About these ads

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Tommy lee Jones

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Surprise! Surprise! The war fucks up young people and their minds.

Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP, finds out that his son has gone AWOL and that there might even be a possibility of him dead. Hank then decides to take it upon himself to drive down to the Army base, and figure out just what the hell has happened to his kid and all of the fellow soldiers that were with him. The problem is, nobody’s giving him straight answers. That’s when Hank asks the help of Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a New Mexico police detective, who finds it harder and harder to not only discover the truth, but be taken seriously among the rest of her fellow, more-masculine detectives.

Most movies that deal with the war, usually aren’t the pretty ones where everybody loves the war, hangs their flags, high-fives their fighting boys, and ends by chanting, “U.S.A!! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”, altogether at once. Nope, Hollywood is a bit too liberal for that crap and instead, decides to usually stick it’s nosy head in, peek around a bit, and have a thing or two to say. And usually, it’s not a pat on the back, or a simple “thank you”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nine times out of ten, you’ll usually find me talking shit against the war, some of the people that take part in it, and just what the hell is the reason behind all of it, but still, Hollywood never seems to have anything nice to say about it at all, and even when they do, it usually turns into over-patriotic shite like this.

Still, though, you have to give credit to movies like these that are able to tell us some obvious and well-known ideas about the war, but still make it feel honest and raw, rather than blatant and preachy. Some of it does feel like that, but not all of it, and that’s a sigh-of-relief, based on the fact that this movie is written and directed by the same dude who gave us this scene. Yeah, if you’re with me on this, Paul Haggis is the notorious writer/director behind Crash, everybody’s favorite-hated Best Picture winner of the past decade and tries to bring that same heavy-handedness to this story. Thankfully he doesn’t get too far because he always has a sense of human depth and emotion that keeps it surprisingly grounded in reality most of the time. Not all of the time, but most and that’s great to see in a flick where it could have easily been a train wreck of non-stop patriotism, from start-to-finish, but ends being something honest.

"Here, take it. It's called "The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker."

“Here, take it. It’s called “The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker.”

But what this flick is more concerned with, is its characters, and showing how they deal with their daily hardships they encounter day to day, and how they get through grief, sadness, and the war our country is currently fighting in. Seeing how most of these characters can relate and act with one anothe, is a beautiful thing to watch because it feels natural. Some scenes are coated in sugar, and some don’t go down quite as well as Haggis may have imagined in his head, but to see these characters realize more about their lives by just relating life-experiences and stories with one another, really touched me in a way that was hard to explain when it happened, and especially after too.

I was actually really surprised how the movie depicted not just the war in Iraq itself, but it’s soldiers and how much we can still trust them with our country and our lives, but may not think the same when they get back. The most prime example of this is the fact that Hank’s son isn’t really a nice guy, and in fact, turns out to be more of an asshole as we find more out about him, what he was up to, and how he caught himself going AWOL. This movie could have definitely gone down that wrong path of making him seem like everybody’s, true American hero that fights for The Red, The White, and The Blue, sings John Mellencamp all day, and does it all for our safety, so we may live, breath, sleep, eat, and die in peace, like we were meant to be. If this sound’s lengthy and over-exposed, then you get my point: This flick could have easily gone down that path, but decided to show him as a human, rather than a figure we all like to imagine each and every one of our soldiers as. They all have problems, they all get sad, and most of all, they are pretty fucked-up once they get off the battlefield, and back at the dinner table with ma and pa.

It’s sad, but it’s reality, baby.

However, the movie isn’t focusing on it’s characters, it’s themes, or it’s harsh-realities, it’s focusing on it’s police-procedural that feels more like a cheap-version of NCIS that I didn’t need to be bothered with seeing in the first place. Usually, I don’t mind when movies keep this element in because it entertains, excites, and keeps the mystery afloat, but after awhile, there was no mystery nor was there any case. It came pretty clear to me that the kid was not going to be okay, and that somebody did do something bad to him. No real gray area to be found whatsoever. And before people get on my ass, I’m not trying to give anything away, but you’ll start to see that the movie isn’t trying to reveal more details and clues about what happened, it’s just trying to show it’s characters. We already know, they don’t. And that’s what felt unnecessary and stupid to have, even if it was worth it for the first 45 minutes or so.

Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones was the one to keep this whole movie going and always rose above the material, even when it seemed to sink, lower and lower as it went along. Jones surprised the hell out of everybody when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hank, as it not only came out of nowhere, but little to no one even heard about this movie nor that Jones was even in it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still rarely ever hear this movie mentioned, which is a shame, because Jones’ performance is a great one that could have only came from this man who may always be known to be cranky and quick-whipped, but can play it subtle like nobody’s business. Jones shows real heart and emotion with this character and as time goes on and we see more about his kid, we start to see more him layer-out, especially in ways that I didn’t think were possible from Jones and Haggis. Jones’ character began to bother me a bit when he started to show unbelievable ways in how much smarter he was than the police, but after awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show that Jones was giving me to see. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word to describe this movie or this performance, but I think you get my drift.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She's like barely here.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She’s like barely here.

Charlize Theron doesn’t back down from Jones’ acting either though and actually makes her character more than just another run-of-the-mill, strong female that we need in a flick like this, to show that she can not only hang with the big boys but learn a little something in life as well. Yep, her character is pretty conventional with the whole single-mommy thing, but yet, still works because Theron is not only a strong actress, but one that is able to adapt to any environment she is placed in and that’s a skill that most actresses haven’t been able to master just yet.

Susan Sarandon also got top-billing in this movie, and is pretty solid (as usual) as Hank’s equally-grieving wife, but doesn’t get much screen-time to develop her character. Then again, it’s Susan Sarandon and the girl can act alongside a piece of wood, and make it work. She’s that damn good. Also, James Franco is randomly here trying to look tough, buff, and cool, but seems like he’s really trying to hold in the fact that he just wants to smoke and eat some munchies. It’s so painfully obvious.

Consensus: Paul Haggis isn’t known for being all that subtle when it comes to his themes and messages about life, liberty, and war, but In the Valley of Elah still benefits from a wonderful cast, especially Jones, and characters that give us a darker look at the boys in uniform who are over there, fighting for us, protecting us, and yet, are just as equally as messed-up as we are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sir, yes sir?

Sir, yes sir?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

About these ads

The Missing (2003)

Directed by Ron Howard, or, better known as, “He Who Used To Play Richie Cunningham”.

A mother of two (Cate Blanchett), who works as a “healer” while caring for a farm in the middle of New Mexico, gets her life shaken-up a bit when her oldest daughter is kidnapped by a bunch of ruthless, savage Native Americans. Distraught as hell, she calls on her estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones) to help, even though they don’t get along quite so well. But what does make their advantage seem a little better is that the father is actually part-Native American himself and knows all the ways, code, and language of the Indian ways. Problem is, these Indians he’s dealing with here are bastards, and nothing but.

Sounds like a pretty simple premise, right? Well, add Ron Howard as director to the mix, hot-off the block of his Best Director Oscar for A Beautiful Mind and you think you’d have a keeper, right? Sadly to say: Not at all. That’s a huge, huge problem too, which all stems from the fact that Howard himself indulges way too much into this material. I honestly don’t mind it when a flick is deliberately slow, in order to tell it’s story and set the pace for what’s next to come, but this was just a tad bit ridiculous here. I mean, the actual kidnapping of the gal that goes “missing”, doesn’t even occur until about 30 minutes in and by that time, my ass was already checking out at the door. Then I realized: Shit, I had about 2 more hours left of this crap. That’s when things got bad.

Or should I say, “real bad”.

"Fuck my dad and his long hair."

“Fuck my dad and his much-longer hair!”

