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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Darren Aronofsky

Noah (2014)

Thought he’d need a bigger boat. Guess not.

I don’t think I really need to state what this movie is about, but in case those of you out there have either been living under a rock for the past one million years, or just don’t pay attention to anything at all in the whole, wide world, here’s the plot: Noah (Russell Crowe) is a descendant of Seth, which means he is one of the very few nice men in the world that doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t kill when he doesn’t have to, and loves all things that are beautiful with the world. He loves nature, he loves his wife (Jennifer Connelly), his family and most of all, his God. So much so, that when he has a vision in his dreams that the world will be destroyed one day due to a huge flood, he decides to take matters into his own hands and prepare the right way. What is “the right way”, you ask? Well, that consists of building a giant-scale Ark that will hold two of every animal species known to man in order to have all of them continue on and live, even if the world itself is totally wiped-out. Things for Noah and his whole family seem to go fine, that is until Noah gets a little bit crazy with what it is that God actually wants him to do, against what it is that he thinks he should do.

As predicted, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding this movie. Many Christian-advocates have stood-up, said their peace about this flick and even though they haven’t necessarily been totally against it, per se, they definitely haven’t given it the glowing pass of approval neither. So basically, this movie may offend you, but then again, at the same time, it may not. It all depends on how in-touch you are with your faith and whether or not you actually want to see a full-length, feature-flick about a dude who built an Ark to preserve life for the rest of humanity.

Personally, I don’t want to see that kind of movie. But if Darren Aronofsky is directing it, then count me the hell in!

"Guess you didn't get the memo about '80's glam-metal hair-styles only', huh?"

“Guess you didn’t get the memo about ’80’s glam-metal hair-styles only’, huh?”

And if anything, the idea of having Darren Aronofsky direct this as a certain “passion project” of his, is definitely the most intriguing-aspect behind this flick. You’d never expect the same kind of guy who gave us scenes like this, or this, or hell, even this, to be so willing and dedicated to give his own, in-depth version of an as-old-as-time story that’s only about a few paragraphs or so long. But with Aronofsky, you can never, ever tell what his next move is going to be; whether it be what movie he decides to direct next, or what he actually does in his own movies, the guy is totally unpredictable. However, in today’s day and age of cinema, we need that, which is why when you get a Darren Aronofsky movie, it doesn’t matter what the subject-material is or how it’s going to play-out in terms of who it’s for – all you have to know is when, where, what time and if you’re able to see it right away!

As you can probably tell, I was very excited for this movie, just judged solely by who was making it and to be honest, that’s probably what kept this movie going for me. It seemed strange in the first place that a major-studio would actually back a biblical-epic directed by Darren Aronofsky in the first place, and seeing the end-result, it’s apparent why I had those ideas in my in the first place. Like all of Aronofsky’s movies, this is downright beautiful; from the visuals, to the amazing, sometimes over-wrought score from Clint Mansell, to even the biblical-imagery that doesn’t hit you over the head, but is able to make you understand what message it’s trying to convey, everything was given the right attention of detail it needed to seem like an actual story from this time and place, rather than just a cheap dramatization we’d get on the History Channel.

Even the actual story here, which Aronofsky clearly took plenty of liberties with, seems like something he’d do; the main character of Noah, here, has an obsession over doing what God wants him to do, even if it does make him absolutely insane. In fact, where this movie really gets interesting is when Aronofsky sheds a light on how Noah either does or doesn’t take God’s demands or ideas about saving humanity and getting rid of those who don’t deserve to live, as understandably as he should. In any movie, directed by anybody else who didn’t have nearly as bright a mind as Aronofsky, this message could have been handled terribly and even offend some out there, but what Aronofsky does is just show a character finding himself in a bit of a bind as to whether or not he should do exactly what he thinks God is telling him to do, or act as he should, a moral human being. Instead of seeing Noah as a Saint that did everything right, for every person around him, including God, we see him as a man that struggled with his faith, with the situation he was thrown into and how all of the pressure was thrown onto him to not only preserve these animals, but keep those around him alive and well, knowing that they’d die soon, and possibly even be the last ones alive on Earth.

Pretty freaky stuff, but I guess when you got the big G.O.D. backing you up, it doesn’t matter.

But as interesting as most of the things that Aronofsky does with this material, I still can’t help but feel as if a bit too much of it is over-blown beyond its means. For instance, Noah, as almost every epic, is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, and it feels like so. That isn’t good, not because long movies shouldn’t exist, but because this one feels unnecessarily long, when only a good hour-and-a-half of this movie is really worth seeing. Everything leading-up from when Noah has these dreams of the apocalypse, to when he actually gets the Ark up and running, is exciting, tense and exactly the type of viewing-experience I expected to have with something on this grand-of-a-scale.

"But in all seriousness though, honey, I'm fucking craving a hamburger. We gotta get rid of the pigs."

“But in all seriousness though, honey, I’m fucking craving a burger. We gotta get rid of the cows.”

However, all of the energy of this movie seems to fade out, slowly but surely. I don’t want to say where this story goes and how dark it gets, but it seemed like Aronofsky felt like he really needed to allow this movie to play-out as long as he possibly could, so threw in all sorts of subplots he could. This not only has it seem like it’s meandering and taking its good old time to get to a finale, but doesn’t really know where it’s going to end-up – much like Noah and the rest of his family on this Ark. I was still interested in seeing where this movie would go, but after awhile, I began to wonder if that moment would ever come around, and if it did, would it actually be satisfying, or just rushed and too safe for its own good.

