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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jared Harris

Dead Man (1995)

Less dames, more drugs. The way Westerns should be.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a small-time accountant who was promised a job in the town of Machine, so he decided to leave his simple life in Cleveland to go out and get it. Problem is, when he arrives, it’s too late, so he decides to spend the rest of his night with drinking, some sex and murder. Wait, what?!? Yes, believe it or not, this little, scared man William Blake actually shoots another man (Gabriel Byrne), who also happens to be the son of a very wealthy business-owner (Robert Mitchum), who then, as a result hires three hitman to find Blake and kill him. Though William Blake has no idea where he is going while on the run, he receives assistance from a local Native American by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer), who keeps on confusing him with the poet William Blake and doesn’t ever seem to want to stop speaking in metaphors or what have you. It’s never made clear exactly where Nobody is taking William Blake, but along the way, they meet a whole bunch of crazy characters. Some are good, and some are just downright bad. So bad that William Blake may have to break-out of his shell and start shooting people up once again, like he’s being advertised as often doing.

Jim Jarmusch is clearly a guy whose style is for his certain type of audience. Doesn’t mean it can’t necessarily work for those who are considered to be “outsiders”, but that does mean it may be a bit harder for those people to actually understand his movies for what they are, be able to discuss them at hip wine-tasting parties, and, believe it or not, actually “like” them.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere, they'll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere in the 21st Century, they’ll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

Yes, believe it or not, such a thing does exist where you watch a movie and come to like it, even if it some of those out there don’t necessarily feel your same feelings. Which, as much as I hate to say it, is exactly what happened with me and this movie; I know that plenty of people love, adore and hold it as a “classic”, but for me, I just couldn’t hop aboard that train. Though I admire Jarmusch for having a vision that doesn’t glamorize the western like so many movies we see do, I’m still confused to hell as to just exactly what this movie means, or even if everything I saw happen, did in fact happen.

And while that feeling usually sits well with me while watching certain movies, I felt like this one sort of skates by on that idea, rather than developing beyond it. Sure, you can throw me all sorts of narrative-curveballs to confuse the heck out of me just for the sake of doing so, but once it seems like a person is just doing so in order to jazz the whole piece up a bit more, then it doesn’t wholly work for me like it should. That’s just me though, and when it comes to the disagreement between me and this movie, I can’t help but hold a grudge against it.

But where Jarmusch’s vision does work is in, like I said before, the way he paints a pretty strange and bizarre portrait of the old-school West. Sure, there’s what we usually see in any Western – hookers, gun-slingers, booze, saloons, Native Americans, cowboys and beans, but they’re all shown in a way that’s a lot more muggy than what we usually see. That mostly has to do with the black-and-white font Jarmusch uses, but most of it also has to do with the fact that this movie dives into some pretty strange places that may definitely surprise someone seeing this for the first time.

Certain characters will be killed-off in such a care-free, nonchalant way, that it almost seems like Jarmusch is just making it up as he goes along; which is a bit jarring at first, but still totally works for the movie. It’s almost like watching a real life Western play-out in front of your own two very eyes, where people get shot, people die and they’re forgotten about just like that. Maybe it’s too realistic? I wouldn’t say that, but it’s definitely a change-of-pace for someone who was brought-up on all the great Spaghetti Westerns of the world.

Represent, yo.

But then again, like I said before, for every neat, relatively normal sequence Jarmusch introduces, there’s a strange, off-kilter one that follows it and it doesn’t always work. Instead, it feels like he got a bit bored and decided to throw some neat, little style-points in there for good measure. But rather than enhancing the story, it only makes it seem like he was high while filming.

Once again, maybe that’s just whatever my weird mind-frame makes up as it goes along, but it’s my thoughts nonetheless.

At the center of all this craziness (believe it or not), is Johnny Depp as William Blake, in what is a pretty low-key, surprisingly normal performance from a guy whose made a whole career out of doing the exact opposite. Maybe moreso now, than before, but still, watching Johnny Depp play a normal, human being is a bit refreshing, because it makes it still seem like he hasn’t totally lost his mind and is always waiting to make us see him in a new, refreshing light. That is, whenever he stays the hell away from Tim Burton.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he's way past that age-difference.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he’s way past that age-difference now.

