Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)

When present-day John Cusack says no to being in your movie, you know you’re in deep trouble.

Many years in the future, after they found certain ways to toy around with details that would make them billionaires, buddies Nick (Craig Robinson), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Jacob (Clark Duke) are all living the high life. Nick is a successful musician who can’t remember the original lyrics to most of the songs he’s performing; Lou is a billionaire, always drinking, always sexing, always doing some sort of drug, and always being a dick to whomever is around him; and Jacob, other than being that guy whomever Lou is a dick to, still moves awkwardly around in life. After Lou gets fatally shot in the penis area, the three all decide to take that one, final ride in their lovely little secret, the Hot Tub Time Machine. However, once they get where they’re, the three all realize that they’re in the near-future, where things a little bit more different than they are in the present time. But what’s really surprising to the gang is to see Adam Yates’ (John Cusack) son, Adam Jr. (Adam Scott), all grown up and ready to tie the knot. However, could he possibly be the one who shoots Lou in the past, or no?

"Jesse Eisenberg who?"

“Jesse Eisenberg who?”

Given its juvenile sense of humor, Hot Tub Time Machine was actually a pretty solid comedy. Not perfect, but not terrible, either; I guess given the fact that the title was so idiotic to begin with, that anything resembling something of actual quality was fine enough to be granted a pass. And even the idea of going back to the same premise and jotting around with certain little things here and there, still seems like a not-so-bad idea, so long as the creators behind the idea keep it all together and not lose themselves in a never ending stream of dick, gay, and sex jokes.

And sadly, that’s exactly what Hot Tub Time Machine 2 turns out to be – quite like mostly every other comedy sequel.

Where most of the problems with this movie come from, as they often do with most comedies, is that the jokes just aren’t funny. However, director Steve Pink or writer Josh Heald ever seemed to take the hint that their material just wasn’t hitting quite as hard as they may have intended for it, too. Rather than giving us funny, almost smart raunchy jokes about dude’s performing oral sex on one another, or someone drinking way too much and getting pretty messed-up, Pink and Heald go one step further and just continue on with showing these sorts of things, thinking that them happening is funny enough as is.

However, they’re wrong. But what makes it a tad bit worse is the fact that most of the jokes rely around that same kind “not-homophobic, but homophobic” brand of humor that works so well in Judd Apatow flicks. In the later’s films, most of the male characters act like they’re in love with one another in an all-too intimate way, all despite them clearly being straight. However, in order for these characters to make it feel as if they didn’t actually mean any heartfelt feelings with their gesture of tender love and care, they normally break out a typical, “Nah, bro. No homo.”

While these characters in Apatow movies are fine to do this, all because they actually do it all for a reason and helps improve the rapport between the actors who are supposed to be playing best friends of one another, here, it’s just wrong and slightly offensive. There’s a game show sequence in which anal sex is performed with two dudes and it’s just terrible to watch; not because I’m homophobic (which I’m definitely not), but because the movie just continues to go on and on with the joke as if it was all that hilarious to begin with.

The only time that whole overlong sequence is ever a tiny bit of funny, is whenever Christian Slater himself would show up.

And they act all surprised like they weren't gonna be back around.

And they act all surprised like they weren’t gonna be back around.

That’s right, people, you heard it first: Christian Slater actually made a movie better just by showing up.

And some of you may be pissed off at the fact that I’m spoiling a small bit of this movie for all of you sitting at home, wondering whether or not you should even bother with renting this in the first place, but that’s done so on purpose. Not only am I trying to save you, the dedicated and ever so loving reader, but also the people involved with this, because I know for an absolute fact that Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, and especially, Adam Scott, are a whole lot funnier than what it is that they’re forced to go through the motions with here. But somehow, Christian Slater made me laugh more than them?

What gives? Better yet, where the hell is John Cusack at?

See, what’s perhaps the most interesting anecdote about Hot Tub Time Machine 2 isn’t the fact that it wastes a potentially smart premise on a plethora on dumb, useless sex and gay jokes, is that John Cusack didn’t even bother showing up this time around. Maybe it made sense to him that since the movie wouldn’t be taking place in the 1980’s anymore (aka, his playhouse) and would instead be heading to the near-future where his stunt-casting may not be needed, or maybe John Cusack despised the script so much that he didn’t even want to bother trying to give this thing a go. Cause you know, I’m pretty sure that Dragon Blade needed all of the time and attention in the world.

But regardless about Cusack not showing up here, it probably wouldn’t have helped much. The jokes don’t quite land as well as they did in the first (if they do land at all), and honestly, it just seems like everybody involved was looking for a quick cash grab, all due to the fact that the first one was a mild hit. “Mild”, being the keyword.

Please don’t give ’em another.

Consensus: Without hardly any jokes that are actually funny, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 feels like a lifeless bore, only made so that important people could get rich and the occasional chuckle could occur.

2 / 10

My expressions exactly.

My expressions exactly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Entourage (2015)

Eight seasons and a movie?

Having just divorced after nearly 10 days, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) now has his eyes set on writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, which will just be called Hyde. However, Vinny’s ambitions are so large and demanding, that the movie needs a bigger budget to feel “right” enough for him to give the go ahead with. Cue in Vinny’s long-time manager, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who is still happy with his family, but still needs to convince financiers that the movie deserves more money because it’s considered, well, “a masterpiece” (his words, nowhere near at all mine). However, Ari and Vinny’s lives aren’t the only ones happening here as Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) all respectively have their own trials and tribulations to get through. E is can’t seem to find it in himself to stop sleeping around with random girls, and settle down with his very pregnant ex-love Sloan (Emmanuelle Chirqui); Turtle wants to settle down with someone again, but that special someone just so happens to be Ronda Rousey; and Drama, as usual, can’t seem to catch a break with any casting directors.

Oh, how sad they must all be.

"Hey, guys? A little help here because my back is killing me!"

“Hey, guys? A little help here because my back is killing me!”

Let’s cut the crap and get right down to it, everybody: Entourage, the show, wasn’t all that it’s been made out to be. Was it fun? Yes. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it anything else deeper or more meaningful than that? Not really, and I guess, there was some appeal in that. Most fans who tuned in to watch the show on HBO every week, didn’t want to see heartfelt, intimate emotions portrayed on the screen; they just wanted to see how these four fellas would stay rich, party it up, stay rich, and bang whatever hotties they could find. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but where I have a problem with that idea is that, all of a sudden, people make Entourage out to be as some sort of sitcom classic along the lines of such treasures as Seinfeld, or Arrested Development, or Friends, or hell, even another, much better HBO program, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

And these are the exact reasons why I wasn’t at all that stoked with this movie finally being made. Now, that isn’t to say that just because I’m crapping on everything that has to do with Entourage, means that I not only hate the show and feel as if everyone should to – that’s just not true. The show was, at points, interesting to watch, and occasionally made me laugh. However, I also do realize that the show carries on a lot of die hard, full-on fans that have been anticipating a movie event such as this ever since it had its finale nearly four years ago. Sometimes, there are fans who like shows for just being what they are, not what they could be, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that what Entourage is, or better yet, represented about all things having to deal with society, is pretty sickening.

Which is all the more strange to say, considering that I’m talking about a show that came on the air no less than eleven years ago.

Yeah, chew on that for awhile.

See, with Entourage, the show, as well as the movie, all we do is watch these thinly-written characters grab-ass with one another, while, at the same time, try to grab any hot model’s ass, spend thousands and thousands of dollars, and have basically no worries in the world. Now, of course, there was still a lot to see with the Hollywood/movie-making side of the spectrum (more on that later), but lets be honest, neither Doug Ellin nor Mark Wahlberg could really care about these angles as much because, at the end of the day, everything was fine. Girls were slept with and sometimes treated like yesterdays garbage; everybody stayed rich; Vincent was looked at as a superhero of sorts; and everybody was happy. That’s literally every episode of Entourage in a nutshell and it’s the same with this movie.

Which is, obviously, to say that the movie feels like nothing more than an overextended episode with hardly any arch carrying it along – it’s just one scene, after another, that occasionally meanders onto another self-important plot-point that’s nearly forgotten about in the next frame. Normally, this happened in the show, but there wasn’t all that much of a problem considering that each episode was hardly above 25 minutes. But, when you’re movie is nearly two hours, there’s a huge problem in that it feels like nothing is getting accomplished. It’s literally just a bunch of attractive people walking around L.A., doing normal things that people in L.A. do.

The gang is all back together and they look so excited.

The gang is all back together and they look so excited.

Once again, this will most definitely please fans of the show and have them wanting, hell, pleading for more, but for anybody who was already “so-so” on the show to begin with, it’s nothing more than another clear sign as to why the show shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did and should stay dead in the water as it is. But like with the show, if there were any saving graces, it was whenever Jeremy Piven showed up as the foul-mouthed, yet excessively obnoxious Ari Gold to do and say whatever he was saying or doing, and with the movie, there’s no difference. In fact, I was probably happier to see Piven here, if only because it’s been awhile where I’ve seen him get a lot to do on the big screen.

And also, well, because he would save the movie from being an utter and total bore.

Piven as Gold has always felt like the smartest man in the room, no matter how brash the decisions he made, were. He would hurl out insults at some of the most important people around him; wouldn’t think twice about ditching an important family engagement just so that he could have a dinner with some Hollywood exec; and he would always stay loyal to his wife, no matter how hard it was for him to do so, especially in a place like L.A. Here, there’s not much of anything new for Piven to try out as Ari Gold; all he has to do is stick to the same old song and dance, which is fine because it worked so often before. And like they always say, why fix what’s not broken?

But then, this puts into perspective how lame the rest of the performances are from the rest of the core performers. Adrian Grenier has always had that one expression and tone as Vinny and it never changes, which isn’t good; Kevin Connolly has always felt like a smart-ass as E, which isn’t good; Jerry Ferrara has always been the overly eager one as Turtle, which isn’t good; and Kevin Dillon has always been the creepiest, most perverted one of the clan, which isn’t as bad as the others, but still isn’t all that great, either. While some could make the argument that maybe this is less of a problem with the performer’s, than it is with the material for not challenging them enough, I would probably have to say you’re right.

However, by the same token, if they haven’t been challenged for the past decade or so, either, so why even bother trying to do so now?

Consensus: Like the show, Entourage, the movie, feels like it’s never really going anywhere, nor is it trying to offer anything new to the viewer, but instead, just rely on the same old tricks and trades that allowed the original show to stay on way longer than it maybe should have.

2 / 10

Ride off in the sunset, boys. Please try and stay there, too.

Ride off in the sunset, boys. Please try and stay there, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Paddington (2015)

The bear’s still creepy.

After an earthquake hits his home in darkest Peru, a young, talking bear (Ben Whishaw) is forced to move elsewhere in life. His aunt suggests a fine place called London, where she was once told, many years ago by an explorer, that if they were to come and visit, they’d be accepted with open arms. However, it’s only the young bear who can come and visit, so that’s what he does in hopes of meeting that explorer and adapting to regular, human customs. As soon as the young bear shows up in London, though, he’s left alone and with nowhere else to go, that is, until he gets seen by the Brown family. While the mother, Mary (Sally Hawkins), is accepting of this homeless little bear who is desperately in need of a home, her husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), couldn’t be bothered. Eventually, he caves in and decides to keep the bear in their place until it can find its original owner. But also occurring at the same time is a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who finds out that this rare bear is alive and walking on London’s surface, which puts her deadly sights on him.

Oh, and he has a name, and it’s Paddington.

Somebody fetch this bloke some tea!

Somebody fetch this bloke some tea!

While I’m not all that familiar with Paddington, its history, and all of that, I have to say, everything leading up to this movie didn’t make me have anymore interest. Not only did Colin Firth leave about half-way through production, but the movie itself had to be pushed back from its holiday time-slot, all the way to the death ring that is January. Also, Paddington himself seemed a bit creepy and it didn’t help that the movie continued to advertise wacky, slapstick-ish hijinx surrounding him accidentally breaking stuff. Basically, nothing was looking good for this movie and it seemed like it would just be another failed attempt bringing the whole family together for movie night – a staple that should always be held.

Well, somehow, it all worked out.

There’s something inherently sweet about Paddington that goes past just being for the whole family. Sure, there’s plenty of jokes aimed towards both the kids, as well as the adults, but they aren’t the same types of jokes that the later would be ashamed in seeing come from something aimed towards kids. More or less, the jokes here that appeal to the adults in the room, are tricky, clever plays on words that seem to realize that, in order to have your audience laughing, you can’t just spoon-feed them everything. A slap, a hit, or a trip is fine and all for the kids, but don’t forget about the grown-ups who have to usually sit through these things; which is what writer/director Paul King doesn’t forget about.

