Come on, it’s family. Just get along with one another so Christmas can be a whole lot better.
Three close brothers, Son (Michael Shannon), Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs) hear the news of their estranged fathers death and decide to go to the funeral, and basically talk a whole bunch of shit on him. Predictably, this causes a lot of ruckus and anger with their step-brothers, which makes things a whole lot more tense for everybody involved.
Two years ago, a little film named Take Shelter, took everybody by surprise and showed us the type of talents that lied within writer/director Jeff Nichols. But, for anybody who was a big-time film nerd and had been keeping this guy on their radar, would know that 4 yours prior, he had another little smash-hit of his with a film that seems to go hand-in-hand with his second one. It’s pretty neat to see what directors debuted with as they are sometimes terribly bad and you can see why they’re called “directorial debuts”, and other times; they have you realize just how damn good these guys really are behind-the-camera. This, is one of those latter cases.
What I liked so much about this flick was how the film had me interested right from the start. Of course it has a slow and deliberate pace that may bother some, but for me, I was intrigued right from the beginning. Right off the bat, I payed attention to every single little thing somebody said because it made me understand all of these characters, what they do, who they are, and what’s their significance in this story we have here. For the first 15 minutes or so, nothing really exciting happens other than just a bunch of people going around and shootin’ the shit with one another, but it’s all very interesting and had me set from the get-go, believe it or not.
A lot of that has to go to not only the direction of Nichols, but his writing as well as it seems like he has that pitch-tone perfect ear for natural dialogue that just doesn’t feel like “movie talk”; it feels like real people talking. But it’s not all about the talking here, because once those first 15 minutes go out of the way, something then changes in the film and there is all of a sudden this time and place where things get very intense, very surprising, and very emotionally-charged. I can’t go into this flick any more without giving certain plot-points away but what I will say is that the places this film takes and goes really do work and will actually surprise you by how dark it is and just by how much it makes you feel. It catches you off-guard, and becomes more than just a movie about a bunch of hicks talking, drinkin’ blue ribbons, and listening to Allman Brothers.
Of course, as you could probably tell, this flick pits one gang of brothers, against the other gang and that may come off as a very obvious and conventional piece of story-telling, but the way Nichols handles it is anything but. Instead of making us realize who’s right and who’s wrong in the situation these guys find themselves in, Nichols shows how both sides of the equation are both kind of dicks and don’t really use their head when it comes to making decisions. They just use the idea of revenge and it gets them all wrapped-up and hell bent out of shape, until one dumb thing happens after another, and then everything just spirals out of control until there’s nothing left to gain revenge about or for. It’s just a bunch of sad and lonely dudes who can’t help but feel the need like they need to sucker somebody next. Nichols shows this in the most perfect way possible and it’s true sign of what this guy can do with a rather-conventional plot, and still make it as insightful and surprising as any other story.
Now, where I do think that Nichols messed himself up a bit in was how a lot of this material is a bit too subtle for it’s own good. Everything in this flick is pretty much understood from start-to-finish with barely any moments of confusion whatsoever, but there’s just way too many scenes and snap-shots of people standing around, drinking, sitting, hangin’ out, and staring into space without really uttering any words. I get that this gives us the essence of what real life is exactly like, but it never seems to go anywhere and could have maybe benefited from some more talking or just a total cut of all those scenes in general. Then again, I can’t really say that there are really any unnecessary scenes in this film at all, so maybe the cut wouldn’t have done it any good.
Most people will probably be surprised to see how there is absolutely no familiar faces in this film whatsoever, that is, unless you’re not going to count the man, the myth, the legend, aka Michael Shannon in the lead role as Son. No seriously, his name is Son. I guess big daddy couldn’t find time in his day for originality. Anyway, back to the man, the myth, the legend: Michael Shannon. As most of us know by now, Shannon is the master at playing it subtle but can bring out the scariest and most painful reactions from anybody, just by a twitch of his crazy-eyes. The guy looks like a loon, but there’s something very genuine and comforting about him that makes us stand behind his character as the more reasonable brother of the three. There’s something about Shannon that has us love this character right from the start, even though there is a huge pound of mystery surrounding him throughout the whole story, we still like him and trust him to do the right thing in the end. We hear some strange things come up into conversation about him from other characters and whatnot, but never anything to the point of where we feel like he’s a complete psycho. He’s just a dude that just so happens to have done some bad shite in his life. Haven’t we all?
There’s a whole slew of other characters in this film that do some great jobs, and I was surprised since I haven’t seen any of these people, show up in anything else. That surprises me too, considering just about everybody does an excellent job with everything they’re given. Except, there are a couple of side performances here and there that show up and seem a bit poorly-acted depending on who’s delivering the lines and all that. But like the scenes of people staring-out into the fields, it didn’t get to my head too much when the dialogue was as natural and interesting as it was here.
Consensus: It may follow a conventional plot line, but Shotgun Stories is anything but that in terms of everything else. The writing and direction from Nichols is superb without ever being showy, and the somewhat unknown cast all do excellent jobs with their roles, that seem to add on extra layers to a story that could have easily been played off as your run-of-the-mill, revenge story taking place in rural Arkansas.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
Don’t ever invite the one person that may stop the marriage, to your actual wedding.
A mother named Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son named Claude (Zane Pais) live together and are constantly angry at the things around them. They go to visit a relative (Jennifer Jason Leigh) over the weekend, for that person’s wedding but the problem is that the soon-to-be husband (Jack Black) of that husband, isn’t exactly Mr. Charming. But in Margot’s eyes: almost no one is.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem like the right kind of guy for me. His films are filled with characters that are so damn unlikable, that you would much rather shoot them than be in the same family as them, and the dialogue has that natural feel to it, but also gets very weird and quirky for no reason at all. He always seems to base his movies in reality, but a type of reality that is pessimistic, miserable, and downright uneven. Maybe that’s how life is, but for me; it doesn’t seem so. That’s why Baumbach never seems to deliver the goods and this flick is no different.
The biggest problem I hit with this flick was that barely anybody here drew me in, nor did they even have me compelled by what they were going to do next with their lives. Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about them. Sounds harsh but the film is just dedicated to each one of these characters either constantly fighting with one another, acting strange just for the sake of it, saying how they really feel at random and sometimes, unnecessary moments, and getting into arguments where it gets so heated, they’re about to kill each other the next second. I mean I know family can be a bitch at times, but never as bad as they are displayed here. Almost every single scene that goes by, nobody ever seems to enjoy each other’s company and it never changes. Whether or not Baumbach meant for us to share the same misery these characters were feeling, is totally beyond me.
I mean, I get it. Not everybody in the world we live in is going to be as sweet as pumpkin pie but this film takes that a little too far to where it’s just an annoyance. Watching people practically beat the ever, loving shit out of the other in a verbal, and sometimes physical war. What makes it even worse is that this film is one hell of a sloppy piece-of-work because Baumbach never seems to be able to make a cohesive story here, and resorts to just snipping together random, short shots of these characters either reacting with each other, or just standing there looking mad/angry/sad. It’s cool what Baumbach can handle his characters without ever having any real plot to work with, but he doesn’t succeed at that here and I think it’s mainly because he trusted too much in his writing to win everybody over. Qurkiness can only go so far, and it went a bit far for our man, Noah, here.
This was even more of a shame to see in this flick is because of the movie that came before this, The Squid and the Whale. It’s probably my favorite Baumbach flick and shows that the guy can handle quirkiness, but also throw in some real, honest emotions to-spare where we feel for the characters involved, no matter how self-centered or despicable they may be. It seems as if Baumbach tried to do some of that here, but it doesn’t have as much steam as that indie-gem had. The characters from that movie were pretty damn unlikeable, but at least they had some sort of sympathetic side to them, deep-down inside. You had to look far for it, but when you found it all out, it worked wonders for the flick and it seemed like Baumbach tried to do the same thing here, just without any likeable-traits whatsoever. I can’t lie, there were some parts of this film that had me interested and made me laugh, but they were also very few and far my dear. Very few and far.
Even though the characters and story-line sort of blow, the cast still owns and show exactly why they deserve roles like these, no matter how detestable they can be. Nicole Kidman is great as the confused, bitchy, and often terrible mother that can’t seem to get her head around whatever it is that she wants in life. Kidman has always been a powerhouse in every performance she’s given, but she’s allowed to play a more mean character than we usually see from her and I think she handles it well. Since every scene consists of her bitching everybody-out that’s around her at that time, it’s not very hard to see exactly why a gal like this would own at playing such a evil mother. Yes, she even bitches out her own son. Damn woman!
Jennifer Jason Leigh always has had a knack for coming off as very sunny, bright-eyed, and likable and her role as Pauline really worked for her in that aspect. The fact that she’s so happy with life and her sister is such a huge bitch, really seemed strange to me, but then again, I guess that’s what happens in life. Life can take you down different paths of life, and I guess that’s what this flick was trying to show us with these two sissies that just so happen to be blood-related, but yet have completely, different out-looks on life. Still don’t know how a hot momma like Leigh ended-up with Jack Black, but hey, that’s what movies are made for, right? Speaking of the one and the only, Jack Black, he’s actually very good as Malcolm, Pauline’s soon-to-be-husband and brings a lot of that comedic-timing to this movie (that is so rightfully needed) and also has some nice dramatic touches as well. Malcolm is probably the most realistic and chill character of the whole film, and it’s never fully explained why the hell Margot hated him so much to begin with. He was the only guy in this film that made me want to continue watching and actually give it more of a shot than it deserved. Never thought I’d say this about any movie, but Jack Black was the best part of it. God, now that I think about it: this movie really must have sucked.
Consensus: Noah Baumbach at least deserves some sort of credit for making a story for Margot at the Wedding, solely out of random snippets of character emotions and happenings, but that’s not much when you consider how loathsome and mean these characters can be, without any sense of love or kindness in their hearts.
3 / 10 = Indie Crapola!!
In Tom Cruise, we trust.
Three separate stories somehow find their ways of connecting to one-another the way you wouldn’t expect (or maybe you’re a movie dick, and do expect it). Robert Redford plays a college professor talking to one of his most-promising students (Andrew Garfield) about what he possibly could and could not do for his future; Meryl Streep plays a reporter interviewing a Senator (Tom Cruise) about a new war-plan in the making; and two soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) get caught behind enemy lines without a hope or prayer in the world.
If a regular, everyday person gets pissed-off about the war and doesn’t agree with the intentions; then most likely, that person goes on throughout their day, keeping their thoughts and ideas to themselves, and occasionally blasting-out all of those thoughts and ideas whenever they get to shot to, either around a group of co-workers, friends, family, or total and complete strangers. Either way, this is the story of the everyday man who has a voice and that’s it. Hollywood stars are like us in the ways that they too have a voice, but they also have money, powerful friends, and in Robert Redford’s case; a camera, a crew, and a script as well. First problem right there.
Regardless as to whether or not you agree with the war, why we are over there, and whether or not it’s a waste of time and lives, you will find something to take out of this movie. There’s plenty of important ideas the movie is willing to spout-out at you that makes you feel like it knows what it’s talking about, and even better, has the best intentions at-hand. However, like with most movies along the same lines of this one, best intentions don’t mean jack-shit if you can’t give me a compelling story, compelling characters, and just an overall, compelling and entertaining piece of cinema for an hour and a half. That’s all I ask, that’s all I want, and that’s all I need to enjoy myself and if I get that, then hell, go to freakin’ town on the idea-spouting! But, if you can’t give me anything that’s the least-bit compelling, nor can you even give me an hour and a half movie time-limit (this runs a cheap-o 88 minutes), then buzz off!
That’s what I felt like saying to Robert Redford by the end of this movie because everything he tells us and lectures us on throughout this whole movie, is nothing more than that: just lectures. If I wanted to be lectured on how the war is bad, how it’s waste of time for our people to be over there, and how politicians continue to make mistakes about it, then I would have either taken a Political Science course, gone to a student-rally, or just went online, and typed in “Why the war is bad”, and thus, there would have been over 6,000,000 results and all for the price of $0. However, when you ask me to go out of my way, drive to the nearest theater-complex, and actually throw out about $9 or $10 for one of these lectures, then you can just forget it. Thank the high heavens I never payed a dime to see this movie, and according to the box-office results for this thing: apparently nobody else did either. Just goes to show you that the typical, American movie-goer wasn’t as dumb as we all thought they were. Then again, they probably went out to see Transformers that weekend so I guess that statement doesn’t hold much truth.
