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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Elias Koteas

Devil’s Knot (2014)

When you hear Metallica blasting through somebody’s speakers, run as far away from them as you can!

We’ve all heard this story before, but only through documentaries, so here it is again, I guess: Three boys in West Memphis went out for a little while and promised they’d be back by 4:30. 4:30 goes by, and less than a day later, they are found dead, naked, and tied-up at the bottom of a lake nearby their houses. Families, friends, neighbors, and people in general, are all upset about this travesty, but they know that justice needs to be done. This is when the police come up with enough evidence to arrest and hold a trial for three boys, all of whom were thought of as being the killers of these three little boys. Only reason? Because they looked, dressed, and talked differently, and had some ideas about Satanic-cults than most people like to feel comfortable with. Though mostly everybody believes that these are in fact the boys who committed this murder, one man, a private investigator (Colin Firth), doesn’t, and for some odd reason, decides to take this case on his own, pro-bono and all. What he finds out is not only are there some sheisty pieces of evidence left alone and barely even thought of, but that most of these stories just don’t add up.

As many of you may know, last Thursday, I reviewed the documentary about the West Memphis Three case, West of Memphis, and I found out two things: a) Arkansas cops can be really dumb, and b), that everything I read about that case beforehand was true and therefore, didn’t really needed to be forced down my throat once again. However, I chose to watch the documentary anyway, and realized that there were some things I didn’t quite know about and was definitely happy enough to see brought to light, especially after all of these years of barely hearing anything, except for the fact that *spoiler alert* the three boys convicted of these murders, weren’t actually even the murderers and finally let free.

"Please, shut the fuck up."

“Please honey, shut the fuck up.”

That’s why it’s no surprise to see that an actual, narrative-film was made of this controversial case, and it’s not an even bigger surprise to see so much talent get behind it either. However, what is a surprise, is how bad it is.

And that’s not really anything against Atom Egoyan as a director, because you can tell that his intentions are well-driven and noble, to say the least. He isn’t really trying to bring up any new claims about this case that we haven’t heard before, and he surely isn’t trying to point the finger at anybody in an obvious way that may give us the impression that he a certain stance that he’d like to make known to the general-public. Nope, instead, he’s sort of just presenting this case, this story, and these people, exactly how it was, what happened, and whom they were.

The only problem is that none of it is at all interesting. Egoyan tries and tries again, but the problem is that there’s already been four documentaries made about this case, so what the hell is the point anyway? Sure, there’s one piece of evidence about a bloodied-man walking into a local Bojangles restaurant that I had never heard of before, but that seems to come, go, come back, go, and then all of a sudden, show up at the last second, as if it was the most meaningful piece-of-evidence of all.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been spoiled enough already with all of this ungodly amount of info I have stored-up in my brain about this case, so maybe that’s why this movie didn’t do much for me. But in all honesty, the movie as a whole, really doesn’t work. It isn’t that it’s boring because it doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of excitement for this case, but because it seems like the type of made-for-TV movie that you’d see Lifetime or Hallmark doing, except only with a few more dirty words and blood thrown into the mix. Oh, and the big-named cast as well, but really, they’re just here to collect a paycheck, I’d like to think.

Aside from all of that though, this movie doesn’t really do much at all. It’s less about the actual people involved with the case (like Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin), and more about the case itself, making it seem more like a police-procedural than anything else. Which, yet again, would be fine and relatively interesting, had those documentaries never been made before in the first place; but they have, and therefore, it’s nothing new to see or hear when we find out that the cops are pulling whatever strings to ensure that these three boys go to jail. It’s less shocking here, and more like it’s just grand-pop telling us the same history-lesson, over and over again, without much variation in the details. I love my grand-pop and all, but seriously, the stories get old quick if you don’t do anything to spice them up. That’s just a fact of life, though.

Sorry, G-Pops. You da man.

Anyway, the movie does pay attention to some people involved with the case, mainly Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, a mother of one of the murdered boys. Witherspoon tries to settle into this gritty, Southern-bumpkin mama that loves her family, just as much as she loves justice being done, but aside from the extra poundage she clearly put on, nothing here that she does really feels genuine or even interesting. She just yells, cries, faints and uses a lot of shocked-expressions on her face, and that’s it. She tries and she tries again, but her character isn’t worthy of our attentions, as horrible as that may sound coming from me.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Another character that gets a hell of a lot of attention, for no other reason other than that he’s played by Colin Firth, is private investigator Ron Lax. Firth has a troubled-role in which he has to disguise his English accent to fit with his newly-acquired Southern one, and it doesn’t always work. Aside from that, his role is sort of bland – he’s just there to get all of the facts straight, and figure out what to do with this case, as well as his own personal life. Like Witherspoon, Firth tries, and he tries again, but sadly, the material given to him just doesn’t do much of anything for him at all.

