Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Enter the Void (2010)

People in rehab, don’t check this out.

Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a young American currently living in Japan. We join him in his apartment just as he takes a hit of DMT, which provokes a long, hallucinogenic trip sequence. However, within the next few minutes, he is shot by police during a raid and his soul is left to roam about in the after-life as it goes from past, present, and future forms of Oscar’s life.

Gaspar Noe is not one of those directors whose pieces of work are meant to entertain you and/or make you happy. They are more or less the types of films you watch, by yourself, while sitting in deep and dark misery, by yourself, and are ultimately left to think about for days on end, by yourself. That’s why this movie, just like with the case of Irreversible, attracted me right from the start as I had no idea what to expect, what I was in-store for, and whether or not me or my insides would be able to handle all of this material. Thankfully, everywhere from my head, to my toes were able to handle Enter the Void.

But still, there were some close-calls.

The groundwork for a sweet and simple story is all here and ready to be completed, but there just isn’t any deliverance it seems like on Noe’s part. Instead, the guy seems more concerned with the style; it’s a smart decision on the guy’s part if not the wisest one. No matter how groggy or stupid this story may get (and trust me, it definitely gets that way, but more on that later), Noe’s direction always kept me alive, awake, interested, and constantly watching as to where it was going to end up next. Just like with Irreversible, Noe films this all in one-shot, or, at least that’s how he makes it seem with the invisible cuts that take place every now and then. It’s a gimmick, but ultimately, it’s a gimmick that works and makes this flick hard to turn away from.

Why the hell would I want to watch my sister getting boned in the after-life?!? There's gotta be a way to find Eva Mendez somehow.

Why the hell would I want to watch my sister getting boned in the after-life? There’s gotta be a way to find Eva Mendez somehow.

But yeah, it’s a beautiful flick and Tokyo couldn’t have been a better spot for Noe to film this deep, dark tale in. People who feel as if they got the real, inside scoop on the underground world of Tokyo just by watching Bill Murray and Scar-Jo roam about in their crisis-phases, haven’t seen anything yet until they see this movie. Every shot is filled with color, whether they be bright or dark and it’s the way that Noe is able to manipulate certain color schemes or patterns in a scene is where this flick will really mesmerize you as you feel like you know what each color in the flick means, but yet, you don’t care too much to think about it too deeply because it’s just so astounding to look at. It does look very CGI-ish, but it’s also the right kind of CGI that feels necessary to the story and isn’t just up on the screen to be flashy and/or showy.

As you can probably tell by my constant rambling and ranting, Noe’s problem isn’t that he isn’t an inspired-director – actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Noe seems to understand the type of vision and look he wants to give to every single scene in his movie and never steps away from showing us the gritty, disturbing aspects of it that would most likely turn movie viewers away from, right away. However, by the end of the movie, you’re going to feel like that’s all he has to offer.

The first hour of this film is probably where it’s at it’s best where we see this guy’s life, literally from his POV and we get a sense of who he is, where he’s come from, and how he’s become, who he is now; which, in this case, is just another druggie at the bottom of the sewage pipe-line. It’s fun, vibrant, exciting, and actually heartfelt considering we see and know everything there is to know about this guy in order for us to care about him and the setting he surrounds himself with. But by the time that first-hour clocks in and we are introduced to his soul and the adventure it takes, then things begin to shake up a tad bit.

And not in the good way, either.

There’s a part of me that thinks Noe had every notion to make a compelling and complete story about the afterlife, but that story just got lost in a vision that’s almost too much, for so little. The last 30 minutes of this film just continued to constantly beat me over-the-head with everything in it’s will-power and as much as I was game for that first hour where things were electric and wild, I was feeling like it was game over, long before the movie was ever actually over. There’s plenty of sex, drugs, nudity, and money-laundering that goes down in the first hour, but it felt necessary to the story; whereas the last hour or so, just felt like Noe went on over-drive and couldn’t stop himself.

Take for instance, the whole sequence where we get a long glimpse inside the infamous Love Motel the movie makes several references to throughout. We see people boning in some very graphic ways, as well as doing drugs and being naked, but yet, it doesn’t serve a purpose and just continues to go-on-and-on-and-on, until Noe finally woke up from his deep slumber of style and realized, “Oh crud! I have a story to tell!”. I highly doubt those were the words that went through his head, but still, it’s so damn obvious that the guy just lost himself in his own style, without even remembering why he was there in the first place. Enter the Void could have ended at any second and it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Heck, even when the guy did end the movie, not only is it disappointing, but it also makes no real sense.

Nowhere in the U.S. looks like. Only Tokyo, especially when you're on drugs.

Nowhere in the U.S. looks like this. Only in Tokyo, especially when you’re on drugs.

The idea of seeing the world you lived with and are leaving behind, definitely seems like the type of material that would have any person tearing-up and reflecting on their own choices, but that isn’t this film. Which is fine, of course, as it’s much more about the way that we look at death through the microscope of our own lives. With Irreversible, Noe at least got the style down, but the substance was what helped it work more. Here, we’re just given the style that makes you never want to take drugs ever again, nor make you want to have sex with more than one person at a time. Highly doubt that the flick was going for that at all, but it’s the type of effect I could see this movie having on the squares of society.

But if there’s anything else that Enter the Void gets across, it’s that, once again, Paz de la Huerta truly does love not wearing clothes.

Like, at all.

Even though it does make sense as to why she’s constantly in her birthday suit the whole time, it does get a tad ridiculous and annoying. I mean, hell, the she’s cooking breakfast with her lady-parts, basically! Throw some slacks on and step the hell away from the eggs! Huerta doesn’t really get much acting to perform, but she has a nice body and, if anything, I guess that’s got to count for something.

Consensus: Enter the Void is as crazy and wild as you’d expect from an auspicious auteur like Gaspar Noe, which can, for the most part, mean that the story is left on the back-burner for pretty-looking visuals and gimmicks.

6.5 / 10

Reminds me of myself after New Years. Minus the drugs, the gunshot, and the death.

Reminds me of myself after New Years. Minus the drugs, the gunshot, and the death.

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR.com

Miss You Already (2015)

MissposterHug your bestie and never let go.

Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They were both there for each one’s first kiss, first bout with sex, and basically, everything else. So it would make sense that Jess is there for Milly when she gets diagnosed with breast-cancer, right? Well, yes, definitely. Problem is, Jess has a bit of a problem in her own life and it features getting pregnant with her husband (Paddy Considine) before heads-off for a few months to an oil rig. Still though, as hard as she might, she tries to be there for Milly, even while she’s going through this painful, and obviously scary time in her life. Because together, even though they may both be sad, they’re never lonely and find ways to make the other feel better; not just about themselves, but about life in general. That’s why when Milly starts acting-out in un-Milly-like ways, Jess is surprised and, at the same time, angry and doesn’t know what to do. Not to mention that, after many times of trying, she’s now pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Milly because she feel as if it might make her feel worse than she already does.

They were together for what appears to be a birthday.

They were together for what appears to be a birthday.

It’s obvious that Miss You Already’s intentions are good. Everything from the message, to the characters, to the plot-line, and hell, especially to the humor, everything about Miss You Already is so clearly not trying to offend anyone who has either had cancer, known someone else who has, or lost someone to it. Therefore, a lot of the promotion for Miss You Already, as well as many other “cancer comedies” (I hate using that phrase, but somehow, it’s become a thing), has been hiding the fact that the key character in this movie, does in fact have cancer. This isn’t because the producers and creators behind this flick are embarrassed because of it – but because they know that it’s very hard to sell a movie about cancer as is, let alone, a light-hearted one.

As I said though, Miss You Already has good intentions flying right out of itself, but at the end of the day, those good intentions aren’t used on anything except a bunch of a lame-gags that try to cover up the fact that this subject material is downright depressing.

And it’s not like the comedy aspect of telling cancer stories doesn’t work. Take 50/50 for instance – what that movie does so brilliantly is that it not only goes deep and dark with the terrible realities cancer provides, but also show that there’s some fun and humor to be had in the situation as well. However, that movie’s humor was more based on the actual characters themselves, their reactions and, in general, they’re day-to-day livings. Miss You Already is less subtle than this and instead, feels the need to endlessly barrage us with half-baked jokes because, well, they don’t want everything to be so serious.

Once again, I’m not saying that movies about cancer, should not at all feature comedy, but it does have to be done in the right way to where it feels necessary to telling the story; to just have it around as a way to break-up the tension, isn’t suitable. And the main problem with Miss You Already, is that it never actually realizes that it not only can get by on not having any comedy in it whatsoever, but actually isn’t all that funny, either. But because nobody ever finds this out, the movie feels more obnoxious, than actually heartfelt; for every sad character revelation, we get a scene or two dedicated to the characters yelling and shouting gibberish because, uhm, comedy?

I’m still not sure, but either way, it wasn’t working.

Which is to say that Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette’s on-screen chemistry, doesn’t work much, either. Collette, as usual, is clearly down for every journey this movie takes her and it works well in helping to develop this character. While it seems that early-on, the movie may try to hide away any fact that the person with cancer may actually be not the most perfect human being on the face of the planet, surprisingly, it doesn’t and much rather, shows just how selfish and sometimes manipulative Milly can be. This is where Collette’s performance works best, as we’re supposed to know that we should care and sympathize for her, but because she’s acting like a bit of an a-hole, it’s actually pretty hard.

As well as for a wedding.

As well as for a wedding.

Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, doesn’t quite fare as well on her own. For one, she seems oddly miscast; while the character she’s called onto play is supposed to be a sweet, sincere gal that cares for Milly and all those around her, for some reason, her own personality seems lost in the shuffle. I’m not saying that Barrymore can’t play this kind of role, but because it’s so limited to her just being “Milly’s friend”, it sort of feels like all of her development was left by the wayside because, well, one has cancer and she deserves the most attention. Nothing wrong with this, either, but considering that most of the flick is being told from Jess’ perspective, it’s rather difficult to ever care for her, or what she’s up to.

Due to this, Barrymore and Collette’s chemistry doesn’t work so well. It seems as if Miss You Already was literally the first time these two had met and rather than doing any sort of cooling-down, or ice-breaker for the two, director Catherine Hardwicke just decided to have them meet for the first time, on the set and act as if they were lifelong besties. Had these characters been the actual opposite, then that method probably would have worked, but whatever the method used here was, it doesn’t show any signs of helping because they never seem like best friends, nor do they actually seem as if they do any time relating to one another, or better yet, making us realize why they’re considered “best friends” to begin with. Most of the time they spend together, consists of Jess taking care of Milly and, occasionally, passing off an in-joke that nobody in the audience is ever supposed to understand.

Meaning, what’s the point of ever telling the joke to begin with? If we’re never going to get a chance to understand what the in-joke actually means, or where it comes from, then why the hell should we care?

Consensus: Miss You Already has its subject material’s best intentions at heart, but overall, seems like it’s trying so hard to be both, funny, as well as dramatic, that it loses any charm in the process that would have been vital to making the story hit harder.

5.5 / 10

Oh, and how could I forget that they were together for this unexplained, but seemingly happy moment together! What pals!

Oh, and how could I forget that they were together for this unexplained, but seemingly happy moment together! What pals!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Suffragette (2015)

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like much good has come of this.

