Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Mistress America (2015)

Freshmen are so immature anyway! Just hang out with the older-crowd!

Tracy (Lola Kirke) has just started her freshman year of college and already, she’s not a huge fan of it. For one, she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life; she wants to be a writer, but in order to so, she needs to join up with the school’s writer’s group, who aren’t as welcoming as she’d like. Also, Tracy doesn’t have many friends that she can continuously hang out with. Even though she considers Tony (Matthew Shear), a fellow aspiring novelist, a solid friend of hers, he soon starts taking up with a girl that she’s a bit jealous of and doesn’t really care for. So one night, out of pure boredom and desperation, Tracy decides to call up her soon-to-be-step-sister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is a lot different from what she’d expected. Because Brooke’s a lot more eccentric and fun than a lot of the other people Tracy knows, they start to hang out more and more, where Tracy starts to mooch off of Brooke more and more, even though Brooke doesn’t even care to notice because she’s currently too occupied with plans of having her own restaurant. But eventually, the truth about Brooke’s past comes into play and it isn’t before long that Tracy realizes Brooke isn’t all that she’s made-out to be.

One hipster...

One hipster…

For better, as well as for worse.

I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Noah Baumbach. Somehow, he was able to film a whole, 85-minute narrative-flick, starring both Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke, in secret, without anyone knowing, and have it still feel like a well thought-out movie. Though it definitely seems like a lot of it was made-up on the fly, for the most part, Baumbach knows the story he wants to tell and even though it’s not going to tear down the walls like he did with Frances Ha, he’s still going to give the world a little piece of indie-cinema.

Doesn’t make it a great movie or anything, but the intentions are good and sometimes, that’s what matters.

Problem is, though, Mistress America feels like it’s trying too hard. But not in the way you’d expect Baumbach’s movies to be. In most of his other flicks, Baumbach seems so intent and keen on making his characters so unlikable and grating, that he sometimes forgot how to tell a story and make it some bit of compelling. Here, however, he loves his character’s so much and wants the audience to feel the same way, that he, once again, forgets how to tell a story and make it compelling.

Which isn’t to say that the first-half or so of this movie isn’t. Baumbach’s biggest strength here is that he portrays what it’s like to be a college freshman and have not a single clue what the hell to do with your life. Not too long ago, you were a clear-headed person with enough inspiration for what you wanted to do, but then, literally out of nowhere, you’re thrown into this great, big, and new world where you’re the tiniest fish in the sea and left without anyone to latch onto or follow. Everybody else seems to be going somewhere, but you, on the other hand, don’t, and it’s, at times, both frustrating and miserable.

This is how Tracy feels and Lola Kirke does a great job with the role, as a whole. For one, Tracy’s naive enough that when she eventually meets a person who wants to be her friend and hang around with her, she can’t help but follow that person’s each and every move. At the same time though, she’s also smart enough to use this for her personal-gain where she is, in ways, using Brooke. Sometimes, it’s to help create her story, other times, it’s to get a free meal and night out on the town. But overall, Kirke feels like a fully-realized and understandable young adult.

Something that Brooke never quite feels like.

...meets another.

…meets another.

However, because she’s played by Greta Gerwig, there’s a certain amount of likability to her that makes it easy to get past the fact that this character is nothing more than just a type. She’s the kind of character you’d find in an episode of Girls that Lena Dunham would use as a soap-box moment to make a point about the type of self-involved young women that she loathes (even if she herself may be one). Which is fine for a half-hour long show, but for a near-hour-and-a-half movie that depends on this character for a sense of morality, it doesn’t quite work.

Because the main protagonist is so in love with Gerwig’s character, it only makes all the more sense that the movie would act the same way and while it’s sometimes funny to hear what ridiculous things this character has to say, after awhile, it becomes clear that it’s a crutch the movie falls back on. Soon, the last-half comes in and while it’s quick, random, and constantly moving, it also feels randomly thrown in there. It’s clear that Baumbach wants this to be his “screwball comedy”-try, but it makes a lot of these characters sound cloying and irritating.

It’s a nice effort, though. It’s just a little too late.

To be fair though, it should be noted that these characters do eventually get their comeuppances. While they may not be as serious or as life-changing as they probably would be in the real life, they still feel like a nice treat from Baumbach showing that the real world does exist. Even though half of the movie seems like it took place in some ultra-witty land where everyone has a snappy comeback to anything ever said to them, there’s still a glimmer of harsh truths to be found; the truths where people have to learn to grow up, stop depending on others, and see what they can make of themselves while they’re at it.

Basically, what Baumbach’s always been talking about since he got started.

Consensus: Despite some charm, Mistress America loves itself a bit too much to really be all that hilarious and ends up taking away from the more insightful aspects.

6 / 10

And they're now hipsters together!

And they’re now hipsters together!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dirty Weekend (2015)

Keep business away from pleasure. Especially if your “pleasure” is crazy kinky.

Les (Matthew Broderick) and Natalie (Alice Eve) are coworkers who are currently going through their own sorts of issues. Both are delayed in the same city where they’re left with nothing more to do than to drink, talk and get to know one another a whole lot better. Through their non-stop conversations, Natalie finds out that Les has a bit of a risque sexual history; one that he’s ashamed of, but one that Natalie wants him to pursue on this little trip of theirs. Still though, Les is foggy on certain details on what happened that night and whom it was with, which gives him and Natalie a journey to set out onto where they meet all sorts of colorful characters, in certain areas of the city that they’d never expected themselves to be found in. But because they have nothing else better to do, they’ll find out whatever it is that they can about this one eventful night in Les’s life, even if Les himself doesn’t want to hear all the nitty, gritty details.



For anybody who knows me, they’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Neil LaBute. Sure, he’s had some stinkers in his life, but for the most part, when he’s making pieces of work that he himself concocts from the ground-up, there’s nothing more entertaining or fun to watch. In the past few years, LaBute’s made something of a comeback with Some Velvet Morning and the terrific, but under-seen TV show, Billy & Billie, all displaying what LaBute does best: Give us a couple of morally-corrupt characters who speak so eloquently that it doesn’t matter how mean and detestable they can sometimes be.

And now, with Dirty Weekend, there’s an odd combination of LaBute’s more mainstream piles of junk, with his indie delights. Which basically turns out to be a piece of indie-junk.

Which is, the worst kind.

Part of the problem with Dirty Weekend isn’t that it’s like everyone of LaBute’s other flicks. Sure, the characters are rude, self-involved and mostly mean, but here, they’re just so annoying that you don’t care for anything they have to say, how they feel, or whatever sort of dilemma they may be going through. We’re literally thrown into a random situation with these two characters, without getting any sort of background info or what have you; it’s just us, watching these two characters having conversations.

Which isn’t a problem with LaBute’s films because he finds ways to make even the most innate conversations seem fun and snappy, but here, he seems lost. He doesn’t know what to make of these characters, or even the plot they may service; so instead, he seems to just make something up to roll with. And what he comes up with is, disappointingly, a random night that Broderick’s character had where he was involved with all sorts of sex and doesn’t know whether he’s gay, or straight, or bi?

If this sounds exciting to you, then please, be my guest and check this movie out.

But if you, like me, feel like there isn’t much of anything to develop or dig into deeper here, then get in line, because it’s just as worse as you expect it be. LaBute is definitely better than this and it makes me wonder why he even bothered in the first place. I’d much rather enjoy seeing one of his plays adapted, rather than watching a piece of original that’s as boring as this.

...more sitting....

…more sitting….

But a good portion of why Dirty Weekend doesn’t wholly work is because the cast doesn’t seem too involved, either. Alice Eve, despite having done incredibly well in LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning, seems like she’s going through the motions a bit as Natalie. Though it’s never easy to be able to put our finger on just what her intentions are, Eve still seems like her mind is elsewhere and not adding any certain oomph to her line-readings (something that LaBute’s movies always depend on). But I still have to give her credit for trying.

And “trying” is another form of credit I have to give to Broderick here who, despite seeming like he’s doing everything and anything in his power to play against-type, just isn’t able to make it happen. Some of that has to do with the fact that his character is so uninteresting, that it’s hard to really want to watch and listen to whatever this character has to say. Most of the time, anyway, is just spent listening to him whine on and on, without there ever seeming like a reason for it.

Together, the two hardly have any chemistry. Which would have been fine, had the movie not all of a sudden turned into this friendship piece about how close and willing to depend on the other, they are. I didn’t quite buy it, except for the moments where they were bickering with one another; these were probably the only real scenes of actual fun and bite to be found in the whole piece.

Everything else is just as lame as you can possibly get.

Consensus: Boring, overlong, and annoying, Dirty Weekend is the kind of Neil LaBute movie that LaBute-haters love to rant about, even despite Alice Eve’s and Matthew Broderick’s best intentions.

2 / 10

...and, you guessed it, more sitting! Holy shit! Just get up already!

…and, you guessed it, more sitting! Holy shit! Just get up already!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Time Out of Mind (2015)

You may be jobless, dirty and smelly, but hey, at least you look like Richard Gere!

George (Richard Gere) is a homeless man and, from what we can tell, has been for quite some time. He literally wakes up in somebody’s bath-tub, only to be kicked out by the landlord (Steve Buscemi) and thrown back out on the streets. On the streets is where George occasionally lives and breathes; other times, he gets into a local homeless shelter that may be a permanent place for him, if he can get past the psyche evaluation and plays nice in general. In this homeless shelter is where he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen), a fellow homeless man who talks his ear off about anything and everything. George, however, doesn’t really care because he’s sometimes too tired, too drunk, or to “out of it” to really care. Mostly though, George cares about his daughter (Jena Malone), who basically wants nothing to do with him, even though he constantly persists in trying to get into contact with her. Because even though George doesn’t have much hope in his life, the only one around is his own flesh and blood – someone who doesn’t even want to see him.

Is this really the same guy who was named "World's Sexiest Man" in 1999?

Is this really the same guy who was named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999?

Basically, Time Out of Mind is plot-less. It’s literally two hours of watching as Richard Gere wanders around the streets of what is, presumably, New York City, doing what most homeless people do. Beg for change; sleep; drink; eat scraps from the garbage; and sleep some more. So, if you can handle all that for, like I said, two hours, then you might find something to take away.

If not, well, you may have a more rewarding time doing something else. Like, I don’t know, actually giving money to actual homeless people on the street.

But that said, there’s a lot of props given to writer/director Oren Moverman for not at all trying to shy away from the hard reality that is homelessness in the United States of America. With his last two films (the Messenger and Rampart), Moverman has taken a sad story, and found ways to make it even bleaker; probably more so with Rampart than Messenger, but as is, Moverman likes to revel in the dark and depressing details of life. And that’s a lot of what Time Out of Mind is.

However, that in and of itself works because it doesn’t try to sensationalize or turn its back towards the true issue at hand. Then again though, the movie isn’t at all a “message movie” – it’s just one tale in the midst of a whole bunch of similar tales, most of which are just as tragic as the next. In this aspect, Moverman reminds us that homelessness, as a whole problem, takes over its cities and while there are people that are willing to help out those who may need a bite to eat or some dollar bills for whatever they decide to spend them for, it’s all too slight and gets further and further away from the real issue at hand: These people need our help.

Like I said before, though, the movie isn’t one that’s important, or simply, about something more.

It’s literally about this one homeless man, trying to live and get by in a world that, like he says, “doesn’t say he exists”. And as this homeless man, Richard Gere does a fine job portraying George as humanly simplistic as he can. Normally, when you have these attractive, mostly recognizable actors playing in these roles that are supposed to be raw, gritty and down-to-Earth, it can sometimes feel phony. But surprisingly, due to the make-up and Gere’s down-playing of the role, he fits into it well.

The only reason why I’m not more on-board and in awe of this performance as others may be, because it seems like Gere himself is stuck in a movie that’s awfully repetitive. Then again, that may be the point. That homeless people themselves seem to go through the same patterns on a regular basis, helps make all the more sense as to why Gere’s George is literally going through all the same sorts of motions, day in and day out. We see him wake up, deal with hecklers, try to get whatever money he can scrounge up, use that money to buy either booze or food (sadly, it’s mostly booze), and every so often, have contact with a fellow homeless person, or aide that just wants to give him a helping hand.

