About these ads

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Movie Review

The Guard (2011)

Why can’t more cops be this cool?

An unorthodox Irish policeman named Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. As you could imagine, things don’t gel so well between the two as one’s kind of a dirty, lazy drunk that likes to sit around on his romp while everybody else solves crime, whereas the other one wants to get on the case right away, no frills attached. Not to mention that there’s a bit of a race problem between the two, seeing as how Irish, when they get drunk, well, tend to say some stuff that aren’t always nice.

While I was watching this movie, something really strange happened to me. While watching this movie and found a lot of similarities between this and In Bruges because right from the start, it’s pretty obvious. You get a bunch of lovely accents, Brendan Gleeson acting like a charming fool, dark situations, blood, violence, and they’re all done for laughs.

Another strange happening that occurred to me was the other day before I saw this movie, I was actually checking out the drug-induced trip that was Spun, and thought to myself, “Wow, this director seems like he’s making a music-video. I wonder if he was one of those before this movie? Hmm?” Sure enough, it turned out that the director of that one was, and better yet, that the writer/director of this movie, not only was trying to make a movie like In Bruges, but was also the freakin’ brother of that same writer/director! Goes to show you what I know and it made me feel like I was on-top of the world of with my movie knowledge, that will probably all get thrown-back in my face once I go to the next local Quizzo and fail miserably at the “Movie Round”.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink 'em out.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink ‘em out.

Yeah, that’s reality for me, folks, and it’s not something I, nor my parents are too fond of being true.

Damn. What a disappointment I am.

Anyway, similarities aside, the writer/director of THIS movie, John Michael McDonagh still does a great job in his own right and starts us off perfectly with what we’re to expect from the rest of his movie. There’s definitely a very goofy side to this movie that isn’t afraid to show itself, poke a little fun at the whole buddy-cop aspect, and also make a lot of the more serious cliches of a crime movie, seem totally stupid and ridiculous. Like his brother, John Michael seems to be playing around a bit with the conventions we are all so used to seeing from movies of this nature and it kept me on edge wondering where he was going to go next with this story, and what exactly he was going to throw at me next. While making me laugh, I presumed.

That’s why this film’s humor, is so rich in the way it’s delivered. We’ve all seen dark comedy used in crime movies, especially from the likes of Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and countless others, but this movie really uses the dark comedy aspect to its strength and doesn’t seem forced in the least bit. Rather than giving us an act of violence and trying to make it all light by adding a cheeky line in there, John Michael still uses the same exact formula, but instead, makes it feel deserved and pretty goddamn funny if you ask me. I liked this film’s sense of humor, and it mostly just all felt very Irish to me as everybody is mean, cruel, and pretty damn depressed. That is, until they get a couple of Guinness’ in your systems, and then they’re a bunch of partyin’, happenin’, drunken fools.

Like true and tried Irishmen.

Where I think John Michael screws up a bit with this movie and the tone he’s going for is whenever he decides to get a tad bit more serious on us, and sadly, it doesn’t work. Most writers/directors are able to make the transition from goofy, lighthearted comedy, to straight-up, serious drama, but I don’t think he is one of them. For instance, any time the movie focused on Boyle and the meetings he would have with his, equally-as-cheeky mother who was slowly dying, the film got very dry, very serious, and very boring for me to actually keep my interest. Some people can make this transition work, but if you can’t, it’s just all the more glaring in the end as we never really catch on to any of the actual drama John Michael has in store for us. Instead, we just want the guy to keep on throwing more and more comedy at the wall, without worrying who it does, and doesn’t offend.

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

However, when it comes right down to it, I cannot, for a second go wrong with an all around solid performance from Mr. Brendan Gleeson himself, who is just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Sgt. Gerry Boyle. Gleeson has always been a guy that’s known for his dramatic-power in big-budget dramas where he usually plays a supporting character, but when it comes to comedies, he’s just as good, if not better just because of this undeniable amount of likability to him that shines through every scene he has here. Right from the start, you know that this cop isn’t going to be your usual, heavy-duty copper that takes everything so seriously. He’s more of a reasonable dude that doesn’t take everything so damn seriously, likes to make sarcastic jokes, and most of all, just likes to have a wee bit of fun for the hell of it. Now why couldn’t someone like him pull me over on the Freeway, Thanksgiving Eve?

Bastards.

And while it does seem weird to see Don Cheadle, of all people, in a very Irish-flick, the point is sort of in that description; he’s meant to be out-of-place and therefore, we draw jokes at him. It’s also a joke that hardly gets old, which mostly has to do with the fact that Cheadle and Gleeson work so well together, they seem like two guys you could really see connect together, given under circumstances of course. But watching as they build some sort of a friendship/connection, is interesting enough and gives more substance to a movie that could have been a down-and-out comedy, with bits and pieces of violence and action sprinkled in.

Consensus: Though the tone can be a bit all-over-the-place at times, the Guard still works because of its goofy sense of humor that, never gets annoying, nor takes away from giving us a lovely chemistry between the unlikely pair that is Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink. That's it.

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink…… That’s it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

About these ads

In Bruges (2008)

Who knew Bruges was such a happenin’ place! Full of fun, murder and all!

After a job goes terribly wrong, hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are sent away to Bruges to let the heat die down. This also allows for their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to think of their next move, so that while they’re in Bruges, not only can they enjoy the various sights, but they can wait on his call for further instructions of what to do next. In the meantime, the two hitmen go sight-seeing, although against most of Ray’s wishes; instead, he would much rather like to drink, do drugs, find some pretty ladies and have as much fun as one possibly could while vacationing in a place like Bruges. Luckily for Ray, there’s a local film crew around town filming something with a dwarf and a pretty gal (Clémence Poésy) that he automatically takes a liking to. However, the aftermath of his one job still continues to mess with his mind and threatens to ruin any possibility of being sane he may have. To make matters even worse, when the two guys eventually do get their call from the boss, it isn’t a pleasing one and may actually pit the two seemingly good friends up against one another.

But hey, that’s business, mate.

It’s a very rare occasion in which a movie that I have seen more than a handful of times, can not only just make me laugh nearly as much as I did the first time around, but can also keep me on edge as to where the story is going next. And with In Bruges, it’s an even rarer-occasion, because, generally, the film leans on its constant plot twists that take over the last-act of this movie; plot twists that I have seen many times before. So for a movie to excite me all over again, as if I was just watching it for the first time in my life, truly is a work of magic.

I think we all know she's in for a wild night ahead of her.

I think we all know she’s in for a wild night ahead of her.

Because, the fact remains, In Bruges is one of the better dark-comedies of the past decade, and not too many people know about it. Even if they should, they don’t. But while that may seem like a meaningless “idea that I think is actually a fact”, there’s something endearing about that aspect that works wonders for this movie.

For instance, the movie prides itself in being contained to this one, rather small part of Bruges; a place you didn’t think was a perfect setting for a film, but somehow, totally is. It’s a place that the movie mocks on more than one occasion, but also shows that there’s some beauty in the land these guys are vacationing at. I don’t mean in just the numerous museums or churches these two guys see, I mean in the people they meet and the things that happen to them, both good and bad. What I’m basically trying to say is that Bruges itself, becomes something of a character in a movie that’s named after it and it creates a small vortex of a world that, as they say in the movie, “Seems like you’re in a dream.”

All that philosophical shite aside (working on my Irish over here), this movie is still entertaining-as-hell no matter how many times it’s watched. You so rarely get that with any movie, but when you see as many movies as I do on a regular basis (more than any normal human being should ever have to), certain movies just fade in your mind and you lose the ability to love them all over again. However, with In Bruges, that ability isn’t anywhere to be found; in fact, I think I may love the movie even more now, then I did way back when I saw it in the early days of ’09.

Certain jokes I can catch up on quicker now, the story makes a whole lot more sense, and the performances from the trio of lead veers quite closely into being “perfect”; especially from Colin Farrell, the actor I’ve always had faith in, and here is exactly the reason why.

As Ray, Farrell is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode and destroy everything around him. You get the sense that he’s a young, brash asshole that doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, nor knows how to act like an adult, but that’s sort of the point of the character and makes Farrell act even better than before. He’s a bit of a punk that does and says bad things throughout the majority of this movie (as hilarious as they sometimes may be), but knows that they are bad, wrong, they should not be done, and at least wants to move on from those mistakes and see if he can turn his life around.

In other words, he’s a bastard with a conscience, and every single second of watching Farrell play him is a total pleasure.

Even more of a pleasure to watch is Brendan Gleeson as the older, much more experience hitman that’s something of a father-figure to Ray, although the movie doesn’t hit us over the head with that idea. Instead, it just allows us to see Ray and Ken as two guys, who have the same job, and are mates, yet, they are in a bit of a sticky situation that can go either way. They don’t know, and they don’t necessarily care. They just want to take each day as they come and both characters express that feeling in two very different ways. For Ray, spending his day is all about getting drunk, having a shag or two with a lady, and just overall, having a grand old time. Whereas for Ken, he’s much more simpler in that he likes to read a book or two, explore the land around him a bit, and at the end of the day, go to bed while watching the tube.

They’re both opposites, yet, they are very good friends that understand each other and at least try to make sense of where the other one comes from. Watching them speak to each other about such stuff like either Belgium art, guys who sell lollipops, kung-fu, is constantly fun and entertaining, while very interesting because we see certain shades of their characters come out that we didn’t expect to ever see, all throughout their conversations. It also helps that Gleeson and Farrell have a lovely chemistry that never feels false. Not even for a single second.

Look out, Oskar!

Look out, Oskar!

And to make matters even better, we have Ralph Fiennes here as the foul-mouthed, constantly pissed-off boss of theirs that isn’t around a lot, but when he does show up, is around to only take care of business his way. We hardly ever see Fiennes do a performance as nasty or as eccentric as this, which is what exactly makes it such a pleasant, if totally unexpected surprise. But what Fiennes is able to find in this character is some ounce of humanity that makes him more than just a dirty, cold-blooded killer; the dude has a code/conscience, and all he’s doing is following through with it. He’s a mean old son-of-a-bitch, but he’s at least a human one, and the fact that we get to see that aspect of the character is truly a testament to the kind of actor that Fiennes is.

But honestly, I’m going on and on about the cast, without mentioning the one who is really responsible for this whole thing coming together so perfectly: Writer/director Martin McDonagh. Sure, McDonagh’s style of blending dark comedy with humane-drama, and bloody violence, has all been done numerous times before, but there’s something oh so refreshing about McDonagh here that makes me wonder not only why he doesn’t do more movies, but also why many more writers and directors haven’t followed suit? Because what McDonagh does so amazingly well here, is that he finds out what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, and what keeps us on the edge of our seats when watching movies, and combine them all together to make a movie accessible enough for anyone to see.

I mean, I’m not saying that In Bruges is the perfect pint of Guinness for either mom, dad, or your younger sibling, but what I am saying is that if you and your pals are hanging around late one night, need something to watch that will not only interest you, but have you downright laughing and enjoying yourselves, then you could do worse. Far, far worse.

Moral to the story: Watch this movie and thank me later.

Now go!

Consensus: Hilarious, fun, superbly-acted, exciting, surprising, and sweet in spots you don’t expect it to be, In Bruges is a near-perfect dark-comedy/thriller more people need to see in order to realize just how much crap is truly out there in the world that everybody knows, and why little gems like this go so unnoticed, for so very long.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Something in that image doesn't fit with the rest of it....

Something in that image doesn’t fit with the rest of it….

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Begin Again (2014)

Just pick up anything and play! But don’t forget to cover something from Frozen. That seems to be the “hip” thing to do nowadays.

After Dan (Mark Ruffalo) gets dropped from the music label he helped build, the man dives into a bit of a drunken-stooper. And somewhere along the night, he ends up in a bar where he hears a song being performed by a small, rather sweet British gal by the name of Greta (Keira Knightley). Though the people around him don’t really think much of her song and only use her as background music, Dan sees, hears and feels potential, which is why he doesn’t hesitate a single second to get her information right after the performance. Though she’s a bit reluctant to start diving right into recording and all that, Greta eventually gives in and Dan finds any which way he can, with anybody he can find with enough time on their hands, to help him record at least two or three songs of Greta’s own doing. But both of their troubled-pasts may come back to haunt them if they aren’t lucky enough, especially in Greta’s case where her ex-boyfriend (Adam Levine), also just so happens to be the hottest and coolest, up-and-coming talent out there in the mainstream today.