Somehow, it placed somewhere in the middle, but I can’t say I was all that disappointed where it did go and end. Doesn’t offend too many people, but still keeps it a bit edgy and hard-hitting for those who want some deeper-meaning out of what they see here.

And of course, before I head-off into the sunset, I do have to give some credit to the cast for at least trying with what they’re given, as timid as some of it may be. Russell Crowe is perfectly-cast as Noah, showing all sorts of grit, manliness that makes you seem his as the type of guy you don’t want to mess with when it comes to the apocalypse, but also enough compassion to where you can sort of see that he’s a sweet guy behind the huge muscles and supreme fighting-skills. It was also nice to see Jennifer Connelly back in a movie with Darren Aronofsky, and actually get some worthy-material that has her shed those skills more than a few times, particularly in a scene where she basically tells Noah to wake up and snap out his crazed-daze. And as usual, Anthony Hopkins is a fine-addition to the cast as he brings a lot of fun, light and humor to a film that seemed so serious and over-blown most of the time. And he does it all by wanting berries!

Didn’t see that part in the original source-material, but then again, it’s been a long time since my Vacation Bible School days.

Consensus: While the first hour-and-a-half packs a exciting, tense and epic-punch that Darren Aronofsky is clearly able to deliver, the remainder of Noah does seem to meander and have no clue where to go, which may be more of a problem with the studio that helped produce it, rather than the creator himself, but it’s still a noticeable problem nonetheless.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?"

“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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The Fountain (2006)

Next time I decide to watch this, someone remind me to smoke a crazy amount of weed.

The plot is confusing, but I’ll give it a go anyway. Modern-day scientist, Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman), loves his wife (Rachel Weisz) and wants nothing more than her love and her life to be there with him. However, she has caught a very serious case of cancer and is starting to fade away. In the meantime, she gives him her book that she wrote, which tells the story of a 16th Century conquistador, finding a Tree of Life where sap that grants you everlasting life is lying somewhere in there. While this story is going on, there’s also another where a man from the future, chills out in a bubble for reasons I can’t totally specify right now. Just watch and you’ll see.

I’d be a friggin’ fool if I sat here, wrote about how much I knew exactly what this flick was about, and told you that I’m the highest-mofo there is on the totem-pole. Because, honestly, let’s face it: I’m still not a 100% sure I know everything about this flick. However, I know enough (roughly 80%), so I’d say that’s worth some credit, right? Well, either way, this flick is still a bit of a head-scratcher but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or astrologer to get what the hell this flick is all about. Just know this: It’s a movie that’s about a guy trying to save his slowly-dying wife, from, well, dying. If you know that, you’re good and probably a lot better off than most people who probably walked into this back in the days of 2006.

Also, another pointer before watching this film that may or may not judge how much you like this flick is that it’s directed by Darren Aronofsky. Yes, that Darren Aronofsky. So, there ya go. Two pointers for the price of one review. Continue to read if you’d like. If not, sit down, shut up, and see what the hell I gots to say.

Thanks for sticking by if you’ve gotten this far. Really do appreciate it.

It's what they call: burning love. Geddd it.......

It’s what they call, “burning love”. Geddd it?!?!?

Anyway, what makes this flick such a mind-teaser is because even if you do feel like you have it known, from beginning to end, there’s still probably one or two scenes that may throw you off your grind and have you re-think what it is you just came to the conclusion with. For some, that may annoy the hell out of, but for others (such as yours truly), it works and makes the film more worth the watch and wait. It’s what makes it special in the way that it doesn’t is that it can be taken in in many, different ways; but no matter where your mind wanders or what type of philosophical babble you may speak about with your hip and cool friends at PBR-tasting parties, you still can’t get past the fact that this is a story about a man, who is trying to save his wife. It’s a story that’s been done to death by now, but given the ideas and themes that Aronofsky presents, it takes on a whole, new meaning.

Since the flick takes place in three different ways, you never know what is true, what’s really happening and how it affects the actual people you think you’re watching. All you can know is whatever you decide to believe in. Sounds stupid, I know, but using your noggin is mainly what these types of movies are made for. To see this couple go through their ups and their downs, is not only beautiful, but warms your heart as well. That’s why when everything starts to turn sour for them, you really feel it and get right behind them, in hopes that everything will work itself out. However, that’s just not the hand that life deals ya sometimes.

That’s why watching this touched me. Granted, I wasn’t crying myself to sleep after I saw this, but the themes of everlasting love, doing whatever’s in your will-power for the one you love, and never losing hope in the face of doom, really resonated with me. Not saying that I’ve ever had to deal with anything quite like that, but the feelings of having to go through such situations and crises as that, resonated with me. You can tell that this story came from a real soft-spot in Aronofsky’s heart and as much as he may focus on the look, the visuals, and the hypnotic score, the story is what really keeps it grounded in a sense of reality and drama, no matter how loose the ends may get.

Speaking of the way it looks, it’s downright beautiful. Apparently, the story behind this movie is that not only did Aronofsky had to delay this for about a whole two years, but also had to cut-back on the budget as well. Supposedly, it went from $70 million, to $35 million, and yet, this is what they came up with. To be honest, I’m shocked that the studios let Aronofsky get away with this, but better yet, I’m wondering just how the man got it to look like that at all. It’s a beauty of a film from start-to-finish and feels more like a bunch of moving-images that capture your eyes, as well as your wonder. Even if you hate this flick’s story because you have no idea what’s actually going, at least you can feel at peace just gazing at the masterful artwork on-display here. Beauty of a film, if I’ve ever seen one.

