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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 2012

The Snowtown Murders (2012)

Single-mothers: Beware of the next person you take home to your children.

16 year-old Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is introduced to his mother’s new boy-toy, John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), and looks up to him as a father-figure of sorts. And honestly, how could he not? The guy is charming, funny, cool, nice, always ready to make food for anybody. He also takes time out of his day to go around and kill people that he believes to be homosexuals, or just general wastes of life. Oh yeah, forgot about that little detail.

As you can see, all of this sounds like your ordinary, serial-killer thriller that shows violence at its most gruesome and doesn’t care whether or not you want to look at it. In a way, that is what we get here, but what makes it more than just another thriller, is the fact that it’s all real. Yep, that’s right, two evil son-of-a-bitches like James Vlassakis and John Bunting are actually real-life people, who did kill over eleven people, and are still serving life-sentences for their wrongdoings. Most of you may be happy to hear about that, considering a story about two serial-killers that are still on the loose will have you scared out of your mind, but don’t forget people: They killed 11 innocent people and made no apologies for it. If you go in with this mind-set you’ll know exactly what to expect from this excruciating Debby-downer.

Director Justin Kurzel has a couple of nice touches with this subject by giving it a deliberate-pace that makes you feel like you are in for one big, wild depression-ride that probably won’t ever feature a light at the end of the tunnel. Nor should it. It’s a brutal, hard-hitting tale about two very messed-up individuals. There were moments where I wish Kurzel did pan the camera away from some of the horrific torture situations, but it wasn’t like he was channeling Eli Roth and showing his fascination/love with all of this human-inflicted pain; he was just simply showing just how sick and twisted these guys were. This approach really did a number on me as there were plenty of moments I felt were hard as hell to watch.

Just another young boy.....

Just another young boy…..

Then again, it’s all done on purpose.

Though you already get the gist of what this movie is going for and trying to portray, there’s a lot of other moments to this story that hit hard and make me realize what was really brewing underneath all of these terrible acts of murder. What I mean by that, is how this kid Jamie never seemed like ever got the right shot in life to actually get away from this new way of living. Granted, the kid could have easily said “no”, and then walked away as soon as he saw good old Johnny boy hangin’ over a dead body with a hammer, but for him, it almost seems like he had no other choice.

This is where the film may get really tough for some to watch because you feel for this kid; you realize his life is as terrible as he realizes it, and you see how he desperately wants to be away from John and all of this killing, but can never muster up the gall to actually do so. Just to see this kid Jamie, go back-and-forth in his mind about whether or not he wants to kill this next person, is as tense as you’re going to get with the rest of this flick and it really hit me in the stomach every time this kid decided to go through with it. I can’t really say that I was on this kid’s side the whole entire time, because he really did help kill half of the people, but there’s something about him that just made me feel sad for him and just knew he could do the right thing. In a way, he does when it’s all said and done, but in another way, not really and that’s probably the hardest pill to swallow of this whole flick.

But as close as this movie comes to making a point about the mind of a serial-killer and what exactly goes through it, the movie mostly falls apart. Not saying that it gets messy or anything, but it doesn’t seem to bring much to the table, or even allow us to chew on something more than what we see. Which, to some, may be fine, but when all you’re watching for two hours is innocent people being murdered, in heinous, sadistic ways, it’s a little hard to not want something more. It could have been a small piece of character insight here, or another piece there – anything would have helped.

...and another younish man.

…and another younish man.

Despite this problem, the cast is very good and at least helps us get past some of the harsh, disturbing acts portrayed on the screen. Notice how I said “some”. Lucas Pittaway plays our main character Jamie, and gets to do a lot, without saying much at all. But what’s most impressive about his performance is that he’s willing to show us darker aspects to his character, without ever making it seem too obvious. A certain way in how he walks, talks, or even looks at a person, can mean so much in that he’s losing more and more of his sanity as he speaks. It’s quite frightening and especially impressive since he gets called on to do a whole lot.

Daniel Henshall is creepy as can be as John Bunting, the sterling, cold-stone killer he was known to be. What surprised me the most about Bunting and his character was how the guy didn’t really seem like he was going to make much of a difference in the story at all, but after awhile, starts to get more and more involved with what’s happening in Jamie’s life and you start to see a darker side come out of him then you generally expect. Then, once Bunting’s darker aspects come out for the world to see, it’s incredibly scary, because this guy seems genuinely crazy. He’s a killer, who just wants to do that, and not much else. Henshall portrays this deep, dark descent into madness very well and shows that it doesn’t matter how charming, nice, or suave a person can be when they’re around people – there’s always a small layer of darkness lying somewhere underneath.

Always something to smile about, folks.

Consensus: Maybe not for everyone, the Snowtown Murders is grueling, disturbing, and most of all, effective in portraying the lives of two infamous serial-killers, while hardly ever pulling back from showing us full-on displays of what these two men did to their victims.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh, how much I have mislead you all.

Oh, how much I have mislead you all.

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR.com

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Keep the Lights On (2012)

If your soul mate is from a phone dating-service, they aren’t your soul mate.

Late one night while cruising for sex on the phone, documentary filmmaker Erik (Thure Lindhardt) meets a closeted lawyer by the name of Paul (Zachary Booth). While they both exchange in some pretty hot sex, they also seem to want a bit more, even though Paul is already in a relationship with a woman. Erik doesn’t mind this and actually finds himself falling for Paul; so much so that it actually scares him. But it’s love and you can’t fight that feeling, no matter how bad things may get. And here, they get pretty damn terrible. Over the next ten years of their up-and-down relationship, Erik begins to realize that not only does Paul have a drug problem, but that he needs to get it fixed out before it’s too late for the both of them. But even if Erik can “cure” Paul of his addiction, what does that mean for the both of them together? Can they work it out? Or, simply put, will they just dissolve into the thin air of nothingness like most relationships end up being?

From what I’ve read, it seems that most of this is based on writer/director Ira Sachs’ own experience in love, but more importantly, a relationship he had himself. With that information taken into consideration, the film becomes a whole lot more personal and intimate than it already appears so as being, which is saying a whole lot, because this movie is so closed-off from the rest of the world around it, that it almost becomes suffocating. But that’s somewhat of a good thing here, especially since it keeps mostly all of our focus on these two men, their relationship and just exactly what makes them so compatible in the first place.

Usually how most of my relationships begin....

Usually how most of my relationships begin….

However, that’s where Sachs’ movie frustrated me: We never get a full sense as to why these two fall so madly in love together in the first place. I can totally understand and accept a movie that’s presenting a romance doomed from the very beginning, and just continuing to show it as it gets worse and worse for the individuals involved, but I can’t wholly accept a movie when that’s all it has to show. We hardly get to know these characters, except that one’s a whole a lot immature than the other; which is saying something because the other spends most of the movie running away without telling anybody where he’s going, having sex with random strangers, and doing a whole lot of crack.

And like I said before, I’m fine with a movie presenting me a complicated situation, with complicated people involved with them, but here, it feels like nothing’s all that complicated, or at least it shouldn’t be: One should clearly dump the other, but can’t because he’s just too needy and sexually-charged. It’s understandable that these aren’t characters we’re supposed to fall in love with; much rather, we’re supposed to understand them as who they are and why they want this relationship to work in the first place, but it sort of seems like Sachs keeps most of that away from us.

Well, at least in the case of Paul, who mostly just ends up turning out to be an unsympathetic dick that yes, may have a very serious drug problem, but doesn’t really feel like he’s worthy of having a connection with anyone, let alone somebody as caring and as loving as Erik. And because of this problem with Paul, Erik ends up being a whole lot more likable, even though he isn’t without his own fair share of problems, either.

For starters, Erik’s a little boy, trapped in an older dude’s body; meaning, he thinks and has feelings as if he’s still an adolescence, yet is clearly older and has to take on more responsibilities. He’s also our main focus of this movie and it’s hard to not want to give him a hug after he’s been thrown around, tossed, and kicked by this feeling of love he gets, even if it does feel way too much, for such a very short amount of time. However, it isn’t unbelievable in the way it’s presented to us in the film because of how Sachs has made Erik a sad, lonely guy who seems like he’s in desperate need of someone to hold and cherish.

...how they meander....

…how they meander….

That said, Erik’s mostly a compelling character because of how good Thure Lindhardt is at playing him. Rather than over-doing his character’s acts of immaturity to give you the impression that he’s a middle-schooler experiencing love and sex for the first time in his life, Lindhardt shows/tells us all we need to know by the way he carries himself from place to place, and the people he talks to in these places. And in these countless interactions with others, we get to understand and know a little more about who Erik is, as small as those pieces of info may be.

Still, it’s not enough to fully have us understand just why it is that we’re watching this story play out. Sure, Erik is a character that’s easy to care for, even when it seems like he’s the one who is bringing most of this pain and agony onto himself, but as for Paul and their relationship as a whole: I just wanted to see it over and done with. Most of that was to see Erik and Paul eventually released from whatever hurt they’ve been holding onto for all these years, but because it would actually bring something more compelling to the movie as a whole. It’s clear that this is a very personal story for Sachs and because of that being so, it does end up telling some hard-earned truths about love, commitment and how low one will stoop to keep a relationship afloat, but it ends up being almost too personal. Meaning that while it may mean a whole lot to him, the creator of transporting his own, real-life experiences to film, it doesn’t really hold nearly as much importance to the audience that’s watching his story practically play out in front of their own very eyes.

And, I mean, come on! Isn’t it the audience we make these movies for in the first place?

Consensus: Sachs’ writing and directing usually presents some interesting points about his character’s, as well as the situation they’re going through, but for most of Keep the Lights On‘s run-time, it just walks a very slow, uninteresting line.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

...and then of course, how they end. (That''s usually me on the right)

…and then of course, how they end. (That”s usually me on the right)

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

This Is Not a Film (2012)

It actually isn’t.

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film-maker who is quite known for his movies pushing the boundaries and challenging the way that country’s government is run. So much so that he eventually lands himself under some serious hot water, when he is placed under house-arrest. Even worse though, he is given a 20-year ban on making, writing, or even producing a movie. Also to add insult to injury, he can’t leave the country either. Basically Panahi is supposed to just sit around all day, watch movies, go on the computer, feed his pet lizard, stay with his family, and wait around as a possible rebuttal is being drawn-up. But Panahi isn’t going to wait any longer; not just because he feels like pissing off the government anymore than he already has, but because he has ideas, dammit! And you know what? He’s going to try and film them to the best that he can. That’s when he decides to give his good buddy, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, a call to come over and help him film everything that he’s doing. Which, for the most part, consists of him talking about this idea for his next movie, his frustration with the situation he’s being thrown into, and the life he’s had, up until this point.

So yeah, this is a pretty tricky film in the sense that it’s a documentary, but not really; it’s about this guy’s life, but it’s also just about this one day in his life, as opposed to it being a biography of his life until this point. Any way that we’re supposed to know about Panahi’s childhood or his introduction into the filming-world is all up to us to find out for ourselves. Which yes, can be quite frustrating if you’re used to ordinary documentaries just telling you everything you need to know about its subject, but then again, this isn’t an ordinary documentary.

Still surprised I didn't see any FYC ad's going around town for that lizard. He practically steals the show.

Still surprised I didn’t see any FYC ad’s going around town for that lizard. He practically steals the show. Or whatever this is that they’re filming.

As if you haven’t been able to already tell so far.

But regardless of if we get any background info on Panahi or not in this movie, it doesn’t matter, because what it does so well is that it places us in a day in the life of this guy as he’s under this peculiar situation. And by “a day in the life”, I mean exactly that – we start the movie with this guy in his kitchen, eating some sort of bread, talking on the phone, and ending it all with him outside as the night crowd rages on. We start the film seeing him, and end it, seeing what he sees it. And that’s pretty much how the whole film rolls for the most part.

May sound like a drag to some, and for a good portion of it, it totally is, but there’s still something quite invigorating about spending a whole day with someone you just literally met, and seeing everything that they are seeing. Which is to say that there’s not much camera-trickery to be found here; we get a couple of glimpses into a flick of his past and even his iPhone’s video-camera, but other than that, everything we see is solely from the view-point of Panahi and whatever it is that his camera films. It can either be him mapping-out set-designs for his next “possible” movie, or him just sitting on the computer, browsing as his lizard crawls up on him and scratches him with its sharp nails.

Sounds monotonous and somewhat boring, but I think that may be the point. And because that’s the point, it’s not boring to watch. We get a sense early on that this is a man who is genuinely upset about the position that he is thrown into and rather than pissing, moaning and ranting on and on for days about it, he thinks of ways that he could get any sort of creativity out of his system that may at all be possible. Sure, it sucks for him to be stuck inside his house all day during one of the craziest days of the year, while his family is all out and about, but he makes the best of it and there’s something nice and rather endearing in seeing that.

However, that isn’t to say it’s just Panahi the whole damn time; right around the middle of the flick, we get a visitor in Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who doesn’t do much talking, but at least takes the camera for awhile and just films Panahi as he does whatever he wants (except go outside or make movies, that is). Because of him, this movie is possible and it makes us see the troubled, upset man that Panahi is. Yet again though, that isn’t to say he’s constantly whining about where he’s at and why he’s there; he understands why he’s being punished, by whom and is just trying to make it through it all. For that, it’s a bit of an inspirational tale, though it’s not hokey.

