Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

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Pixels (2015)

Nerds will save the world from ultimate destruction. Not Adam Sandler.

In 1982, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) thought he was the ultimate champ at arcade games. Turns out, however, he was wrong when he lost in the final round to the likes of Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage). Now, over 30 years later, Sam’s life is a bit depressing – he’s middle-aged, single, and works a job as a electronics repairman. His best friend, on the other hand, Will Cooper (Kevin James), just so happens to be the President of the United States, so at least he has that going for him. Everything in their lives change one day when, out of the blue, old-school video games start attacking them; nobody really knows why, but all anybody can make up is the fact that these attacks are serious and that cautionary action should be taken right away. But because beating these arcade games takes a certain type of skill and persistence, the U.S. Army can’t defeat them, which brings President Cooper to ask the aid of Sam, Eddie, Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), and a fellow gamer from the past named Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad). The fate of the world, now rests solely in their finger-tips.

All of the kiddies will love Q'Bert, until they realize that little 'effer curses up a storm.

All of the kiddies will love Q*bert, until they realize that little ‘effer curses up a storm.

Movies like Pixels make me wonder what’s wrong with me. Not just a movie-viewer, however, but as a person. See, while I am all for despising the likes of Adam Sandler and all of the pieces of utter feces he’s been putting out lately, there’s something about Pixels that I couldn’t help but like. Sure, I know there’s clearly a huge hatred for this movie already and more or less, I’m definitely in the minority of this thing, but for some reason, I enjoyed myself during Pixels.

If any of you readers want to write me off right here and now, I will not be offended. In fact, I would welcome you as smart, conscious human beings, who clearly know who they do and don’t want to read. However, for those of you who are at least slightly interested in where I’m going with this, then I say, thank you and please bear with me for as long as you possibly can.

Still here?

Good! Let’s get going!

As is, Pixels is better than most Adam Sandler movies we’ve been seeing in the past decade. I realize that’s like saying it’s better to get shot in the head, then to jump on a live grenade, but still, it’s something that needs to be said. Because while Pixels could have easily been another case where Sandler gets all of his pals together, both in front of and behind the camera, to just goof around and hurl whatever they want on the screen, for no other reason other than to take up people’s time, it actually doesn’t turn out that way. It’s still produced by Happy Madison, but rather than getting the most generic-of-generic directors around that Sandler usually aligns himself with, Chris Columbus steps up to the plate and does a relatively fine job at keeping the pace constantly moving.

Columbus, having directed the first two Harry Potter‘s and many other blockbusters, is already used to these kind of big-budget, wild extravaganzas. And though some people may already be fuming with anger that I even dropped the name Harry Potter in a review about an Adam Sandler movie, it’s not like this is so incredibly distasteful that it should never be watched. Believe it or not, there is a plot here that moves, there is some humor to be found that isn’t just Sandler’s same old brand of making fun of easy targets, and when you get right down to it, there are some fun performances from those involved.

Is that to say the movie is perfect? Hell to the no!

But like I’ve stated before, Pixels is in no way, shape, or form, quite like Sandler’s recent disasters. That’s not saying much at all, but when you go to an Adam Sandler movie and don’t have the feeling of wanting to rip out your ears, eyes and brain, then it’s definitely something that’s more positive than bad. Whatever that may mean for some of you, I do not know, but for me, it means that at least Sandler was able to get some help this time around and not make this into another Grown Ups, produced by Nintendo.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene's a whole lot funnier.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene’s a whole lot funnier.

Like I alluded to earlier in my first paragraph, Pixels makes me wonder what’s so wrong with me? See, even though everybody on the face of the planet seems to be despising this one literally as soon as they walk out of the theater, for me, I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I realized that there were certain problems in the comedy-department as some jokes worked, whereas others totally failed, or that solid actors like Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox are here to just practically do nothing, but to me, the overall fun feel of this movie was enough to let all of those issues slide-on by.

Because, once again, this movie could have been a whole lot worse, but thankfully, it wasn’t.

Maybe that’s a judge of my character, and less about others, but still, if there’s something wrong with me to where I enjoy certain movies like Pixels, and despise the absolute hell out of a movie like Paper Towns, then so be it. Everybody has their guilty pleasures, as well as their own minority picks; one person does not think the same about one thing as another person does, nor do most people conform to what others are sticking with because it’s, for lack of a better term, the majority to roll with. I, for one, have never been like that and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

So if a silly movie starring Adam Sandler has to remind me of that, then so be it. I’ll keep being me, ya’ll can keep being yourselves.

So, have I lost all of my followers yet?

Consensus: Despite obvious problems in certain departments, Pixels is still entertaining enough to be one of Sandler’s better movies in recent memory, even if, once again, that’s not saying much to begin with.

6.5 / 10

I'll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrionne, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

I’ll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrion, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

 

Paper Towns (2015)

These teenage girls need to stop acting so “mysterious”. Especially when you ask them for their number.

Since he was very young, Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) has been living across the street from Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) – a childhood friend of sorts that he hasn’t kept in contact with much as they’ve gotten older. Not that he hasn’t wanted to, he just hasn’t tried to, as constantly mulling over the mystery of who she is and what she could be up to is better than any human interaction with her whatsoever. But one fateful night, Margo sneaks into Q’s room, takes him out on an adventure where they prank mean kids from their school, and basically, give Q the greatest night of his life. Sadness then ensues when, for some unexplained reason, Margo leaves without telling a single soul, leaving Q to wonder just what happened. Did she die? Or, did she just want to get away from the rest of the world that she knew because it became too much for her? Q thinks about it more and more, but he soon starts to see little clues that Margo may, or may not have left for him to see, which then leads him to set out on a road trip to find Margo, see what she’s been up to, and find out if they’re meant for one another like he believes they are.

Cause being cool, calm and collected just didn't suffice.....

Cause being cool, calm and collected just didn’t suffice…..

So yeah, if anybody remembers last summer, I wasn’t so hot with the Fault In Our Stars. While some would say that it was just another case of some angry, soulless, and unlovable person taking all of his years of disappointment and frustration out on a sweet movie about two kids with cancer falling in love with one another, others would say it’s just another case of some person not enjoying a movie for the sole fact that it’s annoying. And in case you couldn’t tell, I sided more with the latter, but I had my reasons, people!

Other than the fact that, you know, I am soulless, angry and unlovable, by choice.

With that film, it felt like the characters spoke in such a stilted and overly quirky manner, that it was almost as if John Green knew he was working with a conventional love story and needed to spice it up so much that he just made each and every character sound as if they learned a new phrase to coin because it makes them appear “cool”, or “hip”. Now, I know that he didn’t write that movie adaptation, nor did he write this one, but he still laid the groundwork enough to where it’s obviously clear that he thinks this is the way actual, real life teenagers talk, or at least, should.

Let’s hope they never do, because honestly, the first hour or so of Paper Towns is downright treacherous. Granted, the whole movie is no easy cakewalk either, but at least by the end, director Jake Schreier decides to throw some interesting tidbits of insight in there for good measure, Problem is, there’s a whole other hour-and-a-half where these boring, almost carbon-copy versions of teenage characters walk around, talk somewhat “cool”, and go on aimlessly with their rather uneventful days. Not saying that this isn’t how real-life teenagers go about their days normally, but when you’re making a movie, and you have a crummy script to work with, you need a little more than just a conventional teenager-types lulling around the hallways, as they wait around for the next plot-point to come hit them on their noggins.

And honestly, once the eventual road trip does get going, there’s still not much for this movie to offer. Every character feels as if they’ve been hashed-out of a whole slew of other, way better movies that have come before them, so that when they do get to the parts of the movie where they have to break down, open-up each other’s souls to one another, and show their true colors, it’s hard to feel anything. We’ve seen the dorky characters in these types of movies try so desperately to get the girl, just like we’ve seen the dorky characters try to hide the fact that their dorks to begin with.

It never gets old!

Cause just leaving a text or sticky-note just didn't suffice....

Cause just leaving a text or sticky-note just didn’t suffice….

Now, if there is something interesting that Paper Towns brings to the table for teenage romance dramedies that Fault didn’t really bother with, is that it takes a plot-conceit and finds a way to pick it apart in a way that’s thoughtful. With Margo, we get who is basically, another version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl; she acts on instinct, says odd things, capitalizes certain letters of a word, and leaves ridiculous tips of where it is that she may have ventured off to next. While this character already had me running for the exits as soon as she started going on about the whole “paper town metaphor”, thankfully, she’s not in it too much.

Which, in essence, is a bit of a shame because I feel, given more time to do so, Cara Delevingne could have stretched this character a bit more. While Delevingne herself basically has to play one-note, she does so in a charming way that makes me feel, had the script not been written as if it were ghost-written by wannabe hipsters who listen to the Dirty Projectors, that she could have gone to some interesting places with this character. But, for better and for worse, she’s cut out for most of the proceedings as she’s left in the background as everybody searches for her. The movie still finds a way to bring her back and discuss how her thoughtless actions actually have consequences, which is the only interesting food-for-thought I could find here, but eventually, it’s all just left in the dust.

Along the way of the road trip, of course, these characters learn more about one another than they may have ever done before, but before long, it’s practically all uninteresting. Though Nat Wolff surprised the hell out of me with how deep, dark and willing he was able to go with his performance in Palo Alto, it seems like he’s taken a step back and playing someone who is far more boring and predictable; as if the movie would have gone on and been fine without him even bothering to show up for work. He tries as Q, but ultimately, he turns out be like everyone of a John Green-type: Awkward, but charming.

Something that, as someone who was a once a fellow teenager, doesn’t exist.

But dare to dream, kiddies!

Consensus: Like the Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns features overly cloying dialogue that’s not able to do much for the plot, or these characters, considering we’ve seen them done before and they haven’t much anything new to offer.

3.5 / 10

Cause a simple hand-shake or hug just didn't suffice....

Cause a simple hand-shake or hug just didn’t suffice….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Southpaw (2015)

From what I hear, the more jabs to the head, the merrier!

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) faced all sorts of adversity over the years to make himself one of the best boxers in the profession today, and still be able to come home to his beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and kid (Oona Laurence). However, all of that changes when tragedy strikes and Billy is practically left to fend for himself. Due to all of the blows he’s taken to the head, not only is he a punch-drunk, fumbling mess, but he’s also lost all sorts of control over his emotions, which puts him in a lot of legal trouble. This all eventually leads to his house, car, money, and worst of all, kid get taken away in hopes that he can change his act for the good. Problem is, the only way Billy can get back on top, is through boxing – a sport he has been told, time and time again, that “he should retire from before it’s too late”. Still though, Billy sees his fight against the current champ, Ramone (Victor Ortiz), as his comeback one, regardless of what the nay-sayers may spout on about. To get back in shape, Billy enlists the help of Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker), a trainer who only helps out younger boxers, and nobody else. However, in Billy’s case, Tick is willing to make an exception.

That is, if Billy changes his act a whole bunch.

Hey, you two! Stop PDA'ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

Hey, you two! Stop PDA’ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve practically seen them all. Of course, there are the noble exceptions to the rule (Raging Bull), but for the most part, each and every movie that concerns with the sport of boxing, plays out like another take on Rocky. Underdog has dreams; underdog faces adversity; underdog faces set-back; underdog gets back on his feet; underdog sets out to defeat the champ. It’s all been said and done before, many, many times and you know what?

Southpaw isn’t going to change that formula.

Thankfully though, it’s the kind of movie that’s lucky to benefit from a talented cast who, despite having to deal with a very over-dramatic and sometimes corny script from the wild and wacky mind of Kurt Sutter, make better because they’ve come ready to play. Case in point, Jake Gyllenhaal who, believe it or not, is actually taking up a role written for Eminem. While I would have definitely liked to see how that played out, in hindsight, I’m still glad that the second person to get the call was Gyllenhaal, cause not only is he proving himself to be one of the better actors we’ve got around working today, but he’s able to throw himself into any role where it doesn’t matter who was supposed to be in it originally, or not. Gyllenhaal’s going to make you believe it should have been him all along and that’s why he works wonders with Billy Hope – the most conventional character he’s had to work with since Bubble Boy.

Which I know sounds terrible, but it actually isn’t; Gyllenhaal’s more talented as an actor now, than he ever was before, and it’s great to see him sink his teeth deep into what could have been a total paycheck gig. Though it most definitely is the kind of role that’s paying for Gyllenhaal’s pad in Malibu, he still gives it his all, showing the sadness and sometimes, vulnerability to this character of Billy Hope. He’s conventionally written in that he’s an underdog who brought himself from nothing, to something, only to have to do it all over again, but Gyllenhaal takes it some steps further, by showing that this character really needs to box for his life.

Because without it, what is he?

Just another average Joe, working a 9-to-5, having to come home to a wife, two kids, dog, and white picket fence? Or, is he a guy that has to constantly wade through the thick, the thin and do what he can to provide love and support for those he cares for the most? The movie itself seems to lean more towards the latter, but Gyllenhaal, even despite the fact that he got himself all jacked-up and scary for this role, constantly makes you wonder where his mind is heading toward and thinking of the most.