I’m all for when a story wants to set up an idea, run around with it, see how long it can milk it for, and eventually build on it by the end, almost to the point of where I feel like it can’t go on any longer or else the whole idea itself is just going to crack. Basically, if that last sentence didn’t make any sense to you; well, good. The idea of a movie is to have an idea that lasts so long throughout a movie that not only do you stop paying attention to it, but you forget that it’s even there in the first place. So many directors are perfect at working with this same attitude in their minds and hearts, that even they too, don’t realize the idea they are coming up with in their head. Where I’m getting at with all of this jibber-joo is that Ron Howard definitely seems to have an idea here, but he doesn’t go anywhere with it at all. Instead, he just continues to hammer it and hammer it down into the ground, almost as if we won’t catch on to the fact that the movie itself is built on nothing else but a repetitive idea that these Indians are bad folks, and should not be messed with.

Some may see this as not your normal Western, mainly because even though the villains are the Indians, the hero itself is also part-Native American, but Howard doesn’t do anything with that aspect of the movie and just keeps it going and going at such a snail’s pace, that I began to lose interest many, many times. Seriously, as I’ve stated before: I don’t mind when a flick wants to set it’s story up for all to get accustom to, but this was just way too little, for way too long of a time-limit. Thankfully, I didn’t see the Extended Cut of this movie that’s apparently out there, but lord knows that if I did, I would have given up and thrown my copy right out the window, as soon as humanly possible.

But some out there may think that I’m being too harsh on a movie because it “has one idea”, “repetitive”, and “slow”, but there’s more to it than just that. Take for instance, the “villains” themselves: the Indians. Not only are the Indians in this flick a bunch of evil, sadistic sons of bitches, but none of them at all seem to have an ounce of humanity or heart within them. I get it, most Indians at and around this time were probably pissed off that they were continuing to get their land taken away from them by the dumb-ass white man, but they’re so detestable here, that it’s almost over-the-top, as if I was watching a bunch of cartoon Indians in a Loony Tunes cartoon. The leader of the pack, El Brujo, is so insane and blood-thirsty, that it was a surprise to me that the dude ever made a business selling these young girls away in the first place, because he always seems like he can’t keep his head on straight, or keep his hands away from his mallet that he so firmly insists on using.

"I'd like to do business with you, and eat your spleen afterwards."

“I’d like to do business with you, and eat your spleen afterwards.”

The whole movie plays out like this and I do have to give Howard some credit for at least not backing-down and making a soft, sensational Western that appealed to all members of the juror. This is a downright bloody, disgusting, and off-putting Western that takes all that you know about good-taste, and shoves it right back in your face, but not without spitting in your general direction either. Never thought I’d say that about a film from Ron Howard’s hands, but I was surprised. However, the gruesome violence doesn’t help the film all that much either, and gives it this odd, uneven tone where one second, somebody will be getting their heart eaten-out, and then the next second, a daddy and a daughter will be reconnecting over lost time. Howard doesn’t really seem to know what sort of movie he’s making here, or what he’s trying to say, so instead decides to have the two sides battle-it-out and see which one can distract the audience more.

Nobody wins, not even the cast in that general aspect either. Tommy Lee Jones probably gets off the easiest as the tough and rugged daddy-figure that’s as mean and cruel as you can get, but yet, also has a bit of a soft, spiritual side to him as well. Jones has this sense of comfort to the way he acts, so it’s not hard to feel safe and in control of the situation whenever he’s around, but that hair. Seriously, what the fuck was up with that!??! Not only does he look like a long, lost hippie that somehow got trapped way before Woodstock (the original, not “RapeStock”) and didn’t no how to get back to the end of the 60’s. He looks goofy, but the film plays it off with such a serious look, it’s almost too hard to even get by when he’s on the screen. Cate Blanchett is okay as his daughter, even if she doesn’t get to do much and is only called on to hold a gun, shoot it, and thrown some dirt and blood on her face for good, old times sake. Must have been fun for them, because it sure as hell wasn’t fun for me.

Consensus: Howard deserves an ounce of credit for giving a disheartening version of the old school Western, but that’s a very small ounce when you take into consideration the uneven tone, the shallowly-written characters, and the fact that nothing happens for the longest time in The Missing, and you’ll be wondering where all of the time you had in your day went.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

"My movie suck. Me sad."

“Tommy hair too long. Tommy sad.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Family (2013)

Cause honestly, who hasn’t wanted to take a bat to the head of some Frenchies?

The Manzoni family were a powerful mob family from the streets of Brooklyn, that is, until the head of the family, Giovanni (Robert De Niro), ratted on some of his fellow mob-buddies. Now, every mob-syndicate within the a hundred-mile radius wants him, as well everybody else in the clan dead. However, they can’t find them because the family’s been shipped off to France, where they hide out under new names, new occupations, and are protected under the Witness Protection program, lead by Tom Quintiliani (Tommy Lee Jones). At first, they are total fish-out-of-water because the French don’t like their American ways and want nothing to do with their non-stop diets of hamburgers and cholesterol, but eventually, through some brute force, everybody eventually lightens-up and welcomes the family in with open arms. Problem is, the family can’t seem to get their stories straight and get caught up in a bit too many lies, making them even closer to being found-out and killed.

In case you peeps haven’t been reading this site over the past two days, I’ve been doing me a little research into the good old days of Luc Besson, and I’ve come to the realization that the guy had a certain flavor that he has yet to taste since the 90’s ended. He’s had some real stinkers in the past, and in the past decade no less, but it seems like all he needed was a way to get back to his roots in order for some sort of comeback, right? Mobsters, violence, and French people are the perfect recipe for that comeback, right?

"Did you just say that my American accent is thick? So help me!!"

“Did you just say that my American accent is thick? So help me!!”

Well, hate to say it, but not at all.

The problem Besson’s material hits early on, and stays that way for quite some time, is that it’s just not funny. Yes, maybe a couple of chuckles here and there at a funny-quip or piece of dialogue that hit only my funny-bone, only, but nothing really spectacular like the trailers seemed to have promised me. And it isn’t that I’m a miserable old-sack of potatoes that needs intellectual humor to really get me laughing and holding my gut, it’s more that I just need something to make me laugh, and this movie did not have that. Besson tries, and he tries, and he tries again to make this material pop and sizzle with all of the comedic-beats still intact, but to no avail.

Which makes it even harder to sit-through when you take into consideration just how much physical, disturbing acts of violence are played-up for laughs here, but just come off as strange. For instance, there’s this whole “running-gag” (I guess) that De Niro’s character has where he can’t stand to be around a person who may condescend to him in the least bit, without at least beating the ever loving shite out of them. He’s a mobster, who has been in the mobster-game for quite some time, so I guess it makes sense. Not funny, but it makes sense. Anyway, most of the scenes that feature him talking to somebody who ticks him off a bit, is later followed by a scene showing the after-math of the violent acts he bestowed onto them, including one memorable act where he drags a dude from the back of his car.  That’s right, he drags a dude, for what seems to be a very long distance, by the tail of his car. The dude’s all bloodied up, and looks as if he’s been through a cheese shredder, but you know, it’s funny, right?

Wrong!

And sadly, that’s how the whole film plays out. Jokes don’t land, and even when they do, they seem to become set-ups for terrible jokes that you didn’t want to see coming, and somehow hit you slap-dab in the face, and it just becomes a sort of disjointed affair. And don’t have me fooled here, I’m not saying you can have a dark comedy where the humor is hilarious, and the violence is gruesome, but there comes a certain line you just don’t cross, and Besson crossed it.

Which, I have to say, is very strange considering that the only REALLY good aspect about this flick that made me WANT to keep my eyes on the screen, was when Besson seemed to throw all of the joking and playfulness aside, and start to go back to his old ways with a gritty, threatening tone that would promise the killings of many, many characters. We’ve seen it in his brightest and best flicks, and it finally showed up here by the end and had me totally amped-up and ready-to-go for something that was considered “vintage-Besson”. However, once the violence actually got going and started to get very gruesome, Besson softened the blow up again, and went back to his goofy ways, making this less of a somewhat brutal thriller, and more of a crowd-pleaser. Boo on that idea, especially because I know Besson is capable of doing so much better when he just takes the gloves off and shows his bloody finger-prints.

She actually has to shop in a super-market now. What a change!

She actually has to shop in a super-market now. What a drastic change!

