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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Changeling (2008)

Maybe this should be a sign to you, Angie, that it’s time to stop adopting so many damn kids!

Christine Collins’ (Angelina Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever.

That plot-synopsis up there that this movie is based on, apparently is all true and surprisingly happened during the 20’s/30’s. But what I find so funny about that idea, is that the movie writes it as “A True Story”, rather than playing it safe and going with “based on a true story”, or “inspired by true events”. You can get away with so much more if you with the two former-options, but nooooo, Clint Eastwood is taking a stand and believes in what he sees. Sadly, it is Clint Eastwood were talking about here, and nothing is as realistic or as simple as it may look on paper.

The problem that Eastwood runs into with most of his films (this one especially), is that he never seems to really focus on one aspect of the whole story. Instead, the guy goes for everything that’s involved and feels the need to load his film up with exposition, random details, unheard of hints, and unnecessary subplots, just in hope that it will spice things up and keep the audiences attention up on-screen. This just becomes a total jumble of randomness that could have really worked, had it been taken-down a notch by about 3 or 4 story-lines. That’s why when he does dial it down, it works perfectly and helps the story guide a simpler-path than it had before. However, the times when he doesn’t and just feels the need to add and add some more layers to a story that’s already as simple as it can be, then it can be a bit bothersome and that’s the problem with this movie here. Too much, too little needed.

If this was France, he'd be the villain.

If this was France, he’d be the villain.

However, it isn’t always like this. For the first 30 minutes or so, the movie focuses on Collins as she looks for her son, finds him, realizes he’s a fake, and then decides to take matters into her own hands and bother the hell out of everybody involved with the investigation. Right here in the beginning is actually  compelling and kept me interested into where I could see it going, and especially when you realize that the way all of these cops are in this movie, are pretty much they were in real-life. It’s a shame that it’s a true-story but hey, I guess it had to happen. Now, after Collins runs into a big problem with the police department, then things go south for her real quick and ultimately, is where things go south for the movie as well. Instead of sticking to Collins’ story, we get a story about the corruption of the L.A. police department that ran rampant during the 20’s/30’s, then we get a story that’s about this serial killer that seems reasonable but also takes away from Collins’ own story, a story about the psychiatric ward and how all women who ‘effed with the cops got shipped off to there, and then another story about how Collins needs to move on. All of these stories seem like they serve a purpose to the big idea at-hand here, but still never mesh well together and only keep us further and further away from the actual story we started off with: Collins finding her son.

All of this piling-up of ideas and story-lines just creates a very long, drawn-out piece of work that never, ever needed to be 2 hours and 24-minutes long. I mean, I guess Eastwood didn’t want to leave out any details, but Christ man! At least give me the Spark Note version of everything that’s happening, rather than the College Textbook! I can’t rag on Clint’s case too much because the guy does have some nice-moments here and some important things to say, but he needed to buckle-down on that time-limit. Without this long-ass time-limit, I may not have been as bothered as I truly was.

However, where the story seems to fly-around wherever it sees fit, the one person keeping it all glued together is Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins. When Jolie isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster, she’s actually out there giving some understated, grounded performances that may shock some people considering she hasn’t really been known for doing that as of late. Jolie does an awesome job as Christine because she allows that sympathy and love we feel for her, shine through every-frame of the movie and you can really feel the utter sadness and depression coming from this problem in her life. Obviously losing a kid is no happy-thang, but instead of making it a non-stop problem that gets old, real quick, Jolie keeps us watching and having us wait to see more layers of her come pouring right out. It’s great to see Jolie like this and I can only hope that she continues to do more of it. You know, when she isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster

Changeling2

Even in the 20’s, the paparazzi still can’t get enough of Gina-feva.

Her main co-star, John Malkovich, is practically given a top-billing next to her name but yet, still isn’t in it as much as you would expect from a big-name like his. Malkovich plays Reverend Gustav Brigleb, one of the guys who first sticks up for Christine, and plays him very well but not as spirited or as energetic as we’ve seen this guy act before. It’s a nice performance, no doubt about that, but a bit of a disappointment considering we all know what he can bring to a movie. Maybe more time could have been given to him, his character, his emotions, and his motivations for helping-out Christine, rather than the 500 other stories Clint had on his plate.

The other people in this cast try their hardest, but all sort of fall by the waste-side once you see how they are all portrayed, especially the men of the police unit. The problem with how Eastwood portrays these police officers/detectives is as if they have no remorse, no souls, or no idea of being a good person at all. It seems as if they are all concerned with saving their own butts and don’t want to hear a single word about what it is that they’re doing, is wrong. Each and every one was portrayed as the stereotypical villain we usually see in one-sided movies like these. It’s not even that they’re just bad-guys either, they’re laughably bad. The dialogue for them is so obvious, so predictable, and so cliche, that you have to wonder just how the hell they let idiots like these actually have the authority to carry a gun and a badge. The one I remember the most was probably Jeffrey Donovan as the main police captain, who has a dated and forced accent that comes off as if he has a stick up his ass, or just can’t read his lines. Either way, the guy sucks and I don’t know how the hell he has a hit TV show on USA. Don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s been on there forever and with him as the lead, I don’t know.

Consensus: Though Changeling features a strong, central performance from Jolie and a sometimes-interesting “true story”, Clint Eastwood’s direction still gets in the way with his constant use of constantly adding on layers to a story, losing his central focus, and never really being able to make it all come together for an eventful and memorable ending. It just flops like a fish, and leaves your mind as soon as soon as the credits begin to roll.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Brad, Clint won't stop grunting. What do I do?"

“Brad, Clint won’t stop grunting. What do I do?”

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RoboCop (1987)

Still have no clue why Detroit hasn’t tried this yet.

Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan in the near future, a police officer named Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs (lead by Kurtwood Smith). Murphy’s life is over and is hailed as a hero for all of the service that he put into his job, but is that really it for the guy? Somebody from the malevolent mega-corporation OCP finds a way to subsequently revive him as a super-duper, crime-fighting machine known as RoboCop. Fun and hilarity ensues, I guess. All depending on what side your on.

The fact that Hollywood wants to give this original piece of material, the remake over-do that they are so in love with nowadays, really shocks me. It shocks me even more now, considering that the remake for Total Recall that blasted it’s ways into cinemas, just as quick as it blasted it’s way out, was forgettable, noting-special, and even though I didn’t hate it like others, still didn’t have the fun or charm of what made the original so lovely. Who knows what those grubby-paws of Hollywood have on their minds for the remake of this classic, but whatever it is that they do; at least we’ll always have this to fall back on. Oh, the lovely 80’s. How I miss your synthesizer-heavy scores.

Paul Verhoeven is considered a cult-director, that the mainstream audience still loves. This was his first foray into American cinema, and the heavy-baggage that he brought along with him was great to see, especially when you think about how much life and excitement he pumped into the sci-fi genre with this movie. Where Verhoeven excels with this movie, where others seemed to lose themselves on, is that he has a wonderful-sense of pacing. The guy is all about blood, action, gore, explosions, bullets, guns, and robots doing crazy and violent things, but he has also has an essence of what makes a story; a story that you not only care for, but realize is there underneath all of the guts and glory (literally).

Get ready, crime. You gonna get yo ass kicked, and then some.

Get ready, crime. You gonna get yo ass kicked, and then some.

Now, I’m not saying that the guy gets really dramatic on us, but with a story about a guy who loses his life due to a death, and has to make sense of it all while killing baddies left-and-right; you still have to give some credit to the dramatic-fireworks that may or may not be on-display here. For a story that’s more than I ever expected: I have to give credit to Verhoeven but it’s not the guy’s specialty by any stretch of the imagination. The guy’s specialty is action, action, action, and there’s a shit-load of that for all of you suckas to love and chew-on, while you try your hardest to not geek-out when RoboCop uses brutal-force against some sons-of-bitches.

This movie is exactly the type of fun you could want from a sci-fi flick: it’s fun, electric, entertaining, and always gory. The movie definitely has a look and style of it’s own in the way that it shows the future, shows the crime, and shows all of the violence that occurs, but never, ever shies away from it. Instead, it gets down and dirty with it all and gives us the fun that we always want from a sci-fi movie, especially a BLOODY one like this. I’m still surprised that this one garnered an R-rating, considering all of the crazy and disturbing that they do actually show and allow to go on here. However, it’s Verhoeven and the guy still finds a sense of beauty in the way he kills people, and how gory he makes it all look.

However, don’t be fooled by it all, because this movie is pretty damn weird. But don’t think weird is a bad thing, it’s a great thing, especially when you’re talking about this movie. There’s a lot of satire to be had here where, every once and awhile, two newscasters will pop-up on the screen to talk about daily happenings and give off some of the corniest line-readings ever but also make fun of the way our media treats violence. Like when one of the newscasters reads about 113 people dying in a burned building, and then quickly changes right away to a commercial about a brand-spankin’ new car to buy that’s out on the market. They don’t do this a lot in the film, but whenever they do, it made me laugh and realize that this film wasn’t just all about robots, guns, and murder, it’s more about the way our media is just getting dumber and dumber through television. This is obviously something that everybody knows about in today’s world, and some films even have this same exact central theme, but it’s just surprising to see it done in a film from 1987, when shit did seem to get a whole lot dumber, thanks to television. Then again, I don’t really think movies make you that much smarter, either. Or maybe it’s just certain ones that do. Either way, I’m a dumb fool and I like it! Woo-hoo!

If there seemed to be any problem with this movie that’s really holding me back from giving it a 9, it was that this is an 80’s movie, and it can be laughably cheesy at points. Hell, what the heck am I talking about!??! It’s always cheesy!! And one of the main pieces of cheese that annoyed the shit out of me was the character of Lewis, played by everybody’s favorite Brian De Palma babe, Nancy Allen. Everybody in this movie seems to have a chip on their shoulder, know what they’re about to do next, and have it go in the way that they planned: but not Lewis. No, siree! Lewis is a dumb character that yells, annoys, and nags everybody around her the whole time. And I’m not even talking about the characters in the movie, but us as well and it made me wish that RoboCop did a better deed and just got rid of her mouth before any further damage or harm was done anymore. She was only really there for the emotional-support this character needed to get through a relatively rough-time, and that was about it. Didn’t see any real reason for her to be around, or to serve the plot. Just there to be another pretty face and help RoboCop not serge his circuits when he was crying like a little bitch.

"Come out of hiding, Eric."

“Come out of hiding, Eric.”

Despite Nancy Allen being grudgingly-annoying throughout the whole movie, Peter Weller is actually still holds the fort down pretty well as Murphy/RoboCop. His monotone voice may be pushing the character and his delivery a little too far, but let’s face it: this performance isn’t about what the guy can do with what he says or how he says it, it’s all about kicking-ass, fighting crime, and saving the day like we all know and love RoboCop for. That’s all that matters in a movie like this, and as much as I may sound like a d-bag for getting on the movie’s case of being dated, it still was able to fall by the waist-side for me in certain-spots. Not all of the spots, but certain, and that’s more than I could say about Nancy Allen or whatever the hell it was that she was doing. God, I hated that chick.

However, just you wait and watch as you get a bit blind-sided by this movie. What I mean by that is even though RoboCop is our hero for the 2-hours and is there to fuck shit up like we want him to do, he isn’t the immovable-force that steals the show in this movie. Nope, that credit goes right to Kurtwood Smith as the extremely memorable villain, Clarence Boddicker. That’s right people, Red Forman gives one of those classic “love-to-hate” villains that every good sci-fi film needs, and it’s such a surprise to see this come out of Smith. He’s dastardly, sadistic, pretty damn smart, and even though he may not have the tin-build of RoboCop, the guy still proves to be a total threat you do not want to fuck with, no matter how shaky things get for him or for RoboCop. It’s a nice battle between these two that we get to see, enjoy, and realize that it’s something we never really get to see all that much in film’s nowadays, let alone ones of the sci-fi genre. Great villain and definitely the right guy to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop in the grander-scheme of things. Bravo, Red. Bravo.

Consensus: Since this is an 80’s movie, RoboCop suffers from being dated in most areas, but still works when it wants to crank-up the volume, kick ass, take names, fight criminals, and let us all see how much ketchup packets it had in it’s budget. It’s a sci-fi flick that hasn’t aged well in certain areas, but the areas that it has aged well in: are what make it awesome.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Seriously, what the fuck is that?!?!

Seriously, what the fuck is that?!?!

The Illusionist (2006)

Sorry, ladies. Leave the magic tricks to the men.

When word of famed-magician Eisenheim’s (Edward Norton) astounding illusions reaches the powerful and pragmatic Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the egotistical-ruler attends one of the magician’s shows in order to debunk Eisenheim during the performance. However, when the Prince’s intended, Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), assists the magician on-stage, a dormant love affair is rekindled. That’s where Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) steps-in to clear the air and find out just what the hell is going on here.

Back in the golden days of 2006, there was not one, but TWO movies made about 20th century magicians (the second-one being Christopher Nolan’s far-better The Prestige). Apparently, David Blaine or Criss Angel just weren’t cutting it for the movie-going audiences and they needed more magic, more illusions, and more bullshit! And even though Neil Burger is nowhere near the type of director Nolan is, and probably forever will be, at least the guy keeps us believing in that everything we see is real, no matter how much CG they may use. Oh, it’s actually fictionalized-tale? Could have fooled me. NOT!!

All kidding aside, the guy, Burger as I could probably assume he loves to be called, actually does a fine job with this material because he is able to not only keep us wondering just what the hell is going on here, but where this story is going to end-up lastly. It’s not easy to see the twists and turns coming and that’s where the fun of Burger’s direction seems to lie: the element of playing with his audience’s minds and expectations, much like the illusionist this story is all about. However, maybe I’am a bit biased in my own way and found more to reach for than mostly other-viewers.

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The 20th Century Version....

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The Royal Days….

I have to say, I love movies about con-men and in a way, magicians are sort of shoved into the same category as them. Therefore, fore me, watching as this magician would pull-off tricks and illusions to play with the minds of everybody who cared to go out and see him, really interested me and had me wonder just where exactly Burger was going to go with this story. Some places he takes you; you expect, whereas others; you don’t. All you do know is that Burger seems to have a fiery-passion for this material and it shines through in every, which way. Also, make sure to pay close-attention to all that’s going on here because it may just help you in the end. That’s the only piece of advice I’m giving away, and it’s all for free. Sadly.

Then again, the fact that Burger loves this material so much, you know, magicians playing tricks on each other, you sort of start to lose reality of what this story is actually about: a love between two people that can’t be together. It’s the age-old story of two kids that knew each other when they were young, fell in love, had their first, awkward kiss together (trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from you youngsters), and vowed to always be together, until they eventually are separated by two walks of life and class-situations. To be honest, there isn’t anything wrong with the story here, it just doesn’t get as much as love and dedication as the whole mystery does. It’s obvious that maybe Burger needed a little som-som to back-up all of his fun and games, but it doesn’t work or even have you give a lick about the forbidden-love between these two. You sort of just want them to bone, get it over with, and shut-up about the whole thing and move on with their lives. That would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then a bunch of people just moping and pissing around about how they can’t be with the one they love. I love Scarlett Johansson, but you don’t see me bitchin’ about that every, damn day, now do ya?!??! Didn’t think so. Get over it!

