time to move past it all, face the facts and see where life can take you. Once again, may sound like the most down-beat message ever presented in a flick of this sort of nature, but Lee finds just the right amount of gritty realism and humanity, to flesh both sides out, and have them come together in a perfect mish-mash that makes you happy and hopeful for the country we live in, and the people that inhabit it.

In that general aspect, Lee’s film takes on a bigger meaning than being just a story about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison, and instead, becomes the type of slap-in-the-face most of us Americans probably needed at that time, just like we may need now. Then again though, it is STILL about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison and, in case my character-descriptions didn’t already convince you yet, well, needless to say, the performances from everybody involved are some of the best that most of them have ever given.

Which, given the heavy-duty talent involved: Does actually mean a whole lot.

Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody by now, but, in case you needed to be reminded: Edward Norton’s a phenomenal actor and proves that, like usual, here as Monty Brogan, our troubled, yet sympathetic, former drug-dealer we spend the next two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes with (25 hours in his case, hence the title). Norton gives us a character that’s worth giving two shits about, even if we, as well as he, realizes that there were mistakes made in the past. Yet, he shows that there are signs of improvements and changes to be found, and therefore, makes him somebody that we want to see have his life turn around, but at the same time, can’t be fully convinced he deserves his “get-outta-jail-free-card” just yet. Maybe after the first two years for good behavior, maybe? Who knows where Monty would be at today. All I do hope is that he’s at least okay, wherever he may be, or whomever with.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

And just like Norton, everybody else in the cast is pretty damn wonderful as well. Rosario Dawson gives Naturelle that natural, Puerto Rican-beauty every character in this movie goes on and on about, and while she does show some signs of foul-play along the lines of Monty’s journey to self-reflection, she still seems like the type of girl that loves her man, no matter who he is, what he does or wherever he is. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a couple of sweet, awfully uncomfortable bits as Jacob, the nerdy, English teacher who obviously doesn’t keep as in touch with Monty as much as he used to, but still shows enough signs of compatibility that it’s still believable enough as it is. Brian Cox is lovable and heart-warming as Monty’s daddy with issues, but whom still loves and cares for his son no matter what pitfalls he may have went through in the past, and the ones he may be having in the future.

However, as great as these performances (and trust me, there are a few more that should be seen, rather than just told about, trust me), none of them fully lead-up to what Barry Pepper does as that despicable piece-of-flesh I was referring to earlier, Frank. Pepper, who still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most underrated actors of our time, gets every chance to show how much of a huge douche this guy can be, while at the same time, still make us see the cracks within the facade. Sure, he’s totally against the fact that Monty sold drugs for half of his life and made money off of it, but isn’t that angry to where he won’t even be in the same room as him; he goes on and on about how this wild night needs to be all dedicated to Monty and nobody else, and yet, he still spends half of the night ogling at the bartender’s, as well as Monty’s own girlfriend’s, asses; and he even gets on people’s asses for not being as up-to-date with the good looks as he is, yet, he still can’t get past the fact that he’s getting older as the days go by, and eventually, time to settle down is going to be needed eventually. To say that Pepper deserved a nomination for this thing is a frickin’ understatement! He deserved a win, dammit! He was amazing here, and showed the world that not only could he make a terrible human-being somebody to care for, but still somebody that you could see as your own pal, even if times changed for both of you. Frank may not be the most moral human-being out there in the world, but he’s still a human-being nonetheless, and they all have emotions and feelings, right?

Consensus: More of a love-

hate letter to the city that Spike Lee obviously adores, 25th Hour still comes off as beautiful, emotional, complex and painful journey into realizing who you are, what you’ve become, who the people you surround yourself with are and where your life is headed, and whether or not you can actually choose that destiny to begin with. Sometimes however, as we all witnessed on September 11th, 2001, that choice is completely out of our hands.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Not preachy. I promise.

Not preachy. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013)

Oh. So that’s how “it’s done”.

