Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Nurse Betty (2000)

NurseBettyposterThe bigger question is: Why the hell do people still watch soap operas?

Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is a lovely, young woman from Kansas who is simple, loves her hubby (Aaron Eckhart), and loves to watch her favorite show, the popular daytime TV drama A Reason to Love. Betty is such a nice girl, that it’s almost insane to see what happens to her when her hubby is killed by two drug-dealers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), and then decides to flee the scene of the crime, in order to find and locate her favorite character from that show, Doctor David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Problem is, Betty is so disillusioned as to what the hell is going on that she doesn’t see David Ravell as a character from a show, but an actual character in real-life. Yep, she’s nutso!

It may came as sort of a shock to some of you out there, but this flick was actually directed by Neil LaBute, way before he started hanging out with Nicolas Cage and bees. However, this one wasn’t written by him but still features a lot of his trademarks: d-bag characters, dark humor, a bit of misogyny, and a double-entendre’s galore!

You know, what everybody loathes and loves about LaBute’s pieces of work.

They don't make cardboard cut-outs like they used to.

They don’t make cardboard cut-outs quite like they used to.

With this movie, we’re able to see that LaBute has a funny bone and even though none of his actual trademarks are here as a director or writer, we still get a feel for the guy and the type of material he likes thrown at him. Later in his career, that wouldn’t do much to help him, but before it all went downhill, LaBute was a pretty big, freakin’ deal at one point and it’s flicks like these that show why. While you’re laughing, you’ll actually find yourself following a story that’s clever, but is also very informative in the twists and turns it takes and at times, you may not know whether you should or shouldn’t laugh at what’s going on.

Yeah, it gets pretty serious, pretty quick.

Which, to say the least, can sort of be the problem, tonally speaking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bunch of fun that made me laugh, feel suspense, and question these characters and their motivations, but the tone felt a bit off to me. This is apparently clear especially around the last-act where, all of a sudden, we have characters shooting one another, murdering, bleeding, trying to save fish (once you see the film, it will make sense), and people yelling out for their loved-ones. It’s all very drastic, serious, and actually scary, considering we’ve spent so much time with these characters and all that they do, and now we actually have the possibility of seeing them be killed-off, in front of our eyes, is a pretty freaky sight. Not to always say that this movie’s most glaring problem is it’s tone, but when it doesn’t work, it shows and seems like the writers of this flick (John C. Richards and James Flamburg) may have needed a bit of LaBute-flavor to spice things up. Then again, that’s just the way I feel.

After Death at a Funeral, I don’t know what to believe anymore, but a comeback of sorts is clearly is in-store for Mr. LaBute.

I just know it!

But aside from that, everything else is pretty stellar about this movie, especially the cast. One of the biggest and best aspects of this flick, is Ms. Renée Zellweger as Betty Sizemore, our lovable klutz for the next two-hours. Say what you will about Zellweger, her scrunched-up face, her random marriage to Jack White, and her obvious, public drunkenness at the Oscars, the gal is one hell of a charmer and shows that she can make any character work, especially one that’s so strange like this. The fact that Betty is all in a daze and believes everything she sees is real, and not fictional like her favorite TV show, is more than enough to poke-fun at a character and make her seem like a total nut of a person, but Zellweger makes her more than that. She’s got a beautiful smile, a nice look to her, and is actually a sweet person, once you get past the fact that she’s a bit too cuckoo for Coco Puffs. But still, the movie plays off of her with such ease and Zellweger is more than up to the challenge when it comes to that. Without her and her earnestness, I don’t know quite how well this role, hell, this movie would have worked.

If this was the South, they'd be more than just fucked. They'd be dead.

“Next time, no driving Ms. Daisy.”

Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play the two dudes that are after her, and work very well together, despite them seeming like an odd-match at first. Rock is the straight-laced, comedic-man that is more like the voice of reason, whereas Freeman is the down-and-out hitman, that’s on his last job, wants to retire, and is starting to see more visions than he ever planned on, sort of like Betty in a way. Both have this odd-contrast between the two, but still do well at showing how goofy they can be, but also still have you a bit scared of what they could do next.

Greg Kinnear is also a nice fit as Dr. David Ravell, aka the person his character in this movie plays on the show that Betty loves to watch (make any sense?). What I liked about Kinnear is that he’s a bit of a dick because he’s a famous star that mostly older-housewives love, and seems to have it all go to his head. Yet, still respects and loves Betty for the fact that she’s able to be “in character” the whole time that they chat, but little does he know: She’s serious. Dead serious, in fact. It’s fun to see him play that idea up as we all know Kinnear is more than capable of playing a deuche.

He’s just got that look, I hate to say.

Consensus: While going through a few tonal issues, Nurse Betty still works as a dark, twisted, but surprisingly funny piece of LaBute fiction that may not have his trademark style, but still seems up the same alley.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a dick in this too. Much of a surprise to no one.

Oh yeah, and he’s a dick in this too. Not much of a surprise to any one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Queen of Earth (2015)

Everybody’s got that one “crazy friend”.

Having drifted apart for many reasons (mostly personal), Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) and Ginny (Katharine Waterson) go out to a beach for the week to where they’ll relax, catch up with one another, and hopefully, heal some wounds. But what eventually starts out as a promising, fun-filled week, soon turns sour when Catherine starts acting out in some rather strange ways. For one, she’s talking to herself almost constantly. And then, she’s always turning each and every conversation she has with a person, into some sort of fight or argument that goes and ends nowhere, except with her bawling her eyes out soon afterwards. Though Ginny’s no peach, either, she’s still trying to get control of her best friend’s emotions, which only intensifies once Ginny’s neighbor (Patrick Fugit) comes around. As the rage within Catherine grows and grows larger by each and every day, it becomes all the more clear to those around her that she’s clearly suffering from some painful mental disorder, but what it is? Nobody knows and quite frankly, they aren’t let ruining their one week away from the rest of existence, get ruined because of it, either.

Crazy.

Crazy.

Queen of Earth, on paper, is as simple as you can get with a movie. Two friends, go to a beach house to get away from all the pains that exist in their real lives. But writer/director Alex Ross Perry, being the inspired creator that he is, decides to take it one step further in showing that there may be more dark and sinister stuff lurking somewhere underneath. Though there’s a lot of tension as is what with Catherine acting like a crazed-nut half of the time, the movie never makes itself clear as a “thriller”; I guess you could consider it one, but not the kind people pay huge buckets of cash to go out, see, and have a splendid time with.

Nope, Perry means to go a lot deeper than that and it’s actually a lot better than most of the “bigger” thrillers I see in theaters today.

Though it would be safe to write Queen of Earth as nothing more than a “Roman Polanski knock-off”, it’s also a bit unfair. Sure, Perry is clearly aiming for that same sort of brooding style that Polanski utilized oh so well in his early-career psychological thrillers, but to call it a “rip-off” of sorts, isn’t giving him as much credit since he works off of this style and adds a bit more to it. One way, you could say, is that he put the style in a modern-day setting, but even then, it’s still effective. Because the movie takes place in what seems to be this little stitch of land that’s far, far away from the rest of the real world, the movie feels a whole lot more claustrophobic and gives you the feeling that no matter how hard these character’s try to escape one another, there’s hardly anywhere for them to go.

And it’s worth noting that the movie is crazy intense, but it isn’t for the reasons you expect. There’s no guns, no car-chases, no brawl, and there is sure as hell no action-sequences; it’s literally just three-to-four people sitting in a room, arguing with one another long enough until the other decides to throw in the towel and go be pissed-off elsewhere. It sounds so incredibly boring, but while watching it, with Perry’s non-stop usage of the close-up, as well as these performer’s, it’s anything but.

Which brings me to my next point: Elisabeth Moss.

It’s no surprise to anyone that Moss is a good actress. For many, many years on Mad Men, Moss was able to show us the transition Peggy Olson had as a small-minded, cute and naive girl who eventually became her own boss, got the man she wanted, and, from what we can believe, everything worked out for and she was happy about. But, to be honest, she was a lot more restrained in that role and was never able to show people what she was truly made of and could do as an actress.

As Catherine, Moss is able to let loose like she’s never done before. It’s almost as if all those years of holding everything back for Matthew Weiner finally made its way out of her and it’s such a beauty to behold. Not because it’s fun to watch Moss cry, run around rooms, curse aloud, and give people the stink-eye, but because we all know it all comes from a thoughtful place. Perry doesn’t point the finger at Catherine and her antics, as much as he just holds up a magnifying-glass and allows us to see her for what she is; she may be a loony tune, but she’s one that it’s easy to feel bad for, because we know that a lot of this is out of her control.

Sad.

Sad.

Does that make her a perfect person? Nope, not at all. But just like in real life, nobody else is either.

Like, say, Katharine Weston’s Ginny who, believe it or not, has a worse attitude than Catherine. Through some very telling flashbacks, we see how Ginny would sometimes treat Catherine; sometimes, she was cruel, others, she was as sweet as could be. But the times that she was mean and ugly, are hard to get past as they show exactly what kind of person Ginny is: The jealous type.

Though a lot of people are going on and on about Moss’ performance, it’s worth noting that Waterston is quite good here, too. While it’s less showier role than Moss’, it’s one that still delivers on a lot of stern and scary standing that gives Ginny a lot of presence in scenes that you don’t even think she’s in. Together, the two are great; whether they’re fighting or loving one another, there’s always some neat little piece of info to pick-up on from their scenes together and it’s the true sign that these gals are true acting talents that deserve all the work they get thrown at them.

As for Patrick Fugit, his role in the film is where I started to get a little annoyed. Though Perry does take his time and care in portraying Catherine’s mental issues, those that are opposed to her don’t get the right amount of treatment. While Fugit is good as the neighbor who comes around and can’t help but piss Catherine off, the dude’s still very much “the dick character” and it plays-off a little too hard, rather than being tucked-in underneath. This is where the movie’s sense of subtlety started to fade away, and I soon realized that maybe Perry needed to take a little more time in writing how these other characters were.

But hey, that’s just me. He’s the one making movies with Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, and Patrick Fugit.

Not me.

Consensus: Thanks to two spectacular performances from Waterston and most definitely, Moss, Queen of Earth is a lot more compelling and eerie to watch than the small premise may have you think.

8 / 10

Ticked-off. As usual.

Ticked-off. As usual.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Z For Zachariah (2015)

Leave three attractive people alone on Earth, things happen to get a little wild.

After a nuclear blast hit the world and has practically wiped-out the human race, a few remain alive and are simply trying to survive. Ann (Margot Robbie) is a simple gal from the Southeast who still believes that there is a God, even despite all of the terrible events that have occurred in the past year or so. Though Ann thinks that she’s all alone in this vast landscape, John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) unexpectedly walks into her life, leaving her now with a new companion to help continue living on in this world of theirs. Eventually, the two get so close to one another that they, for lack of a better term, start to fall in love, which scares both of them because they know that the other could very well as be as the last loves they ever have in their lives. Then, walks into a mysterious stranger by the name of Caleb (Chris Pine) who seems like he’s there to help Loomis and Ann survive, too. But then, things get very tense and all of a sudden, this fearsome foursome get into some very tense waters with one another.

If a dude I just met, starts sitting in a room like that, remind me to get rid of him. ASAP.

If a dude I just met, starts sitting in a room like that, remind me to get rid of him. ASAP.

This is as simple as you can possibly get with a premise and somehow, director Craig Zobel finds a way to make it a little more complicated than that. However, that is not at all a complaint because Zobel’s smart with how he makes this plot more than just three characters trying to live after what is, essentially, a nuclear holocaust. And no, it’s not just a movie where two characters constantly fight over who’s going to get the girl in the end; it’s more about continuing on your path and learning to live in a world where you’re all by yourself.

Sometimes, though, as this movie shows, that’s a lot easier said then done, especially when you add any sort of love into the equation.