And that’s basically the whole gist of this movie.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

There are scenes where George goes to the food stamps office to apply, but even those scenes feel like they’re being replayed where he’ll come in, argue with the clerk, and then unexpectedly leave. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with a movie that gets into a sort of rhythm that puts us in the same mind-frame as its lead character, but when it’s literally two hours if the same motions, happening again and again, it gets to become a bit tiring. Especially since Overman himself, doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere with this tale, or with George, the character.

As we see of George is a broken down, beaten-up guy who, for whatever reasons, is homeless and left without anybody to care for him. It’s sad and even though we see him try to mend relationships with those he hurt, the scenes themselves never seem to go anywhere. We just see George walk into a room, piss-off his daughter, and that’s pretty much it. He leaves, goes onto beg some more, and see where life takes him next.

Once again, I get that this was probably the point Overman himself was going for, but in hindsight, it doesn’t help the movie much, or Gere’s performance.

Because even though Gere seems to be trying his hardest to inch out any sort of humanity within a character who is just as simply-written as you can get, he, and everybody else, aren’t left with much to rock and roll with. Jena Malone’s character seems one-note in that she’s always angry when her dad’s around; Buscemi’s not in it all that much to really register; Kyra Sedgwick plays a homeless woman who strikes up a little something with George and has the only bit of humor to be found at all in this movie; Ben Vereen has the best performance as Dixon, another homeless man with a heart of gold and a personality that could charm the socks off of a real estate agent.

But, like I said, to which extent does it matter?

Consensus: Gere does a fine job in the lead role, but overall, Time Out of Mind feels too much like a repetitious slog that may, or may not have a point to go along with the story it’s telling.

6 / 10

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Visit (2015)

Grandparents are so weird.

Paula (Kathryn Hahn) is, after all of these years, finally connecting with her parents, who now want to meet the grand-kids they’ve heard so much about, but have never actually seen. Even though she’s got a trip planned with her boyfriend, Paula still allows for her kids, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) to go and head out to rural Pennsylvania, where they’ll meet their grandparents and spend a week at their house. In order to document for their mom, Rebecca brings a video-camera with her along the way, which even inspires Tyler to do the same. Once they get there, they soon realize that there’s something awfully aloof with grand-mom and grand-pa. Grand-mom (Deanna Dunagan) likes to run around in the middle of the night, in the nude, banging on doors, and, generally, creeping Tyler and Rebecca out; whereas grand-pa thinks that people are always following him and acts out in strange ways, as well. Though they’re told that all of this weird behavior has to do with their grandparent’s age, Tyler and Rebecca still want to figure out just what the hell’s going on by snooping around and trying to understand their family’s history a whole lot more.

And maybe even figure out why they aren’t allowed in the basement.

Old crazy dude with a shot-gun = not good at all.

Old crazy dude with Chekov’s shot-gun.

By now, it’s a common-known fact that M. Night Shyamalan has become something of a punch-line. While his career started off all bright, pretty and inspired, ever since the Village, it’s been plagued with nothing bad decision, after bad decision. In fact, the movies got so horrible that eventually, people started turning on the ones that actually made Shyamalan a trusted house-hold name (like the Sixth Sense and/or Unbreakable). And while it can be definitely be argued that he hasn’t made a good movie since 2004 (giving the Village a whole lot of credit here, I know), there’s still something about him that makes me feel like there’s maybe just one good movie left in him.

Is the Visit “that” movie? Kind of.

Which, yes, I know may not sound like much at all, but considering what we’ve been seeing from Shyamalan in the past decade or so, it’s actually quite the statement. While it’s nowhere near the genius of the Sixth Sense or earlier-parts of Signs, the Visit is still a fun movie that shows Shyamalan is capable of taking the found-footage format into certain areas that we least expect it to be, especially with him at the helm.

Did the movie really need to be filmed in this format? Not really, but it helps add a certain level of eeriness that can sometimes be so strange, it’s actually entertaining. However, whereas with the Happening, where we were laughing at how incredibly serious Shyamalan seemed to be taking his goofy-as-all-hell material, this time, it seems like he’s actually in on the joke and knows that what he’s presenting, is indeed silly. There are moments where it seems like Shyamalan wants to make this story a whole lot more serious than it actually appears to be, but these are the moments that he actually focuses the least on.

Most of the time is spent in the dark, where we don’t know what’s lurking in those shadows or behind those closed-doors; all we do know is that whatever we see, will be creepy and possibly, make us jump out of our seat.

Does that mean that the movie’s actually “scary”? Kind of, but not really. However, there isn’t a problem with that because Shyamalan’s intent doesn’t seem to be giving us the jeeper’s creepers; he mostly just wants to give us a fun, little “boo” moment every so often, keep our minds awake, and our eyes dead-set on whatever comes next. Whether this movie can be best classified as a comedy, or as a horror-thriller, doesn’t seem to matter because it takes away from the fact that, basically, Shyamalan is having a good time here.

And honestly, when was the last time we saw that?

That said, there are still problems to be focused on and show that, even though he’s getting better and back to his old ways, Shyamalan still has some issues to get past. For one, the final-half gets so ridiculous and so insane, that when we realize that it’s actually supposed to be a heartfelt tale of these kids’ own journey to get over the abandonment from their dead-beat dad, it feels odd. At one point, the movie was an uproarious, campy-as-crap creep-fest that features a barn full of dirty diapers, and then, randomly, becomes a super-dee-duper serious piece of melodrama. It doesn’t feel right and in all honesty, sort of makes the last-half seem like it was directed by a different person.

Don't follow. Just run!

Don’t look down that well. You never know what you’ll find.

But then again, the movie does get by on the fact that it is fun and the cast is mostly to thank for that. Though they are basically playing kid-types that movies such as this love to write snappy dialogue for, Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge are both good enough performers to get by some of the more annoyingly straining lines of dialogue. For instance, Oxenbould’s Tyler likes to rap, which occasionally leads to scenes where someone will give him a word and he’ll find a way to put in his jam; think of the “milkshake” dude from Before Sunrise, but instead of free-verse, cheap-ass poetry, it’s some kind who thinks he spits game like Tyler the Creator, but instead, is a lot more like Kid ‘N Play. It’s all so cloying and irritating, but Oxenbould is just charming enough that it’s easy to get past and just accept as a quirk.

As annoying as it may be.

DeJonge’s character fares a lot better as Rebecca, although she has a bit less of a personality to work with, other than that she wants to be a director one day (hence the reason for filming this whole trip in the first place). Hahn doesn’t show up quite enough to make me happy she was involved to begin with, but I was able to get past all of this once McRobbie and Dunagan came on the screen and took this movie by-storm. Though both of them are just supposed to be “weird” and “creepy” and hardly anything else, there’s a certain bit of humanity within them that makes us think that quite possibly, these older-peeps are just old and that explains why they act so strangely. We know it’s not, but there’s the silver-lining that that’s reasoning, which makes the movie more compelling to sit by.

And oh yeah, there is a twist here in the Visit, but it’s not the kind that Shyamalan has, sadly, made a career with. The movie doesn’t depend on it and isn’t used a crutch; it’s just a neat piece of narrative story-telling that makes the movie a bit more tense. Something that all twists should do, but has become running-gag for Shyamalan’s career.

Let’s hope this takes him out of the gutter and back onto the main streets.

Consensus: With a simple premise and approach, the Visit is a slight return-to-form for M. Night Shyamalan that still shows there’s plenty of room for improvement, but is also a reminder as to why he was such a hot-button director so early in his career.

6.5 / 10

The perfect consequence for being apart of the "Me generation".

The perfect consequence for being apart of the “Me generation”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Blind (2015)

Everybody’s got somethin’ wrong with them.

Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) is, for unexplained reasons, blind. She wasn’t always blind, but right now, at this point in her life, she can’t see and she’s just trying to adjust. She’s thankful to have her husband around to help her whenever she needs it most, but for the most part, she’s left all alone during the day, with no one to talk to, or bother with but herself. While Ingrid’s going on dealing with her own issues, there’s other people having their own problems of sorts. One concerns an older guy that’s too busy looking at and jerking-off to porn, rather than actually going out there and trying to meet a nice girl; another one concerns a mom looking for love; and then of course, there’s Ingrid’s own husband who seems as if he’s finding it hard to deal with the situation he’s just been thrown into, as well, which leads him to possibly mess around a bit. But the real kicker is this: Are any of these stories real? Or are they all just wild and imaginative stories taking place inside of Ingrid’s head, so that she can pass the time more efficiently?

Seriously. So creepy.

Seriously. So creepy.

The answer, we may never know.

On the surface, Blind seems like the typical kind of art house fare that tries to be big and about something, but more often than not, feels like it’s over-stepping its limitations. Then, add on the fact that this flick is Norwegian, and already, I feel the sweet, sweet aroma of pretentiousness hitting me slap dab in the face. But surprisingly, Blind is not that kind of movie I expected it to be.

While it definitely starts out appearing to be a sad, look-at-me-crying-over-here kind of foreign drama, it instead turns out to be something much more playful and exciting. In a way, you could look at Blind as being Norwegian’s version of Stranger Than Fiction, but without ever trying too hard to bring its feel-good message to home. Most of the character’s here and the situations they’re in, all feel real and relatable, which makes most of Ingrid’s stories, albeit entertaining to watch, interesting at the same time.

Of course though, the movie does run the risk of allowing for certain subplots to over-take the central plot, which sort of does happen. After awhile, it does become clear that whatever Ingrid is going through, although tragic, doesn’t really do much to keep the movie afloat. The one subplot that really reached far was the one about the middle-aged dude who loves his porn for sure. I apologize that I’m blanking on the names of the characters and/or the names of the actual actors who portrayed them, too, but it should be known that this role was written perfectly for this fella.

He’s not just a creepy fella we literally first meet as he’s jerking-off to porn, but someone who is easy to feel sad for. We get to realize that he hasn’t done much of anything with his life, even though holding out much promise early-on, and it makes us want to see the best happen to him. And this is why, when writer/director Eskil Vogt gives this character the spotlight, the movie’s at its most insightful.

Any other times, it’s just interesting. Which is fine, too.

I guess.

Where Vogt deserves credit is in keeping this movie evolving into being something more than just your traditional story about a random list of subplots that somehow, in some way, connect and further prove the fact that everybody on this planet is connected. Instead, it’s a movie that shows just how wacky and wild the imagination can run whenever it needs to be; though Ingrid may have her own problems to deal with, she finds a certain solace in making these stories up and, in ways, connecting to them on her own. While the whole idea of the gimmick is that we never exactly know whether these are actual stories to begin with doesn’t distract from the movie, or feel cheap, but instead, just add to the interest-factor.

Sometimes, we just have to let it all out.

Sometimes, you’ve got have to let it all out.

I know I’ve used the word “interesting” or at least some form of it, a lot, but honestly, that’s what this movie is. It’s as Charlie Kaufman wrote a script, decide he wasn’t all that happy, gave it Vogt and said he could do whatever he wanted with it. There are occasional bits of humor and fun, but overall, it’s just a neat tale that definitely deserves to be checked out. Not just because it has a neat and fancy gimmick, but because it does something with that to help put us in the same mind-set as the character that we’re watching and studying.

Which was, again, another smart decision on the part of Vogt.

Sure, while Ingrid’s own personal story may not be the most exciting one of the bunch, she’s still the centerpiece of the movie and keeps its heart in-place, even when everything seems to get a bit out-of-whack. For one, Ellen Dorrit Petersen is very good in this role and shows that there’s a lot of different shades to this character than just, initially, seeming sad. Of course she’s upset about the condition she has, but she doesn’t cry or whine for our pity; instead, she tries to do something about it and find ways to make her herself feel better and get more accustom to it. It’s still a bit beyond me why Petersen decided to bleach her eyebrows, but either way, it worked as it made this character definitely pop-off the screen a whole lot more.

Whatever that accounts for.