But that said, the movie is still fine for kids to watch, if not more exciting. While Paddington, the bear, still rubs me the wrong way a bit, there’s no denying the fact that the kids who see this will become enthralled with him and why shouldn’t they? He’s live, walking, and talking CGI-bear that spouts words of kindness to those around him and, sometimes without ever trying to do so, ends up saving the day in ways he doesn’t expect. He truly is the kind of character that mostly all kids should see a movie about and it’s nice to see justice be done to him; and this is all coming from a person who didn’t know all that much about Paddington to begin with.

And voicing Paddington, Ben Whishaw does a fine job, portraying a certain style of fun and innocence that I don’t quite think Firth would have been able to portray quite as well. That’s not to say Whishaw’s better than Firth in ways, but here, for this specific role, it seems obvious that the former would take over the job of the later, if only because it seems like Firth would have been a tad too “royal” for a character as goofy as Paddington. Still, it’s a surprise that the people behind this were able to get Firth to do this in the first place, let alone have him already shoot half of his scenes before he eventually realized what he was doing and decided to just do a bunch of promo for Kingsman, as it should be.

The effect Nicole Kidman still has on men.

The effect Nicole Kidman still has on men.

There’s also plenty of human characters here too, and they also do fine jobs to where they don’t get over-shadowed by the bear, which would have been very hard not to have happen. Hugh Boneville’s character may seem like a stern tight-ass, but eventually, there are certain shades to him where we see that it all comes from a reason and believe it or not, there’s still some fun left in him; Sally Hawkins is equally delightful as his wife and gives some sort of personality to Mary that goes past just being kind and peaceful to all those around her; and Nicole Kidman, surprisingly, does a good job here as the villain of the story, playing up a comedic-side to her that we don’t usually see.

Or, if we do, it’s usually in something like Bewitched, where her skills are absolutely wasted, but if anything Paddington proves, it’s that Nicole Kidman should play more baddies, as well as be funny.

If there’s anything that keeps me away from giving Paddington the full-on, full-out praise that mostly everybody else on the face of the planet has been able to do, it’s that I felt as if the political themes and ideas were a tad bit odd, especially given the fact in how they were placed into the story. While the movie makes it a point to not make it a total point that there is in fact a bear walking all around the streets and nobody literally batting an eye, there’s something strange in how it seems like it’s discussing immigration, but not really discussing it at all. Paddington, the character, is all alone and left without much of a home, but it’s up to the government and possible suitors who may be able to take him in and make him their own.

A little odd, right? My feelings exactly, but then again, it’s a kids movie so little things like that probably should be disregarded.

In other words, just don’t listen to me.

Consensus: Fun, light and appropriate enough for just about every member of any given family, Paddington is a joyous and sweet little ride that offers up a likable character to a new generation of possible fans and with good reason.

8 / 10

Cuddly and all, but still wouldn't trust him home alone with my kids. But that's just me.

Cuddly and all, but still wouldn’t trust him home alone with my kids. But that’s just me.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

Science can get pretty kinky.

Two lepidopterists, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudson) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), spend a lot of time together. While they both practice bugs and all of that fine stuff, they’re more interested in the BDSM that they practice and who, or who doesn’t, get the chance to take command of the relationship. While Cynthia demands for Evelyn to do stuff, she responds in a way that’s calculated, and leads her to, sometimes, getting punished. On the other hand, however, Evelyn isn’t really upset with this; she, like Cynthia finds this fun, hot and something new to play around with, until it gets to be too much for both involved. However, what ultimately ends up happening is that, over time, Evelyn and Cynthia start to grow jealous of one another and clash heads a bit. While Cynthia is fine with taking absolute control in the bed and in the relationship, Evelyn is now starting to lean more towards something of a natural relationship where woman hold and love another, rather than sitting on each other’s faces and doing all sorts of other odd stuff.

Something as odd and bizarre as the Duke of Burgundy should be a whole lot more exciting than what it actually turns out to be. For one, writer/director Peter Strickland seems to be taking a very serious, very intimate look at two women participating in a BDSM relationship that can sometimes test them to their limitations. But then again, it’s very hard to do that with what eventually happens here, and yet, try to make sure that no people start cracking up.

Gotta always get prepared and dollied up for the night's wild proceedings.

Gotta always get prepared and dollied up for the night’s wild proceedings.

Because, honestly, when you have a movie where one character pees into another character’s mouth as a source of punishment for not cleaning out one’s panties, it’s pretty hard not to crack up.

But that’s what’s sort of strange about Strickland – he is so drop dead serious, that you almost have to go along with it. While it’s easy to be the most immature kid watching at home, there’s also a time and place for when one has to grow up a bit and realize that bodily fluids and sexual desires are just another part of daily human lives. Strickland knows this, sees this, and understands this, and because of that, he wants us to pay attention, as well.

And it’s very hard not to pay attention to what’s going on, if only because of all the sorts of fun role-playing that occurs here. However, whereas a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey gives the audience a plethora of scenes where its two characters are just having a bunch of fun, wacky and wild sex with one another, and leaving it at that, Strickland takes it one step further. In a way, Strickland actually wants us to get to know these characters and exactly what this BDSM relationship does to them as a whole.

While one person may have the most control on what happens, and doesn’t happen while in between the sheets, they may not have the same power or control when it comes to the actual relationship itself. That’s what happens here with Cynthia and Evelyn here, and while I won’t give whom it is in which position, I will say that it’s an interesting look at how quickly and drastically control can shift in a relationship, no matter how loving or miserable it is. If one person wants something better, and the other person knows that, it’ll most definitely take a toll; not just on one person, but the both of them.

And as Evelyn and Cynthia, both Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudson put in good work here, showing that both characters have complex needs, wants and pleasures that make them more compelling to watch, no matter what they’re doing. While it’s easy for some to get wrapped up in all of the sex games that they play with one another, the smaller, more subdued moments are what seem the most telling as we truly get to see what it is that they feel at that exact moment.

But, then again, there’s this problem that I continue to have with this movie where it feels like Strickland drops the ball a bit, especially in the last-half.

Somehow, somewhere, Strickland got a bit too ahead of himself. Even after having a solid first-two halves, Strickland loses a lot of focus and starts to get really strange, but in ways that aren’t very appealing. Not because, once again, they feature these two female characters doing odd things, but because the movie forgets that in order to make a lot of what happens, the focus has to be on the characters. They don’t have to be the most likable human specimens on the face of the planet, but they just need to have some sort of compelling aspects to their personalities that make them so worth getting invested in in the first place.

Here, Strickland loses that idea in his head and instead, starts throwing sheer craziness at us like an imaginative dream into one character’s vagina. You heard me right, people. No typo whatsoever. There is literally a sequence in which Strickland constantly puts his zoom in on a character’s vagina and we continue to go in and in, until, for some odd reason, bugs start flying all over the place. Have no clue what it means, really, but neither do I think Strickland does either; he’s just going along with the wacky flow and seeing who he can keep interested next.

And, well, job relatively accomplished.

Consensus: Without a sharp focus, the Duke of Burgundy isn’t as compelling it should be, despite the two solid performances and shocking scenes that occur through the run-time.

6 / 10

"Madam. Please be ready. I need somewhere to sit."

“Madam. Please be ready. I need somewhere to sit.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Results (2015)

Staying fit is a lot harder than finding a possible mate.

Trevor (Guy Pearce) runs a local gym where people are trained to make themselves better in ways that they can’t even imagine. That’s why, after still reeling from a divorce, incredibly rich guy, Danny (Kevin Corrigan), decides to come into his place one day, and ask if he can start getting up on a training-program. While Danny’s a bit weird, Trevor still feels bad enough for the guy that he gives him one of his most talented, most passionate trainers, Kat (Cobie Smulders); somebody who he actually had a relationship with in the past, but unbeknownst to the both of them, never amounted to much. So even while Kat realizes that something is a bit strange about Danny, she still decides to work with him, seeing as how he definitely has the money to pay for it all. However, one fateful night, Kat and Danny get a tad bit closer than either of them two ever expected to, and that’s when relations get a bit challenging between all parties involved. Which honestly, couldn’t come at a worse time for Trevor, who is currently in the process of expanding his business.

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski has been in the indie/mumblecore scene for quite some time and now, just like his fellow counterparts (Lynn Shelton, Joe Swanberg, and Drake Dormeus, among others), it’s finally his time to go big. By big, I don’t necessarily sell his own soul to the devils that are incredibly rich Hollywood producers, but in that I mean it was time for Bujalski to break out of his shell a bit, get more established names and, in a way, make sure that more than just a handful of people see his movies. While some may see this as a way of “selling out”, to me, it doesn’t matter, so long so as the new movies stay in the same spirit as the earlier ones that came before.

What I imagine every woman's reaction is to speaking with Guy Pearce. Lucky bastard.

What I imagine every woman’s reaction is to speaking with Guy Pearce. Lucky bastard.

And believe it or not, Results is very much a Andrew Bujalski movie. For better, as well as for worse.

In a way, Results is Bujalski’s way of holding up the magnifying glass to those who care so much about the tone, the look and the feel of their bodies, and dig deeper beneath the surface. While it would have been quite easy to poke fun at these types and show how most of them are all stupid, muscle-bound freaks who don’t have much going on in their lives other than vanity, Bujalski shows that you can’t always judge a book by their cover. It sounds corny, but it’s a sentiment that holds true no matter which type of person you look at.

Such is the case with Trevor, the gym owner who wants to make it big. Rather than being a silly, overly cheery Aussie, he’s more of a sad, lonely and needy dude who has aspirations to make his career, as well as his life, better, but also knows that in order to do so, he may need to find that special someone of his. Same goes for Kat, although, more or less, she knows that she’s lonely and needs a suitable mate in her life, however, by the same token, she doesn’t care too much to actually search for one; she’s too busy running and being pissed-off at everyone.

And between these two characters, Bujalski is able to draw a connection that’s clearly on the romantic side, but he doesn’t hit us over the head with it. We know that they were, at one point in their lives, casually seeing one another, but it was never anything serious to where they felt like they needed to give it another shot. However, we’re only told this through a few lines or so – everything else is made up for us to make up our own conclusions on and even then, it doesn’t seem Bujalski wants to put all that much effort in either.

In all honesty, he’s more interested in the character of Danny, played by the highly underrated Kevin Corrigan.

If Cobie Smulders was touching me, you'd bet I'd have the same look on my face, too.

If Cobie Smulders was touching me, you’d bet I’d have the same look on my face, too.

Now, while I agree that a movie solely dedicated to Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders constantly flirting and toying around with one another would have made for an engaging and entertaining flick, there’s no problem with adding on another one, especially if the one is as strong as Danny. With Danny, Corrigan gets to show us that there’s more sides to his acting ability than most of us had been able to see before and it’s interesting, because this character hardly ever fits into the narrative. However, the shit storm that he creates, is what keeps this movie rolling and altogether, interesting.

That isn’t to say that Bujalski misses a few steps along the way, because he definitely does. Like with most of these mumblecore-ish movies, they feel as if they’re meandering and taking as much time as they want, regardless of who is watching them. And here, Bujalski doesn’t change a thing. In a way, this can be very frustrating, especially since we have a feeling that there’s a small lick of emotional material hidden underneath, but at the same time, it also gives us more and more time to focus on these characters, who they are, what they’re going through, and why exactly they’re worth our time and interest.

And with a cast like this, how could you argue?

Though it’s an odd combination, it’s surprising that Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders work together as well as they do here as Trevor and Kat, respectively. While it’s easy to see that both of these characters are alike in ways that they don’t even know, it’s also easy to understand why they wouldn’t work out so magically in the first place, either. She’s a lot more blunt and obnoxious, whereas he’s more quiet and peaceful in day-to-day-activities. However, together, they somehow work and it’s fun to watch Pearce and Smulders beat around the bush with one another so damn much that it will definitely make some want to yell.

Like all the good movies make people do.

Consensus: The slow pace and meandering direction may make Results feel a bit longer than it should be, but due to the intimate details and wonderful cast, it’s still worth watching.

7.5 / 10

Great. More scenes of attractive people, playing attractive people, flirting.

Great. More scenes of attractive people, playing attractive people, flirting with one another.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Aloha (2015)

This time, it means goodbye.

After being away for many years, defense contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to Hawaii where he sees people from the past that haven’t been in contact with him for nearly 13 years. People such as a former flame of his (Rachel McAdams), former co-worker (Danny McBride), and person who used to employ him and now, may need him more than ever, business tycoon Carson Welch (Bill Murray). However, Brian is now setting his sights on the future when he’s partnered-up with Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone), who is supposed to take him all around Hawaii, guide him through certain places, and overall, get to make his stay a whole lot more comfortable. The reason being is because Brian’s in Hawaii to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite that comes strictly from Carson Welch’s own pocket. While Brian realizes that this is illegal, he still has to go through with it considering that he has nowhere else to go, or nothing else to do; Allison, on the other hand, knows this is wrong and despite her feelings for Brian, can’t find it in her to stand by such a decision.