The same thing could be said for very talented actors like Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, however, it seems like they may have finally given up on doing anything commendable in any way, shape or form. De Niro, as we all know, has moments of pure inspiration, and has his moments of pure insanity, and this falls in somewhere in between. The guy’s charming enough to enjoy while he’s on-screen, but you know he’s better and when the most memorable moment comes from a Goodfellas reference, then you can’t help but reminded of a simpler, better time when he used to choose good material, and not anything that came his way and paid the bills. Looking at you, Fockers.

The same can sort of be said for Pfeiffer, but sort of can’t. The reason I say that is because even though she hasn’t really been doing much as of late, she still seems like she’s a welcome-enough presence that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again. Sure, her character can be a little stereotypical and annoying, but there’s just something so sincere and natural about the way Pfeiffer has her seem, that makes it easier for us to get used to her. The only reason I didn’t include Tommy Lee Jones in that list up-above is because the dude, within the past decade, has proven that he still is able to choose great material and not worry about the roof over his head. He’s a bore to watch here, but I didn’t care all that much, mainly because I know he’s probably got something better cooking in the oven. As for De Niro and Pfeiffer, I don’t really know and personally, if they’re going to keep on going at the rate that they’re going at, I don’t care. I’m a dick, but that’s just the way it is.

Consensus: What separates The Family from all of the other bad mobster, dark comedies out there is that you know everybody could be so much better if they just put a little more effort into the proceedings, regardless of if the material wasn’t there or was.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Zzzzzzzzzz......"

“Zzzzzzzzzz……”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

My Predictions for the 2013 Oscars

Everybody, everybody, everybody!

It’s that time of the year again that we’ve all been waiting for. A whole year has been prepping for this and it’s finally come! The 2013 Oscars!

WOOOOO-HOOO!!

Since the Ceremony is tonight (let’s hope Seth MacFarlane doesn’t pull a James and Anne), here are my predictions on what could possibly happen, and a tiny-bit of my own thoughts because let’s face it: nobody is ever fully-pleased with the Academy Awards! That’s just the way the world works, people, but hey, enough of me, let’s get on with the predictions, shall we?

BEST PICTURE:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST ACTRESS:

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Should Win: Jessica Chastain

Dark Horse: Emmanuelle Riva

BEST ACTOR:

Will Win: Daniel-Day Lewis

Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Dark Horse: Denzel Washington (nobody will ever beat DDL)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones

Should Win: Christoph Waltz

Dark Horse: Philip Seymour Hoffman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Will Win: Anne Hathaway

Should Win: Anne Hathaway

Dark Horse: Amy Adams (like she’s gonna win)

BEST ANIMATED FILM:

Will Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Should Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Dark Horse: Brave

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT, BEST ANIMATED SHORT, BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE-ACTION):

I never had a chance to see any of these flicks. But I’m sure they are fine pieces of short-cinema, and hope somebody wins here.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST  COSTUME DESIGN:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Les Miserables

Dark Horse: Anna Karenina

BEST DIRECTOR:

Will Win: Steven Spielberg

Should Win: Ang Lee

Dark Horse: David O. Russell

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man

Should Win: The Invisible War

Dark Horse: How to Survive a Plague

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Will Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Should Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Dark Horse: Les Miserables

BEST EDITING:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST FOREIGN FILM:

Will Win: Amour

Should Win: Amour

Dark Horse: No

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Lincoln

Dark Horse: Life of Pi

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

Will Win: “Skyfall”

Should Win: “Skyfall”

Dark Horse: “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” (the guy’s hosting, so why the hell not?!?)

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Django Unchained

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Skyfall

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Marvel’s The Avengers (would be pretty awesome)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Silver Linings Playbook

Dark Horse: Argo

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Django Unchained

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Moonrise Kingdom

So, there ya have it, folks! Another year down, another year for the Oscar’s. Enjoy and have fun! Let’s hope that Big Ben pulls it out big in the end.

Love Story (1970)

Regardless as to whether or not you are in love, you still have to say sorry for the bone-headed things you do.

Young Harvard-bound lovers, Jennifer and Oliver Barrett IV (Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal), manage to stay together through college despite family warfare, class differences, and money issues. However, none of those problems stack-up against the truest power of them all: love.

In today’s day and age where we have teenage girls running out to the theaters with their moms, cell phones, and Kleenex boxes in-hand, all to see another Nicholas Sparks adaptation where everything happens the way you expect it to (fall in love, are happy, then bam, somebody has a disease), it’s pretty nice to see that same formula done, yet, done before them all. I know back in 1970, a story about two different people, from two different walks of life, getting together and falling in-love, was nothing new or refreshing, but seeing it in a way that’s actually heartfelt and realistic in a way, made it all the better. It’s just a shame that after 33 years now, we still haven’t been able to capture the same look and feel of love, quite as well as this movie. Yes, continue to make fun of me you bastards. You just aren’t in touch with your romantic-side like I am.

Let’s get something straight: I do not love this movie, but it isn’t all that bad. See, I enjoy a nice, simple story about love as long as it stays within the boundaries of reason. Many times, this movie crosses those boundaries that I’ve set for so long but that’s not the point of this movie, the point is getting the romance right and that’s what really saved the day for this movie, from my stand-point. The film starts-off with these two meeting each other, obviously realizing that they are very different, but also realizing that they have something between one another that’s worth sticking with, if only for a tad-bit.

Hey, what would any love story be without a little sexy time?

Hey, what would any love story be without a little sexy time?

Then, after awhile, the two begin to fall in love, get whispers of marriage, actually go-through with it, get a house, get jobs, make livings, and all before a big, final-act twist, it’s all fine and dandy. Does it sound obvious? Hell yes! Does it sound predictable? Oh you got it! Does it seem contrived? What other way could there be?!? However, does it work? Somehow, yes. I wasn’t in any type of mood to be swooning over a young, blissful romance, but the movie made me feel more for these characters and their romance together, especially when it seemed like they were at their happiest. It does go into those sappy moments where it’s a bit too hard to believe, but to be honest, that’s sometimes how love is and the flick never really shies away from that.

The main reason why I actually did believe in these two together was because the performances from the two are so damn good. Ali MacGraw pretty much ran-away from the spotlight after her and Steve McQueen divorced, but here, she shows some real talent as an actress that’s quick-witted, funny, honest, realistic, and altogether, very three-dimensional. This definitely seems like the type of girl you try to hit on at the bar, she turns you down, and before you can leave, makes you feel like the biggest idiot by throwing it all back into your face so you never forget her, what she said, or what your dumb-ass just said to her. She’s all fun and games, but there is also a very real person underneath all of that smarty pants stuff that works, and by the end, we begin to see a real person come out, rather than just one dude’s fantasy of the not-so typical girl that you can bone, talk long walks on the beach with, cuddle with, joke around with, and even share a beer or two with. I never understood why MacGraw left the spot-light before the 70’s was up because the girl was a pretty solid actress and could show these leading-ladies in sappy, romantic-dramas a thing or two about acting your ass off, but also being believable while doing so.

Ryan O’Neal gets a lot of shit nowadays for practically falling-off the map, getting into trouble with the law, looking like a slob, and apparently being a pretty, terrible father, but make no means about it, the guy’s a pretty solid actor. O’Neal does a nice-job at giving this somewhat spoiled, jock-of-a-guy a heart and sense of vulnerability that makes it easy to latch onto, especially when it seems like he’s just doing stuff to be cool and rebel against his richy-rich familia. O’Neal has a lot of moments where it seems like he’s doing a bit too much of one look (the sad, but determined look in his eyes), but he also has a lot of other moments where he feels like a real person, that’s really in love, and really just wants to do all that he can to keep it and keep himself happy and alive. Like MacGraw, it’s a shame that O’Neal hasn’t really been able to capture the same type of excellence he was able to capture here, but at least we all know the guy will still show-up and act, even if his last credit for acting has been Malibu’s Most Wanted. Poor guy.

Nothing shows love, quite like two people, no matter how old or young, just playing in the snow and making a snowman. Oh, the love.

Nothing shows love, quite like two people, no matter how old or young, just playing in the snow and making a snowman. Oh, the love.

