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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Jersey Boys (2014)

Next time you think about getting involved with the music business, make sure you cut-off all ties with the mob first.

In the early 50’s, a small, sheltered Italian-American kid by the name of Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) hung out with his local crew, causing all sorts of shenanigans, wooing the ladies, and, every once and awhile, getting a chance to play a gig or two and hopefully make some money. However, they all knew one thing, and that was if they were to ever get serious or big in with their career as musicians in anyway, they’d have to put their former-lives on the back-burner and focus on the future. And for awhile, everything seemed to be going all mighty and swell for Frankie Valli and the boys – they had a new name (the Four Seasons), wives, kids, a whole lot of money, television appearances, and all of the fame any of them could have ever wanted. However, one member of the band, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), who was actually the founding one, brings them all down when his sketchy past of being apart of the mob and owing a whole lot of money comes back to bite him, as well as the rest of the Four Seasons, in the ass. But thankfully, they can always rely on the music, but more importantly, Frankie’s lovely, soothing voice of pure love and affection.

Or, so I’m told from my long, lost, Italian-relatives.

Anyway, first things first, I think I need to get this off my chest as soon as possible, so that’s why I am doing it now: I have never seen Jersey Boys on Broadway. Though I’ve always heard it was a show that’s right up my alley, I just never found myself seeing it and sort of relied on this film-adaptation to hold me over until I eventually cough up all the money I can to get on with my life and change that. Sadly though, I guess I didn’t realize that this adaptation was actually one done by none other than Mr. Clint Eastwood himself.

"It says here that we have "act and emote". What the hell's that mean?!!?"

“It says here that we have “act and emote”. What the hell’s that mean?!!?”

That’s right, people. You read me right: Clint Eastwood directed a film-adaptation of Jersey Boys, a musical about the happenin’ and swingin’ times of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons during the 50’s and early 60’s.

If that at all sounds strange, don’t worry, because it totally should. Eastwood has always been known for directing dark, heavy dramas that rarely so ever have moments of fun, happiness, or even a smidgen of music in them. Not saying that each and everyone of his movies are as depressing as they come, but having already seen my fair share of Eastwood-directed films, I can easily say that a musical is definitely a strange choice for Eastwood to be apart of.

And that’s one of the main problems with this movie: Eastwood’s direction. See, I don’t know what it is that pushed Eastwood himself to go through with it and give this adaptation a shot or two, but it doesn’t feel right. Maybe he had some money already thrown into the project, or just wanted to show everybody his light and colorful side, but whatever the reason is, it doesn’t quite show and the movie suffers because of it.

That’s not saying Eastwood does a bad job as director; in fact, I’m sort of glad that somebody with enough attention to detail and character-development was on board with something like this, which could have easily been a song-and-dance number the whole way through. It’s just that when you watch this movie, something feels slightly off. There’s at least a good hour or so of this material where the movie sets up these characters, the lives they’re born into, their personalities and their introduction into the music world. It’s the same sort of introduction we get to see in these biopics, but because this time, it’s during the 50’s, it makes it feel more timely and almost like a slice-of-life. It’s nothing outstanding, but for the most part, it kept me happy, smiling and having a good time with myself.

But then, sadly, something strange happens during the middle-half of the movie when all of the cards are laid-out on the table and there needs to be a conflict with this story. I get that what eventually starts to cause tension amongst the band is the same in the play, but that still doesn’t mean it has to be as corny as it is here. Because, for the most part, a lot of moments feel as stagey as they can get. Once again, I realize that’s what it’s supposed to be like, but it took away from the realism of the story, and made it seem like we weren’t really watching a legion of dedicated, childhood friends growing apart; it just seemed like a bunch of really good-looking, somewhat talented dudes acting like they’re angry with one another and want out of whatever they’ve got going on.

And to make matters worse, once this second-half rolls on in, everything gets melodramatic and really takes the air out of this whole movie. Not saying that it was perfect going into this half, but for what it was, it was fun and entertaining, just like any musical should be. It doesn’t have to be a life-changer of any sort; it just has to get you to want to tap your feet, smile, laugh, and have a good time, regardless of if you like musicals or not. However, what happens is that Eastwood doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with this material, or even how to keep it going on and on, so he creates this strange mixture of uninteresting drama, with musical-numbers that just feel shoe-horned in there so that people don’t get upset when the Four Seasons aren’t shaking or jiving their hips every so often.

"You think you know a thing or two about dancing? Trust me, son. You haven't seen nothing yet."

“You think you know a thing or two about dancing? Trust me, son. You haven’t seen nothing yet.”

Once again though, I’ll repeat, whatever interest Eastwood already had invested into this project, good for him. Not only does this movie show that his style can at least cross over to other film genres, but that he himself, is an aging-director that isn’t afraid to test himself out a bit and try new things. It’s actually quite a revelation to have a director of his age and his stature in the movie business to keep on pushing himself, and see what it is that he works with next, because so many directors just pack it in once they reach a certain age or mental-zone. But not Eastwood. Nope, that guy just continues to truck on along and from what it looks like, he’s not stopping anytime soon either.

But that still doesn’t excuse the inherent oddness of this material and it’s a shame that somebody as talented as him had to get bogged down by material that seems like it should have just stayed on the stage in the first place. Or maybe adapted by somebody who has a better, clearer idea of how musicals work when nobody’s singing or dancing, and just talking. That’s what most musicals need to survive and if they don’t have much of that, or it isn’t working well, then the musical itself is just a boring time.

And nobody wants that! Especially not during the summer!

Speaking of things that should have just stayed on the stage because they’re a lot better on it, the cast is relatively dull too. However, I guess there’s a reason for that because Eastwood cast mostly the same people who played these parts on the stage, in these same roles. Ordinarily, that should work because it’s not like these actors have to do or try anything different with a role they’ve probably done about 20 or so times. But that’s what’s so strange about this movie, because not everybody’s very good, while others just absolutely do wonders and show us why they deserve to be in front of the screen more than on the stage.

One person in particular who seems really out of his league is the one who is playing our main-focus, Franki Valli. It’s not that John Lloyd Young is bad per se; it’s just obvious he’s a bit out of his depth and unable to command the screen, despite him being the reason why this story is told to us. In a way, he’s our main protagonist and it’s a problem whenever you’re lead just seems ill-equipped to really make anything work. Sure, his singing is on-point (or at least the recording of his vocals are), but that’s all he has to show. Whereas with somebody like Vincent Piazza, who plays Valli’s best buddy, Tommy DeVito, seems like he was tailor-made for this role as well as the camera. That’s why it’s a no-brainer why Eastwood would decide to cast him again.

But John Lloyd Young? Eh, he could have done better.

At least Christopher Walken was around, so you know it can’t be all that bad.

Consensus: Though it’s nice to see Eastwood wanting to try something new and different behind the camera, Jersey Boys still can’t help but feel like a dull, unexciting musical that doesn’t know how to handle neither of its drama, or its musical-numbers, very well.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

There's four up there, but Franki Valli has already been accounted for. So who the hell is the fourth person? The drummer?

There’s four up there, but Franki Valli has already been accounted for. So who the hell is the fourth person? The drummer?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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Hereafter (2010)

Jason Bourne: Ghost Whisperer.

Three different stories across Earth come together because of one major factor one experiences in his, or her life: Death. There’s George (Matt Damon), who has a “gift” in which he can speak with people’s lost ones through the after-life, and considers it more of a curse than anything else. Then, there’s French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) who has a near-death experience when she vacations to Thailand during the infamous 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and finds herself in a bit of a trance-like phase afterwards when she has to get back to functioning in everyday, normal life. And lastly, there’s twin-brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who both stick by one another as their drug-addicted mum gets worse and worse everyday, only to then be left alone when one of the twins die in a car-accident. All three people deal with death in their own ways and somehow, through the sheer power of fate, chance, or maybe even luck, connect while still looking for the same answers: Just what exactly happens to one when they die? Is it all just dark and blank? Or, is there more beauty and wonder to being dead?

At the time of this movie’s release, Clint Eastwood was 80-years-of-age and still going strong with life (as well as with the ladies) I presume. However, even a bad-ass mofo like himself has to at least accept the reality that yes, even he may die one of these days. And yes, for a man of his age, that could mean anytime soon.

"Come play with us, Danny."

“Come play with us, Danny.”

Though that sounds morbid and all, I only mean it as a way to understand his inspiration in deciding to direct a movie such as this. See, it’s all about the idea of death, what happens to us when we succumb to it, and what is there left to do after? Do we all just float around like ghosts, spooking people in horror movies and occasionally being spotted in strange photos? Or, do we live in this glow-y, supernatural after-life in which we all just hang out, party it up like no tomorrow and just wait for our loved-ones to eventually join us whenever their time on Earth is up? It’s never been proven which actually happens or not, and even though there are some people who like to say that they know exactly what happens, there’s still not enough fact to fall back on.

That said, Eastwood’s movie makes a pretty interesting claim that it doesn’t matter if we know or not, living this life on Earth is what matters most. We have to make the best of it and not get bogged down by the fact that people we know are dead and that we will be soon; we just got to keep calm and chive on, or so I’m told.

Which brings me back to what I was originally going on about: Eastwood’s age meaning something. Because see, even somebody of Eastwood’s respected stature among masculine-men, has to eventually realize that he soon will die and be gone from those he loves, or anybody else in the world for that fact. Once again, I know it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t – at least not in Eastwood’s case who is actually leaving a large body of work behind him as his legacy, where most people have just their regular, everyday lives. Still, not saying one person’s death is less important than another’s, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprise if the reason as to why Eastwood decided to get behind this movie and direct it, had a little bit to do with the fact that he himself is getting up there in age and closer and closer to being gone.

And with Eastwood here, his direction is very surprising. The choices he makes (like barely any score heard in the background, dim-lighting, long-winded scenes of dialogue) keep this movie interesting, in a small, contained way. It’s not something we often see from Eastwood or his flicks, however, it’s something that made me think that even though he’s older, he still has new, creative ways to show that he can shake things up, if only ever so slightly. You get a sense that Eastwood not only wants to pay attention to the themes about dying and the after-life, but also to the story and these characters, without really trying to get in the way of what it is that they do with their time on Earth. It would have been easy for him to do so, too, but Eastwood, being the dignified man he is, leans back and just lets most of the characters speak for themselves with their actions, wants, and needs.

However, there was something terribly “off” to this whole feature. And before anybody gets on my case and makes a point that “not every movie has to be played at a pace of 110 mph”, I will say this: It was not the pace of this movie that bothered. Even if it was slow and calm, it did not bother me; in fact, it did quite the opposite, it kept me watching. But no, what the real problem was that most of the movie felt like a smaller-scaled, less eventful indie that didn’t rely on the sheer-spectacle of its story, or the budget it was granted, but more of its characters, their feelings, emotions, etc.

