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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Maria Bello

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Is smoking good for you? Go ahead and give it a taste yourself!

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the guy that most people consider the second-coming of Satan or a murderous flea-bag, among many other negative personifications. “Why”, may you ask? Well, he’s a lobbyist who speaks for world-wide smoking companies as they constantly get heckled by anti-cancer foundations, protesters, and above all, Senators trying to remove cigarette-usage from movie, television, books and all sorts of other media-outlets. Also, they’re trying add a warning-label on each and every pack as a way to scare every cigarette-purchaser that they will in fact die if they continue to buy and smoke tobacco. But Nick Naylor doesn’t let any of this get to him, because not only is he good at his job, but he’s one slick mofo when it comes to getting what it is that he wants, in the smoothest way possible. The only problem is that he’s finding it hard set a good and responsible for his son Joey (Cameron Bright), whom he rarely sees as is, but wants to show the bright, as well as the dark sides of corporate-America.

If any of you out there think that my opening-line was in anyway serious, then don’t be worried about my I.Q. level, because I was joking. I know; you know; parents know; dogs know; cats know; hell, practically all of us know that smoking is bad for you. If it’s not doing any damage to you now, give it 20 years or so, then you’ll start to feel the ramifications tobacco-usage. That’s not me being preachy, or even trying to sound like a dick, I’m just being honest and painfully clear. Because, let’s face it, everybody knows that cigarettes are not good for you, but does that matter? Hell no! But the that doesn’t stop half of the Earth’s population from going down to the local mini-mart and ordering a pack of Marlboro Reds, now does it?

Hell no!

It's a reunion of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes. Well, sort of.

It’s the reunion of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes finally together at last! Well, sort of.

But that’s the genius of this movie; it dives into the age-old statement that “smoking is not good for you”, and still finds a way to inject a whole bunch of humor and satire about how people can be easily conned into thinking one thing, that in ways, sometimes goes against the common-norm. Writer/director Jason Reitman gives us all of the mean, dirty, despicable and money-grubbing a-holes that we’d never want to meet in real life, but somehow, he makes them all interesting, fun-to-watch and downright believable. You could definitely see these types of people in the corporate-world; laundering money, making some dirty deals on the side, trying to spin whatever story they possibly can into a positive light and, through it all, doing everything to make a quick and easy buck. It’s America baby, and nobody plays clean when money’s involved.

What really pushes this movie over-the-edge and makes it more of an important life-lesson, than just a whole satire on the corporate-world we live in, is that it actually discusses a common-truth that all humans should hold near and dear to themselves. That common-truth being to stand-up for one’s view-point, and not always give into what everybody else is saying. Basically stick up for yourself and don’t just go along with the crowd.

Like for instance, this movie isn’t about whether or not smoking cigarettes is in fact “good” for you or not, nor is it trying to get you to consider if you should go out, buy a pack and start lighting away until the cows come home. Nope, it’s more about how people should be able to make decisions, solely based on what they want to do and whether or not they think it’s right to do. Sure, smoking isn’t good for you and you definitely shouldn’t start developing that as a habit if you know what’s best for you, but don’t be such a sheep and follow the herd. Get out there, do what you think is right for you, as well as others around, but don’t just follow the current. Go at your own flow, man.

Though “blaming the million-dollar corporations for our poor decisions” has been a societal-standard since the beginning of the first Mickey D’s, the movie tackles it head-on and gives us a wonderful protagonist, or antagonist (depending on which way you look at it), in the form of Nick Naylor as the type of guy that speaks for those who always seem to get a bad name. Do some of these big, money-grubbing corporations deserve all of the name-calling and slander in the press? Sure they do, but Nick Naylor is here to show us why we all make decisions in our lives, regardless of if we’re thinking right away. Some of the points that Naylor does make are valid (the whole “ice cream” bit will forever be a favorite of mine), and for anybody who sees him as “the villain”, is sadly mistaken. He’s the guy who knows the truth and skewers it in any way he possibly can without getting caught-up and looking like a dumb-ass. But he’s just so cool and charming, you don’t even care if he’s trying to get these smoking-companies more cash-flow, you just hope that he’s nice to those around him that matter most.

Somebody's in need of a sarsaparilla.

Looks like somebody’s in desperate need of a sarsaparilla.

Kind of strange actually, but Eckhart makes him this way, showing us that he’s not only still capable of being a bon-a-fide dick like we’re so used to seeing him be, but also able to spin it around in a way and see that he can be a nice guy, when the opportunity arises and calls on him to be so. He doesn’t always say or do the right things that may be for the betterment of everyone around him, but he does get caught in some sticky situations where he has to think what’s more important to maintain: His humanity, or his bank-account? More often than not, the latter is what he ends up falling back on the most, but when he does show sides of being a genuinely graceful dude, it goes a long way. Shame that Aaron Eckhart has really been blowing chunks at the screen as of late, but here’s to hoping that he may come back to doing commendable pieces of work for the big screen.

However though, I guess in the case of Aaron Eckhart: There’s nothing like “too many” paying gigs.

Then of course though, Eckhart isn’t the only one of this cast that shines – he just so happens to shine the most. Cameron Bright is the core of what gives this movie its “human-element”, and to watch as he and Naylor talk, get to know one another better and eventually build a bond over time, makes this more than just a “satire”; it’s actually something rather sweet and heartfelt. But still with a bunch of corporate-satire and smoking.

He’s the one who gets the most to work with though, as each and every one of these recognizable faces that show up here all do great jobs, no matter how meager or important their roles may in fact be. David Koechner and Maria Bello get some of the bigger-laughs as the two other, public spokespersons that Naylor frequently goes to dinner with; Robert Duvall constantly chews on his honking, wide-ass cigar as if it was a candy-cane and is absolutely loving every second of it; William H. Macy is playing the main State Senator who is speaking out the most against Naylor and the tobacco-companies he so proudly stands by and can’t help but be likable, underneath all of the contradictions he holds; and Sam Elliott, given what he has to do as a former spokesman for one of these tobacco-companies, injects a lot of heart, humor and surprising sadness into a story that desperately needed some to get to the heart of what this story means in the long run, and why people should at least try and stay away from cigarettes. At least try, that’s all we ask of you as a human-being.

