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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

That guy pulling you over on the freeway? Yeah, he’s totally high on coke.

Terence McDonough (Nicolas Cage) is not the type of cop you want to mess with. And I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a dangerous dude that will practically throw the book at you if you go past a stop sign and give him lip. Nope, I mean it in the way that he’s as crooked as a squiggly-line, is always perked-up on coke, oxy, heroin, whatever the hell he can find, and never seems to be in the right state of mind. Yeah, he’s that type of cop and the one that nobody wants to be around, nor be on the opposite end of the law with, hence why most of them just stay out of his way and let him do his thing, as insane as it may be. However, all of McDonough’s wild times of drugs, sex, alcohol, hookers, and all sorts of other debauchery finally begins to catch up with him once he has to get involved with the brutal murder of local family. Almost too involved, one could say.

Yes, I know. If any of you are long time readers out there reading this now, you will most likely come to know that I have indeed reviewed this back in the day when it first came out, four years ago. However, times have changed for me and this movie since those years ago, and I’ll tell you exactly what:

1.) For starters, I’ve become more in-tune with what makes a good film, actually considered “good” and all of the other essential parts here and there.

2.) I’ve seen more and more Nicolas Cage performances that I not only like, but came so far as to loving.

3.) I’ve seen more and more Werner Herzog movies, both documentaries and narrative-films that I not only like, but also came so far as to loving.

4.) And last, but sure as hell not least is the fact that I’ve actually seen the original, Abel Ferarra’s Bad Lieutenant, and needless to say, this movie swims laps, and then some, around that one.

"Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!"

Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!”

I know that the original and this remake don’t really share so much in common, except for the general plot-line and a tad bit of the name, but overall, the two flicks seem to have some sort of connection that goes further than just same characters and plot-outlines; it’s more that the flicks show their directors, and their main stars at the peak of their game, with one combination doing better than the other. The one combination that really worked to it’s ability was this movie, and no cheap shots at the original or Harvey Keitel’s penis, but this movie is a lot better and a lot more worth watching, especially if you’re in a happy, average mood. If you’re a deep, dark, depressing, and spiritually-thoughtful mood, then give the original a shot and see how many times you never look at Harvey Keitel the same again.

Where this movie works the best in, is not through its conventional plot, or through the twists and turns it sometimes throws at us, it’s more how the movie paces itself and makes this more than just a standard, police-procedural where we see a cop who’s obviously battling some inner-demons of his own creation, also come to terms with the harsh realities of the world outside of him. Some of those ideas are scattered throughout this movie, but most importantly, it’s a movie that shows one man’s descent from hell, to total purgatory. It’s also about every step he takes closer and closer towards crime and paying-off his debts, he gets further and further away from what makes a person considered “moral” or “good”. Plenty of those discussions come up, but they never seem to be used in a heavy-handed way like we’re used to seeing. Herzog’s better than that and so is Cage.

Together, these two compliment each other a whole lot better the second time on seeing them. With Herzog, everything new, cool, or fun that he brings to this story and the screen, he runs with and never lets anybody, or anything get in the way of it. It doesn’t matter what people are used to seeing with plots like these; if Herzog has an idea in his head that he wants to use, he’s going to use it and you better be happy with it. Sometimes, the decisions he takes are a little goofy, and take away from what the movie’s whole “message” is supposed to be, but they’re never anything too far-out to the point of where I lost any idea of just what I was watching. Despite all of the P-O-V shots from iguanas, alligators, and fishes, the movie still makes sense and builds up to a cohesive, understandable story that’s not hard to follow along with, nor is it any less compelling to watch. You don’t need some slick twist or turns to juice up a story like this, all you need is an interesting enough central character to really keep your eyes glued, and with the character of Terence McDonough, and Nicolas Cage playing him, you couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

Most of you may already know this around, but I’m a Nicolas Cage fan through-and-through. No matter how many bombs the guy has made in the past; no matter how many random chicks he’s dated; and especially, no matter how many times he’s tried to be cool and just hasn’t let it work for him, the guy always gets a pass from me because of those one-in-a-million shots he gets, to where he is able to prove to us that he is indeed not just a talented actor, but one of the best working today. That’s what I love so much about the guy in everything he does, especially in this. He’s insane, nutso, bonkers-as-hell, high all of the time, and is always on the verge of a mental breakdown, whether it be the Nic Cage I’m talking about on-screen or off.

He and Herzog work well with one another because they do things together, that you’d never expect them to be able to pull-off, and do it so successfully.

Don't be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

Don’t be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

For instance, there are plenty of long, tracking-shots where it’s just Nic Cage’s face going through all sorts of emotions, and not a single one of them are here to be put in here. Even with lines like “Keep shooting! His soul’s still dancing!”, or “I’ll kill you all to the break of dawn”, where Cage’s sense of being off-kilter is almost ridiculous, you never lose respect for this character, nor for Cage and his ability as an actor either. Still, you laugh your ass off at him, but also with him as it’s made pretty clear to us that not only does Cage know what type of performance he’s giving, but so does the rest of the cast and crew involved. They are all just there to have a little bit of fun, and watch the master at work.

Once Herzog eventually gets back to filming actual movies with a narrative in force, I hope to see more of Cage get involved with them, because not only does Herzog know what to do with him, but he also allows him to run the show with total faith and trust thrown firmly in the dude’s grasps.

Even though it is totally Cage’s show from start to finish, the supporting cast actually helps him out as well. Eva Mendes is playing it surprisingly straight-laced as his coke-addled, hooker girlfriend that loves him, but also can’t stop whoring around to protect her life for the hell of it; Xzibit is surprisingly intense as the main drug-lord of New Orleans that Terence takes a liking to; Val Kilmer is fun and entertaining to watch, just because he always finds a way to bring out that pitch perfect comedic-timing of his; it’s always a joy to see Fairuza Balk back on the big-screen, especially with her supporting some pretty fine, sexy lingerie; and even Brad Dourif gets to have some fun as the exasperated bookie who just wants his freakin’ money, man!

Overall, everybody’s good, but it’s Nic Cage’s show, and you can’t ever fuck with that.

Consensus: Though it’s a very odd, very strange experience to go through, Herzog, Cage, and the rest of the cast and crew keep Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans surprisingly grounded in a sense of emotional-reality where drugs is more than just a reliance for people; it’s practically life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider."

“Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

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The Dreamers (2004)

Three’s always a better party.

American university student Matthew (Michael Pitt) arrives in Paris during the year 1968, having no clue what to do with himself. However, he loves movies and he’s young at heart, so he ends up going the local theaters, as well as to whatever protests the young kids are holding around there. That’s where Matthew runs into the wild and blissful Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), twins that do everything together (and I do mean everything). Being that they’re all the same age and have the same interests in music, food and movies, they both take a liking to Matthew and invite him over for a dinner that goes sour. However, Matt stays the night over and the next day, finds out that both Theo and Isabelle’s parents are gone, leaving the house all to themselves where they can do whatever the hell it is they want. Predictably, this leads to a lot rough-housing and misbehaving, but things get a bit serious once Matthew loses a game of “Guess Which Movie” and is forced to have sex with Isabelle; something he obviously wants to do, but not in front of her brother, and definitely not nearly as soon either. But he does, and that’s when things get a bit tense between the three.

You have to hand it to Bernardo Bertolucci, the dude sure does love his sex. But also, he sure does love movies. And in a smart way, he’s able to combine them both here into one story that’s a love-triangle of sorts; one that’s an ode to movies as a whole; and another that has something to say about the changing of times during this French New Wave period. To be honest, though his intentions are noble, Bertolucci’s combination doesn’t always work and you sometimes have to wonder how much of this movie-talk actually pertains to the story itself, but there’s something neat that he does with this film.

"Yeah, I think that's exactly where the cold sore is."

“Yeah, I think that’s exactly where the cold sore is.”

See, a lot has been made about it’s NC-17 rating and to be honest, it’s quite deserved. The sex itself isn’t too graphic to where it’s practically a hardcore porno, but it’s all the nudity that gets the rating. For a good portion of this movie, these characters are naked and just absolutely flaunting whatever they’ve got, while they’re dancing, talking about movies, smoking a joint, drinking wine, listening to music, or just doing whatever the hell it is that they want to do. Why is that? Well, it’s because they’re young and it’s the dawn of the French sexual age in which practically everybody banged everybody, they all had a fun time doing so, and nobody cared either way.

And while for most movies, that aspect would seem forced, as if the creator behind it was just trying to shock you by featuring numerous shots of pubic hair and penises, not here. Bertolucci loves what it is that he has on display here, whether it be the characters, the movie’s they’re referencing and sometimes acting out, or just whatever political ideals they express to one another. Sometimes it can be a bit pretentious, but I was able to give it a slide because that’s just who these characters were: Young, full of ideas, always wanting to have a good time, and not waste a single second of their lives.

To me, it was fun to watch. Not because I got to see Eva Green naked on numerous occasions (although that was definitely something of a plus), but because these kids were fun to be around. Even though they felt like they were deeper than they really were, there was something rather endearing about the way they handled themselves regardless of what it was they were doing. Sure, they could be lying naked on the ground, or all huddled together in the tub or something, but it never seemed to bore me. Maybe it was because their constant-references of classic films gave the film-buff inside of me an extra, energized boost, or maybe it was because I was just enjoying hanging around these kids, as if they were my own friends I’d be around (presumably with clothes off, of course).

But either way, they were just characters I liked to watch and listen to. It didn’t matter if they were up their own asses on whatever they thought was “right” or “wrong” for the world, it was more that they had ideas about the world in general and were willing to express them with such passion and frivolity. They weren’t going to back down from any argument, even if they seem destined to lose it and because I too was once in their shoes (still am, sort of), I couldn’t help but smile. They’re not dumb, but they’re not smart either; they’re just young people, man.

And believe it or not, they’re the future. So don’t piss them off, pops!

Speaking of these kids, all three are great. Previously mentioned Green gets to do a whole lot with her female screen-presence, which is more than just being naked and it’s something of a sight to see, because she commands the screen with everything she’s got. Her character isn’t an easy one to pin down and when you start to see that there’s more to the mystery that surrounds her, you start to feel for this character as, at the end of the day, she’s just a woman looking for a love in her life. And although that love in her life may be her jealousy-ridden brother, Louis Garrel still brings out enough in this Theo character to make it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy; he’s just very passionate about what it is that he believes. Pretty much like most young people really.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I've had with the older bro's of the gals I've bedded. Only slightly.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I’ve had with the older bro’s of the gals I’ve bedded. Only slightly.

But the one who really does something with his character and almost walks away with this movie is Michael Pitt as Matthew. Pitt’s great here because he goes from awkward and shy, to being an absolute lovely, spirited presence that soaks up in the moment and actually has a thing or two on his mind that he’d like to get. In fact, by the end, he ends up being the voice of reason and had this movie gone deeper into that aspect, I feel like we could have really gotten a stronger character here. Even more importantly, maybe even a stronger movie.

Because like what I was blabbering on about earlier, not all of this film works; specifically, what point it is that Bertolucci is trying to get across through these characters, their ideas, their speeches and most importantly, what’s happening all around them. What he tries to do is that I think he tries to get a point across about why it’s important that these kids stick up for what they believe in and how they should go about doing so, whether it be through a peaceful or non-peaceful protest, and while it’s nice to see him shed some light on these ideas, they never seem to go anywhere. And even when they do, it’s almost too late in the movie to where it feels shoe-horned in there to give it a bigger sense of meaning.

You know, more meaning than just a bunch of kids being naked and having steamy, hot sex. Which is fine and all, because the scenes are lit perfectly and give you the sense that they are literally loving it in the moment, but when it tries to be something more than just that, it sort of stumbles. Maybe had Bertolucci just made this an even smaller, more intimate character-study of these three characters, we probably would have had a tighter, better with a more lasting impact. But sadly, we don’t.

We just have a whole lot of shots of Michael Pitt’s penis and Eva Green’s bum. So you can’t say that there isn’t something for everyone.

Consensus: While it would like to be deeper than it really is, the Dreamers still works in giving us three wonderful performances from the main cast, as well as presenting a story that touches on more than just a whole lot of sex.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

This Is Not a Film (2012)

It actually isn’t.

