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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Forrest Gump

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

Good call on making it Lee Daniels’ The Butler, because there would have been a whole lot of confusion differentiating this movie, from the 1916 short film of the same name.

The years from 1952 to 1986 saw a lot of change. Change in economy; change in society; change in people; change in politics; and just change in general. However, the one thing that didn’t change in this world was Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), and the job that he had as a White House butler. Remember though, he was the butler for more than 8 presidential terms, and saw them all: He started with Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ended with Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), and witnessed all of the change, the turmoil, the happiness, the problems, and all of the social happenings that occurred in our country, and had the best seat in the house. However, on his home-front, away from the very white, very rich people who lived in the nation’s capitol, Cecil Gaines found it a little hard to keep everybody in his happy, mainly his drunken wife (Oprah Winfrey) and rebellious, but racially-inspired son (David Oyelowo).

When you see a movie like The Butler (which I will continue to call it for the rest of this review), you have to know what you’re getting yourself into right from the start. Obviously its going to be predictable, ham-handed, preachy, episodic, and beyond earnest, but that’s what you expect with something that people are considering “The Civil Rights movement meets Forrest Gump“, right? But like with most movies of this type of nature, if you can get past all of the politics of what the story’s trying to get across, then you can actually find yourself a bit touched by this story, even a little inspired. Nope, I am not black and nope, I am not a Civil Rights activist that still fights to this day, but I’ll be damned if this movie didn’t make me want to raise my fist up to the white man!

"Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He's scaring the shit out of me."

“Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He’s scaring the shit out of me.”

What’s very strange about this movie though, and what ultimately does it itself in, is that it’s seemingly two movies spliced into one, 2-hour-long feature. One is a flick about a meek and kind butler working for these rich, white politicians who are sometimes as mean a they come; while the other is a flick about a father and a son who obviously love and care for one another, but can’t find an agreement on where they both stand when it comes to the Civil Rights movement, and what needs to be done in order to get the same respect and gratitude that the white man’s been practically getting forever. One’s very interesting, if a little conventional, while the other is surprisingly well-told, and holds most of the core emotions that Lee Daniels himself has this flick bottle-up, just in hopes that it will eventually cork right open and have everybody crying in their seats.

Eventually the cork does come flying out and the emotions do run high, but it could have hit harder, had the other-half of this movie not been so coincidental.

And yes, I do get that if Gaines’ story didn’t have some sort of meaning in the grander scheme of things, then ultimately, we wouldn’t have a freakin’ flick; but some of this is just a little too hard to let slide by. A couple of scenes with Gaines and the president-at-the-time felt honest, realistic, and believable (mainly the ones with JFK, played very well by James Marsden, who not only looks, but feels the part, for as short of a running-time as he gets), but others just claw their nails into your face, just trying their hardest to get a tear out of you. The scenes with Nancy and Ronald Reagan mean well, but end up somehow spitting in the face of both of those familiar faces, making them seem more like fame-whores, rather than actual humans, that were considered at one time, the saviors of this country. I guess hating on Nixon is all fair game by now, but the Reagans? Really?!?! Oh well, maybe it’s just me, but something with their story left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

But then of course we have the stronger-half of the movie: The father-son drama, that’s more compelling than it ought to be. I don’t know who to chalk up the credit to for this part of the movie working the most, so I’ll just give it to all involved with it. Firstly, Lee Daniels has never really impressed me with anything he’s done yet as a director, mainly because the dude’s nowhere near being subtle. Even Precious, as dramatic as it was, was completely over-the-top and got away with it all, because it was adapted from something people consider “truer than art”. Didn’t see that at all, but whatever. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid on that notion, but hey, I guess it’s time to get blind-sided every once and awhile, right?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Daniels doesn’t pull as many punches here, and it shows. When he keeps it grounded in a sense of comforting reality, you feel closer to these characters and have an emotional-placement in them and what it is that they do. Sometimes Daniels gets a little too over-his-head with various cuts to news footage of the South, where it was practically legal to kill a black person (only if you were a white person that is), but overall, the guy made sure that his story stayed on track and never lost sight of what he was really trying to tell us here. Maybe Gaines’ story didn’t impact the world like Daniels thinks it does, but it definitely is a story worth telling, especially on the big screen, and you can tell that Daniels loves that fact and doesn’t want to lose us, or our interest.

Like I was saying though, the aspect of this movie that mainly keeps it going throughout is the father-son relationship between Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo, two actors who give their best work in a long time, especially for the former, who has been churning out dull-role-after-dull-role ever since he won “The Big One” way back in ’06. Both characters, Cecil and Louis, are fighting a fight and doing it all for a cause; and that’s racism. But what separates one from the other is how they’re doing it. Cecil stays loyal, workable, and dedicated to his job, just to show that a black man can make a living in the White House, even if he isn’t at the head of it; while Louis, on the other hand, believes that taking to the streets is the one, and possibly only, way to get your voice heard and to make matters finished. At first, when he’s teaming-up with MLK, it’s all about resilience and control, but once the man gets assassinated, and Malcom X takes over the wheel, then it all becomes about violence, installing fear into society, and doing a whole bunch of other questionable acts that would end anyone in a slammer, regardless of their skin-color.