And it gets even weirder, because believe it or not, this cast is actually jam-packed with recognizable and talented faces, it’s just that they don’t do much. Alessandro Nivola has the role as Terry Hobs, Pam’s husband, who in real-life, actually has the most controversial role in the case as a whole, but doesn’t have any of that hinted at all, except maybe towards the end with one shot. That’s it. Other than that, all he has to do is have his inevitable “freak-out” scene, comfort his wife, and that’s it. Lame, I know. Same goes for notable stars like Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Elias Koteas, Kevin Durand, and worst of all, Amy Ryan. I think it should be a golden-rule by now that whenever you have Beadie Russell in anything, you must always use her to the best of her ability. No questions asked.

Consensus: Devil’s Knot tries to be more than just a regurgitation of everything we’ve heard and seen done before in countless documentaries, but the final result still ends up being a dud and not doing much of anything at all for the talents in front of, or behind the camera.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Give 'em a break! It was the early-90's for godsakes! New Edition was still considered "cool".

Give ‘em a break! It was the early-90’s for godsakes! New Edition was still considered “cool”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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The Last Days On Mars (2013)

What goes on on Mars, should definitely stay-put there. Except for you, Martian Manhunter. You’re a pretty cool guy.

A group of astronauts on Mars, all get ready for what’s supposed to be their final day of their first-manned mission to Mars. It wasn’t a very eventful mission to say the least, but it was one that went down without a hitch where everybody felt pretty relaxed, happy with one another and confident that they were going to be able to adjust back to normal life on Earth. That is, until something unexpected happens when two astronauts go missing, and one comes back, but brutally injured and possibly bringing back a virus along with them. And while the rest of the group tries to contain their fellow passenger, as well as the virus, they are unsuccessful, leaving the virus out there and able to infect anyone. As the seconds count-down to when they rescue crew will be able to pick them up, every ‘naut tries to do anything they can to stay alive, at any costs. Even if that means getting their hands a little dirty.

While the slew of comparisons to Alien, Red Planet, Mission to Mars, and all sorts of other lost-in-space movies are endless, that still doesn’t mean that a little flick like this couldn’t make its own wonders happen, even if they’re are on a smaller-scale than what we’re used to seeing. That’s why with such the high-profile cast, premise and crew, one has to wonder: Why hasn’t this one gotten a bigger release? And better yet, why the hell isn’t anyone talking about it?

They all act like they've never walked into a room where a guy has an erection before. Haven't they ever gotten a massage?!!?

They all act like they’ve never walked into a room where a guy has an erection before. Haven’t they ever gotten a massage?!!?

Well, the answer to both questions is pretty darn simple: It ain’t all that good to begin with.

Problems with movies in this same vein are pretty constant, but one of the biggest is character-development, or in this movie’s case, lack therof. I get that it may be a bit hard to tell us everything we need to know about each and every single one of these characters, given the small time-frame we have with them (an-hour-and-a-half), but a little probably would have a real long way, especially since there were some pretty talented people in the roles. Peeps like Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris and the always welcome Elias Koteas are all here, doing what they do best, however, the script just doesn’t really assist them in anything whatsoever. Instead, it gives them corny lines like “We’re gonna get you through this”, even when the person that they are in fact talking to is turning black and blue from some sort of virus that’s taking over their minds and souls.

Speaking of which, I won’t dare jump into spoiler-territory, but it should be known that once you actually do get to see what infects these people and what they actually become once they are infected, you’ll be pretty bummed. For starters, there’s no reason for what they become; they just become it, all because of the radiation in the air, or something like. Also, there’s never a real explanation as to how you can kill them, or get rid of them in anyway. You see people knock ‘em down, roll ‘em around and drag ‘em as far as they possibly can imagine, and yet, they still continue to get up and cause all sorts of havoc. To show how ridiculous this idea truly is, there’s an even a scene in which Schreiber’s character is wailing away at one of these infected “things” so damn much, to the point of where we can just see the venting frustration clearly on his face. It’s actually one of the movies very rare moments of humor, whether it was intended or not.

