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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Brad Pitt

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

One could only imagine the type of dirty dealings Alex Trebek does on the side when he isn’t correcting dorks.

Many out of you out there probably know who Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) actually is just by his pop-culture relevance. He hosted the Gong Show, created the Dating Game, was infamous for his crazy personality on-and-off the screen and, from plenty of sources, apparently had a long-standing battle with drug-addiction that not only took over his professional, but most of his personal life as well. Oh and he was also a spy for the CIA too, apparently. Yeah, didn’t think about that one now did ya?

Whenever Gong Show reruns would show up when I was around, I’d always be wondering what the hell was up with the host. The guy always seemed like he was one step behind on everything else that was going on around him, which would have only made more sense if it was just that he did blow two seconds before the cameras began rolling. Much to my surprise though, the guy was actually part of the CIA, wrote an autobiography about it and even had a movie directed about his wild and crazy life. This is where I started to have second thoughts about this guy; but nope. My opinion still remains: Chuck Barris is a frickin’ nut.

Like the old joke goes: "Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude's bought her a martini."

Like the old joke goes: “Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude bought her a martini.” Or something of that nature.

Much more of a surprise to me was to find out that not only was there a biopic made about his wild life and times, but that it was also directed by one George Clooney. Apparently, Clooney found something quite interesting about this guy’s life that he wanted to make a movie about it all, adapting from the Barris’ own autobiography; and therein lies the problem.

See, since most of this is coming from the point-of-view of Barris and not really anybody else around him, we never know what’s real, what’s real fiction, what’s a bunch of crap that he just made-up in his head and what was done by Clooney, all for the sake of entertainment-purposes. Thankfully, most of it all seems legit in Barris’ own, twisted way and because of that, the movie comes-off as more of a biopic, rather than just a sensationalized, Hollywood story about a top-dollar guy in the showbiz. It’s a little bit weird; it’s a little bit twisty; it’s a little bit sad; it’s a little bit compelling; and it’s a little bit interesting. Which, when put altogether, made it worth watching for awhile.

But still, I was actually very surprised by the fact that even though this seems to be one of those wacky, larger-than-life stories you’d only get in the movies, but is also happens to be true, it still happened to be like every other conventional story where a guy has hope in this world, shows signs of promise, does well for awhile, then, sooner than later, begins to self-destruct by one bad decisions, after another. Can’t say I hold it against this film or Clooney too much, considering all that he’s doing is actually giving us the story that he read and whole-heartedly believes in, but material like this should be popping off of the screen. Not seeming like something we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but this time, just so happens to focus on a pop-culture icon thrown into the ring of the CIA. Strange and oddly compelling as it sounds, sadly, it does not play-out that way.

On top of that, too, the story itself doesn’t really get started-off until the first hour. As a director, Clooney seems like he has a nice mixture of Scorsese and Sodebergh going on here, and it made this movie move quick and light, while also still focusing on a character and a story that would begin to get more and more interesting, just as it unraveled. Where Clooney excels the most with this material is in all of the showbiz/behind-the-scenes stuff because it gave me a great glimpse of how hard it was for Barris to actually get any of his shows off the ground, and how hard it may be for anyone out there who ever had a single, creative idea in their mind and wanted to see what they could do with it.

However, where Clooney mis-steps is in that kept on going back-and-forth between three elements of this story that didn’t seem to mesh so well. One was a romantic sub-plot he has with a couple of ladies that he finds cool and charming; the other is about his life as a TV game-show host; and the last one is about his CIA shenanigans. All do quite well in their own, respective fields, but spliced together, it feels uneven as if you couldn’t quite tell where George wanted to go with this material. Did he want it to be a biopic? A comedy about showbiz during the 70′s? A character-study about where this guy came from and his mind? Or, just a simple tale about the CIA, and all of the intrigue that goes along with it? Not saying you can’t focus on all of these elements and pack them into one, completely whole story, but there’s a better way to go about doing so, and yet, still making it compelling in every which way.

Then again though, it should be noted that this was George’s directorial-debut and while he may have not done the most perfect job in all of the world, it’s still impressive enough to see why he’d go on to make many other movies in the near-future. Not all of them were great, but they are still as interesting as this and it goes to show you what one guy can do if he doesn’t just have the looks and the talents, but the aspirations and ambitions as well. For that, I give George credit, even if it may seem like I’m ragging on him quite a bit.

I’m really not though, George. I’m not nearly half of the man you are. If only.

But what this movie gave us the most, was a solid look at Sam Rockwell and just exactly who the hell he was. As Chuck Barris, Rockwell nails everything perfectly – his goofy-demeanor, off-kilter sense of humor, and overall weirdness he carried on throughout his day-to-day activities. He’s a nut-ball for sure, but he’s not necessarily a likable one. Actually, better yet, he’s a bit of a dick, an unapologetic one at that, which makes it a bit hard to care about this guy at first. However, Rockwell is so believable and charming as Barris, that you almost forget about all of the morally questionable choices he’s made throughout the bulk of this movie. At one point, you actually feel bad for him considering he is so out-of-his-league and just not at all ready for what the world of the CIA has to throw at him. Though we never do quite know exactly what did, or what didn’t happen in Barris’ life, we still feel for the guy and see him as a human, and not just another Hollywood hot-shot, who got too big for his britches and ended-up getting in all sorts of trouble. Rockwell was great here though, and totally does carry this movie on his own two shoulders.

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right then and there!

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right here!

Makes me even happier to see that he’s still putting in great work today.

Though, I do have to say that Rockwell does have a bit of help from his co-stars, one of which is Clooney himself as the main, CIA-operative that gets Barris involved with all of these sheisty dealings in the first place. Clooney’s good and definitely up to his old-school charming ways, but after awhile, just felt like a plot-contrivance that would conveniently show up to deliver bad news for Barris, just when things seemed to be going jolly-good for the guy. It was also awesome to see Rutger Hauer as one of Barris’ fellow-agents out in the field that definitely provides some near and dear insight, but soon becomes to be a bit of a mysterious guy himself, and not in the good way mind you. Still though, it’s great to see Hauer getting some meaty-material, as the dude definitely deserves more of it.

This isn’t just a man’s show though, because there are some ladies here that get a chance to show up, strut their stuff and shake the boys’ party up a bit. Julia Roberts started-off pretty good as another CIA Agent that Barris meets out there in the field, but soon becomes every other role that we’ve seen her play, time and time again. Sad to see, but I guess I’ve expected it by now, right? Then there is Drew Barrymore as Penny, Barris’ long-lasting girlfriend of sorts and is fine, even though her character is a bit weak here. It isn’t Barrymore’s acting that’s the problem, but it seems like her character was written in a way in which she always tells Barris that he needs to knuckle down, even though he never does so; seems to always stand by his side, even if he just continues to bang other chicks right from underneath her nose; and basically, just never get himself clean and off-the-grind. Actually, one time, it happens right in front of her face, and yet, she doesn’t say anything until five minutes later! Made no sense! All she had to do was a grow a back-bone and leave that bastard! Especially when I’m out there on the market! Like, holla!

Consensus: There seemed to be plenty of promise in the source material of Chuck Barris’ life, but sadly, despite all of the best intentions of Clooney, Charlie Kaufman and the good ensemble, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind just never seems like anything more than just your standard, traditional biopic with lots of CIA-stuff and showbiz-satire thrown into the mix. Other than that, not much else.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

There's always got to be that one last guy who never gets the hint that "the party's over".

There’s always got to be that one, last guy who never gets the hint that “the party’s over”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

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Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

12 Years a Slave (2013)

I thought all slaves walk around to the sounds of James Brown and Rick Ross.

This the true story of one Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who, in 1853, was expecting to be in business with two circus men (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy) looking to make a quick buck with the very talented violinist, but instead, found himself to be drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery, all within a 24-hour time-frame. As soon as he’s shipped off to the South, he meets and interacts with fellow other slaves, as well as other slave owners that range from sympathetic (Benedict Cumberthatch), to downright despicable (Michael Fassbender). But through this all, Solomon realizes that he can’t continue to plead that he’s a free man who can read, write and work as well as any other white folk can, and just has to accept the reality that this is his life from now on and he must face it head-on. A sad reality, but a reality for many African-Americans (and whites as well) out in the South during this time.

Hard to believe that even after all of these years of coming very close to hitting the nail on the head of the slice of history that was slavery, it took a Brit director in the form of Steve McQueen to give us the most definitive, honest, painful and realistic look at it, and then some. We all know that there’s been some hype and some buzz surrounding this movie for quite some time, and while it may have taken me longer than expected to actually get out there to my local indie theater and give it a go, I’m glad I did because this is one of those flicks that many people will be paying attention to for awhile. Not just at the end of this year when Oscar talk is running rampant, but for many, many years to come, as it presents us with a view of slavery that has never been as grueling or as painful as this is.

"You're pretty much my best buddy. Just don't tell anyone. EVER!!"

“You’re pretty much my best buddy. Just don’t tell anyone. EVER!!”

And yet, all of that importance still doesn’t make it the best movie of the year, heck, maybe not even Top 10.

I know, I know, I know. The pitchforks are already seized and the torches have been lit, but please, I urge you to bear with me and see if we can maybe come to an understanding. And if not, I don’t care. I’m a movie critic, dammit! I got opinions, regardless of popular-belief!

The aspect in which I must give this movie credit for, is mainly in the way that it does not back-down a bit from what it wants to show us. Most of that credit does deserve to go to McQueen, as he has proved that, time and time again, he is one of the masters at giving us a downright nasty piece of subject-matter, throwing it out there on screen and allowing us to just watch as it all plays out in front of our eyes, while also having us come to our own conclusions about what he’s showing as well. I respect this decision, not just here, but with his other two flicks (Hunger and Shame) as it shown him as the type of director we all have to look out for as he might be changing the ways movies are made and looked at in today’s world. I know that’s one huge leap I’m taking, but it’s one that I feel confident supporting as the guy really seems like he hit his stride here. And then some…

See, the real reason why this movie works as well as it does is because it gives us the story of slavery that we all think we know by heart by now, and yet, shows us that we still don’t know all that much about it, nor do we actually even realize the REAL harshness behind it. We see Solomon go through all sorts of travesties in his time as a slave: People suddenly get killed, raped, sold, left-for-dead, or are simply never heard from again. But the saddest reality of all that this movie brings up more than a few times is the fact that, for these slaves, it didn’t matter if they lived, died, or how many times they were constantly being sold-off and moved around; because nobody knew about them, nor even cared. Most of these people were already born into slavery as it was, so they already knew that they had no lives outside of picking cotton to live, but even for the ones who were free and then eventually sold into slavery, they still had no certain level of existence in their loved ones’ minds.

These types of slaves couldn’t write to their loved ones, let them know where they were and how they could free them, because usually, it was too much of a risk to take in the first place. Not just by being caught actually trying to transport a letter from Point-A-to-Point-B, but letting your owner know that you are in fact a free man or women,who can read, write and do all sorts of other things that a typical slave doesn’t have the ability to do. That realization could have you either killed, sheltered away from the rest of the public till the end of your days, or threatened to keep your mouth shut and realize that it doesn’t matter what you can or cannot do; you are a slave, and you must work, work, work, and work. And when you can’t work no more, you’re dead.

End. Of. Story.