But like I said before, Zobel doesn’t allow for the movie to go into any sort of direction that you expect it to. Sure, spit is swapped, feelings are spoken about, and tears fall down cheeks, but they don’t come at such a capacity that makes the movie seem like an melodramatic soap-opera. It’s more that the movie is busying studying these characters for who they are, what they are, and how they act when thrown into a horrid situation such as this, and what it does to the three of them as a whole. In that light, the movie’s a lot more interesting than your usual, post-apocalyptic tale that’s more about the brooding, tired and sad world surrounding its story.

Which isn’t to say that Zobel doesn’t shed at least some light on the treacherous land the Earth has become; there are many beautiful moments of mountains and land in the distance that give you an even larger idea of just how much of an impact this disaster left. And even though the movie initially makes it seem like it’s going to be one, huge depression-fest for an-hour-and-a-half, it soon turns the other cheek and turns out to be a bit more of a positive movie.

Albeit, a very tense one, but still, there are some smiles to be found.

What mostly helps Z For Zechariah to be a whole lot more compelling to watch, is the fact that it features three solid actors who, well, know how to make lemonade from lemons. Although, it is worth speaking about how odd this cast actually is and what a gamble it may have been for Zobel to get by on such names, placing them together in a movie, and see if all of their conflicting acting-styles/experience could gel together.

Needless to say, it does, but it’s just interesting what was thrown into Zobel’s mind that made him feel as if these three exact actors were perfect for their own respective characters? Maybe the idea that they come from different backgrounds and may not be the three exact people you’d expect in a movie together like this, is exactly what Zobel’s going for. After all, it’s the apocalypse and it’s not as if the apocalypse chooses who meets and who doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s just pure chance.

So anyway, yeah. The performances.

I'd sit at that dinner-table. If they'd let me, that is.

I’d sit at that dinner-table. If they’d let me, that is.

There’s no denying the fact that Chiwetel Ejiofor is a solid actor. Even before the dude nabbed an Oscar nomination for 12 Years a Slave, he’d been doing amazing work in so many other eclectic pieces of work and here, as Loomis, there’s no difference. As usual, Ejiofor is a powerful force on the screen and makes you question this guy’s attitude and actions every second of this movie. Does he want to solely just survive, regardless of he’s got someone by his side to do so? Or, does he want somebody to love and to hold in his life, once again? And if so, at what costs will he go to ensure that’s so? It’s a very intriguing character and the fact that Ejiofor doesn’t have to do much except stand there and stare to further that effect more, makes it all the more of a treat to watch.

Then, there’s Chris Pine who, thankfully, is starting to show off his true colors in a some darker roles as of late. Though Pine comes in about half-way through as Caleb, he still commands the screen as you never know what he’s up to, either. Clearly, he seems a whole lot more dangerous than Loomis, but why? Does he just want to get laid? Or, does he want to try and survive, too? It’s never made fully clear, and that’s one of the main reasons why Pine constantly takes this character into odd directions that are to see coming.

And last, but sure as hell not least, is Margot Robbie, playing the terribly simple and naive Ann. Because Robbie is so incredibly gorgeous and stunning in real life, it was a bit hard for me to fully take her in as this regular-class, Christian-gal, that sort of dresses like a 12-year-old boy, but Robbie made it work for me. She’s still great-looking, but the movie doesn’t play on that fact to create tension and make it so that these boys can continuously fight for her; she’s obviously the source of the attraction because she’s, well, all that there’s left of the female gender.

From what they know, that is.

But what makes Robbie’s character so good, as well as the film itself, is the fact that she’s a Christian who never seems to be preachy about it. Sure, she loves to go to the church her daddy built, pray at the dinner-table, and look to God whenever it is that she needs him most, but other than those instances, the movie never makes it clear that it has an agenda to be about Christianity, or if everything happens for a reason. The movie also never criticizes her character, or for anybody else for having a certain idea about God, or not; they’re sort of just trying to get by, regardless of if they have a cross in their bedroom or not.

And honestly, if hell gets too crowded and zombies begin to walk the Earth, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Consensus: Though its thin on certain details, Z For Zechariah gets by solely on the strong trio of leads, as well as the fact that Zobel never allows for his film to get conventional or obvious in any way.

8 / 10

Yep, I'd still tap that. Applies all three of them, too.

No matter how much dirt you throw on them, I’d still tap.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

We Are Your Friends (2015)

I’ll take a Daft Punk documentary instead.

23-year-old Cole (Zac Efron) is currently struggling in his life. For one, his buddies still act as if they’re in high school, and his career as local DJ, isn’t quite lighting up the sky, either. So basically, Cole plans the rest of his life living in his friend’s house, fixing the roof, cleaning the pool, and playing to whoever shows up at the club. That all begins to change on one fateful night, however, when he decides to go out and party with the one, the only, DJ legend, James (Wes Bentley). Cole and James, after a wild night of booze, good music, nice vibes, and some PCP, they both hit it off perfectly, with James wanting to hear some of what Cole has to offer. While James isn’t too impressed with what he sees right away, he knows that there’s potential and decides to take Cole under his wing. The only issue is that James’ girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski), is getting bored of being his assistant and may want some of what Cole is offering her. At the same time, while Cole’s life is changing right before his own very eyes, his buddies are starting to notice this too and feel like it’s not fair that he gets to have all of this fame and fortune, and they’re still stuck living at their parent’s places.

My friend's were cooler.

My friend’s were cooler.

In case you haven’t heard, EDM is all the rage now. Kids love it; older people love it; even those indie-kids who think that they’re too cool and would much rather listen to Conor Oberst, love it (they won’t admit it, but they do). For me, I think the music can sometimes be interesting and entertaining to listen to, but there’s only so much one can take of the non-stop, pulse-thrilling, ear-aching back-beats, over and over again. Every once and awhile, I prefer a solid little rhythm and formation every so often, but hey, that’s just me.

But to be honest, my opinions don’t matter because kids love EDM music and they may even love We Are Your Friends. Why is that? Well, because it features young adults just like themselves, reaching for the stars, chasing after their dreams, never letting adversity get in their way, and overall, having a great time while doing so. Does this mean that the movie’s actually any good?

Nope, not really. But what does the target audience care?

Cause, if anything, We Are Your Friends is just another conventional, run-of-the-mill, corny inspirational tale, hidden underneath the layers and layers of EDM music that covers practically the whole entire film. That’s not to say that the music’s bad or anything; if anything, it helps add a certain level of excitement to whatever dry proceedings are occurring between whatever one-dimensional characters on the screen. But after awhile, it begins to seem that whenever the music begins to crank up, then all of a sudden, another montage shows up, and we’re thrown into something resembling a music video – not an actual feature-film.

It’s a pretty-looking music video for sure, which is all thanks to director Max Joseph, but it doesn’t add anything to a movie/story that, quite frankly, needed all of the help it could get. No character’s ever really interesting; the plot doesn’t go anywhere surprising; and when all is said and done, we’re all of a sudden supposed to believe that this guy’s music is all that brilliant to begin with. If anything, it just adds an extra layer of annoyance to a genre that’s already getting to the brim of that.

Also, it makes me more and more anticipated for Disclosure’s next album.

And that’s pretty much all there is to this movie. While I know I sound like I’m being unbelievably and irrationally harsh, there’s hardly anything I can do about that. The movie acts as if it lives and breathes off of the energy that it gets fed by the crowd it’s playing to, but instead of actually offering anything exciting, it just uses the same old underdog story done before. Except, this time, it’s not a person who has all of the odds stacked against him, like cancer, or a family that he has to take care of, or whatever – he’s just not a big name yet in the DJ world.

My girlfriend was hotter.

My girlfriend was hotter.

Yes, it’s as entertaining to watch as it sounds, but the only one who actually brings anything at all to the table is Wes Bentley. Bentley has been here and there in the past couple of years, and while it’s not that I can say he’s lighting the world on fire like everybody thought he was once able of doing some many years ago, he’s still great here and steals just about every scene. Granted, in a movie as plainly-written as this, it’s not too hard, but Bentley invigorates this movie, as well as his character, with a certain amount of humor, fun, common sense, and most of all, heart, that makes me wish this movie was more about his James character, rather than about Zac Efron’s cliche Cole character. Of course, that would take a smaller-budget and release-plan, but hey, it’s a movie I would be more than happy to see and walk out of pleased.

So yeah, Hollywood, make that shit happen.

And Efron’s fine as he usually is, but here, I couldn’t help feeling as if he was going through the motions of sorts. That is, of course, difficult to say for someone as young as he is, but from what I’ve seen of Efron in far more interesting, challenging-roles, is that he can hang with the big boys when push comes to shove. He’s not afraid to go deeper and darker to depths that people couldn’t imagine him having and he seems to welcome it more than anything else, too. That’s why it was so disappointing to see him just go through one scene, after another, look as if he’s bored and has somewhere else to be.

Then again, he does get a chance to smooch that “Blurred Lines” chick, so life ain’t all that bad after all.

I guess.

Consensus: Despite a lovely supporting performance from Wes Bentley, We Are Your Friends falls prey to being too conventional and uninteresting to suit its own well-intentions.

2.5 / 10

Now, nobody's cooler.

Now, nobody’s cooler.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

She’s Funny That Way (2015)

Thought that call-girls and Broadway went perfect together.

Izzy (Imogen Poots) is a middle-class call-girl who dreams of, hopefully, making it big one day. And living in the Big Apple, that definitely seems like a possibility, as far-fetched as it may originally seem. But the opportunity presents itself even clearer once Izzy meets Broadway director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), on what some may refer to as “a date”. Arnold instantly falls for Izzy, but knows that it cannot go any further due to the fact that he’s currently married to the talented and passionate Delta (Kathryn Hahn). With Arnold’s latest play coming up, it’s around that time where casting decisions are made, people get together, and everything has to come into play to ensure that all else goes smoothly with this one production. However, when Izzy comes into a casting-call for Arnold’s play, everything goes South, real quick. Soon, the co-writer of the play (Will Forte) falls for Izzy, even though he’s with Jane (Jennifer Aniston), which makes Arnold quite jealous. This then leads to a lot of neglect on his part of his wife, who then begins to crush a bit heavily on Seth (Rhys Ifans) – someone Arnold already feuds with enough as is.

Let's get these two together!

Let’s get these two together!

After nearly a decade away from doing whatever the hell he felt like doing, Peter Bogdanovich is finally back to making narrative-films once again and this time, it sort of makes me wonder just why he came back at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to have such a legendary talent like Bogdanovich still around, making movies and using his input to hopefully remind those of his influence back in the 70’s, but if he’s going to be doing all of that with She’s Funny That Way, then honestly, I think I’m fine with him staying away a little while longer.

Sounds harsh, I know, but come on!

One of the main problems early on is that Bogdanovich seems to be going for something of a retro, screwball comedy aspect that’s reminiscent of those sorts of films from the 20’s and so on and so forth, but it never quite gels together well. It’s fine to use that brand of humor, find a way to place it in a modern-setting, and see how it all works out, but Bogdanovich leaves a little too much of that up to chance. Rather than actually finding a way to make his homage work better as a modern-day comedy, it feels more like a tribute that never makes it relevancy known; almost as if Bogdanovich himself just wanted to make this so he could show the world that he too loves these sorts of classic films.

And this is all to state the fact that the screenplay, co-written by both Bogdanovich and ex-wife Louise Stratten, is a mess; it’s an unfunny one, for sure, but it’s also one that can never make up its own mind. For one, it treats each and everyone of its characters like little jokes written out on a cue-card, so that we can all wait for the punch-line to drop. Once the punch-line does in fact, drop, the movie then decides it’s time to make us feel sorry and sad for these poor souls of characters, if only as a way to make up for the fact that it couldn’t help but be pointing the finger at them for the past hour-and-a-half. This all happens, coincidentally, around the same time that it’s about time to wrap everything all up, which makes the final-product itself, rushed, and above all else, strung-together by tape.