Or, you know, something like that.

Fly. Fly far away from here.

Fly. Fly far away from here.

Honestly, the plot synopsis I just wrote is a bit of a stretch, because I’m still not sure what exactly this movie was all about. None of that has to do with the fact that I didn’t have my cup of coffee beforehand, or was constantly on my phone – it’s all due to the fact that whichever studio heads decided to chop Aloha up, chopped it up real good. Meaning, that any sign of what may have been Cameron Crowe’s original idea for a movie, gets totally lost in something so messy, so incoherent, and something so odd, that it made me feel bad for just about everybody involved.

However, regardless of what you may hear or see, it’s not terrible. The reason for that being is because the cast actually seems to be trying and although a lot of what they do here doesn’t add up to a cohesive whole, it’s hard to be angry at everybody here and blame them. Especially since, in most instances, they’re the main reasons the movie’s worth being watched.

Like, for instance, take Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character who is actually supposed to be Asian, but we’ll leave that alone for now. Stone, as usual, is fun, light, perky, and charming as hell. It’s seemingly impossible to despise her presence in anything she shows up in, and although Allison is a lot like Kirsten Dunst’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl in Crowe’s Elizabethtown, I found her a lot more believable, if only because Stone made her so. Even when she starts to have feelings for Bradley Cooper’s character, it comes from a place of adoration and respect, and isn’t just because she wants to bang the hottest the guy who just so happens to step into Hawaii.

Because if that were the case, clearly she’d be gunning for Bill Murray. Like, come on. No competition whatsoever.

And of course, Bradley Cooper’s fine, too. Brian Gilcrest seems like the same kind of challenging, incomplete, and imperfect protagonist that Crowe loves to write about and while he may not get the movie that say, someone like Tom Cruise deserved with Jerry Maguire, Cooper still tries, time and time again. Same goes for the likes of Danny McBride, John Krasinski, Bill Camp, Alec Baldwin, Rachel McAdams, and most of all, Bill Murray, who, oddly enough, is saddled with a villainous role that never seems to actually step over the line from being “bad”, but instead, just stays like the Bill Murray we all know and love.

But most of the problem with an ensemble this so finely stacked, is that they don’t get much to do in Aloha. Perhaps in the original cut that featured a lot more character moments, as well as explanation of just what the hell Brian Gilcrest is doing in Hawaii in the first place, but not here. Instead, what we’re stuck with here is an odd movie that wants to be so many things at the same time, and while it slightly succeeds at one of them, the rest feel useless and just thrown in there for the sake of taking up time.

Which is especially odd, considering that the movie’s hardly even two hours.

Please hook up. Make this some bit of interesting.

Please hook up. Make this some bit of interesting.

In a way, you could say that Aloha would have probably benefited from another half-hour or so, just so that we could have gotten more of whatever Crowe had initially written-out. The elements with Stone and Cooper were fine as is, so no tampering needed to be done with them, but what about the whole love-angle between Cooper and McAdams? That was probably the juiciest part of this whole movie, where our protagonist has to deal with the missed-opportunities he has to face in his life now, and instead, it’s treated as a minor subplot in the grander scheme of things. Instead of learning more about this character’s past through the way he interacts with those around him, we get to see him constantly battle with whatever demons are taking over his mind during this “mission”.

Once again, the movie never makes clear of what said mission actually is, up until it’s actually happening and even then, it’s still never clear. This is just another example of a studio not liking a final product, getting scared, and instead of working with the creator on it and seeing what could work best, they decided to mish and mash it up anyway that they saw fit. That isn’t to say that Crowe doesn’t at least deserve a partial amount of the blame, because he does, but it’s also to point out the fact that sometimes, movie studios really can rip apart anything that they want.

However, Crowe can be blamed, too. With Crowe’s movies, his dialogue usually feels heightened in the sense that we know that the dialogue his characters use, aren’t actually how real people talk. But for some reason, you sort of wish real people did and for that reason, it’s interesting to hear what they have to say next and how they say it. Some of Crowe’s earlier films are great examples of this, but lately, he’s gotten a bit ahead of himself and now, it’s starting to seem like he’s trying to recreate that piece of magic he had with “You Complete Me“.

Either way, it’s a dragon that Crowe should stop chasing, because it’s not helping himself out, or the actors that are forced to utter his stupid lines.

Consensus: Aloha isn’t a total and complete, unwatchable misfire, but it does feel as if it’s been tampered with too much to the point of where it takes away from the story, the message, and the talented cast that deserve better.

5 / 10

The love triangle that deserved a better movie.

The love triangle that deserved a better movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

San Andreas (2015)

Can’t help but wonder how another Johnson may have survived.

Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) makes a living off of saving people’s lives. Not only is it his calling in life, but it’s what he loves to do. However, because of this love in his life, he’s sort of forgotten about other loves in his life that may mean a lot more, such as his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), and wife (Carla Gugino), who has now just handed Ray divorce papers, even while she’s spending time with new boyfriend, Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). While this is all happening though, an a monstrous earthquake is forming right underneath everyone and throws all of California into an insane frenzy. While Ray has a job to do, his first and most important priority is finding his daughter and his wife, which he will try and complete using all of the smarts and skills that he has at his disposal. However, as local seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) soon figures out: There may not be enough time to save yourself.

Believe it or not, San Andreas was not directed by Roland Emmerich. And honestly, I’m so happy for that. It’s not because director Brad Peyton does such a stellar job that he should be praised for days-on-end, but it’s because Emmerich’s kind of disaster movies seem to get so tired, old, and repetitive, that by the time all of the destruction and mayhem is over, it hardly even matters. While the same situation could have easily happened with San Andreas, Peyton finds a smart way to keep that from happening, solely by just keeping all of the destruction and mayhem as fun, exciting and insane as possible, therefore, hardly ever allowing for it to lose its muster.

"Come with me if you want to Rock."

“Come with me if you want to Rock.”

Something that, once again, Roland Emmerich wouldn’t be able to contain himself away from.

But that isn’t to say that Peyton gets away from this movie clean and free, without any problems to be found whatsoever, because that just isn’t the truth. In fact, there’s a lot about San Andreas that doesn’t feel right; like, for instance, the fact that one moment, we could be cheering because of a heroic action that a character just made, and then, moments later, see digital human beings be utterly destroyed by whatever carnage just so happened to find them. In a way, it’s almost like, rather than focusing on this one, small story, we should be focusing on the whole grand spectrum, and how basically each and every person in California is being wiped out beyond belief.

Also, there’s an odd feeling that even though we’re told and shown that Ray’s main job is to help save people from any sorts of disasters, we sort of see him abandon this job once all of the earthquakes begin. This is understandable, because obviously, family comes first, but what about the few ten or fifteen people you see along the way of finding your family that may or may not need some saving? Are they not good enough? Or significant? Or did the budget not allow for anymore actors to be hired?

Whatever the reason may have been, it’s a bit odd.

Then again, though, San Andreas is just another silly blockbuster, that also happens to be a disaster movie and doesn’t let up on that later element. And thankfully so, because this is actually what begins to save the fact that a lot of what happens is nutty, but it hardly ever becomes numbing. Though earthquakes occur quite often in the near-two hour time-limit, they never bummed me out. Part of that has to do with the fact that it took us away from more moments where the movie tried to make itself into a touching, heartfelt message movie about fathers, daughters, and marriage, but also, because Peyton find some new, impressive ways to make sure that all of the odds were stacked-up against our protagonists.

Does that mean they weren’t able to defeat them? No, but hey! It’s hard to care for all of that when you’re just having a good time.

Once they both realize she's the girl from True Detective, things will get a whole lot more interesting.

Once they both realize she’s the girl from True Detective, things will get a whole lot more interesting.

And with Dwayne Johnson, how could you not? Honestly, if you weren’t already convinced that Johnson is one of the most unabashedly charming fellas on the face of the planet by now, check out San Andreas and come back to me. This doesn’t mean that Johnson himself is doing anything ground-breaking with his work here, but it’s hard to not break a smile on your face whenever he’s around. Sometimes, he says something witty and makes you laugh, other times, he’s actually showing that there’s something of a heart and soul underneath all of that muscle and testosterone.

But Johnson helps make a lot of this movie work because he at least adds some legitimacy and fun to what happens here. Whereas the movie could have easily been a boring, uneventful slug of one disaster sequence, after another, Johnson finds ways to pop up, remind you that he’s around, and that, no matter how much destruction occurs, he’s always around to save the day. Also, surprisingly, he and Carla Gugino share a solid chemistry together that works even when they’re fighting, or when they’re coming back together as a couple; something that made the movie a little bit more interesting.

Then, of course, there’s Paul Giamatti who, like Johnson, is just here to remind everybody that he’s able to make whatever he does, better just by showing up. Giamatti doesn’t have much to do here other than yell, warn people about upcoming Earthquakes, and hide underneath desks, but he does so well with it, that it never gets old. And despite playing a character nearly nine years younger than her own self, Alexandra Daddario does a solid job as Blake, showing that she isn’t the damsel in distress who always needs somebody to save her life; she can figure situations out and more often than not, outsmart those around her.

The perfect woman, basically.

Consensus: As silly as it may be, San Andreas is a lot like other disaster movies in that it doesn’t hold back on all of the insane destruction or mayhem, but also benefits from the always engaging presence of Dwayne Johnson.

6.5 / 10

Prepare for plenty of Rock Bottoms, Earth's core.

Prepare for plenty of Rock Bottoms, Earth’s core.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Slow West (2015)

Slow and steady doesn’t always win ya races, people.

16-year-old Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is currently stranded 19th Century frontier America. For some odd, inexplicable reasons, the woman that he grew up to know, learn from, and love (Caren Pistorius), has vanished. Because of this heartbreak, Silas figures that the only way to fix it all would to actually set out on a journey to find her, once and for all. Little does Jay know, the West can be a pretty rough and ragged place to travel through, and if you’re not careful, you could find yourself in some very tense, life-or-death situations. That’s why when Jay runs into the company of Silas (Michael Fassbender), a charming and smart outlaw that seems to collect bounties anywhere he goes, he wants to stick with him in hopes that his life will be protected. The only problem know is that Jay eventually finds out that his old love is know wanted dead or alive for a murder she may not have even committed in the first place, and now, nearly every dirty, mean cowboy in the West is gunning after her. It’s up to Jay to make sure that he finds her before it’s too late, whereas it’s up to Silas to make sure that the boy does, but that he also gets his money, as well.

Slow is exactly right. With a movie like Slow West, it’s hard to be mad at it for what it is: A slow, melancholic Western that doesn’t over-stay its welcome too long, nor does it ever really seem to find its own footing. With first-time writer and director John M. Maclean, it’s clear that there’s a certain look and feel to this film that’s supposed to matter to the story, to these characters, and especially to our own general feeling to the film as a whole. While it’s easy for me to say that Maclean clearly has an eye for visuals, it doesn’t translate as well to the rest of the flick.

Even if he hasn't taken a shower for what seems like a couple of weeks, M-Fass still rules the land.

Even if he hasn’t taken a shower for what seems like a couple of weeks, M-Fass still charms socks off.

But, then again, it’s hard to get on a movie that features not only Michael Fassbender, but Ben Mendelsohn as well.

Two for the price of one, people!

With Fassbender’s Silas character, we get the sort of soft-spoken, but charming-as-all-hell outlaw character that we so often see in these kinds of Westerns, however, they mostly feel like parodies of themselves. While they’re supposed to be taken seriously, these kinds of characters have been practically done to death by now, that no matter how cool, calm and collected you are, the character you’re playing may still come off as corny. However, this is not a problem that gets in the way of Fassbender, one of today’s most talented actors.

As Silas, Fassbender proves that it’s sometimes best to say two words, rather than to say 15 or so, and yet, still get your point across. Sure, it’s safe to say that this Silas character seems like he knows it all, been there, done that, and has seen whatever the world threw in front of his eyes, but Fassbender plays it in such a manner, that it almost didn’t matter to making this character work; Fassbender just finds his own ways in doing so. He could either be shooting people, calming gunslingers down, or smokin’ a stogie in the middle of a gun-battle and no matter what, Silas would still be cool, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard.

And of course, having Ben Mendelsohn just show up and do his thing is great, and that’s how he is here. Not much different from before, except to say that there’s still an unsettling feel surrounding him where you don’t know whether or not he’s actually a cold-hearted killer, or just a guy looking for a quick money-grab. Either way, there’s something interesting to his menace, and that never seemed to go away here for him.

Problem is, Maclean doesn’t really find a way to make sure that the plot services both of these guys’ talents, as well as Smit-McPhee’s.

The fur just adds more creepiness, surprisingly.

The fur just adds more creepiness, surprisingly.