Consensus: Thank You For Smoking is a movie in which most viewers will most likely be divided on, based solely on their political-standings are, but they can all at least come together on the fact that it’s a funny, smart, sly and sometimes heartfelt satire that takes a look at a bunch of people we don’t want to like or see in a humane-way, but actually do, in surprising ways.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If weed every becomes legal, you know this idea will be popping up everywhere.

If weed becomes legal everywhere in the world, you know this we’l be jammed down our throats.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

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Grown Ups 2 (2013)

When Rob Schneider doesn’t show up, you know you’re in trouble.

This is going to be quite a difficult task because, all joking aside, there is no plot here. Basically, it’s just four middle-aged men (Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade) spending a day together where they fart, burp, sneeze, get peed on by a deer, start fights with fraternities, go skinny-dipping in lakes, ogle over hot, young and busty women, love their kids, wife, family and at the end of the day, try to have a good time by throwing an “80’s-themed party” where they try to relive their glory days when times were simpler and a lot less shitty when they didn’t have responsibilities to deal with.

And yes, I was reaching to try and come up with something there that made sense, but let’s face it: A plot does not matter for this movie. All that matters is that these guys get to make fun of other people around them, act like fools, commit acts as if they were young, wild and free, all over again, and fart A LOT. That’s pretty much all there is to this movie and though you can definitely say that I deserve any sort of pain I may have garnered from watching this movie, even though I clearly knew it was a train-wreck from the very beginning, I just couldn’t help myself.

We get it, YOU'RE SO DAMN PLEASED WITH YOURSELVES!!

“Poop jokes! AHAHAHA!!”

I’m a two-bit movie critic, yes, but I’m also a movie lover, and I have to watch EACH AND EVERY SINGLE MOVIE that I can possibly see, dammit!

So, in this case, curiosity did in fact kill the cat and I decided to actually give this a watch. No, I did not expect greatness and no, I did not expect to even laugh a single bit, and well, that’s pretty much what I got. None of this ever funny, and it just seems like everybody involved is either slumming it all the way down to hell with what they think is mildly amusing, all for the sake of a nice, healthy paycheck, so that they can continue to go on and make more shitty flicks that nobody in the world with the least amount of self-respect would want to go see. Or, if they did somehow get roped into seeing it, that they would at least not enjoy themselves while watching it.

There are jokes that miss, there are jokes that fall flat, and then, there are jokes that hit the ground, dig a hole into the Earth’s core, cause an eruption of destruction, havoc and mayhem, which only pleases those who have a sheer fondness for deer’s urine. Seriously, this movie is not funny. I chuckled maybe once or twice, and you know why and by whom? Fuckin’ Taylor fuckin’ Lautner! That’s right! That freakin’ stud from the Twilight movies, is the only funny thing in this whole movie that not only has Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Taran Killam, and Shaquille O’Neal, but even has Stone Cold Steve Austin for lord’s sakes! I mean, WHAT THE HELL?!?!? How does a travesty like this even occur!?!?!

And you bet your sweet rumps that I mentioned all of those famous, well-known names for a reason, because here are all people that have shown us, many, MANY other times in the history of this world, that they are capable of making us laugh and entertain the hell out of us. So therefore, you’d think that a movie that has all of their talents involved with one movie would clearly be the laugh-out-loud riotous-fest of the year, let alone the decade, right!?!? Well, no!!!!! Apparently, nobody here seems to have a clear idea of what constitutes being considered “funny”, “humorous”, or even “smart” for that matter. It’s all dumb, it’s all painful to watch, and it’s all so damn freakin’ sad because everybody here is talented and can do great, amazing things for this world, but none of them ever made me laugh or have a good time.

Except for FUCKIN’ TAYLOR FUCKIN’ LAUTNER.

Seriously though, everyone, I do apologize for cursing up a storm. You don’t normally see this side from me and you sure as hell don’t see me so enraged over a movie like I am with this, but there’s all a reason that I will continue to hammer over the head to death with: Everybody here knows better (with the exception of director Dennis Dugan cause, quite frankly, that guy doesn’t know shit about anything good). I always love to consider myself a huge Adam Sandler fan because I’ve always felt like the guy has a keen-sense of humor that is a bit on the dumb side, and definitely isn’t for everybody, but he’s made me laugh and that’s fine for me. He’s even shown us all some interesting sides to his acting-abilities by taking up some very interesting roles that seem to always work, as well as earn him respect from people who have always considered him an imbecile. So why the guy decides to keep on destroying his credibility as a comedian, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that he needs to quit making these types of fucking movies, and he needs it do it right fucking now. It seems like the year of 2014 definitely has him stepping in that right direction, but there’s always another one of these piles of excrement just peaking around the corner.

Same goes for the rest of this cast, mainly the three other numskulls that help him out with this movie. Chris Rock is by far, without a doubt in my mind, one of the funniest comedians who has ever lived and will continue to be so, regardless of how many of these shitty movies he decides to be apart of; Kevin James makes everything he shows up in, just a bit better by doing his normal, Chris Farley-shtick, and he’ll always garner a “pass” from me, due solely to the fact that King of Queens was one of my favorite shows growing-up; and, no matter what the haters may say, David Spade makes me laugh. I’ve seen a few of his stand-up specials and he’s always made me laugh-out-loud quite a few times, as well as the work he puts into the nonstop sitcoms he shows up in as well. So yeah, from what we know and see, these guys are able to be funny and just have us enjoy the hell out of their presences, but why they all continue to do junk like this makes me ponder my fan-dom and respect for these guys all of the damn time.

Not even anybody from what is considered one of the funniest shows on television can make a laugh happen.

Not even those from what is considered one of the funniest shows on television can make a laugh happen.