Which, in case you didn’t get my meaning, is saying that it’s not good.

This is all the more disappointing considering the fact that the cast seems able and ready to service whatever Bogdanovich has them all do, but they never get compensated for it. Surely, they made plenty of cash-money off of this movie, but what good is it when you have the one chance of a lifetime to work with a silver-screen legend like Bogdanovich, and you’re left with nothing more than jokes about sex, therapists, and Broadway. None of which are actually funny, nor insightful, but seem to come so swiftly that they must have to be jokes nonetheless, regardless of if they’re actually effective.

Or, hey! What about these two?!?

Or, hey! What about these two?!?

Owen Wilson, despite seeming like a perfect fit for Arnold, really seems to be sleep-walking his way through his time here. This, I understand, would have been very unsurprising had this movie came out a little over a year ago, but in the past year or so, we’ve gotten a chance to see Wilson stretch his wings out a little more like he once did back in the early days with films like Inherent Vice, the Grand Budapest Hotel, and even Midnight in Paris, highlighting certain strengths that he can play to, if given the opportunity to do so. But that doesn’t happen here and it’s only a shame since Wilson can work well with this sort of material, regardless of if it actually sucks or not.

Then, there’s Imogen Poots who has to put on a Brooklyn-accent of sorts and despite doing well with it, never really makes sense as the main protagonist. In a see of wild and crazy characters, she gets lost in the fray and makes it understandable as to why Brie Larson left it in the first place. Hahn shows up as Arnold’s wife and seems like she’s down to play, but honestly, the writing just isn’t there for her. It’s uninteresting enough as is and it’s a shame because we know that Hahn can do so much better, no matter what it is that you throw at her.

Hell, look at Happyish!

And of course, there’s the likes of Rhys Ifans and Will Forte who show up, do their thing, collect the paycheck and then leave, but in all honesty, they aren’t worth talking about here. The real one is Jennifer Aniston as Jane, the therapist who is constantly pissed-off and tired of everyone around her’s bullshit. Though we’ve seen Aniston play against type in both of the Horrible Bosses movies, here, she really gets a chance to let loose on her comedic-timing and it shows that, while some may not want to look at her in an anti-Rachel light, they may have to get used to it. Because if the rom-com roles begin to dry-up anytime soon, then we know that for certain, given the chance to do so, Aniston can change her act up and while not being as lovely as before, can still make people laugh and want to see more of her.

Consensus: Despite the key talent both in front of, as well as behind the camera, She’s Funny That Way still never comes together as a funny, nor interesting homage to the lovely screwball films of yesteryear, despite clearly seeming to aim for that target.

3 / 10

Or, just get these two together and make something interesting. ANYTHING!

Or, just get these two together and make something interesting. ANYTHING!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Ten Thousand Saints (2015)

Want to feel happy? Turn on Minor Threat. They’ll turn any frown, upside down.

Jude (Asa Butterfield) was adopted by Harriet (Julianne Nicholson), after the father, Les (Ethan Hawke), went off to do whatever it is that Les does. Occasionally, he’s with Di (Emily Mortimer), but most of the time, Les spends his time hanging around, listening to sweet jams, and of course, smoking reefer. The times are good for Les, but as for everybody else around him? Well, not so much. For one, Jude is reeling over the recent death of his very best friend. Di’s daughter, Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), also finds out that she’s pregnant, which may seem like no big thing, except for the fact that the father of the unborn baby is also Jude’s best friend who just died. So basically, this causes a lot of commotion and drama for all parties involved, where certain people learn to grow up, and others, well, sink themselves into hard-rocking, loud-as-hell punk rock music. Because, after all, it’s the 80’s, and what better time to start thrashing to some hardcore?

The look I've always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

The look I’ve always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

Ten Thousand Saints is a movie I’d like to classify under a category that I call, “Indieocrity”. Whenever an indie film is made, regardless of who it’s with, or what it’s about, there’s always a certain level of heightened expectation to it because, for better, it’s not a studio-flick. Most of the times, these studio-flicks tend to be over-saturated and edited for the largest possible audience, so therefore, those movies tend to be a lot duller than your average indie-fare. However, every so often, you do happen to get the indie movie that, as much as you don’t want to admit it, is pretty dull.

Actually, a lot duller than mainstream-fare.

In the case of Ten Thousand Saints, this is especially true. While it’s easy for me to commend the movie on having such a nice heart and care in telling each of these character’s stories, it’s a shame that hardly any of them work out. Sometimes, this is due to the fact that no character is really ever allowed to break-out from their one-note, “type”-shell, but other times, this has to do with the fact that there’s just so much going on with each and everyone of these characters, it’s a little hard to keep track of what’s happening to whom, for what reasons, and how everybody else surrounding them is affected.

And this isn’t because I’m an idiotic dumbo that can’t pay attention to movies if they don’t feature some sort of car-chase or gun-shot; normally, these are my kinds of movies that I cherish for each and every second. But with Ten Thousand Saints, there’s just so many subplots that eventually, after about the fourth time or so of forgetting what was going on with them, I sort of gave up and just hoped that the movie’s good vibes would come and save the day.

That only happens with Ethan Hawke – which, to some, may not be all that surprising.

Hawke is the perfect choice as Les, because you get a huge sense that this guy means well, but he’s such a slacker, that he’ll never get his life in order to take care of those who need him the most. Having worked with Richard Linklater so much in the past definitely helps create this image of Hawke already as someone like Les, except in this case, it’s about thirty years down the line and needless to say, he hasn’t done much growing-up. But that doesn’t matter too much because it’s obvious this character has a good heart and is most definitely there to make sure those around him are happy, even if he does seem to bail at the most inopportune times.

But I’ll take that over the rest of these characters.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

Basically, if you take that synopsis up above, add on two other subplots concerning Nicholson’s character’s own mid-life crisis and Emile Hirsch’s character punk band, then you’ve got a pretty hefty movie. It totally feels like during the driest moments, where the comedy doesn’t really stick, and the drama is so scattered among all of these stories, that the heart gets lost in the fray. That isn’t to say that I felt like co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini didn’t care one bit for these characters, it’s more that it seems like they care so much, that they don’t forget that, sometimes, the best medicine for any screen-writer is to no what to cut and what to leave in.

There’s about two or three subplots that I could have done without here, but by saying that, I also realize that I’m down-grading a lot of the other performers here and that’s not right. For one, they all do seem to be trying here and also, they’re all really great in everything else they show up in, which makes this movie all the more surprising by its mediocrity. Butterfield has an odd American accent as a character who is a little too whiny for his own good; Steinfeld is fine at playing this raw, dirty and wild-type, but overall, here story turns into unabashed melodrama; Mortimer is sweet, but her character’s sort of forgotten about half-way through; same goes for Nicholson; and then, Emile Hirsch is here not really seeming like he’s trying.

Honestly, this is a big shock to me considering that just about each and everything these stars show up in, I love them in. The movies/shows themselves? Maybe not so much, but their own respective work has always felt nice and deserved, as if they should have gotten pats on the backs as soon as filming commenced. But sadly, that doesn’t seem to happen with Ten Thousand Saints, as they’re all just sort of left with conventional characters, nowhere to really stretch out their wings, and basically, service a script that doesn’t seem worth their time or effort.

And yet, they give it anyway. What entertainers these folks truly are!

Consensus: Despite the talent on-board, Ten Thousand Saints never rises above the sheer mediocrity it turns out to be with its over-stuffed, yet still uninteresting plot(s).

4 / 10

So straight edge.

So straight edge.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Vacation (2015)

Just go to Six Flags instead. At least you’ll get to see a dancing old dude.

After spending many vacations with his family, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) now feels that it’s about time he took his own family out to the one and only place he loved as a kid: Walley World. Problem is, nobody in his family is nearly as siked as he is; his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), is starting to grow tired of the lame vacations, while their oldest son, James (Skyler Gisondo), constantly gets picked-on by their youngest, Kevin (Steele Stebbins). Though there are many odds working against it, Rusty still finds a way to make sure that everybody gets together and embarks on this little trip where they’ll meet all sorts of lovely characters along the way. One of whom is Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), who is all grown-up now and is married to a local weatherman, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), whose absolute stunning and handsome looks seem to bring out the worst in every woman around him – most importantly, Debbie, which Rusty has a real problem with.

My god! Where has the time gone?!?

My god! Where has the time gone?!?

Today, August 23, 2015, marks the official last day of my summer vacation. To be honest, this summer, as a whole, has been a fun, exciting, memorable, and lovely time that reminds me why summer in and of itself matters so much to begin with and why I’m happy to at least have some sort of freedom left in my life to where I can do the sort of things I do during the summer. That could mean a huge list of things like going out to the bars, drinking with my friends, listening to good music, working every now and then, and most of all, going to the movies.

The reason I state all of this because it just proves to how forgettable a movie like Vacation may be, even in a summer as memorable as the one I just had.

But “forgettable” doesn’t always mean “terrible”, or “wretched”, it can sometimes just mean that a movie isn’t entirely the greatest thing ever created, but at the same time, still isn’t all that good. It’s just slap-dab in the middle of mediocrity and that’s exactly why Vacation is the kind of movie, while I may not remember having seen in a few years, still did the fine service of being a comedy that, once, or twice, or hell, maybe more than three times, made me laugh. Granted, it’s not always that easy and it’s not always as hard, either, but Vacation, with a few bits here and there, had me laugh-out-loud to where it was noticeable and known to those around me that I was indeed laughing at what co-writers and co-directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley were doing.

However, if you take into account the fact that nearly every other line in this movie is supposed to be a joke, a gag, or contain at least some bit of humor, the math gets a little shoddy. For instance, if 100% of this movie is filled to the brim with jokes, and if I only laughed for about six-to-ten of those jokes, then surely, the grading-scale cannot be too positive. It’s hard to say how much this movie made me laugh, other than, it just didn’t really do it for me at times and at others, it did.

So above all, the movie is a perfect 50%. Meaning, it’s not too bad, but it’s not too good either.

"Something" is on Ed Helms' shirt and it's HILARIOUS.

“Something” is on Ed Helms’ shirt and it’s HILARIOUS.

Most of where Vacation works is in how bizarre and truly random Goldstein and Daley allow for their material to get. There’s a chunk of celebrity cameos that occur along the way, and while not all of them work, there are a few that brought some fun and excitement to the screen, if only due to the fact that it was so odd, that it just worked. Charlie Day has a sequence that’s like this, as well as does a certain someone who I won’t name that drives a truck throughout the movie, but other than them two, most of the cameos fall flat. Some of them come out of nowhere and it’s cool to see just who Goldstein and Daley are able to bring in for this, but sometimes, it just seems like a wasted opportunity on jokes that seem to fall flat.

They don’t all do, like I’ve stated before. But when they do, it’s obvious that Goldstein and Daley are trying a tad too hard.

And this doesn’t necessarily hurt the main cast as much, although they too definitely suffer from the script not being able to keep up with their energy. Ed Helms’ shtick by now isn’t over-played, as much as it needs some sort of livening-up and his portrayal as an older Rusty doesn’t do him that sort of justice. Still, Helms clearly seems to be trying here and it’s better than just seeing him sleep-walk through something. Same goes for Christina Applegate who, thankfully, gets a few opportunities to prove that this isn’t just a man’s affair and that she’s able to be funny, too. Problem is, it’s on a throw-up gag that gets a bit old, a bit quicker than it should have. They both have fine chemistry between one another, but once the movie starts to get more serious about their marriage, it seems like it’s just something to fall back on, rather than deserved, or as a way to stretch these characters out anymore.

As Rusty’s sister and brother-in-law, Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth are sadly, saddled with a one-joke the whole way through and it’s sort of a shame that they weren’t able to stretch their wings out and do more. We know for sure that Mann is hilarious when she wants to be, and Hemsworth can be, too, but he’s just not allowed to do much of anything funny here. The whole joke surrounding him is that he’s this huge, sexy man-hunk, who also happens to have a ginormous dong. So basically, he’s playing Chris Hemsworth – the man every woman loves, and every guy so passionately despises.