But see, that’s the strangest idea about this movie, as well as our society itself: We already know this harsh reality, and yet, we still can’t seem to get our heads around the fact that this was America at one point in time. All of these brutal feelings, thoughts, ideas and standards we set for the rest of our society were felt during that time-period, but are still ever so present in today’s day and age, that a movie like this must be seen to inform others about what happened back in those days, and how we’re still getting over it all. Because honestly, let’s face it, nobody will ever be able to live slavery down: Whites, blacks, Jews, Chinese, etc. None of them will be able to live it down, and that’s a mind-set that will probably be forever tattooed in our minds. The fact that slavery, although being abolished for more than 140 years now, will still never, ever go away. Will we ever move on as a society, or we will just continue to remind ourselves of what our nation used to be like?

Questions, questions, questions.

As you can tell, this movie definitely gave me plenty to think about, mainly important stuff, but while all of those ideas ran around in my mind, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that despite it being an unflinching, powerful and important look at slavery, there was something holding me back from thinking it was the end-all, be-all masterpiece of the year. While the true story of Solomon Northup is one that should never go unnoticed, the framing of the story itself just felt too normal to me, as if everything we were seeing, all happened in a sequence, without much rhythm or rhyme. I get that this is most likely how Northup experienced most of these events, but for a movie, it just makes it seem less like a story being told to us, and more like a series of things that are happening. For instance, we get to see Solomon get sold-off to a couple slavers throughout his life-span which, rather than making you feel awfully terrible about the type of predicament he’s in, comes off more episodic, as if it’s a new chapter in the life of Solomon Northup, or how it probably read on paper.

He's also a producer on this. Wonder if he's got a big, rather important role?

He’s also a producer on this. Wonder if he’s got a big, rather important role?

The problem I had with this movie wasn’t that it was told to me in a way that easily understandable and comprehensive so that I understood all that McQueen was doing, at any given moment, it was just that there never really felt like much of an emotional-connection here that would have had me running along with Solomon and everybody else around him for as long as they wanted me to. Granted, I did tear-up a couple of times to the point of where I needed a clean wipe-down, but that was mainly because I was reaching for something to cry about. The movie that McQueen was giving me, wasn’t the nearest thing to “sentimental”, and while I give him credit for not soaping this story up to where it could have been laughable, a hint, or hell, even a smudge of sappiness would have really put me over the edge to where I felt like this movie was the emotional-experience of a lifetime. Instead, I just felt like it was a series of bad things, happening to good people, from bad people, and that was about it.

Oh, and slavery was bad, too. Mustn’t forget about that fact.

That’s why, even though many will disagree with me, this flick feels like it delivers on what it sets out to do, and yet, could have gone deeper and even further into it’s subject story, by creating emotions and feelings. But McQueen doesn’t roll that way, and although I respect his decision to keep it so, I still feel like it would have done him a great deal of good if he had decided to throw something in there for good effect. Maybe a couple more crying-sessions? Or character-development? Maybe? I’m just a dude with a blog, what do I know?!?!

What I do know though, is a great performance when I see one, and there is an exceptional one given by the always-excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor as none other than Mr. Solomon Northup himself. Ejiofor is one of these actors in which, it doesn’t matter how many great pieces of work he does in a year or throughout a whole career, he still will never be a household name. Which is a damn shame because the dude is so freakin’ talented, and has been showing this talent for years-on-end. I think now may be that time where it all changes, and he finally gets the credit he deserves. Now, I am not saying that he’ll win the Oscar this year, however, he will definitely be nominated and a sure-pick because of just what he goes through here.

Every emotion that that Northup feels, every thought that crosses his mind and every pain-staking reality that he is coming to terms with, Ejiofor channels in the most perfect ways. He’s very subtle with his emotions, but when he has to do let loose every once and awhile, you really feel the man’s strife for freedom and getting back to those that he loves the most: His family. You already feel bad for Northup in the beginning, considering that he’s practically tricked into slavery in the harshest way imaginable, but once things get going and he has to make decisions that will alter the rest of his future on Earth, then you realize that this is a human-being, no matter how many slavers around him try to prove to him otherwise. Some decisions he makes for the betterment of those around him, but sometimes, he makes decisions for the betterment of himself and to save his own ass. While any other movie based on this same story would have probably shown him as being a bit of a selfish guy, McQueen shows him with a moral compass in hand, making us realize that he’s just trying to survive, by any means necessary. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and the lines rarely ever get blurred. It’s only when others get in the way, is when they do, and Ejiofor shows this inner-conflict wonderfully, giving himself one of his best performances ever.

And trust me, that’s saying a lot. Don’t believe me? Just check out anything the cat’s ever done in his huge body-of-work. Trust me, you’ll be shocked to see what he was in. Minus this one. Yeah, on the second thought, don’t even bother with that one.

"Wanna go kill something? ANYTHING!?!??"

“Wanna go kill something? ANYTHING!?!??”

But while this is easily Ejifor’s show, he doesn’t necessarily steal it away from everybody else in this heavily-stacked cast. Which was a nice act on his part, considering that everybody you see in this movie, speaking-role or not, is a face that you’re at least familiar with. Actually, let me just get right off of a face that you’re not familiar with, as she is easily the most compelling character you’re going to get in this whole movie that isn’t Northup himself: Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey. If you don’t know that name, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Neither does anybody else, but after this movie, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to forget it as she is amazing in every scene she has as the slave that Northup sticks with the most, and easily runs into the most problems with. Early on, it’s shown that Patsey starts a relationship with a slaver, that is less about rape, than it’s more about her trying to pleasure him and stay alive for as long as she can. While this act may be deemed “dehumanizing” in most eyes, it seems like the only act that she has left to live by, therefore, is giving it all she’s got with every hump she takes. Nyong’o’s eyes are expressive and convey an emotion everytime she shows up on screen, so definitely expect a nomination for her come Oscar-time.

Another person that you may also expect to be hearing whose name pop-up a lot is Michael Fassbender, playing that said philandering-slaver, Edwin Epps. Fassbender’s character is one demented soul; the type of guy you wouldn’t want to be around when he took one too many shots, nor would you want to be owned by him neither. Basically, Fassbender goes crazy in all of the right ways that gives you the idea that this guy is a twisted person you do not want to get on the wrong side with, nor do you actually want to be around. You just want to do the work he’s demanded you to do, no “ifs”, “ands”, or biggity “buts” about it. However, there is some semblance of a soul deep inside of this man’s crazy well-being, and Fassbender allows that play out very rarely, but still in a believable way to where he isn’t so over-the-top, he’s downright laughable. Same can be said for Sarah Paulson, who plays his wife, Mary, in a very chilling, yet understated performance that tells us a lot about this character, without telling us much at all. She’s just that damn good of an actress, one that I wish got more notice.

Others in this movie that are pretty damn hard to watch, mostly by of how despicable and unlikable they are, are performers such as Paul Dano as a worker that feuds with Northup many times, Paul Giamatti as an owner whose trying to make a quick buck as a business salesman who specializes in human-lives, Garret Dillahunt as a rare-case of being known as a white slave, among many of the black faces, but still can’t be trusted, Alfre Woodard as mistress that takes pride in the fact that she bangs her owner and gets treated like a white woman and especially Benedict Cumberthatch who plays one of the first slave owners Northup deals with, and is more sympathetic than the others out there, because even though he realizes is bad, he still does nothing about it. Instead, he just continues on with his business, selling away more and more humans lives, like many others were doing at that same point in time; the same point in time we will never soon forget.

Consensus: Most definitely going to be the one film you must see before the year ends, 12 Years a Slave is a harrowing, uncomfortable, somber and disturbing look inside the life of one man who had a journey much like many others during this time-frame, and yet, still never gave up hope and did all he could do to survive at any costs.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yep, even he's ready for what's to come by the end of the year.

Yep, even he’s ready for what’s to come by the end of the year.

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 Counselor (2013)

Seems like everybody has to be a drug dealer nowadays. I place blame solely on Mr. White, that damn chemist.

A counselor (Michael Fassbender) has the life we would all like to live: Nice job, nice house, nice wife he so frequently pleasures (Penelope Cruz) and all sorts of other glamorous things around him. However, the life we would all like to have, apparently isn’t enough for him, which gets him involved with the drug-trafficking business in hopes of making some extra cash-flow here and there on the side. This is when the counselor gets involved with shady characters like Reiner (Javier Bardem), Westray (Brad Pitt) and perhaps the most suspicious of all, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who seems like she has more up to her sleeve then just banging the hell out of her boyfriend and automobiles. Maybe she has something to do with this drug-dealing business which, as a result, draws further consequences for the counselor and all of his fellow associates involved with this deal that suddenly goes sour.

There’s been a lot said about the Counselor, and most of it is deserved. It is an odd piece of filmmaking, filled with more uneven pieces than actual comprehensive ones, but somehow, it works. See, the film’s marketing really created a shit-storm for this because it seemed like all it promised was non-stop sex, drugs, bullets, murder and DEA agents. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth as this is more or less, another crime-thriller in the vein of last year’s Killing Them Softly: It’s all about pacing, baby. Pacing, pacing, pacing. And if you’re willing to stick by it, even when it does get incredibly strange, then you’ll find yourself happy and confused.

Don’t worry, those feelings are good because it’s abundantly clear that Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy both want you to feel this way.

He really needs something more?

He really needs something more?

Making a mention of Cormac McCarthy is probably the most important aspect in reviewing this movie because while some out there may not be familiar with him before seeing this movie, it’s almost imperative of you to know that his style of writing is not one that mixes so well with movies. Yes, he does have a stylish tongue that he likes to use on all of his characters and he definitely doesn’t have the happiest outlook on the world surrounding him, but because I already knew this, the movie was an easier pill to swallow than it most likely was for some, even in its weirdest moments.

The weird moments that i continue to allude to come at you aplenty here, but the most infamous one that seems to be getting the most attention, is the scene where Cameron Diaz’s character bangs a car. Honestly, this scene is so random, so strange and so out-of-place, that I honestly wondered who the hell saw this in the final-cut and thought it was okay to leave in. I get that it was supposed to be telling us that this character was not your normal female heroine, as in that she definitely likes to get what she wants right away, but it was just too distracting to get by, no matter how understandable the character’s motivations were. The only thing making it easier to get through this scene is Javier Bardem’s crazy faces and narration, which can be even more painful to see and hear, all because you’ll wonder what movie it is that you’re watching after awhile.

Thankfully, right after this scene, the movie gets somewhat back on track and shows us how these characters respond when shit begins to hit the fan. Everything leading up to this half, don’t get me wrong, was good because it focused a lot on dialogue and the setting-up of what would be a very tense final-half; but once this half kicks in, you do realize that the cast has finally taken notice of the type of material they’re given to work with, which is also, oddly enough, when Scott decides to throw some of his artistic-direction in as well. And as odd as it may be to say, this is probably the least “Ridley Scott-ish” movie he’s ever done. Not only is he restrained, but any moments that give him a free-reign to just get nuts with the look of the film, he somehow backs out on. Can’t say I was disappointed with seeing this, considering that the material didn’t seem like it demanded much of an overbearing style to get in the way of it, but I did also wish I saw some more of Ridley Scott in here. Just a shaky-cam bit or two. At least.