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film-maker who is quite known for his movies pushing the boundaries and challenging the way that country’s government is run. So much so that he eventually lands himself under some serious hot water, when he is placed under house-arrest. Even worse though, he is given a 20-year ban on making, writing, or even producing a movie. Also to add insult to injury, he can’t leave the country either. Basically Panahi is supposed to just sit around all day, watch movies, go on the computer, feed his pet lizard, stay with his family, and wait around as a possible rebuttal is being drawn-up. But Panahi isn’t going to wait any longer; not just because he feels like pissing off the government anymore than he already has, but because he has ideas, dammit! And you know what? He’s going to try and film them to the best that he can. That’s when he decides to give his good buddy, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, a call to come over and help him film everything that he’s doing. Which, for the most part, consists of him talking about this idea for his next movie, his frustration with the situation he’s being thrown into, and the life he’s had, up until this point.

So yeah, this is a pretty tricky film in the sense that it’s a documentary, but not really; it’s about this guy’s life, but it’s also just about this one day in his life, as opposed to it being a biography of his life until this point. Any way that we’re supposed to know about Panahi’s childhood or his introduction into the filming-world is all up to us to find out for ourselves. Which yes, can be quite frustrating if you’re used to ordinary documentaries just telling you everything you need to know about its subject, but then again, this isn’t an ordinary documentary.

Still surprised I didn't see any FYC ad's going around town for that lizard. He practically steals the show.

Still surprised I didn’t see any FYC ad’s going around town for that lizard. He practically steals the show. Or whatever this is that they’re filming.

As if you haven’t been able to already tell so far.

But regardless of if we get any background info on Panahi or not in this movie, it doesn’t matter, because what it does so well is that it places us in a day in the life of this guy as he’s under this peculiar situation. And by “a day in the life”, I mean exactly that – we start the movie with this guy in his kitchen, eating some sort of bread, talking on the phone, and ending it all with him outside as the night crowd rages on. We start the film seeing him, and end it, seeing what he sees it. And that’s pretty much how the whole film rolls for the most part.

May sound like a drag to some, and for a good portion of it, it totally is, but there’s still something quite invigorating about spending a whole day with someone you just literally met, and seeing everything that they are seeing. Which is to say that there’s not much camera-trickery to be found here; we get a couple of glimpses into a flick of his past and even his iPhone’s video-camera, but other than that, everything we see is solely from the view-point of Panahi and whatever it is that his camera films. It can either be him mapping-out set-designs for his next “possible” movie, or him just sitting on the computer, browsing as his lizard crawls up on him and scratches him with its sharp nails.

Sounds monotonous and somewhat boring, but I think that may be the point. And because that’s the point, it’s not boring to watch. We get a sense early on that this is a man who is genuinely upset about the position that he is thrown into and rather than pissing, moaning and ranting on and on for days about it, he thinks of ways that he could get any sort of creativity out of his system that may at all be possible. Sure, it sucks for him to be stuck inside his house all day during one of the craziest days of the year, while his family is all out and about, but he makes the best of it and there’s something nice and rather endearing in seeing that.

However, that isn’t to say it’s just Panahi the whole damn time; right around the middle of the flick, we get a visitor in Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who doesn’t do much talking, but at least takes the camera for awhile and just films Panahi as he does whatever he wants (except go outside or make movies, that is). Because of him, this movie is possible and it makes us see the troubled, upset man that Panahi is. Yet again though, that isn’t to say he’s constantly whining about where he’s at and why he’s there; he understands why he’s being punished, by whom and is just trying to make it through it all. For that, it’s a bit of an inspirational tale, though it’s not hokey.

As I imagine Lars von Trier literally plans most of his movies out.

As I imagine Lars von Trier literally maps his movies out.

Once again, it’s just this guy’s life; more specifically, a day in his life. Not much happens, then again, not much needs to happen. Just seeing him let loose with all of the smart, creative ideas he has in his head and watching as he lets that spill out onto the floor around him, is really something of a sight; something I imagine almost each and every film-maker does with an inspired idea of theirs. Of course there are some brief detours (one in particular, a lady who knocks on his door trying to have him take her dog for her), but nothing to the point of where we lose our focus: Jafar Panahi. But then again though, there isn’t really much of a focus to begin with. We’re just watching him, his day, and occasionally hearing what he has to say, or seeing what he has to do.

As I said before too, some may find that utterly the most boring thing on the face of the planet, and I can’t necessarily disagree with that. Parts of it seem stale and uneventful, but that’s just how life is. Most importantly, that’s just how life is for this man, Jafar Panahi. He’s a creative-mind that wants to be able to use his talents, but can’t and because of that, he’s suffering and finding anyway he can possibly let all of his creativity out. Even if it does get him in some trouble.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s quite admirable.

Consensus: Though not an ordinary, conventional documentary by any means, This Is Not a Film still is unique in the way that it presents this man’s life, not through background info that reads like a WikiPedia page, but through this one day in his life where he has nowhere else to be except for his house, with his camera and with his creative-mind.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like the Blair Witch Project, except 21st century technology. And more accessible portable-devices.

Sort of like that scene from the Blair Witch Project, except 21st century technology. And more accessible portable-devices.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Cold Weather (2011)

Detectives are so mainstream, man.

A forensics-science major named Doug (Chris Lankenau) returns to his hometown of Portland and shares an apartment with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Doug doesn’t really have much ambition with his life, so he takes what he can get, even if that is getting a job at a local ice factory, where he meets a dude named Carlos (Raúl Castillo). Together, they form a nice friendship that kind of hits a rough-patch when Carlos starts trying to aim his sights on Doug’s ex, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), but not as much of a rough-patch as when the gal goes missing. In search of Rachel and a sense of life itself, the three all go running around like crazy, as if they were younger, smaller-budget versions of Sherlock Holmes themselves, which makes it even more ironic since they read him on a regular-basis.

The whole idea behind this flick is obvious, but also smart in a way as well. It’s a mumblecore movie, which means we get a whole bunch of scenes featuring young, twentysomethings just sitting around, drinking and/or smoking, talking about how much life blows, how much their parents blow, and when they aren’t doing that, they’re mostly just staring into space, contemplating what to do next with their lives. Most mumblecore movies seem to be like that, which gets it down for us on a real level, one that we can connect with a lot easier than most of these big-budget, shallow, mainstream flicks. However, this mumblecore is slightly different from the rest because not only does it play with the conventions of the same genre it’s to be considered apart of, but actually ends up being a mystery-thriller. But hold up, because the joke isn’t quite done yet. Rather than it being a movie about an actual mystery, with actual reasons for a bunch of thrilling moments, the movie features zip of that aspect.

"Wow. This pipe has given me the most excitement I've had ever since I turned 22."

“Wow. This pipe has given me the most excitement I’ve had ever since I turned 22.”

That’s right, the whole 96-minutes of this flick is basically about nothing. However, that’s the whole point of this flick: Nothing. Right when we meet these characters, we realize that most of them live empty, boring lives where the most excitement they have is either playing poker with two or three friends, getting drunk, or going to Star Trek conventions that feature some of the lamest characters of the whole franchise. It does take place in Portland, so it should come as a surprise to almost no one that these people are so bored and tired with their lives, which makes it all the more reason for them to get all hyped-up over the possibility of a crime that needs to be solved. I almost feel guilty calling it “a crime”, because once we actually find out what’s happening behind this mystery and all, it comes off as a bit of a disappointment by how uneventful and smart it actually is.

Then again though, that’s sort of the point of this movie.

Writer/director Aaron Katz seems to have a good grasp on what makes any movie, no matter how big or small, interesting. Yes, there are plenty of scenes where these characters are seemingly doing nothing, talking about nothing, and planning on doing nothing the next day and so on and so forth, but it feels honest and realistic. Also, Katz never shines a bad light on these characters either. So what if they’re uninspired and constantly dry? They’re actual people, you know? They have feelings, want to do human things, and also want to have fun every once and awhile as well. Showing these characters in that type of light is what saves this flick from being uninteresting and also gets it out of the genre of mumblecore, since most flicks associated with that genre either give every one who watches it a bad vibe right after.

However, that could just be me.

All of that can especially be said for our main protagonist, Doug, played very well by Chris Lankenau. I’ve never seen Lankenau in anything ever before in my life and I don’t think I will again anytime soon, however, the guy does well with a character that could have easily been a totally unlikable person from the start. Doug seems like he has all of the promise in the world to make something of his life, but is a bit of a loser in the way he just sits around, mopes all day, and gets lame-ass jobs that don’t pay much or give him much to do anyway. Then again though, that’s life so you got to take what you can get. But there’s a nice naturalism to Lankenau that made me feel like I was watching a dude practically play himself, without any strings attached. I don’t want to say he has much charisma going for himself to carry this movie, but he does have enough moments where you wonder if he ever acted before-hand, or just tried something out as a hobby. Wouldn’t be surprised by either decision of his.

Life is catching up with you, indie-boy. Better start running for the suburbs!

Life is catching up with you, indie-boy. Better start running for the suburbs!

The same type of naturalism that Lankenau has going for himself can be said about the two other actors in this movie, Trieste Kelly Dunn and Raúl Castillo. Dunn is great as Doug’s sister because there’s something about her that makes you not want to like her, but you still do because she’s just as bored with life as Doug is, she just has more to show of it. The scenes with them together are great and probably connected with me a bit more than the usual, average person because of the relationship my own sissy and I have. Sometimes we get pissed at one another and can’t believe how ridiculous the other one’s being, but we love each other, are always there to talk to, and like to have a good time with as well. That touched me, not just because of my own relationship with my sister, but because the writing between them two are the best moments, and Dunn and Lankenau feel like an actual brother-sister combo.

Castillo is also very good as the buddy that Doug makes at work, and actually has you believe that these two random people would spark-up a friendship, despite it occurring practically overnight. Castillo has a certain sense of naturalism and likability to his act and character that makes him seem like the only dude from this movie that could break out and make something of his career, just as long as he continues to get more juicy roles. Fingers crossed on that one. The one person of this cast that I didn’t mention is not mentioned for a reason and that’s Robyn Rikoon as the gal who goes missing. Despite having a name that sounds like she was a long, lost member of the Loony Tunes, Rikoon’s able to be taken seriously for a good chunk of the movie, until shit gets a bit serious and her acting goes a bit overboard. I don’t want to say how or why, but just to let you know that out of everybody else in this cast, she’s the only one seems to actually be “acting”, which is a problem for a movie that’s trying to be so real, and came close to pulling it off so well.

Consensus: Most will wonder why Cold Weather is so aimless and pondering with its premise, but soon will actually begin to realize that’s the point once the tension, the mystery, and the actual story begins to kick in.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yup, I'm bored already."

“Yup, I’m bored already.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

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

Snowpiercer (2014)

Public transportation really is a pain.

In 2014, the government is afraid that global warming will rip our worlds to shreds, so they decide to test out an experiment which will supposedly counteract it. The problem is, that doesn’t happen. Instead, nearly all life on Earth is knocked out, with only a few hundred or so left riding on this super duper, seemingly never-ending train called “the Snowpiercer”. It doesn’t seem ideal at first, but when the world outside of you is a frozen wonderland, you take what you can get; but don’t tell that to those who have to stay, live and survive at the tail-end of the train. They’re considered “the low-life’s of society” that live poor, dress poor, and eat these black gelatin-bricks, they’re are told is “protein”; whereas the rich sit up front, eat their steaks and live in total luxury. It’s been like this for quite some time, but finally, the poor have had enough of being treated like total and utter crap! That’s when Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) decides that it’s his time to step up, take charge and map-out a way to get to the front of the train, find the creator, find that engine, and basically, take over the train as a whole. Sounds simple enough, but with the riot-team this train has, getting there is only half of the mission.

It’s taken quite some time for us Americans to get to see this movie, but finally, Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut is here! And yes, even though I just recently got into him, I have to say, from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been impressed. I like how Joon-ho is seemingly able to take all of these different genres of film, throw them into a blender, add a drop of sugar or two, and somehow, still be able to have it all come out fun, exciting, interesting, original, and best of all, cohesive.

"Call me 'Cap', one more time."

“Call me ‘Cap’, one more time.”

