Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Rocky (1976)

This is why I’m proud to be a Philadelphian.

When world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Rocky doesn’t have much going for himself, except his girl-friend Adrian (Talia Shire), until he starts to pick up some steam with this fight up ahead.

Whenever anybody thinks about ‘Rocky’, most just say that they love the first but the others really ruined its legacy. I don’t know where I stand because even though I appreciate all of them, except for ‘Rocky V’ because Tommy Gunn was a puss, I can’t fully remember the last time I actually watched them all. Now after seeing the first one, I want to go back.

The main reason why this film works so well and only gets better and better with age is because of one thing and one thing only: under-dog story. Americans, Canadians, Japanese, Chinese, Yellow, Orange, Periwinkle, basically all people love these kinds of stories because it’s like a fairy-tale that gives hope to anybody out there who thinks they can’t do something special, but when they look at a dude like Rocky, they realize they can.

Rocky is the perfect example of your average, every-day guy who one days gets his shot at being big and absolutely takes it. He’s not a superhero with a big red cape or a knight in shining armor on a horse, he’s just a dude who considers himself a “bum”, drinks 5 raw eggs in the morning for breakfast (tried it before and it tastes terrible), walks around Philly at night talking to everybody while throwing some jokes around, and goes down to the meat-shop to knock on some meat. Rocky is the everyman that we all love and care about and it’s so hard not to like him considering you could probably find a guy right down your street that’s just like him. Well, that is without the boxing career but then again you never know.

The direction from John G. Avildsen and the screenplay from Stallone himself just comes together perfectly almost like peanut butter and jelly. Avildsen is a guy who’s movies I haven’t really seen all that much of but he gives this fairly low-key approach that has a lot of grittiness and dark elements to it but it’s still entertaining as hell to watch, especially when you know where the hell Rocky is throughout the whole film. I’m not sure how he won Best Director that year because even though I thought it was a good direction, it wasn’t anything spell-binding like so many other films that year.

When it comes to the script though, then we have something to really talk about. Everything in this film seems like real people actually talking and even though there is the usual schmaltz and predictability to the whole approach, it still doesn’t feel like a cheat. There is a perfect mixture of drama, romance, humor, and sports that comes together perfectly where one moment you could really feel something for Rocky and these other characters, but then you could be laughing your ass off the next moment when Rocky is making jokes about not knowing how to talk to a door. It also helps that just about everything in this film is so damn memorable and the only reason why we see so much of the same shit used nowadays is because at the time, this was so original and I will definitely have to call you a liar if you say you didn’t feel like trying hit a boxing bag after watching that awesome training montage.

Speaking of Sylvester Stallone, it’s pretty obvious that his performance as Rocky is just about perfect considering it’s the one that should have given him the Oscar that year and basically kicked off his career, but it’s a lot better because of the finer details that lie within his portrayal. The script, as I have already stated, is perfect but that’s also a lot of thanks to Stallone for not hamming it up once as this total meat-head. Rocky is of course the dude that has bigger muscles than a brain, but he’s still a lovable guy that jokes around with everyone and with Stallone, what you see is just about what you get from him. The whole time I could feel like Stallone was just being himself, almost as if everything was improvised because when he’s emotional, it’s not corny or overly sentimental, and when he’s just talking out of his ass, it feels like he’s saying whatever hits him first. It all works and I also have to give a lot of props to Stallone considering half of the shit he does here when it comes to training, I could have never done. Except for the claps in between one-handed push-ups, I do them every morning I wake up…

Let’s also not forget the rest of the cast of characters that easily made this film lovely no matter where the story went. Talia Shire is great as Rocky’s man squeeze, Adrian, and the scenes her and Rocky have (especially the ice-rink scene) all feel real and genuine; Burgess Meredith is awesome as Rocky’s trainer, Micky, and is an absolute riot just about every time he’s up on screen; and Burt Young is great as the worst best friend in the world, Paulie. The one performance I was surprised that really annoyed me was actually Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. I don’t know why but I just felt like this guy was trying so hard to be Muhammed Ali impersonator that it just got annoying after awhile but then again when you have a cocky, black world-heavyweight champion of boxing, it’s hard to not act like one of “the greatest”.

Consensus: Rocky is a perfect film for anybody who ever believes that they have what it takes because of it’s perfect screenplay, genuine performances from everybody involved, and just the overall good and happy feeling that this film will give you once you start to here Rocky yelling out “ADRIAAAAAN!”.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Happy New Year’s Everybody!!


Straw Dogs (2011)

Those Mississippi rednecks are so much more vicious than those ones from England. Well that’s if  there are such things as rednecks from England.

David Sumner (James Marsden), a Hollywood screenwriter moves with his newly wedded wife, Amy Sumner (Kate Bosworth), to her hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi. During their stay they meet with Amy’s former high school sweet heart Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his red neck friends. Of course hunting is in season and jealousy arises pushing everyone to their breaking point.

Having been a fan of the original Sam Peckinpah film, I went into this with very high expectations even though I knew everything that was going to happen. However, when it comes to remaking classics, I will never trust writer/director Rod Lurie ever again.

The original is all about the idea of non-violence and how far that idea will go until somebody eventually snaps and decides to take violence into their own hands. This film does not really express that idea one bit, instead, it just wants to be over-the-top. There is no subtlety here at all with this flick as we find out what the meaning for the term “Straw Dogs” means, seeing that all of the rednecks are basically one-note villains the whole time who do barbaric things such as hunting when it’s not hunting season or cutting the antlers of deers, and having a random sub-plot with a mentally-challenged kid, played by Dominic Purcell, that eventually leads into the grand-finale.

The film is very obvious with many parts that have David just looking terribly out-of-place. I mean the guy has the fancy Jaguar, listens to the orchestrated music, has a problem with people coming into his house and talking to him, and puts on a robe and slippers just to go out onto the ladder to talk to the guys working on his roof. I mean I got it that he was a nerd, but to constantly hit me over the head telling me what he is, was just annoying.

Where Lurie messed up with this film is that he spells way too many things out and where he could have actually developed characters and made their relationships understandable, he just focuses on trying to build up tension. Building up tension is fine in many cases, but here, we need something for us to actually be able to root for these characters and understand why they are the way they are and why these people are doing the things that they do.

However, I can bag on Lurie too much considering there good elements to this film as well. There are moments where the film will just focus on the couple of David and Amy, where you think it will just be them expressing their love and trying to be all cute but instead you get some pretty interesting moments. One moment is when Amy is running around in barely anything and is mad that the guys are looking at her (but come on, could you blame them?!?) but David then replies by telling her that she should have wore bra. This pisses her off and for once we see David looked at into a negative-light from Amy’s point-of-view which I thought was very intelligently handled because you don’t get to see much of that with any film that has a married couple, let alone couple, actually talking or being like that with one another in a very well-handled way. Lurie has many moments where he shines but others he just drops the ball.

If you have already seen the original then it’s basically known that the infamous rape scene is in here and it is used in a different way then it was in the original which is not a very bad thing because it was still used for great effect. Lurie makes this rape scene seem very graphic and very hard-to-watch which it should have been even if it was handled in a “tasteful way”. After this happens, the film starts to pick up some steam. Lurie creates some very good tension with many of these scenes including the end where the shit practically hits the fan. This was used a lot better in the original, but I still found myself behind this couple and cheering every time something cruel happened to the bad-guys.

However, my problem with the last act is the fact that I think it happens way too quickly and suddenly for it to actually make any real sense. I mean everybody gets real pissed, real quick and it almost seems like this violence was just something they always resort to when they don’t get their way. The ending is also way too abrupt where I was kind of hoping for some sort of epilogue or resolution to where we see David and Amy all happy that they got past all of these rednecks. It was a great build-up for Lurie but in the end of the film, he actually just loses it which was a tad disappointing.

Having James Marsden fill the shoes of a role that was originally played by Dustin Hoffman is like going from Pepsi to Max Cola, but I think this is the best I’ve seen him yet. Marsden is playing this sensitive and very soft guy that is trying so hard to prove to his hot, new, and young wife that he’s got what it takes to be “one of the guys” even though he doesn’t want anything to do with hunting or getting sweaty. When Marsden goes crazy at the end of the film, you feel the tension and anger coming off of his character and that works a whole lot considering that this character needed that psycho look in him.

Kate Bosworth is also a pretty good choice as Amy because she is both sexy and flirtatious at the beginning of the film, but then soon becomes very damaged and scared by the end of the flick. This is probably the best I’ve seen Bosworth, which isn’t saying much but she still is good here with the transitioning of her character. Her real-life boy-toy Alexander Skarsgård plays the main bad-guy Charlie who is staring intently about 50% of the whole film but is still pretty good. I thought that James Woods was completely over-the-top in his scenery-chewing role as the ex-football coach who starts almost all of this shit every time he’s on screen and just kept making me wonder on whether or not I should have laughed or taken his role seriously.