During the early 20th Century, women in Britain were able to do a lot of things. They could work, get married, breed children, cook, clean, smoke, drink, and a whole bunch of other things that are most associated with living. However, the one, and perhaps, most important task that they could not, hell, were not allowed to do, was vote. Because of this, many women stood-up and let their voices be heard, spearheading the suffrage movement; it’s also the same movement that one woman named Maude (Carey Mulligan) doesn’t quite care for to begin with. For one, she knows that her job is valuable, her husband (Ben Whishaw) loves her, and that she doesn’t want to lose her, so she decides to just keep her mouth shut and move on. That changes one day, however, when she’s recruited by Edith New (Helena Bonham Carter) and brought to an appearance by the suffrage movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). Now, Maude understands what the fight is all for, and although she risks not just her family, but her own life as well, she’s still very inspired to do the right thing and make sure that women are granted their given right.

"I wish I were a gal, too."

“I wish I were a lass, too.”

Like most other civil rights movies, Suffragette likes to point out just how ridiculous it was that a certain group of people couldn’t do something, because of an even more ridiculous ideology that, in hindsight, doesn’t seem to ever make much sense. In this movie’s case, the certain group is women, and the ideology is the right to vote; why women weren’t allowed to vote for so very long is based on pure sexism, but that’s about it. While it would have been one thing for the movie to dive deeper into exactly why so many British men/politicians thought that this idea was right, the movie doesn’t ever go for that.

Instead, it just focuses on a few stories of a few women who may, or may have not existed during this movement, but hey, that’s what movies are all for.

And honestly, the best parts of Suffragette are when it’s focusing on all the backlash these women received for making their voices heard. There’s something incredibly disturbing about watching a group of women getting beaten and clubbed by a group of policemen because they, “were felt as a threat”. There’s also the not-so violence backlash these women faced – whether it be through losing their jobs, their families, or being tossed aside from the rest of society as “trouble-makers” – it’s all sad, but serves a greater purpose to make the movie’s message go down a lot less smoothly.

But the problem with Suffragette is that it also deals with these women’s lives which aren’t all that interesting, if I’m being frank. Not to say that I had a problem with the movie trying to focus in on these character’s lives and show how they were affected by each and everything, but at the same time, it was still hard for me to wholly care when everything was laid out in such a conventional manner. Take, for instance, our lead protagonist, Maud, and her story; though I’m sure she shares her story along with many other women, hers, above all the rest, is given the most focus and attention because she doesn’t actually start out as a suffragist.

In fact, she was actually recruited into it all, and the hows and whys of that all, are probably a little more interesting than the character herself. Which isn’t to say that Carey Mulligan doesn’t do a solid job in this role, because she does, but still, it’s very much the same kind of Carey Mulligan performance we’ve seen her do a hundred times before, but in far more prettier clothes and wigs. She’s emotional, sad, and supposedly dirty and ragged, but somehow, her hair still finds a way to be in the right place at that right picture perfect time. Don’t worry, I’m not ragging on Mulligan for being beautiful, however, most of the movies that she does, can’t seem to help but pay as much attention to this aspect of her, and sort of put the rest of her versatility on the back-burner.

No matter how much pain or strife she goes through, that Carey Mulligan is always ready to make sadness, beautiful.

No matter how much pain or strife she goes through, that Carey Mulligan is always ready to make sadness, beautiful.

The only exception to the rule is, of course, Shame, for obvious reasons.

And everybody else here is fine, too, if a tad underused. Helena Bonham Carter seems like she had a more fun and fiery performance here, but is mostly just called on for some witty one-liners to deliver when the movie needs a joke to clear the air; Anne-Marie Duff is also fine, but it seems like her backstory and what her character goes through during the duration of the film, is actually more interesting than Maude’s, but hey, that’s just me; Ben Whishaw plays Maude’s husband and, as expected, is sort of there to just serve as a needed window-dressing; Brendan Gleeson gets a meaty role as a police inspector who may, or may not be pleased with these suffragists, and to see how he constantly fights with himself over what the next best move to make, is very engaging; and Meryl Streep, despite being advertised heavily in the promotion for this movie, is hear for maybe five or ten minutes, and that’s about.

But, in true Meryl Streep fashion, she’ll probably win an Oscar for it. Just you wait.

In case you couldn’t tell, though, there’s a lot of interesting subplots going on here, but sadly, none of them get nearly as much attention as Maude’s does and that’s a bit of a problem. It isn’t a problem that Maude’s was actually given some attention to begin with, but because she’s the main one, and it’s not all that compelling, it does feel like she’s taking a bit away from the rest. Once again, she doesn’t ruin the movie, but she does keep it away from being as smart and as powerful as it could have definitely been, considering the message and all.

Consensus: Though the message is strong and the cast is fine, Suffragette still suffers from a less-than-engaging main story, that doesn’t always blend in well with the rest of the proceedings.

6 / 10

You go, girls!

You go, girls!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

Sadly, this is the closest thing we’ll get to Saturday morning cartoons nowadays.

Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang is back and, for the most part, everything’s still pretty much the same. Lucy still has a bone to pick with Charlie; Sally still annoys Charlie; Peppermint Patty still has a crush on Charlie, or Chuck, but tends to spend most of her time playing hockey; and well, you get the picture. And while Charlie’s life is still pretty casual and normal, it’s about to get turned inside out when a new, red-haired girl moves in across the street. While it’s obvious that from the very start, Charlie Brown has no idea on how to talk to her or get her attention, he still tries his hardest by changing certain aspects to his life that will, well, make him more attractive to this unknown, rather mysterious girl. Meanwhile, Snoopy and Woodstock are having their own adventure of sorts, where they find themselves in a tense, exciting bout with the Red Baron that also finds them bothering getting in the way of everybody else’s lives.

And of course, there’s still no parents anywhere to be found!

Everybody loves Charlie Brown. Not like me and my friends at all.

Everybody loves Charlie Brown. Not like me and my friends at all.

A lot of people will and most likely have already, taken one look at the Peanuts Movie and say, “Childhood-ruiner!” And while I am definitely not all for classic cartoons getting film-feature reboots, I’m not totally against one that actually seems to have the fan’s best intentions at heart. Because yeah, even while the movie may definitely be made for the sole sake of money and nostalgia, that doesn’t always mean that the heart and soul of what made the original cartoon so great, has to be gone, right?

Well, that’s why the Peanuts Movie is a nice little surprise.

For one, it’s a movie that’s a lot like the cartoons, in that it never seems to slow itself down. That the movie is nearly an-hour-and-a-half, this gives the film-makers free reign to be as wacky and as crazy in this universe as they see fit. This means that there’s at least a joke a second, and though maybe not all of them work or deliver, they still seem to be thrown in there for the sole sake of keeping everyone entertained. From the adults who are reliving those glory days of waking up way, way early on Saturday mornings, to their kids who may have no clue who the hell Charlie Brown or Snoopy even are to begin with – everyone has a chance to enjoy this movie and it’s what keeps it, at best, entertaining.

And because the movie is aiming for all parties here, that means that a lot of what the older folks in the crowd remember and adore most from the original cartoons, they will get and probably have a ball with. There’s plenty of call-backs and references that some of the only most dedicated fans will understand, but that isn’t all that there is to this movie. It does realize that there’s more people to entertain and because of that, more often than not, there’s plenty of slapstick. But the cartoon was like that, too, so I can’t hate on it too much for that fact.

The only thing that I can get on its case for is not knowing what to do with itself after the first hour hits.

The running gambit that most animated flicks roll with these days is that, while they can be funny, exciting and pleasant, they also have to keep themselves at a fair pace so that they don’t over-do it all too early on in the proceedings and lose the audience about half-way through. Well, the problem with the Peanuts Movie isn’t that they necessarily lose all the sense of fun or excitement in the air – it’s more that they lose what to do with the plot they have. Considering how simple and easy it seems to make a movie that just solely features Charlie Brown trying to capture the eyes of this red-haired girl, it’s a bit of a surprise that, even at only an-hour-and-a-half, the movie may still be a bit too long.

Which isn’t to say that a plot as narrow and straight as this, has to be as short as humanly possible, but there does come a point in this movie that it seems like the creative talent behind it forgot what they were shooting for. At one point, it seems like they were all determined to make a story about Charlie Brown’s affections, and then, all of a sudden, the tide changes and we’re now focusing in on Charlie Brown’s low self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the movie trying to focus on both of these plot-lines, but by the half-way mark, it shows that the people behind this movie may have lost a little steam.

Poor girl has no clue what she's getting herself into.

Poor girl has no clue what she’s getting herself into.

Instead, the majority of the movie just begins to focus in on Snoopy and his imaginary rivalry with the Red Baron. This is, of course, fun, but also takes away a bit from the rest of the movie and what it was trying to do. And yes, while I’m most definitely sure I’m thinking way too hard about an animated movie about the freakin’ Peanuts, I still can’t help myself. I’m definitely a sucker for any sort of animated movie and considering what Inside Out was able to do early this year, it goes without saying that the bar has been raised pretty high, regardless what kind of animated flick you actually are.

But still, I’ll take a fun piece of animation that, while may be trying to cash-in on nostalgia, also, takes advantage of the fact that it’s got a colorful universe and bits of characters to work around and play with. While the jury is still out on whether or not we’ll get another one of these movies in the near-future, it remains to be said that, well, for now, they’re just fine.

Now, where’s my Hong Kong Phooey reboot!

Consensus: Despite not being a very ambitious piece of animation, the Peanuts Movie is still a nice flash of nostalgia for the older ones in the crowd, as well as a eye-opening for the younger ones who will now, hopefully, look further and further into this product.

6.5 / 10

Nobody gets in between the love of a man and a dog.

Nobody gets in between the love of a man and a dog.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spectre (2015)

Hey, at least it’s not another remake of Home Alone.

After the events of Skyfall left him depressed and battered, 007 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is now back on the hunt, except this go-around, it’s on his own time. Because while things back at MI6 headquarters may not be going as swimmingly as he’d like, Bond is still going to make sure that he gets his job done, so that he can feel a whole lot better about himself. Or something. This time around, Bond, is going after a shadowy criminal organization who may, or may not, have had something to do with the death of M, and/or also may be connected to some of his past adversaries. But in order to follow the bread-crumbs, Bond will have to go through and meet all sorts of colorful characters. One, is Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) a psychologist he comes to have a relationship with, whereas another is a jacked-up, bulking henchman (Dave Bautista), who wants nothing more to do than just beat the hell out of Bond. There’s also Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man believed to be dead but for some reason, is actually alive and hunting Bond because, well, he’s evil and he can do that sort of thing.

Do you really need that gun to be menacing?

Do you really need that gun to be scary?

The Bond franchise has been around for such a long time that it’s no wonder that, every once and awhile, we get a crummy movie. While they don’t come every year and are, in ways, considered to be “events”, Bond movies can sometimes range from being “awesomely rad”, to just being “fine”. Though most people want to put Bond up on a peddle-stool that refrains from it ever being compared to any other thriller released, ever (because it’s Bond, dammit!), the fact remains: Bond movies, too, can also be mediocre.

Which is exactly what Spectre is.

But for the longest time, it isn’t. In fact, it’s actually a pretty solid Bond flick that reminds me of some of the best parts of Skyfall, which makes sense because Sam Mendes is thankfully back for another go-around. The best element that Mendes brings to these Bond movies is that he not only allows for the stories to be more dramatic and emotional, but also puts an over-emphasis on the “gritty” aspect of these movies that separates them from the rest of the pack. While there’s plenty of gorgeous-looking women, cars, martinis, dudes, guns, locations, and buildings, there’s still an inherent darkness to it all that makes it seem less like a glamorized version of being a high-class, smart and talented spy, but also more humane.

