Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Informant! (2009)

Whoever thought you could be getting so ripped off for just buying a can of corn! Damn ADM!

While gathering evidence against his institutional employer to help the FBI build a price-fixing conspiracy case, affable agribusiness executive Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) begins to piece together a fantasy world of his own.

So this film is really hard to advertise at all. I mean it’s part dark comedy, part satire, part thriller, and sometimes part drama, but it all works out OK.

The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh and he does a fine job of bringing all this different material together. The film doesn’t work as a broad comedy, but it’s funny in a more subtle and satirical way that actually works. You can tell that this film is aiming for laughs behind all this serious lying, and illegal corporate dealings, but the film somehow finds a way to bring comedy in between all this.

My only problem with this is that it is too long for the material that it’s given and some viewers actually may find themselves bored, as I did. The film is about 108 minutes long, and the big pay-off that were all waiting for is about 88 minutes too late for this material. Also, I saw that this film tried to go somewhere with this story, and have us root behind this guy, but after all this lying and making-up of stories, it was kind of hard to actually back this guy up. I also never saw the inspiration behind all this guy’s lying, and in the end the film doesn’t really tell us either.

Also, what the hell was up with that score?? I liked how it reminded me of an old 1950’s crime show, but then at the same time I felt like they were placing it in there to be wacky, and to bring laughs out of the cast. This just showed that Soderbergh didn’t really have much fun material to begin with, so they just relied on a goofy score.

This whole film really belongs to Matt Damon as the ridiculous Mark Whitacre. He is the opposite of the slick, and sneaky FBI undercover informant, he’s a bumbling, nut job that gets stuck in series of unfortunate events, however Damon has you believe him throughout the whole film. He really inhabits this guy and has you believe him as this total chump, and speaks more about Damon’s skills as an actor because it shows that he can carry any film, regardless of material. You also have all these comedians such as Joel McHale, Scott Bakula, Melanie Lynskey, and hell you even got Biff from Back to the Future here, but the problem is that their not really doing anything funny. It was nice to see all these familiar faces, but there was too much of them and it started to get a little distracting, and seem like an episode of I Love The 90’s.

Consensus: Certain elements of The Informant! are entertaining, including Damon’s hilarious performance, but the slow pace, and the mishandled use of the story, feels like it should have been so much better than what it really was.



Any Given Sunday (1999)

Football is a lot more messed up than I thought.

Master director Oliver Stone crafted this look at the gritty world of professional football, capturing the trials and tribulations of the fictional Miami Sharks, a team beset by unnecessary roughness on and off the field. Stone’s brilliant ensemble cast includes Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Dennis Quaid in a full-blown assault on the senses, portraying every tackle, pass — and torn ligament — in vivid detail.

I like, and I play football. I think it’s tough, fun, and overall vicious sport that if your good at, well then be ready for the big bucks. However, sports in today’s world isn’t always the happiest place to be. Oliver Stone knows what I’m talking about.

As usual with an Oliver Stone film, this is packed and packed with a lot of information, and stories that all seem to occupy the 2 hour and 43 minute time limit. This film is very long, and I must say that if you do not want to sit by a movie for a very long time, where you may not like many of the characters, you may not want to check this film out.

There are a lot of interesting parts every once and awhile, and Stone does a great job of filming it all. The football scenes are perfect by the way they portray every hit, every cheer, every sack, and every single little piece of pain that is involved within a game of football. He also uses his crazy camera-work, that moves from story to story, and the use of loud, percussive music and rap feel like life itself and it keeps us involved with this film as well as the big game itself.

I just wish that there were more parts to this film that seemed like they were needed. I feel like Stone was putting some of these random parts in to create more compelling stories that would have us attached to all of these characters, and it just kind of got tire-some. There seemed to be more random parts then there were actually parts that were needed in this film, but I will give Stone credit for at least adding all these other elements to this film to get the full spectrum, and at least make it something easy to follow. The script isn’t so bad either, it’s just all over the place, but it is entertaining cause it shows the world we live in where the game has changed from being prideful to more commercial.

Al Pacino is perfect and exactly what his character requires: a hard-arsed, old school coach with more honor than commercial savvy. He loves the game he discovered 30 years ago and cannot face the prostitute that it has become. Dennis Quaid is great as the faded glory of the old game: tattered, bruised, bleeding and down but not quite out. Together they quantify everything that is good about sport. Cameron Diaz is surprisingly good as Al’s polar opposite: young, fiscal and dynamic. She has inherited a job she doesn’t want but cannot quit. She sees football as a game of commerce, not endeavor. She is supported by an amazing Jamie Foxx, the tough, brash youngster given a shot at the top position and grabbing it for all he’s worth. Together they quantify everything that is real about sport in the USA. I liked how the film showed how these two opposing sides faced off against each other, even though their all on the same side. It’s old school vs. new school, and you get to decide who wins in the end. There are others in this huge ensemble cast that are worth noting such as LL Cool J, James Woods, Matthew Modine, John C. McGinley, Aaron Eckhart, Lawrence Taylor, and the man himself, Jim Brown.

Consensus: Oliver Stone’s “football movie” is a bit messy and some parts don’t seem like they belong at all, but Stone’s direction that captures the perfect feel of the game, and the perfect performances of the cast make this a film that any football fan can and probably will enjoy. It will just take about 2½ hours out of your day to watch it.


Transamerica (2005)

I don’t care what people say about me now, but Felicity Huffman was kind of attractive in this. There, I rest my case.

Bree (Felicity Huffman) gets the shock of her life a week before her final sex change surgery when she discovers a son (Kevin Zegers) she didn’t know she had. After bailing him out of jail, the two set out on a cross-country journey riddled with road bumps.

I have never been homophobic in any way, and have never had any problem with transsexual people. This film shows that their not so different from you or I.