Consensus: The cast does a fine job with their roles and the tension builds up very well in the last half, but Straw Dogs is a remake that suffers from being too obvious, glorifying its violence to the point of where it seems almost forced, and moments where Rod Lurie loses his ideas of what he’s trying to say and instead just leaves them hanging without any real explanation as to why they were in the film in the first place. Stick with the original.


We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Wow they really run that house like a zoo. Thank you, I know I’m funny.

‘We Bought A Zoo’ is based on the Benjamin Mee memoir of the same name and an actual true story. It tells the story of how Mee (Matt Damon) and his family used their life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo and restore it to its former glory.

What is with the films that are coming out that have to do with a father taking over his family as the wife dies (this, ‘The Descendants’) or ones that have to do with animals (this, ‘War Horse’)? Oh wait, it’s the holidays and everybody needs some good old cheer even though I’m not buying it.

Cameron Crowe returns to the big-screen after 6 years and being a fan of films such as ‘Jerry Maguire’, ‘Vanilla Sky’, and ‘Almost Famous’, I was excited to see him come back but he could have chosen something a lot better but thanks to him, it’s a lot better than I could have imagined. The film itself is co-written by Aline Brosh McKenna who has done fairly light-comedy flicks but you can almost tell where Crowe inserted his own writing and lines in. The main character is a writer (though he doesn’t do much of it), he’s going through a mid-life crisis of sorts and is dealing with the loss of his wife while raising an adorable child. Oh and let’s not forget that there are also the little speeches that characters give each other about life and just living it out to the fullest.

Although this all may sound cheesy and predictable (which in a way it is), Crowe somehow makes this film believable and entertaining to the point of where you do start to get involved with this story. The story is cliched beyond belief but there is just something about all of these characters that makes you smile and make you feel like you are apart of this zoo as much as anybody else on-screen. Crowe also out-lines the film with a lot of humor that is sometimes very witty, sometimes very obvious, and other times very dark (such as the Chilean miner reference which came out-of-nowhere). I think because of Crowe, this film isn’t as bad as it should be.

The problems that this film runs into is its dramatic moments where Crowe stumbles quite a bit. Since this is a family flick, Crowe feels the need to bring in these ultra-sappy and corny moments where a character is saying something sweet or giving another montage about their own feelings. It gets even worse when the score starts to blast on in every sequence something cute or bubbly happens. Maybe if they didn’t have the stupid score, I would have smiled at more scenes but it’s so cloying and distracting that I honestly just wish Crowe used the soundtrack for ‘Almost Famous’ instead. Could you imagine a zebra running around to the tune of Tiny Dancer?

Another problem I had with this film was that I think Crowe didn’t know how to trust his audience here so he just hits people over the head with everything he’s trying to show and do. When Benjamin does something dumb, there is automatically something there to hit his head or fall down from or when Benjamin starts to think about his deceased wife, she pops up right away. Crowe tries to spell everything out for us and instead of letting us think about it for ourselves, we have to get constant visuals of whatever is happening just so Crowe doesn’t lose us.

However, the power with this flick really lies in Matt Damon’s performance as Benjamin Mee, and it’s great to see him once again in top-form. Damon has the perfect balance of charm, humor, and normal look to him that makes him seem like a real dude with real emotions and even though his daughter sort of takes away any moment he has of being funny, Damon still seems like he knows what he’s doing. Scarlett Johansson is great to watch as Kelly, and the romance between her and Damon is really under-played which I liked because judging by the previews, I automatically knew I wouldn’t have been able to believe it and I still didn’t.

The rest of the cast is great with everybody getting a chance to strut their stuff. Thomas Haden Church is funny and brings a lot of wit to his character as Benjamin’s big-bro, Duncan; Patrick Fugit is back on the big-screen with a chimpanzee over his shoulder the whole time as Robin Jones; Angus Macfadyen is funny as the Scottish crazy-man, MacCready; and John Michale Higgins plays his arch-nemesis, Walter Ferris, who shows his perfect comedic timing with just about everything he says or does. The one disappointing performance and plot I was bothered by was the sub-plot between Elle Fanning and Colin Ford which seems very forced the whole time, even though the film constantly brings it up. Fanning has been really good in the past two films I’ve seen her in so for her to kind of just be a one-note character was a real disappointment, but hey, she’s got more films way ahead of her.

Consensus: We Bought a Zoo mainly benefits from Cameron Crowe’s writing and the fun performances from the cast, especially a very likable real Matt Damon, but is also way too sentimental and tries too hard to get us to feel something with constant speeches about life and spelling everything out for us.


War Horse (2011)

Damn this kid really loves this horse. I mean he reaaaaaaaaaally loves this horse.

This is a tale of a horse named Joey who is remarkable that he starts off just a little guy in England to then be transported off into the war in France. His owner, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) goes all-over-the-world to come and find him as Joey goes throughout the world, meeting new people and gaining new life experiences.

What director Steven Spielberg has always been able to do is tug at our heart-strings no matter what the story may be. Here, he tries a little too hard for that but in the end it’s too hard to hate on a Spielberg.

The problem right off the bat with this flick was that it gets very corny, very early. You get these moments where we see just how amazing Joey is as he can row out a field, or follow his owner just by hearing a simple bird-call, or even just by walking over a piece of wood and then a huge sweeping score comes in just to let you know how magical and beautiful these moments are when in reality they are just plain and simply cheesy. I think I got the fact that Joey was a horse that was unlike any other, after about the first 10 minutes but the film just kept hammering away at this and it becomes an annoyance after awhile.

Another problem with this flick that I actually think Spielberg ran into himself was the idea of how and who was going to make this appeal to everyone. On one hand you have this very emotional story about a horse who goes through everything that is adapted from a Tony-winning Broadway play, but on the other hand you also have this very grim and disturbing tale with soldiers being killed left-and-right and horses being put away in a not so happy matter after there is no use for them anymore. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s pretty hard to center a film out there that seems like it’s for the whole family, when you have these certain darker moments that may scare away the younger people of the family.

This problem is what leads Spielberg to making a very tame film that gets by with clichés and eye-rolling moments. Take for instance the scenes between the grandfather (Niels Arestrup) with his granddaughter are scenes filled with dialogue that should be playful and come out a bit corny especially when the grandfather tells her a story about a bird flying home, which seemed totally cheesy especially considering the fact that the grandfather was kind of being a dick to her also. There are also plenty of other moments where this film just totally flames you with the manipulative moments that are supposed to make you feel something incredible but instead usually just make you want to punch whoever wrote this film.

However, when it comes to Spielberg, this guy always seems to come out on top no matter what it is that he does. The one element to this film that makes it the most watchable throughout all of these cheesy moments is the beautiful look this film has. Spielberg gives this film the epic scenery it deserves and with so many beautiful colors coming at you in every scene, it’s almost too hard to look away. Spielberg is not only just great in showing how beautiful this film can be but also very gritty as the film starts to get darker as we get more into the war which not only show Spielberg’s fine attention to detail but also how he is able to actually capture the feel of WWII but also WWI, which means that the Vietnam War is only about two movies away from being covered.

The film also shows that even though Spielberg tries to manipulate the hell out of his audiences, he still has that sympathetic bone in his body to make us care about what he is showing us on screen. The whole story basically shows Joey being the horse-version of ‘Forrest Gump’, going from one owner to another and each story somehow getting better and better as it goes on. What this horse Joey goes through is hard to watch sometimes but always made me feel something not just by how great he is, but just how useful he is even though he’s just viewed at as another horse. I’m not going to try to get into the whole “all living things should be treated the same” speech that it seems like I’m leading myself into but regardless of that, the story of Joey will make you feel something deep down inside of you and it’s all thanks to Spielberg because he always knows how to make anybody feel something.

It seems like every person who has seen this film or reviewed it is mentioning the no-man’s land scene between the British soldier and the German soldier where they meet to free Joey from barbed-wire and it really is worth mentioning apart from this flick. This scene is probably one of the best that has been in a Spielberg film in the past 10 years and it shows just how well he is able to show two conflicts being calmed down or resolved just by simply taking it easy or even just coming together to help a certain someone or something that may be in harm’s way. It’s a very powerful scene and one that makes this stand-out from recent war films.

Something else that Spielberg does here that really works is how he barely uses any big-names for his cast but that works incredibly well for the film since it keeps our minds on Joey. Jeremy Irvine is good as Albert and gives him this innocent boy act that works and makes us feel for his character when him and Joey actually get separated; Emily Watson is probably the most familiar face as his mother, and she’s great as well; and Tom Hiddleston is also very good as Captain Nicholls, even though some people may not be able to get past the fact that it’s Loki playing a British war Captain. There are many other performers here but nobody else that really stands out except for Irvine, and even he isn’t anything all that memorable.

