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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Anjelica Huston

Choke (2008)

I never thought that a movie about a sex-addict, would have such a small amount of actual sex in it.

Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex-addicted med-school drop-out that works as an 18th century tour guide, and on the side, decides to fake as if he’s having an actual choke-attack, in public restaurants. Why? Well for one, it makes those people feel as if they have to give him money for a speedy-recovery, and for two, the money for that goes straight to his cooky-mom (Anjelica Huston), who seems to be going through the latter-stages of dementia. Which just adds more problems to Victor and his life, while also allowing him to possibly see that there’s maybe more to life than just screwing people. And yes, the use of that word has many meanings.

Movies about sex-addicts usually make you feel as if your body can’t get enough sex on-screen for the whole run-time, yet, your mind is telling you otherwise. Most films such as that get you right in the mind of a person who can’t go a second without popping a B and feeling the need to get relieve themselves in the next room. Take for instance something like Shame. That movie, no matter what anybody says, was a full-on depiction of a sex-addict. It had sex, boobs, anal, bum, dick, balls, and even ass-licking. It had a little something something for every sexual maniac who wanted to see it, and because of not holding back for a single second (hence the NC-17 rating it was slapped with) it got it’s point across. Comparing that flick, to this one, is sort of a joke, considering that this is an adaptation of a novel from Chuck Palahniuk. If that name doesn’t ring a bell to you, let me lay it down like this: it’s the writer of Fight Club.

See! Now all the hands go up in the air!

Secretly, they both have hard-ons.

Secretly, they both have hard-ons.

But comparing this to a movie like Shame, is a bit misguided. Because see, while they may feature the same subject-material, they’re both different movies in terms of tone and message. Not to mention the fact that one is definitely a whole lot better and memorable than the other.

I think one of the main problems with this movie is that it never seems to go far enough with its plot, its message, or even its characters. I’m not some crazy sex feign, who needs to watch movies where two people get it on, so I can go and rub one out, but when a movie presents itself as a story about a struggling sex-addict just trying to get by in the real world without having to stick it in some hole; then I wanna see a lot of that so I can get a full look and feel. Now, I don’t mean to say that this film is “sexless” per se, but compared to what it could have been: It was rather tame. And come to think of it, that’s just how the whole film is.

Clark Gregg is the writer/director here and seems like he has a general idea of what Palahniuk was trying to say, but getting down the message ain’t anything special, that is unless you don’t have the material to back it up. The humor is funny, but pretty obvious in the way that doesn’t seem like that writer’s style. It’s more about the jokes where people can’t seem to get it up, or cum too quickly, or anything dirty of that nature. It isn’t witty, it isn’t thoughtful, and it sure as hell isn’t as dark as the advertising may make it be; it’s more sophomoric, as if Clark Gregg felt like some guy having an orgasm while imagining himself playing baseball was as hilarious as an Elephant wearing a polo. Sure, a movie about a guy who cons people into giving him money by faking a choke-attack is a pretty dark aspect to take into a story like this, but it’s maybe shown once or twice, and then it’s gone from all existence.

Seeing as I already talked about what Gregg was able to do with this message, it may seem like I’m tracing back my steps, but let me say this: Gregg seems to only be going through the motions, with little love or feeling. The movie starts off kindly as it shows how this one guy, who is seemingly a bad person, can start to change his ways somehow, but as time goes on, we realize that it’s a lot easier said than done? Predictable? Yes, but it seems like this story could have had more to it. However, Gregg doesn’t even add that “more” to it. Instead, everything plays out exactly as you’d expect it to, with little to no surprises, except for maybe one character coming out of nowhere with a random, philosophical speech about God and what certain passages in the Bible mean. The whole religious theme in this movie was very whatever for me, but as soon as that one moment I speak of came and went, I was really getting ready to slap someone. So obvious, so predictable, and so nothing at all like Fight Club, that got by being more than just a flick where people beat the shit out of one another and didn’t talk about the club where they went to go do this. That’s what made that movie a downright classic, whereas this movie is just instantly forgettable.