As I imagine Lars von Trier literally plans most of his movies out.

As I imagine Lars von Trier literally maps his movies out.

Once again, it’s just this guy’s life; more specifically, a day in his life. Not much happens, then again, not much needs to happen. Just seeing him let loose with all of the smart, creative ideas he has in his head and watching as he lets that spill out onto the floor around him, is really something of a sight; something I imagine almost each and every film-maker does with an inspired idea of theirs. Of course there are some brief detours (one in particular, a lady who knocks on his door trying to have him take her dog for her), but nothing to the point of where we lose our focus: Jafar Panahi. But then again though, there isn’t really much of a focus to begin with. We’re just watching him, his day, and occasionally hearing what he has to say, or seeing what he has to do.

As I said before too, some may find that utterly the most boring thing on the face of the planet, and I can’t necessarily disagree with that. Parts of it seem stale and uneventful, but that’s just how life is. Most importantly, that’s just how life is for this man, Jafar Panahi. He’s a creative-mind that wants to be able to use his talents, but can’t and because of that, he’s suffering and finding anyway he can possibly let all of his creativity out. Even if it does get him in some trouble.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s quite admirable.

Consensus: Though not an ordinary, conventional documentary by any means, This Is Not a Film still is unique in the way that it presents this man’s life, not through background info that reads like a WikiPedia page, but through this one day in his life where he has nowhere else to be except for his house, with his camera and with his creative-mind.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like the Blair Witch Project, except 21st century technology. And more accessible portable-devices.

Sort of like that scene from the Blair Witch Project, except 21st century technology. And more accessible portable-devices.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

West of Memphis (2012)

Arkansas politicians: What a bunch of dummies.

You may have heard of it, you may have not, but regardless, here’s the general-basis for what happened on one afternoon in the small town of West Memphis, Oklahoma. Three eight-year-old boys (Steve Branch, Michael Moore, Christopher Byers) were reported missing by their parents. No less than a day later, their naked, battered, and bruised bodies were found in a creek. Some within the justice department felt that because the boys seemed like they were victims of something more than just a traditional murder, that the murder itself had to be something of a satanic cult. Therefore, the police limited their search to people who were believed to be of a satanic cult of sorts; which, as a result, lead them right to three teenagers by the names of Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols. Though nobody expected these three to be so willing to torture, rape and kill these young boys, the evidence was there and stacked-up all against them. And in a court-of-law, that’s all you need to get your ass sent away for life, and even in some cases, death. However, not everything feels right to those who pay close enough attention to this case and its history, which leads documentaries to be made, new evidence to show up, various celebrities to get involved, and eventually, the re-trial of this infamous case.

First things first, in order to understand, or better yet, “get” this movie, you do not had to have seen the previous three other documentaries made about the West Memphis Three, also known as the Paradise Lost documentaries. Which is rather strange considering I had heard so much about them, but for some reason, never even bothered to watch. I just read, and read, and continued to read on until I felt like I had a clear enough picture in my head as to what was going on with this case, why it was so wrong that it happened in the first place, who did what, why they did that, who is responsible, and so on, and so forth.

Eh, still kind of, a little weird, but hey, the man deserves it!

Eh, still kind of, a little weird, but hey, the man deserves it!

Basically though, everything I read, thought, believed in and felt while reading paragraph, after paragraph, after paragraph of information, was all jam-packed into this two-and-a-half-hour documentary. And yet, I was always thrilled and continuously surprised, even though I already knew most of the info this documentary was throwing at me.

Like I said, pretty weird, right?

Well, I guess when you have a good director at the helm, it isn’t so much weird as it’s just an assurance that this is what can happen when you keep a clear mind and conscience while making a documentary about a very controversial topic. Sure, the fact that these three boys were wrongfully jailed, convicted, and practically sent to live the rest of their days in jail, is an absolute outrage. I know that; you know that; Peter Jackson knows that; hell, even Johnny Depp knows that! But when you’re making a documentary, or any movie in particular, you have to keep your eyes on the prize and make sure that just about everybody involved gets their say, their take on the proceedings, and reasons as to why they did what it was that they did. You don’t have to like it, but you at least have to understand it and respect someone human enough to make that decision and at least tell others about it – let alone a mass film-crew that would more than likely show their response to more than a few million people.

But here, director Amy J. Berg allows for each and every person that was involved with this case and was willing to talk, share their side of the story. And for the most part, everybody brings a little something to the table. It would have been as easy-as-pie to give us this whole story through the West Memphis Three boys themselves, but Berg focuses her attention more on everybody else surrounding it; the lawyers, the judges, the activists, the celebrities, the financiers, the victims’ families, the detectives, the cops, the mayors, the governors, the random civilians that just want to have their face on camera, etc. You get the picture – there’s a very large canvas here that Berg has to cover, but she does so in a very steady, matter-of-fact way, without rarely missing a beat.

For somebody like me, who had already known so much about this case in the first place before watching it, it was a bit tiresome and boring to get the same bits and pieces of info thrown at me, but it was still intriguing to see it told and brought to my attention by a different perspective or two. Rather than just reading in my head whatever Wikipedia had to offer me on that day in question, I was told it by people that seemed like they were professionals at the certain things they were saying, because believe it or not: They were.

Nonetheless though, there still is some info that comes around here and there that I never knew about and actually surprised the hell out of me. I won’t spoil the new evidence that shows up and exactly how it works for the West Memphis Three boys’ case, but it may shock you by how much of it went past so many damn people in the first place. Then again though, where this documentary really dives into is how those certain people who were in power and control during this case, didn’t really give a flying dingle berry who actually did it, they just needed somebody to take the fall.

Now, here is where Berg could have easily lost her cool and let these political, high-minded a-holes have it like their champagne and mistress on a Friday night, but she doesn’t do that. Instead, she chills out and let these guys say why it is they decided to ignore certain parts of this case. Sometimes, their responses are idiotic and so vague that you know there’s an under-lining meaning to it all, but still, they’re real life human beings, voicing their positions on the case and setting the shit straight. Not all of them are likable, but there are a few who admit that they made some mistakes, or, better yet, didn’t want to get too involved with the case because election season was coming up and they wanted to look all bright, shiny, and moral for those who cast their ballots.

When life gets you down, just know that somewhere, out there in the world, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder are jammin' for your freedom.

When life gets you down, just remember that somewhere, out there in the world, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder are jammin’ for your freedom.

Once again, nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, regardless of if it makes you look like a jerk or not. Berg sees this and allows for the documentary to be judged on that basis: Everybody has a say, no matter what.

As for the documentary itself as a whole, I can’t really say it was anything I’ll remember for the rest of my days, but I am glad that it was made. You have to remember, I never saw any of the Paradise Lost documentaries, but I at least knew enough going in to where I didn’t have to do a quick synopsis of everything that was going on, nor did I know so much to where every piece of newfound info didn’t do a single thing for me at all. Quite the contrary, actually. Anytime something new, or shocking did plop on the table, it hit me and made me wonder just whose next? Seriously, if these three, predictably rebellious and young teenagers can get thrown in jail because of the way they may have acted or by something they may have wore differently than those around them, then what’s to say they won’t come for us next? I know I sound paranoid and a tad crazy and all, but it’s the truth. That’s why so many damn people got behind these kids’ backs in the first place, and that’s why you definitely should to.

It’s your human right, dammit!

Consensus: Most of what’s presented in West of Memphis may be a lot of previously-known info, but still, with the attention to detail, getting all of the facts right, and uncovering new evidence, it’s an effective documentary that shows us, once again, why a film can be made more than to just entertain.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Still lookin' mighty fine! Well, not really, but you get the point.

“So uh, I’ll call you guys later?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

No Kraken? Booo!

A decade after kicking some mighty and fine Kraken-ass, Perseus (Sam Worthington) settles down into a life that’s relaxing, full of joy and happiness, as he teaches his son the ways of the world. Everything’s going fine too, until he finds out that his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), needs to be saved from his long-lost, rogue brother (Édgar Ramírez) and asshole-uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes). As strong and powerful as Perseus might be, he can’t do it alone so he recruits Poseidon’s half-human son, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to join him as they fight through thick and thin, limb-from-limb, and even battle a Minotaur. Aw yeah! Maybe not as awesome as the Kraken, but aw yeah!

Even though I didn’t mind it, I can get why a lot of people hated the hell out of Clash of the Titans. It was dumb, a bit long and had CGI done in a way that makes me wonder if we’re still using MACs or not. However, I still can’t understand why the hell we needed a sequel to it, let alone, one that starred the same lead, nor featured the Kraken; because let’s face it: The only reason people waited around in the first movie, was just to see how awesomely cool and epic the appearance of the Kraken would be. Which it was, but does all of five minutes, make an-hour-and-a-half seem worth it?

I can’t quite come to answer that question because, as I said, I didn’t mind the first one but I can totally see and understand the disdain of hearing the news of a sequel. However, you have to think about Hollywood here for a second and realize that not only did the first one make a shit-ton of millions and millions of dollars in the States, but overseas, it made a ton more. So, therefore, you have to realize that of course Hollywood is going to do a sequel for the sake that the first made a bunch of movie, whereas also hoping that the people who ventured out to see the first one, however many times it might have been, will see the second one and probably be just as pleased. That’s exactly who this flick is made for, and that’s the only way this flick could really work.

"No please! Don't squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or so sequels!

“No please! Don’t squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or six sequels!

That’s why I sort of liked this one a bit more, which isn’t saying too much but is better than what I can say for a movie that’s still on my list for “Most Unnecessary Sequels of the Past Decade”. Even though I didn’t hate Louis Leterrier’s approach to the first movie, producers felt like it was time to re-vamp the series and give it a darker look, feel, touch and story, so therefore, they brought in Jonathan Liebesman to shake things up a bit and see where he could go with this. Liebesman is a welcome addition to this series, mostly because he knows exactly how to get this story off-and-running, right from the beginning.

As soon as we get introduced to what Perseus has been doing for the past couple of years, action just erupts out of nowhere, and we begin to see the old-school Perseus come back in full-form by tangling with a two-headed beast (three, if you count the mouth they have on it’s tail). Right after this fun beginning, the movie jumps right into the story and continues to pile and pile on the exposition, as if all the stories and legends we remembered from Greek History 130 and Herc’s Adventure, was all bullshit.

As mean-spirited as that may sound, the movie still doesn’t show much improvement over the first one in terms of it’s story and script. Of course, I wasn’t expecting a life-opening screenplay about what it means to be a father in the day and ages of Gods and evil forces running amok, but at the same time, at least give me something to hold onto when the action isn’t slamming me in the face. I can only handle so much subplots, stories about Gods, what they can do, and all sorts of philosophical speeches about the after-life that’s supposed to have a deeper-meaning than just, “I don’t want to die”.

That’s where the action comes in and take over what was already a pretty dialogue-heavy movie. Not much better, but slightly in the way that everything looks more polished, feels more thought-out and definitely has more fun with itself, even if it’s a tad too serious for it’s own good. I liked the first one for knowing that it was dumb, loud, and stupid, as if you were watching a B-movie on cable when you and your buddies were high, drunk, bored, or a mixture of all three. This one, however, drives itself down the darker, windier-road that’s all about showing emotions and sad things that not only bring you down, but try and make you feel like there’s more at-stake here when two people are going toe-to-toe in a scrap. It doesn’t work, and it feels like the movie’s trying a bit too hard. All that being said, the movie still has enough fun with itself to the point of where the dark-approach isn’t numbing or bothersome, it’s just more noticeable than it should be.

Nary a scratch and yet: she's in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she's doing half of the killing.

Nary a scratch and yet she’s in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she’s doing half of the killing. Inspiration to women all over the globe.

The only real improvement in this flick that’s actually noticeable is that Sam Worthington does feel a bit more “in-his-mode” than he did with the last one. Here, he seems to actually enunciating the horrendous-dialogue he’s been given and seems to really throw himself into the action-sequences that call for more than just heavy panting and staring. Even though there seems to be little to no personality with his take on Perseus, at least Worthington shows us that he wants to be here because maybe all of those wads of cash that he was getting from four years ago, are finally running out and he needs whatever he can take.

Yup, that movie about those blue aliens was released four years back. Funny how time flies.

Returning with Worthington from the first movie, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson seem to be having a bit more of fun as Hades and Zeus respectively, even if they too, do feel like they are slumming themselves down to really fit in with the pure-dumbness of this movie. Can’t complain about that too much, since it is a dumb movie, but a little bit more time and effort would have been greatly appreciated. Hell, if this dude can give us that, why can’t you, Oscar-nominated actors?!?!?

Since everybody from the first movie practically died in it, or re-thought their movie careers, there are new faces and names to be seen and heard which are more welcoming than I expected. Rosamund Pike is a nice addition as the sexy, fiery lady-warrior that isn’t taking anybody’s crap, yet, doesn’t have a problem showing that she can still flaunt it like the boys as well; Toby Kebbell brings a bunch of wit and charm to his role as Agenor, Poseidon’s human son; and Bill Nighy shows his bearded-up face for a wee bit as Hephaestus and has fun, makes his wisecracks, and goes on his own way, probably collecting a hefty paycheck or something, and making us all wish that he would just come back and give us more fun and entertainment. Can never get enough of Bill Nighy, now can ya?