Consensus: War Horse is heavy-handed, corny, and built on upon tons and tons of clichés, but somehow Spielberg is able to make this story heart-warming with a beautiful look, and some very good scenes that will make you feel more for this story as it goes along.


Restrepo (2010)

Now I’m betting ‘Call of Duty’ doesn’t look like so much fun to all of these teenagers.

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, teamed with photographer Tim Hetherington and spent a year embedded with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan, chronicling the hard work, fear and brotherhood that come with repelling a deadly enemy.

Anybody that watches a film about the war goes for a strong story, emotional wallop, cool action, and just pure entertainment. But when happens when you can get all of that in a war film that is not just real but something, this up close and personal.

Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger goes right inside of this terrible war zone where all of these guys’ lives are put at stake just about every second of every day. No matter how good of a film ‘The Hurt Locker’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ may be, they still don’t measure anywhere near the truth and this is what that film holds that is greater than any other war flick. Just about anything and everything that the soldiers do, the cameras are right there to capture it and it’s a real testament to how daring Hetherington and Junger were while making this film because there are some situations where they are not only put at risk of death, but they miss some pretty close bullets as well.

Another aspect of this flick that sort of seemed weird at first was how it sort of seems all-over-the-place. One scene we could be watching these guys talking about how they feel in an interview booth, the next scene they’re crying about one of their buddies just dead right in front of them, and then another scene pops up where they could be eating some din-din, messing with the cook’s titties and squeezing them. It may seem a little jumpy at times but there is still a whole lot of realism that puts you inside the lives of the soldiers that have to go through with this shit almost every day for a year and even longer.

Also, bonus points on not actually showing any of the dead peoples’ bodies or actual death footage because that would have probably just made it more like a snuff film and less of an actual documentary on these guys.

For most people, including myself, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing being on the front-lines. However, what really got me was that there was just a constant feeling of dread that we could be listing to this guy talk about his loving family, and then the next moment, bullets are flying everywhere and he’s just about dead. The fact that these guys could still sleep knowing that they could be dead at any second really made me wonder just how the hell could they get any sleepy time whatsoever or even go back to the ‘burbs and get on with regular life. It’s like that scene in ‘The Hurt Locker’ where Jeremy Renner is in grocery shopping and he feels like a total alien to everything around him because he’s so used to the adrenaline rush of the war. It’s like that scene however when it comes to who portrays that better, it obviously has to go to this flick.

This film could have easily gone for straight-on politics but instead it’s all about the soldiers who fight for our country everyday, and it really was something else. Throughout the film, we get to know these guys for who they are, how they view death and life, and when they actually start talking about what they have experienced to fight for the country that they love, the sympathy will definitely start to swoon on in. These are real people, just like you and me and it’s really scary considering how much shit these guys have to go through but still at the end of the day be able to crack a smile and a joke. It’s gut-wrenching to watch these guys talk about their buddies that they lost in the field and what’s even worse is just how they are all able to do it with a smile, as if they fully haven’t realized that they just lost another friend, another human-being. Nobody in the whole world could ever relate or know what these guys actually go through, except maybe a vet, but even then, it was still devastating to watch.

In a world where the war is treated as if it was just an excuse for people to blow the heads off a whole bunch of Pakistanis, it was simply refreshing to get a gritty, realistic, and up-close look at the real horror that comes with being in the war. People have these unrealistic views of the war because of the trigger-happy generation we live in, but ‘Restrepo’ is not only a film that takes that whole view away from the general population, it would probably make people re-think. In a world where it seems like the Army is at every door-step trying to get more and more recruits for them, it was great to almost see a flick that shows you what comes with that and what may happen to you, if you decide to join. It’s definitely not the type of propaganda that the U.S. Army tries to go for but it didn’t need that at all. This is not a film you should see, it’s a film that you NEED to see, if you haven’t already done so.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

R.I.P. Tim Hetherington

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

OK maybe I lied, Americans acting like a Swedish people are more effed up.

This is basically the same exact premise as the Swedish original with a young computer hacker, Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) becomes entangled with a journalist, Mikael (Daniel Craig), over a case of a young girl’s death that is over 40 years old.

Never reading the book but seeing the Swedish original, I kind of knew right away what I was getting myself into. Even though it didn’t fully come out the way I would have liked to wish, I still couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Christmas night then watching 2 hours and 40 minutes worth of incest, rape, lesbians, and James Bond wearing glasses.

One of the problems with the remake was the fact that it didn’t really take too much time fleshing everything out from the characters to the mystery itself. Everything sort of just felt a little rushed but with this one, not so much. Writer Steven Zaillian does a great job of keeping this dialogue on many roads but giving them all enough time to flesh out and still seem effective at the end when it’s all said and done. You got to also give Zaillian a lot of credit for not trying to dumb it down for audiences in any way either.

However, this film is solely David Fincher‘s and almost every frame here, he reminds of you that. Fincher has been really getting farther and farther up my list for my favorite director and it’s inspired directions like this that make me understand why I feel this way. Fincher does not put in a scene here that doesn’t mean anything to the plot and instead every scene he puts in adds something more to the story every-time whether it being more material found out about Harriet, Lisbeth boning Mikael again, or just some more crazy-shit going down for this story. Fincher is working his A-game with this flick and doesn’t stop once to slow down or take a breather, don’t go into this blind, you will want to rip your hair out, and that’s something that Fincher likes to hear.

Even though his direction is incredible though, I still felt some tension was a little lost for many reasons. One of the reasons being here is that I felt like he should have at least taken more time with this story because when he does, it puts you on-the-edge-of-your-seat without any remorse. There also isn’t much time for Fincher to build up tension within a certain scene rather than just focusing on a lot of fast-cuts and quick chases in between two characters. There was probably one scene by the end of the flick where I really felt the real deal tension that I would usually get with a ‘Seven’ or ‘The Game’ or even ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ for that matter.

Another reason why I felt a lot of the tension was lost was because this is a re-make and even though some scenes are either changed, left out, or breezed right over that are from the original, I still couldn’t feel like I saw this story before but except with different people. The original film was all about the unpredictability of it and having no idea where this case was going to take either character, and just who was going to end up alive or dead. Here, the film didn’t change all that much so knowing all of the twists and happenings of the plot was kind of a real bummer and sort of felt lackluster for me even though I still do think Fincher gives it his all. You can only do so much with a film that has been by so many in the first place Finch, but I’m glad they gave it to you to direct.

The biggest selling point for this film was in fact The Girl herself: Lisbeth Salander who’s played by Rooney Mara aka that girl that broke up with Mark Zuckerberg in the beginning of ‘The Social Network’. I don’t think anyone ever thought that they would soon again be seeing the same chick about a year and two months later with tats, piercings, and full-on nakey scenes all-over-the-place. To say the least though, Mara is amazing here and brings a lot more to a role that was already down pat by Noomi Rapace. Mara has a lot to do here and in such a demanding role, she makes everything seem believable with a tough-ass character like Lisbeth that at times may go away but you never forget her and it’s only a short-time until she’s back on being a scary chick like usual. Mara definitely deserves an Oscar nomination probably because Rapace got one and I think that Mara should at least get a lot more roles now considering the last time I remembering her doing something this dark was ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ aka the awesome remake….

One of my biggest and bitchiest complaints of the original was the fact that the film barely even focused on Mikael, who was a totally cool character in and of himself. This is something that this film does not do and instead gave me what I would like to say Daniel Craig‘s best performance since he first decked out the James Bond look in ‘Casino Royale’. Mikael is an interesting character and it was cool to see him get a lot of time spent on him even when Lisbeth does come around to eff shit up. Even though he did not stand a chance from taking Mara’s spot-light, Craig is still great and offers up that real human-being aspect of a character that needed more attention to him in the first place.

Everybody else here is pretty damn good as well with plenty of creepy and eerie performances given by Stellan Skarsgård as Martin Vanger, Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, and Joely Richardson as Anita Vanger who with this and ‘Anonymous’ earlier this year has found herself really heating things up and getting our minds away from the fact that she went out with the kid that played her son in ‘Nip/Tuck’. Yeah, it’s a little creepy but then again just watch one episode of that show and it will seem pretty normal after awhile.

Let’s also not forget to mention that this film also features another kick-ass score from the minds of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Every time Fincher teams up with these guys, they just somehow make magic together and almost every scene that is under-lined with another piece of the score music, the more and more creepy the film gets without over-doing it. Also, this film definitely features one of the best and most random opening sequences to a film that I’ve seen all year. You can basically that ‘Immigrant Song’ cover to anything, and I guess that anything here was whips, chains, and very black and oily people.

Consensus: If you have seen the original, everything here may feel a bit familiar and old, but with Fincer’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you don’t know what to expect with some great tension, non-stop fast pace, and great performances from the whole cast, especially Mara who shows her total role commitment and deserves some type of recognition come February.


