Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Selma (2014)

Believe it or not, there’s actually more words after, “I have a dream“.

In 1965, racial tensions in the United States were very high, most importantly though, in the South. A region of the country in which, even though blacks were legally allowed to vote, they still had to jump through all sorts of law abiding rules and regulations that was obviously set out to make sure that their race, and only theirs, wouldn’t be allowed to vote and therefore, not have their voices be heard like any other citizen. This is when Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) decided that it was time to step in and allow for his voice to not only be heard, but acted on as well. Most importantly though, MLK travels Selma, Alabama of all places to arrange a march that would not only get the attention of everybody’s eyes and ears, but also President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson)’s, and would hopefully drive him to make some severe changes to the voting-process. Although, as one could expect, LBJ wasn’t always down to change certain voting restrictions, especially with the looming pressure of possible voters and fellow confidantes like George Wallace (Tim Roth), J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), and Lee C. White (Giovanni Ribisi), among many others.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Contrary to what some may believe, Selma isn’t necessarily a biopic about MLK, his life, his achievements, and everything else that transpired when he was alive, and what soon followed afterwards. Instead, it’s much more of a film in which a good portion of MLK’s life is documented, yet, never fully chronicled to make it just his, and his own; there’s plenty more people apart of this story, helping out to create a larger, more thought-out picture than just being standard. The same could actually be said for the civil rights movement(s) that Selma seems to portray – it wasn’t just one person who is single-handedly credited with all of the accomplishments, it’s everybody who was there to help that one person out and make sure that his dreams were fulfilled, as risky as they sometimes may have been.

And in the world that we live in now, honestly, Selma couldn’t be anymore relevant. And to be honest, director Ava DuVernay fully knows this, which is why this movie hits as hard as it does, but without ever seeming like it’s pandering in any sort of way. Surely DuVernay sees and understands the civil rights movement as a significant time in our history (as well as she should), but rather than making it a simple and easy history lesson that any fifth-grader could teach to a class of hundred or more, she strives for something more difficult and ambitious. While DuVernay portrays the civil rights movement, and those behind it all, as smart and inspiring, she also shows that the tactics that would eventually land most of these participants in hot water, not just with the government, but with fellow members of their own race.

For white people who got involved with the civil rights movement, they suffered threats, day-in and day-out from fellow Caucasians who believed that it wasn’t their right to get involved. The black people suffered this, too, and definitely a lot more worse, but as the movie portrays it, it wasn’t just the white people that blacks had to deal with on a regular basis, it was actually some people of their own race. DuVernay shows this with the inclusion of Malcolm X, and as small as it may have been, it’s a smart move on her part to show that some people preferred to side with X’s way of violence solving any and all problems, whereas some others preferred to stick with MLK’s way of not fighting back and instead, using peace as the best medicine to ridicule those who use violence to their benefit. In a lesser film, each and every person of the same race would have gathered, hand-in-hand, and marched happily together, but in DuVernay’s much smarter film, sometimes, they’re at-war with themselves.

But this is just me getting further and further away from what Selma really does here, and that’s portray a brutal, yet significant time in our society’s history, without ever shying away from some of the more dark and dirty aspects that would push certain people away from seeing this. We’ve seen white cops beating on black people in movies (and sadly, in real-life, too) done before, but the way in how DuVernay shows the sheer terror and madness is not only disturbing, but downright terrifying. It not only opens our eyes a little more to what this film is setting out to do, but also puts into perspective what is really being fought for here, rather than just telling us and trusting that bit of info as is.

Like I mentioned before, though, there’s a good portion of this movie that likes to argue against what most of us may know, or think we know, about the civil rights movement and how all those apart of it acted. For instance, not every person in this film is a clear-cut good guy, or a bad guy; they’re, simply put, just people that had a foot in history and all had their own goals, whether they may, or may not be desirable to us watching at home. This is especially clear in the case of LBJ who yes, definitely seems like a racist, but is also a politician, meaning, that he knows he has a lot at stake here in terms of his voting numbers come re-election time. While it’s made clear to us that maybe LBJ’s morals aren’t in the right places, he is still trying to give MLK what he wants, just in his own way. They may not be perfect and they may not always get the job done, but they’re still efforts on his part and that’s more than he can say for many other white politicians during that time.

The same said for LBJ, could definitely be said for MLK, which is definitely surprising considering that you’d expect a piece praising the figure for everything that he did while he was alive, and the influence that still holds precedence in our society today. DuVernay instead dives a bit deeper into the man of MLK, what made him who he was, and how exactly he got through this tough time in his life. And with this, we see that he wasn’t always the perfect man; he was a shitty husband who fooled-around a bit too much, didn’t always step to the front-line like he had initially promised, and got a little big-headed for his own good. But nonetheless, MLK was MLK, a man who accomplished more than what anybody expected of him when he was alive, and it’s a true testament to the person he was, rather than the person people want us to see and believe in.

Round 2. Fight!!

Round 2. Fight!!

Doesn’t make him any less of a good person, it just makes him a person, first and foremost.

And as MLK, David Oyelowo is pretty outstanding. This isn’t too surprising considering Oyelowo has been churning out amazing performances for the past couple years or so, but it truly is great to see him tackle a role that so many people think we already all think we know of, and do something different with it. Because MLK isn’t made out to be the most perfect human specimen ever created in this movie, we see certain shades to his persona that we don’t get to see in his speeches; sure, the speeches are here and they are downright compelling to watch and listen to, but they aren’t what make this person. What makes this person is that he stood up for what he believed in and, at any cost, tried to make his dream a reality. He had many of bumps in the road, but ultimately, he prevailed in getting what he wanted, even if he definitely did gain some enemies in the meantime. Then again, who doesn’t?

Though there’s more to the cast where that came from and rightfully so, too. The previously mentioned LBJ is done well by Tom Wilkinson who fits perfectly into the role and constantly makes it seem like this man is going to explode at any second; Carmen Ejogo has a few strong scenes as MLK’s wife, Corette, and shows the painful side to being the one who is constantly left-at-home, when your significant other is off, fighting the good fight, and constantly allowing you and the rest of your family to be threatened; Tim Roth is pretty damn campy as the overtly-racist man that was George Wallace, although he does with it just enough scenery-chewing that there’s no need for the mustache-twirl; and honestly, plenty more where that came from.

In fact, so many more to talk about that to put one over the other would just be an absolute disservice to each and every performer who shows up here, ready to perform and give it their all with their roles, no matter how small or large they may be. But above all though, it’s DuVernay who deserves the most credit for handling this large ensemble and giving just about every member something substantial to do and add another layer onto a story that, quite frankly, is already very engaging to begin with. Although there are plenty of hiccups to be found on the road leading to the final-act here, DuVernay still brings us a solid depiction of the Selma marches, how they affected us as a society then, and how they do it to us now. Because seriously, the years may change, but the stories remain the same.

Who knows when the change will come. Let’s just hope it’s soon.

Consensus: Smart, powerful, and well-acted by just about everybody involved, Selma is a complex, detailed-look into the civil rights movement that knows it’s important, but never shoves it down its viewer’s throats.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

When they mean "strength in numbers"? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

When they mean “strength in numbers”? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Whiplash (2014)

Isn’t playing music supposed to be fun?

19-year-old Shaffer Conservatory student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) has a dream, and it’s a pretty ambitious one: Become the best jazz drummer since Buddy Rich. Though this isn’t what you’d expect every normal young adult to dream of aspiring to one day, Andrew is different and decides that if he’s going to take his drumming-career seriously, he needs to get rid of any and all distractions in his life. That means he has to spend less time with his failed-author dad (Paul Reiser), break things off with his lonely girlfriend (Melissa Benoist), and most of all, practice, practice, practice! Because standing in Andrew’s way of becoming the world’s greatest is none other than conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a hard-ass who takes much pride in breaking down his student’s spirits by telling them that “they suck”, and finding any colorful, derogatory term he can call them next. This fazes Andrew at first, but he soon thinks he’s got the hang of what Fletcher wants. That’s until Andrew goes a bit too far into his training, and this is where he and Fletcher come to terms on what it means to be the greatest, and how the both of them can possibly work together. If at all.

I hope that isn't his "actual face". If you know what I mean......?

I hope that isn’t his “actual face”. If you know what I mean……?

Being a drummer myself, I’m more inclined to look at this movie’s premise, its beliefs, and scoff at it. The reason being is because ever since I was a young fellow, I’ve always prided myself in teaching myself how to play drums and haven’t really cared too much for the whole idea of jazz-drumming, or any type of orchestra-playing for that matter, either. It’s just not my bag, baby, and while I know it’s plenty of other people’s bags, I still can’t bring myself to get too hype for a movie where a fellow drummer wants to be the biggest, the most talented, and overall, the best drummer of all-time.

Does it make me a bit jealous? Sure. But that’s another story, for another day.

This story here is about one Andrew Neiman and it’s one that’s like any other underdog tale – underdog has a dream; underdog has a talent; underdog has a set-back; underdog has an obstacle; etc. It’s a pretty simple formula, and it’s one that Whiplash doesn’t really try to shy away from, except for that it’s not really an underdog story, as much as it’s just a story about one’s addiction. Sure, our main protagonist Andrew definitely meets all the key elements to what would make him an underdog in the first place, but it’s not that we are necessarily worried about his talent (because he totally has it), it’s more that we’re worried how his talent is going to shine in the eyes of his professor/drill-instructor. If anything, it’s more of a battle within himself, than with any other person, although the character of Fletcher is definitely a suitable stand-in for whom would ultimately be considered “the villain”.

However, Fletcher isn’t a villain, and Andrew isn’t a hero; they’re both people who absolutely love and adore music. Music is their addiction and because they are dug so deep into it, they can’t help but lose whole parts of themselves and forget exactly what makes them tick and tock like a human in the first place. Especially in the case of Andrew, who actually seems like he loves drumming, but gets so enthralled with becoming the best and impressing the shorts off of his superior, that it starts to seem like the drums end up becoming his enemy, less than it being the other way around. What’s smart about Damien Chazelle’s writing, and I guess, his direction as well, is that he never makes it clear whether or not we should side with all of the pain, agony, and torment that Andrew is putting himself through.

Sure, a good portion of all that pain, agony, and torment is being put onto him through Fletcher’s non-stop abusive tactics, but for the most part, it’s all Andrew himself who could just walk away from all this, move on, get a degree, continue playing the drums, and see if he can get with a bunch of guys to become the next Everclear, or somebody else as awesome as them (seriously though, once you become “the next Everclear”, it’s a little hard to go any higher, you know). But Andrew doesn’t seem to want to do this and because of these sometimes poor, almost unsympathetic decisions he decides to take, we never know whether or not we should root for Andrew to achieve his dream, by any means necessary, or just do whatever he can, without harming himself in the meantime. Chazelle makes the smart decision of not really nailing-down his views to one side over the other, and it makes us, the viewers, make up our own minds for once and not have our hands held on every aspect.

Chazelle also does the same thing for the character of Fletcher, although it’s not nearly as successful as it is for Andrew. Most of this has to do with the way the character’s written though, and not at all with J.K. Simmons’ performance, because the guy is very solid, as usual. Actually, what’s so interesting about all of the praise surrounding Simmons here is that he isn’t really doing anything different from what we have seen him do before, like in Oz, or Spider-Man, or Juno, among many others. He yells, curses, and is abusive a lot, but he also shows that there’s a slight sign of humanity in this guy, which helps make him to come off as some sort of a human being, which is where Simmons does the most magic with this performance. Once again, it’s not like we haven’t seen him act like this before, it’s just that he’s become the main focal-point because of his constant yelling, cursing and abusing that leads me to believe that he’ll not only get nominated for an Oscar, but actually win it.

Once again though, another story, for another day.

"PARKER!!"

“PARKER!!”

However, where I feel the character of Fletcher is problematic, is in that he seems more like a cartoon, and one that his creator fully loves and adores. It makes sense that Fletcher would be this different kind of music professor that wouldn’t allow for any weaklings to stay in his orchestra unless they got through his heinous acts of hazing, but it doesn’t really make sense that he would go on for so long, with so many people still wanting to work with/be around him. Later on in the movie, we get a detail about Fletcher’s teaching-process and the sort of negative affect it’s had on his students, both present and past, but the way it’s thrown in there, makes me feel as if Chazelle doesn’t really care for it as much, and more or less, just loves the character of Fletcher himself.

Makes sense since this character is Chazelle’s brain-child, but it puts into perspective who Chazelle seems to side with a bit more and for what reasons. Why he wants to show us that Fletcher may go a tad too far, he still can’t help but seem to giggle at himself, or Simmons for that matter, whenever Fletcher calls somebody “a fag” and then hurls certain items at whoever he is talking to. I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to shed some positive light onto the character that you’ve created for the world to see, but whenever you’re throwing the idea of your character’s questionable ethics into the air, it makes for a bit of a sketchy discussion.

Which, yes, brings us all back to the age old question of Whiplash: How far should one go to achieve his/her dire need for greatness? Should they drive themselves into a manic state of constant anger and turmoil? Or, simply put, should one try their best, with as much effort as humanly possible, and try not to get themselves killed while doing so?

You be the judge on that, folks. I’m here to just review the damn flick.

Consensus: Whiplash may run into some muddy waters with its own judgment, but is still an effective piece of two people’s addictions, both very well-done by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Don't screw up! Don't screw up! Don't screw up!"

“Don’t screw up! Don’t screw up! Don’t screw up!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Predestination (2015)

First film from 2015 reviewed and so far, this year’s looking very “meh”.

A Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) who is constantly travelling through time in hopes to stop certain tragedies from happening, may have finally met his final case. There is a new terrorist going around Boston by the name of “the Fizzle Bomber” and it’s up to the agent to find out who it is, for what reasons, and whether or not he’s even able to stop it in the first place. Somehow though, he ends up tending bar at some random dive place located all the way in New York City. Whatever the reasons may be, he doesn’t know, but he’s just going to try and get on with the night. That’s when a strange customer (Sarah Snook) comes walking through the door, orders a whole bottle of Scotch, and starts chatting it up with the barkeep. As they get talking, the conversation gets deeper and deeper, with one side telling their whole life’s story up until this point, whereas the other is just sitting by, taking notes on what that other person is saying. It all means something, but what, is the real question at hand here; the same question these two are getting ready to figure out on their own.

You know he's cool, once he has the 'stache.

You know he’s cool, once he has the ‘stache.

Notice how by the end of that plot-synopsis, things got a little shaky for me? Well, that’s because a lot of Predestination is up to be seen by the viewer, because giving anything at all away would be a bit of a disservice to the film itself. That said, there is something to this movie that makes me wonder if I was supposed to like it, or just absolutely despise the ever-lovin’ crap out of it.

See, while I was one to automatically think that Predestination would be a time-travel thriller and nothing more, something in the movie actually switched gears and it had me totally blind-sided. While the first ten minutes or so is chock full of people shooting one another, getting showered in some sort of acid, and grabbing onto guitar-cases to actually complete the action of time travel (I know, please bear with me here), suddenly, after a little bit of exposition between characters we’re not to familiar with, it all changes. Somehow, somewhere, it becomes something of a drama, and a very interesting one at that.

But once again, this is something that I do not want to give away a bit too much to ruin other viewer’s chances of possibly enjoying this, so I’ll try to stay as vague as possible.