And of course, Forest Whitaker’s great as Billy’s trainer, as well is Rachel McAdams as Billy’s wife, but the reason why I’ve high-lighted Gyllenhaal’s performance so much is because he’s clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and proves to be the best part of it when all is said and done. Sure, Southpaw is entertaining in that it features plenty of boxing, running, training, cursing, and rap music, but at the same time, it’s a little too hard to take seriously at times, even if it so desperately pleads and begs you to do otherwise.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

You can, once again, chalk that up to the fact that Kurt Sutter is here writing this thing, but you can also add on the fact that Antoine Fuqua directed this and even though he’s had some good movies in his past, he’s no master of subtlety, that’s for sure. Every time it seems like Billy’s going to lose his shit and break something in his way, have no fear, because he will. Heck, every time that you think Whitaker’s character is going to have something inspirational to say to give Billy more hope, don’t worry, because he definitely does. It’s not much of a problem because Whitaker and Gyllenhaal are both pros at what they do and share incredible chemistry with one another, but after awhile, it’s get to be a bit disappointing when you know that they’re working with mediocre material.

Granted, you should always take a movie for what it is, and not what it could have been, but in this case, I’m making the exception. Whereas, on paper, with the premise and cast involved, Southpaw could have been a huge, hot and heavy Oscar-contender (like it was originally planned to be), with the likes of Sutter and Fuqua combined, their brand of unsubtle melodrama takes over everything and has it play out a bit more soap-opera-y. It’s what we’ve got, so I shouldn’t complain too much, but man, imagine what it could have been with some other people involved. Like, I don’t know, say, Marty Scorsese?

Yep, that sounds like a perfect idea. Somebody call him up next time.

Consensus: With Gyllenhaal in the lead role, Southpaw turns out to be a lot better, but can get so over-the-top and silly at times, that it takes away any sort of momentum that it can sometimes build for itself.

7 / 10

Good thing Rach wasn't around.

Good thing Rach wasn’t around, cause she’d definitely want to butt in…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Boy Meets Girl (2015)

Love-squares get so much steamier when you throw a transgender person in them.

Ricky (Michelle Hendley) is a young woman from Kentucky who wants to go to college in New York so that she can pursue a possible fashion career. Ricky was also born a female in every which way, except physically, and it’s taken her many of years for her, as well as many others around her, to accept that fact for what it is. Her best friend Robby (Michael Welch) absolutely does and sees Ricky as the friend of his he’s known since he was a kid; everybody else in the town knows Ricky, too, except one girl by the name of Francesca (Alexandra Turschen), who is, predictably, interested in Ricky and her “situation”. However, the interest soon turns into attraction, which leads Ricky and Francesca to contemplate having something of a relationship with one another and see if it could work. Because the only reason why it wouldn’t work isn’t because Ricky still has a penis, or that Francesca is going “through a phase”, but because the latter’s actually engaged to David (Michael Galante), a soldier who is currently station in Afghanistan.

Oh, what a lovely little surprise he’ll stumble upon when he gets back!

It's alright to appreciate the bangs.

It’s alright to appreciate the bangs.

Believe it or not, despite the terrible title, Boy Meets Girl is anything but. Though it may read like a melodramatic and predictable-as-all-hell rom-com, the fact that it has a transgender-angle to it isn’t the only element that makes it seem “different” – it’s also because the movie actually takes time with its characters and just what it is that they bring to this story. That Boy Meets Girl features a transgender lead in a role made for a transgender woman, only makes the movie more interesting and insightful, even when it seems like writer/director Eric Schaeffer seems to lose his way a bit.

But more on that bad stuff later! On with the goods, because there are plenty of them to be found here!

What Schaeffer does well with Boy Meets Girl is that he gives each and everyone of these characters a living, breathing, and distinct soul that allows them to be seen more as “types”. For instance, the smart-ass, find-a-joke-to-make-anywhere role of Ricky would gotten annoying real quick, but we soon start to see that there’s a reason why she’s like that in the first place and makes her react in the sarcastic manner that she so often does. The way in how Schaeffer continues to go back to this may be troubled, but it still helps stretch this character out a bit more and shows that there’s more to her that’s laying under her very soft skin.

The same goes for all of these other characters, too. Welch’s Robby seems like a nice dude who genuinely doesn’t care if Ricky is a boy, a girl, or somewhere in between, he just wants her to stay her, and that’s it; Turschen’s Francesca, while a bit naive, by the same token, also feels like she may actually like Ricky as a person, regardless of it’s as a friend or not, she just wants her in her life; and Galante’s David, despite coming into play late in the movie, comes off as the most interesting character of the bunch as his initial anti-homosexual bashing, eventually starts to show glimpses of humanity that makes us understand why he is the way he is.

All of these characters and actors are great and all, but it’s really Michelle Hendley’s movie from beginning to end, as it totally should have been. Most of the credit that goes to Schaeffer right away, is the fact that he chose to actually cast a transgender woman in the role of a transgender woman. Whenever there’s a show or movie about transgender persons, it’s mostly used as a way to highlight just how “deep” and “far” a straight actor is willing to go dressing in the other sexes clothes and being seen in a different way that they aren’t used to being seen in (Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, or Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, among others). That’s not saying that there’s anything wrong with getting well-known actors in your roles for transgender peoples – it’s just that it can often times ring false if the actor or creator isn’t lucky enough.

With Hendley, Schaeffer is more than lucky.

Because Hendley most likely had to go through a lot of what her character is currently going through, the performance comes off as more raw and believable; every ounce of hurt, or pain, or even happiness that’s found in herself, seems realistic in a way that isn’t made to keep the plot moving. Hendley’s definitely well-equipped as an actress and even though her character gets thrown into some awkward situations here and there, it’s definitely not her fault – she’s as strong-willed and as personable as you can get with a lead like this. Here’s to hoping that we see more of her in stuff, regardless of if the roles call out for transgender workers or not.

Because honestly, does it really matter?

Two very different women, I have to say.

Two very different women, I have to say.

But now that I’ve gotten through all of the happy, most definitely positive stuff, it’s about time to highlight some of the problems to be had that keep Boy Meets Girl from really shaking up the rom-com genre. For one, I don’t feel as if Schaeffer is as skilled of a director as he may be a writer. Though this movie would have definitely had a smaller budget than most movie’s of its kind, there’s still something amateurish about the way Schaeffer seems to position his story and camera; sometimes, dialogue-heavy scenes run on for days-on-end, without ever seeming like they have an end in sight, nor do they really have much of a rhythm for the whole film.

This may sound like absolute gibberish coming from my finger-tips, but honestly, while watching Boy Meets Girl, I couldn’t help but feel as if the movie would start up, only to slow back down again, therefore, killing any sort of momentum it may have had going for itself. Surely the equipment couldn’t have been as stellar as the bigger productions out there, but there’s sometimes no excuse for a movie that feels as if it’s been chopped-down and edited in a frenetic way. Then again, I see many mainstream movies with way bigger budgets have this same problem, so maybe it doesn’t matter too much what it is that I say.

Where Schaeffer really screws up though, is that it runs on way too long; which is definitely saying something considering the movie isn’t over an-hour-and-40-minutes.

For example, there’s an ending to this movie at around the 80-minute mark that makes it seem like all is over and said with, but miraculously, there’s more. Schaeffer doesn’t forget that there are two other people’s story-lines to wrap up and it’s not only a smart move on his part, but works out well for the movie, too. Problem is, it adds on a lot more than it probably should, not to mention, it actually rings a lot more true than the main story-line’s wrap-up. Don’t want to get into any spoilers here, but once certain characters start professing their loves for one another, without it ever seeming to make sense, there was a part of me that felt as if I maybe missed a scene or two while I was checking my watch.

Then, after this, the movie goes on and on, with way moire than a few endings – most of which, mind you, don’t quite work. To me, it felt like Schaeffer wanted to wrap this whole movie up so neat and tidy, that he forget just how many endings it took to get to that neat and tidy ending. And honestly, did the movie ever need one? Probably not, because life is not at all neat or tidy.

Trust me. Hell, trust us all.

Consensus: All pacing and writing issues aside, Boy Meets Girl is equipped with a smart bunch of cast and characters that makes it feel like more than just your average rom-com, that also happens to star a transgender woman playing a transgender woman.

6.5 / 10

Someone always needs to keep the pig-tails alive and well.

Someone always needs to keep the pig-tails alive and well.

Photos Courtesy of: Consequence of Sound

Creep (2015)

Yes, he’s definitely a weirdo.

Small-time film-maker Aaron (Patrick Brice) is willing to do whatever sort of work for whatever amount of money; he’s like most young, aspiring directors out there who are just trying to survive on anything that comes their way. Whether it’s weird or not, at least Aaron is getting a paying gig and to him, it’s the most exciting day of his life, where all sorts of possibilities are up in there. All of the excitement goes away, however, when Aaron meets his subject – a man by the name of Josef (Mark Duplass) who claims to have a malignant tumor, for which he was given about two-to-three months left to live. Not to mention, Josef also has a wife and new baby on the way, which is why he wants Aaron to follow him for this whole day, filming his each and every move, so that one day, his child can see just what kind of guy its daddy was. And while things start off a bit oddly between the two, it eventually escalates into something that Aaron was not at all expecting and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

How can you say "get outta here" to a face like that? Even as deranged as it may seem to be?

How can you say “get outta here” to a face like that? Even as deranged as it may seem to be?

Though some may already see the word “found-footage” being used an awful lot in sentences about Creep, have no fear, because the movie’s a whole lot better than the genre it plays around in. Which isn’t all that of a surprise considering we know that neither Patrick Brice (the Overnight), nor especially Mark Duplass (every indie dramedy that you’ve ever loved) wouldn’t ever align themselves with something as plain and as generic as the found-footage genre and do nothing with it. That isn’t to say Creep doesn’t fall for the occasional, manipulative jump-scare to put us back into our seats whenever we get too comfy and cozy thinking this is going to be some sort of character-drama, but it’s done so in such a way that the scariness of the material isn’t the actual “boo”, it’s more of what lies behind the said boo.

Make any sense? If not, please do let me explain.

What Brice seems to be saying with Creep is that the way we humans in society connect with one another nowadays, is strictly through technology/internet. Sure, Catfish practically said the same message many years ago in an effective manner (even if the message has gotten blurred over the years), but Brice and Duplass both deliver the message in such a way that makes it feel all the more effective; while Josef is easily a character we could dismiss as nothing more than a plain and simple weirdo, the movie also shows that maybe he’s a weirdo because that’s the way the world has manufactured him as. He lives for that connection with somebody, and when he doesn’t get it, he overreacts like a spoiled child would – that’s if the spoiled child had some homicidal ideas floating around in his head. But either way, this character of Josef is most definitely a product of this generation, where there’s hardly any room whatsoever for privacy, or general human connection.

It’s all, as they say, “up in the cloud”.

And as Josef, Duplass, as expected, is terrific. Because Josef isn’t just a crazed dude who clearly has huge problems, Duplass gets a chance to show-off different skills we haven’t seen him utilize before. Josef’s nature is so unpredictable and off-putting, that you never quite know where he’s going to go next, what he’s going to say, or even where he’s going to show up to scare Aaron. His overly touchy feely manner is definitely strange at first, but then it starts to turn deadly soon later, and this is where Duplass really excels at showing a character we have no full clue about and we sort of want to know more of. That’s not to say that we ever get to liking this character, but just like how Aaron feels, there’s something intricately sad and vulnerable about Josef that’s hard to resist and dismiss as “evil”.

Although Brice may not be the best actor out there and doesn’t always handle this material well when he definitely should, he does a fine enough job of sitting off to the side so that Duplass can steal the movie away from him. Because as we learn early on, this whole movie is meant to be about Josef and Josef only, everything else that comes with it, is just the final product of what getting to know and be around Josef is like. In other words, it’s absolutely dangerous and terrifying, but because Aaron seems like a relatively smart dude who isn’t always fooled easily, it’s safe to follow behind him. He makes some dumb decisions along the way, but honestly, what horror movie-protagonist doesn’t?

Someone find me that mask for Halloween. Gotta be a dollar store around here somewhere.

Someone find me that mask for Halloween. Gotta be a dollar store around somewhere.

Sidney Prescott doesn’t count!

But what ultimately puts Creep a step above most of the found-footage horror bull-crap we seen thrown at us just about every other month, is that it seems to understand why a genre like this can still work. At times, it’s easy to see where this plot is going and it makes you wonder if it was or wasn’t intentional in the first place, but there are a few nice twists and turns that not only keep this movie smart, but quite fun. Though the first hour is full of all sorts of talking and odd moments that come out of nowhere, after such is when there’s some thrills and chills to be had.

However, that’s not to say that they’re manipulative in any sort of way. Brice takes his time with allowing for his tension to build up and up and up, so that when the final one-two punch does eventually come around and hit us square in the face, it leaves a lasting impression. That’s what we need more with our horror movies – lasting impressions. Sure, some horror movies like to go out on a bang, but how many times do you feel as if you’ve been tortured and toyed around with in a good way that makes you think about what it is that you just went through long after? I can’t think of many, which is probably why Creep is definitely deserving of a watch.