Consensus: With a neat gimmick to work with, Blind is a fun tale that doesn’t always make perfect sense, but is at least a joy to watch because you never know where it’s going to end up next, or what it’s going to say about its characters.

7 / 10

"See this?"

“See this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Your Friends & Neighbors (1998)

It’s like they always say, “If you can’t make it in bed, you can’t make it in life.”

Jason Patric, Ben Stiller, and Aaron Eckhart play a trio of pals who regularly get together and talk about sex and/or women, but they all have their own personal lives that somehow find their ways of mashing together. Stiller is having problems with his gal-pal (Catherine Keener), who just so happens to be finding her own lust with a fellow lady (Natassja Kinski); Eckhart is also having similar problems with his woman (Amy Brenneman), minus the whole lesbian-angle; and Patric is just enjoying his life as a total, misogynistic stud that gets what he wants, how he wants it, and doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about what anybody thinks.

Basically, he’s portraying me.

No matter what Neil LaBute may be talking about and whether or not you agree with what he says or not, there is still one element about each of his films that cannot be argued: They are incredibly well-written. Such as is the case here where not only do we get a plainer look and view inside the world of sexual-politics, but an even plainer one at the world of relationships, whether they be same-sex or opposite sex. Basically, what it seems like LaBute is trying to say here, is that all people, regardless of what different walks of life they may have come from, still can never, ever be alone and still walk through the motions of life, without ever really taking anything in or actually feeling genuine. Why? Well, because people, as a whole, are weak and hate it when they’re alone.

Yup, total lesbians.

Yup, total lesbians.

Maybe that’s me reading into the material, or maybe that’s exactly what LaBute’s actually going for, but either way, it’s all very bleak and depressing. Although, LaBute knows this and gives us something to hold onto with rich characters that may not be the nicest of people out on-display, but are still people that you feel like you could meet a book-store (whichever ones still exist), go out for coffee, chit-chat for a bit about life, love, and all of the finer things, end the conversation, exchange numbers, and never have contact with again. The reason for that being is just because they just seem too terrible or inhumane to surround yourself with.

Yet, they are all still watchable and easy to connect with, even if they don’t always seem like the ones with the biggest heart.

Take, for instance, Ben Stiller’s black hearted-role here as Jerry, may make it seem as if the guy is trying to stretch out his acting muscles and see what he can do when there’s more depth to his act than just goofy voices and faces, but it’s more or less the same act around, just this time: More cursing and screwing. Stiller does the usual awkward, nerdy-shtick and as much as it may work for his character, it’s still terribly annoying to have to watch, let alone listen to and it makes you feel utterly no sympathy for the guy whatsoever. Then again, that’s probably the point to begin with, so if anything, it’s more of a strength.

Aaron Eckhart, on the other hand, is doing something completely different from what we saw with him from In the Company of Men. Not only because he put on so much weight to really fit the role of the insecure, middle-aged man, but because he was so sympathetic and likable, whereas in Men, he was a total and complete dick you didn’t give a single crap about. Eckhart’s character is such a bone-headed doofuss, that you really do feel terrible for him and just want to give him a big old hug, just in hopes that he will at least put a smile on and be able to sustain an erection for his lady. Shows that the guy has some range as an actor, while also giving us a look at the nicest, most-endearing character of them all.

And trust me, that’s saying a lot.

The best out of the trio of dudes is Jason Patric, as the misogynistic, nasty lady-slayer (not literally, mind you) that seems to get along with virtually no one, yet, always finds people to be around him and even better, still finds gals in his bed. Patric is so amazing here because he always seems like the guy who really knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t care about whether or not you believe him on anything he says. He’s just doing him, and it’s great to not only see that in a character actor of high-prestige like Patric, but to also see that in a character in general. There are a couple of scenes where he really releases all hell on these people around him and not only does it make you feel as if he’s the type of guy you would never want to be stuck inside of an elevator with, but also the type of guy you don’t want in your life, mostly because he’ll just call you out on all of your dirty laundry. Patric is by-far the stand-out of this whole movie and completely owns every scene he has.

Outside of the men's locker room, problems never arise. But inside, that's where all the hell breaks loose.

Outside of the men’s locker room, problems never arise. But inside, that’s where all the hell breaks loose.

However, the guys seem to be the ones who get the most attention out of LaBute, as the gals don’t really seem to get all that much love, despite them all being pretty damn good with what they do. Catherine Keener’s character seems terribly bitchy and blunt, but also seems a bit like the voice of reason that you need in a movie like this, where not only everybody is at each other’s jugulars, but also where everybody seems to be talking a bit too much for sore ears. Playing her lesbo-lover is Natassja Kinski and is okay with what she’s given, but still seems one-dimensional and more or less just given a role to fulfill the non-stop quirk of there being a scene where almost every character goes up to a piece of art, asks the same questions, and gives their critique on it. Like Kinski, Amy Brenneman does fine with her role, but she’s almost too moody to be taken in as anyone, let alone an actual, three-dimensional character in a movie like this.

So, yeah. Here, it seems like maybe LaBute drops the ball a bit on presenting fully-layered women characters, as opposed to the men.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Consensus: Like most of LaBute’s flicks, Your Friends & Neighbors features a solid cast working with some mean, nasty and grueling stuff, even if not all of it feels as powerful as his debut.

8.5 / 10

This scene will make you want to go to the library. Yes, it's that awesome.

This scene will make you want to go to the library. That is, if you can find one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

In the Company of Men (1997)

Yup. This is how us dudes think.

Two male co-workers, Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy), are both angry and frustrated with women. So much so that they get to a point where they feel the need to plot and toy maliciously with the emotions of a deaf female subordinate Christine (Stacy Edwards). Something that, at first, plays out like a terrible, mean-spirited game, but eventually, turns into something far more serious and romantic for Howard.

If you go into a Neil LaBute movie, chances are, you know what to expect. His movies are mean, nasty, and most of all, angry. However, you can’t hate them if they’re, well, for the most part, well-done and written.

And sadly, that’s exactly what In the Company of Men, his directorial debut, is.

He's terrible.

He’s terrible.

The premise, right away, will turn most people away. Yes, it’s a cruel joke that two guys literally come up with after a night of shooting the shit and coming to realize that maybe women are all terrible and deserve to be manipulated and treated like crap. This is something that will most likely have audiences out of the film before the ten-minute mark and as well as they should be. There is some real painful stuff to be had here and when you see the grand scheme of things, it’s even worse. But somehow, LaBute makes it work.

Granted, this whole film is basically just one whole conversation after another that just so happens to be stretched-out to an hour-and-37-minutes. That would seem terribly boring for some, but with a screenplay like LaBute’s, it’s anything but. Every character here has an agenda, an idea, and their own way of speaking to one another. Some are shy, some are nervous, some are dicks, and some are just plain and simple people, but either way, you’ll notice that in this film, everybody is different from one another by the way they act and speak to one another, but yet, still have the same thoughts on most things as well. In a way, it’s exactly like a play (something that, obviously, LaBute specializes in), but it never feels too talky or meandering like some plays-turned-to-movies can occasionally feel.

As for being a huge piece of misogyny at it’s finest, I don’t really think that was LaBute’s aim and it shows. This whole film is definitely considered as one big cruel joke that goes on for way too long, but it isn’t the idea of these two dudes manipulating a deaf girl is what gets me, it’s the fact that LaBute is still able to bring some heart and depth out of these characters while they are doing so. If you look at it from afar, everybody in this film gets hurt in one way or another, and that’s sort of how life is. No matter who you may hurt, another person always gets hurt, and you’ll most likely get hurt once again later in life.

It’s some deep stuff, even if there is a deaf girl at the center getting toyed around with.

And just to show you how terrible and disgusting men can be, ladies, just take a look at the finest specimen/example to-date: Chad. Aaron Eckhart plays the mother of all slime-balls everywhere as Chad and from beginning-to-end is exactly what all girls think they see in the quintessential dick-head. Full of himself, powerful, angry, never nice, rude, manipulative, and most of all, just plain evil. But you know what’s even worse about that idea? It’s actually true because there are guys out there in the world that are just like Chad, and are just as hell-bent on showing the type of control they have over somebody and their emotions. Eckhart is almost too perfect in this role because the guy always feels like he knows what he’s doing, never makes a mistake about it, and rarely ever apologizes for doing so. You’ll come to hate this guy’s guts, but you can’t take your eyes off of him and there’s something inherently compelling about that. We all know people that are just like Chad and you know what? As much as we may hate them, they still never cease to amaze us with just how far they’re willing to go.

He's fine.

He’s fine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, playing his buddy/partner-in-crime is one of my favorite character actors ever, Matt Malloy. Malloy’s Howard is definitely the far more sympathetic one out of the duo as it seems like he genuinely does not care for this experiment, but is just participating in it to appear “cool ” in front of the eyes of Chad. It’s terrible to think that someone would actually want to stoop down to Chad’s level, but LaBute makes a pretty clear case in Howard; not just by showing that he’s still heart-broken over a recent break-up, but that he’s not exactly the one dude you call up for beers and to talk about sports. He’s much more sensitive and in-tune with his feelings, which makes his dates with Christine all the more interesting and, honestly, sad.

Then, slap-dab in the middle all these guys is Stacy Edwards as Christine, the deaf co-worker. Edwards is beautiful – there’s no denying that one bit. However, it works well for the character in that it doesn’t really matter that she is, or isn’t deaf; she’s still got something of a lovely personality and seems to genuinely care for those in her life. This makes it all the more painful and hard to watch when it becomes awfully clear that she’s falling for one of these guys more than the other and is just getting her heart tripped-up all the more. Edwards does a perfect job with this character (even despite not being deaf), but it’s LaBute who I definitely think deserves credit for the handling of this character.

LaBute catches a lot of flack for not writing his female characters as strongly as his male characters, but in this case, I think they’re wrong. For one, there’s more to Christine than just being “the deaf girl”. She’s fun to be around, enthused about life, and simply put, doesn’t ask for any sympathy concerning her situation. She’s just happy to be around people who make her happy and is taking full pride in having two men in her life, that are actually interested in her. That’s what makes it all the more upsetting to think about what’s to come.

Because we all know that there’s just no chance in this ending well for anyone.

Except for, well, Chad of course. That dick.

Consensus: In every sense of the genre, In the Company of Men is a horror movie without any murder, blood, or monsters, but with three solid performances and a whole lot of insight into how the human brain works for all sorts of different men out there, whether anyone’s willing to admit it or not.

9 / 10

She's great. But man oh man, do I just want to give her a hug.

She’s great. But man oh man, do I just want to give her a hug.

Photos Courtesy of: Werewolves on the Moon

The Transporter Refueled (2015)

No Stath? No thanks.

If you give Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) a job to do, he will do it. However, it’s got to be by his rules and it’s also got to fit his criteria. That’s why when he hears Anna (Loan Chabanol)’s proposition, he takes it, assuming that it’s going to be another mission of his where he gets to kick some butt, pull-off some fancy moves here and there, and at the end of the day, go back home with a lot more money in his pocket. However, little does Frank know that Anna is up to no good and isn’t a very clean negotiator; she decides, in a way of collateral damage I guess, to take Frank’s dad (Ray Stevenson), hostage. Frank’s clearly not happy about this and doesn’t want to complete the mission, however, Anna makes him a deal: Complete the mission, and then some, and he’ll get his father back and everything will go back to normal. However, if he doesn’t complete the mission, he won’t get his father back and, most likely, he’ll wind-up dead. Because it’s not just Anna that Frank has to deal with, but apparently, there’s now mercenaries involved, which never wind-up good for anyone involved.

Just do it and get this movie over with already!

Just do it and get this movie over with already!

Were the original Transporter movies any good? The answer it both yes and no. Yes, because they were stupid, fun and charming-as-hell because of Jason Statham; but no, because they were pretty idiotic at times and definitely seemed to over-stay their welcome around half-way through the second movie. But does that really mean we need a reboot? Especially when there’s already a TV show currently airing that does the job as is?

The answer this time is an astounding no. Especially when the said reboot is as terrible as this.