But I can’t get on Scott’s case too much because he does do the nice deed of letting the cast and script come together in a way that this flick so desperately needed in order to survive and stay interesting. And what a great coming-together of actors and material, save for one that I’ll get onto in a bit. Leading the cast is Michael Fassbender who, if you don’t know by now, is not just the most handsome mofo in the whole world, but also one talented dude as well that seems to be popping up more and more now for American audiences to get used to. While this won’t make him a household name by any stretch of the imagination, his role as the counselor shows us that he’s able to handle a film like this all to himself, where he practically goes from one character to the next, talking, showing emotion, giving each one of them a different piece of his personality and just creating a person that we can either loathe, or love. But sometimes with this character, it’s at the same time because he isn’t the most moral guy in the world, but then again, he isn’t the most evil one either; he’s just a guy trying to make some few extra bills here and there, in order to make a life for his wife more glamorous than it already is. He’s greedy for sure, but he isn’t a terrible person for that; he’s just a person. Plain and simple.

Fassbender’s best parts in this movie come mainly from the scenes he each has with both Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, which makes it all the more tragic that all three never show up on-screen together at one point. Disappointing, but at least we still get to see them all act their asses off and have fun while doing so. Bardem has that crazy hair going on, but gives his character plenty of personality to where you really like the dude, but due to the company he surrounds himself with, you still never quite know if he can fully be trusted. And as for Pitt, well, needless to say, the guy steals the show everytime he shows up, which is sadly only about 15-minutes out of the whole 2-hour run-time. Pitt not only fills his character with plenty of wistful charm and coolness, but also gives him a slight humane-aspect as well, that somehow has him come off as the most reasonable human-being in the whole movie. The character only seems like he could be written for the screen, and yet, he still comes off like a relateable guy that knows what type of business he’s dealing with, and won’t think twice about who he throws under the bus, once that time eventually comes around.

"Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw."

“Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw.”

The boys in the cast have plenty to play with, which is good, but also disappointing as well, considering that the girls don’t fare quite as well. Penelope Cruz is underused, but sweet, soft and a bit sassy with her performance as the counselor’s girl who doesn’t always nag him about what he’s doing for most of the hours of the day, and is just happy to know that he’s alive, safe and still loves her. Total girl of his dreams, as well as all of ours, indeed.

However, I would have traded a whole flick dedicated wholly to Cruz’s character, if that meant we didn’t get a single scene of Cameron Diaz’s Malkina, all because she is absolutely, positively terrible in this movie and it gets very, very hard to watch after awhile. I remember when this flick first got announced and its cast was shown to us, I remember thinking that Cameron Diaz had herself an Oscar-nominee in the bag because the character of Malkina wasn’t the type we usually associate her with. There’s no inkling whatsoever of a heart, a soul or even the typical charm we usually see come from her performances; she’s actually the total opposite, which is probably the biggest problem with Diaz’s performance in the first place. Not only can she not play-against type to save her life, but she’s so outmatched by everybody else here that it makes you wonder who the hell she beat out for this role to get it. The accent she supposedly has, goes in, and it goes out; everytime she talks about something, she’s supposed to come off as “one bad-ass bitch”, but instead, seems like she’s trying WAY too hard; and if you don’t include her previously-mentioned scene where she humps a car, there’s no arch whatsoever to be found in this character, but it doesn’t hurt as much because you don’t care. I’ll give Diaz some credit for stepping out of her comfort-zone and doing a total 180, but it comes off more like a miscast opportunity, then a respectable one in terms of her career and where it’s going. Can’t say that same thing for the others here, only her.

Consensus: Definitely not the type of film its marketing has been promising, which is why, for better or worse, the Counselor is worth a watch to see what happens when you give a good cast, some worthy material, and just let them do their thing, as odd as that “thing” in question may be at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

This is when it all begins.....

The car is so willing…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Mexican (2001)

Should have just stayed in the States. Hell, they should have just stayed the hell together.

Jerry and Samantha (Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts) are a couple that obviously loves each other, but yet, still go to marriage counseling even though they don’t seem to need it and aren’t even married. Whatever though, that’s just how these two roll and like it, but what Samantha doesn’t like about Jerry’s rolling is that he’s not only a con, but has yet to leave the work of it because he’s trying to protect his ass, as well as hers. However, after originally screwing-up his “last job”, Jerry is given one more opportunity to make good and end it all when he has to travel to Mexico for an antique gun that seems to have more than enough history than Jerry, or his mob boss (Bob Balaban), expect. Since Jerry has to leave out on the job once again, he leaves Samantha all alone and with a whole bunch of worry in the world, especially when she’s kidnapped by a hitman (James Gandolfini) who specializes in bits and pieces of torture, despite him being a bit of a softy once you get to know him.

Movies like this get a bad-rap, as they should. Before this movie had names attached to it all and whatnot, it was originally going to be an independent production, with lesser-known names in the lead roles, and probably a smaller, tighter-budget than we see used here. However, Pitt and Roberts wanted to hang out with one another and so they thought, “What better way to take advantage of our star-power, then to just pick up a small, meaningless script, and run with it, just so we can have some fun and make money while doing so?” That may sound stingy and bratty coming from these two A-listers, but Christ, it’s something that can work for these two in a heartbeat and actually did. Nope, not just because they had the star-power to attract any type of audience-member in the entire world, but because the script was just simple enough that it didn’t matter whether or not the material they were working with was actually good; all that mattered is that people would see it, especially with these two in the lead roles.

Better cherish this moment. It's all you're going to get between these two for quite some time.

Better cherish this moment. It’s all you’re going to get between these two for quite some time.

So overall, no problems for anyone, except for maybe the actual movie-viewers themselves who have to sit through some meaningless junk like this. They’re the ones who end up suffering the most.

Which is exactly why movies like this have me pissed off to high heavens because I know there are plenty other great films, with great scripts, great acting out there, and were certainly released at and around the same time as this, but yet, would never get the same type of exposure as this one because it didn’t have the popular-names in it like this one had. It’s sad to think about, and maybe it’s not worth all of the crying over spilled-milk, but it’s a fact of life and a fact of Hollywood. However, I can’t bitch too much because the flick isn’t that good and is only good for the sole reason that it actually got Gore Verbinski’s career off-and-running, whereas Pitt’s and Roberts’ just stayed the same as its always been, if not gotten better (especially in Pitt’s case).

But see, what makes this flick such a strange star-vehicle, is that it honestly isn’t the type of mainstream flick you’d see get the type of release this did nor would you see it’s two leading-stars in. It’s a weird flick for the sole reason that with just about every new scene or sequence, the tone switches, and it does so in a not-so subtle-way. It begins as a rom-com, with bits and pieces of dark humor thrown in there for good measure; but once the first con is killed off and the threat of death is alive and well, then things take a turn for the worse and get very dark, very soon. Sometimes it will touch the idea of a mobster comedy, with slices of drama thrown in there for good measure, and then in the very next frame, will even go for a darker moment where somebody gets off’d in a very disturbing, harsh, and unfunny way, despite how hard this flick seems to be trying to pull the laughs out of us.

Verbinski is a talented director to make even the slightest bit of dark humor go a long, long way, but at this time, during this movie, he shows problems in keeping the light and blissful tone up, even when it takes detours into dark areas; the kind of dark areas you see explored in Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino movies, but used in a better way because they have the slightest sense of how to make humor and bloody spurts of violence work and seem cohesive. Verbinski begins to lose all focus after awhile and although it continued to interest me, as if I didn’t know what was going to pop-up next, whether it’d been a twist or a tone, I still feel like it was a missed-opportunity on his and everybody else’s part to really allow this flick to get up, breathe, and stretch it’s legs. It just goes on and on and on, for a whole two-hours that I’m usually fine with if you can excite and entertain me, but this one didn’t seem all too concerned with me or that fact of the matter. It just did it’s thing, as if it was only made to collect money from hopeless movie-goers.

Which, sadly, it did. You poor, poor people, falling for the same old traps of Hollywood, time and time again.

Speaking of which, that idea sort of pisses me off, not because it’s as blatant or as obvious as it is 12 years later, but because the actual reason behind this movie being made and advertised as such a big deal, was useless considering that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts rarely are together on-screen here. What would have been shocking, but impressive on this movie’s part if the creators worked out negotiations with the stars beforehand, wrote the script, and kept it the way it was, even throughout filming, but knowing that the script was made way ahead of time and altered only slightly, loses it’s sense of originality. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me because if Michael Mann can do the same thing and get away with nothing but applause and unanimous praise for this decision, then so can Gore Verbinski dammit!

But the problem with this is that the movie has nothing else going for it, other than Pitt and Roberts. Which means that when they aren’t together, doing their thang and keeping us happy to finally see them together on the big-screen, even after all of these long-awaited years; there’s nothing really left worrying or caring about. When they’re together, they’re fun to watch and makes you feel like it would have been a better choice to watch these two play the same characters, in a small-indie where instead of venturing out in search of a gun, they stayed together, worked through their problems, and thought about their future, whether it be one spent together or separated. It would have been way, way more interesting and compelling movie than this one, but that’s all just “fantasy-talk”. The reality is that these two barely show up in this movie together and when they do, it’s the best parts of the movie, despite feeling like a sad-attempt to be on screen together because, well, they have to. It’s the rules of Hollywood, folks.

"Hey, whatever you do, do not put on "Don't Stop Believin', got it?"

“Hey, whatever you do, do not put on “Don’t Stop Believin’, got it?”

Separately, which is about 85% of the damn movie, they’re good if nothing new or groundbreaking that they haven’t already pulled-off before. Pitt’s nutty and goofy as the con that’s a bit too over-his-head, yet still knows what to do when the shit gets hot, and Roberts is a sassy and fire-cracker-of-a-lady, but still has those moments of pure sweetness to her that helps balance the character out in some sense of reality. Some, but not too much. Most of those moments come between the scenes of her and Gandolfini’s character, the hitman with a softer-heart than you might suspect from our first introduction to him.

With the recent, sad news of his passing, watching Gandolfini absolutely have a blast in a role like this and steal the movie away from it’s big stars, really brings a tear to my eye because the guy had so much talent, so much energy, and so much worth watching, despite what crap-fests he may or may not have shown up in. The fact is that this man was a great actor, and will continue to be remembered for years and years to come. Hopefully this movie doesn’t come to many people’s minds when they think of his work, but if it does, it won’t be such a sin because he’s easily the best part about it and gives it a reason worth watching.

Consensus: The Mexican will disappoint many average, movie-goers because Pitt and Roberts are barely together here throughout the whole two-hours and some-odd minutes, but what will disappoint others is that the tone never seems to find itself in one place, make it’s presence known, and stay there for the rest of the movie. It just constantly moves up, down and all around as if the creators knew they had to do something to keep fans happy that two of Hollywood’s most-beloved weren’t on the same-screen together for anymore than 5 minutes each.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

World War Z (2013)

Does every member of the undead have to be hopped-up on coke and speed?

Somehow, with no explanation whatsoever, the undead has suddenly woke up, only to now be blood-thirsty and biting every living human-being with their virus that spreads it on. Not only is it happening in America, but everywhere else all-over-the-globe as well and in the middle of it all is Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former United Nations member who gets called back to the line of duty in hopes to find a cure and beat this thing. Problem is, “the thing” that I’m referring to just so happens to be deadly, have little to no remorse, and as quick as lightning. So yeah, they’re pretty hard to get away from or kill.