Consensus: While it may seem to go down some predictable routes, Creep still gets the job done with the smart chills, twists, and message about the way our world works, even if it may get lost over some people’s head when all is said and done.

8 / 10

Always need a loving embrace before the deadly weapons come out.

Always need a loving embrace before the deadly weapons come out.

Photos Courtesy of: Logan Bushey

Lila & Eve (2015)

Mother knows best.

Lila (Viola Davis) is a single mother living in Atlanta with her two boys. One of whom, is tragically killed in what seems to be a random hit-and-run. Lila doesn’t know how to handle this sort of grief, so she just sits in her bedroom all day and night, sobbing, and trying to figure out just where her son’s case is going to end up next. Though the police promise Lila that there are being some moves made in finding out who killed her son, she’s still skeptical. However, where Lila gets the most comfort in is going to weekly meetings she has with mothers who have also had to deal with their own children being taken away from them too soon. There, Lila meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), a fellow woman whose daughter died recently and doesn’t seem too intent on speaking to anyone – except for Lila that is. Eventually, the two strike up something of a relationship that finds themselves having fun together and making the best of their incredibly crappy situations. On one fateful night though, when Lila and Eve are around the house, they stumble upon a gun, which leads them to think of what they should do with it. Store it for later? Or take it out and get some full-fledged revenge, baby?

Yeah, total scum. Why on Earth would I want to be with that for the night....

Yeah, total scum. Why on Earth would I want to be with that for the night….

Sadly, Lila & Eve decides to go with the latter, which isn’t even getting to the root of the movie’s problems. However, while we’re talking about it, we might as well discuss the stance this movie takes on vigilante violence/revenge; while it doesn’t seem to necessarily telling you to step out on the streets now and look to blow some peeps up because they pissed you off in some way, the movie isn’t really taking all of the negative after-effects that can happen, too. For instance, Lila hardly ever takes into account that the people she may be killing, aren’t just somebody else’s sons, just like her late one, but also somebody else’s brother, or nephew, or whatever. Either way, the people that they kill are all somebody’s loved ones, which wouldn’t have been so put-upon, had Lila and Eve not gone to one of their funerals.

It’s actually quite morbid really, and it made me wonder just where the hell this movie’s heart actually was. With the heart and the humanity? Or with the thrill of seeing some criminals get shot in total and complete cold blood? It’s more of the latter in this movie’s case, however, it does so often make an attempt at being a lot deeper and heartfelt than it actually is – a stumbling mistake that they should have given up with right away.

But don’t worry, it gets worse because the movie then throws a bunch of twists and turns at the fences by the end, just to make sure that they’ve shaken things up anyway that it can. Problem is, the twists are so very obvious and feel as if they’re hitting Nicholas Sparks material. The twists don’t add much to the story, nor the point it’s trying to make about moving on in life and depressing, but the way the ones behind this see it, that’s all fine.

It isn’t and it’s a shame.

In fact, a damn shame because, yes, Viola Davis is actually in the leading role as Lila. And you know what? Believe it or not, Viola Davis is actually pretty good here! Surprising right? No. But what is surprising is that she even decided to bother with crap of this magnitude.

Oh no, Shea Whigham! Leave while you still can.

Oh no, Shea Whigham! Leave while you still can.

As Lila, Davis tries to dig as deep and as far as she can to reach the inner-core of this character, make us feel her pain and understand exactly what it is that she’s going through. At some points, it does work, which is probably only because she seems to be trying, but the script lets her and her talents down a little too much. Though you’d believe Davis as something of a bad-ass killer, the later-half of this movie that portrays her as being as such, doesn’t quite register. None of that has to do with Davis, though – her character is just written in such a way that she’s supposed to be as generic as humanly possible. Davis may try to shake things up every so often, but sadly, it doesn’t always work.

Same goes for Jennifer Lopez, who, I’m afraid to say, isn’t really that good here. Sure, you can definitely blame that on the crappy writing and even more crappy character she has to play with, but there’s also a weird feeling surrounding the way she portrays this character. She’s supposed to be trashy with her slang and general love of cigarettes? But it’s really hard to buy, or take seriously because it’s, well, hello, Jennifer freakin’ Lopez.

Girl hasn’t missed a booty work-out a day in her life, how the hell is she supposed to look like some low-level, dirty and beaten-up call girl?

If anything during the viewing of Lila & Eve to worth remembering at all, is that this is the second time Lopez and Davis are together in a movie since Out of Sight. Not only is that movie great in and of itself, but it also offers up Lopez’s best performance to-date. Davis is in it for only a short while, but trust me, her presence is felt throughout. So basically, what I’m saying is that, above everything else, just watch Out of Sight and keep it like that.

Consensus: Though Davis clearly seems to be trying her hardest, Lila & Eve turns into a joke of a movie that can only be associated with Lifetime.

3 / 10

"Hey, wanna go kill people."

“Hey, wanna go kill people.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Trainwreck (2015)

There’s more to life than booze. Like pot.

When she was younger, Amy (Amy Schumer) was always told by her dad (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is nearly impossible. Many years later, she’s seem to taken that note of advice to heart, where mostly every other night, she spends it drinking, smoking, partying, and going home with some guy that she doesn’t even remember the next morning. Her sister (Brie Larson) has turned out for the best with her husband (Mike Birbiglia) and step-son, but Amy just can’t seem to bring herself to want and/or be happy with those sorts of things – she’s already too happy enjoying her independence. That all begins to change, however, when Amy’s assigned a story for her magazine on a sports doctor, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Though it’s not necessarily smart for a journalist to get involved with her subject, Amy just can’t help herself one night and sooner than later, realizes that she’s in something that she’s always fought so hard against: A relationship. But because Amy is so commitment-phobic, she’s finding it hard to not let her personal issues get in the way of something beautiful she and Aaron could have, even if he too struggles with it from time to time.

It’s hard to make a good romantic comedy nowadays. Sure, a movie can try its hardest to spin the genre on the tops of its head so many times, in so many fancy ways, that even the most downbeat and depressed person can find something to be happy about. But sometimes, what ultimately ends up happening is that the movie turns out to be a pretentious piece of bull that’s trying so hard to please you in an ironic way, that it’s downright annoying. I’ve seen many rom-coms in my life that have been different enough to work (500 Days of Summer), I’ve seen many that try to be hip and cool, but just turn out to be gag-inducing (plenty of indies), and that will probably never change.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

However, there’s no denying that Trainwreck‘s a good rom-com.

Even in today’s day and age.

What Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow both do perfectly together here is that they blend their own certain styles of humor that it feels like one, cohesive whole, rather than just a splattering of ideas thrown at the wall like spaghetti. Schumer actually wrote this script and while most of it may definitely seem like the normal kind of banter we expect from Apatow projects, it’s surprisingly mostly coming from Schumer’s pen, paper, and mind. Sure, there’s definitely some improv to be found among the talents on-display here, however, Trainwreck is Amy Schumer’s baby, through and through, and there’s nobody who can get in the way of that.

Which isn’t to say that Judd Apatow tries to sneak in and take it all away from her – in fact, it’s all quite the opposite. Apatow allows for there to be many moments dedicated solely to just Schumer herself, acting, being charming, and building this character, rather than relying on non-stop scenes of people just rambling on and on about whatever comes to their mind first. Though this aspect of Apatow’s movies can still illicit laughs, here, it would have mostly felt unnecessary and random.

Because at the center of Trainwreck, there’s this fully-realized and developed female character who feels as if she was written in a smart way that she’s not only relateable to anyone out there, but still human enough to not be judged as harshly as she herself may want you to. That the movie doesn’t slut-shame Amy’s character, nor make her forget about the errors of her ways, proves that Schumer set out to make a human, rather than just a character that can stand in while everyone around her cracks jokes and moves the story right on along. Like I’ve said before, it’s totally Schumer’s movie and it’s better off because of it – she never forgets what’s driving this story, nor does she ever let herself take over the screen too much.

Which is to say, that when she’s letting others deliver the funny, they more than do so.

You’d think that with a cast as varied and nuts as Trainwreck, that there’d most definitely be some weak-spots to be found among the group, but somehow, that doesn’t happen. Every performer who shows up is more than up to the task of delivering the funny, making their presence known, and then leaving to let the movie get on with itself. And the reason why I used the word “performer” is because it’s a little hard to classify a group of actors, when you’re talking about the likes of John Cena, or Lebron James, or even Amar’e Stoudemire; okay maybe Cena’s more believable as an “actor”, considering his profession, but as for the other two, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen either show-off their thespian skills before.

However, both of them, as well as plenty of others are pitch perfect with their comedy. Especially James, who comes off like the sassy best-friend type that these kinds of movies seem to have, but instead, because it’s Lebron James and the writing’s a whole lot more knowing, it never comes off like a conceit. Instead, it just comes off as Lebron James being very funny in a role that, believe it or not, was written perfectly for him. Sure, he’s playing a heightened version of himself, but at least he can actually “play” around in the first place, yuck it up, and not take himself at all too seriously.

Kobe's not this charming. Trust me.

Kobe’s not this charming. Trust me.

Good for him, because who knows? When that basketball career of his dries up, there may be a bigger, brighter future out there for him in front of the camera.

So long as he doesn’t get stuck with starring in a Kazaam remake.

Anyway, Lebron’s not the only one who gets a chance to shine and show the comedy-world what they are capable of doing, and why you can depend on them some more in the future. Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller (lovely little We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion, if there ever was one), Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Dave Attell, Marisa Tomei, Jon Glaser, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, and 100-year-old Norman Lloyd, among others, may or may not seem like the perfect choices for your rom-com, but they somehow assert themselves well enough here that they prove why they are. As usual with Apatow’s movies, some roles tend to lean more on the excessive side (Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert and Chris Evert), whereas other go unseen (Barkhad Abdi and Jim Norton were apparently cast), but there’s no denying that Apatow’s able to draw out some of the most odd, sometimes shocking moments of comedy from these talents, whether you expected any of them to deliver on them or not.

But at the center of all the mayhem occurring with this ensemble, is Amy Schumer and Bill Hader who not only have perfect chemistry, but really give some personality to these otherwise stock characters. Schumer’s boozy, free-wheeling character seems like she’s on the brink of self-destruction, but the movie makes it clear that it’s not necessarily a problem for her, nor is it a problem for us; Schumer’s just so charming and funny about everything, that it hardly registers at all that she’s slowly dying on the inside. Same goes with Bill Hader, who’s Dr. Conners feels like he could be the butt of every joke, yet, turns out to be the smartest character of them all. And even then, he’s got some problems worth solving.

Then again, don’t we all?

Consensus: As is the case with Apatow movies, Trainwreck is a tad overlong, but is still hilarious, well-acted, and insightful enough that it’s maybe his most polished work to date and proves that there’s plenty of room to grow for not just him, but Amy Schumer as well.

8 / 10

People in love - so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

People in love – so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Ant-Man (2015)

Never be afraid to dream a little bigger. Unless Kevin Feige says otherwise.

After being released from prison for a robbery he committed on some company he worked for many years ago, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finally gets a shot to take back his life and make amends for the pain he’s put his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter through. Problem is, Scott’s past is so shoddy, that he’s finding it harder and harder to get a job, start anew and move on from what he once was. That’s why when one of his buddies (Michael Peña) brings up the idea of pulling off a vault-heist on some old dude’s house, he’s initially hesitant, but also realizes that cat-burglarizing is what he’s best at – whether he likes to admit it or not. Little does he know that the old man’s house he’s robbing is Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who once worked for Stark Enterprises and left when he realized that one of his inventions were getting used for all the wrong reasons. But now, with Scott, Hank has found his perfect guinea pig for his pet-project: Ant-Man.

Puns intended.

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor....

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor….

Already going into Ant-Man, there was a feeling of disdain from yours truly. Most of that has to do with the fact that, not only does it seem like the Marvel machine is growing to be more and more of the same entertaining, but generic thing, time and time again, but that there’s hardly a chance for anyone to come in and try to shake that formula up. Case in point, Edgar Wright – someone who is able to make many movie-nerds foam at the mouth at the possibility of him both writing and directing something. And heck, put his own sense of zany style in a Marvel movie, where a bigger cast and budget would be at his free reign, you bet your bottom dollar that the hype-train just gets more and more packed.

But sadly, and predictably, I guess, things didn’t pan out so well.

For one, Wright left and the powers that be within Disney were left scrambling far and wide for the next possible replacement to pick up the slack and see if they could make water out of ice. With Peyton Reed, most people involved with Marvel and Disney felt as if they found the most suitable replacement available and honestly, I can’t hold many qualms with that decision. Even despite the fact that Reed’s previous directorial efforts include the horrendous Yes Man and Break-Up, clearly they were working against a deadline and came up with whomever they felt was more than willing and capable of handling the job.

Sure, Reed’s no Wright, but then again, who the hell is? Though Reed’s directing-style may borderline on “generic”, he still handles a few action set-pieces well enough to where we get the same sort of imagination and frivolous fun that we would come to expect with Wright. If anything, Reed’s style is so mediocre, that it helps not get in the way of what could have been a very pushy and needy movie. Sort of like a pet who wants you to pet it, so it just cozies up to you, never leaves you alone, and stares deep into your eyes until you give in and give it what it wants.