15-year-old Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is like any normal female in high-school. She wants to do well in school so that she has a better future; she wants to be sexually-active so that she can have something to brag about; she wants to meet guys and go out with them; and hell, she just wants to like guys in general. However, after finding herself unfulfilled in various attempts at finding the right guy that she likes both in the bed, and out. So, that’s when she decides to change things up on and start swinging the same side, especially since she falls head-over-heels with an openly-lesbian college student named Emma (Léa Seydoux). Together, the two share a lesbian love that is like your normal romance between two humans, except that Adèle wants to keep it hidden away from some people, like her parents, just so that she won’t be judged. But all social-issues aside, nothing else matters when you’re in love, which also means, the harder the blows are going to start coming at you.

If you’ve heard anything about this flick in the past year or so, more than likely, you’ve heard some weird and crazy things. For starters, the movie is rated NC-17, which in and of itself is already made for some controversy, due to the numerous graphic, all-up-in-your-grill sex scenes that involve plenty of female-on-female action. Secondly, director Abdellatif Kechiche has been publicly feuding with his two leading ladies, all because, as they say, they felt uncomfortable by the way he was filming those said sex scenes. My personal opinions aside, what you sign up for, is what you get, ladies. However, that’s just me and I’m insensitive. Whatever.

Anyway, there has been plenty of other controversy surrounding this movie that have to do with final-cuts, people being sued and eventually making amends. But at the end of the day, when all of the controversy is left being discussed and highlighted, we still have a beautiful movie about a two people falling in love. Yes, they are in fact two WOMEN that fall in love here, but that’s not what matters the most. The fact that these two are both females who live in France and can’t really share their love with the whole world around them, is just a crutch used for the bigger issue at hand: Love itself.

Her and I share the same face in that same type of situation. The only difference is that it's usually my dog waking me up caused I missed the alarm for the fifth time.

Her and I share the same face in that same type of situation. The only difference is that it’s usually my dog waking me up caused I missed the alarm for the fifth time.

Oh, why yes, yes, yes. There have been plenty of romantic-dramas in the past couple of years, and while none of them have really knocked my boots off, none of them have really been bad either. They’ve just been so “meh”, all because I like to think I know what love and relationships feel like. Most movies don’t really seem to nail that utter feel down the way that I imagine it my mind. And then this movie comes around, and totally changes the landscape.

What I like so much about Kechiche’s direction is that this, for lack of a better term, not-stylized in any way, shape or form. Basically, what you see is what you’re going to get; which, for worse, usually means a lot of shaky-cam, uncomfortable close-ups and scenes that seem to end and begin out of nowhere. That said, I think for a story like this, you don’t really need an inspired hand to show it, you just need to tell it with all of the compelling emotions, feelings and thoughts that breathe inside of it, and then I think you’re pretty good. So say what you will about his directing when it comes to the overlong sex scenes, the guy had a vision that was as simple and normal as they come, yet, they do wonders for the movie as it just lets the story give us what it wants to give, and then some.

Everything from beginning-to-end, from the first moment Adèle notices Emma, to the last time they ever lock eyes thinking the same thing, there’s a genuine feel to it. Not for a single moment, except for a couple of times at the end, did I ever feel like I was watching a phony romance, with two stock-characters who would never meet in a million years, or if they did, actually go so far as to start loving one another. Nope, that is not the case here. Instead, what we do have is a story of two people who feel perfect for each other in many ways, making the other happy, pleased and hopeful for what may come next in their lives; but at the same time, also notice that they aren’t, as human-beings, perfect. Like most human-beings, they tend to screw-up, make mistakes and do something that they awfully regret later on in life, but the fact that these two are in love, are together for some time and share so much together, so much more than just fluids and sexual-positions, there’s an heightened-level of emotion added to it.

Most of the time, I found myself and my past relationships in this one, but then again, that might just be me. For instance, the scene where Adèle hosts a house party that Emma throws for all of her artsy-fartsy, pretentious a-holes that she calls friends, is pitch perfect. You can tell that Adèle is this type of shy girl that’s only talkative and up-beat in her own personal-quarters, but anywhere else that’s outside of her comfort zone, she might as well be mute or not even exist. Hence why this whole scene is so painfully heartbreaking, yet, brutally realistic to watch, because as the night continues on and she begins to get more and more comfortable with these people, you can still tell that there’s a barrier she holds between her and these people; a barrier which contains the whole “her”, the same “her” that only Emma, and Emma alone knows. When you see her try her damn near hardest to connect and impress these fools, you can’t help but look away, but also realize at the same time: That might have been you at one point in your life, in love or not. And if not, then don’t worry, it’ll be coming to you very soon.