Even though I can’t say I’m familiar with the Max Brooks novel, I do know all about the hooplah and controversy surrounding how this movie apparently only shares the same title, and that’s it. But that’s coming from a literary-side, if you look at it from a movie-side, you can already tell that this movie was landed in some hot water from the get-go as the ending had to be re-written, Pitt wasn’t talking to director Marc Forster, despite actually landing him the job in the first place, actual weapons were used instead of props, and a whole slew of other budget/editing problems as well. Basically, this movie was doomed from the start and it didn’t seem like anything it tried to pull, no matter how positive or cool; it still wasn’t going to make people happy or forget “what could have been”. Thankfully, the result isn’t as piss-poor as it may have seemed to be, but I still can’t say I’m typing this up with a smile on my face. More of a face of slick determination to say whatever the hell it is that I want to say.

Come to think of it, that’s my face for every review. Hm.

Even in the face of fear and death, Brad still finds a way to not only look sexy, but heroic as well. Whatta man.

Even in the face of fear and death, Brad still finds a way to not only look sexy, but heroic as well. Whatta man.

What I do have to give this movie some credit for is at least keeping the tension and suspense moving when it needed to. Forster has never been the type of director to really blow me away with anything that he’s brought to the big-screen, but he did a nice job at moving this story along at a fine pace, especially when he needed to do it in order to slide over the weaker parts of the flick, like story, or character-development, or any sense of meaning. That said, every set-piece that Forster gives us here is worth a watch, especially if you like big, action-packed set-pieces where zombies are flying-high, eating, and attacking human-beings, and the idea of having no idea what type of carnage you are going to see next. With that carnage, Forster is able to freak us out just enough to give us the willies, but if it weren’t PG-13, then we probably would have been more disturbed and messed-up.

However, seeing as this is a flick that wants to appeal to the wider-audience of zombie fans out there (and lord knows there’s plenty of them nowadays), you need to take in the fact that you’re not going to see huge loads of in-your-face blood, violence, and gore. Instead, you’re most likely going to see a couple of slides of blood on Pitt’s hands/t-shirt, violence that’s shown off-screen but heard, and moments where crucial parts of the body are hacked-off, but with barely any actual showing of the limbs or nastiness involved whatsoever.

It’s just so damn tame and feels like the movie was just trying too hard to get away with a PG-13 rating, and not even have the balls to go one step further and make it R. Honestly, in a day and age where Hershel’s getting his leg cut-off on television once a week, you’d think that movies would try to do the same, if not more considering they have more of freedom, but nope. They’re fine with just having a zombie movie without any close-ups on the freaky-looking zombies, or even giving us anything more than just a bunch of implied-bits of violence. That’s it. And trust me, I’m not some gore-thirsty freak that needs to see people getting cut up limb-by-limb, in full detail, but I would like to see more when you have a zombie flick, about people getting eaten alive and/or being beaten, just so they too can eat others alive. Just typing that wigs me out a bit, and that’s a weakness on my part, as well as many other’s, that this flick could have definitely capitalized on, had they not pussy-footed around it.

Also, as tense as this movie may be, the slower-parts do take over and try to give you some point of levity to these characters and the situation they are caught in, but it does not work. That’s not because the script blows or the characters blow, it’s just that the movie is so used to being big, loud, and CGI-packed, that when it comes to giving us the smaller, quieter moments that would make this more compelling and emotional; it drops the ball completely. Nobody here you really care for enough to where you want to see them survive, nor do they really make you feel like you could spend the end-of-the-world with them, and never got bored either. Every character here is just boring, dull, and uninteresting, and whenever the flick seems to want to get away from the killing and the human-flesh eating, there’s nothing else for it to go back to unless it wants to bore us to death. And when it does go back there, it does bore us to death. That much is true.

Yup, still sexy and heroic in the face of fear and death.

Yup, still sexy and heroic in the face of fear and death.

But I have to give Brad Pitt some amount of credit here because the dude knows what type of movie he’s in, and gives his heart and soul to making it work, especially with his performance as Gerry Lane. Pitt is in full-on, action-mode where he does a lot of running, hitting, shouting, commanding, and heavy-set staring, and does it all well with just the right amount of charm and likability to harvest our emotions over once the going gets going. Still though, the character doesn’t really have much else to him other than being nothing more than just an everyday dude, that comes up big when the people around him need him to the most. There is some form of gravitas given to this character because he’s played by Pitt, but not much else that you couldn’t seen done by any other actor on the face of the planet, which wouldn’t be a complaint for an actor in a role like this; but this is Tyler Durden we are talking about here! The dude should always have roles made for him, and put to perfection by him. Nothing more needs to be said on that.

Everybody else in this movie that shows up do what they can with the script, but as I said before: the movie doesn’t seem to give a shit about them, what they represent, or what they’re even trying to say, which is a total bummer because a movie like this could have really done something more than just being another dumb, loud, and action-packed summer flick. It could have put some more insight and humanity into the situation we had at hand here, but instead, appeals to the lowest common-denominator, which is all about big and angry things that go “boom”, “bang”, and “whack”. Whoever the members of the denominator are, will most likely be pleased with what they see here, but for the others who want a bit more with their zombies; it’s a huge bummer, if not as terrible as it looked right from the start. And yes, it did look THAT terrible.

Consensus: Considering it is the summer, and loud, big, action-packed movies like World War Z are common to see around and about, it should come as to no surprise to anyone that it is thrilling and fun at times, while also stupid, unengaging, and unoriginal by the same token. Expect nothing more but an alright time, and you’ll go home happy, if not needing more of your gore-fix.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

If that isn't the world's largest human/non-human pyramid, then I don't know what is!

If that isn’t the world’s largest human/non-human pyramid, then I don’t know what is!

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

God, I wish I was as cool as these guys. I seriously do.

Dapper Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a man of action. Less than 24 hours into his parole from a New Jersey penitentiary, the wry, charismatic thief is already rolling out his next plan. Following three rules – don’t hurt anybody, don’t steal from anyone who doesn’t deserve it and play the game like you’ve got nothing to lose – Danny orchestrates the most sophisticated, elaborate casino heist in history. This is where the fun begins in Ocean’s eyes, and you know what? His eyes do not deceive him a single-bit.

Heist flicks are and have always been a favorite of mine, and to feature a cast with the likes of Clooney, Damon, Cheadle, Pitt, Mac, Reiner, and even Affleck (Casey, that is), you know I was even more excited because it seemed like the perfect-opportunity for a bunch of guys to just pal-around, have a good time, and pull-off some neat-o heists. However, just to make sure that this isn’t one, long bro-sesh from start-to-finish, we got Steven Soderbergh at the helm to keep everything under control and honestly, what better man to do that then the guy who has made one of the greatest heist/crime flicks of all-time, Out of Sight? Well, you could probably argue Tarantino or Scorsese, or plenty of others, but if you were to really get down to the nitty-gritty of it, I think you would be pretty damn fine with having Soderbergh behind it all, because I definitely was.

Having a guy like Steven Soderbergh doing your film means one thing and one thing only: it’s going to have a crap-load of style. And that’s not really a bad thing at all, because with a generic and relatively conventional story like this, you need that to add more pizzazz and spice to the whole-product, even though it’s obviously apparent that’s what Soderbergh is relying on the most. However, it didn’t get in the way of material and you can’t help but just love the fact that Soderbergh gives the flick a more-polished look than you are used to seeing with heists, but also realize that it makes the setting it takes place-in, all the more beautiful and smoother in it’s own, coolio way. Soderbergh is the man of being cool, looking cool, and filming cool, and he was definitely the perfect-choice for material like this.

Yes, that is Carl Reiner right next to Bernie Mac.

Yes, that is Carl Reiner right next to Bernie Mac. Somewhere, the comedic-gods are smiling.

There’s also a great-deal of fun and entertainment that Soderbergh brings to this flick and it’s not just all about the style, either, it’s more about the actual heist itself, and keeping you constantly wondering, guessing, and figuring-out how it’s all going to play-out in your mind and on-screen. Soderbergh definitely does a little-job of trickery here and there with this heist and the twists and turns it takes, but that just adds more to the overall enjoyment of what we all see and it’s perfect since everything until then, was all just one, big lead-up to what was going to go down. We see bits and pieces of how this heist is going to go down, but not enough, so that when the heist does go through and we see everything that goes-down, we’re not only surprised, but pretty gripped to our seat, as you don’t really know how it’s going to turn-out for this cats in the end. Sooderbergh has as much fun with this as his cast does, but by doing-so, he allows us to just revel in his enjoyment in making the material and it’s no surprise that the guy came-back for 2 more of these flicks. However, more on them later as the reviews keep on coming, so just you wait DTMMR readers/follows out there!

Topping-off this cake of coolness, with a sweet, little cherry on-top is the cast that is filled to the brim with the coolest mofo’s on the planet, and some, you have yet to even know are cool just yet. George Clooney is the brains behind the whole operation as Danny Ocean and is cool, lean, and suave, exactly as we know and love him to be. Clooney sort of takes the background in this flick and allows the rest of his cast to show-off and do their thing, but whenever he gets a chance to show why he’s so cool, he does it with perfection. Damn that George Clooney. Playing the “other” brains behind the operation is Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan, a dude that knows it all, can walk the walk, and talk the talk. Pitt’s good at playing cool and smart, we all know him for that, and we all love him for that. ‘Nuff said about that. Matt Damon is the new-blood of the gang and does a great-job at playing up that cocky-rookie look to him, while also being able to put-up, when shut-up time is right there, in front of his face. Not the most memorable performance from Damon but the guy sure as hell can act and make any role, seem like the perfect-fit for him.

Playing the opposite-side of these fast-cats is Andy Garcia, aka, the guy who owns the casino that they are robbing, Terry Benedict. Garcia is a tough-guy that you really feel like can’t be out-smarted, no matter who the person/people doing the out-smarting are. Garcia’s got a lot of intimidating-looks in those eyes and you never quite know if he’s going to pull-off the win in the end, or just give it to Ocean’s dudes. Once again, it’s a tense-ride to the finish that you never quite know where it’s going to end-up or how, for that matter. Julia Roberts is fine as Benedict’s gal/Ocean’s ex-gal, but does her usual, “I’m-Julia-Roberts-And-My-Shit-Don’t-Stink” act that some love her for, some hate her for, and some are just tired and bored of her for playing so much. Me, I linger somewhere around the latter and as juicy and spicy as the scenes with Clooney may be, her character is still Julia Roberts, playing Julia Roberts.

Everybody else in this cast is pretty damn fine as you’ll see a crap-load of familiar faces pop-up, do their thing, and be done with it and continue onto the road. Seriously, everybody is good except for Don Cheadle as Basher, who is supposed to be channeling this wry, British-accent that goes in-and-out like a you know what, and is even more distracting to this character, because every time he’s talking, it just sounds like Don Cheadle trying hard to sound British. And yes, Cheadle does have a very distinctive voice that is easy to point-out as to when it’s real, when it’s being fake, and when it’s trying to be British. Oh well, I guess this cat needed to have one bad performance to throw in there for his whole filmography. Bastard.

