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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Chris Cooper

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Spiders can have problems, too.

The last time we left Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) he was just a punk, high school kid that had a smart and hot girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a loving, supportive aunt (Sally Field), and was also saving the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week as the web-slinging, wall-climbing, friendly neighborhood superhero known as Spider-Man. Yes, that little Peter Parker grew up to be quite a somebody and now that he’s graduated high school, he’s got to look forward – which means that some changes may have to be made. That means no more girlfriend; no more other priorities; and no more distractions to take him away from what really matters: Saving the day and finding out more about his parents’ pasts. However, he may have to put all of those plans on hold when Oscorp employee, and self-declared, Spider-Man’s number one biggest fan, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) gets electrocuted and falls into a pool of electric eels, turning him into what some will know as “Electro”. He’s dangerous, but so is Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), the son of rich billionaire Norman (Chris Cooper) who has just recently passed-away due to a radiation infection, leaving his son all of the estate and plenty of power in the palm of his hands. Almost too much, some would say.

Growing up on the Raimi-Maguire Spider-Man movies, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first Amazing Spider-Man. First of all, I knew it was all made as a way to ensure that Sony would be able to keep the rights to the Spider-Man name and brand, and because of that, was made and released literally five years after the original franchise ended. In my book, that’s way too soon, especially for a franchise that clearly was close to me, regardless of how crappy that third one-of-a-turd turned out to be.

Oh my gawd! We get it! You're in love! Now quite the PDA for gosh sakes!

Oh my gawd! We get it! You’re in love! Now quit the PDA for goshsakes!

Regardless, now that we have a sequel to the re-boot and unsurprisingly, I come off with a little bit of the same feelings that I had before: “Meh”. But this time, with a bit more oomph. Just a little bit.

See, I think where most of this movie’s charm comes from is in the way that Marc Webb does not give up on making a single-sequence here the least bit exciting or entertaining. Sure, the action scenes are a romp-and-a-half by how much CGI he’s able to throw at us, without ever making it seem like total overkill, but he’s even able to make the character-driven scenes pop with a little more energy than one would expect from something so up-and-moving all of the time. Which for a two-hour-and-twenty-minute-movie, can get a bit tiring, but considering that this movie begins with a car-chase through the streets of NYC, and ends with a mono-e-mono duel in the same place, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I got all of the action that I wanted, but not without the fun, of course.

That’s why Marc Webb, despite initially not knowing what to think of him as director for the first movie, really does deserves to keep this franchise under his name. At least for now; that is until he pulls a stunt like this and burns everybody’s corneas, as well as their memories of what a Spider-Man movie should be.

Sorry, people. I’ll still never be able to get over that. Never, ever.

Yet though, I find myself oddly perplexed by this movie because while it is definitely fun, exciting and thrilling, there’s still something about this story that feels a bit hollow, yet at the same time, totally shouldn’t be. It’s almost like the third Raimi movie, except that this time, it seems like everybody behind-the-camera is actually trying to make sure that they can make sense of all the numerous subplots, characters and conflicts, while also still being able to deliver the goods on the action-element of this movie. More often than not, the effort works and makes it seem as if this was created by those who care about making a lick of sense, but other times, it doesn’t really seem to matter what makes sense or what doesn’t, because there’s sometimes nothing really there.

For instance, this whole story is centered around the fact that Peter wants to discover more about his parents, their lives, their professions and why exactly they decided to leave him with his aunt and uncle on that one, fateful day. It makes sense why he would and it would have been able to bring out some raw emotions within Pete himself, but it never really does much except just have Pete running all around New York, skateboard in hand, eyes wandering all of the place and a confused-look on his face practically the whole time whenever he’s reading or seeing a hidden-document for the first time.

But that’s just me reaching for something that isn’t there, because basically, this is just a story about Peter Parker’s one crazy summer after high school ended. He gets to break-up, and get back together with his sweetheart numerous times; he gets a chance to hang out with old pals; he gets to walk around the streets; do his own laundry; talk-back to his aunt; be rebellious; swing; fight crime; beat-up baddies; and get in all sorts of trouble with those who are closest to him. That’s pretty much all there is to this story, but rather than make it as simple and easy as that, the movie decides to throw layer, upon layer, upon layer, until there’s too many layers to begin with. It’s almost like freakin’ ogres!

That said, it’s still entertaining to watch Pete do all of this fun and wacky stuff with his summer, because Andrew Garfield is such a joy to watch play him. I’ll admit it, I was a bit too hard on Garfield in the first movie, which may have to do with the fact that I was just getting over not being able to see Tobey don the red-and-blue jump-suit any longer. But now that I’ve been able to let it all sink in, I have to say that I was really astonished by how natural Garfield is in this role; he’s funny, without being brass; he’s charming, without being too cutesy; and he’s nervous, without being too fidgety. He’s the perfect 30-year-old to play an 18-year-old teenager, and it makes me happy to know that this kid could literally do this role for the next ten years or so, and I will not get bored once. He’s that good. Although, I’ll still stand by Tobey no matter what.

Always got your back, Tobes.

Always.

Joining Garfield once again is his real-life, off-screen-hottie Emma Stone, playing Gwen Stacy, the type of gal every guy in high school wanted to go out with, after high school was already over and done with. Stone, like Garfield, fits all of the perfect requirements with what makes her character lovable, as well as sympathetic, even when all sorts of chaos and mayhem is occurring around her and she refuses to leave. Don’t get it twisted though, because she’s not a damsel-in-distress by any means; sometimes, she may even know a little thing or two more than her boyf himself. That’s why it’s not only a blast to watch Stone do her thing and play, what is essentially way past her own, actual age, but to also see how her and Garfield make great use of their chemistry for the betterment of this movie and how its emotional-core is built stronger through them. Hell, it makes me even not want to see M.J. pop her little, red head in.

As for the villains, despite there being two more than the first movie, it never felt too over-crowded for me – just too much that was left undeveloped. More specifically in the case of Harry Osborne who, through Dane DeHaan, is able to become a bit of a punk-ass kid that has an attitude problem, but still doesn’t really reach the heights of “psychopath” that the movie so clearly and dearly wants him to reach for and grab. DeHaan is good in the role, however, it does seem like it’s his weakest to-date when he starts yelling and having to act all serious, yet goofy and over-the-top at the same time. Regardless of whatever else the guy’s done in the past couple of years, being both “goofy” and “over-the-top” is not a right fit for him, and I felt like somebody should have known that right from the get-go. He tries with it, but by the end, I felt like Willem Dafoe was bound to pop-out of the infamous mirror at any second.

Could have swore I saw this guy on the subway the other night.

Could have swore I saw this guy on the subway the other night.

The better villain of the three is Jamie Foxx as Electro, which moreso has to do with the way the FX team really paid close attention to this character and making him work in every which way. Foxx is fine when he’s Max Dillon, because he’s in human-form and we’re able to see him actually act, but once he becomes Electro, all we really see is some glowing, blue-light floating around from place-to-place, blasting everything with his magic hands. We know this too, because everytime Electro does blow shit up, something like Skrillex blasts through the speakers and makes it seem like you’re not necessarily in a theater, but a wild and crazy rave. Sadly, without the ecstasy.

Still though, as much as I may make a joke about it, the creators behind this really felt confident enough with Electro in terms of the way he looks, acts and proposes a threat to Spidey, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just give him his own movie and leave all of the Green Goblin and Rhino stuff until a tad bit later? Oh yeah, and speaking of Rhino, well, I think I’ve already said too much. Just see the movie and you’ll know what I am talking about.

Consensus: May have handled more than it rightfully should have, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 squanders a great villain in Electro, but leaves the rest of the movie a fun, exciting blockbuster that doesn’t go for the big, or heavy thoughts, but just wants you to get ready for the rest of the summer and all of the joys it may, or may not, be able to bring to you. Hey, have to say, that sounds good enough for me.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Alright, Spidey. A little too friendly.

