Henry and Dean Whipple (Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron) are a father-son duo that are trying to get along, while they are also trying to buy as much farm-land as possible. Henry is all about his job, making money, being with his wife (Kim Dickens), and also being able to lay-around with his gal on the side (Heather Graham). As for Dean: he’s all about racing, causing havoc, being with his gal-pal (Maika Monroe), and having the dream that he will one day become the next big, NASCAR racer. The two don’t get along and can’t really see eye-to-eye on what their lives have turned out to be, but once Henry runs into the possibility of losing the one thing he loves the most (his farm-land), the two come together in surprising ways. Sort of.
The movie’s title, At Any Price, may seem like the dullest in the world. It’s almost as if the creators had a finished-product, but didn’t know how to sell it to the big crowds, so they just decided something that seemed inspirational would work and get people interested. Not for me, which is why I was not expecting anything at all worth while from this flick and for the first hour or so: that’s exactly what I got. Then, something happens in the middle of it all, that not only changes your view on the movie as a whole, but also has the title make more sense than ever. Can’t say what it is, but it will hit you like a ton of bricks, as it did to me. Trust me.
Maybe I’m out-of-the-loop or something, but I’ve never seen director Ramin Bahrani at work. I hear great things about his movies, but just have never given any of them a chance for the sole reason that none of them have ever seemed to really interest me. However, that’s just me and as I can see from his past movies ratings on Rotten Tomatoes: the dude’s got a lovely-following. But as the movie began and the ground-work for the story was being laid; I had no idea why.
It’s not that the dude’s a dull director, actually: it’s the opposite. Bahrani finds a way to paint a portrait of this small town in Iowa that feels and looks as if it should be the little slice of Americanism that you can only get with these types of places, and that’s exactly what it seems like after awhile. He finds beauty in the most simple things, such as a father tending to the rows and rows of corn, or a mother fetching potatoes out from underneath the soil. It’s all there and it all makes you feel at home, but there’s more stuff going on here than meets the eye, and that’s the whole problem right there.
Bahrani takes the over-stuffing of useless characters and subplots, as a way of portraying conflicts among the central characters. Instead of having the character of Henry Whipple just be a guy that’s struggling maintaining a loving-relationship with his son; he’s got to be banging some chick on the side, or his one son (the favorite) didn’t come home when he was supposed to and is out, climbing up the mountains in Argentina, causing even more anger and pain for the man on the inside. But Henry isn’t the only one: Dean goes through the same motions too. Not only does Dean seem to be having daddy-issues; but he also is having problems with his racing-career, being a loyal boyfriend, and is leading a life of crime and hate.
Sounds like too much already for a hour and 45 minute movie? Well, that’s because it is.
If Bahrani left these two central-characters alone, have them face one dilemma each, and leave that be it; then everything would have been fine, dandy, and easier to take in. However, that’s not what Bahrani does and instead, adds more and more context to this story that doesn’t feel needed. Yes, some of it does round-out these characters to make them feel and seem more humane in the way they go about their days together and separated, but it also feels like unneeded melodrama that we could easily deal with if we came home from school and turned on the Lifetime channel. Also, not to mention the fact that the movie goes down some crazy-routes that not only will make you scoff, but just might have you wonder what the hell it is that you’re watching.
But it should be noted, once again, that the one crazy-route that they decide to go down is something I was not expecting in the least-bit, did not know what to make of it at first, and after awhile of thinking and contemplating what it meant to the whole story in a nutshell, I came to the conclusion that it made sense and made the movie a whole lot better as a whole. I’m so damn tempted to go down that dick-headed road and say what it is, but I just can’t. What this final-twist in the story brings to the front, is not just character’s relationships and what each one means to the other, but how they are in everything and anything together.
After all of the strange shit that Bahrani throws at us, he ends on a pretty heartwarming note that touches any person who’s ever been there for a family-member. Whether you noticed that your mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, dog, cat, etc. is going through obvious problems or not; you’ve always been there for them when they needed a helping-hand the most. That’s the idea that this movie touches on and despite taking some odd side-streets to get to it’s destination; it still works. Not in the longest-time has there been a flick that I’ve seen, but relatively bored and unsurprised by it, and kick me in the ass, slap me in the face, and open my eyes out of nowhere and change my final-thoughts on the whole-product; what it meant and what message the director was trying to get across. Seriously, once the final-twist comes up: you are going to either run with it and continue to think about it, or throw it in the garbage, and forget about the rubbish you just witnessed. It’s your call. Mine was the former.