Consensus: To say that Wrath of the Titans is better than its predecessor is stating the obvious, but the problems with that first one still do lie within the cracks and creeks of the script here, and are only ignored when there’s loud, hectic stuff happening on-screen, which makes it at least entertaining to sit-through, even if you sort of wish somebody would crack a smile or two.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Two dudes who played Germans during the Holocaust unite!!

Two dudes who played Germans during that Holocaust movie unite!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Act of Valor (2012)

Keep on fighting the good fight, boys. But let’s leave that on the battlefield, and off of our silver screens.

This one’s going to be a little difficult to summarize, so just bear with me for as long as you can. A group of Navy SEALS are sent on a mission where they must rescue an undercover CIA agent who has been held captive. Once these SEALS finally rescue her, all safe, sealed and delivered, they realize that this little kidnapping scheme is part of something far more bigger than just your traditional threat to the United States army. Somehow, through someway, the Mexican drug cartel and terrorists come together on this plan to invade the U.S., with more than a few suicide bombers ready to press the button at any point in time. However, it’s up to this same group of SEALS to do whatever it is that they can to defeat the enemy, save our country and still a life to live where they can go back to their families, have dinner, make love to their spouses and in some cases, finally get to see their newborn baby. All in a hard day’s work of a Navy SEAL Marine. Hoo-rah!

I’m going to let you know right now, just as we start things off: If you go into this movie expecting something of an honest, realistic, slice-of-life look inside the lives of Navy SEALS, then you’re not going to get here. Everything you see or hear in this movie, is straight-up, pure propaganda that’s obviously been tinkered with many of times, just so soldier-hopefuls out there will get packed, grab their bags and get the hell out of the house, where they can go to their nearest recruiter and sign right up. If you take it in as anything else other than a propaganda-piece, then you, my friend, are indeed screwed, because trust me, that’s all you’re going to get.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

But that brings up the interesting question: If this is a propaganda movie made for those who want to contribute the war, and/or support our troops, is it wrong to NOT like this movie? I remember this discussion was going through the minds of many peeps when this movie first came out early last year, and while I didn’t even bother to check it out for myself, I still realized that maybe some day down the pipeline I’ll give this try. Fast-forward to Veterans Day 2013, and gosh, was my timing every so impeccable!

If you’re going to watch any movie today to get in you the fine spirit of paying your condolences to those who fought for us, then this is definitely the movie to see, if you haven’t already seen it. While there have been far more preachy and obvious movies made for the sake of propaganda, this one definitely takes the cake as it literally seems like there are no problems with any of the SEALS involved whatsoever. Every soldier that we get the slightest glimpse at is either on-point with every decision they make, smart, nice, easily pleased and always able to figure something right on the spot. They rarely ever get frazzled, pissed off, upset, jealous, selfish, scared, worried or even a little bit gung-ho with their weapons. Nope, they’re just the most perfect human-beings in the history of the world and some out there may call me a dick for making fun of that fact, but I’m just making an obvious note: People, this is no Restrepo. Trust me on that.

And since this is no Restrepo, that means we are subject to some pretty weak character-development and acting, which could have all been easily solved had directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh not decided to be so gimmicky and cast former active duty Navy SEALS. See, I get that these guys obviously wanted to show some real, hard-earned respect to these boys, so they thought by casting them in these lead roles, giving them a handful of lines, fake guns packed with stud bullets and some, to little back-story, that they’d be doing them a real slim; which is exactly what they’re doing. Nothing really wrong with that as it probably made them feel even more special than ever before, however, what may make those guys feel all mighty, high and proud of themselves, may make some of us who are stuck watching these guys be forced to commit such actions as emoting, or getting down their comedic-timing, or even just reading their lines, feel awkward and terribly uncomfortable.

This is another point that may earn more haters than lovers, and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m a movie critic, not a fellow solider writing about my thoughts and feelings about these soldiers in the roles, and the movies they’re in. I’m simply just talking about the movie as a whole, and in that regard, the movie is god awful. It’s hard to listen to half of these guys say something, without laughing uncontrollably out-loud and wonder why McCoy and Waugh couldn’t just get real actors to do these roles, and just have the SEALS stunt-double for them, in order to still give us the real look and feel as if we are really seeing these soldiers go to work and talk like they normally would. But instead, we just get a bunch of guys who can’t act for crap, but can sure as hell throw out war jargon like nobody’s business. That’s what I’ll definitely give them credit for, but then again, something tells me a person like say, I don’t know, Brad Pitt or George Clooney would have been able to do that ten times more effectively.

Think long and hard, bud.

Think long and hard, bud.

Once again, movie critic, not a soldier.

Since I do keep reminding you that I am a movie critic, I think this is finally my time to stop bagging on this movie and get to the good stuff, which isn’t much, but still something that’s worth recommending for the hardest, of hardest action-junkies. Basically, minor bits and pieces of character-development and scenes of dialogue probably take up about 10% of this whole movie; whereas the rest of the 90% is straight-up, non-stop, action. And by “action”, I mean the full shebang: Guns, nukes, explosions, bullets, snipers, bombs, explosions, dudes getting shot in the head, POV shots, explosions, knives, blood, tanks, jeeps, explosions, and plenty more where that came from. For people who get their rocks off of seeing a terrorist get their head shot off by some camouflaged sniper, then this is definitely the movie for you as there’s plenty more where that came from, and hell, who am I to judge, because I don’t mind seeing that every once in awhile either. I didn’t really care for it much here since I felt like I got that same scene about hundred more times, but still, there is some fun to be had with this movie and its various amounts of violence, especially if you’re on our side. If you’re not, then you won’t like this movie, and in essence, you’re a traitor. That’s what I’ll most likely be told.

Consensus: The movie’s intentions are good, and the heart is in the right place, but Act of Valor still can’t help but feel like nothing more than pure propaganda for army-hopefuls to check out and suddenly be inspired to take action right away, whether that be through joining up, or simply donating. Either way, this movie wants your commitment, and it may or may not get it, all depending on the type of person you are.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

On a lighter, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us.  I know I will. I just won't be watching this movie while doing so.

On a more serious, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us. I know I will. I just won’t be watching this movie while doing so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Raid: Redemption (2012)

If every low-rent criminal fought like Bruce Lee on cocaine, there would be no police.

An Indonesian SWAT Team rolls out early one morning with one task, and only one task on their hands: Seize a drug-lord that just so happens to be hiding out in his 15-story-high apartment complex, filled to the brim with his cronies. It seems simple enough, however, some kid blows their cover right from the start and gets a whole bunch of them killed right from the beginning. However, since this is also an operation that the Lieutenant himself has only committed, no back-up will be there or else it’s his ass, as well everybody else’s who’s been involved. That leaves it all up to one rookie, who’s about to be a father, to find the drug-lord, save the day, and even connect with a family member of his, if he can and has the time.

It’s been a long, long while since the last time I saw a really good action movie. Sure, the summer so has had it’s fair share of high-octane, adrenaline-fueled fests, but nothing that ever really brought me back to the good old days where people us to go against one another, mono-e-mono, without all of the add-ons like guns or knives or bats, and just get right down to it. Seems like there hasn’t been an action movie like that in a long time, and thankfully, that’s exactly what writer/director Gareth Evans gives me here. Yes, I do know that it’s taken me quite some time to get to this movie, but after missing it in theaters, and practically everywhere else for that matter, I’ve finally been able to catch this bad boy and be able to tell you that it’s exactly all that I’ve heard it as being, if not more than just that.

"Remember what I said: No touching of the hair or face."

“Remember what I said: No touching of the hair or face.”

Yup, “bad boy” is the perfect word to describe this action-fest of sorts, and most likely will bring you back to where you would get a simple action movie, with a straight-forward plot, and some meaningless characters that just did what they had to do so the movie didn’t seem like it was terribly one-sided. However, Evans doesn’t quite care about how they do it in the old school, or the new one either, he’s just doing what he knows best and it creates for a great time no matter what type of viewer you are. It may take awhile to get going when it needs to, but once the SWAT team shows up to the huge, apartment complex, shoots their first bullet, and also their first victim, then it gets balls to the walls crazy and never lets up. That’s where the real beauty of this flick begins to show, and that’s also where all of the entertainment begins.

However, as much as the action consists of people getting either knifed or shot in the face, Evans brings a new type of action-style to the forefront that I won’t be surprised if more and more Hollywood studios start taking advantage of. Apparently it’s an Indonesian martial art called pencak silat, which may sound like a pretty lame-o name, if it wasn’t this freakin’ awesome and bone-crushin’. If you can take into consideration the fact that every crack head, dealer, or fiend in this joint can practically perform it all up to the same par, if not better, than most of the trained-professionals in uniform, then you’re going to have a ball with what this style of martial arts brings to the table. Every fight sequence, no matter how long they go on for, always brings up something new or cool that you may or may not have seen before. Regardless of whatever side of the fence you land on, there’s going to be plenty of laughter, clapping, and “oohs” and “ahhs” from your end, and that’s all fine and dandy because that’s what action movies were placed on this world to do in the first place.

Everything on paper here shouldn’t work, but it totally does because Evans knows that the casual, ADD movie-goer doesn’t want to see a bunch of dudes fighting, with a shit-bunch of shaky cam you can’t even comprehend. Simply, he knows that people want to see their action, with no frills or strings attached. What you see, is exactly what you get with these action scenes and they never, not for a single second, ever bored me. In fact, mostly the exact opposite. Goes to show you that as cartoonish and goofy as your material may be, you can still make a great action movie that both critics and audiences can both hold hands, and unit together about enjoying. It’s very rare to get an action movie that does that nowadays, but this one somehow broke through that mold and we are better as a society for it. Okay, maybe not really, but you get what I mean. It just goes to show you that an age-old premise such as this, and a tired-genre like action, can actually bring some electricity and fun to the audience, without really changing the game, or turning it on it’s side.

Hey, if it saved Indy, how could it not save this guy?

Hey, if it saved Indy, how could it not save this guy?

Just be simple; give the people what they want to see; add nothing to betray them; and most of all, have a fun time. If you can do that, the world will be a better, happier place to live in. Like I said before: Okay, maybe not really, but you get what I mean.

As for everything else in this movie that doesn’t concern dudes kicking the shit out of one another, it’s relatively minor and okay for what it is, even if that isn’t saying much. Evans doesn’t focus too much on the story to where we lose focus of what this movie’s really about, but when he does, the movie does slow down as a whole. However, I also feel like Evans knew this, and made up for his mistake in the next couple of seconds or so, and gave us another crazy, hell-bent on destruction action scene that tore the roof down again. The characters are conventional, but compelling enough to be interested in; the performances are good, even if it’s obvious that Evans is more concerned with how well they choreograph the kicks and the punches, rather than their actual lip-readings; and the story itself throws some twists here and there, but nothing you can’t see coming if you haven’t ever seen a John Woo movie before. That said, all of those aspects that are supposed to make a movie work, are here and do fine for what they are set-out to be: Time-killers whenever dudes aren’t hitting one another over the heads with whatever materials they can find or use to their advantage. In that aspect, the movie does a perfect job if I don’t say so myself.

Consensus: Not a game-changer, nor is it going to shake up the action world like I expected it to, but nonetheless, The Raid: Redemption is a great viewing, despite what type of genre you like because it’s fun, electrifying, and comprehensible action that you never get bored of, no matter how long it goes on for.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Working on his "O face". And not in that sense either, you dirt balls.

Working on his “O face”. And not in that sense either, you dirt balls.

Stargate (1994)

Let’s just stay in this universe and not fuck anything up. Thanks.

Prof. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) believes there is more to our humanity but yet, nobody will care to listen to him because they feel as if he is just another nut with a microphone, and a head that’s a bit too big for his britches. That said, somebody takes notice to this freak-o and makes him apart of a secret mission to uncover an ancient portal known as the Stargate. Along with a couple of soldiers, lead by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), they take a trip through this other dimension to see what’s shaking and baking and the answers they come up with are sure as hell not pretty.

We can all come to terms with the fact that Roland Emmerich isn’t the type of guy we can expect to see new-bread, highly-intellectual classics from, but at least we can expect one thing from him no matter what the story may be that he is tackling: fun, fun, and more fun. That’s all there is to it with Emmerich and even though Godzilla pissed almost everybody and their Chinese relatives off, and 2012 didn’t quite predict the future so well, at least the guy had fun with it, right? I’d say yes, but then again, I’m usually a sucker for these movies that don’t lose their enjoyment, no matter how stupid or idiotic they may actually get. This movie is the one where I drew the line with Emmerich and all of his stupidity that follows.

What I’m about to say is probably going to lose me a lot of street-cred but hey, so be it. The problem with this movie, right from the start, was that it was just so damn terribly boring, almost to the point of where I was actually contemplating turning it off, checking out another movie, and acting as if this one never came anywhere near me or my mind. I was very, very close to doing this but sadly, I stuck with it and it rarely ever got better for me. Emmerich tries his hardest by building up a story, showing us all the details, but also trying to leave some out for good fun, but it’s almost too much to where we don’t even feel like we know what the hell is going on at all.

Cool cut though.

Fresh cut though.