"Don't worry baby, I'll just buy you the White House."

“Don’t worry baby, I’ll just buy you the White House. I mean, cause Christ, I’m Oprah, bitch!”

Anyway though, I’m avoiding the fact that these two, despite them being both father and son, are fighting the same battle. They want to speak their minds and be heard for the rest of the world to take notice of, but are doing it completely differently, if not at the same time. But they don’t disagree with how either goes about it, and that just causes more friction between the two, even when they aren’t together. It’s very clever how Daniels stretches this aspect of their story, and it never gets old or over-done, especially since Whitaker and Oyelowo inject their characters with some real-life heart and trouble. Whitaker gives the type of tour-de-force performance that always is able to get his name noticed come Oscar season, but it’s mainly Oyelowo who shows us that he’s capable of taking someone who’s a little too young and brass to fully get a grip on the world, and still be arrogant about it. Yet, at the same time, still fully gain our sympathy because we know his heart is in the right place, it’s just that he doesn’t have the total understanding on what the world means or where it’s going to end up. Pretty interesting stuff once you think about it, and thankfully, Daniels doesn’t hammer that idea in too much, to where it practically becomes over-shadowing everything else; even if it still does, unintentionally so.

And the rest of the ensemble is great too, if not a bit too stacked for it’s own good. Going into this movie, I felt like I was going to be annoyed to high heavens of Oprah Winfrey here as Cecil’s wife, Gloria, all because it seemed like a piece of stunt-casting used just to get the movie’s name out there more and more for the rest of the world to see (because honestly: Everybody loves Oprah!). I have no qualms with Oprah, but it seemed like a dumb idea to cast her here, if not a very obvious one. However, the woman totally shocked the hell out of me with her portrayal here because she never over-does it, always brings out something new within this character, and charmed me with every scene she was in. Heck, she even made me forget I was watching Oprah act as somebody that wasn’t Oprah! Didn’t think it would happen, and nearly thought I was doomed once I saw her face on the big screen, but she sure did show my pretentious ass. Glad she did, too.

Also, glad to see my main man, Cuba Gooding Jr., getting more work and still being able to knock it out of the park. Take note, Hollywood. The man may be on his comeback trail. Guess Daddy Day Camp wasn’t such the career-killer everybody thought it was….okay, yeah, it was. But still, he’s back, baby!

Consensus: Lee Daniels’ The Butler touches plenty of schmaltz throughout it’s 2-hour running-time, but does it so in a way that will actually compel you, while also serving a history-lesson on how far we’ve come as a nation, and how many times we’ve screwed-up in the past. However, the future looks bright and that’s something I feel that is worth seeing, especially during these hard times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

When he isn't responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

When he isn’t responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

Photos Credit to: IMDBCollider, JobloComingSoon.net

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The Elephant Man (1980)

It’s like Forrest Gump, had it been directed by David Lynch. And instead of a box of chocolates, it was life-like bunny rabbits.

Rescued from his degrading life as a circus freak, John Merrick (John Hurt) is given a chance by a dedicated surgeon (Anthony Hopkins) to live his last years with comfort, respect, and dignity. But since life has not been so kind to John Merrick, he finds it hard to open-up to the rest of the world and let others in. Then again, can ya blame him when you look like this?!?!

David Lynch is a guy that I can never wrap my head around as to whether or not I like him, or just find him bat-shit crazy. Mulholland Drive had me for the first hour or so, then just totally lost me after about the box came into play; Dune just sucked and was a film I wish I couldn’t understand, just to add some more interest to it; Wild at Heart is strange, but very engrossing with its themes and different genres; and Blue Velvet is a very strange, dark tale that worked for me mainly because of Dennis Hopper. I know, I haven’t seen all of his movies, but from what I have seen, it’s been a pretty tough act to love, let alone enjoy. However, I think I can add this one to the list of “good Lynch movies” or “enjoyably pleasant ones”.

What sets this film apart from all of Lynch’s other flicks is that it’s not all that concerned with messing with the minds of the audience, as much as it’s actually more concerned about creating a story about a man that has an obvious set-back in his life, but finds anyway possible to get past that and live the life he wants to. Lynch focuses on Merrick and gives us a story that is not only inspiring, but is also very true in the questions and ideas it brings up about how it is to be human. People look at Merrick and see an “animal”, or a “creature”, and write him off as “stupid” just because of the way he looks. However, like every idiot-savant in movies like this (in real-life, I don’t know if they exist), we start to see more of a human-being behind the look and it’s an mesmerizing thing to watch.

Some form of the KKK, I guess.

The KKK for those who are less-fortunate than us.

However, that is definitely not the case because once Merrick starts to actually talk, we all start to realize that this man is brilliant and one that many of us should look up to considering he doesn’t once ask for any pity whatsoever. Nope, this guy just wants to move on with his life and get past the fact that everywhere he goes, somebody will be staring at him and try wondering what the hell is up with his face and body. To be honest, I’d wonder and probably stare too, but I wouldn’t be as rude about it as some of these people are because I’d realize something fairly quickly: this guy’s a human-being and has feelings like any other human. It’s very hard for anybody to feel and act like this in life, and it’s even harder for a guy like Merrick, but he somehow lives this life-style the whole way through and you are ultimately pulled in right from the start. This is mostly thanks to Lynch’s directing skills because he’s able to play everything straight, while still have a little bit of his weirdness here and there. But Lynch never loses himself and always keep his heart in the right place to give us a story that is one for us all to remember and feel touched by. Sounds strange that this is coming from the same dude who gave us a Naomi Watts lesbian scene, but that’s the whole beauty of this film and what Lynch can do as a director.