There’s plenty of moments like that in the whole movie, which makes sense why it doesn’t matter a lick that this is a romance-drama concerning two women. See, while the movie does bring up a few points about same-sex couples, who deserves to know about them and who doesn’t, the movie doesn’t go as far or as detailed with that angle because it’s superfluous to the real message this movie is trying to drive on home: Love is a beautiful aspect to have in life, yet, it is also a painful, terrible one as well. Everything about this movie will either make you laugh, cry, get nostalgic or have you call up that old ex of yours that deserves another try, and sometimes, it’s even all at the same time!

Just take my word for it and know that this movie will be staying with you for quite awhile, even when it is overlong at 3-hours. Even then.

Perhaps the strongest asset this movie has in its arsenal is the cast, but most importantly, the 19-year-old gal who plays our sexually-confused woman for the next three hours, Adèle Exarchopoulos. If you have never heard of, or even seen Exarchopoulos in anything ever before, no need to fear, because it doesn’t seem like many others have either. And that’s not a gripe against her at all, because I feel like, especially after this movie hits the States big time, her name is going to be popping up a whole lot more and more, as it totally should.

What’s so stunning about Exarchopoulos in this role is how she’s able to convey any sense of emotion she has dug into her character, just through a simple movement of her eyes or body. She’s got those expressive eyes that tell you one hundred things, at one time, while her body-motions let you know exactly how she is feeling in a certain environment, whether she’s comfortable with her surroundings or not. She doesn’t even have to say anything, and you already know what she’s feeling at any given moment in time, altogether, making this character one compelling lady to watch, especially since this is her movie, and she gets to show every side of her. Exarchopoulos doesn’t shy away from giving us every look, side or cranny that Adèle has, which is even more impressive considering that we first meet her when she’s 15, and follow her all throughout her early-20’s, where changes in personality, looks and taste-buds change at a very rapid, spit-fire pace.

Cheer up, dammit! You're in love! Don't take that ish for granted!

Cheer up, dammit! You’re in love! Don’t take that ish for granted!

We all see Adèle for what she is, what she isn’t, what she’s feeling and what she wants to feel, and yet, like I mentioned before, she isn’t perfect. However, she doesn’t have to be a perfect person to be watchable or even the least bit of sympathetic; she just has to give us a real reason why she matters to us, and why she deserves to be loved, especially by somebody like Emma. Obviously Exarchopoulos deserves mucho credit for going all-in when it comes to the sex scenes, but that doesn’t matter when you think about the rest of her performance and just how every second she has up on screen, she makes count, having you understand and feel for her character more and more as you follow her on this journey. Adèle was already a beautiful character to begin with, but Exarchopoulos makes her absolutely stunning in any way you can imagine a female character like hers as being. She may not even get nominated, but if I had to, she’d be my pick for Best Actress this year. So far, that is. However, I still feel pretty damn confident.

And it isn’t like Léa Seydoux is chopped-liver either as Emma, the one that falls for and catches Adèle’s attention right away, it’s just obvious who has the more meatier role out of the two. Still, with that being said, Seydoux still gives us a beautiful character in which we can understand why she’d fall for this young 15-year-old and even go so far as to drop everything she has in her life, just for her. Together, the two make a beautiful couple that may last in many people’s minds for ages and ages to come. However, let’s just hope those people’s minds don’t automatically go straight to their passionate, overtly sexual love scenes together. Although, that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

Consensus: The three-hours may be a bit unneeded, but Blue Is The Warmest Color whole overall production doesn’t get jaded one bit as it is not only a beautiful picture about the romance between two women, but a beautiful picture about romance itself, and all the raw, unrelenting and loving feelings that go with it.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The eventful first kiss, with an annoying sun in the background, just watching your ever move.