However, I still can’t sit here and lie as if I know it all about this flick and also say that it’s the masterpiece some have made it out to be. For me, as much as I didn’t mind the story, the ideas, the themes, or the direction, I still feel as if this was made by some kid who got way too high one night, sat down, got a whole bunch of paper, found a typewriter and decided to pen a script about all of the mind-bending jumble he came up with and thought was as smart as the dickens. No offense to Aronofsky, because the guy’s got what it takes as a writer, but some of this feels like it’s a bit too big for even his own ambitions, and a lot less in the mind-set of coming up with something all of us can understand in one, simple language.

Like that scene from Spider-Man 2. Except with more under-lining themes of love and immortality. I think.

Like that scene from Spider-Man 2. Except with more under-lining themes of love and immortality. I think.

I know I may sound like a total and complete brat who can’t handle movies that challenge my sense of thought, but some of this is overly-ambitious. Hell, I’m still wondering if it all makes sense and I don’t know if that’s a knock against him for his pretentiousness  or me for my own stupidity. Either way, not everything will touch you and it sure as hell will have you confused, which is why I think Aronofsky could have toned things down a tad bit more than he did. Then again, maybe I just needed to be one of those kids that got way too high.

Because then, I would have seen the world for all of it is. Man.

The only people apart of this movie who didn’t seem to inhale one ounce of them special-stogies, were it’s two stars: Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Both are amazing, but both attribute so much in their own, separate ways. Jackman is amazing in this role because no matter what suspicious activities he may try to pull off to pull his own ego, we know that he’s a good guy and would do anything for his wife, even if that meant putting his own life at risk. Within the past couple of years, we have all come to know and appreciate what Jackman’s been able to do as dramatic-force, but here, he really steps up his game and has us reel and feel for a dude that seems to deserve our sympathy. But he never begs for it, and that’s why this guy is so good at playing it straight and laced-up.

Weisz is also amazing in this role because she gets to show everybody why the hell it is that we love her so much, and what makes her character worth caring for. Not only is she a nice person, but she’s a very pleasant person that seems to want the best for her and her hubby. It’s a shame that her and Aronofsky aren’t together anymore, because if anything, it seems like he really knew how to film her and make her look as beautiful as she always seems to be. I’m going to miss their pairings. But who knows, maybe time will settle and they’ll reunite one more time. That’s if, James Bond backs out of the way. That sneaky, little devil him.

Consensus: Will most of you out there understand The Fountain from start-to-finish? Hell to the no! But will most of you at least get the general idea of what it’s trying to say, without understanding why? Probably, yes! It’s a very good movie that may bite off a bit more than it can definitely chomp down on, but Aronofsky’s ideas and themes, resonate with any person that has either loved someone, been loved, or cared for a person, ever in their life. If you’re not that person, just watch Requiem for a Dream. Then, you’ll smile and appreciate life, you heartless wretch.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Look at the stars, honey. They remind me of life, all of it's beauty, and how we should live our lives. You know?"

“Look at the stars, honey. They remind me of life, all of its beauty and how we should live our lives. You know?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Pi (1998)

My favorite kind is pumpkin, how ’bout yours?

Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) is a mathematical genius that may, or may not be crazy and imagining things. Okay, there’s actually no question about it! He is going crazy and imagining things, but he doesn’t know that yet, nor does anybody else around him. However, what does aid him in this state of absolute craziness and non-stop paranoia, is the fact that he’s able to count and predict numbers in daily-routines. He even believes that he can predict the patterns in the Stock Market and make billions and billions of dollars. However, eventually, others begin to catch onto him, or so he thinks. For some reason, he has a bunch of neighbors that can’t seem to mind their own business; a overly-friendly rabbi who constantly bothers him at a local coffee shop to talk numbers; an old friend/confidant of his (Mark Margolis) that warns him of the dangers of getting into your own head a bit too much; and a suited-up, business-lady of sorts that is always calling him and finding him on the streets, in the subways and right outside of his apartment. So basically, it’s Max versus the world, or at least that’s how it all may be playing out in his head. You never know!

That’s not the most perfect synopsis ever summarized for this movie, but you get the idea: Dude’s smart, dude’s crazy, dude’s paranoid, bad stuff happens to dude. It’s a premise we’ve all seen done a million times before, but what sets this movie apart from the rest of of those other flicks about basket cases, is Darren Aronofsky’s highly-stylized direction. See, back before he gave us asses-to-asses, killer ballerinas, or even Noah’s ark, Darren Aronofsky was just another young, Jewish kid from New York that wanted to make movies and wanted to make his presence known.

Hasidic Jew-paranoia. Can't say I've ever been there, but why not!

Hasidic Jew-paranoia: Can’t say I’ve ever been there, but why not!

So, of course, what better way to do so then have your whole movie filmed in grainy black-and-white, crazy editing-tricks only seen in certain music videos at the time, and have a heavy-electronic score done by the one and only Clint Mansell! And while that aspect of the story may separate from the millions and millions of others, it isn’t like the style takes over what should be substance. Because while Aronofsky definitely does show the many tricks up his sleeves that he has, he also realizes that in order to push a story forward, you have to be able to trust your audience that they’ll be paying attention, using their brains whenever possible, connecting the dots and, if worse comes to worse, be taking notes down on whatever piece of information they may see as “pertinent” to the story, and what might not be.

