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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Cuban Fury (2014)

Sorry, C-Tates, but the Brits may have this one.

Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) used to be a huge-lover of dancing. One in particular – salsa dancing. He and his sister (Olivia Colman) were dance partners, who were coached by a dance legend (Ian McShane), and were destined for great and wonderful things in the world of dancing. However, at around age 13, Bruce lost all interest when he was beaten-up by a bunch of bullies who consider him a bit of a “wuss” for wanting to wear tight-clothing, prissy-shoes and dance his fanny off. Right away, this took Bruce away from the idea of dancing, and more towards the idea of just being an average Joe. Fast forward many years later, and well, that’s exactly what he is – he’s single, works a dead-end, 9-to-5 job, has a co-worker he can’t stand (Chris O’Dowd), and hangs with a bunch of buddies who only talk about girls they think are hot, despite them all being married and with kids. However, one shine of light walks into his life with a new boss of his (Rashida Jones), who, believe it or not, actually has an interest in salsa dancing herself. This is when Bruce decides that it’s time to go back to his old ways and start moving and grooving his rump, all in hopes to win the girl of his dreams. The only problem is that it’s been quite awhile since he’s stepped foot on a dance-floor, which not only means he’s a bit rusty, but also out-of-shape. Way, WAY out-of-shape, to be exact.

Eyes ahead, buddy!

Eyes ahead, buddy!

We’ve all seen Nick Frost before, usually as the lovable, goofy side-kick that is there to serve the story, but isn’t necessarily the one our main focus-point is on. Which, for most people, including Frost himself, is fine. There are just some actors and actresses out there who are better served as supporting-players that are there for rare delights, rather than being the center of attention, where they are more than likely going to be spoiled after about an-hour-and-a-half of just them.

But, seeing as how Frost has been in the game for quite some time, it makes sense that now he would get the chance to be the star of his own show, and what a unique show it is to see him apart of. Never thought I’d imagine him dancing, nor did I imagine him playing the straight-man, but here he is: Not only doing a lot of salsa dancing, but barely ever cracking a joke that doesn’t fall flat on its face like it is supposed to. It’s strange to see anybody whom we often proclaim as being “the goof-ball”, not be as such, but Frost, believe it or not, does well with it.

Then again, he isn’t given too much else to do other than just be charming, while also being a normal-person, but he handles it all fine. Heck, even the dancing, which, from what I hear, is mostly him, is impressive as well. Definitely didn’t seem like an easy-feet, given the fact that he is, strictly speaking, not in the best shape for being a salsa dancing, but that clearly didn’t get in the way of being apart of this movie. He’s happy he’s starring in it and the feeling is mutual.

Overall, it’s a pretty happy movie.

That’s why it’s hard to come down on a movie like this for being so conventional and obvious. You can tell every note that’s going to hit, from a mile away and there are almost no surprises. Maybe even worse, is that it’s not really all that funny. There’s many jokes made at the fact that dancing is sort of, kind of, maybe not for straight-dudes who are in touch with their masculinity and the ladies they bring to their bed every night, and by now, they all seem a bit tired. Even the character of Bejan, an ultra-feminine fellow dancer, played charmingly by Keyvan Novak, seems like the kind of “gay best-friend”-type you’d get in a rom-com. The only difference of him being here is that he just so happens to be the gay-friend of another male, but that’s just about it. Nothing else is really be out-of-the-ordinary, or even shocking for that matter.

Popped-collar? What a dick.

Popped-collar? Total dick.

Instead, where this movie’s strong-suit really lies in, is the fact that it’s cast is having a fun time. In fact, the one I’d say whom is having the most fun out of all is Chris O’Dowd as Bruce’s co-worker who is an absolute and total dick. It’s actually the role we don’t see O’Dowd too often play, but believe it or not, he’s actually quite great in it and it’s nice to see him shake things up a bit. Maybe he’s a bit too over-the-top with the nasty and cruel things he says to a person, almost to the point of where you don’t even believe that he’s never gotten socked in the face recently by anyone, but I feel like that’s more of just how far O’Dowd may have been willing to go with his improvisations. Also, I can’t rain too much on his parade, considering that he’s the second cast-member in this movie that was actually able to draw some laughs out of me.

That other person who made me laugh a whole heck of a lot was Ian McShane, who I honestly feel like they just called-in at the last second, and he decided to show up whenever he felt like it. Whatever the reason was, it doesn’t matter, because he’s always funny and always stealing the show; just like you’d imagine every Ian McShane performance being written as.

I would hate to even forget to mention Rashida Jones’ love-interest character, or even Olivia Colman as Bruce’s likable, spirited sister, but the fact is this: They are just fine. Jones seems like she may be able to break-out of that Ann Perkins-mode she’s created for herself, but this may not be the movie to do so; and as for Colman, well, she gives some levity to a role that could have easily been written-off as “the sister of the main character who is there to shed some advice on his life, even though she may not have it all figured-out like she says” type of role. Yeah, it’s a long description, but you know what I’m talking about.

Consensus: Not as crackling with humor as much as it should be, Cuban Fury gets by on the utter-charm and likability of its cast, because everything else is pretty standard, even by comedy’s standards.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No Simon or Edgar around, it's finally my time to shine."

“No Simon or Edgar around, it’s finally my time to shine.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Fargo (1996)

Can’t ever get enough of hearing the term, “You betcha!”

A car salesman (William H. Macy) is in a tight pinch for money and needs it as quick as humanly possible. His solution? Hire two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife for ransom, so that he can get the money from his very wealthy father-in-law and split it with the two criminals. Everything seems to be fine for the three and going according to plan, until people show up dead due to some tragic consequences. That brings pregnant police officer, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), to the scene where she ends up figuring out just what is shaking all around her sweet, little town of Fargo.

Before I go on any further and lose more and more friends, family, fans, and confidantes than I already know I will, I just want to state this right away: I liked this movie. I can’t argue against the Coens’ artistry as writers, or as directors; the film is always entertaining, no matter how many times I actually do view it (fourth or fifth by now). That being said: It is a tad overrated.

Yup, I know. Bring on the boos.

It’s okay though. It’s exactly what I expect by now, seeing as I’ve had this opinion for as long as I can remember. And it isn’t because I enjoy going against the societal-norm because it makes me look strong, hip, and cool; it’s more just that this movie has never really charmed me as much as it has done so to everyone else.

Hey woMAN, nice shot.

Hey woMAN, nice shot.

That said, there are some little pleasures to be found in this nearly hour-and-a-half movie that still surprise me to this day. First of all, it’s the relaxed-tone of this movie that really does it some justice, as the Coens seem to throw us little, itty, bitty details every once and awhile. Just by the way in which a character looks, or does, or says something, gives you the slightest hint about what we’re supposed to think about that character, and this small town of Fargo, with its sometimes quirky, residents.

In fact, this is probably where the Coens win the most brownie-points from me, as it shows that these guys clearly love these characters they’ve created, and rarely ever pass judgement on them. Sure, they’re a bit ditsy and sheltered from the rest of the world, but they’re still happy with that. It doesn’t make them bad or good people – it just makes them people, who also just so happen to live in a place that’s very far from what some consider the “idealistic landscape to live in”. However, that’s just some people and their opinions, man.

Even two despicable human beings like the characters played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare would easily be the most evil, unlikable fellows in the whole movie, and yet, there’s something about them that still keeps us away from hating them. Maybe moreso in the case of Buscemi’s character, as he seems like a guy who just gets his job done, does what he has to do, acquire his money and live a simple, carefree life like he’d done before, but even with Stormare’s character, there is still something about his quiet-demeanor that draws us to him. That’s probably what also drew the Coens to him so much in the first place, but it works more for us, as we are the ones who have to make up our own minds about these characters, and whether or not we choose to sympathize with any of them.

William H. Macy’s character is clearly the one who we find the hardest time caring for, but even his little quirks make us like him, if only for the faintest of reasons. As for Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson, well, we love her for being just about the opposite of these previously mentioned guys: She’s a simple, lovely and delightful lady that expects the best out of humanity, and only wants to bring happiness to the world. That set-in-stone idea that she has about the world around her gets tarnished a whole lot once she realizes that there’s some actual ugliness out there, and yes, it’s found its way into her own, safe little world that she’s made for herself. It’s hard not to feel sorry for her when she sees everything wrong and terrible about what this world can offer, but that’s what also makes it her so damn human in the first place, despite her small quirks here and there. It’s easy to see why McDormand won an Oscar for this role, as she steals the show just about every time, which was not an easy-feet, considering the talent she had stacked-up against her.

And of course, I could even say that the whole mystery itself still surprises me every once and awhile, all because certain plot-points make a bit more sense now, than they ever did before. That may be less of an attribute to this movie, and more to the caffeine I drank before watching this, but it’s something to still note regardless. The Coens love their characters and what makes them who they are, but they also still love themselves a little twists, a little turns, and better yet, a little bit of blood to be shed, all in the name of some cold, hard crime. These are the guys I’m comfortable with seeing make movies for the rest of my natural-born life, but more importantly, I would love to see them continue with the thriller-genre, and seeing how many times they can put their own creative-spin on it.

But now, here comes the time in my review where I lose all of your love and adoration, and get down to the simple fact, which is: Yes, I think Fargo is a bit overrated.

First and foremost, my problem with this movie isn’t that I’ve seen it so many times that I know everything that happened right from the get-go; in fact, that’s terribly false. There’s plenty of movies I’ve seen many more times than I can probably count, that still remain my “favorites”, even if I know every twist and turn that’s coming around the bend, all because I’ve seen said movie more than a couple of handful of times. But that’s not the point – the point is that with Fargo, I feel like every twist and turn is suitable into what gets a rush out of the viewer so much when watching it, and it just doesn’t hold-up on repeat-viewings, like so many movies I re-watch do.

Doesn't know if the wife he wanted kidnapped is dead or alive. Oh, the everyday  man's crisis.

Doesn’t know if the wife he wanted kidnapped is dead or alive. Oh, the everyday man’s crisis.

There’s small, little tidbits that are worth noting that made me smile because I didn’t notice them once before, but after awhile, I started to realize that there was maybe something a bit too odd when it came to the plot’s-structure. I love me some Steve Park, but his role/subplot Mike Yanagita, an old-friend of Marge’s, could have easily been written-out and the movie would have not suffered one bit. Sure, it’s another instance of the Coen’s making weird characters that they love, but it doesn’t do much for the movie except take us away from the actual crime on our hands; the same crime that Marge herself is investigating.

And I get it, I really do – the Coens like to do this sort of thing where they all sorts of different strands of plot that they are able to weave together somehow, through someway, but I just didn’t feel like it worked so well here. At the end of the day, when the people who deserved to be gone, were gone; the crime has been solved; justice has been served; and some life-lessons have been thrown around, I wondered: What was the point? Maybe this is just a personal problem I have with this movie, but once that anti-climactic ending came around, I had a hard time feeling wholly satisfied. Instead, I just ended my fourth or fifth-viewing of Fargo as I’ve done with any other viewing done before: It’s good, but that’s pretty much it.

Sorry, friends, family and whomever else may actually care. I truly am. Please take me back. Please!

 Consensus: Though the Coen’s clearly have a love for their characters, their story and all of the twists they throw into the plot, Fargo still doesn’t do much for me as a movie that has me thinking for days-on-end.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Smart idea, except for the fact that ALL OF THE SNOW LOOKS THE SAME.

Smart idea, except for the fact that ALL OF THE SNOW LOOKS THE SAME.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Joe (2014)

In need of a father-figure in your life? Look no further than this guy. But with more facial-hair.

15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) is living a hard life in the deep and dirty South. Not only is his dad (Gary Poulter) a drunk, but he’s a mean, nasty, and cruel one, too. Any money that Gary ever makes from working his butt off, or any reward he gets whatsoever, always gets taken away from him and/or has him get roughed-up a bit as well. Joe (Nicolas Cage) realizes this and he’s about tired of seeing it. That’s when he decides to step into Gary’s life when he notices that the kid has some promise for this world and makes it his mission to make him a man of sorts. The only problem is that Joe’s troubled-past with the law, criminals, booze, hookers and smoking continue to come back and bite him in the ass. And somehow, that checkered-past of Joe’s, ends up finding its way into Gary’s life, where neither one of them know if they are going to live or die. All they do know is that they got a friendship together, and they’re going to stick together, regardless of what havoc may be coming their way.

Nic fuckin’ Cage, man. That’s all I have to say.

If none of you know this by now, then let me just regurgitate everything I’ve been saying for the past couple of years or so – I’ve never given up hope on Nic Cage. Never, ever. Yes, he makes shitty movies; yes, most of the time it seems like he’s just doing everything for the movie; and yes, he over-acts more times than he often should. But you know what? Deep down inside, underneath all of the confusing career-decisions he’s made in the, oh, I don’t know, say decade or so, I knew that he was doing it all for a reason.