Anyway, what’s so cool about the character of William Blake is that he starts-off so dorky and simple, that when he starts to turn the other cheek and take matters into his own hands, it’s pretty believable because he doesn’t do it in a jarring way. He sort of just changes one subtlety about him, and that’s about it. He just continues on being William Blake; except instead of being a scared, little accountant from Cleveland, he’s a sly, skillful gunslinger from the town of Machine (and no, I am not making that up). I guess you’d never consider Johnny Depp to be “bad-ass”, but there’s something about his performance as William Blake that makes it seem like maybe you could.

There’s plenty more in this cast where Depp comes from, and each and every face is as lovely to see as the last. Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, the Native American that comes to save the day for William Blake and kind of, sort of, maybe becomes his best-friend along the way, despite not really connecting with him all that much; Michael Wincott plays a hitman who doesn’t know when to shut his trap, yet, is still entertaining to listen to; Iggy Pop, Jared Harris and Billy Bob Thornton show up as a bunch of dudes that want to bang J-Depp; and Alfred Molina gets a lovable, but small bit as a salesman that isn’t all he appears to be. The familiar faces run deeper than those that I’ve just mentioned, but don’t worry, they’re all fine. Even as weird as it may be to see Gabriel Byrne for all of five seconds.

Consensus: While it’s definitely for those who adore every single, little thing about Jim Jarmusch’s directorial-style, Dead Man still works as a different kind of a Western you don’t usually see portrayed in the movies, where everybody is still getting shot and killed for money, but it’s a lot more depressing and acid-induced.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sad to say, this isn't the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Sad to say, this isn’t the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

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Pompeii (2014)

Always hate it when natural-disasters come in to break-up my romances.

Milo (Kit Harington) is a young, Celtic gladiator who was enslaved after his whole tribe/family was brutally slaughtered some years before. For his next tour of duty, in which he practically kicks everyone’s ass, he arrives at Pompeii, but wouldn’t you know it, the daughter of a wealthy merchant (Emily Browning) just so happens to be too! Somehow, they lock eyes and find something that slightly resembles a “connection” on the way to Pompeii, but not until they are taken away, back to their own, separate lives, where they may never possibly see each other again. But in fact, they do, but their lives are a lot more challenging now: He’s out there in the middle of the Colosseum, fighting for his life and gaining a friendship through a fellow gladiator (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)); whereas she’s stuck in a manipulative-romance with the Roman Senator Corvis (Kiefer Sutherland). And to make this even juicier, apparently Corvis is the same man who not only killed all of Milo’s people, but even slayed his mother himself. All hell is about to break loose inside Pompeii, but it’s not necessarily because Milo wants revenge, love and all sorts of escapism – something, for one reason or another, just doesn’t sound all that right with Mount Vesuvius. What is it? What could it possibly be? Hmmmmmm……

Okay, just sit down and think for a second: Take a standard, sword-and-sandals epic like Gladiator, mix it around with the star-crossed lovers story from Titanic, throw in the whole “tragic, real-life” aspect of this story from something like, well, Titanic again, and, to top it all off, have it be directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Now, if that sounds awesomely rad to you in every which way, then you’ll know this is the perfect film for you, your drunk buddies and quite possibly, your dumb-ass girlfriend who still puts up with your immature-ass.

Basically the "token black guy", but only in ancient times. Wait! Hasn't that been done before?!?!?

Basically the “token black guy”, but only in ancient times. Wait! Hasn’t that been done before?!?!?

But, if you’re like any respectable human-being that knows what deserves to be seen, and what doesn’t, then you’ll stay home, watch curling, or whatever is left of the Olympics, and just be happy that you’re doing something productive with your life, that also doesn’t end with you losing insane amounts of brain-cells. And usually, on any given day, I’d be including myself with this group of fine specimens, but for something like this, I just couldn’t help myself. You know why?

Well, because I actually enjoyed this movie, for everything that was so obviously dumb and innate about it. Because see, this is a movie directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, the type of guy I expect to see garbage like this from. So,, that’s why when he actually gave me a movie that was as stupid as it could possibly be in the world, I couldn’t help but laugh my ass-off more than on a few occasions. Granted, they were no way in hell meant to be intentional-laughs, they were more so done in the way that the writing is so cheesy and over-the-top, you can’t keep a smile tucked away for too long. Sometimes, and god forbid I actually be applauding an action such as this, you just have to go with the flow, no matter how mind-numbingly dumb it may be.

