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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rosemarie Dewitt

Kill the Messenger (2014)

What’s a newspaper?

Middle-aged journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) isn’t necessarily the type of writer who searches for a big story, but if it ever comes his way, he’ll more than likely take the opportunity to jump on it right away. That’s why when Webb stumbles upon a lead that may take him all the way to uncovering that the CIA channeled drugs through the U.S., he gets on top of it right away, interviewing possible sources, even if that includes him taking trips out to to the villages of Nicaragua and putting his life on the line. However, Webb is a true journalist and will do anything to make his story the best possible one out there and for all of the world to see, which is exactly what happens. It gets his name known, story re-published in larger, much more respected news outlets, face on TV, and even an award for “Year’s Best Journalist”. Everything looks wonderful for Webb’s life and career, that is, until the government actually gets involved and starts putting pressure on him, as well as his news publication to stop pursuing the story any further, or else. This leaves Webb at a stand-still: Continue following the story his career was made for and lose everything he has, or, listen to what the government demands so that he can live a normal, comfortable life, like everything was before all this press? Decisions, decisions.

There’s certain movies that, to me, may speak volumes, while to others, may not at all. I understand this because while most critics out there like to say that they “have no bias” when it comes to reviewing a certain movie, from a certain creator, on a certain subject, the fact is, we are all biased. Which isn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of life that every human being has deep down inside themselves, regardless of if they want to admit or not.

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm...

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm…

The reason why I say this, is because a movie like Kill the Messenger is made exactly for me: A movie about an respectable journalist, taking place in a time when journalists truly did matter to the mainstream media, and doing what most journalists do, day in and day out. I too, am an aspiring journalist and while I do realize that the world is starting to need fewer and fewer of them, it’s still a profession I love and will continue to pursue until the day I die, regardless of if I have a job in the field or not. So yeah, as you could probably tell by my statement, that this is the movie for me.

That said, I do realize that not every movie out there that works for me, won’t work for others and while I do want to jump into this movie head-on and talk about Webb, his practice, and how he, the real-life figure, makes me happy to be an aspiring journalist, I have to judge the movie on its merits. Merits which, mind you, may be a bit fuzzy to me and my inner-bias.

Sorry, people. I’m only human, after all.

But as I was saying, Kill the Messenger is a pretty typical biopic; while it definitely tries to shy away from being by-the-notes, it hardly ever flies away from this convention and just tells its story like how it was presented to us. Which isn’t a bad thing, because if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, and such is the case here. Webb’s story, as is, is an interesting one that doesn’t need to go through any interesting, yet shocking, twists to liven things up – all it needs to do is be told to us as it was, with every bit of information known about who he was and the controversy that surrounded a good portion of his life. Sort of like an article as is, but I won’t go on any further about that!

Anyway, director Michael Cuesta, while not necessarily the most flashy director in the world, doesn’t need to be so because the strength of the movie is in the real-life story itself. Of course with most of these biopics, there’s always the wonder of how much we are seeing presented on screen is actually how it happened, or how much is just made for the sake of making the movie entertaining, but for the most part, I couldn’t find any punches pulled by Cuesta. Even if there were any, they were so thinly-done, that it was hard for me to notice and hardly ever took me away from the real strength of this movie, which was the character of Gary Webb himself. But most of all, the actor portraying him: Jeremy Renner.

By now, within in the past five years of seeing the Hurt Locker, I think the world has come to realize that Jeremy Renner is a wonderful actor that’s more than capable of handling a movie on his own (for some of us, it may have been earlier, but you know, I’m talking about the mainstream audience here, you hipsters). So for him to be involved with a biopic such as this, it made me interested in seeing just how far he could go into making us see him as somebody, and not just him playing somebody. And honestly, it’s impressive how well-suited for this role Renner is; though we don’t know all that much about Webb, the real-life person, what we see from how Renner plays him, we get the idea that he was a sweet and lovable, yet also troubled, family man. Because Renner has such a charming screen-presence, there’s an idea that he gets along with practically anybody he’s around and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to telling it like he sees it. Which is, once again, all thanks to Renner’s wonderful performance that may not get a lot of press, but definitely should, because it’s probably his strongest since the previously-mentioned Locker.

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Really?

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Didn’t see that coming!

But what Renner, as well as the movie, tells us about Webb is that he was a hard-worker, who stuck to his journalistic guns, even when it seemed like, for the well-being of everyone around him, he shouldn’t have. However, that’s what brings us to the main dilemma that the movie discusses: How far should a journalist go to pursue a story? Should they go in so deep that they practically abandon those who love and count on him/her for support? Or, should they create their story and jump off of it right before the story itself gets all sort of unwanted press?  This, to some, may seem like an obvious point made by many other movies concerning the world of journalism, but to me, a fellow journalist, is a problem I struggle with everyday. Not because I myself am throwing myself right into these highly controversial stories that could put my life on the line, but more because that could definitely happen some day. A person could easily read a story of mine that they don’t like and could decide to take matters into their own hands, which, I know, sounds barbaric, but crazier things have happened, people.

But enough about me, because while I found a way to connect to this movie with my own journalist-mind intact, I think the real wonder of this movie that makes it easy for almost anybody to appreciate is that it gives a glimpse into the life of a man not many people discuss or even know about much anymore. Webb, while seeming like a slightly troubled-fella, really did love his job, but most of all, loved discovering and unraveling the truth about those in power and all of the wrong-doings they were committed. Which is why it’s sad to see not just his family begin to bail on him once this story gets too hot, but also his publication that doesn’t want to be involved with a journalist who may, or may not be, good for their image.

It says something about journalism as a whole, but also says something about how this man, Gary Webb, truly did want people to know that he was telling the truth just about every step of the way. But that it only takes a few of those in power, to be angry, and make sure that whatever skeletons they have in their closet, stays put. It sucks, but it’s a reality and it was inspiring to see someone like Webb stand up for himself, even when it was the riskiest choice he could make.

Even if I was the only one who felt it.

Consensus: Kill the Messenger isn’t just a testament to the legend of Gary Webb and his journalistic pursuit to discovering the truth, but also to journalism as a whole, and presents plenty of strong questions, with hardly any answers. The way it’s supposed to be told.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Men, Women & Children (2014)

“Technology’s the devil”, in case you haven’t heard that from your grand-parents enough already.

The world in which we live in is changing everyday and technology’s a big reason for that. However, the big question remains: Is it good that we have technology around us, affecting our lives so much? Or, simply put, is it bad and making us disconnect from those around us? Well, the answers don’t come easily, especially for a handful of people living in a Texas suburb. Take for instance, there’s the married-couple (Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt) who hasn’t felt that love or passion for one another in quite some time; the photographer mother (Judy Greer) who so clearly loves her daughter and the passion she has for acting, but can’t help but lead her the wrong way; another mother (Jennifer Garner) who may be a bit too over-protective of her daughter and how she uses her forms of technology; a high school sophomore (Ansel Elgort) that quits the football team to focus more on his personal life, which leads him to falling for an outcast (Kaitlyn Dever); and lastly, a young teenage girl (Elena Kampouris) who is curious about sex for the first time in her life and will do anything to experience it, even if that means risking her own life. Oh yeah, and it’s all narrated by Emma Thompson, for some odd reason.

There hardly ever comes a time when I find myself following the rest of the status quo and agreeing with just about everything others have said. That’s not how I roll with movies, music, TV, video-games, and just life in general. I have opinions that I’ll make up for myself and stick to them until I wake up one day and think differently.

Now, with that being said, when I found out that everybody has been practically trashing on this movie here, I was surprised. Not because it seemed like it was a return-to-form for a favorite of mine, Jason Reitman, but because it featured an ensemble cast so good, that it was almost too hard for me to believe that any of them would agree to do something that’d be considered “utter shite” (well, except for Adam Sandler, but hey, he’s trying to get better!). But such is the case here with Men, Women & Children and rather than going into it and expecting it to hate with all my might because of what plenty others have been saying, I decided to stick to my guns, go in with a clear mind, and see how me, myself, and I felt walking out.

Libraries!?!?! Even more dangerous thoughts thrown into our young minds' heads!

Libraries!?!?! Even more dangerous thoughts thrown into our young minds’ heads!

And well, wouldn’t ya know it? I quite liked it. In fact, I came close to loving it on a few occasions. And then I didn’t. But the moral behind this story here, folks, is always make sure to not get bogged down by what others may, or may not, be saying. It only gets you further and further away from what matters most: Your own feelings regarding anything.

