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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Tilda Swinton

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This type of nonsense would never occur at a Motel 6! That’s for certain!

In 1968, a writer (Jude Law), staying at a beaten-up, run-down hotel called “the Grand Budapest Hotel” meets millionaire Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who apparently has a lot to do with the history of this hotel – the same type of history not many people actually know the exact story to. Together, the two decide to meet-up, have dinner and allow for Moustafa to tell his story and why he is the way he is nowadays. The story goes a little something like this: Back in 1932, young Zero (Tony Revolori) was hired as a Lobby Boy at the hotel, where he eventually became concierge Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) second-hand-in-command. Gustave, for lack of a better term, is Zero’s role-model and he’s a pretty darn good one at that: Not only does he treat his guests with love, affection and respect, but he even gives them a little “something” more in private. And apparently, he treats one guest of his, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), so well, that he’s apparently the owner of one of her prized-possessions, the same prized possession that her bratty son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) won’t let him have. But you can’t tell Gustave “no”, when he knows what is rightfully his, so therefore, he takes it, which leads onto all sorts of other crazy, wacky and sometimes deadly, hijinx.

So yeah, for the past week, I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with all of these Wes Anderson movies, and if there is one thing that I myself (as well as most of you) have learned about, is that I really do love his movies. I mean, yeah, I knew Wes Anderson has always been a favorite of mine, but what really surprised me with this past week is that not only have I been watching and taking note of how his style changes over time (or in some cases, doesn’t), but also, how he’s grown as a film maker and decided to get a whole lot more ambitious.

Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

Okay, but on a serious note: Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

And I don’t mean “ambitious” in the form that his movies are a whole lot bigger or more ensemble-driven, but more that they tackle on so many different-threads of meaning, rather than just being all about family-issues amongst a group of dysfunctional, troubled-characters. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love those said “family-issues”, but even I know when it’s time to move on, start trying something new and most of all, stretching yourself as a writer, director and overall creator.

Thankfully, not just for me, or you, or even Wes Anderson, but for all of us: Wes has finally shown us that he’s ready to take a swan-dive out of his comfort-zone and shock us with something that he’s almost never done before.

Key word being “almost”. More on that later, though.

First things first, I feel as if I am going to talk about any notable, positive aspect of this movie, it’s going to be the overall-style. Now, I think we’ve all known Anderson to be a bit of an eye-catcher with the way he has his flicks so colorful and bright, that you almost practically go blind because of them; but this, he truly has out-done himself. Since most of where this story takes place is made-up inside that creative little noggin of his, Anderson is practically given free-reign to just ran rampant with his imagination, where every set looks as if it was taken-out of an historic, field-trip brochure, dibbled and dabbled with some pretty colors, and thrown right behind everything that happens here. In some cases, that would usually take away from a film and be just another case of a director getting too “artsy fartsy”, but due to how crazy and rumpus most of this story is, it actually helps blend these characters in to their surroundings, as well as make this world we are watching seem like a believable one, even if they are so clearly made-up.

Which is why this is probably Anderson’s most exciting movie to-date. Of course though, Anderson’s other movies like Rushmore and even Bottle Rocket had an hectic-feel to them, but they were done so in a type of small, contained and dramatic-way – here, the movie is all about the vast, never ending canvas surrounding each and every one of these characters, and just how far it can be stretched-out for. So while those other movies of Anderson’s may have had a sense of adventure where a character would want to get out of the house, only to go running around in the streets, here, you have a bunch of characters who not only want to get out of their household, or wherever the hell they may be staying at, and get out there in the world where anything is possible. They could either go running, jogging, skiing, sight-seeing, train-riding, bicycle-hopping, parachuting, and etc. Anywhere they want to go, by any mode of transportation whatsoever, they are able to and it gives us this idea that we are not only inside the mind of Anderson and all of his play-things, but we are also stuck inside of his world, where joy and happiness is all around.

Though, there definitely are some dark elements to this story that do show up, in some awkward ways as well, the story never feels like it is too heavy on one aspect that could bring the whole movie crashing down. Instead, Anderson whisks, speeds through and jumps by everything, giving us the feeling that this is a ride that’s never going to end, nor do we want to end; we’re just too busy and pleased to be enjoying the scenery, as well as all of the fine, and nifty characters that happen to go along with it.

And with this ensemble, you couldn’t ask for anybody better! Ralph Fiennes isn’t just an interesting choice for the character of Gustave, but he’s also an interesting choice to play the lead in a Wes Anderson movie. We all know and love Fiennes for being able to class it up in anywhere he shows his charmingly handsome face, but the verdict is still out there on the guy as to whether or not he can actually be, well, “funny”. Sure, the dude was downright hilarious in In Bruges, but being that he had a dynamite-script to work with and was one out of three other main-characters, did the dude have much of a choice? Not really, but that’s besides the point!

