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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: John Cusack

Stand by Me (1986)

If there’s a dead body just lying around, why wouldn’t you want to find it right away?

A group of twelve-year-olds who are bored and tired with their home lives do what any twelve-year-old would do to have some fun and an adventure: Go see a dead body. Though they’re a little bit different in terms of their personalities and what each of their home lives are like, they are all pretty good friends with one another and enjoy each other’s company, which is exactly why they don’t hesitate to leave for a day or so and check out what all this dead body-business is about. While on the road, they run into the usual problems such as finding food, getting chased by dogs, getting yelled at by old heads, running from a train on the train-tracks, fighting with one another, etc. But they’re biggest problem may in fact be the local bully (Kiefer Sutherland) who already doesn’t like them and especially doesn’t want to see them at this infamous dead body. Leaving this adventure to be a race of sorts, although, to be honest, it isn’t quite fair when you have a bunch of kids walking and running on foot, against a pack of wild, angry and crazed teenagers that can actually drive. But that’s besides the point. There’s a dead body, after all.

I think I stand for just about every guy when I say that as soon as I saw this movie, my life was changed a small bit. Some others can probably say it impacted them a whole lot more than myself, but there’s something to be said about a movie that has an effect on you in general, regardless of how little or large that impact was. For me, this movie made me realize that not only are the friends around me now, the ones I should pay attention to the most, but that my friends in the future will never be as important as the ones I have in the present time. And since I was at least 13 or so when I first saw this, the emotions didn’t fully hit me until I made my way into high school.

It's like my parents always say, "Don't play around with guns. But if you do, make sure it's back behind a diner."

It’s like my parents always say, “Don’t play around with guns. But if you do, make sure it’s back behind a diner.”

Things were different there – my friends, the overall atmosphere, girls, etc. Everything changed for me as soon as I got to high school, and it mostly had to do with the fact that I myself was getting older and realizing what mattered in my life, and what didn’t. And to me, what mattered was my friends. Now, of course most of my friends from grade school had all but vanished from my life come high school, but the ones that were that important to me in the first place, I stayed with and have been in touch with on a regular basis to this day, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Better yet, that’s not the point this movie is trying to make.

The point here is that while we all grow up, age, mature and do all of that lame, boring stuff that adults do, there’s still a special place in our hearts for the friends that were with us in our early years, when life and everything that came with it was a hell of a lot simpler then. That’s where I feel like Stand By Me gets being young so damn right: You don’t really think much, or at all when you’re a little kid and you’re with your friends, you’re just living, day by day, with whomever wants to spend it with you.

And honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids than Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern.

Although each of these characters have their own different personalities and eccentrics that make them who they are, they’re still so easy to relate to. Heck, you may even be able identify yourself with one of them (for me, it was always Vern because, sadly, I was “the fat kid”, although lovingly so), and that’s what this movie is all about. They’re kids and the way they interact with one another and just act in general, are exactly how you would have acted when you were their age, regardless of where you lived or what decade you were born into. All that matters is that you were a kid once, because if you were ever that, then this movie will hit home for you on more than a few occasions.

But who really deserves a bunch of kudos from me is director Rob Reiner himself who took the hard task of adapting Stephen King’s material, and not sugar-coating it a single bit. Because what works so well for this movie, as well as for these kids, is that they don’t really hold anything back: They cuss, spit, smoke, talk about boobs, give each other “two for flinching”. You know, the usual stuff that all kids do, but you hardly ever see in movies because too many people in Hollywood are afraid of offending anyone that wants to think differently about what the kids out there are doing nowadays, or have ever been like. And although I know that most of the respect for this movie should also be given to the screen-writers here who were responsible for adapting this material in the first place (Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans), I still have to tip my hat to Reiner for realizing that he was working with some troubling material and didn’t back down from showing in its most realistic, gritty-form possible.

And because that’s the idea that Reiner is sort of going for, the kids themselves hardly ever feel sensationalized as kids that are as cute as buttons. Sure, the actors playing them may have been on the shiny and nice sides, but they never feel like they were picked up out of a casting-call either and just thrown in front of us regardless of if they have any acting ability or not. Nope, these four kids can act and although some of their later-careers may not be able to prove this fact, let it be known that during the filming of this, most of these kids were actually the ages they were playing.

Sort of makes you think what you were doing with your life when you were 12 years old. For me, it was staying up all night, hopped-up on Mountain Dew and playing PS2 until I couldn’t see straight. But hey, that was just me. Some people have had more eventful childhoods, but for me, I liked it simple: Just give me a game console and plenty of soda, and I’m good to go, mom and dad. Now leave!

Anyway, like I was saying about these kid actors, they’re all pretty great and map-out each character very well. Wil Wheaton is great as our main-focus, Gordie, and seems more like a reserved, quiet kid that isn’t afraid to get a bit wild every so often, rather than just a total dweeb who needs to be outside more; Corey Feldman plays Teddy the way you’d expect a younger Corey Feldman to play a loose cannon of sorts, absolutely bonkers but fun all the same; Jerry O’Connell reminds us that, yes, at one time, before he started having all sorts of lovely and attractive sex with one Rebecca Romijn, he was a chubby little kid, and a pretty lovable one at that; and then of course, we have River Phoenix as the bad boy of the group, Chris Chambers.

I wouldn't do it, but that's just because I was born in the 90's. We had a thing called "Nickelodeon".

I wouldn’t do it, but that’s just because I was born in the 90’s. We had a thing called “Nickelodeon”.

Every time I watch this movie, an undying sense of sadness just overcomes me. Not because I miss being 12 years old again and going out on weekend camping-trips with my buddies, but because it’s a true snapshot of the wonderful and amazing things River Phoenix was primed and ready for in his career. Sure, as he got older, the performances only got better, but seeing as he was so young here, and how natural he comes off most of the time, it makes you wonder what else could have came of him and his career. Just a shame indeed, but at least we’ll always have his body of work to go by and show the future generations to come just what kind of legend of the big screen he could have been.

And the very same could be said for this movie in general, one that will most likely live on forever. Although it does limit its scope in being a story a coming-of-ager that takes place in the late-50’s, it doesn’t really matter. This is a film for all people out there who have ever had a childhood and knew exactly what it was like to just take the days as they come, and never, not once, have to worry about what the future held out for them. Because after all, you’re just a kid, so why worry? Just have fun and be with your friends. Because one day, sometimes when you least expect it, they may not be around ever again.

So it’s up to you, to cherish the moments you have with them and never let them out of your mind, or your heart.

Consensus: Funny, nostalgic, heartfelt, and full of all sorts of life lessons without ever being preachy, Stand By Me is the rare film that only gets better with age and can be passed on from generation, to generation.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Amen.

Amen.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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What’s Your Number? (2011)

Oh women and all of the sex they have! I mean honestly, who’d be keeping track after #20?

Ally (Anna Faris) is a little over-thirty and has come to that crossroads in her life: Should she start trying to get married? Well, since her little sis (Ari Graynor) is, Ally thinks it’s about time to get on top of that. The only problem is that she just broke-up from her latest boyfriend (Zachary Quinto), which leads her to her next objective: The last twenty men she’s either had a relationship with or “been with” in any sort of, kind of, maybe serious-manner whatsoever. While she’s off looking for “the one”, she’s getting help from a studly neighbor (Chris Evans) who can’t help but feel like it is his duty as a neighbor, but also as a dude to help this one, very-attractive gal, find her special someone, while he stands-off to the sides, bangs all sorts of ladies, plays guitar, takes his shirt off and tries to eat ice cream with her.

When you watch any rom-com that has ever been made, you expect to have all of the same conventions you’ve seen before. It’s sort of what you get when you approach the genre. However, it’s up to the movie itself to be able to deviate from that formula and those conventions enough times to where you don’t really care how conventional the romance at the center may be; as long as it’s believable and entertaining to watch, then who really cares about predictability, you know? Which is sort of why I didn’t expect to hate this whole thing, but man, this is every bit of conventional.

Oh, just bang already!

Oh, just bang already!

I really do mean that, too.

For example, in the first scene of this movie, Faris’ character gets up out of bed from her lover, puts her make-up on to look pretty, gobbles-up some toothpaste and gets right back in bed right before he wakes up, just so he can see her and her beautiful-self when he wakes up in the a.m. This scene would have been a pretty smart and funny one, had it not already been used in a rom-com that came out literally four months before it, in Bridesmaids! So yeah, as you can tell, this was not an easy start to a rom-com I wanted to like but I thought, “Hey, it’s just one scene. How bad could it really be?”. “Well”, I answered myself, “pretty bad, you dumb shit”.

What really flounders here is the fact that this premise is actually somewhat promising. This is a pretty neat idea of a gal going back to see what all of her ex-lovers made her out to be and how they are now. It’s almost like a female version of High Fidelity without all of the rock & roll references, or anything interesting or fun resembling that movie at all. Instead, every opportunity this film has at all to even be funny, just comes off as very annoying, predictable and downright stupid. And you can tell when this movie is trying to be “funny”, or even better, “risque”, by having a certain character like Faris’ or Blythe Danner’s say something like “shit”, or “ass”, or “fuck”, or what have you. Either way, wasn’t funny, crude, or shocking to hear at all. Just added more annoyance to me and my brain.

Another one of the main problems is that we never really give a crap about Ally Darling, or her quest to find that special-lover who can give her the ideal-life all women think they need. In all honesty, I think we should, as a society, all be way past the idea of making a woman conform to some standard set-of-rules where she has to be whisked away to a man before she’s a certain age, just so that she can have kids, start a family, give mommy and daddy those grand-kids, along with that $500,000 wedding recital, and not really worry about what happens to the marriage after all is said and done. Divorce, or stay together, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as the middle-of-the-road, career-woman gets married and has some unprotected sex to some Randy, then sure, it’s all fine.

Personally, I think this is all wrong, but it seems like time and time again, we see these kinds of movies where women are constantly getting the idea of marriage shoved down their throats. If they don’t feel like it’s the right time, then it really isn’t! Leave her be! That’s why I couldn’t help but not at all care for Ally Darling, where she went, or even who she met. However, I do realize that that may be more of a problem I have with the “message” of the material, rather than the actual character itself. But either way, it sucks all around! No way of getting around that!

The "false-hair" gag. Never gets old.

The “false-hair” gag. Never gets old.