Now where’s the humor in that? That’s real life speaking!

Consensus: Occasionally funny, but too often, Vacation feels as if it’s missing its mark of not allowing the talented cast to own up to their full potential, nor really allowing for the comedy to settle every now and again.

5 / 10

Spoiler alert. I guess.

Spoiler alert. I guess.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

American Ultra (2015)

Weed kills. Not you, but others.

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), where have a comfortable, lazy, and pot-filled life the rural burbs of West Virginia. However, what Mike doesn’t know is that he was once apart of a covert CIA initiative entitled “the Ultra Program” – something he has no memory of but is going to get a quick reminder of very soon. This all begins when a hot-shot CIA agent (Topher Grace) decides that he needs to get rid of Mike in a way of typing-up loose-ends, but the sympathetic CIA agent (Connie Britton) won’t let that happen as she sees the operation as her own child and it’s up to her to keep it safe and alive. Now, Mike and Phoebe are on the run from the CIA, as they run into all sorts of blood, guts, and violence; most of which Mike is surprisingly able to handle due to certain skills he had in the field, coming back to him. But no matter how many people Mike kills, he still worries for the love of his life, Phoebe, and now that she’s been captured, he’s worried that it may be time for him to call a day and let whatever’s going to happen to him, happen.

American Ultra tries to be so many things at once and is so willing to change between them on a dime, with reckless abandon. At one point, it’s a stoner-comedy about a middle-class dude just trying to get by; at another, it’s about this young, happily-in-love couple also trying to get by; and then, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s this gory action-thriller with CIA agents, conspiracies, and all sorts of illegal activities. While all of these elements sound as fun and as interesting can be, the movie still somehow turns out to be a bit of a slug – something that director Nima Nourizadeh tries so hard to avoid, but in all honesty, just can’t.

Never thought I'd say, but I'm so happy to see the dude who played Eric Foreman!

Never thought I’d say this, but I’m so happy to see the dude who played Eric Forman!

But, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t at least occasionally entertained by the effort put on by just about everyone involved.

Some of this can be chalked up to Nourizadeh for not standing down and allowing for his material to stick on the ground without hardly ever having anything to show for it, but a good portion of this can be given to the fact that Max Landis is the one who’s behind the pen and paper on this one. For anybody who knows Landis’ work, they’ll know that a few years ago, he wrote the smart and entertaining Chronicle; a movie that had every bit of animosity standing in its way, but somehow got by on being more than just a superhero movie with a neat gimmick. And watching American Ultra, I got a lot of the same feel from that movie, here; while they’re two different stories altogether, the idea of two young people being thrown into this insane, sometimes horrific situation is still relevant and works, all to a certain extent.

See, even though the movie wants to act as if it has this big, huge, beating heart at the center of all the mayhem and havoc, the movie is, in all honesty, more concerned with the carnage that ensues. There’s no problem with this because, for what it’s worth, all of the violence is as barbaric and as crazy as it needs to be and is, at least, fun to watch. It takes away from the rest of the movie being a bit of a bore and shows that Landis, while a bit sketchy on certain aspects of telling a compelling story, still has bright ideas to use when it comes to writing a tense, but fun action-sequence; something that means a lot more when you see it play out, than it actually sounds coming from a dork such as myself.

But to have a movie that is, altogether, both passionately romantic and horrifically violent, there needs to be a nice divider to between the two. There has to be some sort of break apart between the two story-elements, like in say something like True Romance that’s got a very heartfelt love story in between all of the craziness and gore that spews out from the sometimes convoluted story (although, to be fair, that story is at least a little easier to get the hang of than this). Here, the romance never feels earned and whenever it’s given attention, it more or less feels like it’s taking away from what could have been a lot more of a fun flick.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they're just boring.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they’re mostly just boring.

Still though, there’s something here to watch, which makes it at least a tiny bit better than most of what we’re used to get in the last weekends of August.

And even though the script turns out to be something of a mess, clearly something was working well enough that it attracted such a high-caliber cast as this. Having worked together before on Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart clearly share a nice bit of chemistry between one another and it translates well into the earlier portions of the movie, where it’s mostly all about them and all of the other CIA nonsense is pushed to the side. Then, all that nonsense comes into the main-frame and makes their relationship seem a bit more irrelevant to the central story, and instead, we’re more or less focused on how many people Eisenberg’s character can kill with a frying-pan.

The rest of the cast has got some fine names, too, but even they feel like they’re wasted on some material that still can’t make up its mind. Britton’s character is, as expected, sympathetic and nurturing, as if she just walked off of the set of Friday Night Lights and forgot to change her character; Walton Goggins plays a mentally-challenged killer by the name of Laughter, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds; Bill Pullman shows up to do his thing; John Leguizamo plays, once again, a drug-dealer, even though in real life, it’s all he ever complains about playing; and even though a lot of people give him a bad rap in general, Topher Grace is pretty great here as the dick-headed CIA agent.

I’ve been reading a lot of the complaints about Grace here saying that he’s, “annoying” and “a dick”, but having seen the film, I can’t understand why this would be a problem to begin with. The whole character’s reason to exist is to be annoying, as well as a dick, because without him, there wouldn’t be much of a story to begin with. Without Grace gracing us with his character’s presence (like that?), we’d still be stuck where we were in the first-act; watching as these two love birds got stoned, talk about trees, start crying and generally, not make any sense.

So, yeah. Thanks, Topher Grace. I’m glad you were around.

Consensus: Dealing with so many plot-elements at once, American Ultra is a jumble, but it’s an interesting one that’s occasionally fun and entertaining to sit by, watch, and remind yourself that it is in fact, late-August and the movies don’t get much better than this.

5.5 / 10

Had this taken place in the early-90's, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it's just its own thing and nobody cares.

Had this taken place in the early-90’s, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it’s just its own thing and nobody cares.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cop Car (2015)

Stealing cop cars in real life, sure as hell aren’t as easy as stealing them in GTA.

Two kids, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) walk through a field that eventually leads to a creek where, for no explainable reason, a cop car is left abandoned. Seeing as how these two kids are chock full of piss, vinegar and energy, they decide to take it for a spin, or two, or three. Hell, they decide to take it out everywhere they can, going 100 mph, and not giving a single crap about the world outside of them. Eventually though, the man whose cop car that is originally (Kevin Bacon) comes looking for it and with a good reason: He’s got some pretty naughty, downright incriminating stuff in the trunk of that car that he wouldn’t want anyone seeing, let alone two kids who just so have happened to stumble upon it. This is where the cop decides to track these kids down, get his car back, drive them back to their guardians’ homes, and getting back on with his life. Problem is, the kids look in the trunk of the car and needless to say, what they find, is not good.

That's how it always begins.

That’s how it always begins.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Jon Watts in the next couple of years. If you haven’t already, then consider yourself prepared. Because with Watts taking over the new, hopefully improved Spider-Man reboot set to come out in two years time, a lot of people are wondering just what it is about this guy that would give a studio like Sony so much hope that he’s the one to get the job done right and in a way that can hopefully let people forget about the past two Marc Webb movies (even though, to be honest, they weren’t terrible, just ill-timed).

Well, I don’t know if Cop Car was the evidence Sony needed, but it sure as hell is for me.

Because, for one, it’s great and it’s absolutely surprising that I’d think this. For one, Cop Car seems so simple in its grindhouse-ish premise that the only way for Watts and company to go, were down; they had kids, they had cops, they had guns, and they had mystery, which gives them all of the perfect ingredients to make something sleazy, dirty and at least partially fun. But there’s something strange about Cop Car in that it’s essentially two movies, rolled into one, not-even-an-hour-and-half flick, and they’re both very good.

On one side of the spectrum, you have a coming-of-ager involving two kids we literally know nothing about other than that they like to cuss, spit, and cause all sorts of chicanery wherever they go. Basically, they’re like all kids and that’s all you need to know about them; Watts doesn’t put much of an effort into getting down to the nitty gritty of what makes them tick, he just presents them as kids, who are different from one another in certain ways that it’s easy to identify with one from the other. Already, this movie had me won over because it felt like dialogue for real life teenage kids, but then the situation itself gets hotter and heavier and the movie really started to work its magic.

See, once these kids steal the cop car and everything around them starts getting a whole violent, we all of a sudden see that these kids are, as expected, kids. They can’t make full sense of the world, so that when they are held at gun-point by an evil dude, they ask him quite simply, “Are you going to shoot us?” They don’t even know that, no matter what, they’ll get shot and probably killed; to them, life is like a video-game and because of this, they don’t take the real life consequences into account when thrown into a predicament quite like this.

And then, there’s the story involving Kevin Bacon’s cop character, which is still pretty strong in its own right.

Like with the two kiddies, we literally know nothing about Bacon’s character, other than that he’s a small-town cop, is clearly up to no good, and may be a bit more sneaky than he originally lets on. This part of the movie is well-written and compelling, obviously, but without Bacon, or his acting-skills, I don’t know how well this character would have done with such limited-detail surrounding him. Everything we need to know about this character is the way in how he desperately carries himself from one objective, to the other, all in hopes that he’ll be able to get his cop car back and ensure that his dirty little secrets never get out.

Just look at that mustache! It's so terrible, you have got to think there's some sympathy in him somewhere!

Just look at that mustache! It’s so terrible, you have got to think there’s some sympathy in him somewhere!

Bacon does wonder in this role because he makes us think that this character, despite him having clearly done bad things in his life before, may be a bit of a good guy. We never quite know with his character and it’s interesting to watch as he constantly digs himself out of certain obstacles that seemed to continuously pile-up in his way, no matter how much closer he believes he is to reaching his goal. Do we want him to reach it, too? Or, do we just want all of his dirty laundry to get seen by the right eyes and for his life, as well as his police career, to be all over and done with?

We never fully know and that’s the main reason why Cop Car works as brilliantly as it does.

Though I won’t divulge into too many details about what happens in the last-act of this movie, I will say that it gets very violent, very quick, and in some very gruesome ways, too, but it all feels so deserved. See, with the violence in this movie against something like, I don’t know, say Terminator Genisys, is that people in that movie get shot, die and evaporate into the air all willy nilly. No harm, no foul, no problems. But here, when people get shot, they die, and there’s nothing special or glamorous about that at all.

I know this sounds so damn obvious to state (in a review no less), but it’s the truth that more movies like Cop Car should exist, if solely for the fact that it highlights gun violence and death for what it actually is: A traumatizing event. In light of today’s events, this resonates quite an awful lot and while it may not get that same sort of message across to others, quite as well as it did to me, it still matters that it’s being portrayed as such in a movie about kids, cops, guns, drugs, and criminals. Because all of these elements co-exist in real life and are all too close together.

Something that’s quite saddening indeed, but hey, at least we’ve got a new Spider-Man movie on the way!

Consensus: As small and short as it may be, Cop Car is still a near-perfect thriller, mixed with a smart, endearing and compelling coming-of-ager that makes it all come full circle.

9 / 10

Go on! Try to get five stars!

Go on! Try to get five stars!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fort Tilden (2015)

Tilden1Hey, at least the beach is free.

20somethings Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) share an apartment together in New York and basically, do nothing. Harper constantly collects money from her rich daddy, whereas Allie is joining the Peace Corps for a mission in Liberia, if only so that she can tell people that she’s “joining the Peace Corps”. Together, they’re best friends who love to make fun of others around them, but at the same time, like all best friends tend to do after a certain amount of time, get on each other’s nerves. This begins to happen a whole heck of a lot one day when, for no reason other than to just relax, Harper and Allie decide to go to the beach. Problem is, getting there’s not as much of a joy as they’d expected it to be, what with transportation, money, responsibilities back at home, and all that. Mostly though, it’s Harper who seems to be holding the trip back, and this is something that irritates Allie so much that she eventually reaches her breaking point and puts their friendship into perspective.