And that’s pretty much all we have to this movie. We have our setting (Mars), we have our stock-characters (a group of astronauts), we have our central character who’s is supposed to be the heart and soul of this story (Liev Schreiber’s character), we have our dilemma (people are turning sick and twisted with this new virus) and we even have our end-point in sight (rescue team is supposed to be around in 24 hours), so it’s pretty standard stuff. Not everything in this movie happens the exact way you’d expect it to, but then again, it doesn’t really surprise you either. Sometimes one certain character will take a fall when you don’t see it coming, but that’s more because the actor who is getting killed off is a pretty well-known, recognizable face, and less about the character, the background that went into them and all of the time we’ve invested in them. It’s got the ensemble that isn’t really an ensemble, yet also has a bunch of people we’ve seen, we like and we care for when they show up in stuff, just not as much to where we could really devote our hearts to them here.

I spy with my little eye Phoenix Stadium in the background.

I spy with my little eye Phoenix Stadium in the background.

I can see that I’ve practically gone on and on with this review to the end where it practically seems like I’ve hated, but here’s the thing: I actually don’t. I’m just very “meh” about it. Sure, it can be predictable, doesn’t have anything neat or new to say about the alienation one feels being lost out there in outer-space and it definitely won’t be remember by the year’s end, but if you’re looking for something to watch when you’re cold, alone, bored and want to spend some time underneath the blankets, then I’d say watch this, just don’t expect much. If anything, the movie looks great and has some real moments where you’ll give the creators credit for at least making use of their rather measly-budget, giving all of this space-gear and such a realistic look. Maybe more time and effort could have been dedicated to the script and whether or not we would totally be shocked by the end, but I guess that’s a complaint that’s going to go nowhere considering I’ve made it a hundred times before, and it’s not going to change a thing. Let’s just hope that this makes Liev Schreiber want to choose better roles, in better movies, because when he’s given something to do, he can work wonders with it. Just ask Ray Donovan.

Or, don’t ask him, just watch it. Yeah, that’s what I meant.

Consensus: The Last Days On Mars is about as generic as its title promises it as being, which isn’t all that bad since it can be fun at times, but at others, can just be a plain, simple and dull time whether you’re at the movies, or watching it from home. I’d stick more so with the latter, than anything else.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If Mars ever wanted to be considered "a vacation spot", well, I think I just found their postcard.

If Mars ever wanted to be considered “a vacation spot”, well, I think I just found their postcard.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Now You See Me (2013)

Imagine if David Copperfield, David Blaine, and Criss Angel got together to rob a bank. It would never happen.

They are known as The Four Horsemen, and they are made up of four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco), who have found themselves in some hot water, after being considered suspects in a bank-robbery that occurred in France, while they were taking bunnies out of hats in Las Vegas. However, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) doesn’t believe this shite and along with his rookie Interpol investigator (Melanie Laurent) and well-known magic debunker (Morgan Freeman), they band together and figure out what is real and what isn’t. But in the world of magic: what you see, isn’t always something you can believe. Or, is it? Who the fuck knows!

Movies about magicians are sort of like real-life ones: they’re interesting in the way that you want to see what they pull off, how they pull it off, and where all the time and effort comes into play. Add that with a whole crime-caper aspect, and you got yourself something that might just be a bit of a winner, in terms of the audience and the box-office. But after awhile, like most magic tricks you see in real life, once the secret is revealed; you believe in certain things, and you don’t believe in others. It’s all a matter of time until the cracks begin to show, and that is exactly what goes down with this movie.

But hey, at least it starts out fine and dandy, for the most part. What was surprising the most about this flick is that how after the first 25 minutes, instead of having all of our attention and eyes locked onto the Horseman, we then find ourselves watching and following the story of the cop who’s trying to figure out just what the hell they did. Some will be surprised, some will be pissed, some will think it’s a clever-way of presenting the twists, and some will just be content. Overall though, it was a smart move on the movie’s part, because it puts us in the dark about what really happened, almost as much as it puts the cop himself in as well.

Like her real-life hubby: she's fucking with everybody.

Like her real-life hubby: she’s fucking with everybody.

Once this part of the story gets going, then things get a bit conventional with the typical, “cops-and-robbers” film that we have seen all of the time, except now: WITH MAGIC! It is interesting to see how these peeps pulled off have of these tricks and what expenses they went to in order to make them happen, but the problem I had the most was that it just didn’t all add up. I’m not one of those guys who gets crazy about a movie that has to deal with sci-fi, the powers that be, or some sort of mystical powers some person might have, because I know it’s all made for the purpose of being somewhat fake and unrealistic, but here; it felt like a cheat. That’s all thanks to Louis Leterrier who doesn’t seem like the type of director I’d trust with this material, since the guy isn’t really known for his smart, tricky moves.