Anyway, co-writers/directors Peter and Michael Spierig do really well with this story is introduce something that comes almost completely out of nowhere, but somehow, still very much works in its own right. A certain character comes into this piece and begins to delve into their back-story – where they were born, how they were brought up, what they did in life, how they got to this one point in time, etc. And it actually becomes something of a compelling drama, one with a central character we can care for, yet, also one that still leaves plenty up to the viewer’s and their minds. We’re told that this whole story is going to eventually have an end game that’s going to wrap the whole picture up with a neat, tidy little bow, yet, it’s easy to forget about that and just focus on this story that we’re being told; one that, according to the person who is telling this story will “knock us out”.

A good portion of this credit deserves to go to the Spierig Brothers for actually throwing a curveball at us, and so very early on in the movie, but another good portion of the credit also has to go to Sarah Snook. Snook is an actress I haven’t seen too much of, actually, but I feel like, if this movie plays in front of the right eyes, that may all change and with good reason, too. Not only is Snook a compelling presence on the screen, but the way she plays her character in so many different shades and personalities is something to be admired. Not all of her performance works, which is mostly due to the fact that some of the make-up and hair she’s forced to wear is a bit goofy, but altogether, it’s a performance that begs for a better movie.

60's fashion. Hararar.

60’s fashion. Hararar!

Because, as good as Snook’s part may be for this movie, there’s still a feeling that the Spierig’s can’t help themselves enough from steering away from some of the more confusing, albeit predictable twists and turns that most sci-fi flicks of this nature linger more towards. This is where Ethan Hawke’s character comes into play and it never made full sense. That’s not to say Hawke isn’t good in this role, because he definitely is; it’s just that, when compared to Snook’s character, he seems poorly-written and with hardly any motivations at all. He’s a cool dude, like most of the characters Hawke loves to play, but he also seems like the kind of hip, sarcastic hitman-character we’re supposed to root for and it’s just never made clear enough to us as to why.

You can also tell that while the Spierig’s had a fun time concocting up this whole subplot, but that they also have a way better time with the sci-fi shenanigans that eventually take place in these sorts of movies and it doesn’t quite work. That’s not to say some of it isn’t fun, it’s just all too confusing and forced on. Where one part of this movie was a drama, focusing on one person’s sad, and very tragic life, the next part ends up becoming a totally wild, loose, and bonkers sci-fi thriller that jumps through travel a bit too many times for it’s own good.

Once again, wasn’t like it wasn’t fun, it was just unneeded is all. Especially when you’ve already introduced a story that yes, knocked me out. All until the next story came back to me into place and make me upset.

Consensus: There are two movies battling one another in Predestination, and while one totally works, the other one keeps it away from being as fun, or as effective as it could have been.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Still bearing with me?

Still bearing with me?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Coherence (2014)

Dinner parties are sketchy enough as is.

A group of friends gather for a dinner party and the usual occurs- eating, smoking, drinking, and gossiping. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that, on this night in particular, a comet is orbiting over them as they continue to speak. While this doesn’t necessarily freak them out at first, it definitely makes them a bit weary once weird stuff around the house begins to happen. Like, for instance, certain people’s iPhone screens start inexplicably cracking. And then, to make matters a bit worse, some party-goers start acting a bit, how to say it, off. They start to forget certain people’s faces and they begin to reveal deep, dark secrets that they wouldn’t have otherwise gone through with revealing, to a huge party no less. But it’s when the power goes off that everybody in the house decides that it’s time to figure out what the hell is going on, so they all walk outside to a neighbor’s house who actually seems to be the only people on the street with any electricity. This leads to a shocking discovery, one that can’t be spoiled; just teased around with.

When you know somebody's had a bit too much to drink.

When you know somebody’s had a bit too much to drink.

Yes, everybody. It’s going to be one of those reviews. I apologize, but trust me, I’m doing it for you all out there who have yet to see Coherence, because honestly, it’s a little piece that deserves to be seen, probably knowing as little as possible about before going into. It isn’t just because the major plot-twist that occurs half-way into it is so shocking that you need to save yourselves from having it spoiled, but because little, micro-budget films like these hardly ever get made nowadays.

Or, should I say, when they do get made, they aren’t nearly as entertaining or as inspired as this.

Because, yes, for such small, meager-budgeted films like Coherence, it’s easy for a director to keep their film cheap by having the setting be one location and one location only. That’s what writer/director James Ward Byrkit does here, but rather than doing this as some sort of a crutch that he can fall back on, it actually works for the movie. And it’s not like because the movie is small and contained, means that what Byrkit is aiming at with this plot’s destination is exactly that; in fact, for a movie of this size, it’s relatively ambitious. Parallel universes are introduced, comets are seen flying overhead, and the overall meaning of one’s life is discussed on more than a few occasions.

But where this film goes and at what space it’s willing to go doesn’t matter, because what Byrkit does well with this premise is that he focuses his attention solely on these few dozen characters and allows us to see the way they act when thrown into a situation that just begs for the highest amount of paranoia. Some characters want to get down to the root of what’s causing this never ending sense of madness, whereas others are more or less content with just sitting around, drinking the night away, and basically just waiting for whatever craziness that is occurring, to end so they can get back on with their lives. No character here is really seen as “the baddie”, or “the goodie”, as much as they’re just seen as a bunch of individuals trying to get themselves out of the weird situation they’ve been sprung into.

Which is to say that this is a sign of a good cast, when each and every person involved, for the most part, seems believable and have you believe in this story, these characters, and their dilemma a whole lot more. But this is even more of astounding feet, especially when you get to thinking about the way in how Byrkit directed this movie and the actors in it. Rather than having them all set-up with their lines, knowing what to do, how to do it, and when, Byrkit literally just placed them in a spot, with bits and pieces of info, and toyed around with them as much as he could. Not only does this create a genuine feel of torment and suspense amongst the group, but it also shows us that some of these actors may literally be terrified for their live. Sometimes, especially in the case of this movie, the line between what’s real, and what isn’t, gets blurred and that helps this movie a whole lot more.

"Always travel in packs", my Cub Scout leader always said.

“Always travel in packs”, my Cub Scout leader always said.

See, it’s actually more of a human-drama than it would have you think, although there is still plenty of sci-fi shenanigans to be seen.

And honestly, that’s where most of my problems with this movie lies. It’s not that I’m not a fan of sci-fi, I normally am, but it has to be done right and in a creative way. Rather than just making-up stuff and saying “that it’s all science, bro”, not only makes me believe less in you as a writer, but not really know what to expect next from whatever you’re creating. Normally, yes, this would be my cup of tea, but for most sci-fi movies, it feels like, a lot of the time, some people just prefer to make stuff up as they go along, all because they’re thrown under the genre of “sci-fi”, which in and of itself is used as a crutch.

It’s sort of like how I feel about the Mission: Impossible films, or any other flicks featuring spies and their handy, dandy, trusty gadgets – they have all sorts of gizmo’s and gadgets that can literally get themselves out of any situation all because, well, “they work for the CIA”. To me, it feels like a cheap cop-out, when it’s done wrong. When it’s done right, like in the latest two M:I movies, it works because it adds to the excitement and isn’t done to a certain extent to where it would seem excessive.

With Coherence, it’s not that it necessarily feels excessive, as much as it just feels unneeded. Byrkit could have been as vague as he wanted to be with what his plot-twist meant, or how it all came to be, but because he starts to explain it later on, it only confuses the situation a bit more. And then, apparently, some characters start breaking out into speeches about space and time-travel that not only feels a bit random, but completely unbelievable. It’s almost as if Byrkit didn’t trust his audience enough to allow them to come to their own conclusions about what it all meant and, altogether, because of the way Byrkit loves to fall back on the fact that there’s a comet hovering up above this whole story, is rather meaningless.

Consensus: As small as the budget for Coherence may be, that still doesn’t stop it from being an interesting sci-fi thriller, that sometimes trips over its own feet every so often, but still remains intriguing.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Usually it's me who's on the receiving-end of all these stares.

Usually it’s me who’s on the receiving-end of all these stares, just after I pronounced that I have a blog.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

KRussians love the cold, so what the heck could a little radiation do to them?

During 1961, when the Cold War was running hot and wild all over, the Russians needed a way to really hurt their enemy: the U.S. So, what they got all packed together was a newly-made submarine that packed nukes in hopes to add more blow and potentially come close to winning the war. They had a stubborn, but inspired captain (Harrison Ford), they had a co-captain that was just as inspired, but also more friendlier (Liam Neeson), and a butt-load of other fella’s that knew their way or two around a submarine, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s just say that radiation could start to leak out, infect the whole ship, and get just about everybody aboard sick or near-dying, that’s what.

I don’t know how they did it, but somehow Kathryn Bigelow and everybody else involved with the production of this flick got made, which is probably more of a sin for them, than it was a victory, since it had no chance of ever being able to connect with the mainstream, American audience. Why? Well, that’s because the story is focusing on a bunch of Russians during the Cold War, who were practically carrying weapons that were destined to hit us and us alone, while also trying to make us feel sympathy for them as each and every one started to die from the spilled radiation on-board. It does sound very strange once you get to thinking about it, but despite the cast, the crew, and the obvious, but hokey message behind it all, the movie was made, widely-released, and then got back the numbers that were apparently $35 million domestically, on a $80 million dollar budget.

"A captain always go down with his ship. Make sure somebody tells Chewwy that."

“On this mission, can I bring my trustworthy friend named Chewwy along?”

All of this number-throwing and speculation does eventually lead somewhere, and that’s to say that this is a movie that was destined for death right away. Nobody, not even the most hardcore hippie in the world wants to lay down their rights, views, or themes inside of their heads, and take some time and effort out of their days to watch a story about REAL Russians, who went through REAL problems, and actually, REALLY died. It’s asking a lot of Americans, and it came as no surprise to anyone that this movie bombed it’s ass out of the water, which should also bring up the question as to whether or not this flick was even really worth all of the hate/bombing?

Kind of, but not really.

The idea behind this movie that really keeps it moving and interesting is knowing that what you see really happened, no matter how much speculation there may or may not be. Granted, that usually comes with the material, but it’s something that is easy to forgive here since Bigelow actually seems to take a tender love and care with this material, and more or less expresses each and every one of these crew members as humans. They’re corny and one-dimensional ones, but knowing that these characters are in fact based off of real-life people, makes you feel a little bit more closer and more sympathetic to the material, even if you know that what they are dying from, most likely could have killed us, had they actually succeeded in getting to their destination. I guess that’s a spoiler but since I’m typing on this computer about this movie and you’re reading this, wherever you may be, that it isn’t totally a spoiler, as much as it’s a little tidbit that you may or may not know going on.

Okay, it’s not a spoiler! We didn’t get nuked, dammit!

Anyway, Bigelow has an assured direction and I’m surprised that despite her having an actual vagina, that her movies more or less are aimed towards men, and men alone. I mean hell, I think we only get one scene of some actual, female tail here and that’s probably for about a good two minutes or so. Everything else after those two minutes is practically dude, dude, dude and whether or not you’re the straightest dude out there in the world, then you may not want to bother with this, however, gay men will be in heaven right here, especially if they have a fetish for dudes with a Russian accent. Regardless, Bigelow’s choices for what material she wants to bring to the big-screen next is always surprising and usually impressive, considering what she does with that material once its up on the screen.

But something here tells me that I wish there was more effort along the way to make this more than just a standard flick about a bunch of dudes in a submarine that are arguing, yelling, and acting angry at one another, as they come closer and closer to death. The feeling of remorse and death is in the cold air throughout this whole movie, but it never swamped me as much as it swamped the characters in the actual flick. It just felt like I was watching people die, without barely any feeling whatsoever as to what was happening, or to whom. It just tallied-up it’s death-toll and continued to make it’s moves; almost sort of like a horror movie, but you can’t kill the slasher. He just continues to kill and kill away, no matter how hard you try to stop him or keep him away. Oh wait, that is actually a horror movie!

And it’s not like the reason I didn’t care was because I’m some political a-hole that can’t at least feel some sort of sympathy for the other side in any way, shape, or form; it’s just that the movie cares more about the submarine jargon and what these people have to do next, rather than the people themselves. That can create tension and suspense in the air, but that still doesn’t give us a lick of sympathy for these guys and in the end, it just felt like the film lost all of our hearts and minds, because it wanted to continue to rattle down what’s happening to the submarine and why, but never actually explaining it.

For instance, I don’t think I stand alone for when I say that I’m not very submarine-savvy, so, when I have a flick that’s telling me that this thing blew up in this part of the submarine, which also blew up this rod and so on and so forth, I’m practically left with my tongue half-way down my throat. I don’t know what half of these characters were saying, what it meant for them or the ship, and how they could get around the problem. I just sat there listening in, trying to understand, get a grip of what was going on, but ultimately come to the conclusion that everything everybody said was bad, bad, bad and would most likely lead to death, death, death, if they don’t get up off their asses, kick out their egos, and get to work right away. That’s what it came down to me understanding with this movie after awhile, and by “after awhile”, I mean a good hour-and-a-half. Then, I realized I had all but 40 minutes left of the movie, and I felt like I was missing out on something, somewhere around here.

But anyway, back to what I was talking about before, was the fact that this movie still got made, produced, and green-lit, despite featuring a premise that was surprisingly unheard of, especially from an American-made production. Well, one of the key reasons behind all that is mostly that Bigelow was able to rope in big star, Hollywood actors like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, who are, oddly enough, playing the two, main Russians-in-command here. It’s weird seeing both of these highly-recognizable stars don a Russian accent, but it’s even odder to see Ford because not only does the guy not do very well with the accent, but his whole act is just so polarizing to begin with.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

Think about it for a second, he’s Indiana Jones; he’s Han Solo; and hell, for God sake, he was even the President of the United States, so where the hell did the idea for this “American-hero” to be portraying a Russian that not only protected his country til the day he died, but also to any cost?!? Never made much sense to me and never seemed to work for Ford, or the character he was portraying. It seemed like a parody after awhile, as if Ford was payed a huge chunk of money just to goof-around and work with a spotty accent. Problem is, it wasn’t a parody and there was no joke here. It was mega-serious, all of the damn time.

Poor Liam Neeson too, because the guy actually does a serviceable-job here as the second-in-command (despite not even bothering with an accent), but has a character that’s so prideful and in-the-right all the time, that there never seems to be a moral dilemma for this dude as if he knows what he should do next, whether it would be the most moral move or not, or if he’s going to be able to pat his friends on the back. I got it from the first couple of minutes, the guy was a nice dude that obviously cared for his crew mates and wanted what was best for them, as well as his country, but it’s an act that got stale after awhile, as if he would have never made a bad call ever. Peter Sarsgaard remains the only other crew-member that’s the most recognizable, even today, and is okay, but really obvious as he plays the wussy that eventually stands up for himself and is forced to come up big when they need him the most. Corny.

Consensus: Bigelow’s intentions are surprisingly heartfelt and well-mannered, even if the rest of the movie that’s supposed to make K-19: The Widowmaker pop, lock, and drop it as if we are on-board with these guys, doesn’t do either of the three and just hangs there.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Even they know they deserve a better movie. Then they died.

Even they knew they deserved a better movie. Then they died.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Life After Beth (2014)

Every guy likes a little biting here and there.