But for some reason, by the end, Eastwood starts take steps further and further away from this mode of filming, and gets quite sentimental after awhile. Worst of all, he has most of this story ring false notes that I wish I didn’t see coming, but sadly, did. Meaning that when they did happen, they brought down the emotions going into this story and why it mattered to us that these three characters eventually find peace, love and happiness with their lives.

For instance, the character of George is a great example of what I’m trying to say. Here’s a guy who starts the movie out by contacting somebody’s dead wife and shows that what he has, is a total gift and is not a lie whatsoever. However, he doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who can talk to the dead”, whom everybody swarms and attacks, hoping that they too can speak with their lost, loved ones. You feel sympathy for him because he just wants to live a calm and peaceful life, yet, at the same time, also feel bad for him because he’s lonely and can’t really tell any person that he wants to be with for the rest of his life, who he really is, or what special talents he has deep in the pits of palms.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don't know yet.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don’t know yet.

It should be noted that, as usual, Damon is great in this role as George, because he’s pretty much the everyday man. Sure, he may have a unique talent that puts him in a different category from “everybody else”, but Damon plays him well to where it seems like this is just your ordinary, average dude who just wants to be happy, man. However, what ruins George by the end is that he makes some decisions that seem terribly contrived and only allowed so that he can eventually meet-up with the two other main characters in this movie. Didn’t quite work for me as much as I would have liked, and believe it or not, probably would have been a lot better off had it just been avoided in the first place.

With a movie like this, it’s almost expected that these three would eventually cross paths, but I feel like since their lives were each so miserable and painful as they were, that being separated from one another would make the movie more interesting, albeit, believable. But, as expected, Eastwood went with the conventional-route and made sure that these three eventually find ways of meeting one another and affect each other’s lives in big, meaningful ways; as hackneyed as they may have been.

As for the other two, or should I say, three, in this cast, Cécile de France and both Frankie and George McLaren are fine in their roles, although the latter two may not fair as well as de France. It’s not that I like picking on child actors, but when kids give bad performances, I recognize it and here, with both Frankie and George McLaren, they clearly can’t handle the material as well. Then again, they’re twins playing, essentially, the same character at most points, so I guess that’s a gimmick Eastwood himself couldn’t resist in trying out for size.

Sadly, it pains me to say that Clint may have been beaten-out. Yup, I went there and I find myself wanting to come back as soon as I just typed-it.

Please don’t hurt me, Clint.

Consensus: Hereafter is definitely made more interesting by the fact that somebody of Clint Eastwood’s stature and talents would get behind it, but sadly, even he succumbs to the more schmaltzy, sentimental happenings that overtake the last-half or so.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women, am I right men?

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women. Am I right guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Had no idea DJ’s were always getting so much nookie.

Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) is a sly and cool California disc jockey that has an easy job, easy life, and is pretty easy when it comes to the women. But, it’s all fun and games with him until one lady he spends the night with (Jessica Walter), ends up wanting more than he expected and now his life is ready for a whole new shake-up. Which is to say that the lady herself is pretty darn coo-coo for Coco Puffs.

If there is one thing I have to give Clint Eastwood credit for, it’s that the guy decided not to make his directorial debut this big, expensive piece of mainstream trash that he could have easily gone crazy with because of all the money that would have been tossed his way. Instead, the guy went for a more low-key, smaller-scale type of film that doesn’t even really seem like he spent all that much money on in the first place so if there is anything I have to commend Eastwood for with this film, it’s that the guy knows how to save money and knows how to keep things low and small.

Sadly, none of that matters when you look at the final-product and realize that Eastwood made some junk. Big budget or not, garbage is still garbage.

"I told you! "All Request Saturday" on is, Saturday. Not Tuesday!"

“I told you! “All Request Saturday” on is, Saturday. Not Tuesday!”

One of the main reasons why this film sucks so hard is because nothing is shocking here at all. We have all seen this type of thriller done before, done in the same exact order – guy bangs girl, girl thinks it’s more than just a simple one time thing, girl starts stalking, girl starts to get even crazier, and by the time the guy knows it, she’s attacking him with a kitchen knife aimed at his throat. Basically, it’s the type of dream every dude wants to have, without actually having it be real, so I guess that’s what makes it somewhat scary, is that this could literally happen to any person who dips their pen into the wrong ink. That said, the movie’s so campy, it almost feels like a joke half of the time; like it literally is just coming from Eastwood’s own fantasies that he probably still performs to this day.

And honestly, if you’ve seen something like Fatal Attraction, or any erotic-thriller ever made, you know exactly how this movie’s going to get started, move on, and then end. There’s hardly any surprises here, nor are there actually any fun moments to be had. Sure, it’s sort of like a horror movie, and it’s even a little bit of a thriller, but there’s not much of either elements to be found here. For the most part, it’s just a whole slew of scenes in which Clint Eastwood tries his hardest to get out of having to have sex with this one gal, each and every night. May have been fun for Clint himself, but for the single, angry viewer looking on, it can be a bit irritating. Not because that viewer wants to be Clint, but because the movie they’re watching blows.

And also that they want to be Clint Eastwood.

Not talking about me, by the way.

But once you get to thinking about the decade it was made, things get a whole lot worse. Everything from the music, to the lines, to the wardrobe, to the look of it in general, are all dated and at times, incredibly laughable. The gal that gets all nutso after Clint has sex with her and leaves her, has some of the most ridiculous lines in the whole film, just so that we could see how deranged and unstable she truly. Personally, I got it pretty quick: Lady’s crazy, so beware. But the movie did not stop there and just kept on giving poor Jessica Walter, horrible lines to work with.

Love to wake up to that every morning.

Love to wake up to that every morning.

Granted, it’s pretty neat seeing Jessica Walter, pre-Lucille Bluth days, but her performance here is insane. That’s clearly the point, but after awhile, it becomes to turn into something of a parody; almost as if Clint just told her to keep yelling at the top of her lungs and stick her tongue out as much as possible. Maybe it worked for those who saw this way back when, but now, it’s excruciating to watch. Like most movies from the 70’s, except that this one features literally a five-minute montage of Clint and an old-flame of his, kissing, making love, skinny-dipping, and doing it all to sweet tunes that sound exactly like a poor-man’s Kenny G. Honestly, I think I could have gone a whole two hours or so without seeing Clint Eastwood’s bare-naked bum, but hey, I guess the guy really wants to get his point across: He’s a hot mofo.

Speaking of Clint, as an actor, the guy is fine and does a nice job with his d-bag character but after awhile, you don’t really care for the guy. He’s just a dick that stuck his thing in a woman, decided that he didn’t want it from her no more, and then gets stuck with the fact that he may get killed for that one night stand. Yeah, it’s a sucky situation for the dude but it didn’t make me care about him any more and just left me with an empty-protagonist that didn’t have much to him other than a stern, smooth voice, and a body that ladies just die for. Notice how I am talking about Clint Eastwood in the early 70’s. Now, in the year 2014, not so much. But hey, he is somehow capable of reeling in the ladies, despite his age or what he may have turn out to be.

Consensus: It may have chilled viewers back when it first came out, but in the 21st Century, Play Misty for Me has not aged well one bit, which is mostly thanks to most of Eastwood’s lazy decisions as director and how conventional the material turns out to be, without ever being just simply put: “Fun”.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Clint be like, "don't curr."

Clint be like, “don’t curr.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Yes, they may have been debunked it, but I still like to think that these three are somewhere out there right now, just sippin’ on Pina Coladas, with a couple of honeys by their sides.

Lifer Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) has just landed his ass in The Rock for apparently trying to break out of his last prison-stay in Atlanta. The Rock is Alcatraz, and apparently nobody can escape it, no matter how hard many have tried and seemingly failed to do so. Frank finds this almost as a challenge as he, and a couple of other fellow inmates pick out every little clue that they can find to bust them out of the joint. Some of it’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s all they got and it’s all that they’ve got to live for, unless they want to rot away in a place that could care less if they were even around.

We all know the story about the dudes who escaped from Alcatraz, and were never to be found again. Some think they survived and lived under scrutiny for the rest of their days; while others, well, they think they just drowned, died, and got their remains eaten by all sorts of creatures of the lake. Nobody knows what the truth really is since they never found any bodies of any sorts, however, the fact of the matter is that these men did escape out the prison that was deemed “inescapable”, and got by without ever being noticed until 12 hours later. I don’t know about you, but that deserves it’s own movie, especially one starring everybody’s favorite leading-man: Clint Eastwood.

"Can't wait to get home and tell those kids to get off my lawn."

“Can’t wait to get home and tell those kids to get off my lawn.”

But what makes this movie pretty good, even after all of these years, is that everything in it seems reasonable as if it was meant to be put in the film, only to further on the emotion and the intensity of the prison escape itself. With a movie like this, for something that actually happened, there needs to be feeling, heart, and depth with these characters and the situation, so that when they do get the hell out of jail (literally), you feel more and more towards them and whether or not they’re going to make it out alive. We all know how the story ends and it all depends on what side of the boat you’re on as to whether you believe that they’re dreams were fulfilled or not.

For me, I think the dudes lived and are still having a grand old time to this day, but that’s just me. You know me, the type of person who believes that the human-spirit who can overcome anything. Even the deep, dark, and freezing waters of San Francisco, on a very cold night. Yup, even then, the human-spirit overcomes all, baby.

And that’s sort of the idea that this movie taps into, but not too much to where it feels like it’s preachy or overly-dramatic. It keeps itself subtle, steady, and relaxed, as if you are along with these guys, just living out the nights and days as they continue to wait and wait until their time to go bye-bye comes around. It also allows the movie to pick itself back up once the prison escape actually begins and really get you involved by making you wonder if they’re going to make it, how, or if they’re going to get caught by somebody. Like I said before, you and I all know how the story begins, continues on, and ends, but the fact that it might just go against expectations and really take you for a loop still shows up in your mind many times. That’s when you know you have a good movie on your hands, albeit, a very tense one as well.

If anything, the tension does swell back up what’s a pretty straight-forward story, especially one that I’m not too sure I believe in after seeing it a couple of times already (3 to be exact). The reason why Morris decides that he wants to get the hell out of the prison and be free is a bit cheap. There’s this character Doc, who’s the usual harmless and innocent dude you’d see in any prison movie, who has a bit of a problem that Morris apparently takes notice to and gets upset about. So upset, that he decides it’s his time to flee from serving his life-sentence. Let’s all forget though, that the dude has an IQ of “Superior”, as they show early on in the movie, he looks around everywhere he goes, and also has broken out of the last prison he was in, hence why he’s in this one. Yup, forget about that. Nope, just add the old cooky guy that the warden throws his power and anger on, to seal the deal and give Morris some inspiration. I thought this way of making Morris more human and giving him a reason to break out was sort of stupid and didn’t fit well with the rest of the movie, as it didn’t seem to really go with the over-the-top dramatics of what a usual movie such as this goes for. There could have been somebody like Doc in prison when these guys decided that they wanted to get the hell out, but I highly doubt it.