Countdown to Claus: A Christmas Story (1983)

Christmas just would not be the same without it.

Ralphie (Peter Billingsly) is part of the all-American family in the 40’s trying to survive the Christmas season. It is also his quest to finally get from the big man himself what he’s been wanting and been warned about for so long…an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Hey, he said it best.

Come on now! You had to know that this was coming around sooner or later. This is basically the definitive classic film for Christmas and it only gets better with age, considering I remember always watching this way back when I was still hanging out in my Superman undies on the 24th of December.

The reason why this film works so well is because it’s so damn memorable. I mean almost every line of dialogue is something everyone all over the world still remember to quote and even the events that happen as well are memorable as hell too. Who doesn’t want to go to a Chinese place on Christmas? Who doesn’t want that leg-lamp? Also, who doesn’t want a damn BB-gun for Christmas? These are only a couple of things that are memorable, but they aren’t the only ones I can promise you that.

I think the best part about this flick is that it really hits some reality points, especially if you’re a kid because a lot of what goes on here and said here, is actually how a kid is. Ralphie is just like any kid during Christmas time: he wants presents, he tries his hardest to stay on the nice list, and he day-dreams all day about getting good grades in class and having the whole class lift him up over their heads. I always thought like that as a kid, and in other ways still do but it’s just easy to say that if you’re a kid now watching this, you will see a lot to relate to and realize that you are not alone in the way you act. Then again, I don’t think any little kids are reading this anyway.

I don’t know where all of the stars in this film went because everybody here is memorable and perfect for their roles. Peter Billingsley at least directed the terrible flop ‘Couples Retreat’Darren McGavin kept on doing his own thang for awhile, even appearing as Billy’s dad in ‘Billy Madison’, but tragically died in 2006; and Melinda Dillon kept doing on doing whatever the hell it is that she was doing but the last time I saw her in anything was in ‘Magnolia’ and even then I had to look up who she was. Yes, three random-ass films like ‘Couples Retreat’, ‘Billy Madison’, and ‘Magnolia’ all share something in common.

The reason why this flick is just such a classic is because it just brings me on home some of the nostalgia that I love seeing in any film. This just reminds me of hanging around my house, drinking some egg nog and getting in the whole mood and spirit of Christmas which I always truly love. This is definitely a flick that will love on for as long as Christmas goes on for and I’m proud to call this one of my all-time favorite films no matter what.

10/10=Full Price!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Shame (2011)

Apparently being addicted to sex isn’t fun. Dammit!

Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon, a sex-addict who is constantly bedding women almost each and every single night. However, his sister (Carey Mulligan) soon comes in to live with him and gets in the way of his life-style even though he continues to get worse and worse. Family and sexy-time just don’t really mix.

Other than almost seeing ‘Blue Valentine’ last year when it still had the rating, this marks my first time ever seeing an NC-17 flick, even though it weird is that I didn’t get carded. For some reason they have just never been my thing because they are usually always porno flicks that try to do something, but end up not doing anything. However, this is a flick that I’m glad to say deserved its rating and doesn’t hide away any pee-pees, ta-ta’s, or…well…you know…lady parts.

Writer/director Steve McQueen (no, this one) goes for the guts, or should I say wieners, and keeps this dreary and freaky mood where everything is dark, disturbing, and just not right. There isn’t a real driving force behind this narrative but to see the ways this guy goes about his days, popping b’s left-and-right still made me feel like something crazy was going to happen next.

What I liked about McQueen’s direction is that he actually doesn’t try to spell-out anything, except for the sex of course but even that to an extent is somewhat thought-provoking. McQueen lets us see this guy for what he is and what he’s suffering with and when things go from bad to worse, it’s hard to take your eyes off of the screen mainly because you know that this story is just going to get crazier and crazier. I never felt any emotional attachment to this story but I thought the way that McQueen showed this form of addiction, in it’s sad and dark haze, was very gutsy and he didn’t back down from showing anything, which I thought needed to be done to get the full experience of this film.

Where McQueen really nails this film down is in his way of filming, because being an artist himself, he shows that you can make anything great to look at. I love tracking shots and how McQueen keeps them going on for scene-after-scene was really great because it made me feel as if I was there and it was pretty nice to actually see somebody create tension by using just one shot the whole 5-10  minutes. There are a lot of memorable moments here where McQueen doesn’t cut away once such as the dinner scene he had with his co-worker, or when he’s jogging through the streets of NYC, or when he’s just standing there spying on his next sexual prey. McQueen really added a lot to this film other than just a bunch of really dirty sexy-time scenes, he made this feel real.

However, where this method fails is when he takes a little too long with certain scenes that I think should have been cut right away. I think anybody reading this knows what scene I’m talking about. The scene where Mulligan absolutely butchers the song “New York, New York” played on for way too long and instead of just trying to show us something that these characters share, it made me wonder just how much longer could this damn scene go on for? I mean it wasn’t that long of a song in the first place, right?

Another problem with this film is that the film does start to lose it’s own sight by the end, even though it always stayed interesting. I felt like this film really struck a cord with me when it came to its story, but how everything played out in the end seemed a tad predictable and unfocused. There were certain moments where an idea would pop into my head and I would imagine if what I was thinking, would actually happen in the flick, and 9 times out of 10, it actually happened. What I’m trying to say is that the last 30 minutes were predictable and I could tell what was going to happen next, even though my eyes were still glued to the screen.

The reason why this film felt unfocused by the end too was because there were a lot of characters, situations, and questions that were around within the first hour of the flick, but somehow found their own ways of leaving as soon as things start to get a little crazy. There were questions about this brother and sister on whether or not they actually had incest, and to be truly honest I think they did. However, I can’t be too sure because this film may sort of gives hints to that whole idea, I still think that there were a lot of questions about that and many other certain elements that this film brought up as well. Hey, I liked how McQueen didn’t try to spell it all out for us, but I still think he should have at least left us with a bit more answers.

Once again, Michael Fassbender owns in a role that needs him to do so. Take it for granted, he’s pretty much doing a Christian Bale impersonation right from the start but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deliver like you would expect a sex-junkie to do so. Fassbender really does let it ALL hang out and with a performance like this, it’s easy to see why he can definitely be an Oscar winner because he’s able to show so many emotions without even barely moving his face. He’s a sly dude when it comes to him getting the ladies, but when he has to show off some real emotions, Fassbender nails it and gives us a glimpse at a guy that seems trapped by his own demons which makes him ultimately vulnerable. This is a very physical and emotional performance for Fassbender, and one that I think he does a superb job in even though he probably won’t get nominated for an Oscar because it’s “too racy”. Besides he should win an Oscar just for being able to piss on camera, which is something I have never seen on film before and since I can’t even pee with somebody standing right behind me, I got to give some props to a guy that can do it in front of a whole film-crew. Carey Mulligan is also pretty good as the foul-mouthed sister of his, but when it comes to being Fassbender’s sister in this flick, you kind of get over-shadowed big-time.

Consensus: Shame ends up leaving more questions unanswered than we would have liked but the vision of Steve McQueen and the unrelenting performance from Fassbender, makes this flick a dark and dreary story that gets crazier and disturbing as it goes on, but with a lot more emotion still left in-tact.


Countdown to Claus: Black Christmas (1974)

Always check the attic.

Terror reigns inside a sorority house a few days before Christmas break as a series of menacing phone calls — and the discovery of a dead girl’s body — transform yuletide cheer into fear. Soon the killer is on the loose and the girls get more and more scared, but then the cops show up and it’s all business from there baby.

It is often disputed as to what film really started the trend in slasher flicks: either this one, or ‘Halloween’. It’s been up for debate for a long time but if I had to say who I think started it all was the latter, probably because it was actually good, or at least compared to this.

Where the problem with this film lies is the fact that it’s way too slow. It starts off with some tension being built but then it turns into this flick that shows about one kill every 30 minutes, which may seem like a dumb complaint but while there aren’t any killings going on, nothing else is really happening either.

No character here seems to actually be a real person other than a bunch of cliches such as the foul-mouthed girl, the smart girl, the always scared girl, and then there’s the house-maid who is all sweet and nice but then also a foul-mouthed drinker. She’s the only one who actually has any real personality here and I think that she was also the best performance as well. Let’s not also forget to mention that the bone-headed cops are here as well who seem like total dumb-asses in the way that they are actually handling this problem that these girls are having.

I can’t lie and say that there weren’t parts that entertained me because there actually were. I did feel some tension and suspense throughout a lot of the moments where you don’t know what’s going to happen next and I think that they were handled well because they didn’t really push much of the gore and blood factor like so many horror films do nowadays. I have to give Bob Clark (a guy who would go on to do ‘A Christmas Story’) some credit because he does try here with the small-budget he’s given, but really fails when it comes to actually making an interesting story get better.