Probably the best and most memorable aspect of this whole movie, without a doubt is the fact that after all of these years of showing up in random, bloated CGI-fests like this one, or that one: Dennis Quaid finally gets a role that’s worth his time and effort. Quaid has been one of these actors (refuse to call him a “character actor”), that shows up for work, does what he has to do, and goes on with his day. Nothing more, nothing less. He barely leaves an impression on the viewer, but lets us know that he’s there, if it’s only soeley to collect a paycheck.
All of that better change now, especially after a performance like this as Henry Whipple.
What’s so great about Quaid here is that the dude never seems like he’s phoning it in. Henry Whipple, on-paper, doesn’t seem like a very-complicated character as he’s just a dude trying his hardest to make his son, his wife, and his wallet happy, and leaving it like that. However, Quaid finds a way to make this guy as complicated as ever, which was a total sight to see because with every new scene you get with Quaid on-screen, is another new scene where you find out more about Henry, and his character. You always feel for this guy whenever he’s doing something; whether it be trying to win the heart of his son back again by showing up to his racing matches, or trying to buy-off somebody’s land during a funeral. No matter what the situation may be that the dude finds himself in, you always feel for the dude and has you on-board with his character throughout the whole movie, even when he is fucking up. And trust me: he does. Quaid is amazing and I hope this gets him more and more quality roles in the future, as the dude deserves it. Screw, Meg Ryan! Team Quaid!
That’s not to say the others in this cast aren’t worth talking about, because they all do fine with their lettuce and carrots. It’s just that Quaid is the one with the real meat. Zac Efron is fine as Dean, the troubled-son who doesn’t want to take over the daddy’s business and wants to be a rebel by racing. Efron is fine in the role as he shows off his guns, his good-looks, and his attitude, but the character is thinly-written and feels like he’s trying to go for the same feel of a young-Brando or Dean. Doesn’t quite hit the same marks, but is good with what he’s called on to do.
Playing his mommy is Kim Dickens who knows what’s going down with these two when they are busy at work, and are out in their free-time, but she keeps it all to herself and is good at it. She’s very subtle, but still dramatic to make enough of a difference in the grander-scheme of things. Heather Graham is wasted here as the whore of the town, Meredith, as it seems like she can’t be a normal person without a dick in her or some form of her clothing taken-off. Lastly, to round of the troupe of women we have on display here is Maika Monroe as Dean’s girlfriend who not only likes him for what he is, but also likes his father because of the determined business man he shows to her, as well as everybody else around him. Monroe is a welcome newcomer because she feels like a young gal that’s confused and unknowing about what she wants to do with her life, but still full of love and life. Hopefully, just like with Quaid, this means we get to see more of her in the near-future.
Consensus: At Any Price is a strange movie, but not for the sake of it’s tone or direction. It’s one of those movies that starts off so dull, continues on with same feeling/pace, but ends up taking you by storm with a final-act surprise, giving us a wider-glimpse of these characters, who they are, and what they mean to one another.
7 / 10 = Rental!!
If this was released on 4/20, the box-office would explode.
Told in flashback with a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti), this is the story of Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) who are two slackers who do nothing with their lives except act as if they kill monsters, all for the greater-good of society. They soon find themselves all caught up in a whirlwind of inter-dimensional activity after their exposure to a drug dubbed “soy sauce” that allows them to have unusual powers and wild visions.
The plot synopsis up-above may not be the best in the whole, entire world, mainly because this movie doesn’t really seem to follow a regular structure that most movies out there follow. That being said, you can probably already tell whether or not this is your type of movie by the look of the trailer, the poster, or even the first 5 minutes in which we get a random sequence of some dude talking about chopping a person’s head-off. It’s quick, witty, and really humorous and I knew if that’s how the rest of the film was going to play-out, then I was in for a total treat from beginning-to-end, no drugs required. However, by the 30-minute mark, it became quite apparent to me that drugs were going to need to be acquired. Damn my sobriety!
