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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ewan McGregor

August: Osage County (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

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

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

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

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

7 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Black Hawk Down (2001)

Did the U.S. Army actually screw up for once? And come close to admitting it?!?! What is this?!?

It’s the fall of 1992 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and just about every citizen of that city is starving to death. Why? Well, powerful warlords are using starvation as a fear-tactic to knock down the weak, get the strong ones, and find out who is most loyal to fighting the good fight. This doesn’t seem like such a nice thing in the eyes of Americans, so it’s seems obvious that the next the U.S. army would take would be to go over there themselves and show them the right way to live and be socially acceptable. In order to do this, they need to capture a powerful warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the same warlord who declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel still left in his territory. Together as one, the U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators all gang up to capture him in what is snow-balled as a “30 minute mission”, no more, no less. However, when one soldier (Orlando Bloom) makes the rookie mistake and gets badly injured in the heat of the battle, that’s when all of the forces begin to fall apart, lose formation, balance, and sight of what they’re in this land for anyway. Suddenly, a 30 minute mission becomes a whole day-affair with more than a few casualties, and families with members taken away from them, as a result.

"Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition."

“Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition.”

So marks the fifth and most likely not going to be my final, viewing of this movie and needless to say, time has not done this one well. That’s less of a hit on this movie, and more of a hit on the type of pretentious movie reviewer I have become, but so be it! The fact of the matter is that even though the film has lost its steam in certain spots over the years, the spots that worked so well for me in the first place, still do work. And that all goes back to Ridley Scott’s direction which is, once again, nothing short of spectacular.

It’s common-knowledge now that Scott doesn’t just take a piece of material because he wants to get a new cover for his Jacuzzi; he takes it because he wants to, and feels so passionate about it that he’ll put his whole heart, mind, body, and soul into it. Sometimes, that can usually backfire on him, which is why he is one of the very few filmmakers working today to have director’s cut editions on almost all of his movies, but for the most part, the guy knows what he is doing behind the camera, and it allows for the viewer to take a peak inside of his mind, see what he sees, and wonder just how the hell he was able to cobble all of these pieces of film together to make one, long, cohesive story.

Maybe that’s why the movie won Best Editing all of those years ago. Just maybe.

But anyway, the landing-point for this tangent is that Scott, no matter how hollow the stories he works on may be, he himself, as a director and visual artist, is not. As soon as the movie begins, you feel as if you’re right there with each and every one of these soldiers just shooting the shit, cracking jokes, trying to prove whose ding-a-ling is bigger than the other’s, and so on and so forth. This starts things off on the right, if not more relaxed, foot, so that when things do start to get all crazy and jumpy, not only do we get hit with a sure rush of energy, but make us feel like all of the nice, happy, and playful vibes have gone elsewhere. This is where the material gets serious, and pretty damn violent as well.

However, the violence in this movie never oversteps its boundaries into “gratuitous” territory. Whenever a soldier dies, Scott clearly cares for this character and puts the spotlight right on them for however long that may be, and it gives you the general idea that yes, soldiers did die in this ill-planned raid, but also, fellow human-beings died as well. It’s sad, no questions about it, and that’s why Scott never takes his attention off the gruesome, gory details of this war/raid and has you feel as if you are right there, ducking every bullet within an inch of your life, just hoping that you have the upper-hand on your enemy, and it’s not the other way around. Sort of like warfare, isn’t it? Except that you aren’t actually participating in a war, you’re just watching it all play out, which is both comforting and tense at the same time.

So for right now, I think we’ve pretty much hammered in the fact that Scott is not to be blamed for any of this movie’s short-comings, because trust me, trust me, trust me: There are plenty to be had here. First of all, while I do respect that Scott shows the same type of respect and gratitude to those soldiers who lost their lives during that fateful raid, you never care for any of them. Or, let me try it like this: You’re never really given much of a reason to care in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to feel sympathetic as it is because they’re humans just like us, and were fighting a war, for us, however, nobody really seemed to be the most separate from the pack. Instead, every soldier, with the exception of a whole bunch of familiar faces, feels like the same person and they’re thinly-written persons at that.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Take for instance, our lead guy in the midst of this whole battle, Josh Hartnett as SSG Matt Eversmann. Now, obviously Hartnett has never really been the type of actor to carry a film on his shoulders, which makes it strange and relatively reasonable why Scott would make him the main leader in an ensemble feature, but the kid’s never given a chance here with the lame character he has to work with. Not only does Eversmann start off with the most dull and plain motivations any character, in any war movie has ever had, but his whole arch never changes over time. He just sees the war for all of its gory, bloody despair and detail. Once again, another thoughtful pretty-boy who looks at the world as one big bargaining chip where discussion and finding a middle-ground is daily accepted among society, finds out that the world actually isn’t like that? Really?!?! Is that the type of writing we want to accompany a movie about a raid that the U.S. wrongfully envisioned and got caught with their wankers in their hands more than a few times? I don’t think so, but hey, I guess if you have Ridley Scott on-board as director, not much can really go wrong. That’s if you don’t listen to the characters when they speak, which is exactly the problem here with everybody.