Half of the problem that I had with this plot-line, also had to do with the fact that Jessica Biel can’t act for shit, and when she tries too hard: this is what we end-up getting. Not a good thing to witness at all. Every movie I see this gal in, I always want her to blow me away, show me something more from her that I never, ever thought she had, and just make me believe in her once again as an actress (I don’t know when the first time was), but she just can’t pull that off here, no matter how meaty the material may be. Around all of these heavy-weights, she sort of sticks out like a sore-thumb and it’s very, very noticeable. I can’t even blame Burger either, because every obvious and predictable line this flick they throw at her, she hits it as if she was in a day-time soap, or better yet, still on another episode of 7th Heaven. Now, I think is the time to fully give-up on Biel as an actress and just face the fact that half of the roles that she’s offered, her hubby JT should just take mainly. May be a bit far-fetched for some people to believe in, but the guy can do no wrong. Let’s just face that fact and live our lives a little bit better now.

Even though Biel is bad, everybody else seems to be on their A-game. Hell, with a cast THIS GOOD, I actually wonder what the hell even drew Burger to cast Dullsville-Biel in the first-place. Was it the looks? Was it the possibility of the nude scene? Was it because he was secretly having a fling with her that JT didn’t know about? Or, was it just because she was a big name and that’s what this movie needed to get any sort of viewers whatsoever? I’m going with the former. But anywho, back the cast at-hand.

Edward Norton is, as usual, good as Eisenheim and gives the guy a very dark, mysterious-path that never gives us the easy answering of knowing whether or not the guy is good, or bad. His intentions are never clear, and you never really have the idea in your head that he’s doing all of these magic tricks for the entertainment of others or the money, but something more. He’s an interesting character that I wish we got to see more of, other than just realizing who that person is that makes his knees weak. He even gets pushed to the back-burner somewhere around the final-act, as the movie takes it’s own detour into mystery-thriller territory and sort of forgets all about what makes him a living, breathing character. It’s still a fun, last-act, but a very disappointing one if you take Norton and the character he was playing into consideration.

Biel's facial-expressions tell it: she what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Biel’s face tells it all: she has no idea what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Rufus Sewell, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever, plays Crown Prince Leopold, the corrupt and bastard-like ruler of the land, who soon hopes  become king of the empire one day. Obviously, you know this guy is going to do evil and sadistic things throughout the large-portion of the flick, however, you sometimes get teentsie, tiny surprises of emotional-depth with this guy that seems real, honest, and more than just the traditional villain that we are used to seeing in these types of movies. But even though that depth and insight of that character comes out every once and awhile, it starts to be shoved back into him, just so the plot can move along and make him feel like he’s more and more of a dick, rather than a human-being. There’s a scene by the end with him where I really feel like I was starting to get the full picture of who the heck this guy really was, underneath all of the royalty and fancy-shizz, but sadly, it was a little too late for me and for him to really get the credit he deserved. Even if Sewell did a great-job with this character, I still feel like the script didn’t accompany him as well as it started-off as being. Poor guy, at least he still will forever and always be type-casted as that dick from now on.

The one who really steals the show in this whole movie, however, is in-fact Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl. Uhl was a character that I thought was going to be the straight-up dickhead of the whole movie that was corrupt, mean, terrible, and ridiculous with all of the things that he did and used to his power as head of the police force. However, things for him, just like the plot itself, start to change and we see more of a moral-compass shell out of the guy, which was anymore than I ever expected. Giamatti plays this up so perfectly as we have no idea whether or not to trust this guy, believe he will do the right thing, or even, do anything reasonable to make his job and life seem like it has some sort of meaning. Watching Giamatti go through this internal conflict with himself was something of a work of magic (heehee), and it goes to show you that the guy can play anything he wants, and still have that pure-bread, lovable personality to him, no matter how dark or mean the character may be. Swell job, Paul. Swell.

Consensus: The Illusionist may not work when it comes to being about the love between our two main-characters, mainly because it doesn’t feel developed as well as the all of the fun and games of the magic-tricks, but with a superb-cast (minus Biel) and an inspired direction from Burger who seems to really enjoy this material, you have more enjoyment than you expect.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Fuckin' rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!"

“Fuckin’ rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!”

Bill Cunningham New York (2011)

Why the hell didn’t I watch this before Senior Prom?!?!?

Bill Cunningham is a guy that most of you probably don’t know, but should. The reason being: he has single-handedly, taken the fashion world by storm and made it his own play land of pleasures and desires. The guy’s been taking pictures of New York life from fashion, celebrities, parties, and social-happenings for over 5 decades now, and shows no signs of slowing down. Once again, you don’t know him, but you should and if you want to know him more, then here is his story.

I think I speak for most of the majority of young, adult males out there that don’t really care for fashion, and have never really bothered even glancing at the Fashion section of The New York Times. It’s not that I don’t have an open-mind to the world of fashion, because if my look of pajama bottoms and a alternative rock band T-shirt is any indication of my view, then you would most likely think that I have no sense of style at all. However, even though I may not give a single lick about whether or not I look desirable when I go out, cruising for some poontang at the clubs; I still care about what movies I watch and having an open-mind to whatever the hell comes my way. Being that this is a documentary about a guy that takes pictures for a living, and mostly all of them revolve around fashion, then you can automatically assume that I was not really caring whatsoever. Much like the clothes I actually present myself in.

However, about 10-minutes in, something weird started happening to me and my mood. I started getting happier, started finding myself more interest in this man’s life, and even weirder: I found myself caring about how these people looked in each and every single one of their get-ups. Mind you, I don’t care about fashion, but somehow, some way, this movie made me and also made me care for it’s subject like crazy. In fact, if there is a smart move that these filmmakers decided to make, it was very early on when they found out the subject for this documentary, and decided to hang-out with him for over 10 years. It may sound like one hell of a misery trip, especially if you’ve hung-out with your grand-mom and grand-pop for way too long, but that’s what makes this subject so damn compelling to watch. Here’s the thing about Bill Cunningham, he may take pictures, he may work for the Times, he may care too much about fashion, and he may surround himself around a bunch of artsy-fartsy people that bore me to death with their pretentiousness, but he isn’t what you’d expect.

Quentin Tarantino would be proud.

Quentin Tarantino would be proud.

The guy loves to take pictures because it’s his pleasure, and is more about quenching his thirst for photography, than taking any money he receives for doing them. The guy works for the Times, but like I said before, only works for them to have his fun, each and every single day just running-around town, taking pictures, fueling his desires, and just having a ball while doing so, without ever really collecting any sort of paycheck or rewards-balance. The guy does care about fashion, a little too much in some eyes, but he cares so much because he knows what looks good to him, may not always look good in other’s peoples minds and never, ever critiques people on what they look like, how they look it, and whether or not it is “in” or “out” (something I should probably take notice to). And lastly, the people that he surrounds himself with, may be the people he takes pictures of and occasionally hangs-out with, but to be honest: he doesn’t really have a close and meaningful relationship with them and always stays true to himself.

What separates Bill Cunningham from every other public-eye of the fashion world is that the guy knows what he likes, what he doesn’t like, and knows whats cool, but he keeps it to himself and never pushes his beliefs onto other people that don’t see it his way. He goes about his life just by himself, doing his own thing, and doing it all with a smile and nary an idea of ever slowing down. He’s the exact epitome of everything I would love to be in life, but the difference between me and him is that he was born right when the Great Depression started, and I was born roughly around the same time that grunge was really kicking-off (see the difference?). The guy is roughly around 83 by now, whereas I’m 19 and just sucking up life. The fact that I’m a movie critic and he’s a photographer that excels in fashion, and his story found a way to inspire me to go about life with more of a clearer and happier-view of life and work, is what makes this movie so damn marvelous.

You’re automatically in a good-mood when you’re around Bill, but he never ever seems to be faking all of the sunshine and rainbow-like days. He’s actually a very happy person and never seems to make an apology for the life that he’s lived. Yeah, so what if he doesn’t have any real close friends and yeah, so what if he doesn’t have his own bathroom and is surrounded by a bunch of files from every picture he’s ever taken? At least the guy is happy, satisfied with life, and ready for more that’s to come to him. Bill Cunningham was, and is probably one of the best subjects you could have for a documentary and if anything, that’s what makes this movie work like gangbusters. You love him and his never-changing view on life, and it automatically is thrown right onto you, the viewer. That’s what makes or breaks a documentary: whether or not the person watching can actually care about the subject by the time the movie is over. That aspect of a documentary is what makes this movie so special and definitely makes it the piece of work that’s meant to be seen, regardless of whether or not you care much about the fashion-world, or the fancy-schmanzty people that inhabit it.

Who's filming who?

Who’s filming who?

I know I’ve been going on a constant-rant about the subject, more than the movie but that’s all there really is to praise when it comes to this movie. The filmmakers aren’t really doing anything flashy, new, or original with their subject of it’s presentation, they’re just letting the story tell itself out. Some aspects of the movie like where Bill Cunningham came from, what his personal life is like, and how he fell in love with the world of fashion are touched, but never attacked fully to have an effect on you, but that didn’t bother me as much because Bill is such a lovable guy to watch. If anything, Bill Cunningham is what makes this movie, and without him, there probably wouldn’t have been a movie. That may seem like a pretty obvious, if dumb statement, but it’s the truth and it’s what makes me want to pay more attention to what people wear, how they look, and if they’re hot or not, when I’m walking down the street. Just makes me smile thinking about it now.

Consensus: Bill Cunningham New York is not all that much about fashion as you may suspect. Yeah, they do talk a lot about what people wear, how it presents them as human-beings, and why we should give a fuck at all, but it’s more about the man, Bill Cunningham, and that’s what makes this movie work. We see him for everything that he is and forever will be, and that’s just a happy, and pleased man that never seems to get bored of his job or life for that matter.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

AMEN!!

AMEN!!

My Predictions for the 2013 Oscars

Everybody, everybody, everybody!

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

WOOOOO-HOOO!!

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

BEST PICTURE:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST ACTRESS:

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Should Win: Jessica Chastain

Dark Horse: Emmanuelle Riva

BEST ACTOR:

Will Win: Daniel-Day Lewis

Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones

Should Win: Christoph Waltz

Dark Horse: Philip Seymour Hoffman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Will Win: Anne Hathaway

Should Win: Anne Hathaway

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

BEST ANIMATED FILM:

Will Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Should Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Dark Horse: Brave

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

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

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST  COSTUME DESIGN:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Les Miserables

Dark Horse: Anna Karenina

BEST DIRECTOR:

Will Win: Steven Spielberg

Should Win: Ang Lee

Dark Horse: David O. Russell

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man

Should Win: The Invisible War

Dark Horse: How to Survive a Plague

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Will Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Should Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Dark Horse: Les Miserables

BEST EDITING:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST FOREIGN FILM:

Will Win: Amour

Should Win: Amour

Dark Horse: No

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Lincoln

Dark Horse: Life of Pi

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

Will Win: “Skyfall”

Should Win: “Skyfall”

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

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Django Unchained

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Skyfall

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

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

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Silver Linings Playbook

Dark Horse: Argo

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Django Unchained

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Moonrise Kingdom

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

Sleepwalk With Me (2012)

Is sleep-talking considered bad?

Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia), is at a crossroads in his life. He works as a bartender at the Comedy Club and rarely ever gets the shot to tune his voice, he has a sleeping-disorder that causes him to move around at night in a daze of sleep, and can’t commit to his girl-friend of 8 years (Lauren Ambrose). Things begin to change for Matt, however, and he soon finds himself on the road, doing gigs, making money, finding new friends, and finding peace with his life. However, not everything’s so good between him and his girl and once that idea of getting married pops-up, life isn’t so grand and peaceful for dear old Matt anymore.

Mike Birbiglia is a pretty damn funny comedian. The guy has timing, the guy’s honest, the guy knows when and how to make fun of himself, and best of all: he feels like the average, everyday guy, like you or me could get up on stage and start saying the shit he says and get an equal-amount of laughter and applause. It’s what works for him so well and has kept him going on and and on for all of these days and that’s why I thought a flick where he tells his own story, his own way, and with him starring in it, that I was in for a sure treat. However, I think it’s time for me and Mike to stick to stand-up. Only for a little bit, though.

No matter what type of tone or genre this movie is mixing around with, Birbiglia always keeps it funny. The dream sequences are hilarious because they allow him to really unleash his wild side and get utterly, and terribly ridiculous with the whole thang, but that’s not the best-part of this movie or it’s comedy-aspect. What makes this movie so funny is how Birbiglia is able to not only poke jokes at the goofballs around him that seem like walking-caricatures of Birbiglia’s own mind, but also poke jokes at himself. That’s what I’ve always loved about the dude’s stand-up and it was so great to see him take that one-step further in this movie and let loose on himself, even he’s visibly at his lowest.

Not exactly what I dream of.....

Not exactly what I dream of…..

But that doesn’t matter, because yes, he is a comedian and he’s supposed to be funny. So yeah, good for him for being funny, aka, doing the job he’s supposed to do. Despite being funny, Birbiglia is able to bring-out something within this material that I didn’t think was at all possible: drama. The whole movie plays-out like a shaggy dog comedy, where it’s this guy trying to work his way up the comedy-ladder, make people laugh, get gigs, get money, find meaning in life, but in a funny way, but in the back of it’s mind, there’s always this downright serious and heartbreaking drama at the center-fold. The whole plot with Birbiglia and his girlfriend of 8 years who seem to obviously love each other and seem to obviously know everything about one another, but still can’t find a way to get married, really sets this flick up for some terribly honest and compelling material. Material that I didn’t think this movie had the balls of juggling with, and in a way: I was right.

Before I jump into what this movie messed-up on, I just want to say that with the obvious intentions and motivations in Birbiglia’s mind, I thought that he achieved something that wasn’t possible: getting more than just comedy, out of a story of a comic. He makes it more than just a story about living your dream and making something out of yourself, but making it about how you need to have direction, no matter how old or young you are. You need to really wake up, smell the cauliflower, and realize that your shit needs to get together, way before you even hit the ripe-age of 40, or more. It may come off as a shock to hear this from a 19-year-old d-bag who has yet to get his life on track (except for this fancy blog), but it’s what I garnered out of this story and what I think Birbiglia hit very well. If the guy can do anything, it’s that he can bring more emotion and depth out of a comedy than most comedy-directors working today. No, not you Judd Apatow. You’re fine right where you are, bud.