I liked how the screenplay worked out well in both ways. The comedy in here works because it comes at moments when you least expect it, and it’s actually pretty witty, in an ironic sort of way. It sets up pretty well for the drama parts in here too. There are actually some touching, and poignant moments here where it shows how we can still find happiness in the world, in sometimes the craziest places, and with the most random people, we just have to accept ourselves for what we are.

The only problem I had with this film was that it wasn’t very consistent. There were sometimes moments where I would feel totally engrossed with this film but then there would be a time period where nothing even remotely entertaining would pop up. Also, the film did have many slow moments that don’t really keep you involved and some moments you’ll just be waiting for something to actually happen.

For everyone seeing this back in 2005 they had to be totally surprised by Felicity Huffman in this, since everybody then knew her from that crap we call Desperate Housewives. Huffman is actually superb in this film because she has to do a lot with this performance. She has to change her look, her voice, and overall attitude so we can actually believe her as this man trying to become a woman. I also must say the beginning of this film her character struck me as just odd, but in the end turns out to just be a fellow human being that I came to like. Kevin Zegers is also good here as Toby, and does that confused, teenage angst really well to the point of where we’re actually not annoyed by his character. But I’ll always remember him from Air Bud, no matter how dirty, and sexy he acts. The chemistry these two create together starts off troubled at first, but then it all builds up into something believable and they don’t seem just like movie characters, more like real people. Fionnula Flanagan also pops up in the latter part of this film, and had me straight-out dying as Bree’s mother. Others that were good here as well are Graham Greene, Elizabeth Pena, and it was awesome to see Burt Young here. Even though to everybody he’ll always be Pauly.

Consensus: Transamerica works not only because of the amazing performance from Huffman, but mainly because the film does a great job of balancing out engrossing dramatic moments, as well as some smart comedic moments.


Limitless (2011)

If this pill is actually out there, I need to get better dealers.

With his writing career tanking and his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) casting him off, ex-druggie Eddie Morra’s (Bradley Cooper) fortunes finally turn around when he’s given a mysterious drug that provides astonishing mental powers — but its deadly side effects threaten his sanity. Adding to Eddie’s misery are shadowy businessman Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who wants to exploit his new genius, and the other users willing to kill for his stash.

What if there really was a drug out there that could make you use all 100% of your brain? Well, I have a feeling that I would use it to more advantage than this guy did.

Director Neil Burger does something here that should actually be rewarded, because he takes this material and brings it to life with his constant flair to the screen. He does a smart, creative job visually portraying the effects of NZT by using angles, lenses, colors, and all sorts of other effects to show how Eddie thinks and sees the world, thus putting us in the mind of him.

The only let-down is that the script doesn’t do anything spectacular and brings this film down a whole bunch of notches. I liked the social commentary here about our desire to take short cuts for self-improvement, and our obsession of instant success. There is also little tidbits here and there of humor that works, but then the film changes about half-way through and starts to become a yawn. The film seems to play a back-and-forth battle between talking about the side-effects of the drugs on Eddie, and who knows about the drugs, and wants them. These two story lines just seem conflicted and take away from the overall effect of the film and actually bring it to more predictable territory which was really a bummer. Also, there were some action scenes here that worked, but they seemed random and just put in there to keep the film entertaining.

Bradley Cooper has been going all around the film industry for awhile now looking for that perfect leading man role, and I think he may just have found it here as Eddie Morra. We never seen Cooper play a slobby loser, but he totally pulls it off making for a great contrast to him on NZT which showcases Cooper’s talents as a smooth-talking and charming handsome devil. By the end of the film, I don’t know what they were trying to do with Eddie here, because it’s like they were wondering if he’s a villain or not, but still Cooper proves that he can be a leading man, possibly a great one. Abbie Cornish has a couple of scenes here and there, and she does a good job, I just wish she was a little more rounded than the screenplay had her out to be. Robert De Niro has done some pretty crap movies lately, but Limitless uses his mobster persona well with him controlling every scene he’s in. It’s not a perfect performance by any means, but it just shows that signature stage presence that De Niro has and uses oh so well.

Consensus: Director Neil Burger uses a lot of different and crazy visuals to effectively create a state of mind when on drugs, and Bradley Cooper is good in this lead role, but the script lets-down Limitless with its many missed opportunities, and confusing outcomes.


The Departed (2006)

Boston accents always create a good movie.

While an undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) curries favor with the mob kingpin (Jack Nicholson), a career criminal (Matt Damon) rises through the police ranks. But both sides soon discover there’s a mole among them.

Martin Scorsese is a man among men. He always knows the perfect way to tell a story, and show it with his only little trade-marks. And even though this is based pretty closely to a Hong Kong film, it is still no exception.

Scorsese does a great job of keeping our attentions. This story gets a little crazy at points, but Scorsese handles it so well that we can’t help but to keep our eyes on the screen. That’s probably the best thing that Scorsese does, he can have anyone watch his film no matter how long, or sometimes ridiculous it may be. He has the perfect knack for capturing intense suspense and that constant moving back, and as well as the perfect tone for a gangster movie in the 21st century. There’s now cell-phones, texting, and internet, but not much has changed when it comes to gangsters, and Scorsese doesn’t lose his flavor.

I think my favorite element of this movie was the script. Judging from this plot, you would think that this is totally a super cereal gangster drama, however, it’s got plenty of comedy to have you laughing the whole way through. I actually caught myself laughing at plenty of these one-liners and probably because they happen out of nowhere, and when the films trying to be the most serious it can be. There is also a lot of interesting double-crossing, and morality themes here as well that totally seal the deal on this package.