Hell, even the most talented actors among this ensemble can’t even save some of these lines from coming off as terribly corny. Tom Sizemore comes close as the bad ass, tough-as-nails commander that, get this, casually walks to wherever he goes on the battlefield. This whole character gets by on Sizemore’s nasty charm, but it’s so ridiculous, that it almost makes you forget about the rest of the stars in this cast that get stuck with even worse characterizations. Jason Isaacs has a really, REALLY thick Southern drawl that never catches on; Eric Bana’s accent is even worse and makes him seem more like a surfer brah, than an actual self-righteous soldier; Jeremy Piven and Ron Eldard love to crack jokes to one another while they’re getting ready to drop off fellow soldiers into a play land full of guns, bullets, explosions, death, and all sorts of viciousness; Sam Shepard yells out orders from a comfy, cozy bunker somewhere very far, far away from where this is happening, and seems like the type of dick nobody wants to be around, on-or-off the battlefield; and Ewan McGregor’s desk-jockey character, as charming as he may be, has that one skill of being able to make a great cup of coffee. Dude would have been hella popular with Buddy the Elf, but in the middle of Mogadishu, where all sorts of guns are being discharged and explosions are, ahem, doing exactly that, does that really matter? Does that even need to be included in here? Actually, those are all rhetorical. The answer is no!!!

Consensus: Scott’s inspired, jumpy, frenetic, and chaotic direction makes Black Hawk Down a thrilling, exciting, and sometimes, scary war flick, but the script never goes any deeper with its message, motivations behind the actual proceedings, or even the real-life soldiers who were involved with it, most of whom deserve better attention and writing. Except for the coffee guy. Seriously, why was he around again?!?!?!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Must have been gnarly waves........dude.

Must have been gnarly waves……..dude.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

“Giants, ain’t got shit on me!”, says the little kid from About a Boy.

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a young farmer who ends up taking a bribe from a snarky monk, for some magic beans. Jack doesn’t think much of it, until he goes home, drops some of the beans, and it rains. Yeah, you know what happens next. The beans end-up leading to a land populated by giants with a taste for human flesh, and they have the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), captured and it’s up to Jack and the King’s royal-men to save her and get rid of those damn giants!

In a way, I can totally see why so many people aren’t looking forward to this movie as much as I was would be expecting. It does seem silly, it does seem stupid, it does see overly-reliant on CG, and does seem like a random-time and place for a movie like this to come out, but that’s all that advertising. That’s why, in another way, I have no idea why so many people aren’t looking forward to this. I mean, first of all, it’s directed by Bryan Singer, it’s written by Christopher McQuarrie (the two did the Usual Suspects together), and it features a new-take, on a classic-tale but told in the type of way that doesn’t alienate older-viewers, but doesn’t cater to the younger-ones either. It’s somewhere in there, slap-dab in the middle and it works perfectly for a movie that could have easily gone South, real quick, had they decided to take the darker-route. Thankfully, they didn’t and stayed straight to the source-material that I’m sure all of us grew-up loving. If not, get off your asses, and read that shit! You haven’t experienced childhood until you have.

Anyway, aside from that point, I have to say that this movie is a huge bag of fun in the sun! Okay, maybe no sun is involved because it is the beginning of March, but nonetheless, it’s still a hell of a wild ride, straight from the imaginative-mind of Bryan Singer. Here’s the thing about this movie: it doesn’t cater to a certain crowd, yet it’s the type of film you can bring your kids to, mainly boys. Why? Because it’s got all of the right-ingredients that a boy at that age should oh so desire: action, fun, humor, giants, fart jokes (not as eye-rolling as it sounds), swords, guys speaking in funny-accents, and a whole lot more where that came from. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect piece of cake to allow your kids to take a bit out of, I don’t know what the hell will!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you bastard!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you lil’ bitch!

Some may rag on this flick for not going any-deeper than just being a loosey-goosey, fun, and wild romp about the Jack and the Beanstalk-tale, but who needs that when you have Bryan Singer just playing around with the material that it seems like he actually enjoys? Seriously, the guy is having a ball with this material, and in-return; so are we. He never lets loose of the action and never loses his mind on what type of movie he’s making. He’s always making a wacky and crazy movie that has a bunch of people, hunting-down giants, and sometimes, vice versa. You can’t ask for much more, unless you want the Usual Suspects-Singer. If you go in and expect that type of Singer, then you’re going to come out of this with a huge slap-mark on your face saying, “WRONG!!”. It’s just a fun-as-hell movie. That’s it.

I could beat this horse to death with all of the shit that I’m saying, but it’s the truth: this movie is just fun. Take for instance, the fact that I saw this at a 11 a.m. screening on Saturday, not expecting anything other than a movie that would be okay, so I could sleep my hangover away. However, that’s where the surprise came. The movie woke me up instantly, and didn’t lose me for a single second. Sure, it started-off pretty slow and made me feel like I was in for a ride that I would most likely doze-off for, but as soon as Jack gets those treacherous beans, it’s a total and complete party, right from there. Singer never loses the sense or style of that party, and always kept me alive, awake, happy, and above, entertained. I can’t give this any more credit. Just go see this movie and be ready to see the return of Bryan Singer. The guy knows exactly what he’s doing with a story, how he wants to film it, and how he wants to keep the spirits alive while doing-so. If there is any increment in my mind that the guy can handle the next X-Men, this is the reason why I think so. Now, I just cannot wait!