Kid better hope that's not Nic's ride. Cause if so, he'd better run.

Kid better hope that’s not Nic’s ride. Cause if so, he’d better run.

Some of those decisions were probably made to get him some extra cash on the side, and as a result, therefore allowing him to do smaller, more-challenging roles that we don’t get to see him do too often. And as the titled-character Joe, we get to see everything Nic Cage that any adoring, dedicated fan would want to see: Some real, grounded acting.

See, with Nic Cage, it’s hard to figure out what kind of role you’re going to get from him – either A): you get a totally bonkers role in which he yells, screams, hoots, hollers and never dials it down under eleven the whole time, or B): you get a bit of the nuttiness, but in a more sensible, human-like way. We’ve seen more of the first part one too many times, but that latter one does show its face every once and a blue moon, and when it does, it’s a sight to see. Such is the case here with Joe; a role that Nic Cage may have not been born to play, but a role that I’m glad to see him play and pull-off so perfectly.

With the character of Joe, or at least, the way he is written, he’s made out to be the traditional, misfit father-figure a little boy from a broken-home would look up to. He may not be the most perfect human being in the history of humanity, but he at least knows what is right, what is wrong, and how he can make those lives around him a lot better. His relationship with Gary could have easily been an uncomfortable one to see play-out, but somehow, Cage plays Joe so damn well, that it always seems like Joe just wants to be Gary’s friend. Nothing more than just a simple pat on the back and a beer in his hand. So yeah, they’re unconventional buddies, but they are believable as such.

But before I go on any further and start making this a tribute of sorts to Nic Cage, I think I should throw some credit towards Tye Sheridan who, with a handful of roles in the past four years, has really shocked the hell out of me. He’s only 17-years-of-age right now, but with what I’ve seen from him so far, I see a real bright, and inspired future ahead of his. The role he has here, may not be all that different from the one he had in last year’s Mud, but the kid is so good at playing-up that “angry-youth” aspect of his characters, that it almost doesn’t. Also, whenever he’s on the same screen with the almighty Nic Cage, he never gets the show stolen from him. He handles his own quite well, much like what he did with Matthew McConaughey last year, and shows us that any and all kid actors have a lot to live up to now that he’s around.

However, he won’t be a kid for too long, which I hope only means that he’ll get better and better roles coming around his way. Or, the worse could happen and he could end-up like this guy.

Please don’t, Tye Sheridan. You have too much good going for you right now to just screw it all up.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right: Nic Cage. Like I was saying before, this is the type of role that seems tailor-made for what Cage does so well; he’s able to be a sympathetic character, that knows the difference between right and wrong, but by the same token, isn’t always thinking correctly and usually lets his anger get the best of him. With Joe, Cage gets plenty of chances to show the rage that’s practically brewing from inside of him the whole time, and it’s tense as freakin’ hell. You can tell by just looking in his eyes when he’s going to lose his cool and you automatically feel bad for whomever it is that’s about to feel his wrath, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Most of the time, they do, but there is that slight chance in which Joe is just going all nutso on someone, just because he’s been having a bad day or something.

But, like I’ve been alluding to this whole time, there’s a deep, understanding human-conscience to this guy, and you see that play-out many times during his few scenes with Gary. In fact, one of the problems I had with this movie was that a lot of it seemed to get so far away from Joe and Gary’s friendship, that I sort of wanted them to go back more times than they actually did. Not just because I wanted to see more of Nic Cage acting his ass-off (deep down, I really did), but because that’s the heart of this movie that kept it going, even when everything was as black as the coffee I had this morning.

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or something.

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or human. Who knows. He’s Nic Cage.

However, that’s neither here, nor there; what matters is what fuels this movie, and that’s the fact that David Gordon Green never really allows for it to get to dark to where it’s off-putting. It’s never really pleasant either (with the exception of a few scenes, which, oddly enough, are between Gary and Joe), but I wasn’t really expecting much else from this movie. Green is sort of now back in good-graces with the movie world as it seems to be that he is, once again, doing more smaller-scale, lower-budget indie-flicks, and it’s exciting to see. More important is that while he does have that visual-style that was so prevalent in his earlier-flicks, he doesn’t allow for that to take over his movie; there is still a story here, and it rarely ever seemed to lose my interest.

And I have to say, it’s pretty interesting to see such wild cards like Nic Cage and David Gordon Green getting together and making a movie. It totally worked to their advantage, clearly, but it’s just interesting to see what happens when two talented people are able to come together on something, understand one another, and work their rumps off. Obviously, for me, this is Green’s best flick since, say, I don’t know, All the Real Girls; but as for Mr. Cage, hmm, well, I’d have to say, it’s probably his best “real” performance since Adaptation. Which, incidentally was a little over a decade ago. Not saying that there hasn’t been some fine pleasures in between (surely this moment in his career will never leave my memory-banks), but it hasn’t been too pretty either. Here’s to hoping that Nic’s got some more promising-material coming up the pipeline.

However, by the looks of things, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Shit.

Consensus: Surely not the sort of pick-me-up if you’re a fan of some of Nic Cage’s, or David Gordon Green’s more mainstream flicks, but if you’re willing to let it take its toll on you, you’ll find Joe to be an emotional, gripping drama that you want to see all talents involved do more of.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

In most circumstances, I'd be scared of the kid with the gun, but under this circumstance, it's the guy without the gun.

In most circumstances, I’d be scared of the kid with the gun, but under this circumstance, it’s the guy without it that I’m scared of.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Rio 2 (2014)

You’re the last of your species! Now, stay indoors and shut up!

Now that both Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) have fallen-in love and even started their own family, it’s about time the cracks within the relationship show. Jewel is still that fun, adventurous-type, like she believes every blue macaw bird should; whereas Blu is still sort of like a human, equipped with making pancakes, using a GPS to navigate from place-to-place and even allowing his kids to use technology. Adding more tension is when they both find out about another breed of blue macaw’s that are apparently somewhere out there in the middle of the Amazon. Seeing as this may be their time to find others just like them and hopefully get some excitement in their lives, Blu and Jewel, along with their three children, decide to take a trip out to there, where they stumble upon all sorts of birds that are just like them. Heck, one of them even just so happens to be Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia), whom she thought was long gone by now. So yeah, it’s a nice place where all blue macaws live in perfect harmony with one another, except for when a certain entrepreneur decides that it’s time to start making more paper, and cutting down all of the trees in the Amazon, threatening everything that these birds have made their sanctuary.

As most of you may, or may not have seen, I was actually very surprised by the original Rio. Not only was it a fun movie that made me sort of feel like a kid again, but it didn’t really need to do much to surprise or even shock me. It was just exactly what it was – an animated movie made for the whole family. Sometimes, those types of movies can be utterly cheesy and only work for those little ones who don’t know any better, but other times, they can actually work for everyone who decides to take some time out of their day and give it a try. That’s what the first Rio was. Its sequel though?

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn't want you.

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn’t want you.

Meh. Not so much.

Actually, not at all.

See, with the case of Rio 2, as is the case with any major-motion sequel, everything that worked so well in the first movie, is now re-amped with more of everything. Here, we get more vibrant colors popping out at us; more subplots that don’t need to inserted into here at all; more characters added in; and just more, more, more! And usually this is done to really keep us interested in what is going, while to simultaneously keep track of which characters, are doing what things, for what reasons, but here, you almost never get the sense that anything is happening.

While I may have written the plot-synopsis up top as being a simple story of Blu and Jewel going on an adventure to the inner-levels of the Amazon for a happenin’, joyous good time, there’s actually plenty, PLENTY more where that came from. Remember those birds that were voiced by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx that were always singing, being hip and saying sassy stuff? Well, yeah, they’re here again, and apparently, they’re looking for cast members for their latest production they’re going to put on for Carnivale. That’s all fine and dandy. Not like it’s going to make, or break the movie. In fact, you need a subplot like this to bring some much-needed comedic-relief to this flick.

However, like I alluded to before, there’s plenty more where that came from.

Blu’s human-owner, voiced by Leslie Mann, is with her scientist hubby, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, and they are running all throughout the Amazon as well; Jemaine Clement’s villainous-character is back around and looking for vengeance for what Blu did to him all those years ago, but this time, has an admirer constantly behind him; Jewel runs into an old friend of hers that may, or may not actually be interested in her; and oh yeah, before I forget to mention it, there’s also sort of a subplot about one of Blu’s daughters wanting to break out her shell and get involved with everything, without getting too involved to where it isn’t deemed “cool” anymore.

So yeah, as you can tell just by reading that, all of those subplots are a bit too much for any film, let alone a kids movie that runs about an-hour-and-a-half, give or take. It’s too much for any kid to keep track of, but better yet, it’s too much for a movie that wants to be so playful and simple. It just takes all of the fun out of what could have been something exactly like the first, except maybe a bit better. That doesn’t happen though, and while it may not all be terrible (the song-and-dance-numbers are just about the only elements working for this movie), it still made me want to watch the first one all over again, just to get the memory of this dull movie out of my mind.

"Aw hay, hay, hay!"

“Aw hay, hay, hay!”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that god-awful, but you get the point. Could have been a good, escapist time if it stuck to its cards, but it didn’t. So therefore, it was just “meh”.

Meh, meh, meh.

As for the voice-cast that’s all returning, nobody is really outstanding; then again, nobody else is really all that bad either. They are just seemingly doing what they did in the first movie, and that’s it. The only one who is still slightly amusing to listen to is Clement’s Nigel, who is still funny when he’s vindictive and angry, but also has plenty of moments where we see his character as being more than just a “villain”. It was interesting to see that happen in a movie that seemed to be so distracted by everything else going on, that they’d actually allow for some neat character-development to actually happen. See, it’s just the little things that make a movie slightly better than what they should be. If only that transitioned well into the rest of the movie, then I would probably be singing a different tune. Not that I can remember any of the songs from this movie in the first case.

Consensus: With too much going in every spectrum of it, Rio 2 ends up being a jumble of many different strands of story, yet, barely any of them ever excite or intrigue one bit.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

That’s what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Oculus (2014)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Tell me, do these jeans make my butt look big?

When Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) were both very young, they saw their father (Rory Cochrane) shoot their mother (Katee Sackhoff) in cold blood. The case gets thrown out as a standard case of murder in the first-degree, however, the kids think differently. See, they think it’s all because of some strange, ancient mirror they had ever since they moved on, which ironically enough is exactly once all of the weird, creepy stuff started to happen to this family in the first place. Nobody believes these two, seemingly crazed-kids, so the government sends Kaylie away to an orphanage, where she’ll most likely be made fun-of her life and taught to be independent; whereas Tim becomes a bit of a nut-case, and is sent to a mental-institution, where he is studied and tested, while he’s also trying to come to grips with what it is that he really saw: Was it a dream-like sequence to get their minds away from the grim reality of this grisly murder, or is this mirror actually possessed by some sort of demon. Neither of the two really know for sure, which is why, 10-12 years later, the two reunite at their childhood home where the murder occurred and play their own little game of Ghost Hunters. Except, it’s just them, and the mirror that’s been haunting their lives for the past decade or so.

Trust me honey, there's nothing wrong reflection. Nothing. At. All.

Trust me honey, there’s nothing wrong reflection. Nothing. At. All.

While it may seem like every horror movie that comes out nowadays, may be an exact carbon-copy of the last (a statement which does hold some truth), there are those very surprising exceptions that take the horror-genre, and sort of spin it on its ears. These types of movies don’t really commit such an act by coming up with a new, inventive way to tell their story, but instead, realize that what makes and breaks horror movies nowadays, is whether or not they can be entertaining. Sure, everybody can be pissing their pants by showing them every jump-scare in the book, but is that really fun to watch? Expecting a scare to happen, so that when it does happen, you jump a little bit less than you would have, had you not known anything about any horror movie, ever made?

Personally, I think where most horror movies really make their gravy is in just how much fun they can have with toying and teasing with the audience’s expectations; and in Oculus, there’s plenty of that. However, it’s not the type of toying and teasing you’d expect from a movie like the Cabin in the Woods, where it’s clearly obvious that the creators behind it think that are a lot smarter than average the movie-goer. It’s more like the kind of toying and teasing you do with a dog when you’re playing fetch with it – you take it this way, that way, and all of a sudden, you surprise them and have them absolutely excited.

Bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got in the tank right now.