The eventful first kiss, with an annoying sun in the background, just watching your ever move. Whatta a clock-block.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Carrie (1976)

Come to think of it, all of my proms would have benefited from some pig blood.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your typical teenage outcast that has no friends, is a bit weird, a bit shy, and seems behind the curve in terms of her sexuality. However, what separates Carrie from all the other hot-shot bimbos in school, is that she has telekinetic powers, which gives her the ability to move anything or control anything with her mind. That means that anybody that fucks with her, might want to look out next time they go too far. And that warning doesn’t just apply to the kids that pick on her at school, it also goes without saying to her bible-thumping mama (Piper Laurie) who believes everything her daughter does in order to grow up and be apart of the rest of the world, is a sin. She may be right, she may be wrong. Who knows? But once Carrie gets asked to the prom by the studly, popular Tommy Ross (William Katt), well then, her mom settles down a bit. However, once Carrie and Tommy do get to the prom, something happens that not only changes Carrie’s life, but everybody else around hers as well. Remember those powers?

"Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?"

“Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?”

With the remake coming out this weekend and looking like nothing more than another cash-grab that Hollywood churns out at least 2 or 3 times a year, I thought now is as good a time as ever to give this one another watch, my 7th altogether. And even after seeing it 7 times, I have to say that I’m more impressed than I’ve ever been before. Not because I realized that Brian De Palma was a great director at one time that was so full of beauty, style and sensibility to spare, but because the movie still freaked me the hell out in ways that I didn’t expect to. Because, in case you forgot, this is the 7th time I’ve seen Carrie by now, and I thought that may have been 7 times too many.

How wrong I was.

But like I was saying about De Palma, knowing all about what he does with his flicks and the sense of style, look and feel he brings to each of them, I appreciated this one a hell of a lot more. Of course every time something scary or shocking happens, we get the same old Psycho, screeching piece of score music he seems to love the heck out of so much that he uses it in just about all of his movies, but the Hitchcock-similarities can only go on for so long until you start to forget about them and just realize that De Palma is really putting all of his might into making this material work more than just your standard, horror movie, and it pays off in the long run.

Take for instance, that infamous opening sequence which yes, seems a little perverted to be mentioning but seriously, all nudity aside, the opening sequence is really something of a beauty. De Palma films it as if it were a dream, or hell, a man’s dream where all of these young high school girls are running around naked, whipping one another with towels and doing every other intimate act that isn’t full-on banging. And then, we get the full show where we see a girl all by herself in the shower, really feeling herself up and getting her rocks off like this is her first time, as it most likely is. For any dude who saw this back when it first came out in ’76, I can only imagine what the hell was running through their minds and their pants at this moments; just like I can only imagine what the hell was running through those same minds and pants when, seconds later, this horny girl’s period-blood starts to come dripping down. This not only ruins the dream-like feel that De Palma gave this movie, but it also ruins any preconceived notion you may have had that this movie is going to play by-the-rules and give you what you want.

After this opening sequence, it’s a full-on terror fest from De Palma who gives every frame an ounce of beauty that sticks with you and makes you feel as if you’re really watching a high school right in front of your eyes. The bullying; the gossip; the hooking up; the underage drinking; the mischievous acts in the middle of the night; the stealing of daddy’s car; etc. It all makes you feel like you’re watching a normal teen, high school movie, except that this one is filled with more horror than any high school I’ve ever attended. And yes, I am talking about the other memorable sequence in this movie: The prom scene.

Once Carrie gets all of the pig’s blood poured onto her, is made a mockery in front of every one, and loses her shit, then this is where De Palma really takes advantage and feeds on our attention. His constant use of the split-screen format during this sequence really gives you a full feel on what sort of damage Carrie is doing to these people and this area, and it really sticks with you. You hear the people shouting, screaming in pain, terror and agony, and yet, you know that there’s nothing you or anybody else can do about it. Their time has come, Carrie has decided so. And in a way, so has De Palma since he gives us all the pleasure of seeing the most despicable characters go out in some of the nastiest, most disturbing ways possible, and yet, we still can’t help but feel a bit bad when it actually does happen. Is this De Palma’s own sick, twisted way of trying to shove all of the hatred we’ve had for these people right back in our faces? Or, is he simply giving us what we want? If he was, then wouldn’t the reward feel much greater, and less depressing?