As for the cast, they all seem to be up-to-pace with all of the fun and wild times that Singer’s having behind-the-camera. Nicholas Hoult is charming as the naive Jack that has to grab his pair, and beat the shit out of some giants. He does do some of that, but not enough to where I was feeling like, “Wow, this character really is a slayer.” Don’t get me wrong, Hoult’s good and all, it’s just that I wish Jack was doing more slaying of giants, like the title promised.

Instead of Jack doing all of that bad-assery business of slaying the fuck out of giants, all of that is left up to Elmont, playued by the awesome Ewan McGregor. Say what you will about the questionable-choices the guy has made in the past, but Ewan McGregor is a very, very likeable presence that always keeps my attention on him whenever anything’s going down, and he just so happens to be located in the same scene. McGregor seems to be having so much fun playing the charming, but bad-ass soldier that doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and never lets his target get away. He’s not as sadistic as I may make him sound, but McGregor does have a cool character that can kick ass, take names, chew bubblegum, and spew-out hilarious one-liners, like nobody’s freakin’ business. Where the hell was that in all of the Star Wars movie, dammit!!?!?

"Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!"

“Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!”

Stanley Tucci is another one that seems to be having a lot of fun in his role, but instead, is more of the bad-guy here and absolutely revels in it. Tucci is a great screen-presence to have on-screen, but to watch him chew the hell out of the scenery and spit it back out, was just a blast to see, and probably an even bigger-blast to perform. Tucci’s good at playing weird-o bad guys (*cough* The Lovely Bones *cough*), but a simple one that’s just evil for the darn-sake of being evil, is even better in my book. The only one who feels like a bit of a waste is Ian McShane, who really seems like he just wants to break-out his shell, get loose with it, and just start being the bad-guy himself. Instead, he’s all wrapped-up in that King’s armor that makes him look more like a freakin’ egg than any type of ruler, but hey, at least we get to see those devil-ish eyes. God, they still scare me to this day.

Consensus: Jack the Giant Slayer is not what you think it to be from the misleading trailers and advertisements  It’s not a waste of time, it’s fun, it’s exuberant, it’s made for the whole family, it never loses it sense of joyfulness  and even better, just never loses what it’s all about in the first-place: complete and utter entertainment. Don’t bother with the 3D, but if you’re bored and got nothing else better to do with your life than watch highlight clips of the Oscars, then give this bad-boy a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

The Impossible (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/10=Rental!!

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

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

Haywire (2012)

Who needs acting when you can just beat the crap out of everybody around?

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a highly trained operative who works for a government security contractor in the dirtiest, most dangerous corners of the world. After successfully freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, she is double crossed and left for dead by someone close to her in her own agency. Suddenly the target of skilled assassins who know her every move, Mallory must find the truth in order to stay alive.

Seeing that this is definitely Steven Soderbergh trying to eff with our heads in by giving us a non-experienced actress with a whole lot to do for one flick, I didn’t know what to really think going in. However, with his first step into the action genre, I can definitely say that he didn’t eff with us too bad here.

The one thing that Soderbergh does perfectly here is give us an action flick that feels way different from any other one that has been released within the past year or so. All of the fight sequences are filmed wonderfully with no score whatsoever, just going with the flow of the punches, kicks, and breaks while also being filmed in a very wide lense to give it this realistic feel. Yes, fighting sequences that are somewhat realistic, crazy right? Soderbergh just plays and plays with the whole conventions of what we come to know and see as an action flick and it seems like an experiment rather than an actual film, but an experiment that does a pretty good job none the less.

I also liked how Soderbergh kept everything very minimal. The film basically consists of people running, shooting, and fighting, all to the glorious sound of jazz music that made me feel as if I was in a little club in New Orleans. The plot is very simple and there isn’t a whole bunch of talking about what’s going on, or even talking in general. Soderbergh doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out to us and instead of giving us a highly confusing plot, he backs it up with a lot of ass-kicking to keep our minds avert on the screen without ever losing us, after we have just realized that this far far different from what we have seen from any other action flick.

The problem that this film runs into is that when the action isn’t going down, things start to get a little dull. When the film starts to lean towards its plot and doesn’t really give us much action to hold onto, the film starts to lose us mainly because the story just isn’t all that interesting in the first place and to be honest, we have seen the same premise done before. I understand that Soderbergh and his writers weren’t trying to rely on the plot as much as they were with the action, but it still could have been handled a lot better to fully keep our attentions when people weren’t getting their faces knocked in.

Another main problem with this flick comes with the whole casting of MMA star Gina Carano. Carano did not have any prior acting experience to this flick and for a character like Mallory Kane you have to have somebody that can look the part, which she definitely does. All of her action scenes are awesome and she definitely looks like that chick you do not want to piss off one bit let alone screw over in a huge-ass CIA exchange. However when it comes to actually talking like a bad-ass, Carano can’t do that.

I have to give Soderbergh credit for not leaving this inexperienced actor out to dry with this material, because she could have easily just gotten chewed up in every single scene but it’s just that Carano doesn’t do anything here at all. Her character feels like a big block of wood that has no emotions and gives off the same voice to every single response. Now take it for granted, the “voice” in this flick is not the same one she has in real life (it was apparently dubbed) but even if it wasn’t hers, it still sounds terrible because almost every line she drops, she sounds like she’s reading them right off the cue-card as it is. I hope that Carano is reading this now and wants to beat the shit out of me, but honestly baby, keep to your MMA career. But damn is she sexy!

