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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Marisa Tomei

Love Is Strange (2014)

It sure is! But so is this damned-to-hell economy!

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are a same-sex couple that, after being together for more than a few decades, decide that it’s time to finally get hitched and make it all legal. And while this is a momentous occasion that should be celebrated with the utmost optimism, even if the reality of the situation is that George will lose his job now. Which, hey, is fine and all, but now Ben and George have to move out, save some money up to get a new place and, sadly, live with others while doing so. Ben stays with his nephew (Darren Burrows) and his author wife (Marisa Tomei); whereas George stays with the young and constantly energetic Ted (Cheyenne Jackson). While neither situation is ideal, they still get by in hopes that they, eventually, will be together and finally live out that dream they’ve always had: Legally being together, in a place that they can call “their own”. The only thing standing in front of them now is the fear of being pulled-apart by this distance between the two.

While a person could take one look at this movie and automatically think, “agenda”, I’d have to say that they’d be wrong. Because, yes, while this movie is about a same-sex couple finally getting legally married once and for all, the movie could have literally been made about any couple; same-sex, opposite-sex, interracial, etc. Though a major plot-point in this movie comes up because George actually decided to get married to his boyfriend, therefore, enabling him to getting fired, this movie is less about a same-sex relationship, much as it’s just about trying to live and stay afloat in the United States of America.

"Garbage!"

“Garbage!”

More specifically, Manhattan.

And yes, while this movie is definitely appealing to a certain crowd that loves “white people problems”, that still doesn’t mean what’s being felt here doesn’t deserve to be felt. For instance, the movie shows why it’s so hard to make a living in this world, and why sometimes, all we need is a little inspiration on the side to keep us going and going, even when we get down some. It all sounds so incredibly corny, but the way it’s played-out here, it makes you think and also feel what both Ben and George are feeling.

Which is to say that, unsurprisingly, Ben and George are the best aspects of this movie. Not just the actors playing them, but the characters themselves in how both feel so perfect together, that when they aren’t actually together, the pain, the sadness and the separation is felt. They have a love, a very dedicated and passionate one at that, but since they spend a good portion of this movie not actually together and embracing each other’s love, it’s an absolute delight to just see how they interact with one another when they do contact each other. Either through a phone-call or a simple meet-up at the nearest-diner, it doesn’t matter how these two get into contact with one another; all that matters is that they do still keep in touch with one another, because it not only makes us feel better, but them as well. Actually, them most importantly (but hey, don’t forget about the audience here, people!).

And considering that these are two pros at what it is that what they do, seeing Molina and Lithgow together really is lovely. It should be noted that their chemistry together is wonderful and really does have you believe why they’d fall in love and stick together for so long in the first place, but since they aren’t together as much in this movie, what really matters is that they do swell when they aren’t together. Oh and don’t worry, they do. However, the big problem here with this movie is that while these characters stay on-track and constantly interesting, there’s something about the rest of the movie that I can’t help but feel suffocates them.

For example, since this is a tale of two guys leaving one another to go and live in two, completely different environments, we get two very different stories going on here, with all sorts of subplots interjecting every so often. In George’s new house, he’s having a problem with getting arranged into these new living conditions, keeping in touch with “the hip crowd”, and making sure that he can still get some money through piano lessons. So yeah, that’s not so bad. Actually pretty simple, right?

"Paint me like one of your French guys, big gay uncle."

“Paint me like one of your French guys, big gay uncle.”

Well, here’s the kicker: In Ben’s new house, a marriage is slightly on-the-rocks, a mother is upset with her son’s new best-friend, Ben himself can’t find any inspiration for painting, an author’s patience is being tested, and a boy is coming-of-age and doesn’t know what to make of his big, gay Uncle, nor does he know how to interact with anybody without yelling, being pissed off, or saying something deemed “shocking”. If that sounds like a whole lot, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. Also not to mention, it’s a problem with the movie because so much is going on here, to very little effect, that it all just seems like filler to a story that could have really been effective, had it been told relatively simpler.

Sure, the rest of the cast is great and more often times than not, we see why it is that Marisa Tomei is such a lovely presence on-screen, even when she’s about to be a total meanie, but their characters do feel put-on, as if writer/director Ira Sachs didn’t have enough faith in George, Ben and their plight to just have it revolve around them. I’m not saying that there isn’t more to life than just love, but in a movie where it’s clear that the central love is what keeps its heart racing, then you have to decide: How do you want to go about it? Do you want to throw subplot, upon subplot, upon subplot to make things seem more interesting than they actually are? Or, do you just want to keep things small, short, sweet and simple, by just focusing on this relationship, their positives, their negatives, and just how exactly it is that they stay together, still happy in the end?

I’d go with the second-route, but that’s just me. Hence the blog.

Consensus: With Molina and Lithgow, Love Is Strange finds an endearing heart that is continuously present throughout the whole film, even despite the numerous and sometimes pointless subplots occurring.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!!

You wish your love was as good as this. Ladies?

You wish your love was as good as this.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Four Rooms (1995)

People will do anything for a tip.

It’s the first day on the job for Ted the bellhop (Tim Roth), and from what it seems like, it won’t be a very pleasant one. Early on, he gets told the ins, the outs, the what to do’s, and the what not to do’s on the job by an aging, supposed retiring bellman that gives him an idea of what he should expect taking people’s luggage up to their room, answering their phone calls and the most important of all, waiting on them for a tip. So with this all out of the way, Ted gets ready for one of the biggest and most hectic nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. And what do you know it? Ted’s night ends up being an eventful one, albeit one that he finds his life threatened on more than a few occasions. But it’s all in the good name of a sizable tip, right?