That’s why, as ambitious as this project sounds, I was a little weary. Not because the reviews for it haven’t been good (actually, quite the opposite), but because it seemed like the type of film that gets so hyped-up in the States, because it’s so different/original from anything our lazy, cheeseburger-lovin’ asses see. It doesn’t matter if the film is bad or anything, as long as it features something else other than giant robots facing off against one another, then hey, strap me in coach, I’m ready to play. Personally, I don’t mind that with some movies, but maybe with this here flick, I was more inclined to be against it, solely because everybody and their weird, stay-inside-all-day-nerdy-brothers are loving the hell out of it.

But fear not, ladies and germs! DTMMR has seen Snowpiercer and yet again, DTMMR has given into what the rest of the world has been saying: It’s pretty rad.

That said, the movie isn’t perfect and I think that’s the most important fact to note right away. Because see, while this movie is all sorts of ambitious, strange and, for lack of a better word, “different”, it can be a bit messy. Not just with the action that spills out all over the place at times, but because the balance Joon-ho has here between having people beat the bloody hell out of one another, with said people sitting down, chatting about life and what it all means, isn’t very well-done. You can tell whenever the brakes on this movie are hit, because it doesn’t just slow everything down to a slower-speed, it slows absolutely everything down to a freakin’ halt.

That’s not to say that whenever the movie wanted to sit down, chat for awhile and be more than just “poor vs. rich; fuck yeah!”, it was bad or annoying, it was just clearly obvious that Joon-ho felt like he had to include those moments in there, just so that people wouldn’t be upset that there wasn’t any “substance” behind all of the brutal murders and acts of violence. And although those said brutal murders and acts of violence are a bunch of juicy-fun to watch and see play out, there was still a desperate need for this movie to be about something “more”. Not just in the existential-crisis kind of way where we all take a break or two from the action, to sit around and cry for hours on end about how, one day, we’re all going to die; but in the way that we’re given a story that feels like there’s a reason to it existing.

And for the most part, Joon-ho totally delivers on that point. Not because it’s fun to see a bunch of poor people dressed like chimney-sweepers from a Dickens novel, battle it out with a bunch of riot police, but because you get lost in their cause and what it is that they want. Although, I will admit, it was more interesting seeing as how this movie never quite addresses what it is that these poor ones are wholly fighting for; sure, they want to get to the front of the train, get to that engine, talk to the owner of it and become the big men and women on campus, but in all honesty, what exactly is it that they’re going to do when they get up there? It’s never really brought to our attentions (not just by the film, but by the characters themselves), which is why it’s so thrilling to see them battle their way to the front, and even more thrilling to watch them as they figure out and come to the realization that they have to think of something, and something quick if they want this train to be theirs.

That the film doesn’t feel the need to hit us over the head with non-stop “we’re the 1%” metaphors, really felt like a refresher. But was even more refreshing was just seeing an sci-fi/action blockbuster be exactly all that it should be. It has heart; it has originality; it has blood; it has violence; it has fun; it has sci-fi; it has themes about people taking over control of a situation that they either can’t get out of, or don’t want in the first place that almost everyone can relate to (looking at you, Grandpa); and, to add a cherry on top, there’s a wonderful ensemble cast to go along the ride with as well.

Also, another interesting note to be made about this movie, is it’s cast. Not only are there some pretty big names, but they all comes from different shapes, sizes and regions of the world that it feels so strange having them together, on the same screen at times. Sure, I expected Jamie Bell and John Hurt to eventually cross paths in the film world, but you could have never told me that you’d expect to see Ewen Bremner and Octavia Spencer just hanging out, side-by-side, giving their enemies hell. Then again, maybe you could; maybe, I’m just a strange duckling. But either way, it’s a pretty unique cast that not only works to the movie’s advantage, but also helps make the idea of the whole world being thrown onto this ultra-train all the more believable.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

You can’t just have a dystopian-set futuristic world in which survivors from all throughout the globe have survived, and there be all American white guys just hanging around and shooting the shit about the good old days of bull-shitting about the Bush administration. This is the world, man! And last time I checked: It’s pretty damn big!

But although the cast is huge and pretty eclectic, the one who really leads this to the finish line is none other than an American white guy as is: Chris Evans.

Yes, for most of you hormone-fueled women (as well as gay man), Chris Evans has definitely been the pleasure of your eye-lids for quite some time, but he’s changing that all up now with this role. Not by throwing some dirt on himself and growing a beard, but by showing us that he’s an actor baby, and that he can sure as hell do exactly that, which is act! I’ve always had much faith in Evans as an actor, and here, he’s given free reign to not only command this group of his and be a leader, but also command this movie into being something more than just a sci-fi tale full of havoc, blood and destruction. He gives it some levity; most importantly so during one of the last scenes in the movie in which he talks about his history on that train, why he needs to do what he needs to do, and the type of effect it’s had on him for the past twenty or so years. Not only is it one of the most emotional scenes of the whole movie (of which there isn’t many), but it’s definitely the pinnacle of Evan’s acting-ability and shows that he can play both tough, angry, and emotionally distraught, all at the same time.

A very impressive feat. Try topping that, Downey.

Consensus: Internally, Snowpiercer is a messy flick, but it’s hardly ever boring, intriguing, nor against a crazy, out-of-the-box idea it didn’t like, making it one of the better, more memorable blockbusters of the summer.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess they don't have showers in the future. Oh well. Works for me!

Guess they don’t have showers in the future. Yay! Now I’d have an excuse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

They Came Together (2014)

So if I don’t profess my love to a girl in the pouring rain, she won’t fall in love with me? Damn rom-coms!

Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) are practically perfect for one another. They’re both two kind, gentle and easy-going people who just got out of relationships and need somewhere to start fresh and anew. That’s why it’s so weird that when they finally meet up, there’s so much distaste between them both. It’s strange really, and nobody knows how or why it is the way it is, but that’s just the fact. However, late one night, when Joel has some time to think to himself and even talk to his “baby brother” (Max Greenfield), he realizes that it’s time to nut up, or shut up. So, he asks Molly out on a date and they both realize they’re perfect for one another in every which way. They compliment each other; they have wonderful sex; and Joel is even something of a father-figure to Molly’s son. However, there is problem in that Joel works at a Candy Research Factory that preys on knocking out all of the smaller, mom-and-pop chain candy stores; one in particular they are looking at is one owned by Molly herself and it just may possibly ruin their relationship forever.

If you just read that synopsis up above and felt like everything I just said was quite familiar, that’s because, it is! Or, better yet, it’s supposed to be!

See, They Came Together, is exactly like every romantic-comedy ever made; it has all of the troupes, the formula, and heck, even has the same characters that you’d find in any rom-com, had you just been scrolling through the channels or on your Netflix queue. And as a whole, the rom-com genre sort of deserves this much of a thrashing; it’s a genre that hardly ever seems to learn from its mistakes, and instead, just continues to force-feed us the same bullshit stories and resolutions that happen in only said types of movies. Not at all in real life, and anybody who believes otherwise, don’t deserve to be reasoned with.

Aw!

Aw!

Anyway, that’s why watching something as obvious and goofy as They Came Together is something refreshing, regardless of how much it actually does, or doesn’t work. Sure, it’s definitely funny in spots, but there’s something to a movie that understands it’s a joke and doesn’t really try to make itself anything else. Some may complain that this movie doesn’t have much substance, nor even a real, actual story-line to follow along and get involved with, but I don’t think it needs one to be considered a fine movie. If you just want spend a near-hour-and-a-half watching as somebody riffs on the rom-com genre, then this is more than fine for you.

Better yet, if you’re already a fan of the type of humor David Wain brings to any project of his, then it’s even more of a treat for you. Because, for one, he doesn’t hold back on really letting this movie expose the same old and tired troupes we’ve all seen practically done to death. Maybe he’s a bit too obvious about what it is that he’s trying to say or get across, but I didn’t mind that because most of the time, he had me howling like a wildebeest that couldn’t get a firm grip on his own self-control.

That said, if you’ve seen any David Wain production ever, you’ll know that, for one thing, he doesn’t really take himself away from getting really weird. And here, there are many occasions where Wain lets his weirdness really take over and even confuse the hell out of the viewer who may be watching it.

For instance, there’s a scene in which somebody is sad and lonely, sitting at the bar after they’ve just had a pretty shitty night (after a bad date, presumably), and, as expected, the bartender asks the person who’s drinking, “Bad night”, in which the character drinking responds, “Tell me about it”. And I swear to you, for the next five-to-seven minutes, this whole scene is played-on repeat, almost giving you the impression that something is wrong with the actual movie you’re watching. Sounds a whole lot like the kind of stunt that Andy Kaufman would pull, and for some odd reason, it works here. It’s just that strange and random, that it actually works.

Need another example of weirdness taking over Wain’s flick? Well, try the idea of incest between a grandmother and her grandson, that, surprisingly, gets even weirder than you could originally imagine.

AW!

AW!

So yeah, if that tells you something about this movie, it’s that it’s constantly up to no good, making fun of rom-coms, and even itself at points. And although it is a relatively short movie, I did find it running a bit out of steam by the end. Then again though, that’s the case with most parody-movies; there’s only so much surprises they can throw at us for the first two-halves that once things have to settle down, get resolved and eventually end, you can feel it and in a way, you sort of want it as well. That’s not to say the last-half of this movie isn’t funny, it just feels long-winded, even if, like I said before, it’s only an-hour-and-20-minutes (which is like three episodes of Breaking Bad, kind of, sort of, maybe).

And of course no parody movie would work if its cast weren’t up to the task of absolutely just letting loose and looking like total goobers and I think Wain’s assembled a great one here. It’s nice to see Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler work together again (especially after something as classic as this), because their chemistry together is pretty great. Although it’s a bit hard to tell because you can never take them seriously for a single second, it helps that they at least feel comfortable enough with one another to just be all sorts of crazy and weird, just exactly like they know how to. Now, that’s not to say that I kind of wished this was a straight-forward rom-com, both starring Poehler and Rudd in the lead roles, with Wain writing and directing, but for something as funny as this, I guess I’ll just shut up and take what I can get.

Consensus: Those who want a somewhat serious, standard rom-com will be utterly shocked and displeased to find out that They Came Together is neither, and instead, a crazy, funny, wacky, and sometimes incredibly weird, parody that doesn’t always work, but at least tells enough truth in what it’s making fun of.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Huh?

Uhm….huh?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Tammy (2014)

Still feeling like crap, Rex Reed? Good.

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) isn’t having a very good day. First of all, she hit a deer with her car while she was searching for chap-stick. Then, she gets fired from her job because she constantly shows up late and can’t ever seem to get along with her boss (Ben Falcone). And to make matters even worse, she ends up coming home to her husband (Nat Faxon) being with another woman (Toni Collette), making Tammy leave and eventually live with her mother (Allison Janney) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon). However, that’s not how Tammy wants to roll, so when she brings up the idea of moving away from her hometown and starting anew, her grandmother jumps on the opportunity to go with her; better yet, her car and money will be the reason why Tammy wants to go in the first place. So begins this road trip of sorts with Tammy and her grams, where they go to bars, drink, have fun, meet cuties, get lost in National State Parks and even get to know more about eachother than they ever did, or ever wanted to, before.

If you saw either last year’s the Heat, or Identity Thief, then trust me, you’ve seen this movie. Yes, both are Melissa McCarthy-starring films and while the former may be better than the later, there’s still a certain trend/formula going on with both of them: They consist of Melissa McCarthy doing the same damn thing, each and every time the camera is put onto her.

Susie be like, "Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl".

Susie be like, “Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl”.

Both highlight McCarthy as a female master of improv, where she yells, runs, falls down, and says whatever raunchy thought comes to her mind first. Sure, both movies allowed her to continue this act in different ways, but it’s still the same thing we’ve seen done before and quite frankly, no matter how charming or talented McCarthy may actually be, it’s an act that can get very stale, very quick. And that’s the exact problem with Tammy: It’s just stale. It’s hardly ever funny and it always seems to exist, solely so McCarthy can find something to riff on for more than five minutes, all to show us how much of a clever gal she is, but somehow, only wasting our time and not adding anything to the “story” this flick is actually supposed to be working.

But what makes this movie a bit more strange is that it’s not only co-written by McCarthy and her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, but it’s also actually directed by him. May not seem like much at first, but for some reason, I couldn’t get that fact out of my head.