But like I was saying, there’s definitely something fishy about this movie. For instance, I find it rather strange that Reitman would go for a story that, yes, could be considered timely because of how much it uses technology as a moral stand-point for its story, but in all honesty, actually feels somewhat dated. These types of movies that try to warn us about the dangers of technology seem like they were running wild all over Lifetime or Oxygen way back when. That’s not to say that these types of stories don’t matter nowadays, because no matter what, technology will always be relevant in each and everyone of our lives, but I could have definitely done without a another “technology is evil” movie that just disregards its own message when it’s telling us, the audience, to actually engage in conversations on social-media networks to continue the conversation about the movie we just saw.

A tad ironic, but hey, whatever. The world’s not perfect, and the same thing goes for this movie. Because see, since this is an ensemble-piece, that means one thing: Not every story will be interesting. Though I’d like to hope for that in every movie I see in which different stories take place over the course of one film, the fact of the matter is that it usually doesn’t happen. And such is the case here, because out of the, well, I don’t know, say nine or so subplots, at least four-and-a-half of them are actually somewhat compelling. The others are sort of just there to take up space and allow us to see actors do, well, just that. Which isn’t such a bad thing, especially when you have a cast this good, but every so often, the movie makes you wonder what could have happened, had there been a lot more attention given to the development of these characters and their stories, much rather than the whole obvious message surrounding them and hitting us in the face.

For instance, try the story of Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt’s subplot; in movie terms, their characters are the quintessential aging married-couple: Bored, unfulfilled and always horny, yet somehow, not for one another. There are brief instances in which this story could take a couple of really dark, shocking turns, but since it has to rely on the story’s gimmick of making it all about technology, the movie then jumps into the whole “dating services” aspect of the internet that so many movies have touched on, and also more effectively. Now, that’s not to say that neither Sandler or DeWitt put in bad performances (Sandler does pretty well at playing subtle here, although I was a bit upset by there being hardly any shopping-aisle dances), but you can tell that, had they been given much more to work with, they could have come close to stealing this movie away from the rest of the group and have us actually twisting our heads and thinking.

Well, more to work with, and probably if there hadn’t been any technology used in the first place.

Cause honestly, the aspect of technology placing itself into these stories doesn’t always work and, quite frankly, doesn’t feel wholly necessary. Now, I get that this is an adaptation of a novel that deals with the same problems and what have you, so I understand why Reitman didn’t want to totally take out the aspect of the idea that made it so “unique” in the first place, but really, at the end of the day, it’s just a cautionary tale of how most of us don’t talk to one another and, occasionally, do bad things. Does that mean that technology is always involved with these problems in life? Hell to the no! So, to make every person’s problem in this movie in some way or another, have something to do with technology and its usage, just felt pointless and really took away from the emotional impact that so many of these stories had initially promised.

That’s not to say that these stories don’t deserve to be told, but they don’t deserve to be done so in such an off-putting, slightly over-bearing way either, in which technology always has to rear its ugly head in, somehow, or someway.

Hey, at least they're sleeping in the same bed, right?!?!?!

Young lovers of the world, look close, this will be you one day. Don’t argue, just accept.

And it should be noted that Sandler and DeWitt’s story aren’t just the only ones that get, pardon my French, get the shit end of the stick; a few others show plenty of promise early on, only to have all of that go the way of the Dodo about half-way through. Elena Kampouris’ subplot about a teenage girl with image and sexual issues is alarming, but gets a bit insane by the end that it starts to feel like Reitman’s driving right back into the melodrama he loved so much with Labor Day. The same could sort of be said for a subplot involving a young teenage kid who literally can’t get an erection or perform the act of sex, if it isn’t at all like how he views it as in the various pornos out there on the web. Once again, it’s another honest, true-to-life story, but just feels corny by the end, especially when we see how crazy it pans out to be. And the Jennifer Garner subplot concerning the over-protective mother was just stupid from the very beginning, and only made worse by the fact that Garner’s nerdy-mom shtick gets real old, real quick.

Though the stories that do hit, actually hit pretty hard, if not for the reasons that Reitman had probably intended. Probably the best, most interesting, most compelling, and most lovely subplot of this jumbled-up movie is the one between Ansel Elgort’s ex-football player and Kaitlyn Dever’s social outcast who both, through pure chance, just end up falling for one another. Not only is this the one true story that’s the closest to my heart (high school romance hardly ever disappoints this sentimental soul), but it’s the one story that feels like it’s the closest to Reitman’s heart, too. Both Elgort and Dever’s characters, with as few scenes we get with them together, feel like they would be attracted to each other and not just for the sole reason of having sex, getting it out of the way, and moving on. They’re both lonely, sad, and tormented young souls that need somebody, or someone to talk to, regardless of how it’s done. It also helps that Elgort and Dever have great chemistry and feel like fully fleshed-out teenagers in a film that, honestly, didn’t seem too concerned about in the first place (Elgort is especially amazing and wins me back from his over-the-top nature in the Fault of Our Stars).

But even then, this story seems to get a bit wacky by the end when it relies too much on the idea its presented itself with and takes a bit of steam away from the real heart of the best story it had to offer.

But since I’m going on so much about what Reitman does wrong here, I do have to say that I’m happy to see him at least slightly back in his usual-form. Granted, this isn’t a typical comedy like we’re so used to seeing him do like before, but it’s at least a minor step in the right direction to where he’ll hopefully be able to blend comedy and drama so well, that you have a hard time being able to discern one from the other. That’s the old Jason Reitman we all loved and awaited to see what he had up his sleeve next and it’s the Jason Reitman we all want back, in full-fledged form.

Right, guys?

Consensus: At times, Men, Women & Children can feel like a typical, over-exaggerated after school special about the horrors of technology, but thanks to a solid cast and a few interesting subplots, it is able to get through its various plot-hoops and holes.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Generation Y, in a nutshell. Or at least, in a digital image.

Generation Y, in a nutshell. Or at least, in a digital image.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Touchy Feely (2013)

If Rosemarie DeWitt wants to touch me, she can be my guest. Hell, she can be my wife!

Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a woman that “feels” for a living. She gives massages to people, and they consider her one of the best and most worthwhile, mainly because she has that touch and feel for what it takes to give a good back-rub, or something like that. However, once Abby loses her touch, she finds herself in a bit of a funk that not only jeopardizes her job, but her relationship with her boyfriend (Scott McNairy). While on the other side of things, her brother, the up-tight, socially awkward dentist Paul (Josh Pais), seems to have gotten her “touch” and “feel”, therefore, giving him an ability to cure almost anybody’s problems they may have with their mouths. This boosts his self-confidence a bit, and may actually give him the chance to talk to his daughter (Ellen Page), and find out what she really wants to do with the rest of her life, rather than helping him out fixing cavities.

Writer/director Lynn Shelton has been something of an indie-darling, and practically, the go-to-gal for an indie-dramedy that’s not just funny, but heartfelt and insightful into human-relationships, and the way we all function. Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister are perfect examples of this, not just because those are her last two flicks before this, but because they show exactly the same type of balance of heart, humor, and humanity that I talk about. She knows how to make us laugh, while also having us cry by the end of the story, all because she gave us characters worth paying attention to and caring for. However, all of that goes right out the window here, as it seems like not only has Shelton gotten a bigger budget in her palms now, but that she’s also found a way to try and mesh her indie-style, with something that’s more mainstream and accessible to the wider audience.

She can use those hands on me anytime she wants. She just can't "talk" to me about it, while she's doing it.

She can use those hands on me anytime she wants. She just can’t “talk” to me about it, while she’s doing it.

Sadly, it doesn’t work.

And what doesn’t allow it to work is that this flick doesn’t have a single-beat that feels real, honest, or even believable in any way. It’s all quirky, all of the time, and done for a cheap-set of laughs that not only don’t amount to anything, but build characters that you can’t really reach and grab; mostly because they feel like one-dimensional characters. But I’m not saying they’re unlikable per se, it’s just that they don’t feature any type of realism to the way they act, speak, or go about their daily-life that makes you feel as if they are just like one of us, except more good-looking and talented. That’s how I felt with Shelton’s past two movies, and it’s what I expected to feel here, except, it didn’t happen. The story just went on, and on, and on, and on, and then, ended.

Which is a shame because you can tell that the cast seems to be trying. Rosemarie DeWitt is as charming and as cute as she’s ever been, and gives Abby a sense of down-to-earth honesty that makes her feel like a person, but the script takes over and makes her sort of a weirdo that feels all sorts of emotions a little too much. More than your average person should FEEL. And it was enjoyable to watch at times because DeWitt made it that way, but when you have a character that does such actions like tells her boyfriend to take off his shirt, only to walk away seconds later, bang him in her brother’s bathroom (and visibly too), and take ecstasy, only to get pissed-off when the boyfriend considers it “a random choice of actions”, you have to wonder just how unpredictable a character can be until they’re annoying. For me, I got annoyed of her pretty quick; and not just because I hate people that are like her character, but because she shows no rhyme or reason for the way she is. She knows that she can be unbearably odd at times, but never takes a second to think about why, or apologize to the people she loves the most, who are also sometimes the ones she hurts the most.