We get that these guys have to go to a different dimension, look for species, figure shit out, and take notes down, but that’s about it. Oh, and need I forget to tell you that Russell’s character has actually been given the direct order to bring a bomb with him and detonate it whenever he senses danger on this other universe. You know, a universe that may have human-beings alive on it and other materials that may be useful for the world we live in. Nope, just blow that shitty place up and act like it was all good in a hard day’s work. Because let’s face it, that’s what the military does, right?

That aspect of this movie seemed really stupid, but I was willing to drop my pants and my brain for a healthy-dosage of fun and entertainment, and I barely even got that. The first half of this movie is simply dedicated to these dudes running around this strange land, being acquainted with the natives, and trying to figure out what the hell is up with this land, even if there isn’t really anything wrong with it in the first place. This all plays out as if it was a shitty, low-budget remake of Dances with Wolves, but instead of having Navajo natives, they got these weird, slightly-colored people to speak total gibber and gabber, and consider that a “foreign language”. Seriously? That’s the best you could come up? Give me a damn break!

Don’t worry though, because it does get worse. As soon as the problems do actually show their faces, the movie still continues to make no sense as to why this person they have to face-off against is evil, why the hell he cares about these dudes showing up on their land, and just what does it all mean in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you could probably say that I was looking for a little bit too much in something that was just a typical, sci-fi yarn, but when a movie that is so focused and hell-bent on describing it’s ideas, plot, and exposition, I at least expect there to be some sort of reasonable explanation to it all. Not a whole lot, but just some, and this movie just never gave me that nor did it do anything to excite me. A couple of action scenes here and there fly by, but that’s about it and something felt like Emmerich just wanted to cut-loose, get crazy, and start blowing the shit out of random things like people, pyramids, and most of all, hairy monsters that are just there for show.

If there was any hope in this movie that it wouldn’t be the total shit-box I was expecting of it to be, it was at least that the cast could save the day, and apparently even that was asking way too much. James Spader is a very talented actor that can usually make any type of role work, but he just is so nerdy, so gullible, and so spazzy, that it gets to a point of where it’s annoying. I didn’t look at this guy in any other way, other than just by seeing him as the usual bookworm that thinks he’s way too smart, doesn’t know how to act in situations where the shit gets hot, and worst of all, doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Something tells me that a dude like James Spader doesn’t quite need help with the ladies but I guess Roland Emmerich saw something that I didn’t. Strange.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Thankfully, this is where Kurt Russell shows up to pick the slack up from here and shake things up, Snake Plissken-style. Okay, maybe his character here isn’t that awesome or cool for that matter, but it’s Kurt Russell being Kurt Russell, and for a movie and role like this: we really needed to see that come alive within the dude. Russell is constantly cool, a bit dangerous, a bit mysterious, but always bad-ass and shows that he can take even the shittiest-material, and make it his own little bitch. He seems like he really wants to get wild at some points, but he keeps it grounded and humane, just the way I like to see Russell play it. Although it doesn’t hurt to want to get up and start hacking people off left and right. Especially wouldn’t have hurt in this movie, anyway.

The strangest person in this cast, who still has me scratching my head as to whether or not he was actually good, or just plain and simply ridiculous was Jaye Davidson as the Egyptian king that wants this pretty place to himself, with nobody else’s grubby paws getting in the way. Davidson is the person most of you may now from the Crying Game (yeah, you know who the hell I’m talking about) and is fine here, but dresses so strange, looks so weird, and has this voice that’s a mixture between Barry White and Satan, that it just didn’t do a single thing for me and had me laugh at him the whole entire time. It seemed as if Davidson just got back from a drag-queen show every time he showed up on set and decided to now waste the time getting ready to suit-up, and kept the clothes he had on originally. Does it work? Yeah, maybe in a campy-way, but this movie isn’t campy enough and is always so self-serious that this villain, this performance, and this look that Davidson carries on throughout the whole movie just seems idiotic and totally out-of-place. Still have no idea why the hell this dude jumped off the face of the Earth after this movie hit, but who knows. Maybe he got stuck in another universe after all!

Consensus: Sci-fi junkies will probably eat this shit for breakfast, spit it right back out, and chew it up again for fun, but for a person who just wants a good story, realistic characters, and a bunch of fun and action, Stargate doesn’t even fill me up after the appetizers. It feels as if it wants to be a goofy, over-the-top movie but plays it so serious and so dramatic, that it never gets off the ground. It just stays there and sinks into the sand.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Trust me, it's a dude. I think...

Trust me, it’s a dude. I think…

Sound of My Voice (2012)

I guess all you need to do to join a cult is know a simple game of patty cake? Sweet.

A mysterious cult lead by a woman from the future named Maggie (Brit Marling), who claims to be from the year 2054, all come together in a random basement where they speak, heal, and show comfort for one another, while also being able to see who’s worth being apart of it and who’s not. A young couple (Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius) hear about this group through the grapevine, and decide that this is not only their time to shine and expose it for all that it is, but also do something with their lives that isn’t just sitting around, drinking beer, and being hipsters all day and night. However, like with most groups people join, they at first resent it, but after awhile, get used to all of it’s odd idiosyncrasies and become more and more glued into the world the group has created. Will it be too late until one of them notices it, and figures out what the hell is really going on?

Movies such as this not only drive me up the walls, but have me thinking about them for days on end. Maybe you could put those two claims in the same category, since most films that drive me up the wall, are the ones I continue to think about, day-after-day, but this one was a bit different. It was a bit different because it drove me up the wall for the reason that I didn’t quite get it, and in a way; I felt like the movie didn’t want me too either. It’s not that the movie kept on tricking me into believing everything I was seeing was real, but it had me tossing and turning about what was real and what wasn’t, and then, at the end: decided to give me a big old “fuck you” and make me think even more. But still, something did not seem all that right in the end. Is it just me, or is the movie itself?

No need for the cape, but whatever, it's a cult for godsakes!

No need for the cape, but whatever, it’s a cult for godsakes!

Well, the questions in my mind may continue to arise and joggle around in my mind, but for the most part, I have to say that this flick did it’s job in terms of making me feel tense and as if anything could happen. Director Zal Batmanglij does a nice job at setting this story up right at the beginning, so we know what we’re getting ourselves into, when, and why, but never answers the where and the how. Basically, all of that is left up to us to make up our minds with through either our own interpretations, or the evidence that he sometimes, or sometimes doesn’t, present us with throughout the whole movie. As I said, it’s a tricky movie to get used to for a bit, but once you do get past all of the freaky-deakey, cult shit, the movie gets better and you feel yourself more glued into what the hell is actually going on.

But, like I said before, the movie presents all of those questions and comes to giving us a reasonable-solution, but still ends very, very vague, and for a reason I’m still having a hard time trying to grip. It isn’t that this movie is confusing because I’m an idiot, wasn’t paying attention, and had the movie playing, simultaneously with my porn (although all factors might as well have been true), it’s because it’s confusing, for the sake of being confusing. Certain things happen for no reason, only to come up again later on in the movie to make you think a bit more, and literally, random shit will happen, just to happen, and be left at that. No real reason other than to make us feel like these cast of characters are bad news, and that we should be just as cautious of them as our main protagonists are.

In Batmanglij’s case as director, most of it does work, and most of it doesn’t. And when I speak of the latter, I mainly mean the last 5 minutes or so. See, this isn’t the type of movie that’s all about giving us the ultimate, breath-taking climax that’s there to make sense of everything and spell it all out for us. It’s vague, random, and quite anti-climactic. Usually, I applaud films for doing that because it does take a major pair of balls to take an audience up-and-down the road, only to throw them to the side of the curb, as if they have just missed out on something, and feel fine with yourself afterwards. However, at the same time, I still can’t help but feel like there were bits and pieces that were missing from the movie as a whole, to honestly make as much sense as it should have. Or, for that matter, to have the ending hit me more like a ton of bricks than it should.

I don’t know if the blame is to be solely on Batmanglij and co-writer Marling for that aspect of the movie, but something did not mix well when the gears in my head really started grinding and turning. It’s like a huge puzzle that you know what it looks like in the end, and you have it just about done, but, since it’s a puzzle that’s been around for so long, certain pieces are missing and you don’t have them all to make the puzzle look exactly, piece-by-piece like the picture it’s supposed to make up. Don’t know if that makes anymore sense than I’ve tried to already get across, but regardless; something with this ending didn’t feel right, and left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Maybe it was supposed to, or maybe it wasn’t. All I know, is that I wanted answers, dammit!

And nobody has pulled over for her? Definitely science-fiction!

And nobody has pulled over for her? Definitely science-fiction!

The one person in this movie who deserves the fingers pointed at her for all of the vagueness this movie has to offer, is all from Brit Marling as Maggie, and as co-writer of the movie. Marling’s character is a very mysterious one that is all about messing with other people’s minds, getting them to admit what they don’t want to, and finding out who they really are, yet, doesn’t seem to come to terms with who she really is. Marling always feels like she’s one step ahead of the others around her in any movie, and here, it works perfectly because you never know what’s up with this chick, what she’s going to pull-off next, and just who the heck she truly is. Some of the resolutions to those ideas are revealed, and others, are not. All I do know is that this chick can act, and sure as hell write her ass-off as well.

Playing the stand-in for us, the audience, is Christopher Denham as Peter, the wanna-be documentarian whose idea this was in the first place. Denham is fine with what he has to do as Peter, even though I feel like his character was a bit too soft to really convince us that he would stay strong against the cult, considering it’s pretty obvious once one something happens to him, and we are confused about what to think. Then again, that could have all been in the act in the first place. You never know! Then, there’s Nicole Vicius as his girlfriend who seems to be a little bit more place in the real world, where she doesn’t believe in time-travel, aliens, or any of that hullabaloo. She just believes in love and finding the truth, and that’s it. Go get em, girlfrand!

Consensus: The ending is sure to make more than enough people irate and mad, but for awhile, Sound of My Voice does a fine job at creating tension, suspense, and mystery, over a plot that doesn’t expand any further than a bunch of weirdo cult people, doing weirdo, cult-ish things.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Look at me and think, "Is this shit weird enough yet?"

“Look at me and think, “Is this shit weird enough yet?”

Kill List (2012)

Just don’t kill people. End of story.

Two British pals, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley), meet-up and decided that they both need something to do, need some money, and need to get their hands a bit dirty because they can’t handle being away from guns, weapons, and violence for too long. They decide to take a couple off odd-jobs going around and killing certain people, but some of it gets skewered as time goes along. There’s certain complications and confusions that come to base and that’s when all hell breaks loose, for both their personal and professional lives.

It may be hard to say this without most of you already having done the task of seeing this by now, but if you haven’t seen the movie, just know this: know absolutely nothing about this movie going in. For the rest of this review, I’m going to try and be as damnably vague and strange as possible, but just remember that it’s all for you peeps out there. You should all be grateful you have a nice guy like me, writing the movie reviews that I do.

What makes this movie so different and so original in it’s way, is that it isn’t exactly what you expect it to be. Is it a thriller about two dudes going around a hacking-off people? Sort of. Is it a human-drama about two guys who have problems in their life, and need to get by them all, simply by taking hit-man jobs? Sort of. Is it a horror movie that has something weird under-lining everything else? Once again, I say sort of. It’s one of those movies that isn’t one thing, and instead, plays it’s wild-card and just goes all over the boat, but in a good way, mind you.

Whatever you do, never get stuck in dimly-lit tunnels.

Whatever you do, never get stuck in dimly-lit tunnels.

Writer/director Bean Wheatley seems like a very skilled dude in terms of how good he is at actually being able to make all of these changes and combinations of genre’s and moods. First of all, the mood throughout the whole film is consistent. And even dare I say it, probably the most consistent thing about it. You never know exactly what the fuck is going with these characters, their issues, and what exactly is bringing them to do the bad and terrible shit that they do decide to do, but you know it’s something eerie. You know there’s a bolt or two loose in one of their heads, and wondering when the next person is going to snap and let it all out, is what will really keep you on-edge.

But it’s not even just the characters that really get you freaked-out by how strange they can be; it’s just the whole story itself. As soon as you find out that something is awry with their plans and that these guys can’t get their blood-money right away, you automatically know that not everything is what it seems. Even the people that these characters meet and have conversations with on a daily-basis aren’t the type of people you think or believe in that you can trust. You know that there’s something “up” about them, and therefore, you’re further and further left in the dust of what’s actually going on, what these characters are thinking right now at the certain moment, and most importantly, what the hell is going to happen next.

The idea that you have no clue in your right mind of what’s going to happen next, how, when, and where, is the type of steam this movie continues to build-on. As that mysteries continues, you’re idea of suspense gets more and more hyped-up and once that ending comes, you have no idea what to make of the story you just saw. Once again, I’m going to go into this next part with as much vagueness as I can, but just be warned: I may set-off a couple of fire alarms. Just be ready.

By the time the ending hits, I honestly had no idea what the fuck just happened. I sat, I thought, I read the paper, I checked my e-mail, watch some YouTube videos, and then decided to write this review. I though to myself, “What the hell does all of this strange shit mean, and exactly why has it happened to these characters?” I continued to think and I just gave up and realized that it was just one way for Wheatley to mess with us even more. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t in any way, shape, or form, think what happens in the end is a pigment of one of these dude’s imaginations, but something didn’t feel right to yours truly.

