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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

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

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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

Jersey Boys (2014)

Next time you think about getting involved with the music business, make sure you cut-off all ties with the mob first.

In the early 50′s, a small, sheltered Italian-American kid by the name of Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) hung out with his local crew, causing all sorts of shenanigans, wooing the ladies, and, every once and awhile, getting a chance to play a gig or two and hopefully make some money. However, they all knew one thing, and that was if they were to ever get serious or big in with their career as musicians in anyway, they’d have to put their former-lives on the back-burner and focus on the future. And for awhile, everything seemed to be going all mighty and swell for Frankie Valli and the boys – they had a new name (the Four Seasons), wives, kids, a whole lot of money, television appearances, and all of the fame any of them could have ever wanted. However, one member of the band, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), who was actually the founding one, brings them all down when his sketchy past of being apart of the mob and owing a whole lot of money comes back to bite him, as well as the rest of the Four Seasons, in the ass. But thankfully, they can always rely on the music, but more importantly, Frankie’s lovely, soothing voice of pure love and affection.

Or, so I’m told from my long, lost, Italian-relatives.

Anyway, first things first, I think I need to get this off my chest as soon as possible, so that’s why I am doing it now: I have never seen Jersey Boys on Broadway. Though I’ve always heard it was a show that’s right up my alley, I just never found myself seeing it and sort of relied on this film-adaptation to hold me over until I eventually cough up all the money I can to get on with my life and change that. Sadly though, I guess I didn’t realize that this adaptation was actually one done by none other than Mr. Clint Eastwood himself.

"It says here that we have "act and emote". What the hell's that mean?!!?"

“It says here that we have “act and emote”. What the hell’s that mean?!!?”

That’s right, people. You read me right: Clint Eastwood directed a film-adaptation of Jersey Boys, a musical about the happenin’ and swingin’ times of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons during the 50′s and early 60′s.

If that at all sounds strange, don’t worry, because it totally should. Eastwood has always been known for directing dark, heavy dramas that rarely so ever have moments of fun, happiness, or even a smidgen of music in them. Not saying that each and everyone of his movies are as depressing as they come, but having already seen my fair share of Eastwood-directed films, I can easily say that a musical is definitely a strange choice for Eastwood to be apart of.

And that’s one of the main problems with this movie: Eastwood’s direction. See, I don’t know what it is that pushed Eastwood himself to go through with it and give this adaptation a shot or two, but it doesn’t feel right. Maybe he had some money already thrown into the project, or just wanted to show everybody his light and colorful side, but whatever the reason is, it doesn’t quite show and the movie suffers because of it.

That’s not saying Eastwood does a bad job as director; in fact, I’m sort of glad that somebody with enough attention to detail and character-development was on board with something like this, which could have easily been a song-and-dance number the whole way through. It’s just that when you watch this movie, something feels slightly off. There’s at least a good hour or so of this material where the movie sets up these characters, the lives they’re born into, their personalities and their introduction into the music world. It’s the same sort of introduction we get to see in these biopics, but because this time, it’s during the 50′s, it makes it feel more timely and almost like a slice-of-life. It’s nothing outstanding, but for the most part, it kept me happy, smiling and having a good time with myself.

But then, sadly, something strange happens during the middle-half of the movie when all of the cards are laid-out on the table and there needs to be a conflict with this story. I get that what eventually starts to cause tension amongst the band is the same in the play, but that still doesn’t mean it has to be as corny as it is here. Because, for the most part, a lot of moments feel as stagey as they can get. Once again, I realize that’s what it’s supposed to be like, but it took away from the realism of the story, and made it seem like we weren’t really watching a legion of dedicated, childhood friends growing apart; it just seemed like a bunch of really good-looking, somewhat talented dudes acting like they’re angry with one another and want out of whatever they’ve got going on.

And to make matters worse, once this second-half rolls on in, everything gets melodramatic and really takes the air out of this whole movie. Not saying that it was perfect going into this half, but for what it was, it was fun and entertaining, just like any musical should be. It doesn’t have to be a life-changer of any sort; it just has to get you to want to tap your feet, smile, laugh, and have a good time, regardless of if you like musicals or not. However, what happens is that Eastwood doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with this material, or even how to keep it going on and on, so he creates this strange mixture of uninteresting drama, with musical-numbers that just feel shoe-horned in there so that people don’t get upset when the Four Seasons aren’t shaking or jiving their hips every so often.

"You think you know a thing or two about dancing? Trust me, son. You haven't seen nothing yet."

“You think you know a thing or two about dancing? Trust me, son. You haven’t seen nothing yet.”

Once again though, I’ll repeat, whatever interest Eastwood already had invested into this project, good for him. Not only does this movie show that his style can at least cross over to other film genres, but that he himself, is an aging-director that isn’t afraid to test himself out a bit and try new things. It’s actually quite a revelation to have a director of his age and his stature in the movie business to keep on pushing himself, and see what it is that he works with next, because so many directors just pack it in once they reach a certain age or mental-zone. But not Eastwood. Nope, that guy just continues to truck on along and from what it looks like, he’s not stopping anytime soon either.