Though this is his first-outing behind the camera in a big-screen feature, Mike Flanagan shows that he has the chops to do a bit more new, and exciting things with the horror-genre. Not only does he bring us into his story with interesting, somewhat sympathetic characters, but he never allows for this story to get too over-blown or insane. Actually, that’s a lie. He totally does. In fact, that’s probably my biggest problem with this movie is that when all is said and done, and that abrupt-as-hell ending hits you, it comes too quick. But even worse, it doesn’t exactly make much sense.

But see, this is where I start to get a bit jumbled-up in my own words now. Because the aspect where this movie really works, is in the way it is able to just keep on messing with us, having us look at one thing, while surprising us with a completely other, different thing. Which, yes, is fine and all, but after awhile, some of it does start to make you scratch your head and wonder just what the hell is going, or how did that happen. Not going to give too much away, but I’ll put it like this, that mirror likes to do a lot of tricking, without ever treating, so be ready for that.

However though, like I said before, that whole aspect of not knowing what’s going on, is sort of what works so well for it in the end. This is a horror film in the sense that we get scares, ghosts, blood, teeth pulled-out, murder, screaming, people with freaky, glowish-eyes, and all that other jazz, but it’s also a lot more like a thriller as well. Mainly because instead of making this an all-out gore-fest where people in the crowd go “yuck!” and “ew!”, while covering their eyes and simultaneously throwing up their dinner, Flanagan keeps his sights on building up suspense to where you feel like anything could happen with this story, at just about any second. And I don’t mean that because it’s a fun movie, I mean that literally, because it gets confusing-as-hell.

Horror convention #208

Horror convention #208

But I don’t want to harp on that too much, because the fact of the matter is this: It’s a fun horror movie. That’s all you really need. Sure, the performances from the cast are good; Karen Gillan in particular that seems like she’s never heard of comedy a single day in her life and delivers every line in a straight-forward manner, which actually works and makes us look at her as a bit of a cook-ball, which is what this movie definitely wanted to have going for it. However though, this is less about them and more about the show. The show that keeps on going, regardless of how nonsensical it gets. Which, granted, is about ten minutes into it, but really, are horror movies really the type of movies you want to be realistic about?

Yeah, didn’t think so. Just enjoy and shut up!

Consensus: While Oculus doesn’t set out to try and re-invent the horror-wheel, it still does a fine job at building tension, characters and a twisty story to exciting proportions, even if you may not be coming out of it totally convinced you know everything that happened.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Wait? We're supposed to be playing twins?"

“Wait? We’re supposed to be playing twins?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Draft Day (2014)

You thought on-the-field was tough? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, ya pansy soccer fan!

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has it pretty rough for a man of his age and stature. He’s the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that hasn’t been all that successful in quite some time; his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) may possibly be pregnant; and to add insult to injury, the most important day in all of sports history, next to the Super Bowl of course, is coming up: Draft day. Oh yes, the NFL draft. Where dreams are both shattered and made, sometimes, even occurring at the same time. For Sonny though, his main problem isn’t just dealing with his boss (Frank Langella), the head coach (Denis Leary), or even the main-prospect he’s looking into (Chadwick Boseman), the main problem he’s having is getting the deal he wants, while also making sure that everyone around him is happy with his dealings at the end of the day. Not just him, or his co-workers, but the franchise as a whole. Which, if you know a thing or two about any sport whatsoever, is a lot easier said, then actually done.

I’d probably say that the biggest worry somebody will have when going into this movie is whether or not they know enough about the NFL, the draft, how it all works, and why it all matters. To put it simple, it’s like this: College ball-players get a chance to be drafted onto any NFL team that is actually in the draft, which also leaves these teams’ managers, scouters, whatever, to start making all sorts of deals and promises that they can’t clearly keep. But basically, what you have is a bunch of guys who bicker at one another, doing whatever they can to make sure the team they represent gets the best player, or, even more important, the better deal.

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

So, if you know all of that going into the movie, you have nothing at all to worry about. All you have to do now is just sit back and watch, because for the next two-hours, you’ll be treated to a bunch of grown-ups arguing, wheeling, dealing, yelling and do whatever the hell they can to make sure that they aren’t getting screwed-over in any way. The idea for the premise to revolve around that may seem pretty boring, which is why director Ivan Reitman throws in so many different strands of plot, but somehow, it actually works.

I’m not a huge football-fanatic, but I had my time where Sunday was dedicated to sitting in front of the TV, with chips, soda and my dad by my side. And that was before you all got spoiled with your RedZone, so don’t even give me any lip! Anyway, one of the events that got me more jazzed-up than the Superbowl, was actually the NFL Draft. Reason being is that for so damn long, about a year ahead in advance, there are so many predictions about how it is all exactly going to go down, in what particular fashion, that I couldn’t help but want to just wait and see what went down, and see if all of the predictions were absolutely right, or just a bunch of sports-writers getting too wild and crazy for their pay-grade.

That same feeling I had way back when, translated into my feelings with this movie, as I really did have no clue where this story was going to go, in terms of who Sonny was going to sign, who he was going to lose, if he was going to be fired, and whether or not everybody involved with the organizations would get what it is that they initially wanted. Not only did that keep me watching and interested, but it made everything else that was happening to Sonny, easier to get past, as poorly-written as most of it was. See, this is the type of movie where having Sonny deal with the problems that usually run rampant in a manager’s head come draft-time, isn’t enough. Instead, we need to have all these sorts of different subplots where Sonny is mean to interns; may possibly be a daddy; doesn’t pay his child-support; isn’t pleasing his mommy as much as he should; and so on and so forth.

While all of that may create more stuff to be happening during this movie, barely any of it feels worth our time. More often than not, it just feels like filler for a movie that could have easily been a lean, mean, hour-and-a-half indie in the same vein as Margin Call or Glengarry Glen Ross. Actually, there are times when this movie does feel very “Mamet-y” in the way the dialogue moves most of the plot, and how so many grown-up men love just being dirty and not always being honest when in circling-around a deal. Those moments of this movie not only rang true for me, but genuinely had me entertained. Sometimes, the conversations these guys have are funny; they’re sometimes insightful; and hell, even sometimes, they’re a bit emotional. But they always add something more to this story, which is where I feel like mostly everything else here doesn’t.

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants "peace".

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants “peace”.

Most of what does work here can definitely be attributed to the fact that Reitman allows for these scenes of just straight-up dialogue, flow and roll as they please. However though, most of that definitely has to be attributed to the well-stacked ensemble Reitman was somehow able to assemble here, particularly Kevin Costner. I’m glad to see K-Cost back in the mainstream, however, 3 Days to Kill was not that type of movie I wanted him doing. It was fine and all (and the same could be said for him), however, that movie had more problems than it needed to have. Here though, Costner is actually given some good material worthy of his talents where he gets plenty to do. He gets a chance to be mean and a bit vindictive; funny when he’s using that comedic-timing of his that is almost nonexistent, but he somehow is always able to get by with; a bit romantic when he has some painlessly-cheesy scenes with Jennifer Garner; and even has a couple of moments as Sonny where he drops the facade of the hardcore, take-no-prisoners businessman, and just lets us see a heart and soul to this guy. The movie could have easily gone in a different direction with this character and had him come-off as flat as a football field itself (hayyoh!), but it doesn’t. It keeps its focus on him, who he is as a person, the type of person he wants to be, and how he gets by in the world.

Like I said though, K-Cost is just the beginning of the familiar-faces in this movie. There’s plenty more where he came from and they are all pretty damn fine. The previously mentioned Garner is alright as Sonny’s co-worker/lover/possible-baby-momma, who has to be a bit cute, a bit feisty, and a bit ballsy to make us believe that she could easily hang around a guy’s sport like football, all of which, Garner does a nice job with. She’s not annoying, let’s just put it that way.

Others include Denis Leary as the Cleveland Browns football coach that barely ever sees eye-to-eye with Sonny, yet, does have plenty of ground to stand on and make us see why; Ellen Burstyn is charming and lovely as Sonny’s mommy, who is clearly still grieving over the death of her husband, Sonny’s dad that he can’t seem to get out of the shadow of; Chadwick Boseman shows us why he is on the verge of near super-stardom right now with his role as a possible NFL-prospect Sonny looks into an awful lot; and Frank Langella, as you could imagine, plays the owner of the Cleveland Browns like the rich and powerful d-bag you’d expect him to play. There’s plenty more where that came from, but you may just have to wait around and see just who exactly does show their bright and smiling faces.

Consensus: May tack-on a bit more than it needs to, but when it comes to the actual process of drafting possible, football-prospects, Draft Day is entertaining, funny and heartwarming, which is thanks to both a charming script and cast, most notably Kevin Costner carrying the whole ship on his back.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like me at parties where I don't like anybody there. Actually, just parties.

Sort of like me at parties where I don’t like anybody there. Actually, just parties in general.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Sitter (2011)

I think I’d hire “skinny Jonah Hill”, over “fat Jonah Hill” as my baby-sitter. Just more trust-worthy for some reason.

Noah (Jonah Hill) is practically the last person you want watching your kids. He’s mean, rude, brass and doesn’t really care about those around him. He’s just selfish and makes everybody around him feel like crap. But this time, he may have met his match when he is called on to babysit three of his next-door neighbors for a whole bunch of money. Sounds easy and simple, right? Well, not exactly, especially not when you have a bunch of sneaky, manipulative kids such as these ones here.

I hate to ask it, but what the fuck, David Gordon Green?!?!

I mean, yeah, I know he isn’t reading this now so who the hell cares, but seriously, this is a travesty for someone to go from creating this, to then creating such an abomination as this!

Were they both done by the same person? Or, did one just put his name on one, and decide to have somebody else take over the job and use Green’s name anyway, because of some “pull” he may have with the studios? I honestly have no clue. And to be truly honest, I shouldn’t be caring as much as I do right now. It just ain’t worth it! It just ain’t!

I know my little tirade up there may make it seem like I’m in love with everything Gordon Green has ever done and even agree to the fact that he’s been touted as “the next Terence Malick,” but believe it or not, I’m actually far from being that type of person. Out of all of his flicks, I probably liked Pineapple Express the best and that’s coming from me in a sober state-of-mind as well. Everything else except for All the Real Girls, is pretty so-so for me, but all that aside, this is pretty terrible, even by his standards.

Devil in sheep's clothing.

Devil in sheep’s clothing.

Where Gordon Green misses the mark on this flick is that it just isn’t funny. Some bits and pieces here are raunchy fun, but other times, it just feels like they’re being lazy and trying too hard to shock us into thinking, “Oh dear, it has kids peeing, pooping and blowing up stuff, so it has to be shocking!” I didn’t give a shit whether kids were apart of the raunchy comedy or not, they weren’t making me laugh and the same goes for the “jokes” that Green felt the need to throw every damn time he felt bored, or whatever.

And to add on top of that crappy humor, the sympathy-route this movie takes just slows everything down and comes off as terribly shoehorned in. These kids apparently all needed their own dimensions so whenever the film starts running out of ideas, they just throw the kids in there and try and make us feel bad for them, in a way that almost comes out of nowhere. There’s no real message here, no real nothing, but instead it just feels like a lazy attempt at Green trying to make us feel something for anybody in this movie when the fact of the matter is: We just don’t.

Those poor kids.

Now, I can’t go on and on about this flick and say that I didn’t laugh here and there, because I did. It’s not a god-awful terrible movie that’s unwatchable, but it’s definitely something that never seems to get off the ground. The whole idea behind Hill taking all of these kids out one night in a haze of debauchery and craziness, sounds like it should be an absolute blast from start-to-finish, but it never really goes there. Instead, it just gives us a raunchy laugh or two, show us something going wrong, and maybe even allowing there to be time for these characters to break-down and shed some of their tears, as if that wasn’t contrived enough for them already. It continues at this pace throughout the whole movie, but it’s never fun, it’s never exciting, and it’s not extremely long. Which is weird considering that the movie itself only clocked-in at 81 minutes. However, they also happened to be the longest 81-minutes of my entire life.

Well, except for that one time where me and an ex of mine had to wait for her parents to leave the house for the night so we could do a little lovin’ upstairs, but that’s besides the point!

The only real saving grace to this whole flick has to be Jonah Hill, in one of his last, “truly-fat” roles. Hill, no matter what type of junk he’s given, always does a great job with the humor and that is no exception here. He plays that “lovable loser with a heart” act like no other and makes this film better with his dead-pan delivery. Other times, it seems like he over-does it a bit with the constant words of wisdom he tries to give to these kids, but that’s more or less the script’s fault than Hill’s really.

Still, how could you have a problem with that face. The guy's so cool and he just knows it!

Still, how could you have a problem with that face. The guy’s so cool and he just knows it!

Poor Jonah Hill. Oh well, at least he’s made up for his misfortunes since this.