Now THAT'S a true friendship.

Now THAT’S a true friendship.

Was it scary? Hell yeah! Was it shocking? You bet your ass! Will I ever forget it again? SADLY, no. The fact that the ending is freaky and fucks with your mind more than the rest of the film preceding it, is a credit to Wheatley’s direction and the way he is able to set everything up. However, something just didn’t touch me in the right way where I felt like this was the way the story needed to end. It’s a slightly-bit too over-the-top, too crazy, and a bit too ridiculous. There’s a couple of hints and clues as to why this ending would seem the least-bit plausible, but once I got thinking about it and actually realized what I just saw; the lines didn’t connect. By all means, give it a look yourself and come up with your own conclusions, but just don’t expect it to all make sense. Especially after the first time. Or even maybe after the second, and maybe the third. But after that, you may come up to your own ideas, and also may have to call a psychiatrist.

Thankfully, though, the characters are at least well-written and more than well-acted to make up for these slight, but noticeable hiccups in the story. Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley are both good as the two best-friends who hang out and kill people for money and sometimes fun, but it’s strange because their characters are so different in many ways. Maskell’s is a total fire-ball that needs to be acting violent in one way or another, and even though he obviously loves his wife and kid, he still can’t help to be mad and angry at them for one thing, and then another, and then another, and then another. Whereas Smiley’s character is all cool, calm, collective, and very funny in the way that he just goes about life with a smile on his face and without an ounce of worry in the world. Both of them do get into fights, and heck, even brawls every once in awhile as well, but they still love each other and at the center of all this insane and crazy shite going on; they are still there to talk, to hang-out, and appreciate each other’s company as much as they beat the shit out of each other, too.

Consensus: Kill List is one of those movies that is weird, strange, mysterious, and always chilling in the way it’s plot moves and how everything happens, but something doesn’t quite feel right by the end where all of a sudden shit goes crazy, without much reason or rhyme. Still jaw-dropping to watch, but you may be scratching your head a bit too much after it’s all said and done.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry, just watch it and you'll get it. Maybe.

Don’t worry, just watch it and you’ll get it. Maybe.

If you guys could also check out the extra page I have up top, that would be extra cool beans. Thanks!

Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Makes me ponder if all of those Jim Morrison death-tales are true. Hitchin’ a ride to France! See ya soon.

Rodriguez is an artist’s name none of you common-folk may know (hell, I don’t even know), but if you go to South Africa, they’ll tell you everything about him. However, everything except where he is, who he is, and just if he’s alive or not. This is a documentary where we not only talk about his past, where he came from, what he did, and why he has remained so obscure over the years, but whether or not this guy is able to be found or not. Just watch and see the results for yourself.

I’m a huge music fan, but I never, ever knew who the hell Rodriguez was. Before I started crying, opening-up my Spotify account, and start listening to all of that person’s albums, from beginning-to-end to know what all of the fuss was about, I was relieved to find out that I wasn’t alone considering he sold about six copies of his first album in America. However, on the other side of the planet in South Africa, that’s a totally different story. Not only is the man referred to as a legend there, but the guy was banned from regular radio-play as his promiscuous lyrics were apparently too much for the South African-government that was also going through Apartheid as well. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the simple fact that the guy made millions and millions off of this record, but yet, has no idea of it whatsoever. That’s where this story really kicks in and we get to discover just where this man is, who he is, and why he walked away from it all.

The guitar's totally weighing him down.

Totally weighing him down.

Right off the bat, you can really tell that these filmmakers not only respect their subject, but idolize him as well. So much is made about him before they even get to the tracking-shite, as we hear about famed-stories of him playing music, getting noticed, recording, doing concerts, supposedly killing himself and getting away from it all. This is all interesting as it made me feel as if I was really hearing about one guy in particular, or just some legend that everybody loved and made some pretty awesome music (song is still in my head). After awhile, I did realize that this was just one person in particular that these peeps were all talking about, but the ride didn’t just end there.

The next part of this documentary was tracking the guy and it put me on a real roller-coaster not knowing if they were ever going to find him and if they were, what type of mental state would he be in. It was cool to see all of these interviews where certain people would talk about where they think he is, why they think it, and how others can search for him themselves, which interested me because they find him just through looking at one of his lyrics where he actually mentions an area in Detroit. Now, I never thought that they would go this far, but apparently they really wanted to and thought it was worth it all! Can’t say I argue with it all that much after seeing the movie, but still, something is still lingering in my mind about it.

Okay now, before I jump into all of the wrong and terrible stuff about this movie, let me just keep on going with the goodies. The subject of Rodriguez because not only is he one of those obscure artists that has his own following, but because as time continues on and the adventure builds up and up, we get to understand learn more about this dude and what is so significant about him and his life of music. We hear so many people throw air up the dude’s ass, but we never fully understand it or hear it for that matter. Then, we go to South Africa where we see this guy’s legend take ahold and give hope to a bunch of people that needed it. It was cool to see that music could still keep people alive and well, even in the days of the Apartheid.

Just the whole idea that there was this one musical-icon that so many people loved and cherished, would all of a sudden, get up, and decide to leave it one day and never be found really surprises the hell out of me. It seems that in today’s day and age that staying completely out of the lime-light and being able to get away with it, is almost a ludicrous-idea, but the man was able to get away with it and from what I think now; probably still is. Just so cool to see where this movie goes, how it goes to where it does, and where it ends up. However, that’s the problem: where it ends up.

Everything that leads up to the initial meet-up with Rodriguez is awesome because the director and producers seem to love the hell out of Rodriguez so much, that they want to treat his real-life story with tender, love, care, and respect without offending him or anyone in the process. However, that’s the exact problem: they care TOO much about the guy. Once they finally get a chance to speak with Rodriguez, see what he’s been up to, and find out why he left the music world in the first place, the interview is so worthless and dry that I honestly had no idea if I was watching warm-ups or the actual interview itself.

At age 70, he still has dreams of making it big one day. That's after he gets more than $5 from the subway passengers.

At age 70, he still has dreams of making it big one day. That’s after he gets more than $5 from the subway passengers.

For instance, once Rodriguez is told that he was a huge star in South Africa and how he feels about that, he just simply replies, “Uhmmm…well…I…uhmm…don’t know what to say to that.” Okay, that’s fine, it’s what he wants to say but that is all apparently fine with these creator’s heads. They think that’s a suitable answer and it will suffice. For any person who has ever watched a good documentary, you always know that the key to a good documentary about an interesting subject is being able to get all answers out of that person as much as possible. This interview here seemed to be all about heavy-petting and high-fiving all of the way.

Hey, I’m glad that these guys finally got to meet their hero and had a chance to chat about the dude’s life, but don’t hype it up for me so much to the point of where I’m getting the willies in my chair as to whether or not this guy’s going to be getting gnawed-on by some rottweilers  or if he’s going to be same old hippie he once was before. It’s nice to know that the guy is still pleasant and happy in his latter-days, but it seems like there should have just been more with the interview with the man and more about him in general. Instead, most is just left on the cutting-room floor where we may be able to see it one day in the DVD-extras. Maybe. I don’t know if I’m going to go that serious looking for this.

Consensus: Searching for Sugar Man has exactly all of the right ingredients for a great documentary: interesting subject, mystery, suspense, and great look, feel, and sound. But it’s also missing the mist important ingredient of all that would have made it a “great” documentary, instead of just a “good” one: the hard-hitting questions we all wanted to hear answered, for better or worse.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Hey, it's me, Rodriguez. Remember me?"

Just cooled down from breaking that chair behind him.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012)

I love my brother, but I’d kick his ass in a game of pool.

Two middle-aged brothers who always are at-odds with one another and continue to find ways to challenge each other in anything, relive their childhood with an immature competition to see who is the better athlete. However, the oldest-brother, Jeremy (Steve Zissis), has a bit of a problem since his wife is all against the idea of him running around like a crazy man, so he and his bro, Mark (Mark Kelly), decide to hide it from her and try their hardest to continue the games.

The idea of having two people, set-up against one another, in a full-out fledged-competition, in a total battle of the wits and strengths, definitely makes it seem like the type of movie that not just any person wants to see. No, when two people go against one another, no matter what the competition may be, most of the time it’s the dude’s that want to see it, while the ladies just stay home, drink their wine, and shoot the shit about soap-operas or whatever the hell it is they talk about behind us dudes’ backs. Either way, this is the type of movie that just spells out, “E-P-I-C”, not just by checking out it’s premise, but as well as it’s title. However, if there was one aspect of this movie that should have changed my mind right away, it was the fact that this was a production of Duplass brothers, and if you know these guys: they aren’t all about delivering stories on epic-proportions.

For the Duplass bros., this story is more about the brotherhood and thoughts of the middle-aged man, rather than any type of one-up man-ship that this story may have you think from the start. However, knowing what the Duplass’ do and do best, you can’t hate this flick for getting down to the nitty-gritty of a story and characters like this. The Duplass’ are all about no frills, no mills movie-making and even though it does get a tad annoying to see the shaky-cam constantly zoom-in-and-out to create that realistic look and feel as if we are really there, it still does make you believe you are watching a true story in front of your eyes, no matter how goofy these guys seem to be.

How is the fat guy winning? Come on!

How is the fat guy winning? Gotta be a movie.

But trust me, these guys aren’t that goofy. Yeah, they like to challenge each other to anything they can; they like to bust one another’s balls; and they definitely don’t seem like the type of bros. that would just bond and shoot the shit about life, especially after one just beat the other in arm-wrestling competition. These factors of who and how they are, is exactly what makes them seem and feel like actual brothers who are not only growing-up, but growing-apart from one another and soon start to realize that maybe their time is up when it comes to being young, cool, lean, and mean again. That’s especially obvious for Jeremy, but Mark as well and the way that the Duplass’ handle this material with care by never allowing it to just turn into a one-joke premise, really surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t like Jeff, Who Lives at Home and I didn’t particularly care for Cyrus, but hey, I’m always down to be surprised by two dudes that know how to make movies, and realistic, every-day ones at that.

As the movie continues, you do start to feel more and more for these characters and understand why they battle each other in almost everything they do, but there does come a point in the story that I feel like the movie loses a great-bit of steam, and just decides to do the same thing, over and over again. For instance, they bring-up the fact that the oldest-bro can’t be doing all of this work and exercise because it may cause him some stress, so that by the end of the movie, the guy is a total nut-job and a freakin’ beast when it comes to being apart of the competitions and being at home, with his wife and kid. I get that the movie was trying to show us how this yuppie-like, middle-aged tool needed some sort of freedom from everyday life and just the right opportunity to release the beast, but it didn’t feel necessary to me and worst of all, just seemed like the Duplass’ were over-reacting.

Even worse, I feel like the movie was trying to have us side with the wife of Jeremy, when in reality: the chick was sort of a bitch. I get that the wife wanted her hubby to not be the total freak-out man that she expected him to be and to at least take it easy but come on! He’s with his bro, he’s having fun, he’s losing some weight, he’s getting the exercise, he’s gaining some self-confidence, and even better, his son is starting to think he’s cool again, so what the hell is so wrong with a guy having a little competition with his brother?!?? Okay, maybe it’s not a “little competition”, but the fact of the matter still lies; it wasn’t really doing much harm to anybody, except for her idea and plans of treating him to a nice b-day and that pretty much being it, before he went back to his life of normality and boredom. Sorry wifey, in this instance, the husband is the one who rules and needs to make himself happy.

Oh, being middle-aged, married, and unhappy. White people problems.

Oh, being middle-aged, married, and unhappy. White people problems.

That’s not to say that the gal who plays her, Jennifer Lafleur, doesn’t do a nice-job with her role; because she actually does a very nice-job at making us feel some ounce of sympathy for her, even if it does feel a bit needy and selfish. She’s like the rest of the cast, though, in by the fact that as good as she is, she’s nothing flashy, amazing, or powerful to say the least, she’s just fine and does what the script needs her to do. I could say the same, damn thing about Steve Zissis, Mark Kelly, and even Reid Williams, who plays the son that just wants his dad to stop being so ultra-lame, and starting being ultra-cool again. Don’t we all, though? The only person who I haven’t mentioned and with good reason, is Julie Vorus who plays the mother of the two boys. It’s not that she’s a bad actress or anything, it’s more or less that he role and writing demands her to just sit-there, be a cooky grand-mom, try to settle the peace between the two, and yet, still seem like a total air-head of the group. In all honesty, I could have done without grand-mom, but then again: I don’t think this story could have so it makes sense as to why she was there to do her own thing.

Consensus: Most people (guys mainly) will probably be bummed-out as hell to see that The Do-Deca-Pentathlon features more self-loathing and middle-aged people problems than any type of competition or one-on-one battles than you may expect, but if you want to see a flick that’s about family, being brothers, living life, and coming to terms with who you are, then this may be your flavor-savor for you. If not, just check-out the entire series of Kenny vs. Spenny. That will most likely have you feeling more-accomplished than this one.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't miss it, don't miss it."

“Don’t miss it, don’t miss it.”

Smashed (2012)

Anybody wanna split a case?

Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) are a happy, and young married-couple that like to let the good times roll, enjoy the night-life, and drink non-stop. It’s all fun and games for them, that is until Kate goes too far and decides it’s time for her to cut it all out and get her life back on-track. She does, but with most sobriety tests; there’s always perks somewhere to be found and that’s the problem Kate and her hub, will most likely run into.