Near-tears at an indie music show? You bet your righteous ass they're hipsters!

Near-tears at an indie music show? You bet your righteous ass they’re hipsters!

Same kind of goes for the rest of the cast as well, even though they are all just as thinly-written as she is, just with less charisma. Scoot McNairy feels like the type of cool, hipster boyfriend that should be winning all of the ladies’ hearts with his good-looks, his sweet voice, and scruffy beard, but somehow comes off as a bit of a wimp, the type of dude you wouldn’t expect to see with Abby or last as long with her as he has. Granted, they do make a mention to how he was “the rebound” for her, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that his character doesn’t seem to really stand-up for himself when he needs to and tell his girlfriend how he feels, at any given time. Ellen Page plays Abby’s niece, who is also the same girl who has eyes for McNairy’s character and seems like she should have that whole “angst-ridden teen” thing down by now, but feels like she’s too much of a negative Nancy to really qualify as a teen, or a character worth watching either. She’s just here and you can tell that Shelton cared about her character and her story the least. Poor Juno, we all know she’s better than this.

Surprisingly though, the only one who walks away with this movie and makes it somewhat watchable, is the least-known name on the cast-list, even though he may be the most noticeable considering of how many pieces of work he’s shown up in all of these years. The name of the face is Josh Pais, who plays the weird, quiet, and oddly-placed brother of Abby, and does what he can with this role, neurotic twitches and all. You can tell that the heart of the movie lies with this dude, and you know that Pais is capable of making us laugh at this dude, then have us want to give him a hug when all is said and done too, however, you also know that this material doesn’t seem like the type of “breaking out” piece that he may have needed so late in his career. He’s a bit of a goofy and plays all of the weirdness of this guy very well, but it doesn’t amount to much, as his character never seems to learn anything that may have needed to be learned, in order to change the way he viewed life, his sister and what his daughter wants to do for her future. There’s a sign it may happen, but it never seems discovered and that’s a real shame. His character, the most beloved one out of them all here, also ends up having no real revelation and just goes about his daily-life as usual. Boring, and slightly depressing.

Consensus: While it certainly isn’t terrible and can be watched for some good performances from this talented-cast, Touchy Feely is probably Lynn Shelton’s weakest movie to-date, and shows her in a bit of a muddle, wondering what to say about each character, how to say it, and when it should all end for them, but ends up not really saying anything at all. Maybe that’s how life is? Actually, I don’t know!

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"So...uhm....awkward, right?"

“So…uhm….awkward, right?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The To Do List (2013)

Teenagers are already awkward as it is. Throw sex into the equation and it’s just a huge mess. Literally and figuratively.

Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) was not the type of girl that did much with her time in high-school, other than study, study, and do some more studying. It all built to something and got her the sweet title “Valedictorian”, however, she still didn’t have much time or opportunity to fool around with boys and test the waters of sex out. Now that the summer has begun, the one before college resumes in the Fall, Brandy believes that it’s her time to shine sexually and show all the dudes out there what they’ve been missing out on, when in fact, it’s her who’s the one that’s missing out. But in order to feel fully prepped-up and ready for the wirl-wind of sex and fluids that Freshman year of college is going to be, Brandy has devised a list of all the sexual acts that’s she’s heard of, but never actually knew about or performed. All while leading up to losing her V-card, to non other than a college student (Scott Porter) she can’t help but have eyes for.

Here’s when I knew something was wrong with this movie right from the very beginning: The title-sequence was not only shown in it’s entirety, but didn’t do anything funny or original that had to do with the movie it was representing. Whenever any movie does that with their opening-credits, let alone a comedy, you know something’s not right, but then again, that could also just be me. I have a weird instinct about stuff like that so yeah, maybe I overreacted a bit too early in the game. OR MAYBE I DIDN’T?!?!?

Like the first time I kissed a dude. I mean, WAIT, WHAT?!?!??!

Like the first time I kissed a dude. I mean, WAIT, WHAT?!?!??!

The problem with this movie all stems from the sole fact that it holds so much promise for hilarity, wit, insight, and an emotional connection, that it makes me more depressed knowing that it was all squandered in favor of a bunch of nonsensical, unfunny jokes that go nowhere and are only meant to shock us, or get a rise. Either way, it tried too hard and it showed because nothing hit it’s mark here, not even the constant sex-jokes that they decide to throw at us. However, the movie has plenty of jokes that made me chuckle at least once, and hell, when I think about it now, maybe even twice, but those were very few and far between, and I have yet to even remember them now specifically, even as I’m typing away here.

Then again though, this whole movie could be considered “unforgettable”, and it will only hit the nail on the head. Except that I realize that underneath all of the non-stop layers of poop, fart, dick, balls, boobs, and sex jokes; there’s an actual point and story meant to be told here. Problem is, it never shows up or when it does, it comes out in the cheesiest, most-innate way possible; as if the flick itself needed to “have a point” in order to be more than just “a story about some chick trying to get her cherry popped”.

You can do so much with a raunchy, teen comedy, especially because any person, no matter how old or young they are, is able to connect with it. Everybody in their life has been a teenager, and has been sexually-frustrated or curious at least one time in their life. So right there is enough material to make the young, brass, sexually-problematic teenager come out from within us, connect with the material, and make us long for the old days when a sudden glance from the crush you had in school, gave you the sweats for the days. However, that said material is lost and never to be found again because the movie isn’t funny, tries to be, and doesn’t even make sense really.

If you think about it: This movie has no point to be taking place in the 90’s. With the exception of a VHS copy of Beaches, and a hip, nostalgic soundtrack that boasts some of the most obvious songs from the day, there’s nothing here that’s necessarily of the time of the 90’s, which means I never felt it either. I always felt like I was just watching a bunch of people dress-up in some odd outfits, and let that be it. They also said and did some dirty things that I highly doubt we’re really “named” back in ’93, but that’s just me. I was just born, so what the hell do I know? Basically, where I’m trying to get at it with this point is that the movie could have been placed during any decade or any year, and it wouldn’t have mattered a single bit. Why? Well, it’s not funny and the movie as a whole just doesn’t matter. You won’t learn anything new about growing up and coming to terms with your sexual-awakening, and you sure as hell won’t be telling your kids to watch it if they ever need something to connect to.

For all of us Gen-Y kids, we have American Pie and Superbad for that. And we’re better adolescents for it.

But nothing about this movie, not a single thing about it was as disappointing as the next aspect of this movie I’m about to cover: Aubrey Plaza in the lead role. It should come as to no surprise to anybody that knows about my love for Parks & Rec. that I love the hell out of Plaza and consider her one of my biggest crushes working today (her and Rosemarie Dewitt, oddly enough). Hell, I even went to school with her younger sister for one year, so if that doesn’t tell you anything about me and my connection to her throughout the years, then I have no clue just what the hell will! Fact is, I love the hell out of this chick and believe that she’s so talented and hilariously deadpan, that I was left down in the dumps when I realized that she just couldn’t pull through with this material and her lead performance as Brandy.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

And to be honest, I can’t really put the blame on Plaza herself. She tries, it’s very obvious, but she does at least give it her all. Problem with Plaza is that she’s so used to deadpanning her ass off, that instead of giving this character any type of energy and charm, she seems to just be sarcastic all of the time, as if she was never really taking the premise or the material seriously enough. Plaza’s sense of humor works wonders in almost everything that she does, but she’s oddly-miscast her, almost to the point of where it was unbearable for me to watch. I have myself to blame for that, but I just couldn’t help myself dammit!

An even bigger shame about this movie (as if you haven’t been able to tell by now) is that the rest of the talented-cast is wasted as well. The only ones out of this huge ensemble that were able to get a slight giggle out of me were Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Alia Shawkat, and most importantly, Bill Hader. That’s it. Everybody else is left to try and be funny, but just end up falling flat on their faces because either they don’t have the guts to make the material work, or it’s the material itself that’s failing them. I feel like it’s more of the latter, but there is some of the former thrown in there as well and it shows more than once. Just overall, a total disappointment and makes me sad to see many of these talented people stoop to the levels of this crappy script.

Consensus: Despite a heavy-presence of some very, very funny people, The To Do List never ends up being that: Funny. Instead, we get a bunch of dirty jokes that go nowhere and are only left to make us realize that being a teenager was so awkward.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's the 90's because of the hair, right?

It’s the 90’s because of the hair, right?

Nobody Walks (2012)

Girl hipsters that look like 14-year-old boys, never a good sign for the married-man.