After the death of his beloved girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), Zach (Dane DeHaan) is left something of a mess. But it’s fine because he can at least sit around and confide in Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), which he does to the point of where he’s on a first-name basis with them and even tokes up a bit. This makes Zach more than happy, however, something strange happens the next day: Beth’s parents don’t answer any of his calls or door-knocks. They’re ignoring him to the point of where it’s like the past 24 hours had never existed. But that strangeness doesn’t even begin to measure up to the next bit of shock that hits Zach: Beth’s alive. And though it’s weird that she’s alive, this means that Zach can finally spend all of the time in the world with Beth, as if she had never gone away before in the first place. Forget the fact that she’s super-excited about everything, or that her breath smells like garbage, or even that she gets a little too rough when her and Zach are getting intimate, Beth is back, baby! Better than ever, though, she is not and Zach is about to find out possibly what’s going on. Not just with Beth though, but many other countless deceased person’s who all somehow come back to life at approximately the same time.

Holding hands in a pool. Gosh, it must be love.

Holding hands in a pool. Gosh, it must be love.

So, without getting smacked in the comments section, I’ll just say this: If you don’t know where I’m heading with this premise, you might be a little dense. I’m not calling you dumb or totally idiotic to the point of no return, but come on, it’s quite obvious where this story’s headed. And sadly, that’s probably the biggest problem with Life After Beth – while it’s obvious what the main twist/”reasoning” behind Beth’s re-arrival into the story actually is, the movie hardly does anything entertaining or funny with it.

Actually, that’s a bit of a fib because for all that he tries here, writer/director Jeff Baena does add a few neat tricks to the formula of what this story turns out to be, what with the inclusion of jazz music and attic-sex and all. However, it’s simply not enough to fully keep the movie hilarious, or even slightly interesting. Which, for a movie that runs right underneath the 90-minute time-limit, can be a bit of a problem; though it shouldn’t at all feel like a long slog, the fact that its story doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t already expect it to, or at least do so in a refreshing, fun kind of way, the movie feels at least an hour longer. If that.

Though this is mostly because Baena’s fault as a writer and director who doesn’t seem to really know how to make a one-joke premise constantly thrive with energy, the cast still tries with all that they can. Aubrey Plaza has been a joy to watch in practically everything she’s appeared in since people actually realized her talents in Funny People and how she plays the exciting, constantly moving-around Beth is no different. Her dead-pan style may not be used quite as often, but there’s still a joyful feeling to watching Plaza just let loose with material that shouldn’t suit her, but certainly does when you see her actually act it out. It’s no wonder why her and Baena are dating in real-life.

That bastard.

Anyway, I digress, because the rest of the cast is actually fine, too. Dane DeHaan may be running all over the place, Shia LaBeouf-ing his rear-end off, but it still works for him because the guy’s quite charming, even when all he’s really doing is just whining and moping around that things in life are a little weird for the time being. Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly are wonderfully odd as Beth’s parents who seem like alright people, but are a little strange in their own ways and how the movie plays into that is one of the smarter decisions Baena’s able to go through with. Especially with Reilly who, like with most of his roles, shows that he can be a cool, chilled-out fella, but is also a dad, and a responsible one at that. Though there’s not much more depth to his character than that, it’s still a worthy-try on Reilly’s part and it made me wish that there’d been more focus on him, rather than what the hell begins to happen with this plot.

Okay, mom and dad! You're cool, so stop!

Okay, mom and dad! You’re cool, so stop!

Because had there actually been more detail given to all of the characters here, not just Reilly’s, then there’d be a way better movie. The jokes would hit harder; the characters would feel more “sympathetic”, than “cartoonish” as they often do; and what ends up happening to the plot would actually be compelling and have some sort of emotion. Beth and Zach seem like the sort of cute, happily-in-love high school couple that we often see in movies such as these, but their relationship doesn’t get any deeper or more-involved than that; they’re in love because Zach is sad that she’s initially dead and that’s it. We never see it, understand it, or better yet, just don’t even seem to care.

But there is a part of me that wonders whether or not this would work a whole lot better as a short. Sure, all of the nitty gritty details of what happens in the later-half of this movie would definitely have to be taken out, but as a short, Life After Beth probably works best. All Baena would have to do is give us some amount of character-development, throw in the conflict, then the twist, and eventually, the final resolution that they have here in this film. Because everything else, as sometimes entertaining as it can sometimes be, doesn’t really add up to much other than being a cool idea, or one that’s fit for a better movie.

However, this is just a suggestion from a stay-at-home blogger. Take with that what you will, Jeff Baena.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining in spots, Life After Beth seems like it wants to do something different with the subgenre it tackles, but eventually, just gives way to filler that doesn’t go anywhere, or do anything for its audience. Except, well, bore them.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay. Do you finally get what I was alluding to before?!?

Okay. Do you finally get what I was alluding to before?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Boxtrolls (2014)

Had this movie just been about actual “trolls“, it probably would have been a lot scarier. Missed opportunities.

Underneath the town of Cheesebridge, a small population of trolls live and oddly enough, they have adopted a young boy (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) as their own. The name he’s given is “Eggs”, which mostly has to do with the fact that the box he is dressed up, was previously one used for containing eggs. Another box contained fish, so the troll now filling that is called “Fish”. So on and so forth, you get it. Anyway, Eggs and the rest of the trolls all run into a problem when a nasty, mean and cruel pest exterminator by the name of Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) who plans on getting rid of every Boxtroll there is to be found. He also hopes that this will make him look like a hero to the rest of the townspeople and therefore, give him a shot at becoming mayor, or at least, a man of higher-power. So obviously this puts the Boxtrolls into some real, major danger of being extinct, but once Eggs joins the real world and meets the quirky, spunky daughter of the main mayor (Elle Fanning) things change and he might just find a way to save his lovable friends and so-called family once and for all.

Pictured from left to right: Generic Boxtroll #1, Generic Boxtroll #2, Generic Boxtroll #3, Generic Boxtroll #4, Generic Boxtroll #5.

Pictured from left to right: Generic Boxtroll #1, Generic Boxtroll #2, Generic Boxtroll #3, Generic Boxtroll #4, Generic Boxtroll #5.

Laika, as they had done with both Coraline and Paranorman, have proven that they’re able to deliver on both the visual-department of their movies, while also with the story as well. Sometimes, their stories get a little too dark for even the target-audience these movie seem so keen on attracting in the first place, but for what it’s worth, they’re one of the very few animation-companies that strive on giving every demographic a little something to chew on and appreciate. I don’t want to say they’re one of the few ones left, but considering the slide Pixar has recently plummeted down, I can’t help but put most of my hope and faith into another group of animators out there.

And with that said, it should be noted that the Boxtrolls is as pretty-looking as any of the other Laika movies. The combination of hand-made creations and thinly-done CGI works, especially so here. Everything and everyone inside this small town of Cheesebridge seem as if they either need a shower, or live in a place as screwed up as everybody around them thinks. Sure, you don’t get too many points for looking strange, but you do get credit for making the strange actually look nice and well-done. Here, that’s what Laika does and it’s totally a compliment to the types of talents that they have working in their studios.

But, when all is said and done here, there’s just not much of a story and ultimately, that ends up tearing the whole piece apart.

It’s one thing to introduce your never-done-before, relatively interesting characters and not really have them be interesting other than just socially awkward, or plain and simply weird; however, it is another whole thing entirely to have these characters and hardly ever focus on them at all. Much rather, what adds insult to injury is to spend most of your movie focusing on the human characters involved with the story. Which honestly, wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had the human characters here actually been the least bit interesting or believable in terms of their intentions and why they deserve to be paid attention to in the first place. However, what happens here with the characters in the Boxtrolls, is that they fall for being thinly-written at first, and hardly ever given a second, or third, or maybe even fourth glance at to see if everything adds up well enough,

Take, for instance, the villainous character of Archibald Snatcher, the one who wants to be rid of all these Boxtrolls so that he can get going with his term in office and live happily ever after, eating cheese for the rest of his days. It’s obvious that we’re not supposed to like, or even care for this character – he’s the evil son-of-a-bitch who wants to basically kill those little, cuddly characters we get introduced to early on as not just nice creatures, but ones that aren’t at all what the rumors he’s been spreading around about them say at all. You feel bad for them as a result, of course, but there’s also an idea that’s supposed to be here where we feel some sort of sympathy for our lead villain here, even if he is just being a total dick. Surely, there must be at least some sort of reasoning that would put all of his evil, immoral actions to light?

A match made in Laika-heaven.

A match made in Laika-heaven.

Nope. Not at all, actually. This dude’s just a dick, for the sake of being a dick. Which, once again, wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had we not been given so much time to spend with just him and only him, but we get that and it hardly ever seems to end. The scenes with him, as well as the rest of the human characters, feel like they are never-ending and only add insult to injury. Not because we, the audience, actually decided to see this for fine animation (which we get), but because we wanted to actually see the Boxtolls (you know, the titled-chaarcters), and hardly get any of them.

Sure, maybe the characters of Eggs isn’t so bad, especially considering that he’s a weird, little boy who continues to be as such, but honestly, there’s nobody here that’s really keeping it altogether. Even when the movie does focus on the infamous, but hardly-seen Boxtrolls, it’s hard to ever be able to tell any of them apart. Maybe Fish and that’s it – every other Boxtroll just feels like a carbon-copy of the one that was created before it and only add less to their appeal. They’re meant to look and seem ugly, but they’re also supposed to be charming, funny, and the types of creatures we’d actually want our kids going to sleep with plush dolls of. But not these Boxtrolls. They aren’t really fun to begin with, but they’ll probably give your kid nightmares.

And honestly, what parent wants to pay for all that therapy? Especially all for something like this, no less?

Consensus: As usual with Laika films, the Boxtrolls benefits from looking crisp and inventive, but the story is anything but and instead, lingers on certain plot-threads nobody cares about. Not even the kiddies.

5 / 10 = Rental!! 

Of course the leader of these Boxtrolls had to be white!

Of course the leader of these Boxtrolls had to be white! What? No dark-skinned men and/or women in Cheesebrigde?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Willow Creek (2014)

Some myths are just best left alone. Including ones about huge bear-like creatures.

Ever since he saw the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film from the late-‘60’s of a supposed creature by the name of “Bigfoot” roaming the woods, Jim (Bryce Johnson) has been counting down the days till when he gets his chance to have his own encounter with the large beast. The problem is, his girlfriend who he’s with, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), doesn’t totally believe in this myth as being real. However, she likes Jim and wants to support him in whatever endeavors he partakes in, even if they are a little strange and kid-ish. While on the trip, Jim films just about everything they do, who they talk to, and where they go. Some people are better to talk to than others, but from what it seems like Jim wants to create here, is his own documentary of sorts. But as both Jim and Kelly dive deeper and deeper into the woods, they start to realize that some strange things may be happening. Whether or not they have to do with the actual fact that Bigfoot exists is totally up in the air.

So young, pretty and ambitious. Kind of remind of you someone else thrown into the same situation?

So young, pretty, and full-of-life. Kind of remind of you someone else thrown into the same situation?

Found-footage movies, for the most part, have become over-done. Though I used to champion for them quite a lot back in the day, recently, I’ve come to realize that it’s a format that needs to go away, and do so real quick. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few exceptions to the rule that mostly consists of found-footage movies being carbon-copies of the ones that came before them, it’s just that they are so very few and far in between now, that most of them get lost in the shuffle. Most especially if their names aren’t associated with the Paranormal Activity franchise.

But that’s why something like Willow Creek is so special.

While it’s a simple premise, done in a simple, sometimes lazy style, writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait still gives the movie an extra kick in the rear that it not only needed to make the whole sub-genre seem like new life can be breathed into it, but constantly surprise its audience and not falling for the same tropes we’ve all seen many times before. But, what’s weird about Goldthwait’s direction here is that most of those conventional notes and tones are done here, they just aren’t hit in the ways that we usually have come to expect with lesser-films of the same breed. Where one movie may give you scripted, unnatural interviews with people who seem as if they’re over-doing it with the whole goofy, folky townspeople act, this movie actually has its character interview and talk to real people and make it seem like the people are actually talking to a genuine documentary-crew, giving it more of a natural feel.

And also, it should be noted that while the movie does some neat things along the way with its story and how it progresses, the characters are who really makes this movie watchable. Though I’ve seen both Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson in certain stuff before, here, their familiarity didn’t really bother me; I took them in as a real life couple who, although they may have true feelings for each other, still bicker and banter like any other couple. They’re supportive of how the other one feels about something, or whatever it is that they want to do, but they don’t have the most perfect relationship ever witnessed on-camera and, once again, it adds a note of realism to a movie that definitely needed it in order to not just work, but push itself away from the rest of the pack of found-footage films.

Though the real one I found myself most impressed with out of these two was Gilmore, the actress I recognized before I recognized Johnson, which was strange because she was the one I felt as if I was going to have the most problems with believing in. Sure, the fact that I’ve seen her in countless other pieces over the years may have initially gotten in the way of my judgement of her performance, I eventually got away from that problem and began to believe in what Gilmore was doing here. This is maybe more of a testament to her abilities as an actress, than to how I’m able to tell myself to stop thinking one way and just keep an open-mind, but whatever.

The fact is, she’s very believable in a role as a normal, simpleton of a gal who loves her boyfriend dearly, but sort of wants him to grow up a bit and not act like such a nerd.

More life-threatening than Bigfoot? Taking selfies while behind the wheel!

More life-threatening than Bigfoot? Taking selfies while behind the wheel!

That said, her best piece of acting in this whole movie, is also, coincidentally, the best part of the movie and maybe even worth the price of admission alone. Slap dab in the middle of this movie, we get the obligatory scene where, in the middle of the night, the couple hears strange noises coming from all around their tent and they have no idea what it is, what they’re doing, or whom exactly is all behind it. All that they know is that they are scared shit-less and are not taking any chances in possibly dying. It’s the kind of scene we’ve seen in all of these found-footage films, but here, it’s done a whole lot differently that it makes it one of the more memorable sequences in a horror movie that I can remember. For instance, the whole sequence is shot in one camera-angle, for a straight 20-minutes and it’s hardly ever boring. It’s a scene that starts off tense, continues as such, and ends on such a terrifying-note, that if you’re not on the edge of your seat by the end of it, I’d definitely question your ability to have fun. Or, better yet, just appreciate when something good has been handed to you.

But through it all, it’s Gilmore who keeps it mostly interesting. The fact that she’s not already a believer in Bigfoot is what makes this sequence all the more interesting as you see her go from a slightly creeped-out gal who is happily cozying up next to her boyfriend, but then, once everything gets all way too freaky, has her crying and shouting in hysterics to where she really finds herself in absolute and total danger. She doesn’t quite know what to believe what’s out there, tormenting her and the tent she feels all safe and sound in, but she knows that it’s not good and to see he go from one extreme transition to the other is an absolute joy. But also, it’s a testament to the solid piece of acting she puts on here.

Not to say that Bryce Johnson isn’t fine in this role, because he is, it’s just that, in this situation, he’s given the less-meatier role of the two and it’s actually a delight.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t try too hard to re-invent the wheel of found-footage horror flicks, Willow Creek still does a solid enough job at being fun, interesting, and overall, suspenseful in where it’s going to go next, and how the characters adapt to their surroundings, even if they aren’t able to make perfect understandings of them.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A couple happily-in-love - what bad could happen?

A couple happily-in-love – what bad could happen?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Two Days, One Night (2014)

TwoDaysposterTypical office drama.

Early one Friday morning, while lying motionless in her bed and not wanting to pick up the phone, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) gets word from her husband (Fabrizio Rongione) that her job may be possibly on the line. According to her most trusted co-worker, a total of sixteen had apparently all taken a vote to receive a pay-grade, so long so as they got rid of Sandra to begin with. Whatever the reasons behind Sandra’s firing may have been, is totally unknown, but all Sandra knows now is that she has to go to each and everyone of these co-worker’s and see if she can get them to change their mind about their initial decision. Or, if anything, at least see the situation from her point-of-view. However, mostly due to the fact that Sandra may already be battling some sort of problem with depression, the weekend turns into a small adventure of sorts, where she talks to people she may not have talked to before and, for better and for worse, gets a chance to see what it is that they have to say about her, her work-performance, or why exactly it is that they want this pay-increase to begin with.