What is the point, is that I was a little weary of Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie, where most of the time, comedy and drama go side-by-side and would need all of the best talents to make that mixture look and feel cohesive. Thankfully, Fiennes not only proves that he’s able to make any kind of silly-dialogue the least bit “respectable”, but that he’s also able to switch his comedy-timing on and off, giving us a character we not only love and adore every time he’s up on the screen, but wish we saw more of. Because, without giving too much away, there are brief snippets of time where we don’t get to always be in the company of Gustave, and when those passages in time happen, they do take away from the movie.

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump'll do!

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump’ll do!

It isn’t that nobody else in this movie is capable enough of handling the screen all to themselves, but it’s so clear, early on, that Anderson clearly beholds this character as much as we do, and we can’t help but follow suit and wish to see him all of the time. Most of that’s because of Anderson’s witty and snappy dialogue that’s given to Fiennes to work with, but most of that is also because Fiennes is such a charismatic-presence that the fact of him actually making me, or anybody laugh, is enough to make you want to see a biopic made about him, and him alone.

But, like I was saying before, the rest of the ensemble is fine, it’s just that Fiennes was clearly meant to be the star of the show and plays it as such. Newcomer Tony Revolori feels like a perfect-fit for Anderson’s deadpan, sometimes outrageous brand of humor that’s practically winking at itself. What’s also worth praising a hell of a whole lot about Revolori is how he more than holds his own when he’s stacked-up against certain presences that aren’t just Fiennes (although the two make for a wonderful duo that they are another reason why it sucks whenever Gustave isn’t around). All of these other familiar faces that pop-up like Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, and Saoirse Ronan, and even Jeff fuckin’ Goldblum are all great, but surprisingly, Revolori doesn’t get over-shadowed and keeps the heart and soul of the story clearly alongside with him, as it was intended to be. And yes, even though that heart may not be the most richest, most powerfully emotional we’ve ever seen Anderson bring to the screen before, it’s still the same kind of heart that has go along with Anderson on any ride he takes us, all because we know that, at the end, it’s all going to be totally worth it.

That, and also, that we’ll have something new to recommend to our white friends.

Consensus: The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely Wes Anderson’s most ambitious work to-date, meaning that we get plenty of laughs, jumps, thrills, some chills, heart and enough familiar, talented-faces working with some wacky, but fun material from one of our finest writers/directors working today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

All in the 'stache, ladies. All in the 'stache.

All in the ‘stache, ladies. All in the ‘stache.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Constantine (2005)

Cigarettes are the devil.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift that gave him the ability to recognise the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage. It’s not something he wanted, but it was the hand he was dealt, so there’s not much else he can do with it other than drive the demons off of this Earth from hurting humans, and just smoke his life away. He seems pretty content on spending the rest of his days like this, that is all until police detective Angela Dodson’s (Rachel Weisz) twin-sister jumps off of a balcony, plummeting to her death. However, right before she decided to go sidewalk-diving, she apparently turned to the security-camera watching her uttering his name. Dodson knows that there’s something more powerful going on here than just a sudden burst of suicidal thoughts, so she decides to ring Constantine up, despite his best wishes to, once again, be left alone to smoke and fight evil for the rest of his days. But now, Constantine realizes there may be a way to save Dodson’s sister’s life, even if that does mean putting himself clearly in harms way.

A lot of people have made a stink about this movie and the choice in which Keanu Reeves was to play the titular character of the famous comics, John Constantine. While I have never read the comics, meaning I don’t have much of an opinion as if he perfectly solidifies this character or not, it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor. That’s the reality of it, but we should all just get by that right now and move on. Shall we?

Hey, at least she didn't leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Hey, at least she didn’t leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Anyway, what this movie does do well is that it sets its story up with a unique tone. Seeing this movie and material from afar, some would probably bet this to be an overly-serious, religious-themed thriller that’s all about demons, gods, angels and all sorts of other biblical references to where you feel like you’re back in Sunday School, but the movie has a little bit of fun with itself, right before it dives right into that cheesiness. Constantine’s played-up more as an anti-hero that always has something nifty to say, has his pack of smokes handy and basically knows what it is that he has to do next, at any given time. The movie sets us up with this cool-as-molasses character right away, gives us a tone that’s at times goofy, but darkly so, and has us feel like if the rest of the movie continues on like this, we may just have ourselves a clear-defined winner of religious-themed, action-thrillers, among the other religious-themed, action-thrillers (of which there are many, I think).