Together, the two feel real and have a great chemistry that never really loses steam, even if the film itself, does. Although it’s a change-of-pace for me to finally get a romantic-drama that feels real and has me believe in the love once again, it still cannot go without saying that the flick still does it’s moments where it is absolutely corny and schmaltzy, almost to the point of laughable. Yes, it was the 70’s, and yes, things that happened, were said, or were done back in those days, may not be as cool as they are in the year of 2013, but still, it’s a bit distracting to the performances from these leads.

Then, of course, comes the final-twist that is probably as obvious and as contrived as you can get with a movie, but yet, if you look at it from one-view, it was sort of the first time a movie has ever used it. Nowadays, it seems like a piece of dry meat whenever a filmmaker pulls out the whole, “disease card”, by the end of the movie that it’s just eye-rolling and lacking in any type of originality, but this was one of the first movies to do such a thing so if anything, it should be at least applauded or booed. Either way, it’s one of the first of it’s kind and it’s ending, as depressing and as sad it may be, was slightly different for it’s time. However, as time went on, as we all know, things changed and so did the sappy romances between two teenagers. Boo!

Consensus: Everything and anything that happens in Love Story is obvious, predictable, and conventional, almost to the point of where you can even start a drinking game while watching it, however, the leads chemistry/performances make-up for the rest of the flick and at least make the romance more believable, rather than contrived, as we see more of nowadays. Oh yeah, and that quote is fuckin’ stupid.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Somehow, this is influential to romantic-drama filmmakers.

Somehow, this is influential to romantic-drama filmmakers.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

Think of it as a more subtler-version of Machete. I think that’s about right.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Pete Perkins, a Texas rancher who, following the death of his jolly pal Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo), is compelled to unearth the Mexican’s corpse in order to honor Mel’s request to be buried back home where his wife and children live without him, but in doing-so, he brings the man who killed him, a border patrol guard named Mike Norton (Barry Pepper).

It seems like with all of the strict and heavy-owned laws against illegal immigration, that it would only be right for a filmmaker to come out there, speak his mind, and show us how we all are all the same, just with different heritages. I never would have thought that that filmmaker in-question would be Tommy Lee Jones of all people, but hey, who better??

Well, after watching this movie, I could probably answer that rhetorical question by saying, “anybody, really”. This is Jones’ directorial-debut and although the guy definitely seems like he has a general-idea of what he’s doing, what’s he trying to say, and how he’s getting his point-across, it still feels like a first flick of a director that doesn’t quite know what he’s doing just yet. The problem that Jones runs into with this flick, is that he doesn’t know where or what to focus on and instead of giving one piece of the story line the most attention and detail, he instead tries to have it all of the other, different ways, and just jam-pack them all in there for good fun. All the story lines and sub-plots that Jones throws in here, are all pretty fun and amusing to watch, but they take away from what could have been a real, emotional-trip that looked at the way human-nature is, and how it’s misfortunes can be cured.

That's going to be the grossest three-some I hope to never see.

That’s going to be the grossest four-some I hope to never see.

That general idea and message that Jones seems to get across, does eventually get said and pointed-out to the audience, but not as strong or as emotionally-impacting as it could have been. There are too many moments where the flick seems to jump back-and-forth between all of these different stories and characters, and as interesting as they all may truly be, they still take the steam and energy out of what Jones seems like he was going for in the first-place. You’ll come to know these characters for all that they are, for better or worse, but there comes a point where you start to have enough of them and just want to Jones to get on with whatever the hell he’s trying to point-out. It’s a long, slow-trip that I didn’t mind taking in the first-place, but at the same time, I also feel like it’s a trip I would have enjoyed a whole lot more, had Jones knew how to edit his film the right way and shave off about 15 to 20 minutes of the final-product.

Then again, it is a Western and Westerns are usually long, slow, filled with themes that discuss morality, and featuring plenty shots of the harsh and unforgiving desert. If there is anything that Jones does do right as a director in this flick, it’s that he does know how to keep an interesting story, just exactly as that and never for once did he really lose my attention. Yes, some moments seemed like they were unneeded in the grand scheme of things, but you start to focus on what Jones is doing as a director, and realize that the guy’s making your typical Western, except a whole lot more subtle than you’d expect.

The morality theme doesn’t really hit hard until the last 10 minutes, and it becomes very clear what it is exactly that Jones is trying to get-across, it’s actually very thoughtful. Without giving too much away and spoiling the moral dilemma this film brings-up very clearly, I’ll just say that the actual death of this main character isn’t a very easy one to understand, and in ways, you don’t really know who you fell bad for more. Him, or the guy who killed him. It’s not an easy decision to swallow and try to think about, and this flick definitely isn’t about the easy answers and that’s something I really have to give Jones credit for. There may not be a whole lot here that really works well with this central-theme, except for the last 10 minutes, but those last 10 minutes will actually stick with you, and they are what I forgive Jones for mainly. However, when you look at the final-picture, there is something that’s left to be desired.

"Okay, it's only you and me on the road, Tommy. So, why the hell do I have lipstick kisses on my cheeks?"

“Okay, it’s only you and me on the road, Tommy. So, why the hell do I have lipstick kisses on my cheeks?”

Tommy Lee Jones as a director may not be the finest piece-of-work he has ever done, but Tommy Lee Jones as the main-actor in this story, well that’s a different story. Tommy Lee Jones is basically playing Tommy Lee Jones, but you know what? It doesn’t matter all that much because he’s good, believable, and a pretty stand-up guy that you feel like has a reason to be mad and do all of this nutty-shit, but also feel like he’s a nicer-man than he’ll have you believe by his thoughts or his actions. TLJ is always good when he’s playing himself and even though it’s nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen from the guy already, it’s still a nice-spectacle to see, even if his direction may not be able to catch-up quite as much with his acting.

Playing the guy that practically gets forced and carried on this long, grueling trip is Barry Pepper, a very, very underrated actor that really makes his character work like gangbusters, even if the script doesn’t seem like they really know what to do with him. By that, I mean that the guy definitely seems like the type of character you don’t know whether to like, trust, or even give a shit about, but somehow, the movie doesn’t feel the need to develop him at all to make us think any of these things. He’s sort of just there, getting dragged-around, looking dirty, and being scared to high heavens of when exactly he’s going to die and be buried with this dude that he killed. Pepper makes it a performance that’s worth your while and I can definitely say it’s one of the meatier performances I’ve seen from him in quite some-time, but just like TLJ’s direction, there’s a lot left to be desired here and it’s a real shame, too, because this character could have really been the most memorable one of the bunch.

The supporting cast is pretty solid, too, and definitely make this film all the more entertaining, even if TLJ doesn’t exactly know when to stop focusing on them and get on with the actual story. January Jones plays Pepper’s bored and lonely housewife that begins to realize she can get a real kick out of life, if she just learns to live a little and sleep around with some fellow-cowboys. Jones learns that from Melissa Leo’s character, who seems like she’s practically been fucking every guy in town. That is, every guy that isn’t her husband. Leo and Jones are great together as the two, wild and free gals that seem to love being in everybody’s else’s beds, and getting a fresh-taste of life, among other things, they both seem like nice characters for another movie where their presence’s are used more and help move the story along. After awhile, they just become a drag to the story and only there for Jones to show us that it’s not a total sausage-fest. Dwight Yoakam is also perfectly-cast as the dimwit Marshall of the little county that says he doesn’t need Viagra, but yet, can never seem to be able to get it up when he’s about to bone Leo. I don’t know what his deal is, I’d be ready as soon as I saw her walking towards me.

Consensus: Underneath all of the constant subplots, characters, and added-on explanations that feel unneeded, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada actually has a nice point to bring-up about friendship and human-nature, that is well-performed and brought-out very well by Pepper and Jones, but in the end, seems like it wasn’t focused on enough to really make much of a difference in the end, and just seems like a trouble, first-movie for TLJ. And that, is exactly what it is, too.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yeah, I'm miserable in this one, too."

“Yeah, I’m miserable in this one, too.”

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.”

Lincoln (2012)

Sorry guys, no vampires this time around.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States of America, also known as Abraham Lincoln, and paints a portrait of him during the tumultuous final months of his life, during which he fights to abolish slavery by putting forth an amendment in the House of Representatives.