Also, it’s not even like everything this movie is trying to say is anything new, revolutionary, mind-boggling, or original that we haven’t already heard or seen said before. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 will probably tell you the same exact stuff that this movie is, but instead, with more insight, more humor, more personality, more entertainment, and just more of a “movie-aspect” to the whole product that will actually have you feel like you really made the right decision to see it. This movie, which is not a documentary, just tells you stuff that you have already heard before and doesn’t necessarily break any new-ground. It’s almost like Redford had this movie in his head ever since the war started, and then had to wait an extra 6 years until it was almost too late to where everything he said was relevant.
Though he shows signs of getting older as a director, Robert Redford still has the knack and talent to make himself work as an actor, and I guess that’s worth complimenting when you take the whole movie into place. Redford has a natural charisma to him, that still lies within himself, no matter how old or wrinkly his luscious face gets. The guy’s got charm to him, and it only gets better with age. However, the one who steals the spot-light away from him is Andrew Garfield, in a very early-role of his career as a student that has promise and has the brain to make a difference in this world, but just won’t take the bait on everything that he’s being taught. The kid’s a bit cocky and over-his-head with certain ideas, but Garfield makes it work and shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re up against a veteran actor like Redford, you can still do a helluva job and get your name out there for the whole world to see. I don’t know if that worked with this movie or not, but hey, at least he’s Spider-Man now, so that’s got to account for something.
The other story in this movie is with Streep and Cruise, who show that they have good banter between each other, but still feels like some of their weaker-attempts at making a crappy-script work. Cruise is charming as the manipulative, but well-intentioned Senator that has a tough job and knows it, and shows you that he can play slimy, but still make you like him and feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the whole charade of being way too cool for school. On the opposite-end, Streep is okay as the reporter, but it really feels like a role that should have been played by somebody else, like somebody younger, or somebody that isn’t as amazing as an actress as Streep, mainly because we expect more from her. Apparently her character is a little cuckoo for Coco Puff’s, even though it rarely shows when she’s able to keep her cool with the Senator, but that was probably just another attempt at trying to give us character-development from Redford, that just so happened to not work.
The last story is probably the least-interesting out of all of them, and that’s a real shame too because I like Derek Luke and Michael Pena and I feel like they can be really good in certain movies, when they’re given good scripts to assist them. This is not one of those scripts. Basically, all of the scenes we get with them are either they’re talking to a class about their political-beliefs, or they are stranded in a field, injured, and trying to not get killed. We’re supposed to feel bad for them and get a sense that this is like every poor solider that decides to sign-up for the war: but we don’t. It feels manipulative and shallow, as if Redford tried his hardest to take a jab at the military and also humanize it at the same time, but just comes off as forced.
Consensus: Redford’s intentions obviously mean well and aren’t to make everybody out there that he disagree’s with, look like total and complete a-holes, but Lions for Lambs features nothing else other than a bunch of ideas, lectures, and opinions that aren’t new, aren’t special, and don’t really serve any meaning, other than to show you that A-listers really know what’s up with the world. I call bullshit.
3 / 10 = Crapola!!
I thought all snipers had to do was just sit there, hold their breath, and shoot. That’s it.
Marksman Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) leaves the Army after a mission of his goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed once again, but this time: it’s a tad bit more serious. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country, even leading him back to that fateful incident where he was initially screwed-over in the first place.
No matter what action movie you venture out or stay inside to see, chances are; you’re going to get nothing but sure, mindless entertainment with a few, but also very little surprises. That’s just the way the movie-world works and as fine with that as I may be, sometimes, there are just some cases where I can’t turn my brain off anymore. Sometimes, I just gotta let loose. Sometimes, I just gotta let a movie have it. Sometimes, is one of those times right now!
Antoine Fuqua may not have the best track-record out there, but still a guy that I have enough faith in when it comes to action, using it right, and using it to his advantage, and for the most part; is actually what kept this film alive and well when it seemed to hit some dead ends. The action starts off fine and kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat a couple of moments, especially one car-chase scene that went all throughout the “fine” streets of Philadelphia. First of all, being a homeboy of Philly, I was happy to see my town be in a big-budget action pic where the streets were used perfectly and also, it was just a fun little piece of action that this film seemed like it needed to enhance and mostly, keep our minds off of the “plot”. I use that term “plot”, very loosely.
Most action pics are stupid. Duh, we all know that. But this one was a little TOO stupid for me to even have fun and enjoy at points. The whole idea that these dudes would just come up to a guy, have him come out of a life of solitude, and proposition an assassination attempt, without him ever gettin’ the willies from the guys, just really surprises me since I knew if I was in that situation, I would know something was fishy right away. Also, isn’t Marky Mark supposed to be a trained marksman that excels in this type of shit? Just a thought. So there we go, the beginning of this story already had me annoyed but it just continues to get worse and worse as more of these plot twists begin to unravel. I’m all down for plot twists when they make a story more interesting, but there were plot twists within the plot twists happening here and after awhile it became more laughable than actually entertaining. Then again, maybe “laughable” and “entertaining” go hand-in-hand in ways, too. Either way, something just was not clicking with me here and slowly, but surely, the movie started to lose me.
Then, the story continues to get worse as, for some freakin’ odd reason, they decide to get all political with our simple, action movie watching asses. Throughout the whole film, there is this under-lining theme of corrupt politicians that runs throughout and doesn’t come on strong until the very end where it all comes together (I think?). The whole movie plays out like a slight-thriller, with action elements, but then changes into where we’re supposed to feel of this as some sort of morality piece. I mean when I watch my dumb-ass action movies, don’t try to bog me down with a bunch of political themes that could be very present in today’s day and age. Why? Well because, I don’t give much of a shit about all that! That’s why I came here: to see Marky Mark get a sniper and start blowin’ people’s heads off left-and-right, not to understand what our dirty politicians are doing to poorer, foreign countries out there. Maybe for a different flick that may be the topic of the day, but not for this one.
Speaking of Marky Mark Wahlberg, say what you will about him, but the guy does do his best with every piece of material he’s given. The guy is a bona-fide star because he can take these shitty, action scripts and actually give them something more to hold onto because there is just something there with him and his charisma that works. However, I think his role as Bob Lee Swagger was the true point where I see him being a bit too dull for my liking. This guy, Swagger (what a cooooool name!), has a lot going for him that he’s one of the toughest mofos out there and can shoot just about anything that walks from a pretty sexy distance. However, this guy doesn’t really seem like he’s all that tough to begin with. Yeah, he shoots people and yeah, he kills them but what else can he really do? The guy barely has a personality and as much as he tries, Wahlberg can’t seem to really give him one. Wahlberg tries so, so, so hard with this role but in the end, it just comes off as another one of his dull, action-hero performances. Maybe that’s the script’s fault, and maybe it isn’t. Regardless, the two weren’t coming together and making sense.
The one who actually showed some real personality with his character was Michael Peña as the field agent that has nothing else really going for him, except for Swagger and finding out what’s getting jiggy with him. No matter what, you got to love Peña for what he is able to do with all of his roles and it’s great to see him have a bunch of fun with a character that is essentially one, big, effin’ cliche. The guy deserves all of the praise he’s been getting for awhile, and I think it’s time he just about broke out of that shell, and into our laps. If that makes any possible sense whatsoever.
Then, on the flip-side of the coin, you got Ned Beatty and Danny Glover as the two, terribly-corrupt government workers that just ooze evil in every scene. Both are good and show that they can work with a shitty script but after awhile, they’re evilness began to get ridiculous and over-played, almost to where it seemed very unbelievable that they would be at all nice or humane to the ones around them, let alone to each other. Oh, and then you got Kate Mara as Swagger’s old-partner’s wife. She definitely had a cute look to her but the way her character just lets Swagger into her life without ever knowing or seeing him ever before, did seem a bit unbelievable. Once again, another part of this story that seemed stupid, but was somehow needed to move the story right on along.
Consensus: Though Shooter is a loud, dumb, and stupid action thriller that makes no apologies for what it does, it somehow still comes off as a terribly-written piece of work that does nothing other than pull out a bunch of incomprehensible plot twists, only to add more confusion on to the final-product, that was already struggling as it was.
4 / 10 = Crapola!!
John McClane may not be able to utter his famous-line with the MPAA on his ass, but at least he can still kick some, right? Should have just hired me for the advertising.
Famed New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns to action in trying to save the world from terrorists once again. However, what makes these terrorists so different and so much more difficult to deal with, is that they deal with state-of-the-art techonology and are lead by a man who knows exactly what the hell he’s doing when it comes to taking over the world and all of it’s pride and joy. That’s where McClane’s new buddy (Justin Long) comes in to try and help him with this computer-shit that John McClane doesn’t need to take down the baddies.
For all of you people out there who have been longing for the days of when action movies came to theaters and did nothing else but provide plenty of guns, bullets, fights, and killings, all in a natural, special-effects free way; then most of you were probably happy to see John McClane back in action after almost a decade of being gone for so long. However, the idea of a 52-year old man saving the day and taking down a group of terrorists does seem a little unbelievable, right? Oh wait, it’s Bruce Willis. Never mind, it’s totally believable now.
If you’re reading this right now and haven’t seen the original, 1988 action-classic Die Hard, then you, my friend, need to get out of that muthatruckin’ seat and check it out because you are really missing out on something for your life. It’s a classic that will forever, and ever stand the tests of time and that’s all thanks to the fact that it was an old-school action movie, back in the times when they were more simpler and kinder to the people who ventured-out to go and see them. See, what made the original Die Hard such a great movie was that it not only had a bunch of stuff blowing up, people getting killed, and cool-ass lines coming from the mouth of Mr. Willis, but it also had a bunch of interesting characters in it and kept us worried and scared for them all, as their lives were single-handedly hanging in the balance from these crazy, but smart Ruskies. But as usually what happens with most franchises that are a bit too big for their britches, sequels come-around and forget about all of the substance. Instead it’s all about style and all that there is left at the handles is a bunch of non-stop action, shootings, guns, countless people getting killed, and once again, stuff blowing up. That’s all fun and all, but with our Die Hard movies, we need a little something to hold onto and I think that’s exactly the memo director Len Wiseman got here, because he brings this series way back to what it was before: fun, entertaining, joyful, and an always exciting action movie.
Wiseman doesn’t really break the action-mold with this movie and doesn’t necessarily do anything that could be considered ground-breaking in the least bit, but that’s all fine and dandy because the guy knows how to make one entertaining action-sequence, after another. Watching McClane get out of these sticky-situations that he always finds himself getting wrapped-up in, definitely kept my interest and even had me a bit tense by wondering if he was going to make it out alive or not. I know it’s pretty obvious that the guy was going to survive it all but at that moment in time, when McClane was stuck in a situation that it didn’t seem like he was going to be able to get out of alive, I didn’t feel it and instead, just felt a bit of suspense in the palm of my fingers. Solid job by Wiseman, on his part.
Even better is that the movie never stops hitting us with the action, and even reminded me a bit of the old-school action movies of the 80′s/90′s, that were all natural and had little to do with special-effects or computers or anything that would be considered “new-school” like that. It sticks to the basics and it brings back all of my old-school, VHS days. However, that’s a reason why this movie was pretty cool in other ways, because we got to see what they did with this age-old premise, set it in present-day America, and giving McClane some technological-difficulties to step in front of his way and make his mission a whole lot harder. That was a pretty neat-use of the setting an definitely made this flick a bit more twisty and twervy with where it went and how. Then again, we all know how the story ends, but when all of the crazy action is going on, you sort of forget about that and just enjoy the scenery.
With all of this action coming at you left-and-right, you have to wonder if there is any time to actually slow-down at all and the answer to that is: well, not really. Wiseman seemed like he spent so much goddamn time on the action, the explosive, and the shootings, that whenever it came right down to showing McClane as a human-being once again, he sort of shies away from that and goes right back to McClane beating the crap out of people once again. In a way, it’s not so bad considering it’s what we all know and love McClane for in the first-place, but one of the main reasons why we loved him so damn much in the first-place is because he was a human, just like you or me. I missed that aspect of the character again, and I wish Wiseman got his hand out of the CGI cookie jar and actually allowed there to be some down-time for McClane to just tell us more about him and what he’s been up to. I mean it has been almost 10 freakin’ years! The least we could find-out is what the hell’s taken him so long to be away from the limelight!