The acting for the most part is actually pretty good here. Leonardo DiCaprio, as always does a great job with William Costigan Jr., keeping this film together with his signature toughness, with a tint of likability, that has us cheering him on the whole movie. Matt Damon is also good as Colin Sullivan, and is always good but he plays kind of a bad guy here and his decisions aren’t always the best, and you kind of start to hate him at points. Never thought I would start to hate him, but Matt sure can do it. Jack Nicholson plays mob boss, Frank Costello. He does a good job, but he doesn’t perfect the job which kind of had me a little bit disappointed, because with this role he could have totally been sweeping the Oscars. The problem is that he does a bit too much of ad-libbing, and over-acting, so we kind of get a little annoyed of his character and want him to do something a little bit more new, and cool. But he is still the man so don’t get me wrong. Mark Wahlberg got an Oscar nomination for his performance as Sergeant Dignam, and I’m glad he did because he really knocks his role out of the park. His character wasn’t even in the original film, so he had to basically make this character from scratch, and does a perfect job bringing so much comedy to this film, that he’s the character at the end of the film you probably remember the most. Vera Farmiga is also here and plays Damon’s love interest, Madolyn, and this is one of her earlier roles, and shows that she can hang with the big boys. There are others in this cast that are amazing such as Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, and randomly everybody’s favorite black man, Anthony Anderson.

This film is very very close to being perfect but its big problem comes in its last 15 minutes. I think the whole film had so much steam in its story that when the end actually had to come around, it didn’t quite know where to go so it just sort of lingered around. The film spends a great deal developing these characters so perfectly and well, that it was just a shame that Scorsese let them practically fly out the window by the end. I wish the ending was better, but I still can’t lie it was suitable, just could have been better.

Consensus: A fearless direction from Scorsese, perfect screenplay, and great acting makes The Departed a crime/mob classic for the ages. The ending may have not been the best way to go out for this film, but the whole film keeps your attention, and that is something that makes this a near-perfect film.

9/10=Full Price!!

Love Happens (2009)

Not as bad as everybody makes it out to be, but not all that good honestly.

When widower and self-help guru Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) unexpectedly falls for Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), his latent grief threatens his chance at romance. Now, the best-selling author and expert on coping with loss must prove he’s his own best teacher or risk losing love again.

What I was expecting from this film was to be totally bored out of mind, and to see nothing new. In a way, I kind of got that, in another way I didn’t.

The plot for this film is probably something that you could have seen if you were skipping school and decided to spend your day watching Lifetime with your mommy, and I think that’s the main problem with this film because it doesn’t do much with its premise rather than just be shallow about the themes within its screenplay.

The film says it’s about a romance between these two leads, but that is barely even there really and it’s more about a self-help guru coming to terms with his grief. This took me by surprise because some parts actually did work, but there was no real insight to this theme that we haven’t already seen before. Moments here were dull and boring, and the cutesie-bootsie montages that they use here become exhausting, and probably become the biggest cliche of the whole film.

If there is anything that this film does a great job with, it’s showing that Aaron Eckhart needs a damn Oscar! He plays this self-help guru with a lot of wit, and actual realistic human feelings that will have you like his character, Burke, a whole lot more than you expected. Jennifer Aniston is here as Eloise playing that quirky rom-com love interest we all know her for, but she doesn’t really show up that much and doesn’t do much for this film. There is also not enough chemistry between these two, mainly because the film doesn’t give them much time to actually develop. Judy Greer as always is awesome, Dan Fogler is OK if you like wannabe Jack Black’s, and Martin Sheen does a good job too. The script just lets this whole cast down, which is a real bummer since they all do try really really hard.

Consensus: Love Happens had some surprisingly nice moments, but the dramatic element nor does the romantic element work, and offers surprises if you haven’t seen a rom-com in the past 15 or 20 years.


The Losers (2010)

The 14-year old boys definition of freakin’ awesome!

After learning that their handler, Max (Jason Patric), has set them up, a group of disavowed CIA operatives led by Clay — aka the Colonel (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) — bands together to bring down their betrayers in this slick action thriller.

This film is based off a graphic novel that I have never read, but from what this film makes it out to be, it’s a crazy read.

To say the least, this film has a lot of things blowing up, people getting shot, and materials being destroyed. The action here is pretty non-stop for the most part, and I must say I did not have a problem with this because it actually kept me entertained, despite being another loud and noisy action thriller.

I did think this film was actually funny at times, and I liked that because not many action comedies can actually be “funny”. The film is downright dumb, and proud of it which I liked because it’s not at all trying to hide it. They also tried to make some sort of story here, but that didn’t quite work, because the film wasn’t all that involved with the story as much as they were with the explosions and killing.

However, there were moments where I felt like this film tried too hard to be cool, and that really did annoy me after awhile because some gags just fell right on their ass. I can’t say that I’m totally against this, because not many other action comedies can be as funny as this one is, but they try too hard with the puns, and the random shootings and explosions that don’t really do much other than be a cool thing to watch.

The cast here is what makes this film a step above many action comedies as well. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a good job here as Clay, and just proves he can be that leading tough guy we want in Hollywood. Jason Patric is pretty corny as our villain, but I think he was going for that here so I can’t really diss too much. I was glad to see that Zoe Saldana can fill those Angelina Jolie shoes, and not so much as Megan Fox like Hollywood was planning. You also have Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Idris Elba, and the best out of the cast, Chris Evans who brings so much humor to this film that he was probably the best, and the one I’ll most likely remember.

Consensus: The Losers is loud, noisy, and all-over-the-place, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it works if you’re looking just to have a good time watching everything in sight blow up.


Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Makes me want to go out right now and have a baby with some lucky honey.

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), the young wife of a struggling actor (John Cassavetes), is thrilled to find out she’s pregnant. But the larger her belly grows, the more certain she becomes that her unborn child is in serious danger. Perhaps there’s something sinister behind the odd enthusiasm her eccentric neighbors (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon) have for her welfare. Or perhaps it’s all in her mind.

The best thing about Roman Polanski (other than his ways of picking up girls), is that he is so good at creating tension within any film. I have already seen films like The Pianist and The Ghost Writer, and both are kind of different, but both build up suspense to keep us totally on the edge of our seat. This film is no different.

Polanski takes a normal story, with little things that seem odd at first but never go anywhere and uses them as possible clues as to what may happen, and what may not happen as well. There’s this eerie feeling that something just isn’t right, and not only do you feel scared for this chick Rosemary, but as well as yourself, because you honestly have no idea how this is all going to turn out. Also, the score that Polanski uses just get’s right underneath your skin, and still gives me the goosebumps thinking about it. It’s psychological horror film, that’s disguised as a horror film, and it works so well for both.