However, about half-way through, once the real bulk of this story gets introduced to us, things begin to slowly go downhill. For starters, the movie is over two-hours long, which already gives you the impression that no matter what it is that this flick does with its story, it must do it quick and easy, just so it doesn’t feel like a three-hour epic along the likes of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (and yes, I know those two are way, WAY longer than just “two-hours”). But needless to say, despite him having a clear-eye for what it is that he wants to tell us about this story and this main character, director Francis Lawrence still can’t seem to get himself away from all of the constant-exposition that usually brings these types of movies to a screeching-halt.

With a story of this matter, it’s not like you don’t need to know the ins, the outs and whereabouts of when Satan was born, how, where and why he matters now, it’s just that there is a more efficient way to tell that, among many other parts of the story, without having it seem like a total snooze-fest that’s so repetitive, you don’t even care if it makes sense or not. Instead, you just want to see this Constantine guy put his feet into water, grab a cat, start meditating and all of a sudden, be thrown into this dark after-world, where all he does is battle demons. Yes, that scene does happen and it’s pretty cool, but it’s in the middle of non-stop dialogue-heavy scenes where people just use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that can easily get passed off as “religious”.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, I say!

As we all know though, once the middle-half of a movie goes by and we feel as if we’ve been more-than introduced to this story and the characters that inhabit it, then things begin to get fun, and that’s the truth with this flick. While it does get really goofy and cheesy by the end with all of the CGI, the movie still kept me entertained and feeling as if I was just watching a piece of science-fiction, rather than something that was supposed to have a deeper-meaning because it used biblical-figures like Gabriel or Lucifer himself (perfectly given the nickname of “Lou”; whatta cool guy). Some may be enraged by me saying something like that, but it helped me get through the movie a lot easier. So crucify me if you must, but I was just trying to make the pill go down easier.

"Did I hear somebody talking about 'a machinehead'?"

“Did I hear somebody talking about ‘a machinehead’?”

And yes, I did use a “pill joke” there because Keanu stars in this and yes, he is like I said before: Stiff, tired and dull, but he’s still fun to watch. He makes Constantine the type of witty bad-ass a movie of this nature needs to move along and survive by, and without him, I don’t really know who else I could see doing it. Maybe if I read the comics I would know, but for right now, it seems like Neo was a pretty solid choice in the first place. Rachel Weisz, despite her credible acting-abilities, is sort of left without much to do other than work-off of the blank piece-of-paper that is Keanu Reeves’ screen-presence, but she makes it interesting enough, to say the least. Still though, this would be released in the same year that she won her Oscar, so I guess all was forgiven after awhile.

As okay as these two are in the lead roles, they’re sort of given the standard-roles where all they have to do is all act all plain and simple, amongst all of their crazy, bat-shit surroundings, which doesn’t just limit itself to the atmosphere and the story, but the fun and energetic supporting cast as well. Shia LaBeouf gets his first, real taste in mainstream cinema as Constantine’s lacky and shows that he has the ability to be charming and a bit annoying at the same time, but rightfully so; Djimon Hounsou plays a strange, voodoo-like conjurer called Papa Midnite, who doesn’t take sides between the angels and the demons, yet, sees himself leaning more towards the demons, just because the plot needs him to do so; Gavin Rossdale is charming as the cunning Balthazar, showing us that in the year 2005, he was still staying relevant by doing this and Gwen Stefani at the same time (bastard); Tilda Swinton shows up early on as the angel Gabriel, and isn’t heard from in quite awhile, until she shows up later and does what she does best; and Peter Stormare plays the infamous Lou, giving him all the likable, but evil charm we’d expect to see when Peter Stormare is playing the man also known as Satan himself. If that isn’t what the devil’s really like, then I have no clue what a better personification truly is!

Consensus: Juggles itself around with being overtly-serious at certain times, and campy-but-fun at others, but at the end of the day, Constantine is just a fun, cool-looking and feeling religious-themed action-thriller that somehow benefits from the deadly-charm of Keanu Reeves and the rest of his able cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

“WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.

Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.

The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.

There's Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

There’s Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.

It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!

Somehow, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

In a way, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.

What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!

You'd still take him to bed. Don't even bother fibbing.

You’d still take him to bed. Don’t even bother fibbing.

Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.

Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.

Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson’s mind is finally a fun place to be at again.

Moonrise Kingdom centers on two 12 year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who fall in love and decide run away together into the wilderness. Naturally, the local community frantically scrambles to find them before a violent storm hits shore.