It’s a damn shame too, really, because these are the types of guys that comedy should be looking-up to and saying, “This is how you do it”. Nowadays though, it’s just the same old routine we seem to be getting from these folks, mainly Sandler: Get a bunch of money from Happy Madison; get the same cast, crew and buddies to work; cobble-up a plot that doesn’t even have to be cohesive in any way, shape or form; write-out a script that concerns a lot of bathroom humor, sex jokes, homophobia, and messages about how family matters; film in some back-lot that makes every movie look like it was filmed on the sun; make sure that the movies feature cameos from anybody that’s even the slightest bit considered a “celebrity”; and most importantly, DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PRODUCT-PLACEMENTS. Wouldn’t want to lose any money over that, now would we?

But yeah, you can tell that I pretty much hated this movie, but this one hits even closer to home because it shows you just how easy it is for somebody to get junk made, solely because they’re famous, and have money, power and all the string-pulling one person could possibly get. The first Grown Ups already made showed that statement to be true, but this one, on the second go-around, we already know what to expect and yes, it is a whole lot worse this time around.

However though, this one does have FUCKIN’ TAYLOR FUCKIN’ LAUTNER around, and I guess you could that there’s at least a “slight improvement” to be found there? Then again, maybe not. Both movies fucking blow and please do whatever you possibly can to stay the fuck away from them. Mainly this hour-and-a-half-long show-reel of human feces.

Consensus: Without thinking about this too hard, or even trying to dig in deeper as to what the real problem with Grown Ups 2 is, it doesn’t matter. The movie’s not funny, hard-to-watch and an example of exactly how low Sandler and all of his buddies will go to make some more money, and continue to make more piles of dung that are exactly, if not worse, than this.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Thank you, Taylor. You've done something right for a change.

Thank you, Taylor. You’ve done something right for a change.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Prisoners (2013)

Most twisted game of hide-and-go-seek, EVER.

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) get invited over to a neighbor’s house, Nancy and Franklin Birch (Viola Davis and Terrence Howard), for the turkey dinner. Everything’s going fine, they’re getting a little tipsy, the dinner was tasty, and both sets of kids are getting along pretty well. However, when both pairs of parents aren’t looking, all of a sudden, the youngest daughters both go missing. Their respective families go running all over the place looking for them, but can’t find a single shred of evidence to where there may have gone; except for an beaten-down RV truck that was owned by a not-all-that-there guy named Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Determined, but slightly off-kilter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case and is trying to figure out what Jones did with these girls, however, he can’t find a shred of evidence on him either. So, Jones gets taken out of custody and back at home with his Aunt (Melissa Leo) where Keller, believing that justice has not been served to the best of its ability, decides to take matters into his own hands and discover the truth.

It’s hard to do a “kidnapped-children” thriller the right way, especially if you’re being produced by Warner Bros., but somehow the influence of a foreign director in the name of Denis Villeneuve allowed for this material to be as brutal and as dark as you’d expect a movie about two kidnapped, and possibly killed, children could be. That said, the movie doesn’t ever stretch into material that could be “depressing”; sure, it’s sad to see other people sad, but what would you expect to see from people whose reason for living has just been taken away from them, and possibly for good? You see? It’s not a happy movie, in the slightest bit but it’s not like it’s a slow-paced, character-driven drama; this is a freakin’ thriller, baby, and if you don’t know that by now, then you have to see it!

"You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??"

“You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??”

Seriously, this is a “thriller” in every sense of the word. Not only does it keep you guessing right from the beginning and barely lets you go by the end, it’s also the type of thriller that gives you just the right amount of clues and hints as to what the hell could possibly happen with this case, and to the people involved with it, but still not making you feel so certain. Even though I knew this was a mainstream movie, I still felt like anybody could have bitten the dust, at any given time, and it would totally fit with the movie’s tone. Would have been a bit of a bummer to say the least, but still would have kept me guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next, and to whom. This is what I love about thrillers, especially when they’re done right, and I have to hand it to Villeneuve, because he does a thriller, well, right.

And yes, you most likely are going to be hearing a lot of comparisons to David Fincher, and I feel like they’re suitable, but only in the sense of their moods are alike. In all honesty, I feel as if Fincher’s movies are better at doing both the procedural-police work, and the character-driven parts, at the same time, to great effect, but Villeneuve still gives him a bit of a run for his money. Every scene is calculated, timed, and set up with the utmost importance that every second, every day, every month into this case matters, and it gets you involved right away. Even with a run-time of over 2-and-a-half-hours, the movie never seems like it’s falling asleep on us, our us on it; it constantly keeps your brain thinking, your blood pumping, and, if you really can’t handle these types of movies, your bladder on the edge of fully-bursting.

Hey, like I said before: It’s over 2-and-a-half-hours, so watch what you drink before, how much, and at what time, because you’re not going to want a miss a single second of this movie.

But mostly where I feel like Villeneuve falls short of deserving the Fincher comparisons, is how he handles the final-act. Once it is revealed to us what has happened, for what reasons, and by whom, the movie loses all sort of credibility in terms of being an honest, and realistic-depiction of what it’s like to lose somebody in your life that matters so much such as your children. Before, I don’t know, before the final 15 minutes or so, everything in this movie felt real, brutally frank, emotional, and very tense, as if you really were watching REAL people go through this same situation, in REAL life. However, once those final 15 minutes (or so) pop-up, then all the realism built within the past 2-hours, practically goes to the crapper, so that things can get very conventional, and very, “Hollywood-ish”, for lack of a better word.

It’s hard for me to go into any detail about what goes down with this realization of who the kidnapper is and what happened to the girls, but what I will say is that it will take you by surprise a bit. If not, then so be it, you’re probably just a bit smarter than me and most of the crowd I saw this with. But you will be taken by surprise by what information comes to light, who ends up being the baddie, and what happens to that said baddie, while also a bit disappointed that the movie lost its previous identity, just to stick with conventionality. Maybe Warner Bros. didn’t want to lose too much control over this, eh?