I think the only problem with this film is that it is from 1968 so you have to appreciate it for what it is, but there are still some parts that kind of had me chuckling by how cheesy it really is. Some lines seem dated and don’t really quite work now, as they did back in 1968, but I think it’s the fact that this is 1968 and not everything is going to be so up-to-date. Also, I did feel some scenes were a little too bland that weren’t needed at all, but in the end it kind of all worked out.

Mia Farrow is perfect in this role as Rosemary Woodhouse. Rosemary starts off as this big-loving housewife who wants a baby, and when she finally gets it, that’s when she starts to get crazy. Farrow does an amazing job because her character goes from normal, to total paranoia and it all seems believable. We stand behind her character, and we are with her, as we don’t always know what’s quite going on either. I just wish I saw her in more roles today. That damn Woody Allen! John Cassavetes is also good here as Guy, the husband that is just so likable and cool, but yet at the same time we don’t know if we can quite trust him. Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon are perfect in these roles as the scariest damn neighbors ever. I’m telling you if I ever moved into a place and I saw these two right next door, I would not think twice about getting the hell out of there!

Consensus: Somehow it’s a little bit dated, but Rosemary’s Baby is still a mind-tingling, creepy thriller, that may move at a slow pace, but keeps you fascinated by Polanski’s direction, and Farrow’s daring performance.


Paul (2011)

I hope that if aliens do exist, that there more like this dude.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg star as two science-fiction freaks who, while on a quest to discover what lies at the heart of Nevada’s infamous Area 51, cross paths with an alien (voice of Seth Rogen) on the run from earthly authorities.

Looking at a cast like this, a premise like this, and a director like this, you would be expecting the funniest thing in years. However, it’s just pretty funny.

The screenplay that was written by Frost and Pegg has some good moments of humor that aren’t what I was expecting from these two, but that isn’t such a bad thing. The comedy is more broad for an American comedy, rather than the smart wit and cleverness of some of the British comedies that these two have been a part of.

My problem with this film was that it wasn’t funny enough, and I think the main reason why that is, is because of the non-stop sci-fi references. Maybe for me, since I’m not a huge science fiction dude, I didn’t get a lot of the references that they were using here, but at the same time they put way too many jokes to a certain crowd and almost abandon everybody else who isn’t familiar with these references. They seem to also be satirizing geek culture with this film, and although it can be cute at some times, it just doesn’t seem all that fun if you don’t get what their saying. Also, the film isn’t as daring with it’s jokes like I was expecting, because there are times where this does get a little bit predictable, and I just wish I had more times where I laughed my ass off, instead of a chuckle here and there.

Director Greg Mottola is a good director for this work because he does a great job of blending comedy, action, and a tad bit of sweetness to the story that actually works and doesn’t come off as fake at all. This isn’t like Superbad where all three worked so well, but for the most part he does a good job of keeping us watching and being entertained.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as you could already tell, do well together. They have that great buddy chemistry going on well and has us believe them as these two sci-fi geeks. What really stands out in Paul is, well, Paul. Seth Rogen is fantastic here as Paul, because he’s not really doing anything different, he’s just playing Seth Rogen, and Seth Rogen always has me laughing. I didn’t look at Paul and see a piece of CGI like I often do, but as a real character. From a technology standpoint, the mo-cap is obviously not as groundbreaking or impressive as Avatar, but Rogen made the character convincing without any of that fancy expensive shit.

There are also others in this impressive cast that do amazing especially Kristen Wiig, who plays Ruth, the little Christian. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see a hardcore Christian have their faith destroyed and Wiig makes it all the more funny. Jason Bateman is alright as Agent Zoil, even though he’s not really doing anything funny. Sigourney Weaver is bad-ass as The Big Guy, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio work perfectly as the two cops that can never do anything right, and Blythe Danner does a good job as well.

Consensus: People may not understand many of the many science fiction references that inhabit this film, but they still will get a chuckle out of this sweet, and funny screenplay, with a great cast. However, you do feel that it could have been better given the talent involved.


Get Him to the Greek (2010)

If I was able to chill with Russel Brand, I know it would probably be better than this movie.

Ambitious young record company intern Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) will let nothing get in the way of his planned rise to the top in the music business — not even the unruly rock star (Russell Brand) he must escort to Los Angeles for the start of his anniversary concert. Doing whatever it takes to get the rocker from Point A to Point B, Aaron encounters all manners of mishaps.

So for anybody who saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall may remember Russell Brand as Aldous Snow totally stealing the show. Well this one is a spin-off with the same guy here, the only problem is that I wish it was as funny as that one.

The script had me chuckling here and there, because the jokes have some good wit and work with the situations that this film places them in. However, the only problem that the jokes are way too raunchy, and not the good raunchy either. A lot of this film’s humor is just random, immature potty jokes that don’t work. I don’t mind a good raunchy joke here and there, but once it starts to become the only thing the film seems like it’s shooting for, it just starts to become an annoyance and do nothing for me. I laughed every once and awhile, but not enough as I was expecting.

The main problem with this film is that by the end the film starts to get a little bit more sweet than I expected as well. There is this little romantic sub-plot that really brings down this film. I get that they were trying to bring more heart to this film rather than a penis, which is where half of the film’s jokes were coming from, but the tone just seems to be uneven by the end. The things that happen in this film are a little bit too unbelievable to actually take into account of some reality, because the way these people act in just seems put on, and made for the next dumb scenario to happen.