For awhile now, it seems like Wes Anderson has really started losing any credit he’s ever gotten since his debut, Bottle Rocket. Mainly, the reason for that is because his style is just overly-quirky, to the point of where you don’t feel like you’re actually watching real-life human beings, you’re just watching a bunch of twee characters made from Anderson’s sketches. However, that all changes here but at the same time, doesn’t change all that much. Which is very strange considering it’s probably my favorite from him since The Royal Tenenbaums.

This is probably Anderson’s best-looking flick he has ever done but it’s also with the same style he’s been using for his whole career, it’s just that it works so well with the story. All of the trademarks from Anderson’s direction are here in this flick, but the difference here that sets it apart from all of his other, beautiful-looking movies is that this one is set in the 60′s. The bright colors, sets, costumes, and camera-tricks that Anderson pulls out of his pocket all work rather than just seeming like another hipster attempt at being “cool” because of how he sets it in the 60′s. 60′s was a time for fun, relaxing, and being yourself and Anderson totally taps into that mind-set with just how gorgeous he makes this film look and even if you don’t like Anderson films (and trust me, there are plenty out there who absolutely despise the hell out of him), you can still sit there and just gaze at the beautiful portrait Anderson has on-display here.

Anderson always has beautiful films, no surprise there, but what makes this one so different is that he has a great script to give us something else to sink our teeth into. Anderson has a very dead-pan way of comedic timing but it’s put to great use here just because the film is so damn funny. As usual, you have to look out for little sight gags here and there but it’s the fact that this film continues to get more and more goofy as it goes on, that makes you feel like you’re having the time of your life. There’s a certain unabashed “fun” feel to this film that had me entertained so much but it’s more about how the story made me feel, rather than what it made me do.

This is probably Anderson’s most innocent piece of work to date, and with good reason because when you have a story about two runaway, little kids being together and falling in love, how can you not get a little cutesy? There are so many moments here that are so pleasant to watch because you really feel something for these two kids whenever they are together, and you want them to be happy, you want them to never grow-up and be old, angry people like Suzy’s parents, and you just want them to live their lives together, forever. I know it all sounds uber cheesy and lame, but this story really bring you into to its sweetness and Anderson takes full advantage of that showing us that the outside world for these two, is just not a fun or happy place to be, especially together. It was a story that actually reminded me a lot of my little crushes I had on some chickity-doo-da’s when I was little tike and made me feel young again, just watching how happy they were being able to connect to somebody in their lives. It’s some great stuff to see up on-screen and it’s a real surprise that Wes Anderson almost had me close to tears by the end of it all. “Close to tears” is what I said, people! Don’t worry, he didn’t get me just yet.

The reason why you love these kids together so much, is because the performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so damn good that I was even surprised to hear that this was their first film-roles ever. Gilman has this nerdy, but endearing look to him that makes him easy to like especially when he starts acting all cool and tough, while he’s trying to protect his “girl” from the cruel outside world. While Hayward is absolutely great as this somewhat disturbed girl, that seems like she would most likely be one of those emo freaks, had she been born 30 years later. They both seem so natural with each other, which really shocked me because they have to do some pretty “intimate things” together that would more than likely have some kids turn their heads and go, “ewwww coootieeeeesss!!”. However, that’s not either of these kids and they’re definitely a perfect fit for one another and I hope that they both get some real, bright futures for themselves because I think they deserve it with the work they put out here.

They’re the real stars of this flick, but everybody else is pretty damn good, too. Bill Murray is great as the dead-pan, always sad daddy of Suzy; Frances McDormand is fun to watch as the very messed-up mom of Suzie (also, Hayward looked a little bit like a younger version of McDormand, just a little bit though); Edward Norton is a whole lot of fun as the cheesy Scout Master Ward, and totally had me by surprise by how spot-on his comedic timing was considering this was the guy who got nominated for an Oscar where he actually curb stomped some dude (doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have me really laughing at all); Tilda Swinton is evil and bitchy as Social Services, then again, what other kind of character would she play; and Jason Schwartzman also pops-up for about 5 minutes as Cousin Ben, but is still a lot of fun.

Actually, the most surprising piece of good work here was probably done by Bruce Willis as the sad and lonely guy that searches all over for these kids, Captain Sharp. Willis has been so many damn action roles as of late that so many people almost forget about how great of a “dramatic” actor this guy can be at times and he totally surprised me with the depth he was able to go through with this sad-sack of a character. He’s not really all that tough, he’s not really all that happy, and he’s really not at all like John McClane in the least bit. All of which, are a great thing and I hope this shows that Willis has more to him than just shouting out “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!”.