Sure, the glitz and the glamour is what Bond fans come to expect with these movies, but Mendes and the rest of the crew he’s with do nice jobs of keeping the stakes relatively high, while also building more complex relationships between these characters. This is also to say that the story, while a tad confusing at certain times, also stays compelling. While we’re never sure of where the story is going to end-up, we’re still glued to the screen enough that it doesn’t matter how much exposition they’re throwing at us – we’re just trying to see how and where all the cards fall. We know that there’s bad people involved with doing bad things, and that’s pretty much all there is to it which, given the complexity of most of the Bond story-lines, is fine.

But then, the movie gets a bit ahead of itself.

For one, Spectre is nearly two-and-a-half hours and after a long while, totally begins to feel like that. One of the main reasons for this is that the story takes a nosedive into being “slightly confusing”, to just plain and simply, “huh?”. Though it’s never made fully clear just where the story is going, and effectively so, too, the movie then decides that it wants to totally and completely throw the audience in the dark by giving us a villain in the form of Christoph Waltz who, literally, shows up outta nowhere, starts going on and on about Bond’s past troubles, and decides that he wants to do bad things to Bond because, well, it’s a Bond movie and there needs to be some sort of threat posed to Bond.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a Bond villain being as bad and as distasteful as he can be, but there has to be a reason. To just simply have some evil, cackling baddie show-up and start throat-punching every one in sight because the box for “bad villain dude” needed to be checked-off, isn’t a good enough reason – in fact, it’s what every Michael Bay movie has ever done. You could even make the argument that, even while Javier Bardem’s villain in Skyfall didn’t have much of a rhyme or reason for being around, he still at least served a greater-purpose in pushing Bond to his deepest and darkest limitations; in a way, he was baiting-and-switching him, which not only allowed for us to see Bond in a different light, but also give us a glimmer of hope that, hey, maybe the bad guy, for once, has a point.

That said, despite Waltz being a talented scene-chewer, he doesn’t have much to do with this villain and instead, is left to just rant and rave about Bond, all the bad things he’ll do to him, and other stuff that, quite frankly, I don’t care enough about. His only purpose here is to be some sort of obstacle for Bond to hurdle over, which seems kind of unnecessary, because Dave Batista’s henchman character definitely filled that requirement perfectly. He’s big, scary, menacing and totally bad-ass, and does this all without barely even speaking a word!

She's cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

She’s cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

He’s Bond’s rival because of his brawn, not his brawn, which in Spectre‘s case, would have probably been a better road to go down.

And because the movie is so fixated on what Waltz’s baddie is up to and concocting, the rest of the ensemble and story sort of gets thrown-off to the side and feels more like filler. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, and new-blood to the franchise, Andrew Scott (Moriarty!), all seem like they’re here because it’s a Bond movie, and well, Bond needs to have his adversaries on the side, just in case he needs a cool gadget or two. Same goes for Léa Seydoux who, despite being a charming, fiery-presence on-screen, also seems like she’s around because Bond needs a hot lady to bang and randomly, fall head-over-heels for. I won’t really go into too much detail about Monica Bellucci here, other than to say for a 51-year-old, the gal still looks great.

Now, why wasn’t she the Bond girl?

And for his fourth go as Bond, Daniel Craig still does a fine job at portraying both sides of this character. There is, of course, his exterior (the stiff upper-lip, the charm, the nice way with words, etc.), as well as his interior (the fact that he’s been through so much violence, disturbance and loss, that it’s beginning to take its toll on him). Even though Craig himself has been coy about whether or not this will be his final time donning the Bond penguin suit (personally, I think he’s got one more in him, but that’s just me), it still remains to be said that he’s still got some juice left in his system to be going through the motions, but at the same time, be able to show that there’s more to this character we deserve to know and understand.

Hopefully, we’ll get that.

Sooner than later, maybe.

Consensus: At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Spectre is overlong and jumbled, but still provides plenty of fun, exciting and tense, spy-oriented action that still makes it worth a watch.

7 / 10

Ain't nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond.

Ain’t nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond. Except Jason Statham, of course.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

American Beauty (1999)

Once the white picket fence goes up, consider your life over.

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is going through a bit of a midlife crisis. He’s 42, in a marriage to his wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), that hasn’t been passionate or loving in many years; works at a magazine that he despises has a daughter named Jane (Thora Birch) who, despite living with and seeing everyday, doesn’t actually know; and her wannabe-model friend, Angela (Mena Suvari) catches his eye and all of a sudden, he can’t stop himself from having fantasies about her. Eventually, all of this tension and turmoil in his life leaves him to just say to hell with it all and do whatever the hell he feels like doing! That means, not only does he quit his job, but he gets back onto smoking pot, drinking, talking dirty to his wife, and most importantly, lifting and getting back into shape. Meanwhile, everyone else around him is trying to work with their own lives, and some definitely succeed more than others. Carolyn’s trying to make her real estate agent career work, whereas Jane has taken up with the new neighbor, Ricky (Wes Bentley), who films stuff he finds “interesting”, sells pot to Lester, and has to deal with an overly-oppressive father (Chris Cooper). And through all of their troubles, they try their hardest to achieve happiness and realize the beauty in life, underneath all the material and glamour.

Yes, Lester. You do rule.

Yes, Lester. You do rule.

There’s been so much said about American Beauty that, by now, that’s it hard to say anything really new, or better yet, ground-breaking about it. For one, it’s a great movie – there’s no denying that fact. Secondly, it’s one that helped spear-head the careers of director Sam Mendes, as well as writer Alan Ball, both who have gone on to do great, amazing things with their careers. And also, I can’t forget to mention that, you know, it’s one of those rare, small, indie-based flicks that won a whole lot of Oscars, earned plenty of respect, and also, changed the game of indie cinema and how these big award shows look at them.

Oh yeah, and it’s one of my favorites of all time. However, that’s neither here, nor there.

But even after all these years (15, to be exact), there’s still something that stays relevant in today’s day and age. Back before ’99, it wasn’t out-of-this-world to have a movie satirize the suburbs, the people who lived in them, and the general mind-set that came with being apart of a little world like that. Not much has changed on that front since, either, but still, what American Beauty was setting out to do, or say, wasn’t really revolutionary; it was more in how the movie actually went a bit deeper and further into its subjects that sets it apart from the rest of “suburban malaise” subgenre of film that, quite frankly, got pretty old once people realized they all had the same message: The suburbs suck.

Move on, already!

But like I said, Ball’s screenplay shoots for something much more meaningful than just saying, “People in the suburbs aren’t really happy, no matter how hard they try to make themselves think that”, and leaving it at that. Nope, Ball, as well as Mendes, are both a lot smarter than that and find interesting ways to tell these characters, as well as their stories, in fun, fresh ways that they’re not only hilarious, but at times, pretty heartfelt. While at one moment, we may sneer at a character for being so wrapped-up in materialistic crap that doesn’t at all matter, the next moment, we’ll see a character reveal a fact about their life that not only makes you a bit misty, but also gives you something to take in about those characters.

This is all to say that while, for the longest time, it may appear as such, American Beauty isn’t filled with a bunch of soulless, comical caricatures that are just there for us to point at and make fun of. On the surface, they may appear as such, but once you look a little bit closer (I know I’m sort of referencing the tag-line, but trust me, it isn’t on purpose), you realize that they are actual human beings; ones who breath, think, talk, and act like you or I. They may live in a different situation, or have more experience in one walk of life or another, but they’re still humans none the less that deserve to be seen as such, and it’s here that Ball’s writing really wins points.

While Ball is opening up this world and dissecting it, he’s also showing us that there’s more to it, as well as life. Lester is the perfect example of this fact because, despite living a grudgingly boring, monotonous life, he’s finally woken-up, smelled the daises, and realized that over-priced couches are what matter most in life – it’s the people you love and the time you spend with them that do! That’s why, despite Lester seemingly doing a lot of downhill things, he’s still the heart and soul of this story who, no matter what decisions he may make throughout, we still support and sympathize with him because, quite frankly, we too want him to feel happier and embrace life more to its fullest.

And honestly, there isn’t a more perfect bit of casting for Lester Burnham than Kevin Spacey.

Spacey, even before American Beauty and definitely after, has always seemed like the smartest guy in every scene he’s in. There always seems to be something on his mind that he wants to blurt out, but he chooses not to, so as a way to keep to himself for his own personal enjoyment. That’s why Lester, before and after his transformation, always feels like a real person that we could actually meet; he understands that the world he’s been surrounded by isn’t “real” and isn’t worth getting sucked-up into. So, he goes against the tide and it’s hard to not be satisfied with everything he does.

Lester throws a plate against the wall; tries to have sex with his wife in the middle of the day; gets caught masturbating in the bed; quits his relatively fine paying-job, only to then take up as a fry-cook at a fast-food joint; buys off of and smokes pot with his neighbor; and above the rest, can’t help but have really hard feelings for his daughter’s friend. Once again, these may seem like choices an unlikable person would make, but because of the way Lester’s written, and the way Spacey portrays him so wonderfully, we’re constantly rooting for him.

So yeah, in a nutshell, Kevin Spacey definitely deserved the Oscar he won that year.

However, he isn’t the only one who puts stellar work in here.

Family dinners have never been so depressing.

Family dinners have never been so depressing.

Annette Bening may get a more of an over-the-top role to play, but because she’s so talented, is able to find certain shadings of humanity that makes us feel bad for her, even if we don’t whole heartedly wish her to be quite as happy as Lester. Thora Birch, despite playing a misanthropic teen a whole lot better a few years later in Ghost World, is still great here as Jane, Lester and Carolyn’s kid who just wants nothing more than for them to stop embarrassing the hell out of her and leave her be. While some of her line-reads are a bit awkward, it works for her character because, like most teens her age, they’re socially awkward as hell. Mena Suvari’s Angela is also a very interesting character because while she is, in ways, a preppy, popular girl, she still hangs around with Jane. Sure, some of this may to make herself feel better, but whatever it is, it doesn’t feel wholly fake or unbelievable, which is why when the character does get a nice dose of reality, it feels deserved and helps allow us to understand this character a bit more.

And yeah, there’s also Wes Bentley as the weird kid next door who, in all honesty, may not be all that weird, Ricky. Bentley has that perfect blend between being both incredibly off-kilter, but also, like Spacey, seem like the smartest dude in the room who is just waiting for that mic to drop down from the sky, so he can just air out all of his thoughts. He and Birch have a nice little chemistry between one another that’s a big part of the movie, but also doesn’t take it over too much to where it’s just a romance about teenagers and that’s it. Though I can’t say the same for Birch, it’s nice to see Bentley back to doing movies and showing the world just the type of talent that he still is, even all these many years later.

Also, worth mentioning here is Chris Cooper who gets one of the more creepier roles in the flick as Ricky’s dad, Col. Frank Fitts. While Fitts is insanely strict dad, there’s also something about him that’s inherently interesting to sit by and watch; though he may over-do it, in no way does he feel like he’s being a bad dad, just over-protective. We come to understand more about this character and his history, but through it all, Cooper remains chilling and scary just about every second. Which makes us wonder more about Allison Janney’s wife character who, honestly, we still have no clue about these years later.

And there’s more to talk about, but honestly, the core cast here is excellent and worth chatting about.

But at the end of the day, what American Beauty represents about being alive is that it’s easy to follow the rules and do what everybody else is doing; in fact, there’s nothing really wrong with this. However, American Beauty also presents the idea of not just being a joyless, emotionless cog in the machine and instead, embracing life for the small things. The plastic-bag floating in the air may be a bit of a silly metaphor, but it’s one that’s still incredibly effective and iconic as well; while some may choose to follow life by a standard set of guidelines and rules, others choose to float freely and see where life takes them next. Whichever person you are, only you and you alone would know. So soak it all in and never take anything for granted.