Other than Jonah Hill, the other one who shows up in this flick a little too much is Sam Rockwell who really disappointed me here considering just how much I love him in, well, just about anything else he does. Rockwell plays the angry, strange drug-dealer that wants his $10,000 from Hill and practically goes all-over-the-place looking for it while trying to keep a hold on them as “best-friends”. This whole idea for Rockwell sounds rich and like a nice way for him to do some goofier-stuff that we haven’t quite seen from him as of late, but yet, that doesn’t happen. Instead, he’s just obnoxious, loud, and annoying to the point of where you don’t want to see him at all anymore. It’s a shame, too, because this guy has perfect comedic-timing and can make any line sound witty, but he just doesn’t here. I think that’s more of the fact that the script just blows and doesn’t do anything to help him, or anybody else in this flick.

Poor Sam Rockwell. Oh well, at least he’s continued to do everything he’s done since the beginning-of-time: Being the coolest mofo ever known to man!

Consensus: The only thing keeping the Sitter alive at all, is Jonah Hill, and even his character gets pretty annoying and unfunny, right from the very start. Much like the rest of the movie, really.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

R.I.P. to the sort of, kind of, maybe, good old days of looking morbidly-obese but still relying on your comedic-timing to get you by. Damn comedy!

R.I.P. to the sort of, kind of, maybe, good old days of looking morbidly-obese but still relying on your comedic-timing to get you by. Damn Hollywood and their judgmental ways!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

George Washington (2000)

Who hasn’t chopped down a cherry tree in order to prove that they couldn’t tell a lie? Wasn’t true? Oh, whatever!

A group of young kids ranging from the ages of 9 to 13, all live in a small, terribly depressed rural community in North Carolina. Most of these kids’ days are spent running around and causing all sorts of havoc in trailer-parks, garages, abandoned buildings, swimming pools, and practically anywhere else in this place that they can find and have some peace and quiet with. And for the most part, they aren’t really doing anything bad or terribly immoral; they’re just acting like kids. They hit, make fun of, and play around with one another, but mostly all of them are friends, which is why they continue to hang around each other, just about each and everyday. Then again, there’s not much else to do in this tiny-town, so they might as well, right? Well, things get shaken-up a bit for this group of kids when a tragedy accidentally happens to one of the kids, leaving most of them in shock and without even the faintest idea of what to do next. One kid in particular, George (Donald Holden), sees this as a way for him to break out of his shell and become what he’s always wanted to be: a hero. Eat your heart out, Bowie.

Before he started smoking all sorts of weed with Judd Apatow’s crew, writer/director David Gordon Green was in fact a young, small-time film maker just trying to get his name and his vision out there for the world to see. And finally, after years and years of short films in his native Texas, he got a chance to, at 25 years of age, to show everybody his debut, his vision. What’s surprising the most about this movie, and the fact I pointed out about Green being 25 around the time of this being made, is how it feels like it could have easily done by a much older, much more skilled-professional. Not just in the way the movie looks, sounds, feels, and moves, but of the themes it deals with.

Directing traffic? What a hero!

Directing traffic? What a hero!

Sure, the movie disguises itself as dealing with kids, in the same vein as something like Stand By Me, but this is very far from that type of movie. Kids do talk like kids and mess around with one another, but most of them are just trying to grow-up and grasp whatever it is that life has thrown at them. Doesn’t matter if it’s something they are imagining in their heads to block-out the harsh realities of what their lives have turned-out to be; or even if what it is that they’re imagining is real and they don’t know what to do with it. Either way, these kids are growing up in front of our faces and trying to get a firm grip on their lives from when they were just small tikes and had no idea what was up with the world, to now, where all of a sudden, everything is happening so quickly and so unexpectedly.

Watching these kids talk, goof around, run around, cause mischief, talk to girls, get upset, have all sorts of feelings, and just basically be kids, made me feel like a kid again. Which I don’t think is what Green wasn’t trying to do; it’s clear from the fore-front that he’s going for as much of a gritty, realistic display as much as he can possibly do. Most of it works, but some of it really does back-fire on him, especially in terms of how terrible some of the improvisation from these young kids can be.

And no, I am not trying to rag on these kids who were clearly inexperienced and literally working in their first, and for some, possibly last movie ever, but it’s up to Green when using these kids, to know if they can handle improv or not. The fact of the matter is simple: They can’t. Though most of these kids do try and seem real, mainly whenever they’re given free reign to go on and on about girls, sometimes they stumble and seem like they’re not really going anywhere with what they’re saying. Even worse is the fact that some of what it seems like Green has written for these kids to say and try to emote with, doesn’t make them always seem like kids. They’re basically a bunch of a 9-to-13-year-olds going through existential crisis, but not much of it rings true.

Once again, that’s not to hate on the kids in the roles, as much as it’s Green’s fault for not taking notice to this problem and coming up with a way to fix it. But, to be honest, there’s a few more problems going on here for Green than I would like to speak-out against, but hell, so be it!

The movie is downright beautiful in the way it’s camera is positioned in certain scenes, how well the narration from this 13-year-old girl is, and how the new-agey soundtrack makes me feel as if I was meditating. Together, all elements fit perfectly and made me feel like I was in a museum, gazing at all of the art-work that was on display. However, rather than having some annoying, nuisance-of-a-tour-director constantly in my ear, nagging on and on about “HOW SIGNIFICANCE THIS PAINTING IS WHEN COMPARED TO MODERN-DAY CULTURE”, I had the sound of somebody who was just speaking to us as if she just met us and we were asking her to try and tell us a story. Any story, it didn’t matter. I loved that feel with this movie, and it’s so easy to see why Green was the talk-of-the-town when he first came around, getting all sorts of Malick-comparisons and what have you.

Please don't light a match, please don't light a match...

Please don’t light a match, please don’t light a match…

But, as lovely as all of those details are when looking at this film, I couldn’t help but feel like barely any of it connected with me. With the exception of the tragedy itself (which I won’t dare to spoil), the only time I really felt like this movie’s story gripped me emotionally was whenever Paul Schneider showed his young, blissful face around. Most of that has to do with just how much I actually like Schneider as an actor, but most of it also has to do with the fact that his character is the only one who seems like she would ever pay attention to. Because, quite frankly, except for our hero-of-the-half-hour, George, Green never really focuses on anybody else; and if he does, he doesn’t do it enough to where we feel any plight for them, or the shitty situations they are sometimes thrown in to.

Honestly, I’m all fine with Green flowing by his own set-of-rules and not really bothering with much of a plot-driven narrative, but too much of this feels spontaneous; almost to the point of where it takes away from what could have been a very emotional story, with an impact left on its viewers for days. Instead, some of it just comes off like an experiment of certain moods, feelings and ideas, that never come together fully as a cohesive-structure. It’s just different strands of interesting routes, and that’s about it. Obviously Green would go on with his career to shape some of those problems out, but if I had saw this back when it first came out, I may have not been as happy, or doe-eyed as it seems like every critic on the face of the planet was. Then again though, that was the year 2000, which was also the time before David Gordon Green showed his love for a Minotaur’s Dick.

That was no typo.

Consensus: For somebody who was as young and promising as David Gordon Green was back when it was first released, George Washington works as a huge set of ideas, that work in their own, small circles, but never fully come together as well as they should to leave any sort of emotional-impact.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Frog wasn't in the budget. Green borrowed that from his buddy and has yet to give it back. Hollywood, right?

Frog wasn’t in the budget. Green borrowed that from his buddy and has yet to give it back. Hollywood, right?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dave (1993)

Luckily Barack doesn’t have too many impersonators out there. OR SO WE KNOW OF!!!

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is a simple, small-town man that wears big-rimmed glasses, rides his bike to and fro work, and also run a temp service that isn’t quite as big on making a whole lot of money, as much as it is just all about getting people jobs and having them make money. Oh yeah, and he also has an uncanny resemblance to the 44th president of the United States, William Harrison Mitchell. That eventually comes to work out for him in the future when he’s called upon to be an impersonator for the President in public appearances, just to avoid any problems whatsoever. However, it just so happens that on that same night, the President happens to suffer a stroke while banging his secretary, which leaves all of his right-hand-men stumbling without any idea of what to do. Allow the country to run wild with the sudden-death of their president? And by doing so, do they leak any dirty secrets about what he did during his time as presidency, minus the whole “cheating-on-his-wife” thing? Well, the simple answer is “no”. Instead, they all decide to let Kovic take over the position as acting-President, but only until the actual President himself wakes up and is ready to get back to doing his job. But what if he doesn’t seem to wake up? Even worse, what if the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that this man placed in her husband’s position, actually isn’t her husband?

Yes, there’s so much drama going on here that only a politician during the 90′s would know all about. Ammiright?!?!?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Anyway, so yeah, this movie always gets talked-about when you discuss the subgenre of “political comedies” and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the first of its kind during the Clinton-administration, but it’s one of the very rare political-satires that doesn’t really destroy any sort of political-agenda that was being thrown around during that time. Instead, it sticks to whatever “people get jobs and we all stay happy forever and ever” idea it has about politics. Sure, the fact of the matter is that that would never, ever happen in real life, but sure, when you’re watching a movie, let alone a comedy, you don’t really need reality to come in and hit you in the face. All you need is some nice, pure escapism in the finest form and that’s exactly what Dave is, with some snappy jokes thrown in for good measure.

That’s not to say that the movie is at all “dated”, it’s just that some of the humor probably doesn’t hit me nearly as hard, or as effectively as it probably did for those back in the early-90′s. It’s not that I don’t know a thing or two about politics, it’s just that most of this film seems to be playing it so damn safe most of the time, that it’s really hard to find much of anything to really laugh at in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of quips made here that may, or may not catch you off-guard, but they are hardly surprising, nor are they really slap-happy hilarious.

However, where I think most of the film focuses its strengths on is just the overall pleasant, carefree pace that Ivan Reitman sets, which carries the movie through some very sketchy-waters. For instance, there’s the sequence in which the President and the First Lady head-off to a homeless shelter in which they just stand there, say hi to people they wouldn’t bear to be around, had their not been cameras around, and basically just muck it up for the press surrounding them with all of the cameras flashing and recording their every step. We always see this in politics, and it could have easily been seen as a snotty thing for a the President and his wife to do here, however, Reitman handles it with care and always makes it seem like this Dave guy does genuinely mean well, even if he doesn’t know a lick or two about actual politics itself. Especially not how to run a country.

I mean, sheesh! We should have all been happy with Bush Jr. just by looking at this guy! You know?

Too far? Okay, anyway, back to the movie itself.

What you could also attribute most of Dave’s charm to is the performance from the always lovable Kevin Kline, doing another one of his sweet, happy-guy acts. My only complaint about Dave, and well, practically every other character with the meager exception of one in particular, is that we never really get an impression for who these people were before this movie. Yeah, we get the idea that Dave was always a nice, peaceful soul that tried to make those around him happier in life, just by solely giving them what they want, but why is he like that? Better yet, why is it that he’s alone in his life, despite being what some clearly see as “the nicest guy on the face of the planet”. Nobody says that about him in the movie, or even to his face, but it’s pretty much implied with just how much Dave is able to make everyone around him smile, cheerful and just overall, feel better about themselves and their lives.

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

Sort of like how I was, until I started drinking. Then, it was all downhill from there.

Anyway, like I was saying about Dave, I wish I got to know more about him. I guess that was the point of not getting to know who he really is as a person, considering he has to practically impersonate another the whole movie, but just more detail would have gone a long way for him, Regardless though, Kline works well with Dave, giving us a guy we can all stand behind and love, even if he is just being the type of guy who doesn’t ask for much in the first place, and doesn’t want much in return. He’s just that type of cool guy, and that’s mostly how I’d like to imagine Kline is in real life.

Same goes for Sigourney Weaver in terms of her character, although her character doesn’t clearly go so far as “wife who hasn’t the dong in awhile”. Hey, it’s not like Weaver can’t play that role-up to perfection, but I think we’d be able to give her just a bit more to work with. If only a bit, that is. We also get treated some amusing, side roles from the likes of Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney, Ben Kingsley as that one character I said has some of his past told to us, in a way that isn’t at all manipulative, and a despicable-as-hell, but-clearly-loving-it Frank Langella as what we pretty much expect him to play, “the baddie”. Once again, you can tell that they definitely elevate the material to being a bit more than what it is, which is all we really needed in the first place.

Consensus: Though Dave doesn’t really bite with its satire as much it should, that still doesn’t take it away from being a mildly funny, tame and rather pleasant comedy that’s big on likable characters, rather than laughs. Either way, something here is bound to be liked.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you're right.

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you’re right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Rio (2011)

Sort of like City of God, but with birds.