Olivia Thirlby stars as Martine, a New York City artist who stays with a local family (Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski) in Los Angeles while working on her art film. But her arrival in this seemingly idyllic family soon begins to unravel suppressed impulses in everyone and forces them to confront their own fears and desires.

I honestly don’t mind a good infidelity movie here and there, especially when they have a top-notch cast and promise like this. However, in order for me to like that infidelity movie, I have to buy into the infidelity that is actually occurring and even though there is definitely a lot of screwing around, a lot of wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, and a lot awkward conversations between one another because of them wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, I still did not really buy into it all. I bought into the fact that John Krasinski could be a humbled and horny husband, though. If that accounts for anything.

Right from the beginning, you can tell this is an indie-movie, through and through. You got the shaggy-looking people, staring-off into space; you have the unusual jobs for certain human-beings; you have the long scenes that are filled with no dialogue, but instead some moody music from an indie band only 3 people know about; and you also have a shit-ton of symbolism, coming through other layers of the story. So basically, any idea that this movie is going to be like Fatal Attraction; you’re wrong. It’s more or less like indie-version Fatal Attraction; had Michael Douglas and Glenn Close just boned every once and awhile and never actually spoke to each other. That probably would have solved a lot of things in that movie and definitely steered-clear of any rabbits to be hurt, but I digress.

Don't make Jim angry. You don't like Jim when Jim's angry.

Don’t make Jim angry. You won’t like Jim when Jim’s angry.

That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of the stuff you’d expect from movies where people are cheating on each other, because there definitely is, it just feels so under-cooked that by the time the movie’s over, you’re left with, “That’s it?”. I’m not going to go into the logistics of this movie, what happens, and practically spoil the whole damn movie for you but when you see how much immoral-boning actually happens here, you’re going to be surprised that there’s even a story in the first-place. You just never feel those sparks of fire, burning up inside the plot and these characters’ minds, and instead, you just feel the need inside of you to just get some sort of “oh shit” moment to really lift things up from being a bit of a bore.

Mostly where the lack of sparks come from, is the fact that we never really feel like we understand what the attraction between some of these people are. Martine obviously has this way to her that gets guys all wood’d-up in the pants and the wives’ eyes glued to their men, but we never fully understand why she does the things she does and why the guys who get involved with her, actually do. Yeah, she’s got a cool look to her that reminds me of when I was 10 and definitely dresses all hip and cool, considering she’s the New Yorker in L.A., but there’s nothing to understand. She’s hot, I guess? I never understood that and maybe that’s how most affairs begin: the idea of having a new spice of life to happen to you, without any rhyme or reason as to why that certain someone or something was picked. If that was the case, the movie could have brought that out more. More for me to understand and more just to keep me interested.

Even though it’s hardly ever boring, the film just never feels like it has a clear destination in place and even worse, no route or alternate ways to take. It’s just sort of free balling as it goes along and that’s all fine and dandy when you have a movie that wants to be all-over-the-place and unpredictable, but that IS NOT this film. You sort of see where it’s going and when, you just don’t know why and I don’t think the film did, either. You just never really get a clear-look at these characters, what keeps them going on throughout the day, and what gets them to tick. Instead, you just see them do their jobs, get horned-up on-occasion, and have all types of awkward conversations with one another. The dialogue is good but when these characters aren’t speaking, then that’s when things go South for this flick and it definitely disappointed me because I was expecting big things from this movie.

Honestly, the reason i was expecting such big things from this movie is because it features not one, not two, but THREE stars that have been really working their ways up the ladder of sorts, in terms of dramatic-acting and earning some r.e.s.p.e.c.t. This seems to be John Krasinski’s first, real and raw dramatic-role for him and the guy handles it very, very well. The Krasinski look and charm is still there, but now we have a more ruffled and worn-out type of dude that just so happens to want a little excitement in his life. I will say one thing about this guy, even though he definitely gets away with banging around for a tad bit, he definitely isn’t very bright when it comes to keeping it a secret and there were plenty of times where I just wanted to slap him and be like, “Wake up bro! The bitch knows!”. Regardless of his character’s somewhat stupidity, Krasinski is still a solid actor and it’s nice to finally see him not play Jim Halpert.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I'd bone.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I’d bone.

Another reason for Krasinski’s character’s stupidity, isn’t just by the way how he not-so subtlety hides it away, but the fact that he’s cheating on his wife, played by the ever-gorgeous Rosemarie DeWitt. I’ve really been drooling over DeWitt as of late and everything that she does and even though she is very good here, it’s not a very showy role for her. She does get a couple of key-scenes where you see her really come into her own, but it only occurs once during the beginning and twice during the end. Other than those three instances, we don’t see much more of Rosemarie. Shame, too, because she’s such a joy to watch on-screen. I was also surprised to see Dylan McDermott play such a d-bag as her ex-hubby who only shows up for one scene, but was one scene where I was very interested and though McDermott did an awesome job with such a small, meaningless role.

Olivia Thirlby has really been working her way up the food-chain ever since her days of paling around with Juno, but Thirlby has come into her own now and is actually pretty good that way. As I’ve already stated about her character, I never really understood what was so breath-taking or amazing about her that stopped every man from what they were doing at that point in time, but Thirlby still handles it all well and has us believe in her. She’s not likable but she’s not a unlikable, neither. She’s just somewhere in the middle and I think that’s a true testament to Thirlby for giving this one-dimensional character some heart and emotions, even if half of them are just moaning and groaning, if you know what I mean?

Consensus: DeWitt, Krasinski, and Thirlby all raise Nobody Walks‘ relatively-mediocre material up a notch more than expected, but it is still a bit of a disappointment how very little emotional fireworks actually went-off.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Marry me! Now!

Just marry me! Now!

The Company Men (2010)

Rich people can be sad too.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) are living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves them jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.

As everybody in the world knows, October 2008 was the time where we all found ourselves in an economic-crisis and yes, even though it is a bit hypocritical from a 19-year-old, who at the time, was 15 and lived with his parents, had no job, had no responsibilities  and no bills to pay other than my money for lunch, I can still say that it was a sucky time for everybody and in a way, still is. Everybody was affected by it, not just the common-man, but everybody!

I start off with this middle-minded rant mainly because this is one of the biggest problems with this movie that we have here: who it focuses on. Having a story about a regular, average-Joe who loses his job out of nowhere and finds himself really struggling isn’t a story that hasn’t been done before, but would have probably been more engrossing than watching a bunch of millionaires go from everything, to nothing in a matter of a couple of weeks. Of course, the fact of the matter is that this did happen in real-life and it wasn’t just a certain group of people that were affected by the corporate downsizing, and that’s why this movie feels like it should hit harder, mainly because it’s so timeless and easy to connect with, but it just isn’t.

"They always say, "you're never as good as you're first movie". I guess in your case, that's false."

“They always say, “you’re never as good as you’re first movie”. I guess in your case, that’s false.”

Watching all of these guys be pissed-off by the fact that they don’t have the money to pay for their golf clubs or their Porsches really just seemed stupid and something I didn’t really care about. It gets even worse when some of these guys still feel like they can’t tell their wives, or the people around them that they lost their job. Yeah, I get that losing your job is sort of like losing an ounce of your pride, but there comes a point where you got to nut-up, shut-up, and get moving on with your life in order to make that moolah fall from the skies. Sitting around, pissing and moaning about it, and not even telling your wife why you don’t have the money for the mortgage, isn’t going to solve shite.

But to back away from a topic and theme I guess I don’t know much about since I’m not necessarily the hardest working-man out there in the world, let me go back to something I do know a lick about: movies. The whole idea of watching these rich people be sad by the fact that they can’t spend 500 dollars on dinners any longer, definitely didn’t work for me but I was able to get past it and at least try my hardest to look at the brighter-things in this movie, which didn’t seem to come to me right away. The problem I think I had with this movie stems from what and how writer/director John Wells tries to tell his story. He tries to show us that maybe, just maybe by going back to an old-school America is the only way we’re going to live and survive in this world, but he he shows us in the most obvious and predictable way that’s enough to make the people on the employment-line just scoff at.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious that this economic crisis was a very, very depressing time for all men and women of America, but Wells shows how sad and depressing it is in the most conventional ways possible. For instance, Chris Cooper’s character is probably the best example of what I mean because when his character gets fired, he doesn’t just go home, act as if nothing happened whatsoever and go out there and try to make another living with his life, no, he sits at the bar all-day, gets hammered, throws rocks at the old, corporate-building he used to work-at, and tries to act like he still works there by slugging-around the same briefcase. Same example can sort of go for Tommy Lee Jones who finds himself banging-around with the same chick that fired him, and choosing her over his dearly, old-wife, mainly because he’s just depressed. I get it, they’re sad and when you’re sad, you do dumb stuff. Get on with it!