Now that I get to thinking about it, I think what made the first 2-hours so realistic and work so damn well, was that the ensemble in it made every character feel like a living, breathing human-soul that has the ability to feel pain, while also be able to dish it out as well. Such is the case with Keller Dover, who is played by Hugh Jackman, in one of his best performances yet. When we first see Keller, we see that he’s a bit of a religious-fanatic that stocks up on all sorts of canned-goods and resources for the arrival of “The End”, but he isn’t a cook-ball with all of the song-singing and preaching. He’s more of a laid-back, calm, and understandable family-man, that we get to know for a good 10 minutes, until that whole facade goes away and we are then shown the evil, angry, and remorseful human-being that Keller may have been in the past, but hasn’t shown to anybody in a very, very long time. Jackman owns every scene he’s in, whether he’s sobbing in bed next to his wife; drunk off of his ass, stumbling home; yelling his lungs out at anybody around him that he sees as a person who isn’t “fully” concerned with finding his daughter, and/or the kidnapper; or trying to keep it all together, while he’s slowly, but surely, losing all sense and thoughtfulness deep down inside. Jackman is a force to be reckoned with here, and although I don’t feel like he has much of a chance at being nominated for an Oscar, something still tells me that we may be hearing whispers of his name come that time. However, it does seem slightly unlikely.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

While Jackman is all sorts of powerful and compelling here, in a more showwy, chaotic way, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Loki is the same, just with more quietness added to great effect. What I liked so much about Detective Loki is that he’s a cop, that sets his priorities straight, gets right down to business, and does not stop until he’s achieved his goal, and solved the case. In other words: He’s a cop that does his job, no “ands”, “ifs”, or “buts” about it. We don’t get to know all that much about this character, other than that he’s a pretty lonely guy with no real family or friends for him to talk to, but that doesn’t matter because we know that he’s a good guy, and will do everything in his might and will to find these little girls, even if his life is on the line, more than a few times. Gyllenhaal doesn’t seem like he’d be a fine fit for the role of a “tough cop”, but he handles it with perfection, and shows us even more why he’s one of the best leading-men in the biz today.

Yup, I fucking went there, and I’m gonna stay there, too.

Though they’re the two with the most central roles in this movie, everybody else is fan freakin’ tastic as well. Maria Bello seems like she was on the verge of a mental breakdown every time she showed up on-screen, which made it harder to watch, and her performance all the more affecting; Viola Davis doesn’t get much to do here other than be sad and shocked, but she handles it as well as you’d expect a powerhouse such as her to; Terrence Howard proves that he can be a sweet, soft, and sensitive, middle-class family man that, surprisingly, wouldn’t take a hammer to some dude’s hand, even if he was highly suspected of kidnapping, and possibly killing, his daughter and her friend; Melissa Leo is pretty strange and odd as the Aunt of the suspect, and shows that she can chew scenery like nobody’s business, even if there isn’t any scenery to chew on; and Paul Dano plays the one that all of the fingers point to as the main culprit behind all of this, who seems more like a child himself in the way that he speaks, interacts with others, and just generally goes about his way. So much so, that you don’t know whether or not the guy’s actually done anything to begin with, or if he’s just another victim, caught wrongfully in this world win of mystery, aggression, and anger. You sort of feel bad for him, believe it or not. Actually, you sort of feel bad for everybody, as well as yourselves because you don’t know how you’d act in a situation like this. I know I’d act like a freakin’ nut, but that’s just me. Decide on your own time, my friends.

Consensus: For some, Prisoners will be a long strand of darkness to get through, and in one piece no less, but for those that are as determined as the characters in the movie itself, you’ll find it a rewarding, tense, exciting, and very thoughtful thriller, even if it does shoot itself in its own foot by the end.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he's prepared to get rid of it.

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he’s prepared to get rid of it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Payback (1999)

I miss the old days when the crowd used to cheer for the Jew-haters.

Porter (Mel Gibson) is one of those crooks that you don’t want to mess with because he’s smart, tough, quick-witted, and always a step-ahead of the baddies. But yet, somebody has still found a way to mess with him and even better: has taken $70,000 of his hard-earned cash away from him and left him for dead. However, whoever that was didn’t quite do a good job considering he’s still alive and wants revenge.

After seeing Parker a couple ways back, I never knew this but thecharacter that Jason Statham played, Parker, has been played many times before by some pretty famous faces. Faces like Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, and most recently (as recent the year 1999 can get), everybody’s favorite Jew-hater: Mel Gibson. That’s right, before it became common-practice to basically hate the guy with cold-blood, “Melodramatic Mel” was actually a movie-star, and a pretty good one at-that. Then again, you probably already know that since the guy just about kicks ass in anything he shows up in. This movie; is one of those instances. 

The movie’s tag-line reads, “Get ready to root for the bad guy”, but somehow, the guy isn’t all that bad. He’s a crook; yes. But he isn’t the crook that kills innocent people, women, children, cats, dogs, parrots, nuns, priests, etc. So, basically, he’s just a good guy that just so happens to be on the wrong side of the tracks and even worse: just so happens to be Mel Gibson (aka, everybody’s favorite action hero). And by, “favorite action hero”, I mean way back in the 80’s to the early 00’s, you know, before “the stuff” started to happen?

Anywhoo, other than all of that hooplah that nobody cares about, the flick itself is pretty damn fun and had me feeling as if I was watching an old-school crime movie, told by one of the greats. Writer/director Brian Helgeland isn’t necessarily what I would call a “great”, but the guy does know a thing or two about throwing out a solid, crime story, sprucing it up with some fancy twists and turns here and there, and allowing the guns, fights, and explosions to take their wind and keep things moving when it may fall-asleep due to a lame subplot. But it doesn’t feel forced, it feels good for the story and natural and every time the movie would go through some sort of change where a character would reveal something, or a new and crucial plot-point would somehow make it’s way to surface, I felt on-board with it all, as if I was just apart of some cruel, but fun game Helgeland had in-mind the whole time. I make it sound more sick and twisted than it really is, but trust me: you’re more than likely to have fun with this.

"Hey, your job's being a hooker. You all love flowers, right?"