Like with most anthology films, the idea here seems smart and somewhat nifty: Get at least four low-key, up-and-coming indie film-makers, give them a budget and give them free reign to basically just strut their stuff for no less than 20 minutes each, slap the Miramax logo on it, and release it to the mass-audience. Seemed like a really promising idea that could have worked wonders for all of the film-makers involved, but somehow, it more or less just ended up killing two promising careers, while just injuring two others.

Take a wild guess as to whose career’s were killed, and which ones were just injured for a short while. Not that hard I guess, but let me just tell you through my usual-way of reviewing anthology films; taking it one-by-one, segment-by-segment. Shall we?

Random twitching example #2.

Random twitching example #2.

1. The Missing Ingredient – This is the one that starts it all off, and that’s not a good thing at all. In short, this segment is easily the worst. It made me feel like I made a huge mistake actually even bothering with this movie. Director Allison Anders gives us a cool idea in which a coven of witches who need male sperm to complete their ritual and just so happened to choose Ted as he comes stumbling on in. While the ground-work was there for this to be not just hilarious, but all sorts of weird and cooky, in a fun-way, Anders doesn’t even bother going anywhere with this. Sure, for horny dudes, there is plenty of hot boobage to be seen, but for anybody who wants a little bit of craziness mixed with their covens, will be most likely disappointed as Anders seemed to really drop the ball with this, and not know what’s considered “funny”, and what’s considered “boring.” Easily the worst out of the four, but it’s not like the next one is a peach neither.

2. The Wrong Man – Things seem to get a bit better with this segment, however, not by much. Director Alexandre Rockwell keeps things small and subdued, but not anywhere near being considered “sweet”, as this whole segment just meanders endlessly, without ever really moving outside of the actual hotel room it’s placed in. The whole story is in which a married-couple (Jennifer Beals and David Proval) basically plays this little sex-game where he pretends that she’s been screwing around him and picks out whatever poor fellow just so happens to stroll through that door, interrogate him, wave a gun in front of his face, take his pills, and basically, just scare the shorts off of him. There are moments in this segment where the wheels seemed to be turning and there seemed to be some moments of promise, but once the segment is all said and done with, I couldn’t help but feel like it went on a bit long. Especially once Beals’ character just started yelling out any term for the word “penis” she could think of right away. Sure, it made me laugh (probably my first one), but it was only because it was a random moment of creative spontaneity that the first segment didn’t seem to have.

Thankfully though, it does get better from here and begins to feel like something worth watching, rather than the first two awful-pieces.

3. The Misbehavers – Antonio Banderas plays a tough and sinister father-of-two that wants to take his wife on a night out on the town, in hopes of getting laid and therefore, igniting the spark in their marriage that probably sizzled-out once kids came along and screwed everything up. But, knowing that these same kids can’t come out with them, he decides to intimidate Ted intoi watching over them, and making sure that they “don’t misbehave”. It seems easy, and with the price for this little mission being $500, it seems even easier. However, with these two kids, nothing is quite as easy as it seems and eventually, the room itself starts to smell and once that happens, all hell breaks loose. So yeah, the plot-line for this segment is dumb, but with Robert Rodriguez behind-the-wheel, it’s anything but. Actually, that’s not true. It is still dumb, but in a “fun” way in which one can only associate with Rodriguez and his style of film-making. It starts off simple and small, but as time goes on, and Rodriguez really gets the brain working, you can see just how much havoc he can throw on top of the other and once all is said and done and we get the final-line of this segment, you know that, if anything, the whole movie was it at least worth it for just this whole time-span of 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if the last segment blows, all we know is that this is the segment people should be wanting to see and talk about.

When you do have a movie in which "the chick from Say Anything" gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something "to watch".

When you do have a movie in which “the chick from Say Anything” gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something “to watch”.

But of course, the last segment is done by none other than Quentin Tarantino himself and, as we all know, the guy has a bit of a thing for stealing the spotlight of movies, and his segment here is no different.

4. The Man from Hollywood – The plot-line is simple: Ted stumbles upon a bunch of fast-cat, Hollywood big-shots (Bruce Willis being among them), who con him into doing something for a hefty price, as idiotic as the act may be. Oh, and there’s a bet involved somehow, someway. Basically, being that this is a Tarantino-segment, you can expect a lot of witty lines that involved pop-culture, violence, sex and a bunch of other talk that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from actual human-beings who grace us with their presence on the same planet we call Earth. That said, considering the rest of the film that came before this, it’s a blast to watch, keeps you interested, laughing, a bit tense and overall, entertained as if Tarantino was the one they really were leaning on for this to work and that’s exactly what they got. In hindsight, it’s not the best thing that Tarantino has ever done or touched (especially when also speaking of his acting), but when you place his segment against the three others, his definitely comes out on-top and a reason to see this whole film. Although you do have to get through two shitty segments, and one pretty good one.

And through all of these segments, there’s none other than Tim Roth himself acting his ass off through them, which is not a good thing. For some odd reason or another, Roth is given the order to carry-out this overly-used, spastic-twitch of his that carries on throughout most of his segments in which he stammers and bumbles more than Hugh Grant on a bad day. It gets old real quick and just becomes random, as if there was no other reason to make this character interesting than to just have him do and say all of these odd things. Roth tries, but he can’t help but suffer due to doing whatever it was that he was told. However, when he’s told to dial it down a notch and just let the segments for speak themselves, is usually when he’s at his most watchable, as well as the same could be said for the movie itself. And mostly, this occurs during the last two segments. Strange how things work themselves out, right?

Consensus: If you counter in the fact that only two of the four segments in Four Rooms work, then I guess you could consider this “watchable” in the least bit. But, then again, if you want to save yourself some precious time, effort and/or money, then just watch the last two segments somewhere on YouTube. I’m sure you’ll be able to find them somewhere.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Talk about a party I'd like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don't do anything I wouldn't do! Woo hoo!