Writer/director Don Coscarelli is mostly known for his dip in cult-films that people either love, or absolutely positively despise. I guess it all depends on the type of person who’s viewing it and that’s why I may have been a bit shaky about seeing what he did with this material here. The thing is: it seems like this guy knows what he’s doing, how he wants to do it, and why he’s doing it, but the final-product doesn’t make it seem so. In the beginning of the movie, everything seemed so wacky, wild, and insane, but made absolute sense as to why, but by the latter-acts, things start to change and it almost becomes like a desperate-act for Coscarelli to keep things up-and-about, by throwing in random-sequence-after-random-sequence.
It makes sense why this movie feels like it is one, huge drug-ride from hell, because the truth is: it is one huge, drug-ride from hell. The main characters are constantly on drugs throughout the whole movie and it gives us a reason and explanation as to why everyone and everything is so incredibly strange, but there comes a point where it feels like we need more than just random, crazy shite. It almost feels like we need plot, reasoning, structure, emotions, characters, and most importantly: more fun.
That’s the weirdest-problem I had with this movie: just not enough fun. I’m not going to lie, there were times I really felt like I was having a ball with this material because I never, ever had a clue as to where it was going to go, and didn’t want to know until it finally showed-up on-screen and blasted my mind away. But then there were other times where I felt criminally-bored by the proceedings up on-screen, and that’s because the movie begins to focus on too much of it’s plot, without any of the “fun-element” going for it. It may sound strange having me complain about this movie focusing on too much of a plot, considering I said it needed more of that, but the complain I am centering more towards is that the shit just does not make sense, and whether or not it was supposed to, really, really goes over my head.
Having the interview with the journalist at least gives the film some sort of easy passage-way in having us understand what the hell is going on and what’s next to come, but that’s only good for about a-half-hour. Then, after that minute-mark, it all goes downhill and really seems to get lost in it’s own exposition, without ever being able to bring itself back-up to life. The idea of having soy sauce be your main drug of choice that fucks with these people’s minds and have them see a bunch of insane things makes sense and is good, that is until it starts to get out of control and make it seem like the soy sauce itself is more than just a drug that makes you imagine things, it actually has the ability to give you powers only Clark Kent could dream-of. It all gets to a point of where I couldn’t buy into it anymore and I just wish that Coscarelli decided to relax with the plot, and allow more fun to be had here. Is there such a problem with wanting that when you see a movie? Especially one with Paul Giammatti?
Speaking of Giamatti (the dude also produced), anybody going in and expecting him to do his own thing, left this material up from hell’s gate, and give it a sort of levity, are going to be very disappointed coming out. All he does here is play the journalist with a gullible sense of well-being, and sometimes, act a bit snarky like most journalists do. It’s nice to see Giamatti show-up in “different” material like this and really expand his comfort-zone, but when he’s given about 15-minutes of screen-time, it just feels like a total waste of an amazing and reliable actor that, in my eyes, can do no wrong. Yes, that even includes Lady in the Water.
Instead of giving the spot-light to an actor as talented as Giamatti, the movie instead focuses most of it’s attention on Chase Williamson, a new-comer that I think has a future of bigger, and brighter things. Apparently this was Williamson’s first, ever movie and for a virgin who’s just getting his cherry popped: the guy leaves a lasting-impression (sort of like the time I lost mine). The character he plays could have been one that is absolutely annoying and terribly one-note, but Williamson always seems to be one-step ahead of that and makes this guy into one of your typical, slacker/stoner characters you see in movies like this, but instead, give him more charm and wit. In somebody else’s hands, this role could have really been cringe-inducing to watch, but Williamson gives it his all and makes this flick his bitch. Not sure whether or not that’s a good thing, but for a first-time, major IMDB credit: it’s pretty damn impressive.
The same can’t quite be said for the other-half of the duo, Rob Mayes as the titular John. It’s not that Mayes is bad in this movie or anything, it’s just that his role is deuchy and stud-like, that he comes-off more like a frat-guy that likes to take hallucinogens, instead of a slacker-nerd that enjoys hunting monsters and solving strange problems. Together, they form a solid-duo that I could see kicking ass and taking names, the completely stoned-way, but when it’s just them hanging-out and doing their thing; Dave was a lot cooler and more interesting than that d-bag named John, who just so happened to have the movie named after him.