Or so I think.

Always grumpy, never happy.

Always grumpy, never happy.

A problem with talking about a movie like Fort Tilden is that it’s so simple, easy-to-follow, and limited in its scope, that it’s hard to talk about its strengths, without sound so ridiculously repetitive. That these characters spend the whole movie constantly moaning and complaining about everything in their life, for nearly an-hour-and-a-half only makes more sense considering that I’m having a hard time recalling what it is about this movie that really worked for me. Was it that these two characters perfectly portray the millennial, me-me-me lifestyle? Or, was it that it’s a movie that didn’t seem to try too hard to be anything other than a small character-study of two characters we don’t get to see much of?

It’s a little bit of both, but ultimately, what it all comes down to is that the movie doesn’t pull away any sort of punches.

This is mostly in the department of how these characters are written, what they say to one another and others, and how it affects them, as well as those around them. Because Harper and Allie are annoying, snarky, mean, and are always putting others down for shallow reasons, it would make sense that spending a whole time with them as they try to helplessly navigate their way to the beach would just be downright dreadful, right? Well, if that sort of thing bothers you and you don’t think you can get past those problems, then sorry, move onto the next item.

However, for those of you who think that there’s more to that, then stick around cause eventually, you’ll find it. Though co-writers and directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers don’t exactly make these two characters the nicest human beings alive, there’s something sympathetically pathetic about them that makes it seem like all of their mean-spiritedness comes from a place a passion; the same kind of place that, had it been tuned-down a whole bunch, probably would make these two some very likable ladies. But because they aren’t likable and are never stray away from making people feel worse than they sometimes do, it makes them all the more interesting.

It would have been easy for Bliss and Rogers for Harper and Allie to eventually have their comeuppance, get together, turn the other cheek and play nice, once and for all, but they aren’t concerned with this at all. They know that these characters, for better and for worse, may never, ever change; they may always stay miserable, hurtful and nasty forever. But they’ll still be awoken to the world around them and realize that maybe, just maybe, their problems aren’t the only ones in the world that are worth caring about.

Two people more annoying than these two? Say it ain't so!

Two people more annoying than these two? Say it ain’t so!

Although Allie knows this more clearly about Harper, they still share enough of the same views and ideas that makes it understandable why they’re besties in the first place. They both love to sick the fangs into others around them that they meet and they most definitely love spending money on stuff that they can’t actually afford, but still want anyway. But together, there’s something about them that seems a bit off and it constantly makes this movie tick – almost as if some metaphorical bomb were to go off.

And eventually, it does, but the way in how it’s handled, is still smart for a movie that could have clearly gone the sentimental route.

It should be noted, too, that Harper and Allie are as good as best friends here, if mostly due to the fact that Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty share incredible chemistry together. Though they’re a lot more Valley Girl than most portrayals of the millennial generation would have you believe, they still feel raw and honest, as if Lena Dunham had gotten tired of working for HBO and wanted to show the real people she hangs out with on a regular-basis. Maybe that comparison is already scaring people away, but have no fear: Girls and Fort Tilden are a little different from one another that makes it easy to enjoy one, but maybe not the other.

But like I said, Elliott and McNulty do well together and also help but their characters through the way they hold conversations together, or in some cases, argue. Harper is a lot more childish than Allie and because of this, she’s holding Allie back a lot from what it is that she wants to do with her life. Anybody who has ever had a friend, best or not, can totally understand how this feels and how it is you go about addressing the situation – they’re still your friend, however, it’s time to tell them what’s up and you don’t want to seem too much like a dick. So basically, the best way to go about it is just to be passive aggressive, hope they don’t get too offended, and see what you two can do next. Unless they’ve totally ditched you and you’re on your own. For now, that is.

Because besties always come back. No matter what.

Consensus: Fort Tilden, despite seeming repetitive at times, is insightful, funny and honest enough that makes it worth a watch if you still can’t get enough millennial flavor to hold you over till the next season of Girls.

7 / 10

Of course Reggie Watts is driving around on a bike.

Of course Reggie Watts is driving around on a bike.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Being Flynn (2012)

Happy that my dad has a roof over his head and isn’t a complete dick.

Aspiring writer Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) begins working at a homeless shelter and develops a drug problem he struggles to control. His father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), is a con man who was never there for him as a child and still considers himself to be one of the greatest, living writers of all-time, despite never being published. Jonathan actually stumbles upon Nick one day at the homeless shelter and is need of a place to stay. But, as predicted, Jonathan finds problems with just about everything around him.

The problem with Being Flynn, right away, is that its whole idea of a joke is to have its character, Jonathan Flynn, narrate some of the movie and talk like he’s the greatest novelist of all-time and is a walking genius, even though nobody knows it. Problem is, he doesn’t know it. That idea of a joke can be a little humorous at times (because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to crack a couple of chuckles at older, Alzheimer-bound men), but it gets annoying and repetitive, as if the movie didn’t realize the butt of its own end joke was meant for the character, and not for the freakin’ movie itself.

But this turns out to be the whole movie. Just one long joke that nobody ever seems to get the hang of telling better.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that's okay. Whatever suits you best.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that’s okay. Whatever suits you best.

And this is a shame because the material for Being Flynn seems as if it has more to it than just being “a joke”. But what ultimately happens is that it just lingers and gives this Jonathan character another reason to yell, scream, and scam his way some more into people’s lives. I never, not for once, felt any ounce of sympathy for these characters and even when it seemed like they were going through problems as people of society, and of people going through age, I still never bought them.

There were some elements I did buy, like the fact that Nick does go down a bit of a rocky road with drugs and needs to change his life around to be a better person. But that’s about it. Other than all of Nick’s problems that could have pretty much been centered-down to, “Yeah, my dad left me when I was a baby, my mom raised me, slept with a bunch of dudes, and killed herself”, Jonathan’s problems seem to be a bit more scary in the way that the guy is homeless, the guy is out in the cold, and the guy is a bit of an over-zealous dick. That fear of him dying never hit me hard enough, just because he’s a, well, a dick.

As plain and simple as that.

I think I’ve exhausted everything there is to say about the character of Jonathan Flynn, but honestly, it deserves to be said because there’s not much more to this movie than him. Which is annoying because Paul Weitz can’t help but be utterly pleased to have him being a miserable and unlikable hack that doesn’t do anything else in his life other than bullshit his way past things with that signature De Niro smile, chuckle, and charm. And heck, thanks to De Niro, it almost works!

And De Niro is fine here, but he’s saddled with a character who is just too unpleasant to give a hoot about. That’s why it was nice to see Dano at least try with the likes of Nick, another unlikable and whiny character. Dano is known for his “big” performances, but here, he dials things down for us so that we get to see Nick as more of a sad, self-destructive human being, rather than somebody who is cool because he lives life like its constant party. In a way, he’s sort of a tool, but the movie never fully digs deep into that aspect of his character; it’s just left up to Dano to pick up the pieces and work from there.

She's like a dude, but she's not. So rad, man.

Short hair, don’t care.

This is a shame, too, because Dano and De Niro, together, playing a son-father duo, seems like it would be ripe with all sorts of powerful and raw emotion. And though Dano may have been more than happy to share the screen with De Niro, Weitz’s direction and script gets in the way too much. Somebody has to learn something, somebody has to grow up, and somebody has to bond. If it’s these two, then so be it.

This is all to say that, even though they’re both solid actresses in their own rights, Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby aren’t used as much as they could have been to help even this movie and its melodramatic self out. Moore is mostly designated to flashback scenes, whereas Thirlby’s character has to do a little bit of heavy-lifting, both literally and figuratively, as Nick’s gal-pal. But still, her character is then soon treated as being a female love-interest for Nick to hook up with, screw around on, break up with, try to get back together with, and eventually, have all of his dreams come true because he’s, well, “a better person now than he was before”.

Bunch of BS if I ever heard it!

Consensus: Though it has a solid cast and, on occasion, director, Being Flynn falls apart because it’s not only a bit too melodramatic for its own good, but conventional, self-serving, and too smart for its own good.

3 / 10

Staring at your child in admiration: such a mother's thing to do.

Staring at your child in admiration – whatta mother!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Tom At The Farm (2015)

Stay away from farms. No matter what the stipulations are, just keep away.

After the death of his boyfriend, Tom (Xavier Dolan), is left utterly speechless. That’s why, even against his own best wishes, decides to travel out to the country and go to his funeral, where he meets the rest of his family. Problem for Tom is, nobody knows that Tom is the recently-deceased’s lover; everybody just assumed he was straight. Though Tom does get a bit close at times, he decides to keep to himself and not say anything to the family about the truth; however, that doesn’t stop the recently-deceased’s brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), from getting all up in Tom’s business from the first second he lays eyes on him. Though Tom doesn’t want to disrupt what the family has already going with themselves, Francis takes it upon himself to torture and toy around with Tom; some of it has to do with the fact that he himself is opposed to homosexuality, but some of it may also have to be because Francis actually has feelings for Tom. Weird feelings, but feelings nonetheless. And it’s these feelings that makes Tom feel as if his life is in danger and may need to do whatever he can to get away from Francis, as well as the farm, as soon as humanly possible.

Console grandma and leave!

Console grandma and leave!

It’s weird that Tom At The Farm is just getting its U.S. release date now. A few years ago, while vacationing out in Canada, I actually had the opportunity to check it out at a local theater and thought it was only a matter of time until it hit the States, won everybody over, and all of a sudden, made me the coolest guy ever, because I saw it before everyone else. But the weird thing here is that, nearly three years after its completion, it’s just now getting its stateside release.

Why is that, honestly? Is it because Xavier Dolan’s latest (Mommy) seemed to do so well that studios eventually had hope for more Dolan movies? Or, is it because the movie’s terrible, has been collecting up dust for so long that eventually, Canada got sick and tired of it and just wanted to pass off the horrid stench of it to the U.S.?

Well, thank the high heavens, it’s not anywhere near that last idea.

That said, Tom At The Farm does have its fair share of problems. Dolan, as young as he may be, has already been criticized an awful-lot for being what some describe as “pretentious”, “too artsy”, and “repetitive”, and while I may not agree with all those terms, while watching this movie here, as well as his others, it’s hard not to notice a trend and wonder if he’ll ever break out of it. For instance, there’s a lot of showy scenes where Dolan lights a scene a certain way, hits the slo-mo button, and blares some odd pop-song in a way that may make hipsters think is cool, but to others, may be a tad bit annoying. Annoying, not just because it’s a neat trick that Dolan uses well and instantly makes people jealous of, but annoying, because it feels unnecessary, especially given how strong this movie is already.

But like I said, all those problems go aside when you realize that Dolan, for all his repetitiveness, is a pretty solid story-teller. However, what makes Dolan feel like a true talent is that it doesn’t even seem like he’s trying; rather than giving us everything we need to know about these characters, their situation, and what to expect with this story, right up front and center, Dolan allows for everything play out in a timely fashion. He’s vague on certain details, but eventually, you start to see some threads and pieces of an odd puzzle come together in a way that works for the movie both as a thriller, as well as a character-study.

That we know early on that Tom is a homosexual helps us identify with him and a person put in his situation; while he means to do well, at the same time, he also may be causing a lot of trouble and interruption. A part of him knows this, however, doesn’t want to wholly believe it. He’d much rather just pay his respects, find his lover’s family, know who they are, feel as if he’s completed an objective in his life, and try to move on.

Always hated being backed-up in a corn-field.

Always hated being backed-up in a corn-field.

Then, there’s Francis who isn’t as cut-and-dry as Tom may be.

For one, there’s something completely unsettling about Francis the first moment we see him. There’s a certain feeling that this character knows what’s up with his deceased brother and Tom’s relationship, isn’t happy about it, and wants nothing more than for Tom to leave him, his family, his farm and never be seen, or heard from again. This is understandable, but Dolan’s writing takes it one step further to show that there are some homicidal tendencies within Francis that have less to do with the fact that he doesn’t like homosexuals because he doesn’t agree with their life-style, and more to do with the fact that Francis may in fact be jealous of this life-style and has a hard time controlling his temper, his wants, his needs, or most definitely, his pleasures.

