Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Pan (2015)

I’ve always felt like Peter Pan needed a little more Nirvana.

Everybody knows the story, but you know what? Imma tell it anyway! When he was just a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) was left on the front-stoop of an orphanage by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) who obviously couldn’t take care of him. Fast forward 12 or so years later, and Peter has grown-up a little bit, trying to make ends meet in England during WWII. One fateful night, however, he’s kidnapped by a mysterious group of pirates and taken away to this strange fantasy world known as Neverland. Here, Peter finds out that he can fly and has all sorts of mystical powers, but is currently on the run from Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who, for one reason or another, just wants to get ahold of Peter because he has some sort of magic powers and is, for lack of a better term, “the chosen one”. Along with a newfound friend named Hook (Garret Hedlund), Peter will venture all across Neverland to escape Blackbeard and, hopefully, be able to find his mom, whom he believes to still be alive and setting up shop somewhere in this magical world of Neverland, where practically anything is possible. So long as you put your mind to it.

I guess "Polly" was off the table?

I guess Polly was off the table?

There’s a line early on in Pan that perfectly summarizes what it is that this movie thinks of itself. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook character says something, in his awfully mouthy and odd Southern accent, along the lines of, “You came here in a floating ship, I think the idea of what’s real has all but flown out the window.” Once again, I highly doubt that those are the actual words he said, but you get the point; this is basically a case of the writers and director getting together and saying, “Hey, guys. Let’s make a fun movie here. No bull. No crap. No nothing. Just fun”. And that’s what Pan actually is.

For awhile, that is.

Eventually, what happens to Pan, is that it forgets about its cheekiness and instead, delves way too deep into its own mythology where mermaids, pirates, floating boys, and white women playing Native Americans. Which, on paper, sounds so incredibly fun, and it is for a good amount of the film, but once it loses its silly edge, it gets extremely dull and boring. All of a sudden, we’re being told the story of Peter Pan once again, which is fine and all for new viewers who may have not previously known about this story already, but to the countless others who already know each and everything about it, it’ll prove to be a bit of a bore.

Which is a shame because I like what Joe Wright seems to be doing here. He knows that because the tale of Peter Pan is, essentially, a fairy tale, that he should approach it as such. There’s a whole lot of self-aware jokes here that are winking so much at the audience, that it practically breaks a bone or two in doing so. Which, honestly, is fine with me; some of the best kids movies, are those that work as well for the parents, just as they do for the kids. Sure, some of the jokes may go over the little kiddies’ heads, but honestly, they’ll be fine anyway!

After all, it’s a Joe Wright film, which means that everything’s pretty, gaudy, over-the-top, and as colorful as a Gay Pride parade, which means that for the kids, they’ll have plenty more to focus on than just the subtlety within the jokes, or the fact that the pirates in this movie endlessly chant Blitzkrieg Bop and Smells Like Teen Spirit together. Is it all weird? Kind of. But I’ll take that in my kids movies, rather than watching some same old, recycled story that just caters to the younglings and not give a single hoot about who else may be coming out to watch this movie.

Because, without us older-people, how would these kids be able to get to the movies in the first place?

But, like I said, this all begins to go down the tubes once the second-half of the movie comes into play. In fact, if I was to be even more specific as to when the movie begins to turn the other cheek, get all mega-serious and lose its sense of wacky fun, is when we’re introduced to Rooney Mara’s whitewashed Tiger Lily. That’s not to say that the casting of her to begin with is more than enough to take you out of the film (although it is quite ridiculous), but it’s the part where I realized that the movie didn’t really have anywhere else to go, or anything else fun to do. It was just going through the same old motions. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

While I’m at it, though, I guess I should point out that I’m not just pissed at the movie for casting a white actress in the role of an obvious and rather iconic Native American character, but because they cast Rooney Mara in the role, a talented actress who deserves a whole lot more than just this. Yes, it’s ridiculously cynical that the studios felt like they couldn’t have cast a Native American in a role that was most definitely made for one, but it’s also a waste of a supreme talent that deserves to be elsewhere and more often than not, actually shows it. Most shots of Mara here are of her just sleep-walking through her lines, occasionally letting something resembling a smile or a chuckle crack through and it just makes you want to hope that she got a solid paycheck here, so that she doesn’t have to bother with these kinds of big-budget, mainstream pieces again.

Let’s hope that she just stays in the beloved indie world, like she always has.

Aside from Mara, everybody else seems to be having fun, although nobody’s ever given that one, big push they needed to make them stand-out from the rest of the film. Hugh Jackman is clearly enjoying his time playing Blackbeard, but doesn’t get enough opportunities to seem sinister and instead, just comes off like a running-joke. I know this is a kids movie and we don’t necessarily want our villain beheading innocents to prove his menace, but at the same time, we don’t want him to just become a gag that the movie can point and laugh at, especially when we know he’s going to have to have that final showdown at the end. Garrett Hedlund is also having fun too as Hook, even though he’s merely just a sidekick that falls down, gets beaten up, and looks silly.

And Amanda Seyfried is hardly even here. Poor girl.

Consensus: Joe Wright is throwing everything at the wall with Pan and seeing what sticks, which can sometimes be fun and exciting, but at other times, can get a bit tiring and odd, even when it seems like the cast are having the times of their lives.

6 / 10

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won't any longer.

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won’t any longer.

The Reader (2008)

Even the Nazis had to get a little freaky from time-to-time.

When Michael Berg (David Kross) was younger, he fell for a woman, Hanna (Kate Winslet), who was nearly twice his age. She taught him everything that he needed to know about life, cooking, books, family, women, and most importantly, sex. But because he was so young and hardly knew anything that he wanted with the world, let alone who he was going to spend it with, the years went by and Michael began to get more and more interested elsewhere. For one, he took up with a new girlfriend of his own and started focusing on his career. Because of this, Hanna inexplicably got up, left and disappeared from Michael’s life, without a note or anything. Saddened by this, Michael does eventually move on with his life and grow up to be a dashing, handsome, but sadly, flawed middle-aged man (Ralph Fiennes). But Michael is brought back to Hanna through hearing of a trail she’s being put through for war crimes she committed under the Nazis. While Michael never knew about this secret past of Hanna’s, he knows that it doesn’t make her a bad person. At the same time, however, Michael doesn’t know if he can bring himself to relive his very lustful younger years.

I know of many men who would do anything to be in that same bathtub. Just get that other dude out, though!

I know of many men who would do anything to be in that same bathtub. Just get that other dude out, though!

The Reader is the kind of movie that makes you want to punch somebody in the face. Because, for as long as it is up on the screen, you assume that it’s going to be these sweet, saucy, sexy and lurid fantasies that came true for this one dude, all those years ago when he was hardly even 15. But what works about these scenes isn’t that they are just chock full of butt, boob, penis and vagina, but that there is a small layer of fine sensuality felt within it. Most people would have a problem watching a movie that makes the case for a boy who has just hit puberty, hanging around and having all sorts of steamy sex with this much-older women, but Stephen Daldry doesn’t.

And that, to me, makes me want to give the dude credit. Not to mention a solid bro-five, but that’s for later when were singing dicks out at the bar, joshing around and laughing about all the good times.

But yeah, anyway, the movie.

So yeah, what Daldry does best is that he shows that this relationship, while definitely controversial and frowned-upon for sure (and also illegal, but hey, who cares!), is just that – a relationship. In between all of the humping, the pelvic-thrusting, the orgasms, and smoldering hot baths, these two actually strike-up something of a nice chemistry between one another. While she teaches him in how to make love to a woman so that he’s not the only one who enjoys it (which always happens, sorry ladies), he, unbeknownst to him for awhile, teaches her how to read. Sure, you could make the argument that she’s teaching him more about the ways of life than he is to her, but still, the fact that this movie shows that there’s more going on than just bodily-fluids being swapped, helps us connect to these characters.

And then, it all changes up.

About half-way through, the movie goes from being a very explicit coming-of-ager, to being another Holocaust/WWII drama that likes to prey on the fears of those who are easily vulnerable to these types of movies and love to tear up. In a way, this makes the movie feel less interesting and lose its sense of focus, but there is an interesting spin put on that whole sub-genre of film. Rather than focusing on the plight of those affected by the Holocaust (like, for instance, the Jews that Hitler killed), the Reader asks us the age old question that we don’t see too often explored in movies: Can we have sympathy for those who were on the other side of the Holocaust?

It’s easy to have sympathy for those who were personally being persecuted and discriminated against, but is it that easy to have the same kind for those who were apart of the SS? Cause, after all, sometimes, those people were the same ones who were just taking orders from the higher-ups, in hopes that they’d be done with the war as soon as possible, so that they too could go back to their normal lives. And hell, had they decided not to go through any order handed down to them, then they too may have followed the same fate as their prisoners.

But that’s why there’s a boldness to the Reader that I enjoyed and couldn’t stop wrapping my head around.

For one, we never know quite for sure that Hanna was apart of the SS, until we do, and it makes us wonder as to whether or not we can push certain truths to the side, no matter how harsh they may be. After all, she’s a woman who was just doing what she was told to, by those much more powerful than her. And it’s not like she still acts or thinks the way she does today, right?

Still can't stop thinking of K-Wins. Nor should he.

Still can’t stop thinking of K-Wins. Nor should he.

Cause after all, what we do see from Hanna, is that she’s a loving and caring woman. Sure, she can be a bit grumpy at times, but she’s got a reason to be. It should be noted that Winslet is great in this role as Hanna, even though I don’t believe it’s the role she should have won the Oscar for (Revolutionary Road would have been my one and only choice). But all that aside, Winslet is great in this role because she allows for us to see the sometimes broken-hearted woman that lies inside this rather rough and tough exterior that Hanna presents to the world around her. The role itself may have been written-out to be incredibly over-the-top and hammy (what with the over-extended German accents and all), but Winslet finds certain narrow paths to make it much more subtle and it works, especially when we get to the end of the movie and wonder whether or not this woman actually does deserve to be persecuted for these war crimes she’s being called upon.

Cause, honestly, does she?

Well, the movie brings these questions up, yet, doesn’t seem too interested on answering them. That’s fine, too, because it seems like they’re the kind of questions that deserved to be brought up in a manner that has people hitting themselves in the face, over and over again, trying to figure out what conclusion they can settle on. However, it does allow for the movie to end on a sour note that feels more interested in pushing its message across and lose the main focus of this story: Michael himself. Without him, we’d have no reason for this story to exist, but as soon as Ralph Fiennes shows up, it’s almost as if the character gets pushed to the side and all of a sudden, Lena Olin shows up, gets pissed-off and we’re left thinking, “What was the point?”

Sure, some kid got boned a lot, but other than that, did we really need that extra half-hour tacked-on at the end to remind us that, hey, the Holocaust was bad, guys? Probably not, but for some reason, Daldry included it anyway and makes me wonder just where the main focus was here. Did they use Michael’s sexual awakening as a manipulative path into talking about the Holocaust? Or, did Daldry legitimately want to talk about the Holocaust?

Eh, whatever. Too much questions.

Consensus: For awhile, the Reader is alluring, smart, and interesting coming-of-ager anchored by a wonderful performance from Winslet, but loses focus in the later-half and feels like it wants to tell a different story than it set out to do.

7 / 10

Is that a smile I see?

Is that a smile I see? Eh? Maybe? Nah, never mind!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Billy Elliot (2000)

True men dance. So take that, daddy!