However, if there is any saving-grace to be found at all in this piece of wreckage someone had the audacity to call a “film”, it’s both our lead-performers. Anna Faris still has that great comedic-timing that’s as every bit as wacky and zany as you would expect from her days as Cindy in the Scary Movie franchise, but it’s wasted in every single scene here. Maybe had the script been tuned up a bit more to make her character more appealing than just a sad sack of a chick that can’t get laid by someone she loves, then I wouldn’t have minded so much but she’s just annoying sometimes by how much she complains. She’s still funny at times, but all the other times, she made me want to punch her, or, for safer choices, a wall. Something needed to be punched. I know that much. Then there’s Chris Evans, who is as every bit of charming and cool as a dude would expect from him, and every bit of hot and dreamy as a girl would expect. The guy has some real charisma that still has not been used properly, outside of Steve Rodgers.

Together, these two have great chemistry and is easily the one thing holding this film together. All of the scenes they have feel natural, fun, and realistic to where it doesn’t matter if they’re doing the usual corny and predictable shit that these rom-coms stuff down our throats, they seem like they really like each other and have a great time together. It’s obvious that these two are perfect for each other, and it’s even more obvious that they should have been in a whole other film that could have really made a killing with them in the two romantic leads as a goofy couple. That would have been fun to see, but mainly because of how terrible this film is and how much money it didn’t make, I highly doubt we will ever get that now.

Great! Any sign of light at the end of the tunnel can be practically gotten rid of for the rest of eternity now!

Consensus: Faris and Evans are entertaining to watch whenever they are together, but their chemistry deserves a way, WAY better movie than whatever the hell What’s Your Number? sets out to do and actually ends-up being.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Bet you donuts-to-dollars he's playing "Jessie's Girl" or some corny bull-squat like that. As for me, my girl better like the Clash and be pleased with it.

Bet you donuts-to-dollars he’s playing “Jessie’s Girl” or some corny bull-squat like that. As for me, my girl better like the Clash and be pleased with it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Eight Men Out (1988)

Seriously Joe! What the hell?!?

Back in the 1919 World Series of baseball, 8 players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the series away, due to them being offered a butt-load of money. Did it really happen? Is it all true?

It’s a small synopsis, I know. Heck, it may even be one of my smallest ever. But that’s kind of the point: It’s so known and explanatory that I don’t really need to go on. All you need to know is that the 1919 World Series will live in infamy, and here’s why:

I’m not going to lie, but I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world. Do I like the sport? Yes. Do I enjoy watching a game from time-to-time? Most definitely! Who doesn’t? So yeah, of course I know the story behind the whole “Black Sox Scandal” - who was apart of it, what went down and what the outcome eventually was.

And to be honest, I didn’t really need to see it done all over again.

For somebody who comes from a long-line of making indie flicks in his spare-time, I have to give writer/director John Sayles for doing a nice job with a bigger-budget than he’s used to working with, and still not seeming like he goes overboard at all. Usually when little-known directors break out and get a big, paying gig, they get a bit carried away with what they want to do or say with their next feature. However, I don’t think Sayles does that at all.

Instead, where most of his money seems to go is right towards creating of the early 20th Century, where baseball, Apple Pie and swindlers was everywhere to be found. It couldn’t have been that hard considering all he had to do was get a bunch of retro-looking uniforms, find an old-stadium, and get some older-looking stuff to throw in there, but regardless, he does a nice job and proves that bigger, does mean better. That is, in most cases anyway.

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don't say?!?!/

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don’t say?!?!/

Even when it comes to writing this flick, Sayles never really seems to lose himself and sticks true to what the dude’s made a career out of: Fine attention to enough of his ensemble. There’s a lot of talk surrounding this whole conspiracy these guys have caused and it adds another depth of drama that’s almost unexpected considering we know all of the details as to what does and what doesn’t happen. Every character has a bit of witty dialogue/banter with another character and it feels real, especially when you get two teammates talking to each other and having it almost feel as if you are watching two teammates talk it all out about the game and what they’re going to do next time and make it all better. For baseball lovers, this film would probably the ultimate pleasure, but for me, I could at least appreciate what Sayles was doing and how he just kept it simple and sweet, focusing on these guys the most.

Where I think Sayles runs into a problem with is that his story goes a bit too all-over-the-place at times and never really sets its sights on one character. Maybe he can’t be blamed for that problem, considering this is a whole baseball team we’re talking about here, but there could have been a bit more development on all of them, rather than focusing on just two or three, and getting rid of the rest only to have them show-up in the last five minutes as if they were there the whole time. The characters they do give us to sympathize with, have our sympathy, but not much else. They never really seem to have much of a conflict despite being involved with one of the biggest scandals baseball has ever had to deal with. Should have definitely came off a bit more tense and upsetting if you ask me.

The other problem I think Sayles runs into with this flick is the fact that in reality, we all know this story. People who don’t love baseball, barely even watch it, and couldn’t give two hoots about it all know the story of what went down during the 1919 World Series. That’s why it comes as no surprise to anyone when certain characters in the film are all upset by how they’re losing on-purpose. It’s a bit hard to watch some of these guys put themselves through so much to lose a game, but after awhile, it just becomes repetitive and feels like Sayles doesn’t have much hope for his own material, so he just relied on the typical baseball scenes to cool everybody off and keep them distracted. It kept me distracted for a short amount of time, that was, until I realized that there was no real core to the story’s heart.

It was just one big and simple conspiracy theory that we all knew about beforehand and didn’t find a new life in shaking things up this time around.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Where the film really succeeds, is in it’s ensemble cast that all do their best with what they’re given. Out of all of the characters, John Cusack comes off as the most-developed and sympathetic player as Buck Weaver, the one teammate who never took money from anyone and still got the blame thrown on him. His character is probably the easiest to get behind and it’s one of the first instances where we actually got to see Cusack flesh-out of his high school, dream-boy phase and actually man-up for once. He’s good with that here and comes off as the best character. The other character I was interested in a lot too, was David Strathairn as pitcher Eddie Cicotte, one of the most complex characters of the bunch. The reason why Cicotte is interesting to watch is because his character really isn’t a bad dude that just wants to be an asshole cause he loves to (unlike some of the other people on his team), but instead, is left with a problem where he knows he may never, ever get another shot at playing big-time baseball again and tries whatever he can to keep it going on and on, until he just can’t play anymore. It’s nice to see that in a character here, and Strathairn was definitely the perfect choice for the role.

There are others in this cast that do great jobs with their roles, but the one I was mostly disappointed in was D.B. Sweeney as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Instead of giving Jackson his own movie, or even a big part in this one, he’s sort of reduced to the unsung hero that just sort of sits in the background role that we have seen so many times before in sports movies, and almost never works except if you want the crowd to cheer. What bummed me out about this was how it seemed like Jackson was the most interesting and complex out of the whole team and was never really given that chance to shine and show his side of the story. Granted, the guy was a bit of a dummy, but a dummy that we could have still, somehow, fallen-behind and cheered-on as his world started to close in around him.

Hey, at least the game of baseball has found new ways to make controversy for itself, right?

Consensus: If you’ve seen one sports movie, hell, let alone, a baseball movie, then you’ve seen Eight Men Out without really knowing it. Although Sayles’ writing and casting-decisions does find a way to separate itself from the rest of the bunch.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It doesn't matter who did what, they're all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

It doesn’t matter who did what, they’re all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Grand Piano (2014)

If giving the audience a great show isn’t enough inspiration, then how about your life?!?!?

A talented-pianist (Elijah Wood) finally returns to the big stage after suffering a nervous-breakdown nearly five years before. Apparently, he was playing one of the toughest, most impossible pieces every created, and in front of a sold-out, live crowd, he just couldn’t handle it all, leaving him to stay behind the curtain for quite some time, most likely shacking-up with his hot and famous actress wife (Kerry Bishe). Tonight, though, is the night where he tries to get all the magic back. Tonight, he’ll play along with an orchestra in hopes that he’ll be all fine and dandy, while also being able to win back the respect of his confidantes. However, while he’s playing, somehow, he begins to realize that somebody’s been messing around with his notes and sheet-music, threatening him by stating that if he messes up this piece by any note whatsoever, he, as well as his pretty wife will be shot dead by a sniper. Sooner than later, he is given an ear-piece where a random voice (John Cusack) comes through, yelling at him, shouting demands and making sure that everything goes to plan. Because if not, things aren’t going to be turning out too pretty.

The magic of movie-making is that you can literally do anything if you put your mind to it. It doesn’t matter how crazy, or out-of-this-world the premise may be, as long as you can keep on adding something new, fun, or even vibrant to the piece you’re working with, then plausibility doesn’t really matter. Well, in most cases that is. Mainly Hithcock’s films, where everything was over-blown, you just had to believe in it because the man himself took it all up with so much damn sincerity and heart.

"Quick! Gotta be back before intermission is over!"

“Quick! Gotta be back before intermission is over!”

However, while Grand Piano may not be anywhere near the same quality-like film in the same vein as a Hitchcock movie, it still deserves to be mentioned as something in which I feel like Hithcock himself would be a bit proud of. Sure, “Speed in an orchestra” doesn’t sound like all that of an appealing-idea, but if done right, it can turn out to be fun. Hell, even the original idea of Speed didn’t seem all that promising to begin with, but in the case of that movie, it continued to spin itself completely out-of-control; almost to the point of where we had to just surrender, let our imaginations run wild and enjoy the show.

That’s why that movie is considered an action-classic, something this movie may never, ever be considered, but still deserves to be seen, if only because it uses its unique-spin on the “ticking-time-bomb”-angle that most thriller use, and giving us all, as well as the budget itself, a run for its money. Sure, it’s an indie-film through and through – plenty of shots seem as if the CGI had been done through a DELL and the fact that we are condensed to this one and only place shows the limitations the film makers had on where they could exactly go with this story, but at the end of the day, it actually works well in the movie’s part.

It doesn’t matter that the movie doesn’t have quite nearly the budget of a Michael Bay flick; what matters is that it keeps our hearts racing, or blood boiling and our expectations dashed at any second. Most of this is predictable and better yet, often than not, you’ll be able to pin-point exactly when a certain character is going to come into play at what time, but there’s still plenty of times where you’re able to forget about that and just see what it is that director Eugenio Mira can really do to make us feel like we’re stuck in a situation we ourselves will never get out of. Though most of it is poorly-written and corny, we do feel like this and it helps that the movie always leaves us one step behind the baddie that’s doing all of this to begin with. Most thrillers forget that sometimes, being a smart audience-member, doesn’t always work and can sometimes be used against you. Especially once you’ve gotten on that high-horse, and can’t seem to get off of it due to how many damn movies you’ve seen.

I’m talking about me, of course.

"'Sup?"

“‘Sup?”