Of course though, this movie definitely isn’t perfect, nor anywhere near being so. For the first hour or so, I’d say that while the movie definitely has some bright and shining moments of people being cut-up, slain, murdered and all sorts of injured, for the most part, it’s pretty damn dull. This part of the movie is where we mostly focus in on these characters, the romance and all of the other political back-stabbings going on behind the closed-doors, mainly with a mustache-twirling-without-the-mustache-performance from none other than Mr. Kiefer Sutherland himself. In fact, I’d wager that he’s probably the only real reason to be so entertained by this movie, throughout the whole damn thing. Not only does he chew the scenery up like he was a homeless man in need of a fresh bowl of soup, but he actually seems like he’s enjoying everything that was handed to him on a silver-platter. Sure, it’s as hammy as Christmas dinner, but sometimes, you just need that to survive in a movie whose IQ level is clearly 48 or below.

The main reason why Sutherland is so notable to mention, is because nothing else, for this first hour, really connects with us, or even comes close to grabbing our attention. There’s the romance in the movie that’s supposed to take center-stage and really have us feel for these two, odds-stacked-against-them-lovers, but neither Kit Harrington nor Emily Browning do anything to make us believe in their sparks of romance. Most of that isn’t their fault because, like I mentioned before, the script is utter trash, but none of them really do much other than give us the reactionary-shots that we so obviously need from them to give them any sort of personality. For Harrington, he’s supposed to look tough, angry, constipated (I guess that and “angry” sort of go hand-in-hand, because whose happy when they’re constipated, right?), and have a nice, rockin’ bod so that the camera can rub itself on it, as if Anderson himself was cheating on his own wifey-poo; and as for Browning, well, she doesn’t really do much except have the same face, the whole time, and not make us see why any dude would want to put their lives on the line for her, other than to hopefully get a sniff of her panties or something.

"Should we die, or, uhm, die?"

“Should we die, or, uhm, die?”

I don’t know, I’m just gripping at straws here.

However, once the first hour of this movie is finally over, done and said with, then, things actually start to heat up; and I mean that both literally and figuratively. For starters, not only does the actual volcano erupt and start to cause all sorts of destruction, but this is the moment where we also get to see Anderon’s sheer-love for mayhem and nonsensical violence really come into play, and give us a movie that we not only should pay attention to, but have a great time with. Everything that happens to anyone in these final 40-45 minutes is so obviously insane and wild, but that’s what actually makes the film slightly interesting, if only it’s to see how many times Anderson can get away with a PG-13 rating, despite showing people getting their throats slit, put on fire, drowning, hit in the head with rocks, stabbed in the chest and all sorts of other numerous acts of violence, and yet: Still barely show any blood.

Either way, blood or no blood, if you’re going to go and see this movie at all, and be with your drunken-buddies or girlfriend who is clearly doing you, and only you a favor (you best pay her back, boys, if you know whatta I mean?), just see it for the fact that you know the ending. And yup, that does mean that A LOT of people die. You don’t really care for it when you watch it, but then again: Do we really care about the same, real-life peoples who died some odd 1,935 years? Pretty exact, I know, but chew on that for a short while, even if you still have to catch up on your women’s hockey results.

Consensus: Absolutely, positively and completely dumb and poorly-written, but for some reason, Pompeii got better as it went along, and especially, once the volcano itself actually erupted and started to take down everybody in its path. Sounds sadistic, I know, but it’s all CGI, man. Right? Or, at least I hope.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Haven't you heard? JACK'S BACK!!!"

“Haven’t you heard? JACK’S BACK!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Lady in the Water (2006)

I wish there were mystical, sexy-ish creatures swimming around in my pool after closing time. Instead, it’s just me and my drunk friends.

This part may be a little hard to talk about, but hell, I’ll give it a try. Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) works at the Cove apartment complex and does whatever he can to get by throughout the day. He cleans bathrooms, kills bugs, changes light-bulbs, does everything really, but he never seems happy. All of that somehow changes when the mysterious creature Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), shows up in his pool saying that she needs to go back to land. She tries to, but finds out that a scary monster is there to attack her, and it’s up to Cleveland and the rest of the tenants to fight back and help Story get back to her home-land and hopefully, tell her story.