Alright, Spidey. A little too friendly and neighborly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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August: Osage County (2013)

A family reunion at Orange County probably would have cooled everyone off just a tad bit.

After her dear hubby, Beverly (Sam Shepard), turns up dead at the bottom of a lake, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is left alone, confused, upset and pissed-off at just why the hell the man she’s been married to for half of her damn life would leave her in such a horrific, unexpected way. And since the body has been found and claimed, that can only mean one thing: Funeral arrangements! Actually, better yet, that also means another thing: Family reunion! Violet’s three daughters come up for the funeral and, presumably, haven’t seen one another for quite some time, either due to the fact that they don’t like one another, or got too much already going on in their respective lives that they don’t really have much time to chat-it-up every once and awhile. The oldest, Barbara (Julie Roberts), is going through her own crisis of sorts with her failing marriage to college professor Bill Fordham (Ewan McGregor), and the fact that she can’t seem to connect with her 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) any longer; Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle-child and practically the only one who decided to stay back and watch over mom, dad and the house, but also has a bit of a crisis on her own that just so happens to be more controversial than anything else going on here; and the baby of three girls, Karen (Juliette Lewis), is a bit of a gold digger that’s had plenty of flings in the past, but is now with a man (Dermot Mulroney) who is ten years older than her and may not be a perfect fit. There’s also plenty more where that came from, so just enjoy the show! Or play, whatever you want to call it!

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so much more.

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so badly.

Though I’ve never seen the play, from what I hear, it’s a stunning piece-of-work that yes, is long, but yes, is also worth seeing. And after being a witness to its film-adaptation, I think I might just have to. Which is very strange considering that this was actually adapted from the man who created the original play himself, Tracy Letts, and in case you couldn’t tell with Letts, the guy definitely has an ear for dialogue. Especially those of some pretty messed-up, dysfunctional people that you may not always like, but you can always watch, even in their most questionable moments.

That’s why after seeing two other film-adaptations of his plays (Bug and Killer Joe) I feel like the standard has been set for what a stage-to-film-adaptation can be, let alone one those of Letts’ own creation. Which is why when I saw the huge ensemble director John Wells put together here, I felt like I just could not miss out on this, not even for the world. And for the most part, I wasn’t wrong, because while plenty in this flick doesn’t necessarily work to the best of its ability, the cast consistently puts in great work, which is definitely something to commend, especially considering that they’re given dialogue to work with that is in and of itself a bit too taut and awkward for their own good.

Actually, the same could be said about the direction from Wells also, as this feels more like a forced-job than anything else. See, the complaints that I heard with both Killer Joe and Bug (moreso Joe, than Bug), was that too much of it felt “stagey”. Which is, in essence, exactly what it’s supposed to be, but not done so in a way that makes it feel like you’ve shelled-out money to just see a bunch of people do the same things that you could have seen them do on a big, ole’ stage. It’s quite tricky for a director to maneuver an adaptation around so much so that you don’t have too many scenes where a person will walk into a room, talk about god knows what for ten minutes, go into another room, talk about god knows what for ten more minutes, and then continue to do so until another person decides to take the throne, go into a room, and talk about god knows what for ten minutes. It all just gets to the point of where it’s been so rinsed-out and recycled, that you feel as if you’re on “dialogue-overload”, but not in the fun way you’d hear with a Tarantino, or Scorsese flick. Rather, you’re just hearing a bunch of people rant, rave on and ramble on about crap you don’t really care for, but sort of have to because it’s right in front of your face, and will continue to be so for the next hour or two, and you can’t do a single thing about it.

Hence why that feeling of being crammed-into a place you don’t really want to be at, with a bunch of people you don’t really care for, should have worked absolute wonders for this movie. However, Wells seems like he’s bit too much of a polished film-maker where everything is all nice, clean, frothy and pretty to look-at. Which may be fine for a movie about a family who gets along, rarely ever get into any sort of scuffles with one another and find a way to look on the bright side of any dark day. But this is not a movie about that type of family. This is a movie about a bunch of mean, twisted, dark, angry and sometimes sinister people that see each other as family, but don’t necessarily treat each other as such. Instead, they treat each other as punching-bags when they feel defenseless and have nobody else to poke-fun at or pick a fight with. And when the going gets good and one gets offended, then they bring everybody else into the fight, allowing there to be more and more victims in line for the slaughter.

That’s what I saw with this family, but it was pretty clear that Wells didn’t see that and instead, makes this more of a “commercialized flick” that has plenty of arguments that dive into some pretty dark places, but end on a goofy-notes that you’d see in a feel-good, “crazy family” movie. Even the poster I decided against using promises that there will be a cat-fight by at least some of the characters here, and it gives you the impression that this is going to be a light and happy-going movie, that still has a couple of lessons about life to bestow upon us. It certainly does too, but not the kind that make you feel like you want to hug your mommy, daddy or nearest family-member. But Wells didn’t seem to get that notion and the movie feels a bit disjointed as a result.

But that disjointed feel doesn’t just begin and end with Wells’ direction, it actually can be said the same for this very talented, very entertaining cast, which is a damn shame too, considering almost everybody involved puts in some great work. The main culprit who I think probably runs the highest-risk of getting caught in the cross-fire of this movie’s production is Meryl Streep who, once again, may be putting in an amazing performance here as Violet, still feels like she’s just going for the big, over-exposed sense of acting that we usually see her do from time-to-time, but don’t have much of a gripe with because, well, it’s Meryl Streep for lord’s sakes. That doesn’t mean she isn’t good or anything, she totally is, it’s just that every scene Streep is given to act her ass-off as Violet, she doesn’t hold-back and after awhile, you start to wish that she would just tone it down a bit. I get that she’s a bitch in the play and that’s probably how she was written in the first place, but Meryl’s a talented-enough actress to know that a character/performance can be adapted into many different ways, using many different styles of acting.

Same can be said for Julia Roberts as Barbara who, is definitely relishing her time in a role that we don’t usually see her do, seems like she’s going for the big, the loud and the over-exposed, rather than just taking it down a notch here and there. Roberts is still great and shows us why she doesn’t just have the looks, but the talents as well, but the problem remained that whenever her and Streep were on the same screen together, it seemed like they were both trying too hard to steal the spot-light from the other. It does make the slightest bit of sense when you take into consideration the fact that their characters are supposed to be constantly at-battle with one another, but most of the time, they just end-up in screaming bouts that only seem to go on and on and on, without much entertainment involved whatsoever. You’re just watching two of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses go up against one another and, for lack of a better word, do shop.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

Some of it may be fun to watch, but after awhile, the act begins to get a bit old and you begin to wonder why one of them doesn’t just leave the other one’s sight for the rest of eternity. And don’t feed me that “family is everything” bullshit either.

While Streep and Roberts are more than likely going to be the sole-performances here that get plenty of the awards-attention (and in some cases, rightfully so as they definitely do put in some great work), I can’t help but feel like there are some far better, more in-tuned performances left out on the side, looking in while these two wild ladies go at it. Margo Martindale has been putting in great work practically everywhere she shows up, and does a fantastic job as Aunt Mattie, playing-up both sides of her act that we see many times. She can be either very, very sweet, with just a slight sense of sarcasm, or terribly mean and cruel to those around her. She’s great here and in ways, feels like she would have been a better casting-decision for the role of Violet than Streep. In ways. Chris Cooper is also great as her very calm, very peaceful hubby that you can tell doesn’t take much of crap from anyone, but surely isn’t the one to keep a fight going on once it’s already begun.

But somehow, the real stand-out among this whole cast is Julianne Nicholson who gets by on playing it soft, sweet and rather subdued, which is a shock considering all of the havoc going on around her. Maybe it was just that she was granted a better role than the others in this movie, but she was the one I resonated with the most and actually felt bad for, whereas everybody else seemed like just a bunch of mean a-holes that I didn’t want to spend another second with. Loved listen to them bicker and bat with one another, but if this was my own family, I think I would have to move away to a whole other state, let alone country.