Talk about a party I’d like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! Woo hoo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Paper (1994)

This is how we used to do it back in ’94! Papers, baby! Papers!

Two white businessmen are found dead in their car randomly in the middle of the night, and eventually leads to two young, African American teenagers getting arrested for supposedly being the culprits in this case. As soon as this news breaks out, every newspaper joint in all of the NYC area is on top of it, especially The New York Sun and one ambitious-reporter in particular: Henry Hackett (Michael Keaton). Not only does Hackett have a very pregnant wife (Marisa Tomei) at home, but he’s also got an editor (Glenn Close) that’s constantly up his ass about everything, a bigger boss (Robert Duvall) that can’t seem to get his life in check, a job-opportunity at a more prestigious newspaper, and a paranoid co-worker of his (Randy Quaid) that won’t leave him alone. On top of that, Hackett also has to find a way to break this story, and as honestly as possible. However, when you work in a business where most news is fabricated in order to make money and sell products, honesty is not as easy as it comes.

The main reason why I wanted to give this flick a try was because I too am a journalism major, will be looking for a quick writing job as soon as I get that degree, and to get the hell out of college. Maybe back in and around the time this flick was out, that could have been totally possible, but nowadays, it seems easier said then actually done. Yes, it’s not a single surprise to any one out there that newspapers are starting to go away more and more, as each and everyday goes by, and it’s a sad fact. However, it’s a fact nonetheless and still doesn’t get inspired, young writers like myself down in the dumps. Maybe once I actually get out there and start looking around for journalism jobs, then yeah, maybe I’ll get all pissed off and cynical in my own way, but for now: I remain hopeful, happy, and ready to see what comes next with my life and the career I want to have.

"Hey mom, I think this Paper movie I'm doing is going to make me a bigger star than ever before."

“Hey mom, I think this Paper movie I’m doing is going to make me a bigger star than ever before.”

Thanks to this movie, I want that career even more now. However, I just may not get it. Still got to stay realistic above all else.

Even though I have never been in a newsroom before, I still feel like Ron Howard gets the atmosphere and the mood down pretty well. Everybody in this flick is constantly moving, trying to get more information down from whomever they can receive it from, and by any means possible. Howard gives this movie a jolt right from the beginning and it never lets up, basically allowing you to feel as if you are right there as more information about this main story begins to come out, as well as more details and information about these characters as well. The movie is mainly about the breaking-news story that this paper’s trying to cover, with any shred of dignity and respect, but Howard also doesn’t let the quick pace get to us too much. This is about the people that work in the newsrooms, put their bodies and minds on the line for 24-hours-a-day, working their assess off, and just hoping that they have a good enough story that will either: a) get their story on the front-page, b) get their names noticed and more recognition, and/or c) prove to the world that they can do what they love to do, get paid for it, and also having something to show off to your buddies and family as well.

There’s not many movies out there that really celebrate that type of attribute you can have, loving the work that you do. Mainly with journalism movies that more or less show journalists for being a bunch of cad-like, a-holes that take any story they can, spin it directly on its head, and don’t ever worry about hurting any one’s reputation or feelings. The movie touches on that subject a bit, but never goes deep enough to where we hate the hell out of the profession of being a journalist, and instead, makes you want to be one even more. Then again, that’s probably just my feelings and mine alone. Most likely is, but just think about it: Wouldn’t it be so cool to get paid for writing about stories, or simply covering the news? The same news that everybody already knows by now, but still reads it just to find out something new or cool about it? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me who thinks that’s rad, but so be it. I’m used to it by now.

Of course the movie does get darker and darker as it goes along, and starts to show more cracks in the relationships between all of these co-workers, and that’s where I felt like the film started to lose its balance. Not that I didn’t mind that Howard felt the need to get a little dramatic with the material, but he did it in such a way that seemed like it came from a completely, different movie altogether. One second, you have “The Keatmeister” telling somebody head-honcho from another newspaper, to “fuck off” in every which way possible, all for our pleasure and amusement, and then the next second, you have a scene of him and Glenn Close duking it out. And I don’t mean just a simple bunch of slaps and blows, I mean they really beat the shit out of each other. Came out of nowhere and although I do realize the point that Howard was trying to get across, he did it in such an over-the-top way, that it didn’t fit in at all with the rest of the frantic speed of the rest of the flick.

"Seriously? You wanna do this shit now?!?!??"

“Seriously? You wanna do this shit now?!?!??”

But keeping this movie altogether, one and for all, is non-other than “The Keatmeister” himself. Everybody loves seeing Michael Keaton pop-up in anything he so chooses nowadays, and it makes me sad to see him in stuff like this, knowing that the dude deserved so much more material than he actually got. Of course he was Batman, some say the best of all-time, but he still never got to be that household name I think we would all love and adore. Here though, he proves himself once again as a leading man, and one very capable at not only getting us to love him because he’s funny and charming, but because he also feels like a nice enough dude that will end up telling the story in the most honest way possible. The movie never goes deep enough with his character or the situation he’s been thrown into, but that doesn’t matter because Keaton is the man and makes any piece of material, shitty or not, worth watching.