Because see, everytime there is something funny to be had here, it almost always seems to come from McCarthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually humorous or not – if there’s a moment that Falcone thinks is worth a few chuckles or so, he’ll give it right to his wifey-poo where she’ll take the material and do whatever the hell she wants with it. Hasn’t stopped her before with other peeps behind the camera, so why the hell should it stop with her hubby in that position? It shouldn’t, but it totally should have because there’s hardly anything funny about this movie to begin with.

Actually, nope, scratch that: There is something funny about this movie. But it isn’t McCarthy; it isn’t Falcone; and it sure as hell isn’t our titled-character Tammy; nope, it’s actually the secret weapon to this whole thing that just almost makes it work: Susan Sarandon.

That’s right, ladies and germs, the one who absolutely steals this movie is none other than Susan Sarandon, playing Tammy’s boozing, man-eating, wild-timing Grand-mom and even though it may be weird seeing the seemingly ageless Sarandon wearing a short and grey-wig, it’s a distraction that goes away real soon. The reason being is because Sarandon is such a lovely screen-presence to watch (then again, when is she not?), you can’t help but just accept her character and love every decision she makes. Even if they are sometimes stupid and shallow, they’re just decisions of a character we like, want to like even more and know that we can trust to do the right thing at the end, whatever that may actually be.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we love Sarandon as is, but most of it also has to do with the fact that she’s the only character really worth paying attention/liking in this whole thing. Which isn’t to discredit anybody else who shows up in this movie – the supporting cast is a wide-variety of familiar-faces that all do fine with what they’re given, whether it be to be funny, or not. They all service this material to the best of their ability and it actually made me think it was such a shame to see them all packed in together for something like this.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

But the sheer fact that Sarandon owns this movie the whole through, is definitely to discredit McCarthy and Falcone; even more importantly, McCarthy herself. I find myself really going at it with my inner-most thoughts, because while I usually like McCarthy in anything she shows up in (yes, even re-runs of Mike & Molly), I just found her so damn annoying here. Most of that has to do with the way in which she is constantly made up to just improv her ass off, every chance she gets, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Tammy is written.

First off, Tammy herself is pretty unlikable, although that’s definitely the point; she doesn’t think things through, she swears a lot, she takes advantage of those around her, and she always acts as if she’s the victim in any situation, when it is, most of the time, the completely other way around. We know that Tammy is supposed to be a likable character and that, eventually, we’re supposed to see some shading to her that’s going to make us like her more, but it hardly ever comes. Okay, it does, but only through cheesy scenes in which we see her flirt with some dude and take some trips down memory-lane with her grand-mom. That’s basically it. Everything else is up to McCarthy where she acts like a fool, knocks stuff over, curses a whole heck of a lot, and randomly acts violently for no other reason other than to draw up a laugh or two.

Maybe we’re supposed to feel lucky for having somebody as dedicated to drawing laughs out of us through self-deprivation, like McCarthy, but by now, you have to wonder how much longer is it going to go on for? I hope not for much longer, only to avoid garbage like this, but then again, judging by her upcoming projects, it seems like we’re going to have a whole lot more scenes like this. Or even worse, like this.

Shit.

Consensus: Tammy is meant to be a starring-vehicle for McCarthy and the talents we’ve seen her show off more than a few times by now, but ends up being more of a showcase for the type of lovely presence Susan Sarandon brings to anything she gets involved with, and how much she can make anything better.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Get it! It's not a real gun!

Get it! It’s not a real gun!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Grudge (2004)

Do all Japanese boys sound like cats?

An American nurse (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is living and working in Tokyo and somehow gets exposed to a mystery virus. What makes the virus so mysterious is that it’s one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim, but with a black, shadow-y figure there to see you before you die. Basically, it’s just weird.

Everybody knows the story of the Grudge by now: American girl tries to help out old lady, old lady sees something, mystical figure pops-up with a Howe-weird, cat noise, and all hell breaks loose. That’s the age old story that every teenage girl, and dude who was trying to take them out for a good scare so they could cuddle-up with them when they got frightened, saw.

But here’s the aspect of the story that they don’t know: It actually kind of sucks.

With that being said, the movie can be a tad scary, if only because of where it’s set. The fact that the creators of this remake decided to keep the story in its original native land and only change up certain aspects of the story so that they could throw in Americans people would be easier to connect with and whatnot, was actually a smart idea because it gives you an unsettling feeling. Nothing against Japan or its inhabitants, but there is just something eerie and strange about a bunch of Japanese people staring at you from a far, far distance and giving you that feeling that they either don’t like you, are silently judging you, or want to eat you and your family for din-din. Not saying this thought comes to mind every time a Japanese person stares at me, but in this, it kind of is.

Feast your eyes on what life after Buffy looks like.

Feast your eyes on what life after Buffy looks like.

However, when you get right down to it, that’s all the movie really has to offer. There are a couple of neat-o scares and chills to be had (that “after-work” scene was pretty damn tense), but everything else just feels like formula. The one film that this reminded me a lot of and probably for better, than worse, was the Ring. That movie, for all of it’s faults if you can find them, was creepy and something that made me feel a little bit tense when I would have to think about the next time turning off a static-y television-set. This movie, feels like a carbon-copy of it without any back-story worth mentioning, scares that don’t really get you at the right place and the right time, or any type of character that screams, hoots, and hollers like Naomi Watts could.

But then again, you have to beg the question, Can anybody? The answer to that is, I don’t think so. Heck, that’s why we have Naomi Watts in the first place.

Yes, little Japanese kids yelling in high-pitched, cat noises can be a little disorienting when you hear it the first two or three times, but after that, it’s just on-replay and never seems to end. Every time somebody would walk into the house, there would be movement upstairs, some sort of cracks and sizzles in the distance, a slight yelp from a ghost, the person would then pursue it, only to see a little boy, and have that little boy yell at them out of nowhere in that loud-ass voice I talked about earlier. It happens many ‘a times and maybe it could work on the types of people that are really, reelin’ in their chairs, scared to the high heavens, but on a person who doesn’t scared all that easily (yeah, I’m the shit) by material like this and knows what to expect next, then it doesn’t do anything nor does it serve any purpose. It’s boring, tedious, and goes to show you that the director may have decided to film all of this movie on his Lazy Sunday schedule, where everybody, including him, is still working with a hangover from the wild night before. Yeah, we all know those days and judging by the effort given by everybody in this cast and crew, I think they do as well.

Even though the characters aren’t here for anything else other than to just serve something resembling a story and serve the scares to come up, the performers do their best with what they’re given, even though it seems like a waste on this kind of material. Sarah Michelle Gellar is fine as the American nurse that gets all caught-up in this hubbubaloo that nobody needs to get involved with, not even Freddie Prinze Jr.’s wife, and she shows that disdain and annoyance on her face. But, she can also display the scared and shocked face well, too, and does that every chance she gets the opportunity to.

Honestly, just leave her. The "monster" isn't going to do shit anyway.

Honestly, just leave her. The “monster” isn’t going to do anything anyway.

Two very, very talented character actors pop up here as the kids of the crazy mother that sees things, William Mapother and Clea DuVall, and both are okay and definitely elevate this material to more than it aspires to be, but even I felt like taking them by the arm and being like, “Seriously? This is the type of crap you want to put on your resume to show that you have box-office appeal?”. Hey, good for them if it adds a couple of more bang to their buck, but for me, it just disappoints more than ever because I know they can do well with good material, but good material, this is not. The only hope I had for this movie was that they had the one, the mighty Bill Pullman here as some dude that randomly kills himself in the beginning and get’s a back-story later on, but it’s so goofy and so random, that it’s really just humorous. Pullman’s good and can do no wrong in my eyes, but even I felt like he was slumming this one down, big time.

Probably should have just stayed President of the United States and never even bothered stepping on Japanese soil.

Consensus: The Grudge isn’t quite the horror masterpiece it’s been made out to be by some, and instead, feels like a lazy retread of things we seen done many, many times before, and more effectively as well.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Yeah, I know I'm cool."

“Yeah, I know I’m cool.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Host (2006)

Think about it next time you decide to take a swim in a public river.

A semi-dysfunctional family reunites in the worst possible way, when one of their own, Hyun-seo (A-sung Ko), gets captured and presumably killed by a mysterious monster. The family is clearly in a bit of a crisis, constantly fighting, crying, drinking and blaming one another for this travesty, all before the government takes them in and starts doing test, after test, after test on each and everyone of them. Are they infected with anything all that serious? We don’t know. But, does it matter? Not really. The government thinks that they are infected, so therefore, they must be. However, late one night, the father of the little girl, Gang-du (Kang-ho Song), gets a call and wouldn’t you know it! It ends up being her! From there on out, Gang-du and the rest of his family holds out total hope that she’s alive and just waiting for them to rescue her. The only problem is that they have to find out where she’s at and get her, all while sneaking past the government as well. Which, as some of you may know, is not an easy task.

While this may sound all familiar to most of you beings out there who have been brought up on monster movies such as Godzilla, or King Kong, or even most recently, Pacific Rim, don’t stop there with that thought and automatically get turned-off. Because, while the Host may be, in fact, a “monster movie”, it’s not that kind of monster movie that just limits itself to shrieks, creeps, gore, scares and violence. Nope, there’s a little bit more to this one.

Yeah, don't look behind yourself if you can help it.

Yeah, don’t look behind yourself if you can help it.

See, what’s so neat about the Host is that it’s several different genres, all rolled up, and piled into one big mix of ideas, themes, and sequences that don’t always work perfectly together, but still keep you interested. And honestly, that’s all you’re going to need with any monster movie, let alone this one in particular.

Because sure, we get to see the monster wreck all sorts of havoc on large groups of people, chomp some up for a little breakfast, a little dinner, and a little midnight snack, and heck, we even get to see it chase people down, but it’s not our central focus. Sure, the monster is there and definitely an asset to why this story was made in the first place, but the real main focus here is this family that always remains fascinating. That’s definitely impressive too, because automatically, as soon as we’re introduced to each and every one of these family members, it automatically feels like we’re in for a whole slew of clichés that almost never excite.

The older brother who is a total slacker, constantly falling down everywhere he goes and dozing off whenever he feels like doing so; the younger brother who went to college and everything, but doesn’t have a job and is more interested in causing trouble, then getting his shit together; the sister, who is a professional archer, and definitely the smarter of the bunch; and the father of the three, who is clearly the sweetest, most endearing figure of all that has every bit of faith in his kids that they’ll do the best that they can do, yet, still holds his own reservations as well. If this was a stripped-down, intimate, almost play-like drama, I’d probably be gripped from beginning to end; but the fact that it’s spliced together with something that resembles an action movie, is almost even better.

Although there is the occasional slip-up in its pace, co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong definitely doesn’t lose his head on bogging us down with detail, after detail, after detail that we need to know about these family members and their history together; we get plenty of background info to understand their personalities, so that when they do split up and are on their own for this adventure of sorts, it never gets boring. Even if the dramatic scenes themselves do slow things down terribly, it’s still a nice refresher to get a movie in which the human-characters are treated on a first-grade basis, whereas the monster itself (aka, the real spectacle that most come rushing out the floodgates to see), is simply second.

It also helps that the cast is pretty fine too, with each and everyone doing their job to make the best impression. However, I think the one who runs away with this movie alone is Kang-ho Song, who is basically our main protagonist – or if you want to get really professional about it, our flawed hero for the two-hours. What’s so neat about Song and what he does is that while we’re introduced to his character in a not-so lovely way, overtime, we get to see that he’s a lot smarter and likable than he initially lets off. He’s a total and complete slacker that, at first, we see sleeping on his job while his dad does all the work, but once that all changes and shit gets real, real quick, then the strength of Song’s ability as an actor comes out and we get a character that we can root for, even if he does do some bone-headed things along the way.

Strange way to fish. It is Korea after all though!

Strange way to fish. It is South Korea after all though!

But that only makes him more human, hence why it’s so much easy to sympathize with him and just want the best for him, his family, and those that he loves when all is said and done. Case closed.

Anyway though, like I stated before though, that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of monster action, it’s just that there’s more to this movie than just that. I appreciated that aspect, and I was also glad to see Bong go out of his way and throw a little satire into the proceedings as well. What I mean is that the story itself is about how the government is more concerned with this virus, who has it, and its chances of breaking out (even if there is one), than actually going out there and destroying the thing that’s possibly causing this virus in the first place. You can get a clear idea that Bong wants to evoke feelings of rebellion and strictly just not fully trusting your government with everything that they do (especially once those slimy Americans get involved!), which makes the movie feel more heightened with emotion that doesn’t just start and end with the family-dynamic.