Wait till she bitch-slaps them all, Three Stooges-style.

Wait till she bitch-slaps them all, Three Stooges-style.

On the surface, Two Days, One Night seems so incredibly simple that you could practically write a short story about it. However, the way in which co-writers/directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne allow for this story to play-out, it’s anything but. Meaning that while we do get a relatively straight-forward glimpse into the life of one woman’s struggle to keep her job, as well as her sanity, there are certain under-lining themes and ideas that make this story than just what’s presented to us as is. What one person may see as a clear statement on the cut-throat business-world that’s been created for our society and those who decide to get involved with it, no matter what social-class they’re apart of – another may see as a story about a woman just trying to keep her job.

I guess, what it all really comes down to is whether you’re the viewer who likes to think long and hard about what you’re watching? Or, whether you’re the viewer who likes to sit down, watch what’s in front of you, enjoy it for all that it’s worth, have it end, and simply go on with your day, as if nothing had been seen or digested in the brain? I’m not saying one viewer is better than the other, but it’s just the certain idea that went through my head while watching this.

Because, yes, while I’d like to assume I am the kind of viewer in the formerly-mentioned party, a part of me was thinking that there’s a certain bit of this movie that is all too simple to really be about anything else except just what’s presented to me. Sure, the idea that this one woman could lose her job, because of excessive greed and possible manipulation from the higher-ups is brought to the table and, in some instances, even confronted as evil, but reasonable. These are short, slight moments that made me feel as if I was watching something made for my thinking, living-self.

Then, there were a few instances in which I felt like this movie was just taking a simple premise, and keeping it as that. Normally, I don’t have a problem when a film maker settles on the option of making their own movie a piece of free-thinking, non-heavy entertainment, but in this case, I didn’t want that. I wanted more meat, skin and bones to my story, rather than just this French gal walking around town, going door-to-door and seemingly having the same conversation with people she kinda/sorta/maybe knows. You could make the argument that each and everyone of those conversations that the French gal has at least brings out something new/interesting to these supporting characters and put the final decision into a wider-perspective, but at the end of the day, that’s all it feels like.

Once again, that’s not a slight against the Dardenne Brothers for giving me something simple and at least sticking with that, because, for the most part, it’s good what they already have to be shown. The narrative is strong enough to make this woman’s interactions very compelling, and heck, even she’s a very solid character. Although, yes, it’s very hard to pin-point what it is exactly that’s going on so wrong in the head of her, there’s an idea that while Sandra may be a bit of a basket case, she is still, like you or I, a human being who is deserving of a job, and all of the perks that come along with it. Because we’re able to identify with Sandra, her interactions with those around her make a lot more sense when put into perspective as to why the hell she’s fighting for her job in the first place, and why it may matter more to those around her who love and depend on her the most.

All he wants is for his wife to keep her job, so that they can maintain their families health and stability. What a pest!

All he wants is for his wife to keep her job, so that they can maintain their families’ health and stability. What a pest!

It also helps, too, that Sandra is played quite well and effectively by Marion Cotillard, an actress who, I feel, is incapable of giving a poor performance in anything she shows her wonderfully exotic face in.

Here as Sandra, Cotillard digs deep into what may have made this woman tick so frequently and dangerously to begin with, but she also digs deep enough that we get an idea of what makes her worth rooting for, even when it seems like the ball is nowhere near her home-field. While it seems all too obvious that she may lose this opportunity to keep her job, there’s a small feeling of optimism constantly flowing throughout that makes it seem like, hell, she could pull this off by just simply having others feel sorry for her and, as a result, pity her. With those expressive eyes of Cotillard’s, there’s always the idea that whatever Sandra is going to do next, to whom, and why, it’s never calculated and never fully predictable. One second, she could be as quiet and as lovely as a bee buzzing on a hot summer day; another, she could be ready to crack her own head open for everybody to view the torment, agony and pain she seems to be going through on a regular basis.

Through it all though, Cotillard is constantly engaging and makes you feel that maybe while this woman probably wasn’t the best worker, she still doesn’t deserve to get stiffed from her job. At least not like this, that is. Then again, nobody deserves to be fired from their job without their full well-knowing, or better yet, their presence being dully noted. Maybe that’s the way our economy has turned – it’s making those who lose their jobs, lonely, sad and depressing individuals that probably had it coming to them, even if that’s not true to begin with. But, most importantly, it’s making those who keep their jobs, or at least, those who intend on keeping their jobs, to become selfish, mean, nasty, money-grubbing son-of-a-bitches that may have a moral code they want to stick with, but when it comes to sustaining the health and wealth of those that they love, they lose a bit of what makes them so human to begin with.

That’s just the world we live in, everybody. So try to make as much money as you can. Just do make sure that it is in a legal manner.

Please.

Consensus: Sometimes too simple for its own good, Two Days, One Night still compels by giving an all-too-realistic view into the life of a person who could be you or I, except she looks, acts, and is beautifully well-done by Marion Cotillard.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sometimes, all you need is a hug. Or a minimum-wage job to keep a roof over your head, but hey, it's a work-in-progress here, people.

Sometimes, all you need is a hug. Or a minimum-wage job to keep a roof over your head, but hey, it’s a work-in-progress here, people.

Tusk (2014)

Kevin Smith: He is the walrus. Coo coo ca choo.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is a bit of a jerk, but he gets by on running a podcast with his good buddy (Haley Joel Osment) and banging his smokin’ hot girlfriend (Génesis Rodríguez), even though he’s a total dick to both of them. Lately though, Wallace has felt like his podcast needs a bit of a energizing-up, so he decides to venture out to Canada where he’ll interview a kid who became famous after a video of him accidentally slicing off his own leg with a samurai sword goes viral and entitles him as “Kill Bill Kid”. However, sadly for Wallace, he finds out that Kill Bill Kid has passed away, which leaves the poor pod-caster in the dumps. That is, until he sees a notice for a sit-down with a man who promises to tell interesting stories. Wallace sees no harm in it at first, even if the man (Michael Parks), seems a bit creepy. But eventually, the harm becomes all too real and wouldn’t you know it, the creepy old man actually has Wallace over for some unknown, nefarious purposes. Which, wouldn’t you know it, has him turning Wallace into a walrus.

I apologize if that spoiled the big twist for anybody but trust me, there’s no real twist to begin with as it’s been heavily talked-about since the movie’s idea had ever came to fruition.

It's a metaphor. or something.

It’s all a metaphor. or something.

Now, normally, I consider myself a huge, adoring fan of Kevin Smith’s work. Not only do I find him to be one of the funnier, smarter writers working in comedy today, but I also find him to be a very honest, realistic-thinking guy when it comes to his own career, Hollywood, and all of the bullshit that usually follows along with it. Sure, some of his escapades are a bit questionable and definitely make you wonder if he’s actually a nice guy underneath all those hockey jerseys, or if he’s just playing the role so well, that anybody who slightly “likes” the guy, ends up falling head-to-toes in love with him, all because he seems like them, a real person.

Except that, for the fact, that this real person writes, directs, and occasionally stars in movies for a living.

However, a part of me has been slowly, but surely dying inside ever since Kevin Smith has decided that he’s about had it up to here with being taken as a joke and only known for the potty-mouth characters he creates. While I have absolutely no problem with a film maker wanting to change their style up a bit so that they can eventually be looked at in a different light and possibly show the rest of the world what they have left to offer, other than just what they’ve been known for, I feel like what Smith has been doing ever since Red State has sort of been throwing him down a pipe-line that he can’t get out of. He wants to be taken as a serious director, yet, he also tries so hard to make this idea a reality, that he loses what made his movie so charming and enjoyable to watch, or better yet, listen to, in the first place.

And with Tusk, this is evident, except maybe even worse. Because while, yeah, Tusk is a sometimes serious, rather horrific-tale about a man being turned into a walrus, there’s still plenty of humor written into the script; none of it works, but it’s humor nonetheless. Mostly where this humor comes from is in Smith’s way of pointing to something weird, or off-kilter that Canadians do, and never letting it go. He’s sort of like the guy in your group who finds one flaw within your whole human existence and rather than confronting it one day, accepting it for what it is, and moving on so that each and every person around you two, including yourselves, can live in perfect harmony, he just constantly hammers it into the ground, not only making you feel more uncomfortable because they simply don’t get that the joke isn’t landing anywhere, anytime soon, but that they look like total dicks.

Here, in case you couldn’t, tell, Kevin Smith is the total dick and it’s just all the more disappointing for someone such as myself who has looked up to him as one of the better writers and directors in today’s day and age of comedy. And trust me, I’m not being all pissy and moany like this because Smith wasn’t giving me the return of characters like Jay, Silent Bob, or even Banky – those times are all said and done and I’m fine with that. It’s time to move on and I’m perfectly fine with that. However, if Smith can’t grow in an efficient manner, then I will continue to be unhappy. Better yet, if he can’t write funny jokes anymore that at least hold more merit than as if they were being told by a fifth-grader, then sure, I’m all for a career resurgence of sorts.

But for now, I will wait and wonder.

Mostly though, the huge problem with Tusk comes down to the fact that the story just doesn’t have enough steam to last its near two-hour run-time. It’s been made clear to anyone who pays attention to Smith’s podcast known as Smodcast that the idea for Tusk, originally came through a story he read on an episode. While it may work as a live-reading and better yet, maybe even as a short film, when given a larger-budget and more time to work with, the movie comes off incredibly meandering, ponderous, and overall, stale. You wonder if Smith had any intentions of making this story go on as long as it is, or if he just decided to say “‘eff it” with all of the money he was given and focus on parts of this story that didn’t matter.

For instance, we literally get a ten-to-fifteen-minute flashback with Wallace and his girlfriend where they’re not only sharing an intimate moment together (meaning blow-jobs), but are even revealing certain depths of their characters that we probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s supposed to work, but because these characters are so one-dimensional as is, we don’t care for anything they’re saying, nor the scene altogether. It just feels thrown in there to add some sort of emotional-heft to an already overlong movie; one that could have ended in nearly twenty-minutes and nobody would have felt ripped-off. But you add another hour-and-thirty-minutes to that run-time, and you’ve got a whole lot of pissed off people. I’m one of them, if you couldn’t already tell by now.

If you're girl ends up getting comforted by that kid who saw dead people, you better make sure you're a damn walrus alright.

If you’re girl ends up getting comforted by that kid who saw dead people, you better make sure you’re a damn walrus alright.

And as for the cast, god bless all of their working hearts, but hardly anybody comes away unscathed from this. Justin Long is a funny guy and when, given the right material to work with, can do wonderful things. However, his role as Wallace is so one-note and prickish, you wonder if Smith thought that being a perverted, 30-something a-hole was funny, especially when you give him impressions and funny voices to do. Whatever he thinks is funny, doesn’t matter, because it’s hardly ever funny and only gets worse for Long as he then is soon made into a walrus, where we care so little for him or the situation he’s thrown into. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, because it is easy to feel bad for somebody who, for no reason other than to service an already overlong script, gets transformed into a walrus, but it’s just that we don’t care for his character to begin with that really hurts him.

Then, there’s Haley Joel Osment as his best buddy who may, or may not be up-to-no-good. While it’s nice to see that Osment’s still working, and with Kevin Smith no less, this role is so dull, it makes no sense why he’s even in it to begin with. Génesis Rodríguez is here to look hot and have the camera focus in on her curvy body, and with that, she’s fine. And Michael Parks, as gifted as he may be, doesn’t have much to do as the evil scientist who turns Wallace into a walrus, as all he has to do is yell and preach a lot, about seemingly nothing really. It’s sort of like what he did in Red State, but at least that had some reasoning to be done there; here, it’s just over-bearing and random.

But the one I feel the most bad for here is Johnny Depp who, spoiler alert once again, I guess, shows up as a local Canadian detective by the name of Guy Lapointe (it’s supposed to be word play, you see). Depp literally seems like he showed up on-set one day and decided that he didn’t mind wearing a silly hat, a large nose-piece, and acting as drunk as he usually does in most of his movies. While it’s occasionally pleasing to see Depp riff into some rather strange, often interesting areas of this story that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise with a lesser-actor who was demanded to follow the script, it still doesn’t do much good for the rest of the movie as it just uses him as one punch-line and that’s it.

Nothing more, and you know what? Johnny Depp deserves more!

Consensus: While it’s nice to see Kevin Smith trying something new, Tusk is a poorly-done, overlong, and just plain stupid movie that hardly goes anywhere funny, interesting, or even entertaining. Simply put, it’s boring, but it never knows it well enough to just cease what it is doing and get to the point already.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Poor guy. Actually, no. Who gives a hoot. Eh? #CanadianJokes

Poor guy. Actually, no. Who gives a hoot. Eh? #CanadianJokes

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Also, if any of you are at all suspicious of whether I’m not an actual fan-boy of Kevin Smith to begin with, or am just posing as one to disguise my utter disappointment with this movie, check out this link, go to 1:19:48, and listen to the question asked. You might just hear yours truly talking to a personal hero of his.

Hopefully Kevin and I can make amends in the near-future.

Big Eyes (2014)

So, wait? “Tracing” isn’t actually considered art? Bollocks!

After many years of putting up with an abusive relationship, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) wakes her daughter up, packs their bags, gets in the car, and heads straight to the city of San Francisco, where she hopes to make a living with her odd, off-kilter paintings of children with largely-proportioned eyes. However, Margaret soon has a wake-up call when she realizes that selling paintings is not only hard if you don’t know how to sell them, or to whom, but also if you’re a woman who wants to be taken more seriously in the world of art. That’s when charming businessman, and occasional painter, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) steps into her life and practically takes her, as well as her daughter, by storm. They get married and, wouldn’t you know it? The two start actually selling their paintings and gain some notoriety in the meantime. Except, that the paintings they’re selling aren’t just Margaret’s, but that they’re Margaret’s, being passed-off as Walter’s, and by none other than Walter himself. It’s an obvious dilemma, but one that falls into some strange, crazy places along the way.

He paints.

He paints.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been impressed by a Tim Burton movie. Most of that has to do with his over-bearing style that hasn’t been fresh since Sleepy Hollow, and some of that also has to do with the fact that the guy can’t seem to get enough of that bro-mance he has with Johnny Depp. But now, for the first time since 2003, Burton has stepped away from his life with Depp and seems to be getting back to his older, Ed Wood-ish days where he not only focused on real life, actual human beings, but give us a humane, relatively normal view into their lives. While it may sound ordinary and boring, for someone like Burton, that’s sort of the point. In order to show the world that you’ve still got the story-telling talent that made you so well-liked and appreciated before, sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics of what made you famous in the first place.

That’s why, after many years of disappointment, after disappointment, it seems like Burton’s back on-track. For how long, is a whole other question entirely, but for now, let’s just suck up Big Eyes for all that it is: A solid, well-told, and overall, well-done biopic about a very strange, but very true real life story.