Same goes for Tom and eventually, the movie turns into a cat-and-mouse game between two unlikely protagonists; one of which is clearly more evil than the other, but at the same time, still human enough to where it doesn’t seem like his transformation is all that made-up. This Francis dude may just be as nutty and twisted as some people make him out to be, and it’s from here on where Tom At The Farm gets to be a little bit conventional. It’s still interesting to see how things turn out for both of these characters, but what ultimately started out as an interesting look inside the mind of a sexually-deprived man, soon just becomes a slasher-thriller – albeit one with less blood and gore.

More sex, though. Which is always a good thing, no matter what movie you are watching.

And it should be noted that both Dolan and Pierre-Yves Cardinal are both very good in their roles. Having seen all of Dolan’s movies, I’ve come to learn that, when he gets the chance to do so, is much more willing to take the back-seat in his movies. That’s neither a good nor a bad thing, it’s just a thing. But here, it works out well because it gives Cardinal plenty of opportunities to push this character, as well as this movie, further and further into the realms of darkness that nobody will be able to expect.

Those damn Canadians.

Consensus: While Dolan’s been better, Tom At The Farm is still an effective, odd and eerie thriller that works both as a character-drama, as well as a bit of a real-life horror flick, however, the former definitely works a lot better than the later.

7 / 10

With those eyes looking at you, kid, I'd head straight for the city and never look back.

With those eyes looking at you, kid, I’d head straight for the city and never look back.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

American Splendor (2003)

Believe it or not, Stan Lee isn’t the only guy who writes comics.

Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) works a dead-end job as a file clerk, his second wife leaves him, and he has a debilitating vocal impediment. The two things that keep him going are his collections of jazz records and comic books. After becoming friends with animator Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), Harvey finds himself inspired enough to write his own type of comic book, which turn out to be just the depressing, yet amusing accounts of his everyday life.

Whenever people hear of a comic book movie being made, they automatically shoot their minds to Marvel and think of names like Iron Man, or the Hulk, or Captain America, or whoever gets the next big-screen adaptation. But hardly do we ever get to see the sort of comic book movies that are made for people who could care less about superheros and all of those wonderful tales of fantasy. Sometimes, comic books have the opportunity to hit closer to home and it’s this fact, this reality that American Splendor hits hard each and every second it gets.

He's perfect.

He’s perfect.

Of course, in a bit more depressed manner, but still. It’s a little more refreshing than watching another Marvel flick.

Co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini know that they’re working with simple material here, so it makes sense that they’d add a little comic book touch to the look and make it feel as if we are looking at an actual comic book on the screen. It doesn’t happen all of the time, because that would just get gimmicky after awhile, but the way they do use it when needed, works and puts you in the mind-set of how this guy looked at the world through his own eyes.

But the style isn’t just what works, as there’s a whole lot of interesting scenes where we actually see the real Harvey Pekar early on, through interviews, and even see all of the other real people in his life as well, show up every once and awhile. It’s a bit surreal at first, considering we are essentially watching a movie about the real life story of these people, they know it, and are standing there just giving their input when needed. It’s definitely weird, but after awhile, seems pretty cool as it looks like Berman and Pulcini both wanted to keep this story as close to the real thing as possible, so what better way than having the real people themselves, you know?

Honestly though, American Splendor is as interesting as it is, all because of the subject at the center: Harvey Pekar. There’s no way of dancing around that fact.

What’s interesting about Pekar is that, other than the fact that he’s a pretty miserable dude, there’s a lot more to him than just that. Does he know it? Not really, but that’s where the intrigue is; while everybody looks at him as a lovable, self-loathsome loner, he doesn’t even know it, think about it, or better yet, give a hoot. This is especially evident in how he describes his comic book creations, the stories he writes about, and how he allows them to approach life, the way in which he sees it. To him, it’s just his own thoughts and opinions getting scribbled onto a piece of paper – whether hundreds of people see it or not, is totally their call.

But then, what makes Pekar even more of engaging figure here is that he’s played by the one and only Paul Giamatti himself. Once again, Giamatti seems to be playing his “kvetching, neurotic Jewish guy”-role as we usually see in his films, but there’s more to that than just being a miserable sad-sack. Pekar seems like the perfect role for Giamatti cause not only does the guy have a general distaste for a lot of what happens throughout his day, but when he starts to realize the happiness that’s out there, it’s very nice to see and Giamatti handles it so well. In fact, when Pekar himself shows up on-screen, it’s almost hard to tell them totally apart. Whatever Giamatti himself had to do to prepare for this role, clearly paid-off as he got down every mannerism that Pekar has, wonderfully.

She's perfect.

She’s perfect.

Though, there is more going on here than just Giamatti’s great portrayal of Pekar, as Hope Davis does a charming job as Pekar’s third wife, Joyce Brabner. Because the real-life couple of Joyce and Harvey is so odd and unique in its smallest details, Davis and Giamatti must have really had to be hard-at-work to ensure that they got everything down perfectly between the two; not just when they’re together on-screen, but how their own respective characters grow throughout the movie. Cause obviously, they are their own person, but together, they feel oh so perfectly united, that it’s hard to imagine either one of their miserable selves being with anybody else.

Basically, they were stuck together, forever. Till death did them part and I couldn’t had been any happier for them.

So if anything, American Splendor not only serves a fine send-up of all the superhero/comic book movies that seem to flood the airwaves everywhere you look nowadays, but a touching tribute to the legend of Harvey Pekar. While some may have a problem with the fact he was so ticked-off and angry for no apparent reasons whatsoever, there’s still some hope and humanity to be found in that. Cause as hard as it may be to stay happy all throughout your life, it must be even more incredibly difficult to stay as mad, either.

So here’s to you, Harvey. Rest well. And smile for a damn change!

Consensus: Though it has style to boot, what makes American Splendor so lovely is how it approaches life the same way as Harvey Pekar himself did: Not quite sure what to make of it, but couldn’t wait to find out, even if the results didn’t always make him the happiest bee in the hive.

8.5 / 10

Together, match made in heaven.

Together, match made in heaven.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Secret spy agents have never been so cheeky!

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a post-WWII antiquities smuggler who gets recruited by the CIA to help catch the baddies and put himself in dangerous positions that no pencil-pusher would ever even dream of being caught in. His latest mission, however, may test him to his utter limits. An East German mechanic by the name of Gaby (Alicia Vikander), has a father who was a former rocket scientist for the Nazis and may be currently developing a nuclear bomb for a bunch of shady fascists. Because the mission itself is so complex, Solo’s boss (Jared Harris) assigns him to work with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer); somebody Solo already has a bit of a rivalry with as is. This leads to constant tension and bragging between the two where they sometimes find that they are at odds with one another, rather than with the enemy. But while Solo is busy fighting off whatever pretty honey that comes his way, Kuryakin is trying his hardest to not show off any sort of emotional feelings for anyone, especially not for Gaby, who has now been assigned to use cover as his fiancee. Will all of these personal problems get in the way of the mission? Or will Kuryakin, Solo and Gaby combine their forces and beat the villains, so that all us citizens can live a happy, healthy, and care-free life?

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Love him, hate him, don’t care for him, or hell, don’t even know who he is other than the dude who married Madonna, Guy Ritchie’s got style. And no, I’m not talking about the way he dresses or acts in real life – I mean the movies that he makes. While some may get tired and bored of his energetic and frenetic style, to me, Ritchie feels like the kind of director we’re very lucky to have. None of his movies (even his really terrible ones), can be called “horrid”, “stupid”, and “annoying”, but they can’t be called “dull”. This is because Ritchie refuses to let a movie of his get made without some form of color or fun thrown into the proceedings.

And if anything, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the perfect example of this.

What makes me most happy about U.N.C.L.E. is that it’s the kind of action-thriller that likes to have fun. What was that word? “Fun”? In a current action-thriller, you say? Well, funny that you may ask because yes, U.N.C.L.E. is indeed a fun movie that doesn’t try to frown or grim too much; more or less, it’s concerned with kicking-ass, stunts, guns, babes, booze, spy-gadgets, fancy cars, and most of all, humor.

In today’s day and age where Bond seems to be losing his smirk as each and every movie goes by, or where every hero’s trying to be the next Bourne, U.N.C.L.E.‘s characters all have lovely personalities, seem to have some bit of fun in their systems and, most importantly, have a good joke to end a sentence on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all jokes and play for Ritchie’s characters here, however, even when they do get serious and melodramatic, it isn’t at the high cost of the movie where all of the exciting and fun times are over and now we have to get all stern and cold.

Ritchie doesn’t care for those kinds of thrillers and it’s way U.N.C.L.E. works as well as it does.

Some of this has to do with the fact that the setting (post-WWII, Cold War-era) just screams white-blooded nostalgia right at you, but a good portion has to do with the fact that Ritchie seems interested in this story all around. After all, it’s his fault that a TV show from the 60’s is being brought to the screen where half of the audience who watched that original show may not be alive, or even remember it, so if he screws this up, it’s off with his head. But Ritchie seems absolutely enthused to be giving these locations, these characters, and this decade the light of day and it’s hard to not get caught up in all the good vibes going around.

After all, it’s getting to the end of the summer, so it’s better to get out with a happy, healthy bang, rather than a down-beat, depressed and down-trodden whimper like some of these blockbusters have been this summer.

But perhaps the best thing about U.N.C.L.E., isn’t that it’s filled with plenty of cheeky humor, or impressive set-pieces, but is that it makes you want to see more of these characters in whatever the next adventure it is that they’re getting involved with. While Henry Cavill may be seen as Superman for quite some time, he’s very charming here as Napoleon Solo – who is basically Bond, except that he’s got a perfect chin, hair, body, and cheeks that makes you wonder if Ritchie too thinks this guy’s handsome as hell, too. This gives me hope that whatever side-projects Cavill decides to do away from being Kal-El, that he chooses to take ones that test him as an actor a bit, but also show what his strengths are as an actor.

Doesn't get anymore British than him.

Doesn’t get anymore British than him.

Same goes for Armie Hammer who, after the Social Network, hasn’t had the most lovely career. None of that really has to do with him, because even the crappy movies he participated in, he was at least fine in them, but there is something to be said for a person when they just become a one-hit wonder and you wonder whether or not they’ve actually got some sort of acting-skill in their soul, or are they just another good-looking. In Hammer’s case, he’s definitely the later, but here, he shows that he’s got skills as an actor and is at least able to make this stiff character funny and engaging to watch.

Of course, the whole joke surrounding him is that he’s all too serious and emotionless for his own good, but what Hammer does well, is that he shows that there’s more to this character than just what’s presented on the surface. This is what makes the later-portion of this movie actually interesting, because Hammer and Alicia Vikander have good chemistry between one another where it seems like their characters would be perfect as partners in life, as well as in work. It should be noted that Vikander is great here, too, and is another female character we get this summer that seems like she’s there as nothing else but just a damsel-in-distress, but soon shows her true colors and turns out to be smarter than her male counterparts.

But I’ll save my praise for Vikander for a later-time, considering she’s got plenty of more movies coming around the bend.

Consensus: Stylish, colorful, and whimsical, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t just an entertaining action-thriller, but one that signals why Guy Ritchie is one of the better directors we have working today; he just needs to be given better material to work with.

8 / 10

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

No Detox, but hey, at least we get a musical biopic!