Speaking of the baddie, if there was any disappointing-factor of this movie, aside from the lame-o dialogue, it’s that John Cusack doesn’t get much to do other than just yell in Elijah Wood’s ear. Though I don’t consider this a spoiler, John Cusack does eventually get to show off that aging-mug of his, and while it’s definitely a face I was glad to see, I was ashamed that he didn’t really do much except get into a battle with whomever it was that he was fighting (I’m really trying not to spoil anything anymore). Just having Cusack in your movie is enough to make me pleased, but a little bit more of him would have went a long, long way. Actually, let me rephrase that: A little bit more of him doing something more than just talking into a walkie-talkie would have gone a long, long way and helped this movie give us a more memorable villain. Because, come to think of it, when do we ever get to see John Cusack embrace his dark-side? I mean, come on! Let’s make some good use of it, people!

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Elijah Wood in what seems to be his 50th movie in the past two years. Don’t take that as a complaint though, because not only does it show his range and his ability to show up in just about anything, but it also gives us more chances to see what this guy can do with every character he gets to play. Wood has never really lit the world on fire with his acting, but I don’t think he has to. He’s always sort of been there, being small and talking quietly, as if he’s absolutely petrified to have anybody hear him utter a word. That aspect of his acting works so well for this character and not only gets us on his side right quick, but also has us believe that he would turn the other cheek so quick and start fighting for himself. Once this does happen, it’s pretty rad and it makes you wonder what would have happened, had Elijah Wood been able to release these same type of anger-skills in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo would have definitely been more bad-ass, that’s for sure.

Consensus: You don’t have to surgically-remove your brain entirely, but just the parts of it that make you actually think like a normal, breathing human being would suffice when watching Grand Piano, which is basically Speed, with a piano. That is it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Meh, rough crowd anyway."

“Meh. Rough crowd anyway.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Ice Harvest (2005)

When your town has more than two strip-clubs, you know you need to get outta there!

In the small city of Wichita, on the eve of Christmas, Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer who makes a note of backing-up mobsters, has just seized $2.1 million from a mobster that employs him. However, Charlie can’t do all of this stealing on his own, so he includes Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), a guy who is more used to this type of stuff. The two originally planned on getting the money and high-tailing it right out of town, but there’s a huge snow-storm that hits them, making the roads nearly impossible to drive on. So, as befuddled as they may be, Charlie and Vic decide that it’s best if they just stick it out til the morning, lay low and make sure that the gangster whose been looking for both of them (Mike Starr), doesn’t actually get them, and everything will go according to plan. But, as we all know with these sort of heists stories, not everything works out so perfectly for everybody involved, and more often than not, ends with some blood being shed. Well, in this case, plenty of blood actually.

It’s a shame that Harold Ramis has left-us. No, not because there’s no longer any hope that he’ll show-up in the unnecessary Ghostbusters 3, but because he truly was a talent in front of, as well as behind the camera, that always seemed to know when it was right to hit our funny-bones, and when it wasn’t. Sure, most of us know that he made such comedic-classics like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and even Analyze This (I guess it’s considered a “classic” in some circles), but know of us really know that he had a bit of a darker-edge to him as a director; the kind of edge not many of us got to see until later in his career.

"Yeah, fuck life."

“Yeah, fuck life.”

Some would even say, too late in his career, but I digress.

When looking at a plot like this, you can’t help but automatically think of Fargo, or any other Coen Brothers flick ever made, because that’s exactly what it is: A dark comedy about people being bad, in a small-town and having to make some deadly decisions to ensure their safety. Of course though, what usually is able to make or break these flicks is in its way of being able to balance out the heavy, dramatic elements of the violence, bloodshed and death, with all of the humor that can usually come from a movie when you have likable, colorful characters involved with said elements. Here, Ramis is clearly capable of handling both sides of the coin, as we get from an early impression, that the movie is going to be all about whether or not these guys can get out of this town with the money, and try to stay alive as well.

Instead, what we eventually get here is a story about a guy we can’t particularly like, nor can we particularly hate neither in the form of Charlie Arglist. Same could be said for just about everybody else in this flick – most notably, a drunken-friend of Charlie’s (played by the always-lovable and cheery Oliver Platt), who also just so happens to be married to his ex-wife. The guy may make an ass out of himself throughout the whole movie, but it’s an act that never gets old, which is mostly thanks to both Platt’s acting, as well as the script being able to give him more than just what is on the surface.

But I couldn’t help see this in just about every other character here, which allowed for the movie to be more than just a small-time caper-flick. It gave us people to care about, even if they weren’t particularly likable or morally perfect, and best of all, heightened the story’s emotions just a tad bit more. Even if all of the back-stabbing, twists, turns, surprise deaths and double-crosses became a bit tiresome by the end, I still gave a crap about what happened to most of these characters, besides not wholly showing us why I should feel this way. I guess I just did, and I guess that’s attributed to Ramis and his way of being able to juggle heart, humor, violence, sadness and character-development, all while rarely missing a beat. And even if some beats were missed (like in the last half-hour when a familiar-face shows up and is too cartoonish for their own good), they weren’t too noticeable that they distracted me from all that worked so well with this picture.

"They call me, "Daddy Long Legs". Know why?"

“They call me, “Daddy Long Legs”. Know why?”

Though I could keep on talking about Ramis and practically give him a “tribute” of sorts, what it really comes down to with this movie what makes it work is John Cusack in the lead-role as Charlie Arglist. Cusack’s not really stretching himself here by playing a cold-hearted criminal, with slight ounces of humanity, but he does so well with it that you don’t really care if you’ve seen him go at this sort of thing. You get an early-impression that Charlie isn’t a good guy, but you still see that he cares for those around him, he just has a bad way of showing it most of the time. But still, as much as we dig deep into who this person is, we still get the idea that Charlie really wants that money, but most of all, he wants to get it while being alive. When watching, you won’t be able to help feeling the same either.

Same sort of goes for Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Vic, although it’s clear early on, just by the casting of Thornton alone, that he’s not always up to being good all of the time. Still, when we do get to see him, he keeps on surprising us and makes us think just what his next move will be, and how he’s going to affect Charlie, or anybody else around him. Connie Nielsen is also here as the stripper that Charlie is practically head-over-heels for, and is playing it like an old-school, noir dame where she smokes, talks smack and is always showing some skin. Heck, her name is even Renata! Doesn’t get anymore old-school than that! Anyway, she’s hot-as-hell, but also shows that her character may have a whole lot up-to-her-sleeve, that isn’t for the greater-good of Charlie’s well-being, nor anybody else’s for that matter. She’s just exactly like a real woman, screwing-up every man’s life that just so happens to be in her path. What a devil.

Consensus: Gets a bit too loose by the end, but for the most part, the Ice Harvest is a little dark, a little funny, a little mean-spirited, a little dirty, a little smug, a little sweet and pretty damn surprising in the way it goes about telling its plot, and introducing to us characters that have layers. Wow. A comedy with meaning. Gosh, I’m gonna miss Harold Ramis. RIP bud.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You'd have that same mug if you lived in Witchita, too.

You’d have that same mug if you lived in Wichita.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

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

Say Anything… (1989)

That Peter Gabriel sure has a way with women.

The film follows the relationship between Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), an average student, and Diane Court (Ione Skye), the valedictorian, immediately after their graduation from high school and how they work out their social differences to become a couple. Problem is, Diane’s father, James (John Mahoney), seems to be going through some personal problems that get in the way of what they have. Still, they just so happen to be in love and know that no matter what kind of curveballs life throws them, they’re going to duck out of the way of them and keep on swinging. This movie has nothing to do with baseball, but I just felt like using that analogy.

The 80’s was a decade where high-school rom-coms ran rampant in the theaters, just about every single weekend. Some were great, and some were not so great. However, others made an effort to try and change the conventions of the rom-coms ways. Not only did they add an extra-amount of heart and depth, but actually gave us three-dimensional characters to root for as well. It’s a shame though that it had to happen during the last year of that corny-as-hell decade.

Cameron Crowe is pretty big hotshot now, but made his directorial debut here with this flick, which was a great way to start off a pretty good film-making career. There’s nothing real flashy or significant with what it is that he’s doing behind the camera that’s really worth noting in the first place, but what is worth talking about is his writing for this unlikely high-school flick. That premise up-top probably makes it seem like the same old junk where we see two little teens fall in love, have sex, do funny teenager things, run through a problem where they can’t be with one another, and end up being together by the end. That’s sort of here and sort of isn’t, but what does make this one somehow different is that it doesn’t feel fake and every single step is takes with it’s story, feels believable as if you’re watching a honest relationship bloom right in front of your own two eyes.

Teenagers having sex?!?!? NOOOOO!!!

Teenagers having sex?!?!? NOOOOO!!!

Right from the start where we see Lloyd call up Diane and ask her out, in a weird way, we are somehow hooked and from then on, it feels like these two are spending time with each other, getting to know one another, and becoming attached to each other, in a real way that any teenager would do. Hell, not even just teenagers, I’m talking about people in general, too! This is a timeless story that shows two kids, falling in love and facing the hard-ships that usually come with young love, but the film never seems like it’s taking any cheap-shots at us to make us feel bad for these two when things start to go wrong. You believe these two together and it gives you a little warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach whenever you see them together. Maybe I’m the only one who felt like that, but that’s just me showing my hopeless-romantic side. We all have it, I’m just the first to admit it.

Despite being made and taking place in the 80’s, the film still holds up and doesn’t at all feel like it’s part of that, as I stated before, “corny-as-hell decade”, which is probably a good thing because you can still watch it to this day and relate just as much as kids were doing way back when this sucker hit theaters in ’89. There’s a lot of that pre-Generation-X talk that goes down here with all of the discussions about not having a set future or anything and that’s slightly refreshing to see in a movie that came from the days where John Hughes movies kicked ass. These kids sound like real kids and aren’t trying to be the next frickin’ Stephen Hawkins, Jane Goodall, or Bruce Wayne, they’re all just being regular kids that don’t have any set plans on their future. And when you think about it, who does?

The only real set-back to this whole film was that there are essentially two stories going on here at the same time, and even though they both feel believable and honest, one still took me away too much from the other. There’s this whole story about how Diane’s father is going through scamming-problem at work and even though it fits into the story and makes you believe everything that happens afterwards, it really takes you away from this sweet love story these two have going on and it bothered me because I was enjoying watching them the whole time. Honestly, if the whole film was just about them two having a relationship, going through all of the problems that normal teens do go through when “love” comes into play, I would have had no problems whatsoever, but when you start bringing in another story to distract us from that, then it’s a bit disappointing. Then again, life is random and it seems like that’s the exact point this movie’s trying to get across from the fore-front.