Arms crossed = cool

Arms crossed = cool

As fun and exciting as this flick may be, you really do just end the film, happy as a fly, and continue on with your day as if nothing happened. In a way, that’s not such a terrible thing to have in life, considering it’s a happy-thought, but in other ways, it’s a bit of a disappointment  considering the cast and crew that was on-display here. Yes, it’s fun, exciting, and entertaining for the 2 hours it’s alive and well on the big-screen, but other than that, you don’t have much else to really hold you over or make you think of anything afterwards either. I don’t know, maybe I was just expecting a bit too much more than I was given, but I definitely feel like there should have been more for me to seize-onto at the end, no matter how conventional or obvious it was trying to be.

Consensus: Ocean’s Eleven is no game-changer in terms of heist movies, but is still entertaining, fun, exciting, well-acted, and just really, really cool, almost to the point of where you feel cool for watching it but you soon realize, that you’re just a poor college student who drives a 2005 Scion, and has about $20 in your wallet as you speak. Yeah, I’m speaking from my point-of-view, but if only I wasn’t. If only dreams really could come true, after all.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Can grow a way better porn 'stache than Ben. Suck it bigger brothers out there!

Can grow a way better porn ‘stache than Ben. Suck it, Big Ben!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.

Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.

The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.

There's Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

There’s Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.

It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!

Somehow, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

In a way, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.

What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!

You'd still take him to bed. Don't even bother fibbing.

You’d still take him to bed. Don’t even bother fibbing.

Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.

Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.

Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Killing Them Softly (2012)

http://www.anomalousmaterial.com/movies/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/killing-them-softly-movie-poster-2-472x700.jpgRoberta Flack is so ironic.

Brad Pitt stars as mob hitman Jackie Cogan, who is hired to hunt down three low-level criminals (Ben Mendelshon and Scoot McNairy) who robbed a mob-protected poker game, that just so happened to be run by a top mob-boss (Ray Liotta).

I think it’s pretty clear by now that this is not the typical, shoot ‘em up action-thriller everybody, as well as the trailers/posters/TV ads have all been making it out to be. It’s a thriller, that uses the suspense and actual thrilling-element of this movie in talks, discussions, and most importantly, it’s pacing. If you go into this movie expecting that, you’re going to have a hell of a time, but if you don’t, you’re going to find yourself dozing off quite a few times and wondering just when the hell somebody’s going to get their head blown-off. Trust me, it happens but you got to have some patience. Actually, quoting a Guns N Roses song would have probably been a bit better, but hey, that’s just me.

Another justice I think you would be doing this movie before-hand, is seeing writer/director’s Andrew Dominik‘s last-movie that came out a couple of years back called The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, because with that movie, you’re expecting a whole bunch of show-downs, people getting lassoed by bandits, people drinking whiskey, hookers flinging themselves around beds like pillows, and many, many trips to the local saloons. However, like this one, that movie depended more on it’s conversations between characters to really build things up and get to that point of where you actually get to see heads blown-off and feel like you just witnessed something totally, and completely awesome. Once again, you’ve got to have patience and see Dominik’s last-movie to really understand just what the hell to expect. I did both, and I feel great.

What makes this movie so entertaining is that right from the start, you know that it’s going to be full of tension and suspense but how the film goes about it is something that really caught me by surprise. Instead of going right for it, starting off with the heist and getting-on with the simple plot at-hand, we get back story  we get character development, and we actually get time to know what type of people/atmosphere we’re dealing with, and whether or not it’s exactly what we expected in the first-place. Hell, if you think this movie is going to be your typical, gangster shoot ‘em up-like thriller, then you’re going to be dumbfounded once you actually realize that it’s already been 25 minutes into the movie, and we have yet to actually see the lead-character of the show.

And speaking of that lead-character of the show, Brad Pitt does an amazing job as the ruthless and toothless hitman known as Jackie Cogan. What makes Pitt so damn great and compelling in these types of roles that he chooses that are like Cogan, is that he looks and feels like this guy who just goes out there, wants whatever type of bloodshed he can get for money, and take it anyway he can, but at the same time, still be the smartest guy in the room that knows more than you may think. Because of this aspect to his character, we are always on-edge watching Pitt in every single scene he’s given because you know he has composure, you know he can play it cool, and you know that he’s not a slouch when it comes to getting the job done the right way, but you also never quite know just when the hell the switch is going to flip, and he’s going to take over anything and everything that stands in his way. Pitt is great with these types of roles and watching him play a character that was one-step ahead of everybody else around him, was just as fun to watch him, as much as it was for him to actually portray it.

Make no means though, because this is still Dominik’s movie and he still never lets you forget about it. His last movie felt like he was trying a bit too hard to go for that Malick look and feel, but here, the only type of style that I think he comes close to is the one of Stanley Kubrick, and that’s just me reaching for the stars. There’s no real style that this guy portrays and even though he may not have his own yet to where I can look at a frame or two and declare, “That, my friends, is an Andrew Dominik picture”, there is still something about this guy and the way he paces his movie’s and their stories to where he can do real-damage.

But then again, there were also these times where I felt like the guy was trying a bit too hard to be like his main character Cogan: one-step ahead of everybody else. In a way, that’s not a bad thing because it keeps us, the viewer on our toes as to what to expect next, but it also makes this movie seem like it’s biting-off more than it could possibly chew. For instance, the whole political-message is very bothersome and wasn’t as heavy-hitting as I thought, except until the very-end and everybody’s starting to spout-out some form of political exposition about how the world works, how our economy does what it does best (ruin lives, sorry too political), and how people are able to make a living (ruin lives, once again, too political). I get it, the story here of Cogan having to come in and take care of a mistake that the mob made is the mob’s own-form of capitalism, but that doesn’t mean in every single, freakin’ scene of the movie where there is a radio/TV present, that we have to hear the voices or see the faces of Obama, McCain, or George Bush. It doesn’t get that annoying, until you actually focus on it and realize that maybe Dominik should have just stayed with all of the conversations, by building-up a message and great deal of suspense, up until we get the bloody-violence, in that way and then we would have had a more clearer, understandable thriller that’s nothing but.

Then, when you actually do think about the bloody-violence, then you can’t think of anything else except for how freakin’ awesome it is. Just like in Jesse James, the violence doesn’t take over the whole story and make you feel as if you’re watching an action-epic of the highest-order, but only shows-up in short spurts in the most violent, most disturbing, and most realistic-way possible. A couple of scenes that come to my mind is one that concerns a slow-mo, build-up of a hit conducted by Cogan, and another scene where Ray Liotta gets his ass beat to a bloody pulp. The reason why it sticks-out so clear in my mind is because it’s not like what you expect from a movie like this: the guy yells, screams, and pleads for his life just like you or I would, and what’s so shocking and disturbing about this, is that the guy is a mobster-like character that shouldn’t feel pain, be scared, or even cry like a little girl. It’s bloody, ultra-violent, and very realistic in the way it portrays the pain felt for one character, and the pain we the audience feel when we watch a guy get the ever loving shit kicked-out of him. Gawd, I miss that feeling.

Speaking of Ray Liotta, this is probably the best piece of work he has done in the past-decade (that’s if we’re including Tommy Vercetti) and just goes to show you that the guy may be a mean-old, nasty mobster-dude that doesn’t take shit from anybody, but also is pretty human, too once you think about it. However, everybody else is pretty damn good too, to where you almost feel like the show can’t be his, or anybody else’s for that matter. Richard Jenkins shows up as the corporate handler who is hired to meet and talk “business” with Jackie, and does a great-job playing the ultimate square, but also a guy you sort of feel for since he is totally out of his element in terms of what there is for him to do, how, and why. Scott McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn play the two crooks that get a bit too hot-headed after the whole robbery and are both very different in their portrayals, but also seem like the two, perfect guys to come together on something like this that could really seem to go either way. Especially Mendelsohn who with this, Animal Kingdom, and The Dark Knight Rises, is playing the corrupted, evil-as-hell characters that we all see and hate in these types of movies, but yet, can’t keep our eyes off of, either.

The one that really steals the show out of the whole cast and may, just MAY, have a slight-bit chance of getting himself nominated for an Oscar this year is James Gandolfini as the old mobster that Cogan brings back to help him out on the dilemma he has at-hand. From the first-shot, you think that this is going to be Gandolfini playing, surprise, once again another Tony Soprano-like mobster, but this is the farthest thing from it. Yeah, he’s still ruthless, mean, and nasty as hell, but he also has a bit of a drinking-problem that escalates into us seeing underneath a convention we already know about in so many similar movies like this: the mobster. Like Liotta, Gandolfini’s portrayal of a mobster is subtle with his angry-emotions, but not so subtle with his sad ones, neither, and this is what culminates into the two best scenes of the whole movie and makes you feel like Gandolfini really needs to come back and bring-out quality performances like these, once again. Hell, I wouldn’t have even minded watching a whole movie where it’s just him and Pitt, shooting the shit about life, money, and crime, the way two old mobsters like to do it, and with the the two scenes of that I got here, I was happy.

Consensus: Going into this movie and expecting exactly what you see in the ads for this movie (countless shootings, crime, and cool walking scenes), then you’re going to be terribly disappointed with what the final-product of Killing Them Softly truly is: a slow-burning, tension-filled thriller that relies more on the performances, than the actual-violence that takes place itself, no matter how bloody or gruesome it is to watch.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

If only Clint Eastwood was Jesse James, then I think the story would have been different.

As the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James (Brad Pitt) plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money – and the glory – riding on his capture. However, his plans are all interrupted once he becomes entangled in a friendship with his admirer Robert Ford (Casey Affleck).

It’s very bold to have the climax of your film in the title, no matter how true it is, but I was still so surprised to see that James does in-fact actually die in the end. Maybe, just maybe I didn’t pay enough attention in history class, but for some reason, I didn’t believe that he was going to get killed at the end. Oh, I guess that was a spoiler.

This was the second flick from Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik and it’s pretty obvious where he gets his inspiration of movie-making from, and that is Mr. Terrence Malick. Honestly, if I had no idea who the director was before-hand, I would have easily gone with Malick because every single little detail about this film is so perfect and beautiful that you really can’t take your eyes off of it one bit and I know that’s said about a lot of films but that is really meant here. Dominik focuses the camera on these long, sweeping shots of beautiful farmland where it almost feels like you’re there in the 1880′s with Jesse James and Robert Ford. Every shot is handled carefully, with just the right amount light and color added to it, to get you involved with the stark wilderness that these characters surround themselves with. There is just so much to look at here that you almost forget to pay attention to the story that’s at-hand, which is a total bummer, because this story can really grab you if you give it the attention that it deserves.

What I liked about Dominik, was that aside from his beautiful art direction, he was able to make a genuinely tense and unpredictable story out of a fact-based history lesson, and always being able to surprise us. Not everything about this story that Dominik tells us is true and he probably takes some liberties here and there, I definitely know that, but everything before the actual “assassination” itself, kept me on the edge of my seat and I like how Dominik was able to do that with his deliberate slow pacing. Yeah, this film is one hell of a slow-burner for sure, but it works as it develops each and every character in this story more and more, and also keeps you guessing just when the hell Jesse James is going to show-up, or better yet, when the hell he is going to get killed. May sound like a complaint but it’s not, mainly because Dominik is able to take his time with the story.