But what the guy is known for, is mainstream film making, and that shows so evidently because of the way he is able to constantly mess with our minds by doing quick-cuts, fast-editing, and non-stop music blasting throughout the whole thing, as if we were at a rave, popped-up on some of the finest X (I could have only wished). By doing all of this, Leterrier is trying to distract us into thinking that everything that is being revealed to the characters and us, is reasonable and believable in a world where magicians are the top, money-makers of the world. As much as it may work on the average, movie-going audience, it did not work on this cynical, d-bag film critic.

Once the reveals are (ahem) revealed, we see what this movie is trying to throw down our throats and trying to make us believe in, but it doesn’t work because not a single bit of it seems like it could have actually happened, real-life or not. The Horseman start off as magicians that can pull off some neat tricks and whatnot, but after awhile, we see that they are more or less a bunch of meticulous planners that knew exactly what they wanted to do, at what time, when, who, where, and how, but it rarely makes sense once we see it all. However, Leterrier isn’t too concerned with that and instead; just wants to entertain the hell out of us with his spastic direction that honestly never seems to take a chill pill. Even when two peeps are just talking, Leterrier seems bored and almost like he needs to get going, or his dosage of ADD meds will ware down and he’ll have to take another five.

And entertained is what we are for the most part, but when the entertainment-value is mostly based on what we believe in, and the tricks the movie plays on us; then it gets a bit sour and unbelievable. I’m usually down for any movie that wants to give us a bunch of twists and not always giving us the right clues to set our minds straight, but it has to be done in an understandable manner, that doesn’t seem just to be used for mind-fucking us. Even the ending itself is a bit of a mind-fuck, if only for the fact that it seems preposterous, even after all of the time that we spent with these characters, this plot, and this heck-of-a-mystery.

At least the ensemble is amazing, right? Well, sort of. Nobody in the cast really sucks the wind out of the movie and brings it down by the antlers, except for Leterrier who seems to have an awesome cast of characters on his plate, yet, doesn’t know what to do with them so instead, just gives them a bunch of two-dimensional characters, lets them play around, and hope that they do the job he was supposed to be doing in the first place. Maybe it’s not such a bad strategy for some directors, but when you have a cast this good and a plot this interesting, you need more, more, more! Come on, Louis!

"See this card? Next second, it won't be there due to our impressive usage of CGI."

“See this card? Next second, it won’t be there due to our impressive usage of CGI.”

Jesse Eisenberg is a good fit as the egotistical, cocky leader of the Four Horseman who obviously seems to know it all and have more confidence on display than we have ever seen from him before; Isla Fisher is sweet, sexy, and sassy as his former-assistant, who seems to be more of the brains of the group, rather than the boobs (although they are as fine as can be); Woody Harrelson seems to be having buckets of fun as the hypnotist of the group, and looks like the only dude out of this cast who was in on the joke; and Dave Franco is still coming up fine in his career, playing the youngest member of the group, with a chip on his shoulder, and plenty of time to learn and think. All are fine together, but since the movie is less concerned with their dynamic, and more about the tricks they pull off; each and every performance seems like a bit of a waste.

And instead, the movie’s more focused on Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes, our cop for the 2 hours. It doesn’t suck that the movie is based-around Ruffalo’s character and whether or not this dude figures out just what to get done, but it doesn’t help that his character is at least a bit boring. Ruffalo does all that he can with this dude by giving him the scruff, the loosened-tie, and the few sips of a Jack Daniels, but he still isn’t as interesting as you would have liked to see, especially coming from the guy who can make any character he plays worth watching. However, being a lover of Ruffalo, I still have to give the guy credit for at least trying to make this character work, going out of his way, and at least showing some effort. Hell, even if the attraction between him and Laurent doesn’t quite work, at least you want to see them together in the end.

And last, but sure as hell not least, we have the men with the plans: Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Together, these two are dynamite and seem to be having the times of their lives just playing-off one another and seeing what they can pull-off next. But even when they are separated and moving on with their own stories, they still seem to be having butt-loads of fun, and really make this movie more entertaining, just with their charm and wit. Obviously Caine gets the shorter-end-of-the-stick with his slightly maniacal character, but nonetheless, the dude still seems to have that sprinkle in his eye that makes you want to give him a big-ass hug.

