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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Cate Blanchett

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Monuments Men (2014)

Tell ‘em, Nic! Nothing’s more important than stealing the Declaration of Independence and they know it!

During the final, winding-days of WWII, art-historian (George Clooney) is gripped with a task on his hands: Assemble a group of seven, fellow art-groupies, go through basic training, and find a way to gather and collect all of the ancient pieces of art, sculpture and paintings that the Nazis have apparently been hiding during the war. At first, once the men get taken into behind enemy lines in Germany, they realize that this whole mission may be a ball – one soldier (Matt Damon), comes close to even getting laid by a stern, but somehow stunningly hot French-gal (Cate Blanchett). But sooner than later, things begin to take a turn for the worse once the Nazis begin to see themselves getting more and more desperate as the days go by, therefore, having Hitler himself order that all art be destroyed, in hopes that it won’t reach their rightful, original owners. Smart idea on old Adolf’s part, but he soon realizes that he is no match for the Ocean‘s crew! With the exception of Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and even Rob Reiner. Yep, none of them are here, but at least we got Bob Balaban to spice things up, right?

George Clooney, the actor, is known to be a class-act that you can always count on to deliver, no matter what piece of material he may be in. He’s always got that cool-look, that charm, that wit and that swiftness to him that makes every dude in the theater lobby want to be him and discover his make-up team’s contact info; whereas he makes every lady swoon for the day that she may just be able to get snatched up into good old George’s hands. And ladies, if you’re less than two times his age, you run a pretty good chance at being his next-in-line!

"Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?"

“Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?”

But I digress….

While George Clooney, the actor, may be somebody we can trust and rely on to give great work, George Clooney, the director, isn’t always someone we can count on. Most of the time, Clooney seems to not only do stuff that only seems to interest himself and his buddies, but he more often than not, drops the ball on what could have been something cool and interesting. The Ides of March, for the most part, just relied so heavily on the performances from its stacked-cast, that I almost forgot Clooney even directed it, or even had a story written-out for it; Leatherheads didn’t have much of a chance of being anything spectacular, but at least he tried with it; Good Night, And Good Luck will always seem to be his crowning-jewel where everything he sets out to do, he nails to near-perfection; and then of course, we have his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that seemed to only get away with the fact that it had rich source-material to begin with, despite Clooney finding a way to make a story about a game-show-host-turned-CIA-agent somewhat depressing and rather boring.

So yeah, as you can tell, I know a thing or two about Clooney’s track-record as director and most of the time, it doesn’t always pan-out so well. That’s why I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, even despite it being pushed-back from its original, Christmas Day release-slot (apparently due to “special-effects problems“). However though, once again, I digress…

Anyway, what I am trying to get at here is that while Clooney may not always be consistent as a director, he’s always the kind of guy that interests me with anything that he touches his palms with, solely because it’s him, and he knows quality. Here, on the other hand, we have a movie that definitely seems like the type of movie he feels strong and passionate about, yet, never really seems to let come-off of the ground. But you’d never know if he felt any passion or love for this true-life story of heroism, and men fighting for what they truly believed in, because we never get the right details we should to fully believe in these characters, this story or anything else that happens. Yeah, I know that all of this is true, but watching this movie, you’d still never get a full clue as to what is happening, why, how and who was involved. For all I know, the actual, real-life soldiers who were involved with this mission could have been a rusty crew of old geezers that loved to make jokes while they were standing on deadly land-mines, hung-out and smoked cigs with Nazi soldiers wanting to kill them, and even crack some funny-ones while half of Russia’s army comes storming after them, wanting their heads, as well as the various paintings they can’t seem to get enough of.

But what’s so surprising to me about this movie, is that it never seems like Clooney knows that he’s messing-up by not giving us any reason to care for these people, their mission or the heart and soul they shed for these pieces of art; it’s almost as if showing us that they were willing to risk their lives for these paintings was already enough assurance that they do wholly, and fully care about these paintings. However though, it doesn’t work and it should have. Even if Clooney decided to give us maybe one or two minutes dedicated to these guys being wrangled-up and ready for the mission, it would have made a huge difference – we would have not only cared for these dudes, but cared about the mission they were setting-upon as well. Also, probably would have given this movie more of a drastic-feel to it, especially once these guys started getting perishing.

Somehow though, as much as I may rag on this movie, as well as what Clooney does as a director, I was able and more than willing to just let myself have fun and enjoy the old-style, nostalgic kind of war-flick that George himself was so obviously going for. Personally, I don’t think he hits all of the right notes, but if there was ever a war flick that I could sit-down and watch with my whole family, even my much-younger cousins, it’s this one. That’s not saying it’s great or anything, and surely doesn’t get past the fact that movie itself has its fair-share of faults and problems, but it definitely kept me entertained throughout most of the movie.

She's French, she's willing and best of all, you probably won't ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn't you tap that?!?!?

She’s French, she’s willing and best of all, you probably won’t ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn’t you tap that?!?!?

Once again, I stress the fact that it wasn’t perfect, but, if you have nothing else better to do for your Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or what have you, evening, then I can’t say this would be a terrible. There’s definitely plenty of other options to go and check-out before this, but if grand-mom and grand-pop want to spend some “quality time”, I’d say point their head in this movie’s direction, and you’ll definitely be promised a spot in the will. Sounds harsh, but I’m just saying.

Love you G-Mom and G-Pops!

Most of where my enjoyment with this movie came from was just through the cast and how, despite how thinly-written most of their material may have been, they still prevailed and kept me smiling. Like I stressed before, Clooney the actor is fine and is charming enough to make you see past the obvious-faults that this role only serves him to break-out into soliloquies every once and awhile about how men should always stand-up for what they believe in, no matter how looked-down upon it may be from others; Matt Damon is entertaining enough to watch as his second-in-command, James Granger, who is gone for quite some time and separated from the rest of the action, but is still somehow able to make his story the least-bit interesting, just by showing up and smiling (because we all know, once Matt Damon smiles, we all gotta smile!); and Cate Blanchett somehow makes a thankless-role as a French-spy, somewhat memorable by making her out to be a bit of a weirdo that also longs for a connection. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything exceptional. Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in anything he does, but he’s slightly less charming and “Bill Murray-ish” than he usually is, and less of that has to do with him as a performer, and more with just how the script does not use him; in fact, I’d say that they use Bob Balaban a bit more in the sense that they give him a scene where he gets to be somewhat “bad-ass”, as you’ve never seen him before (and trust me, you sure as hell haven’t!); John Goodman is his usual lovable, big-hearted, always cheery-self that also happens to be a soldier named “Walter“; Hugh Bonneville is fine as one of a British soldier who puts his life-on-the-line, as does everybody else, but gets to show his bravery in a slightly-memorable way; and Jean Dujardin, despite having an interesting role in Wolf of Wall Street, still feels like a previous Oscar-winner gone to a bit of a waste by now, however, I hope the tide turns around for him sooner than later. Because surely, we wouldn’t want another Roberto Benigni on our hands, now would we?

Consensus: Another misstep in Clooney’s directorial-catalog, the Monuments Men takes what could have been a very thrilling, exciting and emotional war-tale, and makes it uneven, poorly-developed and only entertaining in its bits and pieces, which is mostly thanks to all of the effort the cast puts into it.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!"

“Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Aviator (2004)

Good thing those milk bottles didn’t go to waste.

This is the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the type of man that Hollywood adored, yet, had no clue what to do with. Then again though, he didn’t know what to do with himself half of the time, so it evens-out. Anyway, we follow Hughes’ life from when he sets out to make his first movie, Hell’s Angels, to where he spends ungodly amounts of money, and pisses off all sorts of people like his lawyers, his distributors, his agents, his lawyers, and even the major corporations that are trying to do business with him, however, he chooses to say “nay” to. Hughes has a vision that only he thinks he can achieve, not just solely through money or power (although that certainly does help), but through his determined heart and soul, that sometimes falls victim to his many bouts and problems with OCD, of which he gained at an early age through his mommy. But even through all of these problems though, Hughes still had a little bit of time to get down and dirty with the ladies, especially and most famously with none other than Ms. Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) herself.

Present-day Hollywood’s fascination with Howard Hughes seems like it may never end, and it makes sense as to why. Not only was Howard Hughes the type of creative genius that didn’t settle for something else that went against his original, near-perfect vision, but was also able to charm anybody over that he met, get rich, solving any problem that may have come into his way by throwing money at it and at the end of the day, still having enough time in his hectic schedule to go home to some of Hollywood’s spiciest, sexiest starlets of the day. Yep, that Howard Hughes surely was a man among men, and it makes perfect sense why fellow creative geniuses’ like Christopher Nolan, Warren Beatty, and yes, even Martin Scorsese would want to make a movie about him, his life, his struggles, his genius and what he gave the rest of the world.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Of course though, only one of those three was able to actually achieve their dream and get their project on him made. That person was Martin Scorsese, and what a great choice it was (although the other two wouldn’t have been so bad neither).

What Scorsese does expertly here, that he’s practically done with each and every one of his flicks, is that he’s able to take a long-winding, over-blown story, with an even longer run-time, and finds a way to have it go by in a total jiffy. There’s no room for error, or even breathing with Scorsese’s directing, no matter what it is that he’s doing and this movie is no different. He covers every aspect of Hughes’ life with just enough attention, detail and honest reality that we get a full, clear picture of what he’s trying to tell us, without ever being confused, despite the movie usually finding itself moving a mile-a-minute at times. However though, when you do have a movie that nears three-hours, you need to be quick, jumpy and to-the-point, but never so much, to the point of where you lose a viewer as to what the hell is exactly going on, to whom, at what time and why this all matters.

And with a movie about Howard Hughes’ life, that makes a lick of a difference since there seems to be so much that went on with this guy’s day-to-day life, it’s a surprise that Scorsese himself didn’t make it a four-hour-epic, 15-minute intermission included (then again though, I wouldn’t throw that out as if it wasn’t already a “possibility” inside the head of Scorsese’s). For instance, we stumble upon Hughes’ life right away and we get an idea of what he is doing and why: He’s making his Hell’s Angels epic, he’s trying to figure out a way on how to get it looking and sounding perfectly, he’s trying to create some of the biggest, and best airplanes the world has ever seen, and through it all, mostly, he’s trying to find that one sweet, everlasting soul that can fill up the damage and pain that’s been brewing deep down inside of him for a long, long time. In a way then, you could almost say that this is three different movies, taking place with the same subject: A movie about showbiz, a character-study, a romance flick, and an underdog-tale.