Young, British boy Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) wants to be a dancer. Although he goes to the local gym for prepaid boxing-lessons, he has no passion behind hitting people just for the heck of it. Instead, he prefers to learn a thing or two about swiveling his hips, jumping up and down, clapping his hands, and moving around rooms as if he was the second-coming of Fred Astaire. However, due to the fact that he lives in a very conservative British coal mining town and also because he lives with his relatively masculine father (Gary Lewis) and brother (Jamie Draven), Billy’s not allowed to really tell anybody about his life long dream. That’s why he and the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters), decide that it’s best that they keep it their little secret; one that may or may not get out and when it does, will affect everyone. Most importantly, Billy himself who is trying his hardest to be the best dancer he can be and get accepted into a very high-class, prestigious dance academy.

Us men feel your pain, bud.

Us men feel your pain, bud.

Like most inspirational tales, Billy Elliot follows a familiar pattern. Protagonist has talent, protagonist faces adversity from someone or something surrounding them, protagonist trains harder and harder (of course, cue the montage), and eventually, it all leads up to the protagonist having to prove themselves in an epic climax that can only be a single event. You see this with just about every sports movie; basketball, football, soccer, baseball, tennis, cross country, track-and-field, fencing, bad-mitten, and etc.

And now, you can add dancing to the list, all because of Billy Elliot.

Because, like I said, Billy Elliot is a lot like these other movies in that it follows the same sort of line and hardly diverts away from it. While some of you may be utterly displeased with the fact that I may have given something away about the movie, I assure you that I have not. Because obviously, all I did was layout where the movie goes, not where it ends up, nor how it gets there. And believe it or not, those later aspects matter most and they’re what help Billy Elliot be something a bit more than just a traditional tale of a boy conquering his fears and living out his dreams.

For one, it’s a movie that has a heart, something I’m not sure many of Stephen Daldry’s other movies have been known to have. But unsurprisingly, there’s something about Billy and those around him that keep this movie surprisingly sweet, when it could have easily gone sour. A solid example of this is when one of Billy’s friends turns out to be gay and harmlessly kisses him on the cheek. Rather than Billy criticizing him for it, Billy instead embraces this fact about his buddy, even if he has to turn down the offer because, well, he’s not gay. He may enjoy dancing quite a lot, but that doesn’t make him gay, nor does it make him any less of a man than those that surround him.

While I’m not particularly sure that a kid as young as the one portrayed by Billy’s friend would actually be so sure and out with himself as he is here, the movie still drives home the point that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, or what social/ethnic background you come from – if there is something you love to do, then do it, dammit! Billy is constantly being bombarded by the masculine men that live in his home and because of the society they’re living in, it’s considered not “right” for him to be out on a stage, prancing around in tight-clothing and shaking his rump like no tomorrow. There’s something wrong with this, we understand, within the movie, but it also carries a universal theme that no matter how many years we think we advance, there’s still that idea that men, aren’t men, unless they’re eating, killing, or screwing something.

Sometimes, men can dance and be masculine. Think of all those ladies’ tushes they touch while they’re on the stage.

I guess she's Ginger Rodgers, too.

I guess she’s Ginger Rodgers, too.

But anyway, I realize that I’m not doing this movie any favors by making it sound as preachy and as annoying as possible, but I can assure you, it’s very far from. Daldry keeps the message only alive through the song and dance numbers, most of which, are as joyful and exciting as they should be. Though there’s maybe one or two more montages than there should be (we get it, he likes to dance to glam-rock!), the movie still moves at a fine pace to where it feels like we understand what it is about dancing that Billy loves, while also wanting to see him succeed at his dream of becoming a respectable dancer. However, that word “respectable” has many meanings and it’s engaging to watch as he constantly has to battle with each and everyone, trying to figure out just who the hell he actually is in the process.

And as Billy, Jamie Bell does a fine job in a very young role of his. Obviously, this is the one that put him on the map and has led to a pretty respectable career thus far, but it’s better if you don’t think about it as a time capsule performance, and more as one that shows how lucky Daldry was to get him when he did. Because honestly, getting a kid actor who can, well, act and do so in a way that’s not obvious or cloying, is especially impressive. Not to mention the fact that, from what the movie seems to show, Bell did a lot of his own dancing and it impresses me all the more.

Why Bell doesn’t dance more in movies nowadays is beyond me, but hey, maybe in the next Fantastic Four movie, eh?

But the one who steals the show is Julie Walters, playing Billy’s foul-mouthed, but fun teacher/inspirational-figure. Walters is hilarious in this role and shows that even while she may have a funny quip to end every sentence on, she still does have a heart, a soul, and genuinely care about what happens to Billy and his career with dancing. Though the movie drives home the point that Billy is looking for a mother-figure in his life to reach out to, it doesn’t over-do its hand and allows for the scenes these two have together to have a quiet bit of resonance in them. That Billy wants somebody to love, adore and teach him is sweet, but the fact that a woman who seems as uninspired as Mrs. Wilkinson is actually that person and wants to continue to be that person, makes it all the more sweeter.

Okay, yeah. This thing’s pretty corny.

Consensus: Despite a familiar layout, Billy Elliot still features another heart, humor and fine performances to make it worth a watch, especially since it’s Stephen Daldry’s most pleasant movie to-date.

8 / 10

Oh boy-o! Where has the time gone!

Oh boy-o! Where has the time gone!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Beach (2000)

Give a hippie too much freedom, and peace does not conquer.

Having grown reckless and tired with his American life, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) decides to run away on a road trip of sorts that, for one reason or another, land him in Bangkok. Though Richard plans on spending most of his time navigating around Thailand, he stumbles upon a mysterious map that, from what he can read, takes him out into the middle of the ocean, where a random island pops up. Richard has no clue what is on that island or even what it means – all he knows is that he wants to go out there and find out for himself. Even if he does along the way, then so be it! At least he died by trying! Well, Richard does reach the island and finds out that it’s everything he wanted it to be: Peaceful, fun, and chock full of hippies that love to live life to their fullest. As time rolls on though, Richard begins to realize that there’s something wrong with this island, as well as some of the people on it and it isn’t before long that Richard starts getting that ache to head back home in the U.S., where life’s a lot more simple and cleaner.

Just think of the horrid stench they must carry as one unit. Yuck!

Just think of the horrid stench they must carry as one unit. Yuck!

The saying around those associated with critiquing media is, “Review what’s there, not anything else.” Meaning, basically, just review what it is that’s in front of you and not a product that you wish happened, or better yet, wanted. You may have wanted for all the Transformers films to be heartfelt, eye-opening dramas about the state of technology versus today’s society, but the creator behind those movies, may have saw billion-dollar, explosion-fests with the depth of a pebble. And honestly, whose movie is going to be created? Yours, or somebody like Michael Bay?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that it’s hard to review a movie like the Beach, without thinking of what could have been. Cause, for one, I’ve read the book and needless to say: It’s a near-masterpiece. It’s fun, exciting, energetic, lively, interesting, hilarious, insightful, and most of all, smart about its themes that deal with nature and how humans, in ways, ruin it. Alexander Garland is a talented-as-all-hell writer who, quite frankly, deserves to create more in his life. I’d rather take a movie a year from Alexander Garland, rather than seeing another one of Woody Allen’s latest, where it seems like he’s got some time left in his year, so he just oughta make something.

But I digress.

Everything that the novel is, the movie-version of the Beach is not. And that’s not just a shame because the source-material is so ripe, raw, and perfectly-ready to be made for the big screen, but because there’s plenty of talented people here working this. Danny Boyle, in case none of you know this already, is an immensely talented director who makes anything more interesting just by doing what he always does: Add techno to the background, keep that camera moving, and always finding the most disturbing aspects of humans. This isn’t to say that Boyle’s style doesn’t help the Beach out, because it most certainly does; however, most of the time, it’s obvious that around the half-way mark, he gave up in the editing-room and just let the studio-hacks take over and make their own movie, creativity be damned!

Not that Boyle had a perfect film to begin with, but yeah, this is possibly his worst movie to date.

Once again, too, you’d be surprised to hear this, not just because it’s a Danny Boyle film, but because it’s one that stars the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Paterson Joseph and Guillaume Canet, but they’re left without a paddle to float around on. The movie itself is such a jumbled-up mess, that even when it seems like there’s an effort being put in to give these actors interesting material to revel in, sadly, it seems to go to the next subplot and just totally forget about whatever it was that it was trying to develop mere seconds ago.

Sure, she's cute and all, but just about the last time she bathed.

Sure, she’s cute and all, but just about the last time she bathed.

But most of all, it’s just disappointing to see DiCaprio, an amazing talent, give what is, essentially, a terrible performance. For one, it seems like Leo is trying way too hard at everything; he’s always yelling, wailing-about, and trying to make scenes a lot funnier than they may have to be, which make it seem like he’s straining himself more than he needed to. Also, despite Leo probably being around 25 to 26 around the time of this movie, he still seems so boy-ish to really work in this role and makes it appear like he’s a bit out of his league. Leo tries, time and time again here, but ultimately, it adds up to him just turning in, most likely, his worst performance to date.

It all worked out though once Catch Me If You Can came around and Hollywood finally realized what to do with him.

Thank heavens for that.

But to go back to my earlier point about not disowning a movie for what I would have liked for it to have been, and more of what it actually is, the Beach is possibly my most personal choice with that. There are certain plot-points and ideas that the novel touches on that help round this story, this character and the impact it has on the reader, more effective. Those same points and ideas are merely touched on here, only to then be tossed away once Boyle remembers that he’s got to get a whole 400-plus page book, into a near two-hour movie. Granted, it must have not been an easy task, even for somebody as incredibly talented as Boyle and his associates, but still, it’s hard not to deny the fact that this movie never has a clue what it wants to do, be, or even say about anyone, or anything depicted in it.

The book did all of this and so much more. Just saying.

Consensus: Messy, silly, uninteresting and poorly-acted, the Beach tries because of Danny Boyle behind the camera, but is a missed-opportunity on capitalizing with some very promising source material. So basically, just go and head to a Barns and Nobles, if they even still exist.

2 / 10

Jack survived the sinking after all and is now a wannabe hippie.

Jack survived the sinking after all and is now a wannabe hippie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

99 Homes (2015)

Don’t ever trust a landlord.

As soon as the crash of 2008 occurred, everyone in the United States was left without a paddle. One such person was Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father who, after much fighting and arguing with the court, gets evicted from his Orlando home. Seeing that he has lost his family-home, Nash sets out to do whatever he can to get it back – even if that means having to join up and work for the same man who kicked him out of his house to begin with: real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). Carver has certain practices that aren’t what some would call “ethical”, or better yet, “legal”, but the money’s so good that Nash doesn’t care. Eventually though, Nash begins to move up the ladder, which takes him away from working on the homes, and brings him now to actually having to interact with the tenants who are in the actual homes. This mostly involves Nash posting notices on doors, warning tenants of being vacated, and, as time rolls on, even having to kick some tenants on his own. Clearly this is something that Nash doesn’t feel comfortable with, but once again, it’s all about the money and the prospect of getting his family back in order to the way they once were.


So message-y!

Have you ever been stuck in a lecture at all in your life, whether it be with your parents, a teacher, or one of those Jesus-nuts from off the street, and not want to leave? Instead, you hold on to every single word that they say, even though you know the end-point? You know that they’re not going to start off by stating something like, “Gay marriage is bad”, and then end with, “Well, you know, you can do what you want.” The lecture is, most definitely, going to start with an agenda, continue on with that agenda, and, you guessed it, end with that same agenda. And yet, something about the lecture is just keeping you on your toes and surprisingly interested.