After finally seeing Once and really enjoying all that it set out to be, I must say, I was relatively excited for another movie in which John Carney would be jumping back into the world of musicals. However, where as that movie was a small, intimate musical that looked as if it had been made for a dime and a Big Mac, this one is a lot larger, broader and definitely with a bigger-budget. All that aside though, all that matters is that the songs are not only catchy, but actually good and feel like they build to something more than just a couple of neat hooks here and there. There has to be emotion, there has to be feeling, and most of all, there has to be inspiration for the songs we hear and the reason for which they exist.

You know it's true love when they start taking selfies together.

You know it’s true love when they start taking selfies together.

A sort-of musical that comes to my mind is Inside Llewyn Davis which, through the songs played by that titled-character, we got a glimpse into who he was and what it was that he felt as a person. Sure, the songs themselves were catchy and well-constructed, but there was so much more heart and soul put into them, that it felt like a person really letting us know who he was, rather than some dude who is trying to be heard on the radio. You know, not like the songs that we have here.

And yes, that is to say that most of the songs here are catchy, in that, as soon as I left the theater, I was humming the tunes to the songs, but totally forgot about them as soon as I got into my car and hooked up my iPod to the aux. But that’s also to say the songs never really feel like they’re giving you more information about these characters than we already know, or have heard alluded to before. Save for the opening-track that Greta plays about feeling lost and abandoned in the Big Apple, which actually gives us a clear view into who this character is and why it is she feels this way. Every other song, though entertaining to listen to for the time being, don’t really have much of an impact.

Which, for a movie that prides itself on its love for music and the thrill one gets when they are in the act of creating something, is definitely a disadvantage. Especially considering that with his previous-musical, Carney was able to construct something sweet and everlasting that could be connected with, even if you weren’t a musician to begin with. Here, it feels like in order to really connect with any of these characters, or what it is that they’re making, you have to at least have some foot in the door of music, or else it may not matter much to you whether or not they all end up getting a record deal at the end.

Also not to mention that Carney is extremely sentimental here with his script; it’s the conventional story of a girl, fighting all against the odds stacked up against her trying to make it big, while the man she’s investing her future in is still suffering from his divorce and the disconnect he feels with his daughter. If you’ve heard of that plot-line before, don’t worry, so have I and Carney continuously milks it for all that he’s got, even if he knows he’s soaking up in the sap. Which can be fine if there’s more sentiment added onto the sap, but here, we get some thinly-written characters who are here to just service the plot, aka, “the jams”, baby.

"Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!"

“Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!”

Which wouldn’t be such a problem with most movies, but when you have a cast this stacked, it makes you wonder just how nice that paycheck was looking. Mark Ruffalo is okay as Dan and has some nice one-liners, but feels like he’s too amped-up on coffee most of the time, which is rather strange considering he’s supposed to be playing a down-and-out bum with a drinking problem; Keira Knightley is given more to do as the meek and kind Greta, while also showing off her mighty fine pipes which service these songs for what they are; and Hailee Steinfeld for what seems like the umpteenth time I’ve seen her playing an angst-fueled, angry teenage girl that clashes with all adults around her, does a nice job and shows that she’s one of the better, brighter talents out there.

The one who actually surprised the hell out of me here was Adam Levine as Greta’s ex-boyfriend who, believe it or not, cheats on her and leaves her for a big career in music, where he loses his identity and even grows a big, hip beard. Sound like somebody you know? Anyway, what’s so good about Levine here is that while it could have been quite easy for him to just play his normal deuchy-self, the guy does well showing us a true character that not only loves his girlfriend, but actually wants to see what this whole rock ‘n roll lifestyle is about. In a way, he feels more human than anybody else here which, I imagine for most significant-others for other big-time musicians out there, may in fact be terrifying.

Consensus: Light, frothy and pleasant for its near-two hour run-time, Begin Again may not ask much of its audience except to just enjoy the numerous songs it plays, which, depending on the kind of viewer it’s speaking towards, may or may not be enough.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Hide the cone. Don't want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Hide the cone. Don’t want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Life Itself (2014)

Yup. Two Thumbs Up.

For some people, Roger Ebert was just a guy who watched an awful lot of movies, and said whether or not he liked them by going “thumbs up”, or “thumbs down”. But to others, he was more than just a film critic; he was a man who genuinely loved what it was that he did and found anyway he could to make it better. Whether it was by posting a positive review on a movie that barely anyone had ever heard about, or by just speaking his mind and not backing down from when others went against him, Roger Ebert had opinions and thoughts, and he wasn’t going to back off from speaking his mind and letting the world know about what he thought. Of course though, as with most humans, Roger ran into some problems with his excessive drinking, but soon found happiness in the form of one woman named Chaz, who he falls in love with and gets married too. Right from there on, Roger realizes that there’s more to life than just movies; sometimes, you have to care for others and continue on the legacy of good-tidings. Of course though, he never forgot about the movies. Not even until the day he tragically passed away at the age of 70.

I feel like if you’ve lived long enough, or have at least paid enough attention to movies as a whole, you know a thing or two about Roger Ebert and the type of influence he has on most people who watch movies. And I’m not just talking about the critiques who just about everybody despises, I’m talking about a natural, everyday film-goer. For awhile too, Roger was the premier film critic that everybody paid attention, and actually listened to, regardless of if they fully agreed with his end rating of a movie or not.

And seeing as how I was a big fan of Roger Ebert, his reviews, At the Movies (even throughout its numerous incarnations that didn’t involve Roger himself), and film criticism as a whole, I knew that this was really going to pull at my heart. After all, without Roger Ebert, there probably would have never been a DTMMR to begin with, and thus, there wouldn’t have been an excuse behind all my countless hours of sitting in front of keyboards and screens.

What the hell is that "thing" he's holding in his hand?!?!

What the hell is that “thing” he’s holding in his hand?!?!

But like I said before about this movie, it’s meant to be made for anybody who was ever touched by Roger and what it was that he did and that’s why most of this flick works. Director Steve James knows that most of us connect Roger to At the Movies, with George Siskel of course, which is primarily why he focuses so much time on that aspect of his life. We see how him and Siskel sometimes got along and sometimes didn’t, both on and off the screen. They didn’t hate each other, yet they didn’t love each other either; they were just two guys who loved the absolute hell out of movies, and were never willing to settle for the other’s opinion.

In all honesty, it’s probably the most interesting part of this documentary; in fact, dare I say it, we could have probably had a whole documentary about their beginnings together and how they, with time, eventually got to like one another and be somewhat considered “pals”. There’s true, honest and real human drama in the stories we are told by those closest to the both of them and whenever James puts his focus on them and lets that story play-out, it’s easily what makes this documentary so interesting to watch and listen to. Even if it is apparent that it’s more about their relationship, and less about Roger and his life, it still glues you in to what you hear next, and by whom.

With that said though, it isn’t like every territory James explores that has to do with Roger and his own personal life isn’t interesting at all, it just sort of pales in comparison. However, there’s still plenty of interesting detours James takes with this documentary and with Ebert’s life that makes things more compelling. For instance, James highlights the fact that Ebert was something of a hero to those that made the movies he reviewed. He was more than just a dude who sat in front of a screen, watched something, and then dissected it moments later; he’s like as I’d like to imagine every other film critic, professional or nonprofessional – a man who truly loves his craft and the business in which he works around. And because of that, he would constantly champion certain movies by certain directors, and give those movies more exposure than they could have ever expected before in their lives.

Because, if there was anybody a common, everyday citizen was going to listen to when it came to “what’s good?”, and “what’s not?”, it sure as hell was Roger Ebert. And sure as hell not some 20-something blogger….

But what really hits us hard is when we see these certain stories told to us by the likes of Ramin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay, and even Errol Morris, who show that if it wasn’t for Roger, they would practically have no film career to begin with; Bahrani himself even goes so far as to befriend Ebert and his whole family! This all truly shows you not only the importance of film criticism in general, but what it really does matter for when somebody sees your movie and talks about it. It doesn’t matter if it totally blows, or is the next best thing since Citizen Kane - it’s a film that, for the most part, is worth seeing. It could touch somebody’s life, while not do anything for another. You never know, and that’s why the art of film deserves to exist in a world such as this.

The man truly is a legend. Not once batting an eye while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him right in the face.

Not once batting an eye away from his work while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him in the face. The man truly was a legend.

Like I was saying though, James doesn’t always hit the mark when he’s exploring Ebert’s life and totally forgets to go even deeper into certain parts that I would have liked a little bit more clarification on (most definitely his later-years when he was diagnosed and before he passed away), but it’s the disease itself that James really goes on and on about, in a respectable, but bold manner. He doesn’t shy away from showing us the harsh living conditions Roger, Chaz, and the rest of his family has to live through in order to keep him alive, and he sure as hell doesn’t shy away from showing us just how hard it is for all of them to have to go on with it, day after day, but it’s the reality of the situation as presented to us. I’m sure there were many people out there who had no freakin’ clue at all about how truly painful or serious this illness was and for that, I’d definitely like to commend James. Not only does he highlight those last few months/years for Roger that may have not been the best of his life, but it shows us that he hardly ever gave up on doing what he loved most: Watching and reviewing movies.

For, if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be hardly near as many film critics out there as we have today. And, for better, as well as for worse, we have that to thank him for.

Or better yet, give him a solid thumbs up.

Thank you, Roger.

Consensus: While not a perfect documentary, Life Itself still gives us a glimpse into the life of Roger Ebert who made a career out of speaking his mind, loving what it was that he did and always, I repeat, always making sure that the business in which he worked in continued to get better and better, even after he was long gone. And I think it’s safe to say that, on his part, mission complete.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Hercules (2014)

The stone age totally needed a whole lot more Rock Bottoms.

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) was born as a demigod; meaning he was both a human, as well as powerful, immortal God. And while there have been constant stories whispered in the shadows about him and all of the numerous battles he has won, not everybody’s sure as to what the true story is. Is he a human after all, that can live and die just like us? Or, is he simply a God-like human who was put on this Earth to protect those who need him the most? He doesn’t answer that, nor does any of his long legion of trusted associates, who join him along on every mission/task he has. Their latest “adventure” of sorts, is from Cotys, King of Thrace (John Hurt) who propositions them with a hefty amount of gold, in which all they have to do is train his army to be the most ruthless, fearless army on the planet, as well as be able to help him overtake these other armies that have been ruining his various lands. Hercules doesn’t like to be considered a “mercenary”, even though he totally is, but he takes the job anyway and somehow finds himself connecting with the King’s daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) and starting to realize that something may not be all that fine with this mission. Something rather mysterious seems to be going on, actually.

Apparently, earlier in the year, there was another big-budget Hercules reboot that starred Kellan Lutz and while I heard nothing special about it, nor had any intentions of seeing it (it was January after all), it made me think about how, once again, Hollywood seemed to be running out of original/innovative ideas. Last year, it was two “secret-service-men-saves-president-from-terrorists” movie; now this year, it’s two Hercules movies. One starring a male model, the other, starring the Rock.

"Who turned the lights on?!?!?"

“Who turned the lights on?!?!?”

Which one do you think is better?

My thoughts exactly.

See, because while I do sneer at the fact that this is a movie directed by Brett Ratner, for some reason, that never bothered me during this movie. Sure, Ratner doesn’t necessarily have a certain style or trademark that allows his movies to be considered “his own” (except that most of them blow), but you know when you’re watching a movie and it happens to be bad, which as a result, also ends up being directed by Brett Ratner. So when I actually walked into this movie, I wasn’t feeling to happy. Dwayne Johnson (I guess I’ll give up and just call him that from now on) is always somebody I can smile about seeing, but Brett Ratner? No thank you very much on that!

Somehow though, the movie worked for me, which may, or may not have anything to do with the fact that Brett Ratner was the one sitting behind the camera (presumably doing cocaine off of hooker’s asses). A part of me wants to say it is, but another part of me still wants to fight it and not give into the idea that a movie coming from the sweaty, hairy palms of Brett Ratner, might actually be considered “good”. And the only reason why I highlight this fact so much, is because the movie’s a whole bunch of fun and shows that, despite his terrible reputation amongst those in the biz, Brett Ratner is capable of directing a “good” movie; better yet, he’s actually capable of a directing a “fun” movie.