Blonde-strokes - milf

Blonde-strokes – milf

The only saving-grace to this flick is the performances, and that’s not saying much once you start to find the bigger picture that lies beneath. Sam Rockwell is great, as usual as Victor, a sex-addict that’s starting to open his eyes a little bit more but just can’t. Rockwell always does an awesome job in roles like these, mostly because he loves playing the bad guy, even if he does have a conscience. He’s sleazy, he’s dirty, he’s sexy, and he’s mean, but he’s also got a nice side to him as well, which shines through every chance it gets. The problem with his character is that by the end, the guy seems to turn around so much, that it’s almost unbelievable. I get that he wants to fall in love and stop humping every person he walks by on the street, but it’s a total-180 for a character that didn’t really seem as if he had much problems being himself in the first place.

Anjelica Huston plays his mommy and is also great, as usual, but her character falls through the same hole. She obviously seems like a nice woman, but by the end, our image of her just gets skewered because Gregg felt as if he needed to add more of a an extra dimension to these people, and make it seem like they haven’t been total and complete dicks for the last hour and a half. Kelly Macdonald is as cute as ever as the doctor that tries to help out Victor’s mommy, but she’s hiding her accent a little too much, and a lot of her line-readings come off as more awkward than earnest.

Consensus: Choke has an interesting premise, a well-stacked cast, and even a smart bunch of characters that promise to do so much, yet, somehow, director Clark Gregg loses his way and barely does anything at all with the material, except offer us little to absolutely no surprises.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"So...uhh, ya wanna take my heartbeat somewhere more private?"

“So…uhh, ya wanna take my heartbeat somewhere more private?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a man that likes to think of himself as something of a genius. He has many faults, yet, he never admits to them, and is starting to find out that it may just come and bite him. While he and his crew of rag-tag misfits get to embark on a series of wild adventures, soon, and totally out of the blue, walks in Steve’s estranged son, Ned (Owen Wilson), who he may, or may not have known actually existed in the first place. But, Steve sees this not only as a way to gain another loyal crew-member, but to spend some more quality-time and get to know the son he never knew was out there, which starts to become an after-thought once a journalist (Cate Blanchett) steps onto the ship and begins to catch both Steve, as well as Ned’s eyes. Also, on the side, they are looking for an exotic sea-creature known as the “Jaguar Shark”, who killed Zissou’s old-buddy. Problem is, nobody knows if it exists or not, not even he knows.

Even though I’m a fan of Wes Anderson, I have to say that even I can get a bit skeptical of his work. When you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you have to expect all of his trademarks, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, there is a slight spin on those said trademarks, but most of the time: What you see from a Wes Anderson movie, is most likely what you are going to get. And if you don’t like it, then suck it!

Or, if put in a nicer-way, just don’t pay to see it, or something like that.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

And most of the problem with this movie is that nothing really seems to be working at all for Anderson, in probably the first hour or so. It isn’t that it’s boring because people are just standing around and talking, it’s more that it never seems to be going anywhere. It’s almost as if Anderson thought it would be easy enough to give us a bunch of wild, crazy and colorful characters, have them do their thing, and that would be enough to hold our interest, as we waited for something to actually happen. It began to worry me a bit, mainly because I know what can happen when Anderson gets a little too up-in-his-own-ass sometimes.

Yeah, it can get bad, people. VERY BAD.

However, things did in fact pick-up, and I think it occurred right when Zissou and his crew start their journey, wherever the hell it may lead them. Most of the charm that we see Anderson utilize so well when he’s on-point, gets done quite efficiently here, but it also seems to show everything coming together. Of course there’s a lot of the same close-ups and strange-cuts that we have come to know (and sometimes love, sometimes hate) from Anderson, but there was more originality to the way he framed certain scenes and gave it an extra-spunk of color that made this film a lot more goofy than I was expecting.

Actually, “goofy” is probably the perfect word to describe this movie as, mostly because that’s exactly what I saw it as once the whole journey began. Don’t want to give away what happens on this journey that spices everything up and makes it go into a totally different direction than I was expecting, but just like me, you’ll be surprised regardless and its a whole lot of fun as well. It seemed like Anderson really took a liberty with a story of his, put his trademarks on it and gave it an unpredictable feel that completely comes out of nowhere. In fact, it actually gets a bit darker, as many situations take on a very serious, very violent-turn for the worst. But it’s never tonally-jarring, and that’s why Anderson’s movie works as well as it does in the final hour or so, rather than in the first hour, where it doesn’t seem like he knows what to do, or where he’s going. He’s just moving along on the current. You know, sort of like a boat on the sea.