Pretty sure you can’t pet ants, but you get my drift.

So, with that all said, it’s worth mentioning that Ant-Man turns out to actually be a bit of a better movie than I expected from all the controversy surrounding it in the pre-production stage. One of the main reasons that Ant-Man works well, is because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get out there in this huge, Marvel universe, and tell a bunch of other stories that it doesn’t need to bother with; instead, it’s focus is solely on Scott Lang and whomever else is around him. Some may be annoyed at the fact that other Marvel superheros don’t get the time of day like they do in other flicks, but somehow, it works in this movie’s favor; it helps keep things simple, contained and most of all, entertaining, without ever trying to be more complicated than it needs to be.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

Still though, that’s not to say that this movie doesn’t feel as if, considering what Marvel’s been up to in the past couple or so years, a bit of a disappointment. And this most definitely has to do with the fact that there were so many hiccups before filming even got started, because something does feel a bit “off” about Ant-Man while watching it. Maybe the fact that there were literally four writers on this thing has something to do with it, but also due to the fact that the movie itself doesn’t always set out to blow our minds.

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that; in most cases, all you need is a good time to get you through everything. But something feels odd in this movie where the humor can sometimes feel tacked-on and random, as if it were just thrown in there so Marvel could keep up with the formula that their movies hold so dear to their hearts – exposition, action scene, character development, witticism, rinse and repeat. The jokes themselves are a bit hit-or-miss, but whether or not they’re funny isn’t really the point – what is, is whether or not they feel like they deserved to be tossed in there when they are, and they sort of don’t. I’m glad at least one of the four writers made an attempt, but sometimes, it’s best to just take a back-seat and let things move for a little while.

But when things go wrong in movies such as these, it’s always best to depend on the cast to save the day, which is what they do.

Well, sort of.

Paul Rudd, as usual, is charming, funny and cool as Scott Lang, even if it feels like he’s never quite given that opportunity to shine, break out from his comfort-shell and prove exactly why he deserves to be taken seriously as this superhero. None of that has to do with Rudd himself, though, as it’s most definitely the script’s fault for not spending more time in fleshing him, or anybody else at. Because where it stands, mostly everybody here is fine at playing these characters on a superficial, surface-area level and that’s about it.

Such talented folks like Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Martin Donovan, Michael Peña, and Michael Douglas, all play their characters in such a way that makes it seem like they just came ready to play around for awhile and that’s it. Once again, not their fault, it’s just a bummer considering that with these names, you’d expect something so much better. Way better, actually.

If only Edgar Wright stayed on.

Consensus: Without trying too hard, Ant-Man is a perfectly serviceable piece of superhero blockbuster, but considering the company it keeps, it can’t help but feel like a small step down.

6.5 / 10

Until next year, bro.

Until next year, bro.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Longest Ride (2015)

Art enthusiasts and bull-riders rejoice! You’re somehow compatible.

Though Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) live right by one another, they’ve never met and honestly, why would they? They’re both complete opposites with him being a handsome, daring bull-rider, and her, a college student from New Jersey looking to get her foot in the art world. But somehow, due to a chance meeting and date, they somehow realize that they’re perfect for one another, even if there are the occasional problems that ensue when you’re young and still trying to make sense of the world, as well as who you want to spend it with. Both of them eventually learn of all of life’s joys and hardships through an aging man by the name of Ira (Alan Alda), who they stumble upon after he has a car-accident. What Ira tells them about, is the story of when he was younger (Jack Huston), and met the love of his life, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Through his memories of his sometimes tragic past, Luke and Sophia grow closer and realize that they may be the ones the other needs to help keep them happy and always willing to be their best selves.

With Nicholas Sparks movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That means, there’s not much of a point in discussing what doesn’t work in them – if only because hardly anything does. They are as contrived, cliched, and saccharine as you could possibly get, and while some may not be as terrible as others, there’s no denying the fact that they’re really not worth checking out. Like, at all.

Can't wait to see when their families finally meet.

Can’t wait to see when their families finally meet.

However, in order to wade through all the crap, it’s up to us, the regular, common folk who doesn’t fall for these types of movies, to figure out which ones are slightly more commendable above the rest. The Notebook of course comes to mind as the one and only Sparks movie that’s worth watching (if only for Baby Goose himself), but other than that, it’s all pretty much the same old junk. Two love-sick people meet, fall in love, have some sort of conflict, and wouldn’t you know it? By the end of the story, somebody either has cancer, has been dead for the whole time we’ve been watching them, or is a total and complete, murderous psycho. It’s the formula that, no matter how many times we see it, never seems to die away an everlasting, painful death.

But for better, and especially for worse, the Longest Ride takes that formula and does something s relatively interesting with it.

“Relatively”, being the keyword here, people. So please, bear with me.

What the Longest Ride has going for it that most of the other saptastic Sparks pieces lack, is that the central couple actually seems to have sparks of chemistry between each other. Both Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, despite seeming like the sort of cutesy, overly attractive types that you see in these roles, actually do put some effort into how their characters bond with one another, even if it’s all incredibly calculated and predicted from beginning to end. You can’t tell me that once Eastwood helps up Robertson from a mechanical bull mishap, that she’s instantly going to fall right in love with him, as she stares deep and hard into his eyes, getting lost in the maze that is his hunky exterior.

Sure, we’ve all seen this done before, but what Robertson, Eastwood, and director George Tillman, Jr. admittedly do, is that they light some sort of fire between these two characters that it makes whatever happen to them next, feel like it has a certain kind of believability. You believe that Eastwood’s narrow-headed character would think the Expressionism art Robertson so loves and desires, is stupid and not deep at all, just like you’d believe that Robertson wants Eastwood to stop bull-riding, aka, the only source of employment that he’s able to live well off of. I’m not saying that where their story goes, it’s all understandable and therefore, not corny as all hell – because it totally is. I’m just saying that, considering what I’ve seen some of these on-screen couples get into with these movies, it works a bit better here.

That’s not to dismiss that there’s also a whole other relationship going on here that, unsurprisingly, isn’t all that interesting and just adds way more material onto this already hefty material than there definitely needs to be.

Which does sound a bit crazy, considering that the other relationship portrayed here involves not just Oona Chaplin or Jack Huston, but also Alan Alda, because they’re all fine in everything that they do; it’s just that here, it feels like they’re wasted on a lame script that doesn’t deserve them. According to the movie, Alda is supposed to be playing a 90-year-old-something Jewish man (even though he doesn’t look a day over 60, even despite all of the machinery of make-up and hair), who, at one point in his life, looked like Jack Huston. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t think either one look like the other in any sort of fashion; even though Huston has this sort of timeless look and feel to him that makes it easier for him to blend into any decade that he’s placed in, playing a younger-version of Alda doesn’t seem to fit so well with him. Chaplin’s fine in her role as the love of Huston/Alda’s character life, but she even feels too one-note, as she’s constantly sunny, happy and charming, no matter what sort of curve-balls get thrown into her way.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

And then, there’s the whole conceit that the plot never gets tired of using and it’s as tiring done the fourth time, than it is for the ninth, or tenth time.

Because the movie is telling two stories at once, in order to go back and forth between the two and make it easier for the audience to understand what is happening, the movie uses this narration from Alda that’s supposed to be his diary/journal entries, chronicling his life with Chaplin. Problem is, every entry literally feels like it was written two seconds after the two had a date, and is actually less of a diary of one’s feelings or thoughts, as much as they’re just Alda telling us what happened with his character and this other one. It’s so obvious and unnecessary, that once you get to the two-hour mark, you’ll start to wish that the movie just took out that whole angle and stuck small and simple with Robertson and Eastwood’s story. Because at least with them, you would have had something sweet to fall back on when the silly moments came around.

On a side note, though, I think it’s worth pointing out the fact that literally three, out of the four main cast-members in this movie are in some way related to other actresses or actors. Eastwood is clearly the son of Clint; Huston is the grandson of John, as well as nephew of Anjelica and Danny; and Chaplin, well, is the daughter of Geraldine and grand-daughter of, well, I’m not even going to say it it’s so obvious. If anything, this proves that Hollywood, in case you haven’t been able to tell by now, is as nepotistic as you have probably heard. People get on Will Smith’s case for pushing Jaden and Willow to the front of each and everything he does, but just look here! That’s not to say that none of these actors have talents worth looking at and enough to cast in your movie – it’s just that maybe, quite possibly, there’s other actors out there more willing for these kinds of roles, that are maybe less-known or less connected than these ones here.

Just a food for thought, I guess. Because, before you know it, whatever spawn Brett Ratner produces, will soon be taking over Hollywood and demanding that we see their over-budgeted messes, no matter how many people actually dislike them.

Can’t say you’ve been fore-warned.

Consensus: Despite a lovely chemistry between Robertson and Eastwood that makes it slightly less painful to watch, the Longest Ride is still like mostly every other Nicholas Sparks movie in that it’s stupid, contrived and way too overlong.

4.5 / 10 

She doesn't know what she's getting herself into....

She doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Glass Chin (2015)

Don’t be afraid to bag groceries for the rest of your life. There’s some pride in that.

Down-on-his-luck ex-boxer Bud Gordon, was commonly referred to as “the Saint”, but he’s been anything but. He’s got a girlfriend (Marin Ireland) that he’s trying to settle down, but can’t stop cheating on her; has a job as a boxing-trainer, but still can’t keep himself away from working as a guy who looks for loansharking victims; and wants to open back up a restaurant of his that was recently closed down, but in order to do so, he has to rely on whatever the odd, eccentric gangster J.J. (Billy Crudup) tells him what to do and when. Bud may not have a perfect life, but he’s just getting by and wants to continue to do so, even while his night job with his “co-worker”, Roberto (Yul Vasquez), gets more and more dangerous by the minutes. Eventually though, it all comes to a head and Bud’s left to wonder what his next move should be – either, risk everything in his life, or take another easy pay-out for himself and his possible new restaurant? Bud doesn’t know what to do, but he’s going to rely on his ability to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t know what that is just yet.

"Hey, we get Freud, too."

“Hey, we get Freud, too.”

Everything about Glass Chin sounds so very familiar and generic, but somehow, writer/director Noah Buschel finds interesting little ways of how to spin it just so that it doesn’t come off like that one bit. Instead of making this movie about how an ex-boxer found redemption both in-and-out of the ring, it’s more about how this ex-boxer copes with making enough money to support him and his girl, with whatever work comes his way. Though, once again, that may all sound conventional, it doesn’t come off that way; more or less, it seems like the kind of movie made about people we don’t too often see get the spotlight quite as much.

These types of characters here in Glass Chin are mostly all down-on-their-luck, not just Bud, but they have so much more to them that makes them worth watching. Sometimes. they enjoy a little movie, other times, a nice night on the town, getting plastered and reminiscing on the old times. These characters here may all have their quirks that set them apart differently from one another, but they’re all placed into a certain group that’s similar and it makes me appreciate these kinds of movie all the more.

Though Buschel had every opportunity to make this movie so much more than it appears to be, he fights the urge to do so and mostly, just keeps his attention set firmly on Bud and all that happens with him and his life. And by “firmly”, I do mean as-firm-as-a-glove; Buschel has a neat style here where he performs a lot of long takes, sometimes likes to go with a close-up on a character’s face who seems like they’re talking directly to you, and other times, make the colors so jumpy and distinctive, that the characters themselves fall into them.

However, no matter what tricks Buschel uses, there’s always somebody talking here. And it’s always intriguing to hear and watch as it moves the plot along.

Because even though a lot of these characters could be generally considered “the numbskulls of society”, they occasionally drop a smart line about life every now and then, just to remind you that they do an awful lot of thinking, too. They aren’t just placed into one area of society, forgotten about, and allow for their brains to fry – they’ve think, too, and you know what? They want to let others know.

Sometimes, what these characters say or talk about, can border on unique, or plain and simply odd, but it’s always interesting to listen to. Buschel has a knack here for writing dialogue just how these sorts of people would talk, even if they do sometimes go on rather long tangents that either, seem to go nowhere, or have a point, but take forever to get there. The one character that this is proven so perfectly with is Billy Crudup’s slimy and weird J.J.; though you know he’s definitely up to no good and is more than likely to screw Bud up in any way he sees fit, there’s something oddly charming about him to where you just want to believe that he may be as nice of a guy as he presents. You know he isn’t, but still, you hold-out some form of hope.

A little too intrigued by that light.

A little too intrigued by that light.

Same goes for each and every other character here.

Corey Stoll’s Bud seems like a dope that doesn’t always use his head when it comes to making any sort of decision, but you just hope that his mind is in the right place for this moment in his life and that he’s not going to screw it all up due to greed; Yul Vasquez’s Roberto may or may not be on Bud’s side, but you have a feeling he is looking out for the guy, even if it’s to save his own ass; Marin Ireland’s Ellen wants to stay by her man, but he continues to test her patience with all of the screwing around and disappointing that, even if it’s sad to think of her doing so, she might have to get going, pack up her stuff, an leave Bud once and for all; and Kelly Lynch’s Mae is, just, well, sexy. Can’t expect much else from her.