The rest of the cast is very good though, which I do think was very deliberate considering Soderbergh definitely knew he couldn’t sell a film on just one chick who nobody outside of the MMA world knew. Ewan McGregor seems to having a lot of fun as the slimy and evil Kenneth; Michael Fassbender isn’t around for much as you could probably tell from the previews (and even the poster) but he still is pretty good with his devilish charm; Channing Tatum does an alright job here as Aaron; Bill Paxton is nice to watch as John Kane considering I didn’t know he did movies anymore; and Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas show up here as the usual assholes they usually play in most of their recent films and do nice jobs as well. Basically, the whole supporting cast is great but it’s just a shame that Carano kind of makes us look past that with her stiff delivery.

Consensus: Haywire is definitely not the usual action flick we are so used to seeing nowadays, with realistic fight sequences, jazz music, and a very good supporting cast, but the problem this flick hits is with its leading star that can’t get through her lines and sort of just lets the whole film down in the process.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Beginners (2011)

I definitely have a lot of questions to ask my daddy now.

‘Beginners’ tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a graphic artist coming to grips with the imminent death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who, at 75, has one last secret: He’s gay. Both inspired and confused by his father’s determination to find true love at last, Oliver tentatively pursues a romance with commitment-shy French actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent).

It sounds like a weird premise that a 75-year old man would come out of the closet, after being married to a woman and having a child for 45 years, until you find out that this was actually from director/writer Mike Mills’ own life. Talk about a “birds and the birds” talk with your dad.

The film is a lot difficult at first since it has all of these different story-lines and the way its told is through a non-linear story structure, but somehow Mills makes it all work and by the 20 minute mark, I  didn’t get confused one bit as to when and where this story was at. Mills creates a very self-aware film where it breaks down the fourth-wall many times, shows years through pictures, has Oliver narrate the film a little bit himself, and even allow the dog to talk with subtitles appearing on the screen. All of this sounds a little crazy to have in just one flick, but it somehow works so incredibly well and Mills does not once lose himself with all of these little quirks that he can so easily pull off here.

Another aspect to this film is how Mills is able to make us smile and laugh, but even when it gets onto its real emotional stuff, it works even more. I laughed a lot during this flick mainly because there was just a happy little sweet spirit to everything behind this story. The story is essentially about a dude reflecting on his dad’s death through his own life and love, but there is just so many sweet and charming moments that this film lets loose of that it’s almost too hard to pay attention to that part of the story.

However, when it does get to the emotional stuff, the story does leave a lasting impact. Mills goes into the fractured and sad soul of Oliver and we get to see how he feels about the world and why. There is a lot of emotional truth to a lot of these scenes that they have here in this flick and it will actually touch you and make sense mainly because Mills is so able to just let out all of the feelings hurt people have inside. The film tackles a lot of aspects to Oliver’s life but almost each subject ends with a poignant but truthful moment and even though it never had me crying, I still felt connected to a lot of what was going on. Even though my dad isn’t gay, or not that I know of…

My main problem with this flick is that it doesn’t really have any surprises to offer when the story first gets started. It starts with us knowing that Oliver’s dad is dead and for me, I think that was a little bit of a bummer considering I think the film would have really worked if it started from us having his father tell him that he was gay, and somehow be able to work in the love-relationship he has with Anna as well. However, the structure they had done for this film already isn’t so bad in the first place so for me to really complain about it, is kind of bogus.

Another problem I had with this flick is that I feel like a lot of what Mills does here, as a very stylish director, is somewhat pretentious. Yes, a lot of what he brings to this film and this story is very original, but at times I feel like he was just adding some of his own little artsy moments in there to put his own stamp on things. I thought having Oliver’s work-life sort of go down the tubes because of how sad he is getting, was sort of like Mills trying to put his life more and more into this story, considering that he is a graphic artist himself which is what kind of bothered me to begin with.

Ewan McGregor is an actor who almost seems terribly bored with every role he has been taking in as of late, but he somehow here makes this performance perfect as Oliver. I don’t know what there is about him but he’s just so subtle, so relaxed, and so real that he just fits this character so well and it’s really great to see him work on his comedic chops but also his dramatic chops considering that it’s been a long while since he’s gotten the chance to do so. Everybody who loved ‘Inglorious Basterds’ will notice Mélanie Laurent playing Oliver’s “girlfriend”, Anna. She is your usual quirky, eccentric, and pretty zany love interest that almost any rom-com has but she has an under-lining darkness to her that separates her and keeps her away from being a “type”. These two are great together and you can really feel their chemistry every time they hit the screen. Let’s not also forget the scene-stealing dog, played by Cosmo who creates this buddy-buddy relationship with McGregor that is unlike anything else.

It’s practically a given that Christopher Plummer gives a good performance here but he really does shine here as Hal, and it may just be the role that could nab him that Oscar after all of these years. Plummer doesn’t play this role with a lot of camp or any hoakiness that usually comes with a dude playing a homosexual man. Instead, he takes this role with a large amount of embrace that he is finally able to live the life he has wanted to for so long, and the way Plummer plays it all is not just a joy to watch, but also inspirational. There has been some talk for Plummer getting an Oscar for this and that is not something I would be against since he is so incredible here and you really just feel like this is a real person rather than the usual flamboyant caricature we usually get of a homosexual man.