And even once they do go back to the action-scenes, a lot of them will really have you laugh your ass off. And not in the fun or exciting way either. The dumb way, is more like it. Whenever I go out to see one of these action movies, I always know to leave my brain at the door and not worry about what makes sense and what doesn’t, but there does come a point in this movie where I just couldn’t handle it anymore. There’s a whole sequence with McClane riding on top of a flying-jet, that is in the air and then, all of a sudden, he jumps from it, lands on a slant, slides down the highway, and comes back with a couple of scratches here and there and continues on with his adventure as if he didn’t just stay on-top of a flying, fuckin’ jet just about 5 seconds ago. Now, I get it: McClane is an action-hero and those types of characters are usually allowed to pull-off insane, inhumane stunts such as ones like these, no matter how stupid or incomprehensible. However, the guys a frickin’ cop from NYC, not Clark Kent! After awhile, all of the preposterous and ridiculous action-sequences in this movie bean to take a toll on me and I lost my believe-ability in all of this, but then again, it is an action-movie so I guess there shouldn’t be too much of that going-around anyway.
Even though he does still pull off all of these crazy stunts, Bruce Willis never, ever seems to disappoint and is still the man as John McClane. Willis has a knack for always showing showing why he’s the man for any job and John McClane, is the job he was meant for and you can see why that is, even if the guy is pushing 52, around this time. Still, age isn’t a matter for John McClane! McClane is a fun-loving, tough son-of-a-bitch that spits out hilarious one-liners like nobody’s business and the whole old-man look that Willis has, doesn’t really get in the way of what we think he can and cannot do. Willis seemed like he had a hell of a lot of fun playing McClane once again, and I think that the guy’s going to be playing this role for a couple more movies now, that is, until he hits age 100 and is still dodging bullets. Hey, if anybody can do it, it’s Bruce Willis, that’s for damn sure, so don’t worry, he’ll always get my ticket!
Justin Long is the geek-hacker that McClane accidentally picks up but realizes he can use him to his advantage and come to beat these villains the way he wants to. I’ve always dug Long in anything that he’s done and it’s great to see his charm and wit be put to good use, even if he is a bit of nerd and clashes with McClane’s old-school style a bit much. Then again, it provided many of yucks for me so I can’t complain too much about the butting-of-the-heads between the two. Timothy Olyphant is alright as the main villain that stands in McClane’s way, but in a way, seems very miscast as well. Olyphant definitely tries to come off as the weird, off-kilter dude that’s only out to get the U.S. and all of the money it has, but instead, seems a bit like he’s forcing it too hard and is maybe a tad too good-looking for a role that should be played by some creep who hasn’t seen the light of day. You know, a creepy and nerdy cat like Kevin Smith who actually shows up here in a cameo as the geek-of-all-geeks: the Warlock. That’s all you need to know about the dude’s role because the bigger surprise, the better, even though the opening-credits sort of spoil it for ya. Thanks!
Consensus: It is essentially your typical, ridiculous action movie that makes little to no sense about what happens and why, but Live Free or Die Hard is more than just that. It’s an old-school action movie that is able to provide us all with plenty of fun, exciting action set-pieces, and a return-to-form for Willis as John McClane, a role that he will never, ever live down and I think he’s fine with that. As are we.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!
If anything happens to me, I’m getting into my car, and driving to Canada. All for the insanely low-price of $0!!
This is a documentary by the always controversial, Michael Moore, who sets his sights on the healthcare system. But not just the U.S.A.’s either, other foreign countries as well and shows how they actually have the better healthcare systems, regardless of if you are poor or not. The moral of the story: come to Canada!
Most of you out there reading this, and realizing that this is a documentary from Michael Moore, already probably know whether or not you’re going to like this movie. Heck, most of you probably already have your own opinions formed about him, and most of you are probably right. However, it goes without saying that he is one hell of a director, and one hell of a documentarian, at that. He may be a bit of a dick, but hey, that’s just how M-Squared rolls.
I think what separates this movie and this subject from most of his other documentaries is that his approach is very human-based, rather than being all about the politics, the money, and the government. What I mean by that, is the idea of how everybody gets sick, injured, or hurt, and they at least need to be taken care of. That’s why it is downright appalling to come to terms with the fact that we live in a society where treating a person isn’t based on whether or not how much help they need, but if they can actually pay for it. If that idea in your head doesn’t already tick you off, then turn-away, and never even bother reading this review or giving this movie a shot. However, if your head is getting a little hot over there, then continue on, my friends.
Occasionally, Moore does actually political with his whole stance on how the higher-ups in the world just charge people to get health-insurance, so they can get rich and die happy (money buys happiness, apparently), but overall, he keeps it on ground-control and in a language we can all easily understand: humane. Helping one-another is what we as a human-being put on this world were meant to do. Doesn’t matter what political party you’re apart of, what president you voted for, what country your from, how much you make, how much you don’t make, how much you pay others to do work, or if you have healthcare or not. It all matters about if you are the type of person that deserves to live in a world that we have here, where people are supposed to help each other out, without ever really asking for anything in-return, except for maybe the same type of help, come-time when it’s needed. It’s a sentiment that does seem a bit hokey and old-headed, but the way Moore presents it will give you a clearer-view of the world and make you want to go out and possibly volunteer at your nearest health center. I don’t know if it will make you go that far, but you get what I’m saying: it makes you want to do something new and improved with your life that helps others.
But not matter what type of age-old message Moore may thrown down our throats, the guy always has a knack for making us angry with what he presents, and that’s exactly what he does here. The way that Moore shows us the way the government works behind closed-doors, really twisted my knobs, big-time, because it really made me upset to know that I, as a 19-year-old male living in America, may not have a chance to be treated for, if I get severely-sick or suffer an injury of any sorts. Why? Oh, well, it’s all because of the fact that I may not be apart of a healthcare system, and therefore, are pretty much just left to the curb without anything to do except just wallow in my own-self pity and wonder how the hell am I going to get myself treated.
And then, there is also the idea of maybe, just maybe, I can actually try and become apart of a healthcare system that will assure me that no more problems like this will occur in the near-future, but even that’s easier-said-than-done. See, you can’t just fill-out a report, giving-out all of your truthful info, and expect the insurance policies to come-back and grant you help, because you might not fit all of their qualifications. That means, you have to tell them why you feel as if you are right to have an insurance plan, so you can get treated for a problem you may or may not have, and not run into this problem ever again, even though it may not all work-out for you.
If none of this makes any sense, let me just lay it down for you like this: healthcare in America sucks. I love America, I love where I live, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the whole entire world (except maybe Paris, thanks to Moore for giving me further-belief in that hope), but to see a movie that shows one of our most-important factors in such a negative, but honest light, really made me think. Honestly, why on Earth would I want to live in a place where I can only be treated if I have enough money to pay it off? I get that everybody needs to make money somehow, someway, but still, do we really need to charge people over $40,000 for a broken arm, and to add onto that, the insurance policies as well? Other countries do not live or abide by these ways and that’s not saying that they are better or more improved than us, that’s just saying that there is an obvious and glaring problem with our society and how we are a tad more money-based when it comes to everything we live by, even when it comes to caring for the people that need it the most. Sad, sad thoughts of a person that just saw a Michael Moore documentary.
But enough of all this ranting, back on with the movie! What Moore does best (in-case you haven’t been able to notice quite yet), is that he allows the viewer to see just what the hell he sees in every-day life, why he thinks it’s wrong, and what can be the solution to all of it. Some may argue that most of it is one-sided and a bit-biased, but then again, why the hell would Moore show you the ways that paying for healthcare work, when he’s all against it? Maybe it would give him more of a balanced-view on the subject, but I don’t really see there being much of a positive-light to this whole subject, other than if you took it of the view of the higher-class folks who do have healthcare and don’t really give a shite about the ones who can’t afford it. I have health insurance, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize with all of what Moore is saying and trying to get-across. The guy will open your eyes and make you see through his bifocals, and that’s the true work of an amazing filmmaker that knows what he can do.
Consensus: Though some may argue that it’s not the most pitch-perfect account on the healthcare system we have in the States, Sicko is still one of Michael Moore’s most-humane works because it reaches a helping-hand out to the people who need it the most, and offers a look of what we could all be like with one-another, if we just do the right thing. Sappy, I know, but it’s the truth.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
You don’t have to be French to be insane, but hey, it does sort of help.
French photographer Marion (Julie Delpy) and American interior designer Jack (Adam Goldberg) have been together for 2 years and don’t show many signs of slowing-down any time soon. However, that all starts to be re-thought about once Marion introduces Jack to her whole family, friends, and ex-boyfriends, that just so happen to be almost every dude they bump into on the street.
Writer/director/co-producer/editor/main-star Julie Delpy really deserves to be in more movies. Everybody who has ever seen a picture of Delpy, knows her for one thing and one thing only: Celine from the Before Sunrise soon-to-be trilogy, and with good reason because both movies are beautiful, showcase her talents as an actress, and feature some top-notch writing on her part. However, whereas her co-star Ethan Hawke has been able to go-out there and make a name for himself as an actor, Delpy has sort of stayed back in the darkness and let roles come her way whenever they do. There’s nothing really wrong with that but it’s also a huge shame too, especially once you see films like these that not only show her off as a great actress, but as a great-worker behind-the-camera as well.
Before all of you dismiss this movie as another, “wacky in-laws” picture along the reigns of Meet the Parents, but with French subtitles, don’t be fooled because this is some rich-writing, at it’s finest. It seems like Delpy has a very, very keen-ear for dialogue but not just in the goofy, French-way, but the straight-laced American-way as well. A lot of the situations at-hand here feel obvious, predictable, and conventional, but Delpy adds a certain-bit of raunchy edge to it that makes it funnier and a lot more unpredictable in where it goes. Watching an American feel awkward as hell around every-single dude that his girlfriend recognizes from a past fling has never been funnier and rather than having it be repetitive and dull by about the 4th or 5th time, it keeps on throwing more and more at us in order to spice things up a bit.
It’s not all about fun and games, though, because this is actually a rom-com, with real romance in it that is actually brought-up to the table many of times. You can obviously tell that these two have problems with one another and are fairly different as well, but they can at least get past all of that because of the ways they are similar, are so strong and make them love each other even more. Yeah, they bicker, argue, and yell at one another quite a bit, but they feel like a real-couple that have been through a lot, know each other a little TOO well, and also can’t find happiness any other way, other than being in the other’s company. It’s a romance you believe in and that’s why when the film starts to get a bit serious by the end, it delivers on what message it’s trying to get across about love and relationships, because the two are so believable together. For as much as they fight throughout the whole hour-and-a-half, the one thing that still stays on your mind is how much they really do love each other, and that’s a fresh and new change-of-pace for a genre that seems to lack those nowadays. Hollywood, take notes from Delpy. The babe has got it all.
As a writer, Delpy is great and shows a lot of strengths in terms of being quirky, goofy, but never over-doing it. However, as a director, she’s a bit messy and makes a couple of rookie mistakes that are willing to be forgiven, only because everything else works so well. For instance, most of the scenes that she has set-up where something goofy or completely insane happens to, you know, make things worse and more unbearable for this couple, seem to go-on a bit too long. There’s a scene with Delpy and Goldberg inside of a cab, where the cab-driver is a racist bigot that pisses Delpy off, right from the start and as funny as it may be to see her and Goldberg’s reactions, it still seems to go on a bit long, to the point of where I got what Delpy was trying to do. She was trying to show plenty of situations where things go from bad-to-worse in a matter of minutes and although that’s the name of the game with this movie, she could have knocked-it down quite a bit to not have it be so noticeable.
Another mistake she makes is by narrating half-of the film, and that’s mainly because it seems so unnecessary. She touches on certain happenings, thoughts, or ideas that seem to be so obvious just by staring at the screen and it’s annoying, not just because Delpy is, but because of the things she’s declaring almost seems like you could say one, big, “DUHH!”, to her. Still, as much as it annoyed me, I still have to say that everything else she does was fine with me in my book and I can definitely tell that this is the type of gal that knows how to make a funny movie, even funnier, just by throwing-in a couple of dirty, bad-girl words, here and there. That’s how I like ‘em. Roar!