Because of this trust between Aronofsky and the audience he clearly is making this movie for, it’s easy to see why one person would get mixed-up in it all. Hell, even yours truly, a person that was strung-up on two cups of coffee by the time of watching this, even got lost on a whole bunch of clues/hints/ideas/whatever-the-hell that was thrown my way. That’s probably less of a complaint about the movie, and more of a problem I just have a silly, stupid, cheese-burger-loving human being, but so be it! I’m not always up-on-my-game, I tell you!

Anyway, Aronofsky keeps this movie moving at a nice pace where you don’t always have enough time to make sense of everything that’s happening, nor do you quite allow all of the details of this story sink in just yet. You sort of just have to roll with the punches, and see exactly where it is that Aronofsky ends up with this story, and where he takes all of his characters. Needless to say, it’s a crazy adventure that definitely doesn’t take it easy on you, much like Aronofsky’s other movies that would soon follow.

Which is, yet again, another aspect of Aronofsky’s movies that worked so damn well here, as well. His style may be overbearing, but I think that’s the point. In order to racket-up as much tension as humanly possible for a pseudo-intellectual thriller that runs just under an-hour-and-a-half, Aronofsky throws whatever the hell it is that he can at us. Certain scenes in this movie seem like dreams that linger on in to the territory of being nightmares, which is all because our protagonist, Max Cohen, is just a total and complete nut-job. Although it should definitely be said that he’s a sympathetic one, if only because we truly feel bad that a guy such as him would be subject to so much mind-fuckery that it’s insane. Also, Sean Gullette does a nice job at making this a guy we can believe both as a weirdo, as well as a guy that can be nice and normal, if his mind and his habit of number-crunching allows him to do so. But most of all, what makes him so damn watchable is that we’re right there with him for the whole adventure he’s taken on.

Tio lives! Better yet, he speaks!

Tio lives! Better yet, he speaks!

Everything he sees, we see; everything he hears, we hear; everything he feels, we feel; everything he thinks, we think. Why? Well, it’s all because we are inside his mind the whole entire movie; which is both a good thing, as well as a bad thing.

It’s good, because it constantly throws us for a loop every time we think we have this story all completely figured-out; but on the flip side, it’s not-so-good because the dude is clearly crazy and doesn’t always have the right idea about whatever is in that thick head of his. Therefore, since we’re seemingly placed inside of his mind, lounging on a spec of his brain, it’s never clear where this will go, why or with whom. It’s all up in the air, and I think that’s how Aronofsky wants it to be, if all because he knows that sometimes, these types of stories can end in such predictable, obvious ways. Good on his part for not letting it be so, since this could have easily just been another case of a first-timer getting a bit too big for his britches. Even if so, it’s done him well in the 16 years since. That’s for sure.

Consensus: Easily one movie to throw any smart and determined viewer for a loop, Pi is the type of movie you can’t expect to get, but at least pay enough attention to that you understand just enough in order to feel like you’re along for the psychological thrill-ride Aronofsky loves having us be aboard for.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say "don't do it", but by the same token, he does make a pretty good case for why "he should". So who am I to stop someone from doing what they clearly want to do?

I would say “don’t do it”, but by the same token, he does make a pretty good case for why he “should”. So who am I to stop someone from doing what they clearly want to do?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Wolverine (2013)

So, Deadpool?

After the death of Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), James Logan (Hugh Jackman) still has yet to recuperate and wakes up almost every morning in a pile of his own sweat. He hasn’t been able to shake the memory of her away for a long time, and as a result, has yet came back to the real-world. He spends his time in and around the Canadian wilderness, where he occasionally goes into town, and if so, only to cause a bit of trouble for hoodlums who deserve it. One night however, he gets a rude awakening from a Japanese lady named Mariko (Rila Fukushima), who informs him that a guy who’s life he saved during World War II, is now dying of cancer and would like to see him, one last time. Logan is hesitant at first, but ultimately accepts knowing that they wouldn’t have a random chick come all this way for nada. Once he actually arrives in Japan, Logan realizes that something is not all too right with these mob-bosses and comes to terms with the fact that his visitation may have more meaning than just a simple chit-chat about life. It may have something to do with the after-life and most importantly: Logan’s life.

To be honest, I was not really looking forward to this flick. Any bit of excitement or jitters I may have had in my sleep were all lost once Darren Aronofsky backed-out. Well, actually, it was before that too. Remember a little old movie called X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Yep, I do, you do, we all do, which sucks because Wolverine is such an awesome character to build off of, that it’s a total shame that his one and only opportunity to branch out and take the world by storm was screwed over because Hollywood felt like it was time for the world to see will.I.Am as a superhero. But you know what? Life goes on, the pain settles, and eventually, you get over it all and realize that there’s still a light of hope for everybody’s favorite, steel-clawed superhero and what a light of hope it truly is.

She's no Jean. Then again, no woman is.

She’s no Jean. Then again, no woman is.

Something felt different about this movie right from the start, and I think it has to do with the fact that it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. No, not in the way where instead a light, rousing romp of a flick, it was a dark, depressing melodrama about some dude coming to terms with the powers that have been bestowed onto him. Nope, something was different here and I think it’s because we know this character so well by now, that it doesn’t matter if we aren’t introduced to where he’s come from or what he’s been up to. We are just sort of plopped-down in the middle of his life as it’s happening, without a single clue as to what’s happened before, or in the meantime since we last saw him. I liked that approach because we were constantly moving forward with this story and getting to the juiciness of it all, and not folding back into time, where everything we saw and heard before, is told to us again.

All movies, especially superhero ones, should be moving forward with their story and that’s why I knew I was off on a good foot with this flick and ready for an unforgettable ride. That’s exactly what I got, if not more.