Consensus: With a real heart at the center of its funky story, Beginners is a well-acted, gentle, funny, and moving portrait about it never being too late to have love in your life, no matter how old or young.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Cassandra’s Dream (2007)

Why is Woody Allen getting so obsessed with death?

Howdie everybody! It’s the official beginning of school for me today and rather than actually getting too serious with my work, I’m still going to town at the reviews. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving you guys anytime soon.

Anywho, you know how the deal goes down, you check out my latest post on Boomtron, show me some love, comment, rate, or read and that’s basically how the cookie crumbles.

http://www.boomtron.com/2011/09/woody-allens-cassandras-dream-lacks-anything-that-stands-out/

Thanks peeps! Have a great Friday!

Big Fish (2003)

The most normal Tim Burton film if there ever was one.

William Bloom (Billy Crudup) tries to learn more about his dying father, Edward, by piecing together disparate facts from a lifetime of fantastical tales and legends of epic proportions. Ewan McGregor co-stars as the young Edward, a traveling salesman, with Albert Finney playing him as an older man.

Usually, Tim Burton is amazing when he’s on his game and gives us such treasures as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, etc. But there are many countless other times where he is just lost and has nowhere to go but down with such trash like Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks!, etc. This is one that falls in the category of him on his game a little bit.

This is a fairy tale mixed in with a lot of realism but still enough of that signature weirdness from Burton to make you remember that you are watching the same dude who did Batman. This film never seems to drag and that’s because Burton has such a vivid imagination that he can show such things as two Siamese Asian twins singing to Chinese Communists, a car underwater in a rain storm, a friendly giant, and plenty of other random and crazy things that happen but it all is done so well that you can’t help but smile.

At heart, this is actually a father-son drama that shows what happens when you tell too many fake stories, you actually end up becoming them. That right there I felt was a good message but how it all plays out in the end just didn’t do anything for me, much to my surprise. The ending is pretty obvious about 10 minutes in and to be brutally honest, it didn’t really have me choking up much in the end neither.

The casting in this film may be a bit flawed, but it still had it’s fair-share of good performances. Albert Finney is amazing as older Edward Bloom, but he’s playing him so much older and more sick than the character actually looks which kind of took me away from the film considering I liked the performance. Billy Crudup is OK here but could have done a lot more to add to the scenes with his daddy; Jessica Lange has some good scenes as Edward’s wife; Marion Cotillard is as amusing as ever as Crudup’s wife, Josephine; and Alison Lohman has some very good scenes as Edward’s wife, when she was younger.

I liked this cast even though they were a bit strange and to say the least I liked Ewan McGregor as Edward Bloom because even though his Scottish accent almost may seem to get a tad bit in the way of his deep Southern accent, I still really liked this performance from him. Edward Bloom is such a happy guy that loves telling stories because they make people happy. Everybody wants to hear the truth but everybody also wants to hear something that will make them happy and that is what Bloom is all about and Ewan totally throws himself into this great character’s mind. I don’t know if any of you have ever met somebody like Bloom, a person who just loves to tell stories and make the others around him laugh and smile, but I have and the power that the art of storytelling has is just a very beautiful thing and something that this film embraces so well.

Consensus: Though I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to this film as I would have liked to have hoped for, Big Fish is a good Tim Burton film that has some weirdness, a lot of happiness, and just a true message about the art of storytelling and how sometime hearing the fake story is better than hearing the truth at all.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Groovers & Mobsters Present: The Buddy Flick

So Fandango Groovers and Movie Mobsters have always been doing this little thing where they present a little type of film genre, and a couple of people choose what films to talk about, and I have just been chosen as one of those people. So here goes nothing.

Trainspotting (1996)

      “1,000 years from now there will be no guys and no girls, just wankers. Sounds great to me.” – Mark “Rent-boy” Renton

We have all heard and said before: “Drugs are bad”. However, being an addict of any drug isn’t always as bleak as it seems. I do not take any drugs, but I can easily say that no matter what, you never forget about the people around you. So when I was told all about this little piece, and how to contribute, I couldn’t think of a better “buddy film” than Danny Boyle’s 1996 trip into the drug world, Trainspotting.

The central premise behind Trainspotting is about an on-again-off-again Scottish heroin junkie named Renton and the eccentric group of on-again-off-again heroin junkies he hangs out with. This plot line may not make it seem as crazy, but I have to tell you, some stuff really gets out-of-hand, and not in a good way either. And yet, it’s not a bleak picture by any stretch, which made this so much more unusual of a film because everybody is so used to the dark and depressing anti-drug film that will more or less put you on drugs, rather than stir you away from it. There is a constant energy throughout this film filled with humor, gags, and of course, heroin. For every silly and fun moment, there is an equally sad and dark moment. Even though all of these people are on drugs, you still want to somehow hang out with them, because their just so darn lovable.

This was a launching pad for almost every one involved. Danny Boyle had only one film before this and now has a Best Director Oscar thanks to Slumdog Millionaire. Ewan McGregor is in so much, but mostly known as Obi-Wan. Ewen Bremner doesn’t really do much but pops up every once and awhile, Johnny Lee Miller was in Dexter, Robert Carlyle shows up in many films, and Kelly Macdonald has made a real career for herself in roles in stuff like No Country for Old Men, Nanny McPhee, and most famously, Boardwalk Empire.