“Hey, your job’s being a hooker. You all love flowers, right?”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to call this movie a “noir” of sorts as it has that cool, and slick look and feel to it, while giving it a visual-flair where everything is all grainy, as if the world these criminals live in, features people that are all color blind and can’t tell if that bottom light on the stop light is green or gray. This old feel, really made me feel like I was in for a treat, with a guy that knew the type of story he wanted to tell, how serious he wanted it to be, how goofy he wanted it to be, and what extremes he would go to ultimately have us never knowing what to expect next. Watching these crime-thrillers, you always want to never be in the clear about anything, and it’s just awesome when you finally get a movie like this to just allow you to sit down, relax, drop your brain for a bit, and also be ready to see a story goes places you didn’t expect. And even if you did expect the story to go into some places that it does, at least they do it in such a way that’s jokey-wokey, rather than all serious and unknowing. And even if they don’t do it that way: who the hell cares?!?!? It’s fun, exciting, and twisty, and just exactly what I like in my crime-thrillers. Especially from Mr. Mel Gibson himself.

Despite Porter not being all that much of an anti-hero as the promotional tools would probably have you think, Gibson is still pretty damn good at this character because he has the charm, he has the gruff look, but he has the acquired set of skills that always puts him ahead of the others around him, and never lets you lose the fact that this guy is always doing something for a reason. He’s a no-nonsense type of dude that may do something odd, strange, or typically out-of-the-ordinary, but don’t be fooled because it may just be another move that Porter has set-up for a trick in his sleeve. Gibson, before he was out yelling and howling at Jews and female cops, was actually a pretty cool and sly dude that people liked and cheered-on in movies and if you miss any ounce of that thrill, then definitely see this movie because it is Mel Gibson in full-effect here. For better, or for worse, depending on wherever the hell you stand. You can probably tell where I stand, and I’m staying there. Me, and Jodie Foster.

"Take this, JEWS!!"

“This is for killing Christ, Jews!!”

The rest of the cast is filled to the core with the likes of people you have all seen before and like, you just don’t know it yet. Maria Bello is always a great actress no matter what the material it is that she’s given and she’s good here as Porter’s love-interest, but feels a bit too much like a weak piece of service, the way her character and her plot brings down everything else. Granted, she does bring a nice level of action and excitement into the story when you least expect it, but all of the scenes with her and Gibson just had me taking a ticket to snoozeville, and hoping to come back to life before it was too late. Lucy Liu shows-up in one of her earliest roles as an S&M call girl that beats the shit out of guys, gets it right back, and does it all for the pleasure and money. It’s also very, very stereotypical but hey, I guess Lucy needed some way to get her foot in the door. There are others here, like Gregg Henry as the main chump who betrays Porter; David Paymer as a snarky, cab-driver that made me want to punch him square in nose (unintentionally and intentionally); and Kris Kristofferson as a big, bad mob boss that Porter ‘effs with by the end, and poses the biggest and most worthwhile threat of all. Everybody’s good and adds a little som som to the proceeds, but it’s Gibson’s show and he takes over. Big-time, bitches.

Consensus: Payback is a routine thriller that doesn’t have a whole bunch of new tricks to show on-display, but is always a blast to watch because of it’s twists, action, and utter coolness from the script, and Gibson himself.

7 / 10 = Rental!! 

Well, at least she got Kill Bill out of the deal.

Well, at least she got Kill Bill out of the deal.

The Company Men (2010)

Rich people can be sad too.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) are living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves them jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.

As everybody in the world knows, October 2008 was the time where we all found ourselves in an economic-crisis and yes, even though it is a bit hypocritical from a 19-year-old, who at the time, was 15 and lived with his parents, had no job, had no responsibilities  and no bills to pay other than my money for lunch, I can still say that it was a sucky time for everybody and in a way, still is. Everybody was affected by it, not just the common-man, but everybody!

I start off with this middle-minded rant mainly because this is one of the biggest problems with this movie that we have here: who it focuses on. Having a story about a regular, average-Joe who loses his job out of nowhere and finds himself really struggling isn’t a story that hasn’t been done before, but would have probably been more engrossing than watching a bunch of millionaires go from everything, to nothing in a matter of a couple of weeks. Of course, the fact of the matter is that this did happen in real-life and it wasn’t just a certain group of people that were affected by the corporate downsizing, and that’s why this movie feels like it should hit harder, mainly because it’s so timeless and easy to connect with, but it just isn’t.

"They always say, "you're never as good as you're first movie". I guess in your case, that's false."

“They always say, “you’re never as good as you’re first movie”. I guess in your case, that’s false.”

Watching all of these guys be pissed-off by the fact that they don’t have the money to pay for their golf clubs or their Porsches really just seemed stupid and something I didn’t really care about. It gets even worse when some of these guys still feel like they can’t tell their wives, or the people around them that they lost their job. Yeah, I get that losing your job is sort of like losing an ounce of your pride, but there comes a point where you got to nut-up, shut-up, and get moving on with your life in order to make that moolah fall from the skies. Sitting around, pissing and moaning about it, and not even telling your wife why you don’t have the money for the mortgage, isn’t going to solve shite.

But to back away from a topic and theme I guess I don’t know much about since I’m not necessarily the hardest working-man out there in the world, let me go back to something I do know a lick about: movies. The whole idea of watching these rich people be sad by the fact that they can’t spend 500 dollars on dinners any longer, definitely didn’t work for me but I was able to get past it and at least try my hardest to look at the brighter-things in this movie, which didn’t seem to come to me right away. The problem I think I had with this movie stems from what and how writer/director John Wells tries to tell his story. He tries to show us that maybe, just maybe by going back to an old-school America is the only way we’re going to live and survive in this world, but he he shows us in the most obvious and predictable way that’s enough to make the people on the employment-line just scoff at.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious that this economic crisis was a very, very depressing time for all men and women of America, but Wells shows how sad and depressing it is in the most conventional ways possible. For instance, Chris Cooper’s character is probably the best example of what I mean because when his character gets fired, he doesn’t just go home, act as if nothing happened whatsoever and go out there and try to make another living with his life, no, he sits at the bar all-day, gets hammered, throws rocks at the old, corporate-building he used to work-at, and tries to act like he still works there by slugging-around the same briefcase. Same example can sort of go for Tommy Lee Jones who finds himself banging-around with the same chick that fired him, and choosing her over his dearly, old-wife, mainly because he’s just depressed. I get it, they’re sad and when you’re sad, you do dumb stuff. Get on with it!