But also, that was also my one big problem with this flick. See, as much as Lynch dedicated this flick to being one hell of a story about a man with problems, he still brings in all of these freak-show elements that kind of make this film more confusing than it has any right to be. The first five minutes, we get the signature, Lynch freak-out scene but then it doesn’t come around again until the middle, where Lynch starts touching on all of these freak-shows and other themes of his like the night of the obscure and some strange, sexual obsessions that people have. This wouldn’t seem like something as bad to include in one of his total, mind-fuck movies we all know and sometimes, love him for, but when you place it in a film like this, it seems a little cheap. Also, based on the story we have here, it’s very confusing for a viewer to fully understand just what the hell it is that you are trying to say in the first place. Once again though, it is Lynch we are talking about here and the guy’s never been a fully-sane, fully-functioning person to begin with.

But then again, that’s why we have characters to look at and what a character John Merrick is. Not only is Merrick an inspirational-figure in real-life, but also in this movie and wouldn’t be that way if it wasn’t for John Hurt in this almost unrecognizable role here. The makeup job is done perfectly here and captures exactly what the real person looked like (actually, that guy was worse looking it seems) and I could have only imagined how much of a bitch it must have been for Hurt to have to constantly put that on, day after day. But regardless of how annoying it must have been for him, Hurt still gives off a powerful performance and totally transforms himself into Merrick, whole also actually down-playing the role with ease and subtlety. It’s hard to be subtle when you have a shit-ton of make-up and costumes on, but Hurt is able to capture a sincere presence with his eyes. Oh, those enchanting eyes. Shame that this guy hasn’t fully gotten his due yet from the Academy, but hopefully he will soon.

"Hold me?"

“Hold me?”

Anthony Hopkins, another legend on the big-screen, is also very good in a role that seems very fit for him: Frederick Treves. Treves is a character that thinks he is doing the right thing by going around and showing off Merrick to other people, only to realize that he is pretty much doing the same exact thing to him with these meetings, as the last guy was doing with all of those “freak-shows”. It’s one of those characters that hits the dilemma of doing the right thing, but soon realizes he’s way too in over-his-head. But yet, Hopkins always keeps him loveable and for the most part, a guy that’s easy to fall back on, even when shit seems to get a little too hectic for Mr. Merrick. If there was any problem I had with Hopkins, it’s that he always has that frozen look in his eyes where you don’t quite know if he’s nice or just scary underneath all of the glitz, glamour, and charm, but it works for this character and still makes it easy enough for us to care about this guy because he means well, even if others may view it differently.

Consensus: With a surprisingly straight-forward direction by David Lynch, a pair of great performances from Hurt and Hopkins, and an inspirational story at the heart of it all, The Elephant Man is a wonderful flick that will make you feel for it’s main subject but also realize what it’s like to be a human, and what it takes to care for the other humans around you as well.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Proof that Bradley can do it all.

Proof that Bradley can do it all. Kind of.

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.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)

This will probably bring up a lot of awkward questions about where babies come from and how they’re made. Questions I look forward to answering.

The film stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as an happily married couple who have been unable to conceive a child and are ready to give up. One night after a bit too much wine, they fantasize about what their ideal child would be and bury a box with all these wishes in their backyard. Lo and behold, a dirt-covered little boy (CJ Adams) appears on their doorstep the next day.

That’s a pretty strange premise to have and it’s only weirder that the son of Frank Zappa, Ahmet, wrote it himself. However, while his father was inventive and original with what he could with his profession in music, he just so happens to be the total opposite with his.

What bothered the most about this flick was how damn predictable it was. I sort of knew that I was going to get that right from the start going into this, but I wasn’t expecting it this bad. Everything happens in the same ways you would expect it to normally go down in flicks like these, and what’s worse is that I barely got a surprise. The recipes for this family-oriented flick have already been written out and predicted before-hand, and it was only a matter of time until I was throwing money down on what was going to happen next, how, and when. Sadly, it was only me and my grandparents who went to go see this (go ahead, make jokes) and they weren’t down to throw any moolah around but you can bet your sweet-asses if I had gone with a bunch of girls I would have been loaded. With money, that is.

As soon as Timothy shows up in these people’s lives, he somehow makes all of these miraculous dreams and miracles come true but without ever doing anything. Take it for granted, the kid’s a nice kid and has a certain amount of goody-goody charm to him but he doesn’t do anything that could be deemed terribly special to the point of where you actually believe in these townspeople actually standing behind him altogether. I thought that they were going to play this story out as if it was “the Forrest Gump for kids” but even that would have been too much of a stretch for this movie. A lot of belief has to be suspended for these types of films but not so much to where you think people would buy the fact that these people know he has leaves on his legs, and they never choose to say anything. Where I come from, that kid would have gotten his ass thrown in so many lockers they would run-out. And don’t even get me started on all of the lunch money he’d lose.