If there was one complaint I had to throw out from this whole movie it would have to be Bob Balaban as the narrator. The guy opens up the film and is a funny joke, but every time he comes on, for some reason just bothered the hell out of me and it seemed like it was a joke that went on too long. Not a huge problem by any means, but any time the guy showed up, I seemed to have gotten more annoyed.

Consensus: Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s welcome back to being a top-notch writer/director, and with good reason. The ensemble all bring out great work, including the little kiddie leads, the writing is hilarious in its subtle, dead-pan way, and the story itself will drag you in with its sweet innocence. Classic Anderson and I hope he’s back to stay for good.

9/10=Full Price!!

Michael Clayton (2007)

It’s like the ‘Bourne’ trilogy, but with a lot more talking and yelling.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house “fixer” at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. At U/North, the career of litigator Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit that Clayton’s firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. But when Kenner Bach’s brilliant and guilt-ridden attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) sabotages the U/North case, Clayton faces the biggest challenge of his career and his life.

Writer/director Tony Gilroy is a dude mostly known for writing all of the ‘Bourne’ flicks and instead of going with the fast action, chases, and cool stunts, he actually aims for talking to take place. Which surprisingly works wonders.

The one thing that Gilroy does perfectly with this flick is give us a good premise that keeps on getting better and better as the all of the details start to show up, as well as more and more layers begin to peel. There’s a lot of info and details being thrown at us but it’s not too much to the point of where we don’t know what’s happening. Gilroy actually allows us to take in all of what we know about this story/case/mystery and he continues to reward us as each and every plot twist comes out. The script is very good and even as much as talking as there is in this flick, it’s not boring by any means so for anyone going in expecting a Jason Bourne-like flick, won’t be terribly disappointed. Gilroy knows how to create tension just by having people revealing things and the tension just keeps on going and going and going, until eventually the credits pop-up and he releases you.

The film also does another great job with its script by being very subtle about everything. Right at the beginning of the flick we are just sort of popped right into the middle of this story and we don’t really know why or how these different stories and characters connect in anyway, but through the conversations we start to understand but it’s not as obvious. There’s also never a moment in this flick that seemed too melodramatic or corny for my sake because Gilroy makes it all feel real with these people explaining themselves through not only words, but actions as well. Yes, I know these people aren’t real but the film still made it seem so with everything that they do here.

My problem with this flick is that even the realism can be a down-side of the film as well, especially when it starts to dive into darker territory. One of the things I couldn’t believe in this flick was that it seems a little hard for a company to actually be able to tap somebody’s phone without anyone ever knowing, but it’s almost even harder to believe the fact that they could get away with murder successfully for such a long period of time. I will not say or state what actually happens in this flick that made me think this but it was a little too hard to believe at first and it’s kind of a shame that the flick revolves around it a lot.

Like most thrillers though, the flick also pays more attention to its plot and what its characters are doing, rather than what they feel and this was also what set me back a bit. I wasn’t looking for any real emotional connection with these characters to the point of where I could call them an inspiration but the film, except for the titled hero, never really allows us in the minds of the other characters. Since there is a lot of subtlety, we rarely get a full understanding of what these characters are feeling and even though it didn’t take me out of the film completley, it still set me back once I realized that there was a bit of emptiness to its emotional impact.

I think one of the main reasons to see this flick is mainly for the performances from everybody involved, especially George Clooney as Michael Clayton. Clayton is an ambiguous hero-like character that seems like one of those messed up and strained dudes that just want a break from all of the havoc that they have had in their lives, which is what actually allows us to watch him and cheer him on for the whole 2 hours of this flick. Clooney is great with this role here because he combines some great elements of self-loathing as well as being exhausted with determination and that look and attitude that he’s always one step ahead of the person he’s against. It’s nothing terribly new for Clooney, as usual, but it’s always great to see him in top-form no matter what it may be and he definitely makes it a whole lot easier to actually feel something for this guy Michael Clayton.

Clayton’s opponent is named Karen Crowder, who is played very well by Tilda Swinton as well. I’ve already stated that I haven’t been the biggest fan of her but she’s pretty good here in a villain role that isn’t the type of villainous role you would expect. She’s self-conscious, scared, and one of those hard-workers that do terribly bad things in order to cover their own asses. Swinton isn’t exactly the ideal villain for a flick like this where you would expect her going around shooting people left-and-right, but she’s very good at playing a role that asks a lot more strength and emotion from her and it worked not just for me, but also for the Academy as well because she ended up winning the film’s only Oscar.