John Cusack was always doing his own thing back in the 80’s and the teen/high-school genre was his area to reside in, without having to move a finger. That’s not to say that the guy didn’t own those roles, but it did seem like he was getting pigeon-holed after awhile and was in need of for a change, which is why it comes as a big surprise that he didn’t annoy the hell out of us here with Lloyd Dobbler, a role that really made him break-out of that mold and start really taking his career seriously. Why? Well, it’s because Cusack is so lovable and understandable as Dobbler, and also able to give him a sense of maturity that showed a man at the top of his game who was getting a lot older than the characters he was playing. There’s this line of sincerity that comes out almost every second he’s on-screen, and you never lose sight of what he wants, even when it seems like he even has. What was so remarkable and lovable about this character was that Dobbler isn’t your ordinary, happy high-school kid that knows what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Hell, in fact, the kid makes a point about not knowing what to do other than try and take up a career in kick-boxing. He’s just one of those kids out there that doesn’t have any motivation to make up his mind now, but what he does want to do is love and to be loved by this one and special someone, Diane.

And what a special someone she is.

Show off.

Show off.

Diane is of course, at the beginning, a total priss that was valedictorian, barely talked to anybody outside of her richy-rich friend circle, and is even going to England for college. Basically, this girl does not fit Dobbler’s loner-type but they make it work through their chemistry, and mainly by how great Ione Skye is here by giving us a three-dimensional character that actually seems like a girl that would fall for this guy, even though everybody else around her has no idea as to why. It’s a shame that the last thing I saw Skye in that was remotely as big as this was a bitty-part in Zodiac, because I think she had some great skill as an actress and did very well portraying a character with so much heart and honesty that made us fall in love with her simultaneously with Dobbler.

Then again, it couldn’t have been too hard to fall for a dude that’s willing to bring out a freakin’ jukebox while you’re trying to sleep. It’s more creepy now, than it was then, but damn, if I was alive back in ’89 when this first hit the big-screen, I would have been using this on all the ladies. Heck, I still do, it’s just that the cops are more than likely to show up than the chick I’m playing the tunes for. Stupid love.

Even though his story-line did get a tad bit in the way of the actual story, John Mahoney still plays his role as Diane’s dad very well. Mahoney does a great job with this material because he plays her father, almost like a friend and the conversations they have together feel realistic and honest, just as many father-daughter relationships usually are. I would’t know because I’m not a girl (yet) but just by talking to my parents in a very honest way about my life and what I do in my off-time, I can see that a lot of this stuff feels real. Also, Lili Taylor is pretty good in her role as Lloyd’s bestie, Corey, and also made me wonder just where the hell she went with her bright-ass career.

Consensus: Say Anything… may have a few distractions here and there in its story, but Cameron Crowe’s assured-direction, honest script, and timeless story that always seems to ring true, makes it all worth it in the end and one 80’s teen rom-com you have to keep a hold onto, no matter how many times you hear that freakin’ song or some dude using it to pick up some chick.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, and thanks to Cameron Crowe, we now have a quality-band who gives out quality tracks such as this and this. Thanks Cam!

Oh, and thanks to Cameron Crowe, we now have a quality band who gives out quality tracks such as this and this. Thanks Cam!

Identity (2003)

That’s why you gotta fly high, Marriott Inn-style, baby.

It all started on a very-rainy night with a woman getting run over by a limo-driver (John Cusack). After this, the man tries to save her life by bringing her to a motel in the middle of the desert, owned by an odd man named Larry (John Hawkes). There’s no such luck, until a cop (Ray Liotta) with a prisoner in his custody (Jake Busey), comes on by. There might be hope, but there somehow isn’t, considering the more and more people that show up, the more deaths there are. But here’s the kicker: nobody has a single-clue exactly as to who’s killing all of these people in the shadows. It could be anybody. Hell, it could even be YOU, the viewer!! AHHH!!

This movie is such an obvious rip-off of an Hitchcock movie, it’s not even funny. Everything from the strange-o characters, to the tense setting, to the mystery, and hell, even to the actual motel itself. It looks exactly like the one that Norman Bates rented out for anybody that strolled-along, almost to the point of where the actual sign itself continues to flicker on-and-off to portray just how shady the area actually is. Yes, it can get pretty obvious where the creators took their inspiration from, but the distractions go away once the story starts, and ultimately: where the fun really begins.

Going into this movie, thinking that you have a hot-head for detail and knowing what’s good when it comes to any movie, may just have take your high-hat off for this one because it’s a total puzzle in every stretch of the imagination. Every time a new character is brought to our attention, more of a mystery is presented to us, and just when we think we know exactly what this story is all about, where it’s going, and who’s going to end up being the slasher behind the closed-doors; the movie still toys with us and gives us something new to think about. There were countless times in this movie where even I thought I had it all figured-out, but somehow I was stooped, once again.

Just had to get run over, didn't ya?!?!?

Just had to get run over, didn’t ya?!?!?

Movies like this where you can’t trust anyone, not even the director himself (in this case, James Mangold), always are a treat for me to watch because it’s very rare where I actually get to check out a movie that makes me second-guess myself, almost every step of the way. No matter what I thought was right, I was usually wrong. Even by the end once all of the pieces seemed to start to come together, once more, I was slapped in the face with a disapproving look. Not to say it was an insult or anything, but it was more of a slap to wake up, and look at the finer-details in order to see if I could really get on with this movie, and what it was trying to pull.

But most movies like this, with all of the twists and such, remind me of a young-at-heart relationship between two people. At first, all is good. You see where things could go, you get happy, and you start to appreciate everything that you have in front of you, even if you may be stepping-out of your comfort-zone a bit. Actually, maybe even a bit too much for yourself. However, suddenly things go awry and you realize that maybe not everything was as perfect as you once thought it was, and now it’s time for a slight-change. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to over-do everything, show the other person how much you care, and rather than gaining their love and support back, you gain other thoughts and feelings that you didn’t quite want in the first place. You know, the baddie one.

That’s how this movie felt to me. Once everything got ready and going, I was happy and ambitious. I expected the movie to keep me puzzled, glued-in to what was going on, and shock me, every time that it felt like it wanted to. However, things got a little crazy at a certain point that I eventually started to realize that maybe this movie was turning it’s wheels a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the movie for being fun, clever, and original in it’s own type of way, but after awhile, it only went on for so long and so far, that is, until I started to question whether or not this movie even believed in the twists it was throwing at the wall and seeing what stuck, and what sort of just surely, but slowly continued to slide-down the wall.

Then, on the other side of the stadium, I am a bit torn with this movie because I enjoyed myself, had fun, and continued to second-guess myself, even when I was sure that I was correct in my pretentious, critical-ways (hey, it comes with the job). So therefore, I guess it’s all just a judge of character. Whether or not you are able to take the numerous twists the movie begins to launch into the story, is all up to you. For yours truly, some of it worked and seemed smart, whereas some of it didn’t quite work so well and actually seemed goofy. Oh well, that’s just me. Make up your own minds, kids!

But no matter what crazy shit a movie tries to pull, you at least have to give it credit for getting a cast such as this assembled, and allow them to do whatever it is that they can do to make a movie as goofy as this work. Nobody is really playing very far and away from what we’ve seen them do before, but at least they own it and are game for this type of material. At least. John Cusack is good as the ring-leader of the group, who knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to pull it all off so no more people get killed. You see that he has a past where the guy used to be a cop, but suffered a problem that left him emotionally-strained and messed-up in the head, therefore, he left his duty. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, right? Keep on guessing.

Ray Liotta plays, as you could expect, a cop that has a huge chip on his shoulder with a dangerous criminal in his custody, and a bit of anger-issue. However, as obvious and conventional as this may sound (even for a character played by Liotta), Liotta makes him work because you constantly believe that there is more to this dude than he lets in, even if the character himself doesn’t seem to admit it. Liotta is always good at playing these types of roles, even if it sort of has become a trademark of his by now. That’s fine, though, because the guy seems like he would do the right thing if he had to, but does that mean he’s really a good guy? Keep on guessing.

"No, you go first."

“No, you go first.”

The only one here who really seems to have a clear-enough conscience not be considered a prime-suspect in all of the killings, is a whore with a heart of gold played by Amanda Peet. I usually love Peet in everything she does, but she seemed a bit annoying here. It wasn’t Peet herself, as much as it was more of her character for having that loud, obnoxious Southern-accent that continued to ring in my ears, even when she wasn’t yelling at somebody for looking at her hot body. Yeah, blame us for this, Amanda!

But they aren’t the only ones in this movie, they’re just the main stars that may (or may not) attract the audience to the wider-show. There’s plenty more where that came from, and they are all great. Clea Duvall plays a young, just-recently married gal that’s having problems with her d-bag hubby; John C. McGinley’s character’s wife is the one who gets hit in the first place and is good at being awkward and twitchy, without reminding me of the legend of all this; John Hawkes is a fun-fit as the type of dude you’d expect to own a motel out in the middle of nowhere (meaning he’s a bit of a creep-o); and lastly, the lovely and equally-as-creepy Rebecca De Mornay is here as an aging, but still very uptight actress that believes she deserves more than she’s given. Art imitating life? Just maybe.

Consensus: Most of what Identity has to offer and whether or not you’ll be able to go along for the ride, is all up to you, the viewer. Twists and turns will occur, and it all depends on whether or not you are game for them. Me, I was quite game, but I will admit that there is some goofiness underneath the blankets of a story that seemed drench in mystery.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Surprise! Surprise! It was the bubble-wrap killer after all of this time!!

Surprise! Surprise! It was the bubble-wrap killer after all of this time!!

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Glad I actually celebrated my Sweet Sixteen the right way. Hooters baby!

It’s Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald)’s Sweet Sixteen and no one in her family remembers the occasion. What’s even worse is that she can get away from this creepy freshman (Anthony Michael Hall), and can’t have the boy she wants, the dreamy hot-stuff known as Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling). Everything she feels totally resonates with me, because I would always remember the days of when jocks would tease me with their hot bods, and the dorks would never get the hint that I didn’t want anything to do with them. Oh, high-school. How I miss you so!

Well, now that I’am officially a high-school graduate (have no idea how in the hell that happened) I can easily say that I do miss a little bit of it. Not all of it, but a bit of it. That’s why watching one of these flicks really hits me harder than I imagined because being all done with my high-school days, I can now look-back, reminisce, and realize that the 21st Century that I grew up in, isn’t that much different from the 80’s. Don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s just a matter of what hit me first. Nope, it’s definitely bad.

So, in case you didn’t know, this is the directorial debut of John Hughes who is one amazing writer that defined the 80’s. This was one of his most prime-examples for many reasons, but the main which being because the dude was able to get inside the mind of the youth going through teenage angst and show it in a funny, but very truthful way. Everything you see here, you remember from high school, whether it’d be a loving or angry memory. Everything from the nerds, to the high-school crush you never had a chance (I don’t know what that feels like because I get all of my babes), to the lame-o school dances, to the crazy after-parties, to the cheerleaders you never had a chance with, to the clubs that nobody cared about but were somehow there, and just all of the other signature things in-between that make high-school, well: high-school. Gets me a tad nostalgic now that I think about it, but I’m still holding back the tears.