Once Logan shows up to Japan, the movie becomes slightly like a Japanese, kung-fu movie where you have people doing all sorts of crazy moves and actions that you haven’t quite seen in any other superhero movie, up until now. But then again though, it doesn’t get all Kill Bill on our asses neither; there’s still plenty of ass-kicking, high-adrenaline action that comes in and busts our rumps every once and awhile, and keeps the blood flowing and the interest-rates up. To me, this felt like the type of superhero movie that knew what it was, but wasn’t going to shell out for anything less or more. It stuck with what it knew it could do, and didn’t turn my head away at all.

Some moments did get a little comic book-y, especially by the end, but overall, director James Mangold keeps his head above the rest of the current, and allows for his material to breathe some newly-found life into it’s character and it’s story. It helps an awful lot that the story is placed in Japan, an area that’s able to make any simple tale pop, sizzle, and crack, but it also helps that Mangold doesn’t allow for this material to get too serious or too dark. There’s plenty of times where it could have gone straight for the soapy melodrama, but rather continues to entertain us, or build more and more on the story. The story we have here is actually pretty compelling and surprising in the places it turns to, which is a huge change-of-pace for a simple genre of films like the superhero ones. You feel like everything’s already been set in stone for this genre, until one like this comes around and shows you that not only can the game change up a bit, but it can do it so effortlessly as well.

Great directing job on Mangold’s part. However, I’m still of the opinion that Aronofsky’s version would have made it a hell of a lot more interesting to see. Then again, this would have been the same movie done by the same dude who made everybody’s favorite, and probably only, “ass-to-ass scene”. Yup, it’s THAT guy.

"Screw you, Bai Ling."

“Screw you, Bai Ling.”

But if there’s anybody that really deserves all of the credit and praise here, it’s non other than Mr. Hugh Jackman himself, playing Wolverine for about the 5th time, and never getting showing signs of it getting old or worn-out. Jackman isn’t really doing anything insanely original with his latest act as Logan, but he doesn’t need to be when this character is already so interesting and likable. We care for the dude right from the start, because we know that no matter how many times he may lose his temper and the claws come out, there’s still a simple-minded, lovable human-being underneath all of it, and in the end, will do the right thing for the better of mankind. As I said before, I wasn’t really looking forward to another movie that was dedicated to ALL of Wolverine, ALL of the time; but I was still happy to be reminded how wrong my initial-feelings were. Another Wolverine flick may be pushing it, but this will do for now.

Jackman is so good though as Logan, that it almost steals the rest of the movie from everybody else in this cast. Not to say that nobody else is good here, but it’s obvious who the more comfortable worker is here and who’s the one that really has the charm and the presence to make this sometimes-goofy material work. That is with the exception of one performer in this movie: Rila Fukushima as Yukio, the kick-ass, samurai-sword-wielding side-kick of Logan’s. When I first saw Fukushima, I thought her character was going to be another one of those quirky, Japanese gals that was not only out-of-place being beside Wolverine, but also say and do strange things (because all Japanese girls are freaks, right?) Well, I was surprised to see that not only did the movie treat her with enough love and respect as they did with their titled-character, they also did it in a way to where you want to see more of her, doing whatever it is that she can do just to ensure us that she’ll be on the screen more. It’s surprised me to know that Fukushima never acted in anything before this and I hope that this means she’ll get more roles, especially in more American movies because I think she’s got the energy and the general likability to make it all work. Everybody else is fine, but she’s the one who comes close to walking away with the whole show. However, she comes close, but doesn’t run away with it. That’s Wolverine’s job, and it’s one that I’m glad he has and hope that he continues to have.

Consensus: May not change the game of the superhero flick, or even expand on it either, but The Wolverine definitely does one thing right: Entertain the hell out of you, even when you least expect it to. Take that, Zack Snyder!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We get it, Hugh! You're JACKed!

We get it, Hugh! You’re JACKed!

The Wrestler (2008)

I’m sure Hogan really does know what’s best.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who continues to wrestle matches in an attempt to cling on to his 1980’s heyday despite his failing health, while also trying to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and find romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).

Some of you may not know this (and if you do, mucho brownie points go out to you), but back in the day, I used to be a hardcore wrestling fan. Yeah, I knew it was fake. Yeah, I knew that the two guys dressed-up in speedos that were beating the shit out of each other didn’t really hate each other outside of the ring. And yeah, I knew it was a bit childish for a kid that was in 8th grade, but you know what? I watched it and loved it all for the same reasons I watch and love movies so much: entertainment-value. That’s what’s so fun about wrestling that you don’t need to have a brain, a PHD, or even a job to enjoy wrestling, you can just watch it and have a good time. Seriously, if you don’t watch a single match of professional wrestling, then you my friend, are totally lying to yourself.

However, as much as I may patronize the other people out there who don’t feel the same as I do when it comes to half-naked men rolling around and beating each other up, I still feel the same about this movie as any other professional wrestling fan in saying that I love this movie, not just because it shows some legitimacy and real-danger to a piece of entertainment that has been the butt of every joke since the 80’s, but because it shows us what wrestlers are when they aren’t in the ring: real people. Maybe that’s nothing new we haven’t already heard from countless other stories of the same-nature, but what I think makes this approach so different and timeless, is the fact that director Darren Aronofsky makes us feel as if we are there, along for this depressing, dark, and tormented ride.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

This is probably the most normal piece of material that Aronofsky has ever touched and to be honest, you would not be able to tell from watching this that this was the same guy who made a movie where people get sped-up high for an hour and 40 minutes. There’s nothing flashy that Aronofsky pulls off here with the camera but what he does do with the camera, is actually make us feel as if we are there, in a sort of documentary-style way. The camera literally follows Randy wherever he goes and it’s sort of like a TV news crew just found the guy, decided to put the camera on him, and just let real life roll for the guy. It gives us a very candid, fly-on-the-wall look at this story and makes us feel as if everything we see, hear, feel is as natural as it can get. That’s not just from Aronofsky’s end of the spectrum, that’s from everybody else involved, especially you know who.