That’s how I felt with 99 Homes – a long lecture about the housing crisis and all the evil-doers behind it, yet, I never wanted to turn away or leave.

Eventually, that time did come around, but that’s not till later, so just wait dammit! Listen to me lecture about stuff now!

For one, Ramin Bahrani seems to know what he’s talking about here. Clearly, he’s put his heart and soul into material that, for a good majority of people out there, will not find an easy way to handle. It will, most likely, hit too close to home, hard, and re-open old wounds that were probably still healing. However, Bahrani seems to be interested in what these wounds still hold. Are they sadness? Are they grief? Or, are they wishes that something better occurred?

Well, 99 Homes is, in a way, that fantasy being played-out. One thing is certain about the movie, and that’s that it’s not totally a drama. I mean, yes, it’s most definitely a drama that’s emotional, sad, and for a good portion, filled with lots of interesting talking-points, but in all honesty, is really a thriller. Once we see Garfield’s Dennis Nash start picking up work as one of Shannon’s Rick Carver’s lackeys, then it’s balls to the walls from there. This Nash fella is taking away pools, air-conditioners and handing out eviction notices to people who have no clue just what the hell kind of storm has hit them dead-on in the face. While, at the same time, he’s making all of this money and seeming to be loving it.

Sure, he’s morally-conflicted by the fact that the person he’s getting rich off of, is the very same person who got him kicked out of his house, but because the money’s continuing to come in and the dreams seem promising, he lets it all slide by. And you know what? It’s hard to watch this and not want him to, either. Dennis Nash, as he’s presented to us, is nothing more than just your average, blue-collar dude who, like many others just like him, was short-shifted when the crash of 2008 came around and had no idea of what to do next with his life, his family, or his career. All he knew was what he was good at and tried to go where the money went.

That’s why, when we see Nash get thrown out of his house, it’s disturbing and visceral. Many people had to go through the same ordeal he’s going through and it was most definitely 100% more tragic to them. And that’s why, when we see that Nash is clearly pleased with himself making all of this cash money, it’s great to see him happy and enjoying himself. After all, he’s just a normal dude who isn’t under normal circumstances, so why continue to act normal? Why not try something new and go with that from there?

"When you said, 'movie with Spider-Man,' I thought you meant Tobey Maguire! Who's this damn kid!"

“When you said, ‘movie with Spider-Man,’ I thought you meant Tobey Maguire! Who’s this damn kid!”

Clearly, Rahmin Bahrani thinks this is a bad idea. However, his movie proves otherwise.

Bahrani has crafted a nice little thriller that takes you through everything one may need to know about the housing-crash, how it was operated, who was responsible, and those who were affected the most. But at the center of it all, is probably the most realistic character of the bunch, who also seems to be the most sinister: Michael Shannon’s Rick Carver. There’s no denying the fact that Michael Shannon’s a good actor, but here, as Rick Carver, he gets to stretch his wings a whole lot more and show, that even despite his character being a pretty despicable human specimen, there’s still something we want to watch and see more of him.

We know that he’s a baddie, but we also know that he, like many others, are just trying to get by with what he knows and what he’s best at. But what’s best about Carver is that he doesn’t try to make any excuses or apologies for the way he is – he just is. For instance, there’s a scene in the middle of the film where Carver laces into this tirade about how, “America was built on winners. Not losers.” It’s not just hard to take your eyes off of him because it’s literally just a single-shot, zooming in on his face, but also, because some of what Shannon is spouting on about is true. You may not want to believe it as being such, but it is and it makes this movie feel like a smart bit of preaching, rather than just preaching for the sake of it.

And don’t let me forget Andrew Garfield, because the man is great here! What with him being forced to play Peter Parker, it’s hard to remember that, at one time, Garfield was a very promising, young, and talented actor that seemed primed and ready for some very interesting material to come his way. Now with Spidey out of his way, Garfield seems like he’s enjoying some time being able to dig deep into characters that aren’t the kind you’d expect someone of his good-looks to play; you know, such as a middle-aged, middle-class single-father.

However, as good as Garfield may be, his character sadly falls prey to an ending that, honestly, came close to ruining the movie for me.

I won’t spoil much, other than to say that it felt like Bahrani, throughout a good majority of 99 Homes, was making a movie that wasn’t going to play it nice, sweet and kind, and instead, go for the gritty-realism that’s expected of source material such as this. However, he does the bait-and-switch and decides that maybe he wants some melodrama, messages, and red herrings thrown into the mix. I’ve already said too much, but just know, when the ending comes around, it may disappoint you more than please.

That may just be me, though.

Consensus: 99 Homes is a timely-thriller that gets by on the excellent performances, however, is a bit short-shifted by a weak ending that keeps it away from being a whole lot better.

8 / 10

Big houses. Big cars. Big women. The life of a real estate agent, yo.

Big houses. Big cars. Big women. The life of a real estate agent, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sicario (2015)

Do drugs kill? Or do people? Think, think, people!

After a sting operation goes terribly wrong, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is left wanting any sorts of revenge on whoever may have been responsible. Thankfully, she gets called up to the big leagues when higher-ups in the FBI, like Matt (Josh Brolin), recruit her for a mission to take down a notorious drug lord in Mexico. Kate knows that this is what she wants to do, but she starts to see that the mission may not be all that it appears to be. For one, an informant that the FBI is working with, named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), comes from a very shady history that, in ways, seems a lot more reprehensible than the one that this drug lord is most known for. Secondly, Kate has to fear for her life in ways that she didn’t expect. While she think she may be doing the right thing, she’s making herself a target for all sorts of evil-doers that may be associated with the cartel that her operation is targeting, but some may also be associated with the FBI – the people that she’s supposed to be protected by and arm-in-arms with.

I don’t know what sort of travesty occurred in Denis Villeneuve’s personal life, but after having seen this, Enemy and Prisoners, I can easily say that Villeneuve wants to hurt someone. Whether it be people, animals, or trees, Denis Villeneuve seems like he’s got an ax to grind with someone and because of that, we’re just watching him make these dark, brutal, brooding, and downright angry movies about people that are, well, dark, brutal, brooding and downright angry as well.

I'd hate to be on the end of anything with Benincio Del Toro. Not to mention, his gun.

I’d hate to be on the end of anything with Benincio Del Toro. Not to mention, his scope.

And I’m loving it all!

I mean, of course, whatever happened Denis, I’m sorry for your loss. But please, whatever has you so upset with the world you live in, let it continue to mess with your for a little while longer. So long as you’re making movies like Sicario, where we can see you vent all of your frustration in mean, but exciting ways.

With that said, too, yeah, Sicario‘s pretty awesome. In every sense of the word, it’s a thriller. But because this Denis Villeneuve we’re talking about here and somebody like, I don’t know, say, the one and only Michael Bay, there’s a lot more brewing underneath the surface other than just more guns, more bullets, more blood, more death, more drugs, and more Mexican gangbangers. Of course, all of the guns, bullets, blood, death, drugs, and Mexican gangbangers help keep this movie exciting and tense as anything I saw displayed in Prisoners, but when you strip all of that away, you got a really interesting story about how the FBI is, well, shady.

Through Emily Blunt’s Kate Mercer, we see this world where FBI agents and cartel members constantly duke it out between who has more money, more power, and most importantly, more weapons at their disposal. In fact, in me just describing that, I realized that this movie would have been at least ten times better, had it literally just been a one-on-one, winner-take-all, last-man-standing battle between the FBI and Mexican drug cartel. They could have gotten Bruce Buffer to announce it, Jim Ross and Joe Rogan to commentate, and hell, even Mills Lane to referee everything.

But sadly, Sicario is not that movie.

But I don’t mean that in a bad way because, in its own, all-too-realistic manner, Sicario has a lot to say other than that, “people who do and get involved with drugs are bad, bad people that you probably should stay away from on the streets or at social gatherings.” In this post-9/11 world that we currently live in, nowadays, the FBI and so many other people involved with the government and in catching baddies, are so concerned with getting the highest top-tier guys that they can find, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. This, in some more ways than one, means that they find themselves in some shady alliances that, on paper, may look nice, but when you get to thinking about it, don’t really make much of sense. Why would the FBI, let one violent, sadistic, and smart criminal go free, just because he helped them get to another one who has the same characteristics? Is it because one bowed-out before the other? Or is it because it’s the only hand that the FBI can play with that makes them look good to their superiors and the people who hand-out promotions?

I’ll let you think about that one, but yeah, you get my drift. If you look under Sicario‘s hood, you’ll find that there’s a lot more going on and to be said, which is fine and all, but occasionally, it does take away the sheer awesomeness that is the action here. And by “action”, I don’t mean fist-fights, gun-battles, car-chases and/or sword-action galore – I mean the kind of action you see in Michael Mann movies where the sheer fact that it’s being lead-up to and spread out over time, intensifies it a whole lot more. There’s one sequence in particular where the FBI is stuck on the Mexican-border with a hostage of theirs and honestly, I won’t spoil it any further. Just know that it’s a pretty rad sequence so that, when it comes up, you can get ready and let your friends know how rad it’s going to be.

Courtesy of Dan the Man, of course.

And what makes the action all the more exciting is the fact that it’s all being shot by the legend himself, Roger Deakins. Roger Deakins could shoot a film-sequence of me sitting on my love seat, flicking through the premium channels to where I found good re-runs of my favorite Wire episodes (spoiler alert, I never do!) and it would have more layers of beauty than a whole Adam Sandler movie ever would. He’s one of the main reasons Sicario breathes as vibrantly as it does, regardless of what’s happening. People can be sitting around, talking, or they could be getting all ready and amped-up to blow some people’s heads off. Either way, it’s always lovely to watch, all because of Mr. Deakins himself.

Look out for the camo!

Look out for the camo!

Not to mention, too, the cast is pretty great. This isn’t a total surprise to me considering that Denis Villeneuve got just about every role down to a perfect T with Prisoners, but still, it’s worth noting that when your movie features Emily Blunt as a bad-ass, kick-ass, take-some-names FBI agent and doesn’t have me laugh my rear-end off, then yeah, you’re solid gold. Granted, Blunt is a great actress who has shown, many times before, that she can move around any genre she likes and make it work in her favor, but still, this role could have easily been a silly one, had the wrong actress been placed into it. Then again, the fact that it was an actress placed into this role to begin with, and not some chiseled, ripped-up, and beefy dude with other masculine features, is worth praising.

But the reason why Blunt doesn’t seem to get too much notice is because, quite frankly, she’s used as our eyes and ears for this story. She’s at least one step above that and has something resembling a personality, but overall, she’s basically our conduit to everything that goes down and as to why this story is being told. Which is good, because without her, we wouldn’t have been treated to the likes of Benincio Del Toro as Alejandro.

As soon as you see Benincio Del Toro in a movie about Mexican drug cartels, you automatically think, “Oh great. Re-run of Traffic! Next!” But because Del Toro’s an actor and a very good one at that, he likes to shake things up and show that he can give this character a type of menace that will have you terrified for days. However, at the same time, he gives this guy a conscience that makes you think he’s a human being that doesn’t like to chop down trees for the hell of it, but at the same time, still doesn’t make you think he’s a total nice guy, either. There’s a certain back-story to this character that puts everything he does or says into perspective and it gives Del Toro absolute free reign to do whatever he wants with this character, and it’s a blast to watch.

Sure, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, and surprisingly, Jeffrey Donovan, are all good in their own rights, but it’s Del Toro who runs away with this movie and will have you thinking about him for days.

And also the cool explosions, bro!