We all know that M. Night is a story-teller and loves to give us somewhat strange, wacky tales that can only occur in his mind, and his mind alone, but this is where I think people started to grow impatient with the dude. The Village was a bit of the last-straw, but I think more people were apologetic on that one because it had some good features to it. If not, and it’s only me who feels that way, so be it because I will go-to-bat for the dude anytime of the day, night, or week. But this is where things started to not only change for me, but for plenty others as well. And it hasn’t been pretty since.

It’s obvious that M. Night is making this story so that kids will want to go with their families and see all of the wonderful, wildness that M. has to bring to this slightly-original fable, but I highly doubt that’s what came out here. Yes, it is a fairy-tell that captures the wonder and imagination of a kids mind, but it also seems too confusing in terms of what it’s trying to say, where it’s trying to go, and how freakin’ pretentious it is. It’s been said that M. Night is a bit of a cocky dude who feels as if he can do wrong (just watch some of his movies and you might just see differently), and I’ve always put my hand of separation between me and those nay-sayers, but now I can totally see where they are coming from. The dude thinks he’s the shit, and if I’m not just talking about his story, I’m also talking about the character he plays here.

If you're going to throw a banger, the pool has to at least big 3x bigger than that kiddie-shit!

If you’re going to throw a banger, the pool has to at least big 3x bigger than that kiddie-shit!

Instead of having himself play a small-role, or even a cameo like he usually does, M. gives himself a character that is not only one of the biggest parts of the whole movie, but probably the most important since his character is a writer, who’s future piece-of-work is supposed to inspire and influence generations and generations to come. A bit self-indulgent? You think!??! And hell, it wouldn’t been half-bad if the dude could have backed it all up with some nice acting, but the dude seriously can’t act for shit in this movie. His character is supposed to be pretentious and cocky, but instead, he just comes off like a whiny-ass that always comes to Cleveland whenever he needs a light-bulb fixed, his rug washed, or house ram-sacked so that people can see what he’s up to.

However, M.’s problem with his character is the same problem that everybody else in this movie seems to be having as well. God bless Giamatti, but the dude really seems to be phoning it in here. And that’s not just his fault, but more of the character’s and how M. writes him as being. We first see this Cleveland dude as an obviously sad, lonely, and depressed dude that has a stutter, so why the hell would he all of a sudden help out, let alone, actually believe this mystical creature as a thing from a different world? Oh, I don’t know, maybe cause he’s had a tragedy bestowed upon him that’s only brought up once? Yeah, maybe that’s it. Regardless of what the real reason was, I didn’t care, I didn’t understand, and I felt bad for Giamatti as it seems like he got roped into doing this, just so he could work with “that guy who did the Sixth Sense.”

Somehow, I feel that’s why anybody still works with the dude, even until this day.

Everybody else suffers from the same problems that Giamatti does as well. Jeffrey Wright’s character is the type of dude that seems to know almost anything and everything about the English language, just through doing a whole bunch of crossword puzzles, and yet, we are actually supposed to believe that the fate in humanity rests in his hands, as well as his own kid’s, who reads cereal boxes all day. Yup, believe that for sure! But the list of characters go on and on and on, almost to the point of where you stop feeling bad for M., not realizing that he’s losing all control, but for the obviously, very-talented people involved with this movie.

People like Freddy Rodriguez, Jared Harris, and Sarita Choudhury are all here, and trying to do whatever the hell it is that they can, but all fall fate to M. Night’s crappy-writing. He tries to make these characters funny with their own little quirks here and there, but none of it even comes together for the finale to make sense, nor does it ever come together to make us laugh. The movie tries whatever it can to do both of those things (laugh and make sense), but fails miserably and it’s all because of M. Night. The dude may know how to make a shot interesting and make any type of atmosphere as every-bit of tense and eerie, but he can’t write snappy-dialogue, unless the actors/actresses are up to it. I don’t know if everybody was up to it here, but something did not mix so well.

He's got the whole world of this chick's life, in his hands....

He’s got the whole world of this chick’s life, in his hands….

The only person I can say who wasn’t involved with any of the shit-talking I was doing up there is Bryce Dallas Howard as Story, and the only reason I don’t include here is because her character is so dry (funny, because she’s the lady in the WATER), so dull, and so boring, that you don’t ever understand what makes her such a wonderful creature to save, let alone, go nuts for. I get it, she’s almost like a mermaid and has mystical powers, but does that mean we too are supposed to give two shits about her character and how her fate rests in these num-skulls’ hands? Hell to the no! Obviously M. Night cares, but we can’t share the same feelings, which is probably how most people have been feeling for the longest time when it comes to them and the dude.