I had a great time with these performances which actually helped me through some of the more annoying scenes. As always, steals the show by doing his usual charming, raunchy character as Aldous Snow, and it all feels genuine. Every time this guys on screen, you don’t see him as that crazy guy that did a weird hosting job of the MTV Video Music Awards a couple of years back, you see him as this nutty, drug-addicted rocker and it works. I’m glad to see that Russell BrandJonah Hill is at least still getting big roles that he deserves because this man is just funny in almost anything he does. It’s not just because he’s fat like many people think, it’s because that comedic timing Hill has is perfect. My favorite element of this film had to be Sean “P. Diddy” Combs playing the record producer, Sergio. He does to this film what Tom Cruise did in Tropic Thunder, and that’s basically just play himself, and curse all the time, thus providing many belly laughs. I found myself laughing at his parts the most out of the film, and I’m glad that Diddy at least doesn’t have that much of a huge ego, to take roles like this. There is also some nice little supporting jobs from the likes such as Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney, Elizabeth Moss, and randomly Lars Ulrich.

Consensus: There are some laughs here, much ado to the amazing cast here, but there is too much random raunch that seems put there to make crazy situations, seem even crazier, and the sweetness by the end doesn’t seem real.


American Gangster (2007)

It doesn’t matter what drug you deal, it all depends on how cool you look when your dealing it.

Armed with ruthless, streetwise tactics and a strict sense of honor, crime boss Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) rules Harlem’s chaotic drug underworld. When outcast cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) sets out to bring down Lucas’s multimillion-dollar empire, it plunges both men into a legendary confrontation.

Looking at this all on paper, you have Oscar winners Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, and Ridley Scott all working together on one film, you should be expecting something perfect, right? Well, not quite.

Ridley Scott does a great job here of directing this thing to the core. Scott keeps the camera on both of these character’s and their own stories, and not once do we lose a sense of what’s happening. He also gets the look for this film, including a very gritty atmosphere behind all the glam and beauty of the drug world, and perfectly captures how the late 60’s early 70’s felt and looked. He also tells the story, not through explosions, and random gun-fights, but through more story and development as time goes on, but he doesn’t lose his pace and keeps this entertaining.

The only problem here is that although Scott is doing a good job of keeping this film entertaining, he’s not necessarily doing much different that what has been done before. I think the main problem with this film is that it’s not to different from any other crime thriller we’ve seen before. Now, there were moments of originality with Washington out-smarting all the cops, but the drug deals, the lines these characters use, hell even the characters themselves all seem like something we have seen before. It’s not to say that this film doesn’t do those things right, because they do, it’s just that it’s nothing different.

Also, with these crime films the tension is always somewhat lacking. We all know how this is going to end, since it is a true story, so your just waiting for the big climax of these two to finally meet, and eventually have the main bad guy get his time in jail. The problem with this film is that we are waiting for almost two-and-a-half hours for that to happen, and although it keeps your interest for the time being, you still can’t help but wonder why the hell it had to be so long to get where it got.

However, this ensemble cast just kept me watching the whole time. Denzel Washington is perfect as mob-boss Frank Lucas. He’s got that swagger that makes him so cool, that brain and wit that has you believe he can outsmart any cop, and just so cool that he’s the most likable gangster ever. I think Denzel should have gotten nominated for an Oscar here, but hey the man is always great no matter what you put in front of him, just ask Ridley’s brother, Tony. Russell Crowe doesn’t get much praise here but he’s also very good as Richie Roberts who is so attached to finding this guy, that he stops at nothing to do it. He also very likable enough to have you root behind as well. The rest of the cast is also very good and just has a bunch of random faces that pop up out of nowhere such as T.I., Chiwetel Ejiofor, Common, RZA, John Hawkes, Idris Elba, Ruby Dee, Josh Brolin, Carla Gugino, and the return to Hollywood acting of Cuba Gooding Jr. God it has been so long since I have seen him in a film that hasn’t been released straight-to-dvd, but he has only a couple of minutes in this film, but he still makes it worth awhile.

Consensus: The performances are great from all over the spectrum, and the direction from Ridley Scott makes this film a gritty but entertaining crime thriller, but never goes anywhere we haven’t seen before, and almost seems like a drag to get to the last scene that we all see coming.


City Island (2010)

Is this how all Italian families from the Bronx are like?

When he recognizes his son, Tony (Steven Strait), whom he hasn’t seen in more than 20 years, among a crop of new inmates in the jail where he works, Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) decides to bring the troubled young man home with him, much to the surprise of his wife and kids.

I love little moves that I get totally surprised by. Looking at the poster to the right, you would expect a film about a crazy mob family, mainly because it stars Andy Garcia. However, it’s something different, but in a good way.

The screenplay has some nice little easy touches here. The film touches on a lot of problems that family’s have with each other such as lust, lying, infidelity, you know all the good stuff that all family’s love to chat about. There’s enough comedy inherent in the story that it rolls along quite lightly as well (when a kid is watching food porn you know no-one’s going to die of cancer).

My problem with this film was that the secrets that this family has to hide from each other, aren’t really that interesting, and you can kind of tell what’s going to happen once the secrets got out. Also, the scenes with Emily Mortimer here were also the weaker ones in my opinion, and took out some of the wit that this film was going for.

It’s a shame that Andy Garcia hasn’t been in anything actually good as of lately, but he does do a good job with this material actually. He’s the leader of the family, Vince, as well as this movie, and you can’t help but enjoy the goofiness that he has. Julianna Margulies as always is good as Garcia’s wife, Joyce, who never lets up with that attitude she always gives so well. Steven Strait was also surprisingly good here, giving a lot more depth to his character, and taking his shirt off plenty of times for the ladies in the crowd. Also, Alan Arkin does his usual job of showing up for about 5 minutes, and having us laugh the whole time.

Consensus: City Island has a lot of heart, warmth, and comedy to make this nice little slice of life work, but it won’t challenge you, and may have you wanting a bit more.


Crimson Tide (1995)

Black vs. White, in a submarine.

Controversy boils over when Soviet rebels point nuclear weapons at the United States, and a message for the nuclear-missile sub USS Alabama gets cut off during transmission. Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) thinks he’s been ordered to launch a pre-emptive strike, while Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) believes the submarine has been ordered to stand down. Will the Alabama prevent a nuclear holocaust, or start one?