For one, the plot is simple at best, meandering at its worst. Whereas some will be pleased to see that Maclean sort of just lets his movie move along at its own pace, find its own direction, and even figure out what story it wants to work with, to me, it didn’t quite gel well. Constantly, it felt like Maclean didn’t know where he wanted to go with this story and didn’t have much of anything mapped-out to work with. So, instead of writing something down in concrete, he just let the movie go on and on, without much of a rhyme, reason, or direction.

Sometimes, this works if the movie itself seems to be a fun piece of random, but Slow West isn’t that kind of movie. Sure, it has some moments that are tense, including a gun-packed finale that’s surely the highlight of the whole movie, but overall, it’d be hard to make sense of just what’s going on and why. I’ve seen some people refer to this movie as “a dream”, and while I agree with some of those statements, I still don’t think it works in the movie’s favor; it never seemed like it deserved to be seen as a dream, no matter how many random characters popped in and out.

Then again, it all comes back to the fact that this is a Western that ends on a high note, with guns a blazin’, bullets a flyin’, and people a droppin’. To me, that’s always a fine time to watch, whether it’s a Western, a regular, old action movie, or a family drama. And if that shows anything, it’s that Maclean, while not fully ready for more and more pictures, definitely has a future in just filming action sequences, no matter where they’re taking place.

Because lord knows I’ll watch them. With or without a lame story.

Consensus: Slow West takes its good old time to get where it needs to get going, and because of that, feels meandering and random, but still doesn’t take away from solid performances and bits of action.

7 / 10

 

Trust the barber, kid. For your own sake.

Trust the barber, kid. You’ll never regret it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Joneses (2010)

If they came into my neighborhood, they’d be “outed” in a week. Nobody’s cars are that nice.

The Joneses are the stereotypical, suburban family that has it all, and then some. Steve (David Duchovny) plays golf very well, wears nice clothes, and even hangs out with the dudes as much as he can; Kate (Demi Moore) is sort of like the same person, except she’s more about her looks; and the two kids, Jenn and Mick (Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth), are living the lives of your simple teens that have it all and show it all off to their friends. They’re goods and resources are so pricey and good-looking, that almost everybody in their neighborhood has to latch onto them as well and buy it for themselves. But where did all of these valuables come from? Something’s up with the Joneses and nobody knows, except for the Jones family themselves.

Here’s something that seemed like nothing more than a cheap scam to make a rom-com, but with a tad bit of an intriguing plot going for it. And yes, even in the dead heat of 2010, a plot where a bunch of sales-persons are put together in order to lure consumers towards their products that they are “showing off”, was pretty intriguing and probably hit a lot harder to home for some. I mean, it was what, only two years since the recession hit so why not remind everybody that paying for all of these fancy, shiny things isn’t worth the hassle and hustle because at the end of the day, all that money you once had is now lost on something made to make you look better and a lot better-off than you actually are?

"Can you believe this isn't the 90's anymore?"

“Can you believe this isn’t the 90’s anymore?”

Come to think of it, I’m pretty surprised that this movie was even made in the first place, but I guess that’s why they call them “surprises”.

What took me so by surprise with this movie was that it actually had me thinking and wondering what would happen if something were to ever happen like this around me. Yes, any type of human being gets a little bit interested when they see somebody with something nice-looking, or pretty, but rarely do they ever shell out the money to copy-cat the same way. However, that’s just my view and apparently I’m wrong. The idea that this movie touches on is the simple fact that people will go for anything that’s considered “cool”, if you throw it front of their faces and promise them happiness, even if it’s not everlasting. Because if you think about it: Yes, you may have that shiny, new Convertible, but what about the housing, the electric, the heating, and the phone bills you have to pay, each and every month? The movie taps into this idea that human beings, as a whole, will more than likely take the bait if they are thrown a little meat, and that’s more of a condemnation, then it is a point of life.

That’s why this flick may take some by surprise with it’s cynical view of the way the world works, and the people that inhabit it. It’s not easy straying away from the rest of the crowd, especially when the rest of the crowd is drawing the most attention because of the way they dress, look, or act in public. Those are the types of people that the Joneses are made out to be and I wouldn’t be surprised if some sales-companies out there actually thought of pulling off a stunt like this. It may work, you never know. I guess you just have to worry if the family’s around this “fake one”, are as easily persuaded by the jewels and the pretty things in life, rather than the things that actually matter like love, happiness, and just living in general.

By the end of the movie, it starts to tap into this idea that you don’t need all the clothes, the money, and all of the riches in the world to be happy, you just need a little bit of life and you’re all fine and dandy. However, by this point, the movie does start to get a little conventional and drop away from the smart plot-line it was working on before. Of course it feels like a total missed-opportunity once the flick goes back on it’s word and hits the low road of being soapy, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless and not anything that I couldn’t believe in. The movie gives us enough attention to these characters and their relationships, so that when they actually do start to show a little bit more emotion that may have been easily calculated from the beginning, it feels reasonable, and not meant as an attempt for the creators of the flick to make everybody leave with a smile on their faces, and a happiness in their heart. Even if it does seem like the intentions right from the start.

Now they all understand why Ashton was so smitten. You know, until he wasn't.

Now they all understand why Ashton was so smitten. You know, until he wasn’t.

Even if.

With that said, the characters work more than they should because David Duchovny and Demi Moore in the leading-roles as both Steve and Kate Jones. Together, they seem like two people that get along and work well when they have to, but also have a bit of under-lining sexual-attraction going on between one other, and it’s obvious to a fault that they’re eventually going to shack up in the end. However, watching them as they continue to play little mind games here and there, was always a treat; not just because they work well together, but because they also feel like the types of people that would get stuck in this sort of dead-line of work, even if they didn’t go to sleep knowing it was the right thing to do. But still, they’re characters that are fleshed-out just enough that they’re worth caring about, just as soon as things go for the obvious.

The only people in this cast who really don’t get much time to shine or show off their skills are Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth as the two kiddies of the fam-squad, Jenn and Mick. Heard is hot, as always, and will leave plenty of the dudes who watch in many hot sweats just by being on the screen, but leaves a lot to be desired with her titillating character, especially by the end once we’re supposed to feel glued to her character and what’s going on with her, but instead, feels slightly random and melodramatic. Same goes for Hollingsworth, who shows off some charm, but isn’t given enough time for us to care about him or remember he’s even part of the family for a little while. Nope, it’s all Steve and Kate, which I was fine with because Moore and Duchovny can put in solid work when they want, but a little more roundness of the rest of the family would have went a long, long way.

Consensus: The Joneses is conventional, but it deals with some honest issues about corporations, selling-out, and being one with the crowd, even if you don’t feel like wanting to anymore, that makes it feel like a step above most rom-coms.

7 / 10

Way too attractive to be a real family. I'm sorry.

Way too attractive to be a real family. I’m sorry.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Every Secret Thing (2015)

If a baby isn’t yours, don’t take it.

After their eighteenth birthdays, Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle Macdonald) finally get a taste of the real world as full-grown adults. When they were young, they kidnapped and accidentally killed an infant that, due to the fact that they were so young and didn’t seem to know any better, weren’t tried as adults and were forced to serve sentences in juvenile delinquent centers. Although both seem to have understood what they did was wrong, their troubled pasts may never escape them – especially when a similar case occurs in which another biracial infant is kidnapped. This is when Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) steps onto the scene to figure out just whether or not these girls are involved with this case, or if they’ve actually been keeping up-to-date with day-to-day society and still not acting up in any sort of shady way. However, Porter soon realizes that the problem may be less with the girls, in particular, and more with the mother of Alice, Helen (Diane Lane), a woman who is very persistent in pleading her daughter’s innocent, but also doesn’t shy away from having her learn some hard lessons about life, either.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you've got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you’ve got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

The problem with movies like Every Secret Thing is that there’s too many of them out there. Better yet, there aren’t just movies with cops, crooks, cases and mystery, but actually loads and loads of TV procedurals that you don’t even have to get up out of your seat, or pay money for. Law & Order, CSI, Blue Bloods, you name it, guess what? It’s probably a police procedural that people would rather stay at home to watch, rather than actually physically go out and pay for. Makes sense in some cases, but that’s also why we have a movies to begin with.

Mostly, what movies are supposed to do, that some TV can’t do, is elevate it to a certain level. Sure, you can have a mystery-cop story for a flick, but it has to be something as suspenseful as humanly possible, or even innovative in a certain manner that would make sense for it to be on the big screen that you’d pay for, and not just a smaller one that you didn’t have to bring out the wallet for. And basically, that’s the problem with Every Secret Thing – it’s all been done before.

Except for the whole baby-killing element to its story. That’s pretty messed up that I’m pretty sure that some networks wouldn’t want to touch.

But either way, there’s just something about Every Secret Thing that feels so ordinary, that everything about it just starts to make it feel like a drab. While this isn’t a very pretty, uplifting story, there should still be some sort of excitement or intensity in the fact that not only is there plenty of misery to go around, but also, that there’s actually something of a mystery to constantly pick and prod at. There is a central mystery here that keeps the movie rolling, but honestly, after a little while, it’s the only thing that keeps the movie the least bit of interesting.

For instance, the characters are pretty boring; which is especially more disappointing considering that the cast is pretty stacked with talent that usually works at making things better. Elizabeth Banks is saddled with the boring copy-type of character that’s short on words and is a hard-ass, so that she can pay attention to every aspect of her case, without losing a slight hint of what could be a possible reveal. It’s cool to see Banks take on what is practically a humorless role, but it doesn’t quite work, if only because we don’t get to know anymore about this character other than that she’s a cop.

That’s it.

Mamma's always there. Somehow.

Mamma’s always there. Somehow.

The same can be said for Nate Parker and his character, although there is a small attempt at giving him more dimensions, but it doesn’t quite go anywhere. There’s a brief argument that Parker’s character has with Common’s, in that Parker’s is wondering whether or not Common’s kidnapped his own daughter, for one reason or another; it’s simple protocol, but the way Parker’s character just continues to berate him, makes it feel like there’s something deeper and darker going on there. Whatever it was, it all goes away in the next five minutes as it’s made abundantly clear that the movie is more concerned with the actual case and the possible culprit, rather than anybody else.

And because of the attention being so diverted towards Ronnie and Alice, the movie suffers. Fanning is fine as Ronnie, except that she doesn’t have much to do; on the flipside though, it’s Danielle Macdonald who has a lot more to do as Alice and there’s already a problem to begin with. Not to sound terribly mean, but Macdonald’s not a very strong actress. It’s clear on many occasions that she’s trying and trying, but she just doesn’t have the skill to make an odd character like this work. That she’s at one point, almost psychotic, and at others, a wise and knowing smart-ass, makes it hard to play this character in a believable manner as is, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Macdonald doesn’t do a solid job here.

May not be all her fault, but man.

The only one who walks away from this, knowing that she at least somewhat helped, is Diane Lane. As Alice’s mother, Lane gets a chance to camp it up in a way that we haven’t seen from her in a long time. But then again, at the same time, this character still has a semblance of heart and humanity where we see that she really cares and loves for her daughter, however, is incredibly frustrated with whatever she’s gotten herself into and how she’s continuing on to live life. She may be a tad bit on the angry side, but it all seems to stem from a heartfelt place in her core and that’s what makes her worth watching and, at least, rooting for.

More than I can say for the rest of them.

Consensus: Without being exciting, thoughtful, or even mysterious in terms of where its story goes, Every Secret Thing serves no real purpose other than to highlight the fact that Diane Lane needs to be in more stuff.

2 / 10

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Poltergeist (2015)

It’s been over 30 years and electricity is still the root of all evil.

Looking for a fresh, new start, Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy Bowen (Rosemarie DeWitt) finally get a new home that they think can suit them and their three children. Though the money situation they’re currently dealing with isn’t ideal, they figure out that they can make it work long enough to sustain a comfort level of happiness. However, little do they know that the house was built upon a cemetery many years ago; something that’s a bit freaky, but terrifying once the angry spirits start acting-out and attacking the Bowen clan. In fact, the pissed-off spirits go so far as to kidnap the youngest, Maddi (Kennedi Clements), leading the family to turn to the only people that they feasibly can without having any sort of legal action brought in: Paranormal experts. While they initially enlist a professional in this sort of field to help out, Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams), eventually, they figure out that the spirits are too deadly and powerful, so that they need to get someone more famous and understanding with this kind of freaky stuff – cue in known haunted house TV personality Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris).

Let’s be honest here, people, the original, 1982 version of Poltergeist wasn’t perfect, nor was it that much of a classic. Sure, it had its freaky moments and a smart social commentary on television and how it is corrupting our minds and souls, whether we’d like to admit or not. Whenever a remake of an older movie comes out, people like to spew on and on about how the original can, and will, never be beat, and for some reason, they make it out to be as if it’s this masterpiece that should never be touched, or toyed with in any matter.

I'm already picturing the new Poltergeist ride.

I’m already picturing the new Poltergeist theme park ride.

However, in the case of Poltergeist, it does deserved to be fooled around with, especially since the remake isn’t all that bad to begin with.