Consensus: Though it has the ideas and promise that may make any, average moviegoer locked and loaded for a good time, Now You See Me still comes off as a cheat that was made for the sole purpose that it would mess with our minds, yet, not really make much sense by doing so. It would just trick us into being tricked, and leave with our money in it’s hands.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?"

“Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?”

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

I think big brother Ben may be a whole lot nicer now.

Sheriff Deputy Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) has a bunch of problems. Woman problems. Law enforcement problems. An ever-growing pile of murder victims in his West Texas jurisdiction. However, he gets so caught-up with one of his victims, that it throws him a curve to the point of where he’s getting closer and closer to being found out. It’s only a matter of time until he loses total control.

Serial killer movies are hard to do. Sometimes, they can be lovable right from the start (American Psycho). While other times, they can totally miss their mark and be something you’d much rather not waste your time in watching (Mr. Brooks). This falls somewhere in between.

This is a film directed by Michael Winterbottom, a guy who seems all over the place when it comes to his films with comedic picks like 24 Hour Party People, to soft-core porno flicks like 9 Songs, and then to dark drama’s like A Might Heart. Basically, this guy has no real genre and that’s pretty neat. He doesn’t have any real sense of distinctive style or look, but he brings a lot of zealous-energy to everything he chooses, it’s almost too hard to talk bad about anything that he does. But that’s also why I liked this movie because he brings something atmospheric and moody to it all. He definitely has the perfect feel for the dark, hot American West because he shows it in such a noir style that really pulls you in from the start. There is a story to be told here, but this is more all about one dark, sinister trip into the mind of a psycho where everything starts off bad, goes to worse, gets better, and then just gets even more worse than before. Great job from Winterbottom, as he definitely makes up for the movie’s big faults.

"Oh, honey. It's been such a long and vigorous day. Let's go murdering!"

“Oh, honey. It’s been such a long and vigorous day. Let’s go murdering!”

Those big faults I’m talking about, lie within the story here. The story actually starts off pretty strong because you feel like you know where it’s going to go and build-up from there, but the problem is that the story isn’t as interesting as you may have mapped it out in your head. Some parts are cool and interesting once we see inside the mind of our closet killer, but whenever that doesn’t happen, the film focuses on how Lou tries to hide away from all of the accusations that are being thrown at him and curiosities he can smell off of everybody he’s around. This isn’t nearly as interesting as the stuff that goes on inside of his head and instead of being thrilling and unpredictable, the actual mystery tale is just there to provide a story for our lead.

Now, to my real problem with this film. In case you haven’t already heard about this flick: this flick is really, really fucked up. Without getting into any spoiler area, two disturbing acts of violence happen to two main characters here and the one thing that really got me here was that the camera never once pans away from it. In today’s world of movie violence, most stuff doesn’t phase me or even get to me because 9 times out of 10; it’s usually just shock value, done for the sake of shock value. That’s never worked on me and probably never will but the violence here feels real and needed to enhance the story, as if it almost pertains to the story and the way this guy feels and thinks. However, I think that’s my biggest problem with this flick.

I can’t really say that I hold anything against this film for showing me some violence that was disturbing, but I can say that it definitely made me think differently about it all because those were the only things left in my mind about this film. It’s some hard stuff to swallow, and as good as the rest of the film may be, I couldn’t help but keep on bringing my mind back to those violent scenes. It’s not like it doesn’t fix well with everything else, it just stuck in my mind more than all else happening. Still, have to give Winterbottom the benefit of the doubt for not panning away once during these scenes and making us actually see the brutality of these grim scenes. On the other hand, I think it also got to me after awhile and may have been more memorable than the actual flick itself. Good for some movies; not good for this.

The 50's needed Jessica Alba.

The 50’s needed more Jessica Alba.

Actually, he second most memorable aspect of this flick would probably have to go to Casey Affleck and his amazing performance as Lou Ford. It’s obvious, right from the start, that Lou has some pretty fucked up ideas in his head but somehow, Affleck is able to make that sexy and interesting through it all. Affleck doesn’t really look like the kind of dude you could put in the role of a closeted maniac, but I think that’s why he works so well here because he’s able to be subtle about his emotions and feelings throughout the movie, but also totally show how vicious he can be when he has to turn on the “crazy meter”. Affleck has never been that actor that people have been feeling the total and complete need to see in movies, but here, he demands your undivided attention and devotion, even when his character is just sitting there, thinking of who to hack-up next. Lou Ford is a great character to watch and makes the film a whole lot better, mainly because of Affleck’s kick-ass performance. He surely has come a long way since being “Big Ben’s little bro”.