And with the story of Hercules and Dwayne Johnson in the lead, you really do need some element of fun to keep everything moving surely and fine. Which, here, usually consists of us watching as Johnson lurks around the screen like the huge, HGH-fueled monster that he is, occasionally making jokes, cracking a grin, patting little aspiring boys on their heads, and, every once and a blue moon, freaking out from his troubled-past. But, for the most part, this movie just consists of him kicking ass with every inch of his square body and if you’re like me and grew up on seeing that occur on a daily basis, then yeah, this movie’s going to be a total blast for you.

If you aren’t used to seeing the People’s Champion lay the smackdown on some jabronis, then you may want to watch the 1995 Disney-animated flick. That has a lot more substance than this movie, and is perfect if you’re looking for something with more of a deeper meaning. Because here, you’re not really going to find it, although the movie totally does try and ultimately, fails. In fact, the only times where I really felt like I may have lost total interest, is exactly when the characters started talking, getting all dramatic and focusing on Hercules’ problems. I get that the movies needs those elements in order to round the character out some more and not just be an non-stop barrage of violence, action, and arrows, but it could have been done slightly better. Then again, you could say that about any movie really.

"Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!"

“Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!”

Like I was saying about Johnson earlier though, the man is perfectly fine as Hercules – he’s never really called on to do any heavy-lifting that may result in him popping a blood vessel or pulling a groin muscle – he’s mostly just told to look tough, be his usual charming-self whenever the script calls on it, and be willing to kick anybody’s ass. He does that oh so perfectly here, which isn’t really a surprise at all, considering he’s done it for about his whole entire career. And we, as a society, are so much better for it, too. Wrestling fans, or not.

And like how it is for Johnson in the lead role, the rest of the cast isn’t really called onto do much either. Except this time, they have to be a bit more cheery and likable. Which, when you have a supporting cast that includes the likes of John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, and Ian McShane, do you really expect much else? No, not really. Just like you sure as hell don’t expect Brett Ratner to make something that could be considered “good”, but hey, here we are.

The world is chock full of surprises, ain’t it?

Consensus: With Brett Ratner at the helm, and Dwayne Johnson in the lead sporting a loincloth and a club by his side, Hercules is exactly what you’d expect from it to be, except maybe a tad too heavy on the drama.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion.....

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Lucy (2014)

Screw marijuana! Can these drugs be legal?!?

After being fooled by her one-week boyfriend, American tourist Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is somehow made to be a drug mule of sorts by the mob. The drug she’s given to stay in the pit of her stomach accidentally leaks out into her nervous-system and allows her to use more than the normal 10% of her brain. Meaning that Lucy now has superhuman strength and can control just about anything with her mind. And for the most part, she uses it to her advantage; she extracts revenge on those who had done wrong to her, she gets free rides, she kills whomever gives her a hard time, and she takes down all of the drug-dealers that are also involved in this drug-circle. However, the dosage continues to grow for Lucy and, slowly but surely, she starts to lose control and forgets to remember how to decipher what’s considered “real”, or, what’s “just because of the drugs”. Eventually though, Lucy realizes that she needs to chill out and get rid of all this stuff from her body, which is exactly where biology Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) steps in and sees whatever the hell it is that he can do for her, before it’s too late and her mind is totally lost forever.

There’s been a lot of talk about this here film and how it’s pretty much just another version of Limitless, except with a bigger-budget, and also, instead of the dashing, scruffy-look of Bradley Cooper, we get the luscious, natural beauty that is Scarlett Johansson. And while some of that may be true, I can’t help but think the two movies are different. Most of that has to do with the way in which the drug itself is used and how dark things can truly get, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Luc Besson is a better director than Neil Burger; problem is, you’d just never know it.

"Uhm...this is out of my level of expertise. I'm just the narrator, hon'."

“Uhm…this is out of my level of expertise. I’m just the narrator, hon’.”

See, though Luc Besson struck the iron while it was hot back in the day from ’90-’97, the dude hasn’t really been in his element since. It seems like, ever since the Fifth Element, everything that was fun, exciting and wildly original about Luc Besson and the movies he created, had all but disappeared and thus, we were stuck with watching him try his daft hand at comedy late last year with the Family, which, for the most part, failed. That wasn’t the only bad movie Besson has done in the past decade or so, but it’s definitely the main one that made me wonder what the hell happened to the dude and whether or not we were going to get all of that magic back once again.

Thankfully though, with Lucy, it seems like Besson is back in his comfort-zone, but with a whole lot more craziness ensuing. We get to see him use a hell of a lot of special-effects, and while they don’t always look good, it’s still nice to see Besson at least trying harder and harder at new things to incorporate into his movies, rather than just depending on blood, bullets, and action to save the day. Because, sure, while we all love that from him, there needs to be a bit more to that. Like, I don’t know, say a story, or better yet, an interesting protagonist.

And, believe it or not, Lucy has both of them! Although neither the protagonist, nor the premise may be as smart or as well-handled as Besson has done with ones in the past, it was still refreshing to see him give us something more. But to be honest, story doesn’t really matter here because when Besson wants to get nuts, he allows himself to do so and it’s a joy to see. The movie clearly doesn’t want to be taken seriously and more often than not, is capable of using its black comedy to its advantage. While some of it feels random and a bit strange, it was still something I liked to see in a movie that could have easily been as serious as a human-drama with its B-movie premise, but instead, do quite the opposite.

Sure, there’s plenty of moments where this movie dies down and focuses a tad too much on its characters and their plight; mostly the parts with Morgan Freeman’s character talking about life, humanity, animals, and only God knows what else – but they’re very few and far between to where it doesn’t really bring down the movie a whole lot. And for a movie that runs just barely underneath the hour-and-a-half-mark, that’s something to be happy about. So rarely do we actually get a movie, let alone, a summer blockbuster, in which we are in, and we are out in a matter of reasonable time and pace. I get that most movies like to take their time and expand on their story, hence the longer run-time, but most of the time, these movies do not need to run the risk of being longer than two-and-a-half-hours and therefore, running the risk of losing its audience. However, the pleasure of watching Lucy is that it’s simple and doesn’t take much time at all. It’s quick, punchy and absolutely wild, all under the painless hour-and-a-half-mark.

Hey, it's like Oldboy! Except not really.

Hey, it’s like Oldboy! Except not really.

Only wish other movies this summer would have learned that lesson early on. Looking straight at you, Michael Bay.

And as our titled-character, Scarlett Johansson is fine as Lucy, showing us that despite her small frame and raspy voice, she’s still able to be a bit of a bad-ass chick. Just give her a couple of machine-guns, a blonde-poof, a blood-stained tank-top and woolah, you have a female character that cannot only kick ass and take names, but is smart enough to take maters into her own hands when the going gets going. She doesn’t just hang around and hope that the nearest dude can save her from her problem; she gets up off her lovely romp and starts to get stuff done, her own way.

Don’t know about you, but if there’s a female action-hero I’d look up to the most – it’s Lucy. And that’s all you need to know about her, Jack. Or, whatever masculine dude it is that wants to know why he should see a movie about a gal who has super powers and starts tearing shit up.

Consensus: Whereas it may not be the smartest piece of action you’re likely to see the rest of this summer, Lucy is still a return-to-form of sorts for Luc Besson who seems like, for once in a long while, he’s having a great time with what he’s filming.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Coming for you, motherhood."

“Coming for you, motherhood.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Scoop (2006)

People love their magic, like they love their murder. That’s something people say, right?

Up-and-coming American journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) gets the story of a lifetime when deceased journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) somehow contacts her from the afterlife. The story goes like this: He knows that this wealthy, very powerful man Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the man behind all of these brutal murders that have been occurring around England and granting him the nick-name, “the Tarot Card Killer”. Though Sondra is slightly hesitant at first to believe in this, she takes the bait anyway and gets a local magician (Woody Allen) to join her. Together, they’ll pretend to be a father-daughter combo and try to win over the heart of Peter Lyman, while simultaneously looking for any clues, hints, or pieces of evidence they can find to make this story big and at least somewhat “legitimate”. But as time goes on, and the rouse gets to be a bit tiring, Sondra begins to fall for Peter, and even entertain the idea that he may in fact be the killer. This is not an idea the magician wants to put to rest, but it may be too late.

It’s kind of a known fact that despite Woody Allen being able to release a movie, just about every year, they’re not always amazing. And now that the guy’s getting way up there in age, the moments where he strikes gold are becoming more and more rare. Therefore, it’s up to us as an audience to appreciate all of the work that he does, because even though Woody Allen may not make great movies all of the time, a not-so good Woody Allen movie, is still way better than your usual, average bad movie.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

But somehow, this is the one that’s right on the verge of being considered “crap”, to being just “meh”.

And that’s not to say that this is Woody’s worst flick I’ve seen of his (Cassandra’s Dream was pretty god-awful), but it’s his most recent that I’ve seen of his that’s left me wondering just where all of his creativity and energy went. Surely he could have come up with something more than just a normal story about a journalist falling in love with her subject, while a murder-mystery occurs on the side? Maybe he was trying to hint at the idea of irony and how sometimes, things we don’t expect to happen, or better yet, people we don’t expect to act a certain way, do happen/act that way? Or maybe, he was trying to harmonize on the importance of life and how we all should savor it while we still can?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the guy a bit too much credit here. Because yes, even though this movie is not terrible, it still seems like Woody’s retreading on familiar waters. We’ve already seen Woody Allen make fun of the rather snobbish upper-class in Small Time Crooks, so whenever Woody takes it upon himself to make a few wisecracks towards them as a whole, it not only feels like he’s just yucking it up for no good reason, but also that he’s running out of ideas to write about or even explore. Even the lead Sondra Pransky, is basically just the female version of him and how he acts.

That’s not to say that ScarJo isn’t fine with this impersonation of sorts, it’s just that she’s just sort of there to take up a role that could have easily been done by Woody himself; although, to be honest, it would have been strange to see him constantly flirting and making out with the buff and macho Hugh Jackman. Then again though, it’s never too late to try something new out every so often!

And although I do kid around here and get on Woody’s case a bit, he’s sort of the best part about it. He’s quintessential Woody Allen and that’s always a pleasure to watch on the big screen, especially since all he does is act like a cynical, miserable bastard, yet, still be able to show some compassion towards those around him that treat him well. He had me laughing on more than a few occasions and it’s just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter how old Woody may get, the guy’s a charming little fella that seems to always play to his strengths and have himself coming out on top.

Now, that’s not to say that he’s selfish or anything, because Woody is more than welcome to giving the rest of his cast their own opportunities to shine, but none of them really leave as much of an impact as he does. Like I mentioned before, ScarJo is fine at playing a lovely-looking nerd that not only gets up swept up in the idea of love and romance, but even gets to forget who she is at one point. This was, of course, before Johansson became a dependable, respectable name in the business, so there are a few rough patches here and there, but most of that, I think, has more to do with some of the awkward-phrasing of the script and the lines she’s given, where she’s made to sound like Woody Allen, but just can’t pull that off perfectly.

I'm sorry. You were saying?

I’m sorry. You were saying?

Then again, nobody really can. That’s why we have Woody Allen in the first place.

Also, it was nice to see Hugh Jackman be the dashing man that he is and show us that even though there’s a lot mystery surrounding who he really is, you yourself can’t help but be charmed by his lovely ways. Makes it a lot easier to sympathize with our lead once she gets swept up in his life, but also makes you forget that he could be the prime suspect in this murder case after all. Ian McShane is also given a relatively major role as the deceased journalist who gives Pransky the story hints in the first place and is fine with what he has to do, but it’s pretty disappointing just to see him show up every once and awhile, say something vague and literally then disappear into thin air, because, well, he’s dead and the Grim Reaper doesn’t like it when dead people come back and talk to those who are living.

Honestly, now that I think about it, I would have much rather liked to seen a movie where the Grim Reaper himself and Ian McShane squared-off, mono-e-mono. Written and directed by Woody Allen, of course. The one and only.

Consensus: Not Woody Allen’s best, nor his worst, Scoop is rather pleasing because of its cast, but feels like a tired and tried piece of material that we’ve seen Allen himself do much too often in far better films of his own.

5 / 10 =  Rental!!

"I hate the media. All they do is get on people's cases. Like, I don't know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter."