Without diving in too deep and getting even myself lost in what I’m trying to say, I’ll just note that Big Eyes is a pretty-looking movie. Every set-piece feels and looks exactly like how the bright, lovely days and nights of the 50’s would feel and look, but that’s not what makes this movie to begin with. What mainly does it is the fact that Burton keeps his eye on the story here, as well as its characters, and hardly ever branches away from it. While one could say he’s doing himself a slight by holding back and telling this story as by-the-numbers as one could get, for someone like Burton, that isn’t a bad thing.

In fact, Burton shows resilience here that I haven’t seen from him in quite some time, and it works for the movie as it allows for this story to tell itself, and dive in deeper to some of the more interesting aspects of itself. For instance, the movie makes it clear that while there were many female artists successfully working in the 1950’s, most of them didn’t have the type of sales-pitch to certain people to not only make them rich, but well-known by more people than just their peers, but also by people who don’t usually pay attention to art in the first place. Mostly what Margaret Keane paints are creepy-looking children that’s meant to mean something, yet, what that something means, we never know.

However, that’s sort of the point Burton’s trying to drive home here – it’s not that the art is saying or doing anything spectacular, it’s more so that it was famous and sold really well to those who liked to impress their fellow friends and confidantes at fancy, extravagant dinner-parties. In other words, the art world is based on people’s bullshit and what’s sort of interesting about what this movie does is that it actually explores the notion that maybe that bullshit is exactly what somebody like Walter Keane thrived on. He loved the spectacle of art, and didn’t really care about whatever message it was trying to get across; simply, he just wanted it to make people happy. And for some reason, that’s what Margaret’s art: Made people happy, even if they didn’t know how or why. It simply just did.

But while Burton touches the surface of this idea, there’s a slight feeling that it doesn’t go down this road as much as it should. This makes sense considering how close the still-living Margaret Keane seemed to be during the making of this movie, but it also takes away from what could have been a very thought-provoking piece about the world of art, why it’s important, and just why someone like Walter Keane was able to exploit for all that it was worth, even if he didn’t mean to intentionally do so. However, like I said before though, Burton still keeps this story fun, light, and interesting, even if it seems like he’s just going by on what the time-line presents him with. That’s not a bad thing, per se, especially because the story itself is quite fun and interesting, but it made me wish there’d been more of a push and shove into actually developing these characters, as well as their situations just a bit more.

Though, to be honest, I’ll take a pleasant Burton-piece over another Johnny Deep team-up, any day of the week.

And I do wholeheartedly mean that, too.

She paints.

She paints.

Where Keane’s lives and personalities get the most attention are from the performances by Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, who are both fine in this movie, even if they both seem like they’re in two different movies altogether. Waltz is probably the clearest example of this as his Walter Keane is all over-the-place – and I do mean that in the literal-sense. Right from when we’re introduced to him, we get the sense that Walter Keane is a bit of a sneaky fella who may be using Margaret for his own well-being, or may be a simple, nice guy who actually has an attraction to Margaret that doesn’t concern him seeing dollar-signs. Either way, the guy clearly seems to be off-his-rocker every time he is around other people and you never know whether or not it’s all an act to make himself seem likable, or he really is just this nutty, energetic of a bro.

The movie never fully hits a specific landing-strip on what it wants to say about Walter Keane, except that he was clearly the bad guy in this story. That said, Waltz is usually great at playing a bad guy in any story, and also even being able to bring out some humanity within as well. And that’s exactly what he does here as Walter Keane, except that he’s incredibly hammy and over-the-top, for better, as well as for worse. For better, because he actually brings a lot of fun and excitement to the character of Walter Keane who, from what I’ve read, was pretty much that kind of person in real life. And, for worse, because he seems to be trying his hardest to steal every single scene away from Amy Adams and her incredibly subtle performance. Though it’s always intriguing to see what rabbit Waltz is able to pull out of this character’s hat next, it mostly seems to take away from what’s a very powerful performance from the always great Adams, although you wouldn’t know it.

Adams down-plays her role as Margaret and does a fine job at it, so much so, that it actually makes it understandable as to why a meek, mild woman such as herself would actually marry such a hyperactive and wild charmer like Walter Keane. They aren’t the perfect match for one another, but they’re both there for one another in a time where they seem like they need someone the most; to love, to cherish, to hold, and to also pay rent. So yeah, to me, it made sense why Margaret would actually take a sacrifice in her life and marry Walter, even if that meant she’d be sacrificing a whole lot more than her time – her art. Art which, to begin with, was already nice and pretty to look at, but anything more would just be too much.

Hey, sort of like this movie! Wow!

Consensus: Oddly enough, Big Eyes finds Tim Burton at his most restrained and simple, yet, it works wholly because the real life story he’s covering is an odd and complex one, but also fun and interesting into the certain areas it goes.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We all paint!

We all paint!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Into the Woods (2014)

‘Cause nothing bad ever happens in the woods.

Many stories are presented here, with almost nearly every one converging in some way, shape, or form, in the deep, dark, hellish woods everybody seems to be travelling into and out of. It all starts when a Baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) are told by a witch (Meryl Streep) that if they want to have a baby, they have to give her the exact ingredients she needs to make a potion that will have her to go back to her youth. The Baker and his wife are more than willing to face this task at-hand here and meet many other characters along the way. Like, for instance, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) who constantly seems to be leading on Prince Charming (Chris Pine), without any promises of actually getting together and/or married. Also, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) meets up with a little boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who both codger up something of a friendship, although the big, bad wolf (Johnny Depp) is constantly lurking somewhere in the background. Each story wants to have a good ending, but to ensure a good ending, what must have to be done?

Eat More Chikin'.

Eat Mor Chikin’.

There’s been plenty of talk surrounding Into the Woods and none of it, I feel, is really needed. Sure, if you have already seen the original Stephen Sondheim musical on Broadway or anywhere else, then yeah, you might be a little disappointed that they took some things out, or slightly alluded to others, only to make sure that they’d get a PG-rating that’s bigger and better for the family-friendly audience. Purely from a business standpoint, this is a smart move, but it also brings into question: How much can the original source material of a product be tampered with, to still allow for its original identity to stay relatively put?

Well, my friends, that’s a question I don’t feel the need to answer because, quite frankly, I have never seen the play before. Therefore, it’s a bit difficult for me to make my mind up about what the right, as well as the wrong decisions were made in making sure that Into the Woods not only stays true to its original, core audience, but also is friendly enough so that the whole family can come out to the movies to see, have fun with, and not have to worry about discussing the birds or the bees on the ride home. What I will make up my mind in is saying that Into the Woods, while not perfect, is still a fun musical that should be seen by any and all members of the family.

There, that’s it.

Well, not really. Seeing as how there’s more to this movie than just a bunch of fun song and dance numbers, I think it’s important to note that most of what this movie does is interesting. The idea of taking all of these different fairy-tale stories and throwing them into this world where both realism and fantasy mix together, definitely brings a lot of intriguing, yet compelling elements of story-telling together. For one, you have the tales as old as time that have hardly even been picked apart, but then, on the other note, you have a human heart with a cynical mind, that likes to think that these stories are made so that simply kids can either be very happy to hear, or go to bed. Either way, it’s the kids that are hearing the stories the most and taking them all in, which is why it’s so funny that most of Into the Woods seems to be channeled more towards the adults in the audience, much rather than the other way around.

That’s not to say that most of the movie can’t be enjoyed by the little tikes who decide to go out and see this; as mentioned before, the song and dance numbers are fun, light, and sometimes, incredibly catchy that it might just have them humming it on the way out of the theater, and probably for some time afterwards. But most of Into the Woods seems like, when you look beneath the surface, is a hard-hitting, sometimes dark tale about the choices we all make in our lives and how, while they may seem for the better at the present time that they are made, don’t always turn out so well when thought-about more in the future time to come. The movie also goes on to show all of these characters in both positive, as well as negative lights. Though it seems and sounds like it’s all too much for the little kiddies at home, I can assure you that director Rob Marshall does a solid enough job here that he doesn’t allow for too much of it to go over their heads.

It’s just that more of it goes right directly into the heads of their parents.

For instance, take the character of the Baker’s wife, who is played so well by the always lovely Emily Blunt. While she’s a meek and well-mannered lady, she’s still one that clearly wants to be more than just a mother. She wants to be a lover, and a person who feels needed and desired by those she doesn’t often get such affections from. Without saying too much, she gets what she wants from a certain source and it helps give her character much happiness, for the time being. Once that time is up and she’s had it with all of the cheering, she soon realizes that the choice she’s made may have not been the best for her, or for her husband in the long-run. While she may have thought of it as a smart decision on her part that would bring her much happiness and joy, she soon comes to the conclusion that it wasn’t the smartest move on her part and as a result, without giving too much away again, has to face the consequences.

Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan all rolled up into one hunk. Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan all rolled up into one hunk. Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Blunt’s character isn’t the only one who has to suffer the consequences of her sometimes naughty decisions. Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella character knows that she shouldn’t be playing with a person’s heart, but when the power is in her control, she can’t help but do so; Daniel Huttlestone’s Jack wants to be with his best-friend once again and is willing to do whatever he can to make sure of that, but by doing so, may also put those around him at-risk and in total danger; and Meryl Streep’s witch, while seeming like she’s doing a nice thing for a couple who clearly needs her help, is also very selfish in that what she wants to do for herself is to only make herself happy, and nobody else but. The list of good and bad decisions made by these characters go on and on, but all feel honest and well-written, without ever being hammered onto us, the audience, in any way.

Sure, the darkness of the later-part of this movie definitely comes as a bit of a shock once the gears switch themselves around and we realize that there’s going to be some hearts broken here, but it works. Whether you expect it or not, it all feels well-intentioned and as if it wants to inform each and every kid who decides to see this that there are consequences for the choices you make in life, so definitely choose wisely. And also, definitely make sure to do the right thing.

But, like I said before, the movie doesn’t shove this down our throats too much, as it is, as expected, still a fun musical with a more than capable of singing cast.

What I said about Blunt, can definitely be said about Corden who has a bit of a dilemma in his own right that he wants to be a good daddy, but because he didn’t have one, he doesn’t know how to be; Streep’s witch character, while nasty and mean, is sometimes charming in her own evil-way that it’s nice to finally see Streep having fun, without trying to be too emotional either; Chris Pine hams it up so perfectly as Prince Charming, the character every little girl loves and every little boy loved to hate, and for the exact reasons as presented here in a perfect, self-deprecating manner; Anna Kendrick is sweet and pretty as Cinderella, but still does a nice job at reminding us that her character can be a little too quick to push the button with every choice that comes her way; and Johnny Depp, for as little screen-time as he has, is strange, off-kilter, and overall, a delight to watch. He’s not in it for too long, but is at least around enough to be funny, enjoyable, and a little creepy, like we always expect from Depp.

Except that, this time, he’s not with Tim Burton! Yay! Everybody’s a winner!

Consensus: With a bunch of fun, exciting, and well-performed song and dance numbers, Into the Woods presents an actual musical that can be enjoyed by the whole family, yet, still doesn’t shy away from getting down to the nitty, gritty moral decisions of its characters and the lessons that they teach.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hiding from big Tim, I presume.

Hiding from big Tim, I presume.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Imitation Game (2014)

Being liked by others is so overrated.

During WWII, when Britain needed him the most, number-crunching genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stepped up to the plate. However, it wasn’t easy for a fella like him. In Bletchley Park, Turing became involved of a top-secret program where he, as well as a few select others would try to decipher the German’s Enigma Code. Not only would it help them understand what the Nazi’s were going to do next, where and when, but it would also give the British an upper-hand in the war and possibly even allow them to win it. But problems arise with Turing’s personal life, as he’s definitely not well-liked by those he works with and, mostly due to his secretive homosexuality, hardly ever opened-up to those around him. The one exception to his rule was fellow number-cruncher Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who Turing develops something of a friendship with, even as hard as it may have been for him. But the fact of the mater remains: There is a war that needs to be fought and won, and Turing was not going to stop one bit in finishing it once and for all. Even if his own life and reputation depended on it.

"Quick! I need a three-letter word for 'being twee'!"

“Quick! I need a three-letter word for ‘being twee’!”

Everything about the Imitation Game screams “Oscar-bait”, and reasonably so. It’s not just produced by the incredibly sneaky and conniving Weinstein’s, but looks and feels just exactly like the King’s Speech. It’s handsomely-made with its production-values matching every single bit of detail it’s mean to portray; features a lead character that has many personal problems that may, or may not, hinder his effectiveness at the job he’s called on to do; and there’s even a female love-interest thrown in the mix as well. Overall, the movie has a very old-fashioned feel to it, that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie I could see with my grand-mom and pop-pop, rather than seeing all by myself, or with my buddies, after we’ve had a few at the local bar.

But that doesn’t necessarily always mean a bad thing – it just means a thing. A movie can absolutely, positively hit every beat you expect to hit, yet, still not be bad. It’s just conventional and easy to predict a mile away. Once again, nothing wrong with that, especially when it’s done in the right way it should be.

And that’s where the Imitation Game works most of its magic – it has an old-time look and feel, but feels like it actually moves along at a fine pace, building both its plot, as well as its characters. Mostly though, it works with the former, in that it develops this lead character, Alan Turing, in a way that’s respectful enough to the history that he holds behind him (and reasonably so), but also shows us that well, yeah, the dude wasn’t perfect and more or less, had many problems that ended up getting in the way of his day-to-day human connections. Didn’t make him a terrible person, but just a person who possibly you, nor I would ever want to get stuck with talking to at a dinner-party.

If it was Benedict Cumberbatch playing any other character, then yeah, I’d totally want to hang out with him all day and night. But as Alan Turning? Sorry, Ben!

But, anyway, like I was saying about Turing here – the way he’s written and developed over time is well-done. We see him in all sorts of shades, and while they all may not be effective in their own ways, they still at least give us a bigger-impression of who this person was and why he matters to any of us, whether we be from Britain, the United States, Germany, or Niagara Falls. The movie definitely spells itself out as being important in nearly every frame, but it never became bothersome to the rest of it; it’s just a story about a person who deserves to be appreciated.

Though, there is something to be said for a movie that clearly wants us to sympathize and even identify with its lead character, yet, have him act in such ways that don’t seem believable, even by today’s society standards. For instance, back in the old days of England, being gay was considered “a crime”. It didn’t matter if you were a nice citizen who paid your taxes, lived a comfortable life and hadn’t done anything bad to anybody, ever; if you were gay, you were considered a bad person who needed to be locked away, or ticked, tooled, and played around with, as a way to hope that the government would be able to “get the gay out of you”. In case you couldn’t tell by my writing, it sounds all so very ridiculous and crazy, but that’s just the way the world was back then and it’s the way we, as a society, have to live with in knowing and understand as fact. Doesn’t mean we can’t move on from it and grow as a better, more well-adjusted society, but it also doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it neither and act as if it never existed in the first place.

What bothers me though about the way Turing’s written here, is that they make him out to be a guy who not only seemed like he had relatively serious case of Aspergers, but was openly letting people know that he was a homosexual, if push ever came to shove. My problem with this wasn’t that he told people and they were mostly fine with it, but it was more that he was telling people about it in the first place, even if it meant he would be locked away and possibly drugged-up for the rest of his entire life. This isn’t mean throwing out my own personal opinion, because it feels and reads-off as phony, especially given that the rest of the movie wants to be seen as something of a history-lesson.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soliders in this scene.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soldiers in this scene.