Delpy, no matter what it seems like she does, is always a delight to watch on-screen and being the lead in her own-script just makes it all the more joy to watch her bring out the best in her skills as an actress. Not many people may know this from all of the other work she has done over the years, but Delpy has great comedic-timing that shines through every time she’s being weird, quirky, or a bit goofy to show that her character isn’t like every, other female-role you usually see in rom-coms. She seems like a chick that I would definitely, most likely go out with (especially if she looked like Julie Delpy, please let there be a heaven) but also one that seems like a bit of a head-trip when it comes right down to the serious-parts of a relationship and making it work. Yeah, her character isn’t perfect and definitely has her own fair-share of flaws going for her, but it seems more honest that it seems manipulative, and it’s only better that it’s Delpy writing it, as well as acting in it too. Delpy needs to be in more movies. I mean it.
Adam Goldberg is the bit on the opposite-side of Delpy, considering how straight and sarcastic he is with the way he handles things in life, and especially with how he handles everything that goes sour on this trip. Goldberg may piss some people off considering he finds something to complain about almost every time, in every scene, but it’s actually very-amusing and funny to watch since, like Delpy, the guy’s got some great comedic-timing that fits well with how deadbeat his character is. Watching both of them just interact, play-around, and mostly, fight with one another, was still fun to watch because Delpy and Goldberg seemed to have forged a chemistry that feels real and honest, rather than just two actors, being mashed-together into one flick, and being forced to act like they love one another. They actually seem like they do and that’s what’s really special about this movie, and the script that Delpy has created.
Consensus: It’s not a perfect directorial-debut by any means, but there is so much else going on here in 2 Days in Paris, that work, that made me laugh, and made me realize that Delpy really is a lovable-personality in-front of the screen, that you start to forget about it and just enjoy all you see on the screen.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!
If only Clint Eastwood was Jesse James, then I think the story would have been different.
As the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James (Brad Pitt) plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money – and the glory – riding on his capture. However, his plans are all interrupted once he becomes entangled in a friendship with his admirer Robert Ford (Casey Affleck).
It’s very bold to have the climax of your film in the title, no matter how true it is, but I was still so surprised to see that James does in-fact actually die in the end. Maybe, just maybe I didn’t pay enough attention in history class, but for some reason, I didn’t believe that he was going to get killed at the end. Oh, I guess that was a spoiler.
This was the second flick from Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik and it’s pretty obvious where he gets his inspiration of movie-making from, and that is Mr. Terrence Malick. Honestly, if I had no idea who the director was before-hand, I would have easily gone with Malick because every single little detail about this film is so perfect and beautiful that you really can’t take your eyes off of it one bit and I know that’s said about a lot of films but that is really meant here. Dominik focuses the camera on these long, sweeping shots of beautiful farmland where it almost feels like you’re there in the 1880′s with Jesse James and Robert Ford. Every shot is handled carefully, with just the right amount light and color added to it, to get you involved with the stark wilderness that these characters surround themselves with. There is just so much to look at here that you almost forget to pay attention to the story that’s at-hand, which is a total bummer, because this story can really grab you if you give it the attention that it deserves.
What I liked about Dominik, was that aside from his beautiful art direction, he was able to make a genuinely tense and unpredictable story out of a fact-based history lesson, and always being able to surprise us. Not everything about this story that Dominik tells us is true and he probably takes some liberties here and there, I definitely know that, but everything before the actual “assassination” itself, kept me on the edge of my seat and I like how Dominik was able to do that with his deliberate slow pacing. Yeah, this film is one hell of a slow-burner for sure, but it works as it develops each and every character in this story more and more, and also keeps you guessing just when the hell Jesse James is going to show-up, or better yet, when the hell he is going to get killed. May sound like a complaint but it’s not, mainly because Dominik is able to take his time with the story.
Anybody expecting a Sergio Leone-type Western, where it’s just constant gun-battles, witty one-lines, and a whole bunch of spaghetti style art thrown at the wall here, are really going to be in for a big surprise with this film, but have no fear, it still does have enough violence to hold anyone over. Actually, whenever the violence did rarely show-up on the screen, it felt deserved and made sense to the story but also felt realistic in a way that these people are actually dying from real-life bullets and whatnot. I don’t want to dive any farther into the violence and murders that go down in this flick, but I just want to say that they feel realistic and are handled well without being over-exploitative of it’s dark, violent side.
If there was a certain aspect to this flick that seemed to have bothered me the most here, was that it was over 2 hours and 40 minutes and it didn’t need to be that way. See, the first and last act are all dedicated to just James and Ford being around one another but in between all of that is a whole bunch of other characters that were apart of James’ gang that don’t really seem all that needed for this story to work, but are left in there just to add some character development. Usually, I would give some points to any director who can do this and do it as well as Dominik is able to do here, but it takes away from the story and really had me annoyed since those scenes with Ford and James can get so damn tense. Most of the characters were interesting enough to hold my interest, but I just sort of wanted to get down to the real business at-hand here.
Brad Pitt as Jesse James is a perfect bit of casting because Pitt is able to play up all of the sides of him that he has as the iconic figure. Every time James shows up in the story, whether or not to start some trouble or “go on a walk”, it’s always tense and unpredictable to the point of where you don’t know what this character is going to do next. From everything I heard and read about, James was one violent son of a bitch and one that couldn’t be contained because of his wits and determination for violence when needed. This is an idea that Pitt plays up perfectly, giving us a very iconic figure to begin with but also show something else that lies deep down inside of him. We get to see a lot of scenes where James lays out all of his emotions and how painful he feels with the life that he’s living and it’s not only an easy way to get us to care about him even though he’s killed over 17 people in his life, but also a great way to show some insight into an iconic figure that so many people feel like they know.
Pitt’s great, but Casey Affleck is just about as perfect playing opposite of him, as Robert Ford. Affleck plays the little boy-version of Jesse James, as he is constantly made fun of by his family and treated like he doesn’t know shit about shooting guns and robbing banks/trains. Eventually, this guy starts to show more emotions rather than this very shy and awkward young kid that just wants to be “one of the guys”, and the way Affleck plays it all up works perfectly for this very easy, yet hard to sympathize with character.
You also begin to realize that Ford is a character that seems like he tries so hard to want to be like James, that in the end, even when he has done all of the dirty work he could do to get rid of him, he still can’t reach the type of fame that his predecessor once, and still has. It’s a sad idea that makes you think more about Ford and realize just how strong of an actor Affleck is. This character is complex and Affleck shows that and when it’s just him on-screen, he’s amazing but when it’s just him and James messing around with one another, then it just gets even better. Surprised that this Ford dude didn’t end up killing everybody in sight by how much he got picked on. Poor Affleck. At least you got the Oscar nomination over Pitt. Suck on that Jesse!
As for the rest of the star-studded cast, they’re all pretty good too even though a lot of their roles/characters are featured more than they needed to be. Jeremy Renner is vicious and unforgiving as Wood Hite, the cousin to Jesse James; Paul Schneider is awesome as the womanizing crook that every lady seems to fall for; Sam Rockwell has a lot of fun as Ford’s big bro, Charley, but also shows a dark side to him as well by the end; and Sam Shepard is pretty freakin’ awesome as Frank James, and does an outstanding job with the short amount of time he actually gets on-screen. The ladies in this flick are sort of put on the back-burner but both Mary-Louise Parker and Zooey Deschanel do splendid jobs with their roles, even though I felt like they could have had more input into this story. Then again, I just wanted to see a mono-e-mono battle between Ford and James.
Consensus: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford may run on very, very long but features some of the most beautiful images caught on film with its detailed direction from Andrew Dominik, insightful story about these larger-than-life iconic figures, and a bunch of superb performances from everybody involved, especially Casey Affleck in a way you have never seen him before.
Should have just stayed in the box, Ryan.
Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis appear in multiple roles which combine into three intertwining stories: A popular TV actor is under house arrest in “The Prisoner”; a TV producer struggles to launch a new series in “Reality Television”; and a video-game designer seeks help for his stranded family in “Knowing.”
I never really knew much about this flick other than that it’s been sitting on my Netflix queue for quite some time and that it wasn’t half bad since it had a 3 1/2 star rating. Thankfully, Netflix didn’t let me down. Or, well, not that I think just yet. Still questioning whether or not this thing really had me all ecstatic in the first-place.
Writer/director John August definitely started this flick off on the right foot with his first part, called “The Prisoner”. What I liked about this was that it was pretty funny, a little goofy, but also very strange how there was some weird ghost-like vision going on throughout this whole part and it made me wonder what I got myself into. There was a lot of questions that I kept on asking myself but then as soon as I thought the answer was coming up, Part 2 and 3 came around, then I got totally confused out of my ass.
It seemed like August definitely had a vision and clear-cut idea of what he wanted to do with all of these three intertwining stories, but for some odd reason, they seemed like they were all lost half-way through the second part. There are so many ideas being brought up, so many questions being asked, and so many different subplots coming from out of nowhere, that after awhile it became tiresome for me to handle it all in and try to understand just what August was throwing at me. The dude definitely had some bright ideas here but they all seemed to get jumbled up with whatever else came to his mind at the time of his filming.
And as confusing as the flick got, the ending left me with barely anything to feel. The last 10 minutes start to get very sappy and almost too serious because the whole film had this serio-comedy thing going on for the first two parts, then it suddenly just drops it for dramatic sake and it was a real let-down since August was doing pretty damn well with the comedy aspects here. It also bothered me that the everything was explained at the end, but I never really understood that either. The number 9′s significance to this story is explained but it seemed somewhat random and a lame excuse just to have some significance to the story. And the whole main twist at the end just seemed like a good idea on paper, but once it was played out on the big-screen, it comes off as way too pretentious and artsy for my liking. I didn’t really know what August was trying to do with these twists and the explanations to this story, but I definitely didn’t feel moved or inspired in any way shape or form.
However, with all of that said about the confusing twists and dumb-ass explanations, I still was very intrigued and entertained by this flick mainly because of August’s structure. The first two stories were very well-done and I mostly liked the second one because it put a cool spin on the whole “reality TV show” look and showed just how ugly and mean the entertainment business can be. Yeah, does it seem a little too random for something like this? Of course, but August’s writing kept me intrigued in wondering what was happening next. Also, sometimes if you pay close attention, you can sometimes catch little hints here and there about what’s really going on as other characters start to utter certain types of dialogue that has already been used in the film before and it was pretty cool to pick that up and see what August could do with this story. Shame that it ended up where it did, but it still had me entertained and that’s all that really matters.
One of the major hypes around this film was about whether or not Ryan Reynolds could carry a whole film all by his lonesome-self. Thankfully, he does just that. Reynolds is so damn good with all three of his roles he has in this flick and shows his range that goes almost all-over-the-place in terms of emotions. Still, I always bought what character Reynolds was playing and it made me realize that he does have some real talent, he just needs to get the right type of roles. Hope Davis was also very good in her roles and I don’t ever really remember her being as sexy before, as she is in this flick, and Melissa McCarthy (aka big chick from Bridesmaids) is also great here and brings a lot of humor and heart to each one of her characters, one of which, is actually herself. All three are great and play each of their roles very well, but in the end, it’s more about August’s style and what he can do with this wacky and wild story and it gets in the way of some rich performances from a pretty narrow, but interesting cast. Oh well, at least McCarthy’s been nominated for an Oscar already. I guess she’s beat these two to the punch.
Consensus: The Nines shows that Ryan Reynolds is definitely able to carry a film on his own, and definitely had me more interested in it’s crazy story than I originally thought I was going to be, but it gets way too confusing in a way that seems almost intentional from writer/director John August. However, I was never bored and maybe that’s a positive.
Sadly, no signs of Cillian Murphy’s dong anywhere to be found here.
After a rage-virus ravaged through all of London, the U.S military attempts to take over and try to repopulate the city. Everything goes all fine and dandy until an outsider is let in, then it’s all back to normal for post-apocalyptic London.