Poor guy. He’s from Philly, he likes his twist-endings, and he’s got a great name that’s easy to make jokes about, but he just can’t seem to win nowadays.

Consensus: The Lady in the Water is a self-indulgent mess that finds M. Night at his most cocky and arrogant, for the sole-purpose that he thinks everything he’s doing is right, smart, and makes sense, but doesn’t care too realize that he might, just might, be going a tad over-board with the ideas and turns his story takes, as obvious as they are.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Go on, Paul. Take a dip. You deserve it buddy.

Go on, Paul. Take a dip. You deserve it buddy.

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.

Lincoln (2012)

Sorry guys, no vampires this time around.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States of America, also known as Abraham Lincoln, and paints a portrait of him during the tumultuous final months of his life, during which he fights to abolish slavery by putting forth an amendment in the House of Representatives.

For over a decade now, we have all been waiting for Steven Spielberg to deliver on his promise of an actual, Abraham Lincoln biopic and for awhile there, it was going to happen. Actually, at one-point, Liam Neeson was supposed to star as Honest Abe but Neeson himself even declared he was “too old” for the role, even though Daniel Day is five years younger than him, but hey, if Oskar Schindler says no, Oskar Schindler means no. Thankfully though, after all of this time, Spielberg delivers on his promise and gives us a movie that isn’t quite the epic biopic we were all expecting out there. Hell, it’s the farthest thing from actually.

Instead of going for the full-scale, sweeping epic idea that he has gone with on such pictures like War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg takes a step-back and decides to play it down a little bit and make it a more intimate, focused piece of work that doesn’t focus on Lincoln’s whole life, but the last couple months of his life where he had to put up with all of these problems, that it’s a real wonder how the guy didn’t just die of a heart-attack right then and there. In a way, a part of me wishes that Spielberg went all-out here and tackle Abe through his life, but seeing him in the latter years of his life does seem like a better fit for Spielberg to play it safe, and not get way too in over his head, like he has been known to get in recent-years. However, that’s not to say that Spielberg still doesn’t have what it takes to deliver some the top-notch directing moments we all know and love him for.

I think what really intrigued me the most about this flick was how it shows just how hard it was, and probably still is, to get a bill passed and all of the twists and turns that come along with that mission. Abe had to talk to a lot of people, had to plan out a lot of ideas in his head, had to win over a crap-load of people, and most of all, had to still keep it in his mind to do the right thing. It’s a very hard, especially in today’s day and age of politics, to not only do the right thing but also keep with that idea in your head and never mess-up on that. Abe never gets dirty with where he gets with his mission to abolish slavery, and it’s really fresh to see considering this is a guy that America still reveres to this day.

We get a great glimpse at a guy, we can only read about in bore-fest books and Spielberg, for the most part, delivers on that spectrum. The story is as simple as they come, yet, Spielberg never loses sight of what he really wants to show and what he really wants to convey and we get that perfectly. It’s a slow-burn of a movie, but Spielberg keeps it surprisingly entertaining with a couple of nice touches here and there where we feel like we are placed in the same exact setting that the movie’s portraying, and also feel like we’re on the edge-of-our-seat, wondering just how the hell this bill is going to get passed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know that the bill gets passed and whatnot, but the film still kept me wishing and hoping that it would, considering there is so much anger and aggression against it, that’s a huge wonder how it didn’t continued to get denied until this very day.

However, I still can’t lie to you and tell you that I loved this movie, because I really didn’t. The problem I had with this movie was that it would go on for so long (it clocks in at 150 minutes, if that tells you anything already) with just talking, arguing, and political-jargon being used, that I actually felt myself dozing off a couple of times and wondering when they were going to get a move on with this story. Playing it subdued and intimate was a nice approach that Spielberg decided to use, but when your whole film is about a bunch of people just talking about a bill that we all know gets passed at the end of it all, well, it can be a bit repetitive, as well as, dare I say it, boring.