The thought inside everybody's minds right at that moment, "Shit, he gonna finish that?"

“Shit, he gonna finish that?”

But at least Morris is given some sort of levity as a human-being, due to Clint Eastwood playing him, or, essentially playing himself. When it comes to Clint Eastwood, you don’t get much else different other than him playing himself. I can’t say that’s a bad thing because the dude’s pretty damn good and charming at playing it, while also being able to give him a smarter attitude towards certain situations and predicaments that makes it seem understandable as to how he figured out how to break out, and why. I mean, the movie does tell us early on (remember the IQ level thingy?), but even if it didn’t, we would have already known that this dude was one smart cookie that was not to be messed with. Why? Cause it’s freakin’ William Munny! That’s why!

The supporting cast in this movie is pretty solid, especially Paul Benjamin as “English”, the worker from the library that Morris befriends. Together, they share a nice dynamic that’s not just playful, but full of respect and touched my heart a bit more once they get their final scene together. It’s a good one, so just wait for it. Also, be on the lookout for a very young and dashing Fred Ward in a role as one of the escapees. Nice to see when the dude was such a young whippersnapper!

Consensus: Some may consider Escape from Alcatraz “slow” and “boring”, but if you’re in the right mood for a prison movie that takes its grand old time to develop characters and tension, then you’ll be watching the right flick. Not one of the best, but definitely one of the more definitive ones.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A beaut, ain't she?!?

A beaut, ain’t she?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

The Western that even made Clint chuckle. Just a little bit, though. He still found a way to be as bad-ass as ever

Here lies the story of the Wild West outlaws known as Robert LeRoy Parker, known to history as Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and his partner Harry Longabaugh, the “Sundance Kid” (Robert Redford). Together, they pulled-off many wacky and wild heists back in their day but here, we watch specifically as they migrate to Bolivia while on the run from the law in search of a more successful criminal career. It works for a little while, that is until the boys rely who they really are and know that they can’t settle down, be calm, and cool. They got to rob, even if their lives depend on it.

For the past two months, something has come over me. I keep on finding myself, sitting down once a week, and poppin’ in a DVD of a Western movie. I don’t know if it’s because of the weather, because I’m bored, or just because I enjoy a nice little shoot ‘em up action that take place in deserts, but I’ve just been watching them a lot lately. However, seeing all of these Westerns so much, I think I’ve come to terms with what’s usually seen and accepted with them, which makes it all the better to see one that isn’t your typical Western, no matter how much it gets regarded as one.

Those horses are just happy to be in the same frame as these two legends, and not awaiting their fate at the next Meat Convention.

Those horses are just happy to be in the same frame as these two legends, and not awaiting their fate at the next Meat Convention.

What separates this Western, from so many others out there in the world is that director George Roy Hill takes an approach to this material that is more light-hearted, then it is grim, which is something very different for a Western, especially for one back in that day. When you get the usual Eastwood/Leone Spaghetti-Westerns, you get sinister, dark stares into the sky; guys killing each other in cold blood; innocents going down like flies, and a whole bunch of other gritty shit that is willing to make anybody feel depressed. That’s where this film is very different with that idea that everything has to be dark and grim, in order to make a good Western. All you really need is a bunch of laughs, shootings, and bank robberies, to have a good old-fashioned time, and that is exactly what Hill and co. allow for us to have.

In fact, that’s what really kept me going with this film even when it started to hit some slow spots, here and there. Everybody involved with this flick seems like they’re having so much fun and it’s almost contagious because whenever you see these guys rob a bank or beat the shit out of some gringos, you don’t feel mad at them or feel like these are the two most despicable pieces of human-beings that you have ever seen put on-screen. Instead, you love it and you can’t wait till they start to do some more of that, along with knocking out some pretty funny one-liners along the way to really get you laughing. It’s not all about being an evil son-of-a-bitch here, it’s about being on the bad-side of the law and still having a fun-ass time regardless of wondering who is following you and when they are going to eventually catch your asses. Very different approach to the usual Western people in those days were used to, and I’d say it’s a good thing that it changed the genre up because without this flick, that genre probably would have started to fall off the face of the Earth and become a bore to every person who even bothered with it.

Then again, it’s a genre that’s still growing strong all of these years later, so I think it’s safe to say that the times may have changed, yet the game remains the same.

But people, let’s be honest, this movie would not be as entertaining and fun if it wasn’t for the two leading men, playing in these iconic roles: Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both of these actors, in their own right, are amazing actors that will forever be remembered in pop-culture just for giving out some great performances for basically every film they have done, but they’re pairing here is definitely some of the most fun either of them have had in any film prior to this. Whether they are together or not, both seem to be having a ball with themselves, as well as the material and it’s almost infectious, especially when you get to watching these two vets just work their hardest to make their fun time, not just their fun time, but ours as well. Thankfully, it works.

Newman just oozes cool no matter what it is that he does and plays the brains-side of this duo very well as Butch Cassidy, and Robert Redford plays his charm up perfectly, as one of the most intimidating dudes with a ‘stache ever, The Sundance Kid. Both of them have very different sets of skills, but they both complement each other in a way where the one would totally have the others back no matter what it was that they have gotten themselves into.

Boooo! Who needs a girl when you have each other, Rob and Paul?

Boooo! Who needs a girl when you have each other, Rob and Paul?

Watching these guys together on-screen is like a work of magic because every scene they have together, just makes them feel more and more like they were actual buds, who just got done having a few pints at the bar before they walked onto the set and started filming. They both play off of each other perfectly and use their hilarious comedic-timing to their advantage every which way of this flick and it definitely helped me stay on-board with this flick, even when it seemed like the film was starting to lose my attention at points. You never stop liking these guys, no matter what bad acts they commit, and I think that’s much ado to the pure likability that lie within these guys’ acting. The chemistry between them is THAT good, and it’s no wonder why they teamed up again for The Sting, and kicked ass there as well.

Perhaps if I was to choose a problem with this flick, it would be that it’s not all that exciting as I would have liked to have expected. The story starts off perfectly with just the right amount of energy and fun that’s needed, but as soon as the film starts to focus on the unneeded “love triangle” between Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s girl, Etta, I felt like the film cooled down it’s brakes and was really wasting valuable time that could have been dedicated more to these guys just having a fun time, regardless of whether it was all true or not. Thankfully, that last shoot-out where they face-off against all of Bolivia is by far one of the most iconic endings in film-history, and with good reason: it’s full of just the right amount of suspense and emotion, all to solidifie the legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And what legends they truly were, to all bandits all over the world. Even the wet ones.

Consensus: Though it cools itself down in bits and pieces, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is still a very fun, light, and humorous-take on the Western genre that is so much more legit, due to the fact of Newman and Redford’s chemistry being some of the best anyone has ever seen between two buddies in a buddy film, on and off the screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even when caught off-guard, they still look cool as fuck.

Even when caught off-guard, they still look fly as fuck.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Rocky Balboa’s only real competition: a woman!

In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time. That all changes when Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym, but also walks into his life. Maggie wants to box, but Frankie ain’t about teaching girls to box since it’s considered a joke around the league and his buds that have respected him forever. However, Frankie sees something in her and realizes that maybe there’s more than just a woman underneath it all; there may even be a true fighter. And I’m not just talking about in the ring either, folks.

You have to really give it to Mr. Clint Eastwood; the guy just never stops. Most 82 year olds out there, wake up at 7 a.m., have a nice piece of toast for breakfast, watch golf, sit on the porch, read the paper, talk about the good old days with whoever’s present (sometimes nobody), watch the news, go to sleep at 9, and do the same thing all over again the next day after that and so on and so forth. However, that’s not how Eastwood rolls, nor is it how he likes to spend his latter-years, and even though the guy has had some stinkers in the past, you still have to see that this guy has some real talent left in him and he shows no signs of stopping.

What I liked most about Eastwood’s direction here is that he takes your ordinary story about a trailer-trash girl who has high hopes of one day being the next big thing for boxing, and turns that cliché into something heartfelt and real. No matter what form of advertisement you saw of this film, everybody had it being planned-out as the “female Rocky“, but that really couldn’t be any further from the truth. You feel like all of these character’s motivations are understood, realistic, and best off all, believable to where you can hold everything closer to heart. It’s also a sure thing of beauty to see the relationship between Frankie and Maggie build over time, almost to where he becomes a father-figure for her and she becomes a daughter-figure for him. It all sounds so predictable, mushy, and ham-fisted but it’s surprisingly not, which is mostly because of how much of this rings true to not only these characters minds, but also their souls. You can tell that each and every character starts to wear their hearts on the sleeve by the end, and for that: I think I decided to join along in the heart-wearing festivities.

"Hit the fucking thing! Harder!"

“Hit that fucking thing! Harder!”

I haven’t gotten choked-up at a film in quite some time, so by the end, when I started to tear up just a bit, not only did it make me feel good but it also made me realize how great of a director Eastwood can be if he just plays it light and assured. So many films from Eastwood, especially lately, have all been about him trying too hard to get in the way of the story and because of that, he makes some big mistakes in the process. Some of which, actually cause him to lose control of his whole movie, then that’s where he leaves his actors to pick up the pieces. That is different here as you can tell that Eastwood is not all about getting pigeonholed into another genre flick; instead, he’s more about telling the story from his heart and that’s evident through this compelling, but always-subtle direction.

Even though this film did work for me so well in so many ways, there were other problems I had with this flick that made me take away from my final grade. One of the main elements of this film that bothered me was Maggie’s, trailer-trash family that was so one-dimensional that every time they were on-screen, I couldn’t help but laugh, which was something I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to do in the first place. I get it, they’re a bad bunch of siblings that only care for themselves rather than the down-and-out daughter that’s doing everything she can for them, but every time they showed up (which was usually the most emotional scenes out of the whole film) I couldn’t help but think that the only way to get rid of these stereotypical characters in a good way was to have Eastwood take out a .44 Magnum and blow ‘em all away. Obviously, he didn’t feel like doing that this time around but it would have been the best solution to getting rid of these characters and their annoying ways of speaking and acting. Seriously, what a bunch of grateful asses.