Growing up as just a bunch of young bucks in Compton, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), all wanted to make a difference as the hip-hop group N.W.A. Sure, they wanted to rap, make money, party hard, and have a great time, but what they really wanted from life, was to have their voices be heard and, in some ways, maybe even change the world. Well, when music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) gets ahold of them, that begins to happen. With the release of their seminal album, Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. became one of the most notorious and controversial groups; most of it had to do with the fact that they’re songs were great, but also because they were so racy, that they attracted plenty of attention from law enforcement who didn’t appreciate their songs about police brutality and violence. But even though they were on top of the world and absolutely loving it, too, personal problems began to come into the fray where certain members weren’t getting as much money as they were promised, respect, or wanted to do something else with their careers.

"Yo Dre?"

“Yo Dre?”

Basically, what happens to every band ever formed.

Everything about Straight Outta Compton is as generic as you can get with a musical biopic. The rusted, ragged roots; the first taste of fame; the money; the expensive cars; the lavish mansions; the wildly kick-ass bangers; the tension between members; the idea of “selling out; the break-up; and of course, the eventual reconciliation are all fine points of the musical biopic that are covered here and even then some. In other words, Straight Outta Compton is nothing more than a dramatization of a Behind the Music episode and while that sounds terrible, director F. Gary Gray surprisingly keeps it away from being so.

I say “surprisingly” not because it’s hard to make a musical biopic enjoyable; in all honesty, all you really need is good music, good acting, and a good pace, and everything’s all fine and dandy despite the conventionality of it all. But the reason I say “surprisingly” is because having seen Gray’s past movies, I’m surprised to see that he didn’t lose any sort of conviction with this story and how it handles each and every bit of it. While it would have been easy to just end Straight Outta Compton as soon as N.W.A. breaks up and fill-in the blanks with post-script (as most musical biopics do), Gray takes it one step further and focuses on what happened to each and every member after the break-up. It’s a wise choice on Gray’s part because half of the story of N.W.A. is how they went from being the best of friends, to openly dissing and ripping one another apart in harsh, but legendary diss-tracks, that nobody in their right minds would ever forgive somebody over.

And this is all to say that the movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and honestly, it does not need to be.

Though, the interesting aspect behind the long-winding run-time is even though it’s clearly long and definitely needs to be trimmed-down, the movie moves so quickly and enjoyably, that it’s hardly noticeable. There were plenty of moments in the later-half of the movie where I felt like they could have definitely wrapped things up more efficiently than they did, but all in all, the movie never had me checking my watch. Gray keeps the story moving and constantly interesting, even if it does seem to cover the same ground and get a little phony after awhile.

But like I said, it’s a musical biopic that went through all of the same hoops and holes that most others do, and still, it felt fresh, if only because it was actually fun. Even when the hearts and emotions get heavy by the end, the movie still never loses its sense of entertainment; which is to say that it’s a treat for anyone who has been clamoring for this story to be brought to the big screen. There are the occasional flip-ups where its obvious that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had some influence over which light a certain occurrence was shown in, but overall, it seems to paint a full picture that makes you feel like you know why this group was so important to the world of music, why they didn’t last, and why their own respective members deserved to be praised until the end of time.

"What up, Cube?"

“What up, Cube?”

Hell, it’s even better than some documentaries I’ve seen.

And while I’m sort of on the subject of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube producing this, it should be noted that they did a nice job of getting a good cast in these roles, even if none of them really have to stretch themselves too hard. Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., is an absolute spitting-image of his daddy that you may have to wipe your eyes every so often to remind yourself that it isn’t actually Ice Cube up there on the screen, but his living, breathing, walking, talking and rapping sperm. Corey Hawkins is also a good fit as Dre, not because he looks a little like him (even with a slight hint of Asian), but because he handles the material well when we see the “true” Dre come out. And then, as Eazy-E, the heart and soul of the group, Jason Mitchell is very good and perhaps the most impressive of the young fellas, showing a huge level of depth to a person who would sometimes be classified as a “goof-ball” and all around “lady’s man”.

But whenever these guys are up on the screen next to Paul Giamatti, there’s almost no comparison. Clearly, Giamatti’s the most skilled actor out of everyone here and he shows that off, each and every scene he gets, because he’s constantly evolving into a human being you don’t want to believe exists, but sadly does. All problems with Jerry Heller aside, the movie paints him in a portrait that’s fair; Heller himself has even on occasion spoke of how he’s “just a man for money”, but the movie never makes him out to be sniveling, evil person that most of these movies like to paint the manager as being. He’s just another guy in California trying to make a quick and easy buck, no matter at what costs; sometimes, he’s nice about it, sometimes, he’s not. But he’s a businessman through and through, and Giamatti plays every side of that perfectly.

But poor Suge Knight! What did that guy ever do!

Consensus: Conventional and overlong, Straight Outta Compton feels like it could fall apart at the seams, but somehow, director F. Gary Gray keeps it all together in an entertaining way that makes it feel like the story of N.W.A. is, once and for all, complete.

7 / 10

"We've got somethin' to say."

“We’ve got somethin’ to say.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

I Am Chris Farley (2015)

Sorry, Kevin James. But you were just a replacement.

As a chubby little kid growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Chris Farley always knew that he wanted to entertain people for a living. Did he want to become an actor, or did he want to become a comedian? Chris himself never quite knew, that is, until he started taking stage-acting lessons at a young age and realized that his passion was most definitely making people laugh and feel happy. As Chris began to tune his craft a bit more, then came the notoriety that even landed him a job on the most coveted comedy show ever, SNL. On this platform, every Saturday night, for millions and millions of people, Chris was able to entertain the heck out of anyone who cared to watch him – sometimes, he pushed himself far beyond his own reach. As time went on though, all of this fame, fortune, fun and adoration from those around him, came at a price that Chris wasn’t able to handle and it ended up taking his life at the age of 33.

Oh god. Not the "van down by the river" thing again.

Oh god. Not the “van down by the river” thing again.

There’s a lot of people that I know and talk to that aren’t quite sure what to make of Chris Farley. Was he the comedic legend that everybody makes him out to be? Or, simply put, was he just another chunky guy that liked to yell loud, fall down, and point at his own gut with a winning-smile? Cause so often know, we see a lot more of the later be displayed and it almost seems like rather than moving beyond those sort of stale jokes, Farley himself acted on them once again and brought them back to the mainstream. Even if they never went away, Chris Farley, for better as well as for worse, made “the fat guy” jokes funny again and it’s something we’re going to be forced to live with until the end of time.

Now, like I asked before, was Chris Farley a comedic legend?

Whatever the answer may be, depending on the type of person you are, it doesn’t matter. All personal feelings aside, I Am Chris Farley seems perfectly content with approaching Farley’s own life and career as if it were one big party the whole way through, filled with all sorts of drugs, sex, booze, fun times, celebrities, and smiling faces (all looking at him, of course). And in this sense of the documentary, it’s where director Brent Hodge really excels; not only is it impressive that Hodge was able to nail such celebrities like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, David Spade, and Lorne Michaels to talk about Farley, but he’s actually able to bring a lot more out of them than just, “Yeah, he was a funny guy,” and leaving it at that.

Instead, each one sheds light on how much they loved being around Chris and what it meant to them that he was making them happy, and busting his ass to do so each and every opportunity he got. While this may sound incredibly self-serving, it turns out it’s not; because Farley himself was such an entertainer and attention-whore, he loved it when he made those around him happy and laugh. This of course paints Farley in a positive light that makes it seem like who we got on the screen, was exactly who’d we get off the screen – another idea that the movie brings up.

That Chris Farley was, through and through, without any commercial interruptions, an entertainer, makes him all the more sympathetic. He truly cared about entertaining others and while his most-known buddies still work today and couldn’t care to do much of that anymore (aka, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and of course, Adam Sandler), it’s bittersweet to know that Farley never wanted to dumb himself down for anyone, or anywhere. The movie even makes a mention of how Black Sheep (the Spade-Farley movie that came out after Tommy Boy), may have been a forgettable piece of garbage, but was one that Farley tried his hardest in that even when it bombed, he still tried to bounce back.

Of course, he bounced back with Beverly Hills Ninja, but hey, they can’t all be winners, now can they!

I can only assume that this was taken while Joe Dirt 2 was being filmed, because there is no excuse for that look.

I can only assume that this was taken while Joe Dirt 2 was being filmed, because there is no excuse for that look.

But while all of the nostalgic stories of whimsy about Farley may be fun to listen to and all, there’s a part of this movie that feels like it’s missing. For anybody who’s familiar with Farley and his life, they’ll know that his later years were filled with all sorts of debauchery and sadness, most of which that this movie does shed a light on, however, not to the fullest extent that seems necessary. In order to paint a full portrait of a subject, a documentary should show you how screwed-up one’s life was before they passed away, rather than tell you through narration or text that pops up on the screen.

Hodge himself seems as if he was too enamored with Farley’s life when he was alive, well and making all sorts of people happy, that he forgets about the darkness that lurked within him. Now, I wasn’t expecting this to be some sort of hatchet job that makes Farley out to be like some sort of selfish d-bag, but there is something to be said for a movie that talks about the fact that Farley overdosed on drugs, yet, hardly alludes to the fact of how it makes those people feel today. To me, there feels like a necessary meat to this story that’s missing and almost makes it seem like Hodge, in a way to not push any sort of agenda too hard, didn’t decide to dig any further than what was presented to him through these tales of yesteryear with these many famous people.

Which isn’t all that bad, because even though Farley himself would have wanted the audience to be entertained, there’s still something to be said for a documentary that doesn’t paint a full-picture of its subject, especially when the subject died in such a shocking, tragic way.

But hey, there’s always the narrative biopic!

Consensus: The interviews that I Am Chris Farley is able to get, help make the documentary float on by in a pleasant, entertaining way, even if it does feel like there isn’t much room to go any further than just the happy times.

6.5 / 10

Never forget that lovely mug right there.

Never forget that lovely mug right there.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, Consequence of Sound, WGN-TV

The Runner (2015)

When you’re Nic Cage, sometimes, it’s too hard to keep it in the pants.

In the wake of the BP oil spill, Louisiana Congressman Colin Price (Nicolas Cage) wants to find a way so that people can keep their jobs, as well as make sure that those who are responsible for the spill in the first place, get their comeuppance. Price is very expressive with his ideas, which already puts him on some people’s radars as, possibly, a Senator. However, there’s a couple of skeletons in Price’s closet that have been tucked away for quite some time, that are only now coming out. For one, he’s a bit of a womanizer; there’s a video that begins to float around all of the news circuits featuring Price getting frisky with a wife of a unemployed fisherman. This ruins everything in Price’s life; his wife (Connie Nielsen) leaves him, his right-hand man (Wendell Pierce) doesn’t stand behind him anymore, and his consultant (Sarah Paulson) is running out of options of what to do with Price and his political career. It’s either give up, or continue to try and make a change – either way, it’s going to take a lot of running to get through.

Does Nic Cage believe that he's Nic Cage?

Does Nic Cage believe that he’s Nic Cage?

So yeah, the Runner is aptly-titled because Cage, throughout a good majority of the film, is seen jogging up and down sidewalks. Sure, some of the title relates to the fact that Price himself is actually “running” for office, but honestly, a part of me just wishes this movie had been all about Nic Cage performing some sort of Forrest Gump cross-country run, where he met plenty of colorful citizens along the way, lost a bunch of weight, saw pretty sights, and eventually, just turned around. That, to me, would have been way better than whatever the Runner actually turns out to be.

But honestly, it’s not all that bad. Just most of it.

Writer/director Austin Stark makes his directorial debut here and while it’s easy to see that Mr. Moneybags was clearly not on his side with the budget, there’s no excusing the fact that this movie’s pretty much a mess. You can say that some of the problems Stark runs into, have to do with the fact that he is only able to do so much given the small-scale and budget he was handed, but sometimes, you just have to roll with however much money you’ve got ahold of, make the best of it, and see what churns out. None of that should ever fall onto the script, especially if your script is solid to begin with; something that Stark’s is not.

