You can only say so much about a sport where the objective is to beat the absolute crap out of the other person.
When respected jujitsu master Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) eschews a lucrative prize fighting career in favour of opening a self-defence dojo, it appears that he has chosen a peaceful path in life. The dedicated martial artist’s fate takes an unanticipated turn, however, when he is manipulated into participating in ultimate fighting championships by a group of unscrupulous actors and fight promoters. Mike is way in over his head and tries to find whatever it is that he can do to bring back his old life that he knew and loved before it all went to shite.
It may sound pretty strange, but this martial arts film is written and directed by David Mamet. Yes, Glengarry Glen Ross-David Mamet. It may seem like a weird-fit to try on and get used to, but much to my surprise, as I’m pretty sure everybody else’s as well, but Mamet actually practices jiujitsu in real-life and considers it a nice hobby of his, when he isn’t writing out characters that say “fuck” a lot. But don’t worry, people, this more of a Mamet film than it is a carbon-copy of Never Back Down, but don’t be surprised if you can’t tell a total difference between the two.
Mamet’s dialogue in this flick is, once again, very well-written. This time, instead of being just another pile of snappy one-liners that Mamet just continues to toss at the audience, the dialogue here is more natural than you would expect from this dude and it works in it’s approach to this story. This isn’t your non-stop, kick-ass martial arts movie. Instead, it’s actually more character-based and has a story that may draw you in a lot more than the actual fight sequences themselves. And although that may turn people off expecting a bunch of karate chops and take-downs left and right, for me, I wasn’t bothered at all. In fact, it kept me more involved with what was going on because there should always be more back-story to any extreme sport, especially one like martial arts.
But even when the fight scenes do come onto the screen, they actually work and bring a lot of energy to this film mainly because Mamet is able to get so up-front and personal with each tussle. There’s not many fights (maybe about 3 or 4 in this hour, 34-minute movie) but whenever they came on, I liked it and I think it’s obvious that Mamet just enjoys the art of ultimate fighting. This really isn’t the type of film you just got forced to do and it’s apparent that Mamet wanted to do this film and his curiosity and attention to detail, pays off here. People do say “fuck”, a lot too, but not like you’d expect them to and it’s not all about the cursing that makes this movie work which is what I actually liked for a nice change-of-pace.
However, as good as the script was, I couldn’t help but think he tacked on way too much here with this simple story. The main story itself is pretty much about this guy who can kick anybody’s ass, gets into some major debt, and is trying to find a way out of it the hard way. This in and of itself is a pretty simple story and even though it may not be the most original ever in the whole, widest world, you would think Mamet’s skills as a writer would be definitely more than enough to save it from the same old shit we usually see. But Mamet doesn’t stop there and continues to go on and on and on with this story, almost to the point of where it’s random. He tries a little too hard with such a simple story about the underdog coming out on top, but adding so many characters, so many random twists, and so many consequences that could either happen this way, or not, and show how it effects the rest of the story. Seemed like way, way too much for a story like this and actually lost me a couple of times.
All of this wasn’t as terrible as I thought, until I got to the final act and that’s where I noticed that everything came full-circle for me. In a bad way, of course. The final act comes on pretty strong with the right bit of tension but Mamet pulls the rug from underneath us, gives us something to think about, and adds yet another twist to the already-confusing plot developments. But what I noticed about this ending is that I wasn’t as glued to the screen because Mamet had so much going on, that the central story itself just sort of gets lost in the muddle of it all. Surely, there must have been an easier way to get our main character back in the square-circle, without having to go through all of these life hurdles and surely, there must have been an less predictable and ludicrous ending like the one they have here. It could have just been simple, plaid, and usual, but that’s not how David Mamet rolls and whether or not you like that about this dude, is all up to what you prefer in life.
Mamet’s plot may get lost, but at least his characters stay true and that’s because of the performances from the stars involved. Mike Terry is an awesome role for Chiwetel Ejiofor because the guy, once again, gets to prove that he has what it takes to be a leading man and turn in a convincing performance, no matter what the movie or role may be. Not only can the guy spout-out Mamet-dialogue like it’s his job (technically, it was) but he also shows that he has a lot of great physical skills and it surprised me to hear that this dude didn’t have any previous martial arts training because he looked like a pro at what he was doing. Good thing that Mamet focused the film mostly on him, too.