But that still doesn’t excuse the inherent oddness of this material and it’s a shame that somebody as talented as him had to get bogged down by material that seems like it should have just stayed on the stage in the first place. Or maybe adapted by somebody who has a better, clearer idea of how musicals work when nobody’s singing or dancing, and just talking. That’s what most musicals need to survive and if they don’t have much of that, or it isn’t working well, then the musical itself is just a boring time.

And nobody wants that! Especially not during the summer!

Speaking of things that should have just stayed on the stage because they’re a lot better on it, the cast is relatively dull too. However, I guess there’s a reason for that because Eastwood cast mostly the same people who played these parts on the stage, in these same roles. Ordinarily, that should work because it’s not like these actors have to do or try anything different with a role they’ve probably done about 20 or so times. But that’s what’s so strange about this movie, because not everybody’s very good, while others just absolutely do wonders and show us why they deserve to be in front of the screen more than on the stage.

One person in particular who seems really out of his league is the one who is playing our main-focus, Franki Valli. It’s not that John Lloyd Young is bad per se; it’s just obvious he’s a bit out of his depth and unable to command the screen, despite him being the reason why this story is told to us. In a way, he’s our main protagonist and it’s a problem whenever you’re lead just seems ill-equipped to really make anything work. Sure, his singing is on-point (or at least the recording of his vocals are), but that’s all he has to show. Whereas with somebody like Vincent Piazza, who plays Valli’s best buddy, Tommy DeVito, seems like he was tailor-made for this role as well as the camera. That’s why it’s a no-brainer why Eastwood would decide to cast him again.

But John Lloyd Young? Eh, he could have done better.

At least Christopher Walken was around, so you know it can’t be all that bad.

Consensus: Though it’s nice to see Eastwood wanting to try something new and different behind the camera, Jersey Boys still can’t help but feel like a dull, unexciting musical that doesn’t know how to handle neither of its drama, or its musical-numbers, very well.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

There's four up there, but Franki Valli has already been accounted for. So who the hell is the fourth person? The drummer?

There’s four up there, but Franki Valli has already been accounted for. So who the hell is the fourth person? The drummer?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Legion (2010)

Angels vs. demons, with God and Satan somewhere hanging out in the back.

When an angel named Michael (Paul Bettany) takes it upon himself to rebel against God’s plan of wiping out the entire existence of the human race, the whole world gets thrown into a battle of good versus, and Michael is thrown right into the middle of it. Problem is, he gets thrown on Earth in the middle of the desert with a group of ragtags that literally have the worst luck in the world right now. There’s a diner’s owner (Dennis Quaid), his son (Lucas Black), the head-chef (Charles S. Dutton), a man who looks like Tyrese Gibson and just so happens to have a gun on him, as well as baby-momma issues (Tyrese Gibson), and an upper-class, stuck-up family just waiting for their car to be fixed so that they can get the hell out of this deserted hellhole and back on with their rich, extravagant lives (Kate Walsh, Jon Tenney and Willa Holland). However, the reason Michael has taken to Earth in order to save humanity from existence is because of the diner’s waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), who also just so happens to be pregnant; aka, the last hope this world has left. Now it’s up to these groups of ill-matched peeps, along with Michael guarding their sides, to take down whatever force God has prepared for us, the human race, to face off against.

And for one thing, it sure ain’t pretty.

Yes, that scene actually does occur in this movie, and yes, it is easily the best part of all.

Don't know what you think, but that looks like a sign from God or something.

Don’t know what you think, but that looks like a sign from God or something.

But if you, like myself, watched that scene and absolutely laughed your ass off, then you’re in for a treat, because most of this film plays out exactly like that. It doesn’t matter if the special-effects look cheesy, the dialogue is clunky, the characters are incredibly under-developed, or even that the whole idea of God creating these dangerous, powerful monsters to destroy the rest of the human population, only to have each and every one of them easily kill-able by a couple of bullets or a nice smack in the head, is a bit ludicrous. Nope, it doesn’t matter how terrible this movie can get, because for one thing, it’s pretty fun.

Yes, I know that not everybody in the whole wide world can just lay down their swords of disdain and hate for anything that’s not considered “a work of art”, but trust me, if you like old, cheesy, 80′s flicks like Maximum Overdrive or even the Terminator, then this is an absolute blast from the past, that just so happens to be a movie made in the new millennium. But still, you get my drift: Expect this movie to be utter garbage and somehow, you will have fun.

Now, that’s not to say that this movie is totally amazing and perfect because it’s so dumb and over-the-top and knows it, because there are more than a few problems that this movie ran into and brought it all down as a matter of fact.

What takes this movie away from being very fun is that, like any other movie ever made in the existence of man, there does need to be some cooling-down time so that we can get to know our characters, their plight, what keeps them living on and on, and why it is that we should keep on rooting for them. I get that this needed to happen, but whenever you have quality-actors like Charles S. Dutton, or Paul Bettany, or even Dennis Quaid delivering lines like, “Show me your teeth!”, you just know that you’re in for a good, old fashioned, goofy-as-hell treat. That’s why when things slow up and get a bit serious, things are boring and they only get worse as time goes on.

But then, just as I would start to get annoyed with how serious and melodramatic this movie wanted to get for me, it pulls something completely out of its ass like a walking, talking, and sinister demon-child, and just had me rolling around in my seat. Sure, you could look at this as something as “total and complete crap”, but that’s sort of the point. There’s some messages to be brought about following God’s plan and how it’s up to us to interpret for ourselves what it is exactly that God wants us to do, or not to do, that totally gets lost in the shuffle of blood, action, and F-bombs; and with good reason, because all that stuff was really bringing down the vibes, man.