And also, jam out to some of the Guess Who while you’re at it.

Consensus: For what it’s worth, American Beauty is a smart, often times, hilarious and insightful look into the lives of people we, initially, despise, but after awhile, learn to love, embrace, and sympathize with, much like life itself.

10 / 10

That's the future right there, everyone. Get used to it.

That’s the future right there, everyone. Get used to it.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Road to Perdition (2002)

perditionposterAlways trust daddy. Especially if that daddy just so happens to be Tom Hanks.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) lives a comfortable, easy-going life with his family in a little house in the countryside of Rock Island, IL. Sullivan works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an old school mobster who found him at a young age and practically raised him, as if he were one of his own. And what Sullivan does for Rooney, is such a mystery to his sons that one night, his oldest, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), decides to sneak into his daddy’s car late one night and see what it is that he does. What Mike finds out is that his dad’s a hired-assassin and kills people! But, as if that wasn’t bad as is, Rooney’s actual, biological son, Connor (Daniel Craig), finds this out and decides to take matters into his own hand. This means that there’s a hit out on Sullivan and the rest of his family, which leads Sullivan to hit the road with Mike and set out on the run, hopefully trying to stay safe and find out how this sort of situation can be mended. But just to ensure that this never happens, Connor hires a weird-looking hitman (Jude Law), who has a certain penchant for taking pictures of the dead, just as they’re nearing the light.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Coming off something as magnificent and ground-breaking as American Beauty, the odds were clearly stacked-up against director Sam Mendes to make another great, awards-caliber movie. Which is why Road to Perdition‘s a bit of an interesting choice for him to decide to follow-up with; not only is it a gangster-thriller of sorts, but it’s also one that’s based on a graphic novel of the same name. Surely, this is not something anybody expected Mendes to try, but thankfully, it all worked out for the best. Even if, you know, the movie in and of itself may not be the perfect Oscar pic that people would have liked.

But does that matter? No!

Not every movie ever made has to be perfect or absolutely shoot to get every single award known to man. While producers and studios may want that (because with more awards-buzz, comes more cash money), the films themselves don’t necessarily have to be catering towards that specific kind of audience who likes when their movies are classier and more prestige. Though there’s nothing wrong with a movie trying to be more than just your everyday fodder, as long as it’s interesting and somewhat stimulating, then it doesn’t matter what it gets nominated, what it doesn’t get nominated for, or what it wins, and what it doesn’t win.

All of the rest is just a bunch of unnecessary junk and that’s why Road to Perdition probably works best. It doesn’t set-out to achieve greatness, but it just goes out there and tries to tell a fine story that may, or may not, impact your life till the day you die. You may even forget that you see it a few months after the fact, but still, it isn’t trying to win each and every person over (much like every Oscar movie tends to do).

But anyway, I digress.

So yeah, Sam Mendes definitely had a lot working against him here, but the man, being the talented director that he is, did a splendid job here. Mendes is clearly more interested in the characters and the relationships they share with one another, which is why when the guns do start going off, the bullets start flying, and the bodies start dropping, it’s a lot more effective. This isn’t to say that Mendes doesn’t at all care about the violence to begin with, because honestly, many of these scenes can be as bloody and as disturbing as you’d expect them to be, but it isn’t his main focus and it’s probably why the movie works a lot better than most gangster movies.

Not to mention, too, it’s actually a rather sweet and tender tale about the relationships between fathers and sons, how complicated they can be, and most importantly, how important they are in helping to develop someone as they are growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. That Mike Jr. is so young and is already thrown into this crazy, incredibly messed-up world of guns, violence, drugs, money, death and gangsters, is already enough for us to sympathize with him and hope everything goes smoothly from here on out – but also, the fact that the kid isn’t precocious, also helps. It’d be one thing if we had a smarty-pants kid acting as if he knew everything that the world had to offer him, but it’s a whole other one completely when the kid is actually a kid, who knows little to nothing, and can’t make sense of a single thing happening to, or around him.

Oh no, Tommy! Look out! A gun!

A Tom holding a tommy-gun. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It’s quite sad, really, but the movie focuses on how his father is there for him to help him through.

Which also causes a bit of a problem for Road to Perdition – while on the one hand, it’s this sensitive, emotional drama between a father and a son, on the other, it’s also this dark, violent and sometimes sinister tale about gangsters each other over and the great lengths some of them will go to to protect their pride, fortune, and reputation. Both movies, in their own rights, are fine, but together, they do have the film feeling a bit languid and off-center at times. Not to say that I wasn’t always interested in where it was going to go next, but it also isn’t to say that I didn’t want to see one movie over the other.

This became especially true whenever Jude Law’s hitman character came into the foray. Law is great here and seems to really be enjoying himself with this dastardly, snidely character, but because he’s so campy and over-the-top, he feels out-of-place from the rest of the overly serious, melodramatic flick he’s supposed to be apart of. There’s almost this feeling that he comes straight out of the graphic novel and onto the screen, and the transition isn’t all that pretty, no matter how hard Law and Mendes try to cover it all up. Still, it’s another good performance from Law that, once again, shows he’s more than just a pretty face and hot body.

Which probably isn’t something people had problems with the likes of Tom Hanks or Paul Newman, because not only are they good-looking guys, but hell, they’re fine actors, too.

That’s why when we do get a chance to see them share the screen together, it’s actually quite exciting. Here’s two legends of the silver screen, finally, after all this time, pairing-up together and getting to work with one another, and while the movie doesn’t feature them together a whole lot, the scenes that they do have, still work well enough that they make it last. Respectively, both are solid; Newman’s an endearing father-figure with a bit too much love for his son, and Hanks, playing against type, is actually quite menacing as the charmless hitman who won’t hesitate to shoot or kill someone, but also doesn’t want to do it out of cold blood either.

They’re both excellent here and help Road to Perdition become a great movie, even if, you know, the Oscar-voters didn’t go as nuts as everybody would have liked.

Because, quite frankly, who gives a hoot about them anyway?

Consensus: With a solid cast and directing job from Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is a fine gangster film, that also works as an endearing tribute to the relationship that a father and son duo have with one another.

8 / 10

I'd have a drink or two with these fellas.

I’d have a drink or two with these fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, Indiewire

Red Riding Hood (2011)

He won’t puff, nor will he huff. But he’ll probably just moan.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young girl living in a small, peaceful little village with her parents (Billy Burke & Virginia Madsen) who plan to keep her safe from any harm that may come her way. The only reason why I even mention this to begin with is because this village of hers was, many, many years ago, attacked by a big, bad, and blood-thirsty wolf. Why? Well, nobody knows, but they don’t want to take any chances so they settle something of a peace treaty with him. They stay in their neck of the woods, he stays in his own, and that’s about it. Problem is, the wolf is hungry again and decides to come back to the village and wreak all sorts of havoc. This leaves the small village no other choice than to call upon the likes of a werewolf-hunting priest (Gary Oldman), who is a bit of a pro at these sorts of things. However, he begins to take a stranglehold on the village and leave everybody wondering just who is the beast. Is it the sexy, but mysterious Henry (Max Irons)? Or, is the sexy, mysterious, but also angry Peter (Shiloh Fernandez)? Or, quite simply put, is it Valeria?

Oh, what drama!



One of the biggest problems with Red Riding Hood, among many others, I assure you, is that it has no reason to exist. Sure, you can say that about a lot of movies made by Michael Bay, but it’s also kind of incorrect; his movies are created solely for entertainment and because he has a gigantic hard-on that he needs to be rid of. While his movies may borderline near-stupidity, they still have reasons for existing, even if the reasons themselves may be incredibly silly.

But in the case of Red Riding Hood, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. What it seems like producers in Hollywood wanted was nothing more than just a Twilight-ized version of the old folklore tale, Little Red Riding Hood. One reason it was made to begin with was most definitely for money, but then again, I bring up the question: How? How could something that seems so odd, nerdy and better yet, limited, in terms of whom it may actually reach and intrigue, be given all this money, with all this sort of talent, just for the hope that it will bring in all the same sort of big bucks that director Catherine Hardwicke was able to reel in with Twilight?

Well, whatever the reasons may be, who knows. And honestly, who cares!

Because really, Red Riding Hood‘s a pretty crummy and whether or not it exists, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s a pretty terrible movie that seems to have been dead from the very first second it arrives on the screen. While I can assure you that I was not in the least bit expecting a masterpiece of any sorts that discussed the interesting ways that humans and nature can interact and learn how to get along, I still wasn’t expecting something to be as boring as this.

Which is a big shame, because we know that Hardwicke is a fine director. However, here, it doesn’t seem like she’s actually directing anything; scenes just sort of happen and everything rolls on in a continuous fashion. There’s no real tension, no real fun (with a few exceptions), and most of all, there’s no real drama. Meaning, most importantly, there’s no romance to be felt, which is exactly what it seems like producers were going for in the first place. That the handsome male duo of Max and Peter are as dull as they come, already spells out problem for Valerie, as it seems like the movie wants to be smart about how it treats her viewpoint and the way she tells this story, but in the end, is only concerned with which dude she wants to bang first.

And that’s not normally something I have a problem with, but here, it was so boring that I didn’t even care whose bone got jumped, by whom, or even when it happened. I just wanted the movie to stop happening and end.



This is all to say that throughout Red Riding Hood, I felt extremely bad for the cast and crew involved, as it seems like most of them were definitely strapped for cash and needed something to pay their heating bills. Amanda Seyfried is always an interesting screen presence, but most of the movie here takes her personality away and leaves her to just be on the side as everything else sort of happens around her. Which, like I said before, is a big shame, because it’s a fantasy tale, told by the viewpoint of a woman, but sadly, they go nowhere with this character, or Seyfried’s talents as an actress.

Same goes for just about everybody else who dares to show their face in this. Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke are just hanging around as the parents, only called on for emotional cues; Fernandez and Irons are just hot, and that’s about it; Julie Christie tries as the grand-mom, but really seems to be in a whole other movie, completely; and Lukas Haas, well, is just here. The only one who dares to make this movie any bit better is, unsurprisingly, Gary Oldman.

Oldman’s always a great performer, but here, it seemed like he came ready to play and didn’t care what everybody else in the movie was doing. Oldman probably saw that the movie was about the classic Riding Hood tale, realized that it was probably a bit of a goof, did it, and decided that, because he’s Gary Oldman and all, can do whatever the hell he wants. So what if everybody else around him is sulking and drop-dead serious? Gary Oldman has a voice to use and holler with, so screw all that other nonsense! I wish I could say that I was sad to see Oldman in this movie here, but honestly, it seemed like the guy was having a blast and helped me to sort of do so, as well.

Although, when he’s gone, everything else about Red Riding Hood falls apart and that’s about it.

So be it.

Consensus: Despite the onslaught of talent, Red Riding Hood is too dull, aimless and boring to actually do much of anything fun or interesting with its old tale and instead, try its hardest to appeal to a broader audience who, quite frankly, probably won’t be interested in this anyway.

2.5 / 10

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Thirteen (2003)

Just when sending your daughter to the convent seemed like cruel punishment.

Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is about to begin her first year in junior high and in order to do it right, she’s got to get rid of her past life. That means no more studying, no more nerdy friends, no more playing with Barbies, and sure as hell no more being lame! And in order to be seen as “cool”, or “hip”, or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays, Tracy latches right onto the most popular girl in school, Evie (Nikki Reed). This also means, that to ensure that she stays cool, Tracy will have to do all sorts of scandalous stuff that the old Tracy would never even dream of doing. Meaning, there’s a lot of sex, drugs, booze, and stealing, all of which, Evie and Tracy seem to absolutely love doing together. However, the one person who isn’t quite the biggest fan of what Tracy’s up to, or Evie either, is Tracy’s mom, Melanie (Holly Hunter). Although Melanie and Tracy did, at one time, have a very strong relationship, she sees that dangerously slipping away now and will do anything to get that love back. That is, before it’s too late and she’s lost Tracy to the deep, dark world of rebellious 13-year-old girls!

Don't do that.

Don’t do that.

Thirteen is, and also isn’t, is an after school special. If you’re going to place it in a specific sort of subgenre to make it appeal more towards a target audience, then yeah, Thirteen can definitely be considered an after school special. Kids are acting up in all sorts of mischievous ways here and ultimately, get lessons learned, and it all feels like something you’d see tuning into either on Lifetime, or TLC.

The difference between Thirteen and those other movies is that, well, it doesn’t hold back.

Thirteen is the kind of coming-of-ager that Larry Clarke would soon one day love to make, but can’t help himself to actually create because he’s too concerned with pubic-hair and unsimulated sex scenes; there’s so many scenes where barely legal (or, not at all) kids are participating in sexual activities, drug-use, cutting, hitting, and drinking, that it’s more than enough to make you want to turn away. And sure, while we know that everything these kids are doing are, in fact, fake and put-on for the camera, co-writer and director Catherine Hardwicke shoots it in such a realistic manner, that it can sometimes feel like a documentary. Which definitely works in the movie’s favor because it helps make it seem like this is a tale that any person can, has, or will, experience.

Being thirteen and going through all the sorts of problems that 13-year-old goes through, isn’t just limited to one gender, race, or belief; everybody goes through teenage angst at least once during their life. Sure, some bouts with angst are a lot more serious and vicious than others, but still, the fact remains, most people, when growing up, usually tend to face a lot of problems and commit acts that they won’t be looking back on in ten or so years, with any sorts of smiles whatsoever. But, in a way, that’s fine, because that’s just how life goes sometimes. What matters most, though, is how you bounce back from all that that makes you, well, who you are.

That’s why Thirteen doesn’t ever, not for a single second, ever judge its characters for what they’re doing, even though it would have definitely been easy to do.

That Tracy falls hook, line and sinker for Evie as soon as she sees her make fun of her, and wants to start talking, dressing and acting like her, only makes sense because when we’re young, that’s all most of us want to do. While we may not want to be the most popular kids in school, we still want to have that feeling of being accepted, or part of some clique that we can hang around with when life can get us down. That’s why when Tracy starts doing all of the things that Evie’s doing and without ever hardly putting up a fight for what she believes to be right, either, it’s hard to be really mad at her. She may be a bit of an a-hole to the rest of her family, but when were any of us ever nice to those who loved and cared for us at that age, huh?

Hardwicke is smart though in giving us every single little gritty detail about Tracy’s transformation, without ever trying to turn its head. There’s plenty of moments that she could have definitely done so and we wouldn’t have at all blamed her (like the cutting scenes, for instance), but she doesn’t, and that, above everything else, she deserves credit for. Not to mention that Nikki Reed, who also wrote the screenplay with her, deserves even more credit for not just turning in a great performance as Evie, but for also making a great script that feels smart and nonjudgmental – something that may have not been easy to do as a 15 or 16-year-old girl, which she was at the time.

But really, it’s the two performances from Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter that I continue to come back to.

Or that.

Or that.

In the case of the former’s, Wood’s great here because she feels like a real teen, actually diving as deep as a girl like her would dive into being accepted. There’s never a moment where she seems like she’s over-acting, or demanding all eyes to be on her; and even if she does, it’s intentional, because that’s probably what her character wants people to do at that same very moment. It’s no surprise that Wood’s a great actress, but after seeing her work here, it makes me wish that she’d be making more wonders in adult-hood. She’s clearly got the talent, all she needs is another juicy role to make people remember what she’s been able to do since she was, hell, 13.

As for the later, there’s no denying that Holly Hunter is a class-act in whatever she does, but here, she’s especially so. With Hunter’s Melanie, we get the real heart and soul of the movie; while a solid majority of the movie is centered around useless acts of sex, drugs, and small-time crime, the heartbeat at the center that keeps it pulsing, is actually Hunter’s Melanie, who never turns her daughter away or down for whatever it is that she demands. While she may give her too much freedom at times, she’s only doing it because she genuinely wants her daughter to be happy, no matter what. She’s the kind of mom that every person probably wishes they had (minus the ex-drug use, of course), which makes it all the more painful to watch it when, time after time, Melanie reaches out to Tracy and, time and time again, she continues to get denied and have everything shoved back into her face.

But that’s just what growing up is all about. Be prepared.

Consensus: Despite it seeming like something you’d see after school, Thirteen is a more believable and honest coming-of-ager that doesn’t pull any punches, but is better off for that, too.

8 / 10

But yeah, do that. Hug mom till you can't hug her no more.

But yeah, do that. Hug mom till you can’t hug her no more.

Photos Courtesy of: Tumblr

Truth (2015)

Just get a blog. You can make anything up!

As producer of the well-known and landmark news program 60 Minutes, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) had plenty of huge stories to work with and break to the public. One in particular came around the time of the 2004 Presidential Election, in which files were leaked to Mapes that practically said that then-President George W. Bush didn’t actually complete any of prerequisites needed to become a member of the National Guard and instead, received special treatment. Knowing that she has something hot, heavy and ground-breaking on her hands, Mapes goes through all of the proper channels to ensure that the story is in fact true, but also worth sticking her neck out for. After time, she does find out that this story is true and, without any more time wasted, she gets the national news anchor, Dan Rather (Robert Redford), to break the story once and for all. Which it does and it breaks down as many barriers as CBS expected it to, if not some more. But then, people start questioning the evidence, which means that it isn’t before long until they start questioning every aspect of the story, from the information, to the leaks, and to Mapes’ own personal political beliefs themselves.

"Is my eye-shadow fine?"

“Is my eye-shadow fine?”

There’s about one too many speeches in Truth that feel just like that: Speeches. In Aaron Sorkin pieces, whenever somebody breaks out into a speech, it may sound so incredibly random and obvious, but you roll with it because Sorkin’s writing can be so compelling, that people stopping whatever they’re doing to lace into a five-minute monologue about die-hard Republicans, for some reason, feels believable. It’s Sorkin’s universe and if somebody wants to ramble on and on for no reasons other than to get a point across, then so believe it.

Problem is, Truth wasn’t written by Sorkin and could have definitely benefited from that. Not just because there’s so many speeches here that feel ham-handed or silly, but because they come at inappropriate times that don’t add much to the actual story the movie’s telling, other than to get some a political viewpoint across. And within Truth, there’s a very interesting story to be told and more often than not, it does get told; however, because it has such an agenda to get across, it feels like it’s doing a dis-justice to said story.

Then again, though, it is a movie about journalism and as most of you may now, I’m an absolute sucker for those kind,

That’s why, whenever Truth focuses in on the pre-publishing sides of getting a story together (mapping everything out, finding sources, following the money, etc), it’s a very entertaining look inside how a news outlet as widely-known and ginormous as 60 Minutes, gathered up all their info to make a story. Once again, you don’t have to be a journalist to appreciate these scenes, but if you are one, these scenes will all add a certain level of excitement; though we all know how the story ends when everything is said and done, there’s still a slight feeling that things may go down smoothly that makes it all the more enjoyable. Take away all of the political maneuvering the movie does tend to take, and deep down inside, you have a solid piece of how 60 Minutes brought together one of its biggest stories, decided to go with it, and watch as all the pieces fell.

Had it stayed like this, too, Truth would have been great. However, it doesn’t and that’s when it starts to get very preachy and become something else entirely.

To say that writer/director James Vanderbilt may have had an agenda when creating this movie, is an absolute understatement – the dude has an ax to grind and wants everybody to know! Which, in a way, is fine. Had this movie been about a fictional story, that closely follows this actual, real life story, it probably wouldn’t have felt pushy. But, because Vanderbilt is using this true 60 Minutes story, and the eventual fallout, as a place-mat for his thoughts and feelings, it comes across as off-putting.

While it’s fine that Vanderbilt had a point to prove with this story and didn’t just go through the same motions of telling it as straight as possible, there’s still a feeling that he’s taking more away from the actual impact the story could have had. Take, for instance, Cate Blanchett’s Mary Mapes, someone who feels as if she deserves her own biopic by now, starring Blanchett, of course. Mapes, from what we’re told in this movie, is a tough, rugged, and dedicated journalist who is so willing to go to the deepest, darkest depths to make sure that her story is heard, that she sometimes risks losing those closest to her.

Gasp! Journalism!

Gasp! Journalism!

Sounds corny? Well, that’s because it is.

However, Blanchett being Blanchett, is so terrific here, that I hardly even cared to notice. Instead, I just let her do her thing and see what more I could find out about this character as the story rolled along. But, as the movie continues, we start to get more and more scenes of Mapes breaking out into yammering speeches about the state of journalism, politics, and ethics – all of which don’t feel pertinent to telling the story and instead, the perfect time for Vanderbilt to get on his soapbox and yell for a little while. The movie does bring up some interesting points about political bias’ mixing with journalism, but at the end, all they do is hint at the possibility that Mapes may, or may not have, overlooked some facts with this story, just to get her political point across. Whether or not this is true to begin with, remains to be seen, but it’s not really a point that seems to work or feel well-thought out.

The same problem goes for Dan Rather, who is, oddly-enough, played by Robert Redford. The movie never really digs any further into portraying Rather as anything more than just a great, lovable guy who is willing to tackle any story, so long as Mapes was there to okay it. Redford’s fine here, however, it’s too distracting to see him play someone else who is already so famous to begin with. And given that they aren’t given a whole lot to do, Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, and Topher Grace all do fine in their respective roles as the fellow journalists who helped to layer-out this story into being more.

But honestly, Truth is mostly Vanderbilt’s time to stand up, speak and drop the mic.

And that’s it.

Consensus: Boasting a solid cast and interesting look inside an infamous event in journalism history, Truth is two-halves of a great movie, until it gets preachy and can’t seem to keep its mouth shut.

7 / 10

Gasp! Even more journalism!

Gasp! Even more journalism!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Burnt (2015)

Chefs don’t have to be hot. But it certainly helps.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a respected chef among his peers and confidantes, however, his personal life has begun to take a toll on his work. Excessive use of drugs, booze, and women, have led Adam to go straight and sober, where all he has to focus on now is his kitchen and the food he produces. In an attempt to rebuild his career to where it was once before and gain those three Michelin stars he’s been so desperately fighting for, Adam’s old friend, Tony (Daniel Brühl), sets him up in his hotel’s kitchen, where all sorts of people come by and languish in the food that he and his kitchen have made. And with an all-star staff including the fiery, but ambitious Helene (Sienna Miller), Adam thinks that his lifelong goal my finally be on the horizon. Problem is, Adam’s past life with drugs still haunt him until this very day, which tend to make him more tense and angry to those who least deserve it; something that may ultimately cause Adam of gaining those three Michelin stars and also send him back to the bottomless pit of life that he tried so hard to get out of.

He's tense.

He’s tense.