But see, the problem is that Scorsese doesn’t really nail all of these aspects that make this whole movie one, cohesive piece of nonfiction. The stuff about showbiz is interesting because it was very cool to see how Hughes, the creative visionary that he was, didn’t let high-heads in major corporations get in the way of achieving what he wanted for his movies, as well as how he just continued to throw his money away on certain smaller things that had to do with production like editing, sound mixing, color and, heck, even making sure that there were clouds in the sky when he was filming the airplane sequences for his movie (which, need I remind you, he did all himself). And even for the romance part of this story, Scorsese still nails most of it, although I’d wager that’s more because of the gals he gets to star as Hughes’ various lovers are usually better than the material given to them, but more on that later.

As for the other two parts of this story (the character-study and underdog-tale), I don’t know if Scorsese really hits, or hits well for that matter. We do sympathize with Hughes when we see him battling with his OCD, his paranoia and how it makes him totally lose his shit in public, in front of the people that matter the most no less. It’s sad to see this happen to this guy, since we know that when he has a clear-head on his shoulders, he’s the smartest, most charming guy in the room, and it does make you sympathize with him a bit. However, late in the movie, once we get an idea of who the baddies are in this story that want to go against Hughes, his vision and tarnish his name in the papers, it d starts to feel like we get more away from the inner-demons that Hughes himself battled on a daily-basis, and more towards how he fought against the big-wigs in corporations and came out looking like a superhero. That’s all fine and all, especially since it’s all true, but it doesn’t really do much to make us feel like we know this guy, nor do we feel like much is actually at-stake. It is more or less that we’re just watching a guy battle against a bunch of people that could bad mouth him even worse than what’s already been said about him, or that he could add more and more millions of dollars into his bank-account.

Either way, it seems like Howard Hughes, despite his inability to twist doorknobs, will probably be better off in his life, regardless of how this settlement ends.

That said, Hughes is somebody, even through the thickest and the thin, we stand behind, which is all thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, giving everybody our first glimpse at the type of stardom he was about to fully achieve. Nowadays, it seems like Leo’s on fire with each and every role he takes, but around the time of this movie, he was basically just another case of a “promising, pretty-boy face that may actually have acting-skills”. Sure, Catch Me If You Can showed us that there was more to him than just being the king of the world, but this was the movie where he really got his time to shine and showed everybody that he could make somebody like Howard Hughes seem like a real poor fellow, despite having all of the money, fame and skill in the world, that one human could possibly desire. But like I said, even while he may not be the nicest man in the world, he still is one we care for and get behind, even when the odds seem more than stacked-up against him.

"Whose balls were bigger?" was usually where most conversations tended to lean towards.

“Whose balls were bigger” was usually where most of their conversations tended to lean towards.

Cate Blanchett shows up to play Katharine Hepburn, one of Hughes’ most notable flings back in the golden days and does a pretty spot-on impersonation, but also shows us that there’s more underneath the whole facade of her being like “one of the boys”. She can be preppy, she can be spirited and she can sure as hell kick some other dude’s behind in a game of golf, but there’s a reason why she is the way she is, why it is that she falls so hard for Howard when she does, and why it is that she falls out of love with him, only to take up her time with the gruff, teddy-bear we all know as Spencer Tracy. We all know Blanchett’s an amazing actress and can seemingly do no wrong, but to show us that she could get us past the fact that she’s playing one of the world’s most famous, iconic actresses of all-time, was really something else. And hell, she won an Oscar for it, too, so good for her!

However, Blanchett and DiCaprio are just the two here out of this whole cast that seem to get plenty of screen-time and attention from Scorsese, but they aren’t the only good ones here. John C. Reilly is good as Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of Hughes’ estate and is just kind and mellowed-out enough to make us believe that he does actually give two hoots about Hughes, but also cares more about his wallet than anything else; Kate Beckinsale plays another famous dame that Hughes hooked-up with, in the form of Ava Gardner, and is fine, although it’s fairly obvious that she’s nothing more than pair of nice teeth, eyes and, well, you get it; and Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin both play two of the main heavies in this movie that try to their legalities around and at Hughes, and do fine showing us that they want money, they love money and they need it, especially if its Hughes’ money it is that they’re taking. Don’t know how Alda got nominated for an Oscar for this, considering that he mostly just yells at and argues with DiCaprio, but hey, I guess it was about time that he got “some” recognition, you know? Oh, and Willem Dafoe is in this for one scene, and then he’s mysteriously absent from the rest of the movie. However, as weird as it is, I guess one scene with Willem Dafoe, is better than no scene with Willem Dafoe, am I right?

Consensus: Scorsese clearly has an undying love and adoration for Howard Hughes, the man he was, the man he set-out to be, and all of the achievements of his grand-staking life, but while the Aviator shows that, it can’t help but feel a bit jumbled in the process, especially since Hughes’ life as it was, seemed to be so hectic at one point in time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Locked in, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don't sweat it, Howie!

Locked-away, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don’t sweat it, Howie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

Where’s the precious?

Picking up right where the last one left off, we see the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) still on the run from the orcs that are pursuing them. Halfway through their journey however, Gandalf decides to break off from the rest of the group, fearing that this rumored Necromancer will take over the whole land, and infect it with its pure venomous evil. As he’s gone off to do his own thing, this leaves Bilbo with the rest of the pack to venture off to the Lonely Mountain where they meet plenty of fun, exuberant, and yet, sometimes dangerous characters along the way. However, standing at the end of their journey is none other than the vicious dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is the sole foe standing between them and retaking the mountain. So it only makes sense that Bilbo have to go up there and settle the peace, right?

Despite all of the problems people had with the first movie and the whole 48 fps ordeal, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn’t all that bad. It was definitely a drawn-out movie that felt a bit unnecessary, especially considering that there was supposed to be two more movies for this said 100-page story. However, for what it was and for what it was worth, it was fun when it wanted to be and best of all, brought me back to the good old days of when I used to rollick to the movie theaters, just to place myself back in Middle Earth, even if that meant wasting half of my day doing so. So it sort of had a little bit of a nostalgic thing going on for me, which is why it didn’t kill my insides as much as it may have done to others.

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

All that aside though, now that we’ve got the first movie out of the way, which also means that all of the awkward plotting and setting-up of the story is with it, we finally have a sequel that should hopefully do what most sequels do: Tell the story, give us new characters, while still building ones that the homefronts have already been built for, but also, not forget about giving us the goods that usually make people happy with the movie in the first place. We get plenty of story and plenty of new characters, but what about the goods? The movie doesn’t totally shy away from giving us all of the fun, exciting and energetic bits of fantasy action and adventure we’re so used to having with these movies, but it also still feels like there’s something else missing here that was missing from the last movie, but was totally there, front-and-center with the original trilogy, and that’s an actual amount of tension and terror to be had.

Throughout the whole movie, I couldn’t help but feel like the wheels were spinning for this movie once again, but this time, without much surprise added to the mix. We get most of the same characters, doing the same things, for the same reasons and no sense that any second, these characters could be taken away from us at any moment. Now, that’s not saying that I’m some rabid animal who wants people to be dead at the drop of a hat, but there’s also nothing here that really felt like it got me over that hurdle to where I really felt like this was a story I could get involved with. Instead it just felt like a story I could watch as it played-out, but without any of the heart or emotion devoted to these characters or the actual proceedings themselves. You could practically say the same thing about the first movie, but I think that’s a tad different because we’re sort of used to that with first movies in a planned-trilogies. It’s sort of like learning how to ride a back and all for the first time after all of these years, in that you don’t actually need the training-wheels to assist you, but you may need a buddy or two to stand behind you just in case you go plummeting down.

Them, or a firm and trusty helmet. But you should have had that on already!

Anyway, back to what I was saying, basically, this movie didn’t really offer me anything new I didn’t already see with the first flick, with the exception of maybe a few new sights to see, characters and set-pieces. Fun set-pieces nonetheless like, for instance, the sequence in which we follow the dwarves as they are in a bunch of barrels, flowing down the river stream away from the orcs, but at the same time, also battling them in any which way they can, with some assistance from the elves as well, but still nothing really new or inventive to where I felt like Jackson really got back into his old school, Lord of the Rings mode. Nope, this is the Hobbit’s trilogy, or better yet, Bilbo’s, and his is a whole new breed of storytelling, if you will.

Even if that is the case though, and this is all about Bilbo Baggins, his adventure, his story and his splendid life and times with “THE RING!!!!!”, it’s sort of strange considering how only gets about fifteen or so minutes to where it’s just him and nobody else. But even stranger is the fact that it’s practically at the rear-end of this whole flick, and it’s easily the best part. Of course he had some help from his fellow Sherlock star (that bastard) but it’s still the most tense, most exciting and only time where I really felt like all of these different threads of story-lines were coming together, even though the part itself focused on one, which just so happened to be the main story we’re supposed to care about in the first place. Though Freeman’s great too, as he usually is, he still barely gets enough time in front of the screen to substantiate the fact that he is indeed who this story is all about, and he is the one we’re supposed to be rooting for and thrusting all of our emotions into. However, you just never feel that because Jackson’s got a hundred-million-bajillion other story-lines going on, none of which really seem to catch any real fire.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Same thing that I’m saying about Bilbo’s treatment, goes the same for Gandolf’s as well, which is an absolute sin since we know that Ian McKellen’s portrayal is absolutely the heart and soul that keeps these movies moving. Instead, we get introduced to a new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, Luke Evans’ human character with the least human name, Bard, Lee Pace playing Legolas’ daddy-o, Thranduil, and the always pleasant and charming Stephen Fry, who shows up as the corrupt and lazy Master of the Laketown in which the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves hanging around in for some time. They all do fine and bring enough to the story to where I could see them having bigger roles in the next film and being fine additions. Yet, I also see myself not really caring too much, either. Once they took Viggo away from me and replaced him with some dude named “Richard Armitage”, then I knew I’d just never be the same.

With all of that said, and I now I’ve said and awful lot to really beat and batter down this movie, it’s still somehow a hair better than the first, if only because it now actually feels like we’re getting somewhere with this story and where it’s supposed to take us. Sure, there are some mishaps here and there that definitely got in the way of what could have been a very compelling and well-told story, had there been more focus placed on Bilbo and his fellow band of dwarves, but with the way they end it, it’s hard not to get a bit jacked-up for what’s next to come. The ending is very abrupt and along with what the consensus seems to be with Catching Fire’s, most likely people will be up in arms and upset; but to me, it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere with this trilogy that should have never been. However, if Peter Jackson wants to indulge himself a bit, then hey, I won’t stop him. Not like he’d listen to a two-bit, movie blogger from Delco anyway, but still. It’s the idea of power that counts.