Consensus: Tense, well-acted, and most importantly, complex, Sicario is more than just your average thriller with lots of explosions and bullets flying, but still takes much pleasure in showing those things, too.

8.5 / 10

Damn. I still hate that Josh Krasinski, man!

Damn. I still hate that Josh Krasinski, man!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Martian (2015)

Didn’t Christopher Nolan already make this movie?

After a crazy super-storm hits Mars, the Ares 3 mission is forced to abort their mission and head on back to Earth. Problem is, they do so without one of their members, a fellow by the name of Mark Watney (Matt Damon). Because he got by some space-thingy during the storm, everybody assumes that Watney died, but wouldn’t you know it? He wakes up the next day, stranded and no way to contact home. The only thing he’s got to work with is whatever gear the crew left back, which eventually equals out to a month’s left of food. Considering that it’s going to take nearly four years for NASA to send out another mission to come and rescue him, Watney’s got to come up with some neat, interesting and MacGyver-ish ways to create some food with what he’s got around. While he’s doing this and not trying to lose his freakin’ mind, back on Earth, NASA headquarters is figuring out a way that they can save Watney and to be able to do so in the most efficient way that’s not only safe to Watney, the crew, and the spaceship, but also to NASA’ public persona, as well.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Take all of those challenging, rather annoying aspects of Interstellar and Gravity, give them a sense of actual humor, throw in a Cast Away subplot (with no Wilson), and ensure that the audiences understand just what the hell is actually going on at any given time, and you have the Martian. And while I’m definitely not doing it any favors by making it sound like a carbon-copy of other, much better movies, I can assure you, that it’s better than that.

In fact, it’s way, way better than that.

For one, the Martian is a movie that never takes itself too seriously. While all of the trailers and ads have been promoting an ultra-serious, inspirational survival story, the movie’s actually a lot more fun and lighter than that. In fact, it’s humor is what just about saves it! At times, sure, it can seem like they’re playing “the joke card” a little too much, but if a movie about a dude stuck in an amazingly depression, isn’t depressing and finds ways to have me howling at the Lunar Eclipse, then sure, count me in. Hell, take all of my money!

Just make me laugh, dammit!

And while I wouldn’t necessarily tag the likes of Ridley Scott and “the comedy genre” together, somehow, they work perfectly with one another. Scott has been in desperate need of a winner these past couple of years, and now, seems like he finally has it. Sure, Scott isn’t trying anything new, experimental, or awfully hard that’s taking him into new areas that we may never see him try again, but there’s a nice feeling about that. For one, he’s not getting in the way of the movie and/or the wonderful script by Drew Goddard.

Secondly, he just allows for the story to tell itself. I know that this may sound like an easy compliment to give away – in fact, it may sound like something I’m just throwing out there to make my job a tad bit easier (you’re right). But no, seriously, making a movie with a story that seems as simple as this, and having it play out that way, yet, still being able to travel through little alleyways and side-streets to make it still seem fresh, exciting and most of all, original, is something extraordinary. Like I mentioned before, we’ve seen the Martian many times before in movies that, occasionally, are better. But the fact that this movie still finds a way to get you glued into its story, never let its grip get loose, and make you give a hoot about what happens to which characters, is a beauty to behold as it is.

There’s literally no reason we should care at all about Mark Watney, his crew, or those ass-bags back on Earth that work in a place called NASA (never heard of her), but as soon as Watney gets hit, the crew leaves without him, and NASA gets word of this, it’s an automatic adventure right from then on out. Now, to be honest, did we really need all of the NASA headquarter shenanigans? Probably not, but they help round the movie out a whole lot more and keep things exciting and above all else, interesting.

See, even though it is Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, watching him, and only him, try to survive on Mars, talk to cameras, listen to disco, use clever witticisms to express his feelings of the situation he’s in, and eventually, get a grip on the life he’s living and try to keep it going, probably would have gotten a bit boring and tedious. I mean, despite the recent flubs he’s been letting loose of, Matt Damon is, generally, a guy we all love to watch on-screen; he’s got that general, normal guy, everyday kind of feel where he seems like a bro you could hang around, enjoy his company, and go on happy about your day.

He wouldn’t give two shits because, well, he’s Matt Damon and he’s got celebrities to have brunch with.

A few years of community college and woolah! You're working for NASA, baby!

A few years of community college and woolah! You’re working for NASA, baby!

But what I’m trying to say is that yes, Matt Damon is a charming dude in practically everything he does, and that’s no different here with his performance as Mark Watney. Because Watney’s a wise-cracking, smart-ass dude that would much rather use sarcasm to mask his actual, genuine thoughts, Damon fits perfectly. He not only seems like the kind of dude who would have the next best, funniest thing to say in a conversation, but could also, in his own words, “science the hell out of this thing!” Not just because he works at NASA, mind you, but because he’s Matt Damon and he always seems like the smartest dude in the room.

Like I said though, the good thing about the Martian is that it takes its focus away from Damon’s Watney a bit and show just what the hell’s going on on planet Earth, what’s everybody trying to do to get him back home, and how it’s all going to come together. Now, the science in this movie I’m not too sure of, but I don’t think I needed to be – which is a good thing. Most sci-fi movies get themselves all tied-up in trying to explain too many loose-ends where it’s almost as if, rather than just actually giving us a random doohickey and letting us roll with, they have to go on and on about it as if it cares!

We get it! The thingy-ma-bob goes back in time! Cool! Move it along, folks!

But with the Martian, the science is there as a placement to show just how brilliant NASA is. And I kid you not, I am not joking here; the Martian is, in many words, an absolute, unabashed tribute to NASA, the powerful, enigmatic and brilliant minds that inhabit it and the inspiration it can give us all, so long as we think just like each and everyone of its workers do. This is as hokey as a blind girl touching a horse’s nose, but somehow, it all works and is, as much as I hate to admit it, inspiring.

Though the Martian is, basically, a sarcasm-laced, sci-fi survival tale, above all else, it’s a movie about the power of what can be done when you’re using your brain. If you think things through to the best of your ability and seem to know what you’re talking about, then you too, can learn to live and survive on a planet like Mars longer than anybody ever expected you to. All you have to do is put your mind to it, long and hard enough, and eventually, you’ll get there. If you don’t, then think harder or open up a book! Learn something dammit!

Gosh! I gotta go back to school!

Consensus: Exciting, compelling, emotional, and surprisingly hilarious when you don’t at all expect it to, the Martian is the best kind of sci-fi blockbuster that has you using your brains, but at the same time, still enjoying the wild and fun ride while it lasts.

9 / 10

I won't even dare tell you what that actually is.

I won’t even dare tell you what that actually is. Just know this, count me out for a trip to Mars anytime soon.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Heaven Knows What (2015)

Kids, for the millenials.

After she commits suicide because the love of her life, Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), doesn’t return the same feelings she has for him, Harley (Arielle Holmes) slices her own wrists and ends up in a rehab clinic. Eventually, she gets out and is supposed to be all clean, new, and fresh; however, what happens is basically the same old, same old. Harley turns back to the world of drugs, where she’s constantly trying to get by on scamming people, day in and day out, all just to get whichever heroin she can find next for the right price. She’s not alone in this seedy underworld as Mike (Buddy Duress), a drug-dealer and sometimes guy-she-hooks-up-with, has something of a partnership with Harley in getting as much money as they can so that they can pay their rent, get the drugs, get high, and continue into the same pattern the next day, and the day after that, and so on and so forth. But what keeps Harley alive and well is the fact that she still loves Ilya, even if he could care less about her. Because, to her, Ilya is the one she wants to spend the rest of her life, whether he wants to or not, and that causes a lot of problems once Mike and Ilya start feuding over most things teenage heroin-addicts feud over.

Take a long one, honey. You need it.

Take a long one, honey. You need it.

A lot of people may hate Heaven Knows What for solely being about, well, heroin addicts. Young heroin addicts, to be specific, but heroin addicts nonetheless who, really don’t have much to do with their lives. Their days, for the most part, consist of hustling whoever they can hustle, doing whatever it takes, and losing all sorts of self-respect, just so that they can have that next, wonderful, beautiful, and amazing high that they’ve been fighting for since the second they woke up. That’s basically it and you know what?

It’s hard to ever take your eyes off of.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we hardly ever see these kinds of stories/characters told and given to us on the big screen. And even when they are, they’re usually done so in a way that’s preachy, obvious and judgmental; here, the smart thing that the Safdie brothers do is that they don’t ever, not for a second, make it seem like they’re judging these characters for who they are, what they’re doing, and the naughty ideas they’ve got in their heads. The Safdie’s see these characters for all that they are and because of that, the movie itself takes a back-seat to what it is that these characters are up to.

And sure, while it may not seem like they’re not doing much of anything at all (except just getting high), there’s still something incredibly compelling that makes the events all the more interesting. Sometimes, they’ll be in the park, or on the streets, or in a McDonald’s, just generally acting like a bunch of hooligans, causing all sorts of shenanigans, and not giving a single turd about who it is that they’re bothering, offending, or pissing-off-to-high-heaven – they’re high and living life, so why should they?

In a way, Heaven Knows What feels like a documentary that the Safdie’s just got very lucky in being able to film. There are certain moments that are staged (and they’re the weakest), but honestly, there’s plenty of scenes here that make it seem like the Safdie’s just told their actors to go out there, do whatever it is that they wanted to, and not stop until they said, “cut”. Though it’s never clear just how much is made up on the spot, or actual, genuine dialogue written for those moments in particular, there’s no denying the fact that whatever’s going on here, it’s working. It could have easily been another one of those micro-budget, grit-pieces from first-time directors that are just about as meandering as a Joe Swanberg piece (early Swanberg, that is), but surprisingly and thankfully, it doesn’t turn out that way one bit.

And even if it does, so what?

Heroin chic?

Heroin chic?

These characters, literally, live each and every one of their days, meandering along the dirty, raunchy streets, having no clue of what they’re going to do, when they’re going to do anything, or where the hell they’re going to end up at by the day’s end. All they do know is that, well, they’re going to high as hell, yo. Because of that, the fact that the movie feels like there’s almost no direction behind it whatsoever, works perfectly; these characters clearly have no directions in life, so why should they have any direction anywhere else!

And like I said before, the movie doesn’t try to make any of these characters into saint-like figures that are clearly better and made for more than what they’re surrounded by. Of course, that’s implied, seeing as how they’re all young, aspiring and street smart kids, but the movie never makes any one person out like they’re the nice people of the group and therefore, should be seen as such. Granted, nobody here is really considered a sinner, either – there’s just people who are a lot more morally reprehensible than others.

The only one who doesn’t seem to be is Arielle Holmes as, Harley, who is basically just a semi-fictionalized version of her own self. You’d think that because Holmes wrote this, that her character would get the lovely and sympathetic treatment, but gratefully, that doesn’t happen. She is just as worse than the company she keeps, but she’s also one that seems like she’s got more of a head on her shoulders, as well as a heart in her chest.

Of course, she’s also always seeming to get a needle in her arm, too, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Consensus: Gritty, dark, disturbing, and ugly, but in all the right ways, Heaven Knows What doesn’t settle for any sort of narrative and instead, gives us a compelling portrait of people’s lives we don’t usually see in movies nowadays, as sad as they may be.

8 / 10

See? The heroin world isn't all that bad! Cuddling's allowed!

See? The heroin world isn’t all that bad! Cuddling’s allowed!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hannibal (2001)

Should have just let him eat whoever he wanted to eat.