Anybody expecting a Sergio Leone-type Western, where it’s just constant gun-battles, witty one-lines, and a whole bunch of spaghetti style art thrown at the wall here, are really going to be in for a big surprise with this film, but have no fear, it still does have enough violence to hold anyone over. Actually, whenever the violence did rarely show-up on the screen, it felt deserved and made sense to the story but also felt realistic in a way that these people are actually dying from real-life bullets and whatnot. I don’t want to dive any farther into the violence and murders that go down in this flick, but I just want to say that they feel realistic and are handled well without being over-exploitative of it’s dark, violent side.

If there was a certain aspect to this flick that seemed to have bothered me the most here, was that it was over 2 hours and 40 minutes and it didn’t need to be that way. See, the first and last act are all dedicated to just James and Ford being around one another but in between all of that is a whole bunch of other characters that were apart of James’ gang that don’t really seem all that needed for this story to work, but are left in there just to add some character development. Usually, I would give some points to any director who can do this and do it as well as Dominik is able to do here, but it takes away from the story and really had me annoyed since those scenes with Ford and James can get so damn tense. Most of the characters were interesting enough to hold my interest, but I just sort of wanted to get down to the real business at-hand here.

Brad Pitt as Jesse James is a perfect bit of casting because Pitt is able to play up all of the sides of him that he has as the iconic figure. Every time James shows up in the story, whether or not to start some trouble or “go on a walk”, it’s always tense and unpredictable to the point of where you don’t know what this character is going to do next. From everything I heard and read about, James was one violent son of a bitch and one that couldn’t be contained because of his wits and determination for violence when needed. This is an idea that Pitt plays up perfectly, giving us a very iconic figure to begin with but also show something else that lies deep down inside of him. We get to see a lot of scenes where James lays out all of his emotions and how painful he feels with the life that he’s living and it’s not only an easy way to get us to care about him even though he’s killed over 17 people in his life, but also a great way to show some insight into an iconic figure that so many people feel like they know.

Pitt’s great, but Casey Affleck is just about as perfect playing opposite of him, as Robert Ford. Affleck plays the little boy-version of Jesse James, as he is constantly made fun of by his family and treated like he doesn’t know shit about shooting guns and robbing banks/trains. Eventually, this guy starts to show more emotions rather than this very shy and awkward young kid that just wants to be “one of the guys”, and the way Affleck plays it all up works perfectly for this very easy, yet hard to sympathize with character.

You also begin to realize that Ford is a character that seems like he tries so hard to want to be like James, that in the end, even when he has done all of the dirty work he could do to get rid of him, he still can’t reach the type of fame that his predecessor once, and still has. It’s a sad idea that makes you think more about Ford and realize just how strong of an actor Affleck is. This character is complex and Affleck shows that and when it’s just him on-screen, he’s amazing but when it’s just him and James messing around with one another, then it just gets even better. Surprised that this Ford dude didn’t end up killing everybody in sight by how much he got picked on. Poor Affleck. At least you got the Oscar nomination over Pitt. Suck on that Jesse!

As for the rest of the star-studded cast, they’re all pretty good too even though a lot of their roles/characters are featured more than they needed to be. Jeremy Renner is vicious and unforgiving as Wood Hite, the cousin to Jesse James; Paul Schneider is awesome as the womanizing crook that every lady seems to fall for; Sam Rockwell has a lot of fun as Ford’s big bro, Charley, but also shows a dark side to him as well by the end; and Sam Shepard is pretty freakin’ awesome as Frank James, and does an outstanding job with the short amount of time he actually gets on-screen. The ladies in this flick are sort of put on the back-burner but both Mary-Louise Parker and Zooey Deschanel do splendid jobs with their roles, even though I felt like they could have had more input into this story. Then again, I just wanted to see a mono-e-mono battle between Ford and James.

Consensus: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford may run on very, very long but features some of the most beautiful images caught on film with its detailed direction from Andrew Dominik, insightful story about these larger-than-life iconic figures, and a bunch of superb performances from everybody involved, especially Casey Affleck in a way you have never seen him before.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

True Romance (1993)

Don’t eff with the comic book nerds.

The film tells the story of a novice prostitute Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) and the adventure with her lover, comic book store clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater). When Clarence kills Alabama’s pimp (Gary Oldman), the newlyweds ride off into the sunset — with $5 million worth of cocaine in a suitcase and the police and the mob on their trail.

Since director Tony Scott is in such a slump nowadays, I honestly think he should just go back to having Tarantino write his scripts because he gave him two of the best films of his career. Aside from ‘Crimson Tide’, this is the other one.

The real selling point of this flick is that it’s written by Tarantino himself, and as everybody already knows, this guy is a freakin’ original genius. Tarantino is able to take any situation and make it go from normal to completley insane in about a matter of 5 seconds and it will give you this bad-ass feeling that you could not expect. The story is a pretty familiar but there are people getting killed at every second that you wouldn’t expect, twists and turns, random pop-culture references that somehow fit into the story, and just a whole bunch of other cool moments in this flick that make it ten times more the awesome thrill ride that it is known as today.

My complaint with this script is that even though it is by Tarantino, this is definitely not his best work by any means. Yes, he does get to use all of his trade-marks like funny one-liners, pop-culture references, and tense stand-offs but for some reason it’s not as edgy as you would expect. There was just something that felt like it should have really hit me harder and stuck with me more but instead it just ended up entertaining me and left me with a pretty happy mood. I don’t think Tarantino had full control over his story and that’s why the story may come off as a little more lame than his usual stuff, but it still at least works in a rather medium way.

Director Tony Scott also adds a bunch of fun to this flick by giving it this straight-forward, energetic thrill ride that isn’t filmed with that annoying shaky-came he can’t ever seem to get his hands off of nowadays. Scott is a good director when he’s got good source material, which he definitely has here, and even though it’s not drenched in style like you would expect from him, it still has a fast-paced to it that keeps the story going and the bullets flying.

However, what really had me going for this flick was its whole ensemble cast that is filled with just about every star from the early 90′s. Christian Slater is pretty good as Clarence, a guy that may seem a little strange but after awhile you start to believe and actually hope he comes out of all of this shit alive. Patricia Arquette is also a lot of fun to watch as Alabama, and you can totally feel like this one girl could actually fall in love with this type of dude. Their romance is something you actually care about because we spend enough time to see them together, and to see them be happy with one another so that when they go on this road trip and their lives are in danger, we care not only about them but their relationship as well. Sounds pretty sappy, I know, but it’s something that surprisingly worked here.

The rest of the cast is freakin’ great too, considering that just about every big star this flick had to show is in here for about 5-10 minutes each but totally kick-ass for the time they have. Dennis Hopper is great here as Clarence’s dad, in a non-psychotic role; Val Kilmer is here as “The King” but is still funny and cool, considering we barely see him; Gary Oldman is hilarious and menacing as Drexl, the white boy pimp with dreadlocks; Brad Pitt is also here as our pot-smoking friend, Floyd, and probably one of the best performances of his career, and I am willing to go toe-to-toe with whoever thinks otherwise; and Christopher Walken shows up for about 7 minutes but gives the film’s best scene where its just him and Hopper talking shit to one another and once again, it’s always Walken who steals the show at the end of the day and I can’t say that I expected anything else. Aside from these peeps I already mentioned there are plenty of other familiar faces here such as Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport, and Bronson Pinchot among others. Basically, it’s one of the better casts for a flick that I’ve seen and they all do excellent jobs with what they are given.

Consensus: It may not be Tarantino’s best script ever written, but it still has a great energy to it, with crazy performances from the ensemble cast, and some really kick-ass moments that make this film a fun watch if not as good as you would expect from these Scott and Tarantino working together.

8/10=Matinee!!

Megamind (2010)

A big-blue testicle vs. Brad Pitt.

A big-brained and blue super-villain named Megamind (Will Ferrell) finally beats his big-time rival, Metro Man (Brad Pitt). He soon then faces an existential crisis of sorts after he finds out that having no superhero at all to stop him from evil-wrong doings, is actually pretty boring. So, he creates a new enemy (Jonah Hill) who seeks to destroy the world, forcing Megamind to play the hero role for once in his life.

After checking out ‘Despicable Me’ for the first time earlier this year, basically everybody started comparing that to this film, making me want to see it even more. So now that I’ve seen it, all yo guys can shut yo mouths!

What really works with this film is that it touches just about every single plot-line, cliche, and convention that comes with a superhero comic-book story. You got everything from the smart villain, to the goofy-looking costumes, and whole lot more other elements that are not left untouched and that’s where the real fun of this film comes from. The film sort of pokes fun at everything we know of these superhero stories and twist them around in their own cool and original ways to be their own story.

The film is funny, but not in the way that you would expect from an animated-flick rated PG, it’s actually pretty adult-like. The humor is pretty witty with a lot of in-jokes, pop cultural references, but even enough jokes for kids that they will understand and laugh at but not as much as the parents. I actually found myself laughing quite a bit with this flick because the whole idea was cool right from the beginning, but how the film itself just tops on that with constant references, originality, and adult-like humor is what really made it work.

There is also a lot to look at here because the flick is beautiful and gets even better when the action is there too. The colors are very bright and vibrant but how colors will come and go in the middle of one action sequence is pretty cool. The music here is also pretty fun with a lot of old-school classics from AC/DC, ELO, Guns N Roses, Michael Jackson, and whole lot more to give this film the extra kick of fun it has.

My problem with this film is that the story is sort of what we always see in any superhero film, but when the film itself starts to dive right into those conventions it’s a little bit more disappointing. This film practically makes fun of these conventions so much that when it starts to hit into them by the end, it kind of left me bummed. The laughs also started to come less and less which had me bummed even more.

Will Ferrell is a lot of fun as Megamind because his character is not just evil, but he’s also very sensitive and likable which this film really worked well on with that character; Tina Fey is smart, funny, feisty, and a little sexy as Roxanne Ritchi, aka Lois Lane; David Cross is also very funny as Minion, Megamind’s second-man/thing-in-command; and Brad Pitt is awesome as Metro Man, who is the perfect combination of Elvis, Jesus, and Superman all rolled up into one hunk.

Jonah Hill is also pretty fun as Tighten but the problem with this character is that he is almost exactly like Syndrome from ‘The Incredibles’. Think about it for a second: both used to be good guys, they were both twisted into being villains by the good guys, and they both go insane-o in the end. You don’t realize this right from the get-go but once you start to think about it because it’s all the same disappointing as the ending itself.

Consensus: It may lose some steam by the end but Megamind is still a whole lot of fun due to its humor that pokes fun at all of the conventions of the superhero genre, it’s voices that are obviously having a ball, and the constant energy that this film keeps throughout the whole flick.

7/10=Rental!!

The Tree of Life (2011)

Beats me what this is even about, but damn does it look pretty!

Growing up in the Midwest with two brothers, Jack has always been torn between his mother (Jessica Chastain)’s guidance to approach everything he encounters with an open heart and his father (Brad Pitt)’s advice to look after his own interests. Now, Jack (played in an older age by Sean Penn) must find a way to regain purpose and perspective.

That synopsis there is sort of what I think this flick is about because within the first 240 minutes we get the creation of the universe, jelly fishes swimming all over the ocean, and dinosaurs. Yes, you heard me right, I said dinosaurs but after that then it gets normal.

Going into this flick, knowing that it was Terrence Malick not only directing but writing as well, I was going in expecting two things: 1. a good story and 2. beautiful visuals. For numero uno, I kind of got that but for number two, I definitely got that.