Burnt hasn’t had a very easy trip to the theaters and honestly, it’s a bit of a shame, too. For one, it suffers the problem of coming out within a year of Jon Favreau’s Chef movie, as well as featuring the two co-stars from the biggest of 2014 (American Sniper). You’d think that with the latter problem, the studio would find a way to make that work to their advantage, but for some odd reason, there hasn’t been much of a focus on the fact that this is, yet again, another pairing of Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. Except, this time, instead of being in the battlefield, they’re in the kitchen.

Which, isn’t all that different, from what Burnt shows.

And honestly, the best parts of Burnt are when they are in that kitchen, prepping-up the food, getting in formation, scoping out what sort of crowd they have to work with, and most of all, fighting and bickering at one another. Though director John Wells may get a bit carried away with his constant chopping and cutting of certain shots, it did help add a certain bit of excitement to scenes that, quite frankly, could have just been nothing more than food-porn at its worst. Instead, we get to see how these people work and maneuver around in the kitchen, seemingly doing what they love to do. They may not get paid much and not have all that much time to spend at home with their families, but what they’re doing with their lives (which is making grub for rich snobs), is honestly all that they need in their lives to make themselves go home happy and feel as if something was accomplished in said day.

Which is to say that everything else that takes place outside of the kitchen in Burnt is, honestly, not as exciting, fun, or interesting to watch. Instead, it’s just predictable and boring, as most redemption tales can tend to be if their lead protagonists aren’t all that intriguing to watch or dissect.

And in the case of Adam Jones, this is sort of true. While the character may be poorly-written, you can tell that Bradley Cooper, being the grade-A talent that he is, truly is trying to make this character pop-off the screen and be more than just your average, ignorant, misogynistic and mean dick-head. There’s a few scenes where it’s actually entertaining to watch as he berates each and everyone of his co-workers for not stepping up their games, but in the end, all it really adds up to is him just showing us more and more reasons why we shouldn’t like him, nor ever actually root for him when we’re supposed to.

Once again, though, none of this is Cooper’s fault; he’s so talented at what he does, that being a huge prick, in his own way, can come off as being slightly “charming”. It’s just that so much of the movie is about his personal life and the issues he seems to be having, that it feels like it isn’t really giving him much to work with. Sure, we get that he’s sad that he was once a total and complete junkie who couldn’t make a dish, but really, is he that great of a guy to begin with? Favreau’s Chef showed that, through cooking and creating food, he was making himself, as well as those that he loved, better because of it; Burnt just shows that cooking is Adam Jones’ way of coping with all of the problems he used to have in his life, but at the same time, doesn’t seem to actually be treating any of those around him, who may genuinely care for his sorry-ass, any better.

He’s still a prick and that’s about it.

She's tense.

She’s tense.

Still, those surrounding Cooper do fine jobs, too. Sienna Miller and Cooper have such great chemistry together that it’s absolutely no surprise that they work well here, sometimes playing-off of one another’s personalities; Daniel Brühl gives a heartfelt performance as Jones’ childhood friend, even if a revelation about this character does settle in to the story awkwardly and seemingly out-of-nowhere; Omar Sy is fine as Jones’ trusted confidante who, like Brühl’s Tony, has a revelation about him that’s a bit odd; and Matthew Rhys does a great job as one of Jones’ arch-rivals who is not only as much of a vindictive dick as Jones, but is also a bit more humane, and it shows quite well.

The whole cast here is fine and in no way do I blame them for any of the movie’s short-comings. But to be honest, I don’t even find that many short-comings to be had with Burnt; sure, it’s a bit messy and definitely feels as if it’s taken more than a few trips to the cutting-board, but honestly, it still works because it constantly keep its story moving. Even if Adam Jones is, like I said, not a very strong character, everything surrounding him can be, which helps make it go down like nice bowl of rice pudding.

Had to throw in a food metaphor.

Consensus: Burnt may not be perfect, but is at least entertaining and well-acted enough to where it feels like a better movie about cooking, rather than its central character.

6.5 / 10

But together, they're oh so in love.

But together, they’re oh so in love.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)

Silly Americans: Always ruining elections.

During the 2002 Bolivian elections, politician Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida) was in desperate need of some help. His campaign wasn’t so succesful, he was made out to be a fool in the press, and basically, didn’t have a shot in hell of winning this election. So, in a pure act of desperation, he called upon the help of Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), a controversial figure within the political-campaign world because of how far and able she is willing to go to ensure that her candidate not only wins, but actually proves to be the one person everyone must trust, no matter what sort of shady facts may be lying in said person’s past. However, Jane is a bit of a mess; she’s not only battling depression, but also not very sociable and relies more on sitting off in corners, rather than giving her own two cents in when it’s so desperately needed. Now, to make matters even worse, Jane’s going up against political consultant Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), a former confidante of hers who she has more than a few drops of bad blood. With Candy on the opposing side, Jane feels more dedicated and passionate than ever to winning this election, even if that does mean that she has to do a bit of soul-searching on her part to understand just what this election actually means to the Bolivian peoples.

Bald vs. Bold.

Bald vs. Bold.

There’s something about Our Brand is Crisis that makes it so annoying to watch, which is that it thinks everything that it’s saying about how political elections are nothing more than just shameless, utterly ridiculous self-promotion and lying, is smart or new. Neither of which, it actually is, but nobody seemed to tell director David Gordon Green, writer Peter Straughan, or producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Like the latter two did with the Men Who Stare at Goats, they’re helping to produce a story that they think has some satirical bite, but in all honesty, just doesn’t.

Instead, it’s just boring, dull and most of all, predictable.

Which is a bit of a shame because it seems like there was some promise here. Granted, the fact that Green was attached should have already brought some interest in, but from what it seems like here, he’s doing nothing more than just a for-hire job, where he’s told to stay within the lines, never itch out, and always make sure that the audience knows what’s going on. Nothing here shows that Our Brand is Crisis is a David Gordon Green, which may work in his favor further down the road when he wants more people to forget about the types of mainstreams bombs he can sometimes produce, and focus more on his smaller, more indie-based flicks he came to prominence with.

You know, everything that the Sitter isn’t.

But still, it’s clear that from the very start, Green had no chance in hell of making this work. The script by Straughan is, for lack of a better word, unfunny. The movie thinks that pointing its finger at these characters and waving it around in a mocking way should bring laughs, but it doesn’t because nothing here is ever funny, nor is it ever well-done. The whole movie is supposed to be surrounding how desperate and willing this campaign team is to have their electoral win, so they stoop as low as they can get, but for some reason, the movie never seems to want to focus on that. Sure, we see Joaquim de Almeida do some foolish things to make himself look better and more approachable, but really, the movie is mostly focused in on this Jane character who isn’t really all that interesting to begin with.

"Oh my! Something interesting is calling!"

“Oh my! Something interesting is calling!”

To be honest, nobody in this movie is ever actually interesting, per se, but at least they aren’t given as much of a full-dimensional arch as Jane is. Granted, Sandra Bullock is more than up to the task of making this character work and seem any bit of likable, but she just isn’t. There’s been a lot of talk about how this character was originally written for a man that, only until Sandie expressed interest, they decided to change the character up as well, which makes perfect sense. Had this role been filled with a man, there’d probably be less prat-falls, throwing up in trashcans, and random freak-outs – however, because there’s a woman in this role, and it just so happens to be Sandra Bullock, the movie feels the need to have her do all of these things, as if she’s in the third Miss Congeniality.

Not a, you know, supposedly smart and witty political satire.

It isn’t just Bullock who gets the shaft when it comes to actually being able to work with solid material worthy of her talents – in fact, there’s a whole, interesting supporting case to prove that. Anthony Mackie, as usual, is as charming as ever, but never feels like he matters enough to the story that when he suddenly becomes the ghost whisper to Bullock’s Jane, it’s random; Ann Dowd has a few fun scenes, but mostly, just sits around in the background; Billy Bob Thornton is acting like a dick here and that’s pretty much it; Joaquim de Almeida is given a lot to do, but at the same time, not really, because all he’s doing is presenting a character that we’re not supposed to know much about to begin with; Zoe Kazan does a lot of translating and speaking Spanish in a sort of dead-pan that made me miss Zooey Deschanel; and of all the rest, Scoot McNairy is probably the only one who gets the most laughs, if only because his character is played up for so much stupidity that it reminded me of Lacey from Pootie Tang.

And whenever a movie is able to make me think of Pootie Tang, I can’t be that mad.

Consensus: Considering the current political climate, it’s disappointing to see that not only does Our Brand is Crisis feature anything smart to say of political elections, but also isn’t all that funny or interesting, either, wasting a solid cast and crew who have better places to be.

3 / 10

Being hungover? Rom-com trope #72!

Being hungover? Rom-com trope #72!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

All the President’s Men (1976)

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

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

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

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

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

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

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

Though the suits aren't always that nice.

Though the suits aren’t always that nice.

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

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

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

So yeah, people. Start writing!

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

9 / 10

But yeah. Those phones, though.

But yeah. Those phones, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Room (2003)

When in doubt, toss the old pigskin around.

Uhm. Well, the story goes, Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is a successful businessman who plans on getting married soon to his lovely fiancee Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Though they are more than in love and, most times, share hot, steamy, passionate, and sweat-inducing sex, there’s still something missing – well, at least from Lisa’s point-of-view anyway. For reasons unknown, Lisa goes behind Johnny’s back when he isn’t around, to sleep with his best buddy, Mark (Greg Sestero). Though Mark and Johnny are good pals and often throw the football around for fun, this love for the same woman is what ultimately keeps them from embracing one another, and always fighting. There’s also another subplot going on here about an orphaned kid named Denny (Philip Haldiman), who is neck-deep into the world of drugs and has debts that he needs to pay. Eventually, these issues among this small group of friends, lovers and confidantes all come together when Lisa decides that she wants to throw Johnny a b-day party.

And yeah, that’s about it. I think.

Best friends always play ball together.

Best friends always play ball together.

Honestly, who the hell am I kidding? The Room, literally and figuratively, has no plot. Sure, you could make the argument that it’s really about the love-triangle between Mark, Lisa and Johnny, but if you do make said argument, you’re a tool. Just know that the movie does have a central plot, but everything else that happens around it, are sometimes so random and abrupt, that they really don’t make much of a different to a movie that, quite frankly, is a whole jumble of nothing.

And you know what? I love every second of it.

So yeah, everything you’ve either heard, read or been made to understand about the Room by now is most definitely true. It’s a nonsensical, poorly-made, over-the-top, and unintentionally hilarious drama that, somehow, some way, was able to raise $6 million. Also, let me not forget to mention that, with all the midnight showings and infamy it’s created, has most likely made back all of said $6 million dollars, if not more. If there is a perfect example of the injustices society has created, look no further than this movie.

But honestly, that’s the true beauty of this. That somebody actually looked at this final-product, thought, “Hmm. Yeah.”, and actually released the damn thing, is absolutely astounding. And the person we have to thank most for that is in fact, the man, the myth, the odd legend known simply as Tommy Wiseau. Since the Room’s premiere, Wiseau has become something of a 21st Century Ed Wood; while his pieces of work are terrible, he still loves them enough to not just create more, but to also make it out like they’re pieces of art that need their prizes immediately. Whatever goes through Wiseau’s head on a everyday basis is beyond me, but from what I’ve seen with the Room, I know that I want to know more and more about him.

Wiseau is, yes, a terrible actor, but there’s something so odd about his presence and the way he speaks, that you wonder if he ever could be considered a “good actor”. Something tells me that if the likes of either Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese saw him, picked him up, took him under their wing, and worked with him, that he’d become a scene-stealer who, after hearing he was in something, we’d look forward to getting a glimpse of from right as soon as the movie started. Of course, though, that hasn’t and probably will not happen, so what we’re left with is a dude who is, yes, a terrible actor with a weird accent, who also seems to be sleep-walking through his own movie. That said, you can’t take your eyes off of him, or wait to see what he does, expresses, or yells out next.