For over a decade now, we have all been waiting for Steven Spielberg to deliver on his promise of an actual, Abraham Lincoln biopic and for awhile there, it was going to happen. Actually, at one-point, Liam Neeson was supposed to star as Honest Abe but Neeson himself even declared he was “too old” for the role, even though Daniel Day is five years younger than him, but hey, if Oskar Schindler says no, Oskar Schindler means no. Thankfully though, after all of this time, Spielberg delivers on his promise and gives us a movie that isn’t quite the epic biopic we were all expecting out there. Hell, it’s the farthest thing from actually.

Instead of going for the full-scale, sweeping epic idea that he has gone with on such pictures like War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg takes a step-back and decides to play it down a little bit and make it a more intimate, focused piece of work that doesn’t focus on Lincoln’s whole life, but the last couple months of his life where he had to put up with all of these problems, that it’s a real wonder how the guy didn’t just die of a heart-attack right then and there. In a way, a part of me wishes that Spielberg went all-out here and tackle Abe through his life, but seeing him in the latter years of his life does seem like a better fit for Spielberg to play it safe, and not get way too in over his head, like he has been known to get in recent-years. However, that’s not to say that Spielberg still doesn’t have what it takes to deliver some the top-notch directing moments we all know and love him for.

I think what really intrigued me the most about this flick was how it shows just how hard it was, and probably still is, to get a bill passed and all of the twists and turns that come along with that mission. Abe had to talk to a lot of people, had to plan out a lot of ideas in his head, had to win over a crap-load of people, and most of all, had to still keep it in his mind to do the right thing. It’s a very hard, especially in today’s day and age of politics, to not only do the right thing but also keep with that idea in your head and never mess-up on that. Abe never gets dirty with where he gets with his mission to abolish slavery, and it’s really fresh to see considering this is a guy that America still reveres to this day.

We get a great glimpse at a guy, we can only read about in bore-fest books and Spielberg, for the most part, delivers on that spectrum. The story is as simple as they come, yet, Spielberg never loses sight of what he really wants to show and what he really wants to convey and we get that perfectly. It’s a slow-burn of a movie, but Spielberg keeps it surprisingly entertaining with a couple of nice touches here and there where we feel like we are placed in the same exact setting that the movie’s portraying, and also feel like we’re on the edge-of-our-seat, wondering just how the hell this bill is going to get passed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know that the bill gets passed and whatnot, but the film still kept me wishing and hoping that it would, considering there is so much anger and aggression against it, that’s a huge wonder how it didn’t continued to get denied until this very day.

However, I still can’t lie to you and tell you that I loved this movie, because I really didn’t. The problem I had with this movie was that it would go on for so long (it clocks in at 150 minutes, if that tells you anything already) with just talking, arguing, and political-jargon being used, that I actually felt myself dozing off a couple of times and wondering when they were going to get a move on with this story. Playing it subdued and intimate was a nice approach that Spielberg decided to use, but when your whole film is about a bunch of people just talking about a bill that we all know gets passed at the end of it all, well, it can be a bit repetitive, as well as, dare I say it, boring.

Another problem I had with this movie was that I wasn’t as emotionally-invested as I feel so many other people were with this movie. Ever since this movie came out, I’ve been seeing reviews from people that are just talking about how much they couldn’t handle their emotions during this film and just had to let out all of the tears. My question is, how the hell are all of these people crying at a movie that’s about a story we all know, a history-figure we all think we know, and features a screenplay, where everybody talks and hollers at each other in this sophisticated, political language that is rarely ever muttered in today’s day and age (thank god for that, too)? Seriously, I would get it if we all watched Lincoln from the start of his life, to the end of it but something just did not connect with me and have the water-works moving at the end. Instead, I felt like I knew the man more than I ever did before and I think that’s all I needed, really, a history lesson, not a life-changing experience.

However, I don’t blame these people for getting emotional, either, because when you have Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead, it’s hard not to tear-up. As always, Daniel Day is perfect in a lead role that shows him off to be one of the finest actors we have working today but it’s not the type of role you’d expect from the guy. With roles like Bill Cutting and Daniel Plainview being some of his most famous in recent time, it’s a refresher to see him go back to his old-ways and play soft, gentle, and kind fellow that means no harm to anyone around him, but just wants to do what he thinks is right for the country and what feels right in his heart. He’s obviously a nice guy that you can tell has some real charm to him that wins everybody over that he meets, as well as a knack for story-telling that are some of the funniest, if not thought-provoking pieces of tales that I have ever heard. How many times did Honest Abe break out of regular-conversation just to tell a story about a man and his farm? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do know is that they were lovely stories to hear, mainly because it was Daniel Day who was delivering them in his sweet, gentle voice that doesn’t even seem recognizable in the least bit.

Daniel day lights up the screen every time he pops-up on it and delivers one of the finest performances of the year, and really does have you sympathize and feel something for a man we rarely know about how he was in life. We read about it in books, but it’s all up in the air as to what or who this guy really was in real-life, but I think Daniel Day’s portrayal is the most accurate depiction we can all go along with and agree on. If Daniel day doesn’t get a nomination this year, hell will freeze over, but then again, I think it’s a pretty sure thing that no matter what the movie the guy signs up to do, he’s going to get an Oscar-nomination regardless and you know what? I have no problem with that because this guy is an actor’s actor, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. That was a pretty obvious statement though, because everybody looks forward to what the guy does next, it’s all just a matter of how long will it take this time around.

Even though Daniel Day is perfect in this lead role, he almost gets the spotlight taken away from him from an actor that could also be considered “an actor’s actor”. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens in a way that we all know and love Jones for playing his roles. He’s cranky, he’s old, he’s witty, and most of all, he’s a bastard that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with when it comes to an argument. As Stevens, Jones allows this fact to be even more truer than we already know it to be and really gives us a glimpse at a man that may even want this bill passed more than Lincoln himself, and there’s an amazing, final scene with him that shows us why. Jones is on-fire in this role and I really do think that he’s a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination this year and I do not disagree with that one-bit because the guy is always spectacular, he’s just been wasting too much of his time as Agent K to really allow us to see what is so spectacular about him in the first-place.

Playing Lincoln’s wife, Sally Fields probably gives one of her best performances I’ve seen from her in the longest time. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln the same exact way you’d expect her to play her, she’s weird, she’s paranoid, she’s always angry, but yet, she’s always supportive of what Abe does and to see that play out in this film is a thing of beauty, considering her and Daniel Day have great husband-wife chemistry between the two. As opposed to Jones and Lewis, I don’t think Fields is a sure-shot for an Oscar nomination this year, but hey, if she does end up getting one I will not be pissed in the least bit. The gal is great with all that she’s given and it’s finally time that somebody’s given her a role to chew down on.

This whole movie is filled with a supporting cast that will probably shock you by how many names it really does have and to be honest, there’s a bit of a problem with that. See, there are so many damn people in this movie that even though they are all so good with each and every one of their own, respective roles, it becomes a bit of a waste to see such good talent in roles that sometimes don’t show-up on-screen for any longer than 5 minutes. Having a huge, supporting cast is great if you want to make sure every character is well-done, and every performance is good but after awhile, it sort of starts to tick you off once you realize that half of these people can do some quality work in their own flicks, they just aren’t given the chance all that much. Still, it’s great to see such big names show up in a production together and show how much people still want to work with Spielberg.

Consensus: Lincoln may take some people by surprise to how it plays-out, but if you can handle a bunch of talking, then it will definitely keep you watching from beginning-to-end with a spectacular lead performance from Daniel Day, and a message about doing the right thing, no matter who gets in the way that is still relevant today, especially in the world of politics.

8/10=Matinee!!

Hope Springs (2012)

Face it, old people bone.

Many years of marriage have left Kay (Meryl Streep) wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). When she hears of a famed relationship guru (Steve Carell) in the town of Great Hope Springs, she must persuade her skeptical husband to get on a plane for an intense week of marriage and sex therapy.