Consensus: There seems to be a bit of a disjoint in the way in which August: Osage County is supposed to tell its story, which causes plenty of problems with its tone and overall message at the end, but watching all of these talented actors just do work with one another, whether it be small and subtle, or loud and over-bearing, is always worth watching, especially if some of those said “talented actors” just so happen to be Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, just to name a few.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Cheer up, girls! It's not like two of you won't get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark....

Cheer up, girls! It’s not like two of you won’t get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Company You Keep (2013)

People get old. Even hippies.

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is living the life that most men of his age should. He has a job, he has a kid, he has responsibility, and he seems to have no problems. That all turns inside-out once a fellow acquaintance of his (Susan Sarandon) turns herself over to the police for a crime she and others committed almost 30 years ago. Grant may or may not have been apart of it, but before he can even turn himself clean, young and reckless journalist (Shia LaBeouf) decides that it’s his time to shine and accidentally “outs” Grant as a former member of an underground movement that had something to do with the death of a bank-teller, those fateful 30 years ago.

This reminds me of one of those thrillers that should have been made, and probably would have made more sense in the 70’s. Due to the fact that a lot of this movie has to do with some hippie-talk, paranoia, and discussions of “the man”, it only seems right that a certain generation that had everything to do with those themes, would be the perfect time for a story like this to take place. However, that’s not where Redford decides to take it and instead, shows that everybody gets old, age-wise, but their beliefs still stay the same. That’s right, we’re most likely going to be stuck with hipsters for the rest of our lives. Hip, hip…..

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at with this movie is that it seems like the aging (and it’s showing) Robert Redford likes to direct movies and better yet; likes to direct movies about something political. Obviously Lions for Lambs was a crack-pot of ideas, thoughts, and themes that he loved to shout at everybody, as if they didn’t already think war killed people, but hey, that’s all fine and dandy once you get underneath it all. This movie is probably less concerned with politics, and more about actually being a thriller, that has a lot of people speaking in code, talking about the past, and running-away from the policia. In that aspect of the film: ehh, it’s okay. But to be honest, going into a movie like this, with the cast he has assembled (seriously, just look at it!!), and knowing that it’s coming from the grips of Redford, you can’t expect greatness. Just expect a good time that is a perfect time-killer, and leave it at that.

"Hello? 911? Yes, I'm serious. I'M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK."

“Hello? 911? Yes, I’m serious. I’M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK.”

However, that’s not to say that all is forgiven in the end. Nope, there are still a bunch of problems with this flick and that’s the fact that most of this just is not all that interesting. There are about three story-lines going on here at once, with one being the most interesting, the other starting off strong and then running it’s course, and then the last one ending up on being “ridiculous”. The most interesting story-line of the whole movie is definitely LaBeouf’s journalist character as he leaves his conscience on the side, for the hopes that he will make it big and get his story on the front of the paper. This was not only the most interesting because of where it went (in and out of the newsroom), but because LaBeouf is so good in it.

I’ve always stood-up for LaBeouf in most movies that he’s done in the past and even though I will admit, the guy surely isn’t lovable and probably isn’t all that easy to work with, I still have to say that he’s very good when it comes to putting himself into a role, and making it work. This is that role where he totally surprised me and from what I read: others as well. LaBeouf is perfectly-cast because he uses that cocky, brash-attitude of his that we see used so many times whether it be actually in a movie or on the streets, and show how it can affect one person when they work and when they aren’t working. I’ll admit that the ending for this character felt a little bit half-hearted with it’s attempt to give him a heart and soul (journalists have none), but LaBeouf keeps his head above water and makes this his movie. But when the movie moves away from him, then it gets bad. Not too bad, but bad nonetheless.

Redford is still a good actor and has that wit and charm that makes him a likable guy to watch on-screen, but he’s pushing 76, which means the guy’s getting old. Also, that means that it’s getting a bit harder and harder to believe that a guy of his age and his build, could really last a whole flick where he’s out-running the cops, Bourne-style. Out-smart them? Sure, I could believe that. But running away from them every chance he gets? Eh, there’s only so much I can and will believe in. That whole aspect where he’s on the run starts off interesting, but loses steam as quickly as Redford does when he’s running those laps (heyyo!), but it’s not the worst story-line in the whole movie.

Out of the three, the worst story-line I’d have to say was the one where every single person that Redford’s character in this movie talked to, talked about the old days and never seemed to get a grip with reality and realize that they aren’t young, whippersnappers anymore. Every person that he reconnects with, either has grown-up, or totally stayed in the same motto of life where the man got them down and they did everything for a valuable reason. Whether or not Redford actually believes in this hippie bullshit is totally beyond me, but I can only hope not, considering it’s so preachy, so stupid, and just so annoying to hear, especially coming out of the mouths of such old folks. Not saying that old people don’t have these same opinions or beliefs or anything, just saying that it’s a bit hard to believe in.

Jew-fro and all, the kids got it made.

Jew-fro and all, the kid’s got it made.

Having a ensemble cast like this, however, may spice things up a bit to the point of where it’s not so bad to listen to these characters speak their “government speech” anymore. Peeps such as Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, and Sam Elliot show up to do their thang, but so do some ladies like Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Julie Christie. Everybody in this movie is good with what they do, no doubt about it, and it’s not like they were needed for anything else other than a couple of scenes to do on the weekend, just to help out their old pal, Robbie (I hope that’s what his friends call him). For that matter, it’s fun and exciting to watch, especially since you know that there is always another welcome face, just right around the corner waiting to be spotted. Nice to know that Robbie also still has some pull with stars nowadays, as well.

Consensus: It may not always work, and is downright ridiculous at times, The Company You Keep is still an entertaining movie that has the well-acted ensemble to back it up, as well as a story that takes a couple of twists and turns you don’t really see coming, regardless of how how much you can or cannot take it in and believe it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

The Company Men (2010)

Rich people can be sad too.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) are living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves them jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.

As everybody in the world knows, October 2008 was the time where we all found ourselves in an economic-crisis and yes, even though it is a bit hypocritical from a 19-year-old, who at the time, was 15 and lived with his parents, had no job, had no responsibilities  and no bills to pay other than my money for lunch, I can still say that it was a sucky time for everybody and in a way, still is. Everybody was affected by it, not just the common-man, but everybody!

I start off with this middle-minded rant mainly because this is one of the biggest problems with this movie that we have here: who it focuses on. Having a story about a regular, average-Joe who loses his job out of nowhere and finds himself really struggling isn’t a story that hasn’t been done before, but would have probably been more engrossing than watching a bunch of millionaires go from everything, to nothing in a matter of a couple of weeks. Of course, the fact of the matter is that this did happen in real-life and it wasn’t just a certain group of people that were affected by the corporate downsizing, and that’s why this movie feels like it should hit harder, mainly because it’s so timeless and easy to connect with, but it just isn’t.

"They always say, "you're never as good as you're first movie". I guess in your case, that's false."

“They always say, “you’re never as good as you’re first movie”. I guess in your case, that’s false.”

Watching all of these guys be pissed-off by the fact that they don’t have the money to pay for their golf clubs or their Porsches really just seemed stupid and something I didn’t really care about. It gets even worse when some of these guys still feel like they can’t tell their wives, or the people around them that they lost their job. Yeah, I get that losing your job is sort of like losing an ounce of your pride, but there comes a point where you got to nut-up, shut-up, and get moving on with your life in order to make that moolah fall from the skies. Sitting around, pissing and moaning about it, and not even telling your wife why you don’t have the money for the mortgage, isn’t going to solve shite.