Trainspotting is one of those films that just is so much fun to watch, even though it has some terribly depressing subject matter. Boyle does a great job of not rubbing our noses in all the crappy situations these characters are put in, he just tells us basically everything we need to know in order to figure it out for ourselves. Trainspotting may be dark but I can promise you, you will have a great time, and stay away from heroin forever.

If you all want to check out the other posts from this little piece, go here. Thanks everybody for reading!

Trainspotting (1996)

One film that must always be watched with subtitles on.

Danny Boyle’s explosive 1996 film tracks the misadventures of young men (played by a cast that includes Ewan MacGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jon Lee Miller) trying to find their way out of joblessness, aimless relationships and drug addiction. Some are successful, while others are hopelessly not.

When it comes to drugs, you shouldn’t get involved with them at all. Their bad news, they break lives one by one, especially heroin. Heroin is that hardcore drug that all the alternative rockers take such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Kurt Cobain, among others. It’s considered one of the heaviest drugs, that will change your life forever, but as this film shows, that it doesn’t always have to be terrible all the time.

The one great thing about Danny Boyle, with this film, is that his direction is just about flawless. Literally from the first shot, keeps this film going at a quick, nasty, and in-your-face pace that doesn’t stop until the last credit is off the screen. He does so well with conveying so many emotions with his setting, of depressed Scotland, and how gritty, and dirty is, almost as dirty as its inhabitants too.

My favorite thing about this movie that basically had me won over was it’s script, that worked on all levels. This film in a way is a dark comedy, with bits of comedy, as dark it may be, but they still do get you laughing. But the drama when it hits, oh lord, does it ever so hit, but it never gets too depressing to the point of where you can’t watch anymore, cause you may kill yourself. These characters are drawn out as unique, and realistic people, that you are basically put with in this film, and you don’t mind, considering that you can probably relate to some of these characters, considering their all heroin addicts. There’s some beautiful insight with this film, and as the film progresses, you start to realize the movie is less about drugs, but more about life, and how you should direct it. But the film also delves deep into the life of a drug addict, and the feelings, and ideas you get while your on it. You want to live this different kind of life, because that’s what drugs offer you, but as you start to see your life crumble, you try to build yourself back up, and start it all over, and be what you never wanted to be in the first place, ordinary. This film captures terrifically the struggles of being a drug addict, and eventually getting away from being an addict.

Ewan McGregor got his break with this film as Rent, and let’s just say he deserved it, and if anybody’s trashing on Ewan now, saying he’s a crumby actor, they can just look back at this film, and see he always has been great, just give him the right material. Rent is your ordinary, average drug addict, with plenty of ambitions, which makes him a great person for the film to revolve around. He’s very ordinary, and also interesting. Robert Carlyle as Franco, is simply hilarious, because he’s this tough-as-nails guy that will kick your ass in a second if you mess with him, and watching him stirring up trouble all the time, is so funny and enjoyable. Ewen Bremner as Spud, does a good job, playing a funny character, that we sympathize with early in the film. Johnny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, is kind of a dick, but that’s good, cause we’re interested when watching his character. Also, need I not forget to mention Kelly Macdonald as Diane, who isn’t in a whole bunch of scenes, but is still fun to watch, every time she is in them.

The only setback from this film is the Scottish accents are deep, and if you like to read sub-titles through your movie a lot, then this is certainly the movie to use it for. But even this is very, very, minor.

Consensus: Gritty, darkly humorous, painful, and altogether realistic true story of what drugs will do to you, that supports witha  great script, and direction, that is even better with the performances.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!

I Love You Phillip Morris (2010)

Never would I have thought that I’d see the day when I saw Obi-Wan and Ace Ventura smooching on the screen.

When upstanding Texas cop Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) realizes he’s gay, he changes his entire life and pulls a series of bold con jobs that lands him jail — where he meets his one true love, cellmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). When Morris is transferred to another prison, lovesick Russell mounts a series of jailbreaks just to be with his beloved soul mate.

This film has been all over the place for the past couple of years. It’s been getting edited, finding American distributors, and also trying to actually find a release. And although nobody will probably see this movie, you should really get out and try to.

The fact that this film couldn’t find an American distributor because it had “a lot of gay sexual sequences” is totally beyond me. Yeah, there is gay sexual happenings in this movie, but its not to the point of where your basically disgusted at everything that’s going on. In the first part of the film I was a little annoyed by how the gay stereotypes were all over the place, but they soon started to dumb down, and that’s what I liked the most.

This film is not flaming with gay material, it’s more about the sweet love story. This film had me laughing at a lot of parts, and really worked when it came to comedy all over the board, and not just gay sex jokes. Its sweet tone also is kept throughout the whole film, and you can actually feel an emotional connection to all of these characters, even though they may be a little messed up. The pace throughout is generally well-done, without moving too fast, or too slow.

But I honestly liked how the whole story was all true, and the con-man events that happen are even funnier. I think Steven Russell is just such a smart guy, that it was really interesting to see how his story played out into this film. He did many, many crazy things that I would have never have thought about, just to be with his boo, which was funny, and also sweet at the same time. Never have I watched a film and thought that I can do whatever want to do, and be who I want to be, I just got to be good at making stories up, and act really well.

The problem with this film is that the comedy and drama doesn’t quite balance out as well as I would have liked it to. By the end of the film you can kind of see that the film is relying too hard on the drama aspect, which kind of seemed strange, since this whole film itself was kind of goofy. But in the end, I guess it all worked out.