Being as that 28 Days Later is not only one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, but also ranks up there as one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, this sequel definitely had a lot to live-up to in terms of scaring me, what it made me think, and how it made me feel. As many people do know, horror-movie sequels don’t seem to do so well in terms of sticking close to the source material but somehow, this flick does even though it definitely feels different without Jim or Selena anywhere to be found. I hope the virus didn’t get the best of them.
Anywho, instead of having Danny Boyle return to the director’s chair for this second-go around, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over and does a pretty nice job of keeping things promising in terms of mood and atmosphere. It’s pretty cool to see what actually happens when the rage-virus breaks through an already established city and how Juan Carlos keeps us awaiting for that impending doom to occur is what really kept me on-board. I must admit that this isn’t the first time I saw this flick, but it definitely surprised me with some of the scares and what Juan Carlos could do with a bunch of material that seemed to already be used before. However, instead of just trying his hardest to do a good Boyle-impersonation, Juan Carlos sticks to his guns and uses them to deliver a sense of destruction that made me still feel a little scared for my life.
Even though this film didn’t scare the pants off of me with it’s vision like the first one did, I still felt placed in a realistic, if a bit ambitious idea of the world we live in and what it would look like, especially after a catastrophic-event like a zombie break-out. Juan Carlos probably got the memo that more people wanted action, blood, guts, and gore from the first movie, and delivers on all of those accounts by giving us more, more, and more of that. It doesn’t feel needed for this type of story, but given the type of budget they’re working with here and the type of larger-scale they have to control, it feels deserved and works well rather than feeling cheap. The shaky-cam annoyed the hell out of me, but there isn’t much to see in these action moments other than zombies, people getting eaten alive, and a bunch of bullets and blood flying everywhere. So, after awhile, you get used to it and you pretty much get the gist that people and zombies are both getting off’d.
However, being the huge fan of the original that I am, I still can’t go by this flick without mentioning that this one just does not hold a candle to it, it just does not. I hate to make this “negative part of the review” all about my love for 28 Days and how it’s ten-times better than this movie, but it really is and it’s so hard to get by. The whole time I was watching the movie, I just kept uttering to myself, “Oh, Boyle did that better. See that part? Yeah, looked better with the HD-camera.” Maybe that’s a stingy-way to be with a sequel, but when something is obvious to me, hell, I’m going to point it out.
For instance, the underlining political-themes and ideas about the nature of human-beings that ran so rampant in the first-one, are barely anywhere to be found in this. The closest example I could find that connected the first-one to this one in terms of ideas, is the whole idea about how the army can be full of some sickos and I don’t think that really even counts. But for most movies, I can live without a bunch of political-themes and ideas if you give something else to grab-on to, but somehow, this film doesn’t even seem to have that either. All of the characters here really lack any type of development or real heart to them, to really have us root and care for them in the end. And even if we do root for them, it’s only because they’re human-beings and nobody wants to see their own kind get eaten alive by a bunch of rage-infected zombies. That’s the truth, Ruth.
But, when it all comes right down to it, the real-factor as to why this film pales in comparison to the original is that Juan Carlos just doesn’t have the artistic-vision like Boyle does. Boyle has such a real interest and idea for what it takes to make a beautiful scene in such an ugly and grim atmosphere, but it doesn’t really seem like Juan Carlos is all that concerned with that. That’s all fine and dandy, but it does make the picture seem a bit shallow in terms of what it’s trying to offer new and original to the already-tired zombie-genre.
There’s a couple of scenes here and there that sort of reminded me of a “Boyle-look” (that underground safe house scene scared the shit out of me), but nothing else to it. Even though Boyle produced this flick, I highly doubt the guy had a final say in what he thought was best for the final-product and it’s a real shame because this movie could have been filled with so much more brewing underneath the surface, rather than just a bunch of people running away from zombies. In a way, that’s how the zombie-genre is (people running away from zombies and whatnot), but what Boyle offered with 28 Days Later was new, and unlike anything we’ve ever really seen before, whereas this movie, brings the zombie-genre back to where it was taken away from in the first-place. I don’t want to say that I take points away from this movie for not being directed by Boyle, but it definitely goes to show you what a good director can do for your material, if he’s game for another sequel. Please Danny, do 28 Months Later, if it ever happens.
Before I go though, let me not forget to mention the performances in this movie that were all pretty good, except for the fact that some of the characters blew. Out of everybody in this whole cast, Jeremy Renner is the one who really shines as Sgt. Doyle, aka, the same role he would go on to play and get nominated for an Oscar for in The Hurt Locker. Renner just has this utter sense of coolness and warmth to his presence that it’s pretty easy to feel safe when you’re around him in the movie and his character’s motivations feel believable, even if everybody else around him feels like they just watched a Lifetime movie and felt like they wanted to give everybody a hug for no reason.
That’s what brings me around to everybody else in this film, as all of the other characters just don’t really do anything spectacular or show us anything worth really holding onto in the end. Take for instance, Robert Carlyle as Don, one of the guys who escapes a zombie-attack early on in the movie. This guy, from what we see in the beginning, is a rat-bastard who leaves his wife behind to get attacked by the zombies, but then feels sorry for what he did when she turns out to be alive. In all honesty, who the hell cares how this guy feels. There’s no real conviction to him, to the others around him, and when things start to go bad for him, I could care less and even he started to feel a bit shoe-horned in there by the end. Can’t tell you why he does, but the fact is that he does and it got on my nerves, considering Boyle would have never been all about that ish, regardless of if the character was played by Begbie. Oh, now that would have been nice. A good, ‘olde, Trainspotting-reunion in the middle of the zombie apocalypse Not only do they have to fight-off heroin addiction, but zombies as well. I can already see it now…
Consensus: 28 Weeks Later is definitely one of the better horror movie-sequels out there due to it’s grim atmosphere and mood, but still pales in comparison to what Danny Boyle was able to do with the original and the lasting-effect it’s material it had on you, in terms of horror and emotion. Please come back for one last movie, Danny, please.
Yup, kids are still creepy.
The plot centers on Laura (Belén Rueda), who returns to her childhood home, an orphanage. Laura plans to turn the house into a home for disabled children, but a problem arises when she and her husband realize that their son Simón (Roger Príncep) believes he has a masked friend named Tomás with whom he will run away. After an argument with Laura, Simón is found to be missing.
It’s a swell reminder to know that horror films can still be as freaky and scary as they were back in the day, without the loads and loads of amounts of blood, gore, and special-effects. Times have obviously changed and most horror films need these three ingredients to work, or even call themselves a “horror film”, which is why I’m glad to finally see one that doesn’t use that crap to it’s advantage. Sadly, it’s not from an American. It’s from that damn Spaniards! Grrr!
What I liked so much about Juan Antonio Bayona‘s direction is that the guy brings it back old-school, in terms of how he freaks the audience out. Instead of just showing us freaky stuff left-and-right and letting us know what we’re going to see next, he keeps us in the dark, and keeps us waiting as to what’s going to just pop-out at us next. You never know what floor this guy is on because he always moving around and I liked that. No matter how familiar or predictable you think this story is going to be, Bayona slips one from right underneath you, and leaves you behind wondering where this guy is going to go next with the story. That utter sense of unpredictability is what kept in-line for what I was watching, but there was still a great deal of tension that was actually killing me on the inside.
You never really get the full-out “boo” scares here, and even when they do come around, they feel deserved and not cheap in the least-bit. So, instead of getting these “boo” scares, we get a bunch of creaks, laughter, movement, and random other noises that have you wondering just what the hell is going on in this big house and it always kept me on the edge of my seat. I always thought something was going to pop-out at me and scare the bajeebers out of me, but somehow, it didn’t and I like how Bayona played that way. He isn’t subtle with his scares, but he;s very tense about it and that’s what I liked most about the whole horror-aspect to this flick. It scares you, without ever really trying to. It just does and that’s something to hold onto in terms of the horror genre.
Where I thought this film did fail was in the whole story itself. The main story of this mother looking all over the place for her lost son is a nice one, but it gets way too hammered over the head, almost to the point of where it’s repetitive. At first, when the kid is around, it’s the same old crap where the kid just constantly sees these “ghost-like creatures”, the momma doesn’t like it, and tries to get him to stop. This happens a couple of times, until the kid goes away and then it shifts off into her being a nut, and looking for him on her hands and knees wherever she goes. Some of this was fun to watch because of how Boyan kept the unpredictable nature of this flick going, but the other times, it just felt boring and over-used. It was almost like they had all of these scares lined-up and ready for the flick, but they just needed a story to bring them altogether in order for them to make sense, so they just had this one, simple story of a mom going crazy of the search of her son. Lame-o!
Even though her character can be a bit annoying, Belén Rueda is still a delight to watch as Laura, and had me rooting for her the whole way. What I liked about this Laura character was that she came off as very three-dimensional in many aspects. The woman loves her son, wants him to be happy, and wants him to feel like he belongs in the world, but just wants him to get out of his funk, where he constantly talks to ghosts and plays weird “hide and go seek” games with them. That, in a way, is pretty understandable since all mothers just want their kids to be “normal” (not mine, she knew I was fucked up from day one), but her character becomes richer once her son is taken from her and we see a real-life, human-being come out of her and we can’t help but feel for the gal when she goes through this rough-ass patch in her life. Rueda is not only beautiful, but also feels like a real mother that just wants her son back and the transformation she goes through is believable and understandable to the fact that you believe in everything she does, and has done in the past 2 hours. See horror movies, you can have three-dimensional characters and still be scary. Wowwwwww…..
Roger Príncep was pretty good as her son, mainly because he wasn’t annoying and as cute as a button. That sounded a bit weird coming out of my mouth (or finger-tips, whatever you wanna call them) but don’t try and tell me that you didn’t go “aww” at least once when you saw the picture of that kid. Okay, I’m done now with my pedophilia-like ways. The one in this cast that I didn’t like and sort of took me out of the whole film whenever she showed up was the lady who played the creepy, old gal named Benigna. What I didn’t like about her was how goofy and cartoonish looking she seemed to be in a film that seemed pretty realistic in terms of the type of horror it was going for and how. The story was pretty realistic even though it concerned ghosts and whatnot, but every time she showed-up, I just wanted her to go away and bring back the realism to a tale that seemed to have a lot of that going for it.
Consensus: The Orphanage is not the non-stop scare-fest you would expect from the idea/premise, but still delivers a creepy atmosphere, packed with endearing characters, an emotionally-charged story, and a solid performance from Rueda, who makes her character so much easier to stand-by, even when it seems like she’s losing her mind.
When Samuel L. tells you not to go into the room, DO NOT go into that room!
After a string of best-sellers discrediting paranormal events in the most infamous haunted houses and graveyards around the world, he scoffs at the concept of an afterlife. Mike Enslin (John Cusack)’s phantom-free run of long and lonely nights is about to change forever when he checks into suite 1408 of the notorious Dolphin Hotel for his latest project. Defying the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L Jackson), the author is the first person in years to stay in the reputedly haunted room.
If there is ever a person who should be allowed to Stephen King adaptations, it’s Frank Darabont. Sadly, the guy was nowhere to be found with this one and because of that, look what we got! Damn you Darabont!
Before I get into the negatives of this film, let me just start off by saying that director Mikael Håfström does a lot here and I think he at least deserves some praise for taking what is essentially a story that could be told in 30 minutes, and stretching it way, way out to an hour and 30 minutes. There’s not a lot here that happens, other than Cusack facing off against this room and the evil spirits that lie within, but Håfström keeps it somewhat interesting by starting us off slowly with tiny amounts of tension, that only continues to build and build, until shit gets way too out-of-hand. Håfström seems like he wanted to make this material and have fun with it, which he is somewhat successful in doing, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t much else here to hold onto.
Let me start off by saying that this is a horror movie, without any type of horror whatsoever. Actually, that’s not right to say because there probably is some stuff here that would scare the bajeebers out of certain people, but for me, I didn’t once get frightened by anything I saw on-screen and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Håfström starts to get a bit too carried away with his budget. The film started off perfectly with little spooky things happening here and there, but then once things start to get crazier and crazier and actually pick up, then Håfström just lets all of this annoying and fake-looking CGI take over the film just to show how much havoc this room is causing. Not only doesn’t it look scary, but it’s also a bit goofy in a way that made me chuckle unintentionally and it kept on coming at me, too. After about the 4th wipe-out Cusack has with a random wave of water coming into the bathroom, I was starting to get annoyed, but oh wait, there’s drama that’s needed here as well! Great….