There were also some other elements I didn’t understand like how this killer was able to do all of these crazy and wild voices on the phone even though it’s pretty obvious that these voices he couldn’t just make. I know a girl voice when I hear one and I can barely even do an impersonation of one so if this guy can do as good of a one as this film made it seem he could, then he should just stop killing teens and start doing some stand-up. Hey, look at Frank Caliendo. Also, what the hell was up with that whole abortion subtext? Actually the bigger question was did anybody even care? Hell knows I didn’t.

Another problem that comes into mind when I think of this film is that it hasn’t aged well probably because there are so many other copy-cats just like it. Everybody knows how these films all play out so why should this one be any different? Of course it’s one of the first and it has its cool moments where it shows the point-of-view from the killer, but there’s nothing here that makes me feel like I just saw a master-piece. It feels more like I just saw a film that was all big, controversial, and frightening way back in its day but is just total rubbish right now in a generation where we have basically seen anything and everything when it comes to horror flicks. I know this review may have me lose some fans but to be honest, I just could not enjoy myself all that much.

Consensus: Black Christmas has some tense moments, but is overall a dated horror flick with a cheesy screenplay, predictability, and characters that don’t seem real and don’t do anything, except for the house-maid. She’s actually cool.


Countdown to Claus: The Family Man (2000)

What if…Nic Cage actually took good roles again?

A cutthroat investment banker Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage), who eschews emotional ties, is transported into the prosaic life he might have had if he’d wed his college sweetheart (Téa Leoni). Instead of a Ferrari, Campbell drives a malfunctioning minivan in the suburbs and is saddled with two screaming kids, but he learns to love every minute of it.

Going into this flick, I was expecting some good and some bad. Bad because it’s Brett Ratner directing and he blows but good because I’m a Nic Cage fan and the plot seemed pretty cool. However, the merging of Cage and Ratner did not bone out as well as I would have liked to hope.

What I have to say about this flick that was actually very good was the fact that the plot was a pretty cool twist on the whole ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ plot. It got even better when we started to see how this dude, Jack, reacts to everything he has to deal with now because he is indeed a lower-class citizen than before. Seeing this Wall Street hooligan have to live his day by putting on his own clothes and wearing shoes that are less than 200 dollhairs, actually cracked me up and I think worked for the most part.

The script also showed some very bright moments in about the first 40 minutes where we become comfortable enough with these characters, the story, and the tone and it keeps on going for very well. I mean yeah, there are the cheesy moments we usually get with these kind of flicks, but the script actually made them feel authentic rather than just predictable and generic. To be honest though, I wish the film stopped while it was ahead.

The problem with the script is that after the first hour or so, we start to get the non-stop unoriginal and sentimental moments that usually go down in Christmas films, let alone a riff on a classic story like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. The film had me laughing and feeling some emotions towards the events and the characters but as time went on, I just sort of felt like this film was just using cheesy moment after cheesy moment to make me feel something for these characters and what’s going on.

Also, for a film that is trying so hard to be a film that’s all cheerful and pro-family it sure is awfully mean, especially to the regular blue-collar working families of America. Having Jack Campbell, this big-ass Wall Street dude, you get a lot of “rich people are better than poorer people” sayings a lot and at first, it’s understandable but then after awhile it really started to make me wonder what this film was trying to do or say. That’s where I think Ratner messes up because he spends so much time on Campbell being all self-absorbed that when it actually comes to him being a loving family man (hence the title) I never understood what the film was trying to say.

Is going for a big job like being a Wall Street tycoon bad because you make a lot of money and you don’t have time to be with your family? Or is that you should make more chances with your life, such as marrying a college sweet-heart? I didn’t understand what this film’s message was and what really bothered me was the fact that the ending only added more confusion. Yes, there is a great deal of hope left open in the end but I felt as if the film lost me a bit too much by then I just couldn’t really care all that much considering it felt a bit forced.

Note to Brett Ratner: don’t make fun of the people who usually go out and give money to see your films in the first place.

Where this film really worked for me was the performances by the two lead performers. Nicolas Cage is a guy that I always stand by in no matter what it is, and I think he was great here as Jack Campbell because he gets to show a lot of his talent here. He’s a little goofy, vain, but also a pretty nice dude and through Cage we get to see that nice guy in Campbell. There were some moments where Campbell shows his true emotions and they really rang true because of Cage. Téa Leoni was also a real treat to have on screen as Kate because she’s just the most energetic person on screen the whole time. Leoni always seems like she’s having a fun time whether it’s being sarcastic or a little bit playful, but either way Leoni is just awesome here and it’s easy to see why Campbell would have to review his life after leaving her in the first place. I was also disappointed by how they didn’t use Don Cheadle as much as they did Jeremy Piven. Oh well.

Consensus: Although it may seem like a cheat for me to like The Family Man even though it’s incredibly sentimental, cheesy, and confusing when it comes to what it’s trying to say. However, I think that the performances are great and were able to hold me over along with the overall good-feeling of the tone as well.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.


Young Adult (2011)

Fast-food, Diet Coke, the Kardashians, and writing novels for little shits to swoon over.

Charlize Theron stars an alcoholic writer of young adult novels who decides to return to her small-town in Minnesota to win back her high-school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), a now happily married husband and father. This eventually leads her to another high-school classmate played by Patton Oswalt and a whole bunch of troubles.

Director Jason Reitman is a dude who’s films I can’t really get into all that much, even though he doesn’t really have a style to declare his “own”. However, this is probably my favorite of the 4 that he has done, and I can easily say that I think I can get into this guy.

Being the fact that this is written by Diablo Cody, I was expecting for this to be one of those snarky and annoying teen-lingo scripts that would just use cool and hip phrases of the time, rather than give me an actual story. However, Cody is showing some real transition as a writer as she gets by with a real character and some real situations that may actually seem too realistic for some people to get by. There are moments where the film lingers on some terribly uncomfortable dark comedy but Cody actually shows that she can be funny in scenes that should be a lot more serious. I liked this about Cody but when it comes to the actual story itself, she does an even better job.

The one thing about this story is that the whole time I just felt this under-breathing sadness. I never could fully put my finger on just what it was but for some reason, I caught this sad feeling that just stayed with me for the entire film until it actually showed up right in front of my face, and then I realized that this is a sad story after all. The main reason why this story is so sad is because Mavis Gary is a terribly unlikable character that is just very upset deep down inside and I felt like she was going to meltdown any second.

Take it for granted. Mavis is not a likable person: she drinks too much, is self-absorbed, doesn’t live in reality, and more or less lives her life without any consequences on any of the terrible and mean things she does and call me crazy, but I liked her a lot. Cody does a great job of creating this rich character that is a total bitch who you think you’d never ever root behind but as soon as the film starts to gear towards the end, you start to feel like you may actually like this chick, as did I. Mavis never apologizes for anything of the things she does and she never learns from her mistakes, which I think is a real big step for a Hollywood film to adventure towards considering its so hard to pull off in today’s world of cinema where every character is mean in the beginning, but soon has some epiphany by the end and we’re forced to believe it.

Mavis is also not just a bitch, but also a character that I could really feel for. She doesn’t understand that she’s an adult with a child’s brain that still wants to be able to do the things she used to do, even if that may mean that others don’t accept it either. Let’s not also forget to mention that she has no friends and she just sort of goes on about her days trying to write this really crappy final book for a teen series, or trying her hardest to win over her high-school sweetheart. Mavis had me wondering just what is really wrong with her until the end where we see these three scenes in a row where she not only totally breaks-down but reveals a lot about herself that made me almost want to just give her a hug. She may be a terrible person at heart, but deep-down inside there is a sad and lonely soul somewhere to be found and that’s where I think I connected not only with this film, but also with this character.

This is where Reitman comes in and shows his talents as a director. Reitman has a perfect balance of uncomfortable dark comedy to where you laugh a lot but also feel a lot to the point as to where you actually start to feel bad for laughing at these characters the whole time. I do think that the film should have definitely been a lot longer just for there to be more depth and give this story to breath but I still do think having it clock in at 94 minutes, keeps this film short, sweet (or rotten for that matter), and straight to the point.

If there was one problem that I had most with this film was the fact that there is a constant connection between Mavis’ life and her story that she’s writing. This seemed a bit obvious considering that the first time we actually see her start writing things down, is when she’s actually talking about her life and it’s nothing new that hasn’t already been done in films before, but hey, it can be forgiven because at least Cody wasn’t trying to bring in sayings that I used in AIM 9 years ago in as well.

It’s hard to believe that this is actually Theron’s first ever comedic performance and probably her first ever role where we can’t stand her. Except for maybe ‘Monster’ but she was probably just more scary there. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary perfectly because she is obviously very attractive but still is a terrible person by the way she acts and just lets loose of the ugliness within her. Theron hits these great moments where she’s just being a total bitch by flirting with her ex-boyfriend right in front of his wife, or by sipping this rare alcohol from her “friend”, or just by simply just acting like she deserves everything in the world because she wrote some cheesy novels made for teen chicks. Mavis is, as I have already mentioned, terribly unlikable which Theron brings out very well but she also makes her character have more heart and get by her being a one-dimensional character. Theron owns here as Mavis and I definitely think she should get nominated.