Consensus: Just a tad bit better than the first, yet, still feels like there’s plenty room of improvement to be made with Desolation of Smaug with the cutting-down of its run-time, exposition and endless list of characters that don’t really seem to mean much, except that they’re just big names filling in the roles, and who doesn’t love that?!?!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I know! ONLY one movie left! Shocked, right?

He’s as shocked as we are that there’s only ONE movie left. However, it is Peter Jackson we’re talking about here, so don’t get too wrapped up in what you think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Missing (2003)

Directed by Ron Howard, or, better known as, “He Who Used To Play Richie Cunningham”.

A mother of two (Cate Blanchett), who works as a “healer” while caring for a farm in the middle of New Mexico, gets her life shaken-up a bit when her oldest daughter is kidnapped by a bunch of ruthless, savage Native Americans. Distraught as hell, she calls on her estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones) to help, even though they don’t get along quite so well. But what does make their advantage seem a little better is that the father is actually part-Native American himself and knows all the ways, code, and language of the Indian ways. Problem is, these Indians he’s dealing with here are bastards, and nothing but.

Sounds like a pretty simple premise, right? Well, add Ron Howard as director to the mix, hot-off the block of his Best Director Oscar for A Beautiful Mind and you think you’d have a keeper, right? Sadly to say: Not at all. That’s a huge, huge problem too, which all stems from the fact that Howard himself indulges way too much into this material. I honestly don’t mind it when a flick is deliberately slow, in order to tell it’s story and set the pace for what’s next to come, but this was just a tad bit ridiculous here. I mean, the actual kidnapping of the gal that goes “missing”, doesn’t even occur until about 30 minutes in and by that time, my ass was already checking out at the door. Then I realized: Shit, I had about 2 more hours left of this crap. That’s when things got bad.

Or should I say, “real bad”.

"Fuck my dad and his long hair."

“Fuck my dad and his much-longer hair!”

I’m all for when a story wants to set up an idea, run around with it, see how long it can milk it for, and eventually build on it by the end, almost to the point of where I feel like it can’t go on any longer or else the whole idea itself is just going to crack. Basically, if that last sentence didn’t make any sense to you; well, good. The idea of a movie is to have an idea that lasts so long throughout a movie that not only do you stop paying attention to it, but you forget that it’s even there in the first place. So many directors are perfect at working with this same attitude in their minds and hearts, that even they too, don’t realize the idea they are coming up with in their head. Where I’m getting at with all of this jibber-joo is that Ron Howard definitely seems to have an idea here, but he doesn’t go anywhere with it at all. Instead, he just continues to hammer it and hammer it down into the ground, almost as if we won’t catch on to the fact that the movie itself is built on nothing else but a repetitive idea that these Indians are bad folks, and should not be messed with.

Some may see this as not your normal Western, mainly because even though the villains are the Indians, the hero itself is also part-Native American, but Howard doesn’t do anything with that aspect of the movie and just keeps it going and going at such a snail’s pace, that I began to lose interest many, many times. Seriously, as I’ve stated before: I don’t mind when a flick wants to set it’s story up for all to get accustom to, but this was just way too little, for way too long of a time-limit. Thankfully, I didn’t see the Extended Cut of this movie that’s apparently out there, but lord knows that if I did, I would have given up and thrown my copy right out the window, as soon as humanly possible.

But some out there may think that I’m being too harsh on a movie because it “has one idea”, “repetitive”, and “slow”, but there’s more to it than just that. Take for instance, the “villains” themselves: the Indians. Not only are the Indians in this flick a bunch of evil, sadistic sons of bitches, but none of them at all seem to have an ounce of humanity or heart within them. I get it, most Indians at and around this time were probably pissed off that they were continuing to get their land taken away from them by the dumb-ass white man, but they’re so detestable here, that it’s almost over-the-top, as if I was watching a bunch of cartoon Indians in a Loony Tunes cartoon. The leader of the pack, El Brujo, is so insane and blood-thirsty, that it was a surprise to me that the dude ever made a business selling these young girls away in the first place, because he always seems like he can’t keep his head on straight, or keep his hands away from his mallet that he so firmly insists on using.

"I'd like to do business with you, and eat your spleen afterwards."

“I’d like to do business with you, and eat your spleen afterwards.”

The whole movie plays out like this and I do have to give Howard some credit for at least not backing-down and making a soft, sensational Western that appealed to all members of the juror. This is a downright bloody, disgusting, and off-putting Western that takes all that you know about good-taste, and shoves it right back in your face, but not without spitting in your general direction either. Never thought I’d say that about a film from Ron Howard’s hands, but I was surprised. However, the gruesome violence doesn’t help the film all that much either, and gives it this odd, uneven tone where one second, somebody will be getting their heart eaten-out, and then the next second, a daddy and a daughter will be reconnecting over lost time. Howard doesn’t really seem to know what sort of movie he’s making here, or what he’s trying to say, so instead decides to have the two sides battle-it-out and see which one can distract the audience more.

Nobody wins, not even the cast in that general aspect either. Tommy Lee Jones probably gets off the easiest as the tough and rugged daddy-figure that’s as mean and cruel as you can get, but yet, also has a bit of a soft, spiritual side to him as well. Jones has this sense of comfort to the way he acts, so it’s not hard to feel safe and in control of the situation whenever he’s around, but that hair. Seriously, what the fuck was up with that!??! Not only does he look like a long, lost hippie that somehow got trapped way before Woodstock (the original, not “RapeStock”) and didn’t no how to get back to the end of the 60’s. He looks goofy, but the film plays it off with such a serious look, it’s almost too hard to even get by when he’s on the screen. Cate Blanchett is okay as his daughter, even if she doesn’t get to do much and is only called on to hold a gun, shoot it, and thrown some dirt and blood on her face for good, old times sake. Must have been fun for them, because it sure as hell wasn’t fun for me.

Consensus: Howard deserves an ounce of credit for giving a disheartening version of the old school Western, but that’s a very small ounce when you take into consideration the uneven tone, the shallowly-written characters, and the fact that nothing happens for the longest time in The Missing, and you’ll be wondering where all of the time you had in your day went.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

"My movie suck. Me sad."

“Tommy hair too long. Tommy sad.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Rich people can be sad too, they just are able to water it down in martini and lemons.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all: The rich husband (Alec Baldwin), the lavish lifestyle, the money, the looks, the riches, and all of that fine and happy stuff. However, like most good things, it all came crashing down in an instant and left Jasmine bankrupt without anywhere else to go in the world, except for his lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins)’s house. There she pries more, than actually gets her act together and begins to find out that having to take care of yourself doesn’t mean just making money, it means taking responsibility for your actions and not drinking your life away. Or maybe that’s just what I gathered. Actually, it more than likely is.

Woody Allen has had his fair share of hits, and he sure as hell has had his fair share of misses, but I still remain loyal to the guy as he always brings whatever he can to the big-screen, with his witty writing, and a stacked-cast that always gets on-board with anything he does. He just has that type of power that will get anybody going and for a little while, with Midnight in Paris, had everybody back on their feet, waiting to see what he would do next, as if the King had returned to his throne. However, then To Rome with Love came around, and everybody realized that maybe Paris was just a flash-in-the-pan for Woody. Maybe, just maybe.

She's still good enough for me.

She’s still good enough for me.

However, Woody’s not going to give up without a fight and is back yet again with Blue Jasmine, the type of flick it seems like anybody would make if they had some spare-time in their schedule to just make a movie, hang out with some big names, and get paid while doing so. That’s not to say that the movie’s good or bad, it’s just to say that the flick carries that type of lax-feel and pace where everybody involved seems to be happy and more than ecstatic to be working with a screen-legend like Allen, but at the same time, doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either. They’re just working to work, which is entertaining since everybody’s fun and happy, but it doesn’t really get this material up off the ground as it should.

For awhile, actually, I felt as if the movie I was watching was more of a stone-hard drama than any bit of witty and quirky comedy that we’re so used to associating with Allen’s flicks. That could have just been so since with Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, he’s shown us that he can do a dark drama, regardless of if it fails or not. So that’s exactly why I felt like I was watching a drama right from the get-go. Obviously, there’s plenty of moments where Allen allows the humorous part of his script to creep in whenever it so pleases, but there’s still a seriousness to this final-product that I at least appreciated more than anything Allen’s done in awhile. He treats Jasmine, as well as every other character with tender, love, and care, it’s just that they don’t really pop-out at us like they should.

Case in point, our main character herself, Jasmine. Jasmine is the type of character that seems perfectly fit for Allen because he’s able to show us all of her flaws, as well as her positives as well. The former gets presented more than the latter, but that’s not to say that the former doesn’t rear it’s beautiful head in every once and awhile neither. We get to see enough of Jasmine that it allows us to care for her and sympathize with her, even when she’s constantly ragging on everyone for not being exactly like her in every which way. She’s not the type of gal I would want to be stuck with near the punch bowl at a party, but I definitely wouldn’t mind having a casual conversation with her every once and awhile, just to do a quick game of catch-up and see who’s more miserable than the other. With that game, she may win, but it would come pretty close.

So I guess it’s safe to say that Jasmine is an interesting enough character to have a movie revolve around her and her all of her misery and self-indulgence, but the movie doesn’t seem to really go that deep enough into her psyche as to what makes her, well, her. We see what she’s done in her past, how she’s gotten over it, and how terribly she was treated to be such a witch in the present day, but it still didn’t feel right to me. Something, whatever it was, wasn’t perfectly fitting with the tone and the art of this character and I wish I got to know more of her, rather than just snippets of what seemed like a pretty mean person, but a meanie that actually had somewhat of a soul. Allen can do well with these types of characters when he’s focusing on just them and them alone, but he moves the focus all around to where we see more of the supporting characters, rather than her. Which is fine, if they were just as interesting enough as her, but they just aren’t.

That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t work well with these roles, because they really do, and make the movie a whole lot better just with their presence being felt. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as Jasmine as she’s able to capture all of the types of moods and feelings that go through this gal, most of which are abrupt and random, but still realistic enough to warrant some amount of sympathy. As I’ve said up above, Jasmine is an interesting enough character to want to watch a whole movie about her and her ways of getting her life back together, and that’s because Blanchett is able to make us loathe this character, while also feel like she could do a hell of a lot better in her life, if she just lowers her guard a bit and smiles. Then again, with the past that she’s had, you’ll see why maybe putting a grin on that face may be a little easier said then done. Got to give Blanchett a lot of credit for this role, not because she’s able to be funny, mean, and sympathetic all at the same time, but she’s not afraid to “ugly herself up” either.