Crimson Tide is directed by my not-so favorite director, Tony Scott. He has always been known to make crazy action/thriller films with no real purpose, other than to just have you brainlessly entertained.

This film film looks like a thriller and plays like a thriller, but what distinguishes it, are it’s ideas it has. In the high pressure world of submarine-in-crisis, this film stages a debate that gets to the very heart of nuclear deterrents. The paradox is that nuclear weapons only deter war as long as you don’t use them, and you have to be instruction of your own side. There is also a lot of questions about right-and-wrong, which will stay in your mind long after your done watching this film. You’ll also notice some pop-culture references randomly in here, probably because some of this script is written by Quentin Tarantino. That crazy bastard finds himself in everything!

Tony Scott also does a good job at directing this film keeping a lot of tension built to the point of where you think something just terrible is going to happen. With this film, I knew exactly where Scott was going but he puts us in this submarine with these men, and we feel stuck in there with them as their lives are being threatened. When the energy picks up Scott kicks it into high gear, but when its slow and working on suspense, it works as well. In my opinion, this may be one of Scott’s best directorial efforts.

The only problem I had with this film was the ending. I felt a little bit too much of it was uninspired, and way too hokey for a film of this raw nature. Now I know you can’t judge a whole film on it’s ending usually, but in this case I can, cause when you see it, your honestly going be so letdown.

Denzel Washington is as usual, awesome here, and keeps that strong and smart man act up. He doesn’t do anything completely different here, but that’s not a problem, cause he is just great at it. Gene Hackman is down-right amazing playing Frank Ramsey, the guy who we all soon start to hate, and love at the same time. He is just so callous about his job and so prideful, that when he starts to see his high-position getting taken away from him, he just gets so pissed and does things you would have never expected. However, you believe it because Hackman is so good at playing this type of character. Others who are good in this are Steve Zahn, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and Matt Craven.

Consensus: It may look like slam-bang action thriller, but it has more ideas and messages than just your ordinary popcorn thriller. The cast is having a ball with this material, and Scott is probably at his best keeping the suspense, as well as energy up the whole time.


Gamer (2009)

God, I wish I was playing a video game instead of watching this crap.

It’s 2034, and humans can control and kill each other in a large-scale online gaming world. But Kable (Gerard Butler), a wrongfully convicted soldier forced to join the violent competition, tries to free himself by taking out its evil architect, Ken (Michael C. Hall). While being controlled by a rich kid (Logan Lerman), Kable must also save his wife, Angie (Amber Valletta), who’s trapped in her own avatar world.

Looking at the plot and trailer from a far, I was thinking it looks really cheesy, but at the same-time, bat-shit crazy which is always good. However, it’s not good here.

The problem with this film is that it really is all over the place, with no sense of logic or control whatsoever. I get the satire and what the film is trying to say, by saying we’re to feel guilty for what the world has become in exploiting violence and death on TV, movies, and even in video games, but the problem is that the film focuses on this by showing us loads and loads of amounts of violence and death. The script also tried too hard to be witty or funny at points, and it just ended up being weird or dumb really.

Sometimes when you have crazy, slam-banging action thrillers, you don’t have to really rely on the story because the action is always there to keep you busy. However, this film doesn’t even do that so well, and that’s all blame on writing and directing team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, known for the even crazier Crank films. The problem here is that all the violence just looks terrible, and the way they film this just makes it look low-budget, and a cheap indie film. The action is OK I guess, but that shaky cam gets way too annoying for points, and you don’t even feel like you’re watching a movie anymore, you almost feel like your on a LSD trip. Make sure you just take yourself some mushrooms before you go in.

Also, what the hell was up with all those titty shots? It was like almost every time this film cooled down, they just decided to show some big boobies. Usually, I don’t mind this, but this film literally over-does the whole “boob shot” thing for me, which I thought I’d never have to say….ever.

Gerard Butler is alright in this role as Kable. I have always had faith in this guy, and I do believe he will eventually get that role that will bring him back up, but as the main hero in this film, he is OK. Michael C. Hall does his very best to do a Southern accent as the villain, Ken Castle, and this really doesn’t work probably because they make him seem so cheesy, but this film probably made that on purpose. I still don’t know what Kyra Sedgwick was doing here, and why the hell she accepted this piece of crap! There are also others in this film that need new agents such as Logan Lerman, Amber Valletta, John Leguizamo, Ludacris, and a totally jacked-up Terry Crews. Also, Keith David shows up too! What the hell is wrong with these people!?!? It’s not the cast’s fault as to why these characters suck, it’s the damn film itself.

Consensus: By taking a glorious amount of psychedelics beforehand one could actually have an enjoyable time with this crazy, all-over-the-place action thriller, but if sober, you may find yourself totally bored, annoyed, and just not entertained one bit by this dumb piece of failed satire.


Hollywood Ending (2002)

I hope I don’t randomly become blind. I won’t be able to see porn…….movies anymore.

Woody Allen plays Val Waxman, a once-famous film director who’s down on his luck and just needs one good picture to bring his career back. But when Val gets an offer to make a big film, his paranoia causes him to go psychosomatically blind. He and a few friends scramble to cover up his disability and keep the studio executives from discovering that Val’s directing the film in the dark, which gets tougher as Val’s ineptitude starts to shine.

Woody Allen has always been a director I could stand behind. Yeah, he’s a pervert, and yeah he’s a creep, but at the end of the day, he’s entertaining.

My favorite element of this film was the actual plot, and screenplay. I liked how the plot set up a lot of good jokes for this film, and as always Allen always knows how to deliver a one-liner from his characters. We get various satire jokes on the Hollywood industry that were funny, and the film did entertain me with most of the things it did with its plot.

The only problem with this film is that there could have been so much more to this film as well. I mean I can only sit there and watch Woody stand in place for so long, as a blind man, until I just become a little annoyed and want something more with this plot. I thought some of the things they did with this plot were good, but at the same time I thought it was a little disappointing because they never went many places with this original idea.