Does that mean it’s a great movie? Hell to the no! However, what it does mean is that while people may go on and and on and on about the original being practically the be all, end all to horror films, they’ll be blind to the fact that the remake actually isn’t all that bad. Mostly, that’s due to the fact that Gil Kenan doesn’t waste anytime getting to where he needs to get with this story: The spooks and scares.

Whereas most horror movies take their good old grand time developing characters, their history together and what exactly the mythology is behind all of the scary stuff that will soon be happening, Kenan gets right to it with reckless abandon. Already, in maybe the first ten minutes, we’re already introduced to a few scares that may seem like small child’s play, but are still effective, and no less than ten minutes later, we get the iconic, “They’re here” scene, that everybody says, quite like the original movie itself, is legendary. Once again, not sure if this is all that true, but who cares?

The fact is that after these initial twenty minutes, Kenan dives in deep to the story and doesn’t hold back on any of the fun that these scares may have in them. People are grabbed and thrown around; lights go on, off, and even float around; and parts of the house break or blow up. It’s all so crazy, but Kenan doesn’t forget that these elements can make the movie a whole lot of fun. In today’s day and age of horror film, it actually helps if your movie is more fun, than actually scary; sure, it helps if your movie is both, but if you can’t get the scary right, at least try to make some of it fun to watch and be apart of. We may not fear for some of these character’s lives, but we can still enjoy them trying their hardest to escape out of the poor situations they’ve been thrown into.

It’s an element that works in such movies like the Conjuring, Insidious, and hell, even Paranormal Activity, and I guess you can add this new Poltergeist to the list.

That Rosemarie DeWitt - she's so touchy feely.

That Rosemarie DeWitt – she’s so touchy feely.

Now, that’s not to say that this movie is perfect. There’s a certain element here that makes me feel like Kenan could have definitely helped himself in a way to develop these characters a tad more, rather than just relying on the audience’s previously-known knowledge, or actor’s performances to help out. Sure, some who have already seen the original will know who each of these characters are and what’s the deal with all of them are, but there’s a feeling that when shit hits the fan, we don’t really know these people. Sometimes that doesn’t matter, but for the most part, it does, and that’s one of the problems here.

Then again, there is something to be said for the fact that the character’s we’re supposed to care about are played by Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams (somewhere, Todd Solondz must be smiling), and the almighty Sam Rockwell, among others – which is probably the most interesting aspect surrounding this movie. A part of me knows that these indie-ish names are attached in the first place for the sake of this being a paycheck gig, but it’s still neat to see mostly all of them play their type and still maintain a certain level of personality while doing so, rather than just letting the movie run all over them and take their lives.

DeWitt, as usual, is loving, caring, and smart as a woman who needs to be in a crappy situation like this; Harris is unusually charismatic; Jane Adams plays up her weirdness, but still maintains a certain level of intelligence; and Rockwell, well, is Rockwell. He’s funny, sarcastic, energetic, fun, and all around, an engaging presence. Hardly does the opposite ever happen to Rockwell where he isn’t a blast to watch, but there’s something to be recognized where he still seems to be interested, even if the material he’s working with isn’t all that heavy, or weighty to begin with. So maybe even if these characters aren’t all that multidimensional or interesting to begin with, at least they’re portrayed by people who are capable of making this happen anyway.

Now, I’ll ask again: What about the original being all that amazing?

Consensus: This new Poltergeist may not be perfect, but it’s still a fun, relatively effective, and compelling enough horror remake to sit back, watch, enjoy, and be mildly spooked by.

6.5 / 10

Don't stand too close to the screen! Didn't your parents teach you anything!?!?

Don’t stand too close to the screen! Didn’t your parents teach you anything!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Tomorrowland (2015)

On second thought, It’s a Small World is definitely a lot cooler.

After teenage science enthusiast Casey (Britt Robertson) receives a mysterious pin, she does what any normal person would do in the same situation: She picks it up. However, once she picks it up, she all of a sudden gets taken to a bright, beautiful and mysterious, new world that takes her somewhere in the future. However, she has no clue how this is, what else the pin can do, or above all, what does it all mean. Eventually, Casey gets the news in the form of an eleven-year-old robot named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who tells her that she was chosen to have the pin and has to make sure that it doesn’t get taken away from her once all of these mysterious robots begin to attack her. Now, Casey and Athena have to travel to parts unknown to find a reclusive inventor by the name of Frank (George Clooney) who may, or may not have all the answers to what Casey can do to ensure that these evil robots stop chasing her, and also save the human race from possible extinction.

Brad Bird’s been wanting to film Tomorrowland for quite some time. You can see this from the way he’s built this beautiful world, to how giddy he is while moving along the plot, and especially to when he tells the audience that no matter what they do in their lives, that anything is possible. Tomorrowland is the movie that Brad Bird has been dreaming of making for so very, very long and now that his dream has finally come true, he can’t help but be extremely ecstatic to share this dream with anyone who is willing to see it for themselves.

Problem is, the dream isn’t as exciting for others as it may be for him.

New cult.

New cult.

Part of this problem comes from the fact that Tomorrowland‘s story is so muddled and confusing, that taking time out of your day to pick it apart, piece by piece, still may not help you understand it any more. The general gist is that something bad is going to happen to planet Earth (as they’re usually is), and somewhere down the line, robots get involved. Honestly, that’s all I can tell you that I was able to gather because while Brad Bird clearly loves telling this story, the way in how he explains it, doesn’t quite register as well.

Don’t get me wrong, Bird still puts effort into this thing. When it comes to the action and adventure side of the story, all of the thrills are here and are to be enjoyed by any member of the family. Bird clearly hasn’t lost a single step of his creative skill for effective action sequences that started in the Incredibles, and only heightened with Mission: Impossible 4, and it does the movie some justice. Because even while things in the plot department may not always click, whenever the action shows up, it livens everything up and all of a sudden, everything gets better. Things are quick, fun, and exciting, all without seeming too difficult to understand.

However, once the movie gets right back to the story, it goes back into being an odd mess of exposition that doesn’t matter, sci-fi mumbo jumbo that doesn’t make sense, and characters that aren’t more than what they present on the thinly-veiled surface.

And this isn’t me just going on and on about how a movie like Tomorrowland, something so mainstream, ambitious and made for Disney families, should be as simple and easy-to-decipher as possible, but when you’re devoting a lot of time to building a world and a circumstance for visiting this world, there needs to be more time in certain plot-details. To simply scratch the surface and just say, “Hey, it’s science fiction,” doesn’t work; in fact, it feels like a cop-out. Rather than just keeping it simple, from the story, to the world, or even to what was at-stake to begin with, Bird tries to take it one step further by digging in deep to the mythology and it only seems like a waste of time. While he and Damon Lindelof may have thought what they were doing and/or writing about was smart, it only proves to be a problem for anybody expecting something that’s light, fun and fine for the whole family.

Also, not to mention that the movie ends on such a melodramatic note, that it makes it feel like a whole other movie entirely. Whereas a good portion of it feels like it wants to be a sci-fi flick akin to something Spielberg would create, another portion of this turns into being an inspirational, message movie about staying creative and constantly challenging one’s self to push themselves further in a creative manner. It’s a noble message, for sure, but feels like it comes out of nowhere and is just tossed in there so Bird didn’t feel so guilty for not being able to do much else.

House is in the........ehrm...house.

House is in the……..ehrm…house.

And of course, this isn’t to say that because Tomorrowland is a disappointing misfire, means that the cast is to be blamed, too, because that isn’t the case. In fact, some of them make the ride all the more pleasant and easy-to-watch, aside from all of the head-scratchers the plot throws at us.

George Clooney doesn’t normally take big-budget, mainstream extravaganzas like this too often, so for that reason alone, it’s interesting to see him here as Frank. But as always, Clooney’s in his element: he’s funny, charming and suave when he needs to be, but also feels like the only one keeping the heart and soul of this movie alive whenever Bird seems concerned with everything else. Hugh Laurie, another one who doesn’t take up these kinds of movies, either, shows up every now and then to be “the baddie” and that’s basically it. He’s fine with it, but the material he’s given is where the movie really starts to get preachy, so it’s a shame.

And Britt Robertson, despite me having never seen much of her before in other stuff, does a solid job as Casey. While her character is the typical “movie nerd” who is quirky, yells a lot, and generally knows a lot of stuff without being too mature, Robertson makes her likable and enjoyable, rather than annoying and over-the-top. Her character could have easily gone this way, but Robertson keeps her head up above the water and doesn’t allow that to happen.

Wish I could have said the same thing for Bird, but I’ll leave him alone for now.

Consensus: With a confusing story-line, sentimental message that’s random, and a cast that isn’t pushed far enough, Tomorrowland is a disappointing mess that shows Bird is solid at action, but in terms of telling a coherent, effective story, he still needs some polishing done.

5.5 / 10

Take it down a notch, George! It's a family film!

Take it down a notch, George! It’s a family film!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Good Kill (2015)

Trust me, those aren’t ants you’re shooting at.

Former Air Force pilot Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) now operates flying drones that literally spy on enemies and, when needed, can drop missiles on whoever the pilot deems as necessary, all from the comfortable confines of some place far from the actual battlefield. While Egan gets a chance to go back home to his wife (January Jones), kids, and lovely little suburban home in Nevada, he still feels the pain from being ordered to kill so many faceless, almost random people for reasons he doesn’t understand. And in a way to numb his pain, his drinking only increases on and on. With a new soldier working in his unit (Zoe Kravitz), Egan now has to wonder whether or not he wants to keep at it with the job he has. While it’s safe and cozy for all those involved, he still doesn’t like to be safe and tucked-away when he’s supposed to be in an actual plane, or on the battlefield, actually fighting the good fight. Eventually though, all of this anger and confusion begins to not only take a toll on his marriage, but his allegiance to the United States Army.

Drone warfare has been highly controversial since the early days of its inception. While some people think it’s an easy and much safer way to keep our troops alive and well, some people also feel that it’s a cowardly way of fighting a war and just leads to more and more people, sometimes innocent, sometimes not, being killed for reasons that aren’t fully realized. Because honestly, how could you ever know if that little person you see walking around on a screen be a terrorist, or at least affiliated with some sort of terrorist organization? You wouldn’t unless you were told they were by some higher-ups, and even then, do they really know for sure?

Just don't cheat on her, Ethan. Just please don't.

Just don’t cheat on her, Ethan. Just please don’t.

Honestly, not really and that’s the idea that writer, director, and hell, even producer Andrew Niccol taps into.

It’s interesting to see someone like Niccol, a film maker who is most known for sci-fi explorations like Gattaca, In Time, and the Host, tap into something that is as low-key and subdued as this. While he is still dealing with technology, the movie is more about one person’s own struggle with getting along with the times and realizing that, no matter how hard he may try to have it be otherwise, this is his current job and if he wants to keep on protecting his country, then he’ll have to stick with it. So, in a way, it’s like most of Niccol’s other movies, but the fact that it takes place in the actual United States of America in 2010, to be exact, and is very passionate about its message, makes it feel like something a tad bit different.

And with that being said, Niccol actually does a fine job here with Good Kill. While his writing of actual conversations between people may need some help, the ideas and themes that he presents here are still effective and disturbing in a way that was done in another war flick that caused much more stir than this, American Sniper. While it’s definitely not fair to compare Chris Kyle’s real-life actions to a Thomas Egan’s fictional ones, but the messages that both movies seem to get across through their “heroes”, seem quite similar; while they are committing what some may seem as “heroic acts”, they themselves don’t see it as such.

Because of that, they are, simply put, screwed up in the head.

Whereas with Kyle, he could hardly function in day-to-day activities, so much so that even a fellow soldier thanking him for saving his own life, doesn’t even register with him, Egan has a more negative problem. Kyle may have been mentally messed-up, but he still passed it off as nothing and continued on throughout his day – with Egan, he drinks, smokes, listens to hard rock music, and doesn’t know how to even talk to anyone he surrounds himself with, whether it be his wife, kids, or neighbors that just want to have a simple chat. And through Egan, Niccol shows that even though the soldier’s who are designated to handling drones, still don’t get off too easy, because they have no clue who it is that they are dropping missiles on, other than from what they’re told.

And this is where the movie gets a bit messy, because Niccol keeps his objectivity at bay for as long as he can, he starts to lose it a little bit and point the finger a tad too much. For instance, the drone sequences themselves are tense and compelling, but at the same time, whenever the government figures step into them, also feel incredibly preachy. Egan is told to kill dozens and dozens of people that he doesn’t know, or never will know, and because the voice telling them to do so is Peter Coyote, already, it feels like Niccol’s making a movie where the government are the big and bad guys.

Once again, Bruce Greenwood's playing a character that's pissed off for some unknown reasons.

Once again, Bruce Greenwood’s playing a character that’s pissed off for some unknown reasons.