I spy with my little eye, five different people who definitely lost a bet or two.

I spy with my little eye, five different people who definitely lost a bet or two.

All this movie needed to do was give me some actors like Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, and even Kate Walsh enough moments where they got to be crazy and/or shoot something, and then I was good. And thankfully, I got to be of witness to that, more than times than one human being probably should be exposed to. However, I enjoyed it and I think that if you’re going to get a random ensemble such as this together, you need to allow them to do as much as possible, with at least something of a script. It doesn’t matter if the script is awful and even makes some of the actor’s doing the line-readings a little embarrassed – all that matters is that they seem like they’re having a fun time, even if the movie they’re in is as deadly serious as you can get.

That’s why when you have a talent like Dennis Quaid who is able to be gruff, mean, and a bit silly at the same time, it’s a joy to watch because you know that he’s in on the joke, even if the movie doesn’t like to show it off too often. As for somebody like Bettany, well, I feel bad for him because while this is a rare leading-role for the guy, he’s way too stiff and just seems like he showed up late to a party that everybody was already high and drunk at. Maybe that’s exactly how it was on set, so if that is the case, then Bettany deserves an Oscar. But for his work here, I feel bad that somebody as talented and as reliable as him still has yet to be given that leading role that puts him on the same marquee as many other supporting players who went big time.

Yet, he will always be remember for his bum. Poor Paul Bettany, man. Poor him.

Consensus: Can Legion be placed in the “so-bad-it’s-good” category? Most definitely so, and if you don’t think it, then lighten up, grab a drink or two, and give this one more watch and see how many times you laugh at somebody like Dennis Quaid guzzling down a Busch Light.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Hereafter (2010)

Jason Bourne: Ghost Whisperer.

Three different stories across Earth come together because of one major factor one experiences in his, or her life: Death. There’s George (Matt Damon), who has a “gift” in which he can speak with people’s lost ones through the after-life, and considers it more of a curse than anything else. Then, there’s French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) who has a near-death experience when she vacations to Thailand during the infamous 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and finds herself in a bit of a trance-like phase afterwards when she has to get back to functioning in everyday, normal life. And lastly, there’s twin-brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who both stick by one another as their drug-addicted mum gets worse and worse everyday, only to then be left alone when one of the twins die in a car-accident. All three people deal with death in their own ways and somehow, through the sheer power of fate, chance, or maybe even luck, connect while still looking for the same answers: Just what exactly happens to one when they die? Is it all just dark and blank? Or, is there more beauty and wonder to being dead?

At the time of this movie’s release, Clint Eastwood was 80-years-of-age and still going strong with life (as well as with the ladies) I presume. However, even a bad-ass mofo like himself has to at least accept the reality that yes, even he may die one of these days. And yes, for a man of his age, that could mean anytime soon.

"Come play with us, Danny."

“Come play with us, Danny.”

Though that sounds morbid and all, I only mean it as a way to understand his inspiration in deciding to direct a movie such as this. See, it’s all about the idea of death, what happens to us when we succumb to it, and what is there left to do after? Do we all just float around like ghosts, spooking people in horror movies and occasionally being spotted in strange photos? Or, do we live in this glow-y, supernatural after-life in which we all just hang out, party it up like no tomorrow and just wait for our loved-ones to eventually join us whenever their time on Earth is up? It’s never been proven which actually happens or not, and even though there are some people who like to say that they know exactly what happens, there’s still not enough fact to fall back on.

That said, Eastwood’s movie makes a pretty interesting claim that it doesn’t matter if we know or not, living this life on Earth is what matters most. We have to make the best of it and not get bogged down by the fact that people we know are dead and that we will be soon; we just got to keep calm and chive on, or so I’m told.

Which brings me back to what I was originally going on about: Eastwood’s age meaning something. Because see, even somebody of Eastwood’s respected stature among masculine-men, has to eventually realize that he soon will die and be gone from those he loves, or anybody else in the world for that fact. Once again, I know it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t – at least not in Eastwood’s case who is actually leaving a large body of work behind him as his legacy, where most people have just their regular, everyday lives. Still, not saying one person’s death is less important than another’s, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprise if the reason as to why Eastwood decided to get behind this movie and direct it, had a little bit to do with the fact that he himself is getting up there in age and closer and closer to being gone.

And with Eastwood here, his direction is very surprising. The choices he makes (like barely any score heard in the background, dim-lighting, long-winded scenes of dialogue) keep this movie interesting, in a small, contained way. It’s not something we often see from Eastwood or his flicks, however, it’s something that made me think that even though he’s older, he still has new, creative ways to show that he can shake things up, if only ever so slightly. You get a sense that Eastwood not only wants to pay attention to the themes about dying and the after-life, but also to the story and these characters, without really trying to get in the way of what it is that they do with their time on Earth. It would have been easy for him to do so, too, but Eastwood, being the dignified man he is, leans back and just lets most of the characters speak for themselves with their actions, wants, and needs.