"I'm guessing meeting at a bar was out of the question?"

I guess meeting at a bar was out of the question?

The only light and shiny material actually in this flick, is actually the performances from the characters that try their hardest to make everything work and in a way, succeed in doing-so. “In a way”, however. Ben Affleck has the main-spotlight here as Bobby and definitely seems fit for the job of a guy who loses it all, tries to avoid it by acting like nothing has happened, only to get slapped in the face with reality and realize that he has to do a whole bunch of crap he didn’t want to do when he was rich. His character isn’t all sympathetic to begin-with, considering that he continues to blow-off the idea of saving money and not robbing the bank, but Affleck works through it and does what he can with this role. His wife, played by the always magnificent Rosemarie DeWitt, is always supportive, but at the same time, also never seems to notice how much of a dick he’s being and as hard as she can be on him for not accepting reality, she seems very lenient in terms of actually telling him what’s up in the world. I get it, they’re husband and wife and they forgive each other over everything, but she doesn’t seem all that strong and loving at all, so why the hell should be that way when the guy’s acting like a dick? Ehh, I don’t get it.

Tommy Lee Jones is doing his usual, crotchety  old-man shtick that never seems to run dry, even if his character even seems to get tired of it about half-way through and begins to get all soft and weak in the knees. Tommy Lee is a great actor so this weakly-written role doesn’t do as much harm to him as it does to others, but it’s still obvious that there should be more meat for us to chew-on with this character and his emotions. Chris Cooper has the most sympathetic character out of the bunch, but like I mentioned before, seems a bit too obvious in terms of where his story goes and why. Like Jones, Cooper is a great actor so it’s not that glaring, but still, he should be given more material that’s suited for his great, acting-self.

"So, you still polish your Oscar?"

“So, you still polish your statue? Yeah I’ve been doing that for 19 years.”

Maria Bello is always good with what she does and is fine here as the chick that goes around firing people, and instead, more or less comes-off like a person doing her job, rather than a monster out to get people’s hearts, souls, and above all, their bank accounts. Kevin Cotsner also shows up as the blue-collared, American worker that makes a living off of hanging up dry wall every day of the week and it’s definitely a fun performance that Costner has a blast playing, even though that New England-accent seems to be way too heavy, especially in the seems with Affleck. How the hell do you have a movie that takes place in the state of Massachusetts  that stars Ben Affleck, and not have him doing a Bawhstan accent? Seriously, the guy’s made for it and if you don’t believe me, watch The Town and Good Will Hunting, aka, two movies that will probably inspire you more than this.

Consensus: The premise and themes are as timeless as they may come, but when it comes to delivering on those important ideas and thoughts, the Company Men doesn’t seem to succeed with a bunch of great actors, working in thinly-scripted roles that seem to be placed-in the right category of “Conventional”.

5/10=Rental!!

"They ain't like us."

“They ain’t like us.”

World Trade Center (2006)

Surprised that I didn’t hear about Lee Harvey Oswald in here at all.

This follows the true story of the heroic survival and rescue of two Port Authority policemen – Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Officer William J Jimeno (Michael Pena) – who were trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, after they went in to help people escape.

Back in 2006, when this was first coming, people had two reservations about it at first: 1. Is 5 years too soon? and 2. What the hell is Oliver Stone going to do with this material? To be honest, these reservations were both very reasonable and understood at the time because people were (and still are) grieving over their lost ones from that fateful day and Stone has always been known to get pretty crazy and paranoid about the topics he covers. But thankfully, nothing ever really goes down the wrong path here. I mean that too, nothing.

The best part about Stone’s direction here is that he doesn’t pull any punches with this touchy story. That means there’s no conspiracy theories about who was behind the Bush administration at the time or who was actually behind the attacks themselves, but instead just gives us a true story of courage and the man’s will to fight for survival no matter what the obstacles may be standing in their way. Sounds like something that is very out of the ordinary for Stone to direct but he doesn’t lose his mind with this material and keeps everything grounded to where this becomes one of those inspirational stories you would expect it to be.

Going into a film about this certain subject, you have to expect your heartstrings to be tugged at a bit and even though they do, it doesn’t feel manipulative. Simply put, this is Stone’s way of showing us how two policeman, fought for their lives just to stay alive, tell the story of it all, and go on back home to their wife and kids. It’s one of those sappy stories that we always see and hear about but it isn’t used in that same context here. It feels real, it feels genuine, and it feels like something that Stone really does rightfully care about and feel for. Weird to think that this is the same dude who was out there showing Mickey and Mallory shooting people’s heads off, would also be one of the first people to pay tribute to the men and women that died on 9/11.

But aside from being very genuine and true to it’s emotions and who it’s trying to give love towards, there’s not much else here that’s really eventful or groundbreaking in terms of story-telling which makes it a bit more tedious in a way. This is a story about real human-beings being in real-life situation/catastrophe, but maybe there should have been more excitement, more tension, more, I don’t know, more suspense as to know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t asking for a fast-paced action movie that took place in New York during 9/11, but I was just waiting for something to really pull me in fully and keep my eyes glued but instead I just found myself and my mind going into other places. I have no idea but it just did and maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t in the most perfect mood to watch this.

The movie looks great with plenty of detail and attention going towards how New York looked like during and after the Towers fell. It was really neat to see how realistic everything looked as you could almost feel the same pandemonium as everybody else did there but there could have been more of that. There was this really cool sequence where Stone gathers real-life footage from people checking out what happened on 9/11 from all over the world and it’s a sequence that shows you the kind of impact this even had on the world, not just our own country. This showed me that Stone maybe played it a little too safe in just focusing on this little story of two men, and could have gone a bit bigger by focusing on the environment surrounding them and how everybody felt during this time but I guess Stone didn’t want to go too far because then he would have had to start bringing out the conspiracy theories, and then things would have gotten bad for this movie.