Movies about addiction are nothing new, and 9 times out of 10, that is usually the case. Flight took everybody by-storm because every person that saw it, thought it was a realistic and disturbing look at alcohol addiction. Those people weren’t necessarily wrong, but they weren’t necessarily right either. Rather than getting into a debate about this and that movie, I’ll just state that this movie is a more-realistic look at addiction, the steps it takes to come out of it, and how the people around you influence you the most. In Flight, all we cared about was whether or not Denzel was going use the mini-bar or not. Once again, not bad, but not as humanizing as this movie is.

What I liked so much about this flick, is the way that writer/director James Ponsoldt approaches this topic, this story, and these characters, and he never really frowns upon them or makes judgement. You can tell that this dude, whether or not be him or somebody close to him that he might have known, might have gone through the same exact problem of addiction, and it shines through this movie because nobody ever seems to get the terrible-look that most movies make the mistake of. Of course there are a couple of characters that show-up here and there, and are just as sneaky and dirty as you’d expect, but they aren’t caricatures that are all about sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and brew, they just like to have a good time, even if that means they end-up sleeping on a couch in the middle of the street.

"Honey, the eggs have been burning for an hour..."

“Honey, the eggs have been burning for an hour…”

Ponsoldt seems like he has a clear head on his shoulders when it comes to showing us what it’s like to go through a problem like addiction, moving on in the world, and trying your damn near hardest to get through it. Like this flick presents, it’s not that easy and usually, it’s like freakin’ hell, but the movie never seems to glamorize the life that these people have made for themselves. They get drunk, they get stupid, they get wild, and they forget about it the next day, and go through the same cycle. It’s just the way of life for some people, and that frank, but honest look at the reality of the situation, is what really resonated with me. I’m not saying that it made me think twice the next time I go to my buddies’ dorms and decide to throw back a couple of Natty’s, but hey, at least it gave me the view on what it’s like to be a person that has a problem such as this, and what it’s really like to get through it all.

But I can’t continue to go on and on and on about this movie without mentioning the person that really makes this movie fly: Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Winstead has shown-up in a bunch of movies, done her thing, but never really lighted the screen-on-fire. Sure, she was pretty awesome in Scott Pilgrim, but if that’s the only claim-to-fame for her to have, it isn’t anything showwy for her. That’s where this role for her comes through and shows us that yes, she can act. Winstead is amazing as Kate because she never loses her own self of living throughout the whole movie, no matter how much she is at the bottom of the bottle. She does get insane-o drunk sometimes, and always goes too far, but you always feel for her because you know she is a nice person and would never, ever do anything to hurt a fly. That’s why when things start to change for her and she starts to think twice about drinking all of the time, we really feel for her and we really stand-behind her, no matter how hard it is to stick with the sobriety. There are a couple of scenes where I thought her drunken-act was a bit much, but she still nailed it in making us worry for a person, that we knew didn’t deserve this type of a problem, but then again; who does? Kate could be you, could be me, could be your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your dog, your cat, your pigeon, anyone. That’s the whole point of this movie, or at least what I thought it was, and that’s where Winstead really shines through the most.

Basically Ron Swanson, if he was sad, lonely, depressed, and feigning for a scotch.

Basically Ron Swanson, if he was sad, lonely, depressed, and feigning for a scotch.

Aaron Paul plays her hubby that’s always drunk and always acting like an ass, but he still has a nice presence to him where you feel like he is a nice guy, really does love his wife, and wants what’s best for the both of them, but just can’t put down the bottle. Once again, Charlie is probably like anybody we know, but he still has those problems and the marriage between these two, as troubled and as problematic as it may be, still touched me in a way I sure as hell didn’t expect, especially when that ending came around. Woo-wee!

The rest of the cast is pretty damn good too, even if a bit strange. Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) plays Kate’s co-worker and is great at playing it short, sweet, and subtle, even if I do think that a couple moment she lets loose just a bit too much. What I mean by that is that the guy is funny, we all know that, and when they give him the chance to be funny, it seems a bit misplaced. That being said, Offerman is still good and gives me fine hope that he may have the chance to do more than just Parks & Rec. Maybe. His real-life wife, Megan Mullaly plays the principal of the school that Kate works at, and is a lot better when it comes to pulling-off the dramatic and comedic sides of her skills, but even sometimes she feels a bit misplaced. If the movie decided to take a full-on comedic-approach, with dramatic splishes and splashes, then they would have fit right in. But this is not one of those movies and it doesn’t work quite well as I would have liked. The only person in this supporting-cast that seems to nail the tone down real well is Octavia Spencer as Kate’s sponsor, and does a perfect job at nailing that hard-look at being sober, but what pleasure and happiness it can bring to a person.

Consensus: It may not all add-up, but Smashed is a surprisingly dark, but realistic-look at addiction  and shows that this can be anybody in the world, but just so happens to be a young, promising young woman named Kate, played perfectly by Winstead.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Wanna go out for a couple of drinks?"

“Wanna go out for a couple of drinks?”

My Predictions for the 2013 Oscars

Everybody, everybody, everybody!

It’s that time of the year again that we’ve all been waiting for. A whole year has been prepping for this and it’s finally come! The 2013 Oscars!

WOOOOO-HOOO!!

Since the Ceremony is tonight (let’s hope Seth MacFarlane doesn’t pull a James and Anne), here are my predictions on what could possibly happen, and a tiny-bit of my own thoughts because let’s face it: nobody is ever fully-pleased with the Academy Awards! That’s just the way the world works, people, but hey, enough of me, let’s get on with the predictions, shall we?

BEST PICTURE:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST ACTRESS:

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Should Win: Jessica Chastain

Dark Horse: Emmanuelle Riva

BEST ACTOR:

Will Win: Daniel-Day Lewis

Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Dark Horse: Denzel Washington (nobody will ever beat DDL)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones

Should Win: Christoph Waltz

Dark Horse: Philip Seymour Hoffman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Will Win: Anne Hathaway

Should Win: Anne Hathaway

Dark Horse: Amy Adams (like she’s gonna win)

BEST ANIMATED FILM:

Will Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Should Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Dark Horse: Brave

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT, BEST ANIMATED SHORT, BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE-ACTION):

I never had a chance to see any of these flicks. But I’m sure they are fine pieces of short-cinema, and hope somebody wins here.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST  COSTUME DESIGN:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Les Miserables

Dark Horse: Anna Karenina

BEST DIRECTOR:

Will Win: Steven Spielberg

Should Win: Ang Lee

Dark Horse: David O. Russell

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man

Should Win: The Invisible War

Dark Horse: How to Survive a Plague

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Will Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Should Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Dark Horse: Les Miserables

BEST EDITING:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST FOREIGN FILM:

Will Win: Amour

Should Win: Amour

Dark Horse: No

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Lincoln

Dark Horse: Life of Pi

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

Will Win: “Skyfall”

Should Win: “Skyfall”

Dark Horse: “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” (the guy’s hosting, so why the hell not?!?)

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Django Unchained

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Skyfall

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Marvel’s The Avengers (would be pretty awesome)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Silver Linings Playbook

Dark Horse: Argo

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Django Unchained

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Moonrise Kingdom

So, there ya have it, folks! Another year down, another year for the Oscar’s. Enjoy and have fun! Let’s hope that Big Ben pulls it out big in the end.

Sleepwalk With Me (2012)

Is sleep-talking considered bad?

Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia), is at a crossroads in his life. He works as a bartender at the Comedy Club and rarely ever gets the shot to tune his voice, he has a sleeping-disorder that causes him to move around at night in a daze of sleep, and can’t commit to his girl-friend of 8 years (Lauren Ambrose). Things begin to change for Matt, however, and he soon finds himself on the road, doing gigs, making money, finding new friends, and finding peace with his life. However, not everything’s so good between him and his girl and once that idea of getting married pops-up, life isn’t so grand and peaceful for dear old Matt anymore.

Mike Birbiglia is a pretty damn funny comedian. The guy has timing, the guy’s honest, the guy knows when and how to make fun of himself, and best of all: he feels like the average, everyday guy, like you or me could get up on stage and start saying the shit he says and get an equal-amount of laughter and applause. It’s what works for him so well and has kept him going on and and on for all of these days and that’s why I thought a flick where he tells his own story, his own way, and with him starring in it, that I was in for a sure treat. However, I think it’s time for me and Mike to stick to stand-up. Only for a little bit, though.

No matter what type of tone or genre this movie is mixing around with, Birbiglia always keeps it funny. The dream sequences are hilarious because they allow him to really unleash his wild side and get utterly, and terribly ridiculous with the whole thang, but that’s not the best-part of this movie or it’s comedy-aspect. What makes this movie so funny is how Birbiglia is able to not only poke jokes at the goofballs around him that seem like walking-caricatures of Birbiglia’s own mind, but also poke jokes at himself. That’s what I’ve always loved about the dude’s stand-up and it was so great to see him take that one-step further in this movie and let loose on himself, even he’s visibly at his lowest.

Not exactly what I dream of.....

Not exactly what I dream of…..

But that doesn’t matter, because yes, he is a comedian and he’s supposed to be funny. So yeah, good for him for being funny, aka, doing the job he’s supposed to do. Despite being funny, Birbiglia is able to bring-out something within this material that I didn’t think was at all possible: drama. The whole movie plays-out like a shaggy dog comedy, where it’s this guy trying to work his way up the comedy-ladder, make people laugh, get gigs, get money, find meaning in life, but in a funny way, but in the back of it’s mind, there’s always this downright serious and heartbreaking drama at the center-fold. The whole plot with Birbiglia and his girlfriend of 8 years who seem to obviously love each other and seem to obviously know everything about one another, but still can’t find a way to get married, really sets this flick up for some terribly honest and compelling material. Material that I didn’t think this movie had the balls of juggling with, and in a way: I was right.

Before I jump into what this movie messed-up on, I just want to say that with the obvious intentions and motivations in Birbiglia’s mind, I thought that he achieved something that wasn’t possible: getting more than just comedy, out of a story of a comic. He makes it more than just a story about living your dream and making something out of yourself, but making it about how you need to have direction, no matter how old or young you are. You need to really wake up, smell the cauliflower, and realize that your shit needs to get together, way before you even hit the ripe-age of 40, or more. It may come off as a shock to hear this from a 19-year-old d-bag who has yet to get his life on track (except for this fancy blog), but it’s what I garnered out of this story and what I think Birbiglia hit very well. If the guy can do anything, it’s that he can bring more emotion and depth out of a comedy than most comedy-directors working today. No, not you Judd Apatow. You’re fine right where you are, bud.

Now, where I think Birbiglia messes up on is the love-story between him and his girlfriend. I will say that the movie takes a different-approach to this relationship than most rom-coms do, but that’s not saying much considering how lazy it seems to get sometimes. For example, whenever you feel like the movie is going to focus on how hard it is for Matt to not see his girl, to be on the road non-stop, and not know what to do when they’re supposed to get freakin’ married, it just focuses in on another, wacky, and wild dream-sequence that may be funny and may have happened, but only slows down the momentum of the actual story at-hand. I give credit to Birbiglia for at least including this story at all, whereas other directors would have probably poo-pooed it and had it played-out like a lame, blind date, but I wish there was just more effort on this dude’s part. I mean, it is HIS story, told from HIMSELF, so why not give it a little more feeling and a little more attachment, rather than just showing people how insane you can make dream-sequences? Sorry, Mike. Didn’t mean to get all mad, but come on!

Ehh, neither is this....

Ehh, neither is this….

That’s what also brings me onto my next point: his actual girlfriend in the movie. Lauren Ambrose, god bless her soul, is a revelation in this movie because she is smart, sassy, understanding, honest, and very loving in the way that all gal-pals should be around this time, but the movie doesn’t give her enough credit. It’s so damn obvious that she’s the right pick for him because she’s always cool with him, always down to Earth, and always able to be there and help him when he needs it the most, so why the hell wouldn’t you want to pick that? I get that maybe it has something to do a little bit with the fact that the cat may be hitting his mid-life crisis and may not know what to do with his life right about now, so therefore adding on the factor of marriage would only cause more confusion, but for a simple-minded dude like myself, I would think that the right and best pick would be right there for me: choose her. You can do all the stand-up, you can make all the jokes you want, but this is the girl you should be with and I never understood why there was any problem’s there in the first-place. Once again, it’s probably one of those things I don’t seem to get because I haven’t lived life like him or haven’t gotten to that age, but I have made mistakes and I have been confused in life, so I definitely feel like I have some sort of leg to stand on here. And if I don’t, I don’t care because I know that I would be more than happy to have Lauren Ambrose as my girl, any day of the week baby.

Despite all of my thrashing and trashing of his movie and what is essentially, his life-story in an-hour-and-25-minute movie, I still have to say that Mike Birbiglia kept me going with this movie and his presence is one of the more-welcoming ones I have seen in recent-time, especially committed by a comedian. Like his stand-up, Birbiglia is always funny and able to poke fun at himself and his life’s misfortunes. However, the guy gets a chance to act here and show what he’s feeling at these exact-moments, and his over-the-top narration keeps us in the mind of the guy and has us hear and believe all of the thoughts that are racing through it. Birbiglia is a simple guy that likes to keep things down on home-ground, but when it comes to this movie and he has to go for the deeper-meaning in life and in love: he’s more than up-to-the-challenge and that shows a lot of balls for any may, especially a comedian. Hope to see you soon, Mike.