Denny and Johnny were truly like, father-and-son.

Denny and Johnny were truly like, father-and-son.

Honestly, I haven’t been this taken with an actor’s presence in quite some time.

But what’s perhaps the most interesting aspect surrounding the Room, is the fact that it’s a movie where everything seems to be happening, yet ultimately, nothing ever really does happen. People sit down and have over-long, aimless conversations with one another; emotions are cried-out on top of ceilings; footballs are passed-around; pizza is eaten; people are screwed (both literally and figuratively); and fists are exchanged. But really, there’s nothing to any of it here; if anything, the Room is just a whole big pile of nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable, funny big pile of nothing, but a pile of nothing, nonetheless. Which, in actuality, is a bit of a shame. For one, it’s a shame that Wiseau, through whatever wizard trickery (aka, blackmail) he was able to commit, actually got over a million dollars for this movie to be made, whereas well-known, immensely talented directors like Steven Spielberg, Spike Jonze, and, yes, Scorsese, still have to battle their ways to get full-financing for whatever projects they want to get off the ground. I’m all for a movie that’s made for people to enjoy and laugh at, but I’m also for a movie that sets out to do that from the beginning, which the Room, despite what Wiseau himself may claim, does not set out to do.

Still, it’s a shame that everybody else in the Room, other than Wiseau, actually do seem to be trying with the wacky material given to them. Though none of them, judging by what I’ve seen on their respective IMDB’s are ever going to get past the shame and humility that this movie caused them, it’s still interesting to see what careers any of these people would have had, had they never said “yes” to Wiseau in the first place. For instance, Greg Sestero actually seems like a competent actor who, not only has good-looks to help him out when it comes to getting roles, but also seems like he could be called on for snarky one-liners, when need be. However, this is all just taking place in an imaginary, never-going-to-be-real world that I’m currently creating in my head, and not the one where the real life Sestero hasn’t worked since steadily since 2003, but is still in the spotlight for writing a book about this movie and everything else surrounding it.

So yeah, I guess you could say he’s doing alright in the real world. But still, you have to imagine! The possibilities!

Consensus: Unbelievable, in terms of how bad it gets, as well as how many people thought it was fine to be released, the Room is every bit of the midnight legend it’s been made out to be, for better, as well as for worse.

10 / 10

but really…..

0 / 10

That damn football again!

That damn football again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Gift (2015)

High school is life.

Married couple, Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), have been encountering some problems as of late with their marriage, so they decide to move back to where Simon grew up. One day, during shopping, a person by the name of Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) comes up to Simon, to see if he remembers him from high school. Long story short, Simon kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, either. Plenty of time has passed, but to be a nice guy, Simon decides to invite “Gordo” over a fine dinner one night. It isn’t until long that both Robyn and Simon start to see that there’s something odd and off-putting about Gordo; he constantly leaves them gifts and comes over unexpectedly, asking for Simon, but stays longer than he probably should. Eventually, Simon gets tired of this and lets Gordo have it, which is when they think everything’s over with. However, Robyn’s fish are killed, her dog goes missing, and randomly, she starts having panic-attacks, which leads Simon to think that it’s all Gordo causing this and nobody else. But the main question remains: Why would Gordo go all this way to push himself into some dude from high school’s life, some twenty-odd years later?



Despite there being plenty more out there to see, I tend to believe sometimes that I’ve seen plenty of movies. Some were better than others, of course, but that’s not the point of my rambling – the point is that I think, after all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to know a lot about what to expect with certain movies. Therefore, when a story starts to lean down a certain direction, my brain automatically turns to the most conventional solution because, well, I’ve seen it all before. In all honesty, I wish I didn’t always think like this with movies, because it actually sucks a lot of the fun out, but so be it. I’m a miserable sack and I blame it all on movies.

But I digress.

The same directions that I’ve just alluded to, are the same ones I saw appear on countless occasions during the Gift. However, what’s different from this movie, as opposed to so many other ones out there that I’ve had the displeasure of seeing, is that it goes down a different way that I didn’t least expect it to. For instance, when Gordo starts showing up unexpectedly, inserting himself into this little couple’s life together, and making it known that he wants to be their friends, my brain was already saying, “Oh great. Here we go. He’s going to creep this family out so much that, eventually, they’re going to have to let him know straight-up, that their relationship is over. Then, Gordo’s going to get all crazy, start harassing the family, creeping them out plenty more, until, there’s a final battle between both sides that’s bloody and senseless.”And heck, once the dog ended up missing and the fish were killed, my mind had already turned off and let me knew that, yup, the Gift was going to be nothing different from any of the other “creepy neighbor thrillers” out there.

Once again, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, time and time again, writer/director Joel Edgerton turned down a different street and instead, opted for more fresh ways to tell this pretty familiar story. Take, for example, the characters Edgerton has created here – nobody here, even though the movie may sometimes lean a certain way, is considered to be a “good guy” or a
“bad” one. Mostly, everyone is just a person who may have better morals/social skills/earnings/personal issues/etc. than others and that’s all there is to them. This not only helps the movie feel like it’s more than just a thriller, but a character-study, as well heighten the tension in the air because, quite frankly, we start to care for these characters.

We care for them, not just because the movie wants us to, because after a bit of time, we get to know each and everyone of them. But it’s never over-done; we get certain, little inklings about a person’s life to where we’re able to conjure up exact ideas of how these people may be. And even though, it’s never fully clear who these people are. Maybe that was the cynical point Edgerton was trying to get across, but either way, it’s still an interesting thought to have in a movie that, honestly, could have been all about this couple getting terrorized and the creepy guy, continuing to be creepy.

Edgerton is a smarter talent than that and it goes without saying that, this being his debut and all, I’m quite impressed.

Not because Edgerton finds himself more off-screen, than in front of it, despite this being his movie and all, but because he seems to understand what it takes for a movie to be both smart, but also fun-in-a-silly-kind of way. This is especially evident in the final act when it becomes clear that this is less of a story about a creepy people being creepy, and more about how bullies continue to be bullies, no matter how old or experienced they get. Though the movie itself is smart and complex, the message it sends across, isn’t; however, it’s handled in a way that makes it seem like Edgerton was actually trying to say something here, as simple as it may have been.



But still, the characters here are strong enough that it doesn’t matter if Edgerton trips up on making sense of this movie. As Simon and Robyn, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are, respectively, very good here and help create their own characters well enough to where we see them as separate human beings, and not just a couple. To me, this was probably the most important aspect to making these characters work; while it’s easy to say that they’re in love, hence the fact they’re married, it’s what they do when the other’s not around that makes them into their own person and allows us to see them for all that they are.

For instance, whenever Simon’s not around, Robyn casually goes on a job around her neighborhood, re-organize the house, work on her computer, and do whatever else she feels like doing when she’s home all alone. Though these may seem unimportant when watching them, after awhile, the film uses this as a way to develop her character and make it known that, you know, she’s just a simple, sweet and easy-going gal; she may have had past problems with drugs, as we get more than enough hints at throughout, but overall, she’s a lovely gal. In fact, she’s probably so lovely, that it becomes almost baffling as to why she decides to stick with someone like Simon who, being played by Jason Bateman should already tell you, is a bit of a dick.

In fact, he’s a huge dick.

While this may seem like the same kind of role we’ve seen Bateman do a million times before, there’s something darker and meaner about this character that makes it feel slightly “different”. Instead of all is snarky comments being played for laughs, they’re now played for serious breaks of silence, where he makes a room a whole lot more tense for just saying what he feels and thinks. Bateman’s great here and it shows that, when given a solid script, the dude really can deliver. Same goes for Hall who, by now, we understand to be a pretty great actress. She not only handles the American-accent well, but also allows us to see that there may be a bit of a darker side to this character too, even if it doesn’t always show.

But perhaps, the best character of the bunch is, no surprise, the one being portrayed by the same dude who created this movie to begin with.

Though it’s made clear to us early on that Edgerton’s Gordo may be a bit of a weirdo who is best left in his own, little world of weirdness, rather than jumping in other people’s, there’s still something about him that makes him a character worth watching. While he may be socially awkward and odd at his worst, he is, in no way, a person who seems capable of murder, or any of the heinous acts he’s accused of throughout the flick. And once it becomes clear that he’s not really a bad person, we start to feel bad for him a whole lot more and wish that, not only would someone give him a hug, but also take him out, buy him a beer, and develop a long-standing relationship with him.

Still though, the dude’s still a mystery to us by the end and it’s what makes the Gift perhaps more thought-provoking than most thrillers of this nature that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Consensus: Working as both a character-study, as well as a psychological thriller, the Gift is a smart, complex and tense tale echoing in a new writing/directing talent in the form of Joel Edgerton.

8 / 10

Strange guy.

Strange guy.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunting Ground (2015)

Stay in school, kids. Or at home is fine, too.

Going to college, for most people, is an exciting time. It’s a place that they’ve been studying hard for practically the past five or six years and now that it’s finally here, they can’t wait but to just soak it all up. From the classes, to the teachers, to the fellow students, and especially to the party-scene, college is a magical place where everyone can find themselves and be inspired to do what it is that they want to do for the rest of their lives. However, it’s also a place that, especially for women, can be a very traumatic, disturbing time as well. It is estimated that nearly 20% of college females will be raped in their college years and through countless other stats, interviews with real life subjects who have been sexually assaulted, and several department-heads of colleges, we start to get a bigger picture of what’s really going on. Because, it isn’t just the rape that’s the only problem at hand here, it’s also the institutions themselves who, for their own self-interest, whether it be for donations, for sports, or for public reputation, throw these rape cases away, hoping that they’ll just eventually dissipate into thin air, as if they never happened in the first place. Problem is, they did happen and it’s about time that somebody did something about it.

Seen this one too many times.

Seen this one too many times.

A few years ago, with the Invisible War, Kirby Dick showed what it was like to be apart of something as distinguished and respectable as the United States Military, and to have been a victim of sexual assault. That movie, even till this day infuriates the hell out of me; not just because people are being raped to begin with (which is a huge problem that needs to stop, ASAP), but because of how every rape case is handled. Rather than actually setting out and stopping the perpetrators from possibly committing the same act again, the Army would much rather settle everything out of court, blame the issue on the victim, act as if it never happened, was just a common mistake, and move on.

And to be truly honest, college itself is no different from the Army in that general regard.

While the Hunting Ground may not be as powerful as the Invisible War was, there’s still something that hits very close to home that makes it all the more sad, disturbing, and most of all, enraging. That nobody involved with these colleges is doing anything to stop these rapes from happening by either, punishing the perpetrator in an effective manner, or making it so that these crimes continue to be reported, will make you heart pound and blood boil. Dick understands this, sees this and never steps away from this fact; that these rapes can be stopped by a simple procedure of kicking that student out and making their presences known, is what’s all the more upsetting.

But through it all, Dick never forgets that this movie is, first and foremost, about the subjects here who, sadly and unfortunately, been through a sexual abuse at the hands of people who are, quite frankly, sick and twisted imbeciles. No matter how dark or disturbing the stories may be, Dick realizes that it’s the courage of these subjects who make this movie work and matter most; without them, he would have just a bunch of stats that don’t really prove any point, but crunch numbers in an annoying, slightly vague manner. Dick knows that in order to get his point across in an effective way, he needs to have as many stories as humanly possible, just to get his point further across about how rape, in and of the act itself, is an epidemic that needs to be stopped.