“I hate the media. All they do is get on people’s cases. Like, I don’t know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Stand by Me (1986)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Amen.

Amen.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Write this down men: Twenty-something blondes who play the trumpet are bad news.

Recent college-grad Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is working as an intern at a production company and realizes that she needs to make a big change in her life if she wants to be happy at all. Therefore, she decides to break-up with her boyfriend Mike (Mark Duplass) and set her sights possibly on other men; even if those other men just so happen to be her co-workers, Matt (Kent Osborne) and Paul (Andrew Bujalski). Hannah begins one with the later, while the former sort of just sits around, does his work like he’s supposed to be doing and basically be all upset that he’s being left out of the mix. But Hannah’s the type of girl who can’t seem to stick to one thing, regardless of if her life depends on it or not, so you can never tell exactly what she’s going to do next, or with whom either.

It’s a short premise, but at an-hour-and-23-minutes, it’s a short movie, and there’s something inherently charming about all of that. See, writer/director Joe Swanberg likes these small, intimate and rather raw stories about people just living their lives, on a day-to-day basis without all of the schmaltzy, over-dramatic bullshit that we usually see in much-larger, more mainstream movies. Does he do this to save some money and actually be able to make his movies? Sure, you could definitely make that argument. However, there’s something nice and refreshing about a writer/director who likes to create real stories, about real people, doing, well, real things.

Even if one of those “real things” does consist of constantly being shacked-up with whomever is around you.

Oh, Gret.

Oh, Gret.

And yes, that is exactly what Hannah does here. To be honest, the hardest aspect to like about this movie is Hannah herself; she’s self-involved, yet, not overbearingly so. She clearly has a nice conscience and wants to do the right thing for herself and those around her, but when it comes right down to it most of the time, she takes matters into her own hands and doesn’t always fully think things through. Does that make her flawed? Of course it does! But does it also make her somewhat human? Oh, totally!

So with that said, it may be hard to at least accept Hannah as a person you want to watch a movie about, but this isn’t necessarily a movie that’s trying to test your patience. It’s trying to give you a story of a young, sometimes brash and difficult lady that doesn’t know what she wants with life, except just to be happy and feel like she’s working for, or towards, something. Hannah herself doesn’t want to be left behind by the wind and forgotten about – she wants to be remembered, loved, and most of all, happy. Though her ways of making sure that happens are a bit questionable, it’s still interesting to watch because there’s a feeling that this is a real woman we’re watching on screen, and not just figment of a dude’s imagination.

And if she was, she’d be a pretty depressing one, considering that there’s a lot of heartbreak and sadness here, all as a result of her own doing, mind you.

Also, another reason why Hannah is so enthralling to watch is because Greta Gerwig’s an on-screen presence worth paying attention to every second her lovely face is on screen. Which, in the case of this movie, is the whole, damn time. So, if you’re annoyed of Greta Gerwig’s bubbly, warm mug, then this is definitely not something you should bother with. Especially since Swanberg seems to really love focusing in on that mug and watching as each and every emotion she feels, is spelled out on her face. In a way, it can sometimes be annoying by how much zooming-in Swanberg does on not just Gerwig, but on everything else, but I felt like it was something you have to sort of expect with a mumblecore movie, and it’s easy to accept after awhile. Is it uncomfortable to sit around and watch sometimes? Yes, but it’s something that’s easy to get used to once the story actually gets going.

Gerwig does something quite exceptional here in how she’s able to make us see Hannah as a female, rather than a contrivance that Swanberg would have created. She’s more than just a gal who likes to kiss boys and try them out as if they were a new pair of shoes; she’s trying to work towards something. Of course Gerwig’s a lovely presence, but it’s in these spare, raw moments of emotional truth where you really get a sense for who she is, and you sort of feel sympathy for her. Even if she is making a lot of problems for herself, rather than solving them, but that’s who she is. She’s a complicated, confused gal and Gerwig’s great at displaying both sides of Hannah’s personality.

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

That’s not to say that the whole movie just ends up being Gerwig’s show from beginning to end – in fact, quite the opposite. Because this is a story about Hannah and the sorts of men she interacts with in this short time-span in her life, we get to view a different side to her, all depending on the guy she’s gunning for at the point in time. Though he’s displayed quite apparently on the poster, Mark Duplass isn’t in this film as much as you’d like to think and it’s a bit of a shame. The dude’s always a charming presence in anything he shows up in and here, he’s no different. But because the story needs him to be kaput early on, it’s only necessary that we get a small dosage of his charm, and get a chance to see it head-to-head with these two other dudes, Matt and Paul.

Both are pretty charming dudes, but in a nerdy kind of way. But they’re not totally nerdy in that they can’t ever hold a conversation with any normal human being; they’re just sort of the type of guys who have their own set of interests, in their own little circles. Bujalski and Osborne both display enough likability and realism to make it easy to see why they’d be both perfect, and not-so perfect for Hannah’s wants, needs and desires, and it makes you wonder who she’s going to end up with in the end.

Which, like it is in life, is incredibly unpredictable.

Consensus: The constraints in budget and scope may make Hannah Takes the Stairs feel a bit claustrophobic, but for those who can get past that, will realize it’s a heartfelt, emotional and sometimes funny drama about a gal just being herself, while trying to figure out who it is she wants as a mate in her life.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Me. Everyday of my life.

Me. Everyday of my life.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

If any movie theater can allow for this to happen, then perverts are going to be knocking at the door.

Cecilia (Mia Farrow) lives one of the saddest lives you will ever witness a lady of her age living, and it only seems to get worse. Not only is she clinging on to a job that seems like she’s going to be fired from any second now, but her husband (Danny Aiello) is a philandering gambler that thinks every discussion must be solved by either a slap or a hit. Cecilia puts up with this all because, quite frankly, like everybody else during the Great Depression, she had nowhere else to go and was lucky enough to even have a house, a job and a husband. However, life isn’t all that bad for Cecilia once she steps into her local movie theater at least once, or twice, or maybe even three times a day, escaping the harsh reality of the world outside, and just setting her eyes on the fantastical world that these movies create, placing her into something entirely new and imaginative, even if it is only for an hour or so. One movie that Cecilia seems to really be addicted to is this new feature called The Purple Rose of Cairo, so much so that she sees it five times in-a-row. She’s so addicted that even one of the characters, Tom (Jeff Daniels), notices this, walks off the screen, takes her by the hand, exclaims his love for her and whist her away on a journey where they will most likely fall in love and be together, forever. Problem here being that not only is Tom not a real person, but the movie he left is now stopped, without any signs of moving forward, leaving all of the other characters in the movie without a single sense of direction. They just wait, wait and wait some more until Tom comes back to the dull, monotonous life of a movie-screen character, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that anytime soon.

Have no clue why I went so balls to the walls with that synopsis, but once I started typing, I just couldn’t stop. Most of you will understand, and for that, I say thank you, For the ones who don’t understand, then whatever. On with the review!

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

This little gem is from the creative mind of Woody Allen who, if you don’t know by now, usually hits big, or misses terribly. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former, then again, that will most likely continue to be more common since he is getting up there in terms of age, and he still continues to make at least one movie a year, if not some other ones on the side. But back in the 80’s, Woody reigned as supreme as he could get with acclaimed hit, after acclaimed hit, and it only got better and better when the 90’s rained in. Here, with this movie, the man not only shows his love for the past, but for the present, and possibly, future of film, while also letting us know that it’s all bullshit in the end.

See, while you don’t expect Woody to throw in a frown here, despite all of the happiness, joy and romanticism on full-display, he somehow does and is able to make it work, feeling as if you are in fact watching a Woody Allen movie. There’s plenty of times where you can tell that his love for film transcends any generation, but more so here because he was born in the 30’s (when this story takes place), and it makes you feel even closer to the story, just as much as he probably does making it. Plenty of the signature Woody wit and charm is to be found in the writing, but the cute feelings of falling in love with someone completely out of the blue is what really resonated with me so well, and this is, might I remind you, coming from the same guy who made Annie Hall, Manhattan, Husbands and Wives and plenty other “love and life suck” movies.

And even though there is a romance at the centerpiece of this movie, you still get the idea that Woody’s using it as a tool to get across his feelings about the art of cinema itself; an art form that will be around forever because it has real human-beings escape the world they live in, but yet, is also filled with so many unrealistic hopes and dreams, that it can sometimes be detrimental to those said human-beings’ minds as they will most likely buy into these visions if they begin to take these lessons of these films to heart. While that does sound terribly bleak and unpleasant, it is, once again, a Woody Allen movie, so you have to sort of expect it nonetheless. But even though it seems like Woody may be against, in some small regards, the form of art that is film, in other larger regards, he embraces it wholeheartedly and fully, letting us know that he’s as happy as banshee to be a filmmaker in a day and age like today; and even more happier and thankful for the ones who have came before him, most likely throwing inspiration his way.

Yet, don’t be fooled by how downbeat I may be selling this flick as, because while it does end on a rather grim note (one that I wasn’t expecting in the slightest bit), there is still a happy idea about movies and what they do to a person, for better and for worse. However, Woody knows that movies are supposed to make people happy, take them into a world, and all while informing them a bit as well, which is exactly what he does here, to ever so great effect, all before ending on a rather sad note. But like I said, it’s expected knowing Woody, the die hard cynic.

If that's Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

If that’s Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

Speaking of this being a Woody Allen film, since this was one made in the 80’s, it only made perfect sense that his gal-pal of that decade, Mia Farrow, would get a lead role in this movie as Cecilia. However, even though Woody did this plenty of times for his next couple movies, it still never felt unnecessary, as if she didn’t deserve all of the favoritism she was getting from his lovable, yet, soon-to-be wandering, eye. Because yes, even though they were going out at the time, Farrow still deserved to be in most of these roles because she’s a very talented actress, making it easy for us to believe that she can play all of these different roles, under the same direction of the same dude she goes to sleep with at night. All of that aside though, Farrow is great here in her role as Cecilia because she really is such a cute little darling, that you hate to see it when she’s sad and depressed about the life that she’s been living. Heck, the only time she ever gets anything remotely close to pleasure or happiness, is when she pays a dime to go see a movie, where she is ultimately thrown into a world unlike any other. This may have a negative effect on her mind, her innocence really makes you forget about all of that nonsense and just be there for her when she finally finds the love of her life, even despite him not being a real person; just a movie character.

Jeff Daniels also does a pretty effective job as this movie character, Tom, because while he’s so naive about his existence, it would be so easy for us to write him-off as “annoying” or “a joke done-to-death”. Like for instance, instead of handing the waiter actual money, he hands him the fake money he has in his pockets from the movie, and doesn’t know why the dude’s reaction is so negative. But Daniels somehow overcomes all of those problems and gives us a really likable guy that we would love to see walk off with Cecilia in his arms at the end, even if it does seem highly unlikely, or even illogical. He also is given another chance to show us another character of his in this same movie, except this time, he’s playing the actor of the character himself: Gil Shepherd. This is where Daniels really shines in showing us a guy that seems like a pretentious dick, but one that also may be a good guy underneath the whole facade of this Hollywood superstar. We never know what type of angle he’s playing though, and that’s when Woody himself comes in and gets all dark and sinister on our asses.

Once again, he’s a die-hard cynic. Don’t forget about that.

Consensus: The Purple Rose of Cairo works as a joyful, pleasant and sweet unabashed love letter to the art of movies, but also works as a symbol of love, showing us that the man still does believe in the feeling’s power, yet, also knows that, like movies, sometimes the reality is harder to chew on than the fictional ideas surrounding it.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The calm before the storm, as they say.

The calm before the storm, as they say.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Wish I Was Here (2014)

Somewhere out there, James Mercer is pissed that he didn’t get a paycheck.

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is an aging, near-40-year-old dad who is struggling to make ends meet with his life. He works, but as an actor, which only means that he sometimes gets a role, and sometimes, he doesn’t. Basically though, he just day-dreams and longs about the good old days in which he and his brother (Josh Gad) used to dream about being in some sort of futuristic, sci-fi world where they were the good guys and everything that they wanted to happen, did in fact happen. However, the reality of it is that Bloom’s life kind of blows: His kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) get kicked out of their private Jewish school; his father (Mandy Patinkin) is slowly dying; his wife (Kate Hudson) is working a dead-end job that she hates and gets hit on by a co-worker at; and worst of all, the family is on the end of poverty. Without knowing full well what to do, Aidan decides to home-school his kids into being the best that they can be, while at the same time, seeing if he can be there for his dad when he needs him the most, especially during this critical time.