After being found stranded on the side of the road, domesticated bird Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is taken in by a simple, closed-off-from-the-rest-of-the-world gal from Minnesota, Linda (Leslie Mann). Together, the two create a lovely bond that’s stronger than what some humans have together, which is why they are almost never apart or leave one another’s site. However, one day, that idea looks to be challenged once ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) finds Blu and tells Linda that he needs Blu to mate and continue his species on with another bird of his, due to the fact that Blu is the last of his kind alive. Though they are both hesitant, they decide it’s for the best, even if where they end-up at is very, VERY far from Minnesota – it’s Rio de Janeiro! The party never stops, there is always excitement in the air and just about anything is bound to happen. Well, except for Blu and this supposed-mate of his, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), getting together because, let’s just say that they’re a little bit of polar-opposites. Which yes, is bad, but what’s even worse is that they get kidnapped by a local animal-smuggler looking to make a quick-buck and shipping these birds off to America, where they’ll either be some fancy person’s dinner, or sent to spend the rest of their lives in either this place, or that place. So yup, Blu and Jewel must find a way to get free, which may only be able to happen with some of the native’s help.

I have no clue as to why, but for some reason, when this movie first came out around this time three years ago, I didn’t really care to see it. Wasn’t that I don’t like animated-movies and have no soul or something, it was just that it didn’t seem like the type of movie that needed to be rushed-out to in order to see, nor did I have any of my 25 kids like I do now. So in reality, what was the point? Go to an animated-movie all by your lonesome and be that creep in the corner? Hell no! Even if I do that now, three years ago was a different time, and I sure as hell was in a different place than I am in now.

Pearl and I have a way better relationship. She's my bulldog by the way.

Pearl and I have a way better relationship. She’s my bulldog by the way.

Mentally and physically.

But anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that the story seemed so conventional that I just didn’t think I needed to even bother to see it. And, to be honest, now actually having seen this movie, I can’t say my original assumptions were all that incorrect in the first place. The story started-off like I expected it to where this little bird got kidnapped and found a new home with a delightful, peaceful keeper, and then after that, practically every note that this film hit, has been hit a million, gazillion times before. Nothing really new, nothing really inventive. Just straight-laced, ordinary kiddie-fare that the parents get dragged into seeing, just so that they can feel as if they did something right for their kids, so that when they grow up, they don’t hate their guts and blame all of their problems on them.

Hate to break it to you parents, but either way, it’s going to happen! All kids hit that stage. Trust me. It’s not pretty, but it happens. So buy as many movie tickets as you want, because you’re not ever going to get off the hook! Hate to sound terrible and mean, but it’s the truth, Ruth!

Anyway, I realize that I am getting further and further away from the movie itself, but there’s sort of a reason: I’m in a good mood. No, not because I actually just gone done finishing Rio and I can finally move on with my life, but because it was such a pleasant surprise. See, even though the movie hit every single note, exactly like I expected it to, it never bored me. In fact, I’d say that it seemed to always have me smiling; whether it been so because of the vivid and bright colors on full-display, the witty, lovable personalities that this movie created for us to latch onto, or because at the center of the story, with rather adult-themes like crime, smuggling, and sex, there was a sweet message to be found that can do well for both the younglings, as well as the old-heads.

What this story is really about, even if I may be reaching a whole heck of a lot, is it’s telling us to never be afraid to get out there in our lives, do something we wouldn’t normally do and not over-think something to the point of near-insanity. Just let life take you as it goes, without trying to calculate every move it is that you make next. Sure, it’s good for a person to know the difference between what’s “right”, what’s “wrong”, and what’s “acceptable”, but it’s also good for a person to not hold themselves back because of some sort of fear they may actually have, or think that they have. This isn’t just a message that works well for kids, but one that also works well for the parents of these kids, which will hopefully have them feel a tad better about themselves and all of the decisions that they made.

Like I said, I’m stretching here, but there’s something endearing at the core of this movie and it deserves to be noted, because not too many animated-movies can pull that off, without stumbling on their own feet, or being not-so-subtle.

"Sheeeeeeit".

“Awhhhhhhh sheeeeeeit”.

As for the actual movie itself, like I alluded to before, it’s a fun time no matter who you are. Director Carlos Saldanha clearly seems to not only have an eye for imagination, but also a knack for keeping the excitement in the air up, even when you know exactly where everything’s going to end-up and how. It’s all so clear and predictable, but that doesn’t really matter when you have a setting as wild and crazy as Rio; the same type of setting that Saldanha uses to perfection. Also to be noted, there’s plenty of slap-stick humor for the kids, like when a group of birds face-off in a playful brawl against a group of monkeys, or like whenever Tracy Morgan’s bulldog character comes out to shake-up his goofy rump and drool everywhere; but there’s also plenty of witty humor that most of the adults may get. Although, if you’re cool, hip and happening parent like I would love to think I’ll be (even though I’ll probably start taking up drinking as a hobby once my newborn comes out and ruins my peaceful, calm life), you’ll laugh at just about anything and everything this movie does.

And with the voice-cast, everybody is fine as everybody seems perfectly-suited for their own respective characters, as zany and wild as some of them may be. Jesse Eisenberg is good as the dorky Blu, as you could suspect knowing that Jesse Eisenberg is playing anybody; Anne Hathaway is charming, and gives you the impression that she’s just so pleased with herself while talking into the microphone doing this; Jamie Foxx and will.I.am. play, what are essentially, the goofy, black sidekicks who come around, teach Blu how to make on the ladies, sing most of the songs and just basically crack jokes as if they were two old geezers sitting-off on the side of the road, just commenting on every person they see walk by, whether they like them or not; Jemaine Clement is great as the villain bird that’s always getting the upper-hand; and George Lopez does a great job at being both the voice-of-reason, as well as the father-figure as Toucan. Yup, everybody’s fine and adds just a little bit more spice to a movie that clearly doesn’t need much more to be satisfying.

Consensus: Can definitely be seen as predictable, but Rio can also be seen as a pleasing, fun, exciting and beautiful-looking movie that makes just about anybody who watches it, happy. Especially if they aren’t expecting much going into it, like yours truly.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Moral of the story: Don't be such a wuss, go flying!

Moral of the story: Don’t be such a wuss, go flying!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mistaken for Strangers (2014)

Little brothers, right?

Indie rock band the National have been recording, touring and rocking the meager-sized, hidden ballrooms of the world for the past 14 or so years. Most of the cool kids who listen to them, love and adore the hell out of them, and usually credit lead-singer/song-writer Matt Berninger for making them feel that way. What’s strange though, is that while the rest of the band is made-up of two-sets of brothers, Matt is the only lone wolf of the group. However, he does have a brother; the kind of brother he’s a little hesitant to even speak about. And when you meet him, you’ll sort of see why. His name Tom – he’s over-thirty, a bit of a bum, he doesn’t really care for indie music at all, listens to heavy-metal Christmas tunes from the lead-singer of Judas Priest, paints strange-looking portraits of dismembered limbs, and occasionally, makes movies. But the problem with Tom isn’t that he isn’t a talented guy, it’s just that he is constantly living in the shadow of his much more famous, more successful, older-brother. But older bro Matt sees some potential in little bro Tom, so he decides that it would be best for him to come along for the tour that the National is embarking on, where he can highlight the band, be a roadie and not try to fuck everything up. That’s definitely easier said then done, but Tom refuses to give up on this documentary, even when it seems like all of the signs are telling him to do so.

A generally misguided preconception many make about rock-docs (or for lack of a better term, “rockumentaries”) is that in order for one to enjoy them, one must know and already be a fan of the band/artist/talentless-hack, that the documentary is in fact about. In some cases, this is true (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), but in other cases, not really, especially when the band is about as unknown or as bizarre as the band you and your buds tried to “break big” with while practicing in your parent’s garage from 2:30-4:15, before either of them came back and found out that you were playing the devil’s music (A Band Called Death).

Resemblance? Eh, facial-hair I guess.

Resemblance? Eh, facial-hair I guess.

However, with Mistaken for Strangers, you don’t have to do either to enjoy it. Sure, it may help if you know one song by the National, or at least know that they’re part of that early-21st Century, infusion cool, indie bands from NYC that were so prevalent when everybody started turning on N’SYNC and Britney Spears. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you know how it feels to have a family member in your life that you care about, love and wish the best for. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, parrot, ancestor you feel these emotions for; all that matters is that you have these emotions for someone in your life.

If you don’t and you’re just a lonely, angry and anti-social human being who is incapable of having any feelings whatsoever, then I’m sorry, but you may not like this movie. However, if you aren’t that type of person, then you’re going to come pretty close to loving it. Kind of like I did, although, oddly enough, in an act of my inner-fan coming out, I would have liked an actual documentary on the National themselves. But hey, you can’t always get what you want, right?

By the way, that’s not a National song. That’s the Rolling Stones, for any of ya’ll that need some music-knowledge out there, yo!

Anyway, where this documentary really struck a chord with me is in how much it had me thinking about the relationship my little bro and I have, and how it sort of connected to the one of Matt and Tom Berninger’s. No, neither I, nor my brother front a popular, alt-rock-ish band, but we do have problems with living up to the expectations that our parents had made for both of us. During the early years of my life, due to my height, weight, size and affinity for eating an unhealthy amount of cheese-steaks, I was expected to be a rough, tough and masculine football player, much like my dad was. No, they didn’t expect me to become a pro and become the white version of Lawrence Taylor, coke-snorting off of hookers and all, but they wanted me to try my hardest and really work at this dream they had set-out for me, which I did my best to achieve and not let them down.

As for my little bro, they expected him to be the white version of Usain Bolt, minus the hormone-injections. When he was younger, he was fast as hell man, and he was pretty ruthless son-of-a-bitch too, that never stopped breaking his back for whatever it was that he wanted. In a way, he’s sort of still like that to this day, even if all he does is lift for hours-on-end, flexing and lip-syncing to Rick Ross simultaneously.

Anyway, where I’m trying to go with this is that, as you could expect, one of these dreams were not fully achieved. In case you need any more further clearance on who that person was, it was me. Yes, believe it or not, in my spare-time away from DTMMR, I am not sacking QB’s, intercepting passes, or partying like it’s the XFL all over again; I’m sort of the guy most of you probably perceive me as being, an entertainment-junkie that loves to write, read, listen to music, and on occasion, go outside and get a nice farmer’s tan. As for my little bro, he sort of went the same path; he stopped running, and instead, focused more on his studies, his abs-of-steel and how many creative-ways he could tell my parents to “fuck off”.

Oh, what it was once like to be young, rebellious, and full of all sorts of angst.

Though neither him nor myself really talk about it much, there is some feeling that the other sibling has a little bit more to live up to than the other. I would like to be fit as much as him, whereas he would definitely like to be a little bit more into what’s going on with the world, in terms of music, movies, celebrities, or what have you. We don’t resent each other because of that, we just know that there’s some competition and tension there. Then again, that’s just how brothers are; it’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, it’s just a thing. As plain and simple as day.

That’s why when I saw Tom and Matt’s relationship – how the older one clearly believes in the promise the younger one holds – I couldn’t help but feel some sort of connection. Not to say that I believe, one day, my little brother will become somebody who sits on his ass and reads movie news each and every day of his life, but I do believe there’s ways in which we can both help each other and live up to whatever set of ideals we have for one another. It’s a weird, and a bit hard to spell-out here, but that’s only because it’s a thing us O’Neill brothers have. Sorry if you ain’t with it.

But in the case of Tom and Matt, you can see that they both love each other. Even though Matt is definitely all cooped-up with his band, his wife, his kid and his career, he still has time to encourage Tom and doesn’t act like he isn’t even there. In fact, throughout most of the movie, we actually hear and see Matt sticking up for his little brother, even when that said little brother is in actually being a fuck-up, getting blitzed when he’s not supposed to and putting his camera in too many’s people’s faces. Hell, they even share the same hotel rooms throughout most of the duration of the tour! If that doesn’t scream “brotherly love”, I don’t know what will!

Umbrella in the middle of Prospect Park. So indie.

Umbrella in the middle of Prospect Park. So indie.

Okay, maybe the city of Philadelphia, but that’s besides the point.

Both of them, Matt and Tom, are generally likable guys. Matt is as pretentious as I expected him to be just by listening to his music, but he never comes-off like a “dick”, which I think was very important into how this documentary is viewed. And as for Tom, well, he’s a bit of a goofball. Actually, correction, he’s a total and complete goofball. However, he’s a total and complete goofball, that is endearing and the type of guy we can get behind, even when he seems to just be stupid, for no apparent reason, other than to just be stupid.