In case you couldn’t tell by that last sentence, there was barely any drama here whatsoever that glued me in once things started to get goofy. There was a very tragic death that has occurred in the lead character’s life that is very, very sad, I’ll give him that, but it’s pretty obvious where they were going to go with it and how they were going to incorporate it into the story, which seemed so damn cheap. And just about everything else that concerns anything dramatic with this dude’s life is what really took me out of the film because as much fun as this whole haunted-house aspect of the film seemed to be, it never really went anywhere with itself other than being just that, just like the dramatic aspect of this movie as well. Yeah, neither part of this movie barely went anywhere, that’s why you should always depend on the stars to give you their top-caliber performances and save the day.
Thank heavens that John Cusack was in this movie because the man freakin’ saved the day here with his performance as “the non-believer in ghosts” writer, Mike Enslin. Cusack is always an actor that turns out great work, year after year, and barely ever gets recognized for it and I think this is one of the rare films where we see him for all that he is when it comes to what kind of work he can pull off. Since this all takes place in the room (I think), it’s all John Cusack for the longest time and he’s left to basically one-man show this bitch up and does a great job by making it all seem believable, especially by the end when he starts to lose a little bit of his mind. Cusack definitely makes this film and the material he’s working with, a hell of a lot more watchable just because of his presence and it’s a great show-case of an actor that in my opinion, doesn’t get as many roles as I think he should.
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget to mention Samuel L. Jackson in his teensie-tiny, itty-bitty role as the hotel manager, Mr. Olin. As always, Samuel L. is great with this material and makes his bit-role almost as memorable as Cusack’s and both of them have a very nice scene where they both play off of each other very well and you see the real fun of this film actually come out. Sadly, it was somewhat short-lived once Cusack opened that room’s door. Why John!?!? Why?!??
Consensus: Cusack makes 1408 a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be, but it’s almost not enough due to barely any scares, too much lame CGI, lame drama, and an ever lamer ending that makes you wonder how many times these writers re-wrote this ending over-and-over again just to hit the right spot, but ended up doing the opposite.
Does Russia ever want tourists to visit them?
The film follows and centres on the story of a London hospital’s midwife Ana (Naomi Watts) who witnessed the death of a young girl in giving birth on Christmas Eve and decided to search for her family and identity. The search leads her into the core of dangers of the underground sex-trafficking business operated by the London’s Russian crime community headed by Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen).
I’ve been covering David Cronenberg flicks pretty frequently now and I’m glad to say that I think I’m starting to understand him a lot more now. Actually, no I’m not. Just bring on the blood dammit!
After A History of Violence came out and sort of took the world by storm, Cronenberg was looking for his next big crime film that would do the same and he pretty much does the same thing here, except everybody is Russian. What I liked about Cronenberg’s direction here is that he allows the story to tell itself and rather than spelling everything out for us, simply gives us a back-story to all that is going on and what could possibly happen with all of these gritty sons-of-bitches. This means that there is enough time for all of the tension to build up, so when Cronenberg does unleash his killing spree for all of us to see, it really feels deserved.
There aren’t many of the scenes where Cronenberg just lets loose with his violence, but when it does happen, shit gets very crazy and gory. I can’t remember the last time that I actually saw a film with so many slit throats but instead of becoming repetitive and a boring way to off somebody, Cronenberg pretty much adds as much ketchup as he can to make it seem like every single blood cell this guy has, is coming right out of his throat. Sorry for all of the bloody detail but it’s something that sticks with you after you see this kind of flick, as well as a scene where a dude gets his eye-ball stabbed. It’s all fun and games with Cronenberg, with plenty of blood and murder to go around.
However, the one violent scene that I heard everybody talking about when this first came out, was actually the big-ass brawl in the bathhouse. Basically, the scene consists of Viggo facing off against two Russian thugs but the catch here, is that Viggo’s completely naked. And when I mean naked, I mean NAKED. You see everything that this dude’s got packing and as daring as it may have been from Viggo, it’s still a huge distraction from the whole scene itself. The choreography is pretty bad-ass and the violence itself is filmed well, with Cronenberg standing off to the side and not trying to add any flash or flair to it all, but it’s sort of distracting when you got Viggo on top of a dude beating the shit out of him and all you can keep staring at is his balls on the dude’s chest. Yes, it’s a pretty daring and different kind of action scene, but it”s also one that really could have been saved had Viggo decided to put some shorts on. Hell, he didn’t even really need shorts, he could have gone with something like spandex or just some sort of leg wear that would have gotten my eye-balls away from his…well..you know where I’m going with this.
Aside from the infamous scene that he took apart of, Viggo Mortensen is actually pretty damn good in this role as Nikolai and definitely deserved the Oscar nomination he got that year. Viggo is always one of those actors who just always seems like a bad-ass in just about everything he’s in, and he gets to show all of that here as a Russian gangster, except one of the rare ones that actually has a conscience. He’s rough, tough, and a dude that you wouldn’t fuck with but if you really feel like you could, you could probably even trust him as well. Great performance from Viggo and another extra kudos to him for going out and baring it all. Lord only knows I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.
Naomi Watts‘ performance here as Anna is fine but her story starts to really fall in the background by about the second act, and it’s such a shame because Watts seems pretty much one-note the whole time. I mean this is a chick who can make distressed and scared look perfect, but that’s all she is pretty much given here and as much as I loved seeing Viggo be cool as hell, I would have liked to see. more from Watts and her story as well. Playing two of Viggo’s crime buddies are Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel, and as good as they are, their fake Russian accents seemed a little forced and really took me away from the authenticity of the flick. I know I sound like a brat with that last statement but honestly, if Cronenberg was having such a problem with being able to get these guys to do legit, Russian accents, they should have just freakin’ called up Dolph Lundgren. End of story people!
Consensus: Eastern Promises definitely delivers on some solid acting from Viggo Mortensen, and a solid direction from David Cronenberg, but it also lacks in a story that can really draw you in and the last act or so, really starts to fizzle out.
At least it’s better than Sandler dressing in drag.
Former university room-mates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family in the 11 September 2001 attack on New York City, Charlie – once a successful dentist – has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend.
9/11 dramas are ones that can be pretty hard to make, mainly because people out there are still very sensitive to the subject. Yes, 11 years later, people are still not ready to be reminded of that disastrous day and it’s films like this that remind us just how terrible it was for everybody. Even somebody like Billy Madison.
I could totally tell what Mike Binder was trying to do with this flick, and for some of it, it worked. This almost seems like a “buddy drama” of sorts because it focuses on Charlie and Alan’s relationship throughout most of the film and it serves as the heart in the middle of it all. You see how certain people deal with loss and grief in different ways: some try to act like it never happened by avoiding everything that has to deal with their loss, while others just still have it on their minds 24/7 and barely find any comfort from it. It’s definitely something that seems very true and the way Binder touches on it, with delicate care and respect for most of the people out there, who have all had to deal with something as painful as this.
Another aspect of this flick that I also liked was the huge use of music for this movie, as it seemed like they were used in a way that was more believable, rather than just trying to throw classic rock songs at us every 5 seconds so we’ll go home and search ‘em up on YouTube. As you can tell, The Who is definitely in this film but there are also other key tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and of course, Pearl Jam who actually do a cover of the song that this movie is named after. Maybe it’s not as awesome as I’ve made it sound but it’s still some clutch music, used for some very clutch moments.
However, there are definitely a lot of glaring problems here that really bummed me out considering just how well this film was doing for the first hour or so. One of the problems was that I think Binder lost a lot of focus with what the main story here was. The relationship between the two main characters is obviously the main focal point of this flick, but the has way too many side stories going on here, that it distracts us from what is mainly going on here. For example, there is a whole subplot concerning Alan and a patient of his that keeps on trying to give him a blowy. This story took up so much time here, that even when it was finally revealed as to why she was being the way she was with him, that I just knew why they brought her character here and what they’re going to do with her next. That’s not the only story here that distracts, but it’s one of the main ones that seem to take us away from our story at hand: these two dudes’ friendship, and the one dude going through some real, heavy shit.
Even when the film did focus on its main plot, a lot of it starts to get very repetitive as it goes along. Every time the films would focus on Charlie, we would see him just being a nut and trying his damn near hardest to avoid any single question or type of conversation that would relate to his family or 9/11. It happened once or twice, which was fine, but then they just started to really hammer away on that and it almost felt like we were the ones getting the therapy here. This bothered me to high heavens and it also took a lot away from the film considering this should have been so much more emotional than it actually was. Still, at least it wasn’t as manipulating as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Now that’s a shit storm right there people.
The main set-up for this film, basically was to show us Adam Sandler‘s return into dramatic territory and for the most part, it’s a pretty good performance if a bit, disappointing. Sandler does a great job of keeping his character very warm, fuzzy, and also very weird but never a character that you feel like is a bad person, just a very hurt one to say the least. Sandler doesn’t ham it up with this performance and is a lot more subtle and it works very well, especially when it comes to the scene where he talks about what went down with his family and how he felt. I don’t want to say that it made me tear up but it was definitely an emotional scene, and one that Sandler performed very well.
However, there is also a bad side to this performance as well. Sandler is good with the dramatic stuff as well as some of the comedic stuff that Binder throws in here, but a lot of the scenes where he flips out and shows his anger, seem very out-of-place but it has nothing to do with the writing or direction, it’s mostly Sandler’s voice. Sounds weird, right? Well Sandler’s voice here, whenever he freaks out, is pretty much the same goofy voice he uses for such characters in The Waterboy and Billy Madison and considering none of those scenes are trying to be comedic at all, it’s confusing and a little bit distracting. Maybe that’s why it was so good for him to be silent in Punch-Drunk Love, because we couldn’t hear him utter the word “Borophyll”.
However, as much as the film revolves around Charlie, it’s actually supposed to be more about Alan, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle, as always, is great and does everything that he can with this performance but the film strides so far away from his character, that in the end when it seems like they want it to be all about him, some of it comes off as fake and underused. Still, Cheadle does what he can and that’s really all that matters.
Consensus: Reign Over Me boasts strong performances and keeps its heart in the right place, but sort of loses focus and take our minds away from what the film is essentially trying to talk and be about.
The whole point behind this whole film: drinking milkshakes.
This tells the story of an oilman, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who goes into a small town to drill for oil. But, a local preacher, Eli (Paul Dano), tries to get a piece of his profits to expand his church, and Daniel doesn’t like that one bit and that’s what causes a whole bunch of problems between the two characters.
With The Master coming up closer and closer by the seconds that pass us by, I thought it would be a great idea to check-up on how P.T. Anderson‘s last flick still does after it shook up the whole, wide world 5 years ago. Needless to say, it still kicks some oil-loving ass.
The most notable element that stands behind Anderson and his skills as a director is how he is able to make anything look very beautiful, but also very dark and Gothic in it’s own weird way. The cinematography for this flick is beautiful as we get to see a lot of the long, wide landscapes that always find themselves, hidden somewhere in the background and give you a better idea that you are in fact watching a story that’s taking place during the early days of the “oil boom”. There’s a lot to gaze at here and there are plenty of memorable shots where Anderson just keeps the camera on one piece of action and never seems to move and it creates more and more tension as it goes along. But as beautiful as this film may be, there’s also plenty of darkness in it as well, mainly coming from the story.
One of the key elements behind this story that makes it work is just how progressively dark and strange things begin to get for everybody in this story. There is never a single moment in this flick where you feel like anything good is going to happen to these characters, which does make this seem like a bit of a downer in hindsight, but for some reason you never stop watching. Scene after scene is just as memorable as the last one as Anderson has a knack for making even the slightest bit of dialogue show just who a character really is and what their real motivations are underneath it all. It’s strange that a guy like this can do something so dark and depressing as this, but still have the chance to turn out a zany, wacky rom-com like Punch-Drunk Love, a flick that he did 5 years before this one but it also shows just how versatile of a writer/director this guy can be.