Each member of the cast is good here and give their characters certain level of dimensions that you definitely won’t see coming. Sure, some are more interesting than the other, but they all matter to the story and prove that if you have a good enough cast and characters to work with, then the plot will sort of fall as it pleases to do so. All of the other stuff is just unnecessary used for those who can’t handle themselves if something isn’t blowing up, or if a person’s getting shot.

Those are the kinds of people not made for Glass Chin and that’s why there’s something so special about it.

Consensus: With a talented cast at work, Glass Chin goes farther and beyond its basic-cable premise, and becomes an insightful, dramatic glimpse into the live’s of character’s we don’t always get glimpses of.

8 / 10

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Self/less (2015)

If I die, just give me Channing Tatum’s body. Just please.

Billionaire industrialist Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) may live a comfy and cozy life, but slowly and surely, he’s dying. For one, he’s miserable with the life that he’s lived, where all he’s done is worked, worked, and worked some more, therefore tarnishing any sort of relationship he could have had with his daughter (Michelle Dockery). And now, if that didn’t hurt enough as is, to add insult to injury, he’s got cancer and given a few months or so to live. None of this is good for Damian, however, he has a plan in mind: Use a radical medical procedure referred to as in some circles as “shedding”. Though this is basically Damian swapping bodies with a much younger man, the body itself was grown in the lab – or so Damian was told by the head honcho running the procedure, Professor Albright (Matthew Goode)! But now that Damian has this handsomely new body (Ryan Reynolds), he’s able to do all sorts of things he wasn’t able to do in his other, much older body. As time rolls on though, Damian starts to realize that something’s up with the body he’s been placed into, and there may be a little more shading dealings surrounding the body to begin with.

This is what Ryan Reynolds does to all those who fib to him.

This is what Ryan Reynolds does to all those who fib to him.

Self/less is a troubling movie, for one, because it seems like something that could have really worked. Basically, it’s remaking the 1966 Seconds for a newer, hipper crowd, toying around ever so slightly with the ideas of the less-memorable All of Me, and then, giving us some Bourne-like action to hold the thrill-junkies over. Basically, it’s a win-win for everyone! Geeks! Romancers! Film-lovers! People with ADHD! Guys that love stuff that goes boom!

But sadly, that’s not what happens.

Instead, Self/less is mostly just a movie made for people who like to have intriguing ideas in their head about life, body-swapping, and one’s psyche, while all this action and havoc is occurring. Even though, the movie totally forgets about these ideas about half-way through and just focuses on how many noobs Ryan Reynolds can pone for some odd reason. The action itself is as standard as you can get (no shaky-cam, thank the heavens), but after awhile, it gets a bit tiring to see Reynolds mo-down folks for some sort of reasons that have nothing more than to do with the simple fact that they gave told him a little white lie about how the procedure came to be an actual procedure.

Some may say the eventual reveal hidden from within this movie may be a whole lot more than just a “little white lie”, but what makes the action a bit odd and sudden, is that it seems like Reynolds is only doing it to serve a plot, not actually get some sort of revenge. He’s pissed and wants to solve this problem; so in by doing so, he kills whomever is wearing nurse slacks that’s associated with this sheisty company? I don’t know if it all fits.

However, what I do have to give Self/less some credit for is at least allowing for Ryan Reynolds to show, once again, why he deserves far better roles than what he’s been getting for a short while now. Sure, the Voices was a perfect example of what it is that he can do, when having to toy around with a new character of sorts, but after the Woman in Gold and this, I’m starting to feel as if Reynolds is going down the same path like before. Don’t get me wrong, the dude is still charming as all hell and clearly seems to be in on the material, head-to-toe, however, at the same time, the movie’s not really concerned with if he can act or emote well; they just want him to get all wacky and wild as if he’s giving fans an early preview of what they can expect from Deadpool.

Which definitely sounds rad, but here, it’s not so much so. It’s just oddly-placed.

Take this scene, add on at least ten more minutes, and you have all of Ben Kingsley's screen-time in Self/less.

Take this scene, add on at least ten more minutes, and you have all of Ben Kingsley’s screen-time in Self/less.

But the strangest fact surrounding Self/less, isn’t that it practically abandons its smart ideas for a generic, action-driven, route plot, but that it’s directed by Tarsem Singh and doesn’t seem like it at all. If anybody’s ever seen a piece of his, whether it be his movies, or countless music videos, you’ll know that Singh puts a lot of effort into the unique look of his product. The dude does not hold back on the style, and while some may have a problem with that because it seems like his first priority and nothing but, it definitely takes over the fact that some of the stories he’s working with, absolutely blow.

The Cell? Honestly, you can’t tell me you remember what happened at the end of that movie. However, you remember that J’Lo was hanging on a bunch of chains over what looked like jello at one point? Or, better yet, that Vincent D’Onorfrio dressed-up like Buddha, or someone like that? See, that’s what Tarsem Singh, for better and for worse, excelled at – hiding the fact that his movies had crappy story-lines, with all sorts of beautiful and awe-inspiring window-dressing.

See though, that’s what’s the oddest fact about Self/less: Singh’s distinctive style is hardly anywhere to be found. Some cool blue-ish colors are used in certain scenes, but other than the fact that he holds a steady-cam practically the whole way through, that’s all Singh has to offer here. It’s almost as if Singh himself felt the need to prove to whatever studio that he was able to sit back and let his stories do the talking for him, but by doing so, totally loses the muster his movies have when watching them.

Sure, they may be low on substance, but holy shit do, are they a beaut or what?

Consensus: Without Singh’s distinctive taste for style on full display, Self/less turns into nothing more than an ordinary action-thriller, albeit, one with some smart ideas and an intriguing premise to work with.

5.5 / 10

Burn, baby, burn?

Burn, baby, burn?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Minions (2015)

At least Hollywood’s not discriminating against the minions. Just yet.

Many, many years before these little yellow guys got shacked-up with Gru, they were left to fend for themselves from the beginning of time. However, the one aspect of the minion’s lives is that they’ve always had a boss to tell them what to do and to basically keep them in line whenever their hijinx proved to get out of hand a bit too much. That’s why three of the minions, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (Pierre Coffin), all set out for an adventure to see if they can find a boss that they can stick with and not be so lost. They eventually stumble upon New York City during the late-60’s, where all sorts of hustle and bustle is occurring; eventually too, the minions see an ad for a villains convention lead by the most notorious and sexiest villain of them all, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Now, all the minions have to do is get into contact with Scarlet, impress her enough so that she takes them all on as trusted servants, and do as she says. But the minions soon realize that there’s a difference between helping out evil people, and those who are just considered “villains” – a lesson they would come to learn more and more about as the years would go by.

Though I’ve never been quite a fan of the Despicable Me franchise so far, there’s no denying that the minions themselves have mostly been the best parts of those movies. That’s not to say that the likes of Gru or any other aspects to the movies have charmed me, it’s just that when I look back at it, I mostly remember the minions as the ones who made me laugh and enjoy myself the most. Everything else was just sort of, meh. So with that said, you’d think that a full-length movie dedicated to just them would be right up my alley, correct?

Love at first drought.

Love at first drought.

Well, not really. However, I’m not too surprised by that.

See, when you have characters such as the minions, it’s best to use them in smaller doses on the side of the main-plot, rather than making them the center of the attention, all of the time. That’s how it is for most sidekicks in any major franchise/story/idea/anything, and even if you could try to pull an Avengers 2 and give the minions some extraneous subplot that makes them more substantial to the story at-hand, I don’t know if it would totally work for these characters. These minions are best when they’re around to show up for a little while, speak in some gibberish, hit one another, and just generally act like goof-balls. It’s what they’re known for and, for all the kiddies at least, they’re loved for, too.

Problem is, the act does run a bit dry after awhile and it gets to a point where one can only handle so much of the nonsensical gibber-jabber these characters partake in, or the constant slapstick that seems to shove itself into the plot whenever the director thinks that maybe there’s one too many jokes for adults. And honestly, that shouldn’t be a problem, because there aren’t many of those jokes to begin with. Then again though, there’s nothing wrong with that because these sorts of movies have never prided themselves on equally being for every member of the family; the folks at Pixar, as was evident from Inside Out, definitely do. However, those behind the Despicable Me franchise never did, and so therefore, there’s nothing totally wrong with that.

It’s just something that will make an older-person watching this make the time go on a bit longer, even as the youngsters are yucking it up and loving just about every second of it.

And you know what? They totally should! Minions, just like Despicable Me, is harmless in the best sense of the word – nobody’s going to have to worry about a joke being done in poor-taste, nor will they have to worry about kids going around and beating one another. All the minions set out to do, much like the movie itself, is to shine another small spotlight on those little yellow people you always see in the other movies, but never get the full attention quite like you may or may not want them to.

Did Sandra do green-screen for this? Or does Andy Serkis just take that over from now on?

Did Sandra do green-screen for this? Or does Andy Serkis just take that over from now on?

For me, maybe I didn’t need a whole movie dedicated to them, but considering that the movie hardly even runs 70 minutes, and doesn’t seem to be promising anymore sequels to this story in particular, I was willing to roll with it. Even if they aren’t the most engaging screen-presences for the whole time, the movie still throws in some energetic and colorful “human” characters to brighten things up in a comprehensible way that makes the plot all the more zany. The likes of Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush, and Sandra Bullock show up here to lend their voices and they all work well. Even if a recent animated flick like the Spongebob Squarepants movie proved that you don’t always need big-time names to lend their voices to your project to be any bit as successful as the last one to come before, it’s still nice to see at least some of these characters be more lively because of the personality behind them.

Even if, once again, they could have gotten any trained voice-actor and everything would have probably been a-okay. But hey, I guess you’ve got to worry about who will see your movie and who won’t.

And honestly, about the movie, despite what I may make some think, did make me laugh on occasion and enjoy some of the stylistic choices the directors took with the 1960’s setting. This already makes it seem like it’s actually putting in more of an effort than other animated movies that try to just cash in on a brand-name or fancy idea. Sure, they’re already using a previous idea from their other movies, but at least Minions didn’t feel like the total cash-cow that it could have been, where it’s so obvious that they want your money, that nobody seems enthused to even be showing up for work, making movies for all the world to see and enjoy.

So yeah, at least they’ve got that going for them; if anybody cares about that at all.

Consensus: The title characters themselves may grow a bit tired after awhile, but Minions, the movie, actually provides some laughs and fun along its short and sweet adventure that’s already setting up the many more Despicable Me movies to come.

6.5 / 10

Bananas with eyes aren't usually my first snack of the day, but if it's all I got, I mean, might as well.

Bananas with eyes aren’t usually my first snack of the day, but if it’s all I got, I mean, might as well.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2015)

The Coen Bros. really do need to take it easy on the poetic licensing.

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a young, but shy office worker living in Japan, who also just so happens to have a love/obsession with the 1996 Coen Brother’s flick, Fargo. She’s watched it so many times, that even her video-tape is starting to rip open. But why exactly is Kumiko so in love with this movie? Is it because she’s a huge fan of the Coen Brother’s quirky writing-style? Or does she have a thing for North Dakota accents? Actually, it’s neither; Kumiko believes that the movie holds the map to buried-treasure that Steve Buscemi hides underneath a whole bunch of snow at the end. Though this treasure does not exist, Kumiko doesn’t believe it and decides to save up all of her money so that she can travel to the States and find her buried-treasure, all for herself, once and for all. However, in order to do so, she’ll have to get rid of all those in her life in Japan; like, for instance, her family, her job, and most importantly, her pet rabbit.

Believe it or not, somebody was actually able to get a movie funded where the main character believed that Fargo was a real-life account, rather than a fully-fictionalized narrative feature. So right then and there, I have to give the Zellner Bros. some credit for finding some ways to get the money they needed to tell this story, have it get filmed, and then, make sure it was seen for a rather large audience. Because honestly, odd movies like these are hardly made nowadays, especially ones that feature an international cast and are filmed in two separate countries.

And the Oscar for Best Supporting Bunny goes to.........

And the Oscar for Best Supporting Bunny goes to………

But sometimes, none of that matters if you’re final product isn’t all that great to begin with. Because one of the problems with Kumiko, is that it feels like the Zellner Bros. were only concerned with being able to get the right amount of funding for this piece, rather than actually worrying about the piece itself. To say that the movie takes its good old time is an understatement; Kumiko is a very slow, meandering movie where we only get to the United States with hardly an half-hour left to go.

Now, that’s not me being angry and stating that the movie should have had more action going on it, or should have been quicker; in fact, it’s very far from the truth. I appreciate slower movies that take their times to build characters, their situations, and just who exactly they are. Sadly, the problem with Kumiko feels as if it doesn’t really have much attention to give to its characters, but instead, just relies on odd quirks to carry itself along.

And the one who suffers the most for it is Rinko Kikuchi herself, who is basically playing another version of her character from Babel, someone who is already a mute as is.