Basically, this new and not-at-all improved Transporter is a mess about the whole way through. At one point, it wants to be like the older movies where it’s all about a classy-sense of style, but then, at another point, wants to break into this Raid-ish action flick where baddies fly-up out of nowhere, try to kick the hero’s butt, and sadly fail. The same happens here, but when it comes around, it seems oddly-placed in a movie that, quite frankly, is a little too serious for it’s own good.

See, if you’re going to do these types of silly action-thrillers and try to get away with the fact that you’re idiotic, you have to have some fun in the meantime. There are maybe one or two action-sequences where it seemed like director Camille Delamarre decided that it was time to turn the frown upside down and enjoy his time directing this hack-piece, but those times are often too far and few between one another. Not to mention that they’re not nearly enough to save this piece of junk.

Which, honestly, is a bit of a shame because Delmarre’s last flick (Brick Mansions), was actually something of a surprise. Sure, it was all sorts of ridiculous and crazy, but it never backed away from the fact that it had an over-the-top B-movie premise and ran with the ball for as long and as desperately as it could. Here though, that’s hardly anywhere to be found as it seems like Delmarre, whether it be studio or plain and simple creative issues that got in the way, was just going through the motions, waiting to collect his paycheck and, hopefully, moving on to whatever blockbuster Hollywood assigns him to make next.

Poor fella.

As much as I feel bad for Delmarre, I can’t help but feel even worse for the cast and crew involved. But most of all, Ray Stevenson himself who, time and time again, seems to be giving it his all in these movies that don’t need a talent like him. A movie like Transporter Refueled is more than lucky to have Ray Stevenson apart of it and you know what? It absolutely shows!

Every chance the dude gets to be cool, suave, funny and somewhat insightful, it totally works. The script is as thin as a bagel without cream cheese, but Stevenson, as usual, finds loops and holes to make something out of nothing. Not only does this sadden me more that Stevenson isn’t a much bigger name than he deserves to be, but that he was actually here to begin with.

Daniel Craig, here is your future.

Daniel Craig, here is your future.

But hey, I guess you’ve got to go where the money’s at.

And in the case of Ed Skrein, I hate to say it, but I don’t know how much more money for these kinds of roles will be coming his way. Not to say that Skrein is a bad actor and shouldn’t be hired; it’s just that he doesn’t do a very good job here and makes the film seem all the more weak as a result. Skrein is definitely good-looking, but after awhile, that goes nowhere because he doesn’t quite have the power or the charisma like Statham had with these movies. It’s just another sign that maybe, just maybe, the studios should have let this title go on a bit more without another movie.

Especially one that’s not already with Statham in the lead role.

But of course, it’s hard to put the full blame on Skrein when, honestly, the movie is all-over-the-place. Whatever the Macguffin of this story is, I couldn’t tell you. All I knew about half-way through was that there were some baddies that needed to be dealt with and, for whatever reason, Frank’s dad gets kidnapped so easily and willingly, even despite the fact that he’s supposed to be this older and wiser James Bond-like figure. It doesn’t quite work its way well into the story (with the exception of a neat scene concerning covering up a gunshot wound which I myself will be experimenting soon), and just seems like a manipulative way the movie figured it could keep us watching for a little while even longer.

Even if, at the end of the day and the movie, there’s nothing to see here, really. Just another reboot that didn’t need to even exist in the first place.

Consensus: Messy, dull, and most of all, boring, the Transporter Refueled is a perfect example of why it’s not always best to reboot something that probably didn’t need to be over-extended so much to begin with.

2 / 10

At least the car's still schmexy. I think.

At least the car’s still schmexy. I think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

The more miles, the crankier they get.

Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is an author who’s feeling like he hasn’t made much of his life recently. Sure, he’s been published an awful-lot, has a lovely wife (Emma Thompson), lives a comfy life in a New Hampshire suburb, and has clearly got family to fall back on for any sort of happiness. But, for some reason, he still feels the need to make something more out of his life, which is why he decides one fateful day that he wants to hike the Appalachian Trail; which, in case you didn’t know, is nearly 2,200 miles. This is way too much for any older person to partake in, let alone, actually complete and be able to tell the tale one day, which is why Bill’s wife makes him take a friend. Well, after much time of coming up empty with most of the people he wanted to bring along on this trip, Bill gets a call from someone he hasn’t talked to in nearly 30 years: Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), an old friend who still owes him money. Though they haven’t really kept-up with one another for a long time, they see this as an opportunity to get back in the swing of things, see some pretty sights, and feel more pleased with their lives, as a whole. Then again, they are pushing 70 and the trip does begin to take a huge toll on them, no matter how hard they try to make it not.

Dream of a better movie, Rob.

Dream of a better movie, Rob.

Having been toggled with for nearly decades, the film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s memoir has finally come to the big screen! And even though it doesn’t feature the names it originally had attached like, say, Paul Newman, or Richard Linklater, it’s still got the likes of Nick Nolte, Robert Redford, Emma Thompson, and uhm, Ken Kwapis? The dude who directed Beauty and the Beautician? Hell, even the guy who directed License to Wed?


Well, sadly, yes. Really. And sadly, it just goes to show that Kwapis, even though he may be trying to make a good film here, seems way too out-of-his-depth. He takes what is, essentially, a plot-line that could have been as fun, as insightful, and as entertaining as you’d expect it to be starring two legends of the big-screen such as Redford and Nolte, but literally, turns into nothing. It’s a movie that starts out as being about something, until it turns out that whatever this hiking-trip Bryson’s setting out on, really doesn’t mean anything. The only reason we’re given as to why Bryson would feel so passionate to take a trip like this is because he’s tired of people telling him that he’s too old and can’t do it (which he can’t, because, get this, he’s too old).

As for Katz, the dude just wants some sort of adventure and possibly to hang around an old-pal of his. Is it a little idiotic of him to take this one single opportunity to get that time in? Sure, but he’s definitely a whole lot more sympathetic because of it. Bryson, as written and presented here, is nothing more than just an annoying, over-educated prick who, would much rather speak about the sweet little intricacies of the Maple tree, then actually check in with what his long, lost bud has been up to all these years. Katz, all he wants to do, is talk about getting laid, getting drunk, and any girls that he can remember from the olden-times.

That said, there are bits and pieces of this to be entertained by, solely due to the fact that Redford and Nolte are in these roles, working shop.

You too, Emma. I can already tell you're regretting this decision.

You too, Emma. I can already tell you’re regretting this decision.

Now, had it been Redford and Newman like it was originally planned-out to be, this movie would have been many times better, regardless of problems with the script and/or direction. But that’s not the pairing, or the movie we get; it’s Nolte and Redford and you know what? They do fine together. There’s a nice sense of chemistry between the two that shows in some of the smaller, more intricate moments that you hardly see coming because the movie, as a whole, is a mess and seems more interested in having these old fellas climb out of windows for laughs, rather than actually dig deep into the art of the aging-friendship.

But that said, Nolte and Redford can only carry this so far, until it becomes painstakingly clear that they’re dealing with a crummy movie. And most of this, as much I don’t want to pick on him, comes down to Ken Kwapis. Sure, whatever the hell Redford was thinking allowing for the movie to play-out like this is a point to bring up, but Kwapis really doesn’t put much of an effort into this. The gags are stale; the jokes will occasionally borderline on offensive; and the trip these two take isn’t as eventful, or as lovely as you’d expect it to be because most of the film is filmed in front of a very distracting, cheap-looking green-screen.

If anything, the movie just proves to most film-audiences out there that roles for older-men in their 70’s do come around, except that they open up in films like these. Even though we get a nice supporting cast with names like Kristen Schaal, Nick Offerman, Mary Steenburgen, and of course, Emma Thompson, none of them get a chance to really bring much to the table that we haven’t seen them do before, or worth their while. Schaal is just there to be loud, nasty, and annoying; Offerman is literally playing Ron Swanson, so much so that I wonder if any copyright issues will be coming out of this; Steenburgen’s character is written so terribly that as soon as she sees Redford in a towel, she can’t help but get ready to jump his bone for no reason, other than the movie needed a slight love-interest; and Thompson, bless her heart, really tries with this role and for the most part, gets away with the effort. There’s a real feeling of heart and humanity to her character that’s hardly anywhere to be found with the other characters and it not only made me wish of a better role for her, but a better movie for her to strut her stuff in.

Consensus: The pairing of Nolte and Redford is just about enough to save A Walk in the Woods from being a total and complete misfire, although, this movie is best watched with a grand-parent by your side, so that they too, can remember the golden days of these guy’s careers.

5 / 10

Old guys = hilarity.

Old guys = hilarity.

Photos Courtesy of: Variety, Here and Now, and New York Times

Nurse Betty (2000)

NurseBettyposterThe bigger question is: Why the hell do people still watch soap operas?

Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is a lovely, young woman from Kansas who is simple, loves her hubby (Aaron Eckhart), and loves to watch her favorite show, the popular daytime TV drama A Reason to Love. Betty is such a nice girl, that it’s almost insane to see what happens to her when her hubby is killed by two drug-dealers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), and then decides to flee the scene of the crime, in order to find and locate her favorite character from that show, Doctor David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Problem is, Betty is so disillusioned as to what the hell is going on that she doesn’t see David Ravell as a character from a show, but an actual character in real-life. Yep, she’s nutso!

It may came as sort of a shock to some of you out there, but this flick was actually directed by Neil LaBute, way before he started hanging out with Nicolas Cage and bees. However, this one wasn’t written by him but still features a lot of his trademarks: d-bag characters, dark humor, a bit of misogyny, and a double-entendre’s galore!

You know, what everybody loathes and loves about LaBute’s pieces of work.

They don't make cardboard cut-outs like they used to.

They don’t make cardboard cut-outs quite like they used to.

With this movie, we’re able to see that LaBute has a funny bone and even though none of his actual trademarks are here as a director or writer, we still get a feel for the guy and the type of material he likes thrown at him. Later in his career, that wouldn’t do much to help him, but before it all went downhill, LaBute was a pretty big, freakin’ deal at one point and it’s flicks like these that show why. While you’re laughing, you’ll actually find yourself following a story that’s clever, but is also very informative in the twists and turns it takes and at times, you may not know whether you should or shouldn’t laugh at what’s going on.

Yeah, it gets pretty serious, pretty quick.

Which, to say the least, can sort of be the problem, tonally speaking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bunch of fun that made me laugh, feel suspense, and question these characters and their motivations, but the tone felt a bit off to me. This is apparently clear especially around the last-act where, all of a sudden, we have characters shooting one another, murdering, bleeding, trying to save fish (once you see the film, it will make sense), and people yelling out for their loved-ones. It’s all very drastic, serious, and actually scary, considering we’ve spent so much time with these characters and all that they do, and now we actually have the possibility of seeing them be killed-off, in front of our eyes, is a pretty freaky sight. Not to always say that this movie’s most glaring problem is it’s tone, but when it doesn’t work, it shows and seems like the writers of this flick (John C. Richards and James Flamburg) may have needed a bit of LaBute-flavor to spice things up. Then again, that’s just the way I feel.

After Death at a Funeral, I don’t know what to believe anymore, but a comeback of sorts is clearly is in-store for Mr. LaBute.

I just know it!

But aside from that, everything else is pretty stellar about this movie, especially the cast. One of the biggest and best aspects of this flick, is Ms. Renée Zellweger as Betty Sizemore, our lovable klutz for the next two-hours. Say what you will about Zellweger, her scrunched-up face, her random marriage to Jack White, and her obvious, public drunkenness at the Oscars, the gal is one hell of a charmer and shows that she can make any character work, especially one that’s so strange like this. The fact that Betty is all in a daze and believes everything she sees is real, and not fictional like her favorite TV show, is more than enough to poke-fun at a character and make her seem like a total nut of a person, but Zellweger makes her more than that. She’s got a beautiful smile, a nice look to her, and is actually a sweet person, once you get past the fact that she’s a bit too cuckoo for Coco Puffs. But still, the movie plays off of her with such ease and Zellweger is more than up to the challenge when it comes to that. Without her and her earnestness, I don’t know quite how well this role, hell, this movie would have worked.

If this was the South, they'd be more than just fucked. They'd be dead.

“Next time, no driving Ms. Daisy.”

Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play the two dudes that are after her, and work very well together, despite them seeming like an odd-match at first. Rock is the straight-laced, comedic-man that is more like the voice of reason, whereas Freeman is the down-and-out hitman, that’s on his last job, wants to retire, and is starting to see more visions than he ever planned on, sort of like Betty in a way. Both have this odd-contrast between the two, but still do well at showing how goofy they can be, but also still have you a bit scared of what they could do next.

Greg Kinnear is also a nice fit as Dr. David Ravell, aka the person his character in this movie plays on the show that Betty loves to watch (make any sense?). What I liked about Kinnear is that he’s a bit of a dick because he’s a famous star that mostly older-housewives love, and seems to have it all go to his head. Yet, still respects and loves Betty for the fact that she’s able to be “in character” the whole time that they chat, but little does he know: She’s serious. Dead serious, in fact. It’s fun to see him play that idea up as we all know Kinnear is more than capable of playing a deuche.

He’s just got that look, I hate to say.

Consensus: While going through a few tonal issues, Nurse Betty still works as a dark, twisted, but surprisingly funny piece of LaBute fiction that may not have his trademark style, but still seems up the same alley.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a dick in this too. Much of a surprise to no one.

Oh yeah, and he’s a dick in this too. Not much of a surprise to any one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?


Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Queen of Earth (2015)

Everybody’s got that one “crazy friend”.

Having drifted apart for many reasons (mostly personal), Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) and Ginny (Katharine Waterson) go out to a beach for the week to where they’ll relax, catch up with one another, and hopefully, heal some wounds. But what eventually starts out as a promising, fun-filled week, soon turns sour when Catherine starts acting out in some rather strange ways. For one, she’s talking to herself almost constantly. And then, she’s always turning each and every conversation she has with a person, into some sort of fight or argument that goes and ends nowhere, except with her bawling her eyes out soon afterwards. Though Ginny’s no peach, either, she’s still trying to get control of her best friend’s emotions, which only intensifies once Ginny’s neighbor (Patrick Fugit) comes around. As the rage within Catherine grows and grows larger by each and every day, it becomes all the more clear to those around her that she’s clearly suffering from some painful mental disorder, but what it is? Nobody knows and quite frankly, they aren’t let ruining their one week away from the rest of existence, get ruined because of it, either.



Queen of Earth, on paper, is as simple as you can get with a movie. Two friends, go to a beach house to get away from all the pains that exist in their real lives. But writer/director Alex Ross Perry, being the inspired creator that he is, decides to take it one step further in showing that there may be more dark and sinister stuff lurking somewhere underneath. Though there’s a lot of tension as is what with Catherine acting like a crazed-nut half of the time, the movie never makes itself clear as a “thriller”; I guess you could consider it one, but not the kind people pay huge buckets of cash to go out, see, and have a splendid time with.

Nope, Perry means to go a lot deeper than that and it’s actually a lot better than most of the “bigger” thrillers I see in theaters today.

Though it would be safe to write Queen of Earth as nothing more than a “Roman Polanski knock-off”, it’s also a bit unfair. Sure, Perry is clearly aiming for that same sort of brooding style that Polanski utilized oh so well in his early-career psychological thrillers, but to call it a “rip-off” of sorts, isn’t giving him as much credit since he works off of this style and adds a bit more to it. One way, you could say, is that he put the style in a modern-day setting, but even then, it’s still effective. Because the movie takes place in what seems to be this little stitch of land that’s far, far away from the rest of the real world, the movie feels a whole lot more claustrophobic and gives you the feeling that no matter how hard these character’s try to escape one another, there’s hardly anywhere for them to go.

And it’s worth noting that the movie is crazy intense, but it isn’t for the reasons you expect. There’s no guns, no car-chases, no brawl, and there is sure as hell no action-sequences; it’s literally just three-to-four people sitting in a room, arguing with one another long enough until the other decides to throw in the towel and go be pissed-off elsewhere. It sounds so incredibly boring, but while watching it, with Perry’s non-stop usage of the close-up, as well as these performer’s, it’s anything but.

Which brings me to my next point: Elisabeth Moss.

It’s no surprise to anyone that Moss is a good actress. For many, many years on Mad Men, Moss was able to show us the transition Peggy Olson had as a small-minded, cute and naive girl who eventually became her own boss, got the man she wanted, and, from what we can believe, everything worked out for and she was happy about. But, to be honest, she was a lot more restrained in that role and was never able to show people what she was truly made of and could do as an actress.

As Catherine, Moss is able to let loose like she’s never done before. It’s almost as if all those years of holding everything back for Matthew Weiner finally made its way out of her and it’s such a beauty to behold. Not because it’s fun to watch Moss cry, run around rooms, curse aloud, and give people the stink-eye, but because we all know it all comes from a thoughtful place. Perry doesn’t point the finger at Catherine and her antics, as much as he just holds up a magnifying-glass and allows us to see her for what she is; she may be a loony tune, but she’s one that it’s easy to feel bad for, because we know that a lot of this is out of her control.



Does that make her a perfect person? Nope, not at all. But just like in real life, nobody else is either.

Like, say, Katharine Weston’s Ginny who, believe it or not, has a worse attitude than Catherine. Through some very telling flashbacks, we see how Ginny would sometimes treat Catherine; sometimes, she was cruel, others, she was as sweet as could be. But the times that she was mean and ugly, are hard to get past as they show exactly what kind of person Ginny is: The jealous type.

Though a lot of people are going on and on about Moss’ performance, it’s worth noting that Waterston is quite good here, too. While it’s less showier role than Moss’, it’s one that still delivers on a lot of stern and scary standing that gives Ginny a lot of presence in scenes that you don’t even think she’s in. Together, the two are great; whether they’re fighting or loving one another, there’s always some neat little piece of info to pick-up on from their scenes together and it’s the true sign that these gals are true acting talents that deserve all the work they get thrown at them.

As for Patrick Fugit, his role in the film is where I started to get a little annoyed. Though Perry does take his time and care in portraying Catherine’s mental issues, those that are opposed to her don’t get the right amount of treatment. While Fugit is good as the neighbor who comes around and can’t help but piss Catherine off, the dude’s still very much “the dick character” and it plays-off a little too hard, rather than being tucked-in underneath. This is where the movie’s sense of subtlety started to fade away, and I soon realized that maybe Perry needed to take a little more time in writing how these other characters were.

But hey, that’s just me. He’s the one making movies with Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, and Patrick Fugit.

Not me.

Consensus: Thanks to two spectacular performances from Waterston and most definitely, Moss, Queen of Earth is a lot more compelling and eerie to watch than the small premise may have you think.

8 / 10

Ticked-off. As usual.

Ticked-off. As usual.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Z For Zachariah (2015)

Leave three attractive people alone on Earth, things happen to get a little wild.

After a nuclear blast hit the world and has practically wiped-out the human race, a few remain alive and are simply trying to survive. Ann (Margot Robbie) is a simple gal from the Southeast who still believes that there is a God, even despite all of the terrible events that have occurred in the past year or so. Though Ann thinks that she’s all alone in this vast landscape, John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) unexpectedly walks into her life, leaving her now with a new companion to help continue living on in this world of theirs. Eventually, the two get so close to one another that they, for lack of a better term, start to fall in love, which scares both of them because they know that the other could very well as be as the last loves they ever have in their lives. Then, walks into a mysterious stranger by the name of Caleb (Chris Pine) who seems like he’s there to help Loomis and Ann survive, too. But then, things get very tense and all of a sudden, this fearsome foursome get into some very tense waters with one another.

If a dude I just met, starts sitting in a room like that, remind me to get rid of him. ASAP.

If a dude I just met, starts sitting in a room like that, remind me to get rid of him. ASAP.

This is as simple as you can possibly get with a premise and somehow, director Craig Zobel finds a way to make it a little more complicated than that. However, that is not at all a complaint because Zobel’s smart with how he makes this plot more than just three characters trying to live after what is, essentially, a nuclear holocaust. And no, it’s not just a movie where two characters constantly fight over who’s going to get the girl in the end; it’s more about continuing on your path and learning to live in a world where you’re all by yourself.

Sometimes, though, as this movie shows, that’s a lot easier said then done, especially when you add any sort of love into the equation.

But like I said before, Zobel doesn’t allow for the movie to go into any sort of direction that you expect it to. Sure, spit is swapped, feelings are spoken about, and tears fall down cheeks, but they don’t come at such a capacity that makes the movie seem like an melodramatic soap-opera. It’s more that the movie is busying studying these characters for who they are, what they are, and how they act when thrown into a horrid situation such as this, and what it does to the three of them as a whole. In that light, the movie’s a lot more interesting than your usual, post-apocalyptic tale that’s more about the brooding, tired and sad world surrounding its story.

Which isn’t to say that Zobel doesn’t shed at least some light on the treacherous land the Earth has become; there are many beautiful moments of mountains and land in the distance that give you an even larger idea of just how much of an impact this disaster left. And even though the movie initially makes it seem like it’s going to be one, huge depression-fest for an-hour-and-a-half, it soon turns the other cheek and turns out to be a bit more of a positive movie.

Albeit, a very tense one, but still, there are some smiles to be found.

What mostly helps Z For Zechariah to be a whole lot more compelling to watch, is the fact that it features three solid actors who, well, know how to make lemonade from lemons. Although, it is worth speaking about how odd this cast actually is and what a gamble it may have been for Zobel to get by on such names, placing them together in a movie, and see if all of their conflicting acting-styles/experience could gel together.

Needless to say, it does, but it’s just interesting what was thrown into Zobel’s mind that made him feel as if these three exact actors were perfect for their own respective characters? Maybe the idea that they come from different backgrounds and may not be the three exact people you’d expect in a movie together like this, is exactly what Zobel’s going for. After all, it’s the apocalypse and it’s not as if the apocalypse chooses who meets and who doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s just pure chance.

So anyway, yeah. The performances.

I'd sit at that dinner-table. If they'd let me, that is.

I’d sit at that dinner-table. If they’d let me, that is.

There’s no denying the fact that Chiwetel Ejiofor is a solid actor. Even before the dude nabbed an Oscar nomination for 12 Years a Slave, he’d been doing amazing work in so many other eclectic pieces of work and here, as Loomis, there’s no difference. As usual, Ejiofor is a powerful force on the screen and makes you question this guy’s attitude and actions every second of this movie. Does he want to solely just survive, regardless of he’s got someone by his side to do so? Or, does he want somebody to love and to hold in his life, once again? And if so, at what costs will he go to ensure that’s so? It’s a very intriguing character and the fact that Ejiofor doesn’t have to do much except stand there and stare to further that effect more, makes it all the more of a treat to watch.

Then, there’s Chris Pine who, thankfully, is starting to show off his true colors in a some darker roles as of late. Though Pine comes in about half-way through as Caleb, he still commands the screen as you never know what he’s up to, either. Clearly, he seems a whole lot more dangerous than Loomis, but why? Does he just want to get laid? Or, does he want to try and survive, too? It’s never made fully clear, and that’s one of the main reasons why Pine constantly takes this character into odd directions that are to see coming.

And last, but sure as hell not least, is Margot Robbie, playing the terribly simple and naive Ann. Because Robbie is so incredibly gorgeous and stunning in real life, it was a bit hard for me to fully take her in as this regular-class, Christian-gal, that sort of dresses like a 12-year-old boy, but Robbie made it work for me. She’s still great-looking, but the movie doesn’t play on that fact to create tension and make it so that these boys can continuously fight for her; she’s obviously the source of the attraction because she’s, well, all that there’s left of the female gender.

From what they know, that is.

But what makes Robbie’s character so good, as well as the film itself, is the fact that she’s a Christian who never seems to be preachy about it. Sure, she loves to go to the church her daddy built, pray at the dinner-table, and look to God whenever it is that she needs him most, but other than those instances, the movie never makes it clear that it has an agenda to be about Christianity, or if everything happens for a reason. The movie also never criticizes her character, or for anybody else for having a certain idea about God, or not; they’re sort of just trying to get by, regardless of if they have a cross in their bedroom or not.