Ten years after getting away from practically everybody involved with law enforcement, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is enjoying his time, relaxing, looking at fine art, and walking through the breezy, lovely streets of Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, back in the states, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is stuck in a bit of a pickle in which a drug-bust went incredibly wrong and violent – leaving the FBI to have to clean up the mess. But because Lecter can’t keep his appetite for Clarice down, he decides to send her a letter, which then leads her to start her own investigation into finding exactly where Lecter is. However, Clarice isn’t the only one. Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is also on his own search for an art scholar who goes missing, which may lead him to stumbling upon Lecter and having to decide whether he wants to arrest the man, or bring him in for a healthy reward granted by deformed billionaire, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). The reason for Verger’s reward, is because he is one of Lecter’s last survivors around, and has the face, body, and voice to prove it.



So yeah. The Silence of the Lambs is, was, and will forever be, a great movie. There’s no way of getting around that. And as is usually the case when you’re trying to recreate some of the same magic from a precursor that’s as legendary and iconic as that movie was, the odds are not in your favor.

Such is the case with Hannibal, the sequel to the Silence of the Lambs, that came out nearly ten years later, starred someone new as Clarice, and had a different director.

Granted, Anthony Hopkins is still around and if you’re replacing the likes of Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme, with Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, then not everything’s so bad. But honestly, if there was ever a reason for a sequel to not exist, it’s shown here. That is, after the first ten minutes in which some of the creepiest, most disturbing opening-sequences ever created, transpire and bring you right down to the level of knowing what to expect from the rest of the movie.

And the rest of the movie for that matter, is also pretty creepy. Because Scott is such a talented director, he’s able to make almost each and every shot feel as if it came right out of an art exposition itself and add a sense of eeriness, even if we’re literally watching a scene dedicated to two people just sitting around in a darkly-lit room, whispering about something, and not doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of scenes like that in Hannibal, and while it’s hard to really be excited by any of them, Scott tries his hardest to add a little more pizzazz and energy in any way that he can.

But it still doesn’t escape the fact that the movie’s still uneventful.

Sure, people are shot, killed, ripped-open, eaten alive, sliced, diced, and chewed-on, but is any of it really exciting? Not really, and that’s perhaps the movie’s biggest sin. The first flick may have been a dark, serious and chilly thriller, but there was still a bunch of excitement to the madness of tracking down Wild Bill, nabbing him, and taking him; while it took its time, there was still a feeling of tension in the air. That same tension isn’t really anywhere to be found here, even if the same feeling of general creepiness is – though it only comes in short spurts.

Most of this has to do with the fact that, despite there being maybe three-to-four subplots going on, there isn’t anyone that really grabs ahold of you and makes you want to watch it as it unfolds. Once again, Clarice is on the search for Dr. Lecter, but because there’s another story that runs along the same lines going on, it doesn’t actually seem all that important. Sure, she’ll get her arch-nemesis, but at the end of the day, does any of it really matter? The dude’s off the streets and not eating people anymore, but does that mean the killing is done once and for all?

This is a point the movie seems to bring up, but never actually go anywhere deeper with. Instead, it’s more concerned with seeing how many times Dr. Lecter can fool people into thinking that he isn’t a mean, sadistic, and brutal cannibal. In fact, hearing that, I realize that these scenes should be somewhat fun, if not, totally hilarious. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re just drop dead serious, grim, and uninteresting.

Stop saying her name!

Stop saying her name!

And that’s about it.

The cast does try their hardest, however. Hopkins, as usual, fits into the role of Lecter as if he never left it to begin with. He’s weird and off-putting, but at times, can also be incredibly suave and charming, especially when he’s speaking of disemboweled bodies. But, at the same time, we are getting a lot more of him, which means that it can seem to be a bit of overkill; whereas the first movie featured nearly 15 minutes of screen-time devoted to Lecter, Hannibal features nearly an-hour-and-a-half of him, which means that his act can get a bit old and stale as the time rolls along. Especially since, you know, he isn’t really growing as a character – he’s still killing, conning, and eating people, the way he always did.

The only difference now is that he’s a lot more laid-back than usual.

And though she tries, too, Julianne Moore really does have all the odds stacked against her playing this role that was definitely made a lot better, and more famously by Jodie Foster. Though Moore seems to be still playing into that same kind of ruthless aggression and dedication that Foster worked well with, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s playing the same character, but it not being Foster. Ray Liotta shows up and, of course, plays a crooked cop that seems like he has nobody’s best intentions at heart and is fine, but once again, what else is new?

The best of the rest, though, is an absolutely nonidentical Gary Oldman as the disgusting and vile-looking Mason Verger. From the beginning, it’s difficult to recognize that Oldman is even in the movie (mostly do the ugly, but impressive make-up and costume job done to him), but after awhile, it’s obvious that it is him, and the performance works wonders from then on. Despite being able to only use his eyes and voice for his character, Oldman still gives off an deceitful feel that helps make it clear that, if the film was just about him and Lecter sparring-off in a duel of wit and evilness, then it would probably be better.

But sadly, that is not what we get and instead, we’re left reaching for our copies of the Silence of the Lambs.

Consensus: Despite trying its hardest, Hannibal cannot quite reach the same creepily entertaining heights as its predecessor and feels more like a waste for each of the talent involved.

5 / 10

It's okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

It’s okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

Photos Courtesy of: Screen Musings

Waiting for “Superman” (2010)

Yup, I’m home-schooling.

The current state of the USA’s education system is not a very pretty one. Kids don’t seem to be learning anything; aren’t getting into college; are falling behind; and are coming nowhere near being able to pass certain grades that they should. They have it lucky, though! Some kids aren’t even getting into schools and instead, find themselves on the streets, without a book in hand or an adult to lead them across the way. This is where our independent teachers come in to show what a single person can do if they show love, dedication, and passion for teaching, and helping kids learn.

Before I step past the gates of hell and go all out with my thoughts and opinions, let me just tell you a little something about me. I’m not rich, my family’s not rich, and we sure as hell wouldn’t be considered high-class. My father has a job that has amazing benefits. With that being said, my parents never seemed to take the one road and send me to public school, considering they thought it would be a waste of time and I would learn little to nothing (my parents’ thoughts, not mine). That’s why they sent me to a catholic school from the 1st, to the 8th grade, but after that was a bit of a problem.

See, my older sissy had gone to a very nice, productive, and expensive private school, passed there with flying colors, and got into a very good college (Providence, go Friars!), but the problem was what the hell my parents were going to do with me: the black sheep of the family. Throughout grade school, I never really was knocking each and every test out of the park. I struggled, studied, and did my best. Was it always perfect? No, but my parents felt as if it was time for me to give myself a bit of a challenge and send to me to the same private school that they sent my sister to, as not only did it work for her, but got her a career as an accountant (if you’re reading this Siobhan, you’re the bomb!).

Look on the bright side kid: third is the one with the hairy chest.

Look on the bright side kid: Third is the one with the hairy chest.

Did it work? Not really.

Not only was the private school a challenge for me, academically, but also personally. I got involved with people I shouldn’t have, got myself into extracurricular activities that I shouldn’t have bothered with, and barely even opened up a book. After a dismal Freshman year, my parents decided that it was time to start a fresh and anew, and sent me back to my roots: Catholic school. This was something I was very happy about because I knew it’d be an easier, more efficient use of my time, and a lot of the people there, would be the people I had known all of my life. After that, I graduated high school and am currently still in college, where I duke it out with professors and collegiate books, each and every day. Some days are better than others, but hey, it’s school.

What the hell else am I gonna do with all of my time?!?

Most of you are probably wondering one thing after that whole speech: “What in the hell was that all about?” Well, I used that as a way to show you that not only can I barely connect with any of these kids when it comes to getting the right education and struggling to keep their grades up, but I also don’t really know what it’s like to really dedicate myself to school. I’ve always gotten by just by doing my thing, didn’t need much help from teachers, tutors, mom, dad, etc. – just got by the way I needed to. But no matter what my report cards may say about my dedication to work, I still know that each and every kid deserves a chance to learn, read, and write, and the fact that most aren’t getting that out there doesn’t just upset, it downright fuels me.

Watching this movie, made me realize just what it’s like to be a teacher, in-and-out of the classroom. The movie does paint some bad pictures of those teachers that are part of Unions, and in ways, rightfully so, but what this movie does do, is that it celebrates the profession of a teacher. A teacher is the person that stands there, teaches you whatever subject it is, helps you in anyway that they can, and never gives up, no matter how many obstacles may stand in your way.

That’s the definition of a real teacher, but not every, single one is like that.

In fact, a lot more teachers are starting to become more and more of a bore, than a chore, in the way that they just take attendance, sit down, read the paper, and wait till their time is up so that they can collect their money, and be off to roam throughout the country. They don’t even need to do anything, and it doesn’t matter to them because they’ll never be fired for their piss-poor performance. They will always have tenure on their contracts, will always be supported by the Union, and may never, ever be questioned for what it is that they do right, and what they do wrong. Are those the types of people you want looking after your child and his/her future?

I know I sure as hell don’t and I don’t think I stand alone.

Writer/director Davis Guggenheim knows this and knows that it’s better to change the ways of the school system, before it goes on any further and totally loses our kids. It’s sad to see kids like these lose their hopes of ever making it in life, doing what they want to do, learning whatever it is that they have a fiery passion for, and also be able to make a living off of it, all because schools don’t help them, and refuse to really let them grow, not just as people, but as students. It’s a sad reality that we live in, but it’s the reality that most people are faced with and it’s even worse to know that it never ends. Whenever a kid leaves school, he always needs to be taught something, whether it be manners, school work, or just life lessons in general. That’s where the parents kick in and I think that’s the most important pieces of learning there is.

At age 8, she is about 500 steps ahead of me already. Go get 'em, girl!

At age 8, she is already 500 steps ahead of me. Go get ’em, girl!

Guggenheim knows this and doesn’t let us turn a blind eye to it. The problem I think he runs into, is that he focuses a bit too much on the fact that Charter schools are the way to go. Now, to be fair, he doesn’t outright say that in his narration, but he does show that more and more people are learning their options towards charter schools because they are free, prosperous, and will most likely, help your kid learn more. These are all true, but do we really want our kids having to go through a lottery in order to make sure that they can get an education? But hey, those are my thoughts and mine alone.

It doesn’t reflect poorly on the movie, because, well, it’s incredibly well-done. Guggenheim lets us know pretty early-on that he has a certain connection to the school system and makes his case by focusing on the right people who deserve it the most. Sure, the more-attentive teachers out there get a lot more attention than others, but it’s the families and the kids who have to wait around and work the hardest that they can to ensure that they get the education that they want.

It’s a very hard-hitting documentary that never loses it’s steam because it has such an emotionally-charged subject at hand. If you feel as if the world we live in, where people seem to be getting dumber and dumber by the second, and are losing faith in reading a book, and gaining more faith in watching a 20-second video of some dude in an afro falling on his facethen see this movie for the painting it portrays of the world. However, your on personal-beliefs might just center on what you think is best for your kid, his/her needs, and how they learn in school. Whether or not you want to send your kid to a school or not, is totally up to you. Just know, that there are always teachers around, no matter where you go. Whether it be you, or a person who actually gets paid to exhume knowledge on others.

Consensus: Teachers, moderators, parents, and kids may all react to Waiting for “Superman” differently, depending on what type of their own, personal status may be, but one can’t deny the fact that it paints a grim, but hopeful picture of what our future looks like, in terms of in the classroom and out.

8.5 / 10

Yeah, Bill feels the same as a poor, single-mother trying to send her kid to a charter school.