Actually, one of my main problems with this movie is that seeing as how he directed and made this movie his own-self, I can’t help but feel like he was putting a show on a bit. Not just for his brother and the rest of the band, but for the movie itself. He asks dumb questions to other members of the band, that always seem to revolve around his big brother Matt, and even when some of them do have the heart to answer the poor numskull’s questions, he cuts them-off and instead, says his peace. I felt like a bit too much of that wasn’t sincere and it was just his own way of messing around with the movie, and putting his own stamp on it. Which, yes, makes sense since this is his movie, his documentary, which also happens to be about him and his brother, but sometimes a little bit too much of it can only go on for so long.

Eventually though, Matt and Tom’s relationship comes more and more into play as we see them come together and try their hardest to connect to one another, even if they are a bit different in terms of personality and general-tastes. However, they are blood brothers. And what usually comes with blood is love, devotion, care and the idea that no matter how many times you two may fight and get disappointed with one another, you’re still family and you gots to stick together. If that doesn’t strike a chord, I don’t know what will, you lonely, angry and anti-social human being.

Consensus: Being a fan of the National as is, doesn’t affect whether or not you like Mistaken for Strangers, an effective, and relatively emotional documentary that touches on the strong bond that is between family members, particularly brothers.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I think we can all relate to having to bail-out a family member in the middle of a swarming crowd.

I think we can all relate to having to bail-out a family member in the middle of a swarming crowd.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2014)

Sex isn’t the root to all evil. It just matters who you’re having it with.

When we last left-off with Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her life’s story, she was younger, happily-in-love with Jerome (Shia Labeouf), but had a problem: She couldn’t be fully sexually-satisfied. Most of that problem had to do with the fact that she was pregnant, but that’s also because she longed for something more. After all, she is a self-described Nymphomaniac, and Nymphomaniac’s need all the pleasure and sex they can get. Even if that does mean getting late-night spanks from a random stranger (Jamie Bell); going to see a sex-therapist (Katie Ashfield) to “get help”; and start working as a debt-collector for a brutal man known as L (Willem Dafoe). Eventually though, all of this screwing around, comes back to bite her in the rear-end, which also leads us to the present-day in which she is telling Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) everything that he needs to know about her. He’s still using every chance he can to bring up random facts about fishing, religion, family and art, but he may even have a little something to share with Joe as well. Maybe something that will make her seem in a different light?

Volume I of Lars von Trier’s two-parter surprised the hell out of me. Not because it wasn’t as disgusting or vile as I originally thought of it as being upon first hearing the term, “Four-hour sex-epic from the guy who made Antichrist“, but because it did a lot of stuff that we don’t see von Trier often do in his movies. For one, it was pretty funny. Many of times, I caught myself laughing at the pure-randomness of this material, like Christian Slater using a British-accent, or Joe ejaculating while watching her father lie-naked and die right in front of her eyes; however, I feel like that’s what von Trier wanted me to do. He was intentionally messing around with me, the viewer, and for that, I appreciated him, as well as the movie, a whole lot more.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Also, von Trier never seemed to be judging Joe for any of the dirty, immoral things she was doing with her body. She was having all sorts of sex with anybody she could find, yet, she was using it to her advantage. Rather than painting her as a total and complete slut, who doesn’t deserve the time of day, let alone, our warm, cozy bed, we get to see a woman, being a woman, who also happens to have plenty of needs. We never hate her, nor do we like her – we just see her for what she is. Von Trier was smart in using that method of story-telling and character-development to his advantage, which is why that first part had me expecting all sorts of greatness for this.

Sadly, no such thing happens.

The reason why I mentioned the whole hilarious, and non-judgmental-aspect of the first film, is because all of those elements that made the first one such a fine-watch, are pretty much gone here. Acts of hilarious randomness are replaced with dark, twisted confusion; whereas the idea of not judging our character, is replaced with a view on this character that is the least bit flattering. Now, of course it’s von Trier’s movie and he can wish to do whatever the hell it is he wants, with whomever he wants, but I feel like the transition from something so fun, light and exciting like the first-part, to something so dark, angry, mean and nasty like this part, would have been a lot more cohesive, had this film been shown in its original, straight, four-hour run-time. Had that been the format chosen, there wouldn’t have been such a tonal-difference between either parts, and how von Trier decides to switch gears up.

That doesn’t make this movie bad at all, it’s just disappointing is all. Where in Volume I, I thought I saw a quick, humorous-side to von Trier that I had never, ever known was there before; here, we get something that’s going back to the Lars von Trier we all know, and sometimes loathe: Evil, cruel and mean. He still pays close-attention to his characters, the situations they are thrown into, and how they react to them, but it’s not nearly as entertaining or interesting as the first movie. It just seems like von Trier ran-out of some ideas here and there, so instead of keeping with the frothy-pace of the first movie, he just decided to throw more and more crazy acts at us, in a way to both shock us and have us trying to make sense of what we’re seeing.

Problem is, that barely ever happens. It’s just Lars von Trier, being Lars von Trier. And I guess I just wanted more growth. May be a problem only I had, but it’s still a problem that continued to bug me, again and again.

"Yes, the glove DOES matter."

“Yes, the glove DOES matter.”

All that said, I can’t take away from what’s really working here, which is the ensemble von Trier packs a bit more from the first. Stacy Martin may have stolen the show in the first-installment, but this time, we finally get to see a lot more of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s portrayal of Joe, and needless to say, it’s another compelling performance from an actress that always seems to put in great work. Especially when she’s working with von Trier. Gainsbourg has a lot of crazy stuff to do here, such as getting whipped, brutally beaten, ripping her clothes off and having to kiss other woman. And while that may not sound like much of a range at all when all it is you’re doing is going through motions, Gainsbourg is still believable during every part. The only thing really holding her character back is that we begin to care less and less for her character, her journey and where it is she’s going with her life, because of the way von Trier’s light portrays here as. Shame too, because Gainsbourg is a solid actress who is clearly not afraid of stepping out of her comfort-zone; even if that does entail showing her bum.

Like Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård returns as the heartfelt, sensitive man who is always eager to see and hear where Joe’s story goes next, sometimes a little TOO eager. We get more shading to his character than ever before here, but, like with the character of Joe in this movie, von Trier’s starts to paint a portrait of this man isn’t as sympathetic as it was in the first place. That’s about as much as I’ll say about that, but it surprised me. Then, I got to thinking about it, and then it didn’t. Because, hell, this is a Lars von Trier movie, what do you expect to happen!??! Roses, happiness, peace and love to be spotted in every frame?!?!

Consensus: The drastic change in tone and character-development for Nymphomaniac: Volume II, may be surprising when compared to the first-part, however, it’s a surprise that we’ve seen von Trier use way too many times before and by now, it seems like the man may have to find new, and improved ways to tell his stories. More like Volume I was.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

To move forward in one's life, they must burn every car. I know that's not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

To move forward in one’s life, they must burn every car. I know that’s not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

What’s Your Number? (2011)

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

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

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

Oh, just bang already!

Oh, just bang already!

I really do mean that, too.

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

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

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

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

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

The “false-hair” gag. Never gets old.

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

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

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

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

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Eight Men Out (1988)

Seriously Joe! What the hell?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Puncture (2011)

Next time I go for my measles, I’m examining the hell out of that needle.

Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a young, hotshot Houston lawyer that also has a bit of drug problem. Actually, correction, he has way more than just “a bit” of a drug problem; it’s actually pretty hefty. However, he gets by on his smarts that earns him enough money to buy as many drugs and booze as he wants, while also still having enough left over to get himself a place at a local motel or something of that nature. His best-buddy Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen) is more of a straight-laced lawyer that usually helps him get all of the cases he can find, no matter how unusual or simple they be. However, one day, they sort of walk into one they weren’t expecting, and yet, aren’t too sure if they even want to attack in the first. What their case basically is, is this woman named Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a local ER nurse, gets pricked by a contaminated needle without ever knowing it, until she finds out it carries a major sickness. As both Weiss and Danziger dig deeper into the case, a health care and pharmaceutical conspiracy teeters on exposure and heavyweight attorneys move in on the defense, making them both unsure as to whether or not they actually want to go ahead on this case, or just leave it alone before any of them get hurt.

My mind was totally blown once the credits showed up and told us that this was all one true story that actually occurred way back back in the late-90′s. I mean obviously, dirty needles are not something people want around as it causes some of the worst diseases of all, but I never knew such a case was taken so far to get them away. It actually makes for a very interesting documentary that I’d watch on the History Channel, rather than one, long re-enactment, with some pretty faces.

Sorry Cap, you don’t always shine so well.

Looks like somebody accidentally found Cap at the tail-end of the 80's, man. Wait til Nevermind hits.

Looks like somebody accidentally found Cap at the tail-end of the 80′s, man. Wait til Nevermind hits.

Co-directors Adam and Mark Kassen (yup, they’re related) have clearly studied this story, from head-to-toe as they get just about every detail right. You can tell that it interests them by how much effort they are putting into making this unknown story, not just known to us regular, everyday-folk, but to also make it matter. In here, you have your typical Cold Case drama where certain pieces of evidence are gathered, deals are made and some corrupt politicians shed their true-skin, but it never feels like it’s always going to go somewhere you’ve seen a hundred, million times before. You get a sense that the Kassen’s care so much about this, and better yet, want you to care as well.

Problem is, the effort doesn’t fully-work.

What bothered me most about this flick is that it doesn’t really seem to know where it wants to go with itself. At first, it seems like they’re really going to dive right into the whole politics of this one case and reveal some a-holes to the public, that need to especially be seen. But then, it sort of goes the conventional-route and starts to talk about Weiss’ drug addiction; which is pretty evident that it exists throughout the whole movie, yet, never really brought up until half-way through and then becomes all about just that. Watching a person be addicted to drugs and fuck something up as big as this case that Weiss has here should be very nerve-racking and emotional to have to sit-through, but there’s barely any tension whatsoever. Most of that has to do with the fact that we never quite get straight-focus of who this story is really supposed to be all about.

Also, I couldn’t help but feel like the Kassen’s were just constantly shoving everything they had to say about the corruption and conspiracy that came along with the case, straight down our throats until we eventually just gave in and got right onto Wikipedia right away. Honestly, I would have felt like that if they just stopped preaching for a little bit and gave me some room to breathe and congest everything in. But nope, they just kept on going, and going, and going, until I didn’t know if they could go on anymore.

But you know what? They did.

Look out behind you, Johnny Storm! Oh, don't worry, Tony Stark will save you or something, right? Wrong superheros? Aw, screw you! Same people!

Look out behind you, Johnny Storm! Oh, don’t worry, Tony Stark will save you or something, right? Wrong superheros? Aw, screw you! Same people!

And you know who feels the side-effects of that the most? Chris Evans, that’s who!

Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is an absolute shame considering Chris Evans is probably the only aspect in this movie worth seeing. Reason why Evans is so good here is that he’s able to make us sympathize with somebody as distasteful and unreliable as Mike Weiss, yet, by the same token, make us hate his guts and wish he would just get his whole act together when he clearly needs to start doing so. Evans has always been a good actor in the stuff he’s shown-up in, but now that I think he’s starting to wind his time down as Steve Rodgers, and quite possibly dive into some far-more different directions for his career, I think we’re going to be able to see him really take advantage of that lovable screen-presence he’s always had on-display in many movies. The only problem is that their either barely-seen flicks like this, or Sunshine, or even the Iceman to a certain extent; or pieces of junk that just about everybody and your 13-year-old son saw, like Not Another Teen Movie, or What’s Your Number? or both of the Fantastic Four flicks.

And then of course, there’s some that sort of fails in both categories, like the Perfect Score or London. But I guess those two being forgotten about and barely-even seen is probably a good thing.

Not just for Evans, but all of us as a society.

Consensus: Anytime Chris Evans shows-up to be cool, charming, make us laugh and make us expect the unexpected from his character, Puncture gets a whole lot better. But, as predicted, without him, the rest of the movie sort of falls flat.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess ladies can rejoice that he's in a wife-beater. Even if he is supposed to be a drug-addled, two-bit loser. But sure, that's hot.

I guess ladies can rejoice that he’s in a wife-beater. Even if he is supposed to be a drug-addled, two-bit loser. But sure, that’s totally “hot”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Hail Cesar!

César Chávez (Michael Peña) was a man that believed in sticking up for himself and his people, even if it didn’t mean having to take matters into your own hands. César had a problem with the way Mexican farm-workers were being treated; they made very little, worked for very long and if they decided not to work any longer, then they would be forced to go back to their native country. So yeah, of course César saw this as “wrong”, which is why he decides not to stand for it any longer and get together as many of people he possibly can on his side, to face-off against the powers that be – aka, the head of these major companies making these workers work so hard, long and without much of a reward to show for it. Throughout César’s mission, he goes through his usual ups, his downs and even finds himself questioning whether or not there’s any reason to fight for a cause/group of people, that are clearly out-matched, out-numbered, and out-of-their-element when it comes to how the government does things and if they do so in a moral way, or let the sound of money and pride get in the way of doing what is right.