The best thing that this film has going for itself, is the fact that Jim Carrey is on fire (or flaming for that matter)! He is perfect as Steven Russell, and you can really see he is having fun actually playing a “character”. Everybody is so used to seeing Jim Carrey playing the usual Stanley Ipkiss, or Ace Ventura, that it really is a surprise when he can be an actual real-life person. I thought he was doomed, but he came back and showed me after all, why we all love him. It’s not the bravest performance ever, but he does a perfect job at mixing both his dramatic, and comedic aspect of his acting skills. Ewan McGregor is fine as Phillip Morris, as he plays this really gentle, sweet guy that just wants love. It’s great to see these two together on screen, cause they really do make it all work, and their chemistry is actually very solid, as strange as it may seem.

Consensus: Despite its flaws, I Love You Phillip Morris is a funny, fact-based, romantic comedy, that doesn’t exploit the homosexual love, and instead keeps it cute, with Carrey and McGregor doing great jobs in the leads.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The one good thing that people may recently actually like from Roman Polanski.

A writer (Ewan McGregor) stumbles upon a long-hidden secret when he agrees to help former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) complete his memoirs on a remote island after the politician’s assistant drowns in a mysterious accident. In director Roman Polanski’s tense drama, the author realizes that his discovery threatens some very powerful people who will do anything to ensure that certain episodes from Lang’s past remain buried.

This is a film directed by every little boys, and girls favorite director……..Roman Polanski!! I feel bad for the guy, I mean his whole family was basically killed in the Holocaust, and his wife, along with soon to be child, were both murdered by those crazy-ass Manson followers. However, I’m not sticking up for the guy. I still do think what he has done in the past was wrong, and should not be praised for.

But away from his personal life, Polanski is a very good director. Mainly at suspense. I haven’t seen many of his films, but the ones I have seen from him (The Pianist, Chinatown) have all kept me on the edge of my seat. And while this one, isn’t as great as them too, it’s still tensely directed by Polanski. He really does know how to slowly build-up suspense within a film, and sometimes in the most depressing places. I don’t think once during this whole film, the sun came out.

Still, despite this film actually doing a pretty good job of keeping me suspended, the script could have done so much better. There were too many points in this film where the script just seemed too average for this type of subject. I liked how it kind of felt like an old school, hard-boiled, detective story, but it never goes anywhere beyond that, and just sticks to its certain limitations. I was also wondering too whether or not this was one of Polanski’s ways of saying a big old “f**k you” to the U.S., but whatever it was, he’s trying to say something, which I’m still kind of confused by.

I also did like Polanski’s direction, but I think he uses way too much of the suspenseful score, when it really wasn’t needed. There were plenty of moments that were terribly suspenseful, and it didn’t need some sort of music to get me like that. I think if he used no score, this film would have still been as equally as suspenseful.

Ewan McGregor does a pretty strong job here as our ghost, and although he isn’t the underdog we can stand behind, and cheer for while he’s trying to show all these corrupt assholes for what they really are, you can’t stop watching him, and does a good job. Pierce Brosnon is good here also, providing a lot of surprisingly tense scenes every time he’s on screen. It almost kind of brings us away from the fact that it’s James Bond playing the Prime Minister. Olivia Williams does an effective job as the broken-down Prime Minister’s wife, having plenty of emotional scenes. Kim Cattrall is also in this, and I almost for a second, forget she was Samantha Jones, cause she was actually very good. You’ll also notice other familiar faces in this film like Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, and a very bald James Belushi. Never thought I’d see him in anything again.

Consensus: Certainly not one of Polanski’s best, but not his worst, The Ghost Writer is still very tense, suspenseful, and well acted, even though it may not keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

7/10=Rental!!

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Looked like it was a lot of fun for the crew, but I wish it was as fun for me.

Journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) latches onto an unbelievable story in Iraq when he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a man of mysterious origins who reveals he was a “warrior monk” trained by the U.S. Army to develop psychic powers. Jeff Bridges co-stars as Lyn’s mentor, the man who dreamed up the top-secret operation.

The film starts of saying, “trust us, much more of this story is true than you would believe” which is odd as we believe very little of it, actually we believe none of it, full stop. Which then the film then tries and gets you to buy in to the story, and whether you believe in it or not, you admire it, and you really enjoy it. And that’s where I think the film does its best at. It contains a lot of original and fun ideas at how these soldiers are trained.

The problem with the film is that it dives too much into dark humor and satire, that is pretty hit-and-completely miss. When it comes to making a joke on the war at hand now, this doesn’t bring out the best statement. I think some of the jokes were funny, but others were just completely confusing, cause I didn’t know whether or not if it was a joke, or the story itself was actually serious.

Most of the anguish in this film comes from its all over the place tone. I think audiences, including myself won’t know what to take as funny, because the trailers had it all out to be a knee-slapping fun fest of laughter, but when you get to the film, all you see is a bunch of jokes focused on McGregor and Star Wars jokes, because get it, he was in the film. Oh the laughter. It doesn’t get compelling at all, and once its over your not totally taken away by the story itself. And it almost feels like the film was afraid to get edgy at all, and why, I don’t know. It had the R rating and if it went over that edge, the film probably would have been a funnier film.