Bill feels the same as a poor, single-mother trying to send her kid to a charter school.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Gossip (2000)

These 21st Century kids make millennials look like babies.

Sex, deception and rumors run wild amongst a group of university students and roommates when Derrick (James Marsden), Jones (Lena Headey) and Travis (Norman Reedus), collaborate on their new journalism class assignment: Identifying the link between news and gossip. But when their class project goes frighteningly out of control, it puts friendships, the future, and their lives, in total jeopardy.

Looking at Gossip from afar, you’d expect it to be your normal, by-the-numbers teen-beat thriller that features a good amount of stuck-up, rich, good-looking kids all running around, drinking, having sex, getting crazy, and saying all sorts of mean, ugly things behind one another’s back. And considering that the film stars many actors/actresses who were, at the time, nearing-30, this makes the movie actually seem like a whole lot of campy, unintentionally-silly fun. And it sort of does, which is why it’s weird to see this being directed by Davis Guggenheim; someone who is most known for directing important, finger-pointing documentaries (An Inconvenient TruthWaiting for Superman).

Not even Kate can take James seriously with that cut.

Not even Kate can take James seriously with that cut.

Pretty odd, right?

Well, what’s even odder is that Guggenheim seems to take this material a whole lot more serious than it probably needed to be. But, like I expected, there’s something fun about the fact that it revolves so much around bullying and gossiping, and doing so in such a straight-faced, no-jokes manner. And because everybody’s a lot older than who they’re playing, it’s a lot more entertaining to be watching 30-year-olds go on and on about rumors of who cheated on who and where at.

One would expect a film titled Gossip, to be one hard-hitting morality tale on how people lie with their words, only to extract revenge on that other person for something they may have done, or to just see that person being talked about, feel pain and hurt. While they touch on that a bit in this film, it’s never materialized into being anything more meaningful or smart. Instead of actually digging deep into how gossip affects us everywhere we go (jobs, media, relationships, etc.) the film takes a left-turn to silly land and becomes a “he said, she said” argument that’s not nearly as smart or as defined as it may think it is. You have to give points to the movie for at least trying, but for the most part, I just wanted them to go back to the screwing, drinking, partying, and gossiping.

Then again, who doesn’t want to watch teens do that for an-hour-and-a-half?

Like I said before, too, the cast is filled with all sorts of recognizable faces who, in plenty of other work, show that they’re more than willing to do great things with the material given to them. However, because everything is so cheesy here, they’re sort of limited to just having to go through the motions. Even if, you know, some do try to step apart from the rest of the group.

Still Pacey, bro.

Still Pacey, bro.

That one, key performance would probably have to be from James Marsden, playing some asshole named Derrick. Marsden is a good-looking guy; there’s no doubting that, no matter who you are, what’s your sexual orientation, or what your taste is. Where Marsden works well with here is that he plays against that fact and shows that, yes, while he may be awfully handsome, there’s not much more to him than that. He’s rude to girls, treats them like used-tissues, and will, on more than a few occasions, make himself feel better regardless of how it makes another person feel. Yes, he’s so deuchy and annoying, that it makes Marsden’s performance all the better and more enjoyable to watch because he’s not backing down from it one bit. Sure, it’s hard to imagine what sorts of wonders Marsden could have done with a better movie/character to work with by his side, but for what it’s worth, the dude gave all that he could.

And what else could you ask for?

That’s why when I look at everybody else in the cast, while I’m initially impressed, I see them in the film and it’s a bit of a disappointment. Nobody, much like with Marsden, is given all that much to do, so they’re sort of just left with being around and servicing a lackluster script. Lena Heady is most definitely pretty, but her character is flat and seems like she’s in a whole other movie completely; the incredibly talented Norman Reedus is fine as the art-weirdo that seems to be a bit too obsessed with all of this gossip-talking, but seeing what he does now on TV, really makes me think that this type of character doesn’t really suit him totally well; same goes for Joshua Jackson who, with the Affair, seems like he was primed and ready for a good role to come his way, he just wasn’t getting it just yet; Kate Hudson despite not being around nearly as much as she should is good in a rare dramatic role as the rich girl, Naomi, because the verdict is never fully out on whether this character is as good of a girl as she says she is, or is as raunchy and vindictive as others say, too; and Eric Bogosian seems so randomly-placed here that it’s actually pretty awesome. He definitely took this as a nice paycheck gig, but still: When was the last time you could say you saw Eric Bogosian in the same film as Cyclops, Daryl, Pacey, and Cersei?

Never! So yeah, see it for that, if anything else.

Consensus: Gossip wants to be, at certain points, a trashy, over-the-top and wacky teen-thriller, while at others, wants to be a melodramatic, soap-opera-y message movie about the affects of false rumors and never makes perfect sense of either, but is still occasionally entertaining to watch because of the cast involved.

5 / 10

Teenagers. Literally never get old.

Teenagers. Literally never get old.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Stonewall (2015)

I don’t even think homosexuals want Roland Emmerich voicing his support.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City are considered one of the main kicking-off points in LGBT history. But before this moment in history occurs, we get to see how everything was beforehand, and through the eyes of Danny (Jeremy Irvine). Danny is a small-town boy from Indiana who, for controversial reasons, has fled his hometown in hopes that he’ll find a new life and possibly go to college at Columbia. But for now, Danny wants to enjoy his time around people he never quite had the chance to back when he was living at home and it all starts with Ramona (Jonny Beauchamp) – someone who takes a liking to Danny right away. So much so that once Danny starts to shack up with local liberal rights activist Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), he’s as jealous as can be. For Danny though, he’s living the life that he never could and is absolutely loving every second of it. Eventually though, reality sets in and he not only realizes that he wants to make something out of his life than hustling on the street for whatever nickels and dimes he can scrounge up; he wants to make his voice heard and better yet, he wants to stand up for what he believes in.

"Freedom! Or, something!"

“Freedom! Or, something!”

When I hear “heartfelt, emotional, and character-driven historical account”, nowhere at all does my mind come near the name, “Roland Emmerich”. The same director who’s created such disasters (literally) like 2012, Independence Day, the Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Stargate, and many more that I don’t want to even speak of, is also the same guy who I imagines just sits around, throwing bricks around his mansion, seeing what he can break in the most awesomely outrageous and unbelievable way imaginable. He’s not, honestly, the same guy whom I’d expect to take an account of seminal moment in LGBT history and give it the movie it deserves.

And don’t worry, he still doesn’t deliver that movie.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was at least somewhat tickled by what Emmerich is appearing to try here. Basically, Stonewall takes this moment in history, and plays it all out through the eyes of this random, seemingly fictional that, of course, has to be around so that we can see everything he sees, take everything that he takes in, experience the way he experienced it, and well, learn some neat anecdotes about being gay in NYC during the mid-to-late-60’s while he learns them. Obviously, this is a manipulative narrative-device so that the movie can appeal to a broader audience, but it was one that I didn’t mind.

For one, Danny himself has his own backstory that, albeit conventional, is at least interesting enough to deserve some attention. Also, the fact that Danny himself is a homosexual, trying to come to terms with his sexual orientation and the sorts of trials and trepidations he’s to face, makes the fact that he’s around and about, not all that annoying. Sure, Emmerich’s trying to make this something along the lines of Forrest Gump, but you know what? It worked. I was interested, I was paying attention, and most of all, I was learning a few new things that I didn’t know beforehand.

So sue me!

But then, of course, Emmerich’s usual tendencies come into play where it seems like we’re getting the work of a director who seems a whole lot more concerned with being over-the-top and making sure that his message hits everybody straight in the face. In a way, this is fun to watch in a campy, none-too-serious way, but by the same token, it also seems to do a great disservice to the actual story of Stonewall itself, the people who were involved with it, and what it helped to do for some time to come. None of that is ever quite evident or made known, mostly because Emmerich seems distracted elsewhere.

And most of that comes down to the fact that Danny himself, the blonde, chiseled, and hunky man from Indiana, really doesn’t need to be in this story and just gets in the way of everything. Through Danny, Emmerich seems like he’s trying to study the predicament of having a peaceful protest, against a violent one, but never seems to go anywhere deep, smart, or meaningful with them. It’s almost as if once Emmerich brought the idea up, he thought it’d be too boring and threw more scenes of Danny having sex where he’s either in pain, or crying, or clearly wanting to be elsewhere. There’s one exception, but honestly, it’s so slight, it hardly matters.

Where's the flying-saucers when you need 'em the most, Roland?

Where’s the flying-saucers when you need ’em the most, Roland?

This isn’t to say that Jeremy Irvine isn’t bad as Danny, either, it’s just that he’s such a brick wall, he doesn’t really factor in much to the story. The best moments Irvine has is when Danny’s forced to break out of his shell a bit by acting wild and flamboyant like his fellow friends – every other time, though, he’s mostly just there, helping the story to move on along. Everybody else around him is saddled with more eccentric, lively performances and while most of them try, they’re mostly given a poor script that makes it seem like they coached how to deliver each line, four or five different times, with almost each and every different time being put in the final-cut.

But to be honest, I want to give Emmerich the benefit of the doubt here.

It’s interesting to see him not just throw his own money on the table and create his own tribute to the Stonewall riots (or some hot dude named Danny), but to also seem like he’s giving it his honest-to-god shot here. For that, I give him at least some credit; however, it doesn’t make him, or the movie, itself, better. It just gives us a dude who clearly has good intentions, but doesn’t know how to display them in a smart way.

I guess this just leaves the path for another Stonewall movie to come around soon enough then, eh?

Consensus: Despite Emmerich seeming like he’s trying his hardest, and at least, succeeding slightly, Stonewall is too distracted and silly to really drive home the cause it’s fighting for.

4 / 10

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Intern (2015)

White People: the Movie.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has come to a point in his long life where he has to make a decision: Either, sit around and enjoy his retirement, like most men his age do, or, continue to work whatever jobs he can to make something out of the rest of his life? Obviously, Ben goes with the later once he goes in for a meeting with a start-up, fashion-based e-commerce company, for the coveted role as the “senior intern”. Ben, as expected, gets the job and is then transferred over to being the main intern of the CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). where he basically does all the work she asks of him. This means that Ben does a lot of driving around, running errands, getting coffee, and just generally, being there for whenever Jules needs him. The two, through their time together, get along, get to know one another, and eventually, start to see how one another can learn from the other’s career. However, Jules’ professional life is starting to get in the way of her personal one and it’s up to Ben to help her get through it – that’s if, he even knows how to.



Like most of Nancy Meyers’ movies – there’s not much of a plot to go along with the Intern. Basically, we get an older-guy, thrown into a much younger, much quicker work-environment, where it’s up to him to see if he can still hang with today’s generation. That’s basically it. And if you’re like me, you’re already hitting your forehead with the palms of your hands thinking about all the cliches this movie most go through.

Oh wait, let me guess, because Ben is older, he doesn’t know how to technology? Or better yet, because he’s old, he doesn’t understand some of the slang that these young people around him are constantly coining every five-to-seven seconds? Or how about the character of Jules? Let me guess, she’s one of those workaholic types that’s an absolute pain in the ass to be around, but somehow, everybody still sticks with her because her company is just so goddamn successful? And because of this dedication to work, she’s also got a terrible and lonely personal life, with no one else to go home to except her cat Fiffy?

Well, thankfully, I was wrong.