Though I clearly wasn’t in the intended age-group, Garden State still worked like gangbusters and gave me the impression that Zach Braff was capable of doing wonderful things with his career when he wasn’t being goofy, yet lovable J.D. Dorian. That said, Garden State was released nearly ten years ago and it makes you wonder exactly why it took Braff so damn long to get something out in the first place. Sure, people will say it was because no major-studio would back a project of his choosing (hence the infamous KickStarter campaign), but personally, I think it’s because Braff didn’t have much of a story to really work with. Maybe, just maybe, Garden State was all he had to say or do for the movie world, because when it comes right down to it: He’s sort of left treading the same waters.

He still obviously can't get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

He still obviously can’t get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

Because, in the case of Wish I Was Here, as much as it pains me to say, it seems like Braff just remade Garden State, but this time, set it in Hollywood, get a bigger-budget, and involve less hipster-ish things to be found. Because yes, Braff is almost 40 and with that title comes going through the motions that most adults go through, and that’s what we all call “adulthood”. And it’s a shame to see somebody as lively and as charming as Braff to get older, grow up a bit and have to deal with real issues that most adults have to deal with on a daily-basis, but he’s only human dammit, so I guess it was inescapable.

However, him being older in age and in the brain, doesn’t excuse this film from being a mess; much rather, a mess that doesn’t know what it wants to say. I already made a mention of this being like a sort-of remake of Garden State, but the real fact is that this movie doesn’t have a clue what it wants to do, whereas every move that movie made was clear, inspired and brought the whole piece together. Here, with Wish I Was Here, you can almost see Braff fumbling with this story, what it means, what he’s trying to say, and how we’re all supposed to make sense of it. Which, in all honesty, would have been fine really, had anything in the mess been all that interesting to begin with. But there isn’t anything of that nature.

Seeing Zach Braff in a movie and his wife being Kate Hudson is interesting, I guess, but they’re kind of a traditional-couple that doesn’t quite feel like anything we haven’t seen done before. In a way too, we sort of feel bad for her and have a problem with him, because while he’s off trying to live his dream (aka, sit at home, mope, whine and not do shite with his life), she’s out at work, with people she hates, doing work she downright distastes, and practically supporting the whole family. Hudson’s fine in this role and has more than a couple of scenes where her charm comes out, but her character seems like she’s just a stepping-stool and after awhile, you’ll wonder when she’s going to get fed-up with all of this crap, take the kids and leave Braff’s bum-self.

And that’s not saying Braff is at all bad in this movie – in fact, he’s very much still Zach Braff, if that makes any sense. He’s still quick-witted, smart, charming, a tad goofy, and capable of being serious when he so damn well pleases, but his Aidan Bloom-character just isn’t all that fascinating to begin with in order to have us want to see where his life goes and why. We know that he wants to support his adoring-family, while also maintaining a respectable career as an actor, but sooner or later, it gets to be a bit tiresome to see him constantly try hard and then end up bummed out about life. I get that’s how life works in general, but it’s not something I want to watch for nearly two hours, especially not in this pretentious of a way.

Also, with that being said, the movie does feel like its every bit of two hours, which really does this movie in. And because of its length, more of the movie’s weaker-points begin to show a lot more. For instance, the whole subplot with Bloom’s brother, could be taken out completely and there would be nothing at all wrong with this movie. Not only would it trim some film, but it would also spare us the corny message Braff ends up summing this film on.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Basically, by connecting each and everyone of the subplots he has cobbled-up here, Braff lets us know that parenting is hard, and that’s about it. There’s a lot more talk about the Jewish faith, where we go when we all die, some of his thoughts on that, and why family is important, but it never quite builds to anything. All it is is filler for Braff to keep his movie long, over-stacked and as pretentious as he can possibly make it. And yes, I know I sound terrible and all, but seriously, was this really the type of movie us fans donated money towards? Something that just repeats exactly what Braff did nearly ten years ago, except this time, have it include family, and death, and the Jewish faith?

I don’t think so and honestly, if I were Zach Braff, I’d feel a little ashamed in myself. That’s not to say that everything in this movie is terrible; more often than not, the choices Braff makes as a director are as bold as they could come from somebody not being fronted by a major-studio. However, more often than not, Braff falls down with whatever message he’s carrying, and while he does get back up to fight again, and again, and again, you have to wonder when he’s going to just stop, give it up and let us realize that maybe he doesn’t have much left to say at all.

Except that the Shins are a really rad band. Man.

Consensus: While it may be nice to see Zach Braff both in front of, as well as behind the camera after all of this time, Wish I Was Here still can’t help but feel like a disappointing retread of ideas, themes and messages he’s explored before, to a much better result.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's all of your money, people. Hope it was all worth it.

“Hey, aren’t you that guy from that show where you played the doctor who was sort of goofy and had all of these day-dreams and it was funny?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Thankfully, I’d still have my Dorothy Doors. Nobody’d ever look down one of them.

It’s the year 2023 in America and it’s Purge Night. This means that the government is allowing everyone and anyone to go out there, commits all sorts of crime, for a certain amount of time, without any police authority ever taking control. Sounds ideal for those nut-balls out there in the world, but for the common-folk who don’t enjoy killing people – it’s a bit of a disaster. On this one night in particular, we follow three stories: a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car accidentally breaks down on the road, moments before the Purge actually begins; a mother (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter (Zoe Soul) who are kidnapped by a bunch of men dressed in SWAT uniforms for unknown reasons; and a lone, silent man (Frank Grillo) who has a clear mission and is planning on following that on throughout the whole night. That is, all until he ends up gaining a conscience about half-way through and decides to save the mother and daughter, making them have to come along for the ride as he continues to finish what he set out to do in the first place. But on a night like “Purge Night”, nothing is ever going to be easy.

Okay, so it’s obvious that the big question concerning this sequel is, “Is it better than the first?” Well, coming from a lad like me who actually didn’t hate the first, but though it was mildly interesting disappointment, feels like that is the case here and I can’t say I’m too surprised. I knew that there was a whole bunch of promise in the first movie, but due to the fact that it didn’t have such a big-budget or cast-members, it seemed like it was a movie that could be remade, time and time again, except with more money and characters involved. Because all that movie really did was make a home-invasion thriller, with the fact that the cops can’t be called; as a result, making it something like a Funny Games, just with more blood, violence, characters, and less self-aware thoughts.

#TrueDetectiveSeason5

#TrueDetectiveSeason5

But with this sequel here, we get a bigger budget, which also means, more ground to cover. Which, yes, as a result, does mean that we get plenty of more violence, blood, and murder in all sorts of places now that everything can be spread out all across L.A. without there being any problems whatsoever with the studios. And because of that, the movie is definitely better; the violence, without sounding like a psychopathic nut-case, is pleasing because we get to see a lot of bad things, happen to bad people; the characters actually seem to have personalities, as well as smart minds that are capable of thinking rationally; and the ideas that carry-on from the first, are explored a lot more in an effective way that makes you think that maybe this Purge thing should not be happening. It gives this premise, this rather imaginary world more of a purpose and shows that, little by little, step by step, installment by installment, this franchise could really take the world by storm.

That said, it will definitely take some time and I don’t think we’re all that there yet. Because while this movie can sometimes be a compelling piece of violent fun, there are still some bits and pieces that need to be worked on. For instance, James DeMonaco, despite this practically being his “love child”, doesn’t seem like the perfect director for this material. You’d think that with the story spilling out all over on L.A.’s streets, that there would be more havoc, carnage and overall craziness, but there isn’t much of that. Sure, we hear people yelling, screaming, getting killed and all that fun stuff, but we never really get a sense that this is happening everywhere these people turn, which I think in a place like L.A., totally would be occurring.

Maybe it’s not quite all that far to be putting the blame on DeMonaco, and more of on the studios that back him up with all their wads of cash, but there was still a feeling of disappointment, from an action stand-point. Now, I don’t want it to seem as if I was asking for there to be a death every five or six seconds in the movie, but it did feel a bit “tame”, all considering what this plot truly is about and where it goes. Not saying you won’t enjoy some bouts of violence, blood and action, but when it does show up, it’s not quite filmed perfectly and makes you wonder why we haven’t put the shaky-cam thing to rest by now.

I mean, seriously: Everybody but Paul Greengrass hates it! Just put it away and bring it out every so often, like as if it was your acoustic-guitar you had from college and are bringing out at a fancy schmancy dinner party. That would be perfect and it would definitely show all of these action movies that, in order to excite or please us, they don’t have to constantly shake the camera as if they are in the freezing cold without any mittens; just have good action-sequences that are worthy of our full, undivided attention.

If the Raid 2 can do that, why can’t anyone else?!?!

Anyway, the one neat aspect about the Purge being such a big hit amongst and attracting anybody who automatically hears that title uttered in everyday conversations, means that the casts don’t have to be filled with big names to attract more people. That would most certainly help, but I think any Purge movie, is good enough than no Purge movie at all, regardless of who it is starring. And that’s why I like this cast so much: We’ve all seen these people before in countless other things, and although some of us may be able to tell them apart better than others, it’s still nice to see them getting work in a mainstream flick.

"Warrrrriorrrrrsssss commmeee outtt toooo....ergh! I mean, hey, let's Purge, guys!"

“Warrrrriorrrrrsssss commmeee outtt toooo….ergh! I mean, hey, let’s Purge, guys!”

Mostly though, I’m just speaking about the inclusion of Frank Grillo here and his lead role as Leo, the cold, stoic, soft-spoken bad-ass that has a plan and wants to stick to it as much as he can, with keeping just enough of his morality in tact. If you’ve ever seen Grillo in any of the numerous stuff he pops up in, you’d know the guy is the real deal and always leaves you wondering, “Why isn’t that guy a bigger name yet?”. Regardless of why that is, it doesn’t matter because Grillo’s a quality actor and handles this role very well, considering all he has to do is act tough, beat the shit out of people, and still be gentle enough to be considered “a good guy”. It’s a great role for Grillo to get his name out there and it’s also one that shows everybody he’s due for a Punisher re-boot.

You know, just saying.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re pretty fine, although there are some weak-links to be found. Real-life couple Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford are fine together, although I felt like he was a bit too stiff to play the common-dude-turned-bad-ass that occurs later on in the movie, as it occurs with just about every one of these characters. Carmen Ejogo is a lovely actress I’ve always enjoyed seeing in anything, and though I wish there was more for her to do other than look scared and frantically run around, having her around is still better than not. However, the weakest-link of this cast is the one who plays her daughter, Zoe Soul. I get that the character was a mid-teen that was trying to grasp what’s up with the world around her and how she wants to make a difference in it, but man, she would not shut up. Rather than having her play a character that is, essentially, “the cute kid” role that’s given to the ages that range from five-to-twelve, here, Soul plays the “too-smart-for-her-own-damn-good teenager”, and it’s the kind of role I don’t hope to see from here on out.

Although, like with the shaky-cam, nobody in Hollywood will listen. Story of my life.

Consensus: With a bigger budget and more ground to explore, the Purge: Anarchy is better than its predecessor, although it’s still clear that there’s plenty of improvement needed for this franchise to really work wonders and be more than just “a gimmick movie”.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!! 

Oh, Cynthia. Such a silly girl.

Oh, Cynthia. Such a silly girl.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Sex Tape (2014)

Should have learned their lesson from Pamela and Tommy Lee’s horn-honking dong.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) are the type of couple that, at one time early in their relationship, were constantly having sex. And when they weren’t having sex, they were thinking about where and when to have sex next. They just did it because they were young, horny and in love. However, as with most relationships, that all came to an end once Annie became pregnant and the two decided that they wanted to get married, have another kid, get jobs, buy a house, and eventually, turn into the same old and boring couple that they didn’t want to be when they first started out together, but sadly, became exactly like. And to make matters even worse, the two aren’t even having as much sex as they definitely would like to. That’s why Annie and Jay decide to clear out one night together where they’ll have sex and do everything they used to do when they were young – except that it doesn’t happen like that at all. In fact, barely anything happens. So that’s when the two come to the idea that they need to film themselves having sex for one reason or another, which totally works, especially since Jay deletes the video as soon as it’s over.