Surely this taps into some of what Niccol has made a point in his past movies, but here, it feels manipulative. It’s almost as if having Egan clearly screwed up from everything that he has to do while driving a drone wasn’t enough, Niccol had to make some villains out of the situation. Even Bruce Greenwood’s Colonel character starts out as someone who understands what it is that he has to do and that’s only to take orders, but eventually, turns into this Army “who-rah” stereotype that seems like it would be better placed in a Michael Bay movie, rather than something as thoughtful as this.

But even so, Greenwood’s fantastic in the role and shows some even darker, more messed-up shadings to that character, than Egan even shows. And for that matter, Ethan Hawke is pretty solid in that role, too, because he never goes over-the-top with the role, even though the script clearly seems to be begging for it. Rather than yelling, screaming and punching things to show his frustration with the job that he has to do, Hawke simply downplays Egan’s problems and struggles, and therefore, is all the more effective.

The only who doesn’t seem to be taking a page out of Hawke’s book is January Jones as Egan’s wife. While Jones tries with this character, far too often does she come off as naggy and annoying. It’s easy to understand that she’d be upset with the fact that Egan’s away from home a lot, sometimes because he’s partaking in all-nighter drink binges, it’s also another for her to be complaining and whining about who it is that makes it easy for you to live, where you live. That said, Jones tries and seems like she’s at least trying to fill this thinly-written character with some Betty flavor.

Way too soon. I know.

Consensus: With a thoughtful approach from Niccol, Good Kill brings up some interesting ideas about drone warfare, but also seems lazy in actually doing anything else with those ideas other than just presenting them and leaving it at that.

7 / 10

As I imagine everybody's faces looking while playing COD.

As I imagine everybody’s faces looking while playing COD.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Maggie (2015)

Poor zombies. Their craving for human flesh can be so sad sometimes.

After being infected with some sort of virus that’s turned her into some sort of walking, talking, flesh-craving zombie, Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is left with what to make of her life. Or better yet, what’s left of it. While her father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) holds out hope that she’ll get better, with the right medicine and work ethic, Maggie still feels as if she’s not getting any better and is only a few days or so closer to going full-on zombie and eating whatever human is standing in her way. Though her father realizes this, he still stays optimistic. But then again, he also realizes that if the time ever comes around to Maggie become a deadly zombie, then he will be the one who has the duty of killing Maggie once and for all, even if it will probably kill him on the inside to do so to his only daughter and the only lasting memory of his late wife. But killing Maggie in a quick, painless fashion is probably best, especially considering all of the literal horror stories he hears about the government doing to those who may or may not actually be infected with the virus.

So what’s literally the premise to one episode of the Walking Dead, somehow becomes an-hour-and-a-half-long movie in Maggie. And the fact this premise probably didn’t need to be expanded to what it is, definitely shows as there are definite moments where hardly anything happens, for a very long time. Sure, people are sad in these very grim and morbid times, yet, just seeing somebody wallow in their own misery and accept the impending doom that’s coming down their way, doesn’t really do much to keep a movie together.

Sadness.

Sadness.

Which isn’t to say that every movie needs to have some sort of action that’s keeping it moving along, where something is always happening, or being learned, no matter what. I don’t mind that, especially in a movie like with Maggie, where although we expect it to be filled with all sorts of blood, guts, gore, and head-splitting moments that push the R-rating beyond its measures in the way that AMC won’t even allow, we get something much smaller and subdued. In fact, I appreciate that. We do see a zombie or two get chopped in the head with an ax, but the way in how it’s done doesn’t feel like it’s trying to liven things up, as much as it’s just trying to drive the point on home about how in the world in where Maggie lives, friends and neighbors are all killing one another, in a way to survive.

So yes, it’s sort of like an episode of the Walking Dead, but there’s something a tad different about that here.

Speaking of something that’s a tad different here than we’ve ever seen before, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s actually really stretching his acting-gills out in ways that we haven’t seen before and it’s surprisingly effective, although not perfect. As Wade, we get to see Arnold in a role that’s less about how much ass he can kick, and more about how much sadness he would actually feel from kicking all of that ass and harming whoever’s ass he was to kick. Arnold does an alright job in this role as he doesn’t get called on to do much, except just look sad and cry a few times, which he does fine with. In a way, it sort of makes me wonder if there’s more heart and humanity to what Arnold presents on the screen than what we’ve seen in the past few years with his resurgence into the mainstream.

More sadness.

More sadness.

And while Arnold’s good here, he still can’t help but get over-shadowed by Abigail Breslin, a very talented actress who has grown-up just fine. As Maggie, Breslin gets a chance to show us what one person would go through, emotionally and physically, if they were to realize that, slowly but surely, their mind, body, and soul, was all deteriorating into being a walking, hungry, menacing corpse. There’s a few scenes in which we get to see Breslin show some of that charisma we saw from her when she was just a kid and it lets me know that, no matter what roles she takes up in the future, she’ll be just fine.

Problem is, for Arnold and Breslin, they aren’t given a whole lot to work with, if only because Maggie itself is so repetitive and dark, that when it’s all over, you’ll sort of feel happy.

That isn’t to say that the topic of a father losing his young daughter should be filled with laughs, rays of sunshine and happiness, but that also isn’t to say that it has to constantly be as morbid and bleak as it’s presented as here. Here, director Henry Hobson makes it seem like he ran out of anything interesting to say after the first 25 minutes, so instead of just wrapping-up filming altogether, making this an extended-short and calling it a day, he needed to fill-out whatever extra 60 minutes he could work with. At times, Hobson’s able to bring up some very interesting points about coming to grips with one’s own death, but in the end, also feels like it’s just taking it’s time to get there on purpose. Which is to say that, yes, if all you do with your movie is present sadness, despair, and loss, you need certain ways of showing that, that not only feels fresh and somewhat enlightening, but also effective.

But when it goes on for as long as Maggie does, then there’s a problem.

Consensus: Solid performances from Arnold and Abigail Breslin make Maggie into being something more than just a standard zombie flick, but at the same time, still meanders along for no good reason.

6 / 10

And, oh yes, plenty more sadness.

And, oh yes, plenty more sadness.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

5 Flights Up (2015)

House hunting’s a pain. But hey, at least you’ve still got a ten-year-old dog by your side!

After being together for nearly 40 years and living in the same old, New York City apartment, Ruth (Diane Keaton) and Alex (Morgan Freeman) feel that it’s maybe time to start fresh and anew. And with the help of Ruth’s niece (Cynthia Nixon), they’ll definitely try to get the best deal possible, however, things don’t seem to be working quite in their favor right now. For one, their ten-year-old dog, Dorothy, has to be sent to the vet for a very expensive surgery that may, or may not, save the dog’s life. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s now a supposed bomb scare going all around New York City that’s causing all sorts of traffic and keeping more and more people away from Alex and Ruth’s apartment. And now that they are both getting older, Alex and Ruth also have to come to terms with the kinds of people they are, whether it be when they’re together, or their own separate entity; something that may not be too easy for mild-tempered Alex to do.

Glad you're all happy and whatnot, Ruth and Alex, because I know someone who isn't having the time of her life......

Glad you’re all happy and whatnot, Ruth and Alex, because I know someone who isn’t having the time of her life……

There’s something to be said for a movie that stars two of the most engaging, lovely presences ever to grace the big screen, give them characters that we’re supposed to see as wholly sympathetic, and have them be anything but. Surely director Richard Loncraine had different intentions in mind when he was creating 5 Flights Up (originally titled Alex & Ruth, for obvious reasons); a movie where, basically, we spend nearly an-hour-and-a-half watching Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton walk around NYC, going house-hunting. While this doesn’t sound like such a bad time considering that it’s Freeman and Keaton, two seasoned pros who it’s great to see sharing the screen for what I think is the first time, it’s actually a pretty miserable experience, if only because the characters are so grating.

Don’t get me wrong, both Freeman and Keaton are good as Alex and Ruth, respectively. Together, they share a nice chemistry that makes it seem like they’ve been working together for so many years, and that this was only a little practice round for shits and gigs. But separate, they’re both still good, even despite the writing for their characters. As usual, Keaton is warm and bubbly, whereas Freeman spouts wisdom in a class-A fashion that makes you believe he’s been through it all. Which is to say, yes, Keaton and Freeman are both playing their “types” up and not worrying about it, but once again, that’s all fine, because they’re good at what they do and they don’t need to really change it up.

But it all comes down to these characters, man.

See, with Ruth and Alex, though they seem like harmless elderly folk, the movie eventually starts to unravel them as sort of mean-spirited, cranky codgers that don’t like the direction that their neighborhood has been going, and rather than just accepting the fact for what it is, they can’t help but let everybody know that they’re pissed-off about it. This is more so in the case of Alex, as he’s honestly just a mean, sometimes detestable character who gets irritated at practically anything or anybody he stumbles upon in life; people who are simply trying to have a conversation with him, he can’t help but be rude to and shoo them off as if they were actually asking Morgan Freeman for an autograph. While Ruth may not be as irritatingly angry as Alex, the fact that she still sticks up for him, even when he’s being a total and complete ass, still makes me think that she’s not only apart of the problem, she may actually be the problem.

Maybe I’m thinking a bit too hard about these characters and focusing less and less on the mechanics of the plot, but when something is as subdued and small as this, it’s kind of hard not to just talk about them. Although, if there is a reason as to why I didn’t mind this movie as much, was because it offered a sometimes insightful glimpse into the world of real estate – most importantly, the state in which it’s in in New York City. The way in how a house-for-sale is represented to possible customers, to the many deals happening behind closed doors between agents and buyers, writer Charlie Peters definitely seems like he knows a thing or two about buying an apartment, all that comes with it, and how it can be so challenging to find that one special place.

Yup, poor girl.

Yup, poor girl.

And honestly, with that said, I think the pro of this movie is really Cynthia Nixon, as the niece whose helping Ruth and Alex out. Nixon’s always charmed me whenever she shows up in something, and as this untitled character, she helps make what would otherwise be an annoying character, sort of fun, sort of enjoyable, and actually, pretty sweet. Not only is she laying it all on the line to make sure that Ruth and Alex have their own special forever home that they can cherish for their final years together, she’s also making sure that she does so without losing her hair or punching a hole through the wall. There’s something heartfelt about this character that she’s not really trying to find these two a house so she can make more money on the commission, or get in the good graces of fellow real estate agents, but so that she can actually help out two family members she loves.

Then again though, it all comes back to Ruth and Alex.

For some odd reason, while Ruth is sort of okay with the way the niece acts, Alex is so adamant towards her that every sentence he utters in her general direction, has the feeling actual hatred. It honestly seems to come from nowhere and makes Alex seem more like a miserable a-hole that, while probably doesn’t deserve to live on the streets per se, definitely doesn’t deserve all of the time and effort the niece is putting into finding him as well as his long-lasting girlfriend a home. And while the movie may not be all about them house-hunting and also has something to do with Ruth and Alex’s relationship from the early days, to over the years, it still didn’t register with me well enough, nor understand why somebody would be so mean to somebody who, simply, is just trying to help them.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the whole terrorist subplot. Seriously, it’s not worth it.

Consensus: Despite a great performance from Nixon and a neat, rather tense look into the housing market, 5 Flights Up is held down by the fact that it’s two central characters are quite unlikable, even despite the fact that they’re played by Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton.

5 / 10

Well, at least they love the dog. I think.

Well, at least they love the dog. I think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Kurt Cobain was depressed? No. Not this guy.

In case you’ve never heard of the name before, Kurt Cobain was a guy who played music. Really, really loud music, that is. In a band called Nirvana, too. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Other than that though, there was a whole lot more to Kurt Cobain that was less about the music he played and the legions of fans it inspired, and more about what was really going on inside his actual head, even throughout all of his life. From his early days as a young kid growing up in 70’s Seattle, without any stable home, to his high school days where he was made a mockery for slacking off and not really fitting fully in. Then, of course, we track the time from when he first started out in Nirvana with his best buddy Krist Novoselic, to when he first met his long-time girlfriend, soon-to-be-wife, Courtney Love. And lastly, after the birth of his daughter, Kurt’s life all came to an end.

That is, once again, if you haven’t heard about any of this so far. If you haven’t, I’d say get out right from underneath that rock as soon as you can, because seriously, you should know more.

Don't lie, you all bought that same sweater.

Don’t lie, you all bought that same sweater.

Anyway, rockumentaries are mostly a dime-a-dozen nowadays. For one, they hardly ever seem to get down to the solid matter of a band/artist, or better yet, the artist/band called into question isn’t all that interesting to begin with. Sometimes, you’re much better off just checking out a Wikipedia page, taking it all with a grain of salt, but also still realizing that it may help you get a clearer picture of whomever the documentary’s actually about and not feel as if your time was wasted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the rockumentary doesn’t work (A Band Called Death is one of the best, most recent examples that come to mind), it’s just that they so rarely capture an audience’s attention, that isn’t done in the same way on an episode of Behind the Music.