Assuming she didn't have a problem with his profession.

Assuming she didn’t have a problem with what he does for a living.

Sally Hawkins plays her sissy, Ginger, and is good at playing the trashy-type that’s very different from Jasmine’s stuck-up self. Hawkins has always been a treat to see in any movie she shows up in and it’s good to see her working in something again, especially with Allen. They both comment each other well, as she hits the funny-marks her character is supposed to, while also giving us a nice glimpse inside the world of a lady that just wants as much love and respect as her sister does, she just doesn’t demand it as much. The always-loveable Bobby Cannavale plays Chili, her boyfriend that Jasmine despises, and does a nice job being funny and a bit sweet at the same time. Any movie would have painted this guy as a dick, but here, instead we see him as a guy that just wants to be with the woman he loves and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means getting a little bitter at times. Especially with Jasmine.

The rest of the cast is fine as well, even if some of their work is only comprising of “showing up on screen for a bit, and then going away seconds later”. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s ex-hubby, Hal, and plays up the d-bag type of character we know and sometimes love him; Louis C.K. almost steals the show playing against-type as a possible match-made-in-heaven for Ginger, which is funny because all he does here is try to play it all smooth and cool, both of which Louis is not, but plays it so well if not just for laughs; Andrew Dice Clay, another random comedian thrown into the mix, is fine as Ginger’s ex-hubby who doesn’t really do anything funny but is good for what he has to do with the material he’s given; Peter Sarsgaard is serviceable as the object of Jasmine’s eyes, and actually feels like a genuinely nice guy that would love and care for her when she needs it the most; and Michael Stuhlbarg is odd and strange as head-dentist of where Jasmine works and does exactly what I said he had to play, and does it well.

Consensus: Though there’s plenty of pleasing moments from Woody’s script, as well as the fine cast that he’s assembled, Blue Jasmine comes off more as a somewhat mediocre flick from his library, if not one that held plenty of potential.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"I have a hangover, somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please."

“I have a hangover. Somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please.”

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.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

A trip back to Middle Earth, means a trip that takes about 3 hours out of my day.

This is the begging tale of the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago lost to the dragon Smaug. Oh, and a band of dwarfs that accompany him as well. Can’t forget about those little fellas.

It’s a real shame that the only real hype surrounding this movie, is not just because it’s Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in less than a decade, but mainly because of the 48 frames-per-second. Yes, in case some of you people out there don’t know, don’t care, or even know what to expect (I was sort of in the latter’s boat), 48fps is double the normal rate and makes it pretty damn obvious right from the start of this movie that everything is going to look a lot clearer, but sadly, a little too fast.

For me, this first ever experience of actually seeing a 48fps movie wasn’t as traumatizing as it has been to many others who have seen this movie, but it is quite distracting. Sometimes you forget about it, get used to it, and accept the fact that things are going to look a lot weirder then expected, but then it becomes obvious once again, especially a character is moving in a very, very fast-pace that almost makes it seem like Jackson shot this film, while on hefty-amounts nose candy. Once you get used to it, you sort of are able to enjoy the whole movie but it never goes away and I guess it was my fault for being curious and actually giving it a shot in the first-place. They always say, “curiosity killed the cat”, and even though I didn’t get killed by this movie, my idea of 48fps definitely did, and I will probably never see another movie like this ever again. Sorry Peter, you’re experiment didn’t work so well with me this time-around. I’ll stick to normal 3D for now.

"What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?"

“What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?”

However, as much as I may talk shite on the whole 48fps-element to this movie, it makes the movie look a whole lot more beautiful, if a bit fake in some-spots. Everything looks so detailed, clear, and as good as the details looked in the past movies. Obviously, since Jackson has better technology and probably a hell of a lot more money to work with, he uses a crap-load of CGI that is impressive at some-points, but when you put in a film that is using 48fps, it doesn’t always work and makes scenes look as if they were filmed in-front of a green screen. Which in reality, they probably were, but you don’t want to have that going through your mind when you’re watching a movie about wizards, dwarves, trolls, and other mystical creatures. You want to feel as if you are there, rather than feeling like we’re watching a bunch of guys act in a studio, where biscuits and gravy are probably on a big-ass table in front of them. I wasn’t always picturing this idea in my head, but it popped-up quite a lot, more than I actually wanted it to.

Aside from the fact that the 48fps is more than just a controversial idea that Jackson had on his mind and actually went-through with, the film is still pretty good, even if you know everything that’s going to happen to these characters in the near-future. You know, because Jackson made the sequels to this book less than a decade ago. However, Jackson still seems to have a lot of fun returning back to the place that made him such a household name in the first-place and it’s great to see a lot of that fun and passion jump right-off from the screen, and onto us as we just sit there and have a good-time.

There isn’t an epic feeling to this story and in-fact, it actually starts off just as Fellowship of the Ring did. There’s a crap-load of back-story, exposition, and characters coming in and out of nowhere, and it takes awhile to get used to (as expected), but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along and it’s just great to see Jackson back in his comfort-zone and not trying to make teenie-boppers cry their little, fragile hearts over a young girl that gets raped and murdered. I’m talking about Lovely Bones in case you couldn’t tell, and I think that movie is just one, perfect-sign as to how Jackson maybe felt like he was a bit too big for his britches. Middle Earth is where he works best at, where he has the most fun, and best of all, is where he belongs in terms of making movies and entertaining stories.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

However, when you compare it to what Jackson has done in the past, especially with Middle Earth, this film itself, really fails to generate the type of sparks and emotional fireplugs that those flicks had. It was cool to see a lot of these older-characters come into this story and make their impressions quickly and easily, but the other characters that they introduce, don’t seem to be as memorable or as lovable as those ones we look forward to see return-to-the-screen once again.

A perfect example of this statement would be the twelve dwarves that are key to this story and as entertaining and fun as they may be to watch on-screen, they don’t really come-off as memorable. They all seem sort of the same, with the exception of one, and they don’t really have us invested in them, quite as much as we had for characters of the same nature like Gimli or Legolas. They’re just there for comedic-relief and to have the kiddies out there in the world who want to see this, laugh a bit, just to get past all of the darker-stuff and it seems like a real waste of time. I wanted to get to know them more and understand how all of their personalities were different. Who was the smartest one? The ugliest one? The best fighter? The worst? Seriously, they all just seemed like clones of one another, as they all ate, drank, and slept huge and huge amounts, with nobody really being different. Just like my feelings with these dwarves, I wish there was more to this flick and despite it already being a prequel to films we have all already seen and loved to death by now, Jackson can only try to make us forget about them. Notice how I said the word, “try”, mind you.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Martin Freeman was a pretty nice-choice to play a younger Bilbo, mainly because when we had an actor like Elijah Wood, doing satisfactory work as our main hero of the story, it wasn’t anything special but it was at least nice to finally get an actor that can actually ACT, and do some nice-work in terms of doing all of this goofy, Middle Earth stuff. Freeman is fun to watch as Bilbo and definitely hams it up in terms of playing-up the whole slapstick-side of his character and being there to provide us with a bunch of humor and heart, especially to a character who comes-off as sort of a dick in the latter-stages of his life. Some may say that Freeman is trying a bit too hard to be funny and over-the-top, and to that, I would have to say some of it is true, but at least he’s entertaining and kept me interested the whole-way. In terms of the rest of the trilogy lying on the shoulders of Freeman, I think we’re in good-support.

There are many returning-players to this flick, from the other ones, and even though they don’t all have as much screen-time as the new bloods, it’s still great to see them all back and alive again, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen seems to be having an absolute blast returning to play Gandalf the Great, once again, and for me, as a big fan of Gandalf, it was an even-bigger piece of enjoyment since this is an actor that seemed born to play this role and have us on his side the whole-way through. McKellen isn’t doing anything new, special, or even refreshing when it comes to playing Gandalf, but that was A-okay with me, because he is always the most memorable out of anybody that surrounds him.

Also, it was another real sight for sore eyes (literally) to see Gollum for on the big-screen once again and even though he doesn’t take over the film like he has in the past, his presence is still well-deserved not just because it’s Serkis kicking total ass again, but mainly because Gollum himself looks so realistic and perfect in the animation. Hey, the 48fps may be a huge-bummer, but at least the special-effects are great and that’s all that matters, especially when you’re sitting there and over-analyzing Gollum’s look to depth. I don’t think I saw a single pixel in his look. Impressive as hell.

Consensus: Though Jackson does tread in familiar-territory that we all know what to expect and get out of an experience like his return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still fun and entertaining to watch, even if the whole idea of being filmed in 48fps can get a bit tiresome over time. After awhile, you do begin to get used to it but in my opinion, to avoid any distractions to the human-eye whatsoever, just give this baby a whirl in 3D, or regular 2D, especially if you want to save some moolah.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Next season's cast of Whisker Wars. It's gonna be a close one.

Next season’s cast of Whisker Wars. It’s gonna be a close one.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Finally, 9 hours of my life can finally be put to rest.

As Sauron’s dark army surround the citadel of Minas Tirith and hope wanes for all of Middle-earth, Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum (Andy Serkis) continue their journey towards Mount Doom in order to destroy the Ring of Power.

After two movies that have already racked-up to being over than 3 hours each, it seems almost granted that the final-conclusion of this spectacular trilogy would end with a 3-hour and 21-minute time-limit. That’s right, ALMOST 3-AND-A-HALF HOURS! But what separates this long-ass time-limit from the last two, is the fact that you barely notice it one-bit, despite it being the longest of the three. Just goes to show you that long movies, aren’t always that bad to sit-through.

I think first things first to get this review going would be to give major kudos to director Peter Jackson who, like with the last two, does a magnificent job at showing us this beautiful world of Middle Earth, in all of it’s darkness, weirdness, and overall beauty. The sets, designs, make-up, costumes, art direction, and everything else, just look perfect and with this last movie, you needed that keen-eye for attention to detail that Jackson has to make a movie like this work, and it totally does. Obviously a lot more of this movie is dependent on special-effects and CGI, whereas the last two had it, but not a huge-amount, but it’s not distracting from the real beauty that lies underneath this movie and from what I hear, a lot of this was filmed naturally, which impressed me as hell since it seemed like some of these sets would have taken years to be built, and each movie came-out a year-apart from one another. That’s dedication to detail right there, folks, and it’s no surprise that that same dedication won Jackson almost every art and set-design Oscar that year, and rightfully so.