The two females in Terry’s life are played by Alice Braga and Emily Mortimer, who are both good but aren’t given much to work with. Braga is Terry’s bitchy, money-hungry wife that would leave him in a heartbeat for some extra moolah, and Mortimer is Terry’s newly-found friend/student that is going through a rough time but her story never fully gets developed enough for us to care about her. Shame too, because both can give off some awesome work when they can. As for everybody else, you have the villains like Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, Rodrigo Santoro, and surprisingly, Tim Allen who all turn in some good work as a bunch of shady baddies, but are just all over-the-place that it’s hard to declare which one was the “baddest”. My money is on Buzz Lightyear. That guy seems like a total dick behind closed doors.
Consensus: David Mamet definitely brings a lot of fun to this curious, passion-project of sorts but Redbelt features way too many ideas, twists, and characters going on at the same time, to do nothing else but add confusion and take away from the final-product. It’s not a thrill-ride, but a more-sophisticated look at marital arts, with the occasional beat-down here and there.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
Ah’nuld is back, and yes, still old.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a aging sheriff of a peaceful border town who is called upon to take on a drug kingpin who escaped from FBI custody and is trying to cross the border into Mexico. Once again, it’s Arnold’s time to save the town, as well as the day.
Since he’s not the Governator of Kellyfornia anymore, is done banging house maids (so far as we know), isn’t bangin’ Maria Shriver (as far as we know), and has basically nothing else to do with his spare time and money, Ah’nuld is back and better than ever! Okay, maybe he’s not better than ever but dammit, he is back, in full action-mode, and shows us all what we’ve been missing out on for the past couple of years. Hey, you had to know this was coming once his role in Expendables 2 got bigger, you just had to.
And speaking of Arnie, at 65, the guy can still kick some ass, even if it is a tad goofier now than we ever remember. Yeah, he may have had a lost a step or two in his action-feet, and especially in his acting-chords, but as being an old, bad-ass that takes no prisoners when it comes to the law: Arnie is still at the top of his game. It’s been way too long since the last time we’ve seen Arnie handle a shotgun, tackle some thug, and chew-down one-liners like it’s his job (it sort of is), and this is the type of roles that reminds us why we love the guy so much in the first-place and don’t give a shit who, or what he bangs. Just as long as one of those bangs just so happen to be coming from a double-barrel shotgun, than it’s all fine and dandy with me. May not be fine with his kids or Maria, but hey, for an action-movie lover and Arnie-lover, it’s a-okay in my book.
But it’s not just Arnie’s show, as much as it is the rest of the cast’s as well, as they all get a chance to shine and have fun with dialogue that may be a bit below their pay-grade, but still shows all of the fun and joy each person can have. Johnny Knoxville has been getting top-billing for this movie (alongside Arnie, of course), but the guy is probably in it for no less than 15 minutes, but still does his usual thing: act like a dumb-ass and win our hearts over. The guy’s been doing that act for over a decade, whether it be scripted or unscripted, and that is no different here when he’s along the Terminator. Luis Guzman is a bundle of joy as the cranky deputy; Jamie Alexander is feisty and hot as the only police-woman of the county; and Rodrigo Santoro does what he can as the ex-star football-player-turned-total-bum, which is saying more than he could offer in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Yes, I know I liked that movie, but still, his acting blew in it.
All are fine playing Arnie’s helpers/side-kicks but it’s really weird to see Forest Whitaker in a role of this standard. It’s not that he’s bad in the role, actually, he livens it up pretty well, it’s just that the material and role feel like they were written for a whole other movie, and a whole different place. Think of it as a role from Inside Man, stuck inside the setting of The Expendables. It just doesn’t gel well, no matter how much drama and class Whitaker tries to add. Poor guy. I bet he’s just waiting for the day that Denzel gets sick with the flu.
As for the opposite-side of the spectrum, things sort of get shaky. Yes, watching Peter Stormare chew-up the scenery with his Southern-growl and heavy-thick accent is fun, but it’s cartoonish and as over-the-top as you can get, especially with a performance from Stormare himself. And yes: that is saying something. However, he fares a lot better than our main baddie; a professional-driver-turned-bad-guy “played” by Eduardo Noriega. The reason I put the quotation-marks around the word, “played”, is because not only is this performance terrible, but the character just opposes no threat whatsoever to anybody around him. Yeah, so what if the guy knows how to turn-off all of the lights in his car at night, and so what if he can swerve around three SWAT vehicles on an open road. The guy still seems like a bit of a bitch and when he’s going against Ah’nuld, you just cannot wait for him to get his ass beaten, just so you don’t have to see him act, say, or try his hardest to be cool, but sinister. Then again, maybe that’s the point.