Another big element of this film that I couldn’t take in for certain was the champion boxer Maggie ends up facing. Not only is this chick as one-dimensional as Maggie’s familia, but she is also unbelievably ruthless and cruel, to the point of where I don’t really think she would even be allowed to fight in the ring again, let alone, hold the crown for a big bout. Both of these elements may not mean much now, but in hindsight, when they are placed in some real, dramatic scenes, you can’t help but feel like you’re being cheated just a teeny, weeny bit. Hey, I didn’t say Clint was always perfect.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, this guy is pretty stellar (no surprise there) as the notoriously cranky boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn. Eastwood starts the role off with his usual grumpy, old fart character that we usually see him pull-off so well, but by the end, he starts to reveal some dramatic-layers within his acting that I didn’t even know really existed and even though I did, I still haven’t had the privilege to see them in awhile. Of course, we’ve all seen Eastwood pull out some of his dramatic chops every once and awhile, but not as much as we see here and it’s something of total beauty to see because you feel for his old man, mostly cause you know that this guy is a good man. He’s an old fart that yells, cranks, and pisses on everybody, but he’s still a person none the less and should be treated as one for that. Throughout the whole movie, you can tell that he is trying to forgive himself for all of the time he has spent away from his daughter and more on in the ring, but you realize that Maggie is the one last hope of forgiveness for him and for that, you root him on as much as you do for Maggie.

"When you get in there, fuck her shit up."

“When you get in there, mess her shit up.”

And as for Maggie, the gal that’s playing her, Hilary Swank, gives yet again, another top-notch performance of hers as the trailer-trash boxer, but this time; with more layers to a character that could have easily been deemed as “conventional”, “obvious”, and “not worth spending more than 2 hours of your time with”. Maggie is a character that annoyed me at first, considering she seemed like she was just too damn happy and optimistic to be in the boxing atmosphere, to be training, to be getting into shape, and to be trying to make a living off of punching the hell out of people in the face, therefore, made her too much for me at first. But then I thought to myself: who cares!?!? Give me more! Well, that’s what I got and I have to give a lot of credit to Swank for pulling this role off perfectly because not only do we see her for the bad-ass that she can be whenever she’s in the ring, but we also see her as a very sad, lonely, and hopeless little girl that just can’t make right with her family, or her life. Pretty sad stuff, but Swank makes it hopeful with her performance and it was a good choice for Best Actress that year.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention already, but Morgan Freeman is here as Eddie, the washed-up boxer who works/lives at Frankie’s gym. Freeman narrates this movie, and of course, it’s as classy and stylish as ever, but his voice is only used to enhance the story-telling, his performance is a whole, ‘nother thing completely  Freeman is always a solid actor and always gives it his all no matter what the shit-pile may be, but his performance as Eddie is as rich and emotionally-powerful as it’s gotten for him, recently at least. Eddie is a bit of a smarty-pants that may not have the best past for a human-being, ever, but he still is somebody that you love and feel for just because you know that underneath it all, this guy is hurting from the life that he could have had in the ring and for some reason; just never did. Freeman has this one, special scene where he talks about his last match and it’s not only a great scene, but one of the best in Freeman’s career. Underneath all of that narrating he does, it’s still nice to see him pull his acting-chops out every once and awhile and amaze us, as we all know he can do. These three are amazing and keep this film grounded in emotional honesty, and brilliance.

Consensus: This may look like your normal, predictable sports drama that we have all come to know, see, and sometimes love/hate from this genre, but Million Dollar Baby is different than that category most movies get sucked into. With a steady and sturdy direction from Eastwood, characters to care for, emotional-truths behind people we want to hear speak, and a trio of solid performances, it’s better than those types of movies and one that you won’t soon forget, long after you’ve seen it for all that it is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Didn't know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Didn’t know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Mystic River (2003)

At the end of the day, boys will be boys.

Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) were three childhood friends who lost touch over the years, all because of an incident that happened to one of them. All these years later, Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is found dead in the park, and it’s up to Sean to find out who killed her, why, who, what, where, and when, but somehow, Dave seems like the most prime-suspect out of them all. Whether or not he did it, is left up to these three to figure out.

Movies that try to deal both with a human-story and a mystery, never fully come together and seem to work all that well. However, Clint Eastwood seems like the type of dude who’s been in enough movies to realize that anytime you can add on real, honest human emotions; then anything can work. He also seems to know that if you can get an amazing cast, that is more than capable of delivering on every, single spectrum; then anything can, and most likely will, work. Clint knows the game he’s getting himself involved with and although he’s been racking it up in the age-department, the guy shows us he still knows what’s up with a good story.

What works so well with this flick is that in almost every aspect, something is always working. For starters, the mystery behind this flick is one that actually works, and one that keeps you glued to wondering just what the hell is going to be revealed, and possibly said, next. Most of these movies that try to add mystery to a human-story, never really seem to work and instead come off like a lame excuse to distract the audience who wants a fast-paced, exciting story, but this isn’t one of those flicks. We are never really told what happened to Katie in the beginning, other than the fact that she was murdered, by the park, and somebody called it in. After that, everything we hear, see, or try to grip and understand, are all news to us and it feels like we are learning everything, just as soon as each and every other character in this movie as well. Love a fine mystery-tale, especially when it’s done well and not for cheap-kicks.

Then, you get to the human-element of this whole story, which is really the anchor to it all and has everything come together like a fine string, between two Dixie cups. Every character in this movie, for no matter how long or how little you may see them pop-up on-screen, you still feel like as if you know them for all that they are, all that they were, and all that they ever will be. Sure, some are more pleasant to think about than others, but you still can’t help but be intrigued by the way that these characters interact with one another, and just how they find ways to connect around the a murder-case like this.

"Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies."

“Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies.”

The most interesting character-relationships in this movie, were definitely the three boys we see at the beginning: Sean, Jimmy, and Dave (remember those names). At the beginning, we see how they were childhood pals, until something very disturbing and dramatic happened to one of them, and separates them all, while changing the course of their lives forever and ever. After we see this change in their childhoods, we then fast-forward to them being adults, moving on with their lives, and making ends meet, but still never, ever forgetting about that fateful day that impacted all of them, not just that one person. Throughout the rest of the flick, they always go back-and-forth about that moment in their lives, and they realize that it changed who they were, forever, but never really come to terms with how or why. They know that one person was actually hurt and had to pay the piper, but in the end, they were all hurt that day and never seemed to forget about it, nor heal from that pain. It’s interesting that they all see each other in one-on-one’s, but never show up altogether. It’s as if the movie wants you to see how separated they are, not just from each other, but the rest of the world around them. Maybe that’s just a bunch of babble from yours truly, but it’s something that I felt, and something that I saw and continue to think about even while writing all of this jibber-jab.

But trust me, not everything in this movie is as clear as I may make it out to be (or not). The movie has characters that you don’t know whether or not to trust, like, dislike, or even care for, but you still remained enticed by everything that you see them as. Eastwood also has an interest in each of these character’s lives and personality-traits, and shows how each of them react to certain situations differently. Some are cool, and some are nervous bumb-fucks. Some are suave, and some jittery-jatters. Some know all the right things to say, and others do as well, they just don’t know how to say it. You see all of these characters act and respond to the same situations, the same questions, and the same happenings, but yet; they are all different in their own ways, and watching that was just about perfect. It was even better to watch, if not just for the actual characters themselves, but the performances that were there to back them up.

When you have a story that’s so rich, so deep, and so compelling as this, with characters that are on equal-measure, it’s necessary to have a cast that can handle this, and that’s exactly what all of these heavy-hitters are ready to do, and do it in style. Sort of. Back when this flick first came out, everybody ranted and raved about Sean Penn and his performance as Jimmy Markum, but it’s rants and raves that were meant to be. Not only does Penn give one of the greatest freak-outs of all-time (second to this, of course), but he also gives us a deeply-layered, and beautiful glimpse inside the world of a man that’s trying to be right, trying to be good, and trying to be well-mannered, but just can’t because of his natural-tendencies. Markum is not a nice guy and is definitely not the type of guy you’d be easy and able to trust when it came down to getting business done the right way, but he’s trying and you can see that in every single scene that Penn shows up in. Most of the time, he’s a grieving father that’s just taken down, notch-by-notch, because of the fact that his baby girl is dead, but he continues to get back up, fight, and search for the truth. The ways he goes about it, the answers that he finds, and how he responds to those said answers, are not always the most “just” ways of going about your bizz, but Penn always remains stoic, compelling, believeable, and understandable in the way he never loses hope, even if death is staring him right in the face. It’s not as corny as I may make it sound. Trust me on that.

Tim Robbins comes very close to stealing Penn’s spotlight as Dave, an old-time friend of Jimmy’s, who also just so happens to be married to his wife’s cousin. Don’t know what that would make them in terms of family, but I guess they’re related, right? Okay, whatever. Anyway, Robbins is amazing as Dave, not just because Robbins knows how to play crazy like anybody’s business, but he really plays it up without going overboard in the sense that he’s way too insane to be considered the type of guy you’d want to marry, have, and raise a family with. He seems like an honestly-nice dude, that just so happens to have a pretty fucked-up past that gets in the way of his present-day happenings. That never makes him a bad person, but just the type of person you never know whether or not to trust, and what it is about him that’s so shady. Whatever it is, that mystery and that dark-shade of him, always stays there between us and that character, and it not only works in the movie’s favor, but Robbins’ as well. Both him and Penn received Oscars for these roles, and in my opinion: were both well-deserved. Then again, I think I share that same opinion with many, many others out there in the movie-reviewing world.

Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave’s wife, Celeste, who knows about Dave and what he did the night Katie was murdered, but doesn’t know how to accept the fact that maybe her hubby was the killer out of all of this. Harden is great with this role and this character because it gives us a sense that this woman loves her husband to death, but still doesn’t know if she can trust him in all of this, and finds herself in a dilemma between choosing between love, family, or being fair. She’s always nervous, she’s always twitchy, and she’s always scared, and some may call her performance one-sided for that, but Harden handles it perfectly, and never lost my interest.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really needed an Oscar.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really wanted an Oscar.

Kevin Bacon seems like he got the shortest-stack of the bunch with a character that isn’t as interesting and sure as hell isn’t as memorable as these two, but still proves that he’s the man when it comes to owning roles like these, no matter how procedural they may be. It also doesn’t help that his character’s wife just so happened to have left him, with their baby, calls him almost all of the time, and never speaks. She just sits there, with the phone to her ear, in silence as the guy rambles on about nearly nothing. Still, Bacon is great through all of this, it’s just obvious that Eastwood wasn’t as concerned with this character as much as he was with the first two. Laurence Fishburne plays Sean’s fellow-detective who’s also investigating the case and is great with what he does, but is only there to give some slappy, side-comments and show how he isn’t as biased as Sean may be. Then again, Fishburne is always worth watching, especially in roles where he’s playing himself better than anybody else.