"I'm guessing meeting at a bar was out of the question?"

I guess meeting at a bar was out of the question?

The only light and shiny material actually in this flick, is actually the performances from the characters that try their hardest to make everything work and in a way, succeed in doing-so. “In a way”, however. Ben Affleck has the main-spotlight here as Bobby and definitely seems fit for the job of a guy who loses it all, tries to avoid it by acting like nothing has happened, only to get slapped in the face with reality and realize that he has to do a whole bunch of crap he didn’t want to do when he was rich. His character isn’t all sympathetic to begin-with, considering that he continues to blow-off the idea of saving money and not robbing the bank, but Affleck works through it and does what he can with this role. His wife, played by the always magnificent Rosemarie DeWitt, is always supportive, but at the same time, also never seems to notice how much of a dick he’s being and as hard as she can be on him for not accepting reality, she seems very lenient in terms of actually telling him what’s up in the world. I get it, they’re husband and wife and they forgive each other over everything, but she doesn’t seem all that strong and loving at all, so why the hell should be that way when the guy’s acting like a dick? Ehh, I don’t get it.

Tommy Lee Jones is doing his usual, crotchety  old-man shtick that never seems to run dry, even if his character even seems to get tired of it about half-way through and begins to get all soft and weak in the knees. Tommy Lee is a great actor so this weakly-written role doesn’t do as much harm to him as it does to others, but it’s still obvious that there should be more meat for us to chew-on with this character and his emotions. Chris Cooper has the most sympathetic character out of the bunch, but like I mentioned before, seems a bit too obvious in terms of where his story goes and why. Like Jones, Cooper is a great actor so it’s not that glaring, but still, he should be given more material that’s suited for his great, acting-self.

"So, you still polish your Oscar?"

“So, you still polish your statue? Yeah I’ve been doing that for 19 years.”

Maria Bello is always good with what she does and is fine here as the chick that goes around firing people, and instead, more or less comes-off like a person doing her job, rather than a monster out to get people’s hearts, souls, and above all, their bank accounts. Kevin Cotsner also shows up as the blue-collared, American worker that makes a living off of hanging up dry wall every day of the week and it’s definitely a fun performance that Costner has a blast playing, even though that New England-accent seems to be way too heavy, especially in the seems with Affleck. How the hell do you have a movie that takes place in the state of Massachusetts  that stars Ben Affleck, and not have him doing a Bawhstan accent? Seriously, the guy’s made for it and if you don’t believe me, watch The Town and Good Will Hunting, aka, two movies that will probably inspire you more than this.

Consensus: The premise and themes are as timeless as they may come, but when it comes to delivering on those important ideas and thoughts, the Company Men doesn’t seem to succeed with a bunch of great actors, working in thinly-scripted roles that seem to be placed-in the right category of “Conventional”.

5/10=Rental!!

"They ain't like us."

“They ain’t like us.”

Promised Land (2012)

The Ultimate Battle: Salesman vs. Farmers. Let’s get’s it on!

Matt Damon plays a salesman for a major natural gas company (so stow the “propane and propane accessories” quote) who descends upon a small town to tap into it’s natural resources, but finds himself having a bunch of problems with the locals, especially by a grassroots campaign led by another man (John Krasinski).

The topic of “fracking” is an act that has been brewing-around for quite some time and even though there have been some documentaries that talk about it, here and there, it was only a matter of time until Hollywood got their filthy, dirty paws on it and made a motion-picture, cinema-trip out of it. However, I don’t know how “Hollywood” Gus Van Sant is now, but hey, he made Good Will Hunting and that counts, right?

In case you aren’t familiar with the term, “fracking”, don’t worry, the film will let you know, every, single 5-minutes, too. It obviously seems like an action that makes people happy and filled their wallets/bank accounts, filled to the brim with moolah, but also, destroys the environment around us and makes those pot-smoking, peace-loving hippies all uppity, uppity. However, knowing this before-hand won’t do you any good and to be honest, neither will this flick because all of it just really seems to hit you over-the-head until you can’t take no more. Matt Damon is obviously a very political guy that likes to have his thoughts and opinions heard for the whole world, but maybe his script that he co-wrote with John Krasinski and Dave Eggers was a bit too much for him, or anybody else to really muster.

Sorry Democrats, Matt Damon is not running for President during the 2016 election.

Sorry Democrats, Matt Damon is not running for President during the 2016 election.

Instead of making this movie just one, big “message movie” that likes to talk a lot about what it’s declaring, Damon and his co-writers try their hardest to make us feel like there’s another story here worth watching and feeling something-for, even though we are all being preached-at from the highest choir. That highest choir, just so happens to be A-list actors and producers that may know a thing or two about how to make a good flick, but don’t know a thing or two about how to make one that can coincide with the point/message you’re trying to get across. It becomes over-bearing and by the third time that Damon’s character states, “I’m not a bad guy”, you start to think otherwise because who would really go on and on this long about a topic and a solution that could have been figured-out in a 5-slide Power Point production.

However, a 5-slide Power Point production is probably how long, in-fact, maybe even less, this flick could have been predicted in. Right from the beginning, we know how it’s going to start, how it’s going to coast-on through it’s story, and sadly, how it’s all going to end and what revelations are going to be made by that time. Yeah, there are some nice twists and turns that Damon and co. throws at us for good-measure, and mainly in hope to keep our eyes awake and our minds attentive to what’s going on, on-screen, but doesn’t do much good other than seem obvious. The message is obvious and so is the plot and that’s why I’m so surprised that Damon even co-wrote an intelligent script like Good Will Hunting because all of that fun, all of that flair, and all of that emotional-truth that was stuck underneath that whole flick, is barely even seen here at all. In my honest to god’s opinion, it’s all because Big Ben wasn’t around, and instead, is off doing his own thang and making a name for himself. Take notes, Matt. Start directing movies and see how current and cool you can stay.

"Since the Office is coming to an end, Joel thought you would like to read this. You better accept or Matt's getting the job instead."

“Since the Office is coming to an end, Joel thought you would like to read this. You better accept or Matt’s getting the job instead.”

I will say one-thing about Matt Damon here with this movie, that even though his script may not work to the best of his, or the film’s ability in keeping us interested the whole-way through, Damon’s performance definitely does and the guy once again shows why he is the most dependable actor, working today. Damon’s character, Steve Butler, may have an obvious-route he’s going to drive-on about half-way through, but Damon still keeps you on-edge, wondering when it may actually happen and whether or not we are going to be able to believe it or not. In a way, we do believe it, and that’s mainly thanks to Damon’s top-notch skills as an actor, while in other ways, we don’t just because it’s so conventional, but you can’t go wrong with Damon and the guy knows how to write some great lines, even if the only great lines are for himself, and him only. That damn Matt Damon! He’s always so stingy!

Playing his enemy, of sorts, is John Krasinski as an ecologist that challenges all of Butler’s way of living and making a business. Krasinski rarely ever plays dark roles like these and it’s great to see him really work with that aspect of his acting, while also making sure to keep his comedic-abilities in-tact, as well. I wish that Krasinski was given more than to just fuck around with Damon, in a way that makes it seem like he stole his girlfriend after Junior Prom, but with what he’s given (that he practically gave himself, if you think about it) and what he’s able to do, Krasinski does a very nice-job at it, and I really hope the guy continues to take darker, more-dramatic roles like these because even though that face may always be smiling and shiny, there’s still some darkness that’s waiting to just latch-out from underneath.

Frances McDormand plays Damon’s cohort that seems to be non-other than McDormand doing what she does best: the cool, older gal that still knows what it’s like to be hip, with it, and always one-step ahead of the dudes around her, no matter what it is she may be dealing with. Maybe that was a bit too much of a lengthy-synopsis of what type of characters she usually plays, but it’s the truth most of the time, and it’s the truth here and it’s still fine and dandy with me, because the girl is good with the act. She doesn’t seem to have much more going for her other than the fact that she may just be the brains behind the whole operation when it comes to what it is that they do for a living and how they make their business, but McDormand makes the most of it and in a way, would have liked to see a whole movie dedicated to her, where she was going around and dealing with this personal and professional-crisis, rather than seeing dudes like Matt Damon go through with it. Boo the men! Yay the ladies! That’s how I look at it here.

He's looking-out at the land that he's going to drill into soon, and all he sees is a reflection of himself. Ohhh, the obvious metaphors!

He’s looking-out at the land that he’s going to drill into soon, and all he sees is a reflection of himself. Ohhh, the obvious metaphors!