Also, I was surprised to see Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson in some pretty down-and-dirty roles that I usually wouldn’t see myself watching them in. But what was even more of a surprise was how good they actually were. They both play Ford’s main ladies and each show a different side to his love, and both work very well. Been awhile since the last time I’ve seen them actually do something worth recommending so I have to give them some love and kudos right here and now. Oh, and there’s a pretty gnarly Bill Pullman cameo here as well. Can’t ever forget about that dude.

Consensus: With a dark and grimly style to make everything moodier and strong performances from the cast, mainly a terrifying Affleck, The Killer Inside Me feels like it has all the right ingredients for a dark and sinister trip in the head of a maniac, but it’s over-shadowed by two appalling scenes of violence and the story doesn’t really grab you, unless its focusing on Affleck’s character.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Them ten-gallon cowboy hats: never get out-dated.

Surprised ten-gallon hats like that could even fit through the door.

Shooter (2007)

I thought all snipers had to do was just sit there, hold their breath, and shoot. That’s it.

Marksman Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) leaves the Army after a mission of his goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed once again, but this time: it’s a tad bit more serious. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country, even leading him back to that fateful incident where he was initially screwed-over in the first place.

No matter what action movie you venture out or stay inside to see, chances are; you’re going to get nothing but sure, mindless entertainment with a few, but also very little surprises. That’s just the way the movie-world works and as fine with that as I may be, sometimes, there are just some cases where I can’t turn my brain off anymore. Sometimes, I just gotta let loose. Sometimes, I just gotta let a movie have it. Sometimes, is one of those times right now!

Antoine Fuqua may not have the best track-record out there, but still a guy that I have enough faith in when it comes to action, using it right, and using it to his advantage, and for the most part; is actually what kept this film alive and well when it seemed to hit some dead ends. The action starts off fine and kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat a couple of moments, especially one car-chase scene that went all throughout the “fine” streets of Philadelphia. First of all, being a homeboy of Philly, I was happy to see my town be in a big-budget action pic where the streets were used perfectly and also, it was just a fun little piece of action that this film seemed like it needed to enhance and mostly, keep our minds off of the “plot”. I use that term “plot”, very loosely.

I guess she was making breakfast...

I guess she was making breakfast…

Most action pics are stupid. Duh, we all know that. But this one was a little TOO stupid for me to even have fun and enjoy at points. The whole idea that these dudes would just come up to a guy, have him come out of a life of solitude, and proposition an assassination attempt, without him ever gettin’ the willies from the guys, just really surprises me since I knew if I was in that situation, I would know something was fishy right away. Also, isn’t Marky Mark supposed to be a trained marksman that excels in this type of shit? Just a thought. So there we go, the beginning of this story already had me annoyed but it just continues to get worse and worse as more of these plot twists begin to unravel. I’m all down for plot twists when they make a story more interesting, but there were plot twists within the plot twists happening here and after awhile it became more laughable than actually entertaining. Then again, maybe “laughable” and “entertaining” go hand-in-hand in ways, too. Either way, something just was not clicking with me here and slowly, but surely, the movie started to lose me.

Then, the story continues to get worse as, for some freakin’ odd reason, they decide to get all political with our simple, action movie watching asses. Throughout the whole film, there is this under-lining theme of corrupt politicians that runs throughout and doesn’t come on strong until the very end where it all comes together (I think?). The whole movie plays out like a slight-thriller, with action elements, but then changes into where we’re supposed to feel of this as some sort of morality piece. I mean when I watch my dumb-ass action movies, don’t try to bog me down with a bunch of political themes that could be very present in today’s day and age. Why? Well because, I don’t give much of a shit about all that! That’s why I came here: to see Marky Mark get a sniper and start blowin’ people’s heads off left-and-right, not to understand what our dirty politicians are doing to poorer, foreign countries out there. Maybe for a different flick that may be the topic of the day, but not for this one.