But to back away from a topic and theme I guess I don’t know much about since I’m not necessarily the hardest working-man out there in the world, let me go back to something I do know a lick about: movies. The whole idea of watching these rich people be sad by the fact that they can’t spend 500 dollars on dinners any longer, definitely didn’t work for me but I was able to get past it and at least try my hardest to look at the brighter-things in this movie, which didn’t seem to come to me right away. The problem I think I had with this movie stems from what and how writer/director John Wells tries to tell his story. He tries to show us that maybe, just maybe by going back to an old-school America is the only way we’re going to live and survive in this world, but he he shows us in the most obvious and predictable way that’s enough to make the people on the employment-line just scoff at.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious that this economic crisis was a very, very depressing time for all men and women of America, but Wells shows how sad and depressing it is in the most conventional ways possible. For instance, Chris Cooper’s character is probably the best example of what I mean because when his character gets fired, he doesn’t just go home, act as if nothing happened whatsoever and go out there and try to make another living with his life, no, he sits at the bar all-day, gets hammered, throws rocks at the old, corporate-building he used to work-at, and tries to act like he still works there by slugging-around the same briefcase. Same example can sort of go for Tommy Lee Jones who finds himself banging-around with the same chick that fired him, and choosing her over his dearly, old-wife, mainly because he’s just depressed. I get it, they’re sad and when you’re sad, you do dumb stuff. Get on with it!

"I'm guessing meeting at a bar was out of the question?"

I guess meeting at a bar was out of the question?

The only light and shiny material actually in this flick, is actually the performances from the characters that try their hardest to make everything work and in a way, succeed in doing-so. “In a way”, however. Ben Affleck has the main-spotlight here as Bobby and definitely seems fit for the job of a guy who loses it all, tries to avoid it by acting like nothing has happened, only to get slapped in the face with reality and realize that he has to do a whole bunch of crap he didn’t want to do when he was rich. His character isn’t all sympathetic to begin-with, considering that he continues to blow-off the idea of saving money and not robbing the bank, but Affleck works through it and does what he can with this role. His wife, played by the always magnificent Rosemarie DeWitt, is always supportive, but at the same time, also never seems to notice how much of a dick he’s being and as hard as she can be on him for not accepting reality, she seems very lenient in terms of actually telling him what’s up in the world. I get it, they’re husband and wife and they forgive each other over everything, but she doesn’t seem all that strong and loving at all, so why the hell should be that way when the guy’s acting like a dick? Ehh, I don’t get it.

Tommy Lee Jones is doing his usual, crotchety  old-man shtick that never seems to run dry, even if his character even seems to get tired of it about half-way through and begins to get all soft and weak in the knees. Tommy Lee is a great actor so this weakly-written role doesn’t do as much harm to him as it does to others, but it’s still obvious that there should be more meat for us to chew-on with this character and his emotions. Chris Cooper has the most sympathetic character out of the bunch, but like I mentioned before, seems a bit too obvious in terms of where his story goes and why. Like Jones, Cooper is a great actor so it’s not that glaring, but still, he should be given more material that’s suited for his great, acting-self.

"So, you still polish your Oscar?"

“So, you still polish your statue? Yeah I’ve been doing that for 19 years.”

Maria Bello is always good with what she does and is fine here as the chick that goes around firing people, and instead, more or less comes-off like a person doing her job, rather than a monster out to get people’s hearts, souls, and above all, their bank accounts. Kevin Cotsner also shows up as the blue-collared, American worker that makes a living off of hanging up dry wall every day of the week and it’s definitely a fun performance that Costner has a blast playing, even though that New England-accent seems to be way too heavy, especially in the seems with Affleck. How the hell do you have a movie that takes place in the state of Massachusetts  that stars Ben Affleck, and not have him doing a Bawhstan accent? Seriously, the guy’s made for it and if you don’t believe me, watch The Town and Good Will Hunting, aka, two movies that will probably inspire you more than this.

Consensus: The premise and themes are as timeless as they may come, but when it comes to delivering on those important ideas and thoughts, the Company Men doesn’t seem to succeed with a bunch of great actors, working in thinly-scripted roles that seem to be placed-in the right category of “Conventional”.

5/10=Rental!!

"They ain't like us."

“They ain’t like us.”

The Bourne Identity (2002)

All he had to do was call up Ben Affleck and everything would have been A-OK. See what I did there?

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a guy who has no past, may have no future, and who’s memory is blank. But now he is marked for death, caught in a maddening puzzle, racing for survival through the deep layers of his buried past into a bizarre world of murderous conspirators, aka, the CIA!

Believe it or not, but I have never seen any of the Bourne films before and trust me, I do feel ashamed about that. However, I’m not a huge spy guy either so that may have something to do with it as well.

What I liked most about this film and what I thought was very intriguing about it was how the spy dude that the story is centered around, is an amnesiac. This means that this guy has no idea what’s going to happen next, what he’s going to do next, or just whatever the hell is going on in general. Sucks, right? It’s particularly cool to see when he kicks the arse out of these two police officers kung-fu style and not only are we realizing that he’s one mofo to not mess with, but he’s also realizing it as well. I know it’s a little detail in the story but it makes it all the more interesting as we see all of the crazy twists and turns that this film makes without us ever really knowing what may pop-up or come to Bourne’s mind next. Definitely a lot of suspense to be had here and I have to give a lot of that to director Doug Liman, who obviously knows how keep a good amount of tension going on throughout the whole film even when it started to slow down a bit.

However, that’s also my problem with the film because I expected there to be so much more action and ass-kicking, that I was sort of let-down by it all. Don’t get me wrong, there is action to be had here and whenever it does happen, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome but when it’s spread apart very far in this movie. It does give the plot more development, as well as the characters and such but too much of it actually takes away from the film and comes off as a bit, well, should I say, boring. I know the word “boring” definitely isn’t what some of you were probably thinking while watching this flick but there was just something about it here that made me feel like I wanted to see some more ass-kicking, because when it does go down, the film gets a hell of a lot more intense.

What I do think is very notable about this film was the casting of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Even though I’m not in love with him, I still do think that Damon is great at playing “the everyday man” and can definitely bring a lot more to his character no matter what the film may be, especially here considering this character is trying to find himself in this big world of intrigue and CIA agents roaming all about. Also helps that the guy did all of his own action stunts and is pretty damn good at it too. The casting of Franka Potente was also pretty neat-o to see too because she gives this film a very European feel and her scenes with Damon actually work with the chemistry they have. I couldn’t help to think that their whole love angle was a little forced though, but I guess when you have a male and a female who are just traveling together for reasons unknown, eventually some hormones are going to start flying all over the place.

I also have to give some love to two vets who are very good at playing villains in almost every film that they do but do exceptional jobs here: Brian Cox and Chris Cooper. Nothing else really needs to be said about them other than they do great jobs as bad guys. Case closed.

The two characters in this film that I didn’t think needed to be here at all were Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Wombosi and Julia Stiles as Nicolette. The reason Adewale’s character doesn’t matter to the story and basically served this plot for one purpose and one purpose only. It seemed strange that they even had him in here considering it didn’t do anything for the flick other than add another character to the equation, which didn’t even need to happen. Also didn’t help that the dude was over-acting out of his ass and I probably would have liked it just for him to go away in the first place.

The same thing can be said for Stiles in here as well because if you t0ok her part out of the film, it wouldn’t make a single difference to their plot or anything else here. And even when she does talk in this film, she sounds like a little whiny brat that seemed to get this job because of her daddy and it probably was also a little strange how the chick was 18 and looked it when she was playing the role of a CIA underground operation. Just how many other people my age are doing shit like that? If they actually are in the real world, then I need to quit doing this and start applying. See ya!

Consensus: The Bourne Identity does slow down at points, which can take away from the fun of the action that happens here, but is still none the less very entertaining, suspenseful, well-acted, and intriguing with the ending they leave you with which definitely gets me excited to see what happens in the next installments that I still have yet to see. I know, I’m a schmuck.

7/10=Rental!!

Jarhead (2005)

Call of Duty gives kids so many wrong impressions.

Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper’s rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon.

When people go out to see war flicks, they are basically expecting all of the works such as action filled with guns blazing, grenades blowing up, tanks shooting up the place, and just a whole bunch of other crazy ish that you could probably reenact on your XBOX 360 or PS3. The thing is though, not all wars were like this and not all war films are like that either.