Anyway, who the hell cares about the cast in this situation?!? This movie is all about high-octane thrills, chills, jumps, rumps, and laughs; all of which are here, on full-display. Making his American-debut with this flick is Korean director Kim Jee-Woon, who has made some pretty impressive flicks in the past, but shows he is able to make relatively-mediocre material, a lot better just with a couple of modern-day spices here and there. Typical action-sequences like a chase through corn fields, or a shoot-out through the street, would have been handled in such a dull, conventional way that it wouldn’t have mattered if Ah’nuld was kicking ass and taking names, because it would have been boring. However, Jee-Woon gives us something new and stylish to take and breath in, and it’s great to see what can happen to obvious-material like an action-thriller starring Arnie, when you bring in foreign-prospects that are just waiting to hit the big time in the States. Hopefully, this means that we are going to see more of Jee-Woon, not only the action-genre, but in American movies in general.
However, as much as this movie may strive to be something new, refreshing, and an improvement on the conventional action-genre; the fact remains that it just isn’t. It is stupid, it is loud, it is obvious, and it is very, very much like Arnie’s past movies and as much as that may be a turn-on to some people who have been wanting a bit of old-school flavor to their action-movies, some still do not feel the same way. If this is the type of stuff you like, then yes, by all means, go out, buy a ticket, get some popcorn, slap-on some butter, get a large soda (diet or non-diet, your choice), take a seat, sit-back, relax, and just have a good time with all that’s to be seen on-screen. However, if this is not the type of stuff you like or would put in your Netflix queue, then just don’t even bother because it would be a waste of your precious time and money. Then again, just by seeing the names “Schwarzenegger” and “Knoxville” head-lining the same poster, I could already assume that you’d be able to decipher whether or not this is your type of movie, long before you even made a trip out to your local theater.
Consensus: The Last Stand isn’t necessarily re-inventing the wheel when it comes to the genre of action movies, but still offers more than plenty of fun, excitement, action, and lovable quips, courtesy of everybody’s favorite Austrian, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Welcome back, Arnie. Glad to see you’re with us and still can’t speak a lick of understandable-English.
6.5 / 10 = Rental!!
Getting knocked up sucks but I guess the sex is fun, right?
This is a look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn’t always deliver what’s expected.
Once again, Hollywood has decided to give us a whole slew of stars and jam them into one rom-com. However, it’s not as bad as New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day and Gary Marshall isn’t direction so that’s good, right?
Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much (pun), probably because I’m a dude and dudes don’t care about all of that pregnant ish except for if the baby is theirs or not. Hate to say it, but it’s true fellas. But I was pleasantly surprised by this flick and I think a lot of that has to do with director Kirk Jones‘ way of giving every story a purpose of their own. I’m glad that this flick focused more on one certain issue to connect all of these characters with, rather than just one day or some stupid holiday, but I’m also glad that the flick didn’t really fall into the pit-falls of absolute cheese that most of Marshall’s did. Each story has their own bits and pieces of humor, but they also have some heart to it that sometimes feels fake, and other times doesn’t. It’s definitely a mixed bag here but I think I’m just going to go off and talk about each of the stories individually, rather than focusing on all of them at the same time. Let’s see what I can do here.
1) The one story between Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford, was a story that was interesting at first, then continued to lose more and more steam as it went along. The whole idea of these two having a one-night stand and wondering whether or not they’re a good fit for the other, is a pretty interesting story in and of itself, but whenever the flick focuses on it, it starts to become a major downer and just took my mind off of it more and more. It’s the one story that doesn’t go the obvious route, but that wasn’t really a good thing considering how the film handled it. Crawford doesn’t seem like he’s better than this material, but Kendrick does and that’s what really sucks to see because this damn chick was nominated for an Oscar about 3 years ago! Come on Anna!