Where was Jake Ryan on my Sweet 16?

Where was Jake Ryan on my Sweet 16?

Whenever you watch a film from the 80’s, you see all that happens and you listen to the dialogue, and what they thought was so hip and cool then, has sort of played-out now and been deemed, “lame”. However, Hughes’ writing has somehow been able to over-achieve that problem, and still have his writing be considered funny and actually, iconic in it’s own way of capturing what it was like to be a teen in the 80’s, but what it was like to be a teenager, angst-fueled and all. The guy knows how to write snappy, but humorous dialogue that doesn’t go over too many people’s heads, but can also still get to the bottom of the barrel and shows just what a freakin’ hassle it can be to be a teenager, and worst of all, having nobody remember your 16th birthday. Never happened to me, but shit, I would have been pissed-off to the high heavens had it happened.

Of course, though, this is Hughes’ first movie he’s ever directed, and to be honest; you can sort of tell. As I’ve mentioned before, the script is great and it has it’s fair-share of wonderful lines that make you belly-roll, but it does lose focus on Samantha Baker and begin to focus way, way too much on the side-characters that bring-out most of the humor in this story. Don’t get me wrong, I liked all of the side-stuff that Hughes had to throw in here for comedic-effect so we wouldn’t have what seemed like a Lifetime-movie on our hands, but when it seemed like it had to deliver that emotional and romantic-note at the end, it just came off as very weak and didn’t do much for me. The ending is probably not suited best for a 19-year-old, d-bag like myself, but still, for who it is for, it works and actually still has them ladies swooning until these very days.

No matter what any member of this cast has done in recent-time (and that’s not saying much), they will forever and always be remembered for being members of the illustrious “Brat Pack”, and this film is one of the main reasons why they were apart of it. I don’t know if the performances had to do anything with it, but they aren’t that shabby, either. Molly Ringwald feels like an actual 16-year-old gal going through the usual-problems that it seems like most teenaged-girls go through: school, boys, mom, dad, brother, sister, menstrual cycles, dances, money, etc. However, she isn’t always pissing around the whole movie about how nobody remembers her birthday, because when she does decide to cheer-up and look at the bright-side, the girl’s got a lot of charm to her that makes me wonder why she didn’t do more when her teenier-bopper days were long-gone. I could understand why, because people wouldn’t be able to get past the fact that she’s still that girl from all of the John Hughes movies, but still: the girl has obvious-talent on-display here and it’s sad that she didn’t continue. Oh well, it was probably her idea anyway. Either way, poor gal.

Eat your heart out, Jake.

Eat your heart out, Jake.

Everybody knows and loves Anthony Michael Hall, not only because he seems like he’s the only one out of this main-cast to keep himself alive and well in the hearts of moviegoers, but because his character, Geek, is such a fun character to watch and Hall brings a lot to the character. Yes, his name is actually “Geek”, but don’t feel bad for him because he’s probably the best character in the whole movie and also the most-endearing as well. I highly doubt anybody would have ever thought that out of everybody here, he would be one of the more-successful ones to keep himself active, but hey, good for him. At least somebody’s keeping themselves a bit busy with life.

Can’t say the same thing about Michael Schoeffling, who plays the hunk amongst all hunks, Jake Ryan. Schoeffling is fine in this role but he isn’t given much to do other than look cool, suave, and sexy, so that Samantha, and all of the girls at home can just stare-at his beautiful-face all day and night. I guess it ain’t so bad when you think about it, but it didn’t do much for him in the future, since the guy’s last credit to-date was something called Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Oh dear, doesn’t sound all that hopeful to me. Also, why the hell would Gedde Watanabe speak out against his role as the iconic Asian, Long Duk Dong?!? I mean I can understand that the film shows a very racist and politically-incorrect look at Asians but still! ………Okay, now that I’ve actually thought about it, maybe he was right. Hey, it may have been the most stereo-typically racist thing you’ve ever seen on-screen but don’t try and tell me that you found it hard not saying, “What’s happening hot stuff?”, after you came back from watching this.

Consensus: May not be as good, as memorable, or as important as some of John Hughes’ other pieces of work, but Sixteen Candles is still a funny, smart, and honest-look into the life of teenager going through angst that may have you look back on your high-school years with a smile, and maybe even a chuckle. I know it did for me.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, who's he kidding!?!? Sign him up for the sequel!

Oh, who’s he kidding!?!? Sign him up for the sequel!

The Paperboy (2012)

Would have been better, had it been based on the Nintendo games.

Ward, a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his younger brother, a college drop-out named Jack (Zac Efron) investigate the events surrounding a murder to exonerate a man on death row, named Hillary (John Cusack). However, the only reason they are doing so is because the gal that wants Hillary out, a sexxed-up, piece of work named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), just so happens to be the apple of Jack’s eyes.

I’ve been hearing a lot of crazy shit about this film and to be honest: it’s all deserved. Everybody knows Lee Daniels because he pulled-off Precious about 4 years ago and it showed him as the type of director that can get a story, no matter how gritty or despicable, and be able to make it in the least-bit inspirational for people. However, it wasn’t his first rodeo, as that honor (and I guess, dishonor) goes to a little, fucked-up movie called Shadowboxer. If you’ve never heard of it, please, don’t go watch it because it’s just an insane piece of work to watch and it will have you question whether or not you’ve just watched two films, from the same director. And if you have heard or have actually seen it, then buckle up, because that exactly the same type of crazy shit you’re going to get here.

As much as Daniels’ debut may have blew huge gonads, this flick is actually more controlled than that one and that’s probably because it’s just wild, without making any excuses for being so. There’s definitely that type of grungy, exploitative look and feel to the movie that has you feel as if you are in the dirty South, around the 60’s when racial-issues were up to the forefront and everybody was just sweating their asses off. If anything Daniels does do right in this flick, it’s at least nail the look and feel of the period that he has it placed-in, but everything else, well, it is sort of all-over-the-place.

Being “all-over-the-place” isn’t really all that much of bad thing if you can do it, and get away with it. The problem isn’t that Daniels can’t do it, because he sure as hell makes sure that everybody knows he can in every, damn second of this movie, but it’s more that he can’t get away with it. He can show two people making each other cum without ever touching one another and just simulating dirty things to one another, but it sticks out like a sore-thumb to everything else, and he can’t get away with it; he can show a girl peeing on a guy because he got stung by a bunch of jelly-fish, but it’s just odd and seems like it was only done for shock-factor, and he also can’t get away with it; and lastly, he can try and bring some issues up about the whole Civil Rights-movement, but when you compare it to the last sequences I just mentioned, it seems uneven, and once again, he can’t get away with it. Directors like Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar (who apparently wanted to take this material at one time), or even Robert Rodriguez  for that matter, could take this material, do whatever the hell they wanted to with it, and at least make all of the crazy shit and melodramatic stuff gel well enough together, that you almost don’t notice it, but Daniels isn’t one of those directors. He’s just a regular-director that seems like he’s trying his damn near hardest to have us all forget about the over-weight girl story he pulled-off 4 years ago, and try to distract us with insane amounts of sex, whether it actually happen on-screen or just be insinuated. Either way, there’s a bunch of sex that seems to come out nowhere at times.

Look what you've been missing out on, Tom!

Look what you’ve been missing out on, Tom!

Is all of this wackiness and cookiness fun? In a way, yes it is and honestly, as much as I may be ragging on the film right here, I am more or less just hating on Daniels. Not to say that the guy doesn’t know how to make a story move, because he definitely does, but it focuses way too much on the personal lives of these characters and not in an exciting or electric way either, it’s just a boring, way-too-dramatic way that comes off as trying too hard. We never really care for these characters, the case they continue to push to the side, or what their relationships are with each other and how that affects one another, and I guess that was the point. Daniels is just giving us a bunch of dirty people that we can either care to like or not. Whether or not we actually do, doesn’t matter, because as long as Daniels is just allowing us to see how insane he can be, then he’s the one with the real joy in the end. That kind of ticks me off now that I think about it, because there was definitely a crap-ton of promise with this flick and premise, it’s just a shame that it had to fall so far from ever achieving that said promise.

The only promise that this flick ever does hit head-on, is the ensemble cast and what they are able to do with each of their roles, no matter how wacky or unbelievable they may be. Zac Efron is the sort-of voice of reason throughout this whole flick and is definitely growing-up right in front of our own eyes, but if you think about it, it is sort of a dull role for the guy but nowhere near as dull as the role Robert Pattinson had in Cosmopolis. Still, Efron makes this character work and his performance shows-off a kid that definitely wants to be treated like an adult, yet, still has the tendencies of a kid that just doesn’t yet know what to do with his life or who to spend the rest of it with. Sort of how Efron is now, just without being peed-on. Then again, I still have no idea what him and Vanessa Hudgens did in their spare-time.

Playing his big bro, Matthew McConaughey is good as the slick and sly reporter that can not only charm his way into getting whatever the hell he wants, but also has a bit of problems brewing underneath that he’s pretty good at hiding. This is a nice role for McConaughey and it’s one that he can practically play while sleeping, but after a year where tore the roof down as force to be reckoned with in flicks like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, this one definitely ranks the lowest-of-the-low for him. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not to say that it’s anything special, either. John Cusack is playing really, really against-type here as the psychotic and nutty Hillary, and shows that Cusack can probably do more than any of us ever expected from him. He’s strange, he’s weird, but he’s also very sinister and I like how Cusack totally just swan-dived right into the role, totally leaving all shades and memories behind of Peter Gabriel tapes in his pathway. Not to say that this is a special performance that makes us think of Cusack in a different way now, but it’s definitely a role that shows the guy can do more than just be that old dude from the 80’s we all remember relating to when our dates walked-out on us at prom. Yeah, that he is no more.

Better get used to that look, because that's all you're going to see him look half of the damn movie!

Better get used to that look, because that’s all you’re going to see him look half of the damn movie!

The one who really steals the spotlight from the rest of these dudes is Nicole Kidman, as the starlet fire fox, Charlotte. Kidman hasn’t been this sexy or bad-ass since the days of Eyes Wide Shut and To Die For, but here, she totally steals all the glory and attention, and has all of the fun out of everybody here. She just relishes in the fact that she can be sexy, be a little dirty, but also be a little bit sympathetic as well and once things start to go South for her and this story, she’s the only one you really give a single hoot about, especially since she’s the only one that has the most believable convictions out of the whole story (she just wants love). Kidman is probably getting the most recognition and praise for her work here and rightfully so, because the gal just looks freakin’ hot and steams up every scene she’s in, whether she’s trying to seduce people and act sexy, or not. Either way, Kidman definitely had my attention in almost every scene and I’m glad so, too, because she deserved it.