Consensus: Mike Birbiglia’s honesty and brutal-depictions of real-life happenings keep Sleepwalk With Me grounded in-reality, even when it goes crazy with his dreams, but feels like it loses itself when it comes to making a simple, comedic-story more important than it truly has to be, and that’s more about the romantic-aspect than the actual means and themes of this story. Give me 10 more years, and maybe I’ll have a different view on this one, but for now, I’m sticking with it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Ah! Now that's more like it! Just cross-out Mike Birbiglia and put my face there, and that's it. Oh, sweet dreams.

Now that’s more like it! Just get rid of Mike Birbiglia and that’s it. Oh, sweet dreams.

Headhunters (2012)

All of this, just for a $50,000 painting. Come on now!

Aksel Hennie plays Roger Brown a guy who seemingly has it all. He’s got the job, the house, the money, the wife, the girl on-the-side, the lavish life-style, and the love for stealing ancient paintings. One day, he finds out that one of his job prospects is in possession of a valuable painting and sets out to steal it. He gets it, but in a way, gets more than just a painting and finds himself in way over his head.

By now, most of you who kill brain-cells by coming to my site everyday, reading what I have to say about a certain movie, and seeing what I think at the end of the post, usually know by now what it is that I like when it comes to my movies. I like good, original stories that don’t really have to change the world we live in, but can at least entertain me, grip me, and keep me wondering just what is going to happen next. It’s very rare hat I usually get a movie that does all of this in one-sitting but that’s why the Norwegian’s were put on this planet: to keep my movie-spirit all alive and well. Thank you so very, very much!

With this movie, I was expecting nothing more than a botched-heist, that turns into a run-and-chase with cops, robbers, and guns going every which way, and ending in a finale that would culminate in all of the different sides coming together for one, large, blood-bath. What I didn’t expect, was to get something more along the lines of “unconventional, original, and totally mind-bending”. Those aren’t direct quotes from anything or anyone, they’re just from my mind and the element of surprise is what really took me over in this flick. What seemed to start off so simple and plain, ended-up being something that I haven’t seen from a crime movie of this nature in the longest-time in the way of how it plays with your mind, toys with you, and set you up for something that you rightfully do believe is going to happen, when out of nowhere, the film pulls the rug right from underneath you without you expecting it at all.

"Gun or dog, gun or dog, gun or..aww fuck it! I'm going with the dog."

“Gun or dog, gun or dog, gun or..aww fuck it! I’m going with the dog.”

Heck, with a movie that seems to build itself on so many goddamn twists, you automatically think you’d be able to pin-point when and where the next plot-turn is going to rear it’s ugly head, but the movie even messes around with you on that idea. Even when you think you know what the flick is up to, it totally fools you into thinking another way and that goes to show you how much fun you can have with a film that has balls, isn’t afraid to show them to you, and maybe if you’re lucky, play around with them too. Disgusting analogy, I know. However, it’s the only one I could think of that showed this flicks determination to take no prisoners and to never, not for one second be thought of as “obvious and predictable”. I looked through all of the reviews for this one and haven’t seen those words used once, but if there are people out there who think this movie is that, well, then I hope you left school already, because you’re way too cool for it. Yeah, another bad one. I know.

However, the movie isn’t all about showing you what type of twists it can pull next, it actually has a personality going for it; albeit, a very schizophrenic one to say the least. For instance, some moments make you feel like your watching a fast, quick-witted crime-movie that has a sense of style and humor that is hiding below the surface; then, it all of a sudden changes up into a relationship-drama about this guy and his woman trying to have a baby and save their marriage; then it gets even weirder by dropping on on some gross-out comedy that really seemed to come out of nowhere; and somehow, some way, ends-up veering into a crime-flick of everybody’s standards, but one that still has a dark sense of what it’s making fun of and why. It’s a very weird flick that can’t make up it’s mind on what it sets out to be and where it’s going to end-up, but it does it in such an exciting and fun way, that you never feel like the flick veers out into just straight-up strange material that doesn’t work. It all makes sense, it all feels right for the mood, and it makes the movie all of the more exciting.

But, as always, being a movie that’s always about it’s crazy and wild twists that seem like they just get pulled out of people’s asses at-times, the movie’s charm doesn’t always work and seem believable. Without diving too much into what goes down and making this a spoiler-ific post instead of an actual review, I’m just going to say that there are a couple of times where it seems a bit absurd that certain people survive certain happenings, and certain occurrences do seem a bit coincidental. I mean, yeah, coincidences do happen in real-life and it’s a huge surprise to us when they actually do occur, but in a movie like this, it seems more like a contrivance, rather than an actual, realistic-way to move the plot on and continue with it’s adventure. Still, if you can drop-down a lot of your ideas of believe-ability and natural-physics, than you may be able to take it all in without the grain of salt. Then again, I can’t promise anything.

I also think a lot of that believe-ability comes into question when you think about the main character in this whole movie: Roger Brown. It’s not that Brown isn’t a believable character that you would actually expect to get tangled up in this web full of lies, murder, crime, and sex, it’s just that the way everything happens to him makes it seem like he’s the character of a video-game that we just so happen to have a cheat-code to every life-opportunity there is in the game. It’s like we continued to never want to give-up and die, and decided to pull an all-nighter, just as long as we had the cheat codes to continue to move on with the game, and not our lives.

Good idea. Can't ever let that fluffy hair get damaged.

Good idea. Can’t ever let that fluffy hair get damaged.

I can’t talk too much ish though, because Brown is actually a pretty good character, all thanks to the performance of Aksel Hennie, a guy I have never seen before but I hear is the shit from where he’s from. The guy’s got plenty going for him as an actor, but when it comes to the look: he’s deadly. He has these wide, buggy-eyes that are reminiscent of Steve Buscemi, but has the vulnerability and insecurity that makes you feel like you’re watching a high-schooler who just got a sexy car because of his daddy. The guy’s got two conflicting-sides going for him, but he allows them to come together in a nice, neat package that makes sense when you take into consideration all of the insane, and hardcore shit he does and has to go through, throughout the next 2-hours. Hennie was a great choice for this role and I hope to see more of him and not just in Norwegian films, but hopefully ones from the state as well as I think he could quite possibly have a career over here if he gets the chance to pursue it.

The man that I’m sure everybody knows in this movie, is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who everybody may know from Game of Thrones, and is pretty damn bad-ass in this movie. Not only does the guy have a sexy and cunning-look that’s reminiscent of some of the best villains in movie-history, but he’s also a pretty darn tense guy to be around and makes every one of his scenes work, even though he doesn’t take over the whole movie like you’d expect. He doesn’t show up much, but when he does, he commands the screen and let you know that he runs the show, whether or not you see him in the front of the screen at all-times.

Consensus: For those of you who don’t prefer extra butter with your popcorn, may find Headhunters to be a tad cartoonish with where it goes, but if you love movies not having an ounce of clue where they might take you next, and love being fooled with at every step-of-the-way, then prepare to have a total blast with this flick.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Perfectly good waste of milk. Points taken-off for that.

Points taken-off for a waste of perfectly good milk.

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.

Top 10 for 2012

I know, I know, I know! This list is way past-due, but it took me so long to rile-up every movie that I watched in 2012, count-down the top 10, and see exactly which ones did it the most for me. I’ve finally been able to get them altogether now, and needless to say: what a freakin’ year, man! 2012 was one of the finer-years of movie-going that I have ever had the pleasure of being apart of and definitely re-affirmed my love for the art of film and the joy of going out to theaters, getting some popcorn, a nice soda, plopping my rotund-butt in the seat, and just allowing the film to take me by surprise. Some movies were greater than others, but nonetheless, it goes without saying that 2012 was a great year for movie-lovers out there and let’s just hope that 2013, kicks as much ass.

Now, on with the list:

 10. Killing Them Softly

KillingThemSoftly

A movie that totally bombed-out at the box-office, but didn’t deserve to. It’s like an old-school thriller where the director was more concerned with building-up tension through classy-conversations about life, crime, drugs, guns, money, and most importantly: politics. The political-message was a tad overbearing at times and did take away from the final-product, but when you have a cast chock full of stars like Pitt, Gandolfini (who I think deserved an Oscar nomination), Liotta, Jenkins, McNairy, and Mendelsohn, then you can never, ever go wrong, no matter what type of ideas you may be throwing my way.

9. The Master

TheMaster1

 Not as masterful (see what I did there?) as PT Anderson’s past flicks, but still pretty mind-boggling and enticing in it’s own right. Anderson always knows how to make any shot a work of beauty; Johnny Greenwood always knows how to make any type of object sound like a piece of music with tense and methodical rhythm  and Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, always know how to give-off great performances, no matter what the material may be. Whether or not it’s about Scientology and all of it’s crazy, mumbo-jumbo, is entirely up to you. Just be ready to be totally and completely surprised by what you see Anderson swing at you.

 8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

2012, THE PERKS OF BEING WALLFLOWER

Maybe the fact that I just got out of high-school is why I was so taken-away by this movie, but nonetheless: I still loved the hell out of this one. It reminded me of my old days where I would just slum around in the hall-ways, go to class and hope I got a good grade on that test I probably cheated on, walk with my friends to class, gossip about the new couples, see what’s going to happen on-weekends, and just get absolutely trashed in somebody’s basement. Yeah, you know, the finer things in life and if that sounds like a bore to you, then trust me: get ready to be surprised by this movie’s charm. It had me crying by the end, and I’m sure it will have you doing the same, as well.

7. Silver Linings Playbook

SilverLinings

Being from Philadelphia and currently residing in the Delaware County area; this movie totally resonated with me for many reasons that may seem obvious by that last statement, but still hit me harder than I expected. It’s funny, witty, and very, very quick at-times, but in the center of all the craziness and madness that ensues and surrounds it, is a relatively sweet, and understandable romance between two nut-balls that you cheer for from beginning-to-end. If this doesn’t have you smile at least once, then I think you might just have to trade in your old soul, for a new one.

6. The Avengers 

Avengers

Although I merely forgot about once the Dark Knight Rises came around town, the Avengers was still the movie that promised everything from about 4-years of build-up, and I still craved more. It’s fun, hilarious, action-packed, beautiful to look-at, well-acted, and filled with all of your favorite superheros that you have spent countless movies just watching, hoping that one day they would all get together for one, glorious cream-fest of nerdiness. Thankfully, that time came and it was freakin’ awesome.

5. Les Miserables 

Don't lie, you'd still tap that.

Musicals usually aren’t my flavor-savors, unless they are done right. However: this is what it looks like when a musical is done right. The performances are beautiful and the style in which Tom Hooper allowed his stars to sing, naturally and live, gave the movie a more realistic, if theatrical feeling. I teared-up many-a-times, and already have the soundtrack on my Ipod. But if anybody asks you about that, please: do not tell them the truth. I’m still trying my hardest to hold onto to some sort of my macho-man exterior.

4. Zero Dark Thirty 

1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

One of the more controversial flicks of the year, but all of that hubbabaloo aside: this movie is freakin’ awesome! Bigelow’s direction takes it’s time with it’s story, where it wants to go, it’s characters, and it’s history, and always allows there to be tension in even the slightest-bit of scenes. Everybody complains about it being too talky, too long, and too much about a bunch of people without any, actual character development, but in all honesty: who gives a shit? It’s a powerful flick that encapsulates an entire decade into a near-3-hours, and leaves you with a sequence where we all know the outcome to, but yet, still takes you for a ride regardless.

3. The Invisible War

InvisibleWar

One of those documentaries that does everything right in it’s precision, it’s ideas, and it’s delivery, but still left me wanting more. That’s not a bad thing, either, as this flick goes through all of the motions of presenting it’s subject, and giving us a total hammering of why it’s so messed-up and how freakin’ stupid the legal system can be, especially when it comes to the Army. The review I posted was more of a rant, with some critiquing here and there, but regardless of what you may take away from my words, know this: what this movie speaks about and approaches, is still happening and it’s an absolute nightmare to think about. Will there ever be an end? Who the hell knows! But what I do know is that this documentary was a total eye-opener and really had me angry, upset, sad, pissed-off, and determined to do something about what’s wrong with the world we live in.

2. The Dark Knight Rises 

DarkKnightRises

In the past 7 years, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has taken what we have come to know and expect with the superhero genre, and absolutely spin it on it’s side. That being said, we all knew this time would eventually come and no matter how many tears were shed (mine included), it was all time for us to say bye-bye to Master Wayne, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and all of our other favorite Batman characters we have come to know and love throughout the years. But still, what a way to go out! Even though some will say that it wasn’t as good as it’s predecessor, I think it absolutely accomplished that promise, if not more. It’s just about as epic as you’re going to get with a movie, let alone a superhero movie, and as the final scene rolled-in and the trilogy was about to be over, tears came streaming down my face as we saw Batman ride-away, one last time. One of the more memorable, movie-going experiences I had last year and was definitely numero uno for the longest time, that was until I saw….