What I liked most about ‘Jarhead’ was Sam Mendes‘ direction here. Mendes really isn’t a guy that’s known for slam-bang, action war flicks so he doesn’t try to do anything here that he isn’t already familiar, instead he gives this film a new type of edge that shows us just how boring the war really is. It’s much like ‘Three Kings’ in that aspect, whereas that was a bit of a satire on what was going on during The Gulf War, this is more of a serious first-hand account that has the type of realism to it that really works and brings you into this setting and the everyday life of these soldiers.

All they do is sit around and wait for the actual “action” to happen while playing a bunch of football, masturbating a hell of a lot, and drinking like nobody else’s business. Hey, I know it doesn’t sound all that bad but just imagined being stationed out hours and hours away from home with no woman and no time to not worry about anything, then the times may start to get a bit bothersome. It feels very real and adds a lot to the whole aspect where no action at all during a war, can actually eff with another person’s mind. Any time these guys feel like they’re about to just go out there and get some kills, they are once again disappointed by how things just don’t end up working in their favor. And on top of that, your “lady” at home who’s supposed to be waiting for you to come home with arms wide open, is also probably getting banged by your best friend or neighbor. Warfare isn’t so fun and exciting now is it?

Mendes also has a keen eye for making any gritty war flick look pretty and he does that so well here. The shots of these young soldiers in the desert are nice to look at because anything with long-ass landscapes of barely anything look pretty. What really caught my eye with this cinematography was near the end where they light the oil wells on fire and the skies light up with this dark, yellowish look and it’s actually very beautiful but at the same time, very depressing like the mood of this flick.

The only problem this film actually has with itself is that since there is so much waiting and waiting for these guys to actually get a chance to do something, that it sort of keeps the same pace and mood the whole time with barely any real emotional weight in-stored.  There are moments where they take you inside of these soldiers’ heads and get you to understand, but there was never anything here that really made me feel like I needed to watch what these characters were going to do next. It keeps everything the same for the whole flick and as much as I can’t complain about the mood that the film set in right away, I still can say that I wish there was more to this plot, to these characters, and to the heart of this flick.

The film also never really dives into these dudes’ emotional states as much as it should have. Yeah, they showed how these guys were effed up by the fact that they couldn’t shoot anything up but it never goes anywhere deeper other than that. We get a couple of scenes but nothing special and it was kind of a shame because even though this flick does have what it takes to be a really good, and somewhat important war flick, it still dropped the ball on not having too much emotional weight to it. You can only care for so much on the screen and it’s only a matter of time until you start to have no feelings for any of these characters.

One of the real reasons this film works so well is because of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s lead performance here as Swofford. Jake is an actor that is highly underrated because he has so many great roles and performances, but at the end of the day people continue to look at him as Donnie Darko. That’s a shame because his performance here is probably the one thing that keeps this movie so compelling at points. He goes through all of the steps of being a shy rookie, to being a bad-ass in training, and then to being one of those dudes who starts to lose his fuckin’ mind when he doesn’t get the chance to shoot his rifle. Everything he goes through here is believable and it almost seems like this character couldn’t be played by anybody else either.

The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either. Peter Sarsgaard is really good as Troy, and gets this one scene where he just lets loose on his emotions and it’s a real stunning scene that was also the most memorable; Chris Cooper gets a top-billing but is barely even in this flick with only two scenes and still kicks ass as always; and Jamie Foxx adds more emotional weight and understanding to the “angry black drill sergeant” role here as Staff Sergeant Siek.

Consensus: Jarhead is definitely not the war flick for everyone, actually it’s very anti-war, but what sets this one apart is the direction from Mendes who gets inside the heads of these soldiers and shows what they’re going through, and also features a stand-out performance from Gyllenhaal, who is compelling the whole time.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Syriana (2005)

So does any of this explain as to why gas is up to 4 bucks?!?

This is the story that tells the oil industry from different perspectives such as a CIA operative (George Clooney), an energy analyst (Matt Damon), a Washington attorney (Jeffrey Wright), and a young unemployed Pakistani migrant worker (Mazhar Munir) in an Arab country in the Persian Gulf.

Damn, I wish I was smarter when it came to watching movies because this film pretty much killed me. However, coming from the dude who wrote Traffic, I wasn’t expecting anything less.

Writer/director Stephen Gaghan does the same thing he did with that film and give it the inter-connecting story-lines, with plenty of characters, and all centering around one central topic. This time around, it’s not as good but he still has his moments as writer and director, mostly the latter though. I liked the look Gaghan gave this film: gritty, dirty, and very realistic looking as I actually felt like I was there going from Pakistan to Texas, then to Maryland and back to Pakistan again. Gaghan also some nice moments of suspense and tension here with the script as you know something crazy is going to go down and you can feel the heat in the air rising. However, the problem with all of that is that I didn’t know exactly what or why that heat was rising in the first place.

My main problem with this flick was that I don’t think that this film really was for me. I like to watch a movie to be enjoyed, to see good performances, nice writing, and maybe learn a thing or two in the process, but the problem here is that I didn’t learn anything probably because I didn’t know anything about this topic to begin with. Gaghan knows what he’s talking about when it comes to all of this political mumbo-jumbo about the oil and foreign relations, but I honestly didn’t. Instead of trying to make it work for the audience in anyway, Gaghan doesn’t seem to really give a shit whether or not anybody understands what the hell everybody’s talking about because he’s got some knowledge to drop on us. Gaghan constantly keeps on bringing out information left and right and it was so frustrating after awhile because even though I tried to fill in the blanks myself as to who was doing what to who, I still couldn’t come up with anything and realized that I was missing out on some key plot elements to this film, not like I was going to even know what was going on in the first place anyway.

I guess the blame could be put down on me since I barely knew anything about this main topic, or anything else they talked about here but I honestly think that Gaghan could have at least dumbed it down just a bit. That’s right people, I said dumb it down and I will stand by that statement only for this flick. Hell, maybe dumb it down isn’t the right thing to say, maybe it just needed to be more coherent for an average folk such as myself. Yeah, coherency is what I really meant.

The key audience for this flick who will understand just about everything that’s going on are probably dilettantes, politicians, pundits, and all of the other people that are involved with the government, but for your regular movie goer, it’s hard to understand anything really and I think that Gaghan could have really benefited from some explanation or more time to keep this flick going and making a lot more sense to the wider audience. Maybe this film is too smart or maybe I’m just too dumb, either way, I can’t say that I was on the edge of my seat nor did I have any real clue as to what was going on.

Where the film really did start to pick up though was about the last 30-45 minutes when everything started making sense after awhile. All of the stories start to come together and even though I didn’t really know what the hell was going on in the first place, I could say that the ending was definitely a satisfying ending because I did pay enough close attention to it the whole time. I know it’s a cheat saying that I almost forgave the film for it’s last act, but I still think Gaghan handled it well. Wish I could say the same for the rest of his flick.

The ensemble Gaghan was also able to get here worked very well even though it really comes down to three people: George Clooney, Matt Damon, and the criminally underrated Jeffrey Wright, who are all great and perfect choices to be the anchors for this flick. They are all very good with their roles as is everybody else in this big-ass ensemble too but really, it’s Clooney who shines the most. Clooney got his Oscar with this performance as Robert Barnes, and as good and strong as it may be, I don’t quite think it was pure Oscar material but this guy is going to get a big win in the future so it’s all fine and dandy for now.

Consensus: Gaghan’s direction is well-done, and his work with this big ensemble is also very impressive, but the problem with his script is that it’s way too confusing with all of it’s jargon that will only make sense to people who actually pay attention to this stuff in the first place. I don’t know if it was just me or the flick itself, but something wasn’t going too well here and that’s why I can’t say it’s as great as everybody says it is.

6/10=Rental!!

Seabiscuit (2003)

With this and ‘War Horse’, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of all these damn horses!