Tom Wilkinson is also another great performance in this flick as he is basically hooting, hollering, and running all-over-the-place throughout the whole flick but he’s still very good and adds a lot more to the character he’s playing as well as the story. We rarely get to see Wilkinson in such a role that allows him to just be a loose cannon and it was pretty cool to see him actually pull that off and seem very believable rather than just seeming like he’s over-acting. Sydney Pollack is also great in this role as Clayton’s senior partner, Marty Bach, and he’s always good in everything he does so no change there either.

Consensus: Although it hits some problems with its emotional impact, Michael Clayton still features amazing performances from the whole cast, an tense direction from Tony Gilroy, and a story that gets better and better as it goes along and more mysteries are revealed.

8/10=Matinee!!

Broken Flowers (2005)

Come on Bill, cheer up. You’ll get that Oscar someday.

Don Johnston (with a T), played by Bill Murray, is a retired bachelor who finds a pink letter from an anonymous women saying that he has a son who is on the look-out for him. Don’s neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), somehow is able to get him to go out on the road and visit his past lady-friends and see who is his babies mama, and who isn’t.

Writer/director Jim Jarmusch has never been a guy I could fully get into as a filmmaker because too many of his films are just weird to be weird. However, this one is different from all of his others that I’ve seen and that’s a very good thing, especially when you have the effin’ man starring in your flick as well.

The film started off terribly slow with Julie Delpy just straight-up giving the low-down on why she is done with Don and it kind of lags for awhile after that as well which kind of bothered me. I wanted to know exactly where this film was trying to go and it seemed like Jarmusch just wanted to show all of these shots of Don being sad, bored, sleepy, and listening to some classical music all by himself in a very-dark room. The slowness in the beginning had me a little bit worried as to where this was going to go but then it started to finally pick up as soon as the story started to pick up.

I don’t know if anybody knows this by now but I have a total sweet-spot for road films. I don’t know what it is about them that just make me feel as if I’m on some sort of adventure with the character through everything and everywhere. The film started to pick up as soon as it started focusing on Don’s trip and then we started to see how Don inter-acted with all of his ex’s who, some changed, some haven’t. The writing is good because there are a lot of funny moments that are more dry than I expected and when it wants to focus on the total awkwardness that these meetings sometimes hold, really worked out perfectly.

My main problem with this film is that I wish the damn people would talk. Don is ultimately a very sad, slow, and quiet guy that doesn’t know what to talk to these chicks about other than try and snooze in the questions about whether or not they have kids, a type-writer, or pink paper. After awhile, the silence started to bother me because I know a lot of this material could have went a very long way given if the script wasn’t all about silences and awkward pauses in between conversations.

There were moments where I fell like this film hit the right note on being insightful. The film shows these women remembering him, and himself remembering them and there is always this slight thought going through both of their minds as to whether or not things could have been different given that they have stayed together. However, the contrived moments took away from this, as well as Jarmusch’s own weird way of putting his stamp on everything.

An example of Jarmusch just being weird to mess around with this story is when Don goes to his first house and a the daughter of the chick named Lolita lets him in to just chill. A couple of minutes later she comes right out to see him and is wearing absolutely nothing! Hey, I’m not complaining that I got to see Alexis Dziena nakey-wakey but to me, it just seemed way too weird to have in a film that seemed to really base itself on the real events that would happen with something like this. There were many more moments like this (well, not quite like this) but this was the one I kept coming back to.

Since Don Johnston is a very sad dude, the film relies solely on Bill Murray to play it subtle, which is something he can do perfectly. There is a lot of silence and pauses in this film, so that sort of takes away his way of improvising to the situations around him but it also gives him the perfect opportunity to create a very minimalistic character that I could still root for the whole film even though he didn’t have much to say. His character arc is pretty strong considering we don’t know much about this guy, but I felt like i really wanted to just because Murray can create so many emotions with just one look on his face. You can tell when he’s happy, sad, or just plain and simply hangin’ out being Bill Murray.

Jeffrey Wright almost takes the show away from Murray as his fun-loving neighbor, Winston. Wright is the total opposite to Johnston which makes him the best character in the whole flick. His performance is obviously a lot of fun and he brings a lot of life to the flick whenever he’s on-screen or talking on the phone to Johnston. It blows that he wasn’t in the flick some more because whenever he was gone, you could really feel the energy sort of come and go. All of Don’s ex-girlyfriends are all played perfectly by older actresses that somehow find a way to make every performance different for all of their slightly different female characters that show a lot of Don’s life somehow.

Consensus: Sometimes I felt like Jim Jarmusch just wanted to be weird for the hell of it, which sort of takes away from Broken Flowers, but Bill Murray’s subtle and understated performance breathes life into this main character and gives us an insightful, sometimes funny, and sometimes dramatic original story.