However, there was something terribly “off” to this whole feature. And before anybody gets on my case and makes a point that “not every movie has to be played at a pace of 110 mph”, I will say this: It was not the pace of this movie that bothered. Even if it was slow and calm, it did not bother me; in fact, it did quite the opposite, it kept me watching. But no, what the real problem was that most of the movie felt like a smaller-scaled, less eventful indie that didn’t rely on the sheer-spectacle of its story, or the budget it was granted, but more of its characters, their feelings, emotions, etc.

But for some reason, by the end, Eastwood starts take steps further and further away from this mode of filming, and gets quite sentimental after awhile. Worst of all, he has most of this story ring false notes that I wish I didn’t see coming, but sadly, did. Meaning that when they did happen, they brought down the emotions going into this story and why it mattered to us that these three characters eventually find peace, love and happiness with their lives.

For instance, the character of George is a great example of what I’m trying to say. Here’s a guy who starts the movie out by contacting somebody’s dead wife and shows that what he has, is a total gift and is not a lie whatsoever. However, he doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who can talk to the dead”, whom everybody swarms and attacks, hoping that they too can speak with their lost, loved ones. You feel sympathy for him because he just wants to live a calm and peaceful life, yet, at the same time, also feel bad for him because he’s lonely and can’t really tell any person that he wants to be with for the rest of his life, who he really is, or what special talents he has deep in the pits of palms.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don't know yet.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don’t know yet.

It should be noted that, as usual, Damon is great in this role as George, because he’s pretty much the everyday man. Sure, he may have a unique talent that puts him in a different category from “everybody else”, but Damon plays him well to where it seems like this is just your ordinary, average dude who just wants to be happy, man. However, what ruins George by the end is that he makes some decisions that seem terribly contrived and only allowed so that he can eventually meet-up with the two other main characters in this movie. Didn’t quite work for me as much as I would have liked, and believe it or not, probably would have been a lot better off had it just been avoided in the first place.

With a movie like this, it’s almost expected that these three would eventually cross paths, but I feel like since their lives were each so miserable and painful as they were, that being separated from one another would make the movie more interesting, albeit, believable. But, as expected, Eastwood went with the conventional-route and made sure that these three eventually find ways of meeting one another and affect each other’s lives in big, meaningful ways; as hackneyed as they may have been.

As for the other two, or should I say, three, in this cast, Cécile de France and both Frankie and George McLaren are fine in their roles, although the latter two may not fair as well as de France. It’s not that I like picking on child actors, but when kids give bad performances, I recognize it and here, with both Frankie and George McLaren, they clearly can’t handle the material as well. Then again, they’re twins playing, essentially, the same character at most points, so I guess that’s a gimmick Eastwood himself couldn’t resist in trying out for size.

Sadly, it pains me to say that Clint may have been beaten-out. Yup, I went there and I find myself wanting to come back as soon as I just typed-it.

Please don’t hurt me, Clint.

Consensus: Hereafter is definitely made more interesting by the fact that somebody of Clint Eastwood’s stature and talents would get behind it, but sadly, even he succumbs to the more schmaltzy, sentimental happenings that overtake the last-half or so.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women, am I right men?

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women. Am I right guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Ninth Gate (1999)

No babies and nobody named Rosemary. Just books.

A rare-book dealer named Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), is hired by bibliophile Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to validate a 17th-Century copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, by Aristide Torchia. Dean takes it because it’s a lot of money, a lot of honey, and a lot of time to go sight-seeing, however, the only sights that he actually gets to witness are murders, crime, and some sort of Satanic-worship; all of which, he has no idea about until they all start pile up.

No matter where you are or who you’re with, any time you bring up Roman Polanski in conversation it’s always the same old stuff: “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe he raped that little girl, and then fled the country. Wow.” Now, I know that last sentence may seem like a satire and in a way, it is, but the fact of the matter stands is that having sex with any girl, under the age of 18 when you are way above that, is just wrong. A lot of people will defend Polanski and say that he just had a messed-up life stemming from his early days during the Holocaust and because of what the Manson’s did to his family, but it doesn’t matter. Rape is rape, and that’s just how it is.

Yet, whatever side of the discussion you may be on, you still can’t deny that Polanksi is one hell of a director. As a fan of film, I myself usually have to be able to create a seperate wall from the artist, from the person, and sometimes, it’s a lot easier said then done. But in the case of Polanski’s, it’s a lot easier because his movies are quite good and he always finds exciting ways to show the world that he can try something new, even at his age.

And like any other of Polanski’s flicks, the Ninth Gate starts off with a load of intrigue and wonder. A simple, everyday man is assigned a task that may baffle him, but at the same time, is almost too appealing for him to deny, so he takes it, and only finds out until it’s too late that he’s in way, way in over-his-head. That’s the way most of Polanski’s flicks play out and that doesn’t make it good, bad, or anything – it’s just what we’ve all come to expect from Polanksi and the guy at least does that aspect of his story very well. He sets up the plot, the story, the characters, and the setting that we’re supposed to get used to and always allows us to fully drop our expectations of what may come next, and just expect the unexpected to happen.

However, that same idea is sort of what killed this movie.

"It says I have to act normal?"

“It says I have to act normal?!?!?”