Former bicycle repairman, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) made his fortune introducing the automobile to the American West and owned a small knobbly-kneed horse called Seabiscuit. Howard teamed up with a half-blind ex-boxing prize fighter, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), who became the horse’s jockey and a former mustang breaker Wild West performer called The Lone Plainsman aka Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), who became the horse’s trainer.

Just by looking at this film you should know just what you are about to get right away. Yes, this is another sports film that is of course about the underdog, or in this case, the underhorse and there’s not much different here. Still, it’s a sports film that works none the less.

Director/writer Gary Ross doesn’t try to do anything new or even original with this material, other than just give us a nice story about “the little horse that could” and that’s not all that bad considering it’s a fun film. Everybody loves to see the long shot win so when you watch these characters and of course Seabiscuit himself try their hardest to do whatever it takes to win the next race, you can’t help but root for everybody involved because you know that it’s a true story and a great story at that.

Ross also doesn’t try to be subtle with this, which in most cases would bother the ever lovin’ hell out of me, but for some reason that wasn’t the case here. Ross constantly keeps knocking us over the heads with everything he’s trying to say and get across with this story: whatever mood these characters are feeling, the American public feels as well; Red and Seabiscuit are basically the same characters but in different life-forms; and Red long lives for a father that left him when he was a child which means you can start to see Charles father him. Ross does everything here to get these points and ideas across in the most obvious way possible but I think it added a lot of emotion to the story by making this more than just a flick about a horse that wins races, it’s more about how America felt during the Depression and how events such as a race-horse, gave hope to almost everyone who needed it the most.

The racing scenes I may add are very fun and filmed incredibly well to the point of where it looks like actual footage but there were problems with the fact that they just sound too unrealistic. I know this sounds like a weird complaint but being a person that has and still does play sports all of his life, the fact that you can have some a horse gallop behind you and it sounds like there is about 400 horses doing the same thing kind of bothers me. I get it, they want to capture the intensity of the whole feel and atmosphere of what it feels like to be out on that track but I highly doubt another jokey could hear anybody as perfect as they hear each other, while racing, and there is race going on itself. This isn’t just a problem with this film, it’s a problem with almost all sports film and the fact that the over-emphasizing of sounds hasn’t left that genre yet, still shows us that we still can’t have a realistic sports film that shows you what’s its really like to be out there in action.

Let’s also not forget to mention that this film is an astounding 2 ½ hours, where we don’t even get introduced to the h0rse until 45 minutes in. I kept watching the time and wondering just when I was going to see the horse itself, but I guess Ross was more focused on showing Peter Parker getting the crap kicked out of him playing a boxer. It also sucks that when the film actually ends, its very abrupt and we don’t really get a chance to see what happened to these characters. Usually these types of films end with a few words up on the screen but for some odd reason we were just left with the cold shoulder. Then again, I guess that’s why they call it ‘Wikipedia’.

The cast is also very impressive and carries this film through a lot. Tobey Maguire is a great fit for Red, this angry and frustrated type that seems a little weird at first but actually is a real human-being that actually has faith in this horse, which is just about contagious. Jeff Bridges is a whole lot of fun as Charles Howard who always seems to be so jolly and happy throughout the whole film, but when something bad happens, and oh does it ever, you really feel it coming right from his heart. This is one of those times where Bridges just looks like he’s taking advantage of a role that just suits his likability so damn well. Chris Cooper is also great as Tom Smith, a guy who seems like he cares about horses more than he does humans, but he sort of takes the back-burner to everybody else here and it’s a shame since his character was probably the richest when it came to being passionate. William H. Macy also has a fun little role as a radio announcer, Tick Tock McGlaughlin, and perfectly captures the sound, look, and act of a 1930’s radio broadcaster.

Consensus: Seabiscuit is a flick that is fun, entertaining, inspirational, and very well-acted by everybody involved, but it’s a little too long for my well-being and there are too many opportunities to really capitalize on the emotions here, that sort of just don’t work like you’d expect them to.

7/10=Rental!!

The Ring (2002)

This is the main reason why they stopped making VHS tapes.

A strange videotape makes it way around a circle of friends. Strangely, everyone who views the tape seems to die exactly one week afterward. After believing this to be a strange urban legend worthy of an article, cynical reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) watches the tape and shortly thereafter unsettling occurrences begin to happen to her. Is she slated to be the next victim of some kind of bizarre and seemingly supernatural force?

After seeing almost all of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flicks, it’s very strange to see director Gore Verbinski doing a horror film that originated from Japanese. I also have to say that seeing this film for about the 7th time, it still remains quite freaky.

What works here so well is when it comes to the horror that this film has to deliver, it doesn’t feel cheap or something we’ve seen before. Verbinski is all about creating suspense rather than just throwing things right at you with the constant jump-scares just about horror flick has nowadays. You don’t know what’s going to happen next at most points and right when you think something is about to happen, Verbinski pulls the rug underneath you completely and every single time he does it, its something that works.

Another cool element about this flick is that it’s not only a horror flick but a mystery film as well. As the film moves on, we start to find out more about the story that lies behind the type and why all of the crazy shit that happens in it, happens in it and what it exactly means. Speaking about that tape, it’s freaky as hell and probably one of the freakiest things that I have ever really seen in a film in the past decade. If I woke up in the middle of the night and my TV had static on it, I would throw that damn thing out right away.

The problem with the story that is behind the whole video, is that it doesn’t really make much sense. It’s never explained why the mother does what she does to the daughter and why, and another thing I never understood is where the hell that the tapes of the girl in the psych-ward came from, if she was apparently dead. Still, without giving way too much away I just have to say that this film doesn’t hold up when it comes to its plot.

Another problem I had with this flick was that when you watch it for as many times as I have, it starts to lose it’s freshness. I won’t lie and say that barely any of the scares work, because I still got a little bit scared here and there by what I saw but to be honest, I couldn’t really get terrified when I knew everything that was going to happen. Also, why the hell would a mother leave a tape that if it is watched will result in a death sentence, around the house where her young son can watch it? Mommy of the year everybody!

Naomi Watts is fine as the slightly-bitchy but also very determined reporter, Rachel; Martin Henderson is a lot of fun to watch as her ex-boyfriend and investigative partner if you know what I mean, Noah; and let’s not also forget to mention the little cameo by Brian Cox who is always the man in no matter what he does. The one performance that seemed pretty blank was the one given by the kid who plays Aidan, David Dorfman. He seems more like a copy of the usual creepy little kid we see in every horror film and he just seems to be put in the film for that matter. But then again, he is just a kid so I guess I’m kind of a dick for beating this kid up.

Consensus: The Ring has its fair share of plot holes that don’t make sense, but Gore Verbinski creates suspense to the point of where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and the mystery behind the whole story is pretty interesting as well. Don’t go see the sequel though. It blows.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Muppets (2011)

Eff you Alvin and eff you Smurfs, these are my real child-hood heroes.

In this flick, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and friend Mary (Amy Adams) must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a businessman who plans to demolish the Muppet Theater to drill for oil.

I’ve always been a Muppets fan ever since I was a little kid so when I heard they were finally coming back after all this time away from the limelight, you know that the little kid inside of me jumped up-and-around in the little Kermit the Frog undies like a kid on Christmas day.

Basically this film is one big excuse for Segel to pal around with all of his child-hood friends and give us a whole hour long episode of The Muppets, but it doesn’t feel like just one big excuse for anything, it feels like an actual film that could bring them back.

The plot itself has been done over millions of times but what really separates this film from the others is how tongue-in-cheek and self-aware everything is that just about every single ridiculous happening in this film seems so normal and made me laugh my ass off. There is a lot of winking at the camera but it didn’t seem over-used and there are little subtle moments where you can tell that they all know they are in a movie, which adds so much more fun to this film’s comedy. I mean hell if you just see the trailer, they tell you right away that The Muppets aren’t popular in today’s world but somehow they are able to bring back all of the wit and charm that made the original fun for kids and adults alike but there are still some other little pieces of humor that are made for the new generation as well.