But as terribly formulaic and predictable this all is, it still has a nice message deep-down inside that I couldn’t help but enjoy every time it was on-display. Basically, this film is all about how kids should be themselves, live up to what they want to do, and don’t have anybody ever tell them that they are weird for doing so. I got this message right from my parents when I was a young kid and I’ve been living that way ever since and look where it’s gotten me. I’m no major success in life or anything, but I still have stay trued to myself and the things that I want to do regardless of how weird it may be viewed at as by other people. This message is very prominent in this flick and I hope it is one that gets out to kids, as well as parents so they can tell their kids the same thing.

The real element of this movie that actually won me over was probably the performances from everybody involved, even if their characters may have not been the best that they have ever portrayed. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are awesome as the wife and husband couple that eventually get Timothy Green and they play up this very loving mother and father-combo well, and you could see why they would be great parents to have, especially for a kid with such odd predicaments as Timothy. Garner is fine but it’s Edgerton who really nails it as the fun-loving dad who just wants Timothy to have the love and support from a father-figure that he never had, and that sometimes results in the funnier and more heartfelt scenes of the whole movie. Not saying that there were many, but they still worked mainly because it was Edgerton behind all of them.

I was actually surprised that this kid, CJ Adams, didn’t bother me as much as I was expecting him to. Kids actors aren’t always the best to watch in movies like this, especially those ones that try to sound ultra-smart and cute, but somehow just end up being annoying and that’s what I thought Timothy Green was going to end up being. Thankfully, he’s not and this young blood, Adams, plays him very well by giving him a conscience that’s easy to stand-behind. Also, without sounding terribly effin’ creepy, the kid’s very cute and will probably have a lot of young girls swooning over him. I was like that once, but then I started to get facial hair. That’s when it all went South for me.

Everybody else in this cast is fine too, the only problem is that they aren’t giving characters that are worth paying much attention to, even though the film tries to make us see otherwise. Ron Livingston easily steals every scene that he’s in as Edgerton’s boss, but his character is played off as this one-note dickhead that we don’t really care what happens to him or what lesson he learns; Rosemarie DeWitt (who is almost this year’s Jessica Chastain with how many times I’ve seen her show up in random shit) plays Garner’s younger sister that believes all of her kids are miraculous and so much better than what they really are, and she’s alright with the role but she is another one that feels too one-notey for us to care about; David Morse has a very interesting character as Edgerton’s dead-beat daddy that was barely ever there for him when he needed him the most, and actually gives it his all even though by the end of the film, his character is sort of wasted in a bunch of false sentimental moments that don’t do much development for his character, or Edgerton’s for that matter; and Dianne Wiest, as great as she may be, she gives off one of the biggest one-note pieces of trash in this whole movie and seemed way too mean and cruel to be a chick that these many people would put up with, let alone have her as the head of the city council. There’s plenty of other familiar faces to be seen here, but they’re all given characters that don’t really seem like you should care about at all and the film takes too much of its focusing on them, when they could be focusing more on Timothy and his so-called “parents”.

Consensus: Though it is well-acted and features a nice message for the whole family, The Odd Life of Timothy Green just doesn’t bring any surprises, emotional resonance, or any type of extravagant characters to hold onto. Still, it’s bearable to sit through and won’t kill you to check out on a rainy, Sunday afternoon.

5/10=Rental!!

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Never thought I would say this, but I missed Tobey.

The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. Oh yeah, and he’s also Spider-Man. Can’t forget about that one, little detail.

Before I start this review off, I have to give a little disclaimer and say that I have a special place in my heart for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. That’s right, even the 3rd one to an extent. So this review may be a bit biased in some points and if that is the case, I apologize but I just can’t believe they actually went through with this idea. I mean honestly, you couldn’t wait 5 more years!?!?

Anywhoo, what interested me most about this reboot was the fact that it’s helmed randomly by Marc Webb (director of one of my favorite flicks from 2009, ((500) Days of Summer). When people saw JGL (Joseph Gordon-Levitt for all of you noobs out there) walking down the streets, singing and dancing to the tunes of Hall & Oates, I highly doubt the thing on everybody’s mind was “ooh, I wonder how cool that would be with webs shooting out of that guy’s hands”. What I’m trying to say is that Webb (oh wait, now I get it) seemed like a very random and odd choice for this flick, but I can’t say that he doesn’t bring something fun to this film either. All of that quirky, indie style from his debut is lost here but there is still plenty of room for him to relish in the art of telling the Spider-Man story, the way he thinks is right and do what he wants, just as long as he doesn’t piss off all of the fan boys who want to see this.

The film is claiming to be “the untold story”, when in reality, it’s just a re-working on the same origin story we’ve seen before. Like for instance, instead of a Peter Parker being bitten in the lab because he was on a class field trip, he is in there because he secretly, sneaked into an internship meeting there. Or, instead of having Parker just shoot webs from his veins, he now has mechanical webshooters that pretty much do the same thing. These are the types of “re-workings” we see in this flick and it’s not so bad considering a lot of it makes more sense and gives us a better look at why the Spider-Man superhero is so damn popular and loved in the first place. There is a bunch of humor here, some of which, annoyed the hell out of me, but other times worked and gave this film a fun little feel.