Another problem I had with this movie was that I wasn’t as emotionally-invested as I feel so many other people were with this movie. Ever since this movie came out, I’ve been seeing reviews from people that are just talking about how much they couldn’t handle their emotions during this film and just had to let out all of the tears. My question is, how the hell are all of these people crying at a movie that’s about a story we all know, a history-figure we all think we know, and features a screenplay, where everybody talks and hollers at each other in this sophisticated, political language that is rarely ever muttered in today’s day and age (thank god for that, too)? Seriously, I would get it if we all watched Lincoln from the start of his life, to the end of it but something just did not connect with me and have the water-works moving at the end. Instead, I felt like I knew the man more than I ever did before and I think that’s all I needed, really, a history lesson, not a life-changing experience.

However, I don’t blame these people for getting emotional, either, because when you have Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead, it’s hard not to tear-up. As always, Daniel Day is perfect in a lead role that shows him off to be one of the finest actors we have working today but it’s not the type of role you’d expect from the guy. With roles like Bill Cutting and Daniel Plainview being some of his most famous in recent time, it’s a refresher to see him go back to his old-ways and play soft, gentle, and kind fellow that means no harm to anyone around him, but just wants to do what he thinks is right for the country and what feels right in his heart. He’s obviously a nice guy that you can tell has some real charm to him that wins everybody over that he meets, as well as a knack for story-telling that are some of the funniest, if not thought-provoking pieces of tales that I have ever heard. How many times did Honest Abe break out of regular-conversation just to tell a story about a man and his farm? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do know is that they were lovely stories to hear, mainly because it was Daniel Day who was delivering them in his sweet, gentle voice that doesn’t even seem recognizable in the least bit.

Daniel day lights up the screen every time he pops-up on it and delivers one of the finest performances of the year, and really does have you sympathize and feel something for a man we rarely know about how he was in life. We read about it in books, but it’s all up in the air as to what or who this guy really was in real-life, but I think Daniel Day’s portrayal is the most accurate depiction we can all go along with and agree on. If Daniel day doesn’t get a nomination this year, hell will freeze over, but then again, I think it’s a pretty sure thing that no matter what the movie the guy signs up to do, he’s going to get an Oscar-nomination regardless and you know what? I have no problem with that because this guy is an actor’s actor, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. That was a pretty obvious statement though, because everybody looks forward to what the guy does next, it’s all just a matter of how long will it take this time around.

Even though Daniel Day is perfect in this lead role, he almost gets the spotlight taken away from him from an actor that could also be considered “an actor’s actor”. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens in a way that we all know and love Jones for playing his roles. He’s cranky, he’s old, he’s witty, and most of all, he’s a bastard that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with when it comes to an argument. As Stevens, Jones allows this fact to be even more truer than we already know it to be and really gives us a glimpse at a man that may even want this bill passed more than Lincoln himself, and there’s an amazing, final scene with him that shows us why. Jones is on-fire in this role and I really do think that he’s a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination this year and I do not disagree with that one-bit because the guy is always spectacular, he’s just been wasting too much of his time as Agent K to really allow us to see what is so spectacular about him in the first-place.

Playing Lincoln’s wife, Sally Fields probably gives one of her best performances I’ve seen from her in the longest time. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln the same exact way you’d expect her to play her, she’s weird, she’s paranoid, she’s always angry, but yet, she’s always supportive of what Abe does and to see that play out in this film is a thing of beauty, considering her and Daniel Day have great husband-wife chemistry between the two. As opposed to Jones and Lewis, I don’t think Fields is a sure-shot for an Oscar nomination this year, but hey, if she does end up getting one I will not be pissed in the least bit. The gal is great with all that she’s given and it’s finally time that somebody’s given her a role to chew down on.

This whole movie is filled with a supporting cast that will probably shock you by how many names it really does have and to be honest, there’s a bit of a problem with that. See, there are so many damn people in this movie that even though they are all so good with each and every one of their own, respective roles, it becomes a bit of a waste to see such good talent in roles that sometimes don’t show-up on-screen for any longer than 5 minutes. Having a huge, supporting cast is great if you want to make sure every character is well-done, and every performance is good but after awhile, it sort of starts to tick you off once you realize that half of these people can do some quality work in their own flicks, they just aren’t given the chance all that much. Still, it’s great to see such big names show up in a production together and show how much people still want to work with Spielberg.

Consensus: Lincoln may take some people by surprise to how it plays-out, but if you can handle a bunch of talking, then it will definitely keep you watching from beginning-to-end with a spectacular lead performance from Daniel Day, and a message about doing the right thing, no matter who gets in the way that is still relevant today, especially in the world of politics.