And honestly, if hell gets too crowded and zombies begin to walk the Earth, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Consensus: Though its thin on certain details, Z For Zechariah gets by solely on the strong trio of leads, as well as the fact that Zobel never allows for his film to get conventional or obvious in any way.

8 / 10

Yep, I'd still tap that. Applies all three of them, too.

No matter how much dirt you throw on them, I’d still tap.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

We Are Your Friends (2015)

I’ll take a Daft Punk documentary instead.

23-year-old Cole (Zac Efron) is currently struggling in his life. For one, his buddies still act as if they’re in high school, and his career as local DJ, isn’t quite lighting up the sky, either. So basically, Cole plans the rest of his life living in his friend’s house, fixing the roof, cleaning the pool, and playing to whoever shows up at the club. That all begins to change on one fateful night, however, when he decides to go out and party with the one, the only, DJ legend, James (Wes Bentley). Cole and James, after a wild night of booze, good music, nice vibes, and some PCP, they both hit it off perfectly, with James wanting to hear some of what Cole has to offer. While James isn’t too impressed with what he sees right away, he knows that there’s potential and decides to take Cole under his wing. The only issue is that James’ girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski), is getting bored of being his assistant and may want some of what Cole is offering her. At the same time, while Cole’s life is changing right before his own very eyes, his buddies are starting to notice this too and feel like it’s not fair that he gets to have all of this fame and fortune, and they’re still stuck living at their parent’s places.

My friend's were cooler.

My friend’s were cooler.

In case you haven’t heard, EDM is all the rage now. Kids love it; older people love it; even those indie-kids who think that they’re too cool and would much rather listen to Conor Oberst, love it (they won’t admit it, but they do). For me, I think the music can sometimes be interesting and entertaining to listen to, but there’s only so much one can take of the non-stop, pulse-thrilling, ear-aching back-beats, over and over again. Every once and awhile, I prefer a solid little rhythm and formation every so often, but hey, that’s just me.

But to be honest, my opinions don’t matter because kids love EDM music and they may even love We Are Your Friends. Why is that? Well, because it features young adults just like themselves, reaching for the stars, chasing after their dreams, never letting adversity get in their way, and overall, having a great time while doing so. Does this mean that the movie’s actually any good?

Nope, not really. But what does the target audience care?

Cause, if anything, We Are Your Friends is just another conventional, run-of-the-mill, corny inspirational tale, hidden underneath the layers and layers of EDM music that covers practically the whole entire film. That’s not to say that the music’s bad or anything; if anything, it helps add a certain level of excitement to whatever dry proceedings are occurring between whatever one-dimensional characters on the screen. But after awhile, it begins to seem that whenever the music begins to crank up, then all of a sudden, another montage shows up, and we’re thrown into something resembling a music video – not an actual feature-film.

It’s a pretty-looking music video for sure, which is all thanks to director Max Joseph, but it doesn’t add anything to a movie/story that, quite frankly, needed all of the help it could get. No character’s ever really interesting; the plot doesn’t go anywhere surprising; and when all is said and done, we’re all of a sudden supposed to believe that this guy’s music is all that brilliant to begin with. If anything, it just adds an extra layer of annoyance to a genre that’s already getting to the brim of that.

Also, it makes me more and more anticipated for Disclosure’s next album.

And that’s pretty much all there is to this movie. While I know I sound like I’m being unbelievably and irrationally harsh, there’s hardly anything I can do about that. The movie acts as if it lives and breathes off of the energy that it gets fed by the crowd it’s playing to, but instead of actually offering anything exciting, it just uses the same old underdog story done before. Except, this time, it’s not a person who has all of the odds stacked against him, like cancer, or a family that he has to take care of, or whatever – he’s just not a big name yet in the DJ world.

My girlfriend was hotter.

My girlfriend was hotter.

Yes, it’s as entertaining to watch as it sounds, but the only one who actually brings anything at all to the table is Wes Bentley. Bentley has been here and there in the past couple of years, and while it’s not that I can say he’s lighting the world on fire like everybody thought he was once able of doing some many years ago, he’s still great here and steals just about every scene. Granted, in a movie as plainly-written as this, it’s not too hard, but Bentley invigorates this movie, as well as his character, with a certain amount of humor, fun, common sense, and most of all, heart, that makes me wish this movie was more about his James character, rather than about Zac Efron’s cliche Cole character. Of course, that would take a smaller-budget and release-plan, but hey, it’s a movie I would be more than happy to see and walk out of pleased.

So yeah, Hollywood, make that shit happen.

And Efron’s fine as he usually is, but here, I couldn’t help feeling as if he was going through the motions of sorts. That is, of course, difficult to say for someone as young as he is, but from what I’ve seen of Efron in far more interesting, challenging-roles, is that he can hang with the big boys when push comes to shove. He’s not afraid to go deeper and darker to depths that people couldn’t imagine him having and he seems to welcome it more than anything else, too. That’s why it was so disappointing to see him just go through one scene, after another, look as if he’s bored and has somewhere else to be.

Then again, he does get a chance to smooch that “Blurred Lines” chick, so life ain’t all that bad after all.

I guess.

Consensus: Despite a lovely supporting performance from Wes Bentley, We Are Your Friends falls prey to being too conventional and uninteresting to suit its own well-intentions.

2.5 / 10

Now, nobody's cooler.

Now, nobody’s cooler.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Probably the tamest movie I’ve ever seen that says “coke” about 15 times. And I’m not referring to the soda, although if it were the late 1800’s, I would be referring to both I guess, right?

Detective David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is all about following the rules, getting the job, and having the law come out on-top, at any means necessary; Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is far different in the way that he’s so cool, calm, relaxed, and mellowed-out, that he doesn’t really care if he gets the job done or not, he just wants to look cool and smokin’. They’re polar-opposites, but they get strung together somehow and have to solve a drug-ring of coke on the streets, lead by millionaire Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Together, they have their fair-share of problems, but together, through the insistence on getting along and the help of their ears and eyes of the street, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), they finally realize that the law always prevails. Or something of that nature.

It’s strange to think that a man who has been known for his fair share of R-rated, raunch-fests, Todd Phillips, would ever stoop so low as to go for a PG-13. But somehow, with this, he did and his struggle with actually trying to keep to that rating without over-stepping it at all. As I said up-top, there’s plenty uses of the word “coke” and nothing but; girls make-out with other girls; the F-bomb is dropped once (and randomly); partial-nudity is seen (sort of); and the word “shit” gets dropped about 5 or 6 times. It’s just strange because we know that when Phillips turns on the dirty-jets, he has a fun time and lets loose like no other, but what we mostly know is that when he does get down and dirty: he’s a lot funnier as well.

Whatta fun time!

Whatta fun time!

And trust me, it’s not that this flick isn’t funny, because it sure as hell does have it’s moments of comedic-inspiration that are more than likely going to win you over; it’s just that the tone itself is a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that the flick tries to go for a satire of an episode of the original Starsky & Hutch, and at other times, seems like it’s trying to be a straight-forward comedy that makes up it’s own jokes, is in it’s own little universe, and doesn’t even know about the other show. Hell, it even plays out like a failed-pilot of the original, except with more knowing-humor and a switch-up of the lead characters.

Since the movie never seems like it knows what it wants to be, or how for that matter, some comedy hits and some of it misses. More of it hits than actually misses, but knowing what Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell, and even Phillips are capable of, it comes as a bit of a disappointment. The jokes they use get a bit stale after awhile, especially the part where Starsky is high on cocaine and gets into a dance-battle, even though he doesn’t know he’s high, and become the same old, “70’s-fashion-was-so-corny”-type of humor. Nothing as witty or as smart as Zoolander or even Old School here, just a bunch of repetitive jokes made towards the decade it’s apparently supposed to take place in, even if it feels like we’re just watching a bunch of current-Hollywood stars play dress-up and act like their in the 70’s. I don’t know if being a tad bit anachronistic was the movie’s point or not, but if it was; it probably would have been a lot smarter and funnier in that case.

But in all honesty, I can’t discredit this movie too much cause the cast seems to be having fun and is mostly the reasons why we find ourselves laughing at times, despite it seeming a bit desperate at times. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are seemingly playing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. They both seem to be enjoying themselves, not having to stretch their acting-muscles all that much, and getting a chance to dress in some fine, sexy 70’s digs. Together, they’re a bunch of fun and keep this movie cracking, but after awhile, you start to think how much of this movie was made because they really wanted to make a Starsky & Hutch movie, or how much of it was made as an excuse for the two to pal-around with one another? One has to wonder, and sometimes, it feels like the latter-aspect. It’s fun to watch them, but it feels like their having a bit more fun than we are and that poses a problem, especially when they’re trying to steal the laughs out of you.

Come on! Gimme more!

Come on! Gimme more!

On paper, having Vince Vaughn do his spastic, fast-speech act and Jason Bateman do his dead-pan act, team together, and play the smart, but slightly off-kilter baddies in a movie would seem like comedic-brilliance, but it never musters up any of the courage to really keep them funny or relevant all that much. Vaughn seems like he’s bored being serious and conning, whereas Bateman actually seems like he’s bored, and isn’t just using that to his and his character’s advantage. He actually seems like he’s bored and wants to get his check, so he could get the hell home and get ready to film another season of Arrested Development. Also, any movie that has thew chance to showcase Juliette Lewis and her comedic-talents as the dumb, trashy-chick in the movie, but squander that potential, has seemingly all but lost points from yours truly. The girl is not only a foxy mama, but she’s pretty damn funny, especially when she’s given the chance to be.

Others in this cast that show up do what they can like Snoop Dogg, who actually has some of the funnier-moments in the whole flick of funny people; Carmen Electra and Amy Smart show up to only make-out and provide some sex-appeal for a movie that didn’t need any, and when it finally got it’s chance to showcase it, made it seem more misogynistic than titillating; and actual cameos from the original guys, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who made it funny just being there, but once I got to thinking about it, made it almost seem like the film was making fun of them and how hell-bent-out-of-shape they seem to have gotten. Poor guys. Oh well, they probably got a nice, healthy paycheck from this. Just like Bateman. Although, needless to say, he probably made that paycheck last.

Consensus: Bits and pieces of Starsky & Hutch seem inspired enough to transpire plenty of inspired moments of comedy, but not too many as the flick struggles to make up it’s mind of what type of comedy it wants to be, or even make us laugh at all.

6 / 10

"1, 2, 3 and to tha 4, Huggy Bear is at tha doe."

“One, two, three and to tha foe, Huggy Bear is at tha doe.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

She’s Funny That Way (2015)

Thought that call-girls and Broadway went perfect together.

Izzy (Imogen Poots) is a middle-class call-girl who dreams of, hopefully, making it big one day. And living in the Big Apple, that definitely seems like a possibility, as far-fetched as it may originally seem. But the opportunity presents itself even clearer once Izzy meets Broadway director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), on what some may refer to as “a date”. Arnold instantly falls for Izzy, but knows that it cannot go any further due to the fact that he’s currently married to the talented and passionate Delta (Kathryn Hahn). With Arnold’s latest play coming up, it’s around that time where casting decisions are made, people get together, and everything has to come into play to ensure that all else goes smoothly with this one production. However, when Izzy comes into a casting-call for Arnold’s play, everything goes South, real quick. Soon, the co-writer of the play (Will Forte) falls for Izzy, even though he’s with Jane (Jennifer Aniston), which makes Arnold quite jealous. This then leads to a lot of neglect on his part of his wife, who then begins to crush a bit heavily on Seth (Rhys Ifans) – someone Arnold already feuds with enough as is.

Let's get these two together!

Let’s get these two together!

After nearly a decade away from doing whatever the hell he felt like doing, Peter Bogdanovich is finally back to making narrative-films once again and this time, it sort of makes me wonder just why he came back at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to have such a legendary talent like Bogdanovich still around, making movies and using his input to hopefully remind those of his influence back in the 70’s, but if he’s going to be doing all of that with She’s Funny That Way, then honestly, I think I’m fine with him staying away a little while longer.

Sounds harsh, I know, but come on!