Though, what doesn’t work so well here is when Anderson decides that he really wants to touch our hearts by getting to the core of these characters, and how well it doesn’t translate. See, there are a couple of moments by the end where you realize that Anderson really wants us to start crying like big, effin’ babies and grab whatever towels near us that we can find; however, it doesn’t work that way. For the most part, I was having a good time with this just being as goofy as possibly could be, with some darker-elements under-lining it all, but once it took that other page that makes it a lot weightier, it didn’t feel right. Nor did it gel with everything else that happened before. Doesn’t make it terrible, just makes us, the audience, confused as to whether we’re supposed to laugh, cry, feel warm inside, angry, or all of the above. At the same time, no less.

But, like most of Anderson’s movies, it’s the cast that really shines here as he’s seemingly able to get a wonderful performance out of everybody he has here. And of course, that also means we get to see Bill Murray show up and do his dry-wit thing in a Wes Anderson movie, but this time, it’s playing Steve Zissou, who, in case you didn’t know, is based on a real-person. Still though, that doesn’t seem to faze him much since it’s practically the same type of performance we usually see from Murray, in all of his glory. Without saying anything at all, Murray is able to speak volumes to us about his character by keeping that sad, expressionless face throughout the whole movie, and still be the most likable character somehow. He’s a bit more of a dick-head here, than he is in other of Anderson’s flicks, but there’s still a bit more to who he is, why he is the way he is and what makes him a guy worth seeing a movie made about, that keeps us going with liking him and his company.

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsical features!

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsy!

There’s also Owen Wilson who, much to everybody’s surprise here (including mine), is probably the one who steals this movie away from Murray as he seems like the perfect fit for a guy who is so innocent, so clean and so well-intentioned, that it’s so hard not to just love the guy right from the start. I’ll admit, Wilson has never been a favorite of mine but he totally had me won over here with a performance as Zissou’s long, lost son that he never met until now. There’s a lot of development to this character that makes him more than just another, “Southern bumpkin”-like character that he first starts off as coming-across, which makes it nicer and more pleasant to watch when he and his daddy do form a bond and continue to do son-father activities together. Even if the activities are shark-hunting and fossil-discovering.

Cate Blanchett plays the untrustworthy journalist, that’s doing a report on Zissou and his crew and handles a lot of the comedic-material very well, as well as having a believable romance with Wilson that I thought could have had its own flick, if at al given the chance to come to fruition. Willem Dafoe tests out his comedic-abilities as Zissou’s left-hand man, Klaus Daimler, and has a funny running-gag going on between him, Zissou, and Ned, where he just wants to be loved and treated like the best on the crew. It’s a side of Dafoe that I wish we saw more of, rather than just seeing the nutty, second-coming of Harry Osborne in everything that he does now.

Hold up, though! I’m not done, yet! Jeff Goldblum isn’t here as much as I would have liked as Zissou’s rival, Alistair Hennessey, but is still a lot of fun to watch as he just acts like, well, you know, Jeff Goldbum; Anjelica Huston is spicy (and surprisingly), very hot in her role as Zissou’s wife that doesn’t really want much to do with him since he’s such a fuck-up in his personal, and professional life; and it was a “nice welcome-back to the big-screen” for Bud Cort, who is a guy I haven’t seen awhile and does a nice job as Bill Ubell, the guy that’s forced to watch over production of this trip to make sure the funding of it is alright. Sadly, there was no Maude to accompany him. Wah.

Consensus: May not always work when it’s supposed to, but when the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou finds a way to gel all of its different elements together, it’s a surprisingly fun, heartfelt time, with an extra-ounce of whimsy, due solely to Wes Anderson and his quirky ways.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So many ego's just going head-to-head right there.

So many ego’s just going head-to-head right there. And Bud Cort.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ‘em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Grifters (1990)

Do con-men and women really look this dashing? If so, I’m not cut-out for the job.

Lilly Dillon (Huston) is a veteran con artist who begins to rethink her life when her son Roy (Cusack), a small-time grifter, suffers an almost-fatal injury when hit with a thrust from the blunt end of a baseball bat, right after a failed scam. However, she doesn’t realize that her boy has fixed himself up with a dame (Annette Bening) that may not seem to be all that she appears to be.

Calling this movie a “thriller” would not be doing it any justice, and I’m still contemplating on whether or not it’s the good type of justice, or the bad. Good, mainly because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool, but at the same time, bad, because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool. See, it’s not the type of film about cons that you’d expect. It’s not filled with a big-heist, it’s not filled with thrilling suspense and action to hold you over, and it’s not even really filled with that many twists or turns. Instead, it’s sort of like the day-time soap opera version of a movie about cons and that’s both good, and bad. It’s very love-hate with me here, and I think you’re about to find that out.