And with that said, there hasn’t really been a good Kurt Cobain documentary made. A part of me knows that there’s reason for that (Courtney Love is definitely afraid of certain things that we already assume about her and Kurt’s relationship, leaking out), but another part of me feels like Cobain’s mind was so challenging, screwed-up, and frustrating, that it’s nearly impossible to make a full-fledged, wholly informative documentary about him, his life, and his everyday thoughts and ideas, without still not getting to the core of what may have been bugging this guy all along. A Nirvana biopic is easy enough, but a Kurt Cobain that goes deep into the heart, mind, and soul of who he was when he was alive, is truly something difficult.

And while I don’t know if Brett Morgen fully captures it all, he comes pretty damn close; which is definitely better than not doing so at all.

Because Morgen was given, by both Frances Bean and Love, privilege to all sorts of Cobain’s personal belongings like diaries, home videos, audio recordings, etc., he’s able to wave his way through Cobain’s mind. However, what may seem like a simple task from just reading a few words/pictures on a piece of paper, Morgen had to probably realize right away that Cobain’s mind, whether you love it or hate it, was surely something that deserved to be examined. All of his personal feelings, doubts, angers, pleasures, experiences, etc. are shown to us and they all paint a very depressing, almost disturbing portrait of a person who really didn’t have a firm grip on his own life. While some people may feel as if Morgen is sort of holding the glass up to Cobain and pointing a finger at him, there’s a good portion of the movie that’s literally featuring Cobain saying everything we’re already supposed to feel/think about him; it’s not even like Morgen’s trying to make up stuff for the fun of it, either.

By going as far as he could into seeing everything that Kurt saw, Morgen definitely deserves some credit. There’s a lot of showwy moments that feels like Morgen’s trying to overcompensate for the fact that most of his movie is just scribbles on a piece of paper and rare video footage, but they only help us get another glimpse into what could have definitely been going on in Kurt’s mind in the first place. This movie wasn’t made to talk about Nirvana, or even point a middle-finger directly at Courtney Love – it’s literally Kurt’s time to shine where, hopefully, his whole story can be aired out to anybody who is still interested in hearing it and, most of all, making sense of it.

Because surely, neither are an easy task to do, let alone, complete.

The couple from absolute hell. Second to Sid and Nancy, of course.

The couple from absolute hell. Second to Sid and Nancy, of course.

Where Montage of Heck, like most other documentaries already made about Cobain, seems to frustrate me, is that when Kurt kills himself, the movie’s over. There’s nothing more. We get a small epilogue that already, literally, spells everything out that most of us know beforehand and then the end credits roll-up. While I do see this as an effective piece of editing from Morgen’s side of the boat, seeing as how he wasn’t trying to make this some sort of fluff-piece about how great and legendary Cobain was, I still felt like there was something more missing. Especially given the fact that Morgen, from what it seems, had a lot more that he wanted to use, yet, was hiding away for some odd reason.

For instance, while the movie doesn’t heavily rely on interviews, there’s still plenty of them to be seen here and, believe it or not, offer much insight into Kurt’s life. Both of his parents show up to discuss his up-bringing in a way that’s both interesting, as well as odd, but then a few other interviews, like an ex-girlfriend, or even Krist Novoselic, don’t seem to do much. The ex-girlfriend just rambled on about how great of a girlfriend she was, and Novoselic just sort of chats about him and Kurt being in the band – insights that I’ve heard him share many of times before. Of course Courtney Love comes to air her words, but honestly, I won’t bother diving into what she says, or better yet, was even trying to say in the first place.

Either way, Morgen had the opportunity to unleash more about Cobain’s life that, for some odd reason, I feel like he was holding out on. When the movie ended, it didn’t feel like it; oddly enough, there felt like there was more to it than just Kurt dying and that being it. Maybe there’s a point to be made in that – even though a person is dead, are they ever really gone? They may not be around in the physical form, but they are still in the hearts and minds of each and every person whom they’ve affected, and Kurt Cobain, believe it or not, was like any other human being. Sure, he may have been messed-up in the head, played guitar really well, been famous, influenced a plethora of adoring fans, and spent a good part of his life in the spotlight, but, like you or I, he touched people and made them think about him, even way after he was gone.

It’s still frustrating, but hey, maybe that’s the point.

Consensus: With plenty of material to dig into, Brett Morgen does justice to Kurt Cobain’s life and story in Montage of Heck, yet, at the same time, still gives off the feeling that there’s still more, believe it or not, to be developed about this interesting figure.

8 / 10

Kurt Cobain, male model? Oh, the opportunities!

Kurt Cobain, male model? Oh, the opportunities!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Is it cool if dudes call each other “pitches”? If not, I’ll make it happen.

After embarrassing themselves in front of a huge, national audience, especially including President Obama himself, the Barden Bellas now find themselves hit with the reality that they may not be allowed to participate in anymore professional acapella competitions. However, by finding a loophole, they realize that they continue to work and perform together, it’s just that they’ll have to compete in the global tournament in order to do so. Which doesn’t sound so bad considering that they are a very talented team, but with them going up against the rest of the world, and the fact that now everybody in the group is dealing with problems of their own, they’re also dealing with the idea of not wanting to sing anymore. Becca (Anna Kendrick) now sees her music career popping-off in a way that she’s always wanted it to; Chloe (Brittany Snow) doesn’t know if she wants to leave school yet and, as a result, be leaving the Bellas behind as well; and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), well, who knows with her?

The first Pitch Perfect was fine. So many people, over the past couple of years at least, have made it out to be some sort of comedy classic that went straight from being a beloved by cults, and straight into the mainstreams with it’s lovely songs, therefore, altering the fact that the movie itself wasn’t anything special. Sure, it was funny, had snappy musical-numbers, and featured the awe-inspiring moment that will forever change the way how people use red solo cups, but get past all of that, you’ve just got a middling movie that’s better than a lot of what we see nowadays.

So much tension.

So much tension.

So with that said, the idea of there being a second one wasn’t exactly jumping at me as an amazing idea, but then again, this movie isn’t really made for cranky wankers like me. It’s made for the adoring fans who hold the first movie so near and dear to their hearts, so much so that they actually went out of their ways to start their own acapella groups. Which is to say that when they do see Pitch Perfect 2, they’ll be more than pleased. There’s a lot of singing, dancing, and jokes made at the expense of Rebel Wilson’s rotund physique.

Does that make the movie bad? Not really, but like so many other sequels out there where the same things seem to be happening, and there’s hardly any differentiation between the two movies to be found.

But with this sequel, if there’s one attribute that makes it mildly interesting at best, is the fact that Elizabeth Banks is making her full-fledged directorial debut with it, and it’s not as bad as some actor’s first movies can be. That may sound like a lame thing to say, but it’s the truth – because Banks was taking so much on her plate as was, it’s impressive to see her handle it all with ease. She isn’t necessarily doing much else that’s different from the first movie, but that doesn’t matter so much because there are quite a few moments that are genuinely funny.

Having worked with Judd Apatow and co. many times in the past, it makes sense that Banks would understand what it takes to make people laugh, and what can be seen as funny. In the spirit of the first flick, some jokes are mean-spirited and seem to come completely out of nowhere. Other times, they’re the same gags that either go nowhere. There’s an Asian character here called Lilly Onakurama, who is from the first and, just like in that movie, speaks with a very quiet and tender whisper which, if you listen close enough to, will be able to realize that all she’s saying is weird, almost psychotic things. There’s also another character from the first one here named Stacie Conrad, and because she’s a butch lesbian, everything she does or says is overtly sexual and masculine.

Are any of these gags funny? Not really, but once again, the crowd whom this was made for, clearly do.

So smug, Banks.

So smug, Banks.

The only instances in which this movie can actually be funny is whenever Rebel Wilson takes the stage. While Wilson may have been a tad too overexposed after the success of both the first movie, as well as Bridesmaids, which lead to the ultimately disappointing Super Fun Night, there’s no denying that she has a comedic-talent that strays away from being just all about her physical presence. Sure, she enjoys making a fat joke about herself every once and awhile, but it’s used in a snarky, condescending tone that makes it actually funny, as well as smart; therefore, helping her character’s humor hit all the more harder whenever she’s thrown into situations where she’s called upon to be, well, funny.

Banks finds ways to use Wilson here that work for the later, as well as the movie itself. There’s a rather extended sequence in which Fat Amy sings to her love-interest and while it goes on and on, it’s awkward, weird and presented in such a way that it works, much like most of Apatow’s movies do. Though with Wilson getting most of the attention here, it takes away a bit from the likes of Kendrick and Snow, who try to make their presences known, but ultimately, slip a bit through the cracks; especially Snow, whose character I didn’t even know had a subplot going on until the final strand of the flick.

With Kendrick, we get to see Hannah record and possibly get into the music business, which also introduces another new character by the name of Emily Junk-Hardon (yep), played by the very talented and cheery Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld is growing into becoming more and more of a likable presence on-screen, which is why I wasn’t too disappointed seeing her character get a lot more screen-time than Kendrick’s; not only can she sing, but she also knows how to be funny, without overdoing it. Which, in the world that Pitch Perfect presents, means a whole heck of a lot.

Just don’t tell its core audience that. Don’t even dare, actually.

Consensus: Much like the original, Pitch Perfect 2 features snappy dialogue, impressive musical numbers, and an okay sense of humor, although it hardly does much else to be different.

6.5 / 10

You go, pitches!

You go, pitches!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Let’s hope the real Earth doesn’t actually run out of water.

In the distant, post-apocalyptic future, where mostly all resources have dried-up, a tyrannical cult leader named King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) practically runs a whole region of the desert. People obey his each and every order, even when he seems to be robbing them of such goods like water or oil. Though mostly everybody follows Joe, there’s at least one outsider by the name of Max (Tom Hardy); an ex-cop who follows his own sets of rules and guidelines, even though it eventually gets him kidnapped by one of Joe’s trusted minions (Nicholas Hoult). But for Joe to keep his legacy running, he’s kept a good amount of “wives” – one of whom is actually carrying his child. To transport these wives to a safer, better place, Joe has called upon his most trusted worker, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who decides that she’s about had it with Joe’s ways and sets out on an adventure to take the wives elsewhere, where they won’t be treated as property, and can live on in perfect peace and harmony – something that doesn’t seem to be found too often in this world. Somehow though, the plans go awry and Max ends up tagging along with the group, and, needless to say, shit gets crazy.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the original Mad Max movies. While that’s not to say that I don’t find them at all enjoyable, which I do, it’s more that I feel like they’re a bunch of good ideas wasted on an smaller, 80’s-era budget. Sure, it’s a sign of the times, but considering George Miller could have made way more insane, over-the-top movies, had he been given a relatively meatier budget/resources to work with, then there’d be more to rant on and rave about with those movies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I despise those movies in any fashion, it’s just that they could have been so much more.

What? He's not handsome-as-'eff or anything.....

What? He’s not handsome-as-‘eff or anything…..

Something that Mad Max: Fury Road is, and then some.

With this reboot of sorts, George Miller finally gets his chance to play with any toys he so desires. Whereas in the past, he was limited by what he can spend excess amounts of money and time on, Fury Road feels like Miller was finally given the opportunity of his life time; have a great time, do it with as much money and freedom as possible, and also, most surprisingly, get a chance to tell the same story over again. Given that technology has advanced over the past few decades, there’s a lot more neat things that Miller is able to do – now certain ideas that were deemed “insane” from the earlier movies, he now gets to do, but even more so.

What I’m trying to get across here is that Fury Road, for all it’s worth, is the kind of summer blockbuster any person could ask for. Not only is it fun, but it’s the kind of movie that’s so strange, so out-of-this-world, and so barbaric in every sense, that it’s actually kind of “cool”. No longer does the Mad Max franchise feel like it’s something that can only be enjoyed by a legion of cultees that are willing to admit that they’re fans in public – now, everybody gets a chance to enjoy Mad Max, the character, the world he’s placed into, and all of the crazy shit that surrounds it, and not feel weird. One could say that this is a disappointing sign of something that was so beloved and held sacred by a select few, going “mainstream”, and they may be true. However, another one could say that this is just a sign of something being made for a select few, being made for everyone and if that means we get more movies after this Mad Max, where creativity and oddness is embraced, rather than looked down upon from the masses, then I myself am totally for that.

I as much as the next person like to be weird and have my weird things for my own-self, but if that selfishness comes at a cost of not getting more of that, then I’m totally cool with it being passed onto others. So much so as the makers stay true to the original personality that made me love its weirdness so much in the first place. And even though I’ve already made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t quite “in love” with the Mad Max franchise before this, I still knew that it held much promise, had it been made in today’s day and age of film making.

A promise that, thankfully, was kept and acted upon.