Judging by the first couple of trailers I saw, I was expecting another zany, Streep comedy, where she plays an older gal trying to relive her older days by doing what it is that she wants, when it comes to being between the sheets. In that regard, it reminded me a lot of It’s Complicated, which is a film I laughed at, but still thought was your average, rom-com that nobody thought twice about. That is not necessarily the case here, and that’s what really, really took me by surprise.

Despite being advertised as this totally zany comedy, the film isn’t filled to the core with that. Yeah, there is a couple of funny light moments that really work and made me crack up (one scene in particular where Steep tries oral sex on Jones in a movie theater, which probably gave a lot of people in the theater with me a lot of ideas), but it’s more about the dark, sad truths that come behind relationships and marriages, regardless of how long you have been together.

People, as a whole, grow old. And it doesn’t matter what you try to do with your life to never grow old, but that’s eventually what happens and you can see that especially with this couple of Kay and Arnold. Not only did these two grow old, but they also just grew apart from one another, becoming more of room-mates than actual life-mates. Arnold wakes up everyday, eats the same breakfast combo (one slice of bacon and two eggs, remember that), kisses his wife on the cheek before going to work, comes home from work every night, eats dinner with his wife, goes to watch the Golf channel, falls asleep (typical), and gets awoken by Kay to go up-stairs to his own room, where only he sleeps. This is how his day is every day and it never changes, and it all occurs with barely any talk between him and his wife. What the hell happened between them? Why won’t he just love her? Why doesn’t he talk to her? Why? Why? Why!?!?

Much to my surprise, I was very intrigued by this couple within the first 10 minutes and I kept sitting there to myself wondering just what was up with this obviously, once-loving couple. Director David Frankel is actually more intrigued than anybody else watching this and through the series of non-stop therapy sessions, we see what happened to them, how it all started, who’s to mainly be blamed, and just why they are the way with each other now. The smartest thing that Frankel does other than just let all of these play out, is that he doesn’t take anybody’s side in this relationship. Nope, it’s actually both of their faults for the reasons as to why they aren’t as in love as they once were. I don’t want to give away as to how and why they all of sudden changed things up in their relationship, but what you may find and hear about here are some very honest truths about the way couples begin to act, especially when they have been together as long as 31 years together. Yeesh!

Though, as surprisingly heavy as this film may be, there was still a whole bunch of unneeded rom-com elements that I didn’t feel were really needed. After about the third, awkward sexual scene these two have, I was pretty much getting annoyed by how it seemed like the only way that Frankel could get comedy for this material is by placing a whole bunch of stupid, jokey-jokey sex scenes that didn’t seem to really add much to the film and the ideas, other than show us how old people can’t really be dirty and sexual. Another rom-com formula that also seemed to bother me was the types of songs Frankel used here. A lot of them are a bit too-on-the-nose with certain sad and sappy songs playing whenever either one of them don’t feel loved, and so on and so forth. Basically, the fact that this is a rom-com kind of ruins it but I guess it wasn’t all that terrible to totally destroy the final-product.

But I guess when you have the actors that you have in this film, it doesn’t matter what type of material you have, because it works anyway. Meryl Streep is of course, great as Kay, but this performance is a lot different from what we’ve been seeing from her as of late. There’s a lot more subtlety going on here with her act that really stands-out as we can tell that this girl just wants to be loved and just wants her old relationship back as most people would feel if they started to get in a relationship like the one she’s in. Kay is a character that doesn’t get too up-front with her husband because she’s a bit afraid to ruin any type of chance of intimacy that they may or may not have, and it also shows the effect that this dull relationship may have on her self-esteem and feelings. Streep is great in this role and she gives us a female character that is not only as strong as the male, but also gives us a lot of insight into how our woman feel if we don’t show them the bedroom from time-to-time. Am I right men?

As good as Streep was (and trust me, she was good), I was more involved with Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold and actually found him to be the best thing in this whole flick. Jones starts out as the usual grumpy, stand-offish old man that doesn’t really want anything to do with anybody or anything, he just wants to go about his day the same way he’s been going about it for the last 20 or 30 years. But as time moves on in this flick, we start to see a lot of those walls come down and we see a very lonely and self-conscious guy that doesn’t know what to do with his wife, other than just be a husband and not much else. There’s a lot of moments where Jones nails a lot of the comedic moments, but his emotional moments where we see the character for all that he is, is what really took me by surprise and has me hoping that he decides to take more roles like these in the near-future because isn’t it just a total treat to see this guy shed a tear every once and awhile?

Steve Carrell plays the therapist that somewhat helps this couple out and as successfully deadpan as he can be, truth is, he doesn’t really have that much to do in this film other than to ask these two questions and try to “connect” with them emotionally. Carrell isn’t really ever in this film all by himself and it seems like sort of a waste of a very good actor that shows he can do great things with his roles, even if he isn’t playing his usual, funny-side that we see so very often. It’s not necessarily that this is a criticism of the movie, it’s more that I wish they used him more or if they didn’t want to do that, then they should have just got somebody else that wasn’t such a big-name to do this role in-place of him.

Consensus: Though it follows the same-old, rom-com formula most people hate (and surprisingly love), Hope Springs still succeeds with great performances from Jones and Streep and at showing us the dark and sad truths behind older relationships that can sometimes be healed just by a little communication and most of all, love. Yes, that “L word” always finds itself back.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Men in Black III (2012)

Look out aliens, they’re getting older.

Agent K (Will Smith) travels back through time to the 1960s to save Agent J (Tommy Lee Jones). However, the big mishap here is that he’s about 30 years younger (Josh Brolin) and they both have to fight off super-alien, Boris the Animal, from destroying the world.

Now, I know I sure as hell wasn’t asking for this and I’m pretty sure (hoping) that nobody else really was either; but there is still something positive to be said about this franchise. The first one was very fun and probably stayed in every kids memories forever; and then the second one came around suck all of the fun from the first one! Still, there’s a smidge of fun here taht brought me back to the good old days of sitting down and poppin’ in the old MIB into the VHS, with a couple of my really cool buds. Oh, the old times.

What really had me scared in the beginning was how out-dated this flick seemed. It’s been awhile since the first and second film came out, so when you have Smith up on-screen using lines like “pimpslap the biznitch” or “fo’ real dawg”, it gives off barely any comedy and seems like everybody involved is trying to go back to their 90’s flavor. It’s not sitting well with the viewers, though. Actually, movies, Summer blockbusters, and comedy in general has sort of changed since ’97 and you don’t have to look past the first 20 minutes to notice. I didn’t find myself laughing once and felt boderline disappointing because they tried so damn hard to make me. Everything that Smith did back in the 90’s that seemed hip, cool, and funny —  comes off flat. Sure, there’s something nice about a comedy that isn’t all about being raunchy goes with a clean approach, but it just isn’t funny enough here and that’s what pushed my buttons at first.

Thankfully once Smith finds himself in 1969, things start to pick up smoothly. Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a nice job with this material because he was able to balance out all of the elements of comedy, action, sci-fi, and even a bit of drama; and somehow he made it all work. I started chuckling a lot more once they got into the 60’s lunged at the time-period by bringing up iconic figures like Andy Warhol, played hilariously by Bill Hader, and a couple of little references to outdated music and fads that were big around then. Yeah, the time-travel idea may have not been very inspiring, but it still worked, alright? Thanks mainly, of course, to Sonnenfeld, who is able to make it work, without just seeming like a one-trick pony where every other joke is a hit at the decade. When you got MIB gadgets in the 60’s, you got a quick laugh.

However, a lot of the fun comes from the action and sci-fi elements. The 3D for this movie is actually pretty good and the special effects look even better, thanks to the wonderful work by Rick Baker who always seems to be on his A-game no matter what the movie is. Of course, the aliens look great and the gadgets are cooler than ever but there’s also a lot of action here that really keeps the movie going, without ever really stopping itself to slow down and focus on its characters.