Though Kumiko has few shadings to whom she is, the reason as to why she’s so foolish and naive is never made clear. Some of this would have helped to make her adventure all the more sympathetic and understandable, especially considering what she goes through beforehand already puts her through some emotional turmoil. Still, though, Kikuchi does what she can with this role, where it seems like she’s constantly trying her hardest to sink deeper and deeper into this character, but more often than not, it doesn’t seem to be fully paying off.

But I don’t want to make it all seem so terrible, as the movie does have some general positive things to say for itself. For one, it’s shot beautifully; jumping from the hustle and bustle of Japan, all the way to the snowy landscape of North Dakota probably couldn’t have been easy for any cinematographer to work out, but Sean Porter finds a way to make it so. The Zellner’s really do use these certain shots to their advantage, as it shows that there’s more of a world for Kumiko to travel out and around to.

Sorry, pal, but Bob Odenkirk did it better.

Sorry, pal, but Bob Odenkirk did it better.

Even if, you know, the travel itself may take forever to get to and may not even be all that interesting to begin with.

Though I often don’t like to compare two movies to one another in the same review, I can’t help myself with this one and one that came out around last month or so: Slow West. Though that movie had a more straight-forward premise, the director found different ways to tell it and, in all honesty, made it feel a lot slower (pardon the pun) and thinner than it needed to be. But with Kumiko, it’s the exact opposite; there’s actually plenty of promise with this plot-line, considering that it isn’t so cut-and-dry, but the directors here do the same thing. Make the pace a whole lot slower, and try to find ways to distract audiences from the fact that there’s not much of a story to begin with.

The problem with both of these movies is that they feel the need to meander as much as they possibly can, just so that the wheels can turn a whole lot more. It was less manipulative in Slow West than it is here, however, both movies signify what it’s like when you’re trying to mess with your audiences, but at the same time, not fooling them enough to have them see what it is that you’re fully up to. Maybe I make these directors sound a whole lot more vindictive and evil than they actually are, but it’s just something that I’ve caught one too many times with these kinds of movies and honestly, I don’t appreciate.

God, why am I so grumpy?

Consensus: The promising premise aside, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter has a poor-pace that makes it feel like it’s going nowhere, until it finally gets to its end and feels like a bit of a drag all the same.

5 / 10

Blends in perfectly.

Blends in perfectly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Escobar: Paradise Lost (2015)

I thought Vinny Chase already did this movie?

Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) was known for committing many terrible acts in his life and sometimes, those who were closest to him were the ones who were on the receiving end of these said acts. One person who is about to find this out, up close and personal, is Canadian surfer bro Nick Brady (Josh Hutcherson). After he and his brother (Brady Corbet) are hassled endlessly by locals for using their land as a place to rest, Nick starts to date Escobar’s niece, who then invites him to meet her infamous uncle. Though Nick doesn’t know what to make of this larger-than-life figure that is Pablo Escobar, the two end up striking something of a friendship; with Escobar even going so far as to call Nick “a son of his”. While Nick is happy to receive this sort of treatment from Escobar, he knows that his true home is Canada and he wants to go back to it, however, little does he knows that when you’re with Pablo Escobar, you can never leave. And even if you do try to, good luck, because he will find you, hunt you down, and make sure you lose all those who are close to you.

He's just kindly saying, "Hello." No need to fret.

He’s just kindly saying, “Hello.” No need to fret.

While a lot of Paradise Lost has been advertised with Del Toro’s name and face pushed to the center, it’s actually the opposite when you look at the final product of the movie itself. Sure, Del Toro is in this movie plenty of times, getting his moments to shine and menace as the role he’s always been born to play, Pablo Escobar, however, it’s clearly Josh Hutcherson’s movie. That’s not to say that Hutcherson acts out Del Toro, but that is to say that Hutcherson’s character is clearly the main protagonist here that we spend an awful bunch of time with, getting to know, understand, and see as he gets himself out of whatever terrible situation he’s thrown into.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Hutcherson himself is actually very good in the lead role as the fictionalized Nick Brady; while I’ve been fine with his performances in the past, from here on out, I remain forever confidante that he can hold his own. Because the Hunger Games franchise is coming to an end, it’s time for Hutcherson to grow into his own as not only an actor, but as a man who is capable of handling adult-like roles. Here, as Nick Brady, he gets many opportunities to do so and it works quite well, especially considering the fact that a lot of what this Brady character goes through, can seem somewhat repetitive and boring.

While he does start off as something of a squeaky clean, overall good guy, Brady’s eventually taken down several dark paths that mostly question his sense of humanity. The actions that he’s called onto commit, are not only heinous, but quite surprising, and it’s interesting to see how this character handles each and everyone that’s thrown at him; while he doesn’t want to necessarily deny these choices he has to make, Brady is still wondering just how he can get by these decisions, and still keep a sense of dignity within himself. Slowly but surely, though, Brady starts to change in front of our own very eyes, and it’s very intriguing to watch coming from Hutcherson – someone who is so used to being seen as “a kid”, is now able to fully grow-up as a desperate, tough and unpredictable person.

And yes, Del Toro is good, too. But once again, it’s Hutcherson’s movie, and it all works, even if may piss-off those who were looking to see a movie where Pablo Escobar commits all sorts of dastardly actions.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Looks like Peeta finally escaped and has been hanging out with Johnny Utah.

Although we do get to see some of these actions, or better yet, the after-effects of them, writer/director Andrea di Stefano is more concerned with the plot itself and it shows. Not only does di Stefano know how to create tension, but he knows how to settle it all in a way that’s effective, as well as smart; it is, at one point, a social tale about all that Escobar did to Colombia and those who worked with him, but it’s also a compelling thriller. It goes down certain alleys you don’t see coming, but they also don’t feel cheap, either – they just add more danger to this tale than ever before and it allows the stakes to continue to rise, even if you know how it all ends for Escobar himself.

But then, at the end of the movie, there’s an odd feeling of wondering: What was the point of all that? Sure, we got to see how one character got so sucked into Escobar’s personality, that he was also the one who had to break away from it as soon as he realized he was in harm’s way, but other than that, is there anything else?

Hate to say it, but not really.

Maybe that’s exactly what di Stefano wanted to deliver on – a thriller of sorts – but it also feels like a missed opportunity to go deeper. Heck, having Del Toro around to play Pablo Escobar is already enough promise as is, so why not try to capitalize on it a bit more? The angle of focusing on Nick Brady was interesting, yes, but it also makes it feel very simple and easy, especially given the fact that this movie could have focused on so many more elements at play in this real life story.

Then again, the movie does cover a whole lot more ground that Entourage ever did in their third season, so I guess there is something to be said for that. And maybe, it’s just a case of me complaining about nothing just for the sake of doing so, but when your movie turns into a Colombian-version of Behind Enemy Lines, there’s a part of me that feels like maybe a few other angles could have been taken. Even if, you know, the angle they took worked as it was.

Consensus: Even if Del Toro isn’t around as much as Pablo Escobar, Paradise Lost is still a solid-enough thriller to be gripped by, especially due to the fact that Josh Hutcherson brings his A-game as well.

7.5 / 10

Can never trust a dude who rocks a 'stache that awesomely.

Can never trust a dude who rocks a ‘stache that awesomely.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Fall (2006)

Wish my daddy told me stories like these.

Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is a very successful stuntman in Hollywood during the 1920’s. He’s been in plenty of movies but has found himself in a hospital, after a suicide attempt, where he rots his life away wondering just when he’s going to die, how he’s going to die, and where exactly that damn morphine is. He may have found all of the answers in a young girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who not only hangs out with him, but listens to him as he tells fantasy stories about pirates, gypsies, swords, guns, and all sorts of wild and adventurous things. But there’s more than just fantasy in the stories he tells, and together, they both find the solutions to all of their problems, no matter how different each one’s may be from the other.

Everybody knows that Tarsem Singh is one of those guys who knows what’s beautiful and what isn’t. Every one of his flicks (yes, even Mirror Mirror) all feel like fully-realized portraits that could have been painted by either Dali or Van Gogh, and inspired more and more people to take a brush, a can of paint, and a clear surface and start getting down to business, art style. However, the same can’t be said for his stories and even though I feel like we haven’t seen all that this guy has been able to do when somebody gives him a script, a story, and a huge budget, he’s still not there yet. Give him some time, and he will be but as for right now, the guy’s got some homework.

No matter what type of bad stuff I say about Singh’s writing, I cannot deny that this movie isn’t a piece of art, given to us on a silver platter for over two hours. Then again, almost any film nowadays is considered “beautiful” or “artful” because of what every person on the face of the universe can do with a keyboard, a screen, and a couple of clicks. But not Singh. Nope, this guy knows what actual-beauty looks like in a world like ours and not only is it great to see somebody embrace that fact, but show it off in the best way possible. Can some of it be considered showwy and too much?

Yes and no.

 

Looks like Lee Pace to me. Great job hiding yourself!

Looks like Lee Pace to me. Great job hiding yourself!

Yes, because, let’s face it, the only reason this story is told the way it is, is just so Singh can show everybody how huge his imagination is, and how much pretty colors his eyes can see. Directors like Terrence Malick and Ang Lee have the same eyes and same ideas when it comes to letting their visuals tell a story, but they aren’t as obvious as Singh is here. The guy wants everybody to see what he sees, and as nice as that may sound, it does seem rather indulgent at points, considering the story didn’t need to be told this way. Some may agree with me on that aspect, and some may not, but regardless, Singh does show off a bit too much.

Then again, it’s no for the sole reason that this movie is incredibly beautiful in every sense of the word. You get plenty of colors showing up when you least expect them to; visual tricks that you didn’t think were even possible; and a couple of large landscape shots that make me feel pissed I didn’t at least check them out on a big screen or anything else that’s larger than my 1999 Sony television. Or at least I think it’s Sony. Anyway, the movie is eye-candy for everybody who cares to seek their eyes on this thing and I have to give credit to Singh for showing us what you can do when you’re inspired, have some money to burn, and at least feel passionate about what you show on the screen. Once again, it doesn’t all work and seems a tad like over kill at some points, but if anything, Sing knows how to come up with a pretty shot.

Visuals aside, the movie doesn’t have a compelling story but at least it tries to.

Though the story at the center of the movie is very straight-forward and simple, Singh tries to go one step further with these wildly imaginative, over-the-top stories of fantasy and whimsy, and they more or less feel like manipulative opportunities for Singh to just break loose with what he’s got at his disposal. Which isn’t to say I didn’t mind these stories, they just to be a bit old, is all. It all started off perfectly by giving us a great deal of imagination, fantasy, fun, and humor to play with, and had me terribly excited as if the rest of the flick was going to be like this just about the whole way through, but it starts to lose its edge.

Somewhere along the lines, it seemed as if Singh, just like his main-narrator, had a strong start with the story he wanted to tell, then just lost all sorts of originality and decided to improvise his way through a story that could have touched almost everybody who ever heard it or saw it. The improv-idea of story telling actually doesn’t work and seems like a cheap excuse for Singh not to be able to come up with any spectacular ideas that may have kept us more glued to what was going to happen to this “story” and this “real-life story.”

Somewhere, imprinted in the sand, it says: "Lawrence was here".

Somewhere, imprinted in the sand, it says, “Lawrence was here”.

Although they’re saddled with something of a lame story, Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru are very good in each of their roles, whether they’re together or not, but too many of their scenes are dedicated to them just goofing-around with one another, getting along just fine, having fun, telling stories, and occasionally, getting a tad serious so one person can get a bit high for the hell of it. These scenes are sometimes good, and sometimes stupid because they go on and on without any point or message at the end of the road. There’s just a bunch of metaphors and foreshadowing between these two and whether or not Singh actually thinks this how people talk and tell stories in real life, is all up to him. However, it’s also up to me to tell him that this isn’t really how people tell stories and if you have a script that’s along the line of works like Aaron Sorkin, or Quentin Tarantino, or David Mamet, and can get away with i- then, good for you. But Tarsem, my friend, you just can’t.

Stick with making pretty images.

Consensus: Tarsem Singh definitely shows his imagination in beautiful shadings with the Fall, it’s just a shame that the story doesn’t hook quite as effectively as these said images do.

6 / 10

Hey, it's my backyard!

Hey, it’s my backyard!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Bigger, longer, uncut. And I’m not even talking about the movie itself.

A few years after Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) left his fellow stripper bros in Tampa, he’s struggling a bit to say the least. Sure, he finally got his dream job of owning his own custom furniture company, but can’t even afford to pay his one employee’s insurance, and not to mention, is living all by himself after his girlfriend (Cody Horn), left him because she “just wasn’t ready yet”. Eventually, the Kings of Tampa reach out to Mike and ask him if they’ll come along and join them as they travel from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for their last show before they bow out and get on with their real lives. Mike’s hesitant at first, but he soon gives in and realizes that the trip’s going to a lot harder to complete than he expected; problems arise, women come and go, and friendships are maintained. However, what Mike wants to do the most is break away from what his old boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), made him and the guys do. Instead, he wants to dance, shake, jive and strip the way he and his boys know how – it just takes a little creativity is all.