Another aspect of this film that worked was the music and how great all of the songs were. The music supervisor for this flick was Bret McKenzie, from ‘Flight of the Concords’, and you can tell that he has some great talent in song-writing. There are plenty of original and fun tracks here such as “Life’s a Happy Song”, “Man or Muppet”, “Pictures in My Head”, and plenty more memorable tracks that I had humming in my head after the film was over. The best thing about all of this music is that it’s not only fun to listen to but when you watch, there are still a lot of funny things happening in these musical numbers which you barely ever see in musical-like films of today’s world. No matter who or what you listen to, you can’t resist some toe-tapping here.

Jason Segel is apparently one of the biggest Muppets fan ever and it shows because this whole film he just has this one big and goofy grin on his face the whole time as Gary. The guy is really having the time of his life and thanks to that, I was too. Amy Adams is very innocent and sweet as Mary who sometimes will come out of nowhere and make a very funny comment then do some out-of-character song. The problem with their story-line is that it kind of gets lost about 20 minutes into the film and we start to care less and less about their “love story” and more if The Muppets are going to be able to pull this show off after all. Chris Cooper is also a total bad-ass as Tex Richman, which is a great role for Cooper because he gets to be a little goofy and show off some of his rapping skills that he’s been hiding for so long. Yes people, Oscar-winner Chris Cooper has a rap solo in this film. There are also dozens of cameos from plenty of A-listers that are sure to make anybody go, “Ooooh, look who it is!”.

The main reason why The Muppets works though is because in the end it’s really all about how you can still be fun, hip, heart-warming, and even a little cool if you just stick to a formula that you have been doing for about 30 years. The Muppets are not mean, they use humor but never to hurt anyone it’s more of to just make people laugh and have a good time which is probably one of the best things about them. In today’s world, comedy relies on raunch, mean comments, slurs, and so many more bad things, but The Muppets are simple: they are funny, without ever offending or hurting anybody’s feelings. To do that in any decade is awesome, but to be able to do that in 2011 and be the best comedy/family-film of the year, is probably one of the best achievements that this film has to offer. This is a PG flick that is for the whole family because they can all have fun and thanks to Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and everybody else, I had a great time too.

Consensus: The Muppets is all about having a good time with humor, great musical numbers, dozens of hilarious cameos, and a lot of heart to make you feel like you are watching all of your favorite Muppets together once again and hopefully this time, they are here to stay.

9/10=Full Price!!

Great Expectations (1998)

Poor Charlie Dickens must be rolling around in his grave.

In this Americanized version of Charles Dickens’s classic novel, set in 1990s New York instead of 1860s England, humble, young Finn (Ethan Hawke) develops a lifelong crush on Estella (Gwyneth Paltrow), the wealthy niece of the eccentric Ms. Dinsmoor (Anne Bancroft). The pair part, but then a mysterious benefactor makes it possible for Finn to attend art school in the city, where he runs into his now-engaged love.

I confess that I have never read Dickens’ classic novel, which is the basic idea where this modern-day adaptation came from, but that does not mean that this film should get some slack for me. It still kind of sucks.

After watching Children of Men, I realize that director Alfonso Cuarón, really can do something amazing when it comes to the way a film looks and feels. Once again, Cuarón does that one-shot steadi-cam trademark that he had in Children of Men and its just great to look at because I felt like I was there the whole time, but that’s not all that looks great.

The production values just look beautiful with the constant beautiful colors that inhabit this world these characters live in, the way the sunset is captured so well, and even the paintings from Italian painter Francesco Clemente are outstanding. The colors also set a tone for almost each and every scene, as well as the music here which seems to combine two music genres together. It’s certainly a very pretty film to look at the only problem is that the film could have actually spent a lot more time on it’s screenplay.

The screenplay from Mitch Glazer starts off very promising, but then starts to turn into this utterly cheesy and predictable romantic drama that we have seen time and time again, the only difference here is that these people are pretty and artistic, so there’s somehow more of a artsy feel to this whole love angle. The film wants to dive into moments of actual beauty when it shows how you can become famous while still ticking to your guns, but instead just shows this dude practically drooling over this hot blonde. And don’t let me forget to mention all the terrible and non-stop cliches.

Another huge problem with this film is that I never quite felt attracted to these characters and I never really found anything that amazing about them, as much as the film wanted me to. Finn has practically been following Estella for 20 years but there is never anything really shown about her character that makes her anything to chase after for that long other than a nice body, some good boobies, and just another pretty face. It’s annoying too because this dude keeps on getting knocked over left-and-right without her ever saying good-bye to him once, which would have definitely been my calling card to say screw her.

Ethan Hawke is OK as Finn, although he has been a lot better in other films. My one problem with this character is that he never really takes any action for himself, which kind of creates a big wall of separation between him and the audience. We all want to connect with this guy and root for him, but if you keep on getting pushed around by this chick and seemingly don’t do anything else other than just draw a bunch of fancy looking paintings, there’s not much there to endear with in the first place.

Gwyneth Paltrow nails Estella down very well and actually attributes to my fondness of her character, even though there was nothing really special about her. The chemistry her and Hawke have isn’t bad but it’s hard to actually judge whether it was good or not, when their screen-time together was so limited. If I had gotten more scenes with them just talking, flirting, hell just boning, I would have understood the loooooooooooove between them both, but I just got a bunch of smiley faces.

Robert De Niro is good as Arthur, even though he’s basically Robert De Niro with a goofy look; Anne Bancroft was fun to watch as this totally up-and-down and crazy nut as Ms. Dinsmoor, which was the best performance of the whole cast really; Chris Cooper is good to watch as Uncle Joe; and Hank Azaria adds nothing to this film as Walter Plane.

Consensus: The beauty is within the production design and direction, but the problems lie within the screenplay that offers nothing other than countless romantic drama cliches, a love story that had no real believable love to it, and characters that aren’t too interesting to begin with.

2.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

The Town (2010)

I guess we can’t be making fun of big Ben anymore.

Career bank robber Doug (Ben Affleck) and his volatile partner, Jim (Jeremy Renner), hit a roadblock when Doug falls for bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall), whom he kidnapped during their last heist. Worse, an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) is now trailing the thieves around their Charlestown, Mass., territory.

Ben Affleck has always been a guy in film, that stars in some pretty good movies, and then stars in some completely shit movies. But now that he has started directing, writing, and starring in his own material, it raises a lot of questions as to whether, he can actually do it all, and do it all well.

This is Ben’s second time behind the camera, and he shows that the first time, Gone Baby Gone, was no fluke. He is very good at creating suspense, and directing the hell out of action sequences. The heist scenes are some of the best I have seen in awhile, cause he keeps the camera on all the action that’s going on in this one particular event, and doesn’t go all over the place, like what most action directors in today’s world do.

This film is also a romance story, and it actually works considering it’s stuck with this heavy-action genre. Ben knows how to balance out the film with real emotional, and overall touching scenes, but knows how to put the energy one when it comes to his action scenes, and well, it doesn’t feel forced, and works well with the story at hand. The screenplay works well here too because it brings out a lot strong central themes, in the midst of all the havoc. These people are trapped in their own, little world of crime, violence, and hopelessness.

My one complaint about this film is that it is kind of formulaic, because it’s a lot of a bigger budget, and you can already tell what’s going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of moments where I was on the edge of my seat, much thanks to Ben, but then there were also other parts, where I knew what was going to happen, mainly because I have seen plenty of heist films, and usually they are always the same thing.