Where I think Polanski loses himself is somewhere around the middle-act. Before all of that, he had me on-edge, wondering where this story was going to go, how it was all going to go down, and what type of twist and turns Polanski was going to pull out of his dirty bag of tricks next. That all went away once the flick gets a little too ahead of itself, and then got a bit too over-the-top. There were so many scenes in this movie that made me feel like Polanski was going for some sort of dark comedy, but then the next scene would come around and have something so serious, something so strange, and something so dramatic that it almost seemed like both scenes were done by two entirely, different directors that either weren’t on the same page, or just didn’t know where to go with the story. Either way, something was screwed up with Polanski’s direction here and no matter how much the guy gave me to feast my eyes on, I never felt as compelled as I felt like I should have. Especially, when I think about how this is the same guy has made movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, The Ghost Writer, and a slew of other, tension-filled flicks.

Still, I don’t know whether or not I can blame Polanski’s direction, or just that the writing wasn’t there. It feels like the movie had a clear idea of what it wanted to do with itself from the first hour or so, but then had a change of heart and went with the wacky, supernatural thriller route that can either make or break movies. For Polanski, in the past at least, they have been able to make him, but for this movie right here: It just about breaks him.

Now, that’s not to say that this whole movie is terrible, because it’s actually relatively entertaining for a long while. There’s just a moment in time during this movie, where it feels like all points for originality were gone, and then Polanski put on the auto-pilot, doing weird and strange shenanigans with his story, but being able to get away with it because it’s what we expect of him. That can be all fine and dandy if it’s compelling and feels like it’s going somewhere with it, but it never does feel like that. It just goes on and on and on, and meanders until you feel like the movie is just about over. And then, it once again continues to go on and on and on until you really feel like it’s over. And then, it meanders once again.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a long movie, and it shows.

Actually, this DID creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Actually, this did creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Whenever there is a will, well, there is always a way and thank the high heavens that Johnny Depp was that way. In today’s day and age of the Sweeney Todd’s, the Jack Sparrow’s, and the Tonto’s, it’s always nice to get a slick reminder that Depp can still play low-key, and play it very-well. His performance as Dean Corso is pretty damn good, not just because it’s Depp being more subtle with his facial-expressions than he usually is, but because the character he is playing is more distasteful than likable, yet, Depp changes our perception of the dude by just being himself. I didn’t love the hell out of this guy by the end, but I do feel like his character goes through enough of a transformation that is not only somewhat believable, but pretty cool in how no matter how crazy stuff gets around him, no matter how close to death he seems, he still stays cool, calm, collective, and always like himself. It’s just another day for Johnny Depp, and we’re just there to sit back, relax, and have a good time watching him.

Frank Langella is as sinister as ever as the mysterious millionaire that hires Corso, Boris Balkan, and does what we always expect from the guy: Just be a bad-ass dude. Langella loves these types of roles and it’s pretty damn easy to see why, because he’s so good in them. You never know what this guy is up to next and for the most part, you never know if he’s being bad or not. All you do know is that he’s not the type of dude to trust and one that shouldn’t definitely be dealt with more through the phone, rather than in real-life. At least that’s how I’d handle my business meetings with the dude. Lena Olin is quite gorgeous as the wealthy widow that wants exactly what Corso has, and will stop at nothing to get it. Olin is a quality actress, I just feel like her role was a little too tame and could have went further into the depths of hell, much like I was expecting from a gal of her talents. Polanksi never seems to have a problem with his actors, it’s just more of the fact that he has a problem with keeping his story up and running for the whole time is where he hits a dead end.

Consensus: Since it is Polanksi and you know that whenever you walk into a film his, you are there to expect thrills, chills, twists, turns, and loads of craziness unlike any other director, there is some fun in watching all this craziness spill out over time, but The Ninth Gate is one that sort of goes on and on, without much reason or rhyme, just strangeness.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks THAT good.

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks that good.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Had no idea DJ’s were always getting so much nookie.

Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) is a sly and cool California disc jockey that has an easy job, easy life, and is pretty easy when it comes to the women. But, it’s all fun and games with him until one lady he spends the night with (Jessica Walter), ends up wanting more than he expected and now his life is ready for a whole new shake-up. Which is to say that the lady herself is pretty darn coo-coo for Coco Puffs.

If there is one thing I have to give Clint Eastwood credit for, it’s that the guy decided not to make his directorial debut this big, expensive piece of mainstream trash that he could have easily gone crazy with because of all the money that would have been tossed his way. Instead, the guy went for a more low-key, smaller-scale type of film that doesn’t even really seem like he spent all that much money on in the first place so if there is anything I have to commend Eastwood for with this film, it’s that the guy knows how to save money and knows how to keep things low and small.

Sadly, none of that matters when you look at the final-product and realize that Eastwood made some junk. Big budget or not, garbage is still garbage.

"I told you! "All Request Saturday" on is, Saturday. Not Tuesday!"

“I told you! “All Request Saturday” on is, Saturday. Not Tuesday!”

One of the main reasons why this film sucks so hard is because nothing is shocking here at all. We have all seen this type of thriller done before, done in the same exact order – guy bangs girl, girl thinks it’s more than just a simple one time thing, girl starts stalking, girl starts to get even crazier, and by the time the guy knows it, she’s attacking him with a kitchen knife aimed at his throat. Basically, it’s the type of dream every dude wants to have, without actually having it be real, so I guess that’s what makes it somewhat scary, is that this could literally happen to any person who dips their pen into the wrong ink. That said, the movie’s so campy, it almost feels like a joke half of the time; like it literally is just coming from Eastwood’s own fantasies that he probably still performs to this day.