Oh, another reservation some people may have had about this film beforehand may have also been that Nicolas Cage was in the lead role as Sergeant John McLoughlin, but no need to fear people, he’s actually pretty good here. I think it would be pretty hard for Cage to screw up a role like this, considering he barely moves and just stays underneath a huge piece of rubble the whole film, but the guy does well with it and reminds us that he can still handle roles like these. The one who really gets away with this flick is Michael Peña as Officer William J Jimeno, showing a sweet innocence to him that makes us sympathize with this character even more because all he shows is love and sweetness to everyone around him even before this happened. Both are good and work very well together, as well as everybody else in this cast, but those New York accents got to be a bit too much for me at points. I get it, everybody in this movie is practically from New York or somewhere near there so they have to have an accent but do they really need to be this deep? It get’s distracting at times, but you’ll start to forget about that once you start to see all of the notable faces that Stone has pop-up on the screen. It’s sort of like a really fun game of “Hey, remember me?”.

Consensus: World Trade Center is a rare example of Oliver Stone playing it really, really safe which has it’s positives and negatives, but mostly shows us the true story of two brave Americans that did whatever they could do stay alive in a time and place like New York City during 9/11.

7/10=Rental!!

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

Snow storms just make everything worse.

During a snowy New Year’s Eve, a most-wanted mobster, Nicholas Zambrano (Laurence Fishburne), is temporarily incarcerated at the doomed Precinct 13. As the sun sets and a long night begins, a motley crew of policemen and prisoners, reluctantly headed by Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), must band together to fight off a rogue gang that wants to extract Zambrano at any cost.

This is a loose remake of a film that was done by John Carpenter and even though they aren’t considered the same thang, I think I’ve seen enough already. Although, I do have to say that John Carpenter is a pretty solid director in his own right.

Director Jean-François Richet doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the usual slam-bang, action thrillers we’re so used to seeing but damn does he do a great job with it! Richet brings in a whole bunch of crazy weapons here all ranging from the likes of hand-guns, sniper rifles, lazer sightings, silencers, a samurai sword and basically anything that can be used as a weapon in one way or another. It all shows up here in this flick and used to great effect because the action here is what really kept this story going. Even when it seems like the story is about to fall into its softer/slower side, it picks itself right back up from where it started and gives us plenty more deaths and action to behold. It’s not like Richet tries to go for anything new here, it’s more of like that he knows how to film action and make it work.

Another element to this film that made it all the more enjoyable was that the story does go through some twists and turns here and there that are pretty funny and kept me guessing. Now I’m not saying the whole film is unpredictable but what I will say that there are a lot of times that the film does something out of the ordinary like kill of a main character or throw in a couple of “who is the bad guy?” scenes here and there, which all kept me watching. Once again, nothing that is terribly original or new, just entertaining to watch.

The problems that I had with this film are all pretty obvious. With this type of material, you basically know that it’s all going to play out in the same way that all of these other films have been doing for the past 30 years, actually dating back to Carpenter’s original. The good guy has a dilemma, the bad guy has a connection with him, they both realize who they are through a death-defying situation they get thrown in to, and yadda yadda yadda this and yadda yadda yadda that. It’s basically the same old shit that we have seen done 100,000 times before and it’s no different here, except for maybe a couple of cool little twists and turns along the way. But those cool twists and turns can only go on so long.

Even though the plot was fun and entertaining, there were plenty of plot-h0les that still seemed to bother me. One memorable problem was the realization of the underground tunnel beneath the compound. I mean honestly, you would think that something as life-saving and crucial to this predicament as an underground tunnel would be the first thing 0n somebody’s mind and brought up within the first 10 minutes that this attack was going on. But for some very odd reason, it just so happened to slip this dude’s mind. Then again, it wouldn’t have served the plot if they did do that in the first place so I guess it all makes sense in the end.

A lot of the credit has to go to this cast that is actually pretty good with their roles by adding a lot more humanity to them and making them characters that we care for and want to see live after all of this havoc is over and done with. Ethan Hawke did a nice job as the burned-out cop and plays snarky so well that it’s almost hard to take him in as anything else. Also, it’s pretty fun to think of this character as his character from Training Day but this time, only 4 years down the road and fed with all of this shit. May sound lame but hey, I can have a little bit of fun while watching these movies. Laurence Fishburne also adds a real deep sense of coolness to his evil gangster, Bishop. It’s not like this is a stand-out performance from Fishburne but I definitely think its a lot better than half of the shit we’ve been seeing him do lately. However, I’m not talking about Contagion considering he was probably the best out of that whole cast.

Consensus: There’s no re-inventing of the action wheel here or any new surprises to be seen, but what Assault on Precinct 13 does bring is a lot of blood, action, gun shots, violence, and some fun twists in order to have a good time.

5.5/10=Rental!!

A History of Violence (2005)

I’m guessing Cronenberg doesn’t really like diners all that much.

Viggo Mortensen stars as Tom Stall, a man who leads a quiet, charmed life with his loving wife (Maria Bello) and family in a small town. But when an unexpected incident turns bloody in his diner and brings unwanted attention to him, Tom is forced to return to his secret past in order to rescue his family from peril.

Director David Cronenberg is a dude that I haven’t been so fond of (‘A Dangerous Method’) and other times I have been fond of (‘The Fly’). This is just one of those flicks that somehow stands right in the middle but is definitely his most accessible since we don’t have to do with people getting it on to the sound of car crashes here.