Even though the cast, the direction, the writing, the themes, and the mystery behind this whole movie, worked for me and had me loving just about every second of this, there is always a glaring-problem that never ceases to leave my mind when I think of this: the ending, or should I say: the final 10 minutes. Without spoiling all of the shite that goes down in the final-act, we leave with a dark, but reasonable conclusion that effs with our minds, our hearts, and our eyes, especially with everything we just saw for the past two hours. However, the movie doesn’t end there, just when it should have. Nope, instead, the movie felt the need to add on an epilogue where we not only get one, whole scene dedicated to Laura Linney’s characters, Jimmy’s wife, acting as Lady Macbeth-type character, but also feed us an ending that sort of contradicts the whole movie.

For instance, the movie plays around with the themes of people staying true their ways, their morals, and their nature, but somewhere, those themes get lost in a strange conundrum of characters not acting like themselves. It’s so hard to go into all of this without giving each and every thing away, but for the people who feel like they know what I’m talking about, you may be able to understand that some people realize some things about others, that they didn’t know before or has just become news to them, but yet, they choose to do nothing about it and go about their lives as if nothing happened. That would have been fine for one or two characters in this movie, but for the one that it does high-light, it seemed wrong, too theatrical, and a tad stupid, as if Eastwood really wanted us to feel like nobody was meant to be trusted, nor were they meant to be liked in any way, form, or shape. It’s not a happy-ending, per se, but it’s the type of ending that may piss you off because everything up until that point, was going swell, but had to end right there. Damn you, Clint. Why’d you have to go and ruin a good thing?

Consensus: The ending doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme of things, but everything else in Mystic River leading up to that, is still near-perfect with it’s powerful acting, realistic themes about life, and interesting character-traits and relationships that never always seem to add more heart and depth to this mystery, rather than just finding out who the baddie is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Dear, I could imagine the type of conversation these two would be happening.

Dear, I could imagine the type of conversation these two would be happening.

Changeling (2008)

Maybe this should be a sign to you, Angie, that it’s time to stop adopting so many damn kids!

Christine Collins’ (Angelina Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever.

That plot-synopsis up there that this movie is based on, apparently is all true and surprisingly happened during the 20’s/30’s. But what I find so funny about that idea, is that the movie writes it as “A True Story”, rather than playing it safe and going with “based on a true story”, or “inspired by true events”. You can get away with so much more if you with the two former-options, but nooooo, Clint Eastwood is taking a stand and believes in what he sees. Sadly, it is Clint Eastwood were talking about here, and nothing is as realistic or as simple as it may look on paper.

The problem that Eastwood runs into with most of his films (this one especially), is that he never seems to really focus on one aspect of the whole story. Instead, the guy goes for everything that’s involved and feels the need to load his film up with exposition, random details, unheard of hints, and unnecessary subplots, just in hope that it will spice things up and keep the audiences attention up on-screen. This just becomes a total jumble of randomness that could have really worked, had it been taken-down a notch by about 3 or 4 story-lines. That’s why when he does dial it down, it works perfectly and helps the story guide a simpler-path than it had before. However, the times when he doesn’t and just feels the need to add and add some more layers to a story that’s already as simple as it can be, then it can be a bit bothersome and that’s the problem with this movie here. Too much, too little needed.

If this was France, he'd be the villain.

If this was France, he’d be the villain.

However, it isn’t always like this. For the first 30 minutes or so, the movie focuses on Collins as she looks for her son, finds him, realizes he’s a fake, and then decides to take matters into her own hands and bother the hell out of everybody involved with the investigation. Right here in the beginning is actually  compelling and kept me interested into where I could see it going, and especially when you realize that the way all of these cops are in this movie, are pretty much they were in real-life. It’s a shame that it’s a true-story but hey, I guess it had to happen. Now, after Collins runs into a big problem with the police department, then things go south for her real quick and ultimately, is where things go south for the movie as well. Instead of sticking to Collins’ story, we get a story about the corruption of the L.A. police department that ran rampant during the 20’s/30’s, then we get a story that’s about this serial killer that seems reasonable but also takes away from Collins’ own story, a story about the psychiatric ward and how all women who ‘effed with the cops got shipped off to there, and then another story about how Collins needs to move on. All of these stories seem like they serve a purpose to the big idea at-hand here, but still never mesh well together and only keep us further and further away from the actual story we started off with: Collins finding her son.

All of this piling-up of ideas and story-lines just creates a very long, drawn-out piece of work that never, ever needed to be 2 hours and 24-minutes long. I mean, I guess Eastwood didn’t want to leave out any details, but Christ man! At least give me the Spark Note version of everything that’s happening, rather than the College Textbook! I can’t rag on Clint’s case too much because the guy does have some nice-moments here and some important things to say, but he needed to buckle-down on that time-limit. Without this long-ass time-limit, I may not have been as bothered as I truly was.

However, where the story seems to fly-around wherever it sees fit, the one person keeping it all glued together is Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins. When Jolie isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster, she’s actually out there giving some understated, grounded performances that may shock some people considering she hasn’t really been known for doing that as of late. Jolie does an awesome job as Christine because she allows that sympathy and love we feel for her, shine through every-frame of the movie and you can really feel the utter sadness and depression coming from this problem in her life. Obviously losing a kid is no happy-thang, but instead of making it a non-stop problem that gets old, real quick, Jolie keeps us watching and having us wait to see more layers of her come pouring right out. It’s great to see Jolie like this and I can only hope that she continues to do more of it. You know, when she isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster

Changeling2

Even in the 20’s, the paparazzi still can’t get enough of Gina-feva.

Her main co-star, John Malkovich, is practically given a top-billing next to her name but yet, still isn’t in it as much as you would expect from a big-name like his. Malkovich plays Reverend Gustav Brigleb, one of the guys who first sticks up for Christine, and plays him very well but not as spirited or as energetic as we’ve seen this guy act before. It’s a nice performance, no doubt about that, but a bit of a disappointment considering we all know what he can bring to a movie. Maybe more time could have been given to him, his character, his emotions, and his motivations for helping-out Christine, rather than the 500 other stories Clint had on his plate.

The other people in this cast try their hardest, but all sort of fall by the waste-side once you see how they are all portrayed, especially the men of the police unit. The problem with how Eastwood portrays these police officers/detectives is as if they have no remorse, no souls, or no idea of being a good person at all. It seems as if they are all concerned with saving their own butts and don’t want to hear a single word about what it is that they’re doing, is wrong. Each and every one was portrayed as the stereotypical villain we usually see in one-sided movies like these. It’s not even that they’re just bad-guys either, they’re laughably bad. The dialogue for them is so obvious, so predictable, and so cliche, that you have to wonder just how the hell they let idiots like these actually have the authority to carry a gun and a badge. The one I remember the most was probably Jeffrey Donovan as the main police captain, who has a dated and forced accent that comes off as if he has a stick up his ass, or just can’t read his lines. Either way, the guy sucks and I don’t know how the hell he has a hit TV show on USA. Don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s been on there forever and with him as the lead, I don’t know.

Consensus: Though Changeling features a strong, central performance from Jolie and a sometimes-interesting “true story”, Clint Eastwood’s direction still gets in the way with his constant use of constantly adding on layers to a story, losing his central focus, and never really being able to make it all come together for an eventful and memorable ending. It just flops like a fish, and leaves your mind as soon as soon as the credits begin to roll.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Brad, Clint won't stop grunting. What do I do?"

“Brad, Clint won’t stop grunting. What do I do?”

The Impossible (2012)

Apparently the English had it way worse than the rest of Thailand. Apparently.

Based on a real story, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of three sons as they are all caught in the aftermath of the humongous tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004. They get split-up, with the oldest-boy (Tom Holland) and his mother on one side, whereas the father and the younger-boys are on the other. However, among all of the pain, destruction, and disaster  both sides set out to find one another and do, simply, THE IMPOSSIBLE. Come on, you had to know that was coming up.

The 2004 Tsunami is a disaster that is still fresh and clear in many people’s minds and in ways, still has people feeling the effects, even after all of these years. That’s why making a flick about this monster-Tsuanmi would still seem a little too soon for some, but it’s a lot more tastefully done than the advertising would have you think. To be honest, it’s probably a better use of the Tsunami than that piece of crapola Hereafter was. Hey, if you’re going to cash-in on a real-life disaster, do it the right way, not the Clint Eastwood way. And that’s why director J.A Bayona is suited so well for this material because not only does he handle the subject and topic with a real sense of class and decency, but he also shows it in the way that makes me feel as if I was right then and there while it was happening.

After seeing a whole Summer chock-full of the world being blown-up and countless other areas being turned to shit, I was very, very surprised to see that the very best use of any type of destruction for a movie in 2012 (no, not that Roland Emmerich piece of shite) came from a movie that uses only 10 minutes or so of it, and then it’s practically gone. We only get 10 minutes or so until the actual Tsunami comes and concurs, and it’s just one of those moments that occurred this year where I was grounded to the floor from start-to-finish. The reason that is, is mainly because everything I saw seemed so real with the waves coming in at a very realistic look and pace, and the scariest use of water I have seen in quite some time. You seriously feel as if you are right there with these people as they get hit by the Tsunami and I have to give Bayona a crap-ton of credit for putting me on the edge of my seat and having me feel like I was in for a wild ride of drama, sadness, destruction, and family-matters. I got all of them, but sadly, not the way I wanted.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

After the Tsunami hits and we get to see the shitty situations these characters have found themselves in, everything, slowly but surely, starts to fall-apart. Maybe that isn’t the right thing to say because I was very involved with these characters, this real-life disaster, and the aftermath of it all, but then it almost seems to lose it’s focus. The story that we become first accustomed to is with Watts and Holland as he has to practically be the parent in this situation, because she can barely even walk and practically falling apart. This story-line was interesting as hell because you rarely get to see the kid parenting the parent in movies, unless it’s some teenage daughter teaching her dad all of the cool lingo that the Y-Generation, cool kids use. We see how a parent can put themselves below a child, be tended to, and how a child can actually do that while being successful, and yet, still be a child. It was interesting to see and I could tell that if this was how the whole film was going to play-out, then I was probably going to need to borrow the extra bag of Kleenex’s from the person next to me.