And honestly, if you’ve seen something like Fatal Attraction, or any erotic-thriller ever made, you know exactly how this movie’s going to get started, move on, and then end. There’s hardly any surprises here, nor are there actually any fun moments to be had. Sure, it’s sort of like a horror movie, and it’s even a little bit of a thriller, but there’s not much of either elements to be found here. For the most part, it’s just a whole slew of scenes in which Clint Eastwood tries his hardest to get out of having to have sex with this one gal, each and every night. May have been fun for Clint himself, but for the single, angry viewer looking on, it can be a bit irritating. Not because that viewer wants to be Clint, but because the movie they’re watching blows.

And also that they want to be Clint Eastwood.

Not talking about me, by the way.

But once you get to thinking about the decade it was made, things get a whole lot worse. Everything from the music, to the lines, to the wardrobe, to the look of it in general, are all dated and at times, incredibly laughable. The gal that gets all nutso after Clint has sex with her and leaves her, has some of the most ridiculous lines in the whole film, just so that we could see how deranged and unstable she truly. Personally, I got it pretty quick: Lady’s crazy, so beware. But the movie did not stop there and just kept on giving poor Jessica Walter, horrible lines to work with.

Love to wake up to that every morning.

Love to wake up to that every morning.

Granted, it’s pretty neat seeing Jessica Walter, pre-Lucille Bluth days, but her performance here is insane. That’s clearly the point, but after awhile, it becomes to turn into something of a parody; almost as if Clint just told her to keep yelling at the top of her lungs and stick her tongue out as much as possible. Maybe it worked for those who saw this way back when, but now, it’s excruciating to watch. Like most movies from the 70′s, except that this one features literally a five-minute montage of Clint and an old-flame of his, kissing, making love, skinny-dipping, and doing it all to sweet tunes that sound exactly like a poor-man’s Kenny G. Honestly, I think I could have gone a whole two hours or so without seeing Clint Eastwood’s bare-naked bum, but hey, I guess the guy really wants to get his point across: He’s a hot mofo.

Speaking of Clint, as an actor, the guy is fine and does a nice job with his d-bag character but after awhile, you don’t really care for the guy. He’s just a dick that stuck his thing in a woman, decided that he didn’t want it from her no more, and then gets stuck with the fact that he may get killed for that one night stand. Yeah, it’s a sucky situation for the dude but it didn’t make me care about him any more and just left me with an empty-protagonist that didn’t have much to him other than a stern, smooth voice, and a body that ladies just die for. Notice how I am talking about Clint Eastwood in the early 70′s. Now, in the year 2014, not so much. But hey, he is somehow capable of reeling in the ladies, despite his age or what he may have turn out to be.

Consensus: It may have chilled viewers back when it first came out, but in the 21st Century, Play Misty for Me has not aged well one bit, which is mostly thanks to most of Eastwood’s lazy decisions as director and how conventional the material turns out to be, without ever being just simply put: “Fun”.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Clint be like, "don't curr."

Clint be like, “don’t curr.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Surprise! Surprise! The war fucks up young people and their minds.

Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP, finds out that his son has gone AWOL and that there might even be a possibility of him dead. Hank then decides to take it upon himself to drive down to the Army base, and figure out just what the hell has happened to his kid and all of the fellow soldiers that were with him. The problem is, nobody’s giving him straight answers. That’s when Hank asks the help of Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a New Mexico police detective, who finds it harder and harder to not only discover the truth, but be taken seriously among the rest of her fellow, more-masculine detectives.

Most movies that deal with the war, usually aren’t the pretty ones where everybody loves the war, hangs their flags, high-fives their fighting boys, and ends by chanting, “U.S.A!! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”, altogether at once. Nope, Hollywood is a bit too liberal for that crap and instead, decides to usually stick it’s nosy head in, peek around a bit, and have a thing or two to say. And usually, it’s not a pat on the back, or a simple “thank you”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nine times out of ten, you’ll usually find me talking shit against the war, some of the people that take part in it, and just what the hell is the reason behind all of it, but still, Hollywood never seems to have anything nice to say about it at all, and even when they do, it usually turns into over-patriotic shite like this.

Still, though, you have to give credit to movies like these that are able to tell us some obvious and well-known ideas about the war, but still make it feel honest and raw, rather than blatant and preachy. Some of it does feel like that, but not all of it, and that’s a sigh-of-relief, based on the fact that this movie is written and directed by the same dude who gave us this scene. Yeah, if you’re with me on this, Paul Haggis is the notorious writer/director behind Crash, everybody’s favorite-hated Best Picture winner of the past decade and tries to bring that same heavy-handedness to this story. Thankfully he doesn’t get too far because he always has a sense of human depth and emotion that keeps it surprisingly grounded in reality most of the time. Not all of the time, but most and that’s great to see in a flick where it could have easily been a train wreck of non-stop patriotism, from start-to-finish, but ends being something honest.

"Here, take it. It's called "The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker."

“Here, take it. It’s called “The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker.”