Speaking of Marky Mark Wahlberg, say what you will about him, but the guy does do his best with every piece of material he’s given. The guy is a bona-fide star because he can take these shitty, action scripts and actually give them something more to hold onto because there is just something there with him and his charisma that works. However, I think his role as Bob Lee Swagger was the true point where I see him being a bit too dull for my liking. This guy, Swagger (what a cooooool name!), has a lot going for him that he’s one of the toughest mofos out there and can shoot just about anything that walks from a pretty sexy distance. However, this guy doesn’t really seem like he’s all that tough to begin with. Yeah, he shoots people and yeah, he kills them but what else can he really do? The guy barely has a personality and as much as he tries, Wahlberg can’t seem to really give him one. Wahlberg tries so, so, so hard with this role but in the end, it just comes off as another one of his dull, action-hero performances. Maybe that’s the script’s fault, and maybe it isn’t. Regardless, the two weren’t coming together and making sense.

"Just kill this dude. Okay? Good. That's all, now go home."

“Just kill this dude. Okay? Good. That’s all, now go home.”

The one who actually showed some real personality with his character was Michael Peña as the field agent that has nothing else really going for him, except for Swagger and finding out what’s getting jiggy with him. No matter what, you got to love Peña for what he is able to do with all of his roles and it’s great to see him have a bunch of fun with a character that is essentially one, big, effin’ cliche. The guy deserves all of the praise he’s been getting for awhile, and I think it’s time he just about broke out of that shell, and into our laps. If that makes any possible sense whatsoever.

Then, on the flip-side of the coin, you got Ned Beatty and Danny Glover as the two, terribly-corrupt government workers that just ooze evil in every scene. Both are good and show that they can work with a shitty script but after awhile, they’re evilness began to get ridiculous and over-played, almost to where it seemed very unbelievable that they would be at all nice or humane to the ones around them, let alone to each other. Oh, and then you got Kate Mara as Swagger’s old-partner’s wife. She definitely had a cute look to her but the way her character just lets Swagger into her life without ever knowing or seeing him ever before, did seem a bit unbelievable. Once again, another part of this story that seemed stupid, but was somehow needed to move the story right on along.

Consensus: Though Shooter is a loud, dumb, and stupid action thriller that makes no apologies for what it does, it somehow still comes off as a terribly-written piece of work that does nothing other than pull out a bunch of incomprehensible plot twists, only to add more confusion on to the final-product, that was already struggling as it was.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"You better say hello to ya motha for me."

“You better say hello to ya motha for me.”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.

Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.

The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.

There's Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

There’s Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.

It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!

Somehow, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

In a way, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.

What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!

You'd still take him to bed. Don't even bother fibbing.

You’d still take him to bed. Don’t even bother fibbing.

Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.

Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.

Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Zodiac (2007)

Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?

“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.

This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.

Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.

I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.

My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23′.

Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.

Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

Let Me In (2010)

Children are creepy and not just ones from Sweden either.

When 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends his mysterious next-door neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz), the two outcasts form a tight-knit bond that gives Owen the courage to stand up to school bullies. But he slowly begins to suspect his new friend has a secret.

After checking out the original Swedish classic, ‘Let the Right One In‘, I got all of these people just saying I need to check this out and what not and I have to say that having director Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield‘) didn’t really spark too much of my interest but it doesn’t do much to make me hate it anyway.

The one thing I have to say that Reeves does and he does it well is that he doesn’t try to eff around with the original, and instead gives us everything we practically saw in that one but with his own little slight takes on everything as well. Reeves creates a lot of tension within this film that got my blood really tingling and also isn’t afraid to let loose on the blood and gore when it came to the actual “action” of this film. It’s a good thing he made this flick R and didn’t try to go for a lame-o PG-13 rating, which he could have easily used as a cash grab.

The highlight of this whole film was probably my favorite car wreck I think I have ever seen in a film for a long time. Reeves keeps the camera in the back of a car, while it’s toppling over and it was a really cool thing to see because I almost felt like I was watching a video of someone on a roller-coaster, but instead I had Blue Oyster Cult playing in the background. Now adding a little bit of Blue Oyster ain’t so bad either and that scene just totally rocks.

The problem with this flick is that a lot of this is also Americanized which means instead of being a very subtle teen-horror romance there’s a lot of loud noises, driving score, and some unneeded special effects that look so bad. There is a score playing in just about every scene, just so we know that something crazy is about to go down and it was getting pretty annoying considering that it was only used to build-up tension, which it sort of did, just not as an effective way as the original did. The scares here were also pretty cheap because I constantly felt a lot of the annoying jump-scares, people jumping out of darkness, and silence-to-loudness kind of scares happen just about every time and I was less and less scared by it every time it tried to creep me out.