I liked how the characters were all so realistic, and basically three-dimensional, so you actually did care for these people. Ben Affleck comes together as an actor with this film, as he gives off a lot of emotional scenes, because his character is stuck between his friends, and his girlfriend, which creates a lot of stress for his character, and you can tell by his performance. Jeremy Renner is perfectly cast here as the bad-ass, gun-slinging, punk. But he plays it so well here, he doesn’t over-act it, and when he’s on screen, you just feel uneasy, because you never know what he’s going to do next. I hope by awards time, I see him again on that ballot. Rebecca Hall is a very sweet character, that we do like when we first meet here, and through plenty of poignant scenes with her and Affleck, we care for her, and their relationship. Jon Hamm does well here, playing the main cop, that does whatever he can to catch these guys, and I don’t know if Affleck meant for us to dislike him or not, but I sort of did, but that’s not really a bad thing, it made his character more watchable. Blake Lively is also in this playing a trashy, disgusting looking whore, and does a pretty good job at it too, and I actually may start to take her more seriously as an actress now. Chris Cooper is only in one scene, but he does such a good job, and it reminds me as to why he did win that Oscar so long ago. Pete Postlethwaite has good scenes here, showing his character in a lot more menacing way than I was actually expecting. Very good ensemble, that all know how to act out their own respective characters.

Consensus: Directed with plenty of suspense, and thrills, to keep you on the edge of your seat, and excited, as well as provide a great character story, that has even better actors attached.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

Adaptation (2002)

One of the worst, and most confusing writer blocks ever…well…written.

Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is a Los Angeles screenwriter battling enormous feelings of insecurity and impotence as he struggles to adapt The Orchid Thief, a book by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), whose main character, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), is searching for love. Add to the mix Charlie’s twin brother, Donald (also played by Cage), and you have a surreal, Spike Jonze-directed gem about the search for passion.

When it comes to Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze, they literally are two great minds that just cannot be controlled without a doubt. Just by seeing this film you can tell that they should do more and more films together, no matter what the subject matter.

At first, the film may seem really confusing, and it may have you keep on wondering: whats fact or fiction? However, the film is structured in a way that it actually feels like your in Kaufman’s mind, with the over head narration, constant imagination shots, and the fact that his brother keeps on popping up.

The screenplay is what really works here, because it shows that writing about yourself sometimes works. Now take it for granted, this is a historical fiction piece, but some elements show the fact that Kaufman really did start getting nuts while writing this screenplay and we start to feel it. The blending of comedy and drama really works, cause the comedy at times is actually very very funny, something you wouldn’t expect, and also the drama in this film almost brings a tear to the eye sometimes, while providing a lot of info about life itself, something you wouldn’t expect. The film is alive, because it keeps on inventing itself as it goes along, surprising and challenging us, showing us something we weren’t expecting.

I had only one problem with this film and it was sort of obvious, and it was the sudden change of tone by the last act. I don’t want to give too much away, however, it just feels like the ending had a sort of Coen Brothers, thriller/comedy feel to it, and didn’t quite match with the rest of the film.

The best thing about this film, that really elevates it to the highest power, is the wonderful performance by Nic Cage. He plays both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, and it is just one of the greatest dual roles of all-time. There is no fancy-shmancy make-up done to either of these characters, nor do we get a huge announcement of who this is, we simply know by the way Cage acts each one out. Donald is funny, witty, and aspires to be something Charlie already is, while Charlie himself is nutty, smart, and also is going through some crazy stuff, but we can tell who each character is.

There is also a wonderful supporting cast here. Chris Cooper, plays his best role ever, as John Laroche, the free loving flower nut, who at first seems like a total dick, but somehow by the ends becomes our favorite character. I was glad he won the Oscar, because its just a type of character that have could have been played totally wrong, however gives us the feel and passion that lies within this great character. Meryl Streep also has a good supporting performance, although I somehow feel her scenes with Cage could have been better, if given more time on-screen. Also, Brian Cox is in this, need I say more.

Consensus: Adaptation seems confusing at first, but ends up turning into a superbly-acted, witty, and heart-felt realistic fiction, showing that sometimes writing about yourself is better in some cases.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

There’s a one inside of us.

Max (Max Records) imagines running away from his mom and sailing to a far-off land where large talking beasts — Ira, Carol, Douglas, the Bull, Judith and Alexander — crown him as their king, play rumpus, build forts and discover secret hideaways. Voices by Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, and many others.

Once in a lifetime a very noble director will get a hold of a wonderful children book and really turn it into something magical, this is close to what I thought I was going to have.

I had a really hard time with this film overall. I was expecting a beautiful, exciting adventure from the out-of-this world mind from Spike Jonze. However, all the hype that the film was getting it quite didn’t live up to what I was expecting. Well, I guess adapting a movie from a 10 page book, isn’t the easiest thing to do.

The emotional depth this film goes into is perfect and really handled well in this film. There are just some really profoundly beautiful scenes that really do shine with emotion and old natural beauty. Jonze connects the character of Max to all the other Wild Things, and shows how both of their lives are both equal in every single way, and how they can both learn from one another. Jonze even goes as far as to sort of get adults thinking about these messages about childhood, and how they felt at their age as well.

The only problem I had with this film is that it just wasn’t as powerful as it could’ve been. There were so many scenes that could’ve been handled better if the right attitude was given towards it. In most of these scenes I almost thought that Jonze was going to pull off the scene and really make it memorable. However, Jonze takes another road that doesn’t seem like the best solution for it.

Another problem I had with this film was that although there is a lot of kid-friendly elements to this film, I don’t think that kids will quite have a ball with this film. This movie is more about the message of Max, and most kids won’t look at this. They’ll look at the Wild Things and how scary they look, and the little fun montages, not necessarily the message that Jonze was really going for here.

The little things of this film we’re really good add-ons however. I liked the soundtrack with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I thought all of those songs really did connect to the mood of each scene. The visuals that combine the elements of people in costumes, CGI, and animations. They look real and actually could get a nomination cause of how spectacular they look.

Max Records, who plays little Max does a good job at showing some future star quality. Though he can be a little annoying at some points, I really did feel like he was one of the more realistic protagonists in a film in a long time. The voices in this film are good as well, but the best has got to be James Gandolfini as Carol. He really does give the emotion that is needed to play this character and overall has a more effective job than any other of the Wild Things.

The ending that most of you all know from the book, is not as emotionally-charged as you would think. I left the film with a very bad taste cause of the ending, because overall it was just a lame ending for a very powerful movie.

Consensus: Spike Jonze, doesn’t deliver on every spectrum, but does create a very true, emotionally-powerful fable about what it’s really like as a child and the kind’s of turmoil they face at such a young age.

8/10=Matinee!!!

A Time to Kill (1996)

Samuel L. Jackson doing more upstaging than ever.

When two white men brutally rape a young black girl in a small Mississippi town, the child’s vengeful father (Samuel L. Jackson) fears their acquittal and takes the law into his own hands. But as his trial date approaches, all hell breaks loose. Aided by lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) and his spunky legal assistant (Sandra Bullock), the father fights to stay out of prison and salve his daughter’s terrible memories.

A Time To Kill introduces some obvious material and introduces characters we have all seen before. But instead the movie has the way of taking the ordinary and spinning these characters into a very believable story and characters.

Much of the story seems like a typical courtroom drama but doesn’t fall too short for the courtroom cliches. The screenplay is very witty and smart and does fully capture the essence and the feel of John Grisham’s novel. I also did enjoy how I could feel the tension that lied in between the town, between the KKK and the African Americans. It felt real and with almost every scene there was something always new to reignite this feud and it added more of a feel.

The performances turn this film around for the best. Matthew McConaughey, plays probably one his best roles that have could’ve been laughable, but is very believable with his utterly strong but sane performance. Samuel L. Jackson upstages everyone in this film and plays a different person. He’s not the tough S.O.B you knew him in all his others, he’s actually kind and does feel regret towards his actions and were able to feel his emotion coming through his performance.

By the end of the film though it started to feel like this film was a little too cornball. Matthew’s speech by the end of the film felt too forced and very obvious along with the end result which feels like it was not very believable.

The story is a theme on the great separation between whites and blacks, and I felt like this was brought out very well if it weren’t for some of the clan scenes. I did like their feud I just didn’t feel it was too needed to create a huge feud and the extra violence was put in just to be put in.

Consensus: The strong and convincing performances, along with a clever script make this film good but at times falls for the obvious cliches all courtroom dramas have.

7/10=Rentall!!!

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