However, if there was one thing to praise the most in this film it would have to be its hilarious cast. McGregor can’t get the right accent as an American, but he does play the lead with enough insight into his own character, to actually have us care for him, and like him a lot more than the beginning had it out to be. Clooney is simply hilarious as the quirky Lyn, and although he still feels like George Clooney, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t still entertaining. Kevin Spacey is given a lesser role, and does OK with the material he’s given it’s just I wished there was more for him to show. off. Bridges is basically playing The Dude in uniform, and well it works almost every time.

Consensus: A future cult classic, The Men Who Stare at Goats could have been better given the right tone, touch, and writing, but still has enough funny moments, with enough good performance to satisfy, though it still disappoints.

5/10=Rental!!!

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

I don’t care what you people say, I FREAKIN’ LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!

Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star of the Moulin Rouge and the city’s most famous courtesan, is caught between the love of a young writer and another man’s obsession. Christian (Ewan McGregor) is a writer who finds himself plunged into this decadent world where anything goes – except falling in love.

When it comes to some of the greatest musicals of all-time, I think this would have a nice spot on my list.

I love this movie just because of how it is, without being anything else. Director Baz Luhrmann is the real star of this movie because he doesn’t follow all these other musicals that are known. He uses licensed songs such as “Like A Virgin”, “Heroes”, and “Your Song”. The film isn’t afraid to be silly when it needs to but its not all the fun that gets this film really at me, its more about the true story of love. The film is so original with everything it does, because it doesn’t play by the same rules all other musicals do, it basically is laying down the ground that this is what film should be: fun. It has a plot from 1400s operas, look from 1950s broadway productions, and it has a visual style from current music videos.

The film obviously takes some notes from Romeo & Juliet (Luhrmann directed that back in 1996), because this is also about forbidden love, but is also about the joys and also the tragic heart-breaks that love can effect you with.

I have to mostly credit the way this film looks cause this world that they live in, is very unrealistic, but it seems all too much fun. I actually wanted to go there and live in this place as this film was going on. The set designs look so lavish, with all the beautiful colors and costumes coming right at you, bringing this whole world of fun, love, and heart break to glorious life.

The songs are what makes this film great, because as I mentioned before, its licensed songs. The songs that they choose for these particular moments in the film, work so well, and actually seem like they could be real songs that these people were actually singing. They combine a lot of different variety of music, like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Roxanne” but most of it all works so well here.

The performances from this whole cast are just stunning, cause not only is it their real acting that’s good, but all of them can basically sing. McGregor plays his lead character with so much charm, but yet so much unknowings about love, and thats why it makes him a great protagonist to cheer for. The real show here is Kidman who is just a total knock-out with her performance. She plays this character with so much beauty, charisma, and also tragedy without once hamming it up for the camera. The way the two interact with each other on-screen seems so real and genuine that its hard not to want these two together in the end. If anything the only problem I had with this film was that its main villain played by Richard Roxburgh seemed too cartoonish at points, and I couldn’t take him seriously as a bad guy.

Consensus: Moulin Rouge! is a musical that is fun, energetic, and so original with an inspired direction from Luhrmann, beautiful performances from McGregor and Kidman, and great look, feel, and sound that its hard not to love this film and hail it as one f the all-time best.

10/10=Full Pricee!!!!

Stay (2005)

I don’t think you could stay in any bit of sanity after watching this.

When a psychologist’s (Ewan McGregor) suicidal client starts making bizarre predictions that, to everyone’s mounting consternation, begin to come true. Now, the shrink must race against the clock to save everything he loves before it disappears forever.

The film has a very intriguing psychological twist which I do enjoy from a lot of films. Vanilla Sky and The Sixth Sense are great films that I love to think about in films, but this one doesn’t do it that right.

To start off with something good if you want to see this film do it for the visuals. They are stunning, and create a mood with the film, as the camera shifts everyone once in awhile as something just doesn’t seem right. The color green in this film is shown throughout the whole movie and is really cool to see the color put in all ways different ways throughout the film.

However, as stunning as the visuals were, I just felt like they were put in for no good reason. I felt as if they were put in at times just to be put in and be over the top and try and have us confused about a story that is already confusing as it is.

The film tries a little too hard to be good, creepy fun, but about half way through the film I found myself so uninterested with this story and these characters that I almost just fell asleep. I think that the story wouldn’t have been too confusing if the film wasn’t giving out a lot of misguided clues that didn’t really fit well with the story.

Director Marc Foster shows his true talents of not knowing how to make an effective script at all. The film’s lines in this film are so cheesy and cliched that I couldn’t help myself to laugh by how dumb these lines were being put in.

Though the screenplay is pretty crappy, Stay actually has some good acting. Ewan McGregor is very effective and shows that he can keep a story together even if he does have cheesy lines, and Naomi Watts, as much as she was barely in does a very acceptable job playing his once suicidal girlfriend. Though, Ryan Gosling I think gives the knockout performance as he is very taunting but very believable that this guy is so good at playing with this guy’s mind that you actually start to like him out of all the characters.

The ending is so worthless. The payoff is so weak that after watching this film I felt that this whole movie of 1 hour and 39 minutes was just a total waste of time and in the end pointless.

Consensus: Though visually dazzling and some credible acting, Stay suffers from a bad screenplay, worthless payoff, and ultimately a film you will lose interest for halfway through.

3/10=SomeOleBullSShittt!!!!

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