7/10=Rental!!

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Kevin is the new Damien.

Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a mother who puts her ambitions and career aside when she gives birth to Kevin. The relationship between mother and son is difficult from the very first years. But when Kevin is fifteen, he does something truly evil and unforgivable and Eva must grapple with her own feelings of grief and responsibility. Did she ever love her son? And how much of what Kevin did was her fault?

All mothers are expected to love their sons no matter who or what they are. Whether they are sociopaths, killers, murders, satanists, the son of Sam, etc. it doesn’t matter because the mommy should always be there for her son, but how far is too far?

Director Lynne Ramsay hasn’t had a film in over nine years and she shows no signs of rust at all with this flick because right from the beginning shot of Eva covered in tomato sauce, I was hooked for the whole next hour and 52 minutes. Ramsay approaches this film with a non-linear narrative that bounces between Eva’s current life living all by herself after something horrible happened to her, then goes back in time to the time when Eva first met her husband leading up to them having their son Kevin. This at first, seemed a little confusing but after awhile it started to grow on me and I guess it did on Ramsay too considering I could tell exactly what time period we were actually in.

There have been so many movies that all talk about the “evil child” (‘Orphan’, ‘The Omen’, ‘The Bad Seed’) but somehow Ramsay makes it all different with her use of style that just had me creeped out the whole time. There are these dark and light colors in this film that will pop-up and seem absolutely terrifying because it’s almost as if she makes it all jump out at the audience. There are also plenty of other sequences that this film had that freaked me out with many of Ramsay’s stylized scenes seeming as if we were going inside the mind of Eva’s head and seeing practically everything that she sees.

And let me just tell you, the things that she sees this little bastard Kevin do, is down-right disturbing. This kid tortures the hell out of her from deliberate things like not saying her name, crapping his pants, making fun of her when she talks, shutting down any time she tries to be sensitive, putting her husband against her, and so many more outrageous and truly shocking things. It’s terrible to sit back and just watch somebody get completely torn up by their own son because the mom always comes back for more love, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of anything that happened here at all. It’s painful to just watch everything happen, but I just did not want to stop watching and I didn’t even know what Eva could have done in any of these situations.

Ramsay makes the right decision in making this seem more like a dramatic horror flick that is set in reality and shows us something that could happen to any of us, without us ever being able to do anything about it. The shit Kevin does, says, and even contemplates, is something that will stick in my mind for awhile now but most of all is the fact that there are kids like there out this and it’s hard to ever ignore them and get them out of your mind. There are some discussions about the idea of nurture vs. nature and who is to blame for a kids evil-doings but in reality, these ideas sort of left my mind as soon as I started thinking about all of the “Kevins” that I may possibly know and just how truly scary they could be to the ones who love them the most.

My problems lies within the later parts of Eva’s life where I feel like we are watching here just try to get on with her life, which seemed realistic, however, there were times where I couldn’t quite believe it all. I don’t know want to give away the very very very bad thing that happens to Eva but she decides to keep on seeing Kevin, even though she has nothing to do with him anymore and doesn’t need him in her life at all. I understand the whole fact that a mother should always love her child, but there is to a certain extent to where I would drop that little shit-head off at the loony bin and run away as far away as I can. The fact that she still is there for moral support bothered me and kind of made me feel like there is only so much that one person could go through, but then again, maybe I’m just a vicious bastard who shouldn’t have kids.

Another problem I had with this film was the performance and character that John C. Reilly plays. Reilly plays Eva’s husband, Franklin, and the guy is never around. He does some job that we never find out exactly what it is and whenever he is around, he just hangs out with Kevin because as soon as he comes home, Kevin is all of a sudden all cute and cuddly. The reason I didn’t like Franklin all that much is because when Eva starts to tell him about the problems she is having with Kevin, he doesn’t really even do anything about it instead of just saying that he’s a kid. When the second child is born, Kevin practically throws water in the babies face, and Franklin just pulls him over and takes him somewhere, without any discipline whatsoever.

It’s also pretty obvious that Eva is very depressed, disturbed, and just filled with all of these negative feelings because of Kevin but Franklin never seems to address them or ask what’s wrong. Instead, he just humps her one night and gets her pregnant once again, as if that was going to solve any of the problems she was having before. Hey, the first kid is sociopath, let’s try to see if we can get another and really eff things up. Reilly really does try in this role but Franklin is barely ever in it and whenever he is, he just bothered me as a total dumb-ass of a dude and a husband. It’s a shame because it almost feels like this role could have been played by any actor, and it would not have made any type of difference.