However, I soon forgot about a very key, important-factor to this flick: there’s a whole other side to the family! When McGregor shows up with the two, younger boys, then the flick becomes a bit conventional and melodramatic, almost to the point of where it’s off-putting. With Watts and Holland, it was rich, raw, and gritty, almost to the point of where you were cringing because somebody needed to throw water and soap on them, but when you get McGregor and his story of looking for his family, it takes everything down to something that feels as if it would be from a Lifetime movie or something. The eternal conflict that McGregor has to go through, is that he has to choose on whether or not to abandon his own children, to look for his wife and other child, and that’s it. He has to find them and if he doesn’t, chances are, they’ll be dead. I get that it’s a very real and true depiction of events that probably occurred to a plethora of families around this time, but still, it doesn’t make it the least-bit intriguing or surprising to watch, especially when all that I’m watching is a guy, walking around with a piece of paper in his head and asking people certain names. Yeah, should have just stayed with Watts. She probably would have gotten naked more, too.

The fact that this is a real depiction of something that real people had to go through, just makes this final-product a bit more distasteful in it’s own way. For instance, I find it relatively strange that the flick’s real-life story, concerns a family that was Mexican. Here, they are English and even worse, the rest of the film acts like it was hardest on them the most. Over a million people died that fateful day and some families are still reeling from the effects of that, so to sit-there and make a movie about a little, mighty family of mates that went searching for one another, does seem a bit rude to the rest of the people out there who died and were sometimes under the same circumstance as this very same family. I do have to come and realize that yes, this is a Hollywood production and yes, this is a real-life story about a real-life family, not the real-life event that actually occurred, but still, if I were one of the families who suffered from this Tsunami and saw this movie, I’d be a little ticked-off, quite frankly.

"You think I'm bad, you should see Anakin."

“You think I’m bad, you should see Anakin.”

Even though the actual, real-life family this story is based-off of is in fact, Mexican, the English cast that actually does take over this story still make it worth the while to watch and are easily the best elements to this flick. Naomi Watts is getting all sorts of hollers and praise for her role here as Maria, the wife/mother who can’t fend for herself due to a terrible disability, and it’s well-deserved hollers and praise, in my mind. Watts is always knocking roles like this out of the park, each and every single year, but here, she sort of shows the vulnerable-side to her character that can’t be the leader and owner anymore, and instead, has to sit on the back burner and try to stay alive, while her son cares and tends for her. Maybe it’s not as traumatizing of a performance as the one she gave in 21 Grams, but it’s still the cleaner, more mainstream-version of that same performance.

Ewan McGregor is an actor that has been very so-so over the last decade or so, but I think he’s gotten his career back on-track and is a great actor to watch, especially when he’s in such an act of desperation as his character is here. McGregor definitely still has the lovable sensibility to him that not only makes you feel like he’s a great father that loves his family for what they are, but will ultimately, end-up doing the right thing for every one in the end. There’s a scene with McGregor on the phone and without giving too much away and spoiling it for all of you cats out there, it’s probably his most powerful piece of acting he’s given ever since the days of Moulin Rogue. Maybe to some, that’s not saying much, but to me, it means the whole world. Good job, Ewan! Now stay away from the new Star Wars movies!

As compelling as McGregor and Watts are (and trust me, they are something to watch and behold here), the one who really stands-out the most is probably Tom Holland as the oldest-son. The kid starts off as a bit of a brat that can’t help but being a piece of crap to his parents and to his brothers, but has to change all that up once everything goes from bad, to worse, to absolutely dreadful. Not many kid actors working today could pull-off that transition from spoiled-brat, to powerful, adult-like child, but Holland does it and does it so perfectly that you really believe in whatever this kid does next. He’s a wonderfully kind specimen the way he cares for his mother and looks out for her, especially when she needs him the most, but is even kinder when it comes to helping others out in looking for their families, friends, and loved ones. Holland may, or may not slide-by with an Oscar nomination this year but if he does get one, I will not be mad in the least-bit because he’s never annoying, and he’s always real. Or at least that’s what it felt like.

Consensus: Focusing on one, English-family throughout this terrible disaster that occurred in 2004, does seem a bit insensitive to the ones who were effected the most by it, but The Impossible still provides plenty of rich, character-moments that are made even better by the cast and crew that make this flick, one step above your typical, soapy-drama.

7/10=Rental!!

Don't let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Don’t let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

“Getttt offffff of myyy fieeeeld.”

The film centers on an aging Atlanta Braves scout (Clint Eastwood) who is starting to lose his sight and goes on a last scouting trip with his reluctant daughter (Amy Adams), who, in her own time, becomes slightly involved with a rival scout (Justin Timberlake).

Not only does it seem like Dirty Clint has lost his mind (talking to chairs and all), but the guy’s also losing a lot of energy and steam to not only make movies, but to star in them as well. That’s why it is heavily rumored that this may be his last flick, ever, and thought what better way to go out then give the directing duties over to a first-timer he’s been working with for over 12 years. Problem is, there is a better way to go out: make your own movie because you got the skill to do so jackass!

First-time director Robert Lorenz doesn’t really do anything spectacular with this material whatsoever. It’s a generic, boring, and dull-looking film that doesn’t bring-out anything neat or different in it’s story-line, either. Now, I know Eastwood was no master when it came to directing flicks (hell, his last directorial effort was  J. Edgar, and we all know how that did) but at least the guy put some heart, emotion, and feeling into his work. This Lorenz guy doesn’t really seem like he has any of that and is just trying to see what he can do with himself behind the camera this time. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was another George Lucas situation where he plays the head-producer behind the flick, but is automatically the director in his own way because he takes over every decision that was made. Actually, I would be surprised because this doesn’t seem like something Eastwood would just churn out, no matter how old or goofy he gets.

A lot of the people going into this flick will probably expect a baseball drama along the lines of last year’s fall-hit Moneyball (even though it talks-out against using a computer for statistics), or the classic baseball tearjerker, Field of Dreams, but will end-up most likely being disappointed with how little baseball action there is. I knew it wasn’t going to be a full-out baseball movie where bats were hitting balls, peanuts were being chewed, and tobacco was being dipped, so I wasn’t all that bummed when it started focusing on the actual-story at-hand but I kind of wish they did something more with this generic story. Right from the first scene, you can tell where it’s all going to go. It’s going to follow the same patterns you would expect from a family-drama like this one here and any chance the film actually gets to surprise us, it either tries and fails, or doesn’t even try at all. It’s sort of like this flick trudges along, like a baseball game between two teams that suck, but you only went to go and see because the tickets cost less than the whole McDonald’s Value menu combined together. Been there, done that and don’t want to go back to it again.

The story itself was also quite repetitive and never seemed to fully make sense with itself. There’s this constant problem that Clint has with getting old, then Adams tries to help him, he gets mad, growls at her, she gets mad, leaves, and then they are back together in the next scene acting as if nothing had just happened between them. I don’t know how most families work out most of their problems but if my mom or dad basically tells me to piss-off, I’m not going to be sitting with them at a baseball game, telling them how everything’s going. I’m going to tell them to kiss my ass and ask for somebody else to help. Then again, I may not be the most lovable son out there, but you get my point. Then, the ending pops-up and it seems as if nothing was fully resolved. Well, yeah, in a way it was but nobody ever really comes out of this feeling like a changed-person and never really admits to doing any wrong in their lives, ever. It’s almost as if this film/story never happened which is a shame because these stars make the best of it and deserve a hell of a lot better.

Clint Eastwood (in which I hope isn’t his last role) does a great job playing the usual, cranky old man that people have come to know and love him for, but this character has a bit of an emotional ting to him that makes his character a bit more accessible. Granted, a lot of the film has Clint doing his usual “growl”, and non-stop yells at random people, but he has a bit of a soft-side to him that you see very early on and continues to show various times throughout the whole flick. It’s a nice performance from Clint, but not one of his best and I hope that he doesn’t decide to end a stellar career on this one because I think, and this is just my opinion, he’s got one more solid performance left in him that may give the Academy voters a bit of a run for their money. Don’t know if I’m ever going to actually get to see that but that’s why I keep my fingers crossed.

Amy Adams is fun to watch as his everyday woman, that has a bit of that tomboy-ish act to her that separates her from most gals. Adams is good here and offers up plenty of real and honest emotion, and most of her scenes with Eastwood feel genuine enough to make me believe in that story only, but I couldn’t help thinking how much more powerful and special this role would have been, had it been given to Sandra Bullock in the first-place like they originally planned. Obviously, that whole idea would just change-up the whole movie in general, but it would have been more interesting to see her in a dramatic role, opposite of a legend like Eastwood. Still though, I can’t take too much away from Amy as she does do a nice job with what she’s given.

Everybody has this terrible hate for Justin Timberlake which in ways, I do see, but at the same time, I don’t because the guy is just so damn likable. Timberlake is a lot of fun in this role because he seems like a genuinely nice and fun guy to be around, and brings out a lot of energy and spirit in most scenes that seem a bit boring and generic. His whole love-story with Adams seems a little tacked-on, but they have a nice chemistry that makes you believe in it and makes it a lot more fun to watch their scenes. There’s a whole bunch of other actors that show-up in this flick and all do their parts well, but also seem like they just decided to do this movie because it had Eastwood in it. That’s not a terribly bad thing, as this film really isn’t, but it also shows you the type of impact Eastwood still has on everybody in the business. Yes, that’s right, even Matthew Lillard.

Consensus: There’s a crowd-pleasing feel to Trouble with the Curve that will have the audience happy, as well as the great performances from the talented cast, but is also too predictable, too repetitive, too manipulative, and too disappointing to be anything that really hits you hard and seems like a flick that Clint better not end on.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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!!

Space Cowboys (2000)

Grumpy Old Astronauts.

When one of the satellites launched in the 1960s malfunctions, threatening the earth with disaster if it crashes, an astronaut in his sixties (Clint Eastwood) is asked to go up to fix it, as he’s the only one familiar enough with the old technology.  He agrees under one condition that three of his pilot buddies from the old days (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner) who were overlooked by the astronaut training program get to come along for this one last flight.

Right from the beginning, this film already had problems showing with its terrible black-and-white opening prologue in which four young men all speak with these old actor’s voices, that are apparently so obvious. So as you can see, a man who is in a very peak physical condition sounds like a 70-year old who’s been dipping, chewing, and smoking his whole life. However, it got better after this.

Clint Eastwood does a good job here of keeping this film moving at a slow enough pace to have us actually see all of the obstacles you have to go through for such a high-profile mission like this one, and also enough time to have us build characters to where we can actually feel something for these dudes. It’s a relatively slow film, but coming from Eastwood, I’ve seen a lot worse.

Let me also not to forget about how beautiful and amazing the special effects look as well. Thinking that this is an Eastwood film, who is very old at this time and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to go for a sci-fi film with great special effects, but somehow he ends up making this film look like these guys are actually in space after all. From the stars, to the moon, to the other planets, and even to the spaceship itself, everything looks real and beautiful and makes space this piece of art that you always imagine about but barely ever see in most films.