Though I am definitely fine with saying that this movie’s a fun time and that you should definitely believe all of the overwhelming hype surrounding it, there is still a part of me that feels like certain parts of it could have been given a second look. Certain elements about the plot that aren’t ever made fully clear to us, that definitely should have to give the audience a better understanding of what’s at-stake and what’s next to come, would have definitely helped. It’s understandable that these women are all getting taken away from bad leader Joe, but where exactly are they going? Better yet, why are they going? We see how Joe acts towards most of the residents who live in his paradise of sorts, but we hardly see how he acts towards his wives, nor is it easy to make sense of why they so desperately need to get away from him and the world they are surrounded by.

Be careful who you break up with, Sean Penn.

Be careful who you break up with, Sean Penn.

Whereas this would have made any other action movie feel like a total waste of time, with Mad Max, from what I’ve been gathering reading about it from so many other people, it’s being glossed over. Why? Well, that’s because Fury Road is exceptionally wild, nuts and fun, where it takes so much time and effort to pay attention to what’s it doing to have you entertained, rather than paying attention to the details. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to get on a movie’s case for giving me an incomprehensible plot that, in hindsight, doesn’t make much sense, or even seems like it wants to, but there’s just something I wanted to address.

Once again though, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Fury Road is a very fun movie, nor does it take away from the fact that the characters are really well-done, despite them being as thin as the plot they’re working with.

Some people may be disappointed with the fact that Tom Hardy doesn’t speak too much here as the titular Max, but that works so well for him here – not because Max himself doesn’t need much explanation as to why he is the way he is, but because Hardy is such a compelling presence, that he doesn’t even need to speak to get people on-edge. He just needs to stand there, stare into space, and already, you’re hooked. Hardy has that certain aura about him that makes every scene he’s in, all the better and more thrilling, and here, he gets to portray plenty of that.

However, the one who may have one-upped him here is Charlize Theron as the absolute bad-ass, take-no-names, but also humane heroine Furiosa. A lot has been said about how Fury Road represents a very feminist-stance on the action genre, and while I don’t think that this is something that necessarily holds true, I still can’t get past the fact that the strongest character written here, both literally and figuratively, is a women. Granted, it helps that Furiosa is played by the very tall, slender and demanding presence of Theron, but it also helps that Furiosa has a reason for acting the way she does and it’s not made to be a certain point that Miller has been holding close to his heart and has been wanting to express for so long. That Furiosa wants to help these women because she wants them to be happy and not made an item of some maniacal leader, gives the character some semblance of complexity.

And well, also the fact that Charlize Theron can kick anybody’s ass, man, woman, or thing, it doesn’t matter.

Consensus: Wacky, wild, over-the-top, campy, but most of all, exciting and fun-as-hell, Mad Max: Fury Road represents everything that should be great with summer blockbusters, but so rarely do they actually become.

8.5 / 10

Dirty Aussies! Take a shower will ya!

Dirty Aussies! Take a shower, will ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Welcome to Me (2015)

As long as you’ve got money, you can film whatever you want.

After winning the lottery, Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), who has borderline personality disorder, decides that she wants to spend it on exactly what her life’s dream has been: Have her own talk show. It doesn’t sound too harmful, except for the fact that it’s going to feature nobody else but her own-self, in which she will air her own feelings out about life to the live audience, as well as the rest of the world watching home, with also offering glimpses into her past and how it’s made her who she is today. While it’s mostly all inappropriate, Alice is willing to throw as much money as she wants at the network’s producer (James Marsden), and considering that they need the money, there’s not too many problems. However, eventually fame and fortune go to Alice’s head where she soon forgets about those who helped her get such a firm grasp on reality in the first place, like her best friend (Linda Cardellini), her possible boyfriend (Wes Bentley), and especially, her therapist (Tim Robbins); all of whom want to help Alice, yet, don’t know how to communicate with her in an effective manner that gets her to stop thinking of her own-self for once.

"Hey, Alice? Maybe don't say 'fuck' on the air?"

“Hey, Alice? Maybe don’t say ‘fuck’ on the air?”

I’ve got to hand it to Kristen Wiig. Even after the huge success of Bridesmaids, she could have easily taken any money-making, big-budget, mainstream comedy pic and become something of the female equivalent of Will Ferrell: It doesn’t matter if the movies you make are any good, as long as people are seeing them and making money, then that’s fine. With Wiig, though, she’s proven herself to be more interested in these very challenging, relatively low-key indies that not only challenge her as an actress, but to allow us, the audience, to see her in this new light. While the results can sometimes range from bad (Girl Most Likely), to fine (Hateship Loveship), to good (the Skeleton Twins), there’s no denying the fact that Wiig isn’t afraid to step up to a challenge and see what she can do with herself as an actress.

Even if, like I said before, they aren’t quite spectacular to begin with.

That’s the case with Welcome to Me, however, it’s hardly Wiig’s fault. Wiig is fearless in every sense here with her portrayal of Alice Klieg – since her character is a little loopy, Wiig gets a chance to try out her dry sense of comedy, but in a more bizarre, slightly disturbing way. But also, because her character is mentally messed-up, we’re treated to Wiig giving her certain layers and shadings that writer/director Shira Piven’s screenplay may not have had in the first place. With Wiig, it’s easy top say that this character works because while Alice may not be a sympathetic character, there’s still something compelling about watching her profess her feelings to whomever will listen to her and it makes you feel a tad bit more sad for this character. Even though she does some pretty terrible things throughout the majority of the film (and for no reasons whatsoever), there’s still a feeling of care for this character, and I think a lot of that credit can be given to Wiig’s talents as an actress.

Then again though, her performance would have been a lot better off, had Piven herself been able to make up her own mind about this character, seeing as how it’s sort of a mess how she’s handled. For one, there’s something very deeply upsetting about Alice Klieg’s life that’s portrayed to us in a manner that’s either too dark that it can’t be funny, or too funny, so therefore, it can’t be dark or dramatic. In a way, Alice’s life is presented to us that gives us insight into why she acts the way she does, what’s affected her over the years, and how exactly she’s trying to cope with it in the present day – all of which, are very revealing, but for some reason, Piven doesn’t know what to do with all of these insights.

In most cases, Piven focuses on Alice’s life as it’s some sort of a joke that, yeah, may have featured some traumatic occurrences here and there, but oh look how silly and awkward she is! In a way, it’s like Piven’s constantly wrestling with two different movies, and rather than making up her mind and sticking straight to one, she constantly flirts with both.

One has a beard, the other doesn't. Which one do you think is less pissed-off?

One has a beard, and the other doesn’t. Which one do you think is less pissed-off?

One movie is a dark comedy about a messed-up individual, getting the chance to say whatever she wants to the mass-media audiences, all because she has enough money to do so. As you can probably tell, this is a little satirical bite on the way our mainstream media has turned into nowadays with the likes of Dr. Phil and Oprah, who may not actually have any wise pieces of info to send-off to its audience, but have just the right amount of dollars to make people listen to whatever they have to say. While this idea may be a bit dated in the world we live in now, it still works in the context that Piven presents because the TV executives portrayed here know that what Alice is doing is outlandish, ridiculous and everything wrong with the modern state of television, and yet, can’t do anything about it.

Everybody’s making money, so what’s the big deal?!?

Then, on the flip-side of the equation, there’s another movie that discusses Alice’s life and how her current personality reflects all that she’s gone through. While there are certain bits and pieces of this that shine through in the final product that’s still interesting, it’s still not nearly as well-rounded as what Piven does with the satirical edge. While Piven wants to discuss Alice’s problems to their fullest extent, she still can’t help but laugh and point at whenever there’s a scene in which she has sex with some random stranger, blurts out obscenities, and seem to not be able to grasp anything in her life. Piven doesn’t seem like she’s fully capable of handling this character and it’s a bummer, because not only does Alice seem like she’s a well-done character, but because Wiig is, once again, more than willing to go as far and deep as she can.

Poor Wiig. You’ll get ’em next time!

Consensus: Wiig and the rest of the ensemble do fine in Welcome to Me, but due to the uneven tone and messy direction, it never looks as fully polished as it should be, no matter how many lovely names it has attached to it.

6 / 10

Life.

Life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hyena (2015)

If you’re a cop, and you’re corrupt, chances are, it’s not going to work out for you.

London cop Michael (Peter Ferdinando) seems to be living the high life. While he may be a police officer, he’s corrupt as they come, meaning that he’s able to do as many drugs, hookers, and crime as he wants. So long as he doesn’t get found out by the higher-ups in the police organization, then all is fine. However, that’s exactly what happens and he’s the one that has to talk to the fellow officer doing the looking (Stephen Graham), because he knows him from the old days. But if that didn’t suck already, the fact that he is now in huge debt to Albanian mobster for losing 100k in a drug deal gone wrong, only makes Michael’s life all the more miserable and tense. How does he get by it all though? Is it by his own smarts and intuition? Or, does he simply just let things happen as they come by, without much effort thrown in on his part at all? Well, after that line of blow, he’ll let you know.

It’s hard to do a bad gritty cop drama. Because the story’s mostly concern dirty/corrupt cops not doing what’s asked of them as a civic duty, for the most part, their movies often come out as ragged and raw as they sound. If a film maker screws up in not allowing for the mugginess of it all to translate onto the screen, and not make a member of the audience want to take a shower when it’s all over, then they have not done their job.

Sweet 'stache, not-70's-cop, cop.

Sweet ‘stache, not-70’s-cop, cop.

That’s not to say that Hyena is a bad gritty cop drama, but that isn’t to say it’s a great one, either.

For starters, Hyena seems like it tries a tad too hard with what already seems to be a pretty easy story to understand. Cop is bad; cop does bad things; bad things eventually start to happen to bad cop. That’s all you really need to know going into these sorts of movies, and Hyena‘s story isn’t at all different. As to why the cop is bad in the first place, is never made clear, except that maybe he just likes to live dangerously a lot and feel like he’s the king of his own castle; not that there’s anything wrong with no reasoning being shown to us, but it also calls into question the rest of the movie’s intentions.

Because while we know the cop is bad and is going to have a lot of bad things done to him, the movie never seems to make this clear enough to us. Maybe I’m over-stepping a bit, because even though we see plenty of people shot, stabbed, and tortured to death, the whole time, I wasn’t wondering how the cop is going to get out a situation, or even how he’s going to use his tactful skills as a police officer for many years to help himself – instead, I was wondering what the hell was going on. We know that the Albanians are involved somehow, but it’s never made clear when or what they’re going to do about it. A side-passing threat here and there doesn’t do much, especially when you’re trying to get your audience as invested as humanly possible.

Then again, there are definitely bits and pieces of Hyena that are tense, but it has less to do with the actual plotting or action that takes place, it’s mostly with the characters and the solid performances put in from everyone involved.

Most importantly though, I’m talking about Peter Ferdinando as Michael, our corrupt cop for the next two hours. While we never learn too much about Michael, other than that he was once an honest cop and is now, from what we see, a boozing, whoring, and drug-doing bum with a badge and a gun, it doesn’t feel needed. Just seeing him all hopped-up on whatever he’s had up his nostrils to wake himself up and trying to come to grips with just what the hell is currently going on in his life, was more than enough to work for me. Ferdinando gives a lot of shades to this character of Michael, and while I didn’t feel like I knew this person, inside and out, by the end of it, I didn’t care too much; the dude was always freakin’ intense whenever he was on-screen and definitely proved to be a worthy protagonist to watch over. Even if it’s hard to wholly care for him, there’s still something interesting about him that’s compelling to watch.

Al Capone took a chill pill for once.

Al Capone took a chill pill for once.

Ditto for Stephen Graham as Michael’s ex-cop buddy/government agent who is now looking into him and his squad. Then again, if you’ve ever watched a single episode of Boardwalk Empire, or any British gangster movie from the past decade or so, you’d know this. But what Graham does so well here that he doesn’t often get a chance to do in other movies, is that he down-plays everything and shows a real human side to whomever he is playing. No longer is he angry, pissed-off and ready to cause trouble anywhere he goes – now, he seems more relaxed and settled in his life. This was interesting to see from Graham and it has me look forward to seeing him play this side more, especially considering so many people know him for how high-wired he can sometimes be in everything he does.

Once again though, these are simple characters that work because they don’t seem to be trying too hard to really throw us for a loop or thinking. Not saying that Hyena should have just been a stupid, thinly-written cop drama with guns, action, boobs, drugs, and booze and left it at that, but when constant threads are thrown over one another, it begins to feel like overkill. Especially when it seems to be taking away from what could have otherwise been a very effective thriller.

Instead, it’s just fine.

Consensus: While it tries a bit too hard for its own good, Hyena still works because of a gritty atmosphere it creates, made all the better by its compelling performances.

6.5 / 10

Well, that's what happens when you don't just give speeding tickets.

Well, that’s what happens when you don’t just give speeding tickets.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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