The problem I ran into with this flick was that I feel like it would be going-on in such a slow, tedious-pace that it almost felt deliberate. Most movies that have this slow pace, usually do it for the same reasons that this flick did it, but it works a lot better for them since it’s exactly how the story should be told and judges how effective it will be to the viewer. However, with a story/movie like this, the slower-pace doesn’t quite work as well as it might think and continued to piss me off, because every time the film felt like it was really getting somewhere and picking-up itself and all of the pieces it was leaving on the ground, it would just stop, take a moment to pause, and jog it’s way through.

"Hayyyyy, aren't you that gal from the Addams Family? Where'd your black hair go?"

“Hayyyyy, aren’t you that gal from the Addams Family? Where’d your black hair go?”

It was like me in a 5k mile run. I start off so perfectly, then I realize I put too much energy into the first 5 minutes, then I decide to slow things down, almost to the point of where I begin to walk, then, I get some inspiration and energy in my step and begin to run again, and then so-on, and so-forth, all up-until I get to the finish-line and everybody treats me like I just cured cancer, even despite me coming in 2nd to last place. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes with me (I obviously always win those runs, obviously…), but that’s how I felt with this flick and I feel like director Stephen Frears was just toying with me on-purpose. In some ways that works and makes the flick seem less predictable as it strings along, but in other ways, it just feels cheap and sort of like the director wants to be like the characters and play a sick, cat-and-mouse game that some people may not be too happy with in the end when they find out what’s to come of it all.

However, I can’t hate on Frears too much because no matter how slow and languid the pace got, I was always interested in seeing what was going to happen next. The story definitely takes it’s fair-share of detours into the past and they are definitely what feature the most energy and fun of the whole flick, but whenever it focuses on these characters, what they’re doing now, how they’re getting their money, and who’s playing who, the film still stays fun, if not all that energetic as the flashback sequences. Seeing cons do their thing like no other is always a blast to see on-screen and rather than just having it be a flick that exposes trick-after-trick, we get more of a balanced look at how broken and dull some of these cons lives are, and how money cannot buy them happiness and instead, only buys them more trouble. You actually care for these characters and that’s only what raises the stakes even more when the unpredictable-factor of this story comes into play, and you feel like you have no idea where it’s going to go or how, you just know that somebody is playing somebody. Then again, when you think about life and all that is: aren’t we all?

"Nope, Warren's still bigger."

“Nope, Warren’s still bigger.”

Okay, away from the philosophical ramblings of a 19-year-old film critic, back to the movie at-hand here. Yeah, the Grifters. I think without this trio of leads that the flick features, it probably would have folded underneath it’s own weight but thankfully, this trio of leads are here and are here to give some magnificent performances that stick with you, long after the flick is over. Before ’90, John Cusack was mainly known for racing randomly in the streets and always knowing the right Peter Gabriel track to have the ladies swooning, but once the year 1990 actually hit and this flick came-around, people began to look at him differently and realize something about him: this guy’s all grown-up. Cusack never really got a chance to stretch his acting-skills back in those days, mainly because everybody thought he was made for just hooking-up with high-school girls and in a way, they may have been right, but Cusack proved them all wrong and showed that the guy could play a sly, evil son-of-a-bitch that was as slick as they come and didn’t know when to stop pulling-in jobs and ranking-up the dough. Cusack always seems like a believable character and that’s all because the guy never over-does his whole cool essence and look to his act and always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody else in the flick, as well as the audience themselves, yet, we always like him and cheer for him as things begin to go South for his hormones and his job. I guess being a con is considered a job and if so, he definitely must have had to won “Employee of the Month”, at least once.

Anjelica Huston plays his mommy, who just so happens to be 14-years-older than him and shows you that the gal can, as usual, play a strong-willed and big-brained, female-lead like no other and as much as this may seem like a convention of hers by now, I still can’t hold that against her. Huston’s great with this role and you always wonder whether or not she is Roy’s mom, his lover, a past-fling, or simply, just some chick who’s trying to play a con on him and get his stash of cash. Like the rest of the characters in this trio, you never know what’s up with her and what her next move is going to be, but like typical, Huston-fashion, she always keeps you guessing and interested. Still, I was just waiting for that wig to come off. I could not believe how legitimate it truly was in terms of the story and setting.