But what this flick is more concerned with, is its characters, and showing how they deal with their daily hardships they encounter day to day, and how they get through grief, sadness, and the war our country is currently fighting in. Seeing how most of these characters can relate and act with one anothe, is a beautiful thing to watch because it feels natural. Some scenes are coated in sugar, and some don’t go down quite as well as Haggis may have imagined in his head, but to see these characters realize more about their lives by just relating life-experiences and stories with one another, really touched me in a way that was hard to explain when it happened, and especially after too.

I was actually really surprised how the movie depicted not just the war in Iraq itself, but it’s soldiers and how much we can still trust them with our country and our lives, but may not think the same when they get back. The most prime example of this is the fact that Hank’s son isn’t really a nice guy, and in fact, turns out to be more of an asshole as we find more out about him, what he was up to, and how he caught himself going AWOL. This movie could have definitely gone down that wrong path of making him seem like everybody’s, true American hero that fights for The Red, The White, and The Blue, sings John Mellencamp all day, and does it all for our safety, so we may live, breath, sleep, eat, and die in peace, like we were meant to be. If this sound’s lengthy and over-exposed, then you get my point: This flick could have easily gone down that path, but decided to show him as a human, rather than a figure we all like to imagine each and every one of our soldiers as. They all have problems, they all get sad, and most of all, they are pretty fucked-up once they get off the battlefield, and back at the dinner table with ma and pa.

It’s sad, but it’s reality, baby.

However, the movie isn’t focusing on it’s characters, it’s themes, or it’s harsh-realities, it’s focusing on it’s police-procedural that feels more like a cheap-version of NCIS that I didn’t need to be bothered with seeing in the first place. Usually, I don’t mind when movies keep this element in because it entertains, excites, and keeps the mystery afloat, but after awhile, there was no mystery nor was there any case. It came pretty clear to me that the kid was not going to be okay, and that somebody did do something bad to him. No real gray area to be found whatsoever. And before people get on my ass, I’m not trying to give anything away, but you’ll start to see that the movie isn’t trying to reveal more details and clues about what happened, it’s just trying to show it’s characters. We already know, they don’t. And that’s what felt unnecessary and stupid to have, even if it was worth it for the first 45 minutes or so.

Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones was the one to keep this whole movie going and always rose above the material, even when it seemed to sink, lower and lower as it went along. Jones surprised the hell out of everybody when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hank, as it not only came out of nowhere, but little to no one even heard about this movie nor that Jones was even in it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still rarely ever hear this movie mentioned, which is a shame, because Jones’ performance is a great one that could have only came from this man who may always be known to be cranky and quick-whipped, but can play it subtle like nobody’s business. Jones shows real heart and emotion with this character and as time goes on and we see more about his kid, we start to see more him layer-out, especially in ways that I didn’t think were possible from Jones and Haggis. Jones’ character began to bother me a bit when he started to show unbelievable ways in how much smarter he was than the police, but after awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show that Jones was giving me to see. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word to describe this movie or this performance, but I think you get my drift.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She's like barely here.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She’s like barely here.

Charlize Theron doesn’t back down from Jones’ acting either though and actually makes her character more than just another run-of-the-mill, strong female that we need in a flick like this, to show that she can not only hang with the big boys but learn a little something in life as well. Yep, her character is pretty conventional with the whole single-mommy thing, but yet, still works because Theron is not only a strong actress, but one that is able to adapt to any environment she is placed in and that’s a skill that most actresses haven’t been able to master just yet.

Susan Sarandon also got top-billing in this movie, and is pretty solid (as usual) as Hank’s equally-grieving wife, but doesn’t get much screen-time to develop her character. Then again, it’s Susan Sarandon and the girl can act alongside a piece of wood, and make it work. She’s that damn good. Also, James Franco is randomly here trying to look tough, buff, and cool, but seems like he’s really trying to hold in the fact that he just wants to smoke and eat some munchies. It’s so painfully obvious.

Consensus: Paul Haggis isn’t known for being all that subtle when it comes to his themes and messages about life, liberty, and war, but In the Valley of Elah still benefits from a wonderful cast, especially Jones, and characters that give us a darker look at the boys in uniform who are over there, fighting for us, protecting us, and yet, are just as equally as messed-up as we are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sir, yes sir?

Sir, yes sir?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

22 Jump Street (2014)

The override of debt and loans may be a pain, but hey, at least you’re hanging out with C-Tates and J-Hill!

After “successfully” blending in as high school students and busting a major drug-ring, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are looking for their next mission, however, their commanding-officer (Ice Cube) thinks that they look too old to blend in with the young adolescents. Instead, he devises up a plan to send both of these guys to college, where they’ll be looking to infiltrate another drug-ring that may have also been the major influence in a student’s recent death. Automatically though, there are problems both Jenko and Schmidt run into as soon as they walk onto campus – some recognize that they are too old; Schmidt can’t fit in as well as he did in high school and finds himself “in” with the art crowd; Jenko finds himself buddy-buddy with a fellow footballer (Wyatt Russell); and plenty more distractions that keep both Jenko’s and Schmidt’s eyes off of what they were sent to college to do in the first place. To make matters even worse, Schmidt gets jealous that Jenko has a new best-friend that he can hang around and party with, leading to something even more serious than the idea of the mission falling apart: The dissolution of their friendship.