A lot of the scenes here that worked in the Swedish film, don’t really work all that well here because of the terrible CGI and special effects this film showed up on the screen. To put it kindly, they look cheap, and almost like they came off of a really crappy PS2 game that was around when the console first started coming out. Anytime Abby ran up a tree, attacked someone, or turned into her evil werewolf-like self, it all looked pretty crummy and although the Swedish version had its fair share of bad effects, this one had too much of them and therefore lessened my impact of the film originally.

However, as much as I may talk shit on this film I still do have to say that the story still works here even if it doesn’t feel as original as it did the first time around. The story of these two falling for each other and basically creating their own little world together, still feels genuine and beautiful without ever feeling like it was forced or taken directly from another film (which it was, but still it somehow worked).

I think the real reason why this story works so well again is because of the amazing leads they have in these roles. Kodi Smit-McPhee is very good as the silent, and sad type as Owen, and Chloe Moretz does an even better job as Abby. These two work great together and right from the beginning you can feel their chemistry just popping right off of the screen and you start to feel this little innocent and sweet love they build together. Basically, if you need a great chemistry between two young actors, just cast kids with some funky first names (Chloe and Kodi, come on!).

Richard Jenkins has about 15 lines of dialogue the whole film but is very good as the strong and silent dude who’s looking over Abby. The guy has a lot more development as a character this time and it also helps that Jenkins is just a perfect actor for the role as well. Elias Koteas is also very good as the cop who’s investigating all of these little strange murders that keep happening around town. Both aren’t really the high-lights of the story but they still show why they deserve these roles.

Consensus: Let Me In may not be as great as the Swedish classic, but it still features great performances from the cast, a surprisingly good direction from Matt Reeves, and just a great idea of not trying to mess around with the original too much but still standing on its own terms.

7/10=Rental!!

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Jeez, war films in 1998 took over the Oscars.

With an all-star cast — featuring Sean Penn, George Clooney, Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody — director Terrence Malick’s lyrical and beautiful retelling of James Jones’s novel about the 1942 battle for Guadalcanal was nominated for seven Oscars. With narration by Pvt. Witt (Jim Cavaziel), the men of C-Company become a tight-knit group as they each individually face the horrors of war to hold onto a key-positioned airfield.

The Thin Red Line, is basically a remake of the original 1964 flick, and to be truly honest after watching this film, I don’t think I will have to dig back into the archives and watch that.

Most War films over-exploit the gore and the violence of the war, but never really capture the feelings of the war within it’s soldiers. This film, captured all the feeling imaginable. We really do get to feel what these characters feel through a lot of emotional and overall beautiful images that are being narrated over by soldiers that are present in the film.

Immediately, I was caught up in this film, even in its first frame that features an alligator. It not once lost my interest until the very end where I did start to believe the moral story of good and evil started to wane on, and become a little boring and I didn’t that there wasn’t any material to work from.

Terrence Malick returns to film-making after his 20 year absence, and it doesn’t feel like he missed those years at all. He without a doubt capture the right emotion at the right time with every little scene. The cinematography that he worked on really made us feel the intensity of fighting an enemy that was hidden. Malick should’ve won Best Director for this film because although he doesn’t steer this film into perfection, he does steer into the right and very inspired direction.

Visually, this film is just one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. There are some scenes that are so beautiful, so touching, and so inspirational that I couldn’t just help but shed a tear. Some scenes as I stated before are over-lapped by little narration from the soldiers, but you almost forget about the speaking and can’t stop but gaze at how beautiful the look and feel this movie really does have.

The all-star cast really does a good job in this film and really do step away from their public images and create characters that we like and can relate to. Out of the whole cast Nick Nolte is who I really think does the best. He is angry, ruthless, and also very misguided and you can see that coming out of his performance. I wish that there was more time for these big stars to interact with one another but overall I was pleased with the way some of these characters were used. I also liked how the Japanese weren’t portrayed as these savage killers who have no souls. Instead, they were shown with having as much fear and terror as much as the U.S., and that’s what really separates this film from others.

The only complaint that I really do think killed this film to be as much as a success as Saving Private Ryan, was that there are way too many scenes of just down time. In SPR, the down time was actually interesting and you actually got a sense of what those characters lives we’re like before war. However, in this the down time is submitted to beautiful visuals but overall not very interesting dialouge that I thnk made this film not win one Oscar.

Consensus: The Thin Red Line is visually astonishing, incredibly-well directed, and features amazingly true messages about how the war turns people into animals. However, the film offers to much time for boredom and doesn’t quite connect as well as Saving Private Ryan.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

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