80's, teen heart-throb he is no more.

80’s teen heart-throb he is no more.

The best out of this trio, and the one who really stands-out among the rest is probably Annette Bening as Myra, the fellow-squeeze of Roy. Bening, no offense to her or her looks, has never really been the type of actress that I could really declare “sexy”, “hot”, or even one that I would just have to take to bed, if I saw her in real-life (because they all would go to be with me, let’s face it), but here, she totally had me re-think that. Bening uses her flair for sexuality and nudity to her advantage and has her character come-off as a bit of a tramp, but a smart tramp at best, and a tramp that knows exactly what she’s doing, even if the others may not be able to catch onto it right just yet. Out of of the three, you’ll be wondering the most what side Bening’s is on and when you finally get your answer, you may be shocked, you may not be, but what you will be, is surprised by how much Bening uses the look and feel of sex-appeal to make a character that’s full of it, really, really work.

Consensus: Stephen Frears’ direction definitely makes you feel as if he is just playing with you, just in-order to be more like his subjects, but that’s why The Grifters does, and does not work in it’s own right. However, you can’t deny the charm and power that is within these three performances and it’s just wonderful to see them act each-and-every-single-one of their asses off, even if the pace seems to not be serving them the full-plate that they so rightfully deserves.

7/10=Rental!!

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Quirkiness is everywhere, especially in India.

In the wake of their father’s death, three brothers (Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a steam-engine journey across India aboard the Darjeeling Limited and attempt to reconnect after years of physical and emotional distance. The trip also opens up old wounds and proves that the base instincts of sibling rivalry can never be completely erased.

Writer/director Wes Anderson is just one of those dudes that you either love or hate, although it’s weird with me. I don’t love him but I can definitely say that he has made some great flicks as well as some ones that maybe aren’t so splendid. This one is definitely placed in the latter.

The original premise is what you would expect from Anderson, and much like the plot, so is the rest of the film. All of Anderson’s quirks and signatures are here such as the running in slow-motion to a 60’s rock song, a Rolling Stones song coming on, very vibrant colors, family issues, and plenty of other strange things happening that we have to come to know and sometimes love with his flicks. This isn’t a huge disappointment to see since these signatures are what separates his rather generic story-lines from many other familiar ones out there. What the problem with this flick is that it’s uneven and really meanders during the middle act. I don’t know what was the problem here but the script didn’t hit any marks whatsoever whether it came to comedy, drama, or even quirky. It all just felt boring and nothing was holding my interest for the longest time.

When I say it’s uneven, I don’t mean that there are parts where it goes for the comedic chops and then just goes right onto totally dramatic territory, because they are actually pretty subtle with the dramatic stuff here, it just didn’t fit all that much. These characters are pretty dickish (what is to expected from Anderson) but the film tries so hard to have us care for these characters by the end that it’s too pushy. There will be a moment here or there, where it’s obvious that Anderson wants us to feel the pain and anguish that these characters feel, but instead we are left feeling nothing and even unmoved. It’s hard to connect to anyone and it wouldn’t have bothered me if they weren’t so busy bickering at each other for the first hour or so acting like one of them just stole their PS2 game.

However, there are plenty of moments to this flick that worked, which I think is Anderson’s fault. Anderson always has a knack for making beautiful-looking films go along with his darkly depressing subject material, and here is no different. His colors just pop-out at you with every shot, the camera itself glides back and forth and crash zooms like crazy as if it was a film from the 70’s, and the soundtrack itself provides plenty of tracks that go along with the setting as well as mood but also stay in your head long after the flick is over. Once again with Anderson, his films are barely hard to stop looking at because no matter what the subject matter is, the flick is always going to have something beautiful to see and gaze at.

As much as I may talk a bunch of ish on the script itself, I still can say that there are plenty of delightful moments to it as well that sort of make it the trip worth watching. The several moments of dry humor work because there are plenty of gags that come around subtlety in the film and it’s almost like the flick itself is testing you to see if you really are paying attention after all. Even the drama by the end starts to hit its mark mainly because Anderson is very good at showing sequences that not only move us but make us chuckle as well. There’s one impressive scene at the end played to the tune of “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones and without giving too much away, I just want to say it’s one of those signature Anderson scenes that make you forget about the rest of the film and have you only remember that.