Patton Oswalt is also an awesome addition here as Matt Freehauf, a guy who can’t seem to get past his high school days either. Oswalt plays this character perfectly with some very funny comments on how ridiculous Mavis is being but at the same time is totally honest with her about her and his own life. He seems like a natural when it comes to the comedy in Cody’s script, but when it comes to the more dramatic moments he is even better and shows us that he has a great balance as an actor. The on-screen pairing of him and Theron is unlikely but also features some of the best moments of the whole film and brought out the most in both of these great stars. I definitely would love if Oswalt got at least a nomination for his performance here.

Patrick Wilson is also just a regular but likable dude as Buddy Slade. Not much else to say really other than this guy is just generally cool and charming.

Consensus: Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman re-team once again for Young Adult and make it not only a funny, if uncomfortable comedy, but also a realistic and slightly moving story anchored by one of Theron’s best performances she’s given in a long time.

9/10=Full Price!!

Countdown to Claus: Everybody’s Fine (2009)

Sometimes you just wanna give these old actors a hug.

Frank (Robert De Niro) just lost his wife, and without their mother by his side, Frank’s grown children aren’t compelled to visit for the holidays. So he hits the road to visit them — collecting various revelations and learning about himself along the way.

Back in the winter of ’09 when this flick first came out, I had no intentions of seeing it whatsoever. The trailer was pretty corny, that poster is terribly photo-shopped (what the hell happened to De Niro’s face?), and just an overall feeling of I knew exactly what I was going to get myself into. However, it’s always awesome to be blind-sided.

Even though this is apart of my whole Countdown to Claus meme, this is still not a Christmas film. It’s actually a huge downer that does have some lighter humorous moments, but this tone is something I was not expecting from this flick. However, it’s actually pretty good to get a Christmas film to come around the season to be jolly, and not just be the same old happy-sappy bull crap we see for two hours every year.

This is a very simple movie with a very simple story about a father trying to reconnect with his kiddies while also trying to figure out just where the hell he went wrong with this whole fathering-business. This is where the film succeeds in the most because it’s a very universal subject that almost any person can relate to because whether or not you knew your dad, still keep in touch with your dad, or are a dad yourself, you can still see yourself in any one of these characters, which gives you a total better understanding of what the film is actually trying to say. There are some sweet and gentle moments where they handle the emotions in this film well, and it did feel truthful, if somewhat obvious.

My main problem with this film is the fact that these kids are assholes. First of all, all they ever do is lie to their dad about the smallest, most random, and gayest things I have ever heard somebody lie to their parents about. Secondly, when the kids do end up telling their daddy why it is that they keep all of these secrets away from him, it doesn’t all match up and just seems forced to give these characters more room to breath for development. Personally, I felt bad for Frank cause this guy wanted to see his kids for Christmas altogether, but they lied and said they have certain things to do, when in reality, they just don’t want to be embarrassed or some dumb shit like that.

Another problem I had with this film was that some of the scenes here seemed a little misplaced and forced. There was one scene where Frank gives this junkie money, and the junkie goes crazy at him. Basically the scene was trying to show you how good of a man Frank was even though this seemed totally out-of-place. Not because Frank was a bad guy or anything, it’s just that I have a feeling that he’s not stupid and knows what happens when you give those jerk-offs moolah and he’s not a saint-like dude in the first place anyway.

The next weird scene was where Frank had his kids fess up about all of the lies they have told him but it’s total in a dream-like sequence and the kids are actually played by kids. I don’t know why they couldn’t just show Frank talking to them in real-life and making them feel like the pieces of shits that they are but for some odd reason, they decided to go with some weird way of showing getting on with this plot.

Robert De Niro does so much shit every now and then, that is always good to see him do something that’s actually believable. As Frank, De Niro is subtle, charming, and just overall a pleasant dude that has his obvious problems with being a father to his kids and actually accepting the fact that his kids were pushed away from him, because of himself. There are some real moments of emotional truth and De Niro handles it perfectly well and I think he did the same with the whole film in general.

As for the rest of the cast, they all try their hardest but these characters are already such assholes and one-dimensional that it’s almost too hard to really like them. Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and the always reliable Sam Rockwell are OK, but their scenes with De Niro always end up being another spot-light for De Niro to show off his veteran skills.

Consensus: It’s definitely not a totally happy film and features one-dimensional characters, but Everybody’s Fine features a great central performance from De Niro and a simple story, that has real truth to it and works for anybody who is watching this flick.


Carnage (2011)

Always remember kids, don’t get in fights at school, or the parents will probably duke it out too.

Two sets of parents (Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, and Kate Winslet) all meet together when both of their sons get into a playground skirmish. What starts out as a nice, civilized meeting soon turns into complete havoc as tensions between two couples begin to rise up.

The fact that Roman Polanski is directing a stage play that is also a comedy, seems a little strange for a director who is most known for bringing us some of the tension-filled thrillers of the past 20 years. However, this film is just further proof that Polanski can do no wrong, except for when he gets stuck with little kiddies, but that’s a whole different story.

What I liked about this flick was the fact that it was very fast-paced and the screenplay feels rich and authentic, almost like how real people would talk if they were put into this type of situation as well. The tone is humorous but in a very dark way so even when you can tell things are going to go from bad to worse between these two couples, the laughs somehow sneak their own little sly way into making you chuckle when you least expect it.

Even though this is no suspense thriller by any means, I still do believe that Polanski brought some tense moments into this film. I didn’t know what either person was going to say next and as these funny twists and turns keep coming out, the more ridiculous and also kind of tense it gets as well. My favorite element to this film was how everything was played in real-time and I also liked how Polanski didn’t feel the need to leave the room and instead we are just left in this one room for the whole time, which to some may have been a little boring, but for me was well-used.

My problem with it being in one room is that when one of the couples try to leave, they somehow find themselves brought back in whether it being to get the last word in, or get a cup of coffee, or because the plot needed more conflict. This is done a lot better on the stage because you can feel as if the characters have absolutely nowhere to go, but where have a camera that can and will go anywhere with these characters, it feels a bit contrived and forced. About the 3rd time they walk back into the room, I couldn’t help but think that these people just wanted a large-scale brawl.

Another problem I had with this flick was the fact that there was all of this satire and points about “The God of Carnage” and I just couldn’t buy into it. When they all start to talk about each others relationships with each other and how women do this, and men do that didn’t feel insightful or farcical at all, instead it just felt like the film was trying to be more than just 4 people in a room, bickering over some little skirmish. Maybe it’s just because the stage play went down the same path, that the film did it too, but for some reason, I just could net get into it.

The one thing that Polanski does perfectly here is that he keeps the camera on these four leads as each of their relationships start to unravel. Kate Winslet is amazing as Nancy because she starts out as this nice, easy-going trophy-wife that soon starts to change as she gets the booze in her, and then she turns into some foul-mouthed trucker. Winslet has always done transformations like these with her characters, but she is just so good here as her emotions change from one side to another. Jodie Foster has always been that one actress that always feels up-tight and very reserved, but as Penelope, she lets it all out. Foster is very good in this role because she plays against type and just lets loose on the anger and frustration that this character has throughout the whole film, and as she starts to get a little bit drunker, she starts to get more foul-mouthed as well.

After being terribly disappointed by his performance in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, I was very glad to see John C. Reilly kick some ass again in his performance as Michael. He’s funny, charming, and likable but you know there is some rage to him that’s hidden deep-down inside and I think this is something that Reilly shows very well. Glad to see that this guy can still be lovable. Christoph Waltz had a few duds this year with ‘The Green Hornet’ and ‘The Three Musketeers‘ but he’s back in his full-swing as the complete a-hole that finds anyway to cause conflict. Waltz was probably the one who made me laugh the most out of this whole cast and I think it shows that Waltz really can play villains that you can still like, just by being charming and funny. He one an Oscar for it already, and he can definitely keep on doing that for a long long time.

Consensus: Carnage does feel somewhat contrived and forced with certain elements, but thanks to a very slick direction from Roman Polanski and Foster, Reilly, Waltz, and Winslet bringing out the best with their performances, you can definitely laugh even if it does make you wish you saw the stage play.


Countdown to Claus: Trading Places (1983)

Back in the day when these two guys were golden.

A down-and-out con artist (Eddie Murphy) trades lifestyles with a well-to-do investor (Dan Aykroyd, all because of a cheap bet between two wealthy power players (Done Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). Add a prostitute with a heart of gold (Jamie Lee Curtis) and craziness ensues.