Actually, I can’t really bag on this film as much because it seems like that’s all Webb is concerned about here: having fun. And no matter what the story may be, I’m down with that. There’s plenty of cool-looking action scenes where it’s just Spidey, doing his good olde, mono-a-mono showdown between him and a baddy, and some really beautiful scenes where we see him just fly through the sky, where New York City is pretty much his playground. Some real nifty stuff to see and have fun with here, and it’s also enhanced by some amazing-looking CGI that doesn’t really come off as fake. I saw this in 3D Imax and I have to say, it’s pretty good but I wouldn’t go out and pay for it only because there isn’t so much here that’s worth that extra-dimension. Then again, that could be said for a whole bunch of other flicks with that tagline; “in 3D”.

However, as fun as a lot of the action may be, there’s not as much as you would expect, especially when it comes to a Summer blockbuster. Maybe that’s not the right thing to say, because there is plenty of action and adventure for you to sink your teeth into, but then there are also these other, quieter moments where it’s just focusing on Parker and Stacy’s love relationship that are not only awkward as hell to watch, but don’t feature any type of fun dialogue to keep you interested. They sort of just show up, stay on-screen, and bother the hell out of you because you just want to see The Lizard and Spidey duke it out once again. I don’t mind when a film, let alone a superhero film, is trying to go into more depth about its main character, but when it’s done in a flick where you should be expecting, non-stop action all over the place, then that’s where the problem lies. Basically, just too slow for a superhero film.

What is very watchable throughout these boring scenes, is actually the eclectic cast that Webb has brought together and being lead by Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Garfield plays a different type of Parker than from what we saw with Tobey Maguire. Instead of coming off as a total nerd, that can’t do anything right because he wears glasses and loves science, Garfield makes him seem like this lost soul that just keeps to himself and doesn’t really care what goes on around him. Yeah, he’s a little strange because he’s always taking pictures of things, but he’s got a certain edge to him that makes him seem a lot cooler than you would expect Peter Parker actually to seem like in the first place. I think that Garfield goes a little too far with his humor in this film, but then again, that can’t really be blamed on him because he’s obviously doing everything in his soul to be the different type of Peter Parker we are used to seeing.

Emma Stone is here as Gwen Stacy, Parker’s apple of his eye, and does a pretty swell job with what she is given and thankfully, as my friend at the screening I was at pointed out, wasn’t playing the usual “damsel in distress” role that we usually see ladies in superhero flicks usually play. She is actually pretty tough and smart, and can stick up for herself whenever the time comes. Her and Garfield have a little awkward chemistry going on here, but I think that’s what’s the point of this flick. Rhys Ifans does a nice job as our villain, The Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors. Ifans can always play these bad-guy roles and this one is no different, except his CGI starts to be a little distracting by the end. Actually, it makes him look like The Hulk and I don’t know if Sony wanted that on their hands after all of The Avengers buzz that still seems to be going on. Seriously, how much more money does that movie need to make?

The casting of Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, seemed like an awesome bit of casting because Sheen just has this “old-timer likability” thing going on for him, that it doesn’t matter what role he plays, you love him regardless. That’s why everybody was so shocked when he got thrown off the roof in The Departed, because everybody loves that guy, who would want to do such a mean and cruel thing to him? Sally Field is here as Aunt May and as hard as she may try, she seems too young for an Aunt and all of the advice she gives out, makes it seem like she’s doing Mamma Gump, all over again. Another bit of inspired casting was actually Denis Leary as Captain Stacy, mainly because the guy shows that he still has the comedic chops to pull off some very funny moments, but can also make a rather, deuchy character, still likable and understandable.

Despite all of these awesome and great elements that this film featured (action, acting, humor, CGI, special effects, etc.), I still couldn’t get past the Sam Raimi movies, and I’ll tell you exactly why. I’m 18 right now, so I was about 7 when the first one came out and I loved it to death. Then that second one came out, and gee-goll-e, did that knock my socks off even more! Then that third one came out, and even though it was definitely not on-par with the other two that came before it, it was still fun and endearing enough to keep me locked on to what was going to happen next with Peter Parker. Honestly, that original series from Raimi will always be in my childhood and I was so mad when they decided to go through with this reboot, really I was. It was a total cash-grab, in my opinion, and as fun as this film may be, I still couldn’t stop thinking about the original flicks. Whenever Garfield was flying through the sky, I kept on thinking about Tobey doing the same thing. Whenever Uncle Ben would show up, I kept on thinking about Cliff Robertson delivering the all-time famous line, “With great power comes great responsibility”. And whenever somebody mentioned Oscorp, Willem Dafoe automatically popped right into my head. Really, the memories from all of my movie-watching from back in the day really made me miss those flicks and also made me want to go watch them again. So maybe this flick wasn’t for me since I loved the originals so much, but honestly, I just wish they never went through this in the first-place. Or at least waited 5 more years so that everybody’s minds were fresh and clear of Raimi and Maguire. Miss them already.