One of the main problems early on is that Bogdanovich seems to be going for something of a retro, screwball comedy aspect that’s reminiscent of those sorts of films from the 20’s and so on and so forth, but it never quite gels together well. It’s fine to use that brand of humor, find a way to place it in a modern-setting, and see how it all works out, but Bogdanovich leaves a little too much of that up to chance. Rather than actually finding a way to make his homage work better as a modern-day comedy, it feels more like a tribute that never makes it relevancy known; almost as if Bogdanovich himself just wanted to make this so he could show the world that he too loves these sorts of classic films.

And this is all to state the fact that the screenplay, co-written by both Bogdanovich and ex-wife Louise Stratten, is a mess; it’s an unfunny one, for sure, but it’s also one that can never make up its own mind. For one, it treats each and everyone of its characters like little jokes written out on a cue-card, so that we can all wait for the punch-line to drop. Once the punch-line does in fact, drop, the movie then decides it’s time to make us feel sorry and sad for these poor souls of characters, if only as a way to make up for the fact that it couldn’t help but be pointing the finger at them for the past hour-and-a-half. This all happens, coincidentally, around the same time that it’s about time to wrap everything all up, which makes the final-product itself, rushed, and above all else, strung-together by tape.

Which, in case you didn’t get my meaning, is saying that it’s not good.

This is all the more disappointing considering the fact that the cast seems able and ready to service whatever Bogdanovich has them all do, but they never get compensated for it. Surely, they made plenty of cash-money off of this movie, but what good is it when you have the one chance of a lifetime to work with a silver-screen legend like Bogdanovich, and you’re left with nothing more than jokes about sex, therapists, and Broadway. None of which are actually funny, nor insightful, but seem to come so swiftly that they must have to be jokes nonetheless, regardless of if they’re actually effective.

Or, hey! What about these two?!?

Or, hey! What about these two?!?

Owen Wilson, despite seeming like a perfect fit for Arnold, really seems to be sleep-walking his way through his time here. This, I understand, would have been very unsurprising had this movie came out a little over a year ago, but in the past year or so, we’ve gotten a chance to see Wilson stretch his wings out a little more like he once did back in the early days with films like Inherent Vice, the Grand Budapest Hotel, and even Midnight in Paris, highlighting certain strengths that he can play to, if given the opportunity to do so. But that doesn’t happen here and it’s only a shame since Wilson can work well with this sort of material, regardless of if it actually sucks or not.

Then, there’s Imogen Poots who has to put on a Brooklyn-accent of sorts and despite doing well with it, never really makes sense as the main protagonist. In a see of wild and crazy characters, she gets lost in the fray and makes it understandable as to why Brie Larson left it in the first place. Hahn shows up as Arnold’s wife and seems like she’s down to play, but honestly, the writing just isn’t there for her. It’s uninteresting enough as is and it’s a shame because we know that Hahn can do so much better, no matter what it is that you throw at her.

Hell, look at Happyish!

And of course, there’s the likes of Rhys Ifans and Will Forte who show up, do their thing, collect the paycheck and then leave, but in all honesty, they aren’t worth talking about here. The real one is Jennifer Aniston as Jane, the therapist who is constantly pissed-off and tired of everyone around her’s bullshit. Though we’ve seen Aniston play against type in both of the Horrible Bosses movies, here, she really gets a chance to let loose on her comedic-timing and it shows that, while some may not want to look at her in an anti-Rachel light, they may have to get used to it. Because if the rom-com roles begin to dry-up anytime soon, then we know that for certain, given the chance to do so, Aniston can change her act up and while not being as lovely as before, can still make people laugh and want to see more of her.

Consensus: Despite the key talent both in front of, as well as behind the camera, She’s Funny That Way still never comes together as a funny, nor interesting homage to the lovely screwball films of yesteryear, despite clearly seeming to aim for that target.

3 / 10

Or, just get these two together and make something interesting. ANYTHING!

Or, just get these two together and make something interesting. ANYTHING!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Ten Thousand Saints (2015)

Want to feel happy? Turn on Minor Threat. They’ll turn any frown, upside down.

Jude (Asa Butterfield) was adopted by Harriet (Julianne Nicholson), after the father, Les (Ethan Hawke), went off to do whatever it is that Les does. Occasionally, he’s with Di (Emily Mortimer), but most of the time, Les spends his time hanging around, listening to sweet jams, and of course, smoking reefer. The times are good for Les, but as for everybody else around him? Well, not so much. For one, Jude is reeling over the recent death of his very best friend. Di’s daughter, Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), also finds out that she’s pregnant, which may seem like no big thing, except for the fact that the father of the unborn baby is also Jude’s best friend who just died. So basically, this causes a lot of commotion and drama for all parties involved, where certain people learn to grow up, and others, well, sink themselves into hard-rocking, loud-as-hell punk rock music. Because, after all, it’s the 80’s, and what better time to start thrashing to some hardcore?

The look I've always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

The look I’ve always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

Ten Thousand Saints is a movie I’d like to classify under a category that I call, “Indieocrity”. Whenever an indie film is made, regardless of who it’s with, or what it’s about, there’s always a certain level of heightened expectation to it because, for better, it’s not a studio-flick. Most of the times, these studio-flicks tend to be over-saturated and edited for the largest possible audience, so therefore, those movies tend to be a lot duller than your average indie-fare. However, every so often, you do happen to get the indie movie that, as much as you don’t want to admit it, is pretty dull.

Actually, a lot duller than mainstream-fare.

In the case of Ten Thousand Saints, this is especially true. While it’s easy for me to commend the movie on having such a nice heart and care in telling each of these character’s stories, it’s a shame that hardly any of them work out. Sometimes, this is due to the fact that no character is really ever allowed to break-out from their one-note, “type”-shell, but other times, this has to do with the fact that there’s just so much going on with each and everyone of these characters, it’s a little hard to keep track of what’s happening to whom, for what reasons, and how everybody else surrounding them is affected.

And this isn’t because I’m an idiotic dumbo that can’t pay attention to movies if they don’t feature some sort of car-chase or gun-shot; normally, these are my kinds of movies that I cherish for each and every second. But with Ten Thousand Saints, there’s just so many subplots that eventually, after about the fourth time or so of forgetting what was going on with them, I sort of gave up and just hoped that the movie’s good vibes would come and save the day.

That only happens with Ethan Hawke – which, to some, may not be all that surprising.

Hawke is the perfect choice as Les, because you get a huge sense that this guy means well, but he’s such a slacker, that he’ll never get his life in order to take care of those who need him the most. Having worked with Richard Linklater so much in the past definitely helps create this image of Hawke already as someone like Les, except in this case, it’s about thirty years down the line and needless to say, he hasn’t done much growing-up. But that doesn’t matter too much because it’s obvious this character has a good heart and is most definitely there to make sure those around him are happy, even if he does seem to bail at the most inopportune times.

But I’ll take that over the rest of these characters.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

Basically, if you take that synopsis up above, add on two other subplots concerning Nicholson’s character’s own mid-life crisis and Emile Hirsch’s character punk band, then you’ve got a pretty hefty movie. It totally feels like during the driest moments, where the comedy doesn’t really stick, and the drama is so scattered among all of these stories, that the heart gets lost in the fray. That isn’t to say that I felt like co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini didn’t care one bit for these characters, it’s more that it seems like they care so much, that they don’t forget that, sometimes, the best medicine for any screen-writer is to no what to cut and what to leave in.

There’s about two or three subplots that I could have done without here, but by saying that, I also realize that I’m down-grading a lot of the other performers here and that’s not right. For one, they all do seem to be trying here and also, they’re all really great in everything else they show up in, which makes this movie all the more surprising by its mediocrity. Butterfield has an odd American accent as a character who is a little too whiny for his own good; Steinfeld is fine at playing this raw, dirty and wild-type, but overall, here story turns into unabashed melodrama; Mortimer is sweet, but her character’s sort of forgotten about half-way through; same goes for Nicholson; and then, Emile Hirsch is here not really seeming like he’s trying.

Honestly, this is a big shock to me considering that just about each and everything these stars show up in, I love them in. The movies/shows themselves? Maybe not so much, but their own respective work has always felt nice and deserved, as if they should have gotten pats on the backs as soon as filming commenced. But sadly, that doesn’t seem to happen with Ten Thousand Saints, as they’re all just sort of left with conventional characters, nowhere to really stretch out their wings, and basically, service a script that doesn’t seem worth their time or effort.

And yet, they give it anyway. What entertainers these folks truly are!

Consensus: Despite the talent on-board, Ten Thousand Saints never rises above the sheer mediocrity it turns out to be with its over-stuffed, yet still uninteresting plot(s).

4 / 10

So straight edge.

So straight edge.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Vacation (2015)

Just go to Six Flags instead. At least you’ll get to see a dancing old dude.

After spending many vacations with his family, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) now feels that it’s about time he took his own family out to the one and only place he loved as a kid: Walley World. Problem is, nobody in his family is nearly as siked as he is; his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), is starting to grow tired of the lame vacations, while their oldest son, James (Skyler Gisondo), constantly gets picked-on by their youngest, Kevin (Steele Stebbins). Though there are many odds working against it, Rusty still finds a way to make sure that everybody gets together and embarks on this little trip where they’ll meet all sorts of lovely characters along the way. One of whom is Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), who is all grown-up now and is married to a local weatherman, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), whose absolute stunning and handsome looks seem to bring out the worst in every woman around him – most importantly, Debbie, which Rusty has a real problem with.

My god! Where has the time gone?!?

My god! Where has the time gone?!?

Today, August 23, 2015, marks the official last day of my summer vacation. To be honest, this summer, as a whole, has been a fun, exciting, memorable, and lovely time that reminds me why summer in and of itself matters so much to begin with and why I’m happy to at least have some sort of freedom left in my life to where I can do the sort of things I do during the summer. That could mean a huge list of things like going out to the bars, drinking with my friends, listening to good music, working every now and then, and most of all, going to the movies.

The reason I state all of this because it just proves to how forgettable a movie like Vacation may be, even in a summer as memorable as the one I just had.

But “forgettable” doesn’t always mean “terrible”, or “wretched”, it can sometimes just mean that a movie isn’t entirely the greatest thing ever created, but at the same time, still isn’t all that good. It’s just slap-dab in the middle of mediocrity and that’s exactly why Vacation is the kind of movie, while I may not remember having seen in a few years, still did the fine service of being a comedy that, once, or twice, or hell, maybe more than three times, made me laugh. Granted, it’s not always that easy and it’s not always as hard, either, but Vacation, with a few bits here and there, had me laugh-out-loud to where it was noticeable and known to those around me that I was indeed laughing at what co-writers and co-directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley were doing.

However, if you take into account the fact that nearly every other line in this movie is supposed to be a joke, a gag, or contain at least some bit of humor, the math gets a little shoddy. For instance, if 100% of this movie is filled to the brim with jokes, and if I only laughed for about six-to-ten of those jokes, then surely, the grading-scale cannot be too positive. It’s hard to say how much this movie made me laugh, other than, it just didn’t really do it for me at times and at others, it did.

So above all, the movie is a perfect 50%. Meaning, it’s not too bad, but it’s not too good either.

"Something" is on Ed Helms' shirt and it's HILARIOUS.

“Something” is on Ed Helms’ shirt and it’s HILARIOUS.

Most of where Vacation works is in how bizarre and truly random Goldstein and Daley allow for their material to get. There’s a chunk of celebrity cameos that occur along the way, and while not all of them work, there are a few that brought some fun and excitement to the screen, if only due to the fact that it was so odd, that it just worked. Charlie Day has a sequence that’s like this, as well as does a certain someone who I won’t name that drives a truck throughout the movie, but other than them two, most of the cameos fall flat. Some of them come out of nowhere and it’s cool to see just who Goldstein and Daley are able to bring in for this, but sometimes, it just seems like a wasted opportunity on jokes that seem to fall flat.

They don’t all do, like I’ve stated before. But when they do, it’s obvious that Goldstein and Daley are trying a tad too hard.