The rest of the cast is pretty awesome too, and helps out the rest of the movie whenever they are called on to do so. Even though I thought her character was a bit too much of a bitch to get along with anybody, let alone fellow news-reporters, I still thought Glenn Close was good as the senior editor of the paper that didn’t quite take anybody’s shit, and also gave everybody a piece of her mind when she felt was necessary. It’s never made clear to us why her and Keaton’s character have so many problems with one another, but they make it work for the most part and it’s an underlining tension that you feel throughout the whole flick, especially when they’re in the same room together. Robert Duvall fits the role of the aging, sad owner of the newspaper like a glove and never lets you forget about his pain or to have you feel it as well. Randy Quaid is good as the paranoid buddy of Henry, even though we’ve seen him do this role about 100,000,000 times by now. And last, but certainly not least by a hundred miles away, we have Marisa Tomei as Henry’s loving, but terribly pregnant wife who wants him around more, but just can’t seem to wrap her head around the fact that he loves his job so much. Tomei is always a lovable presence to have in a flick, and despite her character’s constant-nagging, she never gets tiresome or annoying to see on screen. We always enjoy seeing her and want more.

Consensus: It may not go any deeper than saying “Journalists Rule!”, but The Paper, at least for this aspiring writer/journalist, makes you feel like you already have the job, are right there as everything’s happening, and allows you to have a good time as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!!

R.I.P.

R.I.P.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Wrestler (2008)

I’m sure Hogan really does know what’s best.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who continues to wrestle matches in an attempt to cling on to his 1980’s heyday despite his failing health, while also trying to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and find romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).

Some of you may not know this (and if you do, mucho brownie points go out to you), but back in the day, I used to be a hardcore wrestling fan. Yeah, I knew it was fake. Yeah, I knew that the two guys dressed-up in speedos that were beating the shit out of each other didn’t really hate each other outside of the ring. And yeah, I knew it was a bit childish for a kid that was in 8th grade, but you know what? I watched it and loved it all for the same reasons I watch and love movies so much: entertainment-value. That’s what’s so fun about wrestling that you don’t need to have a brain, a PHD, or even a job to enjoy wrestling, you can just watch it and have a good time. Seriously, if you don’t watch a single match of professional wrestling, then you my friend, are totally lying to yourself.

However, as much as I may patronize the other people out there who don’t feel the same as I do when it comes to half-naked men rolling around and beating each other up, I still feel the same about this movie as any other professional wrestling fan in saying that I love this movie, not just because it shows some legitimacy and real-danger to a piece of entertainment that has been the butt of every joke since the 80’s, but because it shows us what wrestlers are when they aren’t in the ring: real people. Maybe that’s nothing new we haven’t already heard from countless other stories of the same-nature, but what I think makes this approach so different and timeless, is the fact that director Darren Aronofsky makes us feel as if we are there, along for this depressing, dark, and tormented ride.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

This is probably the most normal piece of material that Aronofsky has ever touched and to be honest, you would not be able to tell from watching this that this was the same guy who made a movie where people get sped-up high for an hour and 40 minutes. There’s nothing flashy that Aronofsky pulls off here with the camera but what he does do with the camera, is actually make us feel as if we are there, in a sort of documentary-style way. The camera literally follows Randy wherever he goes and it’s sort of like a TV news crew just found the guy, decided to put the camera on him, and just let real life roll for the guy. It gives us a very candid, fly-on-the-wall look at this story and makes us feel as if everything we see, hear, feel is as natural as it can get. That’s not just from Aronofsky’s end of the spectrum, that’s from everybody else involved, especially you know who.

In case you couldn’t tell by the “you know who” I was just referencing in that last sentence, I was talking about Mickey Rourke in his perfect-performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s obvious that Randy is based-off of the likes of such wrestling-stars like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior, and so many other famous-faces of the squared-circle from the 80’s, but don’t let that get to you, because Rourke makes Randy his own piece of originality and thank heavens for that. Seriously, I think Mickey is in every single shot of this movie and in some movies, to some people, that would probably be torture that you would have actually had to pay to see for 2 hours, but instead with this movie and this performance, it’s the total-opposite. You will never want to take your eyes off of Mickey and all of the subtle nuances he pulls-off with his facial-expressions. You can tell that there is a battered and beaten soul underneath all of the tanned skin, blonde hair, and chiseled-up, but aging muscles, and you never forget that you’re watching Randy, even if Mickey totally takes over the whole-movie.

As sad as this character may be, Mickey brings out so much fun, excitement, and joy within this guy that you just can’t help but feel like you too would want to share a beer and play Nintendo with him as well. You can tell that a lot of the scenes here are totally ad-libbed from Mickey and it just gives this movie more of a natural feel, as if Mickey decided to walk into the shoot everyday, do his part, but also have a lot of fun with the rest of the cast as well. As I said before, you are never going to want to take your eyes off of Rourke here because he always has something to show you, always has something to surprise you with, and best of all, always has something to make you fell more and more for this guy, no matter how much he screws-up.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I'd probably be broke.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I’d probably be broke.

There is so much about this character that just screams, “PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE!”, but Mickey is above that and makes this guy feel like he has more of a heart than you could ever expect from a low-life like him. Every chance that Randy gets to make life happy for himself and the others around him, he finds his own way of just screwing it up and rather than being pissed at this guy and losing all hope in him, you’re still pissed at him but feel as if he can change, and feel like he just deserves a break. That’s the work of magic from Rourke, because he is able to give us a character that is so selfish, so idiotic sometimes, and so burnt-out without ever admitting it, but yet, still have us love the guy to death and feel as if we are cheering him on, just as much as his wrestling fans are. It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen and it’s one that Rourke was freakin’ robbed of and without Mickey, this film just would have not succeeded. Yeah, if they went with Nic Cage like they had originally-planned, things would have been a hell of a lot different come Oscar-time.