Basically, what I’m trying to get across is that you can have a fun, exciting and crowd-pleasing monster movie, but if you give us a little something more, then I have no problems whatsoever. More, especially in this case, is always better.

Consensus: While at two full hours, the Host can feel exceptionally long during its more laid-back moments, there’s still a creative, energetic force behind that has it constantly pushing for being more than just a typical, by-the-numbers monster movie, even if it does settle for that at the end.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Basically my whole family during the series finale of Six Feet Under.

Basically my whole family during the series finale of Six Feet Under.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Swimming Pool (2003)

All would have been fine, had there been a lifeguard on duty.

British mystery writer Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) has hit a creative blockade where she doesn’t know what the hell to do with her next novel, and as a result, finds her life spinning out of control. That’s why when her publisher (Charles Dance) decides to let her use his French country house for solitude and inspiration, she jumps on the opportunity right away. And it’s great for her as soon as she gets there: She’s settled in, relaxed, drinking, eating, flirting with local waiters, and best of all, writing pages for her next big novel. Whatever that novel may be about, is a total mystery and that’s how she intends to keep it. So when her publisher’s daughter, the young and vibrant Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), crashes the house and decides to hang around, Sarah’s left befuddled; she’s upset that Julie is around and ruining her peace and quiet, but she still can’t kick her out because, technically, it’s her house. So basically, Sarah just decides to stick with it and be as peaceful as she can be sharing the same house with Julie, as hard as that may be. Somehow too, she also finds inspiration for writing through Sarah’s life, which has a strange way of sometimes spilling out from the page, into their real-lives.

Plenty has been made about Swimming Pool, which is all due to the twist ending. I knew this going in and needless to say, I don’t understand what all of the fuss is about. I get that it’s a vague, ambiguous ending that pulls the rug from underneath us, just as soon as we think we’re all fine, dandy and safe, but then again, so is the whole movie.

Looks like the only women I take home from the bars. Except less attractive and less French. Actually, just less of everything.

Looks like the only women I take home from the bars. Except less attractive and less French. Actually, just less of everything.

Co-writer and director Francois Ozon wants us to believe that everything we’re seeing is straight-forward, natural and actually happening in real life; however, what we don’t know is that he’s sometimes playing a trick on us. However, sometimes, he isn’t. That’s the beauty of Ozon’s direction and I like how it’s never a clear-cut solution to whatever our questions may be while watching this. Is everything we’re seeing real? Or, is it just a bunch of fantasy-sequences tied together through a story of an old lady wanting to get a new book for her publisher?

Honestly, we may never, ever know the truth. But there’s some fun in that, isn’t there?

Anyway, all that shish-gab-bob aside, the movie itself is a fine thriller, with and without all of the twists and turns. See, because Ozon’s direction is a tricky one to say the least, we’re constantly left wondering what’s happening, and whether or not it’s actually real. For awhile, that’s fun to play around with, all until it becomes a gimmick that Ozon himself latches onto a bit much. But, as soon as it seems like he’s just constantly beating a dead horse, Ozon does something neat in that he makes this more of a character-study of our main “protagonist”, Sarah Morton.

See, what’s cool about Sarah Morton is that we get to see an old, crabby woman who clearly doesn’t like talking to others, nor being disturbed. But by the same token, she wants to feel appreciated, loved and beheld. This is clearly evident early on when we are introduced to her character by a fan saying that she not only recognizes Morton, but even asks her a question about the novel itself. Morton, as shrewd as she can possibly be, denies being that writer the fan knows she is and just leaves the conversation. Moments later, she shows up to her publisher’s office, and seems like she totally needs a hug, as well as some comfort from the rest of the world.

So, there’s two ways of going about it with this character: Either she’s a total stuck-up, snobby, old witch? Or, she’s just an old lady that doesn’t have much going for her life, is pissed that she can’t write her next “masterpiece”, and is at a bit of a crossroads, per se?

What Ozon does is that he shows her off as both sides, and through this vacation-away at this French country house, we get to see certain layers of Morton in ways that I didn’t expect. Most of that has to do with the way this character is written, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Charlotte Rampling plays her. In case you don’t know by now, Rampling’s a great actress; she has that resting bitch-face going for her, yet, when she branches out and wants to have fun, you can’t help but smile and feel happy for her. That’s why when I knew Rampling was in this movie, playing Sarah Morton, I thought it was a perfect bit of casting.

However, as the story develops, and there’s more shading done to Morton, we realize that there’s more to Morton than just an old lady who can’t have fun, or have a peaceful conversation with anyone around her. She’s just an old lady who wants peace, quiet and relaxation, and when she does in fact get that, she’s as happy as she possibly can be. So through Morton, we not only get an interesting portrait of a trouble, somewhat unlikable character, but we get to see a female character, in the lead role that’s never really judged in any way. Which, considering some of the choices Morton makes throughout this movie, is saying a whole lot and is really accredited to Ozon’s direction and how he just lets the story play out, without trying too hard for much of anything.

"She's right behind me isn't she? Sheeeit."

“She’s right behind me isn’t she? Sheeeit.”

And that’s not to say that Rampling just completely owns this movie the only way she knows how to do, because Ludivine Sagnier is also very good as Julie. For some, it may help that she’s practically nude for the whole movie, but for other, less-perverted viewers, Sagnier does something well in the way that she’s able to give us the simple cliche of the young, brash, sexually-energized, and troubled-girl that we see so often, and allow her to branch out more as a girl who can take care of herself on more than a few occasions.

In a way too, as much as this may be a mystery-thriller, it’s also a bit of a psychological-thriller because of the mind games these two play on one another. Sure, Rampling and Sagnier work well together, despite their clear differences, but what makes them so interesting to watch, is that their characters have both appreciation, as well as resentment for one another. Morton is an old, somewhat miserable lady that seems like she never likes fun; whereas Julie can’t help but have fun all of the time, even if that means being constantly naked and banging any guy that takes one look at her body in a sexual-way. The two clash heads on more than a couple occasions, but it’s never over-played to where you see the strings – it’s all hinted at, and as a result, it’s something to think about and chew on for quite awhile.

Even if that ending may still piss some of you off.

Consensus: Though it’s disguised a thriller full of all sorts of twists and turns, Swimming Pool is also a fascinating thriller, pitting two completely different characters against one another in a way that some won’t expect to see happen, nor end the way it does, as ambiguous as it may be.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Old vs. new. Who ya got?

Old vs. new. Who ya got?

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Could have been my story, had I been five-feet taller. Oh well. Dare to dream.

The film follows the story of two African-American high school students named William Gates and Arthur Agee, who both live in Chicago and dream of becoming professional basketball players. They go to the same school but as time goes on and more and more obstacles come down the road, their lives both change. Sometimes, for the better, and other times, for the worse.

As much as movie-geekery has taken over my latter years, back in the day, I was quite the sports fan and player. My main sport was always football, football, football and that’s what I focused on the most in high school, in terms of what extracurricular activities to perform in and whatnot, but it wasn’t the only sport I was fond of. Basketball was also another sport of mine that I loved to play and practice with not just because I was always the biggest white dude on the court and I got almost every rebound, but just the whole simplicity of it as well.

The times for me started to change and eventually, I just gave up on playing all sports but I never forgot the rush and feel of basketball and how easy it was to just simply pick up a ball, find a nice pair of shoes and walk on down to the courts and shoot. It’s a simple game that I don’t play as much as I ought to, but watching this flick reminded me what I loved about it so much after all.

However, as much as this documentary does concern the sport of basketball, it most certainly is not just limited to that. This flick talks about everything else that surrounds the sport of basketball such as work, money, schools, family, tests, cars, crime, making an honest-living, and most of all: Scholarships. The one movie that really shows you what it’s like to be an up-and-comer in the game of basketball and see the sport for all of it’s pros and cons is He Got Game. But to be honest, that’s a movie, made by Hollywood, and produced by Hollywood, and as gritty and dirty as it may be, it still is a movie none the less which means that it does fall a bit farther from the truth tree then you’d think. That’s where this documentary comes into handy and shows you that He Got Game, although a glamorized-version of what’s really going on in the world of basketball, is also very honest in what it shows. Yet, this review will not be a comparison between the two because they are both different in their own, near-perfect ways.

Whether or not you are a fan of sports, it doesn’t matter, because all you have to be is a fan of being human. Rarely ever do you get to see a documentary that shows the human-spirit for all that it is and all that it is ever going to be, because let’s face it, we all have dreams and we all want them to come true, but rarely do they ever. I don’t mean to sound like a total Debbie-downer but that’s the truth of the matter and it only shows in the adventures through the game of basketball and life that these two kids go through. Honestly, without these two kids, who knows what type of movie we would have had here and whether or not it would have been the thought-provoker it truly is.

Ahh, those were the days.

Ahh, those were the days.

I don’t think the creators, or director Steve James, could have picked any better subjects than these two kids because they are exactly what we expect from any type of human, especially young ones at that. They are young, brash, energetic, talented, but also hopeful and only wish to eventually be the ones making the change flow, the ladies coming in-and-out of the doorways, and the ones to hit the final buzzer-beater in the championship game. Their attitudes may not be the best because they are a bit too hot-headed, but they’re just like you or me in by the way that they all think that they got their lives covered, just because they can drain about ten three’s in-a-row. Little do these kids know, is that it’s not whether or not you can make a whole bunch of three’s and save the game at the final second, it’s more or less whether or not you can keep up with life itself and keep up with your grades.

In any sports movie you see, there’s always that typical cliche of how a kid who is really talented at a sport, cannot play the big game unless he gets his grades up and as much of obvious convention that may be to most people now, the fact of the matter still lies, it is true. You can go to any school you want if you’re amazing at sports, but once you do actually get there, it is your responsibility to keep yourself there and to keep alive and well, so you can get that diploma, get those scholarships, and get that life of big money, big women, big cars, and big b-ball games that you oh so truly desire. It’s the way of life, if you think about it; you have to work your ass-off to get where you want to in life and it only shines through even more once you see how painfully honest and realistic these kids are in their day-to-day troubles.

Both kids, Agee and Gates, are as lovable and likable as you can get with documentary subjects. They’re the type of kids that remind you of you when you were a youngling and you were a bit too big for your britches, but also remind you of when you got older, and more wiser and understood of the world around you. What this documentary does, and does very well, is that they show these two kids, who are from the same walks of life, live in just about the same neighborhoods, and have both of the same issues with balancing school and basketball, but yet, they are also very different. Agee is a wise-cracker of a kid that not only has a life at home that’s screwing him up big time, but also a mind that is more concerned with basketball, than it is with the books. Whereas with Gates, he is a lot more determined and smarter with his decisions and with what he wants to do, and has a pretty nice life at home, has a pretty nice mommy, and even has a girl-friend that he keeps happy from time-to-time. Both stories seem very cut-and-dry right from the start, but just like life, unpredictable situations get thrown into these kids’ ways and everything for the both of them changes.

You never quite know what’s going to happen next to these kids, to their love for basketball, or their actual families. It’s almost like every shot missed, every turnover made, every practice missed, every second late, and every pass stolen from them, means another step closer to ultimate failure in terms of their basketball scholarships, their dreams of being a basketball-star, and their hopes of saving their family from poverty. It’s actually very scary once you get thinking about it and watching these two kids as they struggle with all of the curve balls (that counts as a basketball term, right?) that get thrown their way, and how they actually make it better and work in their favor. All of this could happen and you could easily not give a single shit about these kids, or their families, but you do care for them and want them to succeed in all that they do. It’s almost as if I felt like I was their friend as well, because James gets so up-close-and-personal with these kids that we never lose sight of who they really are, despite them going through that many times throughout the whole three-hour flick.

"When I say, "academics, first, basketball, second", I really mean the other way around. You gonna edit that out though, right?"

“When I say, “academics, first, basketball, second”, I really mean the other way around. You gonna edit that out though, right?”