Director John Landis is a guy that I could never really get into even though he has so many films that are regarded as “classics”. However, seeing that it is Christmas time and that I need to start getting rid of some of the DVDs I have stacked up and never watch, I thought this was a pretty good pick.

The premise is a fun and inspired one right from the get-go and you see how these two different life-styles create two different types of great characters. The dialogue itself is very funny because it’s not one of those cheesy and lame 80’s comedy scripts where they say something dirty and it’s supposed to be hilarious. Instead this film is edgy and has a lot of great moments where you either chuckle or laugh-out-loud, depending on the type of person you are. Landis also does a great job here behind the screen because he balances out the original screwball premise with the modern use of comedy.

A problem I did have with this flick was the fact that the comedy gets a little dry at moments, and I sort of found myself barely laughing for some pretty long periods of time. This doesn’t get dramatic by any means necessary, but it just feels like it focuses more on the plot and what’s happening, rather than actually being funny. I also could not believe how some people go to school and study how to be a successful Wall Street investor for about 3-4 years, but I guess if you’re Eddie Murphy it only takes about 5 minutes. This was a little strange and thought it was some lazy writing in trying to get us to see how much being a street-folk, like Murphy’s character, would benefit being a Wall Street investor.

Another problem I had with this film was the fact that it tried to be a splitting satire on Wall Street and very wealthy people, but for some reason, a lot of this just fell flat for me. There’s not much bite here even though it pretends like it’s actually saying something about the business world and the difference between social classes. Overall, this just felt like an unnecessary part to have in this flick, considering they could have easily just relied on the comedy they had going on here in the first place.

The real reason this film works and is so funny is because of its hilarious cast. Dan Aykroyd is very funny as Louis Winthrope this dude who I thought I was going to hate the whole time, but instead, I ended up really getting behind his character and the way Aykroyd plays this upper-class yuppie made me laugh because he’s so good at it. Yes people, I know it’s very hard to imagine, but there was once a time-and-age when Dan Aykroyd was actually funny in films.

Eddie Murphy gives one his funniest performances as Billy Ray Valentine and absolutely steals every single scene he has. He starts out as this very slick and sly con man, who goes through a total transformation as this rich-man but still stays likable and hilarious. Murphy breaks out all of these witty lines (lines that even my mom still quotes) and it also helps that he probably has the best character since this guy is just a good guy in general. I can’t really say much else other than the fact that he’s hilarious here and the real reason why this film is so memorable to be honest.

Let’s also not forget to mention everybody’s favorite part in the film where Jamie Lee Curtis lifted off her top for some big-ass booby time. That’s what I’m talking about!

Consensus: Trading Places may not be as satirical as it may like to think it is, but Aykroyd, Murphy, and Curtis all add a lot to this flick to make this funny premise go beyond its limits.


We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Kevin is the new Damien.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.5/10=Full Price!!

Countdown to Claus: Bad Santa (2003)

Good old mall Santas. Beating the crap out of teenagers.

Criminals Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) disguise themselves as Santa Claus and his elf and travel across the country to major malls, using the good will people have toward Santa to rob the mall stores blind. The problem is, Willie can’t stand kids. Their plan still progresses beautifully until the two reprobates meet an introverted 8-year-old boy who reminds them of the true meaning of Christmas.

To many people out in the world, Christmas is a time to spend with your friends and family, thinking of gifts and sharing them with others. This film is not the one for those kind of jolly people.

Director Terry Zwigoff is pretty good at making these laughs very dark and ones you almost sort of feel bad for laughing at in the first place. It’s a very funny film in that almost everything you see and hear is very twisted in its own right but that’s not to say that everything is dark and not for anybody. The humor is relatively juvenile and it’s not for any type of intellect out there to realize that this Santa is a total dick.

Although there is a lot of crass and dark humor, the films starts to reveal some heart to it. The story between the little fat kid and Willie starts off rather annoying but as time goes on, it gets a lot more sweeter and even though I knew this is where the film was trying to go, I really did feel like it was earned rather than forced. This whole story goes on with a bunch of swearing, sarcasm, booze, and anger so for it to actually get a little bit of a sweet story about a kid who needs a “daddy figure”, felt like a nice little moral side that works for the flick.

My problem with this film is that I feel like there were so many opportunities where they could have capitalized a little bit more on this rather than just spending the last 20 minutes to really focus on it. The story was right there in front of their faces and they kind of just let it go the whole time without ever really acknowledging it until it obviously seemed necessary. Also, the little fling that Willie has with a hot and sexy chick named Sue (Lauren Graham) seemed a little too weird how she was all obsessed with Santa and just the way she acted had me a little creeped out by here, but she was still smokin’.

As the film goes on, the story started off a little bit ridiculous then it starts to get more and more unbelievable, which I know is weird considering I’m talking about a film where a dude is dressed up like Santa goes and robs malls, but I still couldn’t get by it. I never understood just how Willie and Marcus got away with all of these robberies if they kept posing as the same guys throughout every mall they went to. Wouldn’t somebody eventually realize that these guys are stealing from every mall they go to and try to put out a notice? Another problem with this flick is that I never understood why Willie didn’t just go back to his hotel after he waited all of that time for the “cops” to get out of there. However, I guess I’m just being a dick once again.

Billy Bob Thornton probably gives one of his best comedic performances of all-time as Willie. Willie is an alcoholic, pisses in his suit, shows up to work drunk, lies, steals money, steals cars, beats up children, treats some poor little chubby kid like a piece of crap, and bones chicks in the parking lots (not saying that there’s anything wrong with that) but somehow Thornton makes this guy seem so likable. He’s just drunk the whole time being an obnoxious dick to everyone around him but Billy Bob plays it perfectly and I just wished that he would get more roles that were more about him being a low-life dick rather than a sophisticated, more civilized dick.

Tony Cox is very fun to watch as Marcus, because not only does his character get a little dark by the end but him and Thornton have great chemistry together that carries on perfectly throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast includes Bernie Mac playing a cocky mall cop, Cloris Leachman playing a Grandmom who just wants to make sandwiches, and the late John Ritter playing a nosy mall manager.

Consensus: Though there are some moral voids in Bad Santa, there is still some very funny black comedy that works well with the plot, and with Billy Bob Thornton’s dark but somehow likable performance as Willie.


Red State (2011)

It’s like ‘Dogma’, with a lot of guns.

Three horny teens go off for a one-night stand with a chick (Melissa Leo) that they think will get it on with them all at the same time. However, they end up being kidnapped into a little freak-show for these crazy Jesus-people that don’t like gay people. The teens soon try to find a way out of the church as the local police force comes in to also raise some hell.

Kevin Smith is a favorite of mine and almost all of his films, except ‘Cop Out‘, all have made me happy and enjoy the hell out of myself. I know a lot of people out there in the world hate this dude but for some reason, he always strikes a cord with me. That’s why I’m so glad to see it when he does something that is totally different from anything else he usually does and at least tries to branch out a bit more than what we have seen from him.

The premise for this film is awesome because it’s a horror film about things that are out there, rather than just ghosts caught on film, or dudes named Freddy, Michael Myers, and Jason running around killing teens. The film is obviously based on the crazy Westboro Baptist Church people, lead by Fred Phelps, who the people that follow this church actually look up to him as if he was the big G.O.D. himself. I like this concept because I hate these people and anytime somebody wants to show them in a bad light and practically get effed up every second, is something I want to see and stand behind. Hey, I know it sounds vicious but just type these people up on YouTube and you’ll see what assholes they really are.

What Smith does here, unlike any other film he’s done, is add an extra-layer of detail to not only his script but also his direction. Seeing that his only action film is actually the crap I mentioned early, it’s highly impressive how he is able to bring a lot of tension and grittiness to the screen to give you this feel of just terrible things are going to and will happen. This is in-your-face gritty with plenty of people getting shot, and sometimes you don’t know who will so you have that whole unpredictability to it as well that Smith is able to bring out well.

When it comes to his script, this is obviously a Smith film but it still has many different elements that can make a lot of people have their heads scratching by the end of the film, when they actually see who wrote and directed this. There is a real dark and sinister side to this film with barely any comedy or toilet humor, which is what I usually love about Smith films but here it was a pretty good way of focusing on actually creating tension and an atmosphere.

However, I do think that this film had its fair share of problems that took away from my overall experience. I feel like Smith does a lot of preaching here that at first seems legit, then it just becomes something of an annoyance where I actually wanted the story to move forward rather than just showing me all of these crazy Jesus people freaks, preaching and hollering about the same old shit every time. I get the fact that Smith is trying to get his point across, but when you have a speech that lasts about 13 minutes talking just to get a point across, it’s not just torture for the people in the film but for those who are actually watching it as well.

In terms of the horror department, I also felt like something was missing from it to actually make it scary. Take it for granted though, this is not your typical horror film so obviously we aren’t going to be getting jump-scares every five seconds, but too much of it felt like people just shooting each other without any real scares or horror to back it up. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when people that I actually dislike so much before I even get to know them get shot up left-and-right, but there were times when even that was gone and there was nothing to really keep it compelling.