Now, where I think Birbiglia messes up on is the love-story between him and his girlfriend. I will say that the movie takes a different-approach to this relationship than most rom-coms do, but that’s not saying much considering how lazy it seems to get sometimes. For example, whenever you feel like the movie is going to focus on how hard it is for Matt to not see his girl, to be on the road non-stop, and not know what to do when they’re supposed to get freakin’ married, it just focuses in on another, wacky, and wild dream-sequence that may be funny and may have happened, but only slows down the momentum of the actual story at-hand. I give credit to Birbiglia for at least including this story at all, whereas other directors would have probably poo-pooed it and had it played-out like a lame, blind date, but I wish there was just more effort on this dude’s part. I mean, it is HIS story, told from HIMSELF, so why not give it a little more feeling and a little more attachment, rather than just showing people how insane you can make dream-sequences? Sorry, Mike. Didn’t mean to get all mad, but come on!

Ehh, neither is this....

Ehh, neither is this….

That’s what also brings me onto my next point: his actual girlfriend in the movie. Lauren Ambrose, god bless her soul, is a revelation in this movie because she is smart, sassy, understanding, honest, and very loving in the way that all gal-pals should be around this time, but the movie doesn’t give her enough credit. It’s so damn obvious that she’s the right pick for him because she’s always cool with him, always down to Earth, and always able to be there and help him when he needs it the most, so why the hell wouldn’t you want to pick that? I get that maybe it has something to do a little bit with the fact that the cat may be hitting his mid-life crisis and may not know what to do with his life right about now, so therefore adding on the factor of marriage would only cause more confusion, but for a simple-minded dude like myself, I would think that the right and best pick would be right there for me: choose her. You can do all the stand-up, you can make all the jokes you want, but this is the girl you should be with and I never understood why there was any problem’s there in the first-place. Once again, it’s probably one of those things I don’t seem to get because I haven’t lived life like him or haven’t gotten to that age, but I have made mistakes and I have been confused in life, so I definitely feel like I have some sort of leg to stand on here. And if I don’t, I don’t care because I know that I would be more than happy to have Lauren Ambrose as my girl, any day of the week baby.

Despite all of my thrashing and trashing of his movie and what is essentially, his life-story in an-hour-and-25-minute movie, I still have to say that Mike Birbiglia kept me going with this movie and his presence is one of the more-welcoming ones I have seen in recent-time, especially committed by a comedian. Like his stand-up, Birbiglia is always funny and able to poke fun at himself and his life’s misfortunes. However, the guy gets a chance to act here and show what he’s feeling at these exact-moments, and his over-the-top narration keeps us in the mind of the guy and has us hear and believe all of the thoughts that are racing through it. Birbiglia is a simple guy that likes to keep things down on home-ground, but when it comes to this movie and he has to go for the deeper-meaning in life and in love: he’s more than up-to-the-challenge and that shows a lot of balls for any may, especially a comedian. Hope to see you soon, Mike.

Consensus: Mike Birbiglia’s honesty and brutal-depictions of real-life happenings keep Sleepwalk With Me grounded in-reality, even when it goes crazy with his dreams, but feels like it loses itself when it comes to making a simple, comedic-story more important than it truly has to be, and that’s more about the romantic-aspect than the actual means and themes of this story. Give me 10 more years, and maybe I’ll have a different view on this one, but for now, I’m sticking with it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Ah! Now that's more like it! Just cross-out Mike Birbiglia and put my face there, and that's it. Oh, sweet dreams.

Now that’s more like it! Just get rid of Mike Birbiglia and that’s it. Oh, sweet dreams.

Snitch (2013)

Would you really call the People’s Champ “a snitch” to his face. Think about it and choose your words wisely, ya jabroni.

A suburban father (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) decides to risk everything and go undercover as an informant in order to help the authorities build a case against a high-ranking drug dealer. Why does he do this? Well, because he’s the greatest daddy ever apparently and just wants to reduce his son’s 30 year mandatory drug sentence. If that doesn’t scream “Daddy of the Year Award”, I don’t know what the hell will.

It’s coming towards the end of February, therefore it means that the Hollywood production companies are going to start throwing more and more crap at us, up-until the Summer hits and they’ll be throwing more crap at us, except with the cool breeze of Summer in the air. With that being said, this movie was definitely nowhere near my must-see, but surprise, surprise! It ain’t half-bad as I was expecting it to be, except just a little dumb. Just a little.

The fact that this movie is based off a true story, definitely gives it some lee-way in terms of what it can and cannot do with it’s story, and still make it seem believable. For instance, the whole idea that the DEA would be willing to actually allow this suburban-daddy to get involved with this drug world, in order to thrown some prime-time players in jail, definitely seems like a bit of a stretch, even for a movie starring The Rock (yes, that T is still capitalized). However, this movie isn’t all about the facts, it ain’t all about the truth, and it ain’t even all about the fun. It’s surprisingly about the story and what a simple premise can do, when you give it a simple and normal-look.

Directed Ric Roman Waugh did a similar-film like this a couple of years ago called Felon, where he took a regular, everyday man and put him into an atmosphere he has never been involved with ever before. That movie was pretty damn good, and even though this one doesn’t reach the heights of that, it still has the same look, feel, and emotions going-on. For example, instead of making this movie all about the guns, the drugs, the violence, and the action that usually happens in these movies where people get involved with the underground world of drug-trading, we actually get a story that means something here. You know, a story with real and heartfelt emotions.

Just give me a little bit of the People's Eyebrow. Just a tiny bit.

He’s trying so hard to give us the People’s Eyebrow.

The fact that this movie is being advertised as another, slam-bang action-thriller in the same vein as Faster or the Rundown, is a real sin. Because once you get past the fact that you aren’t going to see blood, bullets, and octane (Joe Carnahan has nothing to do with this movie, but it’s still pretty cool to say) the whole-time, then you can actually enjoy this movie and see where it’s going with itself. The movie gives it’s story more meaning by setting itself up, showing us the characters, who we are dealing with, and what’s really at-stake here. Yeah, it does seem a little obvious at-times, but the movie is about showing the connection these people have when there’s a shit-load on-the-line.

I’ll never go so far as to say that this movie touches on a lot of emotional truths and hardships that’s going to make the insides of you weep for a hug, but I will say that it will surprise you with where it goes, and how it gets there. Waugh is about giving us characters we care for and can believe in, and that’s ahead of all of the foolery of the violence we expect from this cast and crew. If there is any credit I have to give to Waugh, it’s that he took the higher-road and decided to give us more substance, than we usually expect from movies like this. You care for these people, you care for this story, and ultimately, you care for this movie. That is, up until the movie starts to lose itself and get all action-y. I mean, come on! Did you really think they were going to have people hugging, crying, and kissing each other for the whole 2 hours? Hell no!!

When the action gets introduced into the story, it feels forced which was unexpected because the movie actually built-up a nice amount of suspense and tension throughout. The movie makes you feel like some real and crazy shit is going to happen any time now, and in a way, it does, but it doesn’t feel legitimate. It feels like the film makers of this movie saw the final-cut, and decided that there needed to be more action, more explosions, and more guns involved, so all of the dudes that went-out to go and see this Dwayne Johnson flick, wouldn’t start to question their sexuality. That idea is so cynical, but for Hollywood, it’s just money baby. That’s what bothered the most about this flick and it seemed like if they kept it a real, near, and dear drama the whole-way through, did a couple of cuts, and re-cast some people, then they would have really had a keeper here. Instead, they decided to take the low-road and stay with the cast, stay with the original-cuts, and keep some of the drama in, but mostly action as well. Hey, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. In today’s day and age, you got to take what you can get.

Now, here I come to the saddest-part of my whole review: The Rock. Yes, I know he’s Dwayne Johnson, I know he wants to be taken seriously, and I know he’s trying so damn hard to shine away from his wrestling-days (even though he was just recently the champ, I think), but he will always and forever be The Rock to me. He’s one of, if not, my favorite wrestler of all-time and just has the look, the charm, and the personality to make any movie he does work. That’s why it comes as such a surprise to me to see that the guy isn’t anything really special here, and sort of came-off like a bit of a miscast problem.

They come runnin' just as fast as they cancause every girl is crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

They come runnin’ just as fast as they can,
cause every girl is crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Don’t get me mistaken, The Rock is mostly good in this movie. He has a dramatic-range that is surprising and can actually cool himself down when he needs to let the drama and the story take a hold (pun intended), but he seems to be trying too hard as well. There’s a lot of scenes that seem like they call on him to just be use his expressive-eyes and facial-expressions to give the motives of this character more meaning than they should have, and seems like he’s over-emoting. His line-reading isn’t bad, but it does leave a lot to be desired, especially when you think about how bulky and scary his character is. I get that he doesn’t want to be playing his usual, bad-ass type of role where he kicks people’s asses, does The Rock Bottom, and throws his arm-band out at the crowd (still haven’t grabbed one of them yet), but he feels out-of-place here. He tries to play wimpy, he tries to play the family-man, and he tries to play innocent, but the guy looks just too scary and intimidating to really be construed as that. When a guy comes at him, he’s actually scared. The Rock that I know, The Rock that I love, and The Rock that I believe in, would layeth downeth the Smackdowneth on that person’s candy ass and not just stand there in fear. Come on Rocky! There’s so much more to you than this. I know it.

But where The Rock loses, everybody else succeeds. The main reason why I was looking forward to this movie as much as I actually was, was because of Jon Bernthal and seeing what he could do outside of Shane from the Walking Dead. Thankfully, the guy delivers and shows us that he can play a nice, civilized, family-man that may have a bit of a history, but still wants to do the right thing. Bernthal can play that sick, sinister-type oh so damn well, but when he has to come back down to Earth and keep it real; he’s still very believable and makes you feel more for this guy, than you do for Rock’s character. I can tell that if there is anybody from the Walking Dead that’s going to have a shinier career, it’s this dude and I can’t wait to see what he has in-store for us next.

Everybody else is pretty damn good as well. Michael Kenneth Williams is, as you would expect, playing a drug-dealer that smokes, deals, and kills for a living. But also a bit more to him than you’d expect, and the last couple of scenes we get with him is where I was really shocked at the type of dimensions this movie was able to explore, especially for such conventional-characters like “the black drug-dealer”. Benjamin Bratt feels underused and a bit stupid as the head of the Mexican cartel, but still does what he can with material such as this; Barry Pepper shows up in his ZZ Top get-up, is very sympathetic, very bad-ass, but also very believable and does his best at making us all forget about Broken City and how he had the disprivilege of ever touching that crap; and last, but sure as hell not least, is Susan Sarandon as the prosecutor that’s only slightly-less evil than half of the drug-dealers that she’s trying to arrest, but still revels in the material and in a way: fits her like a glove. A firm, lovely glove that I wish I helped her put on. Rawr!

Consensus: Believe it or not, the only real reason why Snitch isn’t as good as it should be, is because of the very same thing that the movie advertises itself as: a thriller. A thriller with guns, action, blood, guts, drugs, and crime is not what this movie’s all about; it’s more about the characters, what they’re going through, what they have to do, and how they can all come out of this problem alive, well, and prosperous for the future. Okay, maybe it’s not that in-depth, but it still is a lot more-developed than any other action-thriller that’s come out this year, so far.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Now I know what the ‘B’ in Barcelona stands for now. Yeah, I’m a dirty boy.

Two American women named Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) spend a summer in Barcelona to re-connect with the lives they think they have, and hopefully be able to find inspiration in terms of love and life. When vacationing and trying to discover themselves in Barcelona, they meet an artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who is attracted to the both of them while still enamored of his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz). Somehow, everybody starts boning one-another and it’s all deserved. Why? Because it’s Barcelona, that’s why!

Regardless of whomever the hell he prefers to go to bed with at night, Woody Allen is a film maker that knows his shit and knows how to do it right. He always has a knack for writing these stories that are so simple, so down-to-Earth, and so plain, that they make you feel as if you could have written the general-premise of half-of them when you were still drawing circles with your big crayons. That’s not to discredit Mr. Allen in any way, shape, or form, it just shows you that if you have the talent to make you writing witty and always fun, then you can do no wrong. Sadly, this is not the one movie where he exhibits his best work. Sorry, Midnight in Paris. Maybe we’ll get another like you, sooner or later.

The problem I think that Allen runs into with this flick, is that he’s more concerned with the look and feel of the whole movie, rather than what makes it so important in the first-place: the characters. This may come-off as a shock to you readers out there, but surprisingly, the characters in this movie aren’t as electric or thought-provoking as you’d think. The two female leads that this story practically breathes and dies by, Vicky and Cristina (hence the title), aren’t anything more than just a bunch of confused, American college students that just seem to be the types of people who think too much about the little shit in life, and don’t ever decide to wake-up, smell the cauliflower, and get the hell on with what’s in front of you at the time-being. There’s even this one scene where we see how much of “feeler” Vicky truly is by the way she listens to a Spanish dude play guitar, and practically cries about it once it’s over. Why? I don’t know, maybe because Woody Allen likes these types of characters that make more meaning to stuff than their really is in the first-place.

Looks like Scarlett's wearing the same hair my sister's barbies used to have.

Did Scarlett kill a Barbie doll for that hair?

It may sound weird since I am talking about a Woody Allen movie, where the characters are mostly neurotic to the point of where they have to bring a freakin’ tranquilizer with them everywhere, but it just doesn’t work here as well as it does in other films. You could even go so far as to argue that maybe the same case with the characters being too neurotic and quirky are evident in mostly all of Allen’s work, but what separates the best, from the worst, is the way he’s able to cover it all up with witty and hilarious-dialogue that keeps you interested in seeing/hearing what these characters have to do or say next. I never really felt that with these characters and I sort of just wanted them to stop their damn talking, and get back to the whole love-makin’ idea. But without Javier Bardem in the mix. If you know what I mean?

If there is anything that Woody Allen can fall back on in this movie it’s that he is so determined and inspired to show Barcelona in it’s finest, and most extravagant form, that it actually works. Barcelona is a place I would always love to venture out to, but being 19, with no job, no wife (not that I know of, no kids (not that I know of), and no relation whatsoever to a billionaire, may never get the shot to. And if that is the depressing, but true case, then this is probably the closes I’ll ever get to that trip and I have to say it’s better than nothing because you really feel as if you are there in this setting, where the pharimones between these fellow-residents are just running-wild. Seriously, if this movie doesn’t get you hot at all, I don’t know what will. And I’m not just referring to watching this during the Summer-time, neither. If you know what I mean?

The other key-factor to making this movie work is the cast that, as usual with most of Allen’s flicks, is star-studded but shows everybody doing their best to make it all work out. For the most part, they succeed. Javier Bardem was just coming off of his Oscar-win as the bad-ass Anton from No Country for Old Men, and took a pretty risky, but big-move in his career gunning for a role that’s as suave and sexy as this. Thankfully, Bardem pulls it off like crazy and shows that the guy can play charming and cool, but also have you totally revved-up to go out there and tell babes to get in their plane for Barcelona in an hour. Thank you, Javier Bardem. You give hope to all men out there in the world, in the hopes that they will one day, find woman that are as desperate for sex as themselves. It’s sad, but true.