And this doesn’t necessarily hurt the main cast as much, although they too definitely suffer from the script not being able to keep up with their energy. Ed Helms’ shtick by now isn’t over-played, as much as it needs some sort of livening-up and his portrayal as an older Rusty doesn’t do him that sort of justice. Still, Helms clearly seems to be trying here and it’s better than just seeing him sleep-walk through something. Same goes for Christina Applegate who, thankfully, gets a few opportunities to prove that this isn’t just a man’s affair and that she’s able to be funny, too. Problem is, it’s on a throw-up gag that gets a bit old, a bit quicker than it should have. They both have fine chemistry between one another, but once the movie starts to get more serious about their marriage, it seems like it’s just something to fall back on, rather than deserved, or as a way to stretch these characters out anymore.

As Rusty’s sister and brother-in-law, Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth are sadly, saddled with a one-joke the whole way through and it’s sort of a shame that they weren’t able to stretch their wings out and do more. We know for sure that Mann is hilarious when she wants to be, and Hemsworth can be, too, but he’s just not allowed to do much of anything funny here. The whole joke surrounding him is that he’s this huge, sexy man-hunk, who also happens to have a ginormous dong. So basically, he’s playing Chris Hemsworth – the man every woman loves, and every guy so passionately despises.

Now where’s the humor in that? That’s real life speaking!

Consensus: Occasionally funny, but too often, Vacation feels as if it’s missing its mark of not allowing the talented cast to own up to their full potential, nor really allowing for the comedy to settle every now and again.

5 / 10

Spoiler alert. I guess.

Spoiler alert. I guess.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

American Ultra (2015)

Weed kills. Not you, but others.

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), where have a comfortable, lazy, and pot-filled life the rural burbs of West Virginia. However, what Mike doesn’t know is that he was once apart of a covert CIA initiative entitled “the Ultra Program” – something he has no memory of but is going to get a quick reminder of very soon. This all begins when a hot-shot CIA agent (Topher Grace) decides that he needs to get rid of Mike in a way of typing-up loose-ends, but the sympathetic CIA agent (Connie Britton) won’t let that happen as she sees the operation as her own child and it’s up to her to keep it safe and alive. Now, Mike and Phoebe are on the run from the CIA, as they run into all sorts of blood, guts, and violence; most of which Mike is surprisingly able to handle due to certain skills he had in the field, coming back to him. But no matter how many people Mike kills, he still worries for the love of his life, Phoebe, and now that she’s been captured, he’s worried that it may be time for him to call a day and let whatever’s going to happen to him, happen.

American Ultra tries to be so many things at once and is so willing to change between them on a dime, with reckless abandon. At one point, it’s a stoner-comedy about a middle-class dude just trying to get by; at another, it’s about this young, happily-in-love couple also trying to get by; and then, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s this gory action-thriller with CIA agents, conspiracies, and all sorts of illegal activities. While all of these elements sound as fun and as interesting can be, the movie still somehow turns out to be a bit of a slug – something that director Nima Nourizadeh tries so hard to avoid, but in all honesty, just can’t.

Never thought I'd say, but I'm so happy to see the dude who played Eric Foreman!

Never thought I’d say this, but I’m so happy to see the dude who played Eric Forman!

But, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t at least occasionally entertained by the effort put on by just about everyone involved.

Some of this can be chalked up to Nourizadeh for not standing down and allowing for his material to stick on the ground without hardly ever having anything to show for it, but a good portion of this can be given to the fact that Max Landis is the one who’s behind the pen and paper on this one. For anybody who knows Landis’ work, they’ll know that a few years ago, he wrote the smart and entertaining Chronicle; a movie that had every bit of animosity standing in its way, but somehow got by on being more than just a superhero movie with a neat gimmick. And watching American Ultra, I got a lot of the same feel from that movie, here; while they’re two different stories altogether, the idea of two young people being thrown into this insane, sometimes horrific situation is still relevant and works, all to a certain extent.

See, even though the movie wants to act as if it has this big, huge, beating heart at the center of all the mayhem and havoc, the movie is, in all honesty, more concerned with the carnage that ensues. There’s no problem with this because, for what it’s worth, all of the violence is as barbaric and as crazy as it needs to be and is, at least, fun to watch. It takes away from the rest of the movie being a bit of a bore and shows that Landis, while a bit sketchy on certain aspects of telling a compelling story, still has bright ideas to use when it comes to writing a tense, but fun action-sequence; something that means a lot more when you see it play out, than it actually sounds coming from a dork such as myself.

But to have a movie that is, altogether, both passionately romantic and horrifically violent, there needs to be a nice divider to between the two. There has to be some sort of break apart between the two story-elements, like in say something like True Romance that’s got a very heartfelt love story in between all of the craziness and gore that spews out from the sometimes convoluted story (although, to be fair, that story is at least a little easier to get the hang of than this). Here, the romance never feels earned and whenever it’s given attention, it more or less feels like it’s taking away from what could have been a lot more of a fun flick.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they're just boring.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they’re mostly just boring.

Still though, there’s something here to watch, which makes it at least a tiny bit better than most of what we’re used to get in the last weekends of August.

And even though the script turns out to be something of a mess, clearly something was working well enough that it attracted such a high-caliber cast as this. Having worked together before on Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart clearly share a nice bit of chemistry between one another and it translates well into the earlier portions of the movie, where it’s mostly all about them and all of the other CIA nonsense is pushed to the side. Then, all that nonsense comes into the main-frame and makes their relationship seem a bit more irrelevant to the central story, and instead, we’re more or less focused on how many people Eisenberg’s character can kill with a frying-pan.

The rest of the cast has got some fine names, too, but even they feel like they’re wasted on some material that still can’t make up its mind. Britton’s character is, as expected, sympathetic and nurturing, as if she just walked off of the set of Friday Night Lights and forgot to change her character; Walton Goggins plays a mentally-challenged killer by the name of Laughter, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds; Bill Pullman shows up to do his thing; John Leguizamo plays, once again, a drug-dealer, even though in real life, it’s all he ever complains about playing; and even though a lot of people give him a bad rap in general, Topher Grace is pretty great here as the dick-headed CIA agent.

I’ve been reading a lot of the complaints about Grace here saying that he’s, “annoying” and “a dick”, but having seen the film, I can’t understand why this would be a problem to begin with. The whole character’s reason to exist is to be annoying, as well as a dick, because without him, there wouldn’t be much of a story to begin with. Without Grace gracing us with his character’s presence (like that?), we’d still be stuck where we were in the first-act; watching as these two love birds got stoned, talk about trees, start crying and generally, not make any sense.

So, yeah. Thanks, Topher Grace. I’m glad you were around.

Consensus: Dealing with so many plot-elements at once, American Ultra is a jumble, but it’s an interesting one that’s occasionally fun and entertaining to sit by, watch, and remind yourself that it is in fact, late-August and the movies don’t get much better than this.

5.5 / 10

Had this taken place in the early-90's, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it's just its own thing and nobody cares.

Had this taken place in the early-90’s, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it’s just its own thing and nobody cares.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cop Car (2015)

Stealing cop cars in real life, sure as hell aren’t as easy as stealing them in GTA.

Two kids, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) walk through a field that eventually leads to a creek where, for no explainable reason, a cop car is left abandoned. Seeing as how these two kids are chock full of piss, vinegar and energy, they decide to take it for a spin, or two, or three. Hell, they decide to take it out everywhere they can, going 100 mph, and not giving a single crap about the world outside of them. Eventually though, the man whose cop car that is originally (Kevin Bacon) comes looking for it and with a good reason: He’s got some pretty naughty, downright incriminating stuff in the trunk of that car that he wouldn’t want anyone seeing, let alone two kids who just so have happened to stumble upon it. This is where the cop decides to track these kids down, get his car back, drive them back to their guardians’ homes, and getting back on with his life. Problem is, the kids look in the trunk of the car and needless to say, what they find, is not good.

That's how it always begins.

That’s how it always begins.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Jon Watts in the next couple of years. If you haven’t already, then consider yourself prepared. Because with Watts taking over the new, hopefully improved Spider-Man reboot set to come out in two years time, a lot of people are wondering just what it is about this guy that would give a studio like Sony so much hope that he’s the one to get the job done right and in a way that can hopefully let people forget about the past two Marc Webb movies (even though, to be honest, they weren’t terrible, just ill-timed).

Well, I don’t know if Cop Car was the evidence Sony needed, but it sure as hell is for me.

Because, for one, it’s great and it’s absolutely surprising that I’d think this. For one, Cop Car seems so simple in its grindhouse-ish premise that the only way for Watts and company to go, were down; they had kids, they had cops, they had guns, and they had mystery, which gives them all of the perfect ingredients to make something sleazy, dirty and at least partially fun. But there’s something strange about Cop Car in that it’s essentially two movies, rolled into one, not-even-an-hour-and-half flick, and they’re both very good.

On one side of the spectrum, you have a coming-of-ager involving two kids we literally know nothing about other than that they like to cuss, spit, and cause all sorts of chicanery wherever they go. Basically, they’re like all kids and that’s all you need to know about them; Watts doesn’t put much of an effort into getting down to the nitty gritty of what makes them tick, he just presents them as kids, who are different from one another in certain ways that it’s easy to identify with one from the other. Already, this movie had me won over because it felt like dialogue for real life teenage kids, but then the situation itself gets hotter and heavier and the movie really started to work its magic.

See, once these kids steal the cop car and everything around them starts getting a whole violent, we all of a sudden see that these kids are, as expected, kids. They can’t make full sense of the world, so that when they are held at gun-point by an evil dude, they ask him quite simply, “Are you going to shoot us?” They don’t even know that, no matter what, they’ll get shot and probably killed; to them, life is like a video-game and because of this, they don’t take the real life consequences into account when thrown into a predicament quite like this.

And then, there’s the story involving Kevin Bacon’s cop character, which is still pretty strong in its own right.

Like with the two kiddies, we literally know nothing about Bacon’s character, other than that he’s a small-town cop, is clearly up to no good, and may be a bit more sneaky than he originally lets on. This part of the movie is well-written and compelling, obviously, but without Bacon, or his acting-skills, I don’t know how well this character would have done with such limited-detail surrounding him. Everything we need to know about this character is the way in how he desperately carries himself from one objective, to the other, all in hopes that he’ll be able to get his cop car back and ensure that his dirty little secrets never get out.

Just look at that mustache! It's so terrible, you have got to think there's some sympathy in him somewhere!

Just look at that mustache! It’s so terrible, you have got to think there’s some sympathy in him somewhere!

Bacon does wonder in this role because he makes us think that this character, despite him having clearly done bad things in his life before, may be a bit of a good guy. We never quite know with his character and it’s interesting to watch as he constantly digs himself out of certain obstacles that seemed to continuously pile-up in his way, no matter how much closer he believes he is to reaching his goal. Do we want him to reach it, too? Or, do we just want all of his dirty laundry to get seen by the right eyes and for his life, as well as his police career, to be all over and done with?

We never fully know and that’s the main reason why Cop Car works as brilliantly as it does.

Though I won’t divulge into too many details about what happens in the last-act of this movie, I will say that it gets very violent, very quick, and in some very gruesome ways, too, but it all feels so deserved. See, with the violence in this movie against something like, I don’t know, say Terminator Genisys, is that people in that movie get shot, die and evaporate into the air all willy nilly. No harm, no foul, no problems. But here, when people get shot, they die, and there’s nothing special or glamorous about that at all.

I know this sounds so damn obvious to state (in a review no less), but it’s the truth that more movies like Cop Car should exist, if solely for the fact that it highlights gun violence and death for what it actually is: A traumatizing event. In light of today’s events, this resonates quite an awful lot and while it may not get that same sort of message across to others, quite as well as it did to me, it still matters that it’s being portrayed as such in a movie about kids, cops, guns, drugs, and criminals. Because all of these elements co-exist in real life and are all too close together.

Something that’s quite saddening indeed, but hey, at least we’ve got a new Spider-Man movie on the way!

Consensus: As small and short as it may be, Cop Car is still a near-perfect thriller, mixed with a smart, endearing and compelling coming-of-ager that makes it all come full circle.

9 / 10

Go on! Try to get five stars!

Go on! Try to get five stars!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz


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