Consensus: In order to watch and actually enjoy John Dies at the End, I guess you need to have an acquired taste for the material as it is, but even if you are looking for a fun, wacky, and wild trip that is all about no-holds-barred entertainment, then you still may be wanting more. Who knows though! Go out, get stoned, and watch it. Just don’t say you heard that from me.
5 / 10 = Rental!!
It doesn’t matter who you are, you love this damn film.
The film tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who spends nearly two decades in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover despite his claims of innocence. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money laundering operation.
Let me just say this, if you have not seen this film, stop reading and get out there to your local video store/Redbox/Netflix account/illegal movie download website and check this ditty out. Honestly, everybody loves it. Of course when people say that about anything, it usually means that it’s just their opinions and that about 2 people they know agree with them so they feel like hot shit but that’s not the case here at all. You could ask anyone their thoughts on this and I’ll bet they’ll all tell you the same thing: perfection.
The craziest thing about this flick is how this was writer/director Frank Darabont‘s first movie he ever made. That’s right people…..FIRST MOVIE HE EVER MADE! Darabont really deserves all the credit for this story and for this flick because he found a way to match all of Stephen King’s writing in such a perfect way that it made every line of dialogue, feel like a piece of art itself. When the film wants to be funny, it’s funny; when the film wants to be emotional, it’s emotional without ever being hokey; and whenever the film wants to find its own little sly ways of getting us more and more involved with this story, it does and never stops the whole time. All of the dialogue, if placed in a lesser hand, could have been written off as corny but Darabont and King work wonders together, and it’s no surprise that Darabont went after another King adaptation about 5 years later with The Green Mile. Oh yeah, and he’s the guy who also adapted The Walking Dead so that definitely earns some brownie points in my book.
I think what really makes me truly love this film the way that I do is that I have seen it about 5 times and not once does it ever get old. That’s the true sign of a good movie. Since you know everything that goes down in the end, you get the chance to look at everything once again and see all of the little hints and clues that this film throws at you, without you ever really knowing in the first place. It’s really cool how Darabont was able to throw these little things in there to have it all make sense in the end but still allows you to get something new out of the movie each and every time you watch it. The film is all about the human spirit and how we can all be free no matter where it is that we are at in our lives. These prisoners feel trapped but it’s all about how they can all break free from these walls without ever having to take a step over them. It’s a message that we have all seen done and talked about before, but for some reason, this film does it the best and really makes you want to just get out there and live like a free person anywhere you go.
At the center of this whole film though is the performances of everybody involved, especially those ones of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. These guys were already big names before this film came out but I think it’s definitely the best performances of their careers by far, and if you have ever seen any of their other work you know that this is a very bold statement to make in the first place. Robbins is very mysterious and strange as Andy, but he’s also a very likable character that makes it easy to see why all of these guys take such a liking to him in the first place. We also see Andy as a free soul that wants to do anything in his power to do right for everyone around him and gets even better and better once you start to see just how smarter he is than he lets on. It’s such a shame that he didn’t get nominated for an Oscar here because he really brings a whole lot to Andy. Morgan Freeman is also the perfect choice as Red. Red is our narrator for the whole movie and shows us a look at everything that’s going on with Andy from the outside-in and it just works because you feel a huge deal of warmth and comfort from this character that it really shows as one of Freeman’s signatures when it comes to him playing in any role. I heard that Darabont chose Freeman over such legends like Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford, and to be honest, I couldn’t see any of them playing the part as perfectly as Freeman does here.
What made this film work the way it does on me is the friendship these two create together. Red sees something in Andy that he never expected in the first place and from then on, we see two people who are both struggling for freedom in a place where all hope is lost, gain some sort of hope together. What I’m describing right now may sound a bit too much like a mixture between Brokeback Mountain and Cool Hand Luke, but it’s honestly the best aspect of this whole movie because you see this friendship blossom over time and you see how they each look out for one another in every single situation they have. By the end, everything they have together starts to come in full circle and that’s where I actually started to tear up a bit because this is where the film’s message comes around and it’s also where you notice that these two guys were meant to best buds and live free after all.
Consensus: The Shawshank Redemption is just one of those perfect movies that seems to have it all: great writing, great direction, amazing performances, a message that is meant to inspire anybody who watches this, and so much more to it. Basically if you are reading the end of this review and have still not checked this one out, then get off your butts and do so. I promise you will not be let-down in the least bit.
10/10=Love and Cherish Forever!!