McDormand isn’t the only gal that gets to show the boys a thing or two when it comes to acting, nope, that honor also goes to Rosemarie DeWitt as the wild child of this small, rural town in Pennsylvania, who also just so happens to be the hottest, single-teacher in the whole world. Not just PA, the whole damn world! DeWitt has been on my “crush list” as of late, and she’s great here, especially in her scenes with Damon who just goes to prove the fact that the dude can make any great chemistry, with anything, as long as it has tits and a vagina. Seriously, they are great together and if it wasn’t for the whole fracking-issue popping-up every 5-minutes, I would have probably enjoyed their scenes together a whole lot more.

The rest of the cast is pretty fine, even if it is a shame to see how little they are used here. Hal Hollbrook is great as the knowing, elder farmer of this small-town that knows what fracking’s all about, why it’s not good, and why he doesn’t like it. Rather than making Hollbrook the annoying and obvious voice-of-reason throughout this whole movie and have us dreading his presence, Hollbrook actually comes-off as a sweet and tender, old-man that has come to terms with the way the world used to be and what it is eventually, going to turn-out to be. It’s sort of sad since how this hits so close to reality and what better person to deliver this reality-check than non-other than Mr. Hollbrook himself. Seriously, when the hell is this guy getting that Oscar!?! Lucas Black and Scoot McNairy show-up here as well, as the resident rednecks of the small town and as good as they may be, are still a bit over-the-top in the way that they are type-casted as a bunch of dumb idiots that work on a farm and don’t give a crap about anything else other than the big olde bucks. I’m sure that some of this is true, but it doesn’t need to be seen to try and get a point across even more. Come on Matt! Come on John! You should know better! You get your caviar and champagne from natural food stores!

Consensus: The topic of discussion in Promised Land is definitely an important one and what Damon, Krasinski, and Eggers get-across about it is an important-one, but it constantly hammers you over-the-head with it, that you begin to lose a care for what they say and an even bigger loss of care over the predictable story, and what direction it goes in.

6/10=Rental!!

I seriously just wanted to just include this picture because of how stoned everybody to the right looks and how everybody to the left are just left clueless and happy.

I seriously just wanted to include this picture because of how stoned everybody to the right looks and how everybody to the left are just left clueless and happy.

Margaret (2011)

This is exactly what a teenager’s life is like: confusing as hell.

Anna Paquin stars as a 17-year old girl named Lisa Cohen who has to deal with her regular life as a conflicted teenager as well as the moral, legal and sexual pitfalls of the adult world. She struggles with what is right and wrong after taking witnessing the seemingly accidental death of a woman and fighting the ever-building guilt resulting from her role in it.

Holy hell is it a total surprise that I actually got the chance to view this movie! This film has been basically sitting on the shelf for about 6 years now, all because of the fact that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan had an over 3–page script, that made the movie run for as long as 3 hours. Apparently, the studios didn’t like this idea he had and they made him try to shorten up the run-time to make it under 2 hours. Surprisingly, nobody got their way because the film got cut-down to a 150-minute time-limit (all thanks to the master of swift editing, Martin Scorsese) and despite a pretty big-name cast, the film was released in limited theaters, barely even seeing the light of day. Thankfully, that’s what DVD-viewing is all about baby.

"Was somebody that pissed that I didn't show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners."

“Was somebody that pissed that I didn’t show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners.”

So after going over the whole history of this movie for you in that last paragraph, you would think that a production this troubled goes two ways: either it’s a unknown masterpiece that only people who go out there and reach for it, will love until the day they die, or, it’s just a bunch donkey crap, that should have just stay shelved. Somehow, the film is somewhere in the middle and I don’t really know where I stand on this flick just yet, however, being the dedicated critic that I am, I’m going to give it my all just for you kind souls out there who actually give a crap what I have to say about this little indie.

There’s a lot to this film, maybe almost too much, but from what I was getting most of the times with this flick worked for me because of Lonergan’s superb writing. This is a very dramatic but heartfelt story about a young girl who’s coming to terms with the world she lives in and she’s starting to realize just what this world is really like, for all of the good and for all of the bad. Obviously this isn’t something new, daring, or original but Lonergan makes every scene, no matter how random or awkward, seem real and to be honest, a lot of these scenes and what he’s having these character say, did ring true to me.

I am not a young lady, never have been, and maybe never will, but I can definitely say that a lot of Lisa’s problems that she goes through here aren’t just what young ladies go through, but young adults in general. Everybody around you just annoys you, you want to get your point out there to the best of your ability, everybody is out to get you, and at the end of the day, you just want to be understood and listened to. This is how a teenager thinks and Lonergan gets us inside the mind of a teenager, by showing us your typical, everyday one that just so happens to be dealing with one of the most traumatic moments in her life so far. She’s confused, she’s guilty, she’s angry, she’s horny, she’s misunderstood, she’s scared, and she’s so many other things, but this is exactly how a young person is, especially when you live in a world like the one Lisa lives in where everybody seems to be just at your neck, no matter what it is you do or say. This provides some real, heart-breaking emotional context for a character that seems so based in her own reality, that you just don’t want to see her have her heart broken when she realizes one thing about the world: it’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s a cruel, cruel world out there that you may have to be ready to fight off every once and awhile. Maybe that’s a little bit too much of my left-over teenage angst coming out, but it still seems true and reasonable considering the film I’m discussing here.

"I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!"

“I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!”

No matter how great most of that teenage angst stuff may be, the film still feels very stuffed together and I was sort of left wondering why they didn’t just take a risk and end up going with the 3-hour version instead. There is about 4 or 5 subplots here that could have been taken out, but instead, Lonergan leaves them in and has them pop-up at some of the most random parts throughout the flick, without us ever getting a chance to fully feel for them and get behind them. I get it, Lisa’s life is hectic and has a lot going on it, but did we really need those 5 scenes with her and her daddy (Kenneth Lonergan himself in a very greedy role) just talking about random ish? Or what about that little teacher-student “relationship” she may be trying to get with a hot and young male teacher, played Matt Damon? Oh, and let’s not forget about some of the random class-room scenes where Matthew Broderick actually gets mad over a kid totally schooling him in Shakespearean comprehension? There’s a lot of material that could have been easily cut-out here. Or, if they really wanted to, which they obviously didn’t, but if they did, they could have went with the 3-hour version that Lonergan proposed in the first place and we could have had a more coherent and understandable story that lays everything out for you all nice and even.

But even with this edited-down version that were given here, some of it almost feels like Lonergan’s coming on a little too strong with his numerous ideas and messages he’s trying to get across. There’s a lot of discussion about a post-9/11 New York that is very realistic, but also feels very random and pushy, as if Lonergan was trying to find a way to voice his own opinions about what’s happening to the area after that disastrous day, so thought the easiest way would to have kids yell and holler at each other about. Doesn’t feel right for this film, given the story itself, and I think Lonergan kind of loses his head a little bit with what he’s trying to say but after awhile, I just didn’t care and tried my hardest to get involved with this story, as crazy as it could be.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool, and especially wore a cowboy hat.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool. Especially with that cowboy hat.

Seeing this movie now, in the year 2012, you have to wonder what a bummer it must have been for Anna Paquin to just see her high-rising, dramatic acting career, go almost to nowhere because honestly, this is a phenomenal performance, if not, the best I’ve seen from her, ever (still haven’t seen The Piano so bear with me for a little while). Lisa Cohen is not a very sympathetic character and she definitely is not a very emotionally-grounded character, and it’s one that Paquin plays up perfectly on almost all-sides. We see Lisa for all that she feels, all that she does, and all that she wants to do, and even though not all of her choices may be the most morally correct, they are still her choices and we have to accept them for what they are because she is a human nonetheless. Paquin was about 23 when this film was made, so it seems a little strange for her to be off playing 17-year olds, but she pulls it off perfectly and makes you believe that she really is this confused and bewildered young woman that just wants to do what she thinks is right, even if it may not have the best consequences for all involved. Yeah, I know that Paquin’s got it big now with her role on True Blood, but this film would have definitely made us think twice about her acting, whenever we saw her kill some dude by kissing him. Rogue reference, in case you didn’t catch on!

While you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell from my whole review, trailers, or poster, this film is much more about Lisa’s mom then it is about her, and I think with good reason. J. Smith-Cameron is somebody I haven’t ever really seen too much of in movies and with a performance she gives here as Lisa’s mom, I have to say I’m going to look for her more now because this gal knocks this performance right out of the park. Even though I do think that some of her scenes, just the ones where it’s her all by herself, could have been cut-out, she still gives us a sympathetic mother character that wants nothing more but to connect with her daughter like she feels like she should, but no matter how hard she tries, she still can’t seem to break the ice between them and get them together, connecting once again. It’s a sad thing to see in a film like this because you know this is how it is for almost all mothers having to deal with young adults in the house and Smith-Cameron plays it up just about as perfectly as Paquin does with her own character. They also fight like a real mother-daughter combo and that’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

Consensus: With a time-limit that sort of jams everything together in a very incoherent way, Margaret can sometimes feel like a film that can never make up its mind about what it wants to do or be about, but it’s also much like it’s lead character, Lisa, played to perfection from Anna Paquin. It’s a little-known flick that makes me want to see it again, just as long as I can get a hold of the 3-hour director’s cut. That’s if they actually have one for this movie.