2) The other story about Cameron Diaz hooking up with her reality show dance partner, played by Matthew Morrison, is not necessarily a downer as it’s more just bland and uninteresting every time it’s up on-screen. Diaz is a reliable actress when it comes to comedy, but Morrison seems so damn stiff with her on-screen that he makes it seem like he’s scared to be around her. Then again, I would be too, considering all they do throughout this flick is bicker and fight about stupid shit. Maybe this is how real-life couples act whenever one in the relationship is pregnant, but here, they almost never seem stop and it’s a real wonder as to how the hell these two will do when they have to worry and care about another life. Glad they weren’t my parents and it would suck even more considering I still have a chance with Diaz. I know it. She knows it. We all know it. The chick just has to come to her senses, that’s all.
3) Another story that was pretty lame was between Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro, who both play a couple that can’t have a baby, so they decide to adopt one from Ethiopia. Lopez is good, but seems like she was trying too hard to gain some laughs and Santoro also seemed very stiff every time he was around. Actually, I think the problem with his performance is that I couldn’t really understand him all that much with his Spanish accent that makes him sound like he is just learning English. Then again, maybe he is and maybe I’m just a dick. This story is also a downer and one I didn’t really care about but got so much better whenever they focused on Santoro hanging out with the “Dudes Group” with Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, and Chris Rock as the leader of the park. Every time these guys were on-screen, I always laughed and that’s mainly because of Chris Rock. This guy always, no matter what flick he’s in, shows that he can get at least one laugh out of the crowd before the camera goes black (another pun intended), and even though he’s confined in PG-13 territory here, he still delivers on all of the laughs. Funny stuff with these guys but I just wish they did more of that and eliminated the whole J-Lo story altogether.
4) Probably my favorite story out of the whole flick, and maybe even the one that’s worth the price of admission alone, was the one with Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone, who play a couple that seems to be really struggling with pregnancy because of Banks’ hormones going up-and-down all of the damn time. Both of these stars are hilarious throughout this whole flick and made me laugh with everything they did, whereas about 5 other stars from this cast probably would have made me jump off of a bridge by how hard they tried. Banks is always reliable when it comes to comedy, but it’s Falcone who really surprised me as he showed he had great comedic timing (something else that I saw from him in Bridesmaids) and could make you care for his character just by being the sweet guy. These two have great chemistry together and easily won my heart over. Whenever they introduced the story-line between Falcone’s dad, played by Dennis Quaid, and his much-younger wife (Brooklyn Decker), I also laughed even though I think they forced the whole “dad and son are constantly in competition” thing a little too much but it still worked because Quaid and Decker both have fine comedic timing. This story was the best and even when it gets into dramatic territory by the end, it surprisingly worked which was something I wasn’t expecting from a movie like this at all.
Consensus: What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a very passable flick with some moments of genuine comedy and heart, but also isn’t very original in the way it offers a look at pregnancy and all of the problems that come along with it. My idea: get rid of every story, except for Banks and Falcone’s story, combine that with the “Dudes Group”, and keep the father angle with Quaid and Decker, and you got comedy gold. Or at least something that’s ten times better than those Gary Marshall flicks.
Who loves Christmas? Almost every single British star apparently does.
I would give this huge plot synopsis but there really is so much here. Basically, everything in a nutshell, a lot of British folks fall in love with one another and Christmas starts to approach, which as everybody knows, means they all have to basically let their hearts out and tell the truth.
When I say there is a lot of stories in this flick, I mean there are a lot but I think director Richard Curtis does a fine job of handling all of these stories at once. He knows how to structure all of these stories together so well that they don’t seem too overwhelming to take in or repetitive for that sake. He doesn’t drop the ball as much as I would have expected him to but when it comes to handling dozens and dozens of love stories in just one flick that runs at 129 minutes, let’s just say that he’s no Robert Altman folk.
Where I think this flick gets messed up on is the fact there are way too many stories in this film and rather than just singling out every tiny story that it had, I’ll just tell you that there are some good bits and other bad ones. Some stories were obviously better than others, however, there were some that seemed unneeded because even though they were all comedies at heart, they also had a lot of downer dramatic elements to them as well.
There were also many moments with this film that seemed so cheesy and schmaltzy that I wanted to punch somebody in the face as soon as I heard another British bloke say, “I love you” to a chick they’ve known for only 2 days. The whole story with Liam Neeson and his step-son is really creepy and the whole fact that he’s telling his son to go and get it like a man, seemed a tad strange to me and almost like the film was trying way too hard to be cute.