Well, there you have it, folks. It needed to happen sooner or later, but we have finally gotten the César Chávez biopic. Is it the one we deserve? Eh, not really, but I guess if there is one thing that this movie gets right, it’s that it informs those of us out there as to why this man mattered, why his cause was just and how much his impact has been felt on the world today. With that aspect of the film taken in and thought about, then yeah, director Diego Luna (yes, the actor) gets the job done. No questions asked.

"Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?"

“Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?”

However, when it comes down to giving us a heartfelt, emotional and complex story about one man’s struggle to fight for what he believes in, as well as staying true to himself, his values and those who are close to him? Eh, I wouldn’t say so.

See, where I think Luna runs into the problem with this movie is that he clearly loves and has so much respect for César Chávez in the first place, that you never get an sense that we’re watching a movie that’s trying to get us to know exactly who this man. Much rather, we get the story about what this man did, those he cared for and why he believed in sticking up for his people. That’s all we really get and even though I wasn’t expecting Diego Luna to throw out some random bits or pieces of info that would have César Chávez look as if he was a downright, despicable human being, I still would have liked to seen a little more detail into the mistakes he made along the way.

Sure, we get to see that he runs into conflicts with his wife, but only because she feels as if she’s being tied-down too much and not given the time to stretch her own wings and fly around for a bit. And sure, we get to see him have problems with other members of the group, but only because where as he wants to rebel in a calm, sophisticated, no-violence way, they all want to take out their dukes and start rumbling a bit. Oh, and sure, we see how much the law-enforcement acted so wrongly against him, as well as the rest of the group, but that’s only because their a bunch of racist, bigoted Southern assholes that have nothing else better to do with their time, money or house-maids, then just take out their shotguns and wailing it around some.

You get the point now? It isn’t that Luna paints César Chávez as the most perfect person on the face of the planet, but it doesn’t really do much to show him at his faults either. Apparently he wasn’t that great of a father to his son either, which comes and goes as it pleases and only seems desperately thrown in there to create some more conflict and family-drama, when in reality, we don’t really need anymore of it at all. All we really need is an honest story about a man we should know a whole lot more about coming out of, than going into, but somehow, it ended up just being the same. Even for someone like me, who only knows the man of César Chávez, his influence and his impact, through the beautiful workings of WikiPedia.

Ah, what a wonderful and nifty tool it is to have the internet exist in today’s day and age. How wonderful indeed.

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

If there’s anything really worth seeing this movie for, it’s mainly for the fact that Luna makes a smart choice in giving Michael Peña a rare chance at a lead role for once and a lifetime, and the guy does an okay job with it. I can’t really say that it’s anything spectacular or even better than what we’ve seen him do in some smaller, supporting roles, but with what material he’s given, which is rather thin, Peña delivers. Same goes for America Ferrera who fits-in perfectly as Chávez’s wife, even though she’s given the conventional-role of “the house-mother that sits at home all day, does nothing and just wants to be apart of something fun and exciting”. It’s a role we’ve all seen written a million times before, and somehow, Ferrera makes it a bit more watchable and even creates a realistic-piece of chemistry between her and Peña.

The supporting cast has a whole bunch of familiar-faces, which are great to see and all, but none of them really stand-out among the rest; which, once again, may have more to do with the script, rather than their own acting-abilities. Rosario Dawson shows up every once and a blue moon during this as one of Chávez’s most-trusted supporters; Wes Bentley plays a free-lovin’, hippie lawyer-brah that backs up Chávez when he needs all the help he can get; and out of everybody here, the one who made the biggest impression on me was John Malkovich as one of the owners of these major-companies that Chávez and his people are speaking-out against. Malkovich is clearly soaking up the sun as, who is presumed to be, the baddie, but he actually gives a nice moment of humanism where we see him talk about his days of growing up as a Scandinavian immigrant in America, and how he had to work his way up the ladder to become the man who he is today. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a total and complete, money-grubbing prick that doesn’t give two hoots about his workers, their families, or their livelihoods, but it definitely does throw us a curve-ball in terms of the way we view this character. Love it when that happens in any movie, and I wish there was more of that in here.

Consensus: Though it boasts a few fine performances worth seeing, Cesar Chavez feels more like a tribute to the man, rather than an actual narrative, where we get to see him for all that he was, good qualities, as well as bad ones, alike.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Still pissed somebody hasn't filled his glass back-up yet.

Still pissed somebody hasn’t filled his glass back up yet.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Noah (2014)

Thought he’d need a bigger boat. Guess not.

I don’t think I really need to state what this movie is about, but in case those of you out there have either been living under a rock for the past one million years, or just don’t pay attention to anything at all in the whole, wide world, here’s the plot: Noah (Russell Crowe) is a descendant of Seth, which means he is one of the very few nice men in the world that doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t kill when he doesn’t have to, and loves all things that are beautiful with the world. He loves nature, he loves his wife (Jennifer Connelly), his family and most of all, his God. So much so, that when he has a vision in his dreams that the world will be destroyed one day due to a huge flood, he decides to take matters into his own hands and prepare the right way. What is “the right way”, you ask? Well, that consists of building a giant-scale Ark that will hold two of every animal species known to man in order to have all of them continue on and live, even if the world itself is totally wiped-out. Things for Noah and his whole family seem to go fine, that is until Noah gets a little bit crazy with what it is that God actually wants him to do, against what it is that he thinks he should do.

As predicted, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding this movie. Many Christian-advocates have stood-up, said their peace about this flick and even though they haven’t necessarily been totally against it, per se, they definitely haven’t given it the glowing pass of approval neither. So basically, this movie may offend you, but then again, at the same time, it may not. It all depends on how in-touch you are with your faith and whether or not you actually want to see a full-length, feature-flick about a dude who built an Ark to preserve life for the rest of humanity.

Personally, I don’t want to see that kind of movie. But if Darren Aronofsky is directing it, then count me the hell in!

"Guess you didn't get the memo about '80's glam-metal hair-styles only', huh?"

“Guess you didn’t get the memo about ’80′s glam-metal hair-styles only’, huh?”

And if anything, the idea of having Darren Aronofsky direct this as a certain “passion project” of his, is definitely the most intriguing-aspect behind this flick. You’d never expect the same kind of guy who gave us scenes like this, or this, or hell, even this, to be so willing and dedicated to give his own, in-depth version of an as-old-as-time story that’s only about a few paragraphs or so long. But with Aronofsky, you can never, ever tell what his next move is going to be; whether it be what movie he decides to direct next, or what he actually does in his own movies, the guy is totally unpredictable. However, in today’s day and age of cinema, we need that, which is why when you get a Darren Aronofsky movie, it doesn’t matter what the subject-material is or how it’s going to play-out in terms of who it’s for – all you have to know is when, where, what time and if you’re able to see it right away!

As you can probably tell, I was very excited for this movie, just judged solely by who was making it and to be honest, that’s probably what kept this movie going for me. It seemed strange in the first place that a major-studio would actually back a biblical-epic directed by Darren Aronofsky in the first place, and seeing the end-result, it’s apparent why I had those ideas in my in the first place. Like all of Aronofsky’s movies, this is downright beautiful; from the visuals, to the amazing, sometimes over-wrought score from Clint Mansell, to even the biblical-imagery that doesn’t hit you over the head, but is able to make you understand what message it’s trying to convey, everything was given the right attention of detail it needed to seem like an actual story from this time and place, rather than just a cheap dramatization we’d get on the History Channel.

Even the actual story here, which Aronofsky clearly took plenty of liberties with, seems like something he’d do; the main character of Noah, here, has an obsession over doing what God wants him to do, even if it does make him absolutely insane. In fact, where this movie really gets interesting is when Aronofsky sheds a light on how Noah either does or doesn’t take God’s demands or ideas about saving humanity and getting rid of those who don’t deserve to live, as understandably as he should. In any movie, directed by anybody else who didn’t have nearly as bright a mind as Aronofsky, this message could have been handled terribly and even offend some out there, but what Aronofsky does is just show a character finding himself in a bit of a bind as to whether or not he should do exactly what he thinks God is telling him to do, or act as he should, a moral human being. Instead of seeing Noah as a Saint that did everything right, for every person around him, including God, we see him as a man that struggled with his faith, with the situation he was thrown into and how all of the pressure was thrown onto him to not only preserve these animals, but keep those around him alive and well, knowing that they’d die soon, and possibly even be the last ones alive on Earth.

Pretty freaky stuff, but I guess when you got the big G.O.D. backing you up, it doesn’t matter.

But as interesting as most of the things that Aronofsky does with this material, I still can’t help but feel as if a bit too much of it is over-blown beyond its means. For instance, Noah, as almost every epic, is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, and it feels like so. That isn’t good, not because long movies shouldn’t exist, but because this one feels unnecessarily long, when only a good hour-and-a-half of this movie is really worth seeing. Everything leading-up from when Noah has these dreams of the apocalypse, to when he actually gets the Ark up and running, is exciting, tense and exactly the type of viewing-experience I expected to have with something on this grand-of-a-scale.

"But in all seriousness though, honey, I'm fucking craving a hamburger. We gotta get rid of the pigs."

“But in all seriousness though, honey, I’m fucking craving a burger. We gotta get rid of the cows.”

However, all of the energy of this movie seems to fade out, slowly but surely. I don’t want to say where this story goes and how dark it gets, but it seemed like Aronofsky felt like he really needed to allow this movie to play-out as long as he possibly could, so threw in all sorts of subplots he could. This not only has it seem like it’s meandering and taking its good old time to get to a finale, but doesn’t really know where it’s going to end-up – much like Noah and the rest of his family on this Ark. I was still interested in seeing where this movie would go, but after awhile, I began to wonder if that moment would ever come around, and if it did, would it actually be satisfying, or just rushed and too safe for its own good.

Somehow, it placed somewhere in the middle, but I can’t say I was all that disappointed where it did go and end. Doesn’t offend too many people, but still keeps it a bit edgy and hard-hitting for those who want some deeper-meaning out of what they see here.

And of course, before I head-off into the sunset, I do have to give some credit to the cast for at least trying with what they’re given, as timid as some of it may be. Russell Crowe is perfectly-cast as Noah, showing all sorts of grit, manliness that makes you seem his as the type of guy you don’t want to mess with when it comes to the apocalypse, but also enough compassion to where you can sort of see that he’s a sweet guy behind the huge muscles and supreme fighting-skills. It was also nice to see Jennifer Connelly back in a movie with Darren Aronofsky, and actually get some worthy-material that has her shed those skills more than a few times, particularly in a scene where she basically tells Noah to wake up and snap out his crazed-daze. And as usual, Anthony Hopkins is a fine-addition to the cast as he brings a lot of fun, light and humor to a film that seemed so serious and over-blown most of the time. And he does it all by wanting berries!

Didn’t see that part in the original source-material, but then again, it’s been a long time since my Vacation Bible School days.

Consensus: While the first hour-and-a-half packs a exciting, tense and epic-punch that Darren Aronofsky is clearly able to deliver, the remainder of Noah does seem to meander and have no clue where to go, which may be more of a problem with the studio that helped produce it, rather than the creator himself, but it’s still a noticeable problem nonetheless.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?"

“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Breathe In (2014)

Just let the middle-aged, suburban-daddy live a little, dammit!

Keith (Guy Pearce), Megan (Amy Ryan), and Lauren Reynolds (Mackenzie Davis) live a relatively simple, carefree life. Keith is a music teacher at a high school and sometimes steps into to play cello in the local orchestra; Megan stays at home, drives people everywhere, collects cookie-jars and always seems to have a smile on her face; and Lauren, being that she’s on the verge of being legally considered an “adult”, is going through some growing pains that consist of drinking, parties, loud music, boys, having sex and keeping her self-esteem up (you know, traditional, high school girl stuff). They also live in a big old house in the middle of the suburbs, so they live pretty comfortably; that is, until foreign exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) walks into their lives and kind of, sort of, maybe screws everything up. Not really, because while she clearly is reeling from a tragedy and just wants to live life in the city, Sophie tries to fit in at the school, get along with the family and see if she can get more and more away from her life of pursuing a music career. A music career that, mind you, Keith is very fond of. Maybe a bit too fond of.

Yeah, you know where this is going.

"Freebird?"

“Freebird?”