However much you want baby, I'll pay. I swear.

However much you want baby, I’ll pay. I swear.

People get on Scarlett Johansson’s case for not being the greatest actress since the glory days of Elizabeth Taylor (or some royal beotches like that), but the girl’s got a look and style to her that works and have you feel something for her character, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is. She’s got this real sense of vulnerability and confusion within her act that makes you feel bad for her character when she gets a tad screwed-over from time-to-time, and makes you just want to give her a hug and possible smooch on-the-side. However, we all know that will never, ever happen unless you’re Ryan Reynolds or Sean Penn (present-day, mind you), so it’s all hopes and dreams from here. Rebecca Hall is always showing-up in heavy-duty dramas where she plays the straight-laced, serious gal that does her own thang and likes it, and her performance as Cristina is pretty much the same old song and dance for her, but with a bit of a lighter-feel this time. Hall is good at playing up-tight and shows how one girl can practically go from despising everything, to just wanting more out of her life of living, and life of lust. Hall is always great in what she does, but here, I saw that the girl could really handle comedy and make it work. Let’s just hope Hollywood takes notice of this and stop making her co-star as the female love-interest all movies seem to need.

The most-popular and noted aspect of this movie was probably Penélope Cruz, with her Oscar-winning role as the psycho, ex-girlfriend. It’s a role that suits our usually high-strung actress like a glove, but also doesn’t do much for the story or it’s meaning. The whole movie, you are constantly just waiting for Cruz to show up and light everything on fire and have her presence be known, but she shows up to the party a bit too late, and doesn’t really liven things up like I expected her too. It’s sort of like me that one time at my own Sweet 18th. All I wanted to do was get my ladies, my money, and my food, and I had to wait 3 hours for that crap! What the hell?!? Anyway, back to Cruz. As she usually is with anything she gets thrown at her (even you, Tom Cruise), she’s great with this role and definitely brought out the most laughs from the cast. Everybody was pretty damn serious up until she reared her beautiful self in, but still didn’t keep me as awake as I would have wished for and being that this was an Oscar-winning role: I was expecting a shit-load more from her. But then again, who doesn’t just love when Cruz breaks-out her native tongue? Huh? Huh? Am I right or what, fellas? Okay, I guess I’m the only perv around these parks. Thanks everybody!

Consensus: Allen’s writing in Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t as sharp or as entertaining as it has been in the past, but still, with a cast and setting like Barcelona, you could do a hell of a lot worse with a hell of a less expectations.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I'm staring.

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I’m staring.

Love Story (1970)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Somehow, this is influential to romantic-drama filmmakers.

Somehow, this is influential to romantic-drama filmmakers.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Everybody’s a little crazy. Even the guys that protect our country with guns.

A young Marine named Davis, aka Joker (Matthew Modine), sees the Vietnam through his eyes and his eyes only. We follow him through the gruesome days of boot-camp under the tutelage of a vicious drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey), and then as he ends up becoming a correspondent for Stars & Stripes, where he actually gets to witness and partake in all of the brutal violence he was trained in. Obviously, not everything is as easy as it seems when it comes to taking another human’s life, and that’s the moral problem Davis hits early-on.

I’ve seen this movie about 3 times by now and have yet to let it all sink in and fully hit my brain, head-on with enough understanding and comprehension to make all of my thoughts seem more than just aimless ramblings. Maybe that last sentence didn’t prove to you that I know exactly what I’m talking about but trust me, it’s been awhile since the last time I saw this movie and I’ve come to one assumption, and one assumption only: the war sucks.

By now, everybody knows this as “Kubrick’s two-act film”. The reason it’s called that, is because the first part of the flick plays out so damn differently from the latter, that it’s almost a shock to see it come from the same director, let alone be in the same movie. But have no fear, because no matter where and when Kubrick puts his story, he never loses his grip with what message he’s trying to get across and what exactly can be accomplished with when you have a guy with a head on his shoulders (a crazy head, but a head nonetheless), some extreme skills as a director, and also, the most important factor of all: a camera in your hand.

Just so you know, he's yelling.

Just so you know: he’s yelling.

What makes this movie work so well, even after the 4th time I’ve seen this by now is that Kubrick never dumbs the audience down for the material that he’s showing. However, he also doesn’t allow it to go way too over-your-head neither. He lets his messages and themes play-out, but also gives you something more to think about. Like take for instance, the first act where we see these young, punky kids get beaten, battered, and torn to shreds by this drill sergeant that shows no remorse, never lets them live down a single damn thing, and continues to badger them about being the killing-machines that act first and shoot last. It’s a pretty fucked-up idea that the guy has, but it’s also what the war his in mind as well, and we see just how Kurbick lets us know how messed-up it is with the first-act playing out in the type of way you wouldn’t expect it to go.

This first-half is where I think, and most other people too, the film’s at it’s strongest. It shows you just how hard and brutal it can be to be apart of the army, and still have the right frame-of-mind to believe in everything that you’ve been taught to believe. That’s what our country teaches us, that’s what our politicians teach us, so why not the army? Kubrick really lays down the law with this first-act and we see him tell a simple story, in a simple way, but still give us a compelling-look at something we would have never been able to see before, had it been shown to us by anybody else. Then, it sort of goes down-hill from there.

Actually, that’s not totally correct to say, because the second-half still has it’s moments, but they still aren’t as strong as the ones in the first. After we leave the boot-camp and actually get down and dirty with the battlefield itself, we see how all of these soldiers handle all of the teachings and training they’ve been handed, and use it when necessary  This is where the film get’s really dark, really heavy, and really preachy. Just by watching the first-shot in this movie where all of these young dudes were getting their heads all shaved and groomed for the army, already had me knowing that Kubrick was against the war and felt like it was stupid for us to throw young men like these fellas into it, and be nothing more than meaningless deaths. It’s a sad truth to say, but it is the truth nonetheless and I got that this was the point Kubrick was trying to make, until he continued to bash me over the head, non-stop with it.

By the latter-half of the movie, you start to realize that not only is the war having physical problems with these soldiers, but physical as well. Everybody’s all gung-ho with the violence, loves their guns so much that they just cannot wait to shoot somebody with them, and are a bunch of freaks when they have to come to terms with what they’re fighting for, who they’re fighting for, and what losing a person/fellow solider is all about. I got that they’re going crazy and aren’t very inept with the rest of mankind, but after awhile, it’s just so obvious to sit-through and listen to, that you stop to care after awhile. Kubrick is always known for being the guy who loves to show you something that’s on his mind and usually does it in the most clever way possible, and hell that’s what we all love him for! But here, in this movie and this last-act, we start to lose that sensibility that Kubrick had, the sensibility that made him stand-out from the rest of the crowd and show that he’s working on a higher-level than these other chumps.

Still, as much as I may rag on and on about what he does wrong, Kubrick still did a lot of right in this movie and kept me glued to the screen, even though I knew exactly what happened, where, how, and why. I guess that’s just the problem you run into with most movies when you see them a couple of times, but I was so shocked that I was still able to feel on-edge with everything Kubrick showed, graphic and non-graphic. The war sequences are stunningly shot and make you feel as if you are right there, in the action with them and proves to us all that Kubrick could handle a shaky-cam better than anybody else could. So take that Blair With Project peoples! All seriousness though, whenever Kubrick has a vision in his head, he sticks to it, and never lets it go, no matter how much of his message he may hammer into our skulls.

Maybe the whole point was to make us feel like we were one of the soldiers. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the guy is one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time and really shocked me by how much he was allowed to get away with here. Controversial? You bet your sweet ass it is, but that’s what anti-war films are all about. So, whatever it is that you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT request this as a movie-viewing on Veteran’s Day, or else you’re going to have some pretty angry vets coming at your neck. Just a fair warning, that’s all.

"I don't mind what type of business you're doing in here, but could you just keep it done at least?"

“I don’t mind whatever type of business you’re doing in here, but could you just keep it down? No? Okay, I’m leaving. Have fun.”

I know it isn’t Kubrick’s style to give into conventions and be like everybody else, but this movie would have greatly benefited from some sort of main character that drives this story the whole way through. Yeah, Matthew Modine is here and is fine as Joker, but still doesn’t seem to be much of an asset to the story, as much as he’s just a reason for us to actually pay attention to all of the crazy shit that’s going on around him. It’s sort of a sad thing to notice, because Modine is a quality actor, but it’s something that I noticed early-on and I wish Kubrick payed more attention to, rather than just going for the gull by trying to look fancy and cool with his style-points. He gets those points, but has to lose character-points as well. Can’t win ’em all, Stanley!

Even though Modine’s character doesn’t supply us with the fuel for the fire, two other actors in this movie do. Vincent D’Onofrio gained a lot of notoriety and in a way, still does to this day because of how much weight he put on for this role as Leonard Lawrence, aka Gomer Pyle. Apparently it was around 80 pounds or something, which to me, sounds like just another night of partying and drinkin’, but I digress. The guy deserves all of the credit he gets for his work here in this movie and not just because he gained all of that poundage, but because the guy makes us actually believe this sweet, kind man can go from being the nice kid who lives next-door, to being the psycho you would never even trust around your kids, let alone next to your own house. D’Onofrio really nails what it’s like to go from being normal, to being a total nut that’s all gung-ho for war, guns, and violence, and shows that the brain-washing techniques it seems like the army uses, isn’t always for the better of man. Maybe for society, but not for the man itself.

However, that’s where R. Lee Ermey comes in and proves, well: that we were right. Ermey is amazing as the drill sergeant that takes no prisoners when it comes to teaching these boys a lesson about what it means to become a solider not just of the war, but of the country as well. Ermey, whether he’s yelling out insults at people or lecturing the boys on how they should not fuck with him or he’ll fuck them right back, Ermey is always interesting, always compelling to watch, and always had me laughing. He’s the main reason why that first-half is so much better than the latter-half, and that’s why it’s a shame to see him and D’Onofrio go and leave us with the presence of Matthew Modine and a bunch of other schmoes that you’ve all seen before, you just don’t know where or when. Not to discredit them or anything, but nobody’s really as stellar as Ermey or D’Onofrio. That’s just the simple fact, Jack. I don’t know who Jack is, but I just wanted to sound cool so leave me alone.

Consensus: Even if Full Metal Jacket isn’t Kubrick’s best, it’s still a heck of a lot better than most cinema out there and proves to you that the war sucks and that everybody who gets involved with it are usually messed-up in the head, dead, or have no chance of understanding what it means to be a human-being, nor do they have a way to understand just what the hell it is that they are fighting for. It’s obvious stuff, but with Kubrick behind the camera: it’s always fascinating.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No, he is not taking a dump. He IS shooting people.

“GOD BLESS AMURRRICAAAAHHH!!!”

Get Low (2010)

Lil’ Jon should have at least scored the soundtrack, if anything.

For years, townsfolk have been terrified of the backwoods recluse known as Felix Bush (Robert Duvall). Then, one day, Felix rides to town with a shotgun and a wad of cash, saying he wants to buy a funeral. It’s not your usual funeral for the dead Felix wants. On the contrary, he wants a “living funeral,” in which anyone who ever had heard a story about him will come to tell it, while he takes it all in.

Simple movies are never that bad, and when you have an idea about a dude planning a living-funeral, it makes a simple movie seem pretty cool, yet still simple. Director Aaron Schneider definitely knows the type of material he’s working with as he sets the mood, sets the pace, sets the characters, and sets the ideas of what we come to expect with movies like these, but in the end, they are all simple and for some, that may not be so bad, but for me, it is. Well, sort of.

See, as much as I liked this flick and felt like it delivered on what it was going for, I also feel like a lot of what could have really hit me hard here, just didn’t. For instance, the script is pretty weak whereas not only does it seem like these people do the usual, “talk-like-a-bunch-of-goofy-Southerners”-speak, but they also try too hard to make people laugh and none of it ever feels like actual humor. I mean, yeah, watching a hermit who lives out in the middle of the woods, invite a dude from the town in for a nice pot of rabbit can be a tad humorous  but it’s nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen before and I think that’s what the deal is with this whole film.

We never get to see anything new or awesome that we haven’t already seen done before, and even worse, the flick doesn’t really bring much to the table to distract you, anyway. The scenery definitely looks good and has you feel as if you are in the South during this time-period, but that’s pretty much it. You can have a movie that looks all nice and dandy, but if you don’t have anything else to make up for it, then I just lose interest. However, thanks to a cast like this, I was paying attention enough times to relatively-enjoy myself. Not fully or totally, but relatively and I think that’s better than not enjoying myself.

Bill Murray is always a blast to watch in anything he does and his performance as the greedy, funeral parlor-owner is no different. His contemporary way-of-speaking definitely seemed a bit distracting for the first five-minutes of him on-screen, but as time went on, I just let it slide and love every-singe-bit of Murray’s performance and some may be surprised to know that he’s not the most hilarious dude in the movie. Murray does have the occasional zinger here and there for good sport, but he actually has an interesting dramatic arch that forms a dynamic between him and Duvall and it continues to go on through the whole movie. I don’t want to say that I loved the hell out of Murray, but I can say that the guy was a good character and showed that he can always balance out sleazy, humorous  and likable, all at the same time.

"Wanna see my dead squirrel collection?"

“Wanna see my dead squirrel collection?”

Playing his lackey-of-sorts is Lucas Black, who is obviously still trying to have everybody forget his days in Sling Blade, but no need to worry, because the guy’s actually a solid actor as a grown-up. Granted, when he is side-by-side with heavyweights like Duvall and Murray, he definitely seems like the weak-link, but when he’s doing his own thing and that’s just about it: he’s good with it. I definitely would like to see this guy step-away from the dirty South and try his best with any other accent but for the most part, he’s fine with his own native tongue and I don’t think playing a Bawstan gangster would be the next best thing for him. Although, it’d be fun to see him try at it.

Sissy Spacek plays Duvall’s former-fling and as she gets older, seems to not only get more beautiful, but also even better as an actress. Seriously, I thought she was just going to be one of those females that showed-up and bitched about her life and why it never amounted to everything she wanted, but the gal actually has a nice arch to her as well, and it’s great to see the scenes with her and Duvall cause you can tell that there’s something powerfully and genuinely felt between the two, but you just don’t know what. Spacek never seems to age and as time goes on, she still knows how to deliver and that’s so great to see from a living legend like herself.

Then, of course, there is the one, the only, the Grizzly Adams-look alike himself: Robert Duvall. Duvall is such a classic actor, that roles like these where all he has to do is grunt, say weird things, and be his typical-self, he makes it so good that it almost seems like he’s not acting. After awhile, you start to forget that it’s Duvall and take him in as this strange, weird old man, and yet, you are never scared of him. You feel like he’s a good guy at his core and that whatever he did, no matter how disturbing or brutal it may have been, that he’s still a nice guy that deserves to have people around him. No matter what type of character Duvall goes for, he’s always good at it, and always knows how to make us give two shits about the guy, even if he may be a bit mysterious in his own ways.