The bits and pieces about Turing actually cracking the code, what he and the rest of his crew had to do with that code, and for how long, were very interesting and seem like they’re trying more to actually inform the audience about history, much rather than actually give them an interesting, compelling story. It works as being such, to be honest, but for the most part, it feels and reads-off as being pretty legitimate and interesting. However, while the other bits and pieces about Turing’s personal life and how those around him approached it, while interesting at first, slowly dissolved into seeming unreasonable and almost like a liberal’s apology for all of the bad things the past had done to certain people of a certain group/demographic. It didn’t fit right with me and made the movie as a whole, feel like it was just taking a lot of liberties with its story.

That said, where the movie got very interesting was whenever it portrayed the relationship between Turing and his possible love-interest, Joan Clark. Though the movie has a bit of a hard time portraying someone as beautiful and charming as Keira Knightley as “plain”, it still gets by on showing how these two interact with one another, why there’s something of an attraction between the two, and why it’s a total shame that they can’t be together in an acceptable way. They both clearly have an attraction to one another, even if it isn’t simply by attraction. Knightley also does a solid job with a character who feels like she’s trying so very hard to be accepted from her male counter-parts, but ends up being a sweet, somewhat sad girl who just wants to be loved, even if it isn’t in the most ideal way imaginable.

Just anything would suffice for her and because she’s such a bundle of joy, it would suffice for us, too.

Problem with Knightley being so good here, with such a small-role, it makes Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing seem a bit one-note, although that’s maybe not fully his fault. The way Turing is written here is to be made out like some sort of weirdo, who doesn’t communicate with those he’s supposed to be communicating with, and even when he does, doesn’t know how to do so in an normal manner. Sometimes, it seems like he has Aspergers, other times, it seems like he as Autism. And while the movie never fully says what Turing’s problem was when it came to socializing, it still feels like the kind of character we’re supposed to be rooting wholeheartedly for, yet, we never get the chance to understand well enough to do so. That doesn’t mean Cumberbatch isn’t good in this role, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t given a whole lot more meat to chew on.

All in all though, what the Imitation Game is, is a tribute to the legend of Alan Turing. A man who deserves to be known by many more people and here’s to hoping that maybe this movie will give everybody a chance to. Even if, you know, a Wikipedia read will probably do some a lot more justice.

Consensus: While ordinary and by-the-numbers, the Imitation Game still presents an interesting enough view into the life of a man people should know more about, regardless of whether or not he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more computer-devices.

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more shirts and ties.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Interview (2014)

This is what we almost got nuked for?

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the idiotic, but very energetic host of the incredibly popular talk-show Skylark Tonight. On it, Skylark gets famous people to reveal troubling secrets about themselves that they may have never been able to get out before. However, Skylark wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for his talented producer/best buddy in the whole wide world, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). But eventually, Rapoport gets tired of doing the same old stupid, meandering things with the talk show and instead, wants to be taken more seriously. That’s why when he finds out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a huge fan of the show, both he and Skylark decide that it’s time to set an interview up and watch as the media surrounds them with love, respect, and adoration. Once the interview is set up, though, the CIA decides to get involved and set up a plan where both Skylark and Rapoport will assassinate Un, as a way to ensure that North Korea won’t attack the U.S. with their nukes. It’s a plan that may work, but with two bone-heads like Rapoport and Skylark at the helm, it probably won’t.

If every CIA member looked like Lizzy Caplan, I'd be looking for applications automatically.

If every CIA agent looked like Lizzy Caplan, I’d be looking for applications automatically.

So yeah, there’s been a lot of talk about this movie in the past few weeks. Clearly I don’t need to dive into it too much, seeing as how the rest of the world has been keeping their own tabs on what’s been shaking and baking with the Interview, it’s release-date, and how. But, what I find the most interesting aspect of this whole debate as to whether or not Sony should have cancelled the movie in the first place, is that the movie’s quality itself is hardly ever brought up. Surely a movie that’s threatening to have the U.S. under terrorist attacks, be something of a modern-masterpiece, right?

Well, not really. But then again, it didn’t need to be, either.

All in all, what the Interview actually is, is another Seth Rogen movie; one where dudes act sort of/kind of/maybe gay with one another, marijuana is smoked, and there’s plenty of dick jokes to go around for every man, woman, and child. It’s a formula that most of us can identify as coming a mile away now, and it’s one that I don’t necessarily have a problem with. So much so as that it’s constantly funny and always able to keep me entertained. Once it stops being that, then it’s time for the formula to change altogether, or maybe spice things up a bit.

And from the forefront, this movie seemed to be exactly that. Not only is the premise an ambitious one for such a fellow like Seth Rogen (as well as his co-director Evan Goldberg) to tackle, but one that could even have something smart or thought-provoking about the current state of U.S. affairs, North Korea, Nuclear war, and even the idea of what modern-day journalism actually is. While most of these ideas are brought up, they aren’t fully touched on and only feel like a slight taste of what could have been, had Rogen and Goldberg been more concerned with actually making a point with their comedy, rather than just telling a bunch of sex and butt jokes.

However, when those sex and butt jokes are funny, sometimes, it doesn’t always matter. Sure, it’s definitely lovely to have a comedy that’s not only funny, but smart, interesting, and even important to see and listen to, but that is not the Interview. It’s just another one of Seth Rogen’s many raunch-fests where he makes dirty jokes – some land, some don’t. But all in all, they’re funny and you have to give credit to somebody who seems so ordinary as Rogen to actually go out of his way and create something like this.

Even despite all of the hullabaloo surrounding it.

That’s why, to be honest, it doesn’t matter if the Interview is a great movie to begin with. It is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. Generally speaking, there is a part of me that wished Rogen and Goldberg went a bit deeper into what it was that they were trying to say, on any of the broad topics presented. For instance, the movie brings up the fact that Un is starving his people, while also bringing up points about U.S.’s hypocritical ways when it comes to nuclear weapons and when they seem pertinent to use, and when not to. It’s an interesting idea that the movie shows itself of having, but it doesn’t go anywhere further with it. In Rogen and Goldberg’s minds, it seems like simply bringing it up is enough; doing any more leg-work wouldn’t seem ideal. Though they have many ways to go before they’re the premier comedy writers and directors of our time, I’m still interested in seeing what they’ve got on their plates next.

I just hope that they add a bit more substance to their flicks and develop it further than just surface-material. That’s all.

#NotaBoss

#NotaBoss

And speaking of Rogen, here as Aaron Rapoport, he’s very much in his comfort-zone. He’s nerdy, goofy, and the voice of reason at times, and it’s all so very charming. Once again, it’s the kind of formula that I could never see myself getting bored with, no matter how many times he decides to use it. Same goes for James Franco who, here as Dave Skylark, seems like all he did between scenes was snort a lot of coke. While it can sometimes make it seem like his character isn’t anything more than a caricature, it’s still pleasing to see Franco not only try in a movie, but still get me laughing.

But the one who really walks away with this movie and I sure hope to god doesn’t get type-casted for ever and ever because of this genius casting-choice is Randall Park as the notoriously infamous North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. Most of the reasons as to why North Korea were pissed off at this movie make sense, but other times, it doesn’t. Because not only does the movie portray Un in a sometimes charming-light, but even in a sympathetic one, too. Not fully, but when the movie does focus on Un, it’s mostly to show us that he’s a lonely guy, who not only wants to please his daddy, but even be looked at in a different way from the rest of the world.

Of course this facade eventually runs its course and we see a darker, more-known side to who Un may be, but Park is the one who keeps him away from being a snarky caricature of someone we think we know right from the first moment we meet him. But Park, as well as the rest of the movie, shows us that there may be more to Un than we initially expect there to be. He’s not a great guy and sure as hell is not a saint, but he’s still a person and a sometimes fun one at that. However though, the movie steers clear of making him out to be a totally sympathetic character, because, as we all know full well, he’s not. But as is the case with most bad human beings, we hope that there’s something more. Even if it isn’t there.

Sort of like the Interview.

Consensus: Controversy aside, the Interview is still a funny, sometimes smart comedy, although it does occasionally flirt with being about bigger, bright ideas, and then not going anywhere with them.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The future faces of America, everybody.

The future faces of America, everybody.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Gambler (2014)

Albert Camus and gambling. How could I have not seen the similarities before?

Literary professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t seem like he’s happy about his life. For one, his grand-father just died and has practically left him little-to-no money. Bennett also happens to have a gambling problem, that gets him into all sorts of trouble with powerful kingpins of the underground poker world. And, to make matters slightly worse, he has a job that he absolutely hates, where all he does is practically yell at each and everyone of his students, telling them that not only are they “not great”, but they’re also wasting his precious time. So yeah, Bennett doesn’t necessarily have the best life in the world of all person’s lives, but he does have a possible-girlfriend (Brie Larson), a very rich mom (Jessica Lange), and nearly seven days to settle all of his debts before it’s too late. But a week isn’t so bad if all you have to do is cobble up a couple hundred thousand dollars, right? Well, wrong.

One of the main problems with the Gambler lies solely within the lead character himself, Jim Bennett. For starters, he’s not a very likable, nor sympathetic one to say the least, but he also is quite repetitive without hardly any rhyme or reason. And then, there’s the fact that Mark Wahlberg, of all people, was cast in this role as a literary professor at what seems to be a very prodigious university somewhere in California. Both go hand-in-hand with what makes the Gambler a poor movie, but they’re both hard to describe to a person who hasn’t seen the movie. It just feels, while watching it, very mis-matched and awkward. Almost like a blind date you set up between two mutual friends; you know that they may have similarities and be a nice match, but you’re not sure how they’re going to approach one another.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

It’s a bad simile, I know, but it’s all I got to work with since this is a very frustrating movie.

First off, the lead protagonist of Jim Bennett isn’t a very likable one, which is fine and all if a movie at least shows us that there is something to him that’s not only interesting, but turns him into something of a tragic-figure. However, the writing for Bennett is too repetitious and simple to make him as anything but; Jim Bennett is, simply put, a dick. But he’s the worst kind of a dick – he’s that kind of rich, self-entitled, whiny dick that you see at a dinner-party, who everybody crowds around and listens to all because he seems like a smart, know-it-all dude, when in reality, he’s just a bone-head who pisses, moans, and cries about everything in life, when he doesn’t really need to. Everything’s been practically handed to him on a silver spoon and the only problems that he ever faces in life, are ones that are completely made because of him and nobody else.

Yet, the movie makes him out to be some sort of martyr that we’re not only supposed to feel bad for because he’s so pissed off and angry about life, but also because he apparently has a gambling problem; one that’s never really brought out well enough to be classified as such. What I mean is that while you see certain movies about people with addictions, mainly gambling addictions, you know that they are, the way they are, is because they love the trill of winning whatever big con it is. In the case of gambler’s, they love the excitement of winning a bet and absolutely chase that for as long as they can. Here though, with Bennett, we never see his utter joy and/or pleasure for winning; we just see him bet a lot of stupid hands in the game of Blackjack, lose, and then continue to dig himself in a deeper-hole for no other reason other than, well, he can.

To me, this not only makes him an unlikable, nearly insufferable character to watch and have to stick with for two hours. Not to mention, it also wastes the talents of Mark Wahlberg, an actor who, when given the right material to work with, is strong and impressive, but seems like he is way out of his depth here as, get ready for it, a literary professor who may have reached his mid-life crisis already. I know it sounds like a joke, but judging by how this movie portrays Bennett, as well as the rest of its story, it isn’t. It’s pure, unabashed drama, and it’s hard to take in as fact or compelling.

You’d think that casting-directors would think twice about putting Marky Mark in roles of teachers, but oh well.

Though, to be fair, I have to hold back on the hate of Marky Mark’s performance, because he’s not all bad; you can tell by the fact that he lost about 60 pounds, that he truly is trying with this role. But the problem remains that he’s just not believable enough in this role as a professor who just preaches about the monotony and shit-heap reality that is life. There are some instances in which we see the good, old school Marky Mark come out (mostly in scenes where he’s acting smarter than the person he’s talking to and/or ready to brawl), but overall, it’s a mixed-bag of a performance, that could have easily been avoided, had Wahlberg not been cast in a role that clearly doesn’t suit him well.

Then again though, it all comes back to this character of Jim Bennett; he’s not nice, not interesting, and sure as hell isn’t compelling enough to make this movie work. He’s just a blank-slate, that’s made even worse by the dumb, idiotic decisions he makes in life that not only impact his own life – one that he’s already made pretty clear he doesn’t care for. But, even worse, he impacts those around him who love him, care for him, and actually care about their own, relatively pleasant lives as human beings. He doesn’t care, so therefore, we’re supposed to care.

And because we don’t care about him, or the actions he makes, there’s hardly any tension to be found in the Gambler. Sure, some of the scenes where Bennett’s betting his life away on what seem to be ordinary games of Blackjack, do have some real suspense to them, but it’s only because of the way they’re filmed. It’s not that we’re held in suspense because Bennett may actually die if he loses whatever hand he’s playing with, but because director Rupert Wyatt actually seems to care for how this film looks and feels. Even if his lead character is terribly-written, he’s still trying and that, for the most part, at least made it watchable.

"The King stay the King." Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

“The King stay the King.” Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

Although, Wyatt isn’t the only one trying here. It’s the rest of the supporting cast that show up every so often to not only make things a little bit brighter, but make a lot of these self-important speeches the script frequently lapses into actually interesting. John Goodman has the brightest end of the stick as a bald loan shark that Bennett meets with on a few occasions, and talks about how America is build on “fuck you”. It’s a lovely bit that adds some flair to this film, but also counts as one of the rare speeches here that actually works and doesn’t seem like the writer behind it is just trying his hardest to sound smart.

The one’s who don’t really come away as nicely as Goodman does with his speeches, are Michael K. Williams, Alvin Ing, and Anthony Kelley; with the former two playing actual mob bosses who Bennett runs into conflict with, and the later just being a student of his, who is constantly on the discouraging end of Bennett’s many rants about paying attention in class and not trying to get by in the academic-world because of athletics. None of these characters really seem believable, and it’s even more evident once they open up their mouths and start going on about stuff we either don’t care for, or have much of a foundation to really build our own feelings on. We’re just sort of sitting there, wondering what it all means, and end up not caring at all.

The only impressive part about this supporting cast is that the two female roles, played by Jessica Lange and Brie Larson, actually feel pertinent to the story and add some dramatic-heft to a piece that definitely needed it. Lange plays Bennett’s mother and has maybe two dramatic scenes where you can definitely tell she loves and cares for her dastardly son, but wants to be rid of his problems and hopes that he does to. And Larson, who I’m glad was cast here, at least makes some sense of her character’s motivations, especially when we’re supposed to believe somebody as lovely and chirpy as hers would fall for someone as downtrodden and inexplicably depressed as Bennett. They are two fine performances in their own rights, that go a long way.

Especially for something as disappointing as this.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining and interesting, but mostly, where the Gambler loses points in is because its lead character is terribly-written, and suffers even more from a miscast Mark Wahlberg playing it.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ladies, don't act like you aren't impressed.

Ladies, don’t act like you aren’t impressed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Unbroken (2014)

Don’t give up. You can cry a little bit, but that’s it.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was a person who faced all sorts of adversity in his life. As a young kid, he was constantly tattered and teased for being a poor, young immigrant. Then, he grew up a bit and found out that he could run pretty well, which surprisingly took him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. However, his whole life changes once he enlists in the war and faces even more problems than he could have possibly fathomed. After his faulty-plane gets struck down in the middle of the sea, Zamperini, along with two other of his fellow soldiers, are stranded for months at sea, where they are left to survive by any means possible. And I do mean, by any means possible. But then, as soon as things start looking up for Zamperini and he might be possibly rescued, turns out, is actually the Japanese army. This is when Zamperini is taken hostage in a POW camp and is tortured in every which way possible, by the sergeant who seems to have it out for him the most – an entitled, but incredibly violent guy who goes by the name of “The Bird” (Miyavi). But, through thick and thin, Zamperini relies on his inner, as well as outer, strength to get him through even the toughest times.