No matter how many people got on my case about it, I never tried to get the past that I actually quite enjoyed Magic Mike – or, as it was known back in the summer of 2012, “the male stripper movie”. Sure, it was filled with half-naked dudes, dry-humping, and dancing on top and/or around women, but because Steven Soderbergh was attached to it, it was surprisingly something more. While it was definitely a movie that featured males stripping to their skivvies for money, it was also a smart tale about growing up in the U.S. and living the American Dream anyway that one person can. Some prefer to work boring 9 to 5, whereas others prefer to get nearly naked for all sorts of women throwing dollar bills at them left and right.

Bro time is the best time. With clothes on, of course.

Bro time is the best time. With clothes on, of course.

With Magic Mike XXL, it’s less about the actual American Dream and more about the dream of, “man, being a male-stripper would be kind of cool”.

Because Soderbergh isn’t around this time again to direct (he does shoot the thing, as you can plainly tell in each and every shot), the movie feels more like it wants to be just a good time, without all that much thinking having to be done in the process. And that’s fine because director Gregory Jacobs understands that most of the people who come to see Magic Mike (see, not critics), may not care about whether or not there’s a heartfelt, compelling story about the human condition placed underneath – he knows that people will just want to see these guys dance, take their clothes off, and look buff as hell. Nothing wrong with that, honestly, it’s just a bit of a disappointment considering that the first one was actually a bit of a surprise by how much it sort of went against its target-audience; something most love and appreciate Soderbergh for.

But like I said, this isn’t a Soderbergh movie and even though the whole story of Magic Mike may not be as deep as the first, it’s still a bunch of fun to watch. The stripping scenes, as predicted, are a lot of fun but seem as if they’re more ridiculous and extreme this time around. That the plot is centered around these guys going on some sort of road trip, we’re now able to peak into all of these neat, little worlds where these guys can sometimes excel. We get to check out a drag club, a mainly African American club, a huge house filled with rich, older women, and, believe it or not, an actual convention for male strippers.

Highly doubt those exist, but for this point in time, I’ll let it all slide.

And with these new set-pieces, Jacobs gets his chance to light the screen up with as much crazy, over-the-top stuff as he wants, and it all makes sense. The art (or in this case, I guess lack thereof) of male-stripping is that you get as wild and as sexxed-up as you possibly can be, because the crazier and more fun you are, the more tips get hurled at you from incredibly horny women. Because male-stripping is such a wacky occupation to have secured in the first place, Jacobs finds himself in a safe place where he can go the extra mile with all of these stripping-sequences, and still be considered “believable”. I’m definitely sure that Jacobs and the rest of his crew weren’t wholly aiming for that element to the story, but it’s the little attributes like that, that help certain movies such as this all the more entertaining to watch.

Also, it helps that you have a solid cast to help work things out, which Magic Mike XXL does, and then some. Considering that Channing Tatum was basically playing a slightly heightened version of himself in the original, it’s no shock that C-Tates plays Mike this time around, the exact same way as before. He’s cool with the ladies, a good dancer, and all around bro that likes to party, but also wants a little more out of life than just fine women, fine cars, fine booze, and fine parties. Sure, we’ve seen Tatum challenged a whole heck of a lot more in the past couple years, but in all honesty, that doesn’t matter considering he’s fine as is here.

Eh. I've seen better.

Eh. I’ve seen better.

Now, when I first heard about Magic Mike XXL, I was very disappointed (but not too shocked) at the fact that neither Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, or Alex Pettyfer would be returning to their original roles here. While most of them are surely missed, the movie still does a fine enough job of filling up their roles, even if too manipulatively so. Though Horn isn’t here as Mike’s girlfriend, Amber Heard is sent in to pick up the pieces as a hipster-ish chick named Zoe, who sweeps Mike off his feet by how “artsy” and “cool” she seems to be with her tats and camera. Heard’s fine here, but her character does feel unnecessary, especially considering all she does is show up, flirt with Mike, and offer him something of a romantic love-interest to look forward to when he’s done his little trip.

But other than that, everybody else is fine and more than welcome to participate in the proceedings.

Most people who moaned and complained about the fact that the original didn’t give a whole lot of development to the characters of Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, or especially, Kevin Nash – well, have no fear. Not only do these characters get plenty of development here, but they even get some of their own moments to shine and reveal something about their personalities. Bomer’s character likes to sing and meditate; Manganiello’s wants to settle down, get married and have a family; Nash’s wants to be, oddly enough, an artist; and as an added-on bonus, Adam Rodríguez’s new character, Tito, likes Frozen Yogurt and wants to sell it in the future. Other characters show up such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome, who had something of a relationship with Mike in his early days, Donald Glover’s Andre, who wants to sing, and Stephen “tWitch” Boss as Malik, who doesn’t have any development, other than that he’s probably the best dancer of the bunch, aside from Tatum himself.

It’s all so incredibly goofy, but it works well because it seems like it wants to make these characters more than just caricatures of puffed-up beefcakes – they’re actually human beings, like you or I.

And yes, we’re still talking about “the male stripper movie” here, folks.

Consensus: While not as exceptional as the first, Magic Mike XXL still provides plenty of fun for anybody looking to see these characters strip-down, dance and hump all the ladies, while also still getting opportunities to talk about their lives.

7 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Cause after this, it's back to the real world.

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Cause after this, it’s back to the real world.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Testament of Youth (2015)

Take out the British accents, throw in a cancer subplot, and you have nothing more than a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

Right before WWI begins, a young woman by the name of Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) lives in on the quiet, comfortable countryside of Britain with her mother (Emily Watson), father (Dominic West), and dear brother Edward (Taron Egerton). Of all the things Vera wants in this world, other than to find a true love that she can spend the rest of her life with, is to go to university, get a job as a writer and make a living for her own-self, rather than sponging off of whatever man she marries and not having her own control over herself. While she remains determined by this pipe-dream, she then sets her sights on a classmate of her brother, Roland Leighton (Kit Harrington). Though he’s a bit of a smarty-pants, there’s something about him that catches Vera off-guard and rather than focusing on her studies, she lets Roland get in the way of everything in her mind. This isn’t such a bad thing considering that young love is always the best love to have, but with WWI looming on the horizon, it definitely puts everything into perspective.

How could you not want to cuddle up with Jon Snow?

How could you not want to cuddle up with Jon Snow?

What’s interesting about Testament of Youth (which may not be a surprise to anyone who’s ever read Brittain’s original, 1933 novel of the same name, is how it starts out as one thing, making you believe it’s going to go exactly where you expect it to, and then, all of a sudden, switch gears. By this, I’m talking about how the movie, initially, seems like it’s just going to be a coming-of-age romance flick about this one young girl growing up during WWI and how much she swoons for her boyfriend, while he’s off fighting in another country. That’s where the movie seemed as if it was heading and while it definitely isn’t the worst way to tell this story, it’s definitely not the most refreshing, either.

But somehow, everything changes about halfway through.

I won’t drop the ball on what the plot-twist in the middle of the flick is, but it changes everything up from being this sappy, almost saccharine romantic-drama, to being something much more dark, deep and, dare I say it, scary. Director James Kent makes several mentions of how the war is tearing Britain up from the inside out; soon though, he actually shows us exactly how it’s doing so, and it’s quite eye-opening. As most anti-war movies tend to be, Testament of Youth doesn’t necessarily hide its message underneath its coat and act as if you didn’t just see it flash you; it knows that you, the viewer, understand that this was is bad and is killing just about every young male left in their damn country.

Once again, though, Kent changes things up in more or less keeping his focus solely on Vera herself and not forgetting that this is, in fact, her story and it deserves to be seen visibly and heard loudly for all to contemplate. See, with Vera, it’s never clear exactly what’s driving her – sure, she wants to go to Oxford and prove to herself that she can handle the studies, but at the same time, it seems like her mind goes elsewhere at points. Though she never makes any previous mention of wanting a man in her life, as soon as she spots this handsome young devil, she all of a sudden can’t keep her act together; she’s stammering and stuttering all over the place, and it’s evidently clear that she wants something with this man.

But why? That’s the real question.

Sure, Vera wants love in her life, as we mostly all do, but what exactly is she going to get out of it? She knows that a war is coming up and that her soon-to-be-boyf will have to go out there on the battlefield and fight the “good” fight, so why does she even bother with it? Surely, she can’t know of the actual outcome of this war and the affect it will have on her boy, right?

Well, that’s what’s so interesting about Vera herself, as well as the movie, is that it keeps us at just a comfortable enough length of space to where we see this character for all that she is, yet, still never fully get her. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that, at the time, Vera herself was so messed-up and traumatized that writing all of this down for the whole world to see was just too much for her own well-being, or maybe not. Either way, there’s no denying that Alicia Vikander is great in this lead role – especially in a year that she seems to be dominating so far.

Better yet, how could you not stop giggling when thinking about him?

Better yet, how could you not stop giggling when thinking about him?

And we’re already through the first-half of the year, and she’s got about five movies left!

Gosh! When does this gal ever slow down?

Anyway, what Vikander does well here is that she finds a common-ground within Vera that makes her strong enough to take care of herself and not worry about what decisions she makes, other than those that she doesn’t make for herself, with the vulnerable side that just wants a man to fall in love and grow old with. She’s never such a hard-case to where it seems like she’s not an actual teenager to begin with, nor is she all that star-struck with the world around her; she’s just the right amount of cynical and innocent, which somehow, totally works for this character.

And of course the rest of the cast is fine, even if not everybody gets as much of a chance to fully stretch out their wings quite like Vikander does. Kit Harrington is charming enough as Roland to make it understandable why a woman would fall so in love with him ever so quickly; Dominic West and Emily Watson are serviceable as the parents that always seem to be there in the background, even if their presences aren’t always fully known; Taron Egerton is good as Vera’s brother that goes off to war and seems like he has no clue what’s going to come next; and Hayley Atwell, despite not having a whole slew of scenes in the final product, does well enough to where she can be remembered.

No matter what though, they’re all left in Vikander’s dust.

Consensus: With a surprising touch of insight, Testament of Youth works as a romance flick, an anti-war movie, and a bio on one woman who didn’t let anyone tell her what her path in life should be, even despite the very progressive time she lived in.

8 / 10

And especially, how could you not want him to go?

And especially, how could you not want him to go? That Jon Snow, I’ll tell ya.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

In Khaleesi, we trust. And the Governator, too. I guess.

After finally defeating Skynet once and for all, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends fellow soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to save his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), from imminent death, courtesy of terminators sent from the future. However, when Reese arrives in 1984, he realizes that things have gone a bit awry; not only is Sarah totally understanding of why it is that Reese is here to find her, but she’s even brought around another terminator that’s supposedly on her side, a T-800 she refers to as “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Now, the three must band together to ensure that they are able to stop Judgment Day of 2017 from happening, however, in order to do so, they’ll have to go through all sorts of crazy shifts and time-changes. While this may be an efficient way to stop the apocalypse from ever occurring, there’s also the fear that in the process, they’ll be running into all sorts of problems with local law enforcement, fellow T-800’s who want each and everyone dead, and another deadly terminator (Matt Smith) who sets his sights clear on screwing up each and everyone of Reese and Connor’s plans; something that Pops won’t let happen if he can help it.

Basically, there’s a whole lot of time-travelling going on in Genisys (misspelled, I know), but it’s surprisingly done so for a smart reason, even if the reason is a bit obvious. To get past the fact that T3 and Salvation were both pieces of garbage, the creators behind Genisys have made sure that their movie goes back in time to where the first began, change a few things around with that, and then jump all the way to the somewhat present day and woolah, it’s almost as if the third or fourth movie ever happened. We hardly ever get to go back to 1991 (when the second movie took place), but we don’t really need to because we already know that movie rules. Case closed.

Not naked? Boo.

Not naked? Boo.

Sadly, Genisys does not, in fact, “rule”, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the third and fourth combined.

Granted, that’s not saying much, but in a day and age where every sequel/remake/reboot seems like it’s so obviously just aiming for audience’s pockets with absolutely no shame whatsoever, it’s quite refreshing to get a blockbuster where there seems to be some sort of effort put into play. Sure, the movie definitely tries a bit too hard to make sense of itself, while at the same time, continuously shooting off more and more exposition, but it at least seems to be trying. Not to mention the fact that the movie sort of knows how goofy it’s premise can definitely get; many scenes here end with a character or two scoffing, “Oh, that totally makes sense”, in a sarcastic manner to give you the impression that the movie doesn’t want to take itself all that seriously.

A little seriously, definitely, but not too much so to where it’s turning people off by how unwilling it’s able to crack a smile and grin at itself. The jokes that these characters don’t always fly, and more often than not, feel like recycled gags that are thrown in to make a serious moment feel less of so, for no reason or another, but like I said before, at least there is some humor to be found. It’s all corny, mind you, but sometimes, there’s no problem with a little starch added to your meal. And speaking of the full meal, Genisys offers plenty of fun moments with its action-sequences.

After all, it is a summer blockbuster, so how could it not deliver on that front?