Consensus: The Amazing Spider-Man is exactly what you come to expect from a superhero flick: fun, action-packed, wild and crazy set pieces, baddies doing bad things, goodies doing good things, romantic love story, and some little shots of humor to liven everything up. Problem is, this is a reboot of a series that has already had its movies, and were ones that still stay stuck in my mind no matter what.

7/10=Rental!!

Crank (2006)

It’s what it would be like for Forrest if he took coke before his big run.

The film centers on a British hitman in Los Angeles named Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) who is poisoned and must keep his adrenaline flowing constantly in order to keep himself alive, and in so doing causes mayhem, gets into fights with other gangsters, has altercations with the police and takes numerous drugs.

Take the basic concept of ‘Speed’ mix it up with a little bit of ‘Oldboy’ and throw in some ‘Falling Down’ for good measure, and there you have Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor directorial debuts. Sounds crazy, which it is.

This action film is pretty cool considering it has a concept that is used well and isn’t taken seriously one bit. The humor here ranges from deadpan, to tongue-in-cheek, and then surprisingly to dark material as we see some innocent bystanders get thrown into the deaths for good measure. There were moments where I actually found myself laughing at this flick and what it was doing, and I think the film was doing that along with me. The dialogue is definitely a lot snappier and cooler than we come to expect from our average action flick so we are spared the bad dialogue and attempt at character development, and instead we get blood, gore, and lots and lots of violence.

The action in this flick also works mainly because of the direction from these two dudes, who give the film this style that is actually one of the first to use this kind. These guys use a bunch of crazy techniques like the shaky-cam, to four-way split screens, and then to some graphics and special effects that you would see in video games, which all may take awhile to get used to after awhile but keep this film’s energetic and frenetic pace moving at a quick speed. It was also great to actually Quiet Riot and NOFX on a movie soundtrack, so that’s definitely a plus.

My only problem with this flick is that I feel like they kind of dropped the ball sometimes on their own premise. It seems like half-way through that these guys sort of forgot that Chelios had to keep on moving at a rapid pace in order to stay alive because there were plenty moments here when he would actually tries to slow things down and talk to the bad guys. This happens a numerous amount of times and I also just felt like they could have definitely done more of him ass-kicking people as well. I mean yeah, we get to see him shoot people but we never actually get to see a fist-fight every once and awhile but then again, maybe that’s just me being weird expecting more from a film called ‘Crank’.

Jason Statham definitely made this film work with his whole performance as Chelios because he’s the perfect kind of action star that can make you laugh your ass off at, but the next second he could totally scare the shit out of you by how scary and serious he can be. Statham has to do a lot of crazy things here like snorting and injecting just about everything in sight, running around the city half-naked, and even boning his girl in front of all of these Chinese people, and he makes it all work because he never seems to take himself too seriously here. Statham is the perfect fit for this kind of role and it was also even cooler to hear that he did his own stunts, which is always a bonus for me.

Amy Smart is playing that woman-in-peril act as Chelios’s girlfriend, Eve, but she’s good in this role because she actually adds a lot of sexiness to her role and her and Statham actually a have a nice little chemistry that seems playful but also very sexxed up. I wish the villains were a lot badder but then again, I don’t think it much mattered considering all I wanted to do was see Statham run around like a wild banshee, and that is exactly what I got.

Consensus: Crank may have some slow parts here and there, but its still a fun, energetic, and not-so serious thrill ride that knows what it is and isn’t trying to be anything else. Also helps that you have Jason Statham in your lead role too but then again, that’s always a given.

7/10=Rental!!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

Hey, if this Jeopardy contestant can do a film why can’t any other one? Anybody have Ken Jennings’ number?

This film centers on Oskar (Thomas Horn), a precocious 11-year old boy whose father (Tom Hanks) died in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a mysterious key that belonged to him and decides to look for the lock that fits the key, convinced that his father left a message for him somewhere in the city.

Way back when, I remember seeing the trailer for this flick and actually thinking it could have been a big Oscar contender. Now I think that was probably because of that awesome U2 song they put in it. No you know what, it definitely was.

Director Stephen Daldry makes his fourth film in only eleven years and tries his hardest here. He has this little style of his throughout the whole film that constantly speeds up the camera and has us moving around the plot as if we were inside the mind of our young protagonist. It was pretty cool for Daldry to actually take this approach and give this idea a shot but it just couldn’t do much to get our minds pass the suckiness of the story itself.

The problem with this story is that too much of it doesn’t feel genuine at all. The story starts off a bit promising with some believability but then once Oskar starts his own little quest, everything just really feels thin. Eric Roth made the screenplay and he uses a lot of the same tricks he used with other scripts like ‘Forrest Gump’ or ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ but it can only go so far when you have a plot that tries hard to be involving and emotional. There are also plenty of other times where the film seems to throw these huge vocabulary words at us without any real meaning or need and even though it may look good on paper, when it’s being put to a film and only focused on for about a couple of seconds, it doesn’t quite work as well.