LOTR1

“What the fuck did you just say?”

However, Peter Jackson didn’t just win a bunch of secondary-awards for his work here on this movie, he also won Best Director and that’s not just because of his strong look and detail into this world he obviously loves, but mainly because the guy has the spirit and passion inside of him that makes this flick work, right about from the start. The reason I say “right about from the start”, is because the film obviously has a bit of a problem in the beginning, because it seems like it’s trying to find it’s footing in how it wants to start things-out. We get a couple of awkward cuts to Frodo and Sam being slightly homosexual with one another, to a pretty un-epic shot of Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Gimli, all slowly riding-down the grassy lands with their horses, but after that, it picks up it’s speed and momentum, and I was willing to forgive Jackson for all of this because it just continues to get better and better.

Once this movie picks up and knows exactly where it wants to go, it’s the freakin’ most epic, most entertaining, and most emotional-ride you will ever take in a movie. The movie cuts between the two stories of Frodo & Sam’s journey to Mount Doom and the defense of Gondor and Minas Tirith, and whereas the weaving in-and-out of stories took a lot of momentum out of the direction the last time-around, it works so perfectly because both stories have a great deal of built-up tension and emotions that run high in about every frame of this flick. Watching Sam and Frodo make their way to destroying the ring will keep you on the edge of your seat as they constantly continue to find hardships getting to their destination, and the Battle of Peleanor Fields is the other story that seems to be the centerpiece of this movie, and had my heart racing just as much as Sam and Frodo’s journey, even though they were both polar-opposites in terms of pacing and development.

LOTR2

Quick! Who has been the most successful in the past decade? By the way, the two pictured are Orlando Bloom and Karl Urban. Okay, never mind. Dumb question.

In the Two Towers, the Battle at Helm’s Deep was an absolute joy to see play-out on screen because it built-up the intensity, the emotion, the action, and most of all, the fun in having two, opposing sides go head-to-head and watching as they are both equally-matched, and equally-as-smart as the other. It was probably the highlight of that whole movie, even if there was a lot more to cheer-on about, but the battle that takes place here in this flick (the Battle of Peleanor Fields), makes it look like a bunch of kiddies messing around in the playground. Jackson totally ups the ante with his direction by providing so much action, blood, and sometimes, gore to have us really involved, but also adds a great deal of heart and emotion to have us fully-invested enough, to the point of where our hearts are racing every time it seems like somebody is going to be the nest one to bite the dust. Seriously, I’ve seen this movie about 2 or 3 times before, but I was still gripping my sheets, wondering who was going to be next and it sent me shivers up my spine whenever I heard a loud, scary enemy come-through again and provide another threat to all of our heroes and favorite characters. Seriously, if you don’t feel any type of emotional-connection to these characters as they all become one-step closer to death in a span of 1 hour, then you my friend, are just as soulless and as dark as the enemies they are facing. Crappy metaphor, I know, but you get the point.

LOTR4

Secretly, there’s weed in there. Or whatever the hell those Middle Earth snobs call it.

However, that key-battle in the center of this movie is only one of the main reasons why this movie works as well as it does and why Jackson got the Oscar in the first-place. There is so much going on-here that it would definitely be very easy to see how somebody would feel as if it’s too much at one-time, but Jackson evens it all-out so nicely so that we see everything that happens, why it happens, and gives us a bit of time to understand it all. Not many movies that have a certain-type of audience feel the need to do that because they feel as if it’s strictly for the fanboys to understand, and everybody else to ‘eff off, but not Jackson. No, he’s a different type of lad and I’m happy that he decided to take his time with this movie and lay everything-out on the ground for us all to get as soon as the story started to pick-up because when it gets going, it never stops and that’s when you find yourself having the best time of your life with this movie.

Another key-element to this movie that Jackson wisely allows, is that every character that we have gotten to know or see over the past 2 films, finally all get their own chance to shine, rather than having it be the Frodo and Gandalf show 24/7, which also means, all of the performances are fully-realized and some of the best of the whole trilogy. Viggo Mortensen kicks ass once again as Aragorn, and shows that he is not one prince to be messed-with, especially when it comes to somebody coming in between him, his buddies, and most of all, his gal that he is so far-away from. I may make Aragorn sound like a bit of a pussy with that description, but trust me, he’s not in the least-bit. Ian McKellen is awesome as Gandalf and shows how wise and warm he is, not only as a ruler, but as a character, as well; Orlando Bloom is good as Legolas, and shows us why the guy kicks just as much as Aragorn does; and John Rhys-Davies doesn’t quite get enough moments to steal the spotlight from everybody else like he did in the 2nd-movie, but he still has a lot of fun here as Gimli. Anybody I didn’t mention, don’t worry, they all did good, especially those little, fuckin’ hobbits.

LOTR5

His ax is the best part of his character, without it, he’s just got one-liners about how small he is. Somebody find it, and quick!

In the past 2 movies, it seems as if Sam and Frodo are the only ones to really get the attention from Jackson in terms of character-development and actually meaning something in the whole grand scheme of things, but now, Jackson allows the other two as well to show what they’re made of. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are each great as Pippin and Merry, respectively, and show that they aren’t just about of immature jokers, they can actually put-up and shut-up when they need to and actually help move this story along, even if they are without their tree buddies that I missed very, very deeply. These two get a lot to do, but Frodo and Sam aren’t left-out of the equation, either, and their story is by-far the one I really connected to since it’s all about the limits of friendship and how far one will go to really help the other one out and hopefully, save their lives in the process. Elijah Wood has been a bit tweedy as Frodo in the past 2 movies, but really excels here and gives Frodo a bit of a mean-streak that actually has you fearful for Same, as well as Gollum. Wood has never been the star actor of our generation, but here, he shows us that he can act no matter how much he gives-off that softy-smile that really rang the wrong bells for me. Seriously, I thought the revelation at the end was going to be Frodo was in-love with Sam after all of this time, I swear it.

LOTR3

“Yep, there go our careers as we know it.”

As good as Elijah Wood may be, Sean Astin is the one who really steals this show as Samewise Gamgee, and you know what? It’s about damn time this guy finally got his rocks off in these movies, because not only is Samwise as strong of a character as anybody else in this whole damn series, but Astin is also a great-actor too, and one that I feel like never really gets to show himself for all that he is because people still see him as Rudy. Samewise is such an awesome character to watch on-screen not just because he lays down the law for Frodo and tells him all of the obvious stuff about the ring, Gollum, and the evils that come-from both of them, but because you feel like this guy would do anything, I do repeat, ANYTHING, to save his friend’s lives, no matter how hard or impossible it seemed to be. Astin plays this up so perfectly and to watch him come-alive as an actor through Same, is a freakin’ revelation since this guy rarely ever gets the chance to and it’s sort of a shame that this guy never got an Oscar nomination for his work here because he’s understated, believable, strong-willed, and most of all, the emotional anchor that holds this movie down from being a “Nerd’s Only” love-fest.

If there is any reason why this movie deserves the high-rating I’m giving it, it’s mainly because it’s one of those rare-occasions where I’m reminded of why I love watching epic movies such as this: they take me out of the real-world I’m in, and place me into another no matter how unbelievable or fantasy-like it actually may be. After those first, 15-minutes that Jackson seems to struggle with are over, things only go uphill from there and show you exactly why you invested half-of-your-day to see the first 2 movies in the first-place. You love the characters, you love the mythology, you love the setting, you love the battles, and most importantly, you just love what Jackson does with this movie and how he never seems to disappoint any loyal fan of the original source material, or regular, moviegoer that just wants to be transported into a different world. He delivers on both ends of the spectrum and trust me, by the end of this movie, if you loved the first two, you will most likely shed a tear once you see your beloved trilogy come to a sweeping, but beautiful ending that couldn’t have been better, even if Jackson put a freakin’ cherry on top of it. Go out there and see The Hobbit this weekend, people! Lord knows I will be, regardless of if I want to or not. Trust me, I do.

Consensus: Despite being the longest out of the three (clocking in at 3 hours and 12 minutes, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King still delivers on every end of the spectrum that fans, and moviegoers alike expect from these movies: beautiful sets and designs, fully-realized characters, dazzling action, an emotional story from start-to-finish, and especially with this one, a beautiful send-off to a trilogy we will most likely never, ever forget about, no matter how many prequels Hollywood and Peter Jackson want to churn out of their money-making asses.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

"I'm money, bitches."

“I’m money, bitches.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I may be a noob because I don’t know a Orc from a Uruk-Hai, but as long as we got elves, wizards, dwarves, monster-creatures, and trees all duking it out in one flick, I’m fine with not knowing.

Taking place literally 3 days after where the first one left-off, we follow three stories of our favorite characters and see how they all are separated, but go-out on their own quests as well. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum (choreographed by Andy Serkis), the ring’s former owner. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf (Ian McKellen), before fighting at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.

That’s a pretty lengthy-premise, hell, probably the longest one I have ever done, and hell, this is a pretty lengthy-movie. But even though it may clock-in at 2 hours and 59 minutes, just missing that day-changer by a measly minute, you still can’t help but have a great-old time watching all of your favorite fantasy characters, battle it out like nobody’s business. Oh, and let’s not forget the walking trees, too. Can’t forget about them.

Once again, as you could probably expect from the guy, Peter Jackson does a great-job at nailing each and every single, little detail of this setting down to it’s core. Everything just looks perfect the way it is and those swooping shots that seem to take over the film, do nothing else but put you in the mind-set that yes, you are in Middle-Earth and it’s time to get ready for a place that is filled with mystical-beings and happenings, but also a place that’s filled with a lot of darkness and war, as well.

Believe it or not, from a reader’s stand-point, this is the most controversial movie-adaptation of the three because apparently Jackson took some liberties of his own in changing up the story-structure, events, and even the characters as well. Obviously any person who has ever read these books and is expecting the exact, same thing on-screen are going to be a little pissed to see some things shook-up a bit, but I don’t think Jackson could have told this story any other way. What I mean by that, is that since there are three stories going-on at the same time, you sort of have to tell them all just like that, rather than telling one-story, being done with it, and moving onto the next without any transition to other stories. It can be done, but it wouldn’t have worked for this movie and that’s why I’m really glad Jackson kept all of these three stories to continue to go-on at the same time, without a break, or stop, or anything. It’s just got a beautiful flow to it and that’s because Jackson knows the story from head-to-toe and wants to show everybody his love and appreciation for it, even if he has to stick to his movie-rules and piss a couple of people off by doing-so. Hey, you can’t please everybody out there, Pete, but you sure as hell pleased the hell out of me.