But like the two other movies before it, a lot of what bogs down a lot of the fun and excitement that can usually come from the action, is the endless need this movie feels to constantly hammer on and on about Skynet, what they’re capable of, what they’re up to, and just whom it is that’s working for them and calling all of the shots. Some of this is of course needed to create a villainous figure to identify with and root against, but the movie seems so hell-bent on just discussing the history of them and what they’ve got in-store, rather than doing a whole lot about it. Though they do eventually step up to the plate and fight the big baddies at Skynet, it’s after so much meaningless babble that it feels a little too late at times.

As with the first two movies of this franchise, everything worked best when James Cameron just kept his focus solely on the action between robots and humans. Anytime those movies focused on anything else, it was to help build characters and/or discuss what needed to be done next to keep the plot moving forward. It was hardly ever more difficult than that, however, Genisys makes it clear that they want to explain all that there is to explain about the mythology of this franchise and all of the players involved with it. Is this used as a way to inform new viewers? Or, is it a way to set-up more movies to come?

Talk about a face....lift.....

Talk about a face….lift…..

Because, oh yes, their definitely are more movies to come and honestly, I won’t be too upset when they come around. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t terrific, but it still feels much like a Terminator movie, rather than just a dark, gritty and lifeless cash-grab, something that the last two movies before this did. Because from here on out, there’s so many paths this franchise can take and it’s something to look forward.

The only aspect that has me a little worried with this franchise continuing on to be a possible juggernaut, is the cast. Surprisingly, Jai Courtney, somebody who hasn’t wholly impressed me just yet, is the one who comes off as the most engaged as Kyle Reese. While he’s definitely the most human character of the bunch, there are still small moments where Courtney gets a chance to show off some of his charm. He’s still a little stiff, here and there, but for the most part, feels like he’s actually interested in giving this character something of a personality that isn’t laced with 80’s cheese, courtesy of Michael Biehn.

Everybody else, as much as I hate to admit it, is sort of going through the motions. A part of me wants to believe that this is because the script seems less interested in building any compelling personalities for these characters, and is more concerned with who is doing what where and at what time, but another part of me believes that maybe these actors didn’t all come fully ready to play. Okay, by now, it’s clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is definitely just going through his same old moves again, and though he’s fine at it, it does seem to get a bit tiring now that he’s getting older. The CG is starting to show and the stunt-doubles are getting all the more recognizable; maybe it’s time to hang-up the leather jacket Arnold.

Just maybe.

Then, of course, there’s Emilia Clarke as the latest portrayal of Sarah Connor and she doesn’t fully fit in to the role quite well. Clarke has definitely proven that she can be a bit of a small-tempered bad-ass elsewhere, but here, she feels oddly-placed, as if she’s too young to play this sort of role, or too innocent. Which is especially weird to say, having seen her in all of Game of Thrones. And with Jason Clarke, as I’m sure you may know by now due to the incredibly idiotic trailers, his role as John Connor starts off simple, but then turns into something else completely and it’s a bit of a shame that Clarke isn’t given a chance to highlight any sort of emotion underneath it all.

But hey, at least J.K. Simmons is here and is funny. That’s all that counts, right?

Consensus: Neither terrific, nor a disaster, Terminator: Genisys works well with its action, and less with its nonsensical exposition.

6 / 10

"Something something, destroy Skynet, something something."

“Something something, destroy Skynet, something something.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Overnight (2015)

Always break-in the new neighbors.

Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) have recently moved to Los Angeles with their young son and have no idea what to do next. While Emily’s got a job, Alex is sort of just left at home with the kid, where he hardly knows anyone and doesn’t know how to go about actually acquiring any friends. Emily tries to push him more and more, but constantly, Alex doesn’t bother; he misses home just a little too much. One day, however, when watching their son in the park, Alex and Emily encounter another couple by the name of Kurt and Charlotte (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche), who not only take a serious liking to them, but even go so far as to invite them over to their house for a good time. Alex and Emily are nervous, obviously, but they decide to take the bait and wouldn’t you know it? They show up at the house and they’re having something of a fun time. There’s wine, pizza, good tunes, and a great overall mood. Then, Kurt brings out the bong and all of a sudden, things get very weird, very quickly.

It’s hard to not spoil a movie like the Overnight, due to the fact that it’s so simple in its shape, size and premise, that even go so far as to saying, “crazy stuff happens”, already feels a bit like a spoiler. There is truth to that statement, however, but the degrees to how far that crazy stuff is willing to go, what it reveals about these characters, and what it’s supposed to make us think about our own lives in general, all seem to not be as predictable. While it’s easy to think that this is just going to turn into another, old-fashioned sex-comedy romp in the same vein as something like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the Overnight tries to be a bit more.

Mah gawd. Toates awkward.

Mah gawd. Like, toates awkward.

Problem is, occasionally, the chances it has to be something more often feel like missed opportunities.

For instance, the movie actually has something very interesting to say about what it’s like for grown-ups, or, most importantly, parents, to go out there, make friends, and socialize as if they’re a bunch of freshmen getting started and situated on their first day of junior high. Very early on, the character of Alex states that “it’s weird” for him to actually go out there and try make friends with people when he’s a lot older than he was some many years ago. Sure, he wants to make friends and have more people to spend his time with, but at the same time, he doesn’t know how to go about it without being incredibly awkward because, well, he’s grown-up.

From here on, the Overnight works with an odd, but effective sense of humor where every discussion between these two couples can get pretty awkward; however, it’s not a crutch that the movie falls back on when it needs to. Instead, these awkward sighs, chuckles, small-talk, grins, etc., all bring out a certain level of honesty from within these characters and is eventually what leads to the later portion of the film. Now, this isn’t to get past the fact that the Overnight can be awfully funny, however, it isn’t always for the reasons you expect and most of that has to do with the fact that the cast do solid jobs in nailing down even the slightest hints of subtlety that make their characters more human and believable – even if some of the choices they make don’t always add-up.

But more on that in a little while.

Now, on with the awesome foursome here.

Adam Scott, as per usual with him, plays up his slightly nerdy shtick, but also allows for it come from a deeper place than him just relying on something we’ve seen him do before. As Alex, he gets a chance to reveal some insecurities that aren’t always well-written, but because Scott seems so into it, it’s okay to sit by and watch. And for Taylor Schilling, as Emily, she finally gets a chance to show the movie world, not only her comedic chops, but her dramatic ones as well. While she’s definitely the voice of reason in this whole thing, there’s still a feeling that even she wants to break out a bit and not be tied-down by the fact that she’s a mother, a worker, and a wife – sometimes, she just wants to have a little fun.

All lookie, but no touchie. Story of my life right there, folks.

All lookie, but no touchie. Story of my life right there, folks.

And with Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche’s characters, they definitely get this; however, it’s bit stupid at times. Sure, Schwartzman is great at seeming like he’s totally in on some sort of joke we aren’t too knowing about, and Godrèche gives off the idea that she’s a lot sweeter than her icy demeanor may have you think, but eventually, their characters begin to get a bit idiotic. For example, without saying too much, there’s a certain insecurity that Adam Scott’s character has, that Schwartzman’s doesn’t, and after this, it becomes all too clear that the movie seems like it wants to discuss real life, actual problems that adults have, and try to hide them underneath raunchy sex jokes about dicks, boobs, and butts.

In other words, it becomes a Judd Apatow movie.

However, whereas with Apatow movies, it’s clear that he’s trying to make a point and doesn’t quite know how to cut it all down to where we understand the point in a quicker, more efficient manner, writer/director Patrick Brice seems like he can’t help himself from throwing a sex joke whenever he sees fit. And then, sometimes, they’re not even jokes; in some cases, the whole idea is that this plot is going to lead to some very strange places in the bedroom and it seems oddly-placed, not to mention, not all too believable. It’s as if Brice knows what he wants to say, but still wants to appease those who were looking for a raunchy piece of sex-comedy.

And that’s what the audience will definitely get here with the Overnight – sometimes, it’s funny, other times, it’s not. However, there’s no denying that Brice, given the chance to maybe polish his script once or twice more, we probably would have had an even tighter movie than something that clocks in at 81 minutes or so.

Yep, believe it or not, could have been shorter.

Consensus: The Overnight is the type of sex-comedy that deals with real human issues that most of us all suffer, but still feels the need to point and giggle at penises and breasts, especially when it doesn’t need to.

6.5 / 10

Somehow, the dude wearing a cowboy hat in a children's park isn't the creep in this situation.

Somehow, the dude wearing a cowboy hat in a children’s park isn’t the creep in this situation.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Deadly Adoption (2015)

Wait, what’s so wrong with Lifetime movies?

Robert and Sarah Benson (Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig) are a very happy couple. He’s a self-help novelist, she’s an organic food saleswoman, and together, they have a daughter by the name of Sully. Though they’ve tried to have more children, due to an accident some many years ago concerning a dock, Sarah is unable to. So therefore, the Benson’s have turned to one of the only options they have left: Adoption agency. Through the agency, they meet a much-very pregnant young girl named Bridgette (Jessica Lowndes). At first, Bridgette is so sweet, likable and pleasant to be around, that the Benson’s both decide to let her stay in their place for a little while, only until the baby comes out and they are able to adopt it as their own. However, as time goes on, more and more weird things start happening around the house; most of which seem to be pointing to Bridgette and her mysterious past. Eventually, the Benson’s begin to realize that there’s something very dangerous about Bridgette that they best figure out soon, all before it’s too late.

Is this love?

Is this love?

So yeah, basically, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig teamed-up together to make a Lifetime movie that is everything you’d expect it to be. It’s an obvious, corny, and melodramatic soap opera that most middle-aged women will stay at home, watch, love, and adore because it plays to everything they’ve already loved and seen before with this network. However, the fact that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are in this movie, makes it all the more intriguing to watch, because it’s all a joke.

Or, at least, that’s what it was supposed to be anyway.

Something odd happens with A Deadly Adoption to where you think it’s going to be one thing, and totally turns out to be another. That’s not saying that I expected it at all to be a serious piece of drama that’s supposed to impact me for days-on-end or change my life in any way, shape or form; I mean in the fact that it was supposed to be a lot funnier than what it turns out to be. Some of that has to do with the fact that I expect so much more from the likes of Wiig and Ferrell, where rather than just seeing them play it so downright straight, I’d see them fool-around and over-act, as they are usually known to do in movies such as this. But that’s not what happens.

Instead, it’s a very straight-forward, almost too ordinary flick to even be called something of a “parody”; in fact, it’s more of an “homage”, which is all the more frightening. Because the movie should be as ridiculous as possible, but never quite gets there, makes it feel like the movie may have been a waste of effort, especially considering this is almost a first for TV. Wiig and Ferrell are two immensely talented and popular figures in entertainment, so why wouldn’t they, now that they have the chance to do so, be as crazy as humanly imaginable? Is the joke that they’re playing it all on the straight and narrow? Because if so, it’s not a very funny one.

However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t at least some pieces of fun to be found throughout. Obviously every supposed twist and turn that this plot takes is funny, if mostly due to the fact that we see it all coming from a mile away and because the movie’s playing it all up so seriously. And then, of course, there’s the performances from the cast that, due to the fact that they’re playing everything so damn sternly, can bring out plenty of laughs, whether they were meant to or not. Even though this is clearly Wiig and Ferrell’s movie, Jessica Lowndes does a solid job of playing up her character’s oddness in a way that, while may not be believable, is fun to imagine as if it were any other Lifetime movie. She goes from being such a little sweetheart, to all of a sudden, a biker, beat-up, bad-ass chick and it’s actually quite humorous. That may sound like it has less to do with Lowndes’ performance, but I assure you, it’s not; she’s perfectly capable of handling this material in a serious manner, even with a slight twinkle in her eye.

Or, is this?

Or, is this?

Then, of course, there’s Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig who are both, like I’ve mentioned before, playing it all so very straight.

Though, there is some joy in seeing Ferrell and Wiig act like kind-hearted, small-town simpletons that don’t have a bother in the world and never seem to be upset with anything that comes their way. Wiig’s character may not get much attention in the department of character development, whereas Ferrel’s does in that his character has a bit of a dark side. Once again, it’s not supposed to be taken seriously at all, and it’s why certain elements of this movie do work. Even if, altogether, the movie still feels like it’s missing something.

Whatever that “something” is, I fully can’t put my finger on. However, whereas movies like Sharknado and Birdemic all seem to be praised and held on some peddle-stool for the fact that they’ve taken these ridiculous premises and run wild with them, maybe there’s something to be said for A Deadly Adoption that could put into the same conversation? While it may not be as crazy as those movies, in terms of its excess and/or schlock, it still takes everything you expect from these types of movies, give them to you on a silver platter and not have you forget what it is that you’re sitting back to watch. Because surely, if you like it, then they must be doing something right; whether you’re supposed to like it or not, may be up to you, the viewer.

Either way, it doesn’t wholly matter because Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig got paid somehow.

Consensus: The one-joke in A Deadly Adoption is clear enough that it makes the hour-and-a-half go by quick, however, even by Lifetime’s standards, it should be a little more memorable, if only for the wrong reasons.

5 / 10

Cue the dramatic squirrel!

Cue the dramatic squirrel!

Photos Courtesy of: Common Sense Media

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