A performance and character that isn’t as bad as Franklin is Tilda Swinton who plays Eva. Swinton is one of those actresses who is always strong in everything she does but sometimes never gets fully up there as a great actress. As Eva, Swinton portrays a lot of emotions because she goes through so many unthinkable things that are not just with Kev, but everybody else around her when the bad event occurs. You can tell this chick is really suffering and trying her hardest to be a good mommy and not ruin things with her son, but she just never can fully win over Kev and it’s really hard to watch mainly because Swinton plays Eva, as if she was a real chick. It’s really hard to empathize with her but her character is strong and goes through a lot of shit throughout the whole film, something that Swinton makes believable.

Ezra Miller is also a real “treat” here as Kevin because this kid is just downright evil. Miller is dark and disturbing as Kevin because everything he does, he never has any good intent for it and just by watching this kid with that little evil and creepy grin he has on his face the whole time, is just something that will stay in my mind for awhile. Miller is able to take what would ordinarily be a very cliched performance as “the evil kid” but his latter scenes with Swinton, where he proves to be nothing other than equal to her, are played out with a perfect tone and way of using his grimness but also smarty-smarts to his favor as well. Kevin is definitely not a name you want to name your next kid, boy or girl.

Consensus: Director Lynne Ramsay combines elements of horror and drama to show a disturbing tale, with perfect performances from Miller and Swinton, and also making it impossible for anybody to turn their eyes away from.

8.5/10=Full Price!!

Vanilla Sky (2001)

I thought Tom Cruise was confused in Eyes Wide Shut, but damn was I wrong!

David Aames (Tom Cruise) has it all: wealth, good looks and a gorgeous woman (Cameron Diaz) on his arm. But just when he’s found true love with warmhearted Sofia (Penélope Cruz), his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and he loses everything … or does he?

Vanilla Sky is directed by Cameron Crowe, and this is a remake of a Spanish film called Open Your Eyes. Once again, an American director is remaking a foreign classic, however, this is not so bad compared to others of that demographic.

I think my favorite element of this film is Crowe’s direction. It seemed kind of odd having his guy direct this type of material, but he has a bigger budget this time, and he spends it all so dearly. The film starts off all normal, with a sensational shot of a deserted Times Square, but then the car accident happens, and that’s when shit gets out of whack. However, it’s also so well done.

The film gets a lot of ish talked on it because it doesn’t make all that much sense the first time around, but that’s because you won’t be able to get it really the first time around. It’s one of those films that right from the beginning you have to pay close attention to every little detail, because they eventually will come back up later in the film. I also found myself finding a lot of beauty within this film, and some shots are just so perfect the way they look, and gets you this idea that you are in dream-like state of some sort.  There are little clues to the real idea behind this whole story that you kind of have to look at, and at first you’ll be totally confused but if you can look past all the confusion and look at the clues underneath it all, you’ll find a real, brilliant message from the story.

The message is that the world we live in, is it just a dream, and if so how far do our dreams go, until they become nightmares. David Aames is a douche who thinks he’s got it all, but then in a quick second he loses it all, and creates this world of fiction where everything is perfect, and means something. What does reality consist of? This film searches for those answers and although they may not be telling you them right in the open to your face, it’s the idea of looking at everything and thinking is where the real beauty of this film lies.

My only gripe with this film is that I do feel like their are times where the film loses itself. Especially the ending since it kind of gives everything in a way that we aren’t really expecting. I feel like Crowe gives too much of a conclusion to this story and the reason as to what is happening, but somehow you can’t be too sure really. This is a minor complaint, because even though I feel like I have the whole story already thought out, I can’t be too sure honestly.

Tom Cruise does a lot with David Aames here, and it’s not easy stuff to do in the first place. Cruise has to play this narcissistic asshole, that goes through a whole bunch of transformations as he starts to have no idea just exactly what the hell is going on. His character gains a lot of depth, and many of the more emotionally intriguing scenes are from Cruise, and his crazy, balls-to-the-walls performance. Penelope Cruz is very likable here as Sofia, and you can see why Cruise’s character fell in love with her after all. Cameron Diaz is sickly sexual as Julianna, and brings out the films best performance because her character is so disturbing, and crazy that you almost feel like she is a big nightmare. There’s also some nice little side performances from the likes of Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, Timothy Spall, and the always creepy in any film Tilda Swinton.

Consensus: It may be too ambitious at points, but Cameron Crowe’s fearless direction brings out intelligent points about dreams, the life we live, among others, and the performance add more dimensions to this film than you expect.

9/10=Full Price!!

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