It’s strange that one could think about this type of stuff with a movie like Carrie, but all of these years later, it still brings up plenty of questions and ideas that may not always get answered or be fully fleshed-out, yet, by the same token, still toy with your mind and have you thinking a lot more than you feel like you should of a movie about a possessed-teenager. However, something also tells me that we the same thought-process won’t be needed for this remake neither, no matter how interesting it sounds to me that Kimberly Pierce is directing it.

But anyway, back to the original. I think what also allows Carrie to stand the test of time is not just De Palma’s approach to the material in terms of his style, but how he approaches the character of Carrie herself. You see her as a bit of a weirdo who can’t socialize with people, and says some weird stuff out of the blue, that only gets followed-up with laughter and more heckling towards her. Yet, you can’t really blame her for being this way since her mom is such a nut-job by the way she raised her, and also, the fellow kids she goes to school with are as evil as she actually is. So, that’s why when she pleads with her mama about wanting to “fit in” and “be normal”, you can’t help but sympathize with the girl and hope her dream actually does come true, even if you already know plenty beforehand that they don’t in fact come true. This makes the movie feel like the classic tale of Cinderella, mixed with Satan, and it makes you feel even worse for Carrie, because all she wants to do is be accepted among her fellow class-mates. Don’t we all feel like that, huh?

Wait for it...wait for it...wait...for....it...

Wait for it…wait for it…wait…for….it…

And you got to give a bunch of credit to Sissy Spacek for going to the extreme lengths she went to in order to make this character, which couldn’t have been all that hard to begin with since you know that she’s the one you should care for the most, despite her “ability” to do bad things. However, she does those said bad things to bad people, so that ain’t so bad, right? Right! Anyway, Spacek is really good in this role by the way she just carries herself from scene-to-scene without saying too much at all, yet, totally demands your attention, especially in that iconic prom scene. Once those eyes open-wide and you see the real demon within her come out, then you know its payback time and it adds even more insult to injury to the that whole sequence. As if that was even humanly possible in the first place.

Then of course we have everybody’s favorite (or not-so favorite) bible-preaching mama, played so terrifyingly by Piper Laurie that it will surprise the heck out of you when you realize that this was her first performance in a movie in 15 years. However, what’s so shocking about that fact is that she doesn’t show a single bit of rust and commands the screen every time she shows up on it. Of course it definitely helps that all she has to do is be all over-the-top, shout and be irate about any decision that her daughter makes, but she still makes it compelling, as if this lady really is THIS nuts, and does love her daughter THIS much. The last scene she gets is very, very odd and may scare people, but for all of the wrong reasons. You be the judge of that.

It’s also nice to watch this movie to see all of the young and familiar faces that would soon become big stars that would stand the test of time, whereas others, well, they have a solid couple years or so, and then fade away once time simply forgets about them. As poorly-acted as he was in his role, it was still fun to see John Travolta play the hick behind the whole “pig blood” fiasco, who also doesn’t like to be called “dumb shit”; Nancy Allen is less annoying than usual and makes a high school you love to hate, especially since you know that there were so many like her at your own school; William Katt is a bit corny as Tommy Ross, but I think that was kind of the point, I could be wrong; Amy Irving is good as the most sympathetic one out of the catty-girls club who actually cares for Carrie and wants her just to have an “experience worth remembering” (needless to say, she gets what she wanted); and Betty Buckley was also good as the gym teacher, Ms. Collins who cares for Carrie and looks out for every step of the way, even though we’re never quite sure if she’s totally on her side by the end. Overall, great cast and it’s nice to see where most of them got their foots in the door. Except for Nancy Allen. I could have done without her.

Consensus: May be dated in some spots, but overall, Carrie is a horror flick worth seeing not just for the numerous slayings of every kid you ever wanted to teach a lesson back in high school, but because De Palma gives this movie all of his creative-power and it pays off well in the end, and in a way, for Carrie herself as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

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