In case you couldn’t tell by the “you know who” I was just referencing in that last sentence, I was talking about Mickey Rourke in his perfect-performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s obvious that Randy is based-off of the likes of such wrestling-stars like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior, and so many other famous-faces of the squared-circle from the 80’s, but don’t let that get to you, because Rourke makes Randy his own piece of originality and thank heavens for that. Seriously, I think Mickey is in every single shot of this movie and in some movies, to some people, that would probably be torture that you would have actually had to pay to see for 2 hours, but instead with this movie and this performance, it’s the total-opposite. You will never want to take your eyes off of Mickey and all of the subtle nuances he pulls-off with his facial-expressions. You can tell that there is a battered and beaten soul underneath all of the tanned skin, blonde hair, and chiseled-up, but aging muscles, and you never forget that you’re watching Randy, even if Mickey totally takes over the whole-movie.

As sad as this character may be, Mickey brings out so much fun, excitement, and joy within this guy that you just can’t help but feel like you too would want to share a beer and play Nintendo with him as well. You can tell that a lot of the scenes here are totally ad-libbed from Mickey and it just gives this movie more of a natural feel, as if Mickey decided to walk into the shoot everyday, do his part, but also have a lot of fun with the rest of the cast as well. As I said before, you are never going to want to take your eyes off of Rourke here because he always has something to show you, always has something to surprise you with, and best of all, always has something to make you fell more and more for this guy, no matter how much he screws-up.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I'd probably be broke.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I’d probably be broke.

There is so much about this character that just screams, “PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE!”, but Mickey is above that and makes this guy feel like he has more of a heart than you could ever expect from a low-life like him. Every chance that Randy gets to make life happy for himself and the others around him, he finds his own way of just screwing it up and rather than being pissed at this guy and losing all hope in him, you’re still pissed at him but feel as if he can change, and feel like he just deserves a break. That’s the work of magic from Rourke, because he is able to give us a character that is so selfish, so idiotic sometimes, and so burnt-out without ever admitting it, but yet, still have us love the guy to death and feel as if we are cheering him on, just as much as his wrestling fans are. It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen and it’s one that Rourke was freakin’ robbed of and without Mickey, this film just would have not succeeded. Yeah, if they went with Nic Cage like they had originally-planned, things would have been a hell of a lot different come Oscar-time.

Another character that is basically Randy “The Ram” but with tits and more naked than he is throughout the whole movie, is Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. Tomei is playing the usual, “hooker with the heart of gold” role, but knowing Tomei and what she can do with any role you throw at her, she changes it up and makes her feel more raw than you’d ever expect from this gal. Cassidy is a lonely, sad, and aging piece of work, just like Randy, but still feels the need to push the ones away from her that still may make a difference in her life. Watching her and Randy interact with one-another, shoot the shit, and pretty much start to connect with each other more than they have with anybody else, is a thing of beauty and I think all of that is mainly because of the chemistry between the two. Evan Rachel Wood is good as Randy’s estranged daughter, Stephanie and even if she may be the weakest-link out of the three, that still doesn’t mean jack shit because she is still so good, providing us with great insight into a character that wanted to be loved and held, just as much as Randy does now.

Still fake, right?

Still think it’s fake, right?

These three performances are mainly who tie this film together with it’s neat and nice little bow at the end, but I’m telling you, this flick will take you down a dark, sad road you may feel very affected by. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally depressing and in-fact, will actually have you laughing a good, couple of times throughout. However, when the film wants to make you feel any type of emotion that has to do with sad, heartfelt, or touching, it hits the spot right away. You can say that’s because of Rourke, you could say that’s because of Tomei, and you could that’s because of Aronofsky, but I say it’s every single piece of this puzzle is what makes it so damn near-perfect, and yes, after 4 years and seeing it just about 5 times, I still cried my eyes-out like a big freakin’ baby and you know what? That’s alright with me, because once Monday Night hits, I’m watching RAW baby!

Consensus: Whether or not you’re a fan of professional wrestling, won’t matter because The Wrestler is about more than just a bunch of guys fake-fighting in a trampoline/ring. It’s a perfectly-acted, somber-look at the life of a broken and depressed old-man that is starting to come to terms with where his life is going, why it’s headed there, and what he can do to make right again. It’s an emotional-trip that still hits me where it hurts all of these years later.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair's career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair’s career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Hmmm….so is doing drugs fun?

A widow (Ellen Burstyn)’s growing dependence on amphetamines and a self-help television show parallels the struggles of her heroin-addicted son (Jared Leto), his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) and friend (Marlon Wayans).

Having seen this film already way back when in 2009, I knew that I was in for a Debbie-downer none the less, which is what I got. However, there’s something with age that makes this film better in a way.