Also, why the hell did that random-ass timestamp come up out of nowhere, for no reason whatsoever, and then never come back again? Maybe it was just another one of Smith’s crazy and weird things he just wanted to do for fun.

The cast is pretty impressive considering Smith doesn’t use anybody from any of his previous films, even though I wouldn’t have minded seeing Jason Mewes or even Jason Lee for that matter. John Goodman is good and pretty aggressive as Joseph Kennan, the police dude in charge who has a very good scene by the end of the film; Melissa Leo is one-note as Sara Cooper, but she’s still an easily-hated character from the start; and Michael Parks is very evil and devilish as Abin Cooper, the man behind this church. Everybody’s good here but it’s just one of those cases where it’s more of the director’s show than the people themselves.

Consensus: Red State has a great premise to work off of, a good direction from Smith, and a script that is more than just dirty jokes that he usually has in all of his films, but there are many times where it loses its compelling feel and goes on and on and on about the same point till where it overstays its welcome by a long-shot.


New Year’s Eve (2011)

Just another excuse for people to go, “oooh look who it is!”.

‘New Year’s Eve’ celebrates love, hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts, in the intertwining stories of couples and singles, told amidst the pulse and promise of New York City on the most dazzling night of the year.

Oh once again, another holiday, another holiday, and yes, another time for Garry Marshall to make Robert Altman turn around in his grave. This is basically the same exact thing as Marshall’s same ensemble-filled film, ‘Valentine’s Day’, and even though this one is only just a tad better, that really is not saying much at all.

What these types of films always have problems with is that all of these types of films have so many stars passing in-and-out of the flick as if it was I95 but they are sometimes not really given much to do, instead of just to be there and look pretty. This is the case with this flick and I felt like Marshall really rushed things here to the point of where he wasn’t really concerned with the stories as much as he was more concerned with just getting as much stars up on the screen before they had to go leave and shoot a better film. When I say this, I’m not talking about Sarah Jessica Parker. She loves this kind of stuff and I think she may be the only one who does too.

Another problem with all of these films is the fact that almost everything everybody says here either seem like cliches, something taken out of another flick, or just plain schmaltz. The film always goes for being sweet, cute, and loving but it more or less just comes off as being the same old crap that I’ve seen time and time again, except this time with Jon Bon Jovi spouting out corny love songs. But then again, the guy owned The Philadelphia Soul, so it’s not as bad if say someone like Nick Jonas was doing it. Yeah, that kids lame.

I knew I was going to get this kind of stuff before I went into this flick but I honestly think that these films try way too hard to give more meaning about a holiday that is basically all about getting plastered with your buddies, yelling random shit at people you’ve never met in your life, freezing your ass off, counting down till a big-ass glow ball hits the bottom in 10 seconds, ending up making out with a person that chick that looks like your sister, and waking up the next morning in somebody else’s bath tub with a splitting headache. I’m not at all speaking from experience but let me just tell you that when it comes to this holiday, not many people are reflecting on the past year and what they are thankful for and what they aren’t thankful for. So stop trying to give it more meaning than it already needs Garry!

However, as much as I wanted to diss on this film for what it obviously fails in, there were moments here where I was enjoying myself probably because New Year’s is such a fun holiday and that’s something that I don’t think Marshall took away from. There are moments where this film actually seems funny and had me chuckling here and there, mainly because of the cast and probably just because this film sort of put me in a good mood. It’s also one of the rare cases where the “bloopers” during the end credits had me laughing a lot more throughout them, instead if the whole film itself.

The whole cast here is star-studded everywhere you look and made this film a little bit better. Instead of naming the whole cast like I normally do with these ensemble-like films, I’ll just run down the people who were probably the most enjoyable. Zac Efron was probably the one dude I had the most fun watching up on screen; Hilary Swank is actually quite convincing as a Times Square vice president; and Sofia Vergara is not only stunningly gorgeous but fun as hell to watch here as the sex-pot chef. There are others that were somewhat fun but too many times were there just these big-named stars just sitting around doing nothing. I’m talking to you, Ludacris. And no, I will still not call you by your “real name”.

I mean to be brutally honest, Valentine’s Day is not a very joyous and fun holiday probably because it’s too centered on having a love on this one special day. However, New Year’s Day where you can just do whatever the hell you want basically and have a blast the whole time no matter how old, young, or if you’re single or not. This film may have it’s obviously problems with plot, writing, and overall construction, but keeping to the fun and reckless spirit that is New Year’s, is what made my enjoyment level of this flick higher than I ever expected it to be in the first place.

Consensus: There is plenty of schmaltz, corniness, and moments that will more or less make you want to punch the writers in the face, but when it comes to keeping the actual fun and unpredictable atmosphere/spirit of it’s holiday, New Year’s Eve is a fun flick for anybody that wants to see stars coming-and-going non-stop for a whole 118 minutes.


If you have just read this review and cannot believe I just did what I did, please do not have any lost hope for me. I will once again get back to reviewing shit and calling it exactly what it is. I promise people.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Trying to keep some of the Halloween spirit up and about during Christmas time.

After losing their academic posts at a prestigious university, a team of parapsychologists (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis) goes into business as proton-pack-toting “ghostbusters” who exterminate ghouls, hobgoblins and supernatural pests of all stripes. An ad campaign pays off when a knockout cellist (Sigourney Weaver) hires the squad to purge her swanky digs of demons that appear to be living in her refrigerator.

Before director Ivan Reitman decided to go on and do classics such as ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Evolution’, he actually did some legendary stuff with a film that you may have heard of, but then again maybe not. All I have to know is…who ya gonna call? I know that was corny but come on, you had to know it was going to happen at least once in this review.

I’ve seen this film a long long time ago and it was always a favorite of mine, so to give it another shot and see how it held up for me all these years later, was a real treat for me. The premise is pretty original right from the start and it would have easily fallen down like a sack of bricks but it somehow ends up being one of the most genius ideas ever put into a film, mainly because of all of the talent that is involved here.

There are so many hilarious one-liners here that I hear uttered from time-to-time but never really got the joke until I had this film refresh my memory and make me realize just how damn funny the lines are. I mean every situation they have here is just utterly ridiculous but the film knows that but still finds plenty of ways to bring out comedy no matter what whether they are depending on some well-placed slap-stick, dead-pan readings from everybody involved, or some sly satire of surging capitalist hubris. Each and every way this film approaches its comedy works beyond belief and I just laughed my ass off at so many things here that were said. Something that doesn’t usually happen when I’m watching an 80’s comedy.

The comedy isn’t the only fun aspect to this film though, Reitman also seems to have a lot of fun with this plot and his direction brings out some of the most imaginative stuff that ever came out on-screen in the 80’s. There is a lot of fun to be had with these guys all running around in these plain-looking jumpsuits chasing after flying goo that is actually a ghost, and every scene ending with some witty pun. Let’s also not forget everybody’s favorite giant villain, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I mean honestly, who comes up with this shit and can actually make it somethings that revered as comedic gold.

My one gripe with this flick is that the special effects here are very very bad but then again this is 1984 we are talking about here. I know I sound like a complete dickhead for even bringing this up and knocking down some points for this but to be honest, it sort of took me out of the film considering the whole time I just saw this dog flying through the screen as if he had just popped out of a PlayStation game. I know I’m nit-picking, but for some reason it just bothered me.

The real reason this film worked so well is because of the man that plays Peter Venkman, a man named none other than Bill Murray. Murray is always a show-stealer no matter what it is that he is in and here as Venkman he is no different. His dead-pan delivery is spot-on because he knows that everything in this film is just plain and simply ridiculous and he handles just about everything like the sarcastic unprofessional that he is and almost every time he is on-screen, he had me laughing my ass off. There is a reason why this guy was the main thing to see in ‘Zombieland’. It’s a shame that he is apparently kind of a dick in real-life, because if I saw him walking on the street I would probably just try my hardest to hang out with him the whole day, even though I would probably get denied.

Everybody else here is fine too and each give their own little funny lines, while Murray is off killing this film with his delivery. Harold Ramis is funny as the nerdy Egon, Dan Aykroyd is even funnier and nerdier as Ray, and Ernie Hudson is fun as the token black guy Winston. There is also some funny performances given by Sigourney Weaver as Venkman’s love-interest of sorts, Dana Barrett and Rick Moranis as Barrett’s nerdy next-door neighbor, Louis. As you can probably tell now that there are a lot of nerds in this flick but hey, nerds rule and they deserve their times to shine too.

Consensus: Ghostbusters is the classic that I always imagined it being even when I was still running around in my little Spider-Man undies. It’s funny, original, exciting, and perfectly-delivered by the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and many many others.

9/10=Full Price!!