Consensus: You may have a boat-load of fun with The Paperboy if you’re looking for some weird shit to happen, non-stop without any rhyme or reason as to why exactly, but if not, then you may just be bored and annoyed by how uneven everything is, despite Daniels trying his hardest to make us think or see otherwise. You strike-out this time, my friend!

6/10=Rental!!

"I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd....."

“I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd…..”

The Grifters (1990)

Do con-men and women really look this dashing? If so, I’m not cut-out for the job.

Lilly Dillon (Huston) is a veteran con artist who begins to rethink her life when her son Roy (Cusack), a small-time grifter, suffers an almost-fatal injury when hit with a thrust from the blunt end of a baseball bat, right after a failed scam. However, she doesn’t realize that her boy has fixed himself up with a dame (Annette Bening) that may not seem to be all that she appears to be.

Calling this movie a “thriller” would not be doing it any justice, and I’m still contemplating on whether or not it’s the good type of justice, or the bad. Good, mainly because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool, but at the same time, bad, because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool. See, it’s not the type of film about cons that you’d expect. It’s not filled with a big-heist, it’s not filled with thrilling suspense and action to hold you over, and it’s not even really filled with that many twists or turns. Instead, it’s sort of like the day-time soap opera version of a movie about cons and that’s both good, and bad. It’s very love-hate with me here, and I think you’re about to find that out.

The problem I ran into with this flick was that I feel like it would be going-on in such a slow, tedious-pace that it almost felt deliberate. Most movies that have this slow pace, usually do it for the same reasons that this flick did it, but it works a lot better for them since it’s exactly how the story should be told and judges how effective it will be to the viewer. However, with a story/movie like this, the slower-pace doesn’t quite work as well as it might think and continued to piss me off, because every time the film felt like it was really getting somewhere and picking-up itself and all of the pieces it was leaving on the ground, it would just stop, take a moment to pause, and jog it’s way through.

"Hayyyyy, aren't you that gal from the Addams Family? Where'd your black hair go?"

“Hayyyyy, aren’t you that gal from the Addams Family? Where’d your black hair go?”

It was like me in a 5k mile run. I start off so perfectly, then I realize I put too much energy into the first 5 minutes, then I decide to slow things down, almost to the point of where I begin to walk, then, I get some inspiration and energy in my step and begin to run again, and then so-on, and so-forth, all up-until I get to the finish-line and everybody treats me like I just cured cancer, even despite me coming in 2nd to last place. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes with me (I obviously always win those runs, obviously…), but that’s how I felt with this flick and I feel like director Stephen Frears was just toying with me on-purpose. In some ways that works and makes the flick seem less predictable as it strings along, but in other ways, it just feels cheap and sort of like the director wants to be like the characters and play a sick, cat-and-mouse game that some people may not be too happy with in the end when they find out what’s to come of it all.

However, I can’t hate on Frears too much because no matter how slow and languid the pace got, I was always interested in seeing what was going to happen next. The story definitely takes it’s fair-share of detours into the past and they are definitely what feature the most energy and fun of the whole flick, but whenever it focuses on these characters, what they’re doing now, how they’re getting their money, and who’s playing who, the film still stays fun, if not all that energetic as the flashback sequences. Seeing cons do their thing like no other is always a blast to see on-screen and rather than just having it be a flick that exposes trick-after-trick, we get more of a balanced look at how broken and dull some of these cons lives are, and how money cannot buy them happiness and instead, only buys them more trouble. You actually care for these characters and that’s only what raises the stakes even more when the unpredictable-factor of this story comes into play, and you feel like you have no idea where it’s going to go or how, you just know that somebody is playing somebody. Then again, when you think about life and all that is: aren’t we all?

"Nope, Warren's still bigger."

“Nope, Warren’s still bigger.”

Okay, away from the philosophical ramblings of a 19-year-old film critic, back to the movie at-hand here. Yeah, the Grifters. I think without this trio of leads that the flick features, it probably would have folded underneath it’s own weight but thankfully, this trio of leads are here and are here to give some magnificent performances that stick with you, long after the flick is over. Before ’90, John Cusack was mainly known for racing randomly in the streets and always knowing the right Peter Gabriel track to have the ladies swooning, but once the year 1990 actually hit and this flick came-around, people began to look at him differently and realize something about him: this guy’s all grown-up. Cusack never really got a chance to stretch his acting-skills back in those days, mainly because everybody thought he was made for just hooking-up with high-school girls and in a way, they may have been right, but Cusack proved them all wrong and showed that the guy could play a sly, evil son-of-a-bitch that was as slick as they come and didn’t know when to stop pulling-in jobs and ranking-up the dough. Cusack always seems like a believable character and that’s all because the guy never over-does his whole cool essence and look to his act and always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody else in the flick, as well as the audience themselves, yet, we always like him and cheer for him as things begin to go South for his hormones and his job. I guess being a con is considered a job and if so, he definitely must have had to won “Employee of the Month”, at least once.

Anjelica Huston plays his mommy, who just so happens to be 14-years-older than him and shows you that the gal can, as usual, play a strong-willed and big-brained, female-lead like no other and as much as this may seem like a convention of hers by now, I still can’t hold that against her. Huston’s great with this role and you always wonder whether or not she is Roy’s mom, his lover, a past-fling, or simply, just some chick who’s trying to play a con on him and get his stash of cash. Like the rest of the characters in this trio, you never know what’s up with her and what her next move is going to be, but like typical, Huston-fashion, she always keeps you guessing and interested. Still, I was just waiting for that wig to come off. I could not believe how legitimate it truly was in terms of the story and setting.

80's, teen heart-throb he is no more.

80’s teen heart-throb he is no more.

The best out of this trio, and the one who really stands-out among the rest is probably Annette Bening as Myra, the fellow-squeeze of Roy. Bening, no offense to her or her looks, has never really been the type of actress that I could really declare “sexy”, “hot”, or even one that I would just have to take to bed, if I saw her in real-life (because they all would go to be with me, let’s face it), but here, she totally had me re-think that. Bening uses her flair for sexuality and nudity to her advantage and has her character come-off as a bit of a tramp, but a smart tramp at best, and a tramp that knows exactly what she’s doing, even if the others may not be able to catch onto it right just yet. Out of of the three, you’ll be wondering the most what side Bening’s is on and when you finally get your answer, you may be shocked, you may not be, but what you will be, is surprised by how much Bening uses the look and feel of sex-appeal to make a character that’s full of it, really, really work.

Consensus: Stephen Frears’ direction definitely makes you feel as if he is just playing with you, just in-order to be more like his subjects, but that’s why The Grifters does, and does not work in it’s own right. However, you can’t deny the charm and power that is within these three performances and it’s just wonderful to see them act each-and-every-single-one of their asses off, even if the pace seems to not be serving them the full-plate that they so rightfully deserves.

7/10=Rental!!

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

2012 (2009)

Glad we all died this year!

With the Mayan calendar ending in 2012, a large group of people must deal with natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, typhoons and glaciers.

Director Roland Emmerich stated that this was going to be his last “disaster flick” and since he already did ones like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, you can tell he needed to go out with a total bang. So you know what that means: more people dying, more destruction, more shit blowing-up, more corny one-liners, and more special effects to eat-up, and shit-out like an all-you-can-eat, Chinese buffet.

Everything I just described up there may make this seem like another piss-poor attempt at trying to just throw a bunch of dollhairs at the screen, in hopes that it will actually make most of it back, and then some, but it actually makes this film a lot of fun because Emmerich knows he isn’t trying to make some piece of “art”. It’s not one of those flicks that makes you think twice about the world we live in, what could happen, how it could happen, and nor is he trying to make a film that’s going to make a run for Best Picture. He’s just trying to make a movie where the Earth, the beautiful world we all love and live in, goes, “BOOM! CRASH! BANG! SPLAT!”, and everybody else suffers because of it. It’s pretty fun, and sometimes exciting to see what Emmerich puts into this type of destruction and the special effects look pretty good, for the most part. Other times, they look like something that came straight out of GTA: Apocalypse but you have to give this movie the benefit of the doubt: showing the world blow up in every which way possible, is a pretty hard thing to pull off. And it’s definitely something that Emmerich shows total joy and glee in doing-so.

Actual, real-life footage taken from the Weather Channel.

Actual, real-life footage taken from the Weather Channel. Seriously, just ask Rolan Emmerich.

Still, whenever the destruction wasn’t going down, this film tried it’s hardest to give us some melodrama that just didn’t work and made me laugh more than anything else. The screenplay is obviously terrible and of course, we get all the same old melodramatic speeches and corny-ass catch-phrases that show up here but what bothered me more about this writing was that it was way too predictable for my taste. The whole story about Cusack saving his family from every line of death imaginable is all good and fun to watch, but there’s so many coincidences here, that I wondered just how this guy didn’t break a leg, a hand, an wrist, a shoulder, a tibia, a collar-bone, or any type of bone in his body, for that matter. Hell, the guy actually drives a limo through a volcanic eruption and he barely even gets a scratch on his cheek, let alone, a scratch on the fine set of wheels he’s been trucking around this hell-whole full of destruction. I don’t want it to seem like I wanted to see the guy perish in the first earthquake, but I thought him, as well as plenty others, just got by without anything really bad happening to them whatsoever and it was a little too unrealistic and too obvious for me to really just let slide-by and act as if it’s not really happening in-front of my eyes. I know, I’m hating on a Roland Emmerich film for not being realistic, but I just couldn’t get my head past it.

Watching places like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Yellowstone National Park get blown up into tiny little pieces and get sucked into the ocean is pretty cool to watch, but I could only imagine how a person would feel had they actually lived there. There was no mention or scenes showing Philadelphia being destroyed, but I would think that if they had, I would feel pretty sad about it because that’s my home and just the thought of everything around me, anything I ever knew, and every person I ever met, being killed instantly would put me in a total bummer of a mood. It also started to hurt me once Emmerich started showing all of Vatican City being thrashed up and made me think: why would you want to kill the Pope in a movie like this? I get it, it’s realistic that him and plenty of other holy people would die in catastrophic events like this, but really!?! Of all people to show being killed in the Apocalypse  you’re going to show the Pope and all of his followers? Did you even need to show that, or could it just have been implied? Just bad taste, that’s all and a bit too extreme for a popcorn flick.

"I'm getting way too old for this Apocalypse shit."

“I’m getting way too old for this Apocalypse shit.”