This film is absolutely Darren Aronofsky‘s right from the start, all the way till the last credit rolls off the screen. Aronofsky makes this film the psychedelic head-trip that it is with everything he throws at  us with all of the powerful and haunting imagery by his one-of-a-kind style. Aronofsky uses editing in the way that it should be used, as in the way to get inside the mind-set of its characters/stories. Whenever these people are popping pills or shootin’ up, we don’t just see them doing it with a slow burn, we just seem them doing it in an ultra-fast mode that’s done in a matter of 2 seconds. It shows the effect it has on the certain person where time sometimes speeds up, slows down, and even may take you into this dream-world where all of the craziest illusions just pop-up out of nowhere. Either way, Aronofsky is a pro at making a dark story even darker just with the right amount of style to give me images that will probably stay in my head for the rest of my life.

It’s not just Aronofsky’s visuals that get this film going, it’s also the sounds and soundtrack done here that really works wonders as well. The soundtrack is done by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet and every single little piece of music they put in here is as haunting as the last one and it’s one of the very rare times where the songs themselves actually start to build-up and up and up and up along with the actual film itself. The attention to sound is also a big deal here as well because everything sounded so legitimate as if you could hear the pill box poppin’ or the lines being done themselves. This is one of the films that shows how much sound can go a long way, especially if you’re doing a drug film that shows the constant motion people go through, day-in and day-out, when they are on drugs.

Where this film really got me was its message. Yes, it is rather obvious the first time around but once you start thinking about it more and more, and take it into consideration with your own life, then it really hits you. The film talks about how habitual drug use such as pills, cocaine, heroin, etc. will start to disillusion the world you live in and you start to live this imaginary world where almost everything seems to be happening the way you want it, but in reality, it isn’t even close. People in this film start off all happy and high with drugs but then soon start to fall even more and more into the drug world and they start to lose sight of each other and the world they live in. This is very true with real life as I have almost had to go through with some of this myself. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve obviously went through the major shit that these characters go through but drugs came into my life at one point and it really effed me up as well as others around me. Drugs can make you happy, but in the end, drugs always end up doing more harm than good no matter what it may be. Moral of the story is, kids, drugs are bad. Doesn’t get any more simpler than that really.

My only one and main problem with the film was not the film but more of its story. The story is very grim and depressing the whole time but the fact that I couldn’t really feel much for any of these characters, except for the obvious one, was pretty much it. I mean I felt bad for the old lady considering she didn’t know what she was getting herself into with the drugs she was given, other than the fact that she was going to lose some weight, but the others, I couldn’t really feel any sympathy for. I mean they knew what they were getting themselves into right from the moment they did their first “job” and when that all starts to spiral out-of-control and they are basically left with nothing but a couple of hundreds for druggies, I couldn’t feel anything else except for pity. Then again, I don’t think the story is really asking for me to feel anything in the first place so maybe I just wanted somebody to feel for.

I couldn’t go on in this review without mentioning the performance here given by Ellen Burstyn playing that old lady, Sara. This is a very risky role for someone of her age and stature, but she went for it all here and gave one of the memorable performances of the past decade. She’s sad, lonely, troubled, confused, and right when these drugs come into her life, she gets even more crazier by the second and it’s not only sad to watch but also effective as well because there are so many people like her out there in the real world that go through problems as much as she does as well. She definitely deserved that Oscar considering she took a role that I’m guessing not many others went for, and made it her own troubled and depressing character.

Jared Leto has a Brooklyn accent that doesn’t really ring true for me but he actually does very much look the part of the big-time heroin addict that he’s playing here as Harry. Jennifer Connelly play’s his girly-friend and probably has to go through a lot of the more crazier ish that takes over this film within the last act and does a pretty good job with it as I can easily say that I was not that attracted to her as her addiction started going on and on. Let me also not forget to mention that this Marlon Wayans is surprisingly good as Tyrone, and it’s a huge bit of random casting that somehow worked to this guy’s advantage but sad thing was that he didn’t really get much dramatic work after this.

Consensus: Though it’s not for the faint of heart, Requiem for a Dream is an anti-drug film that has a hard-hitting style used by director Darren Aronofsky, a score that will make you terrified, and performances from everyone involved, especially Burstyn, that add so much more to these characters than just a bunch of junkies.

9/10=Full Price!!

Oscar Predictions and Thoughts for 2011

So as everyone among the film community know, it is Oscar time babyyyyy!!! So that means get ready for some of the biggest upsets, wins, and probably tearful moments of the year. It was a great year in the film, and this is what has all come down to it people. The big night, and here are my predictions, I hope I do well.

Best Animated Feature: Will Win: Toy Story 3 Should Win: Toy Story 3 Wild Card: How To Train Your Dragon

Best Documentary Feature: Will Win: Restrepo Should Win: Restrepo Wild Card: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Best Foreign Language Film: Will Win: In a Better World Should Win: Dogtooth Wild Card: Biutiful

Best Documentary Short, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short: Will Win: Can’t say I care too much

Best Editing: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Black Swan

Best Cinematography: Will Win: True Grit Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Visual Effects: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Alice in Wonderland

Best Sound Editing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Unstoppable

Best Sound Mixing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Social Network

Best Art Direction: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Costume Design: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Alice in Wonderland Wild Card: True Grit

Best Makeup: Will Win: The Wolfman Should Win: The Way Back

Best Original Score: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Inception

Best Original Song: Will Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Should Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Wild Card: I See The Light (Tangled)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: 127 Hours

Best Original Screenplay: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Will Win: Hailee Steinfeld Should Win: Melissa Leo Wild Card: Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor: Will Win: Christian Bale Should Win: Christian Bale Wild Card: Geoffrey Rush

Best Actor: Will Win: Colin Firth Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg Wild Card: James Franco

Best Actress: Will Win: Natalie Portman Should Win: Natalie Portman Wild Card: Annette Bening