The cast isn’t anything new here for Anderson, but they all do pretty well with his quirky material even though nobody is really gunning for anything new or improved when it comes to their acting. Adrien Brody is pretty good as Peter and is always able to convey any emotion that he has through his eyes, which helps his character out a lot here; Jason Schwartzman is pretty funny with his dry sense of humor that always seems to work but he’s much more mature with this role than we usually have seen him in here as Jack; and Owen Wilson is pretty much playing the same role he always does but with a more pretentious act here as Francis, but he still has great comedic timing and probably got the most laughs out of me the whole time. There’s also an extended cameo scene from Anjelica Huston as these dudes’ mommy, and she always gives that amazing performance that usually always clocks in underneath 10 minutes. As I’ve said before, everybody here is great but their not really trying anything new here to make us totally surprised.

Consensus: The Darjeeling Limited is well-acted and has its moments of pure drama and comedy, but everything feels too familiar with barely anything new or original to see here and the script is definitely one of Wes Anderson’s more uneven ones as of late.

6.5/10=Rental!!

50/50 (2011)

It’s what we 21st century people call: hipster cancer.

An otherwise healthy twentysomething, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), has a comically early midlife crisis when he gets slapped with a cancer diagnosis — and a 50-50 chance of survival. But what’s the meaning of life when you’re not sure how long yours will last?

It’s been a proven fact that cancer is a hard subject to laugh about. I mean Funny People tried 2 years ago but they didn’t really do much with the cancer angle. However, this is the real cancer-comedy.

The script by Will Reiser does a perfect job of balancing out both the comedy, the drama, and the cancer with this challenging premise. Reiser has plenty of funny one-liners and also a lot of moments that will make you laugh at just how ridiculous everybody is responding to Adam’s cancer. When his work-place finds out that he has cancer, they throw him a huge party as if he was going to die the next day, and that’s just one of the many hilarious scenes this film has.

Another great thing about this script is that the drama works so incredibly well here as well, adding so much more heart to the comedy than I actually expected. Whenever things started to get serious with this film, I didn’t feel like it was forced and instead I felt like it served all of these characters and premise very well. I mean cancer is not always a funny thing and just how Reiser was able to show hilarity and sadness behind it all was a great job on his part.

The film starts to even get darker by the end which is something that really had me falling for this film because it never got so dark to completely turn me off from the film as a whole. This isn’t just about how Adam has to deal with the cancer, it’s about everyone around him who have to cope with it as well. Some people know that their losing a good buddy, while some know their losing a son, and others know they just may be losing a potential lover. Either way, this film shows just how everybody around the person with cancer, is as affected as the person him or herself.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam in what I think is his best role yet. At first, it seemed like Adam was just going to be Tom from 500 Days of Summer, which isn’t a bad thing but then again, there’s no real range in that role for Joseph. However, when the film starts to go on, Adam starts to go through chemo and that’s when Joseph really starts to let all of his anger and frustration out. We see so many different sides to this character as he goes through this whole frustrating situation and even as dark as this character may get, we still keep on rooting for him the whole time because he is just a genuinely good and nice guy that really doesn’t deserve this, but nobody else does either really.

Seth Rogen is also great in this film as his best bud, Kyle, and and is the comic relief here that plays so well opposite of Gordon-Levitt. Rogen delivers all of the R-rated laughs we’re all so used to hearing from him nowadays such as the talk about blow jobs, weed, and picking up chicks, but there’s also an under-lining sweetness to this guy that comes out by the end of the film and is something that I think Rogen plays up very well. They work well together and I think that’s because they both seem like they really do care for each other and it’s just great to see Rogen be able to play up his comedy side as well as his softer side that we don’t see too much of really.

Anna Kendrick was also such a joy to watch as Katie, Adam’s therapist, as she plays up a lot of that cuteness and silliness to great effect as her and Gordon-Levitt create such a great chemistry together that it was almost better than his scenes with Rogen. Anjelica Huston was perfectly cast as Adam’s mother, and as always, gives a perfect performance that may be about 15 minutes of total screen-time, still had me tearing up in my seat. My one problem with this cast was Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam’s girlfriend who is a big bitch but at the same time is a character that seemed very badly written and had no reason to really be there other than to create more conflict for his character. Although, she was very good in the role I must say.

Consensus: Cancer and comedy may be a hard subject to make watchable, but 50/50 does that perfectly. With great acting from the whole cast, hilarious moments, and as well as some tender ones as well, this film creates a story that almost seems like real-life with characters that are all perfectly fleshed out.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

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