1. Django Unchained

DjangoUnchained3

Quentin Tarantino has, and will forever be a favorite of mine and his latest, is probably one of his best (if that even means anything, anymore). The look, the feel, the characters, the dialogue, and the story is all original, but the real joy and delight of this movie was watching the cast just absolutely have a freakin’ ball with each, and every one of their roles. Jamie Foxx does a great job as the titular-named Django, where he turns the charm, on-and-off whenever the plot needs him to, and definitely never shines away from being the main character. Christoph Waltz is adorably witty and hilarious as the sympathetic  yet brutal bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, and shows that there is more to him than just playing an angry Jew-hunter. Samuel L. Jackson plays Stephen and comes-off like the total and complete Uncle Tom-like character we see in all of those old comics and cartoons, but in the end: turns-out to be more of a smart and menacing character that does not deserved to be fucked with and shows Jackson at his loudest, his craziest, and also, his most sinister. And last, but sure as hell not least, is Leonardo DiCaprio as the evil, but charming-as-hell slave owner; Calvin Candie. DiCaprio gives great performances, year-after-year, yet never seems to really get the type of recognition he deserves. Hell, some could ague that maybe his performance here hasn’t gotten him that type of recognition either (mainly because he was terrible snubbed at the Oscar’s this year), but still: the guy is amazing here and is in top-form, unlike anything we have ever seen him do before. He’s funny, bad-ass, cool, slick, smart, but also very, very scary in the way he can just change his look and person in a matter of seconds and the way that DiCaprio toys with your mind, is just another way to show you that Tarantino knows the type of people he chooses for his roles and what makes them so damn fit for his writing-style. Controversy aside, this was my favorite and most enjoyable flick of 2012 and one that I ventured-out to see not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times! And yet, I still have not had enough.

Hope you all liked what you saw, and let me know what you think about the list! As always, stay cool, peeps.

P.S. That’s not a new slogan I’m trying-out, it’s just what came to me first. Unless you want it to be a new slogan of mine, then we could definitely see that happen more and more from now on. Either way, let me know!

Quartet (2012)

Sing it loud and sing it proud, just don’t have a heart attack.

Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly are retired opera singers who annually put on a concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday, however the arrival of Jean (Maggie Smith) disrupts the equilibrium.

With the release of this flick and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2012 was the year for the oldies to go out to the movies, and have just as much fun as all us little pieces of craps did with our major blockbusters and swirling epics. However, seeing both movies now, I’ve come to realize that maybe the best way to treat our elders with respect, would be to give them better movies. I mean, after all, they deserve the best of the best, don’t they?

Movies like these, where the old-fellers take center-stage and act in all of their senior-glory just bother the hell out of me. It’s not that I don’t have love or respect for my elders, but it seems like all of these movies treat the subjects all of the same, and Dustin Hoffman is no different. This is Hoffman’s directorial debut and at age 75, the guy may seem a bit late to the game and it sort of shows. I’m glad that the guy took the back-seat in this movie and allowed his story to practically, tell-itself, but this to me felt like it just moved at the same, exact-pace that it’s subjects were: slow and tiring.

There’s nothing wrong with a movie that’s all about taking it’s darndest time to get it’s footing and tell it’s story, but this one just moved at such a slow-pace, I was actually falling asleep. Yeah, maybe the fact that it was a 10 a.m. screening and the fact that I had roughly around 5-hours of sleep may have nailed it in for me, but none the less, there was just nothing here in this movie that really kept me going. It’s just a bunch of old people, acting old, being old, and all being played to the tune of “cute”. I get that these older-peeps are a tad goofy in their later-days, but does every damn action they make or word that comes out of their mouth have to be so damn cute and practically played for laughs!!?!? I mean, hell, I’m 19-years-of-age and I can tell you, in all honesty, that half of the shit I say in life is as funny, if not more humorous than what any of these geezers have to say, but since I’m not older and losing my touch with reality, it just doesn’t quite hit the same marks as it does for them.

Oh, they are so surprised, but the OLDER, British-way.

Oh, they are so surprised, but the OLDER, British-way.

Not only does that fact pertain to this movie, but in real-life as well and it bothered me that the first-hour or so of this movie was just played for laughs, and rarely ever was there a serious sub-plot to come around. Actually, the film did seem like it was working on some sort of sub-plot where the old-folks home was running into a bit of problems of folding under, but they were scrapped as soon as Smith’s character rears her ugly head on in-here, and was a bit of a bummer. The idea of having a sub-plot where a bunch of old folks have to battle-it-out for their living-space to stay alive and well, may not be the newest or coolest thing on the street, but it probably would have added ten-times more interest to the whole movie. Or at least, more interest than Hoffman’s direction seemed to have.

Maybe getting on Hoffman’s case all this much is giving him a bad-rap because even though the guy doesn’t do anything revolutionary with this material, he still doesn’t do anything bad with it, either. It just feels like it could have been directed by anybody, myself included. I don’t know if that’s a hit on Hoffman’s direction or not, but if there was more of an effort on the dude’s part, I feel like this material would have been elevated a great deal and probably wouldn’t have been so boring. Maybe “boring” is a bit of a brutal word, and you could easily state that this just isn’t the type of material that was meant for my young, unappreciative mind, but still: I know what I like and I know what I appreciate with movies, and this movie just did not have that “it factor” to really keep me alive and well. I could easily make a joke about that relating to this movie, but I think I’ve bashed this movie a bit too much as it is.

If there is any type of silver lining located in this movie in any place, anywhere at all; it’s the marvelous cast that Hoffman has on-display here for our-eyes-only. Billy Connolly is a wild old man who constantly finds himself flirting with the fellow nurses, and even going so far as to ask the gardeners if they have any weed stashed-on them. If anybody in this flick has the right comedic-bone in the right part of their body, it’s Connolly as the guy continued to have me laugh, even if his character was a bit of a cliche to have in a movie like this. The old guy that still lives by his boner, is always a joy to watch in any movie, and Connolly actually makes the most out of it, especially with a script that seems to be relying on that aspect the most, just for comedy’s sake.

Tom Courtenay was great as the old man that still finds a way to keep in-touch with not just reality, but the current-society as well and finds many ways to obsess over both opera and hip-hop. Courtenay has a bit of an obvious character here, as well, but he’s very good at playing that type of older-man that’s more knowing of the world around him, what it is, what has passed him by, and how it is all changing, right in-front of his own eyes. He’s great in this role and easily the most likeable character of the whole bunch, especially when Maggie Smith comes into the story to wreck shit up in the old-folks home, as well as his insides.

"Uhhh, where am I?"

“Uhhh, where am I?”

Smith is, once again, playing that older, crankier-version of herself that is a fine-fit for an actress of her stature, but after awhile, it does get a tad old. That’s why it’s so great to see her as an actress when she turns the other cheek, and becomes a nicer-gal, even if the mean-streak is still there. I have to say, she didn’t have me laughing at her quite as much as I did in Hotel, but she still kept me happy with what she was doing on-screen and much like the rest of the cast here, had the script come alive. Pauline Collins is also a bunch of fun to watch as the more zanier lady of the home, and does whatever she can to get a laugh out of us, even if it just played-up because of her cuteness. However, in her case, I was willing to make an exception, mostly because she is a little bit of a cute, old lady. Nothing like my grams, though!

Consensus: The royal cast makes Quartet better as it trugs along, but it’s still slow, tired, dull, and pretty damn boring, especially if you’re a young d-bag like me that just wants life to move at a fast, quick pace where the party don’t stop, until everybody is passed-out. In this case, “passed-out”, usually means one thing: death.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, here's the idea: just be cute."

“Okay, here’s the idea: just be cute.”

Nobody Walks (2012)

Girl hipsters that look like 14-year-old boys, never a good sign for the married-man.

Olivia Thirlby stars as Martine, a New York City artist who stays with a local family (Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski) in Los Angeles while working on her art film. But her arrival in this seemingly idyllic family soon begins to unravel suppressed impulses in everyone and forces them to confront their own fears and desires.

I honestly don’t mind a good infidelity movie here and there, especially when they have a top-notch cast and promise like this. However, in order for me to like that infidelity movie, I have to buy into the infidelity that is actually occurring and even though there is definitely a lot of screwing around, a lot of wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, and a lot awkward conversations between one another because of them wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, I still did not really buy into it all. I bought into the fact that John Krasinski could be a humbled and horny husband, though. If that accounts for anything.

Right from the beginning, you can tell this is an indie-movie, through and through. You got the shaggy-looking people, staring-off into space; you have the unusual jobs for certain human-beings; you have the long scenes that are filled with no dialogue, but instead some moody music from an indie band only 3 people know about; and you also have a shit-ton of symbolism, coming through other layers of the story. So basically, any idea that this movie is going to be like Fatal Attraction; you’re wrong. It’s more or less like indie-version Fatal Attraction; had Michael Douglas and Glenn Close just boned every once and awhile and never actually spoke to each other. That probably would have solved a lot of things in that movie and definitely steered-clear of any rabbits to be hurt, but I digress.

Don't make Jim angry. You don't like Jim when Jim's angry.

Don’t make Jim angry. You won’t like Jim when Jim’s angry.

That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of the stuff you’d expect from movies where people are cheating on each other, because there definitely is, it just feels so under-cooked that by the time the movie’s over, you’re left with, “That’s it?”. I’m not going to go into the logistics of this movie, what happens, and practically spoil the whole damn movie for you but when you see how much immoral-boning actually happens here, you’re going to be surprised that there’s even a story in the first-place. You just never feel those sparks of fire, burning up inside the plot and these characters’ minds, and instead, you just feel the need inside of you to just get some sort of “oh shit” moment to really lift things up from being a bit of a bore.

Mostly where the lack of sparks come from, is the fact that we never really feel like we understand what the attraction between some of these people are. Martine obviously has this way to her that gets guys all wood’d-up in the pants and the wives’ eyes glued to their men, but we never fully understand why she does the things she does and why the guys who get involved with her, actually do. Yeah, she’s got a cool look to her that reminds me of when I was 10 and definitely dresses all hip and cool, considering she’s the New Yorker in L.A., but there’s nothing to understand. She’s hot, I guess? I never understood that and maybe that’s how most affairs begin: the idea of having a new spice of life to happen to you, without any rhyme or reason as to why that certain someone or something was picked. If that was the case, the movie could have brought that out more. More for me to understand and more just to keep me interested.

Even though it’s hardly ever boring, the film just never feels like it has a clear destination in place and even worse, no route or alternate ways to take. It’s just sort of free balling as it goes along and that’s all fine and dandy when you have a movie that wants to be all-over-the-place and unpredictable, but that IS NOT this film. You sort of see where it’s going and when, you just don’t know why and I don’t think the film did, either. You just never really get a clear-look at these characters, what keeps them going on throughout the day, and what gets them to tick. Instead, you just see them do their jobs, get horned-up on-occasion, and have all types of awkward conversations with one another. The dialogue is good but when these characters aren’t speaking, then that’s when things go South for this flick and it definitely disappointed me because I was expecting big things from this movie.

Honestly, the reason i was expecting such big things from this movie is because it features not one, not two, but THREE stars that have been really working their ways up the ladder of sorts, in terms of dramatic-acting and earning some r.e.s.p.e.c.t. This seems to be John Krasinski’s first, real and raw dramatic-role for him and the guy handles it very, very well. The Krasinski look and charm is still there, but now we have a more ruffled and worn-out type of dude that just so happens to want a little excitement in his life. I will say one thing about this guy, even though he definitely gets away with banging around for a tad bit, he definitely isn’t very bright when it comes to keeping it a secret and there were plenty of times where I just wanted to slap him and be like, “Wake up bro! The bitch knows!”. Regardless of his character’s somewhat stupidity, Krasinski is still a solid actor and it’s nice to finally see him not play Jim Halpert.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I'd bone.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I’d bone.

Another reason for Krasinski’s character’s stupidity, isn’t just by the way how he not-so subtlety hides it away, but the fact that he’s cheating on his wife, played by the ever-gorgeous Rosemarie DeWitt. I’ve really been drooling over DeWitt as of late and everything that she does and even though she is very good here, it’s not a very showy role for her. She does get a couple of key-scenes where you see her really come into her own, but it only occurs once during the beginning and twice during the end. Other than those three instances, we don’t see much more of Rosemarie. Shame, too, because she’s such a joy to watch on-screen. I was also surprised to see Dylan McDermott play such a d-bag as her ex-hubby who only shows up for one scene, but was one scene where I was very interested and though McDermott did an awesome job with such a small, meaningless role.

Olivia Thirlby has really been working her way up the food-chain ever since her days of paling around with Juno, but Thirlby has come into her own now and is actually pretty good that way. As I’ve already stated about her character, I never really understood what was so breath-taking or amazing about her that stopped every man from what they were doing at that point in time, but Thirlby still handles it all well and has us believe in her. She’s not likable but she’s not a unlikable, neither. She’s just somewhere in the middle and I think that’s a true testament to Thirlby for giving this one-dimensional character some heart and emotions, even if half of them are just moaning and groaning, if you know what I mean?

Consensus: DeWitt, Krasinski, and Thirlby all raise Nobody Walks‘ relatively-mediocre material up a notch more than expected, but it is still a bit of a disappointment how very little emotional fireworks actually went-off.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Marry me! Now!

Just marry me! Now!

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