See, Meyers decides to take this movie one step past all of the conventions we expect to get with these sorts of stories, and instead, give us something, although so incredibly happy, light, and pleasant that it’s practically sickening, more realistic and smart. Yes, the Intern is as sweet as a two-for-one deal at Krispy Kreme, but there’s a nice attention to these characters that Meyers presents and highlights as her strength; no longer do her characters feel as if they’re just acting all silly and wild for shit’s and gigs.

Now, her characters, especially with Ben and Jules, seem to be actual, living, breathing, loving, caring, and emotional human beings. Neither one, despite what they may seem like from a first gaze, are types; mostly, they’re just familiar characters that also happen to be very likable. And surrounding them, are even more likable characters that, although not getting the same amount of attention as the two leads, still add their own two cents to a story that, thankfully, includes them to begin with.

But really, this tale is about Ben and Jules and with good reason: They’re strong, well-defined, and have lovely, if somewhat complicated personalities.

Ben may be a bit more easy to enjoy being around than Jules, but even he sometimes seems like he could have some problems of his own. For one, he himself has to do deal with the fact that he is definitely getting up there in age and, in a decade or so, may not even be alive. So therefore, he sets out to actually make something of the time he has left on this Earth, as best as he can. I know this sounds so incredibly schmaltzy and corny, but trust me, there’s enough depth to go along with this character to make him, as well as the situations he gets thrown into, work.

Not to mention that De Niro is quite charming here, showing us a certain happiness we haven’t seen on the screen for quite some time. Of course, whenever he’s in a David O. Russell film, De Niro seems to be as dedicated to the craft as possible, but here, he seems like he’s settling in just nice with this role. However, he doesn’t seem like he’s being lazy or phoning it in at all; his character is just a genuinely laid-back dude who tries to approach everyday, as maybe his last. But he, nor the movie, is cloying about this aspect – you can just tell by the joyful expression placed on De Niro’s face throughout.



But really, this is Hathaway’s show to steal and she does wonders with her role as Jules Ostin, the boss of her own start-up company that may be growing to be something bigger, better, and more recognizable. From the beginning, it seems like Ostin’s going to be an incredibly difficult person to be around, let alone, work for, but as we soon see, she’s actually fine to be around. I don’t want to say she’s “lovely” or “great” to be around, because there are times when it seems like she’s strict and slightly mean, but then you remember: Oh wait, she’s the boss of this company. She’s the one who has to keep it running and in order to do so, she’s got to keep a tight ship. Sometimes, that means hurting a few people’s feelings and getting on with your day/life as if it never happened.

Basically, she’s every boss I never had. They were all terrible, evil human specimens.

But I digress.

Like I was saying before about Hathaway, she’s great with this character because shows certain shades and layers to this character that we might not have gotten in another film. That Jules genuinely seems to care about her company, her family, as well as her employees, makes it all the more reason to sympathize with her when she decides to choose one over the other, and then see what happens when she does make those decisions. Sometimes, the ball in his favor – other times, it is not. But always, Hathaway’s Jules stays relateable and above all else, human.

There’s a few scenes that highlight this, but there’s one important one that comes around the end, wherein Jules breaks down about what she wants out of life and how she’s absolutely terrified of it all falling apart. At times, the scene can be funny because of what she blurts out in a mostly serious way, but it’s all revealing and shows just what really goes on behind this character when she isn’t working all day and night. She, like you or I, wants a certain level of happiness and fulfillment in her life and she’ll do anything to make sure it happens – even if, at the same time, that means she loses other meaningful aspects of life. People who dislike Hathaway because of her off-screen personality, will hopefully wake up and realize that even though she may be a bit of a grating presence when she isn’t smiling for the cameras, still can act and work wonders when she wants to.

Consensus: With a smart direction and script from Nancy Meyers, the Intern is an incredibly sweet and charming tale that may be a bit too lovely, but still features character that feel like real people we could meet on the streets, or in the office.

7 / 10



Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Holiday (2006)

It’s always those attractive celebrities who need the most love during the holidays.

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are both women who seem to be going through the same sorts of problems, even though both live in different countries. The former is from London, and had an affair with a man (Rufus Sewell) who has just recently gotten engaged; whereas the later is L.A.-bound and has a boyfriend (Edward Burns) who cheated on her. They both feel hopeless and upset, and with it being the holidays, they have no clue what to do next with their lives other than sit around, mope, and cry. However, Amanda has an idea that will also affect Iris: She wants to take a trip to London and Iris wants to take a trip to L.A. So the two concoct a plan where they’ll switch residencies for the time being and live in the other’s shoes. This all happens, but what surprises them both is how they end up meeting new people and, believe it or not, start striking up some romances of their own. Iris starts to see a film composer, Miles (Jack Black), whereas Amanda starts to hook-up with Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law). Both are happy and enjoying their time together, but the reality is that they’ll eventually have to get back to their real lives, and it’s something that may keep the relationship’s away from being anything more than just “some fun”.

She's attractive.

She’s attractive.

And honestly, that’s all there really is to this movie in terms of complications or tension. There’s no big twist thrown at the end to throw the whole plot and/or its characters into a whirl-wind of chaos, nor is there any sort of hurdle that these characters have to get over in order to make themselves feel fulfilled. It’s honestly just a bunch of hot-looking, attractive people, flirting, dating, smooching, sexxing, and then, oh wait, having to then come to terms with the fact that they’ll be living in separate parts of the world in a few days.

That’s it.

A part of me should be pleased that writer/director Nancy Meyers didn’t try too hard to make this movie anymore complicated than it needed to be. So rarely do we get movies that are literally about, what it’s about, and don’t try to stray too far away from that original-plot. So in that general aspect, Meyers does a fine job of giving the audience, exactly what they’re seeking for.

But at the same time, there still needs to be a bit more of a plot to make up for the fact that this movie is over two-hours long. However, it’s not the kind of two hours that flies on by because of the company the movie keeps; it’s every bit, every hour, every minute, and every second of two hours and 16 minutes, which is to say that it definitely needed to be trimmed-down in certain areas. The main which being the scenes that Iris has with her older neighbor (played by the late, great Eli Wallach). Don’t get me wrong, these scenes are nice, charming, and sweet, but as a whole, they don’t really add much to the final product; we just sort of see that Iris is a kind, loving and caring gal that’s nice to old men.

Once again, that’s it.

The scenes that she has with Jack Black’s Miles, tell more about her, her personality, and the kind of lover she is – the scenes she has with Wallach, thankfully, do not. However, Winslet, as usual, is as lovable as she’s ever been; it certainly helps that Iris is a strong-written character to begin with, but it also has to do a great deal with the fact that Winslet can handle both the comedy, as well as the more dramatic-aspects of the script, whenever she’s called on to do so.

He's attractive.

He’s attractive.

Diaz herself is quite fine as Amanda and also does the same as Winslet does: She balances out both the heavier, as well as the lighter material well enough to where her character stays consistent with the movie’s emotions. It’s not a huge shocker to know that I’m not a big fan of Diaz, but she’s actually quite enjoyable to watch here, because she doesn’t always over-do her act. Her character may be a bit stuck-up, but that’s the point; to see the cracks and light in her personality shine through, makes her all the more likable and sympathetic, regardless of where she comes from.

But this isn’t just a lady’s affair, because the men who do show up, also give their own, little two cents to make the Holiday work a bit more than it should. Black isn’t as grating as he usually is, and Law, the handsome devil that he awfully is, also shows certain layers deep inside of a character that could have probably been as dull as a box of hammers. Thankfully, he isn’t and it helps the relationship that his character and Diaz’s strike-up.

Problem is, though, it’s that run-time.

Also, not to mention that the movie doesn’t really make any reason for its existence. There are a few occasions where it’s funny, but for the most part, it’s just particularly nice. Nice does not mean “funny” – it just means that the movie can be seen by practically all audiences, regardless of age. Nancy Meyers always makes these sorts of movies and while they may not necessarily be lighting the world on fire, they’re just pleasant enough to help any person watching, get by. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, a kid, an adult, a senior citizen, gay, straight, bisexual, married, single, widowed, engaged, in a “it’s complicated“, or whatever. All persons from all walks of life can enjoy a Nancy Meyers movie.

That alone does not make them amazing pieces of film – it just makes them accessible.

Consensus: With a likable cast and fluffy-direction from Nancy Meyers, the Holiday is fine to watch and relax to, even despite it being way too long, and feeling as such.

5.5 / 10

Aw, bloody hell! They're all attractive!

Aw, bloody hell! They’re all attractive!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Patriot (2000)

Ah. The good old days of when people could actually trust in Mel Gibson to save the day.

During the American Revolution in 1776, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a veteran of the French and Indian War, declares that he will not fight in a war that is not his own. However, his oldest son (Heath Ledger) thinks differently and decides to enlist himself. Though Benjamin is upset with this decision, he knows that it is up to his son to make his own decisions and to be able to live with them, just as he has done with his own. But one fateful night, his son comes back, bloody, beaten-up, battered, and in need of some shelter; Benjamin, obviously, gives it to him, thinking that this will be the last time his son sets out for battle ever again. But Benjamin is proven wrong when, early the next morning, the British come looking for him and want to take his son away. Obviously, Benjamin is against this, as well as the rest of his family, which is when one of his young sons is shot and killed. This is when Benjamin decides that it’s time to quit being a pacifist and to pick up his sword, his gun, and his tomahawk, in order to extract some revenge, the good, old-fashioned way, baby!



Obviously, seeing as how this is a film from Roland Emmerich, I wasn’t expecting there to be any sort of complexity involved with the occasion. However, what’s different about the Patriot, apart from most of Emmerich’s other movies, is that it seems like he’s actually trying to make this an emotionally-gripping, detailed-story about how one man fought for the love and honor of his family, even when all the odds were stacked-up against him. This, on paper, all sounds heartfelt and kind of sweet, but the way in which it plays out?

It’s the furthest thing from.

For one, as soon as Gibson’s Benjamin Martin picks up his tomahawk, it’s go time right from there. People are shot, decapitated, split-open, spit-on, bled-out, and all sorts of other lovely actions involved with war. To be honest, I’m not one to back away from a movie that contains an awful lot of violence (especially when the violence is as graphic as it is in a big-budgeted blockbuster such as this), but there’s something here that feels incredibly off about the whole movie, that put a sour taste in my mouth.

Because, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like Emmerich gives much of a hoot about whether or not Benjamin actually feels fulfilled when every Redcoat is dead and gone away with; he cares more about how many people get killed, and in how many ways that make people go, “Aww yeah!”, or “Ooh!”. You can’t hate Emmerich for wanting to please his audience, but you can hate him for trying to pass all of that death and destruction with something resembling a peaceful; it’s just stupid and feels ill-written.

But, if I did have to rate this movie as a summer blockbuster, it’s an okay one.

It sure as hell did not at all need to be nearly three-hours, but considering the huge budget it has to work with, it’s nice to see that, at one time at least, Hollywood was willing to put all of their money into a history epic that featured as much gritty and raw violence as a single season of the Sopranos. Though the violence is oddly thrown in there with an inspirational message about standing up for your rights and taking down those who take what means most to you, it’s still effective; through the many war-sequences, we get a certain feel for just how dangerous and hellish the battlefield was, without any bullshit thrown in there.

It’s literally just blood being shed, lives being lost, and more disturbing memories for the generations to come. If anything, that’s as deep and as far as the Patriot is willing to go with any life-affirming message. For the most part, it is, like I said, concerned with just showing how many people can get killed, in all sorts of graphic ways that may, or may not please people.



Depends on who you are, I guess.