The way Cronenberg opens this flick up with a deliberately slow pace really sets the bar for the rest of this film because it isn’t your normal, average thriller. See, this is more like a thinking-man’s thriller that just so happens to be directed by a nut-job like Cronenberg. Then when the film switches over to the whole happy film thing that this flick tries to get over towards us, my interest with this film started to wan very early on. I don’t know what it was that just was bothering me here but I think Cronenberg is so used to doing weird stories that when it comes to a simple story about a family, he doesn’t bring anything new to the table other than a bunch of dull, slow, and somewhat mindless conversations that don’t really move the film forward. That is until, the actual killing in this flick goes down.

Right when the murder in the diner happens, then that’s when shit really starts to fly off the handle, and I mean that in a very good way. There are a lot of opportunities for Cronenberg to use his dark-style for this flick considering that it’s rated-R and all of the sex, violence, and gore that he brings to this story as everything starts to pick up, actually works. There isn’t that much action in this flick but when it does actually happen, it’s gory, bloody, and just freaking awesome and it was pretty cool to see how Cronenberg could make each and every little scene of action turn into something we did not expect in the least bit. It’s definitely not a film for the squeamish but if you can at least appreciate a flick that knows how to put in a very over-the-top action scene without seeming “too strange” then it’s definitely a watch in my book.

Besides all of the action though, there is a lot that Cronenberg actually brings up about the whole reason of violence and when it should, and should not be used. The message here isn’t very clear since it seems like Cronenberg is against violence but then the next second he’s showing Aragorn bust some guy’s nose off, but if you can sort of get past this you can see that Cronenberg is more about violence in the use of self-defense as I am as well. Cronenberg is also able to supply some subtle touches of humor here as well that is good for a surprising chuckle here and there but when he seems to be more intentional with it, then I kind of got a bit annoyed.

Viggo Mortensen plays the nice guy Tom Stall, who seems like such a good and kind-hearted dude that when he actually starts to show signs that he is a huge psycho behind all of those smiles, it’s pretty realistic and works all of the better because Viggo can play good and bad both very well. Maria Bello is also very good as his wife with a role that got more screen-time than I was expecting but the scenes she has are pretty impressive considering she is able to be this strong house-wife that still comes off as this real person who may be a little good-looking to be stuck in Indiana. But then again, I have never been there so I don’t quite know how the women down there look.

Ed Harris gives that predictable devious performance that he usually gives here as the gangster Fogarty, but his performance is definitely over-shadowed by the one dude that got a nomination for his work in this flick. William Hurt shows up out-of-nowhere by the end of the flick with just about 9 minutes of screen-time but absolutely owns it bringing out all of this humor, creepiness, and just downright devilish side to his acting that we all knew he had, he just never showed it before. Hurt is great in this role and I think that he should have gotten more roles after this considering he reminded me a lot of what Christopher Walken has been doing for the past 20 years. Show up for about 5 to 10 minutes, but be the best part of the flick. That’s the way you got to do it.

All of these performers are great on-screen and make each and every single one of their scenes memorable, especially Hurt, but when it comes to the two kids here, the film starts to really lose its tension. Ashton Holmes plays the moping son here who is such a geek that he can only win his fights through words but for some odd reason when he is actually pushed to the limits, he beats the eff out of these two dudes which seemed way too realistic for me. I don’t care what seed you come from, nobody can beat the shit out of two dudes like this kid did and it’s also even worse considering that this kid’s acting is pretty shitty in the first place. I can’t really say anything bad about the other little girl that this family had since she was like 4 but you get what I’m trying to say.

Consensus: A History of Violence starts off slow and has its rough patches, but it also shows Cronenberg having a lot of fun with this material and inserting all of his crazy sex, violence, and gore into a story that works as an intellectual thriller and as a character study with great performances from the cast.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Cooler (2003)

Vegas: women, money, and Alec Baldwin.

Hey, hey, hey, hey everyone! Well, it’s been awhile since I have been around their parks lately but finally Boomtron has taken me back and put up a review of mine. So just go on over to the link and check it out.

http://www.boomtron.com/2011/10/the-cooler-movie-review/

Thanks everybody! Don’t forget to show me some love over there too!

Grown Ups (2010)

I sure hope these guys don’t hang out like this in real life.

Comedy superstars Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Kevin James team up for a story of five childhood pals who reunite after 30 years to mourn the loss of their old basketball coach. Gathering at a July 4th celebration where their families meet for the first time, the friends find themselves acting a bit inappropriate for their age.

Looking at the trailers, I was already skeptical going into this. And none of my expectations were wrong.

This film has just some of the laziest screenplays ever written. The film looks like its centered towards the whole family, but there was plenty of sex, fart, poop, piss, death, and boob jokes, that didn’t even seem like they were supposed to be funny. There is also too much slapstick to like also. I felt like a lot of times the film didn’t have a good joke, so they just relied on somebody getting knocked in the face, or falling into poo, for a good joke. When it isn’t at all. Then at the end they have this huge emotional break-through, when the whole time their cracking jokes and making fun of others around them.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh, or chuckle a little bit, but most of that was because of the cast, that no matter what, tries their hardest to bring the screenplay in full force. Adam Sandler is playing his safe card in this one, not getting too annoying, but also not being too serious. He’s just fine. Kevin James is playing the usual dude, that is always made fun of because he’s, well, fat. Chris Rock needs to go back to his old days of being the crazy-ass black man, because him being serious, isn’t helping anybody out, especially his career. David Spade is not a ladies man, and although I have always supported him, here he doesn’t do anything for me. And well Rob Schneider, is just the dude, who’s there, and gets made fun of. Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph, are actually pretty funny here as the wives, but once again are weighed down as well. And could really any of these guys, score these major babes. I rest my case.

The one thing that made me wonder to myself is: just what the hell is going on with these comedy icons that I loved so dearly? They try their hardest, but the script just weighs their asses down so low, they can’t get back up. I’m hoping that these actors find something good sooner or later, cause now it’s just getting depressing, watching them fall worse by each film. Oh well I have faith and I know that these guys can do it.

Consensus: Grown Ups at its best is just a mindless family comedy, kind of, that has some funny moments mostly because of its cast, but the jokes, and lame script just weigh everything down to a point of where you don’t know if your supposed to laugh.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!

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