Another character that is basically Randy “The Ram” but with tits and more naked than he is throughout the whole movie, is Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. Tomei is playing the usual, “hooker with the heart of gold” role, but knowing Tomei and what she can do with any role you throw at her, she changes it up and makes her feel more raw than you’d ever expect from this gal. Cassidy is a lonely, sad, and aging piece of work, just like Randy, but still feels the need to push the ones away from her that still may make a difference in her life. Watching her and Randy interact with one-another, shoot the shit, and pretty much start to connect with each other more than they have with anybody else, is a thing of beauty and I think all of that is mainly because of the chemistry between the two. Evan Rachel Wood is good as Randy’s estranged daughter, Stephanie and even if she may be the weakest-link out of the three, that still doesn’t mean jack shit because she is still so good, providing us with great insight into a character that wanted to be loved and held, just as much as Randy does now.

Still fake, right?

Still think it’s fake, right?

These three performances are mainly who tie this film together with it’s neat and nice little bow at the end, but I’m telling you, this flick will take you down a dark, sad road you may feel very affected by. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally depressing and in-fact, will actually have you laughing a good, couple of times throughout. However, when the film wants to make you feel any type of emotion that has to do with sad, heartfelt, or touching, it hits the spot right away. You can say that’s because of Rourke, you could say that’s because of Tomei, and you could that’s because of Aronofsky, but I say it’s every single piece of this puzzle is what makes it so damn near-perfect, and yes, after 4 years and seeing it just about 5 times, I still cried my eyes-out like a big freakin’ baby and you know what? That’s alright with me, because once Monday Night hits, I’m watching RAW baby!

Consensus: Whether or not you’re a fan of professional wrestling, won’t matter because The Wrestler is about more than just a bunch of guys fake-fighting in a trampoline/ring. It’s a perfectly-acted, somber-look at the life of a broken and depressed old-man that is starting to come to terms with where his life is going, why it’s headed there, and what he can do to make right again. It’s an emotional-trip that still hits me where it hurts all of these years later.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair's career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair’s career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

Cyrus (2010)

Who doesn’t love their mommy?

John C. Reilly plays a divorced man who thinks he’s found just the right woman (Marisa Tomei) to help him recover and move on. Unfortunately, the woman’s son, played by Jonah Hill, has no interest in allowing another man into their lives — a stance he proceeds to demonstrate in a variety of obnoxious ways.

I had no interest in this film when it first came out since its done by Jay and Mark Duplass, aka the guys who started this whole “mumble core” movement, so therefore I had no real interest. Then of course HBO had to come on by and I couldn’t help myself.

The Duplass Brothers do a pretty good job with this film because they know how to balance out humor, heart, and romance together all well. There are funny moments in this film but there more about being all cringe-inducing and awkward, which didn’t bother me because it made it all feel realistic. I mean when a kid says “don’t fuck my mom” at the first din-din, that’s just a little weird, especially if you keep calling your mom by her fist name.

The problem I had with this film was that I did feel like I was going to throw-up by how much the Duplass Brothers’ moved their camera around all over the place. It constantly zooms in and out, and even gets out-of-focus at times too and feels like it’s trying too hard to be realistic and just be a straight-up indie film with it’s hand-held camera. I felt like I was watching Tony Scott going indie for a second, until I realized that this film is about a guy and his girl’s son having a feud, not a train–on-the-run or any high concept like that.

Another problem I had with this film was that I felt like a little bit of it meanders right in the middle for no reason and kind of loses focus with its weird pace. The film is constantly building and building until Cyrus is gone for about 15 minutes, and they we focus on this relationship and it just feels a tad off. I don’t know what it was but the middle part of this film just seemed oddly misplaced and could have done better.

I don’t know if this film really had a script by any chance, because it more or less just feels like The Duplass Brothers just got the whole cast together, told them where the film was going to go, and they just let everybody do their own thang, which I think worked. There are a lot of moments in this film that just had me laughing by how goofy and weird this plot could get and honestly I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was some crazy incest angle in it here either. The film isn’t afraid to express its weirdness, which is something you don’t see in many films nowadays, especially with big-names like this one. It’s weird but not too weird for anybody just to watch and enjoy.

John C. Reilly is great as the perfectly named, John, because he plays this sweet, tormented, and overall likable dude so well that he doesn’t seem like he’s doing the same ridiculous act over again, it’s more or less just him being the nicest guy you could ever see in a film. Jonah Hill is the freakin’ man as Cyrus, because he’s playing a lot more of a subtle role than we’re usually used to him playing but I have to say that it was great to see him play silent and weird, and still be very funny. Both are great together because they create this little feud that starts off small with a pair of John’s shoes getting taken but then spills out into them just about beating each other. Just the scenes of them two staring at each other and practically try to win over the same woman’s heart, definitely had me laughing and entertained by these two.

As for the ladies here, Marisa Tomei is very good as Molly. Tomei has been in the game for awhile and it never feels like she’s doing the same role all the time and she plays Molly with that certain type of broken, but accessible beauty character very well to the point of where you believe that her character could really feel this much for her son and her boy-toy. Catherine Keener isn’t really doing much as John’s ex-wife, Jamie but she’s fine with what she’s given. I kind of thought how weird it was that John and Jamie were still good pals even though she left him or something and I don’t know I feel like once you’re done, it’s done. No best friends thing.

Consensus: Cyrus suffers from some annoying indie problems, but it features a simple story with heart, awkward humor, and performances from the whole cast that feel genuine and perfectly picked for each of their characters.

7/10=Rental!!

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

Want something to make you happy? Don’t watch this.

The perfect crime goes horribly wrong for brothers Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) when they botch a robbery of their parents’ jewelry store, and hurls them towards a shattering climax.

Director Sidney Lumet (R.I.P), was in the game for about 50 years and before he went away with the sky, he let this little piece of happiness behind him. He can be glad to say that this was a happy swan song.

Lumet tells this film in a non-linear format and even showing different view-points for all these characters and it works so well because it shows us what is really going on with these characters and why everybody is just so damn sinister. Everything here is just basically pitch-black with the story diving deeper and deeper into places that would have Darth Vader backing up.