But does he?

And right from there, you have an-hour-and-a-half adventure movie of sorts in which we have this married-couple running all over everywhere in order to snatch iPads and find any way that’s at all possible in which they can delete this sex tape from all existence. While that should totally sound like buckets of fun, made even better with Segel and Diaz in the lead roles, it doesn’t transpire into much except just a couple of chuckles and plenty of missed opportunities.

Kids? A family? Breakfast and coffee in the morning? Ew! Boring!

Kids? A family? Breakfast and coffee in the morning? Ew! Boring!

Save for one sequence in which we get to spend a lovely 20 minutes with Rob Lowe’s wild and crazy corporate exec character that seems like he’s going to be a total square from the beginning, and then turns into a total loose cannon once the Scotch has been poured, the Slayer is turned on and the lines have been snorted. This whole sequence is easily the best, most hilarious part of the whole movie; not because Lowe is so damn funny (which he is), but because this movie actually seems like it wants to surprise us with showing this rather nerdy, all business-like guy, and have him totally be somebody else that’s not only crazy, but fun to watch be crazy.

That Rob Lowe, man. He truly is something else.

That being said, the rest of the movie is kind of a blur in my mind, only because it never seemed to surprise me with the things in which it was doing, or in how it wanted to make me laugh and why. I guess when you’re talking about a comedy, those two elements sort of go hand-in-hand, but for Sex Tape, they’re sort of different. See, we know we’re supposed to be laughing at this situation and how screwed-over this married-couple truly is, but there’s really no point in caring, so watching them think they are one step closer to solving their problem, only to have it then slam back in their face, was actually where most of the laughs came from. Not because they’re terrible people in any way, but because the movie itself never seems to know what to do with either of them, except have them run around, yell and talk about how angry they are with one another, as well as the situation they’re in.

And if that sounds like the quintessential piece to creating near-perfect character-development, then you and Jake Kasdan may have a lot in common, because that’s all he seems to think is needed here for Annie and Jay, our married-couple-in-peril for the next hour-and-a-half. Though a part of me wants to give these two characters a slide because Diaz and Segel are so believable in their chemistry together, another part of me wishes that there was more to these characters than just that they’re angry and desperate-as-hell. That’s all we really get to know about them and personally, it wasn’t enough to really care.

"Four-some anyone?"

“Four-some anyone?”

In fact, a more interesting movie could be made out of this in which the Sex Tape actually goes viral to the whole public, and the bond between the two is eventually tested. Would Annie and Jay be absolutely ashamed of having others see them butt-naked and boning? Or, would they just let it all slide off their backs as if nothing ever happened and just move on with their lives? Sure, placing these questions in would mean a darker, more dramatic movie, but I feel like it would have placed itself to being a rare comedy that not only makes people laugh, but has a lot to say as well.

Would it work? Who knows. But what I do know is that there was a huge element to this movie missing and that was its laughs. There needed to be more and most of all, there needed to be more coming from our leads. I mean sure, when you have a supporting cast featuring the likable-talents of Rob Corddry, Nat Faxon, Ellie Kemper, Nancy Lenehan, and a surprise appearance from somebody I swear to myself I wouldn’t spoil, it’s hard to complain, but when they over-shadow who are supposed to be your main focus-points throughout the whole presentation, it’s a bit of a problem. But what makes it an even bigger problem is that you have two likable peeps such as Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel in these roles, where they aren’t given much to do at all, except, like I said before, just run around, yell and talk about how angry they are with one another. Sure, they do an awful lot of banging as well, but honestly, who cares about that in a R-rated studio-comedy? I know there are some pervs out there who totally disagree with me, but trust me, you’d have a much better time just watching some of the most famous sex tapes made just to get what all of the hype is about.

Or just straight-up porn. Your choice, my friend.

Consensus: Most of the laughs in Sex Tape come from the supporting players, rather than Diaz or Segel themselves, although it’s clear that they are trying their hardest and just coming up empty on a route, relatively unfunny script.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

I'm usually the one with the roller-blades on. I'm freaky like that.

I’m usually the one with the roller-blades on. I’m freaky like that.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

A Long Way Down (2014)

If I ever have to be stuck in the same room as these people, remind me to just kill myself right then and there.

Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) was once a very popular day-time talk show host who found both his professional and personal life ruined when a recent sex-scandal involving him and a minor became known to the public; Maureen Thompson (Toni Collette) is a meek single mom who is struggling with taking care of her handicapped son, while also barely having any personal life to speak of; J.J. Maguire (Aaron Paul) is a struggling musician, working as a pizza delivery-man and is living with the news that he has brain cancer; and Jess Crichton (Imogen Poots) is the daughter of a very wealthy politician who she doesn’t care for and has just been recently dumped. All four of these people are so different in their own ways, yet, they share one common interest: They all wanted to jump off of the roof of the Toppers Building, on New Year’s Eve, which is where they all met in the first place. Eventually, the four decide that it would be best to continue to meet up, talk and see if they can maybe raise awareness for this sort of problem, however, not everybody is so willing to do so, or even capable because of how truly messed-up they are.

Though the reception for this hasn’t been too lovely to say the least, there were two factors really driving me more and more towards this. For starters, the cast is pretty impressive – more importantly because they cast Aaron Paul as an American in a very-British movie, something I was not expecting in the least bit from him. And secondly, this movie is an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel of the same, who also just so happens to be one of my favorite writers. No, I have not read the book and after seeing something like this, I feel like I should.

Oh, come on, Pierce! Live a little, take that shirt off, and show the ladies that you still like your martini's shaken, not stirred!

Oh, come on, Pierce! Live a little, take that shirt off, and show the ladies that you still like your martini’s shaken, not stirred!

Not to get a better impression of what this film was leading towards, but to somehow wipe the horrid taste of this flick out of my mouth.

Which, for someone such as myself, is really a shame because whenever I see a Hornby-adaptation, I feel like I can always hear or feel his style through the movie; but not here. All of that fun, that wit, and all of that humor seems to be lost here on a bunch of characters that seem as thin as the pieces of paper they originally appeared on, but aren’t likable, or even interesting to get to know better. They’re all pretty miserable, annoying people that try to make each of their lives better, but instead, just annoy the hell out of each other by being as unpleasant as they are humanly capable of. Which, if you wanted to know, is for the whole duration of this movie.

Now sure, there are some nice touches here and there – mostly due to the way the cast handles some of the more schmaltzier moments – but I really couldn’t get past most of this movie’s problems. It has an interesting premise for sure, but the movie can’t do much with it. It just has these characters talk to one another and, presumably, get on each and every one of each other’s nerves, only making the idea of suicide seem all the more reasonable. I know that was a low joke, but you get my drift: These characters are unlikable and to make matters worse, the cast can’t really do much for them either; which is to say that mostly everybody acts the same here, as they’ve acted in about five of their past pieces of work.

Pierce Brosnan is a crotchety old dick that seems like he could be a nice guy, but doesn’t seem like he wants to be and only wants his last shot at fame instead; Toni Collette is charming at times, but even she’s so quiet, you wonder if she would have been better written as a mute; Imogen Poots runs around, yells at people, makes fun of them, gets all up in their business, and gets upset when others don’t take so kindly to her constant line of questioning; and Aaron Paul, bless his heart, is basically just Jesse Pinkman here, except this time, without their being any meth around whatsoever.

Which, honestly, is kind of a shame, because this movie barely has anything that resemble the slightest amount of something “fun”. Now, I know that this is a flick about suicide and people coming to the end of their roads, but still, something like this doesn’t have to be such a dramatic-bore. Especially in the middle-act when we get a chance to see all of these workers make some magic together and let loose a bit. But nope, we never get that. Instead, we just get more and more talk about suicide, why they hate their lives, and why they are annoyed of the other person they’re with.

Betch.

Betch.

In all honesty, if I wanted to sit around a room where a bunch of people said how much they disliked the person sitting across the table from them, I’d just go to my Grand-mom’s place for Sunday dinner. But, I don’t want to. So, when I want to watch a movie that features some very talented people, I want to at least see more than just a bunch of arguments and nagging. I want to see some emotion, heart, insight, and most of all, fun. There’s hardly any of that here and although the film definitely likes to act as if it has a funny-bone located in its body, the mark just never hits. It’s just unfunny and uninteresting.

On second thought, Sunday dinner at my Grand-mom’s doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it.

Love you, ‘Gams. See you then.

Consensus: Though it is clearly packed with a promising premise, and an even more promising cast, A Long Way Down just never knows what it wants to do with either of it, so instead, just becomes a ill-advised bore that no one wants to talk them off the ledge.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Wah. Go home and shut up!

Wah. Go home and shut up!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The We and the I (2013)

Take a cab next time.

It’s the last day of school for these high school students from the Bronx and they’re already to get a start on their much-anticipated summer. However, in order to do so, all that’s standing in front of them is a very, very long bus ride from school, all the way to their each respective stops. On the bus, is obviously the bus driver and a few civilians here and there, but for the most part, it’s mostly the student-body who take over everything; being that they’re young and rowdy and all. And with practically the whole school being on the bus, that means we get all of the usual cliques and social groups one sees in high school: the bullies, the nerds, the smelly kids, the drama queens, the homosexuals the skanks, the stoners, the musicians, the tools, etc. We even get an old lady that makes to fun of kids’ penis sizes. So yeah, this bus has got everything and everybody you could imagine, which also means that there’s going to be a whole lot of drama, too. And when there’s drama, there’s always a bad fall-out, no matter what the problem may be.

Whenever Michel Gondry’s name is attached to anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, you always have to expect the unexpected. Which, in most cases anyway, means that there’s going to be a whole lot of strange things popping out, left and right, up and down, exactly when you least expect it. Some may call this “pretentious”, whereas others may just simply call it “artistic”, or even “original”; but whatever the word is, it doesn’t matter, because Gondry likes to make movies that absolutely surprise us and take us back for a moment. Sometimes those bold decisions on his behalf work exceptionally well, and other times, they don’t, but for the most part, the surprises we get from him are a hell of a lot better than those we probably get from our parents on Christmas morning.

Basically me in high school. Nope, the one in the middle. Yes, the one with the wig.

Basically me in high school. Nope, the one in the middle. Yes, the one with the wig.

Sorry, mom and dad. Love ya guys, but I’ve about had it with socks for the fourth year in a row!

Anyway, like I was saying about Gondry and the flicks he chooses to do, it’s always a surprise with him, which is why when I heard that he decided to direct a movie that took place solely on a bus, with unprofessional actors, I was sort of confused. Was the dude really that desperate to save as much money as humanly possible without pissing his studios off enough? Or simply, was this just another case of Michel Gondry pulling a fast one on us and showing us that, even if he’s been around for a little longer than a decade, he’s still capable of surprises in his rather storied-career?

For the most part, it’s a little bit of both, but more so leaning on the later. Which isn’t to say that what Gondry does here isn’t respectable – it totally is. What Gondry is able to do, is that he’s able to make one, single location seem to expand into being something more. And although there a whole bunch of flashbacks/dream-sequences in which we get inside a certain character’s head when he/she is speaking about something, the real feeling of there being a larger world outside of this bus is solely by these characters and listening to them talk. When a character here speaks, you believe them in everything they’re saying; not because they feel so real, but because they look so real as is. You automatically buy them as young kids just getting out of high school (mostly because they probably were in real life), but you also buy whatever it is that they’re are going on and on about.

Most of the time, too, what it is that they’re talking about isn’t very interesting at all – the subjects range from being about parties, drinking, smoking, hookin’ up with hotties, the usual drama crap, etc. – but since these characters look so real, you are slightly interested in hearing what they have to say. Just like you’d probably be if you met someone at a party and they just started going on about whatever comes out of their mouth next – it may not be interesting, or even remotely “cool” to listen to, but hey, if they’re talking and they’re the only thing in front of you, then that you’ll listen. Or, you could be a total dick, leave mid conversation and act as if you’ve never met that person in your life. Ever.

Then, it all comes down to a judge of your character really. So the choice is up to you on that one.

And most of the time, the script doesn’t really try to go for anything deeper here than “problems high school kids have”, but it’s still slightly nostalgic in the way that it reminds you of the early days of summer in which you didn’t know what to expect next, except just fun with friends, That’s what summer is all about in the first place, and even if you haven’t yet had that “ideal summer” in your life, then don’t worry, because it’ll come your way. And if not, just watch this movie and have that feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Basically me before high school. Yes, both of them.