The problem with this film though is the fact that it’s script is pretty lame. Everything that happens here is all pretty cliche and you know exactly how its going to pan-out, even with the last act. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, as long as the film makes you enjoy yourself and take you away from the cliches, but here, too much of my enjoyment was centered on whether or not I could tell what was going to happen next and judging by the way this film was going, I knew exactly what was to happen. I couldn’t get into this film too much especially the last act where the whole film relies on the suspense element, even though we all know how it’s going to end anyway.

I also feel like the film never knew how to play with this silly plot. The twist of the premise here is that these guys are all old cooks, which could be a lot of fun in a not-so serious way, but the film can’t decide whether or not it wants to take this path or just play the plot straight. The gags were pretty funny but none of it ever seemed like it was genuine enough for the plot, and just used as a way to show us how cooky and goofy these old dudes actually were.

As for Eastwood the actor, he’s pretty good here as Frank Corvin; Tommy Lee Jones is also great at his usual miserable-like character, Hawk Hawkins (what a name); James Garner and Donald Sutherland are both very fun to watch as the other two old dudes as well. The performances aren’t bad and you can tell that they’re all having a lot of fun with these roles but Sutherland and Garner never really get that much attention when it comes to character development, which kind of bothered me. I would have liked to see all of these characters for who they are, so that when it came to a life-or-death situation, I could really root for them except just the two.

Consensus: Space Cowboys has some beautiful special effects, and a cast that looks like their obviously having a whole lot of fun, but there are moments where this film sort of just falls apart due to the predictable plot, and the way the film doesn’t know how to actually approach this plot.

5/10=Rental!!

J. Edgar (2011)

Even wearing his mom’s clothes, Leo is still the man.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this riveting biopic as J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI director as notorious for his overzealous methods of law enforcement as for the rumors regarding his cross-dressing and close relationship with protégé Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

J. Edgar Hoover is a dude I know about and it’s cool to finally see someone bring all of his crazy myths and legends up on film. The problem is that I wish it was as good of a film as I was imagining.

Director Clint Eastwood knows how to direct an emotional and compelling story, and he brings that to this film here with a great deal of moments where it shows J. Edgar not as a genius, but more of in an negative light, which is something you barely ever see in biopics. He’s a very sad dude that has terrible problems of paranoia, controlling everything, and trying to get all of the attention for himself. It’s hard to imagine a film that would basically talk ish on its subject but to be honest, this guy was a nut-case if a smart one at that.

Another element to this film that everybody was buzzing about before it came out was how apparently they would be talking about J. Edgar’s sexuality. The film does not exploit this by any means and I think handles it very delicately because it has a lot of the subtle touches that the film is trying to show and probably the best and more emotional scenes of this film actually have something to do with that gay-love angle. It’s finally great to see a big Hollywood film with a lot of talent in it, so able to actually show homosexuality without hating or making fun of it.

The problem with this film is that even though there are moments where this film clicks, other times it just plain and simply misses. One of the problems with the film is that it’s story is told through a very-old Hoover talking to numerous ghost writers, telling his side of the story to almost everything in his life, and this isn’t the most original idea but it’s not such a bad one either. However, sometimes they would go back-and-forth between the past and present time, which not only became annoying but also a major take-away from the film considering that the story jumps around so much, we can never fully get ourselves into one without going to the other one. I think if they told this film from Hoover being young and then watching him as time progresses, then the story would have been a lot better.

Another major problem is that I feel writer Dustin Lance Black emphasized so well on the whole homosexual-angle that when it came to telling the story of Hoover, he kind of lost his way by trying to go for too much without any connection. The film almost feels like a “Best of J. Edgar Hoover” series where we see all of the famous cases that he was apart of, all the controversies, and all the rumors, but we never actually know how the film wants us to feel about all of this and just exactly what this film is trying to say. I felt a little bit dragged on especially by how slow the story was and I think that it gets very jumbled with the actual story of Hoover, except for his fancy of women’s clothing.

My last problem with this film is the fact that it is about 2 hours and 17 minutes long which in some cases, isn’t so bad, but here I felt like I was dying a slow-and-somewhat painful death. The film has about 5 endings and I couldn’t help but look at my cell-phone every 30 seconds to check what time it is and to see when this film was actually going to end. I wouldn’t have had such a problem with the time-limit if the film didn’t lag along at a snail’s-pace and over-stayed its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

It’s a real shame though that this film couldn’t have done any better with critics, because it really could have done Leonardo DiCaprio‘s amazing performance as the man himself, some justice. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get past the thick-accent and the obvious make-up, but somehow DiCaprio makes this very troubled person, an almost larger-than-life persona who totally sinks into this character and after awhile I stopped seeing him as Jack Dawson and more of Hoover. He won’t win, but I’d like to see him at least get an Oscar nomination for this.

Armie Hammer is also exceptionally well as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s right-hand man. Hammer has a great look to him where he always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody he is with and throughout the whole film he uses that to his advantage. The scenes these two share together are great and you can really feel the chemistry and almost sexual tension between them both build-up as the film goes on. Their scenes together were the best mostly because they were believable, and handled in such a way that it didn’t seem shoehorned but more of natural when you have two guys who are with each other all the time, with some very dark secrets.

Oh, I lied, I had one more problem with this film as well. The make-up looks exceptionally well on Leo because he really seems like how old-man Hoover would look like, but Hammer is a different story. The guy’s make-up design looks more like a burn victim mixed with Eric Stoltz from ‘Mask’. It’s very weird to see and Hammer’s performance as older Tolson isn’t any better considering he does these random twitches and jitters that apparently every old man that Armie Hammer has ever seen does.

Consensus: The film has its fair share of flaws: it’s story goes from one place to another, it’s too long, and the make-up is exceptionally bad. However, J. Edgar features great performances from the cast, especially a compelling DiCaprio, as well as a certain love angle that feels right with this material and makes this seem more emotionally connected, when other times it seemed distant.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

The only other “black” war film I can think of is probably Menace II Society. But I don’t think many Nazis are in that one.

During World War II, four black American soldiers (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller) find themselves trapped in a Tuscan village behind enemy lines. As they attempt to evade German forces and reunite with their comrades, the four experience firsthand the tragedy and triumph of war.

Way before this film came out, director Spike Lee was fighting Clint Eastwood about how Clint never puts any black people in any of his war films. Once again, it’s just another case of Lee running hos mouth and kind of proving a point. Hence the words, kind of.

The good side to Lee’s direction here is that he knows how to film anything, and make it beautiful and interesting even though it doesn’t all jell together well in the end. Lee has a lot of great moments as a director where he shows some beautiful set pieces, and then bloody it up with some great war action sequences. To be truly honest, there’s not that much action here, but somehow Lee, kept them beautiful when they did show up.

The problem with this film is that it is almost over 2 hours and 40 minutes which means we have a lot of time for a lot of ranting from Mr. Lee, and he does not let us forget about it. I always like what Spike has to say in any film, and he makes some good points about how extremely different people can find themselves pulled closer together through war, but it all gets bogged down by his way of trying to do too much.

The film starts off as a murder mystery, then turns into a combat film, then history lesson about blacks involvement with the war, then a Holocaust tale, then a sentimental unspoken love between two different people, and then a character study. All of this seems like too much, which it is and probably because there’s a lot of scenes that didn’t feel needed at all. I mean there was a couple of scenes where they were just moving the story along, but there could have been more character development to actually have us care more for these characters, rather than just get rid of them and add more sub-plots to the story.

The editing with this film was also a huge problem as well because too many scenes that didn’t even need to be needed, were there and the pace is sort of all-over-the-place. It builds up more and more as the film goes on, which isn’t such a bad thing really, but the problem with that here is it feels episodic like were just randomly going from one random bit of characters to another, and nothing really feels like it even needed to be there because if the crowd was as smart as Lee should have thought they were, we wouldn’t need so much goshdarn explanations about everything happening.

All four soldiers here all played well, but they are sort of like types rather than your average full-fleshed out characters you usually root behind. Derek Luke is strong as the leader, Aubrey Stamps; Laz Alonso was probably my favorite as the sympthatic, but street smart, Hector Negron; Michael Ealy is basically that cocky, asshole-like dude every war film needs to create some conflict; and Omar Benson Miller is goofy but also endearing as the big clown, Samuel Train. The rest of the cast is filled with un-knowns or little names, but they all do good with their own respective jobs. It’s just such a shame that the film didn’t really focus on these characters that much as we would have liked to because we cheer for them, but if we got to know more about them probably, more would have probably been liked.

However, with any Lee film you have to start to wonder, does it at least hold your interest? The question is..yes! I can tell that his heart in the right place for this film because he is paying tribute to all of the black soldiers that fought and died for their country just as much as any other white man has, and just how Lee pulls everything together by the last act, proves that he can make any subject an interesting one.

Consensus: This is a messy, overlong, and way too busy film that tries to be so many things at once and has scenes that don’t even seem like they needed to be there in the first place. But just as messy as this one may be, Lee still pulls it off in the end, with keeping our interest the whole film and paying tribute to some forgotten heroes.

5.5/10=Rental!!

True Crime (1999)

Not so bad for a film that nobody really knows.

Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) is on the brink of ruining his marriage and journalism career with his alcoholism and womanizing when he’s assigned to write a human-interest story about a death-row inmate (Isaiah Washington) — and learns the conviction was built on shaky evidence. Now, with 12 hours left until the execution, Everett embarks on a quest to save a man he’s convinced is innocent. James Woods and Denis Leary co-star.

Director Clint Eastwood has always been known to make some very good films, but also, some real stinkers. But he can also make some very average films, and this is one of them.

I liked how this film’s plot was pretty simple, and it was just strictly what it said it was in the plot. There is somewhat a sense of suspense in the air, but the real film works as a study of character. This film has many emotional scenes that surprisingly actually work, giving you a real sense of who these people are, and mostly, they all feel real.

The problem with this film is that there isn’t a lot of suspense in this film, which I think what it was going for. I could already tell where this film was going right from the 30 minute mark, but that didn’t disappoint me as much as I was expecting, since I did have an enjoyable time. I also didn’t like how the film was going for this slow, character piece the whole film, and then out of nowhere turns into a race-against-the-clock action drama.

Clint Eastwood once again, proves he is the shit, no matter what film he is in. His character is actually surprisingly flawed. He’s selfish, a liar, petty, and a venal womanizer. However, he doesn’t piss you off with all these bad factors to the point to where you can’t stand behind him, it’s Clint Eastwood, he’s always the man no matter what he does. Isaiah Washington once again proves he is such an underrated act. He has so many emotional scenes, and his character is trapped in this cell, all because of being wrongly accused, and he hits it home with that. Denis Leary is here, basically playing Denis Leary, which isn’t bad. James Woods is awesome in this bringing a lot of comedy to the film, and the scenes he has with Eastwood, are just spot-on perfect.