Bill Murray, probably doing his best John Waters-look he could get himself to actually go through with.

Bill Murray, probably doing his best John Waters-look he could get himself to actually go through with.

However, once you get to thinking about the whole mystery of this flick and what it actually ends up being, then you start to feel a bit disappointed. Without spoiling the last twenty-minutes of the movie, Duvall finally gets a chance to break the ice and tell everybody what he’s been hiding-0ut for, for so long and the kind of effect that it has had on his life. Throughout the whole movie, I was ready to see what it was as each and every single little clue, came-up to the forefront and had me guessing a bit more. It gave what could be considered this simple, character-study a nice deal of mystery and suspense to it that had me playing-along for awhile, that is, until the actual “reveal” came out and ended on a total whimper.

It’s not the fact that what Duvall ends-up telling us is what’s a bummer, it’s that you just don’t really care and see how a guy could leave the rest of civilization for a thing like that. I guess when you take guilt and memory into consideration, then yeah, it could definitely eat you up inside, but leaving the people you know and may possibly love, to go out into the far woods, break logs, eat animal stew, walk around with a shotgun, hunt, and chase little kids off your property, doesn’t seem all that reasonable. It sort of made me feel like the flick had the central idea and premise, it had the characters, and it had the setting, but the most important factor of them all, the ultimate reveal, was something that they just didn’t have and felt like they just made it up as they went along. And if they did have it on, way before filming began, then when it actually came to filming this movie, they didn’t have a firm enough grasp to really make us care enough or feel like we are glad we spent so much time of our lives with these characters and with this story.

Consensus: Benefiting from a strong-as-hell cast, Get Low definitely has moments that keep you watching, despite the slow pace, but doesn’t have the best script in the world and that shows, especially when you take into consideration the final twist that gives you the feeling that this flick sort of lost itself, as it tugged along.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Give me a one-blade. All around."

“Give me a one-blade. All around.”

A Single Man (2009)

If gay means happy, then why is everybody so damn muggy?

Torn apart by the shattering impact of the death of his long-time lover, college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) experiences the most transitional day of his life, blending past and present, desire and despair, and discovering that love persists even after the object of love is gone.

Way back when in 2009 when this film was making it’s whispers of Oscar-talk for Firth, I really wanted to go see it but didn’t have a car, didn’t know where to see it, and even worse, didn’t really have the time to make out of my day, to go see an art-film like this. However, almost four years later, and with a car, with an idea of where to see it, and with plenty of time in my day, I’ve finally seen it and I’m really pissed at myself for missing-out all these years. Boo, the 16-year-old version of myself!

This movie marks the filmmaking debut of designer Tom Ford and you can totally tell that this guy has had something, no matter how big or little, with the world of designing just by looking at a single-frame of this movie. Everything is so polished, so lavish, so classy, so jazzy, and so beautifully, that you really feel like you are in the 60’s, watching a real story play-out in front of your own eyes. At first, it may seem like the movie is a bit too artsy-fartsy and way too happy with itself, but after awhile, the constant stylized-montages and changes in color, really make sense to the story and actually change the mood of what you are about to see. Yeah, Ford may be obsessed with making things look purrty, almost a bit too purrty, but there is absolutely no problem whatsoever, with keeping a person’s eyes on the screen, especially if your material is weak.

However, you don’t have to worry about that instance here, because the material is very strong in the way it always keeps you riveted and always keeps you interested in what’s going to happen. What I liked so much about this movie, is how simple the story is and yet, it’s always so intriguing into seeing where it goes with itself. You get to see this one man, who’s so heart-broken, who’s so sad, and who’s in so much pain, and you get take a glimpse inside a day of his own life and see where his mind goes throughout the day’s events, and how this one day shapes the rest of his life. We get a crap-ton of memories, flash-backs, and surreal, dream-like sequences, but they all fit within the context of the story and what Ford is going for and it really surprised the hell out of me.

Why Firth was never asked to be Bond, is really beyond me.

Why Firth was never asked to be Bond, is really beyond me.

The feelings you get with this story aren’t life-changing, but they are at least relate-able  considering that this man has lose the love of his life and still has no idea what to do with it. Quite frankly speaking, I think we can all relate to that idea and message, so to see this one man, who we just meet, go throughout his day and struggle with that hurt in his heart and reserve in his step, it’s truly believable to see and very understood. Never has a flick really been so simple like this, yet, make it so much more than what it’s plot seems to out-line. I don’t know if we have Ford to thank for that, or the source material he adapted this from, but I know one person we can thank: Mr. Colin Firth, himself.

Before King George VI, and before he has become to be known as the most-lovable British man on the face of the planet, Colin Firth was one of those supporters you would see in British rom-coms like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually, and more or less, came-off as the thinking’s man Hugh Grant that just never really got the shot to take a film, that he so rightfully desired. Here, as George Falconer (pretty boss name to have on your birth certificate), Firth gets to show everybody why he deserves that shot and shows us all why he can do almost anything and everything, with one, simple look on his face. This performance isn’t all about theatrics, it isn’t all about him yelling and screaming the whole time, and it sure as hell isn’t about him just breaking down every five-seconds so we get the idea that he’s sad, this is more of a performance that’s all about being subtle and understated, while still making us feel something for this guy, that we literally just met right-off-the-bat.

Still, as much as you may feel bad for this guy and all that he’s going through, Firth still has plenty of charm and wit to him to where you really feel like he’s the type of sad-sack you would want to cheer-up, whether it be sexual or just a regular, shared-brewskie at the bar. Firth has that every-day man, sense of likability to him that works so damn well with this role and it’s a real wonder why it took him so freakin’ long to nab a leading-role in a flick like this. I would hate to sound cliche and obvious by stating that George Falconer was the role Firth was born to play, but after seeing this flick and seeing all that he can do with a simple-script like, it would be damn-near impossible to state anything different. If Jeff Bridges didn’t get the pity-win for Crazy Heart that year, you can bet your sweet ass that Firth would have been the next in-line for that win.

If that sweater doesn't spell out, "G-A-Y", then I have no clue what will.

If that sweater doesn’t spell out, “G-A-Y”, then I have no clue what will.

Since Firth is so damn good as Falconer and just about steals this movie from underneath his feet, the rest of the cast sort of pales in-comparison and that’s a problem when you have a film like this that relies so heavily on everybody else coming in to spice the story up away from Falconer. Julianne Moore is surprisingly raw as Falconer’s bestie/ex-lover, Charley, and is very interesting and fun to watch in a role where she just lets loose on all of her grubbiness and grit, but also feels like she should have had more to do here. She shows-up for a scene or two, does her vulnerable-act, and is essentially gone from the rest of the movie. That’s not so bad since Firth is a revelation to watch, but the film would have definitely been a lot better had they given more scenes to him and Moore together. Then again, it’s not a terrible thing when you have an actor like Firth and performance like his.

Matthew Goode only shows-up in flash-backs as Falconer’s deceased-lover, and brings enough heart and warmth to a character we really need to know more about to fully invest ourselves, and does a good job. But like Moore, I just wish there was more of him to fully get us going. And lastly, Nicholas Hoult plays a student of Falconer’s that seems to be almost obsessed with him and constantly stalks and asks him questions, that would make any person just cringe right-away. Hoult definitely gets a chance to show everybody that he’s grown-up (especially when he’s butt-naked a few times), but that’s about it as the kid definitely left his acting-skills with him back in his adolescence. It’s not that he’s a bad actor, it’s just that this character is so one-note and obvious that once you start to see his true colors pop-out, it’s so glaring that it’s distracting to the rest of the film that seemed to be all about having subtle, but heartfelt emotions about life and love. Hoult definitely looks the part of a confused, 60’s-era college-student, but doesn’t feel like it and when you put him up-against Firth, it’s too obvious to set-aside.

Consensus: Thanks to an amazing performance from Colin Firth and an artful direction from Tom Ford, A Single Man may be simple, but still has the power of a wrecking ball to hit your brain and your mind with it’s ideas and thoughts about life, love, and heart-ache, but yet, also feels like it could have been so much more if there had been more time and grace given to everything else.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Cloudy day, isn't it?"

“Awfully cloudy day, isn’t it?”

Higher Ground (2011)

Sadly, it’s more like the Stevie Wonder-version.

Corinne (Vera Farmiga) is a devout Christian that has a nice family, a nice husband (Joshua Leonard), and feels as if her life needs nothing more than just hope, happiness, and faith. However, time goes on, and Corinne starts to question her faith as examples of life’s darkest-moments come to be seen.

Seeing as this is a movie about people that believe in God and follow His word, you could expect a movie like this to be too goofy, too wild, and too annoying to take seriously. Think about the scene in Borat, where he goes to the Mass with all of the devout-Christians acting like a bunch of nuts, because that’s pretty much what I was expecting from this movie and the material within it. However, Vera Farmiga does something different that I haven’t ever seen in one of these movies before: she passes little to no judgement on these people that surround her.

This is Farmiga’s directorial-debut and even though she does hit the rocky-patches like most rookies do, she still has enough in the tank to make this movie work and keep us interested as this woman continues to question her faith and all that she believes in. In fact, the whole trip that she takes in her life, is more interesting than anything else that has to do with her and her faith and I think that’s a bold step on Farmiga’s part to focus more on a life of a person, rather than the religion they follow, and how heavily they do so. You are involved with this woman’s life, you see her for all that she is, all she wants to be, and all that she could be, but yet, she still struggles for it.

I like how Farmiga doesn’t just pop us into the story and expect us to get to know these people right away, but instead, she goes for the relatively, understandable punch and shows us Corinne’s life from the very beginning until now, so we have a clearer picture of her and her story. You’ll see why she follows her faith and why she believes in God so much and to be honest, it’s pretty believable. I don’t want to give away what it is that changes her whole stance on life, but what does happen to her and in her life, is pretty realistic and I can’t say that I wouldn’t blame her for turning over to another side, either.

No, it's not Woodstock, but close.

No, it’s not Woodstock, but close.

But it’s not all about her faith and what she does, it’s just a story of her life and it’s told in a simple way that doesn’t go for the heavy-handed, dramatics of life, but the understated, relate-able situations we can sometimes go through. Farmiga may not be doing anything flashy or game-changing behind the camera, but it’s that utter sense of simplicity and telling a story like a normal person is what really took me by surprise. I wasn’t as surprised by how normal it was, but I was surprised just by how good it actually was, so there’s definitely a lot of credit for that. Just the fact that we get to see a story, about a female, and a female that’s strong and can hold her own opinions and beliefs to herself, makes me feel like there’s more out there for female actresses’ and directors. Good job, Vera! You’re one hell of a gal!

As for the religious material, it’s pretty 50/50 on whether or not you may be offended. Farmiga makes the smart decision on never, ever passing judgement on any of these people or what they follow, which definitely doesn’t seem like it will offend anybody, but then again, that’s coming from an Atheist. I don’t believe in God, so therefore, I didn’t feel like there was much more for me to be offended by as if believing in God is and was something you needed in your daily-life, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maybe for some people, but not for me. That’s just like this movie, though, in how it may offend some, but didn’t offend me. I guess you have to take the whole “different strokes for different folks”-idea into debate and just let it slide. At least that’s how my simple ass looks at things.

Everything in this movie was kicking me in the right part of my ass to where I could really be interested and invested, but after awhile, it starts to lose steam after a final-act breakdown of epic proportions. After Corinne begins to change her ways and realize some more things about the life she can live, she meets an Irish dude that seems like such an obvious character, that he’s more or less just a convention of the plot to move it along. That, and well, the message of the movie is kind of skewered and I don’t know if that was her intent or not.

See, this whole movie’s point, to me at least, seemed as if it was going for the idea that faith can help those who want it, who need it, and who want to accept it into their lives, but for some, like life, it’s not always clear-cut and can change at any second. That’s the whole idea of this movie that I feel like I was beginning to endure and understand but then, out of nowhere, Farmiga changes it up on me and has me totally think otherwise, and not in the good way, either. I really can’t give too much away without spoiling all of this but it seems like the final point this movie seems to be making is that people do change, but not too much. There, I’ve said it and I’m done. Sorry if I said too much but it had to be understood.

Awwwww! How loving.

Awwwww! How loving.

Farmiga is fine behind the camera, but she’s even better in front of it and gives Corinne a very real, down-to-Earth appeal that’s easy to stand by and easy to understand. Farmiga feels like she was meant for this role of Corinne because as much as this gal may seem like she’s really in love with God and knows the Bible from start-to-finish, she takes you by surprise in showing you that it’s only a cliche, and not everybody is like that. Corinne seems a tad too complex for this story, since it does seem to go in one obvious direction the whole time, but Farmiga is always watchable, always beautiful, and always keeping this movie alive and on-fire, even when the story itself may hit a couple of puddles.

Farmiga’s also pretty good at choosing her cast and gives each and every person a time to shine. Joshua Leonard plays her hubby that make seem like a bit of a dip because he gets her knocked-up at such an early-age and only really gets married to her because of it, but after awhile, you realize that he loves her and just wants more from her, than she can even give. Dagmara Dominczyk plays Corinne’s fun and high-spirited best gal-pal and definitely brings a lot of energy to Corinne, as well as this movie, but is forced to take the sidelines for a tad bit after a plot-twist somewhere in the middle. Oh, and there’s also John Hawkes as Corinne’s daddy, who we don’t get to see much of but what we do get to see, is still very good and powerful, especially one birthday party scene that is willing to really catch you off-guard by it’s emotional-impact. These are just a few of the highlights, as everybody else is pretty fantastic.

Consensus: The last 30 minutes may change the movie’s whole outlook, but regardless, Higher Ground is still a very simple and subtle story, that’s done very well thanks to Farmiga’s acting, as well as her directing.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Who's paddling that thing?

Who’s paddling that thing?

Safe Haven (2013)

Seriously, somebody send the zombie apocalypse to Nicholas Sparks house.

Julianne Hough stars as a reclusive young woman who arrives in a small North Carolina community. She has a secret kept inside of her but soon, she gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widowed store owner with two young children. However, that secret of her’s comes back to cause some real, real trouble. Oh dear, I just hope they end-up together at the end! I sincerely do!

Typically, in a normal-year where everything goes smoothly (except for 2012 when we all died, right?) we usually get the privilege of taking whatever loved-one’s we have with us at the time out to either a dinner, a movie, or a combination of the both. And then, for the lucky ones especially, you go home, and you get it on with that loved-one, all to the sweet and glorious tune of Marvin Gaye. Oh, by the way, this the special day we all call “Valentine’s Day” and like this (*cough* Hallmark *cough*) holiday that only comes once a year, we also get treated to a new Nicholas Sparks adaptation that just makes the girls swoon, the men dream of what could possibly happen when they go home tonight, and the critics just want to pluck their eye-balls out with forks. Oh, what a special day for all of us indeed.