Also, why the hell did this film need to go on for 2 hours and 40 minutes. I like disaster movies, but not when they can take up about 3 hours of my life and have me practically wasting my day, wondering just what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of it. And if that was the case, I would just watch a double feature of Emmerich’s last two disaster flicks and find more enjoyment out of them both than this junk. It actually got to a point of where I started dozing off by the end when this film decided to go all The Poseidon Adventure on us and it just goes to show you, that once you run-out of ideas about destroying the whole world, just go back, and try stealing from other movies, because nobody’s going to notice. They’re already wasting their times to see your dumb-ass movie, so screw em! Not my thoughts, they’re Emmerich’s and the other Hollywood producers who help him put-out this crap.

The film has a pretty huge cast that works fine with what they are given, but are pretty much wasted on such a shit script like this one here. John Cusack is pretty freakin’ awesome as our central hero, Jackson Curtis, mainly because he doesn’t over-do it one bit. He doesn’t take this role too serious, nor does he ever really freak-out whenever it seems like he and his family are going to perish just like the 95% rest of the world already has. He plays it cool and still has that great comedic timing that we all know and love him for, back from his Peter Gabriel listening days. And also, it’s about freakin’ time that we gave more, heroic-roles like these to Cusack because the dude’s got that, every-day-kind-of-guy look to him, that makes you want to stand-up, pat him on the back, and just cheer him on until he can’t go on no more. Thanks Roland Emmerich! Even if the rest of your movie sucks, at least you have Cusack the shot he so rightfully deserves!

Danny Glover plays the President (as you would assume) and does a pretty good job bringing out some emotions in a guy that I feel like I would blame all of this bad shit on in the first place (don’t know why, but I would probably just be mad); Woody Harrelson has a nice cameo as Charlie Frost, the bearded and dirty hippy that knows all about the end of the world and loves spreading it all out on the airwaves; Chiwetel Ejiofor is fine as the scientist with a heart, Adrian Helmsley, but he also seems a little too good for this ass-like material; Oliver Platt plays his usual “dickhead” role as top government official, Carl Anheuser, and just oozes the corruption; and Amanda Peet and Thandie Newton just stand there and look scared the whole time. Pretty fine bit of casting as everybody here have proven in other flicks, that they are some heavy-hitters. However, when Roland Emmerich gets ahold of them, they have nothing to do other than ham it up like it’s nobody’s business. That’s exactly what they do here and although it may have made their banking-accounts a bit more filled, it made me a bit more ashamed to see them all stoop this low. Oh well, each and every one of them have done something better since then, so I can’t complain too much.

Consensus: 2012 may remind you how much the end of the world is going to suck with its constant explosions, endless use of special effects, and cheesy-ass writing, but also isn’t as thrilling as you would expect from the dude who did Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. And yes, despite them not either of them being, written-down masterpieces, this one still should have been as fun as them.

3/10=Garbage!! 

Yup, the only two black people left on Earth are THIS good-looking.

Yup, the only two black people left on Earth are THIS good-looking.

Halloween Horror Movie Month: 1408 (2007)

When Samuel L. tells you not to go into the room, DO NOT go into that room!

After a string of best-sellers discrediting paranormal events in the most infamous haunted houses and graveyards around the world, he scoffs at the concept of an afterlife. Mike Enslin (John Cusack)’s phantom-free run of long and lonely nights is about to change forever when he checks into suite 1408 of the notorious Dolphin Hotel for his latest project. Defying the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L Jackson), the author is the first person in years to stay in the reputedly haunted room.

If there is ever a person who should be allowed to Stephen King adaptations, it’s Frank Darabont. Sadly, the guy was nowhere to be found with this one and because of that, look what we got! Damn you Darabont!

Before I get into the negatives of this film, let me just start off by saying that director Mikael Håfström does a lot here and I think he at least deserves some praise for taking what is essentially a story that could be told in 30 minutes, and stretching it way, way out to an hour and 30 minutes. There’s not a lot here that happens, other than Cusack facing off against this room and the evil spirits that lie within, but Håfström keeps it somewhat interesting by starting us off slowly with tiny amounts of tension, that only continues to build and build, until shit gets way too out-of-hand. Håfström seems like he wanted to make this material and have fun with it, which he is somewhat successful in doing, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t much else here to hold onto.

Let me start off by saying that this is a horror movie, without any type of horror whatsoever. Actually, that’s not right to say because there probably is some stuff here that would scare the bajeebers out of certain people, but for me, I didn’t once get frightened by anything I saw on-screen and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Håfström starts to get a bit too carried away with his budget. The film started off perfectly with little spooky things happening here and there, but then once things start to get crazier and crazier and actually pick up, then Håfström just lets all of this annoying and fake-looking CGI take over the film just to show how much havoc this room is causing. Not only doesn’t it look scary, but it’s also a bit goofy in a way that made me chuckle unintentionally and it kept on coming at me, too. After about the 4th wipe-out Cusack has with a random wave of water coming into the bathroom, I was starting to get annoyed, but oh wait, there’s drama that’s needed here as well! Great….

In case you couldn’t tell by that last sentence, there was barely any drama here whatsoever that glued me in once things started to get goofy. There was a very tragic death that has occurred in the lead character’s life that is very, very sad, I’ll give him that, but it’s pretty obvious where they were going to go with it and how they were going to incorporate it into the story, which seemed so damn cheap. And just about everything else that concerns anything dramatic with this dude’s life is what really took me out of the film because as much fun as this whole haunted-house aspect of the film seemed to be, it never really went anywhere with itself other than being just that, just like the dramatic aspect of this movie as well. Yeah, neither part of this movie barely went anywhere, that’s why you should always depend on the stars to give you their top-caliber performances and save the day.

Thank heavens that John Cusack was in this movie because the man freakin’ saved the day here with his performance as “the non-believer in ghosts” writer, Mike Enslin. Cusack is always an actor that turns out great work, year after year, and barely ever gets recognized for it and I think this is one of the rare films where we see him for all that he is when it comes to what kind of work he can pull off. Since this all takes place in the room (I think), it’s all John Cusack for the longest time and he’s left to basically one-man show this bitch up and does a great job by making it all seem believable, especially by the end when he starts to lose a little bit of his mind. Cusack definitely makes this film and the material he’s working with, a hell of a lot more watchable just because of his presence and it’s a great show-case of an actor that in my opinion, doesn’t get as many roles as I think he should.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget to mention Samuel L. Jackson in his teensie-tiny, itty-bitty role as the hotel manager, Mr. Olin. As always, Samuel L. is great with this material and makes his bit-role almost as memorable as Cusack’s and both of them have a very nice scene where they both play off of each other very well and you see the real fun of this film actually come out. Sadly, it was somewhat short-lived once Cusack opened that room’s door. Why John!?!? Why?!??

Consensus: Cusack makes 1408 a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be, but it’s almost not enough due to barely any scares, too much lame CGI, lame drama, and an ever lamer ending that makes you wonder how many times these writers re-wrote this ending over-and-over again just to hit the right spot, but ended up doing the opposite.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Raven (2012)

Apparently Poe likes Peter Gabriel too.

‘The Raven’ finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) teaming up with a detective to search for a serial killer who has kidnapped the author’s fiancee and has gone on a murder spree that mimics the author’s work.

Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of the most influential writers ever when it comes to the world of horror. Even though I have only read and heard a couple of his writings, I can easily say that for his time, he was very different and many people in today’s world definitely take notice to that. That’s probably why it would be best for some of people to see this flick.

Director James McTeigue does know do one thing right with this period piece here and that is, make it look and feel as dark as you can possibly get it to be. The mood here is very somber as if it was one of Poe’s gothic tales straight from his mind, put out onto film. McTeigue also helps this tone out with a bunch of beautiful set designs that take you into 19th Century Baltimore. Seems like a random place to actually have a whole bunch of mystery, murders, crime, and poetry going on but somehow, McTeigue was able to make it all work and feel as if we were there watching all of this crazy ish go down.

I also have to say that a lot of the gore here, was used to great effect. In a day and age where we have films constantly trying to tone it down for a friendly PG-13 rating for the big box office take in, it’s pretty relieving to see a “horror” flick take so much pride in its gore and barely leave anything out whatsoever. It’s very gruesome and has a couple of scenes that reminded me of ‘Saw’ but with a cooler, 19th Century spin on it that worked as well. The most memorable scene of gory torture probably came from when they use a pendulum here that is not only really brutal, but also really clever by how the poor slob they use to kill, is actually a critic. Here I am, a critic, sitting in the press screening for this movie, seeing a fellow critic get his insides hacked up! Now I am definitely going to watch what I say next about what movie and what actor/actress.

Problem with this flick is that behind all of the beauty, it’s pretty much your standard thriller film that doesn’t really even deliver the goods on that at all. The whole whodunit side of this flick seemed half-baked in the first place because not only did it seem like it ripped off plenty of other mystery thrillers, but it also didn’t bring any tension to the flick either. If a film is going to go down the road of being a whodunit, then it should run with the idea by messing with the audience, giving us clues, giving us twists, and just having a whole bunch of fun with its silliness. Or, you can just not do it all, which is what I think that this film should have done after about the first 30 minutes it started talking about this mystery and the killer.

At the center of this mystery, the flick also tries to stuff a love angle down our throats and instead of giving us more reason to see Poe and his lady friend together, it didn’t carry much steam and sort of made me care less and less about what happened really. Alice Eve looks very sexy and obviously tries her best with the material that she’s given, but her chemistry with Cusack was barely even there. This wouldn’t have been such a shame if the film didn’t rely on this courtship to make this mystery stronger, but they do, and for that reason it sort of just didn’t hold my interest as much as the rest of this flick did. Come to think of it, I actually nodded off a couple of times but please, don’t tell the other critics that.

John Cusack definitely didn’t seem like the type of person that was destined to play Edgar Allan Poe, but then again, who is? Cusack brings a lot of energy and humor to a person that we only know through a bunch of eerie and creepy stories. Yes, Cusack brings him to life with a lot of flamboyancy to him but also made him a compelling person to watch which bummed me out more considering that I think this guy could have definitely done a lot better if the film was just based on Poe’s life, rather than just his final days surrounding some mystery. Then again, the box office returns for this flick may not be so hot so I guess we won’t ever get a chance to see that flick, will we?

Consensus: Gory, entertaining, and featuring a very good performance from John Cusack, The Raven is definitely an enjoyable flick about a figure in literature we don’t know much about, but with a weak script, weak whodunit subplot, and weak romance, the film feels like it should have been more of a biopic rather than one just disguised as a mystery thriller.

5.5/10=Rental!!

High Fidelity (2000)

Jams really are the best way to get over a chick.