7/10=Rental!!

"Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I'm really scared."

“Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I’m really scared.”

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)

This will probably bring up a lot of awkward questions about where babies come from and how they’re made. Questions I look forward to answering.

The film stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as an happily married couple who have been unable to conceive a child and are ready to give up. One night after a bit too much wine, they fantasize about what their ideal child would be and bury a box with all these wishes in their backyard. Lo and behold, a dirt-covered little boy (CJ Adams) appears on their doorstep the next day.

That’s a pretty strange premise to have and it’s only weirder that the son of Frank Zappa, Ahmet, wrote it himself. However, while his father was inventive and original with what he could with his profession in music, he just so happens to be the total opposite with his.

What bothered the most about this flick was how damn predictable it was. I sort of knew that I was going to get that right from the start going into this, but I wasn’t expecting it this bad. Everything happens in the same ways you would expect it to normally go down in flicks like these, and what’s worse is that I barely got a surprise. The recipes for this family-oriented flick have already been written out and predicted before-hand, and it was only a matter of time until I was throwing money down on what was going to happen next, how, and when. Sadly, it was only me and my grandparents who went to go see this (go ahead, make jokes) and they weren’t down to throw any moolah around but you can bet your sweet-asses if I had gone with a bunch of girls I would have been loaded. With money, that is.

As soon as Timothy shows up in these people’s lives, he somehow makes all of these miraculous dreams and miracles come true but without ever doing anything. Take it for granted, the kid’s a nice kid and has a certain amount of goody-goody charm to him but he doesn’t do anything that could be deemed terribly special to the point of where you actually believe in these townspeople actually standing behind him altogether. I thought that they were going to play this story out as if it was “the Forrest Gump for kids” but even that would have been too much of a stretch for this movie. A lot of belief has to be suspended for these types of films but not so much to where you think people would buy the fact that these people know he has leaves on his legs, and they never choose to say anything. Where I come from, that kid would have gotten his ass thrown in so many lockers they would run-out. And don’t even get me started on all of the lunch money he’d lose.

But as terribly formulaic and predictable this all is, it still has a nice message deep-down inside that I couldn’t help but enjoy every time it was on-display. Basically, this film is all about how kids should be themselves, live up to what they want to do, and don’t have anybody ever tell them that they are weird for doing so. I got this message right from my parents when I was a young kid and I’ve been living that way ever since and look where it’s gotten me. I’m no major success in life or anything, but I still have stay trued to myself and the things that I want to do regardless of how weird it may be viewed at as by other people. This message is very prominent in this flick and I hope it is one that gets out to kids, as well as parents so they can tell their kids the same thing.

The real element of this movie that actually won me over was probably the performances from everybody involved, even if their characters may have not been the best that they have ever portrayed. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are awesome as the wife and husband couple that eventually get Timothy Green and they play up this very loving mother and father-combo well, and you could see why they would be great parents to have, especially for a kid with such odd predicaments as Timothy. Garner is fine but it’s Edgerton who really nails it as the fun-loving dad who just wants Timothy to have the love and support from a father-figure that he never had, and that sometimes results in the funnier and more heartfelt scenes of the whole movie. Not saying that there were many, but they still worked mainly because it was Edgerton behind all of them.

I was actually surprised that this kid, CJ Adams, didn’t bother me as much as I was expecting him to. Kids actors aren’t always the best to watch in movies like this, especially those ones that try to sound ultra-smart and cute, but somehow just end up being annoying and that’s what I thought Timothy Green was going to end up being. Thankfully, he’s not and this young blood, Adams, plays him very well by giving him a conscience that’s easy to stand-behind. Also, without sounding terribly effin’ creepy, the kid’s very cute and will probably have a lot of young girls swooning over him. I was like that once, but then I started to get facial hair. That’s when it all went South for me.

Everybody else in this cast is fine too, the only problem is that they aren’t giving characters that are worth paying much attention to, even though the film tries to make us see otherwise. Ron Livingston easily steals every scene that he’s in as Edgerton’s boss, but his character is played off as this one-note dickhead that we don’t really care what happens to him or what lesson he learns; Rosemarie DeWitt (who is almost this year’s Jessica Chastain with how many times I’ve seen her show up in random shit) plays Garner’s younger sister that believes all of her kids are miraculous and so much better than what they really are, and she’s alright with the role but she is another one that feels too one-notey for us to care about; David Morse has a very interesting character as Edgerton’s dead-beat daddy that was barely ever there for him when he needed him the most, and actually gives it his all even though by the end of the film, his character is sort of wasted in a bunch of false sentimental moments that don’t do much development for his character, or Edgerton’s for that matter; and Dianne Wiest, as great as she may be, she gives off one of the biggest one-note pieces of trash in this whole movie and seemed way too mean and cruel to be a chick that these many people would put up with, let alone have her as the head of the city council. There’s plenty of other familiar faces to be seen here, but they’re all given characters that don’t really seem like you should care about at all and the film takes too much of its focusing on them, when they could be focusing more on Timothy and his so-called “parents”.

Consensus: Though it is well-acted and features a nice message for the whole family, The Odd Life of Timothy Green just doesn’t bring any surprises, emotional resonance, or any type of extravagant characters to hold onto. Still, it’s bearable to sit through and won’t kill you to check out on a rainy, Sunday afternoon.

5/10=Rental!!

The Watch (2012)

These aliens probably came right down to Earth looking for Judd Apatow, and found these guys. I actually feel bad for the aliens on this situation.

The film revolves around four everyday suburban friends (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade) who team up to form a neighborhood watch group so they can escape their dull family lives one night a week. But when they accidentally discover that their town has become overrun with aliens posing as ordinary suburbanites, they have no choice but to save their neighborhood — and the world — from total extermination.

The alien-invasion premise isn’t anything new or original by any means, but when you have a cast like this and a bunch of writers that know they can knock it out of the park when it comes to comedy, you should be expecting something a whole lot better than your ordinary, average fare. Sadly, it’s the exact opposite.

I have no clue who this cat Akiva Schaffer is but what I can tell, just by watching this flick is that it seems like he was really depending on the efforts of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jared Stern’s script to make this flick work more than it should have, which in a way, it kind of does. This is, once again, your piece of R-rated comedy that has a lot of cussing, a lot of dirty stuff being thrown around, and just a whole bunch of moments that can be considered “raunchy”, even though the film never fully explores that territory. For the most part, this film can be pretty funny and you can that there is a lot of Judd Apatow-influences going on here with the whole “conversational humor” aspect of this flick, but the problem is that it doesn’t really work all that well, except with some exceptions.

The one comedy, that is sort of like this one, that I remember seeing was Horrible Bosses, which was a very funny movie but also tried a bit too hard to fall-back on that whole “conversational humor” aspect, that Apatow has pretty much nailed now. It didn’t really work there because it tried too hard to make that there only source of comedy, but here, that seems like that’s all they can do with a couple of extra dick and sex jokes added to the mix as well. The film tries so hard to be funny by having these guys say ridiculous and vulgar things, but the problem is, that they just aren’t as funny as you feel like they could be if they were in a different movie and maybe had different people delivering the lines. A couple of times I did catch myself laughing, and laughing pretty loud I may add, but this material never seemed to go anywhere beyond that. This is also one of those disappointing cases where the funniest lines are in either the trailers or TV spots, that we’ve all seen about 10,000 times.

Another aspect of this film that I noticed was how it seemed like it could have had a lot more fun with its premise than it really had. There were a couple of times where the film seemed like it was going to go down that road of pure insanity, which would have easily bumped this up a hell of a lot more, but instead, it just sort of lulled its way onto the next scene without anything really exciting going on. The one character in this flick, played by Vaughn, just wants to hang out with the guys, shoot the shit, talk about girls, get shit-faced, and have a good time. If the film honestly followed that character’s intentions, it would have been so much more entertaining and funny. However, it just stayed somewhat boring and it only got worse once that lame-o third-act came around.