Basically me before high school. Yes, both of them.

That’s not to say though, that because this film is so pleasant in its look and design, that means that it’s easily a great film, with barely any problems, because it totally is. For starters, while the idea of casting non-professionals in these roles may have been a bold one on Gondry’s behalf, not all of it works out quite well for him. Some of these actors feel as if Gondry just plopped the camera right in front of their faces and gave them some cue-cards on how to act when and where, and just let them roll with it. While that would work and feel as natural as natural can be for some great actors, here, there are some weak-links that feel like they’re trying too hard, or not trying at all. The ones that don’t seem to try at all and just be themselves are fine, but when you have maybe seven or eight cast-members who feel like natural, realistic teens talking, out of a cast that features maybe 20 or so, then you’ve got some problems.

Not a lot, but some.

Not 99, but maybe 30. Don’t know why there’s a random Jay-Z reference thrown in there, but hey! Whatever!

Consensus: In his typical, quirky-fashion, Michel Gondry takes some surprisingly bold moves with the We and the I, most of which work and show that he’s capable of a bare-bones dramedy, while some, don’t and show that maybe he went a bit too deep into his mind.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Where I'll be living once my parents kick me out when I turn 45.

Where I’ll be living once my parents kick me out when I turn 45.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

What’s a VHS?

In a downbeat area of New Jersey, there lies what seems to be one of the last ever mom-and-pop-run video-shops that actually still sells VHS tapes. The place is called “Be Kind Rewind” and it’s run by the old and a bit out-of-touch Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). However, in order to see what’s wrong with his video-store and how he can fix all of its problems, he decides to take a bit of a vay-cay and do some thinking on his own. This leaves his most trusted, dedicated employee, Mike (Mos Def), the responsibility of watching over the whole shop and making sure nothing bad at all happens. Somehow though, it totally does, because once the buffoon of the neighborhood, Jerry (Jack Black), gets electrocuted and comes into the shop, he wipes all of the tapes clean with nothing but static on them. Scared to have his boss find this out and be ultimately disappointed in him, Mike decides to pick up a camera, get Jerry and start filming their own versions of these movies. It’s called “Sweded”, and somehow, the town catches on and, in a way, like these versions a lot more than the actual movies themselves. This gets the store all sorts of attention – both wanted and unwanted.

So yeah, while that premise may sound strange and all, just let me tell you that this is a film written and directed by Michel Gondry; somebody who is definitely one for not always being the most “normal” film-maker out there. However, that’s the reason why this movie actually works – Gondry has a vision that may alienate some, but to others, there’s a certain joy in seeing what he sees through those artistic eyes of his. And while I couldn’t necessarily call something like this “artistic”, there’s still something joyous about it that makes it all worth watching.

"So you want me to get rid of all the Woody Allen pictures?"

“So you want me to get rid of all the Woody Allen pictures we have in store?”

Gondry’s weird-isms aside and all.

Although, I do have to say that for the first half-hour of this movie, nothing seemed to be happening at all. I get that there was supposed to be some sort of reason behind why these tapes were all erased and therefore, drive these guys to actually have to make these Swedes, but it seemed way too slow and messy. Almost as if Gondry himself was searching everywhere he could for anything that resembled a plot and didn’t know where to start, or end; he was just searching and searching, while annoying us at the same time.

But eventually, once the plot gets going and the Swede-ing starts happening, then the movie gets to be a bunch of fun. Which is mostly due to the fact that I think Gondry shows exactly what it’s like to have the creative adrenaline run through your body; the same kind of adrenaline that makes you want to get up from what you are doing and just have the world see what it is that you see, or are able to create. A part of me likes to think that Gondry uses this angle, only to express his own knack for creating low-budget remakes of popular films, but another part of me likes to think that whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter. He’s clearly happy making these small, really cheesy remakes, and as a result, I was too.

And basically, that’s the whole gist of this movie. For a good portion of it, at least, the movie is all about what it’s like to have the need to make a movie right from where you are, with whatever you’ve got. It doesn’t matter if you have a budget, a whole lot of talent, or even all of the right equipment to get going from the ground-up. All you need is some inspiration and that drive to make you keep on shooting whatever it is that you want to shoot. If it’s a video of you just ranting about whatever it is that’s on your mind in that point in time – then go for it! If it’s a video of some Charlie kid biting somebody – then sure, totally go for it!

Whatever the idea in your head may be, it doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that you’re able to get up off your rump and film something! That’s what movies are all about in the first place, and while this movie may not be the most perfect piece of cinema to exemplify that fact, it’s still a noble effort from someone who clearly knows a thing or two about what it is that he’s talking about/filming.

How I imagine he acts every time he steps out of the shower.

How I imagine he looks every time he steps out of the shower.

As for the rest of the movie, it’s all pretty fine, especially in the casting-department. Though Jack Black’s shtick is the same here, as it’s been in, I don’t know, say, every single one of his damn movies, it’s still pretty entertaining and makes sense once this Jerry character gets a little bit too big for his britches and acts like he’s some big-time star of some sort. Sure, he has plenty of haters, but Black’s shtick, when used well, is entertaining and fun to watch. Same goes for Mos Def who, despite being on a short list of rappers-turned-actors, is one of the better ones because he’s able to go from role-to-role, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard for one thing or another. He’s just being an actor, although there still has yet to be that one role that distinguishes him from the rest of the group.

Still though, I hold out hope. Not just for Def, but for the future of movies as a whole. Because even though certain people don’t believe the movie-business will be the same twenty-thirty years from now, there’s still hope out there that people will feel the need to want to express themselves in a fun, creative manner. Especially with a camera in their hand; something in front of them; and a chock full of ideas inside their noggins.

I still hold out hope, people. And you should too.

Consensus: While inherently messy, Be Kind Rewind still gets itself together in time for it to be a fun, creative, and rather passionate-look at what it takes for a person to create something, whether it be a film, a book, a song, or any piece of work that expresses themselves for being who they are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Now they're all working at FYE. Damn, DVD's.

Now they’re all working at FYE. Damn, DVD’s.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Zero Effect (1998)

We all knew there was more to Bill Pullman than just delivering kick-ass speeches.

Bill Pullman is Daryl Zero, the self-titled world’s greatest detective and Ben Stiller is his reluctant assistant. Together, they begin to investigate a blackmail case that turns out to be much more than they had originally expected. So much so that Daryl Zero himself, realizes he may be a bit too over his head for the first time in his life and may have to cool his jets before he makes this the last case he ever does.

Son of famed writer/director Lawrence Kasdan, Jake Kasdan finally got the chance to make a name for himself with a little flick he did back in ’98 that I can’t believe I found anywhere. I hear about it from time-to-time and I even saw it at a yard sale not too long ago, but other than that, nothing else for this little-known flick has ever popped-up.

Thankfully, On Demand always has me covered so that I can discover little gems such as these.

What I liked most about what Kasdan does with this flick here is how he starts it off in a goofy, off-kilter type of way but then soon changes up the whole pace to where it’s actually more about the mystery case than you would think. The opening credits and first 15 minutes may have you think in you’re in-store for a type of nutty, Coen Brothers-like dark comedy/thriller, but somehow that changes up about half-way through; without feeling too sudden or random. It’s just right, because these characters are given such time and care through Kasdan’s direction.

RIP payphones

RIP payphones.

I think that’s where most of the kudos to this script has to go to is with Kasdan’s handle of these characters and their stories. As soon as we meet these two guys, they seem like your typical bunch of dorks that we have to watch for the next two hours, just walking around and bumbling on and on about some case that has no suspense or surprises. However, that’s the difference between this film and those other flicks: This one actually has some surprises and characters we care about. The mystery did get me involved and kept me wondering what was going to happen next, but I also felt a bit worried for what was actually going to happen to these characters in the first place, since Kasdan made me care for them so much in the beginning. It’s remarkable how Kasdan was able to balance out the human side of this story, along with the mystery one so well to the point of where the transition doesn’t even seem noticeable. Really takes you by surprise even more when you realize that this is by the same cat who did raunchy-comedies like Bad Teacher and Orange County.

Where this film lost me a bit was by the end and how it seems like they really, really lost any sign of their funny-bone that seemed attached so well in the first couple acts. I will admit, I was going into this film expecting some laughs and even though I got that for a good amount of the picture, they seem to have taken a trip elsewhere once the middle act comes strolling right through. That bothered me because the off-kilter humor had a certain type of charm and energy to it that made this flick pop out a bit more and I could have only wished that Kasdan decided to stick with this side of the film just a bit more. You know, just so I was able to get entertained from all areas of the film.

But despite this, the film still works because of what I mentioned earlier: It’s characters and their development. And when I’m talking about “character development”, I’m mainly talking about Bill Pullman and what Kasdan gives him to play around with as Daryl Zero. What’s so fun to watch about Pullman in the first place is that the guy seems like he’s really having a fun time right from the start with this role as this goofy detective, and it only seems like it’s going to get better with him along the ride. This is exactly what happens, but not in the way that you would expect, nor in the way that I actually expected.

Ben Stiller: All the ladies love 'em.

Ben Stiller: All the ladies love ‘em.

Zero begins to find out more about himself through this one gal he becomes involved with and as corny as it may seem to some, to me, it seemed believable and deserved since this character was a mystery to me and I wanted to know more about him. Pullman’s great when it comes to displaying all of the goofy antics and ways of this guy, but when it comes down to getting underneath his skin and realizing what makes him tick the way he does, he’s even better and it makes you think more about Pullman’s acting chops. The guy has never been perfect, but he’s always been good and that’s definitely what’s on-display here.

The other character in this flick is played by Ben Stiller and as good as Stiller is with handling these types of yuppie-like roles, he sort of gets a bit annoying after a bit and you can’t help but be less interested in his story, compared to Zero’s. Now granted, this flick is mainly about Zero and his realization of himself through this one case, but Stiller’s character never really seems to get that chance to fully flesh-out and show us more about him. The guy wants to get out of the life that Zero has put him in, get married, have a family and eventually settle into retirement, but it’s a story I, for some odd reason, didn’t see myself caring about too much when all was said and done.

Because, when it comes right down to it, you can’t mess with Bill Pullman, people. That’s just a fact.

Consensus: It may not stay consistently funny throughout the whole duration of its two-hour time-limit, but Zero Effect at least keeps its story interesting, fun, fresh and surprising in ways that may take some for a bit of a different turn.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Eat your heart out, ladies. And possibly curious men.

Eat your heart out, ladies. And possibly curious men.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Another Earth (2011)

So, you’re trying to tell me that there is another Dan the Man? I gotta meet this a-hole!

After a terrible incident, brilliant MIT astrophysics student Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) lands herself in jail for quite some time. That’s why when she gets out, not everything is as normal as she once had imagined. But, she eventually strikes up a relationship with a composer who has just reached the pinnacle of his profession (William Mapother), even though he is suffering from a severe bout of depression. Also to add a bit of insult to injury, there’s a duplicate Earth that appears in the sky that nobody on “real” Earth has any idea to make of it, although there’s plenty of discussions and ideas floating all around.

The whole idea behind this movie, is a pretty cool one to say the least. There’s this other planet, that features imitations of us, doing the same things we do, acting the same way we do, and even living out our lives the same way we do. Even as unlikely as that may be, it’s still pretty cool and gives this flick a sci-fi edge that can’t be ignored.

However, I wish the actual creators of this film knew that because holy hot damn does this baby not make sense!

Okay, first of all, let me just start off by pointing out where this film did not make single bit of sense to me. The times that they explain “Earth version 2″ makes no sense because it seems like the planet has seem to come out of nowhere. I highly doubt that a planet would just pop-up in our atmosphere without anybody realizing anything in the first place, and then come so close to our planet, without ever causing any chaotic imbalances. For example, Earth version 2 is so close to our atmosphere that it pretty much seems as if it’s going to hit us straight-on and nothing ever changes. The waves don’t pick up, fires don’t ever ignite, light never changes, and hell, there wasn’t even gusts of wind that ever seemed to get vicious.

"It says that I have to be 'moody and silent'. Now, how the hell do I do that?"

“It says that I have to be ‘moody and silent’. Now, how the hell do I do that?”