Also another thing that bothered me more about Woody Allen films, and less about this film itself, is the fact that his films are so fantasy-like. You have all these young actresses in about their 30’s, or even 20’s, practically falling head over heals for Woody, and to be brutally honest, I don’t believe it. Yeah, I get the fact that Woody wants to be able to get it in with ladies in his films, but there comes a point where it just gets creepy. Take it for granted I’am talking about Woody Allen, so that may be a bit excusable, but I just think he should start hitting up some other ladies his own age like Judi Dench. Now that would be a real film.

Woody Allen does a good job at playing his usual neurotic act but with more physical comedy this time that actually works. He’s playing a blind guy, and although he can see in real life while the filming is going on, he makes it seem realistic and it works. Téa Leoni is good here as Allen’s ex-flame, and the scenes with her and Woody are just so good, and funny. Others in this cast that are good are Debra Messing, George Hamilton, and Treat Williams.

Consensus: It may not use the plot to its extent, but it works as a funny piece, of charming entertainment, that always has Woody Allen doing a good job with his screenplays.


Catch-22 (1970)

War really does make you go crazy.

Capt. Yossarian (Alan Arkin) tries to escape the travesties of World War II by convincing his Air Force commanders that he’s crazy. Hilarity ensues — but so does reality as he watches his close friends (Martin Sheen and Art Garfunkel) die in the ridiculousness of war.

I’m still ashamed in myself that I haven’t found the time yet to actually read this crazy novel, that this film is based on, but I have a feeling after seeing this, I definitely will soon.

My favorite element of this film is that it really does have a great script here to work with. The dark humor works so well for this film, because it’s great at showing all the funny moments that can actually happen in between all the fighting, and killing. It also works well even in today’s world, and can still pertain to the craziness of the war in present time which is always great.

The cinematography is also beautiful with some wonderful shots of the landscape, that although may seem a bit out-of-place considering that the film, isn’t all about how it looks, I still liked how it gave me this feeling of the area these soldiers were fighting at.

The only problem with this film is that it does get a little weird at the end, and the comedy starts to lose it’s edge. I found myself chuckling less and less with this material, as the film kept going on longer into the end, and I was wondering what was supposed to be funny, and what wasn’t. It gets very dark by the end, and this is where the film lost me because after awhile I couldn’t find one laugh within me when certain things started to happen with this story. Also, the plot is pretty jumpy, going through one story to another, and it doesn’t quite work because we don’t get all of the stories in detailed.

The performances in this film are what kept me watching. The always reliable Alan Arkin stars as Yossarian, and blends that perfect mixture of goofiness and realism that always seems to work for him, no matter what it is that he’s doing. Anthony Perkins does a good job here as Chaplain Tappman, and brings out a lot more comedy and depth within his character that we aren’t quite expecting. Jon Voight is also hilarious as Milo Minderbinder, the one guy who’s trying to get very rich off of this war. My favorite of the whole cast was actually a short bit from Orson Welles who plays Gen. Dreedle and dominates every scene with that signature tough-guy persona he always carries so well with him, and here it just works in a comedic sort of way. Also in the cast are Martin Sheen, Bob Newhart, Art Garfunkel, and Martin Balsam.

Consensus: The humor works well with it’s dark approach, and it’s a sight to look at, but Catch-22 gets very strange by the end, and starts to get darker with it’s approach, even though the first hour is just so darn funny.


Conversations With Other Women (2006)

Weddings: best place to score one night stands.

Sparks fly at a wedding reception when a man (Aaron Eckhart) and woman (Helena Bonham Carter) with an ambiguous connection are reunited in this stylish romantic drama. As the layers of their past relationship gradually peel back, they rekindle a smoldering flame. Unable to contain their desire, they soon slip away to her hotel room — but will passion give way to regret after the champagne wears off?

Right from the beginning you notice that this film just looks like another gimmick, with a meaningless story to back it up. However, the surprising thing is that you almost forget about the gimmick half-way through this 1 hour and 24 minute film.

The screenplay here is what works the best. This film starts off as just another two people meeting, and flirting but then all that playfulness turns into something more deeper and emotional. Then you start to notice that these two know each other, quite well in fact, and that’s when the film starts to get juicy. I liked how the screenplay touched on many elements that have to do with a romantic relationship that once failed. We get a sense of how these people feel through their strong words, and through their speech we understand the loss that both of these people had. There were very real emotional moments here that actually work, and had me astonished by how genuine it all felt and sounded.

My only problem with this film is that I felt it was almost a little too contrived. There were moments that were emotionally good, but never did I feel myself almost clinching to my seat as to how real, and truthful it was. The ending almost pissed me off, and I felt like that there should have been more questions brought up, and answered for that matter. I get what they were trying to do with this ending and the film, but I never really found myself completley taken away by it all.

The acting here is extraordinary, cause this some very complicated stuff here. Since this film is split-screen focusing on both of these stars at the same time throughout the whole film, it’s not when their speaking is when they have to be powerful, but it’s when no words are spoken and you just look at that person and you can feel the performance within them. Here, these two do that. The chemistry that Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart have is where the real heart of this film lies because you believe almost every action they take with one another as well as every emotion they give to each other. I liked how they were sometimes goofy with each other, but then at other times, completley serious as well, and it to me just felt like a real relationship, and both nail it.

Consensus: Though a bit too contrived at moments, Conversations With Other Women benefits from a great screenplay, that is heightened by the powerful, and genuine chemistry between Bonham Carter and Eckhart.


Green Zone (2010)

If Jason Bourne suddenly turned into Rambo.

U.S. Defense Intelligence Agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) doesn’t want to hear what Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) has to say about not finding the weapons of mass destruction — evidence that could launch a war — he’s been sent to Iraq to unearth. Why the cover-up?

Director Paul Greengrass has teamed up with Matt Damon many of times on the big-screen with the Jason Bourne films, and as this film does look like a “Jason Bourne goes to Iraq” picture, it never gets as cool as it was going to look.