When you see a movie like this, you know what you have to be getting yourself into. A bunch of romantic fantasies posing as characters, somehow meet, fall in-love, but find the hard consequences that usually come-along with finding that special someone in your life. That’s pretty much the same-shit here, except this time, Nicholas Sparks is really stepping out of his comfort-zone. Do you know why? Because now, instead of having a sappy romance blossom, there’s actually a mystery behind one of these characters and the suspense just gets to you as you have no clue what’s going to happen next. Are they going to fall in love? Will that one person get caught? Are they going to survive? Does anybody have a life-threatening disease? Fuck, does anybody care?!?!?

Put a shirt on, Josh! Don't you have some chick named Fergie to go back to?

Put a shirt on, Josh! Don’t you have some chick named Fergie to go back to?

I get that this movie is calling-out my name and begging me to come and see it because let’s be honest: I’m 19-years-old, I’m a dude, I’m single (ladies?), I’m a movie-critic, and I hate sap. So, basically, this movie is not meant for me. However, for the crowd that it is for, I know are going to eat this shit up because it has everything they might possibly want with material like this, except even more than they can chew. Does that make it any good? Hell no! But that’s just me talking. The crowd that will probably venture-out to see it and the boyfriends that get forced by their lady-friends, will enjoy it and have no problems. But I’m not them, and that’s where this movie lost me.

Every time I see these types of movies, I always try to go into them with a bit of skepticism, but I also try to expect just a bit more and hope that it could quite possibly be the sleeper I’ve been looking for all of my life. About 20-minutes in, I knew that this movie was not one of those sleepers I have been waiting for, but at least it’s pretty. Even though director Lasse Hallstrom really seems to be on auto-pilot here and not doing anything to improve this story in the least-bit, at least he still shows that he has a flair for beautiful-scenery that fades-in the background nicely with all of the crap going on with the script and acting. Yeah, it’s a pretty gorgeous-looking movie, but you can only stare at the background so much. Eventually you got to pay attention to the story and see what the filmmaker has to offer to ya, and that’s the real pain this movie inflicts on you.

Almost anything and everything you expect to happen in one of these movies: happens. But what makes this movie worse than all of the others, is that it tries so hard to be suspenseful and tense with it’s cop-mystery subplot, but just ends up being terribly over-the-top, and outrageous. I’m glad that Sparks at least tried his darn-near hardest to give me something more to chew-on than just watching a bunch of a really good-looking people fall-in love and play with my hand-cream, but this is terrible. It’s so stupid and unintentionally hilarious, that even the people I was with started laughing at. And they were all 18/19-year-old girls, aka, the demographic for this shit. Something tells me this movie won’t be able to slide-by like all of the other failures to cinema in the past have, but I haven’t even touched base just yet. Oh no, no, no. It gets worse, my friends and family.

The movie tries so damn hard to have us tense, to have on-the-edge-of-our-seat, and to have us so surprised by what we are about to see, that it doesn’t have just one plot-twist by the end, but two. Even though I’m tempted to, I have morals and I won’t spoil the twists for you people out-there who are just quivering with excitement for thing, but let me just tell you that the first one is absurd and could almost be taken as a joke. Then again, that twist doesn’t mean jack-shit compared to the second, and final twist that this flick decides to long-dart at us with full-force. Seriously, I want to give it all away and just save you from the pain and agony of seeing this shit, but it’s bad. It’s so stupid, so insane, and so nonsensical, that I left the theater with a huge smile on my face, yucking all-over-the-place. Hey, the whole movie may have been shit, but at least I left with a wider-smile than half of the other people I saw this with. So, in the end, I guess I do win, after all.

Tip over! TIP OVER!

Tip over! TIP OVER!

Aw, who the hell am I kidding! I fucking lost, and so did Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel! I have to be honest, Hough was okay as this runaway gal that tries to find herself and find love in a new, but small town. The reason being: she’s pretty, has charm, and looks sexy as hell when she’s in her bikini. For the dudes, it’s a treat on the eyes, but then there’s Josh Duhamel to ruin everything with his non-stop, shirtless body that makes it’s own appearance about every 5-minutes. I’ve never been a fan of Duhamel, as I’ve always felt like he was just trying too hard to be cool, funny, or the guy every dude wants to be, but he just isn’t. Instead, he’s sort of a d-bag that knows he’s hot shit, and more like the type of guy you let sit at the bar, try to hit on bitties, all in hopes to get lucky by the end of the night. The difference between Duhamel and the imaginary-dude I’m talking about, is that Duhamel probably gets the bitties, whereas that dude is just left at the end of the bar, at the end of the night, and staggers home drunk and all alone. And no, I’m not talking about myself. I get all the ladies I want. So fuck you, Josh Duhamel!

Consensus: For the audience that Safe Haven has in mind, this will probably be the next best masterpiece since the days of Hanks-and-Ryan. However, if you aren’t that audience and actually want a meaty-story that you believe in and are entertained by, then just stay home, watch the Notebook, and dream of one day being the man that Ryan Gosling is and always will be. That, or just jerk-off. The choice is up to you.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Hmm, where I have seen this before....?

Hmm, where I have seen this before….? Hint: scroll up

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Hey, at least it’s not PG-13.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back and older than ever now. However, he still has a thing or two up his sleeve when it comes to blowing shit up, kicking ass, and saying everybody’s favorite line. You know what it is. Don’t even make me try to utter it. This time around, he’s facing-off against terrorists in Moscow and teaming-up with his estranged son (Jai Courtney) for double the action and double the kills, father-son style.

After I reviewed and posted my thoughts on Live Free or Die Hard, I got a lot of comments from people saying that, “it wasn’t like the original Die Hard“, “it didn’t feel like John McClane was a regular-person”, “Justin Long’s annoying”, and basically, “it wasn’t a Die Hard movie, and instead like another action-movie”.  All are valid-points and I can totally see where they were coming from but trust me, when you see this, you’re going to get on all-fours, and kiss the feet of Len Wiseman and co. from that last movie. Seriously: the Die Hard lovers are going to riot over this one.

If you go into this expecting it to be a Die Hard movie, be ready to be disappointed. I can already tell you that without a stutter in my speech, but, if you go into it expecting an action-movie, you won’t come-out hate yourself, Bruce Willis, or director John Moore for that fact. Okay, maybe you’ll still hate John Moore but at least give the guy some credit: he makes the action “fun”, right? Being that this an action movie, you can expect there to be a huge amount of guns, deaths, blood, gore, f-bombs, explosions, bullets, and most importantly, cars that are totally destroyed. That’s the whole fun of an action movie and if there is anything that this movie does better than I expected, it’s that it gives us something fun to pay-attention when all else seems to be failing. If anything, you’ll have plenty of eye-candy to view and gaze at, but once you get down the bottom of it all, you’ll soon start to realize that there’s just nothing else other than exactly that: eye-candy. Everything is pure dullsville.

This had no effect on me or my hormones. Sad, sad feeling.

This had no effect on me or my hormones. Sad, sad feeling.

Okay, here is where the movie screws itself up on: it does not feel like a Die Hard movie. The look, the tone, the screenplay, the characters, and even the action, feel as if they could have come from any other action-movie in the world, but not a Die Hard movie. You know why? Because Die Hard is a special franchise that it’s crowd loves, it’s lovers still praise to this day, and humble critics like yours truly still rate as one of, if not, the best action movie of all-time. It was an action movie that didn’t just give us fun and entertaining set-pieces full of action, but it also gave us a real character that was easy to stand-behind, root for, and love just about everything he did. Here, everything feels like it was trying to re-create that glory once again, but lost all of the lovely charm of the original.

Instead, we just have a bunch of action, mixed together with something that’s supposed to be considered a story, something that’s supposed to be funny when it wants, something that’s supposed to be epic, and something that’s supposed to resemble John McClane. Everything I just mentioned, was supposed to be “something” from the original, but all of that gets lost in the wind. For instance, let’s focus on the screenplay. The story itself makes some sort of sense when it first begins, but after awhile, starts to go through twists, turns, and unexpected paths that don’t make a single-lick of sense, nor should they even be in the movie. The villains in this movie suck (more on that later), but what really has them stand-out like a sore thumb the most is that there’s a whole story-line to whatever the hell they are doing, why they’re doing, and who’s good, and who’s bad on their side. In all honesty: nobody fucking cares! All we care about is John McClane, the action, the quips, and everybody’s favorite line.

Hell, even when they do say the line in this movie, it’s so unepic, so lame, and so random, that only two people in my screening actually clapped-at and heard. Other than those two, nobody knew what the hell he said and even if they did hear it, nobody cared. That’s a real, fuckin’ shame. When you have an iconic franchise such as this, and you try to re-create the magic that was once there and fail at it: everybody’s going to notice. Don’t believe me, just ask George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when they tried to buy another house with that cash-grab Indiana Jones movie. Yup, it’s along the same lines as that, my friends. Be ready to be angry.

However, as much as I rag on all of the dumb things that this movie does, what they get wrong, what they mess-up on, and what type of magic they miss achieving once again, perhaps the biggest-sin this movie commits is making it’s main action-star, John McClane, the most annoying character out of the bunch. That’s right: John McClane is annoying in this movie. Bruce Willis is the type of guy you can trust with your movie because he’s got charm, he’s still got that coolness to him, and he still proves that it doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still light some motherfuckers up like it’s nobody’s business. However, he falls prey to this terrible script and it shows when McClane first appears on the screen, and you automatically want to punch him the face. By the way, everything you are reading is not a lie and some early-April Fool’s joke. You really do want to punch John McClane in the face.

It’s actually not that Willis is annoying as McClane, it’s more that the script makes McClane do dumb stuff that his character in the earlier-movies would have never, ever thought about doing. Ever. For an example, take the first-time McClane meets up with his boy in Russia: he shows up by yelling at him, standing in front of the car when he knows bad shit is going on, stopping his son from possibly being free, and even worse, totally draws attention by just hollering at his son like a complete jackass. To top off that, he’s trying to ask his son what’s he doing and why he’s doing it, all while his son obviously looks like he’s in desperate danger and needs to leave, pronto.

Strike one.

If John yells his son's name one more time, that gun's gonna be pointed at him.

If John yells his son’s name one more time, that gun’s gonna be pointed at him. And I wouldn’t blame him, either.

Then, it gets worse as McClane gets involved with some of the action, by driving in a car-chase that goes all throughout Moscow. John McClane knows a thing or two about driving a car through busy streets, never losing sight of where he has to go, catching all of the short-cuts, and at the end of the high-speed chase, still being able to get his man that he’s tailing so yeah, it can’t be that bad, can it? Well, lets take into account that as he goes on-and-on with this whole car-chase, and either kills or injures over 1,000 innocents. I’m not kidding, either. The car-chase that I’m talking about does some damage to Moscow, and that’s not certain buildings that were closed to renovations, or a headquarters for all of the bad-guys located in Moscow. No. These were actually innocent, harmless people that just so happened to be at the wrong place, the wrong time, and in the way of John McClane’s road rage. Now, let me ask you this: would the original John McClane from the first 3 movies, would he really go so far as to lose his shit and start killing a bunch of innocents? Yeah, you could probably say that he was just doing his job to kill the baddies, but think about it: his job is an NYC cop. I would automatically think that the guy not only knows a thing or two about getting his man, but being able to do so without killing a bunch of people that didn’t deserve it. Didn’t seem like the original John McClane I knew and loved, and if this is the new, and older John McClane; then he’s a total fuckin’ prick.

Strike two.

Okay, well, so far, the movie has not only fucked-up McClane’s intro, but his action-prowess as well. What’s left? Well, don’t forget that this movie does include his son and his daughter, which means there’s going to be plenty of bonding between the family members, right? WRONG!! When John McClane sees his son, not only does he totally fuck-up his plan to get out alive and well, but he constantly continues to get up his ass about doing something bad. Yes, any kid of yours that does something bad should be reprimanded, but to do it while the kid’s driving away from a bunch of angry Ruskies that are out to kill him and wear his skin as shoes? Ehh, I may have to take a rain-check on that one, pops. But don’t worry, it gets worse. Once McClane and his son actually do have some down-time to talk about what they’ve been up to, why they love each other, and why they should be a father-and-son once again, McClane is still yelling and still up his son’s ass, even though he’s supposed to be reaching-out to him. Listen here, whatever your daddy issues are, it doesn’t matter. If my daddy came-up to me after not seeing me for about 10 years, showed up in all of my shit, and started just bothering the fuck out of me by calling me names and telling me everything that I do is wrong, then I’m either going to kick his ass or just send him straight back to the nuthouse. Either way, I’m not going to put up with it because I’ll be a lot older and I don’t need him fucking my shit up. That’s exactly what John does to his son here, and even though I could suspect that from some other dads, in other movies, I could never, not for a second expect that from a guy who apparently knows what he’s doing when it comes to kicking-ass, and also wants to have the love of his son back. It’s stupid, makes no sense, and gets annoying by about the fourth or fifth time that John tells his son that he’s doing something. Okay, I bet you know what this all means by now:

STRIKE THREE!! GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!

Okay, well, now that we know John McClane is annoying-as-fuck, what about the rest of the cast of characters? Well, they’re not better than him nor are they worse. They’re just there and do what they can with a shit-script such as this. It was a pretty neat idea to add Jai Courtney in as John’s son (even though I never really remembering hearing anything about him existing until now, but okay, whatevs) and the guy does a solid-enough job to where he isn’t annoying, he isn’t a weak-link, and he doesn’t seem unlikable. He’s got a bit of a personality, he’s got the looks, he’s got some of the quips, and he’s got some of the ass-kicking skills as well. He’s not a bad character to have in a movie like this, and Courtney isn’t such a bad actor to portray him neither. Also, anybody expecting to see some more of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy; don’t get your hopes up too much. She rarely shows up here and even when she does, she just provides more hassle and annoyance for John McClane.

I’m still shocked that I didn’t like John McClane. Oh well, at least the villains are good, right?

HELL TO THE FUCKIN’ NO!! You would think since this is a Die Hard movie, since this does have John McClane on the good-side, and since this does have him facing-off against Russians, that this wouldn’t be one hell of a toe-to-toe battle between the two sides, but that’s where the thoughts are wrong. These villains blow and are as lame as you could expect. All of that back-story shit I alluded to earlier aside, these guys got nothing for them in terms of intimidation, smarts, or toughness. They seem like a bunch of clowns that decided to do something bad, and just so happened to stumble-upon John McClane “on his vacation”. If you don’t believe me, there’s actually a scene where one of the main villains dance in front of John and his son, only to show how intimidating and cool he can be. That’s right: HE DANCES! If Hans Gruber could come back alive and have a thing or change about these rusty Ruskies, he’d fucking shoot ’em down, one-by-one, and help John back to safety. Or, being a true villain in his finest-form, he’d probably off those Ruskies, torture John’s son right in front of him, kill the son, and then kill John before he was half-way tortured to death. That’s just the sick bastard that Hans Gruber was and watching a bunch of bums like these in this movie; I missed the guy a shit-load.