Consensus: Predictable, and uneven, True Crime works less of a thriller, and more of a character study, backed by strong performances from the cast.

6/10=Rental!!

Gran Torino (2008)

Wish I knew old men like Clint Eastwood.

Curmudgeonly Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood, who also directs) must confront his Hmong immigrant neighbors — and his own long-held prejudices — when the family’s teenage son, Thao (Bee Vang), tries to steal Walt’s beloved 1972 Gran Torino. Walt soon assumes the unlikely role of guardian angel to young Thao and his sister Sue (Ahney Her), both of whom are vulnerable to local gang influences.

I have seen this movie so, so many times before, that literally I can say ever single line in this film. But it’s not a bad thing, cause I have always enjoyed this film.

Clint Eastwood as a director, is kind of iffy for me. Sometimes he is truly amazing as a director, and other times he just seems sluggish, and uninspired. This film is in between. Here it all starts off very slow, with little nice spots here and there, but it never fully gets off the ground, and you start to wonder what the hell Eastwood is trying to do here. Then the second half comes in, and that really does kick in.

The screenplay is good here, with a lot of humor, in a type of Archie Bunker way, but it still works cause everyone’s got a little bit of racism within them, and who doesn’t like a good Gook joke here and there? The direction and screenplay mesh well together, and although it isn’t the greatest combination since Peanut Butter & Jelly, they still do jell (pun intended) together well.

But the main reason this film is good, is mainly because of the freakin’ man, Clint Eastwood. This mofo is about 78, but he shows here that age doesn’t matter, cause he could still kick your ass. Almost every scene he is in, is just pure hilarity, or perfection for that matter. He’s an old, cranky, son of a bitch, that doesn’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about him, and won’t back down from telling you that he doesn’t like you, and the reasons why.

The problem with this film is that Clint is probably the only good thing that this film has going for it when it comes to acting. All of the unknown Hmong actors, are all untrained, which shows sadly, and almost every scene they have is just terribly acted, and sometimes unintentionally funny. I guess Clint was trying to go for the realistic feeling and showing real people acting, but sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. This was the one time it didn’t work, and terribly I might add. Also, what about those freakin’ gang members? They were such a bunch of little girls! In all honesty I could have kicked their asses!

Consensus: This may not be his best work, but Clint Eastwood does a great job on screen, with perfect presence, and a screenplay that shows humor, but also enough heart.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Every Which Way but Loose (1978)

Sorry Clint, sometimes you can be the man, other times, I don’t know what the hell your doing!

Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) is an easygoing trucker and a great fist-fighter. With two friends — Orville, who promotes prizefights for him, and Clyde, the orangutan he won on a bet — he roams the San Fernando Valley in search of cold beer, country music and the occasional punch-up. When Philo falls hard for sexy country singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke), he sets out to win her over.

I wish when it came to old 1970s comedies, I wish they were just all great “classics”. However, its kind of hard to say that, when there’s junk like this always sitting around.

This movie is in the Dukes of Hazzard vein that ruled the late 70s. Southern rock, Southern comedy… well, it all goes deep south right here. This movie was obviously just thrown together, which is a poor choice regardless of whether this is meant to be a farce or not. You have a good ole boy, who likes fighting to earn some extra money.. oh yeah, and he has a monkey. He won it in a fight, but it really doesn’t matter… its just another one of those idiotic messages thrown in here.

I am not a comedic snob, I love lowbrow as much as the next guy, but theres so little to laugh at in this movie. You’ll get a chuckle the first time they throw out the jokes, but you quickly realize how formulaic and predictable it all becomes and you just wait out the movie, basically predicting the whole thing. Philos epiphany at the end of the movie is the only sort of non-predictable part, but trying to salvage this train wreck in the last 5 minutes cant pull this movie out of the gutter.

The only possible good thing about this movie, is that there are slight great scenes of Clint Eastwood, just showing how much of a boss he actually is, but with a script like this, it’s very hard to actually branch out.

Consensus: Clint Eastwood tries his hardest, but the film’s terrible format of jokes, predictability, and overall sense of just being one stupid redneck fight after another.

2/10=SomeOleBulShitt!!!

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Probably the best movie that Eastwood has directed, second is Unforgiven.

As tens of thousands of Allied troops push further inland, the Japanese troops defending Iwo Jima during World War II prepare to meet their fate in this Clint Eastwood-directed Oscar nominee, a companion piece to his hit film Flags of Our Fathers. Ken Watanabe stars as a Japanese general who knows his men are outnumbered and, with no hope of rescue, that most will eventually die in battle — or end up killing themselves.

Clint Eastwood is always known as the snarling, killing, bad-ass that we all know and love him for. And in some of his films we see him direct his heart out onto the screen. But almost every one is good, but just not terrific. Then came this film, and, God, does he put it all out there.

I loved this film from start to finish, almost every thing here satisfies me because it did many things, that I have never really seen in other war films. These soldiers were literally trapped and had no way out of these caves, and their only will to survive was through death itself, and we feel that coming out of this story. It all feels claustrophobic, and scary, just like all these soldiers felt at the time this war was going on.

Eastwood directs this in such a easy and restrained way that we understand these people. The film is neither pro-America or pro-Japan, but more of like pro-humanity. The violence is straight in our face and although it is there, we focus more on these soldiers and their customs. Eastwood doesn’t just show us a look at these soldiers trying to survive, but how much they have respect for their orders, and will die for it.

There is no little hidden message about how we shouldn’t have gotten ourselves into this war or anything like that but it’s a straight-up war story, that’s not so much about the battle they fight, but for more about their guidelines which you really have to respect Eastwood for, cause in ways this could have gone terribly wrong.

I had one problem with this film and it was that I had a feeling one thing about this film wasn’t totally developed yet, but still it is a minor complaint to a great movie.

Ken Watanabe gives off the best performance in his career here as the Japanese general, who has so much honor, so much pride, yet so much humanity in his soul that even though he is close to dieing himself, he doesn’t know what he is dieing for, and is always still the same brave person throughout which I loved. The rest of the cast doe great jobs adding in their own great skills of acting, and making their characters more human-like.

Consensus: Humanity and emotional is how Letters From Iwo Jima plays out, with a brilliant direction from Eastwood, and wonderful performances from the cast, you can not miss out on this great treasure.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!!

Absolute Power (1997)

What if I saw Obama getting bust too, I think I would be acting a little like Clint.

Cat burglar Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) finds himself in the president’s doghouse when he spies the chief executive (Gene Hackman) trysting with a trophy wife. When their rough romancing turns lethal, efforts to cover up the scandalous situation spiral violently out of control. Now, Luther must survive a desperate pursuit from the back streets of the nation’s capital to the halls of power.

I can’t lie when I say this, but Eastwood is one of the better actor turned directors, in the history of film. I mean he does make a film almost every year, but still he makes films that are entertaining enough, to where you aren’t bored with his films. This one here is no different.

While Absolute Power isn’t a particularly great thriller, it still was rather entertaining in a quiet sort of way. Maybe that was the problem, Eastwood’s little thriller about political abuse was more about Eastwood’s relationship with his estranged daughter, played professionally by Laura Linney, than about anything really exciting or original. If the film was just about the reconciliation of father and daughter, it might have worked more for me.

Also, the fact of a standing president being almost directly involved with a murder of a well known wife of the philanthropist that put him in office, all feels a little implausible and Eastwood just could not quite make it plausible.

The emotional stuff worked so well here it was hard to see it get tonned down, by the kind of unbelievable plot. It moves slow and at times, the film doesn’t quite focus on the main plot at hand, but overall the film sort of still works. I mean the things that really work, as I mentioned before, is that the film has a lot of good screen time dedicated to its characters. I thought it was cool to see how all these different people interacted with each other, and the believable dialogue that followed their conversations. The suspense does build up to the end, even though there is a pretty shallow ending.

Eastwood’s role here is still one of the highlights of the movie, cause he isn’t what you would expect from good ole’ Clint. He isn’t a grumpy-gilled, old man, instead he is very smart, and still has a lot of things in his life that he wishes he would have changed, and you can see that in his performance. The others in the cast are good to like Ed Harris playing his usual bad-ass self, and Laura Linney surprisingly bringing a lot of emotion to her character that I wasn’t expecting, but the big disappointment in this movie was Gene Hackman. I reviewed Welcome to Mooseport awhile back, and that film had Hackman playing the president, but it was a good performance, and it seemed like he had a lot of fun with it. Here, his screen-time was taken down, and his performance was too one-note. We only saw this president that was an asshole, and why would we ever want him nominated in the first place.

Consensus: Though it isn’t Eastwood’s best mostly due to its unbelievable story, Absolute Power still has great moments of emotion, suspense that works, and good performances, despite a disappointing Hackman performance.

6/10=Rental!!!!

Blood Work (2002)

Clint showing he was going to die so early in his career.

Retired FBI director Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood), feeble from a recent heart transplant, is hired by Graciela Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) to investigate the death of her sister, Gloria — who is, coincidentally, the donor of McCaleb’s new heart. McCaleb soon deduces that Gloria was murdered by a serial killer he was trailing for years while in the FBI … but can the elderly agent muster the strength to hunt down the killer and stop him for good?

This is once again one of those films starring and directed by Eastwood, who always tries to show these complex movies with a different take all the time.

The one thing about this film is that it’s all based on a real-life character that doesn’t seem fictional at all. Instead of playing these invincible heroes, Eastwood is a man that has faults in his life, with a worsening heart condition that always seem to get in his way.

The one thing about this film is that it isn’t about guessing who did the case, it’s more of about the relationships that build because of this case. This adds a more human element to the film of where we can see all these heart-warming elements put together.

I had some problems with this film however. Right from the beginning I knew who the villain was. I’m not going to give anything away but its pretty obvious who it is, and when it actually comes up of who it is the surprise element isn’t there. Much of the action was completely unbelievable. One of my little quirks is to be absolutely annoyed at Clint’s consistent ability to brandish firearms like a pro, then make comments that prove he knows nothing about them.

Clint does do a good job here as usual as this old, run-down, cop that could just drop at any moment and he plays it real well here. The best supporting act is Jeff Daniels who brings a lot of a comedic element to the film without acting too much like a goof and throwing us off the whole movie.

Consensus: Blood Work has good performances and nice tales of morality, but falls in with too much predictable plot lines, and unbelievable action.

5.5/10=Rental!!!

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