What’s most disappointing about this fact is that it can be easily done.

There's a possible generous alumni that you've missed out on, colleges. Good job!

There’s a possible generous alumni that you’ve missed out on, colleges. Good job!

All it takes is for a teacher, or a disciplinarian, or someone higher-up in the college, to speak up, say something and demand that a just punishment be made. However, as the movie shows us, it’s not so easy for every person involved with the university to just do such a thing, and not expect to reprimanded right away. For one, some of these figures may lose their jobs, as well as their tenure. This, altogether with the fact that the institution wants to keep that pretty picture alive and well for the rest of the outside world to see, is genuinely upsetting, but it’s sadly the reality in which we live in. Rape occurs, and rather than punishing those who initiate it, they all go after the victim and put all of the blame on them.

Once again, this is just one of the many points that Dick brings to light in the Hunting Ground. While it may not be his most powerful, or effective work he’s ever done, it doesn’t matter, because the movie still gets its point across and asks for there to be justice for those who need it the most: the Victims. That nobody is looking out for them, or has their best interest in mind, really makes the world of college as a whole, especially screwy. Colleges will never go extinct, but if they do continue to act up and not change their ways, they may be in fear of losing many possible students. Some parents will not want to send their kids away to a school that allows such heinous, vile acts like rape, and they especially won’t send their kids away to a school where instead of being embraced for bringing it up to the people who matter, the victims are wrongfully persecuted, left to be made an example of, and, in most cases, told to leave the school because of the hostile situation they’ve created.

This is all malarkey and you know what? It’s about time that it was put to an end, immediately.

Consensus: While not his best, Kirby Dick’s the Hunting Ground is still a powerful, generally upsetting documentary that points fingers at the problem of rapes on campuses, shows that there’s justice to be done, and asks why it hasn’t yet, to the people who most deserve to hear those same questions.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Hell

Pictured: Hell

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Green Inferno (2015)

Can’t change the world, unless we change each other. And stay away from cannibals, too.

Young, impressionable Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is currently a freshman at some fancy college in New York City. She enjoys the life she has, but at the same time, still feels like she could be doing a little something more. That’s why when she meets a group of environmentalists who are traveling out to the Amazon to help save the trees there, she decides to go and join them, despite her father’s, as well as her best friend’s trepidations. And while the trip looks to be going perfectly and successful for the group, suddenly, they’re plan goes all haywire in the sky, leaving them to crash-land somewhere in the deepest, darkest and under-seen parts of the jungle. Which definitely spells out trouble for the group when they encounter a bunch of cannibals who want nothing more than to dismember them, fry them up, and have them for lunch, dinner, breakfast, and possibly a midnight snack. Though every member of the crew is in danger of losing their lives, it’s Justine who somehow catches the eye of the cannibals’ leader and who they prep-up for possibly even more sinister tasks.

What's the problem? She's just got pretty hair is all.

What’s the problem? She’s just got pretty hair is all.

To be honest, Eli Roth is a bit of an overblown talent. Sure, he’s made an entertaining horror movie in the form of Cabin Fever, but everything else, including only the two Hostels, aren’t anything to really write home about. Yeah, they’re every bit as bloody, gory and gruesome as movies in the horror genre, but do they really do anything other than just splatter a bunch of ketchup at the screen? Not really. That’s why whenever I would hear some people call Roth “a horror genius”, I can’t help but wonder what it about him, or the movies that he’s made, something of genius?

And while the Green Inferno doesn’t really push me closer to that answer, it still helps me understand why so many people love the dude to begin with.

For one, it’s as disgusting as you’d expect it to be which, depending on who you are, may or may not be a good thing. In most cases, I don’t mind movies being disgusting, so long as they have a reason for being so; that the Green Inferno takes place in roughly the same place as Cannibal Holocaust did, helps make it easy to sink-in the fact that, yes, dismemberment does tend to happen on a daily basis and yes, people do get eaten like fried chicken, as well. Nothing in this jungle that the movie’s taking place in is pretty, so therefore, why would anything that they do to each other, or to generally considered “outsiders”, be as such? There is no reason, which is why it’s actually fine that Roth splits and splats as many body-parts as he wants. After all, it’s his movie and he can choose to do with it, whatever he oh so pleases.

With that said, Roth doesn’t really have anything more to say other than, well, “Cannibals are scary, yo. Avoid at all costs.” While I don’t necessarily have a problem, or disagree with this sentiment, there’s a part of me that feels as if Roth could have gone one step further, especially due to the fact that he had plenty of ingredients to do so with. Take, for instance, the characters in the environmentalist group – most of whom seem to be genuinely nice kids who want to help out the world around them, rather than just sitting around, with their fingers on their laptops, and American privilege coming out of their rear-ends. But the movie also shows that they’re all, no matter how nice or nasty they may seem to be, very naive about the world that they want to help and think that all is fine as long as there’s love and care.

Never too late to turn around, everyone.

Never too late to turn around, you know.

This is actually a very interesting idea that Roth brings up and seems to want to go somewhere with, but also chicken-out of by the end. Though he’s not saying that these types of lefties are inherently “bad”, or “stupid”, he’s also not painting them in any sort of favorable light, either. In fact, the one who appears to be the leader of the group, is actually one of the more despicable characters of the movie as he’s always thinking and acting for his own self-interest, regardless of if it saves those around him, or not. He’s a total dick and the fact that he’s the leader of this group of people who aren’t supposed to be, is an interesting piece of story-telling.

But it ultimately falls on deaf ears once Roth realizes that he enjoys breaking-off body-parts more.

And I honestly can’t blame him because the type of carnage and violence that Roth depicts here is, disturbing and in-your-face, however, he never seems to be glamorizing it in some kind of way. He may see that the violence can look pretty gory and get those types of gore-hounds of their seats to cheer, but he also notices that it’s also pretty screwed-up and doesn’t let us forget about that, especially when we live in a world where radical extremists like ISIS are doing the same, if not worse, things in real life, as these unnamed cannibals do here. This is probably another case of unnecessary speculation from yours truly, but regardless, it helped me think of this movie as more than just another one of those ordinary, stupid and overly-grimy horror movies that we get hit with every other month or so.

I still don’t think Roth is a genius of any sorts, but who knows? He may be getting there soon enough.

Consensus: Regardless of if you’re a huge fan of Eli Roth in the first place, the Green Inferno is still a dirty, disgusting and ultimately disturbing horror movie that flings all sorts of limbs at the screen, yet, doesn’t forget the sort of chills that they bring, as well.

6 / 10

Check out the latest issue of Vogue.

Check out the latest issue of Vogue.

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

If I was an immortal and looked like Vin Diesel, I’d have no complaints.

After striking up a fight with a witch a really long time ago, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has now become something of an immortal witch-hunter. However, he only goes after the witches that are acting up and need a swift kick in the ass. Though Kaulder has been through it all in his over-extended life, he still finds ways to surround himself around friends that also serve as business-buddies, too. One such buddy is Father Dolan (Michael Caine), a local priest who finds the bad witches for Kaulder. The two have such a strong-bond that when Dolan turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, Kaulder can’t help but get to the bottom of it and see who is responsible. Eventually, this leads Kaulder to realizing that it’s a witch who is out to get him and will stop at nothing until she kills him once and for all. Kaulder is more than up to the task of taking this witch, head-on, however, he’ll need a little bit of assistance on the side from the likes of a fellow priest (Elijah Wood), and a trusted friend named Chloe (Rose Leslie), who apparently holds some neat powers that could come in handy.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Most people out there will say, and have already said, that the Last Witch Hunter is like playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with Vin Diesel. While this is an appealing idea, I’m afraid, that this is nowhere near being the truth. For one, D&D is actually a fun game to not just play (once you get the hang of it), but to watch and be around (especially when those players seem to have such an undying passion and love for it). Also, seeing as how Diesel himself has, on countless occasions, professed his love for the game, it would make sense that he’d put his absolute heart and soul into making sure that this project of his own desire would turn out to be just as fun as the famous game he seems to be trying to use as a place-mat.

But sadly, none of this happens.


So, don’t get all mixed up with what certain people say, because the Last Witch Hunter is a bore from beginning to end. And while I’m usually one for this type of fantasy-genre where dudes with swords, go up against witches, dragons, and all sorts of other baddies, when it’s done right, the problem is that director Breck Eisner doesn’t seem to know how to do that type of movie. Instead, it’s just a hodgepodge of random genres that never seem to come together and instead, make everything just cling and clang together, without hardly any spark to be made.

What makes it even worse is that the story never seems to make any sense. Though we’re placed in a modern-day setting where witches, witch-hunters and priests all have some sort of underground world in which they combat with one another, the movie suddenly goes back into time and it comes as a total shock. But not a good one, I’m afraid – instead, it’s more of the kind that feels like the writer’s got all tired and bored with what they were doing, so rather than trying to come up with some new, fresh ideas to keep the story moving, they decided to throw time-travel in there for good measure.

Does it work? Not really. Does it add any excitement? Not even close.

And a movie that features witches, flaming-swords, and dragons, yet, isn’t exciting, is a damn shame. Although, what’s probably the smartest ploy that the marketing team for this movie has been able to create, is by having Vin Diesel appear in a Viking-ish look get-up, with a wild bear, over-sized fur-coat, and bad-ass sword. Not only does it promise some crazy, as well as awesome action where Vin’s kicking all sorts of witch-ass in the good old days, but also make it seem like that’s going to be the bulk of the movie.

The genius behind that all is, is, well, that’s hardly even 15 minutes of the film.

That's not his cocaine, it's my cocaine!

That’s not his cocaine, that’s my cocaine!

Instead, we’re treated to watching as Vin Diesel plays a character who has, apparently, been alive for centuries-on-end, witnessed so many traumatic, legendary moments in life, and seen many people come and go, yet, not really care about any of that at all. Mostly, he’s just a smooth-talker who bangs hot stewardesses, drives a sexy car, and says witty things, for some reason. You’d think that after all that he’s been through, that he’d at least be somewhat affected and screwed-up, but surprisingly, he isn’t; he’s just happy to be around, still screwing hot babes and all.

Which is a shame, because we know that Vin Diesel can work with better material, when it’s given to him. Say what you will, but Vin Diesel has some real charm to him that works in movies that call on him for it – the Last Witch Hunter is not that movie. He tries to make this Kaulder dude seem hip, cool and likable, but because the movie accompanying him is so lame and random, he doesn’t get much of a chance to make any of that work. More often than not, he just seems bored and without a friend to play with.

Poor Vinnie.

Everybody else, too, sadly, faces the same fate as Diesel does. Michael Caine gets maybe ten or so minutes here and does whatever he can; Elijah Wood seems like he wants to have fun with this role as a dorky priest, but is thrown to the background, so that shoddy-looking CGI can take over; and Rose Leslie, despite featuring some of that same, feisty spirit she had on Game of Thrones, also seems like she’s lost in a movie that’s not too concerned with how good of an actress she is, and just how well she can hold a reaction-shot. And if that’s all that acting requires, then anybody could have been in the Last Witch Hunter, let alone, the talented people who sadly got tied-up into this.

Consensus: On the surface, the Last Witch Hunter promises to be a fun, exciting schlock-fest, but once you get past that, it soon becomes clear that it’s nothing more than just a terribly-misguided, ugly-looking, and boring piece of fantasy that doesn’t deserve who it has in it.

2 / 10

Huh? Eh. I don't care.

Huh? Eh. I don’t care.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Steve Jobs (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, of course not!

He made iPods for gosh sakes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far.

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

9.5 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins


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