That’s right, this documentary is definitely one of the longer ones that isn’t just made strictly for TV, but it doesn’t matter because you are constantly on-the-edge-of-your-seat, always excited, always interested, and always wondering what’s going to happen next to these kids and the decisions they make. You rarely get that with any movie that features a script, actors, directors, writers, producers, and etc., but rarely do you ever get that with a documentary that’s as simple as this. Hey, there’s that word again, “simple”. The way I look at the sport of basketball is the same way I looked at this movie: It’s simple, but effective. If you have never played basketball or had any type of love for any sport at all, then you may remember all of the times you’ve felt deeply-passionate about something and furthermore, have done all that you could do to make that passion come true. See, it’s not just about basketball, no matter how much the title and synopsis may fool you, it’s more about the human-spirit and how it can make you do anything for the things you love in life, whether it’d be shooting the hoops or writing movie reviews.

Hey, had to insert myself in there somehow!

And as much as this flick may be more about the human-spirit, rather than the actual sport of basketball itself, the flick also likes to chalk-up some points about other issues in life like race, education, scholarships, families, crime, and the works, but yet, it just didn’t seem that fully fleshed-out. When I watch a documentary, I want to feel something, I want to learn something, and I want to have something that makes me think about the life around me and looking at it through the perspective of another human-being. Sometimes, I felt like those moments where here to hit and stay with you, but other times I just felt like James was happy with just touching the surface of the bigger picture, but yet, was too scared to go any further. That is always the worst-ingredient you can have as a documentary filmmaker and it’s what really carries this flick down.

For instance, one of the major issues in the sport of basketball that was growing around that time and is just about obvious nowadays, is the fact that there are more black basketball players than white. Without making this whole rant being about how black people are more psychically-skilled and inept than white people are, I just want to say that it’s obvious when you go to see basketball game, or any sport game for that matter. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that black people are better than white people are at sports. So, what I wanted to know was why there was such an increase in black basketball players, against white ones, and how that effects these kids when they’re in high school and trying to find the right scholarships for themselves, so they don’t go broke. It’s just one issue that I don’t think I really fleshed-out fully, but it’s one that I feel like could have really touched-upon when it comes to what James was trying to get across, because other than that, you just got a story about two kids, who are really good at playing basketball.

Consensus: Hoop Dreams definitely could have gone deeper, but that is all forgiven once you take into account how much it cares for its subjects, what they do, every decision they make, and whether or not they are ever going to be able to achieve their dreams of being a professional basketball player. And a great one, at that.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

I guess everybody except for the head coach to the right didn't get the memo. They're number one!

I guess everybody except for the head coach to the right didn’t get the memo.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

A strange part of me missed Shia LaBoots.

After the near-apocalyptic events that transpired in Chicago almost three years ago, the country has been on high alert keeping the lookout for any Transformers whatsoever. If there is a Transformer of any kind to be spotted, they are hunted down, destroyed and made as scrap metal so that the government can build better, stronger and safer ‘bots to better protect their world. But somehow, in Texas of all places, an independent architect by the name of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) somehow stumbles upon a truck that he thinks is just a simple, fuel-driven truck, but comes to realize that it’s a Transformer – better yet, it’s Optimus Prime. The government soon finds out and they are not too happy with this, but neither is Cade with having to give up the Transformers neither, considering he trusts Optimus more than he does some humans. This leads to a bit of a battle between the government and the rest of the Autobots that Prime is able to assemble, but somehow, there’s a new type of Transformer out there and not only are they conspiring with the government to get rid of the rest of the Autobots, but they’re as deadly and lethal as ever.

Even though he said so differently a couple years ago, somehow, some way, Michael Bay decided that it was time for him to bring us back, yet again, another Transformers movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, people – like with any of Bay’s movies, I don’t have total problems with the Transformers movie. Sure, they are incredibly dumb, loud, over-the-top, stupid and insane, but you know what? They’re actually kind of fun and when I go into any movie that has Bay attached to it any way, I always know that’s what I have to expect. Not high art, or even something close to being a “masterpiece” – just fun, fun, fun.

"Brawsh!!!"

BRAWSH!!!

But there’s a difference between a movie being “fun”, and a movie being “too much”. See, with this new Transformers, it isn’t that Bay doesn’t bring on the heavy-set action, explosions, goofs, special-effects, and violence, it’s just that it’s so much, for so damn long, that it’s less of a fun ride, and more like a ride that keeps on going up and down, left and right, without barely any intermissions or time to breath whatsoever. And even if there are some of those moments to be found throughout here, they’re lame, poorly-written moments that are supposed to be dedicated to character-development, but instead, come off as half-assed as you can get with a Michael Bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew what to expect when I walked into a Michael Bay movie, but when you’re forced to spend nearly two-and-a-half-hours with these characters, there has to be something keeping us behind them. And casting likable personalities such as Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller doesn’t cut it; they have to be at least somewhat well-written, with some reasoning behind their motivation to do the things that they do and why exactly they’re necessary to the plot. Am I asking too much from a Michael Bay movie? Better yet, am I asking too much from a Transformers movie? Probably, but I think if you’re going to push your movie into being almost three hours, there has to be something more to it than just big explosions, action-sequences and goofy, unfunny one-liners in the middle of all this tense action spilling out.

That being said, when the movie is fun, it sort of is a blast. However, that’s only because so much action gets built-up, that it’s almost like we’re being strong-armed into at least enjoying ourselves, even in the slightest bit. And that’s not to say everything about this movie, or what Bay does is absolutely godawful; in fact, I’d say that some of this shows Bay being as creative as ever, especially once the story itself gets tossed into China. But by the end, once all of the carnage has been done and about three states have been totally and completely decimated, you sort of have to ask yourself: “Why?”

An even better question would be: “What’s the point?”

Yes, I understand that it is the summer and that, yes, these are the types of movies we’re supposed to waste $20 on seeing, just so that we can get out of the hot air for once, chill out in the air-conditioned theater-lobbies, forget about the world outside, and just enjoy ourselves for the time being. That much I understand, get and absolutely love. To me, there’s nothing more than a summer blockbuster that knows it’s audience, what it’s made for, and doesn’t try to be anything else – just quick, fun, exciting, and engaging for as long as it is up on the screening. “Nothing more, nothing less”, I always like to say, and it’s something that I’d like to think most blockbusters are made with that in mind.

"Say hi to ya mothas for me!!"

“Say hi to ya mothas for me!!”

However, when you do have a movie like this fourth Transformers flick, it comes down to whether or not you yourself are willing to spend up to nearly $20 (popcorn and soda included) just for a nearly three-hour-movie in which there are two-dimensional characters, in a plot that doesn’t really matter so long as it includes big-ass robots, fighting other big-ass robots, while everything and everyone around them gets utterly and completely destroyed? If you’re totally all for that, then hey, go for it. I won’t try to tell you otherwise because clearly, your mind is already made up and ready to throw your ass in that front-row seat.

But for the others that may want a bit “more” bang (or in this case, “less) for their buck, then this may not be the perfect ticket for you. Because yes, it is a very fun movie, at times. However, at other times, it can be incredibly excessive, long, over-the-top, and destructive that by the end, rather than wanting jump out of your seat, wanting to fist-pump the air, as well as everyone else around you, go home, take a shower, lay down in your bed, and smile with a huge smile on your face going from cheek-to-cheek, you’ll just want to get out the theater as soon as possible, get in your car, drive home 5 mph under the speed-limit, get the hottest/longest shower you’ve ever had in your life, lay down, and just go right the hell to sleep, while feeling all safe and cozy that you’re in your own little comfort-zone.

Sounds extreme, I know, but with a Michael Bay movie: Anything bad or unhealthy for you, can and just might possibly happen to you by the end of one of his long, coke-winded adventures.

Consensus: Loud, abrasive, over-long and full of non-stop destruction, Transformers: Age of Extinction is the kind of movie you expect to see, not just from this franchise, but from Michael Bay himself, which may ultimately decide whether or not you want to spend three-hours in a movie theater watching his latest piece of “art”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

 

Yeah, totally not real. Lame.

Yeah, totally not a real dinosaur. Lame.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Signal (2014)

Don’t ever trust hackers. Not that you ever could anyway, but just saying.

Three MIT students, Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Jonah (Beau Knapp), and Haley (Olivia Cooke) are on the road to Haley’s new place, where it’s presumed that her and Nic will eventually break-off, because a long-distance relationship just isn’t something that two 20-year-old’s can handle together. Anyway, on the road, Jonah and Nic discover that an anonymous hacker they’ve been talking to and playing around with wants to take them to a destination, where they’ll meet up for the first time ever. When the three do get to the destination, it just so happens to be a worn-down house in the middle of the desert that they go into and hear some weird stuff. Moments later, they are mysteriously knocked unconscious, and several moments later, wake up in a padded-up testing center where they are asked a series of strange questions by Damon (Laurence Fishburne), someone who seems like he knows a thing or two about what he’s talking about. However, Nic is tired of all this crap that he’s been force-fed and decides to take it upon himself to discover the truth about the place that he is at, and find out whether or not he can be reunited with his friends, once again.

I must say, while that may not sound like all that much of an intriguing premise, there’s something interesting about what this movie does with said premise that makes it worth watching. It’s strange, because for the first 20 or so minutes of this movie, it’s pretty much like any other indie coming-of-ager – there’s shots of young college kids in a packed-car driving down a highways, looking out from upon a mountain, discussing what the future holds for them, and trying to grasp adult-hood, while somewhere in the background M83 plays. It’s no surprise to me that this movie screened at Sundance, because honestly, it seems like the kind of movie that that sort of crowd would go bananas over.

I too, hate it when the milk man misses the front-door.

I too, hate it when the milk man misses the front-door.

Not me, however. And it wasn’t that I was bored, it was because the movie just moved too slow without anything interesting to be happening at all. Sure, the idea that this hacker wanted to meet up with them was something that kept me wondering, but the characters were boring, the soundtrack was so moody and saddening, that it made me want to chug a whole bottle of Merlot, and there was no Laurence Fishburne. Sounds dumb, I know, but when you expect Laurence Fishburne to show up in a movie, because you know he’s in it, it’s a bit hard to get past the fact that his lovable mug isn’t present within the first half-hour of whatever movie is in question.

Thankfully though, that all changed once the movie reveals to us that “twist”. I use parentheses, because the movie never makes it clear to us what’s going on with these three kids, or what these people in padded-up, astronaut-like suits are actually up to; the movie just plops us down into the middle of a situation that we have no clue about and are left to fend for ourselves. Whenever that happens to me in a movie, I’m always grateful, because it’s so easy for a movie/director to just force-feed us everything we’re supposed to know or understand, in order for our eyes to stay glued to the screen at all times. Not every movie has to be so obvious with what it wants us to know to add tension or a whole understanding of everything, but not many directors out there are fine with just playing it subtle.

But director William Eubank totally is and that’s what really kept me alive and awake during the second-half of this movie. It was still slow like the first-half, but this time, there was something actually charging it and keeping it alive and interesting. The story itself could have turned out to be 1,000 different things, and as ridiculous as most of them could have been, they still worked because it was a movie that didn’t show, nor tell us everything.

Instead, we come to our own conclusions about certain characters, their motivations, and just what the hell is going on behind the sealed-doors. Because we’re thrown into the mind of our lead protagonist, Nic, we never have a totally clear clue what those in charge are absolutely up to; all we do know is that they want to extract info and play some strange mind games with Nic himself. It’s supposed to make us pissed that they aren’t telling him anything at all and practically messing with his head every chance they get, and because we’re thrown into his head, his mind, it sort of works.

There was a certain part of me that wanted to see this Nic kid to find his friends, break out of this “prison”, and find any sort of peace or safety that’s at all possible, while also exposing these mofo’s for all that they are worth. In a way, I got a rebellious spirit in the pit of my stomach and though I didn’t want to see Nic go full-Pacino and start screaming “Attica!” from the top of his lungs, I still wanted him to get out of this strange situation alive, well, happy, and at least safe from these creepy, vague a-holes.

"Whadup? It's me, Laurence Fishburne. Just hanging out."

“Whadup? It’s me, Laurence Fishburne. Just hanging out.”

However, there’s a problem with all this because once the movie becomes all about Nic on the run from these mofo’s, it gets repetitive, albeit, conventional. Don’t get me wrong, the reason this is an original sci-fi movie, is because of how much it keeps us away from knowing the truth; everything else, from the gadgets, to the vernacular, and even to the post-apocalyptic-ish landscape is just feels like ground covered before. But it’s how the story tells itself is what works so well and makes it seem like something of its own beast. That’s why once the final-act comes into play, it seems like an ordinary-thriller that loses its way about two plot-twists right off the bat.