I’m still in shock that I didn’t like John McClane.

Consensus: People going into A Good Day to Die Hard and expecting another fan-favorite of the franchise, are going to be more than disappointed: they’re going to be outright pissed-off. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Everything that you would want from a Die Hard movie is barely here, except for a couple of quick-quips that are funny and action set-pieces that catch your eye, but that’s just about it. Be ready to be upset, people.

As a regular, action movie to see on a boring night or day: 5 / 10 = Rental!!

As a Die Hard movie: 0. 5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Kill me now."

“Kill me now.”

Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Hearts are for wimps. Adrenaline is what the big boys play with.

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) has had problems with his heart, but this time: it’s almost worse. This go-around, Chev still has the bad heart but also faces a Chinese mobster, who has stolen his nearly-indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working. This provides many, many problems for Chev, as you could expect, but problems he and his gal (Amy Smart) can’t solve on their own. If, you know what I mean?

If you walked away from the original Crank thinking that it was the dumbest ideas, and a brainless exercise only made as a gimmick because it was quick, fast, and raunchy for a reason: then this definitely won’t be your bag. However, if that first one was a brainless exercise you didn’t mind removing the insides of your head for, then grab a red bull, grab a bunch of buddies, and get ready to go! Woo-hoo! I’m amped-up already!

I don’t know what the hell writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor do in their spare time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys spend their weekends by snorting lines, picking up hookers, playing video-games, and then document all of their crazy and wild adventures of the night into a screenplay. Sounds a little far-fetched and a bit too 80’s glam star rock-starish to me, but I could see it happening because they really upped the ante with this one. For better and for worse, all depending on the type of person you are. The original worked so well as it did because it was fun, fast-paced, all-over-the-place, knowingly-stupid, and didn’t for a second take itself seriously. Granted, it wasn’t always the non-stop ride I would have expected to be in the pleasure of (you know, because the guy’s got a heart that needs to live on freakin’ adrenaline!), but still worked for my crazy mind at the time and that’s what made me happy to see these guys get all buck wild again.

Wouldn't be surprised if this was every woman's reaction to seeing Jason Statham.

Wouldn’t be surprised if this was every woman’s reaction to seeing Jason Statham.

The story starts off three months from where the last one ended and right after the first 5 minutes, the film gets right back into it’s hard-hitting, quick-moving, action-filled pace. But this time, everything and anything would, and quite possibly could, indeed happen. This film definitely isn’t afraid to be considered “offensive” and definitely doesn’t care what characters people want to see alive or dead. Anybody could be offed at any second, and you never know if the scene you get with one person where they are acting like total jack-asses, will be their last-time alive on-screen for us to have the pleasure of seeing. Or displeasure, wherever you stand on this one.  This idea made the movie fun because it truly made me wonder just where the hell this story was going, and whwre exactly the creators were going to end-up with. There is also plenty of the shootings, killings, murders, tits, ass, blood, and bullets, but the story is what kept me really alive and interested. Got to give a lot of love to Neveldine/Taylor for not just trying to cash-in on a sequel and do nothing cool with it. Can’t say the same thing about the Ghost Rider sequel, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.

One of the finer elements of the first movie was it’s humor and how everything, no matter how innate or crazy, happened for a reason and that was to mainly just entertain us some more for shits and gigs. That’s here once again, but in full-force mode. Everything that you would expect to be wacky, wild, and just totally insane to happen, does happen in the typical, over-the-top fashion and added a lot of joy to the final proceedings. However, I think Neveldine/Taylor got a little bit of a hot-head with everything, because they sort of over-do what could have been a movie that was just as funny as the first, if not more hilarious.

All of the funny happenings that made the first movie so comical, are here, but also seem to be very stretched-out and exaggerated for cheap-laughs. Like laughs you’ve already had before, but this time: is MORE EXTREME. For instance, the infamous scene from the first movie where Chev bones his girl in-front of a bunch of people in Chinatown is here, but this time, done to even bigger and badder effect. It still shows Chev boning his girl, but what makes it so much MORE EXTREME, is that it’s played-out in front of a horse-racing crowd, packed to the gills with people. Does it work? Yeah, I guess you could say it’s funny for the first 5 minutes or so, but then after awhile, the film starts to become like one of those lame-ass SNL sketches that never get the idea that they’re funny, and just continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole, almost until the point everybody wants it just burn to the ground, die, and never come back to life, including the actors apart of the skit as well.

I know I went into a long-ass description about this movie’s abilities to try their hardest to be funnier than the first, but it’s the truth. It follows all of the same formulas of most sequels, where more of everything is needed, just to up the stakes a bit more. That works when it comes to the plot, the action, and the pacing of the movie, but the humor just constantly keeps on hitting you over-the-head, and it becomes an annoyance after awhile. Maybe too much blow was the reason for that problem here. Just maybe.

"Say, Jason? Do you think you could take a picture with me so I can give it to my wife and kids so they know I've been working as of late?"

“Say, Jason? Do you think you could take a picture with me so I can give it to my wife and kids so they know I’ve been working as of late?”

No matter what “action film of the month” Jason Statham does, he always give it his biggest and best shot, and his second go-around as Chev Chelios is no different. Statham is a respectable action star in this movie, because he isn’t that afraid to put himself into some embarrassing and goofy situations, but also doesn’t shy-away from major bad-assery, as well. Chelios finds himself in more-ridiculous situations this time around, but it’s so easy to root for him that you don’t even care how many innocents he kills or how many crimes he gets away with. The guy is the freakin’ man and he kicks ass almost every single second he gets a chance to. And also, the guy gets to bone Amy Smart in front of almost every person to see! If that doesn’t show you how bad-ass he is, I don’t know what the hell will!

Speaking of our “bone gal for the hour”, Amy Smart gets to show a bit more of what she’s got as Eve, which I was real happy about because the chick can pull off some great moments, if she’s ever given the chance to. Not only does she get to show-off that she can be hot, sexy, and down to bang at any second of the day, but also gets to flex her action-muscles and actually have you feel like if she needed to, she could totally kick your ass and defend her man. That Jason Statham, is one hell of a lucky man. Even if he really isn’t Chev Chelios and getting the chance to bang Amy Smart in real-life. Then again, something tells me he totally is and it’s all just an act of his. If that’s the case, give the guy the freakin’ Oscar now!

As with any other sequel in the history of sequels, we get the original characters, but also a slew of new ones, and as the case with most sequels: some work and some just seem like filler. Bai Ling was really freakin’ cool as a prostitute named Ria, who keeps on calling Chelios, “her Kevin Costner to her Whitney Houston”. Ling has never really gotten to be this bad-ass before and it’s really surprising to see how well she can pull it off. It also helps matters too, that she’s practically half-naked throughout the whole movie so there’s definitely some fun in watching that, as well. The late, and I don’t know if he’s considered this by now, but great Corey Haim also happens to show up as some mullet, d-bag that gets involved with wild proceedings of Chev Chelios’ life, and it’s pretty cool to see the guy back in a major-role, in a major-movie release. Even if the movie is, Crank: High Voltage. Clifton Collins Jr. gets to pull off some campy villainous ish as the Elvis impersonator, El Huron. Collins Jr. does what he does best here, and that’s to totally over-play his evil role, even though I wonder if he and Michael Rooker have placed a bet against one-another to see who can bitch-out of being a villain in every movie they do, first. It’s going to be close, but something tells me Rooker may lose that one. To go along with Haim, we also get another late and great in this movie; and that just so happens to be David Carradine playing a character named Poon Dong. That’s right: one of David Carradine’s last roles ever was playing a guy named “Poon Dong”. The best thing about this wild and crazy cast of characters is that each and every person knows about the joke, and is totally in on it so to just watch them show-up, for no other reason other than to get pummeled by bullets, was a-okay with me.

Consensus: If you loved the first movie, then Crank: High Voltage will be exactly for you. It’s got naked women, guns, blood, gore, a fast-pace, Jason Statham kicking ass, and a Amy Smart sex scene. However, like most sequels, it’s a bit of an over-kill with it’s jokes that never seem to end or seem rehashed from the first one.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

This is what happens after a wild-night of partying with Neveldine/Taylor.

This is what happens after a wild-night of partying with Neveldine/Taylor. It’s even worse when they’re thinking of movie ideas.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

John McClane may not be able to utter his famous-line with the MPAA on his ass, but at least he can still kick some, right? Should have just hired me for the advertising.

Famed New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns to action in trying to save the world from terrorists once again. However, what makes these terrorists so different and so much more difficult to deal with, is that they deal with state-of-the-art techonology and are lead by a man who knows exactly what the hell he’s doing when it comes to taking over the world and all of it’s pride and joy. That’s where McClane’s new buddy (Justin Long) comes in to try and help him with this computer-shit that John McClane doesn’t need to take down the baddies.

For all of you people out there who have been longing for the days of when action movies came to theaters and did nothing else but provide plenty of guns, bullets, fights, and killings, all in a natural, special-effects free way; then most of you were probably happy to see John McClane back in action after almost a decade of being gone for so long. However, the idea of a 52-year old man saving the day and taking down a group of terrorists does seem a little unbelievable, right? Oh wait, it’s Bruce Willis. Never mind, it’s totally believable now.

If you’re reading this right now and haven’t seen the original, 1988 action-classic Die Hard, then you, my friend, need to get out of that muthatruckin’ seat and check it out because you are really missing out on something for your life. It’s a classic that will forever, and ever stand the tests of time and that’s all thanks to the fact that it was an old-school action movie, back in the times when they were more simpler and kinder to the people who ventured-out to go and see them. See, what made the original Die Hard such a great movie was that it not only had a bunch of stuff blowing up, people getting killed, and cool-ass lines coming from the mouth of Mr. Willis, but it also had a bunch of interesting characters in it and kept us worried and scared for them all, as their lives were single-handedly hanging in the balance from these crazy, but smart Ruskies. But as usually what happens with most franchises that are a bit too big for their britches,  sequels come-around and forget about all of the substance. Instead it’s all about style and all that there is left at the handles is a bunch of non-stop action, shootings, guns, countless people getting killed, and once again, stuff blowing up. That’s all fun and all, but with our Die Hard movies, we need a little something to hold onto and I think that’s exactly the memo director Len Wiseman got here, because he brings this series way back to what it was before: fun, entertaining, joyful, and an always exciting action movie.

Leave it to John McClane to say a big old "Fuck You" to text messaging, and stick straight to walkie-talkies. Oh. He has to use them because the plot needs him to so he doesn't get tracked by the villains? Well, it's still old-school!

Leave it to John McClane to say a big old “Fuck You” to text messaging, and stick straight to walkie-talkies. Oh. He has to use them because the plot needs him to so he doesn’t get tracked by the villains? Well, it’s still old-school!

Wiseman doesn’t really break the action-mold with this movie and doesn’t necessarily do anything that could be considered ground-breaking in the least bit, but that’s all fine and dandy because the guy knows how to make one entertaining action-sequence, after another. Watching McClane get out of these sticky-situations that he always finds himself getting wrapped-up in, definitely kept my interest and even had me a bit tense by wondering if he was going to make it out alive or not. I know it’s pretty obvious that the guy was going to survive it all but at that moment in time, when McClane was stuck in a situation that it didn’t seem like he was going to be able to get out of alive, I didn’t feel it and instead, just felt a bit of suspense in the palm of my fingers. Solid job by Wiseman, on his part.

Even better is that the movie never stops hitting us with the action, and even reminded me a bit of the old-school action movies of the 80’s/90’s, that were all natural and had little to do with special-effects or computers or anything that would be considered “new-school” like that. It sticks to the basics and it brings back all of my old-school, VHS days. However, that’s a reason why this movie was pretty cool in other ways, because we got to see what they did with this age-old premise, set it in present-day America, and giving McClane some technological-difficulties to step in front of his way and make his mission a whole lot harder. That was a pretty neat-use of the setting an definitely made this flick a bit more twisty and twervy with where it went and how. Then again, we all know how the story ends, but when all of the crazy action is going on, you sort of forget about that and just enjoy the scenery.

With all of this action coming at you left-and-right, you have to wonder if there is any time to actually slow-down at all and the answer to that is: well, not really. Wiseman seemed like he spent so much goddamn time on the action, the explosive, and the shootings, that whenever it came right down to showing McClane as a human-being once again, he sort of shies away from that and goes right back to McClane beating the crap out of people once again. In a way, it’s not so bad considering it’s what we all know and love McClane for in the first-place, but one of the main reasons why we loved him so damn much in the first-place is because he was a human, just like you or me. I missed that aspect of the character again, and I wish Wiseman got his hand out of the CGI cookie jar and actually allowed there to be some down-time for McClane to just tell us more about him and what he’s been up to. I mean it has been almost 10 freakin’ years! The least we could find-out is what the hell’s taken him so long to be away from the limelight!

And even once they do go back to the action-scenes, a lot of them will really have you laugh your ass off. And not in the fun or exciting way either. The dumb way, is more like it. Whenever I go out to see one of these action movies, I always know to leave my brain at the door and not worry about what makes sense and what doesn’t, but there does come a point in this movie where I just couldn’t handle it anymore. There’s a whole sequence with McClane riding on top of a flying-jet, that is in the air and then, all of a sudden, he jumps from it, lands on a slant, slides down the highway, and comes back with a couple of scratches here and there and continues on with his adventure as if he didn’t just stay on-top of a flying, fuckin’ jet just about 5 seconds ago. Now, I get it: McClane is an action-hero and those types of characters are usually allowed to pull-off insane, inhumane stunts such as ones like these, no matter how stupid or incomprehensible. However, the guys a frickin’ cop from NYC, not Clark Kent! After awhile, all of the preposterous and ridiculous action-sequences in this movie bean to take a toll on me and I lost my believe-ability in all of this, but then again, it is an action-movie so I guess there shouldn’t be too much of that going-around anyway.

Meet the hottest girl you will never, ever get a chance to sleep with.

Meet the hottest girl you will never, ever get a chance to sleep with.

Even though he does still pull off all of these crazy stunts, Bruce Willis never, ever seems to disappoint and is still the man as John McClane. Willis has a knack for always showing showing why he’s the man for any job and John McClane, is the job he was meant for and you can see why that is, even if the guy is pushing 52, around this time. Still, age isn’t a matter for John McClane! McClane is a fun-loving, tough son-of-a-bitch that spits out hilarious one-liners like nobody’s business and the whole old-man look that Willis has, doesn’t really get in the way of what we think he can and cannot do. Willis seemed like he had a hell of a lot of fun playing McClane once again, and I think that the guy’s going to be playing this role for a couple more movies now, that is, until he hits age 100 and is still dodging bullets. Hey, if anybody can do it, it’s Bruce Willis, that’s for damn sure, so don’t worry, he’ll always get my ticket!