"You think I'm pretty, huh?"

“You think I’m pretty, huh?”

Or, you know, something like that. And the reason why I say this is because while Angelina Jolie’s film definitely flirts with the idea of being an inspirational tale of one person’s struggle with staying alive, even through all of the adversity he may have been facing, there’s never any real moment where it becomes such. Though Jolie may dress the film up in all sorts of pretty, impressive ways, the fact remains this: Unbroken isn’t a great movie.

It’s a good one, but man, it could have been so much more.

Though, this definitely isn’t to rag on Jolie as a director, because she seems incredibly confident in staging a scene and bringing the right amount of subtle-drama to it, without ever seeming like she’s trying too hard at all, but her movie as a whole just doesn’t quite go anywhere. Which is definitely a weird complaint, considering that you’d think with Zamperini’s real life story, you’d expect a widely compelling, emotional and life-changing movie-experience, but that sort of doesn’t happen. What happens instead, is that you get a well-told story about a guy who, for the lack of a better word, should have hated everything to do with his life and the way it was dealt to him, but thankfully, didn’t and actually excelled as a human being.

While this may sound interesting being typed-out, the sad reality is that, on film, it doesn’t quite translate to being as such. Some of this has to do with the fact that Jolie’s film is by-the-numbers, but also, another part of that has to do with the fact that it just slogs along for so very long, without any real tension or suspense whatsoever, that when it’s over, it doesn’t seem to last long in the memory-banks. It may have been an important story to Jolie, but to everybody else, it seems like one we could have all lived without, even if there is some interesting aspects brough here to the screen.

For instance, when Zamperini gets taken to the POW camp, he automatically falls prey to whatever sick and twisted mind games the Bird enjoys playing and while it’s hard to watch, it brings a lot of interesting questions to the table. Like, why is the Bird focusing all of his attention on this one prisoner? Is it because Zamperini’s simply just an Olympian? Or, is there something far more bizarre, even perverted going on here? That’s not to say that the Bird is gay, but why does he go about the constant torturing to Zamperini in such a way, that it makes him seem like a jealous ex-girlfriend, who is begging and pleading for any sort of attention he can get? The movie brings up the fact that the Bird comes from a rich family, which would make sense as to why he’s automatically in control of maintaining all of the already weak, beaten-down prisoners, but why exactly is he picking on Zamperini, and solely just him?

The fact that Jolie never fully answers this question makes me feel like there was a far more intriguing film to be made here, but sadly, wasn’t as developed as I would have wished. Though, with the character of the Bird, we get someone who might possibly be humane than we want to believe, however, acts so cruelly and despicable to those he has total control over that it’s easy to list him as “a baddie”, and nothing more. But, Jolie does something neat here in that the Bird is maybe the most interesting character out of the whole bunch here, whether we want to admit it or not.

"Seriously? We're working on our tans here!"

“Seriously? We’re trying to catch some rays here!”

Although, obviously, this doesn’t pan-out too well for Jack O’Connell who plays Zamperini. Because even though O’Connell seems like he’s trying his hardest to make the character of Zamperini relate to us all, there’s a sort of sameness to him that makes him seem so ordinary and simple, that it’s almost as if he never had any other traits to him than just “brave”, “courageous”, or “nice”. Jolie doesn’t paint Zamperini out to be a saint, I’ll give her that, but she doesn’t really paint him as much else either. He’s just another guy, thrown into an incredibly terrible, unfortunate situation; one that he could have definitely caved into right away and died, but thankfully, didn’t.

Once again though, this is mainly me just drawing more and more conclusions about a film that is, quite frankly, as plain as you could get. There’s nothing wrong with being considered “plain” (that is, unless you tell my ex-girlfriend that), but for a movie that wants to be about this eventful life where one overcome all sorts of adversity, to then eventually grow up, get past the past, and move on towards a better future, there is. Not that it’s a bad movie, per se, it’s just one that you can see, be interested in for the time it is on the screen, have it end, and then leave it, without thinking about it much longer afterwards.

Sounds bad, but it isn’t. Just nothing entirely special.

Consensus: Though competently-made, Unbroken suffers from hardly ever being more than just a slightly compelling tale of surviving and excelling in life, even when it seems like everything has been stacked-up against you.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Relax, bro. You've got two more laps.

Relax, bro. You’ve got two more laps.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Inherent Vice (2014)

Note to self: Don’t do insane-amounts of drugs while trying to solve crimes.

It’s 1970, and hippie private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) plans on living it up in every which way he can. That means an awful-lot of hangin’ out, smokin’ pot, and just enjoying his care-free life. That all changes though when an ex-love of his named Shasta (Katherine Waterson), comes around and informs him that her boyfriend, real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), was kidnapped and hasn’t been heard of since. Some say he’s dead, but Shasta doesn’t believe this and wants Doc to drop whatever it is he’s up to (which is seemingly nothing), and find out what has happened to him. Doc agrees, but as soon as he gets started on the case, many other cases start falling into his lap. For instance, an ex-junkie (Jena Malone) is worried that her rocker-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) isn’t in fact dead, as previously reported, and has been kidnapped. Then, a local gangster (Michael K. Williams) asks Doc to delve deep into a possible union between real estate agencies and the Aryan Brotherhood. And there’s many more where that came from, and no matter how far Doc may get into solving these mysteries, Det. Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) is always there to stop him, get involved, and see that the cases are done in an efficient, legal way.

"Is your refrigerator running...?"

“Is your refrigerator running…?”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, there’s a lot going on in Inherent Vice, and not all of it makes sense. At first, it definitely seems so, but once starts off as a simple, ordinary mystery about a disappearance, soon spirals into being about so much more. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t. But because this is a Paul Thomas Anderson (one of my favorites currently working today) movie, it’s mostly all worth watching.

Mostly.

But, like I said before, because this is a PT Anderson flick, there’s a certain mood surrounding Inherent Vice that makes it seem like the kind of movie he hasn’t ever tried his talented-hands at before. Though some may get a glimpse at this and automatically assume that PT is going straight back to his Boogie Nights days, those same people will probably be utterly disappointed when they find out that this is not at all the case. Sure, the movie may sometimes sound and look like that hip and happenin’ film, but for the most part, Anderson’s tone is a lot different here than usual, and it brings a large amount of sadness and, dare I say it, depression to what could have been considered some very groovy times.

And it’s not that Anderson hasn’t made a sad movie before, it’s just that he hasn’t quite made one in this vein; while it’s a colorful and bright movie, there’s a grainy undercurrent felt in it that makes some of the funniest, wildest moments, seem like they’re coming from somewhere of a nightmare. An enjoyable nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. To be honest, too, I think Anderson prefers it this way.

To say that Inherent Vice is “confusing”, would be as conventional as I could get as a writer – not only has it been said many of times from many other writers, but it wouldn’t really do much justice at all to a film that I feel like is confusing, but can still be enjoyed despite this. See, whereas the Master was a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about Scientology, it was also a character-study that functioned as such. Here, with Inherent Vice, we have a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about a few mysterious cases, yet, it’s also a hilarious look at this strange, underground world in California. This is a world where not only does everybody do some sort of drugs, but that they also have plenty of secrets, which, if you wanted to dig deep enough, could actually find out are all connected in their own sick, twisted ways.

However, simply put, this is just me diving deep into what this movie may, or may not mean, and as a result, making myself sound like a pretentious-ass. Because, in reality, the real enjoyment behind Inherent Vice is that it goes from one bizarre-o situation, to another, and it’s hardly ever dull. Random? Sure, but boring? That word doesn’t exist in PT Anderson’s dictionary and it makes this movie one of the funnier pieces of comedy I saw all year. That’s not to say that it’s all meant to be hilarious, but sometimes, just watching a crazy situation, with zany characters involved, get even crazier, just adds so much joy and happiness that it’s hard to hate on.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Even if it doesn’t all add up to making total, complete and perfect sense, it’s still enjoyable and that’s where I think most of Inherent Vice works.

To go on about all this and not at least mention the cast would be an absolute crime, because everybody who shows up here, no matter for how long or little, all leave a lasting-impression that deserve to be mentioned, and remembered. Leading the wild race here as Doc Sportello is Joaquin Phoenix, and once again, he proves that he will never play the same role twice, nor ever lose that interest-factor surrounding him whenever he shows up in something. Phoenix fits right in as the “come on, man”-type of hippie that Sportello is and it makes it easy to root him on during this case, even if you never are too sure what’s going to happen to him next. He’s not necessarily a blank slate, as much as he’s just a simple, uncomplicated protagonist that makes it easy for us to identify with him, even while he makes some brash, weird decisions throughout the adventure we share with him.

While Phoenix may be our main point-of-reference here, he’s not the only one worth speaking of. Owen Wilson finally gets a lovely role for himself to dig deep into as Coy, the missing rocker-boyfriend, and mixes in well with the rest of the hippies surrounding him; Jena Malone is sympathetic his sad girlfriend who just wants him home, so she can live happily ever after with him and their kid; Katherine Weston plays Sportello’s ex-flame that has this fiery, yet understated mystery about her and the way she carries herself in certain scenes that she started to cast as much of a spell on me, as she had on Sportello here; Benicio del Toro is fun as Sprotello’s zany lawyer who always has the best ways to get him out of jail; Reese Witherspoon is smart and sassy as Penny (Reese Witherspoon), Sportello’s attorney girlfriend who may be just using him so that she can give the FBI what they want; Maya Rudolph has a nice-bit as one of Sportello’s nurse-secretaries and seems like she’s winking at the audience just about every second she gets; and Martin Short, with maybe nearly five minutes of screen-time, is way more hilarious than probably the whole entire season of Mulaney has been.

None, however, I repeat, NONE, measure up to the types of greatness that Josh Brolin brings to this movie as Bigfoot Bjornsen, Sportello’s mortal enemy/confidante.

See, what’s so lovely about Brolin here is the way in how Bigfoot is written: He’s rough, tough, gruff and a mean son-of-a-bitch who clearly doesn’t care for the likes of Sportello, or the fellow pot-smoking, lazy hippies that he associates himself with. Therefore, he and Sportello have a bit of a rivalry, where one may get a certain piece of info and get ahead of the other, in whatever case they’re covering. It’s fun to watch these constantly try and one-up one another, but most of this is because Brolin is so dynamite in this role, that he nearly steals the whole movie from everybody else. Every scene Brolin’s in, whether he’s deep-throating a chocolate-covered frozen banana, ordering more pancakes in a foreign language, or getting ordered by his wife to have sex with her, he’s an absolute blast to watch. You can never take your eyes off of him, and he’s happy with this; for once, in what in seems like a long time, Brolin looks as if he’s having a good time with the material he’s working with. But the difference here is that he commands your attention every time he shows up, making you think about whether or not this character is actually a good guy, or simply put, just a guy, with a hard job, who just wants to solve his cases.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

It’s as simple as that, but Brolin makes it so much more.

But, I’ve just realized that most of what I’m writing about here, may only add to more of the confusion within Inherent Vice and for that, I apologize. It surely is not my intentions, as I clearly want each and every person to see this, even if they aren’t expecting to love it, or even understand it quite nearly as well as they may have been able to do with Anderson’s flicks in the past. And honestly, I don’t even know if Anderson totally wants people to make perfect sense of this movie and how all of the small, meandering threads of its plot-line tie-in together, but he doesn’t ever lose his confidence in trying his damn-near hardest. Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s admirable that he would try in the first place and I think that’s what matters most here.

Sure, making damn sure that your plot, the twists it has, and the characters who weave in and out of it, all make perfect sense as to why they even exist first and foremost definitely matters, but when you have a movie that constantly goes from one scene, to the next, without ever missing a beat of being interesting, then all is forgiven. Maybe you could say I’m giving Anderson too much credit here, and I would probably say “you’re right”, but for some reason, I can’t help but praise this guy anymore than he already has been. Especially here, because it seems like plenty has been said about this movie, without ever getting to the core: It’s entertaining.

While not “entertaining” in the sense that it is constantly exciting with numerous amounts of gunshots, explosions, and car-chases (although some do happen here); more so, it’s in the case that we’re given a simple plot, with some simple characters, and to see it spiral out into absolutely bonkers area’s is what makes it such a blast to watch. One can definitely take this as a serious piece of pulp crime-fiction that’s supposed to make perfect sense, every time that it offers a new plot-thread, but another one can definitely takes this as a serious piece of film-making that, if you want to, you just take for what it is, see what happens next, and just enjoy the ride. I know that it’s hard for me to recommend a movie based solely on that, and not lose some sort of credibility, but I don’t care right now. I feel about as safe and comfortable as I can with recommending this movie for anybody, so long so as they just let it start, go on, and end, exactly as it is. The deep and heavy-thinking can come later, but while it’s on the screen, just let it go and see how you feel.

If you still hate it, then so be it. At least I tried.

Consensus: Maybe not the most comprehensive piece of his career, Paul Thomas Anderson still works his rear-end off to make Inherent Vice one of the crazier experiences at the movies this holiday season, but also allows for it to constantly stay compelling, funny, and most of all, entertaining. Even if all the numbers don’t add up.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Sort of like the Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Sort of like the actual Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

The Germans are the good guys now?

In the wake of 9/11, every country seemed to be hot on the heels of any person/organization that may, or may not, have been affiliated with terrorists and nobody else is feeling this worse than German Intel agent, Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman). While Günther knows that there are bigger fish in the sea, just waiting to be caught, he also knows that he’s getting a lot of pressure from those higher in the food-chain. That’s why, when he finds out about the case of a Chechen, who may possibly be planning a terrorist attack, he jumps on it right away and starts to negotiate deals with people who may be possibly linked to this suspected terrorist. One is Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) a small-time lawyer who makes a living out of giving benefits to possible refugees, and a shady banker, Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), who may be funding most of these terrorists. Either way, Günther knows that he has to come up with a result, by any means possible. Because if not, somebody else will. And in this case, it’s U.S. embassy ambassador Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright).

I'd be scared to even go to sleep.

I’d be scared to even go to sleep.

With Philip Seymour Hoffman gone from ever appearing on our screens again (except for the second part of the Hunger Games: Mockingjay due later next year), it’s always bittersweet to check out some of his past projects. Also though, by doing this, it’s inevitable to compare his latest works to what some would consider “his best” and sometimes, “most inspiring”. And in the case of Seymour Hoffman, and the legacy he leaves behind, there’s plenty to compare and contrast with.

However, with A Most Wanted Man, it’s a bit difficult – while the movie itself may not be all that on-par with what we most know him to have done, he’s still pretty good in the movie. That said, the movie itself is still lackluster and feels like a mediocre piece that Seymour Hoffman himself, as well as the rest of the cast, elevates to being something worth watching, if only ever so slightly. But that’s why we can rely on actors such as Seymour Hoffman; they make whatever they show up in, interesting and exciting.

As Günther Bachmann, Seymour Hoffman gets plenty of opportunities to show us what’s really brewing inside this man. While it may not always be pretty, there’s still a feeling that we can trust this character to get past his problematic ways and complete this mission of his, as troubled as it may sometimes be. And like with most of his other performances, Seymour Hoffman does quite a few subtle things with his performance to give us an impression of who this guy is; a certain way he takes off of his tie, or orders a drink at a restaurant, there’s always something for Seymour Hoffman to do where he can continue to build and build this character into being someone worth identifying with. Even though, you know, it may be hard for some simpletons to identify with a German Intel Agent in the first place.