Granted, the whole film looked miserable with it’s hand-held approach, but nothing ever seems to put these people in danger by the fact that this other planet may possibly collide with their own. I’m not a huge science fan or anything, but even I myself know a thing or two about our globe and what would happen if any other the size of our own came close to us. Maybe a science-major knows more of this than I do, but if so, then so be it. I might just be ignorant and all.

Anyway, all that science-babble aside, the movie’s pretty fine. It just takes awhile of getting used to once you realize that this movie isn’t going to be sci-fi based at all; it’s just going to feature some elements to make a rather human-story, seem even more human.

The main theme behind this flick is the idea of being forgiven because of the proposition of another life being out there. The idea of another life is obviously replaced by the symbolism of the other Earth that’s out there and still offers up the same ideas, but it’s well-done and thought-provoking. Can we be forgiven for something as terrible as the act committed here in this movie in another life? Or, will the guilt of that act always be with us no matter where our minds, bodies, or souls travel towards? It brings up a lot of good points and I liked the way director Mike Cahill brings that out in this production that literally seems like he got it made in his backyard.

Granted, there are a lot of scenes and moments in this flick that come off as a bit pretentious where these people all seem to be talking way too philosophically about nothing, but in the realms of the atmosphere that Cahill creates, it seems reasonable and that’s what I liked most about this flick. It is a very grim tale, but it also shows you the ways that certain people forgive others and forgive themselves in the meantime. The romance that is even created between these two, feels real because they both need each other in their lives but there is still an ounce of mystery and tension because there is that one big secret that keeps them apart and the way they get through it is something that came off as very real.

But then when you have a story like this, along with a pretty neat idea about another Earth being out there, you would think that this film would really pack an original and emotional punch but somehow just doesn’t. The explored territory is dramatic, but not very original or refreshing. The way this relationship goes between these two people is at first interesting because it’s usually how all strangers start off by getting to know one another, but then there is this one scene that sort of blows that whole romance-angle out of proportion and makes it seem a bit melodramatic. That bummed me out too because it seemed like this film was really going to hit that romance angle hard, along with that other Earth idea, but instead comes off as a bit disjointed where one subject gets more attention than the other. Could have really went somewhere, but just never fully amounts to the greatness it could have achieved.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

The real greatness behind this film lies within Brit Marling as she not only co-wrote this flick, but also stars in it as Rhoda Williams. There’s something about Marling that caught me off-guard right from the start where she seemed like this type of gal that has a lot more to her, rather than just being a plain, simple, and pretty blonde. Instead, she seemed more complex than that and her character shows that. Rhoda is pretty much a mess and there are a lot of key scenes where we see how she lives with the life she now has after this horrible incident and it comes off as very interesting and in a way, I would have liked to see her own film dedicated strictly to that idea. Marling always seems like a compelling figure in this film and I felt totally behind her character even though she committed this horrible act and it’s just another layer that was able to added onto her already three-dimensional character.

Then, there’s William Mapother, who is always good in everything he does and proves it once again here. It’s crazy to see the transition this guy goes through from being a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, to all of a sudden changing up his ways and becoming more stand-offish to people after this horrible incident. It seems very real, as that’s how Mapother plays it as so, but how he starts to go back to his old ways and look at life with a smile again, also seems very realistic and shows you how complex this guy can be in his own right. They had a nice chemistry together that didn’t just seem like two people who were lonely and needed a nice hump or two, but more of a connection to a human instead. It’s a really nice element to this flick and I could have only wished they focused on that a lot more.

Consensus: The premise is interesting and the performances are wonderful, but Another Earth does suffer a bit from not going further, and digging deeper into the promise it creates.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Boyhood (2014)

Officially feel ancient right now.

Starting from his early days as a trouble-making six-year-old, to when he’s a rebellious, deep-thinking 18-year-old, we see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) go through a lot of changes. However, we also see a lot of changes happen to those around him. His sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), does constantly pick on him and get him in trouble for stuff that he doesn’t ever seem to do, yet, at the end of the day, is the one that sticks up for him the most. His mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), is something of a dysfunctional woman just barely getting by – with her kids, her house, her job, her relationships, her divorce, basically everything. And last, but surely not least, we have his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), who isn’t around as much, but definitely makes sure that when it is his turn to spend time with the kids, he never lets them down, nor does he ever take their precious time together for granted. For he knows that, sooner or later, they’re going to have to grow up, take responsibility for themselves and most importantly, make smart decisions. That’s what Mason plans on doing, although, like most humans do, he struggles to always get everything right.

So yeah, I stretched that plot-synopsis out a lot longer than it needed to be. Because, if I was just being honest, simple and easy (which I hardly am ever), I would have just said: Kid grows up for 14 years, most of which, we see occur in front of our own very eyes.

Basically, that’s Boyhood for you all in a nutshell. It’s the movie that Richard Linklater and movie-enthusiasts have been talking about for years because while it seems like an interesting concept, one has to wonder how it would all play out. Would it be a gimmick that just uses the fact everybody on screen is growing older and older, right in front of our very own eyes as a way to show something neat and cool to us? Or, would it give us a meaningful, heartfelt story about what it means to live life, grow up, learn, and just simply be human in every which way?

Aw, look at him. Just a cute, little kid reading a book with his mommy and little sister.

Aw, look at him. Just a cute little kid reading a book with his mommy and sister.

Well, thankfully, mostly due to Linklater being at the helm, it’s definitely the later.

For most of you who may not know, I love most of Linklater’s movies. His experimental pieces irk me only slightly, but when it comes right down to it, and Linklater feels like playing everything simple, he’s an absolute joy to watch. Not because he makes good, riveting pieces of work that compel you to your final hour, but because the movies he creates feel exactly like real life. And I know that sounds hokey and all, but in Linklater’s case, it isn’t at all; it’s mostly what he gets by on as a director and though he takes a step or two here and there into some strange territory, he always finds a way to bounce back and give us an heartfelt, naturalistic story that feels like real life, happening right in front of you.

And that’s exactly what Boyhood is. All two-hours-and-45-minutes of it, too.

And yes, while I do realize that that’s a lot for some of you more testy viewers out there who are probably still getting over the near-three hour desolation that was Transformers 4, I assure you, it’s not that much of a big deal. It goes by so quickly and easily, you’ll not only wonder where the hell all that time went in the first place, but also feel sad that it is actually all over. Because, for the most part, this is the type of film that, from the very beginning, feels like something more than just a simple story about a kid growing up, learning lessons, and eventually being a man that he sets out to be. Nope, this story’s about something more, something bigger than just this one kid.

Linklater knows that life is precious, life is something to behold, take care of and experience to the best of one’s ability, and through this Mason’s kid’s story, we see exactly how meaningful life can be. Mason’s story doesn’t really consist of many things happening, except that he wakes up everyday, goes to school, eats, does what he has to do, goes to sleep and the next day, continues the same cycle. It may sound boring, but it’s totally not because Linklater finds this rather fascinating.

In a way, it’s almost like Linklater himself wants to allow Mason’s story be anybody’s story. It doesn’t matter if your parents were ever divorced, or if your mom went from one dangerous drunk, to another, like clockwork, but what does matter is that you’ve lived a life up to this point. It doesn’t have to be an eventful one, nor does it have to be one chock full of unlimited fun and surprises; all it has to be is a life that you’ve wanted to be living, all up until this point. If you can do that, then Boyhood is the perfect movie to see because of how familiar most of what you will see is. While that may sound generic and all, there’s something rather endearing about watching somebody go through most of the same events that you yourself may have had to go through at one point. It not only has you feel closer to the story, but also understand that most people’s lives play out exactly like this: Sometimes, things happen; sometimes, they don’t. It’s not like how they do in the movies.

Pretty ironic, eh?

But anyway, back to what I was saying before about the gimmick: Yes, it’s pretty interesting. Not just in the way that it’s hardly ever been done before, but because it’s happened in such a high-profile way that’s deliberate and ended up working out. And by “working out”, I don’t mean that they were actually able to cobble up all this film together from all of these different years without their being many complications added into the mix, but by how the movie itself never seems to fall back on that reality. Sure, we see the kid grow up oh so suddenly, but it’s never made to have us drop our jaws and go, “Oh mah god! But look at all that facial hair!”. Instead, it’s just how you’d see someone in real life age: Day by day, parts of their body start to change and one day, poof, they’re looking like a wizard.

And this all brings me to our guinea pig of sorts for the whole two-and-a-half hours: Ellar Coltrane. Though I don’t feel comfortable with necessarily calling him a “newcomer”, I will say that I see a bright future ahead of him and it’s all because he seems like a natural screen-presence – sometimes for all the right reasons, as well as the bad. When Coltrane is a little kid, he seems to be living it up in his youth, asking questions, interested about the world that surrounds him and just wanting to cause any sorts of havoc that he can. He’s a typical kid and it only continues until he grows up, graduates grade school and becomes what most of us all know as a TEENAGER. Oh dear lord no! Say it ain’t so!

Well, I will say it because once Coltrane becomes a teenager, things get a bit shaky; shaky in the way that Mason starts to become more awkward around those around him and more angsty as a result as well, but shaky in the way that this kid runs a pretty close line to being considered “annoying”. He’s constantly going on about some big conspiracy theory he had in his head; doesn’t know how to talk to most of those around him (especially girls); and just seems like he’s pissing his life away on taking photographs, but never doing anything to take them to the next level or step. Generally, we could see him as “unlikable”, but the fact that Coltrane himself is mostly the same age as the kid the portraying, there’s a feeling you get where you want this kid to just do fine and chive on. He may not always make the right decisions, but when he does, it’s like an easy victory you get in the pit of your stomach when somebody you know or like does something you want them to do.

Oh, okay. Guess he's going through that "emo-phase" now, but hey, he's still a bit precious, right?

Wow. Okay. Guess he’s going through that “emo-phase” now, but hey, he’s still a bit precious……..right?

What I’m trying to say is that Mason becomes our buddy of sorts, and for others, maybe even another child. So when he wins, we win. And when he loses, we lose even worse. It’s a push-and-pull roller-coaster of emotions that will definitely pull you in from the very start and it only helps that Linklater himself hardly ever pulls any punches in delivering this story to us. Sometimes, we see important changes in his life occur; other times, we don’t. We get glimpses and peaks into his life at whatever present time and it’s always interesting, because it always feels real. Nothing life-changing, or sudden, or dramatic; just realistic and natural. The only way Linklater knows how to make most of his movies.

Like I was saying about Coltrane though, the kid’s great and definitely shows that he’s able to hold his own with those around him. I’m interested in seeing what he’s got next, as I think this role doesn’t perfectly summon-up who he is as an actor, but will definitely be a stepping-stone of sorts for a bright future.

Also helping Coltrane out as Mason’s older sister is Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, who feels just as natural as being a child, to being a teenager, as he is. Both create a wonderful chemistry that feels like the quintessential sister-brother dynamic: She looks out for him, but knows that he can make her seem “lame”, even if that isn’t his original intention. But the one’s who really help this movie out to move and move and move as much as it possibly can without moving too fast, is Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their parents.

I haven’t seen Arquette in a role as meaty as this in awhile, and it’s great to see her back in action, because she is such a lovely presence to watch on screen. It doesn’t matter if she’s being mean, funny, upset, ridiculous, or crazy; she feels like a real mommy that loves her kids, would do anything for them and wouldn’t stop at anything to ensure their safety/happiness. Ethan Hawke’s daddy character is the same way, albeit more charming and full of fun. Which, I guess, is sort of the point: He’s the divorced-daddy that sees the kids every so often, and always wants to make sure their time with him is the greatest they could ever have. He’s not the best guy in the world, but he continues to try each and everyday he sees them and that’s more than enough. Not just for them, but for us as well.

Because, essentially, their adventure, is our adventure. Even if we haven’t lived it before, we are now and there’s an inherent beauty in that.

Consensus: In essence, not much happens in Boyhood, but that’s also another reason why it’s wonderful in taking everyday life, and making it into an emotional, compelling and always interesting epic that not only stretches the form of current-day movie-making, but changes our perspective on our own lives as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

What the hell?!?! How did this happen?!?! Where did time go!??! Waah! I want my mommy!

What the hell?!?! How did this happen?!?! Where did time go!??! Waah! I want my mommy!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,452 other followers