Justin Long is the geek-hacker that McClane accidentally picks up but realizes he can use him to his advantage and come to beat these villains the way he wants to. I’ve always dug Long in anything that he’s done and it’s great to see his charm and wit be put to good use, even if he is a bit of nerd and clashes with McClane’s old-school style a bit much. Then again, it provided many of yucks for me so I can’t complain too much about the butting-of-the-heads between the two. Timothy Olyphant is alright as the main villain that stands in McClane’s way, but in a way, seems very miscast as well. Olyphant definitely tries to come off as the weird, off-kilter dude that’s only out to get the U.S. and all of the money it has, but instead, seems a bit like he’s forcing it too hard and is maybe a tad too good-looking for a role that should be played by some creep who hasn’t seen the light of day. You know, a creepy and nerdy cat like Kevin Smith who actually shows up here in a cameo as the geek-of-all-geeks: the Warlock. That’s all you need to know about the dude’s role because the bigger surprise, the better, even though the opening-credits sort of spoil it for ya. Thanks!

Consensus: It is essentially your typical, ridiculous action movie that makes little to no sense about what happens and why, but Live Free or Die Hard is more than just that. It’s an old-school action movie that is able to provide us all with plenty of fun, exciting action set-pieces, and a return-to-form for Willis as John McClane, a role that he will never, ever live down and I think he’s fine with that. As are we.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Should have just gone bald, or been gay, or sold drugs, or even been all of them combined. Now that's a real villain of epic-proportions!

Should have just gone bald. Or been gay. Or sold drugs. Or even been all of them combined. Now that would have made a real Die Hard villain!

Headhunters (2012)

All of this, just for a $50,000 painting. Come on now!

Aksel Hennie plays Roger Brown a guy who seemingly has it all. He’s got the job, the house, the money, the wife, the girl on-the-side, the lavish life-style, and the love for stealing ancient paintings. One day, he finds out that one of his job prospects is in possession of a valuable painting and sets out to steal it. He gets it, but in a way, gets more than just a painting and finds himself in way over his head.

By now, most of you who kill brain-cells by coming to my site everyday, reading what I have to say about a certain movie, and seeing what I think at the end of the post, usually know by now what it is that I like when it comes to my movies. I like good, original stories that don’t really have to change the world we live in, but can at least entertain me, grip me, and keep me wondering just what is going to happen next. It’s very rare hat I usually get a movie that does all of this in one-sitting but that’s why the Norwegian’s were put on this planet: to keep my movie-spirit all alive and well. Thank you so very, very much!

With this movie, I was expecting nothing more than a botched-heist, that turns into a run-and-chase with cops, robbers, and guns going every which way, and ending in a finale that would culminate in all of the different sides coming together for one, large, blood-bath. What I didn’t expect, was to get something more along the lines of “unconventional, original, and totally mind-bending”. Those aren’t direct quotes from anything or anyone, they’re just from my mind and the element of surprise is what really took me over in this flick. What seemed to start off so simple and plain, ended-up being something that I haven’t seen from a crime movie of this nature in the longest-time in the way of how it plays with your mind, toys with you, and set you up for something that you rightfully do believe is going to happen, when out of nowhere, the film pulls the rug right from underneath you without you expecting it at all.

"Gun or dog, gun or dog, gun or..aww fuck it! I'm going with the dog."

“Gun or dog, gun or dog, gun or..aww fuck it! I’m going with the dog.”

Heck, with a movie that seems to build itself on so many goddamn twists, you automatically think you’d be able to pin-point when and where the next plot-turn is going to rear it’s ugly head, but the movie even messes around with you on that idea. Even when you think you know what the flick is up to, it totally fools you into thinking another way and that goes to show you how much fun you can have with a film that has balls, isn’t afraid to show them to you, and maybe if you’re lucky, play around with them too. Disgusting analogy, I know. However, it’s the only one I could think of that showed this flicks determination to take no prisoners and to never, not for one second be thought of as “obvious and predictable”. I looked through all of the reviews for this one and haven’t seen those words used once, but if there are people out there who think this movie is that, well, then I hope you left school already, because you’re way too cool for it. Yeah, another bad one. I know.

However, the movie isn’t all about showing you what type of twists it can pull next, it actually has a personality going for it; albeit, a very schizophrenic one to say the least. For instance, some moments make you feel like your watching a fast, quick-witted crime-movie that has a sense of style and humor that is hiding below the surface; then, it all of a sudden changes up into a relationship-drama about this guy and his woman trying to have a baby and save their marriage; then it gets even weirder by dropping on on some gross-out comedy that really seemed to come out of nowhere; and somehow, some way, ends-up veering into a crime-flick of everybody’s standards, but one that still has a dark sense of what it’s making fun of and why. It’s a very weird flick that can’t make up it’s mind on what it sets out to be and where it’s going to end-up, but it does it in such an exciting and fun way, that you never feel like the flick veers out into just straight-up strange material that doesn’t work. It all makes sense, it all feels right for the mood, and it makes the movie all of the more exciting.

But, as always, being a movie that’s always about it’s crazy and wild twists that seem like they just get pulled out of people’s asses at-times, the movie’s charm doesn’t always work and seem believable. Without diving too much into what goes down and making this a spoiler-ific post instead of an actual review, I’m just going to say that there are a couple of times where it seems a bit absurd that certain people survive certain happenings, and certain occurrences do seem a bit coincidental. I mean, yeah, coincidences do happen in real-life and it’s a huge surprise to us when they actually do occur, but in a movie like this, it seems more like a contrivance, rather than an actual, realistic-way to move the plot on and continue with it’s adventure. Still, if you can drop-down a lot of your ideas of believe-ability and natural-physics, than you may be able to take it all in without the grain of salt. Then again, I can’t promise anything.

I also think a lot of that believe-ability comes into question when you think about the main character in this whole movie: Roger Brown. It’s not that Brown isn’t a believable character that you would actually expect to get tangled up in this web full of lies, murder, crime, and sex, it’s just that the way everything happens to him makes it seem like he’s the character of a video-game that we just so happen to have a cheat-code to every life-opportunity there is in the game. It’s like we continued to never want to give-up and die, and decided to pull an all-nighter, just as long as we had the cheat codes to continue to move on with the game, and not our lives.

Good idea. Can't ever let that fluffy hair get damaged.

Good idea. Can’t ever let that fluffy hair get damaged.

I can’t talk too much ish though, because Brown is actually a pretty good character, all thanks to the performance of Aksel Hennie, a guy I have never seen before but I hear is the shit from where he’s from. The guy’s got plenty going for him as an actor, but when it comes to the look: he’s deadly. He has these wide, buggy-eyes that are reminiscent of Steve Buscemi, but has the vulnerability and insecurity that makes you feel like you’re watching a high-schooler who just got a sexy car because of his daddy. The guy’s got two conflicting-sides going for him, but he allows them to come together in a nice, neat package that makes sense when you take into consideration all of the insane, and hardcore shit he does and has to go through, throughout the next 2-hours. Hennie was a great choice for this role and I hope to see more of him and not just in Norwegian films, but hopefully ones from the state as well as I think he could quite possibly have a career over here if he gets the chance to pursue it.

The man that I’m sure everybody knows in this movie, is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who everybody may know from Game of Thrones, and is pretty damn bad-ass in this movie. Not only does the guy have a sexy and cunning-look that’s reminiscent of some of the best villains in movie-history, but he’s also a pretty darn tense guy to be around and makes every one of his scenes work, even though he doesn’t take over the whole movie like you’d expect. He doesn’t show up much, but when he does, he commands the screen and let you know that he runs the show, whether or not you see him in the front of the screen at all-times.

Consensus: For those of you who don’t prefer extra butter with your popcorn, may find Headhunters to be a tad cartoonish with where it goes, but if you love movies not having an ounce of clue where they might take you next, and love being fooled with at every step-of-the-way, then prepare to have a total blast with this flick.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Perfectly good waste of milk. Points taken-off for that.

Points taken-off for a waste of perfectly good milk.

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.

Identity Thief (2013)

The only person who can get away with having a fake I.D. is J-Kwon. May be his only claim to fame in the past decade, but still, at least he can get me fake beer.

This is the story of a regular guy (Jason Bateman) who is forced to completely extreme measures to clear his name. With everything to lose after his identity is stolen, he’ll find out how crazed you can get trying to settle a bad credit score. When he does find-out, it just so happens to be one heck of a gal (Melissa McCarthy) that may be more, than his regular-self can handle.

Alright, alright, alright. I know this is a movie, I know this is a comedy, I know this is Hollywood, and most of all, I know this is the world where you can throw belief and understanding right out the door, but I can only go so far with a movie like this. The problem I had with this movie wasn’t that it wasn’t funny (more on that later), nor was it that it squandered the talents of everybody involved (more ESPECIALLY on that later), but it was that this flick did not make a lick of sense and seemed like it had no idea what it was talking about. And what it is that they are talking about here is exactly what the title is named after: identity thief, or the act of it.

Here, let me explain: in the movie, the main character gets his identity stolen by a lady that they end-up finding out, way later than they should have. What I mean by that is that in today’s day and age with credit card companies being up almost everybody’s ass when it comes to a payment about anything, the red lights should have been flashing way sooner when one of those lucky companies realized that there was some strange-ass products being bought, by this male, in a whole bunch of different states. That would have been the first wake-up call for everybody involved, but then it gets worse when the guy who is actually getting his identity stolen, goes up to the police and they say that he has to go out of his way, drive all of the way to get her, and bring back in the current state that they are in, so they can cuff her and ring her in on all of the charges. The cops tell this to the guy, even though they know what she looks like, has a phone number, and even have a home address. Maybe there is some type of law out there where the cops are apparently not allowed to arrest somebody over something like this unless local police get involved but still: I’m supposed to believe that the cops would just let this freakin’ guy drive half-across the country, just to pick-up a possibly dangerous criminal, and hopefully bring that person back, all in one piece? Ehh, ehh. I don’t think so, movie!

RUN! JUST RUN FROM THIS!

RUN! JUST RUN FROM THIS!

Right from there, I knew something was wrong with this movie but you know what? I was willing to drop all of my dis-beliefs in reality and the judicial system just for a bunch of thrills, spills, laughs, and fun, and I barely even got that. The movie seems like it would be an awesome opportunity for Bateman and McCarthy to just go to town on one another and improv their assess off, but the movie doesn’t really allow it all of that much and even worse, just isn’t funny. The jokes they throw at us are as bottom-of-the-toilet as you could come, and it’s also sort of one of those cases where every funny-moment, is in the trailer, whereas all of the dirty stuff got left out and left for us all to view and witness here. Not a good thing, especially when you have a bunch of gross stuff that happens, because you don’t have much else to offer.

That’s not to say all of the movie isn’t funny, because there are some humorous moments, there just aren’t enough to keep you fully satisfied. So, when the movie decides that it’s not trying to make your shart your pants by the laughter squirming in your bowels, it decides to force a bunch of drama down there as well, and to relatively equal effect. By that, I mean that it barely works because it just comes off way, way too uneven. It gets so bad at one-point, that there’s a character in this movie that actually breaks-down in one, long 5-minute sequence that not only seems totally out-of-place, but from a totally different movie as well. It doesn’t work, and that’s also mainly because the characters are so damn weak, that you just don’t really care all that much to begin with.

The most prime example of that has to be Melissa McCarthy’s character who starts off as a total slob-and-a-half that you don’t really like, is a bit of a sad character, but is also just bad in what she’s doing. Things start off bad for her once you realize that she’s taking somebody’s identity, making it her own, and basically costing that person thousands-upon-thousands of dollars, but it just gets worse as she’s caught and barely shows any signs of saying sorry. She just seems like she wants to get away from it all and hopefully continue to go down that path where nobody knows, and she doesn’t care. Yeah, this is the total babe that I would love to spend an-hour-and-a-half with, especially when she’s played by somebody as likable as McCarthy, and to be honest: that’s the only thing saving her and this movie from total damnation.

McCarthy, as we all know, is hilarious and can get a laugh out of anything because she puts her body on the line, non-stop in every scene she shows-up in. She’s like the female Chris Farley, without all of the heroin and fucked-up back-stage stories. Even when the script seems to fall-apart and call on her to be funny, she does so and it was always a joy to see since you rarely see that in many comediennes nowadays (and still be successful with it, as well). Heck, it’s also a huge surprise that McCarthy nails the dramatic-aspects of her character so damn well too, but the problem is, that her character just isn’t likable enough and the back-story she’s given, just isn’t all that interesting. Does it make sense? Yeah, but does it add an extra-layer that really has us sympathize with this gal and make us realize why she would go to the lengths to steal somebody’s I.D.? Nope, it actually seems very shallow of her and definitely a “ring-ring” moment that makes you just want to say, “Well, why don’t you go out and be sociable with people instead?”.

I may be thinking too hard about this movie or this character for that matter, but I don’t think I am. When you have a movie that relies so heavily on it’s drama and it’s character’s dilemmas that they go through on a daily-basis, then I think it should be complained about and shouldn’t just be taken in as, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s funny and stupid.” You could say that about a lot of movies (especially the ones that just came out last month), but this movie is not one of those I speak of. This one tries to have it’s cake and eat it too, and just like the women I date: Gator don’t play no shit.

Oh, and his name's Sandy. It's a girl's name. Har har har

Oh, and his name’s Sandy. It’s a girl’s name. Har har har

The same thing I’m saying about McCarthy’s character, can’t really be said about Bateman’s, either though what I said about McCarthy herself, can be said about Bateman as well. Bateman has wonderful comedic-timing and actually had me laughing a good couple of times throughout this whole movie, but even he seems to be slumming it down during this one, as if it’s to show that even he knows this material is beneath him. It obviously didn’t matter all that much since he obviously seemed happy to be working with McCarthy and together, they both show the fun and excitement it must have been to work together, but as a whole, they can’t add this flick up to much. Oh well, at least Arrested Development‘s coming back and I have Netflix. Woo-hoo!

Everybody else in this cast seem to be as bored as Bateman, and some I was just sad to see. Robert Patrick always likes to play the bad-guy types no matter what it is that he does, but him and Amanda Peet were probably the two souls I felt bad for in this movie. Especially Peet, because the girl’s funny, the girl’s sexy, the girl’s got the dramatic-chops, and the girl has screen-presence, she just hasn’t had a chance to show that in the longest-time. The only real surprise in this whole cast was T.I. who I never find entertaining or interesting in any of his movie appearances, but actually had me laugh with at least two or three of his lines. Maybe it was his delivery, maybe it was the lines themselves, or maybe it was a combination of them both, but either way, I can now say that I have laughed at a comedy where the two main laughs came from T.I. Gosh, I never thought I’d say that. Never.

Consensus: If you don’t think about the premise too much and are able to have some fun with Identity Thief, you just might, but not as much as you’d think because the script isn’t all that funny, the leads aren’t that engaging, and the story just isn’t there to provide you with the fun and wacky-spills that the trailer seems to promise on so damn much.

4.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Yeah, don't be so pleased with yourself.

Yeah, don’t be so pleased with yourself. We’ll see you in Takers 2.