Though the movie tries to dig deep into Benjamin Martin’s psyche, eventually, it just stops and allows for Mel Gibson to do the leg-work for them. Which was obviously a smart idea, because even though Gibson seems to be, once again, playing another man on the search for getting justice and revenge for the loss of a loved-one (see Braveheart and/or Mad Max), the role still fits him like a glove that it doesn’t matter how old it seems for him to be playing. He has that perfect balance of being just vulnerable enough to make you think that the odds could topple over him, as well as being just mean and vicious enough to make you think he could kill whoever he wanted, how he wanted to, and whenever he saw fit. It’s actually quite scary, but it’s the role Gibson’s worked well for as long as he’s been acting and it’s only gotten more dramatic as he’s gotten older.

A lot of other people show up here and seem to be trying on the same level as Gibson, but they’re sadly tossed-away once the movie decides it doesn’t have time for them to stretch their wings out. The late, great Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, Joely Richardson, and Chris Cooper all seem to have shown up, ready for work, but they don’t have anything worthwhile to do. After all, they’re in a Roland Emmerich movie, and when was the last time when of them was actually about the solid performances on-display?

No seriously – when was that? Cause I sure as hell don’t remember!

And the main reason why I didn’t include the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Jason Isaacs in that last paragraph, is because they are sadly given the roles as “the British” here, which means they play, either, nonsensical idiots, or blood-loving savages. It would make sense why the British would have a problem with this movie to begin with, but it’s made all the worse by the fact that two immensely talented actors like Isaacs and Wilkinson were given roles, so limited in their development and scope, that even they couldn’t save them. Sure, they went through the motions and collected the nice, meaty paychecks, but is it really all that worth it?

Consensus: As a summer blockbuster, the Patriot is more violent and bloodier than you’d expect it to be, but also happens to be a Roland Emmerich movie, which means it’s basically all of that, and hardly any depth beyond.

5 / 10



Photos Courtesy of : Super Marcey, Rob’s Movie Vault, Popcorn for Breakfast

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015)

There is such a thing as “being too alone”.

Even though her husband’s been dead for nearly 20 years, Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner) hasn’t ever really tried to find a replacement of any sorts. Though she has her dog, Carol’s been quite happy to be by herself and not have to worry about another person in her life that may, or may not, stick around any longer. One day, however, Carol’s dog tragically passes-away, which leaves her all alone, once again. This time, however, Carol feels as though it’s time to make a change and actually start hanging around people. There’s the pool-boy (Martin Starr), who comes around not to just check-up on the pool, but to also hang with Carol because he can’t get past the fact that she was, at one point in her life, this awesome songstress. And then, there’s Bill (Sam Elliott), a fellow older-person who is instantly attracted to Carol and wants everything to do with her. Though he comes on a bit strong, Carol believes that he’s the one that she can spend the rest of her life with. But Carol’s personal issues come into play and it isn’t before long that she soon realizes that maybe she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, even though she’s already lived plenty of it so far.

Martin Starr?

Martin Starr?

I’ll See You In My Dreams is the kind of teeny, tiny indie that I love to see. It’s one that I assume is going to be a good watch because of how many people say it is, but when I actually get down to watching it, I’m totally surprised. What seems like a movie made for older-people to laugh, cry and relate to, actually works for anybody who decides to view it; loss is a universal feeling that anyone can feel, no matter who or what may be lost. That’s why it was all the more shocking when I realized that I’ll See You In My Dreams doesn’t seem to fall for any of the annoying conventions and cliches that we normally expect these kinds of movies to fall in.

For instance, Martin Starr’s character seems like he’s written just so that he can play the younger-apple-of-the-much-older-protagonist’s eye, which, in a way, he sort of is, but co-writer/director Brett Haley and writer Marc Basch are a lot smarter than that. Instead, they make this character seem a little more aimless and sad than you’d expect, therefore, it makes sense as to why he would want to hang around someone who is almost four decades older than him. Maybe he wants to have something of a romantic relationship with her, maybe he doesn’t, but either way, it’s interesting to see how each and every one of their scenes play out, especially since they don’t always go to, or end up places you’d expect them to originally.

And that’s the magic of life; things don’t always go down quite the way you want, or expect them to. Curve-balls can get thrown into your way and it’s up to how you, yourself can get past them and move on to make yourself better.

Which is why it’s really interesting to see how the character of Carol handles loneliness in a way that most movies don’t like to portray: Which is, “hey, I’m doing just fine.” Most movies in this same vein would show Carol as being a miserable, lifeless and angry old lady who wants a man in her life, but at the same time, can’t seem to get along with one well enough to where she could fulfill that need. Instead, here, Carol’s shown as being a very mild, well-manner and easy-going gal that’s been on her own for quite some time and seems perfectly fine with that. Does that mean she doesn’t want something of a companion in her life? No, she definitely wouldn’t mind one, but at the same time, she isn’t necessarily seeking one to make her life feel more fulfilling and happy.

Although her gal-pals (played perfectly by June Squibb, Rhea Pearlman, and Mary Kay Place) all get on her case for not trying to get a man, she shoos them off and does what she wants. However, when she does start to get a person in her life, romantically, in the form of Bill, the movie doesn’t seem like it’s back-tracking and trying to make itself into more of a conventional rom-com. That Bill himself was the one who actually approached Carol and asked her out in the first place, already shows that the movie isn’t trying to make Carol into some sort of love-sick fool, for some odd reason.

Or Sam Elliott?

Or Sam Elliott?

It should be noted that Sam Elliott does a wonderful job as Bill, because he seems like a genuinely charming, nice guy. However, there is a certain odd flavor to the way his character acts on certain dates with Carol that makes you wonder if he’s already too smitten with Carol, or is just using her as a life achievement of his own personal pleasure. Clearly, he’s a nice guy and doe seem to have feelings for Carol, but how genuine they may be, is constantly up in the air and it’s what keeps their scenes together exciting, as well as compelling to watch and listen to, even in the smallest detail.

And while I’m at it, it should be definitely noted that Blythe Danner, finally getting her own chance to shine in a movie of her own, is perfect here.

Danner is perfect for this role as Carol, because she says so much, without saying anything at all. Because Carol herself doesn’t always say what she wants, or in ways, just refuses to do so, already speaks volumes to Danner’s skill as an actress; we don’t always know what Carol is thinking or feeling at any given time, but we know that there’s definitely something going on in her mind that we want to hear about and see. That’s why Danner, who is always lovely to see in anything, works this character in so many wonderful ways, that we’re able to see all sorts of layers to her than just what’s presented. Sure, you can most definitely chalk a lot of that up to writing, but Danner is most definitely the main reason why Carol’s more interesting to watch, even when it seems like she’s doing nothing at all.

Heck! She’s a lot more interesting than some of the girls my same age that I know!

Consensus: With a rare, but wonderful lead performance from Blythe Danner, I’ll See You In My Dreams is a small, but sweet tale that sees the typical conventions a story like this could fall for, and avoids them at every step.

8.5 / 10 

Oh, Blythe. You play 'em, girl!

Oh, Blythe. You play ’em, girl!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Child 44 (2015)

Hey guys? Don’t forget to feel bad for Communists, too.

In the early 1950’s, during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union, MGB Agent and war hero Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) discovers that there’s a series of child-murders occurring in the area that nobody’s really paying attention to. But before he can ever get a chance to bring it to his superiors and going ahead with the investigation, his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), is accused of being disloyal to the government and giving certain secrets away. Though Leo is not currently happy with his wife, he still sticks by her because he loves her and that’s what a husband ought to do. Problem is, this puts him the same problems that she’s in, which then has them demoted to a militia position in the gritty, rusted and ragged town of  Volsk. Here, Leo is under the command of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), who doesn’t know whether or not he can trust Leo, but knows that they’re both fighting the same battle as they discover, yet again, another dead boy by the side of the train-tracks. With Nesterov’s approval, Leo sets out on his own adventure to discover who this killer is and stop him before he takes anymore victims.

How on Earth does a movie with the likes of Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance, Vincent Cassell, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, and hell, Gary Oldman only get $600,000 on its opening weekend? Though I understand that not all of these names are household ones that could most definitely open up to heavy-hitting box-office runs, there’s still a part of me that wonders just why the hell something that attracts so much attention like this could go so far under the radar? Because even if a movie is bad, it’s not $600,000-bad, right?

Just think of the Drop.

Just think of the Drop.

Well, kind of.

See, the main problem with Child 44 is, despite the onslaught of talent in front of the camera, director Daniel Espinosa and screenwriter Richard Price can’t seem to make up their minds about what they want to do with this movie. Though I’ve never read the novel, I know that it’s quite long novel, and to try and condense it into a two-hour movie, may not have been the best choice – especially since what’s supposed to be the central plot-line of the story (serial killer on the loose), is basically an afterthought. This is alright if Espinosa and Price wanted to focus more on the paranoia that surrounded Russia during this time, but the two don’t even seem that interested in talking about that, either.

Instead, Espinosa is more interested in how bloody and violent he can make some of these sequences, which makes huge sense when you remember that this is the same guy who directed Safe House. That movie, just like this, was helped incredibly by the fact that there was some thought and care put into how the action-sequences were orchestrated and what effect they gave off to the audience; here, they seem spliced in as Espinosa couldn’t control his blood-loving urge. Price, on the other hand, is trying to make something of a meaningful drama, but once he realizes that Espinosa could care less, he basically gives up, too.

So basically, everybody involved with Child 44 gave up about half-way through.

Which would probably be a smart idea for the audience too, however, there seems to be a lot more of an effort from the rest of the cast. The only downside of having a cast this good, in a movie like this, is that they’re all disappointingly saddled with some terrible Russian-accents, which can sometimes vary from being okay, to downright indecipherable. There is some joy to be had in listening to these actors try their hardest to nail down the right tone for their ill-put accents, but it takes away from the movie; there’s so much going on, with random twists, turns and revelations coming at us every second, it’s hard to take note of them when there’s no clue of what the hell anyone is saying to begin with.

Or Lawless.

Or Lawless.

And don’t get me wrong, everybody tries. But when the movie that’s supposed to be aiding them, seems to have no idea of where to go, what’s the point? Tom Hardy seems the most interested out of everyone, and it’s only because of him that this movie stays watchable. While there’s something inherently flawed about how this guy goes through his day-to-day life in such a vicious and inhumane manner, it’s nice to see how he interacts and holds a relationship with his wife, as played by Noomi Rapace. Rapace and Hardy were great together in the Drop, which makes me wonder if they were filming both movies side-by-side and already knew which one to give most of their time and effort to. Though the Drop and Child 44 are two different movies, Hardy and Rapace are easily the main reasons to see both of movies, even if the former is at least four times better than the later.

And everybody else that isn’t Rapace or Hardy are, well, fine. Once again, they’re trying, too, but it goes nowhere to help them. Jason Clarke is in the movie for maybe five minutes and has the worst Russian-accent of them all (so yeah, good riddance); Joel Kinnaman’s character is such a one-note villain that, I imagine, it would have been hard for any skilled-actor to make something interesting out of this character than just a black heart, let alone Detective Holder; Vincent Cassell is, as expected, just evil; Paddy Considine is as weird and twisted as he’s supposed to be; and Gary Oldman shows up as the more sympathetic communist in the movie, even if he gets short-shifted being able to do anything more.

So in other words, watch for Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Or, screw this movie altogether and watch a better flick containing the same combo: the Drop.

Or don’t do either. Suit yourself.

Consensus: Child 44, despite boasting an impressive cast, never gets itself together as too many strands of the plot come in, only to fall apart moments later, then start back up after someone’s blood is shed because it’s a movie about Russian communists.

3 / 10

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz


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