The main reason why this film’s story didn’t feel real or involve me in anyway was because of that kid that you see gracing his whole face on the poster up-top. Oskar is a neurotic 11 year-old who doesn’t fit in, has a phobia of just about everything outside of his room, and actually gets tested for Asperger’s which he actually says that results were inconclusive, but then again, I do have my doubts about that. The film is actually being marketed as Bullock and Hanks flick but this is all Thomas Horn as Oskar, and it’s definitely an annoying trip just about the whole way through. This kid is terribly annoying because it’s very obvious that he can’t act right from the start so basically everything that comes out of his mouth seems bratty, obnoxious, and always way too smart for his own age kind of kid. He is just right in front of our face the whole entire time and it’s very bothersome especially since this kid never feels like a real kid at heart so everything that he goes through for the whole 2 hours and 10 minutes, just feels implausible as if it was almost a sure fantasy.

I think more of the blame for this should be actually put on Daldry himself considering he was the one who cast this damn kid. There are a lot of scenes where this kid has to yell, scream, and basically rant on about what’s going through his mind and why which I know is supposed to make us feel his angst, sadness, confused state of mind but after awhile it’s a little too hard to watch. I know that it may be terribly mean for me to base this off of a kid, let alone a first-time performer, but he is just really going all out with these little sch-peels he has which it almost reminds me of the one that Edward Norton did in a far-superior post-9/11 flick, ’25th Hour’. The reason why I blame Daldry for this kid was because he never really seemed to help this kid through any of his scenes. He just sort of left him out there to dry and try his hardest to get any type of emotion out of the audience but instead it just takes away so much from the film overall. Daldry focused a little bit too much on his visuals and a lot less on the actual main character himself. Shame on you Mr. Daldry.

The rest of this star-studded cast are all pretty good but they are barely around. Sandra Bullock is quite good as Oskar’s mother who actually has this big scene towards the end where she lets it all out and it works very well mainly because Bullock is a very good actress. Tom Hanks plays Oskar’s father who is mainly shown through flash-backs and he plays up the likableness that always wins with any audience but he is barely ever shown and even when he is, he’s just goofing around with his son and not doing anything really spectacular. Max von Sydow is probably the best part of this flick with his mute character, and right when he actually shows up is when the flick itself starts to actually warm up. He doesn’t use that voice that everybody knows and loves him for but he uses his skill as an actor in a more subtle way that really made me feel more for him than it did for Oskar. Viola Davis also has her two scenes where she’s good but then again, it’s just about two scenes and that’s it really.

Where the main problem with this film stems from is the fact that the plot makes 9/11 its main catalyst for the story. I know that I can’t really blame the film for this, since its in the novel that its adapted from, but the way the film uses it to get some sort of emotion out of us seems terrible. Oskar’s father could have died in any other way and it wouldn’t have matter in the least bit but the film keeps constantly reminding us of this and after about the tenth time Oskar referred to 9/11 as “that bad day” I wanted to just kick his ass. It also gets worse once the film takes something like a last phone-conversation between two loved ones and makes it just seem like another plot element where in real life, that is something that really meant something. It’s hard to watch for these reasons because it feels a exploitative and I still think that it’s a little too soon for people to be making 9/11 films that try this hard.

Consensus: This is definitely a story worth being told and its cast has its moments where they shine, as well as the story itself, but Daldry’s direction feels too-stylized for this type of material, the main kid is terribly annoying, and the whole plot point about 9/11 feels exploitative and something that could have easily been replaced since it didn’t matter either way what this film used in place of it.

5/10=Rental!!

War Horse (2011)

Damn this kid really loves this horse. I mean he reaaaaaaaaaally loves this horse.

This is a tale of a horse named Joey who is remarkable that he starts off just a little guy in England to then be transported off into the war in France. His owner, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) goes all-over-the-world to come and find him as Joey goes throughout the world, meeting new people and gaining new life experiences.

What director Steven Spielberg has always been able to do is tug at our heart-strings no matter what the story may be. Here, he tries a little too hard for that but in the end it’s too hard to hate on a Spielberg.

The problem right off the bat with this flick was that it gets very corny, very early. You get these moments where we see just how amazing Joey is as he can row out a field, or follow his owner just by hearing a simple bird-call, or even just by walking over a piece of wood and then a huge sweeping score comes in just to let you know how magical and beautiful these moments are when in reality they are just plain and simply cheesy. I think I got the fact that Joey was a horse that was unlike any other, after about the first 10 minutes but the film just kept hammering away at this and it becomes an annoyance after awhile.

Another problem with this flick that I actually think Spielberg ran into himself was the idea of how and who was going to make this appeal to everyone. On one hand you have this very emotional story about a horse who goes through everything that is adapted from a Tony-winning Broadway play, but on the other hand you also have this very grim and disturbing tale with soldiers being killed left-and-right and horses being put away in a not so happy matter after there is no use for them anymore. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s pretty hard to center a film out there that seems like it’s for the whole family, when you have these certain darker moments that may scare away the younger people of the family.

This problem is what leads Spielberg to making a very tame film that gets by with clichés and eye-rolling moments. Take for instance the scenes between the grandfather (Niels Arestrup) with his granddaughter are scenes filled with dialogue that should be playful and come out a bit corny especially when the grandfather tells her a story about a bird flying home, which seemed totally cheesy especially considering the fact that the grandfather was kind of being a dick to her also. There are also plenty of other moments where this film just totally flames you with the manipulative moments that are supposed to make you feel something incredible but instead usually just make you want to punch whoever wrote this film.