I think where this film works so well compared to the first-one is the sort of tone and approach it takes to the story. You can definitely tell that this story is starting to get more and more tense as it develops and you can tell that there’s more of a drastic-feeling to every scene, where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen next, who you’re going to have to say bye to, and just how far the story will progress in-time. You have a bigger, emotional-connection to everybody here and it’s not just about who’s going to get killed-off next, it’s about who are you going to miss when it’s all said and done. There is definitely a lot that’s worth standing-by and awaiting the next surprise, but it’s not all about surprises, twists, or turns with this story, it’s about the feeling of the world you’re placed into and whether or not you’re going to be able to stay-long and watch as all of your favorite characters risk their lives 24/7.

That’s why the infamous battle at Helm’s Depp is considered one of the best battle-sequences of the past-decade, there’s so much emotion, turmoil, and intensity going on behind it, that you can’t stop feeling like you are involved with it as much as the actual-characters themselves. Anybody that talks about this movie, always talks about this huge-spectacle of a battle and as they should, because it is absolutely awesome to be entertained by, and absolutely gripping to watch. You never know what’s going to happen next with this scene and you feel like anything could happen, and usually does actually happen. It’s filmed-beautifully, as well as you could expect, and just goes to show you that Jackson had an inspiration for how he wanted this battle to look and feel like and holy damn, if it wasn’t for this whole-sequence, I don’t know how much of this film I would have actually loved.

However, I shouldn’t really talk like the battle at Helm’s Deep is the only thing worth watching here, because it isn’t. Each and every other story that they throw at us is as epic, dramatic, and gripping as the one that comes before it, the only problem is that when it gets in the way of the battle-sequence, it slows things down a bit. I liked the story of Sam and Frodo continuing their quest with the Ring, and the two hobbits with the walking trees, but whenever they showed-up, it was usually to break-up the action that was happening during the battle and it felt a bit cheap, as it just took away from all of the excitement and intensity that we were feeling beforehand. I mean, yeah, these stories needed to be told and needed to be spliced-in with the main-one, but still, you can’t help but feel like they just dedicated a good solid 45 minutes to the battle at Helm’s Deep, and be done with it, rather than just jumping back-and-forth and breaking some of the fun.

That same person who you heard talking about this movie and mentioning the battle at Helm’s Deep, would also probably mention that this is the flick that first introduced the CG-driven powerhouse of Gollum, played by Andy Serkis. See, what most people at the time didn’t know was that Serkis donned the blue-suit for this role and encapsulated all of his movements, flow, and feelings all into this character to give him a realistic-look and feel. Instead, everybody else thought that it was just another case of the computers taking over the magic of Hollywood, and just using a bunch of special-effects that may look beautiful, but are still special-effects none the less. That’s what’s so amazing about Serkis as Gollum here, is that he just brings all of this feeling to a character and makes it seem very unbelievable how he was able to pull it all off so well. I also can’t forget to mention that Gollum looks as real as you’re going to get and it’s a work of art to watch and just gaze at. Yeah, technology is better now, but at the time, it was beyond art. It was a freakin’ masterpiece.

Ian McKellen was the anchor of the first movie, but is rarely here as Gandolf, even though he still kicks as much ass here in this movie, as we expected from him in that movie. Instead, that anchor is given-away to Viggo Mortensen who absolutely nails it as Aragorn. Viggo just has this look and feel to him that has you wonder what he’s going to do next, but yet, at the same time, still has you feel like you’re in safe-hands whenever he’s around. That’s why it was pretty freakin’ awesome to see him take over ship here a lot of times and just let everybody know that he’s the boss, he’s the man you don’t want to mess with, and most of all, he’s the man that’s going to slay all of these weird-looking, freaky creatures. Just goes to show you that Viggo really can scare anybody, whether he’s playing a Russian-mobster, playing Sigmund Freud, an ex-gangster-turned-family-man. Yeah, that last sentence pretty much puts Viggo Mortensen’s career into a nutshell.

Consensus: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second-installment that hits, and hits hard with enough emotions, action, and characters running through, that you feel like you have a full grip and feel of this story, what’s happening in it, and what’s to come of it in it’s grand, epic finale. Return of the King, here I come!

9/10=Full Price!!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Alright, bring on the freaks!

Set in Middle Earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form “the Fellowship” begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Obviously with the fact that Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth soon with The Hobbit, I thought to myself, “It’s been awhile since I actually wasted my day and watched one of these movies. So, why not just go back to the whole trilogy and waste three days now? Woo-hoo!!” Trust me, people, it’s all for you out there so you better be freakin’ happy.

Anybody that ever talks about this movie, or the trilogy itself, always says the same thing, “You have to have read the books to fully understand.” Is that true? Well, yes, in a way, but that does not mean you can’t still appreciate it for what it truly is: a very, very well-made film. Jackson has never been a huge favorite of mine but I have to cut the guy some slack here because this direction is one of the more inspired-directions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Jackson obviously has a near and dear passion and love for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and that shows here with his set design and attention to detail.

Saying that everything in this movie is beautiful, is a downright understatement. Everything looks so perfect the way it is, that at times, believe it or not, I actually caught myself wondering just how they got it to look so real and put it out into a film without ever making it look cheesy one-bit. I will say that in the year 2012, the CGI and special-effects may not be as up-to-date as we all are used to nowadays, but just checking this film out from a viewer’s stand-point and realizing how much attention and detail was given to each scene really makes me want to get up, and give Jackson a big old hug. The guy really has a distinctive look with this film and made me feel even closer to Middle Earth, even though the shots were obviously from New Zealand. But you know what? Who the hell cares, because if Jackson can make it look like Middle Earth, then that’s good enough for me.

I feel like I should have been more open in this review by starting off and saying that I’m not a reader/nor have I ever read any of Tolkien’s novels and to be honest, I still think that the story made me enough sense for me to get the gist of it. In the beginning, Jackson spells-out everything pretty nice and clear for everyone to understand just what’s going on with a detailed and heavy prologue and definitely makes it clear right from the start, just what we’re in store for: hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, sorcery, action, violence, and plenty of other weird-looking creatures just hangin’ around. Jackson’s attention to detail in terms of setting and scenery, carries out very well into the characters and creatures that he creates but I feel like that’s a pretty obvious statement already. Let me just get it out of the way: Jackson’s direction is superb here and he pays attention to detail like no other. Also, it’s a very, very, very beautiful film! Okay, now that I got that thought out of my mind, I can move on now and just tell you that it’s a pretty fun movie once you get past all of the kookiness behind it.

You don’t generally have to be a fan of fantasy movies (like me), to enjoy the hell out of this movie, but it definitely does help. There’s so much exposition, secret powers coming out of nowhere, swords clashing, people yelling bold statements about courage, weird creatures, and more exposition. It’s exactly what you expect from a fantasy movie and I didn’t have much of a problem with that because the story kept me involved, and I found myself to have a lot of fun with it as well. The action doesn’t take over the whole  movie, but that was a-okay with me because I payed more attention to the adventure that all of these colorful characters were on, where it was going to take them, and the danger that lied ahead of them. There was definitely a great deal of suspense in the air because I never really knew when shit was just going to pop-off for these characters and their adventure, and quite frankly, I was a bit scared for them as well. It’s one of those movies where you feel as if you are on an adventure that may never end, but you sort of don’t want it to end because you feel as if you’re along for the ride, without having to worry about being killed or eaten alive by some weird-looking, monster/creature/thing.

Regardless of how fun and exciting this movie really was, it still does not make it “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a statement and accolade that has seemed to be given by anybody who has watched this movie. Is it a grand, sweeping epic that catches your attention right from the start and keeps you watching? Yes, but is it perfect? Awwww, hellll nooo! The reason why this movie is not perfect is because of how long it is. It comes close to clocking in at over 3 hours and even though I don’t mind that with most movies, just as long as they keep my attention, I minded that with this movie because of how many times it seemed to start-and-stop all over the place.

What I mean by this, is that every time the movie would fire-up with an ultra-epic action scene, it would just automatically slow-down, start having everybody talk in their exposition jibber-jabber, continue walking, focus on another character from another setting, have another ultra-epic action scene, and then go right back to the same pattern. At first, I didn’t really mind this because it was entertaining to see and I liked watching where Jackson went with this story, but after awhile it became a bit repetitive and I could almost tell where all of the action was going to go down and when. That’s not good for me, because I usually like my surprises, especially with my action-adventure movies and if Dan the Man’s not surprised, Dan the Man’s not happy! Waaah!

And to be honest, it was even worse when these people would go off on these rants and raves in this jibber-jabber, that really seemed to get in the way of any type of excitement or energy this movie had going for itself. When I thought the movie would continue to go at the pace it was going at, it just slows down, focuses on a character talking a whole bunch of nonsense that only people who sleep with the book would be able to comprehend, and loses that steam for the longest time, that is, until the next action scene files in and picks the movie right back-up from where it was left off in the first place. A couple of scenes where these characters had these “talks” really seemed to come out of nowhere, and maybe should have gotten a call from Jackson’s editor to cut that one the hell out. One scene in particular is where Cate Blanchett comes in out of nowhere and starts to go crazy about the ring, and even though it is visually-stunning, it’s still pretty obvious and serves no purpose to the story or the message other than, “everybody is obsessed with this ring and wants it like Grandma’s secret meat loaf recipe”. Yup, I think I got that idea right from the beginning of the story when I saw how bat-shit crazy this ring made everybody go so it didn’t necessarily do anything for me when all of these characters kept falling for the same bag of tricks over and over again.

But I can’t rag on this film anymore, really, because it still kept me entertained and kept me watching a great ensemble, do fantastic jobs in each of their own, respective roles. This whole cast is jam-packed to the core with familiar-faces and superstars of the silver-screen, but the one who really stood-out for me was Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen owns it as Gandalf because he gives this character a great deal of warmth and sympathy that it makes it real easy for us to believe why so many people feel comfortable around him, and why they don’t have to fear for their lives whenever he’s around. I also liked how McKellen didn’t really ham it up and kept everything very straight-forward with what he was going to do next, and why. I also can’t forget to mention Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The guy just looks intimidating and definitely holds his own as the only guy who could be considered an “action hero” throughout the whole movie, but there’s going to be a lot more of him talked about in the future reviews of this trilogy so I won’t go and spoil it now. Just be ready, everybody, as I wastes my life away watching swords, sorcery, and stones.