But without even going any further about this flick, I have to say that this also features one of the most epic and bizarre scores that I have ever heard before in my life. You would never, ever think that the words “Daniel Day-Lewis”, “Western”, and “Radiohead” would go in the same sentence, but somehow, someway, Anderson found a way to get them altogether and it makes a perfect match that seemed very weird to have in the first place. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, did this score all by himself and it’s very well-calculated in the ways that he makes certain types of noises fit in so well with whatever is going on on-screen. There’s always a great deal of tension and darkness in this film, and Greenwood’s score conveys that with a weird collision of strings and percussion that just add more to the dark and manic tone of the whole flick. One scene in particular, is when Plainview runs after a well of his that just burst and without any music whatsoever, it would have still been tense the whole way through, but not as tense with the power-heavy beat coming from Greenwood that continues to build and build-up until almost all hell breaks loose. It’s one of those rare scenes where everything just comes together so perfectly into one film and it’s one that should probably be played up to the highest level of volume you can get on your television.
Despite almost everything in this film coming together and gelling so perfectly, there was one problem with this flick that always seemed to get me even when I was going for the whole 10/10 aspect. The story is all about Plainview and how his whole descent into darkness makes him more evil and insane as the days go by but in my opinion, I never understood exactly as to why. We get that the guy doesn’t like people, doesn’t see the good in them, and just wants money so he can get as far away from them as he can, but why? Was there ever a moment in his life when the guy realized that his life was going to be surrounded by people that he hates or was he always just like this and the huge amounts of money he’s been raking in just made him feel it even worse now? I don’t know what it was and quite frankly, I don’t think P.T. did either. I think that this was just a character study about a guy that hated human-beings for no reason, and that was my problem with this flick: I needed the reason. Yeah, that’s right, this film would have been a 10/10 had it not been for this one, itty, bitty problem in the story.
But aside from this strange character foil, you can’t help but walk away satisfied after seeing one of the greatest performances in the past decade, given by one of the best off all-time: Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day has been known to be very selective with his roles, very weird with him about the limits he goes to with staying in method and in character, and to always walk away with an Oscar nomination or Oscar win. All of which is exactly what you get here with his performance as Daniel Plainview as I think it is probably the best he has ever given just by how much he puts into this role. Granted, this character already had a lot to work with when it came to the whole script, but Daniel Day takes that character one-step further in his own way. This guy is one evil son of a bitch that I don’t think does a single nice thing throughout the whole movie (I seriously don’t) but you can never, ever take your eyes off of him just because every scene of Plainview, is just another scene where Daniel Day does something different.
What I mean by something different is that there are these types of facial expressions that he has just to give his character a real feeling that is unlike you have ever seen in this character the whole flick. Essentially, this character could be written off as the usual, one-note, evil asshole that nobody cares to be around but there’s something more behind it all and Daniel Day keeps us watching and waiting for that throughout the whole film. If my whole description about this guy’s performance hasn’t already sold you yet on this perfect performance, than please, stop reading and go out there and watch this freakin’ movie and pay attention to every little thing that Daniel Day does with this character. To the weird limp, to the Jack Palance impersonation, to the open-handed slaps, to the evil looks he gives Eli, and to everything else he ever does in this movie, he does it with the utter grace and perfection that should always be shown off, especially when you’re working with a character such as this. Totally deserved that Oscar win.
Although this is Daniel Day’s show, through and through, Paul Dano doesn’t allow himself to get kicked out of the whole film. In fact, Dano has just as many intense and memorable scenes as Daniel Day, it’s just that every single one is with Daniel Day and it creates some of the best back-and-forth scenes I have seen in a long-ass time. Dano nails the whole crazy aspect that lies behind those certain preachers out there in the West, but he never necessarily over-does it and that’s what really surprised me about this character. Him and Daniel Day work perfectly together as you can tell that right from the start, they never really see eye-to-eye on anything and it’s only a matter of time until one of them finally has enough of it all and decides to break loose. That’s what ultimately leads up to one of the most abrupt, yet satisfying endings that I have seen in the past decade, and is definitely one to stick around for no matter how much the flick’s slow-pace may be pissing you off.
Consensus: There Will Be Blood may not make much sense of it’s story at the end, but will still keep you watching the screen the whole time with it’s out-standing performance by Daniel Day-Lewis (one of his best of all-time, if you can believe that), a strange score from Johnny Greenwood that actually goes along with the subject material very well, and a superb direction from Anderson that captures all of the beauty, and all of the horror that comes along with fame, money, and well, oil.
Memento mixed with any heist thriller that has ever come out. Honestly, just pick one.
After experiencing a brain injury, and facing a mental disability where he suffers from short-term memory loss, janitor Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes part of a heist at the bank where he works.
Writer/director Scott Frank does something pretty cool here. He takes a heist flick, give it a character-based drama feel to it, and still have some action at the end to boost things up. Maybe it’s not the most unique thing out there, but it still worked for me and you I need more of that in the crime genre.
Frank did a pretty good job taking his first bite at directing and gives this film a very low-budget, “indie” quality to it that showed you don’t need to have all of the money in the world to make a low-key film like this to work. All it takes is enough skill to make a story like this to work and somehow, Frank pulls it off very well because he decides to focus on the characters more, rather than the heist and action itself. We actually get a good feel for some of these characters, and we see them more as human-beings rather than just another bunch of walking-action movie cliches. I’m not saying that every single person here is so unique and all given the same character development as the main ones, but for the ones that Frank does focus on, it works well and has you root for them even when things start to seem really turn shitty for our heroes.
But as much character development Frank puts into this story, he also has a nice build-up for the heist itself and it gets very tense by the end. Even when the film does totally change its ways into to full-on, action-thriller mode, it doesn’t seem fake and seems like this is the right way to go with a story that just continued to build-up, and up, and up until the very last shot (pun intended). Can’t say that it’s most exciting piece of cinema I’ve seen in quite awhile, but it worked well and kept me involved with this story when everything could have easily gone out the door.
However, as good as that heist and final 20 minutes were, the film did bother me with a couple of problems I kept running on in to. First of all, the heist itself seemed way too easy. I don’t want to give anything away as to how these peeps pulled it all off the way they did, but I will say that the way they did was so easy, that almost any person could rob a bank, regardless of the size of the bank itself. It was a plain heist as it was but it also seemed like one that was a bit too easy, even for these characters. Wasn’t the anchor of the flick, but it was still something that bugged me.
Another aspect of this film that bothered me was that things did really get predictable by the end, and it was kind of a disappointment considering this film had me on the edge for a good part of it. After the heist “goes down”, things start to go haywire and every situation becomes just another action-movie cliche that you always expect from these types of movies. There’s even one scene where Chris Pratt is talking about how he used to hunt with his daddy’s shotgun, only to be filmed holding it later on in the film, and it was an obvious, fore-shadowing moment that I got too many of throughout this whole flick. Was I entertained by most of this? Yes. But I think Frank could have done a better job with some of this because this guy did write Out of Sight. I mean,0 come on now!
Actually, what I think really held this film together for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s awesome performance as Chris Pratt (no, not Andy Dwyer, but how awesome would that be?). Pratt is a good character to have in a film like this because the guy obviously had it all at one time, but sadly, lost it all after a traumatic accident ruined his life forever and now he’s trying his damn near hardest to work with it. Maybe it doesn’t sound like the most well-written character ever made in film, but JGL plays him perfectly with just the right amount of sadness, sorrow, and anger in his system that makes you feel like this dude is a good with some mental problems that he can’t really help. This, along with Brick, was a role that showed off JGL’s skills at leading a film all on his own, and it’s so great to see what he’s become today in Hollywood.
Jeff Daniels is here as Lewis, Pratt’s blind room-mate and is just another role that proves how great Daniels is in any role you give him. He’s used as the comic-relief here, but that’s not such a bad thing since Daniels is great at creating well-rounded characters that know how to win you over, just with personalities. Matthew Goode was pretty good, too as Gary Spargo, but thing with him is that you know he’s the bad guy the whole time so there’s no real mystery to him. Isla Fisher is OK as the uber cute, and uber sexy Luvlee, but her role is sort of forgotten about by the end and it’s a shame since this gal could have done a lot more with this role. Like showed some more skin…right?
Consensus: The Lookout may run into some predictable territory by the end, but Scott Frank’s direction keeps this flick fun and entertaining, with plenty of good performances from this cast that makes every character seem even more well-rounded than the last.
Have kids and be happy. As simple as that.
Two small-town university students, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) share a room in order to do an illegal abortion. Otilia then sets about renting a room in a shabby but expensive hotel, in readiness for Mr Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), an abortionist who they’ve been led to believe will do the job for the money they’ve scraped together.
Abortion is no easy subject to talk about, let alone actually have as the main subject in your movie. Director Cristian Mungiu knows this and makes it even harder to take in.
This film could have easily been another simple story about two college girls who plan an abortion but it’s the direction from Mungiu that sets it apart. It’s no mystery, I love one-shots. It’s always something that looks so cool and adds so much more tension to the screen rather than just simply jumping all around from camera-to-camera. Here, Mungiu uses many of these kinds of shots and it brings the same amount of tension to every scene but also gives you this large sense of realism, as if you’re watching a documentary of a true story play out right in front of your face. It’s a very dark, bleak, and rather depressing film and without adding any score music for the background, color to the sets (the most color in this flick is the scenes in the hotel lobby, and that’s not even saying much), or fancy camera tricks, the film still makes you feel like nothing good will come out of this situation that these dumb-ass kids got themselves into.
A lot of people talk about how this is a social commentary on the oppressive Communist regimes or illegal abortions that were taken place during this time, but I think of it more of as a look into the dynamics what human friendships really are like. These two kids obviously will try anything to make sure the other one gets what they want, but they don’t realize the price that it may come away with. We also get a very deep look into what happens to a person when they do something, that effs with their mind completely and how everything around them is very intense. I can’t say what goes down in this flick that causes all of this tension later on in the story but it’s very messed up, and yes, it’s more messed up than the whole abortion element which tells you that it’s very messed up. Did I mention that it’s messed up?
However, that’s where my problem for this film lied was that it wasn’t anything more than a look at human friendships and the main subject it talks about, isn’t really anything new. The film shows us this illegal abortion and what emotions its bringing to these students but the film’s main point (if there was one) about abortion itself is sort of left in the wind. Actually, even if there was one, they didn’t really find a way to say anything original about it in the first place which basically means that whatever your opinions are about abortion already are, after viewing this flick, they won’t change or be altered. It’s kind of disappointing considering you don’t know what this film is really going for and then in the end, you start to realize that maybe it’s not going for anything at all. It just shows that abortions are bad. But hey, you didn’t hear that from me so please don’t start up a fight with me in the comments section. Please.
Where this film really hit in the gut was with its performances that seem very, very natural as if these people weren’t even acting in the first place. Anamaria Marinca is amazing here as Otilia, a duty-bound chick that’s very straight to the point and seems like a very smart girl, which obviously had me wondering just what the hell she was doing getting caught up in a situation like this. She has some really good scenes here, considering the whole film is practically focused in on her, but this one dinner scene where the camera just stays on her is great as you see all of her emotions throughout that period of time, just flow right through her face. It’s a great scene but it’s also a little hard to watch her face and read the subtitles at the same time. The more naive chick, Gabita, is also played very well by Laura Vasiliu and provides plenty of scenes where it’s obvious that this chick doesn’t care about anyone else except for her and her fetus. Both characters are pretty unsympathetic and it allows us more room to wonder why these characters would ever get into a situation like this, and just why are they doing what they’re doing.
Consensus: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days may not have anything new or creative to say about it’s controversial subject matter, but it features gut-wrenching performances from both Marinca and Vasiliu, and has a very straight-forward direction from Mungiu that gives it this dark and gritty look, but also very realistic feel that blends in well with the dark atmosphere of the Communist attitudes around this time.
How hard can it be just to tell this guy who he is?
In the new chapter of this espionage series, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) will hunt down his past in order to find a future. He must travel from Moscow, Paris, Madrid and London to Tangier and New York City as he continues his quest to find the real Jason Bourne – all the while trying to outmaneuver the scores of cops, federal officers and Interpol agents with him in their cross-hairs.
As you all have probably already read on here before, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy were two good action flicks, that did what they did well, and kept me entertained while it was going on. However, they weren’t really anything worth writing home about and I don’t know what it was about them, but they just fly away in comparison to this one. Oh wait, I do know why. This one’s freakin’ awesome!