Which is exactly why I’m bringing this up here and now, because it’s the one aspect behind this movie that ruins it: The fact that you’ve seen this story done a gazillion times before. Oh, let me guess, the patriarch of the family must be going through some mid-life crisis where all he does is want to bask in the greatness of what was once his younger-years; oh wait, no, don’t tell me that his wife doesn’t really care for his aspirations that dive away from what she wants him to be and look like; and no, no, no, do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell me that the new girl that starts living with this family just so happens to be a bit wiser for her age and starts flirting all over the place with Keith! No, no, no! You’ve got to be kidding me!

And the reason why I’m being so over-dramatic, is because I don’t know why writer/director Drake Doremus didn’t decide to shake things up a bit with this simple-premise. You know, rather than just giving us a straight-laced, obvious story about the possibility of a family-man being unfaithful to his wife, under his own roof no less, he could have thrown a little twist or two here and there. But nope, it’s all pretty simple from the start – Keith’s eyes will begin to wander towards Sophie, they’ll begin to chat, flirt a little, and eventually, it will get so strung out of control that he’ll come to a crossroads in his life where he doesn’t know who he wants to be with for the rest of this life: The young, blissful 18-year-old Brit, or the middle-aged, boring and more controlling house-wife he’s been with for the past 20 years?

Ugh, ugh, ugh! Conventional, conventional, conventional!

However, maybe I am being a bit too hard on this movie, because while Doremus may not fully run away from the conventions of the overly-familiar plot-line he’s working with, he still finds some ways to breath new life into them (pun intended). Rather than focusing on the sexual-tension between Keith and Sophie, and how much of it continues to boil and boil over time, we get a sense as to why, in a way, they should try to spark something up with one another. I know it sounds all wrong and immoral for me to stand behind an act of adultery, but that’s only because the movie makes a pretty good case for me as is; Keith is a bit of a sad-sack that has lost all of the joys that his life once was, what he wants it to be once again. Whereas Sophie, on the other hand, sort of wants the same thing, even if her main-objective is to get out into the city and feel the high-life, which she makes a mention of many times, but instead, has to sit around this house that’s literally in the middle of suburbia and be bored to death.

Not only do we feel bad for them both, but we also see why they’d need one another for a sort of escape from the outside world. Sure, we don’t need to necessarily support the act of sneaking around and, for the most part, getting away with it all, but we can still understand it, and I think that’s the idea Doremus was trying to get across. For that, I can at least forgive him for some of the conventions he still falls for with this story, but I still feel like there could have been so much more potential reached, had he decided to do something a little different here and there. Nothing too much, just a shock once or twice and I would have been fine.

But, like I said before, this is less about the plot-devices and how they’re used, and more about the actual characters, and the actors and actresses playing them – all of which, are fantastic. Guy Pearce seems to always be great in anything that he does, but really sinks his teeth into this character of Keith Reynolds, the kind of aging-daddy you want to share a beer with and just let him know it will be alright, rather than going out and chasing some tail. Sure, he’s a bit of a nerd, but he’s a likable, if sympathetic, nerd that just wants to break loose, if only for a short bit. Nice to see him still be able to get some quality-roles, even at his age and his star-power. But then again, this is the indie-world, and anybody can be in a lead-role; just as long as they’re good, that is.

Yuck! You three and all your happiness make me sick!

Yuck! You three and all your happiness make me sick!

The rest of the Reynolds family are good: Amy Ryan seems like she could somebody like Megan really annoying and cloying, but instead, makes her a sympathetic, small-minded woman that just wants best for her family, even if that means breaking down her hubby’s spirits every once and awhile. Actually, no, scratch that, ALL OF THE TIME! Damn women! Am I right, guys? And also, the gal who plays Keith and Megan’s daughter, Lauren, seemed very familiar to me, if only because I knew the face and the voice and knew I saw it/heard it from somewhere quite recently, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. That is, until about half-way through, that I realized Mackenzie Davis was the little lady playing Lauren and I remembered that she was in That Awkward Moment, which I saw a couple of months back. Crazy how the world works, right?!?!? Needless to say, the girl is quite great and gets a lot more to do here, than she did in that movie where you had Zac Efron flexing his hardcore-abs just about every second of every day.

God, if only I was young again.

While the ones who play the Reynolds clan are great and all, the real stand-out is who plays Sophie, Felicity Jones. The weird fact surrounding Jones and the fact that she’s playing Sophie, is that Jones is 30 years old, whereas the character she’s playing, is supposed to be an 18-year-old. However, what works well and sort of connects the two strands of detail together, is that Sophie is shown to be a lot smarter and wiser than the many other 18-year-olds around her, which not only makes us believe her character a little more, but see why she’d hover over towards a man like Keith, and vice versa. She has those eyes that makes you think she’s thinking about a hundred-million different things at the same time, and you’re always on-edge with whatever choice she makes next, and how it will affect those around her. Jones was great in Doremus’ last flick, Like Crazy, and here, she seems to only be growing and growing with each and every role. I really hope that the Amazing Spider-Man 2 makes her a huge name, because the woman definitely deserves it. Also, I hope that means she’ll start playing ladies her own age.

Consensus: There’s absolutely no doubt that the story, or the themes presented aren’t the least bit inventive, but where Breathe In doesn’t get points for originality, it does get it in well-written characters, fine performances from the cast and an attention to setting and mood that has us at least believe in what we’re seeing.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, uh, you ever heard of the Replacements? Pretty dope, right? That is what you kids are saying nowadays?"

“So, uh, you ever heard of the Replacements? Pretty dope, right? That is what you kids are saying nowadays?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Sabotage (2014)

SabotageposterIf it was more like the song, we’d be better off. And yes, I do mean the same running-time as well.

During one raid on a drug cartel’s safe house, an elite DEA task force, led by a bad-ass known as “Breacher” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), find all of themselves stuck at a bit of a crossroads: Either get rid of the money and act as if they never saw this many of billions and billions of dollars; or, take most of it all for themselves and blow up the rest? Well, being that these peeps aren’t all that sane or smart in the heads, they decide to go with the later-option, thinking that no harm whatsoever could come of it. How wrong they were. Because see, when these lovely gentleman’s and lady go to fetch the money they’ve left for themselves, they find it all gone, therefore raising the government’s suspicion on their missions and what it is exactly that they do. Things get even worse when, six months later, two members of the squad turn-up dead, which automatically leads each and every person to the conclusion that whoever is doing this, is getting revenge for their money being stolen/destroyed. This is when Investigator Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) is called on to the scene, even if she is a bit out-of-her-reach with how twisted and disturbing this case turns out to be.

In all honesty, I truly am glad to see Arnie getting his full-on, big screen comeback. Seriously, I am. The guy more than deserves it. Besides when is it never a pleasant sight to see when one of your childhood, film-heroes gets put back on the big screen for another go at the movies?

However, the movies that Arnold has been trying to re-invent his career with, well, haven’t been so great. The Last Stand was okay, if tonally off; both of the Expendables featured what seemed to be him just hanging out on-set for a day or two, collecting his paycheck and saying, “I’m back”, more than a hundred-and-fifty times; and Escape Plan, despite being with another one of my childhood heroes, Sly Stallone, still wasn’t exactly what I had in my mind when I imagined those two getting together for a long time in a full-length, feature-flick. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of these movies, but I still can’t help but have the feeling like I’m being let-down by one of my favorites.

They just can't wait for their next taste of blood, with a side-dish drug money.

They just can’t wait for their next taste of blood, with a side-dish drug money.

That’s why when I saw something as brutal, gritty and relatively “different” for Arnie to tackle, even as late as he may be in his career, there was a part of me that still got that urge to get right up out of my seat and into the nearest theater right as soon as possible. That’s just how much I truly do love and adore Arnie, even if he has had a couple of missteps along the way. Then again though, what major, motion-picture movie star hasn’t?!?!?

You could say “Brad Pitt”, or “Leonardo DiCaprio”, or, if you really wanted to ruffle some feathers, “George Clooney”. But okay, fine! That’s not the point! What my point is, is that I was excited and interested in seeing what this was going to turn out to be, yet ever so hesitant as well.

Sadly, my hesitance paid-off. Damn me and my hesitance.

Where I think this movie mostly fails, is in the writing of David Ayer. Now, I know what most of you are probably thinking, that this is the same guy who wrote both Training Day and End of Watch, two great cop movies about cops being, well, cops, and with all of the added-on badassery that just comes along with the job. Though I don’t love those two movies nearly quite as much as others do out there in the world, I still give Ayer the benefit of the doubt for at least shedding light on our men and woman in uniform, while also showing them as being “humane”, and not just a bunch of chumps who have nothing else better to do than pull people over, give random tickets, and eat Dunkin’ Donuts. He clearly has love and respect for those in blue, which translates well into his screenplays, making them more character-driven than any other cop movies out there.

However, here with Sabotage, something went terribly wrong. Not only is the screenplay terrible, with lines of dialogue that even someone like Michael Bay would even scoff-at, but every character you see here is as thin as Kate Moss in her prime, if that. Nobody here really seems to have much of a soul, conscience or mind when it comes to doing what it is that they are supposed to do, which is ridding this world of drugs, those who supply it and the dirty money they make off of it. These are the types of people we’re supposed to feel safe with, knowing that they are out there trying to eliminate the scum from our streets; but here, with these buffoons, I felt the exact opposite.

The DEA task force we’re told to sympathize with early-on, feel like a bunch of crazy, high-as-hell misfits that don’t do drugs. Instead, they just get high on holding guns, throwing on their bullet-proof vests and getting out there, and lighting some people (or anything they can get their hands on) on fire. Ayer portrays them all as a bunch of dysfunctional, nearly-psychopathic nut-jobs that you’d never want to be at a party with, let alone want to hear on the receiving-end of your drastic, important 911 call. They’re the kind of people that would much rather be guzzling down some brews, getting in their cars and driving down to the nearest jail-house where they can most likely beat the hell out of whatever sad-sacks got stuck in the slammer for the night and piss on them when they’re down.

I know she's supposed to look like a 13-year-old boy, but she pulls it off in a hot way. Just saying. Don't call the cops on me. Please.

I know she’s supposed to look like a 13-year-old boy, but she pulls it off in a hot way. Just saying. Don’t call the cops on me. Please.

I know I sound a little extreme with my description, but I’m dead serious; these people are whack-jobs and barely any of them are worth your time. Not even Arnie’s “Breacher”. Hell, I’d say that Breacher is probably the weakest-character Arnie has played in awhile, if only because Ayer relies on him too much for acting. It should be a common-known fact by now that even though he may be one of the biggest and respectable names in the movie world, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not all that good of an actor. In fact, he’s probably a lot worse than he was before, only due to the rust he’s acquired after all of those years of being the “Governator of Kellyfornia”. So, when Ayer is asking Arnold to deliver lines, as painful-sounding as they may be, you can’t help but feel bad for the guy; you can tell he’s struggling and wants to make the best of what he’s given, but he just can’t. The writing is too cheesy, too serious and too over-the-top, but not in a fun way.

Actually, that last aspect could be said for just about everybody else in this cast: “Over-the-top, but not in a fun way”. Every talented person ranging from the likes of Sam Worthington, to Joe Manganiello, and to even Terrence Howard, are all given crazy stuff to work with here, but come-off like they are either trying too hard, or not even trying at all. The only one who really gets out of this whole show alive is Mireille Enos, showing the world that she’s more than just that strong, silent type she played so effortlessly on the Killing; somehow, she can be a bit of a bad-ass chick that’s more than willing to hang, spit, drink and fight with the boys. Didn’t think the girl had it in her, but glad to see that she’s got range.

As for the rest of this movie, those who want to look past character-development, writing and acting, and just focus in on the action, may find themselves a bit pleased. Well, that’s if you’re type of “pleasurable action” revolves around people knocking-over doors, silently marching from room-to-room, and then, all of a sudden, shooting-down baddies, left and right, with blood spewing everywhere and anywhere.

Speaking of which, this movie is pretty damn gory, but gratuitously so. There’s always someone getting stabbed, or shot, or nailed to ceilings (yup, that does happen), and as shockingly brutal as it may be to see, it doesn’t really add much to the whole film in general. It just makes it seem like Ayer probably had more Heinz just waiting around on set, so he thought, “Why the ‘eff not?!?! Everybody loves A LOT of blood!!” I guess they do, but I don’t. At least not in this case, that is.

Consensus: Sabotage clearly wants to be a mean, ruthless and brutal action-thriller with lots of bad-ass moments and bad-ass characters, but ends up being dull, stupid and quite laughable at times, despite being so damn serious.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Seely boy! You not supposed to be on that side of the tracks. Tee hee!"

“Seely boy! You not supposed to be on that side of the tracks. Tee hee!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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