Consensus: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring may be a tad overstuffed with scenes that feel unneeded, but it’s epic-nature still cannot be denied with it’s fine, fine, fine attention to detail from Peter Jackson, and engrossing story that makes you feel as if you are along for this ride in Middle Earth, where nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Not really sure if that’s the right statement to use for this movie, but you get what I mean.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Luckiest freakin’ student ever!

When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins St George’s as the new art teacher, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) senses a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to her. Sheba begins an illicit affair and Barbara becomes the keeper of her secret.

Honestly, what could would ever want to pass up on a chance to sleep with their teacher, especially if that teacher was Cate Blanchett?!? I mean come on people, let’s be real here.

Going right into this flick, I was expecting something that was going to be pretty generic with a good cast to elevate it all. However, aside from the cast, it’s also the writing that really works here and keeps everything tight, just when it starts to loosen up a bit. The film starts off with a very normal pace with a chronicle of these two ladies becoming “friends”, but then when the affair is caught by Barb, all hell breaks loose and we have ourselves a psychological thriller that didn’t really stop moving. May get a tad predictable at times, but you’re able to get past that thanks to everything else that’s going on

Everything is very dark and eerie in this flick because it touches on a lot of topics like pedophilia, adultery, and lesbianism but it still somehow maintains a very dry sense of wit that made me laugh at times. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a dark comedy, but I will say that it catches you off guard sometimes by how witty it can be, but you still can’t get past the fact that this flick continues to go deeper, deeper, and deeper into its story until there’s barely anything left in it. A very fine script and the direction from Richard Eyre, may not be anything special but at least he isn’t trying to get involved with the story too much. He just lets it play-out like it should.

My main problem with this flick was that the whole reasoning as to how this affair started in the first place seemed a bit unbelievable. First of all, Sheba does not seem like the type of older gal that would develop a school girl crush on a boy, and then to start shacking the high hoots with him either. It seemed like Sheba herself, was a little too intelligent and mature for this type of behavior but then again, I can’t say this too much because certain shit like this does happen in real-life. Pissed that it doesn’t happen at my school but teacher-student banging does go down none the less.

What went along with this problem was that the reasoning Sheba gave as to why she wanted this kid in the first place, was because she felt lonely with her husband, who’s 20 years older than her, and the family she had to raise with him. Yeah I get this, but the film barely shows us any of these problems ever happening until later on in the flick when her mind starts to get a little crazier from all of the constant paranoia of being found-out. Maybe if they touched up on this a bit more, I would have been able to believe it all but it came off as a bit of a stretch or a lame excuse for this chick wanting to bone a younger kid. It also didn’t help that the kid was a terrible actor, and I swore to God that if he said the word “miss” in his fake-ass Irish accent, I was going to punch the screen hoping to get a piece of him too. Dreams never do come true!

However, all of those problems are almost forgotten about whenever I think about the performances here from the trio of leads here. Judi Dench is very unglamorous as Barbara because she’s sad, lonely, old, looking for love, but also very, very, very creepy deep-down inside. She’s pretty much playing a crotchety old hag that has a lot more heart and warmth to her that makes you feel some sympathy for her character but then you also start to feel like you can’t trust this chick and neither can any other character in this flick either. Dench definitely takes over the screen every time she gets a chance to, and shows just how creepy of a character she can be.

Cate Blanchett is also a revelation as Sheba, one of her more unsympathetic character roles. Blanchett is constantly on fire with this character because she’s sad, lonely, and in need of love, but in a very different way. Unlike Barbara, Sheba is a character that you can trust in what she’s going to do next and even though Dench gets a lot of crazy material t0 work with, Blanchett is still allowed to let loose as well especially when it’s on each other. I don’t know what it was here, but there’s just something so awesome and perfect about watching two respected actresses like Blanchett and Dench go all-out on each other in a cat fight that features barely any physicality; all verbal baby.You can’t also forget to mention the always perfect, Bill Nighy as Sheba’s husband. Nighy almost steals every scene he has on-screen with each of these two chickies, but it’s by the end when all of the emotions of this character start to pour out is when you realize that this character has a lot more to him than you would expect. After seeing him and Dench try their hardest to be happy and make love in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I think it’s pretty safe to say that they have both regained my respect for them.

Consensus: Notes on a Scandal may have problems with believablity, but where it succeeds in is perfect performances from its cast, an script that continues to go farther down into what it’s trying to explore, and a plot that may be generic and simple at times, ends up being very unpredictable and thrilling.

8/10=Matinee!!

Hanna (2011)

Thrillers need more techno beats.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenager raised and trained by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA operative, to become a highly skilled assassin. But when she’s sent on a deadly mission across Europe, Hanna takes to an English family and starts longing for a normal life. She must first solve the puzzle of her mysterious past, however.

The fact that this is directed by Joe Wright (‘Atonement’, ‘The Soloist’), definitely makes this film stand-out a lot more considering this guy isn’t really known for adrenaline-bumping action flicks. Still, it’s great to see a director who can actually get out of his comfort zone a bit and actually do a pretty good job with it.

What I liked about Wright’s direction was how much style this dude put into this flick. There are plenty of beautiful visual moments where it almost seems like you’re watching a rave party go down and how he just keeps the camera moving on the action is very tense and creates this sort of “nowhere to hide” atmosphere. It takes a lot for a director to take a total 180 from doing Jane Austen adaptations to doing action films, but he definitely shows a lot more promise when it comes to action than a lot of these other directors that have seeming to been doing it for over 10 to 20 years by now.

What always kept staying in my mind the whole time with this flick was the awesome action scenes and how Wright’s style really added a whole bunch more to them. In ‘Atonement’, Wright used this 7 and a half minute tracking shot and it was not only beautiful but also very unneeded especially for that flick. He does the same thing here with a couple of scenes but there was one that stuck in my mind and it felt right to the whole movie considering it actually keeps on continuing to build up more and more as the shot continues. There was this one shot where we see Hanna’s dad get off of a bus and end up at a subway station where he is met by 4 dudes who obviously want to beat his ass and the camera never leaves as we see him walking and then kicking ass. It was definitely one of the most memorable scenes from this flick and was a really good use of a tracking shot, and everybody knows how much of a sucker I am for those kinds of shots.

Let me also not forget to mention that the score/soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers is absolutely phenomenal and what I think separates this from many other thrillers. There’s always a constant dub beat in the background of this flick and it keeps on getting louder and louder and louder until you feel like you just entered a club full of teens all strung-out on ecstasy. I never really have been a fan of those guys much but when it comes to scoring an action flick, they do the job just about as perfect as Hanz Zimmer has been doing for the past couple of years.

The problem with this flick is that even though on the technical front, it’s astonishing, everything else seems to be pretty lame. The script isn’t anything special, nor is it anything worth recommending. Too many times did this film focus on Hanna and her little trip with this family where she got to see the world and encounter all of life’s problems on her own. Right from the beginning I knew they were going to go down this road so when it actually did happen it was kind of disappointing since it seemed like this flick was going to be a tad different from anything else that I’ve seen. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t really get attached to Hanna’s character considering she’s just one of those fish-out-of-water characters that obviously looks like she is a little Coo-Coo for Coco Puffs so it’s not like I could feel anything for her since she didn’t really have much to worry about because every person that walked into her, she practically killed right away.

Still, though, the biggest problem this flick hits with its end is that there is a little plot twist they decide to throw in here that was too obvious and the end with how Blanchett’s shoes come into play was a little too goofy. The film was just a bummer because it obviously drops the ball when it came to being a cool moment and it’s just a shame that Wright didn’t get a script that deserved him because he is probably the biggest star of this whole flick.

However, the cast is pretty good and I can’t really put the blame on them for anything whatsoever. Saoirse Ronan is pretty bad-ass as Hanna and seems like that sort of weird and freaky-looking kid that would be a secret cold-blooded killer, but then again watch in 10 years when I’m calling her the hottest chick on the planet; Eric Bana is pretty awesome as her daddy and is allowed to show off his action stuff; and Cate Blanchett is pretty much a total bitch as the evil and sinister Marissa. Good cast all around just not enough on the script side to give them the love that they deserve.

Consensus: Hanna is super stylized with a pumping score from The Chemical Brothers, and some very cool-looking action scenes courtesy of Joe Wright, however, the script fails to live up to the direction and just ends up being a little too boring and obvious to ignore after awhile.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Bandits (2001)

Second best bank robbers, behind Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

Two bank robbers, charming Joseph (Bruce Willis) and neurotic Terry (Billy Bob Thornton), battle over the affections of Kate (Cate Blanchett), a housewife they kidnapped before one of their big heists. Gaining notoriety as the “Sleepover Bandits,” the partners then force a reality TV show host to cover their 15 minutes of fame while they go on a crime spree — Kate in tow.

Director Barry Levinson usually does a lot of  good films that are all very talky so it was kind of cool to see him touch a thriller, with some talking there too. However, it’s not the best thing he’s done.

The script here is at times very good and other times, just plain weak. I liked how the film doesn’t take itself way too seriously with all the robberies and there is a lot of funny things that are said and done which will surprisingly have you laughing. It’s sort of like a combination of The Odd Couple and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it surprisingly works well. Let’s not also forget the little twists and turns that keep this film entertaining especially when the action is happening as well.

The problem with the script here is that the film is about 2 hours long and the script can’t really keep itself going for that long. By the end, there were many dry spots where they started to rely too much on slapstick and just weak comedy. The film also acts a little cute by showing barely any blood while the robberies take place, but that’s just dumb because blood or no blood, there’s nothing at all about robbery and kidnapping that’s wholesome.

However, the main reason this film actually works is because the cast is so damn likable. Bruce Willis is awesome as the straight-man, Joe Blake. Willis practically plays the same guy in every film ever since his Die Hard days but it never stops working for him and here it works even more because while the whole film is a tad goofy, he always plays it straight and never seems out-of-place. Billy Bob Thornton is a riot as Terry Collins, who is so up-tight about everything that it’s almost too laughable to be taken seriously. Thornton does a great job here playing a character that some people would usually get irritated of quickly, but thanks to Thornton’s appeal, the character is the best in the whole film. Cate Blanchett is sexy as well as very good as Kate Wheeler and doesn’t let the guy’s steal her spotlight one bit and has many funny moments although I think the little love triangle was kind of stupid. But it brought more the story so I can’t be hating that much.