After seeing only two films from Malick so far (‘The Thin Red Line’, ‘The New World’) I knew that this was going to be just another one of his flicks that just wreaks in beauty with just about every shot, and he did not let me down. Every single shot here is just another piece of beauty that gets added to the collection of all of his other flicks and even with the smallest amount of light in one shot, you can still feel like you haven’t seen the sun like this quite before. The thing with a lot of these shots though, is that you seen realize that Malick is deliberately taking certain shots to put us all in the mind of Jack as a young boy and we see what he sees, feels what he feels, and at least try to understand what he’s trying to understand. It also helps that Malick shot on some of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in quite some time and I honestly want to know just where he found caves that look like the ones he was filming here. No matter what though, Malick is perfect when it comes to creating beautiful visuals for a flick and even when it comes to him getting towards using CGI, it almost looks perfectly real. Hell, a lot more real than most of these big-budget action block-busters that come out every year. That’s a true testament to the directing style of Terrence Malick.

When it comes to the story, well, let’s just say things are a little bit weird. As I’ve already mentioned before, the first 40 minutes are totally confusing as we see this present-day story that goes back to the past, and then goes all the way back to the creation of the universe filled with all sorts of random life-forms. It was a little confusing at first but still stunning to watch none the less however when the actual story about this young boy and his family came in, that’s when the film really did wonders.

The whole story about this little kid and how he sees the world through two different life-styles actually made me not only feel a lot for his story but my own as well. Take it for granted though, I wasn’t born in the 50′s and my parents are both kind of the same in terms of parenting, which isn’t a bad thing in any way because come on, they let me watch R-rated movies when I wasn’t even legally allowed to. Just the way that all of these kids go about their days kicking the can down the street, chasing their mom around the house with a lizard, breaking windows to be deemed “cool” by others, and so so many other things that remind me of myself when I was a lot younger and didn’t have much to do in my life other than go outside and play with my buds. It was great to see a film just tell a story about kid growing up through the kid himself with all of his angst, curiosity, confusion, anger, but most of all, happiness.

Where I think this film hits its biggest problem is that I think its structure could have definitely been used a lot more simpler than Malick actually gave us. I have to give props to Malick for this structure because after awhile, you start to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and everything starts to make sense, but I think if he had started from the creation of the universe thing to the childhood of Jack to the adulthood of Jack, it probably would have made a lot more sense and come off as more enjoyable that way. There is also a bunch of talk about God and faith that didn’t really do much for me and may seem a bit too far-fetched when it comes to connecting two different stories together, but it didn’t really bother me all that much considering I was just watching beauty right in front of my eyes.

Even though the film sort of treats the characters as second-nature here, the performances are all still pretty good. Brad Pitt is a fine fit as Jack’s tense and strict but loving father that truly shows how Pitt can command any scene even if the guy he’s playing is a bit of a dick, but from what I hear, all fathers in the 50′s were apparently like this. Jessica Chastain is a joy to watch as the fun-loving, sweet, and tender soul that is Jack’s mom, and also a lot of love to Hunter McCracken who is just about perfect in this film as young Jack, considering how much he has to go through and none of it ever seems fake or put-on. Hopefully this kid has a lot of work in the near future. The weakest part of this cast as well as this flick is probably Sean Penn as older Jack who isn’t really given much to do in the first place other than walk around, mope, and wear a very nice suit barely even muttering a word.

Consensus: Though it’s not for everybody, The Tree of Life is a beautiful and gorgeous flick done by Terrence Malick who not only gives us wonderful visuals to gaze at, but also a story to follow and relate to (not talking about the dinosaurs) and performances to watch and admire (minus Sean Penn).

9/10=Full Price!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Seven (1995)

Pitt being Pitt, Morgan being Morgan, Spacey being Spacey, and Fincher being Fincher. Hell yeah.

Two homicide detectives are on a desperate hunt for a serial killer whose crimes are based on the “seven deadly sins”. The seasoned Det. Sommerset (Morgan Freeman) researches each sin in an effort to get inside the killer’s mind, while his novice partner, Mills (Brad Pitt), scoffs at his efforts to unravel the case.

David Fincher is a total mad-man and I think he has only gotten better as the years have gone on, but it’s great to see where it all started.

This film is straight-up messed up however, it is also a very smartly written one to say the least which is a lot of thanks to writer Andrew Kevin Walker, who did a lot of junk before and after this film but somehow got thing clickin’ at the right time and place. The film shows the characters always one step behind the killer so we’re constantly left wondering how is this damn guy so freakin’ smart and we don’t quite know what he’ll do next. It fully keeps you on the edge of your seat, until the grand finale comes up and then were left with, “Wow”.

However, it’s not the smarty-pants that the killer has is what’s so good about this screenplay, it’s the fact that it is actually horror/thriller film that has something to say. The killer’s motives really stuck into my head because he is only doing this to people that are not innocent, but more as to people who deserve it because of the hurt and pain they push onto others so subtly. This film will mess with how you view the world and most of all will take you inside of the mind of the serial killer it’s showing, which is unlike any thriller I have ever seen before. What the killer says is still in my mind and will stick with yours probably too.

The real reason this film works though is Fincher’s direction, that is almost nothing short of brilliant. His use of lighting still works in any film, and especially here because he knows how to make any place, no matter where it may be, and just make it the most dirty, grimy, and disturbing place you have ever seen on film. The thing is though, that he’s making Chicago look like this shit-hole where it doesn’t stop raining for a whole week. All of Fincher’s visual flairs add to the depressed and dark setting of this film and just about every sequence is thrilling just by the way he keeps the tension and mystery going.

Oh and let’s not forget the opening title sequence to the remix of the song “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. Like that damn song didn’t already have me creeped out. Thanks Finch.

I also liked the fact that we never actually got to see any of the killing’s happen, and more of just the aftermath of these grisly murders. There’s a lot to be shocked by after seeing this film, and although I have seen this about 4 times now, I have to say that I still get a little grossed out by what I see. Others may like this, may despise it and this is one of those films where it’s just “not for everybody”. That can be said for a lot of Fincher films except for maybe his last two that came out, but with The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, I think he’s back on-track for grossing people out again.

The cast is also nothing short of magnificent either. Brad Pitt is great as the young, cocky, and headstrong cop David Mills who wants to get the bad-guy at any way possible, and Morgan Freeman is even better as William Somerset, the laid-back, seasoned cop who plays the voice of reason every time Mills gets a little loose with it. They’re contrast of old school vs. new school is amazing to see on-screen and they work together so well having me actually believing them as a real-life detective team. The real shining star of this whole film is probably Kevin Spacey, who you will probably be stuck remembering long after the final credit reels off the screen. I can’t say much else about this role, but this is easily the best performance from the whole film by just how much he gets into not only the character’s heads, but also the audiences head as well.

Consensus: Although it may not be for everybody, Seven is still one of Fincher’s best with a tension-filled atmosphere, brilliant script, superb writing, and a grand finale that will be sure to stay in your mind way long after the film is over.

9/10=Full Price!!

Moneyball (2011)

At least we now know where Fantasy Leagues came from.

This is about the true story Billy Beane, a former jock turned general manager who uses unconventional methods to bring the best players to the Oakland A’s, a major league baseball team struggling against financial hardship.

I watch baseball from time to time and being from Philadelphia, I have been apart of a couple of heart-breaks before, but I’m sure as hell glad we weren’t this bad. But I do wish Charlie Manual looked like Brad.

Director Bennett Miller takes the average and cliched sports movies, and turns it into something that actually does something not many have been able to do: makes whatever sport their talking about, entertaining to watch for those who don’t know anything about it.

Miller has many moments of inspired direction with just focusing on how the team is built up with lots and lots of talking, with barely any of the actual game of baseball being played. I mean you of course get the usual sports montages and inspirational moments, but the film is more about the numbers and how to run a successful baseball team with such a slight budget. You also get the feeling that Billy Beane and his team actually changed the way we look at players and baseball, but they don’t try to hit you over the head with that point too much which I was very glad for.

The talking in this film is what also kept me entertained because I never actually knew just how Beane’s way of team-building changed the way we look at sports nowadays. Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin both wrote this script and you can tell that they had a lot of fun with this because there are some great moments of hilarity but also plenty of insight and human emotion into these character’s lives that we actually do start to care for. Sorkin brings that constant hammering of words back-and-forth in the script and works here the most, especially when the film is just flying numbers that we have no idea about, right at us.

My problem with this film is that as much as the emotional aspect for this film may have worked, at the same time it kind of took away from the film too. The film shows Billy Beane and how he deals with all of this failure with his baseball team as well as his failure to live up to his expectations as an actual baseball player. This part of the story worked but the film didn’t focus on just that, they also brought in his daughter that really is in the film for about 3 scenes but the film tries so hard to make it seem like she has such an impact on the story that it really seems forced. They try to make Billy’s family “issues” (if there are any) more important than the actual team itself and even that song his daughter writes for him seems something that no 12-year old ever would write. I’m talking about you too Justin Beiber!

The film also tends to run on too long which sometimes isn’t as much of a problem if the film keeps you going, but the pace itself keeps stopping and going to the point of when I didn’t know when it was going to end, nor did I have a feeling they were going to choose a good ending. It’s about a 2 hour and 12 minute movie, which for some is way too long and especially too long for the people around me as everybody I looked at seemed to be moving around a lot after about the 2 hour mark.

I came to see this film for one reason and one main reason only and that was Brad Pitt, who plays A’s manager, Billy Beane. This is a great performance from Pitt as usual because he really gets to challenge the depth of his acting skills with this character. It’s so easy to sympathize with this guy because he seems like such a nice and cool dude who’s caught in a total rutt and wants nothing more to actually win some games and keep this franchise alive. Just by looking at his face, I already felt the emotions that he was feeling and that’s what Pitt does best here. He also gets to show a lot of that great charm that he always has in any film and whether he’s just talking to player, spouting out numbers, or walking around always so cool like he always does, Pitt just shows that he can hit every chord with the audience that needs to be hit with one character.

Jonah Hill is also great in this very tied-down role as Peter Brand, our numbers man. Hill (who was fat still) brings a lot of funny moments to the film and actually makes you believe him as this total number-nerd that builds this great friendship with Beane. Hill and Pitt are probably the most unlikely buddies in any film, but they make it work every chance they get and their scenes just really had me involved almost every time. It’s cool that two totally different actors like Hill and Pitt can actually come together for one film and make it seem believable, rather than just something that Hollywood executives needed for money. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets the top-billing for this film as well but he’s rarely in this but plays the best to his advantage as Art Howe, Beane’s biggest problem when it comes to staff.

Consensus: Moneyball doesn’t fully hit it out of the park (cliche, I know) but does however give us a great look at a system in baseball that changed the game forever, as well as being well-acted, funny, and still touching somewhere in between all the numbers.

8/10=Matinee!!

Thelma & Louise (1991)

A message to men everywhere: treat your women well, otherwise, they’ll go on a crime spree.

Fed up with her boyfriend, live-wire Arkansas waitress Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon) persuades her friend Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis), a naïve housewife burdened with a negligent, sexist husband, to hit the road with her for a simple weekend of freedom. But after accidentally killing a man, the two friends wind up outlaws blazing a cathartic trail across America.

It’s funny to see that the director of macho-dude hits such as Gladiator, Black Hawk down, and American Gangster, Ridley Scott, can make a film about two chicks on the run and it still be pretty cool.