Best Director: Will Win: David Fincher Should Win: David Fincher Wild Card: Tom Hooper

Best Picture: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Toy Story 3

I must say that this is a pretty solid year for the Oscar’s this year. All the nominees look just about right the only problem is how will the picks turn out? This year, everything seems like it’s coming down to Old School (The King’s Speech) vs. New School (The Social Network). The past couple of years The Academy (I hate that word) has been looking more towards hip, new films to win it’s Oscar Best Picture. Films such as Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, and American Beauty have all been unconventional new films that have seen their taste of Best Picture gold. But there has also been countless period piece wins for films such as Gladiator, Shakespeare In Love, and The English Patient. Also, many other major award shows have already presented the Best Picture win to The King’s Speech which is really chasing up people’s noses, as many other award shows have been choosing The Social Network as theirs. In my opinion, I liked Inception more than both of them, and yeah it’s nominated, but in all honesty it has no chance of winning. When it comes down to it I think that The Social Network should win, because it is an age-defining film, that went from being known as “The Facebook Movie” to being known as the top contender for every Oscar it’s nominated for. I hope that The Academy goes for the new school, because if they had The King’s Speech win, everyone would feel robbed really.

As for Best Actor, I think that Firth deserves to win for all his years dedicate to films, but Eisenberg fully deserves it. I think what the Academy is doing more and more now, is honoring actors & actresses not for just a certain performance they had, but their careers and saying that it’s their time. I don’t mind seeing stars like Jeff Bridges, Kate Winslet, or Colin Firth win an Oscar, because of the career they have but I’d rather see the “best performance of the year award” go to the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

When it comes to the Best Actress category, it seems like Natalie Portman is the sole winner for here, as she has won almost every single Best Actress nomination at every award show. However, there is once again that little idea that it’s Annette Bening’s “time” to win, as she has been nominated twice, and still has not won yet even though her career has been going on for so long. I want Portman to win, and most likely she will, but I still have a feeling that The Academy may pull something out of their pockets and surprise us all with a Bening win.

I’m very disappointed that my main man Christopher Nolan was not nominated for Best Director this year. He was snubbed for The Dark Knight, and now he’s being snubbed again, and it just pisses me off knowing that certain directors that do such a good job with daring material, don’t get the credit they deserve. I think if Nolan was nominated, he should have won, but I know it’s The Oscars, and not everything works out the right way.

This year had great films, and I’m glad to see that the Oscars have turned out to be this way. I loved 2010 as a year, and the films made it awesome. Here’s to 2011, and let’s just hope that the Oscars are awesome.

Thanks everybody for always reading, and keep on checking!!

Black Swan (2010)

Now I know I’m not taking any dance lessons any time soon.

In director Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, ambitious New York City ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lands the lead role in “Swan Lake” but soon thinks her dreams of stardom are threatened by a rival ballerina (Mila Kunis). As opening night approaches and the pressure to be perfect builds, Nina’s obsession descends into paranoia and delusion.

If anybody is going to make me feel totally creeped out, and utterly confused of my surroundings, Darren Aronofsky is the man to do it. He directs this film perfectly. It’s so tense at times that you don’t know quite exactly what’s going on, but you know something is bound to just happen, and you can’t take your eyes off the screen.

The one thing that glued me into this story was the fact that it really does mess with your mind., which you will rarely get in the theaters nowadays. You can’t really tell what’s real, or what’s dream-like, but you know it’s not all good. There are certain images that just give you that huge sense of paranoia, and have you know that nothing is going right. I was creeped out by a lot of the crap that was going on, but most of all I was effected.

I had one problem with this film, and it was the story at hand. I liked how the story touches on themes such as obsession over one’s work, and perfection, but the story had me pretty bummed. The film tells us the story of the play within this film, Swan Lake, which is all fine and dandy, until we start to realize that the play itself almost mirrors exactly what’s going to happen to these characters in real life. So the idea of not knowing what’s going to happen next was almost dead for me, except for some parts, that actually did throw me off, so the film wasn’t totally doomed.

Natalie Portman is probably what really has this film kicking. I think she is a good actress when she needs to be, but we still have never gotten that role from her, that just ultimately sticks out in our mind, other than the one from Closer. But here, she changes all of that, and gives the best performance of her career. Her character is so completley delusional, weak, and overly obsessive with being the best, that you sympathize with her in the beginning, but then you start to see her go through this transformation to a very bad, living on the edge kind of girl, and the transition is believable. You can feel the stress coming from her character, and when she let’s it all out, you know it for sure. I also enjoyed how she really did fight for this role, probably being about 90 pounds for the role, as well as mastering all the dance moves that were needed. She looks very legit for this role, when she is, and even when she isn’t dancing. Hopefully an Oscar will be coming her way soon.

The supporting cast is also something to talk about as well. I have never really liked Mila Kunis when she’s playing those dramatic roles she does, because I can never fully believer her at all, but here she does a very good job at it, probably because her character isn’t all that serious which I liked. She’s cool, sexy, and funny, which brings a lot to the film, as well as competition to Portman’s character who is so sheltered, its cool to see these to interact with one another. Vincent Cassel is also very creepy, but good as this sly, manipulative show director, that takes every advantage he can find. Barbara Hershey was also very good as Portman’s mother, that has a lot of creepiness to her, but it all works, because shes good at playing that. Winona Ryder shows up and has a good scene here and there, and it’s always good to see her back and working.

Consensus: The story may not be all that there, but Black Swan makes you feel paranoia, suspense, and erotic themes, mainly from the tight direction of Aronofsky, and the amazing performance from Portman, among others.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

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