Director Paul Greengrass brought a new type of style to Supremacy, but didn’t seem like he fully used it to his advantage. Here, that’s a totally different story as it seems this guy took about 5 sniffs of cocaine and washed it all down with 3 Red Bulls, just to get in the same intensity-mode here as Jason Bourne. The last two films have been action-packed and very tense, but this one ups the anty and gives us a nail-biter almost from start to finish. The pacing that Greengrass gives this film is one that never really slows up, one that never lingers, and it’s always one that keeps the adrenaline moving, even if the story itself is just focusing on two peeps just talking about CIA shit and life. It’s a real wonder why most other action films don’t try and use the same type of fast-pace as this one does here, because you really feel like you’re in the mind of Jason Bourne, as he’s running away from these people and as he is getting closer and closer to finding out who he really is. Just a total thrill-ride that never lets loose, which is something I always love with my action-thrillers.
As for Greengrass’s hand-held camera style, it works very well with the material by how frantic it makes all of the action scenes seem. Usually, whenever this type of style comes into an action film, it takes away from the action and instead of making people feel the craziness of the action, they just feel a headache coming on. However, Greengrass has this style down very well and uses it to his advantage not only to give this film a crazy look, but also give the story more and more layers of tension that feel worth it, especially since it seems like this story is coming down to the nitty-gritty of finding out what the hell is going on with this guy.
The problem with this non-stop hand-held camera shit is that the film seems to use it the whole time, even if it is just two people talking. I get that Greengrass is just trying to keep the tension up-and-up by having his camera move all-over-the-place, but when you have a scene of just two people staring at each other in silence, 9 times out of 10, you don’t really need the camera panning in and out of their faces as if we were watching a low-budget documentary. Surprised that I didn’t hate this style of film-making here, but I still found something else to complain about it also.
Another problem I seemed to have had with this flick was that the formula, is somewhat the same and even though that isn’t so bad and noticeable this time around, you can still see certain aspects that just seem lazy. One of these instances is with the hit man that are always assigned to kill Bourne. In each and every single one of these flicks, there’s always that one hit man, who is always the best at what he does it seems and makes it look like he can kill anybody he’s ever assigned to. We get that here with 2 characters this time and it just bothered me because it always seemed like that, in the past, whenever they use it, it just came off to end the same exact way it did before.
For the third time once again, Matt Damon absolutely positively kicks total ass as Jason Bourne. Bourne is one kick-ass character, we all know that, but this time we get to see him actually be a lot smarter with the situations he plans out and of course, we get to see plenty of times where it’s just him taking names and coming one step closer and closer to the truth. In the acting department here, Damon isn’t anything particularly special, but he doesn’t have to be when he kicks this much ass. Bourne is sort of like our 21st-century superhero that just so happens to be a real person, just so happens to have no superpowers, just so happens to be an amnesiac, and just so happens to be able to beat the ever lovin’ tar out of anyone who steps up to him. It’s a great character and it’s a shame that this new one coming out doesn’t feature him for a go-around, one last time. Then again, Damon can get bored of roles pretty quickly.
The others in the cast are solid, too, with a couple of new-comers here and there. Joan Allen returns as Pam Landy but isn’t as much of a sinister bitch this time around and actually shows that she has a heart that cares about Jason Bourne a bit. It’s surprising to see this character actually have a heart and have this much depth considering I was expecting her to just be that ruthless, CIA hoe that everybody wanted Jason Bourne to just bitch-slap the shit out of. David Strathairn is new to this film as Noah Vosen, another CIA member that basically takes the spot of Landy and comes off as a ruthless son of a bitch that doesn’t want to take any prisoners when it comes to finding Bourne. Also, Julia Stiles is also back here as well, and she’s pretty good and makes her character have a lot more emotional depth than you would expected from her in the past two flicks. Shame we don’t see Stiles too much nowadays because this gal can do very well when she has the right script. Be on the look-out for a nice, extended cameo from Albert Finney, as well. That guy is always bad-ass. Even when he happens to be dying in films like Big Fish.
Consensus: Being the best out of the trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum features plenty of memorable action scenes, a direction that just gives this film a whole new level of intense, and a story that continues to get better and better as more secrets begin to come out and we eventually figure out the truth behind Jason Bourne and who the hell he really is.
That’s it! I’m going to my local arcade and going to do something with my life!
This is a documentary that follows Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score for the arcade game Donkey Kong from reigning champion Billy Mitchell. The catch is though, maybe Billy isn’t quite the champion we thought he was in the first place.
People reading this now, probably aren’t getting too crazy about seeing a documentary about a bunch of grown-ass men playing each other in video games, which is alright because not everybody loves video games. However, that’s what really made this connect with me because it appealed to me in a way that I never thought was imaginable.
A lot of the credit for this film has to be chalked up to director Seth Gordon‘s amazing skills of capturing everything as it happened here on tape. There isn’t any real manipulation here that we see in so many other documentaries, everything happens in a believable way mainly because of the people in this film are so goofy and out-there, that he couldn’t have written any of these characters in the first place. We get a lot of glimpses into this world of gaming where we see people lose sleep and their jobs over getting the world record for a video game and it’s very bizarre but it also carries a great amount of sincerity to it as well. Gordon doesn’t really take any cheap-shots as these gaming nerds and even when it seems like he is, he’s not really trying to do that since some of these dudes are able to make them look like asses themselves.
Take for instance, Billy Mitchell, aka the self-renowned king of Donkey Kong. This dude won the world-record for Donkey Kong all the way back in 1982 and hasn’t once shown up in a public area to play and defend his record. However, this still allows him to walk around like his shit don’t stick, find any manipulative, lame-ass way he can find to keep his record/legacy going, and talks about how “in order to prove you’re the best, you have to show up in public places to do so”, something that his jerky-ass does not do at all. This guy is a total dick and at-first, I didn’t think he was so bad of a dude until I realized just how much a little girl he would act whenever a challenge against his record would ever come up. Gordon doesn’t try his hardest to make this dude look bad, the dude looks like an asshole as it is and I think that’s one of the main reasons why this film works so well is because it gives us somebody to root against.
Oh and let me not forget to mention that the guy that we are given to root for is probably the most likable dude out there, named Steve Wiebe. This guy has more heart with video games than I think I could ever have with anything (yes, even this) and he shows it throughout this whole flick by traveling miles and miles to beat records in public places, showing the kindness and grace to all of the other fellow gamers that look down on him, and by the end of the day, still considering himself a dude who just likes to enjoy playing video games. He still somehow gets in second place every time though and it makes us root him on more just so we can see Mr. Mitchell look the horses ass that he truly is. Steve Wiebe, you are a man amongst men. Or at least a gamer amongst gamers everywhere.
These two different types of dudes also sets up an awesome rivalry along the lines of Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. We always hear these two guys talk about each other and talk about what they would do if they ever got to meet and play each other in real-life, and it really sets up a lot of tension for the whole flick. I don’t want to give anything away about how they meet and what happens when they meet, but what I will say is that I was on the edge of my seat throughout this whole flick and I don’t know how that it was even humanly possible. I mean I love video games (even though I haven’t played my XBOX 360 in almost two years), but this movie made me want to go back out there and put a couple of quarters in Pac-Man and try my luck of beating the high score, which is probably my dad’s score. That bastard.
If there is one complaint I have to say about this flick is that it is a little jumpy at the beginning. The film starts off with Billy Mitchell and his records, then goes on to tell the stories about the feuds he had with a couple of people, then tells the story of Steve, and then for some reason, goes back-and-forth between that and the history of the gaming association their apart of. Yes, they are all stories that deserved to be told but it was in too much of a sloppy way. However, this didn’t last long because if it did, it would have become a real nuisance after awhile.
Consensus: Even if you have never touched a video game in your entire life, you will love The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters because it has a great story to it, gets an inside look at some very strange people (even though, I’m no cooler), and actually has a lot of tension to it where you feel like all hell is going to break loose between the professional and the under-dog at any second.
9/10=Definitely Watch It!!
Why is it that the little towns always got to have the problems?
The film is about three relationships taking place in a small-town: teenage Arthur (Michael Angarano) and his quirky young love, Lila (Olivia Thirlby); his separating parents, Louise and Don (Griffin Dunne and Jeanetta Arnette); and his former babysitter, Annie (Kate Beckinsale), and her estranged, unstable ex-husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell).
Writer/director David Gordon Green is a dude that has really been scratching people’s heads as of late. First, he does little small-town, indies like this and All the Real Girls, but then he goes onto stoner comedies such as Pineapple Express and Your Highness. Oh, and as of late there was a semi-remake of Adventures in Babysitting called The Sitter’but I didn’t bother with that shit so neither should you. However, those strange choices wouldn’t be so bad in the first place if they were all consistent.
What I can say about Green and his direction here is that the first hour does a pretty good job of creating a mood and atmosphere that sets in pretty quick. We get this slight foreshadowing scene in the beginning that tells us something dark is beneath the surface of this town, and then from there on it stays in pretty long. Also, s a film-maker, Green really does know how to capture some purty images like he did in All the Real Girls. However, instead of having the long shots of the fields in the South, we get a lot of long shots of these people hangin’ around in the snow and he films it all very well and brings a certain type of artistry to this flick. I just wish that was enough to keep my mind off of what was really going on here.
The real problem with this film is that Green has practically stacked about two or three different films here and even though this kind of structure has been used and done very well before, not all of the stories here jell quite as well. The love story between the two teens is pretty annoying since all they do is constantly babble about random things like fellatio and pictures, which is kind of how teenage relationships can be, but isn’t very cute and realistic here. The other relationship they focus on between Arthur’s parents is barely touched on here, but even when it is, it’s totally dumb and adds nothing to the film at all. Hell, they could have even left this whole sub-plot out but since Green obviously had to stay in touch with the source material, he couldn’t get rid of everything.
Neither of those stories are as interesting as the relationship between the estranged husband and wife, played by Beckinsale and Rockwell. Every time this story pops up on-screen, the film gets better and better not because of their performances but because it’s a story that feels real and touches on a very big truth of human relationships: changing. People change as they get older and they soon start to grow apart. These two have been together for almost their whole lives and it’s obvious that one can’t seem to want to have it anymore, while the other is practically heart-broken over it all. It’s a very true and realistic story that shows just how two people change and grow apart from one another, but Green never allows there to be anymore to it than just that and constantly takes the focus off of it and give it to these two other lame-o stories. Sorry for that little rant there but as usual, it was necessary.
I should also choose to mention that at about the one hour period of this flick, the film changes in its tone. Instead of being a dark drama, it becomes an even darker drama that has some suspense to it and even though it was sort of a bold step for Green to go in that direction, it didn’t work for the story. I don’t want to give too much away but the film loses control of itself by this point and the rest of the 47 minutes we have left with this flick just seem to go on and meander. Shame too, because I was actually getting into this film.
What really sold this film for me and got me closer and closer to recommending it was the two performances from Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, who are amazing here. I have never really liked Beckinsale in roles that she’s done because I’m not a big fan of the Underworld movies and whenever she does do character-driven roles like this, her performances come off more as wooden than emotional. Good thing for me was that her performance here as Annie isn’t like that one bit and shows me that she has a lot of talent when it comes to drama. She’s a very sad character that feels like she is a good woman, but is just stuck in a rut because of how she got stuck in life and is trying to find her way out of it. This character goes through a lot of changes throughout the flick and they all rang true thanks to Beckinsale’s surprisingly good performance.
How I initially felt for Beckinsale was not the same way I felt for Rockwell though because I’ve always thought that this guy is a no-joke actor and deserves at least one Oscar before his career is over. His performance here as Glenn is very good because even though he’s a dude that seems like you could never trust in your life, Rockwell brings out this sincerity and humanity to him that makes you believe that he is a good, if troubled guy. Glenn may get a little too crazy by the end of the flick, but Rockwell makes it all seem believable enough with just the right amount of good and evil in him. Somebody get this guy his damn Oscar already!
Consensus: Snow Angels features very good performances from the cast, but has about three or four different stories packed into here that may further talk about the issue of human relationships this film brings up plenty of times, but takes down the one story that kept my interest in the first place.