The best thing that Scott does here with this direction is bring a lot of fun energy here. The plot is contrived, but the things that actually happen on this trip are pretty fun, and at times unbelievable but somehow Scott makes it all work with his heavy-hand of style. Scott keeps the action going at a nice pace and still allows time for these two characters to talk and actually be developed which is the least we could say for many other road movies.

The writing is also pretty good too with a lot of funny little moments of wit but also a great deal of reality that this film shows too. You may think it will hit the conventions of your ordinary road movie right off the bat, but it stays different and fresh somehow mainly because it’s script knows how to even out both comedy, drama, and some really fun action. Instead of these two ladies just roaming around the place, going crazy, and shooting people, we actually get some real poignant moments where these two just need an escape from their real shit-hole lives, and are just so happy to branch out of there boring days of just doing work, making dinner, and practically doing nothing new all day. This film showed that it wasn’t just the guys who could have all the crazy action fun, the girls could play just as harder also, which is also something very revolutionary about this film as well.

However, as inspirational and fun as it may be, some of it still feels a bit dated. There were moments where I listened to what these chicks said, and just thought to myself: “why are they saying that?”. Then, I actually realized that this film just wanted these two girls to say something naughty, or rough to be cool. Also, not every guy in the world just pops an automatic boner as soon as they see two women. I mean I understand that there are freaks out there, but this film really showed that almost every guy is a sex-freak that wants anything they can get right away.

My other problem with this film is probably the last 15 to 20 minutes, which would also include the ending. The whole time this film sort of fought against the convention of your ordinary action/road movie, but then somehow all the crazy car chases, and guns blowing up came out of nowhere, and thus, we had ourselves the same old action/road movie.

The ending was also very controversial at the time, but for me, I liked it. I thought it summed the whole 128 minutes I just watched pretty well, but the problem with the ending is the final shot. The final shot which many know, but I still won’t give away, should have been left on the screen longer than it was on. Scott faded to the happy-go-lucky montage/end credits way too quick for the audience to actually sink in what we just saw and then it’s impact is almost forgotten and lost. I know this may seem crazy to be pissed off about, but when I saw that ending I noticed some real problem with that.

These two gals also probably give their best performances to date. Susan Sarandon is awesome as the tough-as-nails, but also determined, Louise Sawyer and shows that she has that look that will make any man shriek once they see it. Geena Davis is also very good as the ditzy, but also very kind-hearted, Thelma Dickinson. Both of these great actresses work so well together and their chemistry builds up even more and more as the film goes on to the point of where you believe these two as friends. Not a moment with these two felt false and that’s what these two greats bring to the screen.

Let’s not also forget this was the first introduction into the hunk that they call, Brad Pitt as the sly and mysterious drifter, J.D. He has great scenes here as well and shows that he really was bound for greatness after all. The only thing he would have to do was take his shirt off, and he had no problem with that here.

Consensus: Thelma & Louise is guided by a great direction from Ridley Scott who has an even better script that knows how to balance out comedy, drama, and action very well with two great performances from David and Sarandon. However, by the end, the film starts to fall into convention and the last shot of the film feels too rushed off the screen, and therefore loses the whole impact that I felt I was going to have from this film.

7/10=Rental!!

Kalifornia (1993)

Kaliforniaaaaaaaaa Lovveeeeee!!!

While researching a book on serial killings, writer Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) and his girlfriend, Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes), travel cross-country to the murder sites and unwittingly stumble upon strangers who know the subject firsthand. A pair of hitchhikers (Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis) offer to share expenses for the trip, but Kessler doesn’t realize just how close he is to his subject — even as bodies pile up behind them.

Watching early Brad Pitt is pretty cool because I got to see just how he was still the man, even when he was doing B-thrillers, like this one here.

This film starts off very well with you already knowing that these two “hicks” are basically murderers and as the awkward moments go on and on, you start to feel a great deal of tension throughout this film. I liked how the film worked up its suspense and kept me going the whole time just waiting and waiting for something really bad to happen.

The film also has something smart to say about violence and when you write about it as well. It’s one thing when you write about murder and what happens, but it’s a totally different other thing to actually be stuck in that situation where you are stuck with a killer and may actually have to resort to killing, yourself.

However, my main problem with this film is when that really bad thing actually happens and once again just like every other thriller, turns into another Straw Dogs situation where the straight-laced, sort of nerdy guy is pushed against his boundaries and becomes an animal himself. This was just a cheap way to end a very smart story and even after that is all over, the ending still kind of blew. We never really actually learn anything in this film, nor does any of the characters themselves. I thought this was a very cheap way to end the film since it just seemed like almost a waste of exercise in suspense.

The real saving grace this film has is it’s amazing cast, most importantly, Brad Pitt. Pitt plays a very crucial role here as Early Grayce because we know this guy is a killer and a little loose in the head, but we never fully know what he’s going to do next because we feel that he may actually turn good after all. Still, Pitt is very creepy and evil in this role and knocked down his comparisons to a new Robert Redford that he was getting so much at this time.

Juliette Lewis is also very good as Adele Corners and has a lot very strange and at times, sad scenes that she pulls off very well. David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes are also very good as these yuppies that are totally out of their comfort zone with these two, and each one plays it off so well, especially Forbes who gets more and more freaked out as the film goes on and it’s just great to see how many emotions she can show within her character.

Consensus: There’s plenty of suspense here, and a very good cast, but soon turns into your typical, and predictable revenge thriller that may have a lot to say but by the end, can’t tell you what you’ve learned or even what the characters themselves have learned either.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Talk about keepin’ it in the family. Woo-hoo!

The rugged Ludlow clan — father William (Anthony Hopkins) and brothers Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Samuel (Henry Thomas) — splinters when Sam goes off to fight in World War I despite his father’s opposition. To protect Sam, his siblings follow suit. But their efforts fall short, and tragedy ensues. Upon returning home, Alfred and Tristan face a new battle when both fall for Sam’s beautiful fiancée (Julia Ormond).

Looking at this film from a far, you can already tell that you’re going to get some schmaltzy stuff here. However, it isn’t as bad as people would have you expect it to be.

The main problem with this film and it’s story is that it is a little too hokey for some viewers. It feels like an epic film but then starts to turn into some deep levels of melodrama that just don’t work if you’re say, a dude. Some of the stuff they have here from the cheesy score, to the hot guys (not including Anthony Hopkins, although I think he is very sexy), and to the romantic love triangle will probably all appeal more to women looking to lay down and watch a nice little story while their having their Ben and Jerrys.

Although it does get a little too cheesy at times, this film still kept my interest because I actually did like this story and where it went. The story starts off pretty average, and then goes into places that I didn’t quite expect it to, but I’m glad it did because it kept the story alive, even if it doesn’t strike an emotional cord. The cinematography is also beautiful and some of the images here almost remind me ones reminiscent of a Terrence Malick picture. Nothing like the beautiful farmlands.

The cast is what really brought this film together and with good reason. Brad Pitt is amazing as the blue-eyed, crazy kid, Tristan. He’s sort of that one boy in the family who gets in all the trouble, causes most of the trouble he gets into, and at the end of the day, you still love more and more. Pitt carries this film from start to finish and there are scenes here that would seem hammy if it were another actor in the role, but I have to say that Pitt does a great job here and has you love Tristan right from the get-go. Anthony Hopkins is good as their father William, and brings that great father-like figure that still works 7 years later in films like Thor. Aiden Quinn probably has the toughest role because he has to make a bad guy, seem actually likable and pulls it off for the most part. Nothing really special, just a good performance from a good actor, it’s just a shame that Pitt totally blows him out of the water. Julia Ormond is great in this role as the romantically troubled, Susannah, who’s character is kind of a hoe, going to all of the brothers, but somehow Ormond allows us to stand behind her character and only hope for the best as the story goes on.

Consensus: Though it gets into some pretty hammy situations, and the story may not be as emotionally involving as it likes to think, Legends of the Fall is a beautifully-filmed, and well-acted love triangle, that will hold your interest even despite how cheesy it might get.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Screw actual history! This is the kind of stuff I want to be taught in history class!

A Jewish cinema owner (Mélanie Laurent) in occupied Paris is forced to host a Nazi movie premiere, where a radical group of American Jewish soldiers called the Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), plans to roll out a score-settling scheme. The face-off is about to go down — that’s if Col. Hans Landa aka “The Jew Hunter” (Christoph Waltz, in an Oscar-winning role) doesn’t get in the way.

I watched, and reviewed this last year but something just came back inside of me that I had the total need to see this. It also still lives up to the first time.

One of my favorites of all-time, writer/director Quentin Tarantino is an absolute genius with his work here. Whether it’s on the keyboard, or behind the camera, this crazy son-of-a-bitch knows how to make great movies, and this no different. Now if there’s one thing I know that this film will do, and that’s cause a lot of high school history teachers heart-attacks over the historical inaccuracies here. The way that this film was so historically inaccurate was actually pretty inspiring and awesome to see actually come out on screen, because I’m sort of sick and tired of seeing the Oscar-bait WWII/Holocaust films that Hollywood turns out every year, and I feel like Tarantino is just sticking his middle finger out to that whole machine.

Honestly though, who cares about those inaccuracies because this movie is down-right amazing. The script is just near-perfect with the usual twists and turns you would expect, the film references are there but not so annoying this go-around, and you are constantly on the edge of your seat being entertained, and also wondering what’s just going to happen next. There are many scenes here where I had no idea what was just going to occur next, and the suspense keeps on building up, and up until the final conclusion which is usually just so crazy. Also, let’s not forget that there is plenty of awesome, bloody violence here but nothing that Tarantino fans, have already come to enjoy and understand.

My only problem with this film is that it does drag on too long for some scenes. A lot of this signature talkiness that I have come to know and love from Tarantino, happens and works here, but there are just times where I felt myself wondering just why the hell are they keeping this going for so long. If you also look at the title too, it says Inglorious Basterds. These guys are probably the best parts of the film, but aren’t in it as much since there are about 3 other subplots. However, I still enjoyed these subplots and loved each and every time these Basterds were on screen.

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine was a freakin’ riot here! He does this cracker-jack shtick that masterfully brings out his comedic charm for this character, and brings out all the well-deserved laughs in between the violence and suspense. In the end, he plays Tarantino’s cartoon character brilliantly, and that’s all we ask for. The whole film was promoted on Pitt, but the real center-piece here is Christoph Waltz in the Oscar-winning role as German S.S. Colonel Hans Landa. I honestly don’t know how this guy could be so good at playing someone so evil? He is probably one of the best good bad guys ever on film, and I know it’s hard to understand but it’s one of those things you have to see to believe. His character is just one of those evil, smart, witty, and manipulative villains that you want to hate so much, but can’t help but commend him for actually being so smart and actually amusing. Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna is also amazing in this role, and really brings out some powerful emotions within her character just by using her facial expressions and it works so well with her character. There is a huge cast here that are also very good such as Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, B.J. Novak, and also a surprisingly very good little cameo from Mike Myers. This guy needs to come back it’s been too long.

Consensus: Though some viewers will be thrown off by a lot of the talking, Quentin Tarantino still has that masterful mind to have viewers thoroughly enjoyed by his amazing script, non-stop suspense, and great acting from the cast that looks like their all just having a great time.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

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