To be honest, even though I terribly enjoyed myself with 21 Jump Street, I for one was definitely not looking forward to a sequel of it. Not just a sequel to 21 Jump Street, but just a sequel in particular because, as we all know, sequels are the cash-cow of the movie business that Hollywood loves stuffing down our throats. It doesn’t matter if its a re-tread of the same story that was done so well before, or even if it improves upon the original in any way whatsoever – all that matters is that those in charge make money, and a whole bunch of it, too.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don't know if I believe it either.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don’t know if I believe it either.

However, every reason I just gave for not looking forward to most sequels of most kinds, is the exact reason why 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 21 Jump Street, works as well as it does: It knows what it’s set out on this Earth to do and rather than trying to hide behind it with flashy special-effects, car-chases and explosions, they attack it head on. Maybe moreso than they should have, however, a funny meta-sequel is better than a meta-sequel that isn’t funny, and it makes me happy to know that Hollywood still has some creative minds out there that can do something cool, fun, and different with the same formula, no matter how many times it’s been done before.

And yes, even though this story has only been done once on the big screen in the past decade or so, something could have easily gone awry here where it feels like it’s the same jokes said, same plot-threads covered, and absolutely no character-development whatsoever. But, like I’ve been mentioning, this sequel is very different from those others out there that do exist and show up maybe ten-to-fifteen times a year.

Because, for starters, this movie is downright funny. Everybody in the movie seems to be having a wonderful time with the material, and considering that both co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller place this story in college, rather than in high school, there’s more ground to cover. Personally, I don’t think this movie goes as deep into the state of modern-day college as well as it did with high school in the first movie, but the fact still remains that it’s a funny movie that makes the best use of its premise. Most of that credit deserves to be given to the more-than-able cast, but a good handful does deserve to go to Lord, Miller and the screenwriters (Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel) who keep this movie crackling full of humor whenever it sees fit.

Still surprised? Don’t worry, because it gets better.

Also, with this sequel, something happens that I didn’t see coming, which is that we get more rich development for our main characters that we fell so in love with before: Greg Jenko and Morton Schmidt. Obviously what was so great about the first movie is that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, despite seeming like a terribly-placed, odd-couple of some sorts back two years ago, worked so well together, that it was easy to not only believe in them as best-friends, but fuel the movie’s emotions a bit more once you saw their friendship start to deteriorate because of certain problems stemming from one being considered “cooler” than the other. They explore that same idea here, but it’s done so in a way that isn’t hacky and at least brings us to seeing why Jenko and Schmidt are such great movie-pals in the first place.

And heck, if you told me that C-Tates and J-Hill truly were the best of friends in real life, I would not doubt you for a second, because here, it totally shows. Their chemistry never wains and you can always tell that each one knows exactly what the next one is going to say, or do, at any given moment. Watching them pal around with one another and bounce joke-after-joke off of each other’s public-personas is an absolute blast, but what makes them so great together here, especially this time around, is that you can see why it matters so much about them being friends.

Though their different in terms of physical-build and social-cliques, they both have the same kind of personalities that they even each other’s out; Jenko is more impulsive, whereas Schmidt likes to think about what move he’s going to make next, whereas Schmidt is smart about life and in touch with his feelings, Jenko likes to blanket things underneath having a good time and not worrying about the small stuff that he considers “crap”, or “meaningless”. Though they have some differences, they still definitely appreciate each other’s company, because they’re both clearly good at their job and want to have a great time while doing it. Sure, they may not always agree on whatever step the other one takes, for whatever reasons that may be, but not every person agrees with another person on everything, especially not a best-friend.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

I know it may seem like I’m going into this deeper than I probably should, but I only do that because the movie itself clearly does its own fair share of digging into the friendship of these two just as much, if not more. Jenko and Schmidt are clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and while they may not be the only amusing, or even most interesting aspect about it all, they sure as hell are the aspect that keeps it conscience clear, its heart in the right place, and ourselves placed firmly behind these two, hoping they complete their mission, happy and together. And yes, if that sounds at all homosexual, that’s on purpose.

Trust me.

Like I said though, these two aren’t the only amusing aspect of the movie, because saying so would only be an injustice to just about everybody else who shows up here and throws in their own two cents to bring in more fun. Ice Cube is a whole lot funnier and well-rounded than he was in the first one, and without giving too much away, I’ll just say that he’s downright hilarious; Wyatt Russell (child of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell) is a fine-fit as the bro-ish frat dude that Jenko begins hanging out with more often than he should, but the two create a wonderful chemistry that it comes almost close to challenging the same one Tatum has with Hill; Jillian Bell plays a character that has it out for Schmidt the first day she meets him for looking too old and is very funny, even if she herself does look a tad too old to be pushing books and staying in dorms; and Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle all return to bring in some much needed reminders of how great and truly awesome the first one was. And while this one definitely rivals that movie, it’s clearly the better of the two. However, to have comedy-sequel in the 21st Century still be just as good as the first, truly is saying something and makes me optimistic for whatever sequels they have lined-up for this.

Just watch and you’ll get the joke. Trust me.

Consensus: 22 Jump Street may not be better than the original, yet, still comes pretty closer to doing so because of its tongue-in-cheek humor that never stops being hilarious, and the heightened relationship between its two main characters, played perfectly once again by both Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like my Spring Break, except not at all.

Sort of like this past Spring Break for me, except not at all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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