One of the main problems Stark seems to run into here with the plotting of this movie is that it wants to be so many things at once. Though it’s made somewhat apparent that this Price fella is setting out to create jobs for these unemployed fisherman during this time of crisis, it’s hardly ever touched upon. Instead, we get scenes where Price, as is often the case, runs, drinks, womanizes, and on rare occasion, talks about his feelings. One half of the movie is about how angry Stark seems to be about all those who got away with ruining the waters during the BP oil spill, but then, the other half, also wants to be a character-study of how troubled this Price man truly was. Neither movies are good in their own right, and put together, they’re even worse.

However, if there is one silver-lining to be found, it’s that Nic Cage actually seems to care about what he’s doing. But by the same token, that’s still the double-edged sword of this movie; whereas as in most movies where Cage is called upon to act like a goof-ball, he isn’t asked to do so here. Instead, he’s much more brooding than we’ve seen from him in quite some time and while it’s definitely nice to know that he’s still got those skills left in his acting repertoire, something doesn’t feel right when he’s doing it in a bore of a movie such as this.

"Well, Sarah. I...uh....yeah.."

“Well, Sarah. I…uh….yeah..”

The whole time, you’ll be wanting Cage to crack a weird smile or look in his eyes, but rather, you just get a guy who seems winded and is in desperate need of a nap. Maybe that’s just how he was directed to act, but whatever the case was, it hurts the movie, if only because there’s nothing else to really hold onto. Stark’s script is too busy running from being JFK to becoming, out of nowhere, Jerry Maguire, which leaves it all up to Cage to keep things at least somewhat interesting and cohesive.

But he’s just sort of there.

And as for the rest of the cast, everybody seems to be trying, just like Cage, but they too get side-lined with hardly anything of substance to do. Nielsen’s wife character feels like the usual kind of strict wife who still isn’t able to keep her man in line; Paulson’s character gets to have a semi-relationship with Cage’s and it’s as weird and as random as you’d expect it to be, although it does culminate in a surprisingly effective scene between the two that will come at you by surprise; Pierce is hardly here; and Peter Fonda, despite only having around ten minutes of screen, does a great job as Price’s dad. Though the movie could have played-up the smarmy and sinister charm of Fonda’s character, Stark goes a tad bit further and shows that this man, if anything, just wants his son to succeed and not become a screw-up in both his professional and personal life, like he was.

It’s a nice sentiment lost in a movie that, honestly, I forgot about ten minutes once it was over.

Consensus: Austin Stark has ideas to work with in the Runner, but they’re so jambled-up together and messy, that they end up getting in the way of what could have been solid performances from a well put-together cast.

3 / 10

What is going on inside that crazy head?

What is going on inside that crazy head?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, High Snobiety

Fantastic Four (2015)

Any person looking to direct movies one day, stay away from Marvel.

Ever since he was a young kid, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has always wanted to use science for the greater-good of the world and one day, during his high school’s science fair, he finally gets the chance to do so. When Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) walks up to Reed and propositions him with the idea of working for him, in his laboratory, on a full-time scholarship, Reed has no chance but to accept the offer. Reed soon joins in with the likes of Storm’s two children, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and the adopted Sue (Kate Mara), and an intelligent recluse by the name of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). All of these intelligent brains combined, work on a teleportation device that takes them to a dark and scary world full of clouds, rocks, and lava. Eventually, their project works, but one day, when they decide to travel out into the world on their own, things go awry with everyone involved. Reed becomes a floppy man that can stretch any part of his body, Sue can become invisible and create force-fields, Johnny can fly and light himself on fire, Reed’s childhood buddy, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), becomes a huge, rock thingy, and von Doom, who sadly gets left behind, is able to control things using his mind and power. After this incident, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Why we're people pissed-off at this casting-choice.....

Why we’re people pissed-off at this casting-choice….

So yeah, there’s already been lots and lots of problems surrounding Fantastic Four and mostly all of it can be chalked up to the fact that, once again, Marvel and a director of their choosing, don’t seem to get along. In this case, it’s Josh Trank who had to suffer from all of the chipping, chopping and rules of Marvel. Which is a total shame because Trank’s first flick, Chronicle, was a fun, entertaining, and surprisingly smart superhero movie that fell back on its genius ways of telling a story, rather than relying on a big brand-name that people can spot on any billboard from a mile away. And while it would make sense that Trank getting a chance to make another movie about young people becoming superheros would be another home-run, sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Except it’s not always as bad as it may have been said to be.

For at least the first hour or so, Fantastic Four seems like Trank’s movie full and through. It takes its time building characters, showing their relationships with one another, and giving us a certain amount of time to get used to them, the story they’re involved with, and get a chance to see just what may occur once everything goes South (as we know these movies tend to do). This earlier-portion of the movie is where Trank’s, Simon Kinberg’s, and Jeremy Slater’s writing seems to be at their best; not only does it seem like we’re going somewhere with this story, but we’re getting a chance to get a feel for these characters so that it’s easier for us to connect with them and relate. It may take awhile to get where it needs to get, but it’s funny, entertaining and, at the very least, interesting.

Then, things go awry.

After the gang goes to this parallel universe lazily titled “Planet Zero” and everybody’s got their own, respective super powers, then something strange happens to the movie. For some reason that I can’t explain other than the mandatory re-shoots that were needed for this project, the government somehow gets involved, Reed Richards runs away, and out of nowhere, Doom finally comes into play and starts blowing up each and every person’s heads. Why that is, we never get a chance to know, but when we see Doom get put back into the story after being away from him for about a half-hour, it’s as sinister and as scary as scenes with Dr. Doom should be.

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

But then, all of that seems to go down the drain once we get an eventual battle with Doom and the Four, and eventually, it becomes as clear as day that he’s so easily beatable. Rather than feeling like a film where an opponent seems to get the better of his rival(s), whoever edited the final-half of this movie make it seem like a boss fight in a video-game. Before defeating the bad guy and beating the game, you may have to go back and restart the level a few times, trying different combos and buttons out, all before you do get the chance to beat him and moving on with your day as if you have truly accomplished something revolutionary.

I’d expect that with a battle between Mario and Bowser, but not Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four.

And it’s a shame too, because with the ensemble that Trank was able to get together for this, it seems like a missed-opportunity that he wasn’t able to get more out of each and everyone of them. Don’t get me wrong, everybody here is fine and seem like they’re on the same page when it comes to reading the script and performing it, but each and everyone of their own talents get lost in a mess of a final-act that doesn’t know how to wrap itself up. In the end, everything that happened before makes it feel like it was all just a lead-up to next week’s episode, where the Fantastic Four will, once again, battle against a certain evil, have problems along the way, break-off, get back together, and once and for all, beat the super, duper villain.

And even though there’s already a sequel planned for this, something tells me plans may get scrapped. Which, to be honest, isn’t something I want. To me, deep down inside, there seems to be a good, entertaining, and relatively smart Fantastic Four movie just lurking around somewhere in the darkness. But because the powers that B from Marvel got involved, everything went to shit and we’re instead left with an incredibly mediocre superhero movie that serves more as a cautionary tale, rather than a celebration for the fans of these comic book characters getting to see them on the screen once again.

Only time will tell though.

Consensus: After about the first hour or so, Fantastic Four becomes the trainwreck you’d expect it to be, but for a good while, it’s entertaining and compelling, until all of the fun times go away and we’re left with plenty to be desired.

5 / 10

So, what else can he stretch?

So, what else can he stretch?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Snatch (2001)

SnatchposterDoes anybody even know what a “pikey” is in the first place?

Set in the London criminal underworld, two stories are unfolding that, more often than not, just so happen to connect or intervene with one another. One plot deals with the search for a stolen diamond, whereas the other with a small-time boxing promoter named Turkish (Jason Statham) who finds himself under the thumb of a ruthless gangster known as Brick Top (Alan Ford). Of course, there is more than just meets the eye with this premise as many happenings and characters find themselves in-and-out of the story.

If you’ve seen one movie of Guy Ritchie’s, you’ve mostly seen them all. In ways, that’s a good thing, but often times, it can feel as if it’s a tad bit repetitive and over-done. But that’s not me talking, as I’ve come to appreciate the kind of style the dude’s worked with over the years and how it’s single-handedly help save some of his movies from being bore-fests.

Except for Swept Away. There was no way of saving that movie.

Who needs Apollo Creed, when you've got two drunk Irish morons.

Who needs Apollo Creed, when you’ve got two drunk Irish morons.

What Ritchie does so well, is style; it’s the same type of hip, kinetic, and goofy style that we saw in his earlier flicks but who cares? If it works, it works. Ritchie keeps the plot moving in an entertaining fashion, but at the same time, still keeps these plot-lines interesting. This makes it all the more with it when they all seem to converge with one another and make Ritchie’s writing a whole heck of a lot smarter.

Most of that smartness comes from the whole idea of this flick is just to be a big goofy take on the crime-noir genre by substituting all of those hard, mean characters, with lovable, colorful ones that we all actually care about. However, don’t have you think that Ritchie softens up because of this. Instead he lets all of the violence happen as if it normally would in any other film of this genre and it’s just a whole bunch of fun to watch, even if you do know what’s going to happen next.

Also, subtitles may definitely help at certain times, too.

I don’t know what it is about Ritchie piss so many people off because this guy really seems like he’s having a ball when it comes to him making movies. Does he have an energetic style that can sometimes be straight in your face? Yeah, but does that neccessarily make him a bad director? I guess it all depends on how you feel about watching movies. Either you want a slow human-drama about life and love in the world we live in, or you want a fast-paced, suspenseful, and wild gangster flick that takes no prisoners and makes no apologies for calling each other that dreaded “c-word”.

Yup. Totally not crazy.

Yup. Totally not crazy.

My problem with this film just lies within the fact that I think Ritchie does not stray far away from what he did with his debut and that’s sort of annoying, considering it seems a bit cheap once you think about it. Take for instance, Vinnie Jones’ character. Jones, as we all know and love, is basically type-cast as this wild, insane, and freakishly scary a-hole that would be able to rip your heart out with his teeth. Those are the types of roles the guy gets nowadays and without Ritchie, he wouldn’t have ever been known far-beyond his Rugby days. Therefore, it seems like Ritchie felt the need to not only place a same type of character as that in this movie, but also give Jones the same exact role that sort of comes off as lazy and a bit unoriginal in terms of casting. There’s a couple of other actors and characters here that seem like carbon-copies of the ones from Lock, but Jones was the one who really stood-out for me as the laziest of all, even though he kicked plenty of arse, as usual.

But even besides that, Jones is still good here. And the same goes with everybody else who shows up, utilizing their talents as actors for what would be ultimate challenging of handling Ritchie’s sense of dialogue. Though they may seem like odd choices at first, the likes of Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, and Rade Serbedzija, all do perfectly fine here and show that they’re charming enough to carry along the movie, even if Ritchie’s dialogue may sometimes get in the way of his actors.

However, their not prepared for the most inspired casting decision of this whole flick.

Brad Pitt as the illiterate “pikey” Micky O’Neill, may have seemed crazy, but eventually, you wonder why anybody would have ever thought that. Pitt’s whole act in this flick is to not make any sense no matter what he mumbles, but still be able to get what he’s saying across by the look on his face and the body language he displays. Maybe that’s a bit too much of a detailed study for a character that is first shown taking a dump right in front of his home, but Pitt nails it and makes every piece of dialogue he mutters out hilarious. So hilarious in fact, that the Netflix subtitles couldn’t even decipher what the hell he was saying but that was the point! It was funny, it made me laugh, and made me see what types of roles Pitt can do, and still take total control over even if he isn’t the main star of the show. Everybody else here, kicks some fine-piece of arse that’s worth mentioning but to be honest, just go out and see the ensemble for yourself. They are all so perfect together and you wonder how Ritchie was able to get them all to be in the same freakin’ movie in the first place.

Consensus: Though we’ve seen this style done before, Snatch still utilizes a lot of Ritchie’s strengths as both a writer, as well as a director.

8.5 / 10

Morgan?

Morgan?

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Room Reviews

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