It was a bummer that it happened so late in the movie, but it was an even bigger bummer that the plot-twist that it ended on was so bizarre, it reminded of David Lynch. And no, not the good David Lynch either – the bad!!

That said, the cast is serviceable, if not entirely memorable. The three younglings who play these college-grads don’t have much to work with, and as a result, feel underdeveloped despite how hard they try. Though, the one who gets away with this problem is Laurence Fishburne, which more or less has to do with the fact that his character leaves so much to be desired, it’s intriguing to watch. Not to mention that Laurence Fishburne can read any line, humorous or not, and make it seem like he’s thinking of 30,000 different things at the same time. He’s just that good and watching him ask a kid if he’s agitated or not, was surely some fun. And lord knows there needed to be more added to this.

Consensus: While its an interesting premise that goes into some very strange places, perhaps the Signal‘s biggest problem is that it doesn’t know when to stop with these strange places, and just let the story tell itself in a regular way, without any added excitement or craziness.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Whaaaaaa?

Whaaaaaa?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Armageddon (1998)

Before we all die, at least we can take some pleasure knowing that we’ll be treated to the lovely sounds of Steven Tyler.

After NASA catches wind of a meteor the size of Texas heading straight for Earth, executive director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) cobbles up a plan: Get a crew on the meteor, drill a hole through it, and leave a nuke in there so that it can break off into two pieces and still miss the Earth by a small bit. It’s a smart plan, but the only problem is finding out who’s right for it. In walks oil-driller Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) who Truman recruits for this mission because the ship plan is the same one Stamper uses on his own oil rig. Though Stamper is initially hesitant to take on such a huge, daring mission, he eventually decides to take it, but on one condition: He gets to choose the crew that goes with him. In walks the rest of his rag-tag group of dysfunctional nut-balls that either love prostitutes (Steve Buscemi), love to smash things (Michael Clarke Duncan), or love Stamper’s own daughter (Ben Affleck). Though not everybody feels alright with this change, they don’t have any other plan to go along with. Meaning, it’s all up to these guys to save the world and all of mankind.

Not much of a burden if you think about it really, you know?

Well, well, well. Here it is, everybody! The movie I swore I would never, ever watch again after seeing it numerous times as a little kid, all because back then, I knew it was total junk. But for some reason, curiosity killed the cat in my case and I just could not help myself; I had to see if this movie got any better with age, and also, whether or not my tolerance for mostly all things Michael Bay would have anything to do with any change in feelings toward this.

He would have done anything to say "Yippie-Kay-Ya".

He would have done anything to say “Yippie-Kay-Ya”.

Needless to say, they sort of do. But not by much. Here’s why:

See, though I like to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on most cases for blowing all sorts of shit up and taking absolute pleasure in doing it, I felt like this was total over-kill. And yes, even by his standards, that means a lot. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because most of the explosions occur during the last hour-and-a-half of this movie. As for the first hour of this movie, we’re “treated” to watching a bunch of clichés act like nuts, talk goofy, get some back-story on what makes them the slightest bit of “human”, and try to have us believe that they could actually be smart, trained, and neutered astronauts in a near 18 days, but actually be trusted in saving our whole race from extinction.

And while I’m all for a movie being silly for the sake of making people laugh, this was not that kind of silly – it was just downright dumb. What makes it even worse is that the cast here is pretty damn talented – actually, scratch that, it’s an unbelievably stacked ensemble that, with any other movie/director, would have me rushing the gates as soon as I caught wind of it happening, but not here. Especially not with Michael Bay, the kind of guy who takes pleasure in taking these incredibly talented, wonderful screen-presences, and making them his wild, wacky, and near-racist guinea pigs.

Then again though, in the world of Hollywood, money really does talk, so I guess I can’t be getting on Bay’s case too much for just getting along with the times and following the path set out for him.

Still though, that doesn’t excuse giving somebody as wonderfully charming as Steve Buscemi a role in which he just makes stupid comments about hookers, having sex, dying, not being crazy, menstrual cycles, and going absolutely nuts while shooting a machine gun. And yes, while that all may sound incredibly amusing to some of you out there, I can assure you, it’s totally not. It’s just downright corny and seems like Bay is trying way, way too hard to make us laugh at anything; so much so, that he’s willing to embarrass the hell out of some of the most respected talents in the biz.

Also, he uses this comedy to break up all of the nonsensical violence, loud noises and explosions that occur during the last half-hour which, coming from a Michael Bay-standpoint, is relatively impressive. Though, nearly 16 years after the fact, some of it looks a bit dated, you can tell Bay really pays attention to the constant vibrancy he has behind the camera and how he makes this movie look. Sure, it’s frantic and you can almost count how long Bay holds a shot for (don’t worry, it’s two seconds or so each), but it does show you that he’s the kind of director that works well with this stuff.

However, with this stuff here, there’s just way too much. Too much double-crossing; too much dumb humor; too much poor script-writing; too much explosions; too much of random things happening only to make the plot seem more dense and the movie run-time a little longer; just too much of everything really. And yes, while I do admit to being on Bay’s side for this very same reason in most movies, this is not one of them. For some reason, it just felt different this time and rather than laughing and having a great time, I was just laughing, only in a way to pass the time of my complete boredom with the same things happening again, and again, and again.

All that was missing was a bottle of Jack and some Funyuns to make life a whole lot less depressing.

Love and animal crackers: It's the combo you never thought you'd never thought you need.

Love and animal crackers: It’s the combo you never thought you’d need.

Like I mentioned before, too, Bay really does have a knack for getting together an interesting cast, it’s just such a shame that he gives them so very little to do. And even when he does give them anything to do, it’s utter garbage that only makes it seem like the actor in question was in desperate need of another shore house. For instance, despite being practically the perfect role for Bruce Willis in which he has to play a tough, rough, and masculine-as-hell man (with an in-and-out Southern accent), somehow, the writing is so cheesy and godawful for this guy, that everything that comes out of Willis’ mouth seems like he’s having a hard time reading anything at all. Not just because he can’t believe the trash that he’s reading, but because he forgot his glasses on the counter at home.

And heck, I wish I could say the same for Ben Affleck, but man, this kid is terrible here. I know that Big Ben has cleaned his act up now and is a pretty respected guy out there, but any reason why anybody thought he was just a young talent, with barely any of the later at all, were totally correct when they saw this. Which is a shame because watching Affleck, you can see a guy that’s trying really hard, but just doesn’t have the skills yet to really deliver on all of the sobbing and screaming he has to deliver on. It just seems like he’s in a parody of the type of movie that he’s in. You know, a parody of a Michael Bay movie, in which every character has an IQ of 38, has women-troubles, likes to cuss, say dumb stuff, act silly, and at the end of the day, still be able to save the world, all while chanting “USA! USA! USA!”.

Yep, that’s Michael Bay for ya: Praising America, one over-budgeted mess at a time.

Consensus: Though much of Armageddon is what you expect to get from a Michael Bay movie, there’s still no denying how incredibly hard it is to believe anything that happens in this movie, nor enjoy one’s self when all there is a explosion, after explosion, after explosion, with barely any end in sight.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If these are our saviors, we're fucked.

If these are our saviors, we’re fucked.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Once (2006)

Them Irish sure can drink. But you know what else? They can sure as hell sing! While drinking I presume.

A middle-aged street musician (Glen Hansard) who has recently gone through a rough break-up tries to see if he can make ends meet by working in his father’s vacuum-fixing shop, while also playing his guitar and singing on the streets. Late one night while he’s passionately doing so, a young girl (Markéta Irglová) comes around, gives him ten cents, and automatically strikes up a conversation with him. In fact, she takes a bit of a liking to him, however, he doesn’t seem like he’s all that interested because he has yet to get over his ex and the heartbreak she caused him. So instead, they decide to put aside their feelings for one another and just rock! Well, not necessarily “rock”, but more like just play their instruments, make music, write lyrics and see what they can come up with together. Eventually, they do and there’s even a chance that they could record some of their material. The only problem is that he wants to leave for London soon and even worse, he wants her to come with him – something she doesn’t want to do because she has a child and is still married to an estranged husband.

There’s definitely a problem that most people have with musicals, that I don’t holy disagree with. For one, they can be pretty cheesy. When a person breaks out into song in the middle of a story being developed, only to just keep the plot moving along, it’s pretty laughable and while it may work for some movies, it doesn’t for others. That said, I enjoy musicals that not only have fun, catchy tracks, but I also appreciate when the musical-format is at least shaken up a bit. And because it’s such a generic genre that seems to churn out the same repetitive style of “song, plot, song, plot, song”, it’s hard to really differentiate one from the other.

"You like music? Hey, me too! You know what else I like? Food!"

“You like music? Hey, me too! You know what else I like? Food!”

All a viewer has are the songs that they hear from the musical and that’s about it. If they’re catchy, then great; practically all else about the movie can sort of be put on the back-burner. But if they don’t have catchy/good songs, then there’s no point in really making it a musical to begin with. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but you get what I’m saying: If you make a musical, you better make damn sure your tracks are the least bit of being memorable and worth listening to, because if not, you’re going to have a whole bunch of angry musical-fans.

And trust me, those are not the people you want to tick off.

However, something tells me that Once totally did and it shouldn’t. Sure, it’s a musical, but it’s not one of those over-the-top, fantasy-world musicals that I talked about before when a person jumps up to start singing and dancing in the middle of a conversation; this is a lot more about spontaneity and how every song presented to us, is felt through these characters. That said, it was a very neat trick writer/director John Carney used when he decided to not only make most of these scenes real-life, actual performances of the songs being performed, but to also make it seem like these two types of characters would actually start jamming out as soon as they felt the need to flow through their body.

Both of these characters (who go unnamed the whole time), are a tad lonely, sad, and wanting to break out of their shells. However, they have a gift, and that’s the gift of music. That’s why when they eventually meet up and start hitting it off real nice, you believe it, way before they both infamously sit down at a piano and start harmonizing about life. Not only is that scene in particular a beautiful one, but it’s the earliest example of how in-tune this movie is to its characters, that we ourselves would actually buy the fact that they’d just want to spend an afternoon, singing and making music.

However, it’s not just how the characters are written that makes them flow so honestly, it’s also that Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are very good together and make us believe in these two together, every step of the way. The word on the street is that during the filming of this, they were actually quite the item and it totally shows (even if there is that old myth about how couples in real life, perform terribly together in front of the camera). They have a lovely chemistry that is built upon a love for music and living life, and it isn’t cutesy or over-done whatsoever; it’s just simply them, being themselves.

And since they aren’t actually actors and just two people who got thrown into the same movie together, they feel natural. They don’t overdo it for the camera and they sure as hell don’t seem like they want to go for an Oscar – they are just acting as how they would with one another in real life. You can not only see that, but you feel that, especially during the performance of their songs.

Now, I’ve clearly made a mention as to how great the songs in this movie are and it’s not like I’m going to try and repeat everything that everybody else who has seen this movie has already said. Yes, the soundtrack is lovely and really is a whole other character in this movie, but works so well about it is that it tells us just who these characters are, why they matter to us, and why exactly we should want to see them together, yet at the same time, not really either. They both love music, but each other isn’t really quite established yet. However, the music is what draws them closer and closer and without really talking or exchanging in non-stop conversation, they get to know everything about the other. It’s quite a beautiful thing really, and for somebody who played as a drummer in a band a little here and there during high school, I for one thing can say that two people connecting on similar musical-interests is a wonderful fact of life that cannot ever be destroyed.

Less of a garage band, and more of a "bed band". That should totally catch on.

Less of a garage band, and more of a “bed band”. That should totally catch on.

Sure, a human connection in general is great and all, but when you have a guitar, a mic, and some lyrics in your hand, it’s always best to just belt out you feelings, and it’s even better when somebody else is there to do that with you.

Man, I really got to get back in the music-biz.