When record store owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) gets dumped by his girlfriend, Laura (Iben Hjejle), because he hasn’t changed since they met, he revisits his top five breakups of all time in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. As Rob seeks out his former lovers to find out why they left, he keeps up his efforts to win Laura back.

The film is based on a British novel by Nick Hornby, and it just so happens to be one of my favorite novels of all-time because it made me look differently at a lot of things. This film didn’t do the same, but that’s OK.

The problem with a lot of romantic comedies is that their sappy, predictable, unfunny, and overall not very original on anything they talk about or do. For the most part, High Fidelity doesn’t have these features as much as you would expect. Basically the premise here is “the one that got away” storyline but the script here is what makes this all a little different from other romantic comedies.

The novel is one of my favorites, and mainly because of the witty and smart pop-culture, and music references that it had, references that this movie either keeps or adds. I loved just listening to these dudes talk like real people about their “top 5 lists” and if “I Just Called To Say I Love You” is a good song for your daughter. The script has many witty lines that will either leave you shaking your head as to what these people are talking about, or either laughing your ass off. I was sort of somewhere in the middle.

I liked how this film had that sort of laid-back feel to it, but for me, the novel was so much better and in ways made more sense. There is this running narrative in the novel that the film uses, however it just seems oddly placed here and doesn’t bring much reality to the film. Also, there were many times where I think they could have done so much more insight to this film, like the novel did, but I guess sometimes novels are better than the films after all.

John Cusack is the one actor that is basically the definitive poster-boy for 80’s romantic comedies, so it was cool to see him play the role as Rob Gordon, a guy who needs to get over his ex-girl as quick as possible. He delivers the lines well, and makes you believe that he really does know all of this crazy music information. Jack Black is a guy that nowadays gets a lot of crap, but this is the film that put him on the map and with good reason. Every time the guy is on screen, he is an absolute riot and I can tell why he’s a household name now because of it. Iben Hjejle is alright as Laura, although other times I do feel that she could have been better at playing the bitchier parts of her. Also, gotta give some love to Tim Robbins here as Ian, Laura’s new boyfriend, and he is just the man in this, as Robbins always is in anything he does. There are also some other funny ones here such as Lisa Bonet, Todd Louiso, and the always awesome Joan Cusack.

Let’s also not forget the soundtrack. I loved how the film relied on a lot of actual licensed music for their mood and scenes, because it felt like it was all happening in real life, and each of us have our own soundtrack. When you have artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, and hell even The Roots, you know this is going to be a keeper.

Consensus: With a rockin’ soundtrack and some very good acting, High Fidelity is fun, breezy romantic comedy, but doesn’t do much to liven up the book, and has less of an effect when it comes to actual insight on relationships than the book did.

7/10=Rental!!

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Like Snakes on a Plane, what you see is what you get.

Fueled by energy drinks, vodka and nostalgia for their younger, wilder days, a group of aging best friends (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke) travel back in time to 1987, where they get the chance to relive the best year of their lives. And their time machine? Well, it’s a hot tub.

When you watch this film, you must remove any part of your brain that has any type of reality, or sense, and you can enjoy this film. The reason why I enjoyed it.

I never thought I would say this but a film with a title like Hot Tub Time Machine, is actually pretty smart. Crazy I know, but it works in many ways. The more you recognize things like MTV, Ronald Reagan, the brick-sized cell phones, the Kanye glasses, Crispin Glover’s casting, leg warmers, and the references and homages to movies like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, “Red Dawn”, and “The Terminator”, the more you’ll laugh your ass off. There’s even a “Rambo” poster hanging around somewhere. But, the thing is that it’s not all filled with 80s jokes, but there is a LOT of them.

The film is not afraid to pull the type of punches it has. This is RAUNCHY to a new level, without a doubt, and for some it may get way too dirty, but for me, ehh its whatever. Some jokes were mostly hit-or-miss but I laughed enough over, just chuckling. You will soon realize that this movie is sef-aware that its joke, but you never quite find yourself crying on the floor. But I have got to say one thing, this is exactly what comedy needs in today’s world: dirty, raunchy, irrelevant, fun.

The film is a riff on the whole 80s movie genre, and having John Cusack in the lead role, gave it that push it was looking for. However, I just found him to be boring, and always depressing. His character took a lot away from the story at hand, and the scenes with him just drag on. Craig Robinson, as usual, is hilarious, because mostly everything he does, he plays the same crazy black guy, that just belts out hilarious lines. Rob Corddry and Clark Duke, play the same characters they always do in almost every movie, but it works well here, blending nuttiness, with reality.

The cameos from this film are obviously alive, and alright. Chevy Chase is not funny at all, as this random-ass repair man, and could have been used as an extra, and would have been even better. It was also funny to see William Zabka playing his usual ully type roles he always plays. But the best here is Crispin Glover, as the bell boy, who is a running gag, but works so well. Nice homage to the Back to the Future days.

Consensus: Don’t expect any sense or reality from this film, but Hot Tub Time Machine works cause of its non-stop laughs, that border along terrible raunch, and funny satire.

7/10=Rental!!

Grace is Gone (2007)

When it comes to being ultimately depressing, this is the film.

Director James C. Strouse’s indie drama stars John Cusack as Stanley Phillips, an ex-military man trying to find the courage to break some devastating news to his two daughters: Their mother has died while serving in Iraq. As he works through his complex feelings about his wife’s death and the war, Stanley delays telling his girls the truth, instead taking them on an excursion to a theme park.

This is just one of those films I found late at night on HBO, I had nothing else to do, and I’m actually glad I chose to do nothing else.

The film works in many ways although it isn’t a great movie by any means. First, the stereotypes of war are taken down early in the film. Usually in war films like this, its the guy that’s sent off to war, but instead the woman is sent off, thus giving us a new fresh look at the effects of a family in grief.

Second, it succeeds in it’s ability to dramatically examine a politically sensitive issue (the Iraq war) from both conservative and liberal perspectives without alienating either. This is a very intense film which unfolds in a paradoxically low-key fashion throughout. And behind the arras subtly lurks a searing indictment of the numbing and emotional wasteland of middle class suburbia with malls, discount stores, and plastic hotels/motels, all of which form a pervasive and repetitive landscape in which the characters attempt to deal with matters of far greater depth.

And finally, the picture is genuinely heart-on-sleeve emotional and occasionally touching without pandering some sort of deeper message. It’s not overly entertaining but I don’t think it’s meant to be; a mechanically solid and capable movie, this will most appeal to those that can relate to either a death or prolonged absence due to the US/Iraq war.

But the problem I had with this film was that it was just so upsetting all the time. Barely, any happy things happened, and I was disappointed cause I would have liked to see a lot more heart than just sorrow. I think it was also very very simply made. The way it looks and feels is just very obvious and cliche. There is a scene where Cusack lets his daughter smoke and in all honesty I didn’t see any real point in this scene at all. There was also, a little random appearance by the guy playing Cusack’s brother, who just so happens to be the dead-beat, pot-smoking, bum brother, which I found very cliche and just overall stupid.

Cusack does very well here playing against type, however. There are a lot of scenes that call for the right emotion at the right time, and I think Cusack being very quiet and mannered, worked cause he does give that right emotion at that right time. His two daughters are played so realistically, and honestly that even though this is probably their only movie, I can’t wait to see them in more by how great they actually are.

Consensus: Emotionally in-tact, refreshing, and ultimately well-acted, Grace is Gone works well when showing the real effects of grief and healing, but is filmed too simplistic, with way too many random and obvious screen cliches.

7.5/10=Rental!!!

Cradle Will Rock (1999)

One of the worst planned out plays ever!

In the 1930s, as labor strikes erupt across the country, New York City launches a dramatic cultural revolution of its own. Orson Welles (Angus Macfadyen) stages the controversial titular play — a leftist manifesto. Diego Rivera (Ruben Blades) paints a socialist allegory on the walls of Rockefeller Center. And Margherita Sarfatti (Susan Sarandon) gives Da Vinci masterworks to any millionaire who’ll fund her war effort on Mussolini’s behalf.

Now this film has an insanely huge star-studded cast. It is honestly filled with some comedic and dramatic greats that it’s hard to say it almost doesn’t work, but in reality it kind of doesn’t.

It often talks down to the viewer, as it assumes that no one outside of the film and professional theater industry could know about these events or the mood of the nation at this time. The movie’s radical stance is that artists should get to do their art without being destroyed by mean rich people, and aren’t we just wonderful for agreeing with that?

The film puts all these ideas or radicalism, and communism in the film that it makes you wonder is this even about the play at all? I asked myself that many countless of times, I just wish that the film actually focused more on the play, cause I found those scenes to be more entertaining than the ones that were all about the themes of communism and radicalism.

There are some very good things about this film though. I did like the setting and I thought that was really welld done of how it actually did look like the depression era. Also, the script although packed with a lot of combustion and crazyness still does bring out some good ideas, and actually funny humor. It has very dramatic moments, but is soon brought out by it’s comedic factor which works very well at times.

The best part of this film is the acting from the cast. The film does have that great ensemble-cast who each fits their part respectively very well. Tuturro gives a very solid performance showing the anger that has always been inside of him, and Watson shows she can use her charm to probe to still be a cute young character. The best of the side performances I think was Bill Murray who plays a ventriloquist, and brings a lot of humor to the film but also the heart that the film needed.

Consensus: Cradle Will Rock is over-stuffed with way too many themes, and different stories that don’t jell together very well, but has a very witty screenplay, and a wonderfully acted ensemble cast.

6/10=Rental!!!

Serendipity (2001)

Honestly if my chick believed in just fate, then I would dump her ass right away.

An amalgam of the plot lines from When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, Serendipity has John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale meeting during a Christmas shopping spree but parting company soon thereafter. Ten years (and a few failed relationships) later, they yearn to put true love to the test by reuniting. But first, they have to find each other.

The film has a very cute and light touch to it. Many of the things that happen in this film is something you see almost all the time in every single romantic dramedy, except the difference is that its all based on fate.

The one problem I had with this film was that it was based way too much on fate and circumstances. The fateful future “coincidences” are so contrived and far fetched that the movies premise was lost for me.

This movie has no depth and will disappoint those that find the extreme serendipity to be too much to deal with. Why two people would at the last minute dump their fiancee’s on fate was preposterous to me.

Cusack and Beckinsale are actually pretty good in this but are never given any time on screen together since they are so used to just playing little tricks on each other. I cared about these characters and I wanted them to get together, but soon by the end I knew they were, and didn’t really care for them since the whole plot was basically based on them playing one another.

Consensus: Though it’s a cute and light film, Serendipity suffers from a overly destructive plot that has us forgetting about the characters and not worrying what happens to them next.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!

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