If there is anything that really saves this film from being total crapola, it’s the impressive cast here that seems to make everything they say funny, except I still feel like they should have been a lot funnier. Ben Stiller is, once again, playing up that nervous, jittery shtick that seems to work in some spots but in others, just seems annoying and unneeded when you have a plot that could just get really freakin’ crazy at any second. Vince Vaughn is around here playing up his fast-talking, crazy shtick that always seems to work but it also feels like it was forced in a way and was used in a lot better in flicks when he was trying to pick up gals or be the coolest mothertrucker at the party. Maybe, dare I say it, he’s getting too old for it now! Nooooo!

Jonah Hill, God bless him, is probably the saving grace to this cast and to the whole movie as he shows that he still has the near-perfect comedic timing that can work with any character he plays, no matter how bizarre or weird they may be. It’s crazy to say this, but I think Hill may be the next best thing when it comes to comedy, because not only can he show how hilarious he can get no matter who he works with, but he also shows a lot of versatility when he has to approach these dramatic, softer roles as well. Guy keeps getting better and better, and it only seems to go up-Hill for him in the future. See what I did there? Seeing Richard Ayoade being on the top-billing for the promotion, I was expecting him to possibly steal the show and give a little taste of his weird, British sense of comedy. It works here, but only when the film allows him to and it’s a real shame because I actually did think that this was going to be the break-through performance this guy needed to fully break into the Hollywood mainstream like he deserves to. Oh well, maybe next year.

Consensus: Even though there are some bright and funny moments here and there in The Watch, they are also very few and far between one another and for some reason, don’t really work because the script feels like they need to be funny with unoriginal dick, sex, and fart jokes that are as old as Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are getting. Trust me, that’s old, too.

4/10=Crapola!!

Your Sister’s Sister (2012)

Note to self: never bang your best friends sister, unless they both agree for three-some. Hey, call me what you want, I’m just human dammit.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is still reeling a year after his brother’s death. Iris (Emily Blunt), who was previously in a relationship with his brother, invites Jack to go to her family’s cabin where he can relax. When he reaches the cabin, he unexpectedly finds Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). And that’s when things get weird.

For me, mumblecore movies aren’t really my favorite to go out and seek. Some of them are very good and bring a lot of reality to their stories, but others just feel way too quirky and weird for it’s own good. Somehow though, I took a chance on this one, actually paying for my own ticket, and I think it brought a new piece of faith in me for these little flicks.

What I liked most about this film was just how realistic everything felt, and I think a lot of that is due to writer/director Lynn Shelton, natural screenplay. Actually, maybe the word “screenplay” is not the right thing to use here because this film seems like Shelton just wrote-out to these actors, what was going to happen and why, and then she just gave them the camera to run free and do whatever they want. And that’s probably my favorite aspect of this movie because the whole time I was watching this, I didn’t feel like I was watching some really good-looking people, in a small-indie, I felt like I was watching real people, going through a real situation, and having some real emotions be torn apart. I felt like I could also hang out with these people at a party, and just talk, and talk, and talk, which is exactly what they do here but it’s a lot more interesting than what I would talk to them about. Because if Emily Blunt was next to me, I highly doubt I would want to talk to her about her sister. Just being honest here, people.

Another aspect that could pretty much go hand-in-hand with what I already stated, is that this film brings out a lot of emotions in you, without you ever expecting it. For the first 30 minutes or so, I was laughing my ass off just by how brutally realistic and zany everything was. Then, there’s a slight change of pace for this flick where it gets pretty emotional and that’s when it started to hit me because it shows these people in vulnerable states and how they all respond to one another, especially when peoples feelings are thrown into the mix. In any lesser film, this change of pace would have effected it and make it come off as some sort of melodramatic mess that is so easily trying to rip tears out of our eyes, but not this flick. In fact, I got a little teary-eyed by the end and it was something that I was not expecting in the least bit, and for that sneakiness, I have to give major props to everyone involved.

And when I do say “everyone involved”, I mean just that. The cast isn’t that big (probably about 6-actual speaking roles) but you don’t really need many people when you have these three together. Emily Blunt is great in this role as Iris, because she not only gets to show her chicky, British side to her that we all know and love, but she also gets to go down a very emotional path with her character that makes us feel so much for her and it gives her more depth as an actress, more depth than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I think Blunt is a solid actress, but I don’t really think she’s been given the perfect opportunity to flaunt her drama skills, especially when she’s in flicks like The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement, Sunshine Cleaning, and plenty of others. Not that those flicks are bad by any means, but they just don’t let her strut her stuff as well as she does here and for that, I’m glad because I think this gal definitely has a brighter future in Hollywood now. And hell, she’s only 29. Live it up baby!

Rosemarie DeWitt is an actress I haven’t seen much of in anything really, but she gives off an amazing performance here as Hannah that makes me want to see more. Hannah is a character that’s very hard to read at first, but after awhile, you start to see a very sad and lonely person come out of there and even though she, out of everybody else, does the meanest things, you still feel for her because of what she’s been through with all of life and love. DeWitt is definitely not the most likable character out of the bunch, but she’s one that you can feel for even when she is doing some nasty things. I also loved the little sister-sister relationship her and Blunt had going on here and it made me feel like they actually were sisters. And come to think of it, they actually sort of look alike.

The one who really surprised the hell out of me with his performance was Mark Duplass as Jack. From the first scene, this guy totally had me won over with his everyday dude look that seemed realistic and had him come off as a guy that is really messed up from the death of his brother, but also doesn’t take himself too seriously. I don’t know what it was about him, whether it was his delivery or great improv skills, but he had me laughing just about the whole way through and it was even in scenes that were fairly serious. Duplass really shines in this movie because he’s able to take this character from scratch, and give him so much depth and emotional honesty, that it made me feel like I could be friends with this dude and stick by him whenever he needed a friend. Like DeWitt, I haven’t seen this guy in much, but I think now I’ll start to look out for him more.

If there was one complaint I had with this flick, and trust me, it’s a biggy, it’s that I couldn’t really buy “the first ending”. When I mean “the first ending”, I don’t mean that this is like Lord of the Rings or something where Peter Jackson can’t make up his mind on how to end, so he gives us about 30 minutes of extra-footage. No, what I really mean is that the resolution to all of these problems these people have with each other, plays out in a very unbelievable way and I tell you why. By the end of this flick, these characters go through so much uncomfortable and messed-up situations with one another, that sort of feels phony in a way, when it gets resolved at the end. The way that Shelton has it all resolve was a good trick she pulls off very well, but it happened a little neatly and too clean, whereas I think some people wouldn’t let it be resolved exactly like that. I know I sound very vague, but that’s because I don’t want to really spoil the actual ending, even though I did like the final shot of this movie.

Consensus: Your Sister’s Sister may be a tad disappointing by the end, but still features a trio of performances that feel natural and realistic, a script (or lack thereof) that sounds like real people, actually having real conversations with one another, and when the film is all said and done, you feel like you know these people from the inside and out, and you can only wish them happiness for the rest of their lives.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

I hope my wedding is as bangin’ as this one.

Longstanding family conflicts resurface when drama queen Kym (Anne Hathaway,), a former model who’s been in and out of rehab for 10 years, returns to her parents’ home just before her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding.

Jonathan Demme is known for directing big-budget films like Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and of course, the disappointing, Truth About Charlie. But with this he goes the indie-role, stripping-down all the big cameras, lights, and set pieces, and shows us a true, and realistic look, at a family, with more skeletons in the closet, then they can choose.

The best thing about this film is that you do feel like you’re there as this whole wedding weekend is going on. The constantly annoying toasts, seating arrangements, family fights, and most of all, the wedding itself, all feel real, and your actually taken on for the ride. It’s got a very close documentary feel, and the camera follows along, as you watch with shock as the story follows on too.

You can have so much style, and no substance, but that is not the case with this film. The writing is superb showing us the real problems, real families go through, and how other people try to cope with one member, constantly messing everything up. There are plenty of scenes that make you feel uncomfortable, but that’s just how life is, especially with your family, and it’s all too real.

The only problem I had with this film was the final act, which I thought could have done so much better, with showing more emotion, and more connection to the audience. I wish there were more scenes that conveyed as strong of emotion, as I thought it would have, but I guess what I got was good enough.

Anne Hathaway takes control in this film, and it’s just a perfect performance from her. I must say, it was pretty strange seeing her play somebody different, but Kym, herself, is strange, and by the end, Hathaway fully embodies Kym, and it’s just great to see. The rest of the cast is kind of little names that you may have heard of like: Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, and Debra Winger. They are all great and I can’t lie, but they each all surprised me with how much emotion they actually showed in this film. Oh, and must I not forget we have Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, he does good here too.

Consensus: With enough bite, and enough realism to keep you engaged, Demme’s stylistic Rachel Getting Married, succeeds in conveying heavy emotions, as well as providing powerful, and strong performances from the cast.

8/10=Matinee!!

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