8/10=Matinee!!

Igby Goes Down (2002)

Damn it sucks to be a Culkin.

Igby Slocumb (Kieran Culkin), a rebellious and sarcastic 17-year-old boy, is at war with the stifling world of old money privilege into which he was born. With a schizophrenic father (Bill Pullman), a self-absorbed, distant mother (Susan Sarandon), and a shark-like young Republican big brother (Ryan Phillippe), Igby figures there must be a better life out there – and sets about finding it.

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of people compare this to the Catcher in the Rye because just from reading the plot on the back of the book, they seem to have plenty in common. However, I have not read that book just yet so don’t worry it’s not going to be another one of those “book vs. movie” reviews.

Writer/director Burr Steers does a pretty good job here with all of the expectations that would come from “adapting” a classic like Catcher. Steers puts a modern spin on this story and gives it this dark edge to it that can sometimes be funny but can also be very sad. I can’t say that this flick is a dark comedy because there are moments that are legitimately meant to be funny but so many other jokes all have to do with either drugs, death, or mental illness that it’s kind of hard not to categorize it as that in the first place. Regardless of what you may call this film though, it’s funny and may surprise you with a lot of the jokes it pulls out of its behind.

Where I think Steers’ writing really worked was in the way he showed Igby’s life, as well as Igby himself. Igby is a great character because he is a total smart-ass that always has something sarcastic to say, seems like one of those kids that would do perfectly on his own, and just reminds me of the type of high school rebel that I always tried to be but somehow failed. The kid is an ass and hates his mother so much that when she dies (not a spoiler because they tell you in the first 2 minutes) he calls up everybody she knows and just tells it like it is, “Yeah…she’s dead”, then moves onto more and more people to tell. There’s also a couple of other scenes that made me laugh at everything he was doing and it was just great to see a teenage character in a flick that wasn’t there to show a dilemma he has with picking up chicks or getting good grades, no, this kid’s trying to make a living and figure out what he wants in life.

It’s not just all of the funny ish that happens here that makes Igby so damn cool, it’s also the fact that he feels like an actual kid with a lot of problems that he tries his hardest to hide from. There’s a lot going on in Igby’s life that has effed him up from a father that basically went nutso right in front of his eyes, a mother that he absolutely despises, a godfather that won’t just let him be his own man, a brother that has always been better than him in anything, and an inability to deal with all of the crazy roommates he gets. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that bad to begin with but for an 18-year old kid (hollah!), it can be a lot to take in at a quick pace and we feel for Igby even though he’s surrounded by assholes constantly.

Some parts of this flick worked for me on a dramatic basis, but others, did not. There’s some little love thing going on between Igby’s lady friend and Igby’s brother that felt forced and just another way to bring conflict to the story of how much more his brother reigns supreme over him now. I also didn’t like how the film just sort of left everything up in the air without any resolution to any of these characters whatsoever. I’m not saying that I loved all of these characters, because a lot of them were just plain and simple assholes, but I still spent enough time with them to actually get to know and care about them, so why not show me what actually happens to them after it all? Hell, we don’t really know what happens to Igby at the end either but what bummed me out was just how sudden and abrupt the ending was without showing me the characters that I spent so much time with.

The reason Igby is so damn good as a character though is because of Kieran Culkin is spot-on with this act and I hope that more and more people take notes and see that this kid has a real true comedic talent. Don’t believe me? Check out ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’, and you’ll see what I’m saying. As for everybody else they’re all good too. Claire Daines is a fun character named Sookie to watch and learn more about, which was a surprise because Daines is usually very bland in her flicks; Jeff Glodblum is the absolute man as Igby’s godfather, D.H.; Amanda Peet is just fine as Rachel, even though I think she kind of over does the whole “I’m on heroin” act she had going for a good part of the movie; Ryan Phillipe plays, once again, the soulless ghoul here as Igby’s bro-brah and does a nice job even though he’s playing another rich kid who thinks he’s better than anybody else; Bill Pullman is great in flash-backs as Igby’s daddy and he has some of the more emotionally wrenching scenes; and Susan Sarandon is back doing what she does best: being a bitch. And that’s all we really want from her.

Consensus: Igby Goes Down has an involving lead character, as well as some very funny moments that take us inside the mind of a teenager, no matter how quick life may come at you for it.

7/10=Rental!!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.

7/10=Rental!!

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