The last of my problems with this flick is that it is very uneven. The abundance of stories would have been a little bit more enjoyable if they actually had some evening out with all of the stories but the problem here is that some stories go on for awhile and then you never see the other ones again, until you’ve almost forgotten about them completely. The whole Keira Knightley love-angle seemed very minor in this flick and although that one flash-card scene was cool, the film only has about 3 scenes of this little “romance” brewing up. Too many times I would wonder just where a certain story would have gone, and then when it came up I practically almost forgot about it.
Still, even though I’m ragging on this flick a whole hell of a lot, it still won me over. Despite some of schmaltzy moments there is a lot of heart-warming stuff going on here and each little story in their own right, is original and interesting. Take it for granted, there are some lame ones and others that plain and simply don’t belong because they either take up space or aren’t as interesting when it comes to having you smile when the supposed “love” is supposed to be going on. But not only are there a whole bunch of moments that had me tummy feel are warm and cuddly, there were also plenty of laughs to come along with this flick and even though they start to decrease by the end, I still felt myself happy.
The reason this film also works is because of the huge ensemble cast that Curtis has brought together. Everybody here does a great job with the ones who stand-out such as Hugh Grant as the prime minister, Colin Firth as a writer, Bill Nighy as an aging rock star, and Emma Thompson as a wife that is getting played with. Everybody here was great to watch and it was just awesome how everybody got to play around with their roles for a little bit, even if they weren’t really doing anything ground-breaking. Let’s not to forget that Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead is up in herrre and the always lovely Mr. Bean. People should get the notion that you should put Atkinson in every single British film. The damn guy is always funny!
Consensus: Love Actually is very uneven, and has stories that are better than others, but Richard Curtis still handles every story well here with heart-warming and comedic moments that are heightened even more by the charming cast.
Had me totally convinced that I was born in the wrong century.
Retelling the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, it depicts the titanic clash in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army.
300 is the definitive 21st century guy movie. If you tell me that you watched 300, and didn’t automatically get inspired to hit the gym, and possibly a couple of people on the way, well then I will call you a huge liar. Or Persian.
This is adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which is also based off some actual true history right here. The film itself is directed by Zack Snyder, the guy who’s behind The Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead, and the new Superman film coming up and I must say that having seen this guy’s films he really does know how to make a film, as crazy and hectic as it may be, look beautiful. The visuals are outstanding, and the constant flairs of all these different colors hitting the screen, put you in this world where bloodshed is everywhere and only the strong will survive. This provides some beautiful shots, with some even better cinematography that seemed so hard to pull off, but somehow they did.
The one thing that some people may not actually see about this film is that it is about 40 minutes long, if it were to play in real-time. But instead Zack “Slow-Mo” Snyder makes almost every single action hit, stab, cut, kill, etc. it slow-motion which didn’t bother me at first, until I realized that almost everything is like this, and bothered me because I just felt like it was lazy directing to create a cooler look to the action.
However, despite that, I must say that the action is freakin’ awesome! Since this is a guy’s film you got non-stop shouting, bleeding, beheading, delimbing, swords going all over the place, shields being destroyed, and most of all you have those male-bonding scenes that may seem like a GLAAD parade with all these half-naked dudes in sweat and dirt, but as soon as you see the first action sequence that’s all off your mind, and you just wanna see some more people get thrashed to shreds. If you look away at one scene because this is too graphic for you, you are not a real man, I should know too (site name).
The script is full-on machismo with these one-dimensional caricatures talking like WWE wrestler’s. Honestly though, who cannot forget “THISSSS ISSS SPARTAAAA” or “Give them nothing! But take from them everything!!!!”. The dialogue may seem all a bit laughable, but in the end, the action just holds you over for good, and you will find you and your bros quoting this long after.
Gerard Butler is the freakin’ man as Leonidas, and perfectly captures that look and spirit that we image the Spartan warriors to have been. It’s just a shame that all he does is shit now, but we can always look back at the days when he was actually good. Lena Headey is also good as well as beautiful as his beautiful wife Gorgo. I also liked seeing Dennis Rodman as Xerxes. Oh…that wasn’t him…..could have had me fooled. It was also nice to see other stars in this such as Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, and David Wenham.
Consensus: Not to be taken too seriously, 300 is a more of an orgy of violence and gore, rather than an actual history document, but will entertain the hell out of all dudes, as well as provide plenty and I do mean plenty of beautiful visuals.