What I liked most about this film was the story and how it is a heist-gone-wrong film but also a character study about a messed up family. You never fully understand how all of these characters were before all this crazy ish went down, but you see the true emotions come out when tragic things do happen and how people constantly do mean and just plain harsh things to one another. This film shows problems within a family, as well as keeping the tension going so no matter how weak some of the family stuff may be for most viewers, there is still a lot to fall-back on.

My problem with the film was that this was so damn dark to a point of where I was just wondering why the hell wasn’t there any happiness whatsoever. I mean the first scene which is basically Tomei and Hoffman doing the doggy-style is probably the happiest moment in the whole film because their just getting it on, and at least pleasured. I mean this film is a downer, and I just don’t know why it had to be so terribly dark and depressing other than just to be that. I mean come on, not even a Knock-knock joke or anything.

Another problem is that this film isn’t really for everybody. I watched this with my good friend Pete and he likes any films but he just couldn’t handle all the slowness and the dark feeling of this material. I don’t blame him since I obviously had some problems with all this damn darkness but to say the least, it’s not for everyone and if you’re contemplating killing yourself, this is not the film to watch.

The cast is also pretty amazing as well. Ethan Hawke nails it as Hank Hanson (HH) because his character is this kind of mopey, scared, little soft kind of a person the whole film so when the ish hits the fan, Hawke’s character gets pretty crazy and paranoid, which is what Hawke does well and the things that he does are not only believable but genuine too and some of the best acting Hawke has done. Marisa Tomei is nakey almost in every scene but that doesn’t take away from her scenes as Gina; Albert Finney is great as the tough-edged father; and Michael Shannon is here for a bit as this creepy and pretty intimidating dude named Dex.

The real showcase of the whole cast is none other than Philip Seymour Hoffman as Andy Hanson, and probably gives one of his most evil performances to date. His character is probably the most morally corrupt of the whole bunch and right from the get-go, he lets you know that he is just not effin’ around at all. He yells a lot, which he usually always does in films, but a lot of the raw emotions he shows here seem natural and show Hoffman’s true talents as an actor that can seemingly be so terribly unlikable, but still a guy you can’t take your eyes off of the whole time. Damn I wish this guy was The Penguin!

Consensus: It’s definitely not for everybody, and is extremely dark and depressing, but Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a compelling tale of dysfunctional families, corrupt people, and moments that just go from bad to worse that is masterfully acted and directed from all of the talent involved.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Ides of March (2011)

I think everybody knows that they would vote for George Clooney to be the next president.

An up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s (George Clooney) shot at the presidency.

Director George Clooney is behind the camera again for the fourth time and compared to ones such as Leatherheads, Good Night and Good Luck, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he doesn’t have much of a problem doing whatever it is that he does.

Clooney shows that he really can keep an interesting story going even if it doesn’t seem like anything new or ground-breaking. From the beginning, I thought I was going to get another behind-the-scenes look at a political race like in Primary Colors, however, Clooney keeps it entertaining with sharp dialogue that actually made me laugh at times surprisingly, while still giving me a lot to see with all these bad-ass politicians.

However, the story goes through a very odd twist right through the middle where it sort of switches the tone from political thriller to melodrama of sorts. Without giving the twist away too much, I still felt like this was a pretty cool twist on the film and actually kind of tied in with what happens with the last 30 minutes of the film.

This is where I think Clooney started to fall though because he doesn’t really do a very good job of keeping both of these story-lines together and still almost meaning the same thing. What I mean is that the film’s twist is good and for the most part, features some very good scenes for the latter part of the film but there are still scenes about the other part of the film that had to do with the actual political race that didn’t seem like they belonged together with the twist in the same film. I noticed this and it kind of bothered me because even though I felt like both “story-lines” were interesting as hell and kept me interested, they still felt like two different kinds of films.

There isn’t also anything new that Clooney has to say about all of these politicians that hasn’t already been said or shown before. I think Clooney’s script is a little too moral for this material where it shows everybody basically being a bunch of evil and conniving sons-of-bitches towards one another. Clooney just wanted us to really see just how much all of these people manipulate each other when it comes to a presidential race such as this and although it was really cool to see all of that play out, I still didn’t need all the moralizing of these characters.

When it comes to the cast though, Clooney really does know how to do a great job with picking a near-perfect ensemble. Ryan Gosling is just all-over-the-place this year and is perfect as Stephen Myers. Gosling is a commanding presence on screen and demands your attention every time he’s up there. He seems believable and looks like a guy that knows all the right things to do and how to do them but after he is thrown a curve-ball, really doesn’t know how to handle it all too well.

Clooney is also good as Governor Mike Morris, and he surprisingly plays up that very dirty-politician act well which is something I wasn’t really expecting to see from him, especially in his own film. The scenes he has with Gosling are awesome and couldn’t have been any better with any other two actors. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman play two opposing campaign managers and are cast perfectly because both roles get to show just how damn good they are. Both of them are amazing in this film showing how cool and calm one minute they can be, but then the next minute totally mad and crazy as hell, so you don’t know which one to trust the most and who’s the good manager or the bad one.

Evan Rachel Wood is surprisingly very good in a juicy role as Molly, that allows to show her being sexy and a little bit mysterious but also emotional and vulnerable. She shows some great range and has an even more believable character arc. Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright aren’t in here as much as the film may make you think, but they’re also very good as well and round out the cast to perfect effect.

Consensus: Though there are a lot of messy things about The Ides of March, Clooney makes up for it with a very interesting story that gets better as the film goes along, and a cast full of great star that bring so much to each of their characters.

7/10=Rental!!

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

A lot of stupid, a lotta love, and some craziness ain’t so bad.

When Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) discovers that his wife (Julianne Moore) wants to end their marriage, he reluctantly faces the unwelcome prospect of single life with the counsel of the younger and smoother super-bachelor Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). However, Gosling’s character starts to question his playboy ways when he meets Anna (Emma Stone) and falls in love.

Ever since the trailer first came out for this way back when, I couldn’t wait to see it, but waiting 2 weeks after it already came out to see it was a good idea.

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) know how to balance out comedy and drama very well here. There are times where I laughed and a lot of the times felt very moved by a lot of the interactions between these characters and wanted to see more of it as the film progressed.

The problem with the film is that the script itself is just moving along a slick pace but with way too many subplots to actually fit it’s two hour time-limit. When you have all these different characters, it’s sometimes very hard to make all their stories fit before the end is over and this film doesn’t know how to actually wrap it up all too well really which is kind of a shame because there is many comedies within the past year that have been able to do that very same thing well.

In certain scenes, there is that great sign of insight within the script that talks about two people think when it’s not just about sex which I liked because it showed that this was a sort of smart and intelligent romantic comedy that was so based in reality. However, there are so many moments here that are almost cringe-worthy by how sappy and contrived they are. This film is very knowing about certain things and then very up-lifting and sentimental about others which kind of bummed me out considering that there could have been so much here that actually spoke a lot about relationships and love, when in the end, it just turns out to be another rom-com with too much sweetness.

When I kept wondering if I liked this film or not, I kept on coming back to the cast and that’s when I knew, I actually did like this film a lot more. Steve Carell is basically playing the same guy he always plays here as Cal Weaver, but he does it so well that you can actually connect to his character and sympathize with him. There’s a lot of problems that this character runs into but Carell makes it all seem believable and truly has that comedic and dramatic depth to all of his characters.

The real revelation of this film is actually Ryan Gosling who is amazing as Jacob Palmer. Gosling has always had that charm that people know and love him for but he’s never been able to fully throw out his comedic chops until now and I have to say that he really does know exactly what he’s doing. This guy is the exact persona of what every guy in the world thinks they are and what they look like, however, Gosling actually is and with the rock-hard abs, to the fresh-to-def looking vests and to the combed-over hair, Gosling just fits this role so perfectly and shows that he has great comedic timing as well as the dramatic depth to his character to make Jacob Palmer work in the end.

Julianne Moore is also very good as as Cal’s wife, Emily, who has a lot of problems as a character, but somehow Moore is able to over-shadow them with her amazing screen presence and Emma Stone is a lot of fun to watch as Hanna, and creates this great chemistry with Gosling that at first may seem hard to believe in, but by the end you may start to actually wish the film was more on them. Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are actually kind of in cameo roles but they both play each role amazingly well, given the time they both have on screen.

Consensus: There are moments here that seem incredibly intelligent while others just have you shake your head at the predictable cheesy moments that take so much away from Crazy, Stupid, Love. despite an amazing cast and good moments of being smarter than other rom-com’s out there.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

This film really did make California look like a crap hole.

Tasked with defending rich lothario Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), who’s been charged with assault, lawyer Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) finds himself and his family in danger when he deduces the truth behind this and former cases he’s worked on.

This is based off the 2005 crime best-seller, that I still have not read, but after seeing this, I don’t really think I need to read it.

There’s not nothing new here that we haven’t seen before. The plot plays out like you would expect a courtroom drama to play out, and almost everything that happens seems like it came from some other film of this nature. However, that’s not always a bad thing.

Director Brad Furman keeps this film going at a slick and quick pace. He keeps us interested in this plot because he films this so tightly, that we actually do start to wonder, what exactly is going to happen next. The screenplay written by John Romano goes well with Furman’s direction, because a lot of the twists and turns that this story takes here, actually seem believable and not put on. I love old-style courtroom thrillers, and this brought me back to the good old days of when you could just sit back, and watch a crime be solved right in front of  your eyes.

My main complaint with this film is that I didn’t like how this was shot. Furman uses a very dirty look that was trying to show California in a crap way, but instead just seemed dumb and intentional to show how much of a crap hole it can look like. It looks gritty for the sake of looking gritty and this just seemed put-on.

I think Mick Haller is the perfect role for Matthew McConaughey, and he actually pulls it off real well. It’s been awhile since McConaughey has actually head-lined a “good” film, probably because he’s been too busy with those shitty romantic comedies, but this role was a good reminder as to why he doesn’t always have to do them. He’s smug and cocky but at the same time, determined to get his job done in any way possible. McConaughey does a wonderful and believable job as Haller, and has me hoping he’ll continue to take roles like this in the future. The rest of the supporting cast is awesome. Ryan Phillipe is very evil and vindictive as Louis Roulet, who as time goes on, becomes a very, very bad kid. Marisa Tomei also pops up and does a good job as Maggie, and let’s not forget William H. Macy who is always a sight to see, and is not different here as Frank. The rest of this great cast is filled with the likes of John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Josh Lucas, and Frances Fisher.

Consensus: The Lincoln Lawyer doesn’t offer anything new to the courtroom thriller genre, but a well-paced story, with interesting mystery, and great acting from the cast, keep this somewhat predictable film, entertaining enough.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Happy Accidents (2001)

I hope my spouse is from the future. Everything will be great.

Ruby Weaver (Marisa Tomei) is tired of being the “enabler” in relationships and has decided to give up the role of doormat. She’s also on the verge of giving up on love when she meets a sweet, small-town guy, Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio), who changes her mind. It seems Ruby’s finally found a sane boyfriend — until Sam divulges that he’s a time traveler from the year 2470. Now it’s up to Ruby to decide whether love can conquer all.

I first saw the trailer for this film awhile back last year, and I thought to myself “what a bunch of stupid junk”, and didn’t look back on it since. Now, I regret that situation more than ever.