You know what? I did sort of like when they started to slow the film down and focus on the characters, because it worked better than expected. The film really focuses on how Jones’ character has changed over the years from this smiling happy dude that is liked by many, to this totally stern and miserable-looking guy that nobody wants to be around. This was a cool idea and used well — whenever the film brought it into the picture a bit, however, it immediate starts to shy away from it and then this final twist comes in at the end to give us a connection to these characters more and it comes off as totally shoehorned in. I don’t want to give anything away but what shocked me at first, really made no sense and seemed like a really manipulative way of getting us to care for these two characters that we already love and root for as it is.

Will Smith returns to the screen after a 4-year absence and plays the role of Agent J with all of the charisma and enthusiasm he has in his pocket, almost as if he wasn’t gone from the screen for 4 minutes. As I said before, a lot of Smith’s comedy at first, comes off as dated but he starts to get the hang of it and shows why he is one of the most lovable personalities on the big-screen and I hope he comes back to stay and not leave us after doing some dumb shit like Seven Pounds. Tommy Lee Jones is not really here all that much as Agent J, because a lot of that time is given to the awesome Josh Brolin, who plays a younger version of him. Brolin hits the deadpan delivery that Jones has perfectly and he adds a lot of charm to a performance that could have easily just been one-note. He said “slick” a little too much for my liking, but I still have to give a lot of love to Brolin for bringing an impersonation of a very notable actor, and giving it his own, little swing.

Jemaine Clement is sort of one-dimensional as the villain, Boris the Animal, and I think it’s a disappointment because I think Clement could have really handled this material like a champ. Instead, they give him non-intimidating villainous lines, a running gag about his name that wasn’t funny the first 100 times they did it, and a Randy “Macho Man” Savage look that made me feel like he was going against the wrong guys in a battle like this. He should have been facing Hulkamania, brothers!!

Consensus: Men in Black III may not be a threequel we needed to see nor does it bring anything new to this almost-forgotten franchise, but it does bring a lot of kid-oriented fun to it, with charming performances from the cast, a breezy pace, and a nice mixture of comedy and action that will remind you as to why this franchise worked so well in the first place.

7/10=Rental!!

Men in Black (1997)

These guys were facing off against aliens, before that was even cool.

Working for a highly-funded yet unofficial government agency, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are the Men In Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on Earth. While investigating a series of unregistered close encounters, the MIB agents uncover the deadly plot of an intergalactic terrorist who is on a mission to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies currently in residence in New York city.

So with Men in Black III coming out soon, I thought it would be a nice idea to go back and check out the first one that not only did I love as a kid, but so did every other kid around me. Sad to see how things change as you grow older, and then become a d-bag movie critic.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a pretty good job with this material, which is based on a comic book series that’s full of darkness and violence, by making it somewhat light and fluffy with humor and slime instead. There was plenty of jokes to go around in this flick and I liked that because it showed that the film didn’t really take itself too seriously, which was never more serious than it needed to be at all in the first place. I mean you have two guys dressed in ALL black, going around looking for aliens: how much goofier can you get? Liked the tone of this film because it could have easily fallen apart by taking a serious look at the world of alien hunting. It’s actually more cool than it is goofy, but I think it’s all in a day’s work and that’s all that really mattered to me.

What really took me away was the fact that Rick Baker‘s art direction was something only he could do. Baker is a dude that’s known for doing all of the make-up and costume features on plenty of films ranging from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, The Nutty Professor, and the one he just recently won an Oscar for, The Wolfman. If you have watched any of those three, you will notice that this guy isn’t messing around when it comes to making some crazy make-up look real and this is probably one of his best examples. Whether it’s the giant bug Edgar, or the little worm aliens with the Mexican accents, or even Jack Jeebs, Baker’s detail to make-up and costumes look funny, scary, and surprisingly, very believable. This was one of the main selling points of the flick when it first came out and it’s understandable as to why because they still hold up in today’s day and age of constant IMAX 3D flicks filled with CGI out the wahzoo, coming out almost every weekend.

What I was a little bummed out by this film was that a lot of this just feels very generic, which is mainly due to the plot. The plot is so 1-2-3 that you can usually tell everything that’s going to happen within the first 5 minutes and even though it’s not as bad here as it is with plenty of other flicks of this nature, I still couldn’t get past that I wasn’t really going to see any surprises. Still, I think it’s Sonnenfield’s direction that kept my mind off of this problem for a short time anyway. Speaking of short time, the film is only 98 minutes long and it actually went by pretty quick, even though I do think they could have done a little bit more developing when it came to the characters and just what exactly their main objective was. I get that they were going after the one big, bad alien dude but I don’t know how he was going to tear down the galaxy. Hmmm, maybe it’s just a mystery I’ll never know about.

Where I think this film really worked well with was the two performances from Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K and Will Smith as Agent J. This is one of those polar-opposite, buddy-buddy combinations we see all of the time in these types of flicks but it’s so much fun to watch here because of the type of performers Jones and Smith both are. Jones’ sense of comedy (or lack thereof) is very dry and sometimes non-existent, while Smith is constantly up in everybody’s grill, making slang jokes at everybody he meets and is constantly just shoving his attitude in other peoples’ faces. They both make a good team together because they work well and you can tell that they both do have chemistry, even though the film doesn’t really focus on it all that much. But hey, at least they’re having fun.

Vincent D’Onofrio‘s performance as Edgar was pretty impressive when it came to his physical stature, like how he moved his body and neck in some crazy places, but he really just left me feeling uncomfortable every time he was on-screen. I don’t really think that was any problem with D’Onofrio at all, as it was more of the writing that made him look and feel like an uncomfortable, dirty slob that looks like he hasn’t bathed in years. It was also pretty bad to see Linda Fiorentino absolutely do nothing with the character she was given as Dr. Laurel Weaver. Yeah, I know that the female character in any action movie isn’t really supposed to be a big role by any means, but you could at least try and make it the least memorable instead of just making it seem like you obviously don’t want to be there with you dry deliver and “phoning it in” looks from start to finish. Never really been impressed by this chick and it’s really no surprise that she hasn’t done much in the past decade.

Consensus: Men in Black is what you would expect: funny, light, filled with cool-looking special effects and monsters from Rick Baker, and entertaining but is also very light on plot, which doesn’t really bring up many surprises as it goes along. However, it’s a flick that will always be in my childhood.

8/10=Matinee!!

Space Cowboys (2000)

Grumpy Old Astronauts.

When one of the satellites launched in the 1960s malfunctions, threatening the earth with disaster if it crashes, an astronaut in his sixties (Clint Eastwood) is asked to go up to fix it, as he’s the only one familiar enough with the old technology.  He agrees under one condition that three of his pilot buddies from the old days (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner) who were overlooked by the astronaut training program get to come along for this one last flight.

Right from the beginning, this film already had problems showing with its terrible black-and-white opening prologue in which four young men all speak with these old actor’s voices, that are apparently so obvious. So as you can see, a man who is in a very peak physical condition sounds like a 70-year old who’s been dipping, chewing, and smoking his whole life. However, it got better after this.

Clint Eastwood does a good job here of keeping this film moving at a slow enough pace to have us actually see all of the obstacles you have to go through for such a high-profile mission like this one, and also enough time to have us build characters to where we can actually feel something for these dudes. It’s a relatively slow film, but coming from Eastwood, I’ve seen a lot worse.

Let me also not to forget about how beautiful and amazing the special effects look as well. Thinking that this is an Eastwood film, who is very old at this time and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to go for a sci-fi film with great special effects, but somehow he ends up making this film look like these guys are actually in space after all. From the stars, to the moon, to the other planets, and even to the spaceship itself, everything looks real and beautiful and makes space this piece of art that you always imagine about but barely ever see in most films.

The problem with this film though is the fact that it’s script is pretty lame. Everything that happens here is all pretty cliche and you know exactly how its going to pan-out, even with the last act. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, as long as the film makes you enjoy yourself and take you away from the cliches, but here, too much of my enjoyment was centered on whether or not I could tell what was going to happen next and judging by the way this film was going, I knew exactly what was to happen. I couldn’t get into this film too much especially the last act where the whole film relies on the suspense element, even though we all know how it’s going to end anyway.