However, when it comes to Spielberg, this guy always seems to come out on top no matter what it is that he does. The one element to this film that makes it the most watchable throughout all of these cheesy moments is the beautiful look this film has. Spielberg gives this film the epic scenery it deserves and with so many beautiful colors coming at you in every scene, it’s almost too hard to look away. Spielberg is not only just great in showing how beautiful this film can be but also very gritty as the film starts to get darker as we get more into the war which not only show Spielberg’s fine attention to detail but also how he is able to actually capture the feel of WWII but also WWI, which means that the Vietnam War is only about two movies away from being covered.

The film also shows that even though Spielberg tries to manipulate the hell out of his audiences, he still has that sympathetic bone in his body to make us care about what he is showing us on screen. The whole story basically shows Joey being the horse-version of ‘Forrest Gump’, going from one owner to another and each story somehow getting better and better as it goes on. What this horse Joey goes through is hard to watch sometimes but always made me feel something not just by how great he is, but just how useful he is even though he’s just viewed at as another horse. I’m not going to try to get into the whole “all living things should be treated the same” speech that it seems like I’m leading myself into but regardless of that, the story of Joey will make you feel something deep down inside of you and it’s all thanks to Spielberg because he always knows how to make anybody feel something.

It seems like every person who has seen this film or reviewed it is mentioning the no-man’s land scene between the British soldier and the German soldier where they meet to free Joey from barbed-wire and it really is worth mentioning apart from this flick. This scene is probably one of the best that has been in a Spielberg film in the past 10 years and it shows just how well he is able to show two conflicts being calmed down or resolved just by simply taking it easy or even just coming together to help a certain someone or something that may be in harm’s way. It’s a very powerful scene and one that makes this stand-out from recent war films.

Something else that Spielberg does here that really works is how he barely uses any big-names for his cast but that works incredibly well for the film since it keeps our minds on Joey. Jeremy Irvine is good as Albert and gives him this innocent boy act that works and makes us feel for his character when him and Joey actually get separated; Emily Watson is probably the most familiar face as his mother, and she’s great as well; and Tom Hiddleston is also very good as Captain Nicholls, even though some people may not be able to get past the fact that it’s Loki playing a British war Captain. There are many other performers here but nobody else that really stands out except for Irvine, and even he isn’t anything all that memorable.

Consensus: War Horse is heavy-handed, corny, and built on upon tons and tons of clichés, but somehow Spielberg is able to make this story heart-warming with a beautiful look, and some very good scenes that will make you feel more for this story as it goes along.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Final Destination (2009)

I love how they call this The Final Destination, not Final Destination 4, but THE Final Destination. Like this is going to be the last one.

Young Nick O’Bannon (Bobby Campo) thinks he’s cheated death when he keeps a grisly premonition from becoming reality, saving his friends and himself from being crushed in a catastrophic accident — but the survivors soon realize that fate has other plans.

So if your not familiar with the last three films, or any of the films for that matter, basically the whole film is just one crazy, and cool sequence of a person being killed, one after another.

In all honesty I liked the first, and second one, with the second being my favorite, and the third is just one I didn’t bother seeing at all, but this film just doesn’t feature the type of kick that those two did. I didn’t see it in 3-D, but I can see that the directors just found anyway they could to make the coolest deaths, that would look cool while splashing at the camera. I will admit the death scenes are pretty cool, but compared to the second, and first, their just alright.

The main problem with this film is that the writing is terrible. Everybody talks in this choppy, cliched, tone, as if the writers just took stuff off bumper stickers and wrote it down as dialogue. And what’s even worse is that these people don’t even seem real at all. Like the way they look, and the way they react to their life being in danger. If I knew I was going to die, I think I’d be a little bit more scared, and worried than how all these people were. In the other ones there was actually some comedy that wasn’t too in your face, but this one had none of that, and if they did have some bits of comedy, it was unintentionally cause the dialogue had me cracking up, I kid you not. It’s not scary for horror movies, just really goofy.

The acting is pretty terrible here too. This dude Bobby Campo seems like he could do something with a good script, but this just isn’t that script and he gives a bad performance to say the least. The chicks in this film are pretty bad in this too. I don’t even remember their names, but all I know is that their just terrible, and I kind of wanted some of them to get killed off right away. However, the best of the best is in this film………..get ready for it……….it is…….Mykelti Williamson!!! I bet your all probably wondering “who in the hell is Mykelti Williamson??”. For do not fear my friends, check out this clip and then you will understand who the legend behind the name truly is. Yeah, that’s right, it’s Bubba everybody. I laughed when I saw his name on screen, and when I saw him I just went he finally lives on. I kind of like it when I see guys like Mykelti get material like this, not as bad as this, but enough exposure, for everybody to see that you’re still alive and working.

Consensus: The Final Destination provides the always faithful cool death sequences, but is just so terribly written, acted, and for a horror movie standards, just isn’t scary.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

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