But, like I said before, that’s why we can always rely on talents such as Seymour Hoffman to make that idea, an actual reality.

Though, Seymour Hoffman isn’t alone in putting in a good performance, as the rest of the cast all get their own, respective chances to build their characters and, as a result, the plot as well. Rachel McAdams’ character may be flawed and thinly-written, but she still tries hard enough to make it seem like she’s just another well-intentioned woman, who sadly, doesn’t seem to know the reality of the world going on around her and just how serious certain circumstances can be. Also, Willem Dafoe puts in a sneaky performance as the shady banker who may, or may not be, a total bad-guy behind some dastardly plans, or just a guy, trying to get by in the modern-day economy, even if his own morals are a bit questionable.

While these performances may be good, there’s still a feeling in the pit of my stomach that feels like they deserved a better movie. See, what’s so disappointing about A Most Wanted Man is that it comes from director Anton Corbijn, a director who is most-known for his various, stylized photos, but doesn’t really do much for this movie, except pack it with so much information that it can sometimes be way too overbearing. Especially for even the smartest, most determined-viewer out there.

Be jealous, Sean Penn.

Be jealous, Sean Penn.

But while there may be all of this information tossed at us, in hopes that things get intriguing and tense, the problem is that hardly any of that actually happens. Much rather, the movie just ends up becoming a slog and a meandering one at that. That’s not to say all of Corbijn’s choices are bad, but when you’re movie is this based on a possible case, and hardly delivers any suspense or excitement in the air, it’s quite hard to get involved with the proceedings, let alone care for those involved with them.

The only interesting aspect I can think of that Corbijn brings to the forefront of this film is that he discusses the behind-the-scenes, sometimes back-handed politics between the German and American Intel Agencies, and how both were so desperate to get results, that they didn’t care about who they got or how, they just knew they wanted them right away. This is probably where Corbijn breathes some life into this material, because it not only shows us that Günther may not be as powerful as we’d wish he was, but also gives us a chance to see him develop a nice bit of chemistry with Robin Wright’s Martha Sullivan. The two seem like they enjoy working with one another and amidst all of the political exposition – this means a lot. It actually gives a hint that there may be something deeper, and far more involved between these two characters and it brought plenty of promise to the rest of the film.

But, as fate would have it, all of that promise goes out the window as soon as the case ends and we realize that there are bigger hands at play here. While this may seem like a huge wake-up call to the characters involved – to us, the audience, it feels like the sign of a movie ending, way later than it should have. At least it gives us more time to share and adore with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A true talent meant to be missed forever.

Consensus: Unexciting and sometimes meandering, A Most Wanted Man deals with certain meaningful political ideas and well-done performances, but doesn’t really get the audience involved as much as it nearly should.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

That look. Oh, how I will miss it so.

That look. Oh, how I will miss it so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mr. Turner (2014)

Leonardo da who?

Meet British painter J.M.W. Turner (Timothy Spall) a very quiet, peaceful man who goes about his day casually painting landscapes, grunting, and trying to get his paintings sold to the highest bidder, whoever they may be. Though Turner definitely has some issues with his personal life that need to be attended to, the man still has very little to worry about. That is, until a close one of his dies and leaves J.M.W. all alone, with hardly anyone to care for, or even love. He’s just by himself, with his studio, his landscapes, and his paint-brushes. However, Mr. Turner wants a little something more out of life that isn’t just all about pleasing people with his beautiful, artistic creations; he wants a sort of connection and love that he can only get with another fellow human-being. He gets this in the form of the equally lonely Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey) who, despite what he may or may not think, is his best opportunity in life to live happy, once and for all. Around this time, too, Mr. Turner develops a knack for a different style of painting; one that some can consider to be the early days of “expressionism”. But with every new change in life, there’s usually a problem lurking behind.

Frowning......

Frowning……

Writer/director Mike Leigh doesn’t make the kind of movies you’d find yourself getting excited for. The reason being? Well, for the most part, Leigh’s films are typically casual, normal pieces that don’t really try to break the barriers of modern-day cinema, so much so as they just present a little snapshot into everyday life. Though he likes to change things up every once and awhile, usually, Leigh prefers to stick to his guns and keep his movies simple, easy-to-understand, and as true-to-life as he can possibly make it. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as much as it’s just a thing, and proves Leigh to be one of the better writers and directors we have out there today in the movie world.

Which is why Mr. Turner works as well as it does, even if it is a bit of a change-of-pace for the likes of Leigh. However, it isn’t a huge change that finds him shaking up his style and ruining the rest of his flick; more or less, it finds him diving deep into the life of J.M.W. Turner – a painter you may, or may not have, heard of before. Regardless of whether you have or not, Leigh still finds ways to make Turner’s life interesting and compelling, even if you don’t totally know it while the movie’s playing.

Like I said before, Leigh’s films are simple and mostly casual pieces that give us snapshots into people’s lives, regardless of if we wanted to see these shots or not. Here, with Turner’s life, we see something of a very simple man who may have more to him than we originally expect. We know that he’s a painter, has a thing for unexpectedly acting sexual with women, and isn’t totally likable. However, that doesn’t faze Leigh, as he continues to develop this person more and more, giving us a clear, yet compelling look into the life of a man who, quite frankly, I didn’t know too much about before or even care to, either.

However, what Leigh does that’s so spectacular is that he makes us care and it works for the movie as a whole.

Although, like with most of Leigh’s other films, there is a slight feeling that this movie may be a bit longer than it should be. Mr. Turner, in full, clocks in at nearly two-and-a-half-hours and I’m not too sure that I needed to see/have every single minute of that time-limit. That’s not to say that Leigh doesn’t use this time to his advantage, but it is to say that he could have maybe cut-down on a few subplots that seemed like they were going somewhere, but ultimately, didn’t.

The one that comes to my mind so clearly concerns Turner’s maid Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson) who he, sometimes, randomly jumps on her for both sexual and stress-releasing purposes. Every time a scene like this is shown to us, it makes sense why Leigh’s showing us this aspect of his life, but it never makes full, total sense as to why we’re being shown this from her point-of-view every so often. She’s made out to be more of an important character, than she actually is, and it’s very evident in the final half-hour of this when we realize that Turner’s life may be coming to a close, and we’re supposed to feel upset for everybody involved with his life. The problem was, I did, but just not for her character.

Once again though, none of this really has to do with the person playing the character (Atkinson is quite good in a thinly-written role that seems like it could have gone deeper, had the movie been about a different person), but more so with Leigh’s style and pace, which lingers more towards feeling “languid”, than meandering. But this isn’t a huge problem for the movie as a whole, considering that Leigh brings enough depth to Turner himself, as well as his life, where we feel like we know this person and understand maybe why this story is being brought to our attention. Even if Turner’s life wasn’t all that spectacular and was sort of just a normal, rich one, albeit with more art involved, there’s still a feeling that whatever Leigh sees in Turner’s life and legacy, is something extraordinary. Though not all of that comes off of the screen and into our own minds while watching, it’s still noticeable enough that it works in making Turner a sympathetic, if sometimes very flawed, person.

....more frowning....

….more frowning….

This definitely comes out a bit in Leigh’s writing, but a good part of it definitely comes out in Timothy Spall’s wonderfully determined performance as the biopic’s subject, even if it doesn’t seem like he’s doing much at first. Spall may not be a recognizable face to most of those out there, but the guy’s been a solid character actor for as long as I can remember watching him work and it’s about time that he got a role that was rightfully deserving of his sometimes down-played talents. What Spall does well here as Turner, is that he doesn’t make it seem like this is the kind of guy we should like, but by showing us that there is something of a sweet and tender soul inside that gruff outlook of his, we get a better understanding of who he is and why he paints.

Though, this is a very subtle performance from Spall and one that, I assume, won’t garner a huge amount of Oscar-attention, for the sole sake that he never quite has that huge, dramatic, “Oscar acting moment”. Sure, there’s a couple of instances in which he breaks down, cries, and seems incredibly vulnerable, but those moments don’t happen too much, nor did they need to in order to have us feel more Turner and his life we’re seeing portrayed on the screen. Simply put, Turner is just a man who enjoys painting – whatever other thought, rhyme, or reason he may put into it, is totally left up to us to decide. It’s a smart choice on Leigh’s part for not over-playing this hand, but it’s also one on Spall’s for bringing out plenty of shades within this character that we may not have seen right before.

Here’s to hoping that not only does the movie get more attention, but Spall does as well and makes him more of a household name.

Consensus: Though it’s long and often slow, Mr. Turner is never boring, nor does it ever shy away from getting down to the nitty and gritty aspects of its subject’s life, even if it may or may not be totally pertinent to whatever message Mike Leigh is trying to get across.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

..and yup, you guessed it, more frowning.

…and yup, you guessed it, more frowning.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Young Ones (2014)

Appreciate H2O, people. You never know when it’s going to go and make us all crazy.

In a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, where apparently a drought has taken over, everybody’s finding their own ways of surviving. Whether it be through finding water and selling it, or just simply going on the run and picking up whatever resources they can; either way, everybody on the planet is trying to live, and the Holm’s are those kinds of people. Ernest (Michael Shannon), the father and his son, Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee), constantly go out in search for booze, in hopes that they can get more water and bring back to their farm, where Mary (Elle Fanning) hangs around and keeps everything together. It’s all quite simple and easy-going for the Holm’s, but it all eventually turns sour once the local rich kid, Flem Lever (Nicolas Hoult), comes around, not just wanting Mary’s hand in-marriage, but also a part of Ernest and Jerome’s business-handlings. The two clearly don’t like this, but Flem has his ways of convincing them, even if that means somebody has to get hurt, and hurt badly.

"Here's looking at you, possible Oscar-chances."

“Here’s looking at you, possible Oscar-chances.”

Movies such as Young Ones are why I want to get more involved with the process of movie-making. See, not only is this a premise that holds so much promise, it’s easy to figure out which places it can go and how effective they’d be, but also because the cast it attracted is quite talented. Michael Shannon in anything is usually compelling, and the young cast that fills in the rest of the major roles is filled with a list of the brightest, young up-and-comers of today’s movie world. And heck, the film itself is even directed by Jake Paltrow who, for what it’s worth, is the younger brother of everybody’s favorite celebrity, Gwyneth, so obviously there has to be some talent, right? Surely all of these factors combined would create something that’s not just memorable, but absolutely worth watching in every right, correct?

Well, that’s not at all what happens here with Young Ones. In fact, quite the opposite.

See, most of the problems this movie runs into is the fact that the story takes a dramatic-turn about half-way through, and hardly ever recovers from it. That’s not to say the twist is “bad” per se; in fact, it’s surprising, unexpected, and interesting, especially when you think about the cast-members, but after that, all the surprises end. The story gets conventional, the characters become less interesting, and the world that this movie presents to us, just continues to get dull.

How could this happen? Well, there’s a problem in that Paltrow doesn’t seem like he has anything more mapped-out for this flick other than just what’s shown to us in the first half-hour. After that, everything gets conventional and boring, as if every major plot-point that could happen, does happen, and makes Young Ones become something of a drinking-game. Meaning, anybody watching at home should probably take a shot as soon as they predict something to happen in the story and it actually happens. I know I sound desperate, but honestly, it’s hard to really build much excitement around a movie that does very little to surprise its audience, or even itself, for that matter.

And to say it’s “not exciting”, is also to say that it’s hardly original. It’s almost as if Paltrow watched Mad Max, was a fan of Westerns, and may have even seen a tiny bit of A Boy and His Dog, because the whole movie feels like a cobble of smart ideas, from better, more well-done movies. Here, they all come together in a jumble that doesn’t feel inspiring and hardly on-purpose; it’s almost as if Paltrow just put them all in the same script and hoped that if he dressed it up enough, people wouldn’t notice the similarities to plenty of other pieces of works.

Problem is, we do and it’s a distraction.

The only interesting, slightly original idea that Paltrow presents to us is in the form of the robotic transporter that nobody really comes up with a name, as much as they just treat it like an animal. It has four-legs, no voice, obviously no emotions, and just a small screen that you can do so much with, even if you don’t know that right away. The way Paltrow incorporates this device into the story is interesting and doesn’t feel like a cop-out, unlike the rest of the film that uses certain plot-threads to conveniently show up as a way to keep the story moving on. Once again, Paltrwo may think he’s being sneaky, but to us, the hopefully smart, enlightened movie-going audience – it’s easily seen.

And this isn’t to put any blame on the cast; this is mostly just a case of a poorly-written script, given to people who either saw plenty more promise in it that originally needed, or were just offered lots of money in the first place, that they couldn’t possibly even turn it down. Whatever the circumstances may have been, it doesn’t matter because the cast tries hard enough to where they make some of it watchable, if at all. But even then though, some of these roles seem like they were written with the respective actor in mind, seeing as how they’ve played the same role before, and hardly ever step away from the norm.

For instance, take Michael Shannon as the father, Ernest, who is gruff, rough, and tough, but has something of a conscience that knows when it’s acceptable to teach his kid’s life-lessons and when to just let them make their own decisions. Shannon seems to be perfect at these kinds of roles and while he’s fine here, it doesn’t really allow him to stretch beyond his acting-limitations and it makes you wonder whether or not this guy has a bad side to him at all. There’s an idea about him being a hard-drinker brought to our attention, but that doesn’t make him a guy with some questionable morals, as much as it just gives him a flaw. That’s it.

Wow. I'm definitely getting old.

Wow. I’m definitely getting old.

The same way it is for Shannon, is the same way for both Smit-McPhee and Fanning. Seeing as how they’re both young talents who literally got their starts in the acting world before they were hardly even potty-trained, it’s understandable that we see them play the same kind of roles and hardly break away from it. Maybe more so in the case of Smit-McPhee, who is, once again, given a role where he plays a slightly strange, nerdy kid that likes to, you guessed it, draw. Hm? Didn’t he seem to play the same kind of character, with the same kind of hobby in another post-apocalyptic tale from this year? Oh yeah, that’s right!

Once again, I’m not saying he does poorly in this role, it’s just that we don’t really get to see him stretch his wings as much in a role like this and it’s a shame. More so, though, in the case of Fanning who is one of those rare cases in which a young, female actress has been given meatier-roles than some male equivalents, but here, Paltrow gives her the annoying role. All Fanning has to do here is nag, cry and stomp away from any argument in anger; which is maybe how Paltrow sees a young female girl as being, but it doesn’t work so well for Fanning.

The only one here who really gets a chance to change things up for himself is Hoult as the oddly-named bastard, Flem Lever. Though we’ve seen Hoult put in good work, we’ve hardly seen him do so as a bad guy, where those hunky, good looks of his are put to dastardly-use. As Flem Lever, Hoult is mean, nasty, and untrustworthy, and while you could possibly call it a one-note performance, Hoult finds some shadings with this character to make him seem sympathetic, if ever so slightly. But, like the rest of the cast, he’s no match for Paltrow’s uneventful script that begins, continues, and ends, probably exactly like you’d expect it to.

Like I said before: Don’t forget the booze while watching this. You’ll need it the most.

Consensus: While Young Ones sports a solid cast and premise, the movie hardly goes anywhere no other movie has gone before, and also seems to be a waste for mostly everybody involved.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Behind every good man, is man's best friend. Or whatever the hell that is behind them.

Behind every good man, is man’s best friend. Or whatever the hell that is behind them.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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