I also feel like the film never knew how to play with this silly plot. The twist of the premise here is that these guys are all old cooks, which could be a lot of fun in a not-so serious way, but the film can’t decide whether or not it wants to take this path or just play the plot straight. The gags were pretty funny but none of it ever seemed like it was genuine enough for the plot, and just used as a way to show us how cooky and goofy these old dudes actually were.

As for Eastwood the actor, he’s pretty good here as Frank Corvin; Tommy Lee Jones is also great at his usual miserable-like character, Hawk Hawkins (what a name); James Garner and Donald Sutherland are both very fun to watch as the other two old dudes as well. The performances aren’t bad and you can tell that they’re all having a lot of fun with these roles but Sutherland and Garner never really get that much attention when it comes to character development, which kind of bothered me. I would have liked to see all of these characters for who they are, so that when it came to a life-or-death situation, I could really root for them except just the two.

Consensus: Space Cowboys has some beautiful special effects, and a cast that looks like their obviously having a whole lot of fun, but there are moments where this film sort of just falls apart due to the predictable plot, and the way the film doesn’t know how to actually approach this plot.

5/10=Rental!!

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

And if you don’t like him then you can just go to Russia!

Marvel launches another super franchise with this origin story, which follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he volunteers for a secret experiment during World War II. Transformed into a superhero named Captain America, Steve goes after the Axis. With his perfect physique and heightened reflexes — and his sidekick, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) — Steve battles the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a super soldier created by Italian fascists.

With The Avengers film coming closer and closer, it’s time we finally got a look at the one who basically started it all and is the most important of all of them. And he is played by Johnny Storm.

Director Joe Johnston knows what he’s doing with this material because he once made a 1940’s superhero flick back in the day called The Rocketeer, and it seems that he hasn’t lost that spark for making the 40’s seem awesome. To add to the awesome look this film has, is the action that this story brings out.

There’s nothing really much else like watching a dude dressed in all red, white, and blue hurling a shield almost the length of a football field, kicking the shit out of these super-Nazis, and seeing him shoot people right in the face without even caring one bit. After awhile, it starts to just become the same old stuff after awhile, but the action keeps on building and building itself up to the point of where the end is there and hell practically breaks loose.

The problem with this superhero film is that this is basically the same as every single, superhero film that has come out within the past 3 years ever since Iron Man. I was expecting this to be a lot different for this story since it needs to tell us more about just why everything happens for the reasons they do, but we never really get that. Just about three montages as well.

The story here is pretty much the usual good vs. evil premise we have all come to know by now but the writing is all so solid that it makes it all seem very different. I found myself actually laughing a couple of times with this film and actually a little bit of quoting after wards too which I guess can’t be said about too many superhero films in today’s world. There’s also a great deal of heart to be shown in this film which by the last 10 minutes will be somewhat moving.

Chris Evans has never really been much of an household name and is somewhat a poor mans Ryan Reynolds, but we now know who can play the better superhero. Evans keeps a little bit of that sarcastic comedy he has here but he also does a great job of making Steve Rogers seem someone to completely love and stand behind. He seems like a noble dude and a normal human-being who just has this superpower that he is incredibly strong and ready to kick ass at any second. Let’s also not forget that he totally looks the part with his buff and muscular body that actually had me believe this dude could perfectly defend our country. It was a little hard to get past the fact that he already played another Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four, Evans was still a solid casting choice.

Hugo Weaving is OK as The Red Skull who looks really menacing with the scary look and slick-leather wardrobe but is nothing memorable. I never really hated him at all because he just wants to destroy the world and that’s pretty much it which I think is a problem with the script because as much as Weaving tries to look smug the whole time I knew what was going to happen, didn’t really care, and most of all just thought with better writing this villain could have been even more terribly menacing.

The rest of the cast is pretty bangin’ though. Tommy Lee Jones can practically play the one-liner, smart, old-timer role in his sleep now and his role as Col. Chester Phillips is no different; Newcomer Hayley Atwell does a pretty strong job keeping up with the boys here as Peggy Carter; and Stanley Tucci is also good as German scientist Abraham Erskine and shows just what a pro he really is. The rest of the ensemble cast is filled with the likes of Derek Luke, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, and Neal McDonough who is surprisingly not playing a villain this time around. I guess he’s just trying to build back up his career after that Street Fighter shit that came out two years ago.

Consensus: With a couple of writing brush-ups, Captain America: The First Avenger could have been even better, but instead works with awesome visuals, kick-ass action, and some very good performances that really add so much more to this film and get you even more pumped up for The Avengers film.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Natural Born Killers (1994)

One of the craziest acid trips, that I didn’t take acid for.

Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, respectively) hit the road on an interstate killing spree that triggers a manhunt and garners amazing ratings for a tabloid TV star (Robert Downey Jr.).

Wow this surely is one of the craziest movies I have ever seen. The thing I can say about this film is that the violence, blood, gore, and everything else in between this film is what surely makes this film so controversial and insane.

With Natural Born Killers, the first time you watch it, it goes with visceral overload and you have to sort of stand back and catch the satire and comedy that’s interlocked with all that violence. The second time I watched and found the satire and mostly I found out what the real message behind it all was but it still didn’t come in too clearly as it may have been.

This is directed by Oliver Stone, who has always seemed to be my favorite. He directs this film with such pure authenticity and such art that it really is a beautiful movie to watch if you can get past the blood and violence. The visuals are certainly dazzling and overall amazing. Stone uses so many different takes within a scene that you can’t take your eyes off the screen cause your afraid you may miss a little footnote in the story, through the images shown. The color of this film is beautiful to watch and most colors during one scene change about 12 times and it surely is a beauty to see.

The message of the film is that the media praises and follows murderers as if they are some sort of celebrity. Through many other scenes Stone shows how evil and television pretty much do work hand in hand. Though I understood this message the second time, the first time not so much. I think that by the 3rd act the message does get a little over stated and worn out cause the violence is right there in your face and there’s really no message behind all the violence, it’s just violence and nothing else to it.

There are many parodies in this film all on old TV sitcoms, and cheesy crime TV shows which are pretty well done and actually funny. Stone’s ambition to show that the violence in this film influences what happens with the media and the rest of society. The message is comes pretty clear after the second watch if you can get past all the violence and blood.

The performances from the cast are very over-the-top. Harrelson and Lewis are great and you can actually feel the love and also the psychotically from these two that lies beneath them in every situation. The supporting cast of Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, and Robert Downey Jr. all do equally as good as supporters and show their own type of parody’s as well.

Consensus: Not for the faint of heart. Natural Born Killers is bloody, satirical, violent, and chock full of a message that can be easily understood even if Stone does put a lot of guts in your laps.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

JFK (1991)

A 3 hour and 26 min. movie that is filled with so much information that I thought I couldn’t handle it. But yet it was something like no other.

JFK examines the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and alleged subsequent cover-up, through the eyes of former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner). Garrison filed charges against New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) for his alleged participation in a conspiracy to assassinate the President.

When I first heard of the film I never knew of the story that involved a conspiracy to kill JFK. Personally I thought the idea was so ludicrous that how could anybody believe, let alone, see a film on this idea. But as the film started enrolling all the facts started coming out and then this actually started getting me to think. Each piece of evidence in this film is showed in such a professional and very effective way and actually gets you, the viewer thinking.

The look of the film is great and it actually makes you feel as if you are in 1960’s with these investigators every step of the way. Director Oliver Stone does a simply amazing job at the direction of this film. Cause the film never loses its pace and is always steady and Stone’s camerawork also makes some of the most simple scenes very thrilling and effective in only a way Oliver Stone himself could do it.

The acting is something also that is very praiseworthy as each and every star in this ensemble film feel as if every piece of their lines feels as if it is contributing more and more to the investigation itself. Kevin Costner gives a smart and powerful performance as Jim Garrison who seems to never back down even when it does seem like it’s him vs. the world.

This film is a great piece that is very informative, brilliant, and overall very questionable. This is a true classic that raises many questions not just on JFK’s assassination but also history itself. JFK mostly raises the question of whether or not history will be ever be what it seems or simply just be something they want us to believe in order to look better. This is a great film that all should see despite the very long time limit.
10/10=Full Price!!!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,652 other followers