This film is more of a sci-fi thriller, than it actually is a romantic comedy. The story is so rich and original, mostly because it keeps you guessing. Like 12 Monkeys, the narrator is unreliable, and we sometimes put our own conclusions together with the story. But the film isn’t just all about tricking you, and keeping you on the edge of your seat, it’s also about the love, and finding someone despite their problems. When Sam tells Ruby he’s from the future, she is taken back, but at the same time, she kind of puts that to the side, and accepts him as a person, instead of this nut, that if you heard right away was saying this goofy crap, you would run for the hills and never look back. Yeah, later on, she gets creeped out more, but she still stays with him, and even though there is that 1% chance he may be telling the truth, she still sticks with him, only to get more answers.

There is also plenty of comedy to go along with this film. The things Sam says are funny, but also the situations they are put in, and how Sam basically has a reason for everything that happens in the future, is actually pretty funny, although it may have a bit of dumbness to it.

I had a problem with the film that kind of ruined it for me by the last act. The score is just soooo freakin’ annoying. Its got like this weird old kind of score music you would hear from an old episode from the Three Stooges. I think the film could have really benefited from something a lot better, then just an odd type of score, especially for the last act, when it was at its most emotional.

The best thing about this film is its two great cute characters. Marisa Tomei as Ruby, is at her all-time high with this performance, showing a lot of compassion, and overall believability. She has a lot of great moments where she’s just freaking out, and she has that great romantic comedy timing, that really benefits here in any move. Vincent D’Onofrio may not be the greatest looking dude out there, but he’s still a great character mostly cause he is very cooky, but likable. And just because of this likability, you have the slight belief that maybe this guy is telling the truth. The two build a great chemistry, that although starts out really funny, gets more and more emotional, and it all feels real. Also, be ready for a very funny Anthony Michael Hall cameo, that guy really is the freakin’ man.

Consensus: Happy Accidents could have been more emotionally powerful, but takes you by surprise, as it is hilarious, original, and likable performances from the quirky cast.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

In the Bedroom (2001)

Hopefully my parents don’t grow old like this!

Set in a tranquil town on the Maine coast, this character-driven drama tells the story of a couple (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson) whose teenage son (Nick Stahl) is involved in a love affair with a single mother (Marisa Tomei). When the relationship comes to a sudden and tragic end, the boy’s parents must face their worst nightmare and embark on a dark and dangerous psychological journey.

In the Bedroom is a film that challenges viewers to understand these characters. I liked how the film didn’t focus too much on the event, and more on how these characters are effected emotionally and physically. Director Todd Field understands how to make an emotionally and powerful film without just showing the audince what they want to see.

The reason why this film mostly works is because its incredibly written screenplay, that is so tragic and true to the point, that its hard not to be taken away. It shows how grief and denial of one’s life can eventually lead everyone to turn on each other and gain that huge sense of paranoia that happens in such an event like this one.

The problem I had with this film was that I felt like it was way too slow at points, as well as the editing. The film does keep your attention mostly due to the great screenplay but stalls at plenty of times, that don’t seem meaningful at all. There were scenes that should have been cut out, mostly due to the fact that they didn’t really have anything to do with the story and more for the dramatic effect.

Utterly, the best thing about this film is its performances from the cast. Nick Stahl is fascinating, and although I wish she was on more but did fine anyway, Marisa Tomei. But this film is more anchored by the performances from Wilkinson and Spacek. They both show a great and realistic look at two older people who are stuck living with a tragedy and can’t seem to get away from the fact that they may have messed up. The way they use this screenplay is something of a miracle by how real all these scenes are and the way these two just make these scenes is even better.

Lastly, the biggest problem with this film is that I felt like the revenge ending didn’t seem like it was in the right movie. It acted more as a suspense-thriller ending that crawled out of some Perry Mason episode. I mean it wasn’t the worst but the way it ended wasn’t very meaningful and less insightful than I actually thought it was going to be with such a powerful film like this one.

Consensus: Though it needs better editing and a different ending, In the Bedroom features a well-written script, anchored by wonderful performances from its great cast.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Oscar (1991)

Crazy Sly doing a comedy role as a mob boss what is he doing.

Sylvester Stallone plays a big-time gangster who promises his dying father (Kirk Douglas) that he’ll go straight. Easier said than done, as Stallone encounters drawbacks such as a mix-up of little black bags, a daughter who changes fiances three times before lunch and a continuously revolving door of colorful thugs.

In this film, it does what many others don’t do, and that is make a very funny comeback after a nearly disastrous first 20 minutes. I will admit that I’m not a huge fan of 30’s depression era mobster comedies, cause I think they just thaw out to be corny and trying to hard to be funny, but this one was a different set.

The one thing I liked the most was that Stallone’s character is such a straight-forward guy and they always have these funny side characters thrown at him and it makes it more joy to see how he reacts to these goofball characters. The movie has a very well-played out but funny situation that happens and when its all over its good to see it all thaw out.

I think Sly was OK in his first comedy role but he is not too believable. He runs up the stairs too fast like he’s being Rocky again, and he also doesn’t seem that vicious when it comes to him being screwed. He just doesn’t seem like the mob boss that would whack you for stealing over thousands of dollars of his money. The rest of the supporting cast is very funny and well-casted and are surely where the strength lays.

The problem I had with this film that so many of the gags were too played off as being a parody on old time Hollywood films and I thought this called for no original material. Director John Landis, who is known for directing films like Animal House and ¡Three Amigos, I was expecting more from these comedic genius but I was surely disappointing that it wasn’t as hilarious.

Consensus: Oscar is a funny situational comedy that is boasted by a great story and hilarious side characters, even if it seems like a parody.

8/10=Matinee!!

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