Consensus: Though it’s script may start to get weaker as the film’s last act starts to come, Bandits is still very funny and entertaining because of it’s playful feel to the material, and the amazing trio of leads, that make these characters so much more likable than they had any right to be.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

If you meet a guy named this, stay the hell away!

Charming sociopath Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) maneuvers his way into the lush life of a young heir (Jude Law) vacationing in Italy in this increasingly creepy thriller from Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith.

The film at first sight, doesn’t seem like it could be what it becomes. It’s nice, sound, and also charming with plenty elements of little comedy here and there, but soon turns into something like no other.

Probably in the first hour, the film’s deciding factor already occurs. However, instead of ending on a note like they could have the film continues and gets more into the mind of this very interesting man, Mr. Tom Ripley. The one element I liked of this film was that it was all shot in mostly his point-of-view. We see everything his way, and we get a sense early of who this quiet, awkward man actually is.

I have to praise the writing and direction credit from Anthony Minghella. He uses such a great way of film-making by building up the suspense as the film goes on. There are slight moments of creepiness, but never too out-of-hand until the third and last act.  You feel like everything in this film is just going to explode, but using slight Hitchcock pointers of suspense, we are left on the edge of our seat because of the unpredictable of the film and its characters. We see the reason as to why this Tom Ripley wants to be somebody else, and why it is his dream and infatuation, of being another person. I especially liked how by the end of the film, Ripley had to come up with things off the top of his head to get him out of certain situations, which dug him deeper and deeper into more and more chaos among the people he knew. Also, I shouldn’t forget to mention the setting, in Italy. The places the film are set in make the film look better, cause of the bright colors you get this sense of good and love, but the story contradicts this beautiful, loving place, with horror.

I will say that this film did have a couple of flaws that did bother me a bit. I feel like when Jude Law’s character, Dickie, left the film by the end of the second act, the latter part isn’t the same. I was still entertained don’t get me wrong here, I just wasn’t as taken back by the characters relationship as I was with the first two acts. Also, the character of Meredith (Cate Blanchett), and her obsession with Ripley, seemed a bit too unbelievable and underused to a point where the last confrontation was awkward and meaningless. And I can’t recommend this for everyone cause it certainly it certainly isn’t a film you and your family, or bunch of friends can enjoy.

Matt Damon is great and equally as creepy in this film, and proves at an early age he can turn in great performances. Damon, is scary, but also tragic, cause he is a kid that would rather be somebody else and famous for it, than just a random nobody. He makes a total transition half-way through the movie, from awkward quite kid, to charming, talkative two guys, and its all believable. The best performance in the film that is actually the highlight, is Jude Law, because he is so funny, charming, and energetic that when he leaves the film mid-way through we miss his presence and what him back on. Also, Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman appear and make some good supporting jobs here too.

Consensus: It’s not for everyone, but The Talented Mr. Ripley, has wonderful performances from the cast, a creepy atmosphere that climbs every minute, and a wonderful job of writing and directing from Minghella.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!!

The Shipping News (2001)

Could this film honestly get any more depressing!!??!

Distraught after the disappearance of his estranged wife, Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) and his daughter move into their ancestral home with his long-lost aunt (Judi Dench) in Newfoundland, where life is rough and secrets are buried deep. When Quoyle lands a job as a reporter for the local newspaper, a past emerges, a mystery unfolds and life awakens.

So basically the way this film starts out is with a big promise. As usual, Spacey is playing the loser without a cause, and looks like this may actually be one of those tragic comedies, but then soon dives right into some upsetting and boring material.

The film is a relentless usage of total coincidences: births, deaths, rapes, murders, and disappearances. It felt like all these little happenings were just put into the film for when suddenly the protagonist came back into town.

I liked the little scenes that were inside the Shipping News paper office. Those scenes actually where the heart of this story was at, and it had a lot of comedy and feeling to these scenes that actually made the film worth watching.

The problem is with this film is that they don’t go with any of these scenes and dive right into boring ass depression crap. I mean honestly there are so many times that this film just was acting bleak and sad, just be bleak and sad. There really served no purpose. A lot of the major themes of Spacey’s character on whether or not he could actually overcome his shyness were never quite answered at the end of the film. Director Lasse Hallström usually makes these lavish, dramas but here fails at bringing any of the core emotions to the screen.

Spacey with all his might gives it all in this film. He is playing such a different and shy character that a lot of the scenes he is carrying. Julianne Moore’s accent was not very believable, and at times I found her to actually be quite annoying when on-screen. The best here is Judi Dench who at such an old age really does bring out her acting chops, and I found many of the scenes with her and Spacey were the best and should have had more of them.

Consensus: The Shipping News has some bright scenes and strong performances, but fails mostly due to its bleakness of the subject material, over-bearing coincidences, and overall way of making the viewers themselves utterly depressed.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

Babel (2006)

After watching this I needed to watch every episode of The Teletubies.

When an American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) vacationing in Morocco fall victim to a random act of violence, a series of events unfolds across four countries that demonstrates both the necessity and impossibility of human communication. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu artfully weaves together three seemingly disparate stories in this Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Golden Globe winner for Best Drama.

Now right away I should let you know, if you want to watch this film be ready. The next two hours and twenty-two minutes of your life will be totally depressed, as I felt after watching this film.

The film is four stories that are all weaved together in one or another, and each feature a huge disaster among the characters. To say one story is better or more interesting than the other is simple unfair. Each story in their own features a strong enough effect on your soul and will make you think about the world we live in.

This is not an easy film to watch as each story is told through different languages so we get a sense of realism. Probably what I liked most about this film is that there are no bad guys and good guys, these people are normal everyday human beings such as you and myself. They are not judged on their morality as much as on fate and circumstance. This element of fate and circumstance really impacted me, as knowing one thing devastating thing can happen now matter how good or bad you are in life.

The cinematography is just so beautiful. Some of the images in this film are just so mesmerizing, that I couldn’t stop just to wonder how such beautiful images got put into this film. There are a couple scenes where this shows, but there is one where the Japanese girl is in a club and you get this total feeling that you are in it with all the strobe lights, and the atmosphere its just so great looking.

The only problem I had with this film was not so much of a problem with the film but more of with me. The film was just so damn depressing!! I mean there was little or no humor involved whatsoever, and almost in every story everything bad that could happen, just happened and it just became so bad for me.

None of these stories would be as powerful as they were without its great acting from the cast. Brad Pitt does a great job here and plays one of his earlier stronger roles, along with Cate Blanchett who is his servery injured wife. But the best out of the performances was the Japanese girl played by Rinko Kikuchi who makes this film even more tragic as a young girl who just wants to have sex to get rid of her own pain and anguish, and she plays it so very well.

Consensus: Babel is a very depressing film, but is has a wonderful message, with great writing and directing, along with realistic writing, and a powerful film even when the credits are done rolling.

9/10=Full Priceee!!!

The Aviator (2004)

The movie that started the love fest between Scorsese and Leo.

The film centers on Hughes’ life from the late 1920s to 1947, during which time he gained success as a film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Scorsese, one of the best of all directors, has made an enormously entertaining movie about one of the most fascinating American lives but also the saddest. The production here is incredibly ambitious, Scorsese creates early Hollywood movies, stars, and the real-life airplanes. Its also very interesting to see the different types of film stock and colors he uses to reflect various periods in which the movie takes place in. This is a traditional rise and fall story that could’ve gone too many wrong ways but simply stays in the right direction.

The best thing of this movie has to be the great performances from Blanchett and DiCaprio. When playing these real-life figures sometimes actors try to go overboard with trying to act too much like the person their portraying, but these two don’t. Leo does a strongly effective job at playing Howard Hughes and creates this sympathetic character that we feel the need to like, because of all his time put into his film making and planes. Blanchett does the best job because it looks like she is just having a lot of fun, and totally captures the energy that many knew Katherine Hepburn had. The full energy of the film comes from these two performances and what makes the film fully effective and real.

Though the film was boasted with some great direction I thought that the special effects were pretty brassy and could’ve been better, especially when it came to some of the flight scenes. The film itself is 169 minutes and for about 120 I was really entertained but then there were just some really dry spots that didn’t keep me glued to the screen like many others from Scorsese.

The film may not be Scorsese’s best work but it unquestionably a very creative piece of moviemaking.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indie’s back and older than ever.

In 1957, Indiana Jones is thrust back in action, venturing into the jungles of South America in a race against Soviet agents to find the mystical Crystal Skull.

So my first question for this movie is why did they have to make this? Then as soon as I saw this movie I realized why, all just for the movie. I mean I know what Spielberg and Lucas were trying to do by making this the second highest grossing movie of 2008 but still at least make it worth all that money. All that $786 million that is.

There are many problems with this film so I’m just going to get right down to it. First of all what made all of the other Indy films great was the mixture of action and comedy. We barely get any of that. The action happens and I was satisfied with it but there wasn’t enough of it for an Indiana Jones film. Also the script is so dry that it makes the Sahara Desert look like Niagra Falls. There is no wit whatsoever and I never caught myself laughing, as I did in the previous ones.

What made the other Indy films great was that they barely ever relied on special effects, if any at all. There were so many computerized scenes that it totally took away the feeling of this way everything seemed so realistic.

Lastly, the main problem with this film is the story of aliens. That’s right people you heard me correct there are aliens in this film. This is so ludicrous to the Indy franchise that I can’t even speak. There never were any aliens and there never should be in the Indy franchise, and that’s final!!!!! This just made the story so much more confusing then I could have ever imagined.

However this film wasn’t so horrible, it did have some high points. I just liked the feeling of how Indy was back on the screen once again. The movie was kind of like a reunion tour from like The Eagles or Rolling Stones, they’re not as great as they used to be but it’s still cool to see them playing out there and sort of giving a tribute. This is Indiana Jones’ reunion tour and I just liked seeing that Indy is alive and well. Also despite Indy being an old fart Harrison Ford still does have his acting chops that made him and Indy famous before and I liked Shia Labeouf, pairing them two together was a nice passing of the torch moment at the end that i think all can enjoy.

Probably why I didn’t like this movie as much was because I was expecting more from Spielberg who has made some of the greatest movies I have ever seen (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan). This is a very watered down version of all the Indy films and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this be the last of the Indy films. Still as much as I disliked it I still have to give it a in the middle rating since it’s always good to see one of the finest movie hero’s, Indiana Jones, back in work.

5/10=Rentall!!!

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