Probably my problem with this film was that it’s camera was all over the place. Greengrass is known for using hand-held cameras to create this realistic and gritty feel, but there are parts where this film gets so shaky, that I had to actually advert my eyes away from the screen just so I wouldn’t puke. There was also many moments where I couldn’t even tell what was going on. The action was good, especially by the last 15 minutes, but there wasn’t enough to keep me watching.

Green Zone’s writing is also kind of lame. I wish there was a little bit more poignancy to this film, rather than just all this military talk, and war battle sequences. We never get a real message, or even insight into the life of a soldier here, and that kind of took me away from this film, because then I just saw this as being an action thriller and nothing else, even though it was trying to be more.

Sometimes when you see certain actors in a role that Matt Damon is in, they just aren’t believable but he does a great job. Whether he’s questioning superiors, or giving orders, Matt Damon sounds completely natural speaking in the language of a militarist. He doesn’t try to be too cute, he just acts like an action movie star should. Greg Kinnear is basically the main bad-guy in this film, and does a good job but he doesn’t get that many scenes to prove it, which kind of bummed me out cause I was just waiting to see the brothers from Stuck On You go at it. Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, and Jason Isaacs also show up here doing their things, but not that much time to show anything more.

Consensus: Green Zone has some action that will keep you over, along with some good performances from the cast, but the script doesn’t really go anywhere, and just gives us action film cliches.


Easy A (2010)

I know too many chicks that this movie could be based on.

Ambitious student Olive (Emma Stone) decides to boost her popularity by pretending to be the school slut. As the school’s swirling rumor mill increases both her notoriety and her finances, Olive enjoys her newfound status but eventually must decide which is more important: popularity or self-esteem.

I think my favorite part of this film was it’s script. Being in high school myself, it was very easy to relate to some of the topics that this film was poking fun at, and a lot of the stuff they say is actually true of how high school actually can be. Times have changed since the good old John Hughes days, but the jokes remain the same. Now, while none of the jokes actually had me bursting into tears while laughing, there were some great one-liners and even some very clever and well-constructed jokes that were brought full circle at the end that were just great. I think I found this to be a lot more wittier than most teen comedies we get about 5 times a year, and for that I had a good time with it.

My gripe with this film was that it was kind of hard to take seriously since this subject would be such a huge talked about thing. In this age of webcams and sexting, virginity is not something you would expect from a high school senior. So I found this kind of unbelievable that this one chick that had sex, would be the main talk of the town.

There is also a slight problem with this film and it trying to get its point across. The film wants to have it both ways, because it wants to be smarter than your average teen comedy, but it still wants to show it’s female star dancing around and wearing slutty clothes, and somehow it doesn’t work well. It either needed to be about girl pretending to be a slut, or how judgmental Christian high-schoolers can be, but it can’t be both.

Emma Stone has spent much of her career being the best thing in bad movies, but now she’s given the chance to actually lead a film, and I must say she does a great job with it. I cannot think of another young actress in Hollywood who would have been able to pull off, and carry this role in the whole movie like Stone did. She’s kind of got a niche for herself playing a young girl, who’s wise beyond her years and that signature snappiness just always brings out the best lines. The rest of the ensemble cast does fine as well. Amanda Bynes plays the “Jesus freak” Marianne, and at first has a couple of funny scenes, but then her character starts to get over-played and becomes somewhat annoying. But I don’t think this is Bynes’ fault, as the film relies too much on her character for humor. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci seem almost too sarcastic to be actual parents, but I found their scenes to almost be the funniest here and work so well. There’s also many other great little notices from the likes such as Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, and Cam Gigandet, but the film doesn’t have them show up enough, and I wish the film actually gave more time to these acts rather than some dumb plot-line with the Christians. Still, I still did like this ensemble.

Consensus: Easy A may over-exaggerate it’s plot, but the witty screenplay that’s smarter than most teen comedies, and the perfect performance from Emma Stone make this a flawed, but entertaining love letter to the John Hughes films.


Primary Colors (1998)

Whoever thought Danny Zuko could be the President.

A man joins the political campaign of a smooth-operator candidate for president of the USA. A man joins the political campaign of a smooth-operator candidate for president of the USA (John Travolta).

I always thought Bill Clinton was a pretty cool president. He always seemed pretty chill, as well as one dirty S.O.B. But hey, that doesn’t mean he was a terrible guy, or does it?

I was actually surprised by how good this screenplay was. There is actually a very big deal of comedy that works surprisingly, mainly because the whole story is based on Bill Clinton, and who doesn’t like a couple of good Clinton jabs. But the script also provides a lot of insight into the world of politics and what certain candidates will do to be out on top. We also wonder if these smiling, cool guys we see on TV, are actually the same way behind closed doors. A lot of these points are actually brought up pretty well.

The problem with this film was that there was a middle part to this film that is actually kind of stale, and it almost feels as if nothing is really even happening. I think the problem was that this film does such a hard job at making politics look bad, that when it’s almost looking good, they have no idea what to do. So they don’t really have much going on in that middle part, and it’s a shame cause it did hold my interest throughout the first half.

Nobody could have ever thought that John Travolta could have pulled off a role as Bill Clinton but he does so well here. He makes him seem likable, with just enough charm and wit, that brings a lot of the comedy to this film surprisingly. Emma Thompson is also good in this as Hillary Clinton, and she gets rid of her English accent, and does it pretty well. The chemistry her and Travolta have on screen actually feels genuine, as if they actually have been married for as long as the film says they have. Adrian Lester is practically an unknown now, and that’s a shame because he does a good job here as Henry Burton. The best in this cast however is Kathy Bates who knocks this film out of the park. She brings a huge amount of comedy to her role, and by the end of the film, you see where she brings out the heart within her character, and it just shows you why she really is an amazing actress.

Consensus: It may get stale in the middle, but Primary Colors does a good job at keeping us entertained with a well acted, and funny look at the world of politics.