Anyway, if there’s any problems I had with this movie, it was that there was at least one song and one scene that I would have gotten rid of, and that’s only because it just didn’t have the same affect that so many of the other musical-numbers did. Without saying too much, it’s a scene that takes place during a walk throughout the streets, in which we see a character singing along to a tune and coming up with lyrics as they walk. To me, it felt a bit too corny and stagey for my own liking, if only because the rest of the movie didn’t flow this way and it seemed odd.

Then again, they’re the ones with the Oscar, so it goes to show you what I know!

Consensus: Once tinkers around with the conventions of the musical genre enough times that it not only feels fun and fresh, but also realistic enough to have one believe in this premise, these characters, and the lovely music that they create.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Perfect "unofficial last album" album cover.

Perfect “unofficial last album” album cover.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Full Monty (1997)

FullMontyposterStill waiting for that actual “Full Monty”. Cheeky bastards. Pun intended.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) is a struggling, recently-divorced father of one who’s trying to make ends meet. He’s unemployed, unable to get along with anybody outside of his comfort zone, very late on his child-support bills, and doesn’t hold much aspirations in terms of getting a job and making all of his problems go away. However, late one night when he and his son are walking around town, he finds a bunch of gals lined up outside of a club for Chippendale dancers, aka, male strippers. Seeing as there is good money in this type of odd profession, Gaz gets the rest of his unemployed, struggling-to-make-ends-meet lads involved with the nakey-dancing as well.

Back in the late-90’s, movies like this became the new “it”. Smaller, indies that had unique plots that could only happen in real life, to real people, not only reigned supreme at the box-office, but also with the Academy Awards as well. This flick is one of the most glaring examples of this as it not only had a movie where dudes got nakey and pursued the idea of becoming a male-stripper, but were also British and went through middle-to-low-class problems like all of us do. Parenting, making money, getting a job, satisfying your mate, staying in shape, looking good, staying healthy, and being yourself; these are all facts of life that this movie touches on, but with a more realistic sense that this is isn’t one of those big time, Hollywood-ized productions that could have only come from those corporate big-heads. Almost as if it was more down-to-Earth in its own way.

After this photo was taken, they played a nice game of craps and ate fish and chips. Total mates.

After this photo was taken, they played a nice game of craps and ate fish and chips. Total mates.

And that’s exactly why this movie is such a joy to begin with. What it does well is that doesn’t gloss over any of its character’s problems them with any sunny-side-up approach. In fact, it actually makes them seem better and more pleasant to watch and feel-through, with a smile, a couple of jokes, and a nice sense of hope and inspiration, lingering throughout the air. British comedies like this love to be cheeky and witty, but they also love to hit you where it hurts the most: You’re gut. And the way it’s hitting you isn’t in a violent or depressing way, it’s a way that makes you so happy you could smile and laugh all day. That’s what all movies should do, regardless of what region they’re coming from, but British comedies were, and in ways, still are the leaders in pulling this off with flying colors.

The harsh realities of life aren’t ignored here, but rather than focusing on them the whole time and having us feel as if we are in a Debbie Downer of a mood, the movie gives us enough chuckles and laughs to keep us busy, not realizing that these are probably the same thoughts and ideas that go through many, middle-age men who have come at a crossroads in their lives. But like I said before, the movie doesn’t harp on those aspects too much and reminds you that this a movie about a bunch of physically random and incapable men, trying to look and be hired as male strippers.

It’s very, very goofy, but the approach the movie takes isn’t one that comes cheap and easy. You have to search for the humor and while you’re at it, even search for your heart as well and feel like you really know these characters for the type of real people they should be. Most of them do feel stock and most of them do seem like they are easy to pin-point, within five or so minutes of meeting them, but at least they are still an enjoyable bunch to be around, which makes you feel like you’re part of the gang too. Just without the stripping and self-loathing and all that junk. Although, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to watch the movie and be going through those situations in real-life, simultaneously. It will probably make you feel a lot closer to the material, more than you felt watching those sexy, son of a bitches Channing and Alex running their sweet and fine asses up and down those women’s bodies.

Seriously, I’ll never forget about that movie. And not for the reasons some of you may think. If you want to know more about why I still do think about it, just read my review and realize it for yourself.

Where this movie does have its fault, is in the ways that you can see things coming a million miles away and knowing that this is a movie that was nominated for Best Picture and a whole slew of other awards, it does come off as a bit “overrated” in my book. Granted, I had a good time, enjoyed most of myself, and will never find myself listening to “Hot Stuff” the same way ever again, but at the end of the day: I still rarely think about it and my life continues on like it has before. Same old crap, different day, different movie, same ending. That’s all there is to it. I know it’s a weak element to complain about with this movie, but considering how obvious and hokey things were, it’s really no surprise that a simple-man like me would find something bothersome about this. The movie had me entertained, but it does leave something to be desired. And I’m not just talking about that ending, even though that is definitely were some of my frustration lies in.

If this blog doesn't get me laid or a job opportunity, that line might just be occupied with by yours truly. Okay, that's bull shit. I ain't going anywhere!

If this blog doesn’t get me laid or a job opportunity, that line might just be occupied with by yours truly.

But with a cast as British and likable as this, you can never be too frustrated. Robert Carlyle was a perfect fit as Gaz, and an even better fit to lead this group of older-scoundrels as they all made up their minds as to what the hell to do with their lives, because not only does he serve the same type of problems that each and every one of them do, but he too has a bit of spunk in his step. The man has always had that fiery-nature about his act that always seems to work for the dude, so it’s no surprise why it wouldn’t work for him here, especially for a character that seems as clear-cut as this.

A rather smaller, unknown actor of this movie that soon became a big name after it hit the box-office like a ton of bricks was one of my favorites, Tom Wilkinson and rightfully so because the dude’s got all you want to see from him here – he’s funny, smart, insightful, dramatic, and always interesting, no matter how cheesy his lines may get. Wilkinson is always the star of whatever show he’s trying to steal (and I don’t mean in the literal sense of the word “show”), and it’s to nobody’s surprise that he’s the one who walks away with it all here. Other actors like Mark Addy, William Snape, and many more all have their times in the spot-light, but not as much as Wilkinson does and it’s to no one’s surprise that the dude made a fine career after this.

Consensus: Most likely, The Full Monty, as a whole, will probably not last in your brain longer than it’s supposed to, but that’s fine because it’s still funny, entertaining, insightful, and heartfelt when it needs to be, even if it all does come off a bit in the “lighter” category than you’d expect with a movie with so much potential of having some real, saddening material.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cause nothing spells "sexy" quite like a bunch of cops, unless you're drinking in the woods with your underage friends. Then, it's not so "sexy" after all.

Cause nothing spells “sexy” quite like a bunch of cops. Unless you’re drinking in the woods with your underage friends. Then, it’s not so “sexy” after all.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Bad Boys II (2003)

Are FBI agents really THIS gangsta with their speech?

8 years after they last joked around and solved crime together, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still cops in Miami. While Marcus has become something of a dedicated family man, Mike still sticks to his bachelor ways and doesn’t get too caught up in much, other than work, and keeping Marcus’ mind in check. But once Marcus’ sister (Gabrielle Union) shows up, Mike can’t contain himself and just has to go for it. However, he’s got to contain himself because he and Marcus have a job to do and isn’t going to be an easy one: Take down a powerful drug kingpin (Jordi Mollà), and find a way to do it without crossing too many boundaries to where it could practically be considered “illegal”. A little easier said then done, but these two dudes know what to do when it comes to getting rid of drug dealers off the streets, so nothing can stop them.

I know I’m going to get plenty of heat for the rest of this review, so I’m just going to come out right now and say it: I enjoyed Bad Boys II. No, I did not love it, and no, I do not disagree with anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, that the critics say about this movie. It’s a bad movie, but worst of all, it’s a Michael Bay movie so obviously you can’t expect anything smart, profound, or remotely intriguing to be happening on screen. All you have to do is expect that everything he filmed, was done so while he was under the influence of some insane-o drugs, and then you’ll be good. Anything else, well, then I’m ashamed to say it, but you have the wrong movie.

Who says "Black Men Can't Jump"? Answer is: Nobody, because they know they can.

Who says “Black Men Can’t Jump”? Answer is: Nobody, because they know they can.

That said, this movie is pretty damn bad and deserves most of the hate that its been getting for the past decade or so. Basically, there is no plot here, and there is no reason for this movie to exist. You get the feeling that Michael Bay not only made this movie so he would expand his wallet a bit more, but just so that he could go back to his roots and throw up a big middle-finger to the critics after he made the out-of-his-element Pearl Harbor. And you know what, that isn’t so bad because the guy’s good at action, if you like that type of style, however, he does indulge himself just a bit too much with the usual “Bay-isms“.

For instance, there’s plenty of misogyny to take a lick at. Take for example, Gabrielle Union’s character who happens to be a DEA Agent, which is good for her character and has her come off as a bad ass, but can’t do anything right. Anytime a situation or a deal goes wrong, she utterly panics and loses all sense of just what to do. It’s normal for a person to be like that, male or female, but this happens to her on 4 different occasions, and it makes you wonder just how the hell did she get the job in the first place. Also, on top of her sad-excuse-for-a-bad-ass-female character, there’s a plenty of T & A shots, as well as one in particular where the T just so happens to be seen coming from a dead corpse. And not only does Bay’s camera linger on it for awhile, it gets us right up in there, as if the female actress probably wasn’t comfortable enough taking a role from somebody who’s been compared to Hitler before, but now she’s got to worry about a crazy-ass mofo like Martin Lawrence all up in her business.

Poor gal, wonder what the hell happened to her career after this. Probably in an insane asylum somewhere, scarred from her “one, big break”.

And trust me, there’s plenty more wrong with this flick that we all expect to see, and usually still be angry with, when it comes to a Michael Bay flick. Not to mention the utterly-dreadful time-limit of 146 minutes, that doesn’t do the material any good, and makes it just feel as bloated and as repetitive as it already was before. You can tell that a lot of this needed to be cut-down and easily should have, but Bay pretty much knew that he couldn’t; not because he considers himself an “artist” per se, but because he probably saw all of the money that he and Jerry Bruckheimer spent on this freakin’ thing, and didn’t want a single penny of it to go to waste. In that general aspect: He’s a smart man, the type of smart man my dad would be proud of. However though, my dad is not a “movie critic”, so obviously he doesn’t care about a cohesive plot, compelling story-telling, smart characters, well-written dialogue, or the understanding of the laws of physics in an action film; he just wants loud, angry, booming, and fun violence, and I think that’s where my dad and I agree on the most with this movie.

Right before Will Smith was ordered to "treat her like the bad girl she is". Being in a Michael Bay flick, Will expected this.

Right before Will Smith was ordered to “treat her like the bad girl she is”. Being in a Michael Bay flick, Will expected this.

Wait a minute! Why the hell am I talking about my old man? This is me who’s typing. not that dude! Anyway, what I came to expect from this movie was none other than a big old bag of fun from Bay, and that’s pretty much what I got. The comedy is obvious and strained, but surprisingly had me laughing when it needed to; the action is over-the-top and nuts, but is also non-stop, and never lost the attention of my eyes or my mind; and the most surprising of all, I actually really enjoyed watching Will Smith and Martin Lawrence together.

Since the first Bad Boys, both stars branched-out on their owns, with Smith becoming a bigger star than Lawrence, mainly in action flicks, whereas Lawrence became something of a crazed-nut behind-the-scenes, yet still funny and popular due to his stand-up and the occasional Big Momma’s House flick. Yet, despite both of their careers heading in different directions, they both came together pretty well here and made the best out of the crap material they were working with. The rambling is over-played and makes you wonder what’s scripted, and what’s just them talking out of their asses, but you can’t help but be amused when two stars such as these, literally seem so pleasant and happy working with one another, that they’re whole heart and soul is put into just being together and goofing-around. Maybe I’m giving them, as well as this movie, a bit more credit then it deserves, but I know when fun is fun, and this, my friends: Is fun. There I said it. Now I’m ready to lose any loyal readers I had.

Consensus: No matter what anybody tries to shove down your throat (me included), Bad Boys II is a dumb movie that shouldn’t be watched if you want the finer things in the world of cinema, but if you know what to expect from Michael Bay, Martin Lawrence, and Will Smith, then you can’t help but feel like its done its job, despite you being in some serious need of brain-cells.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I feel like after this movie's done, one of our careers is going to down the crapper."

“I feel like after this movie’s done, one of our careers is going down the crapper.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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

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