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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dahmer (2002)

Another reason why you never put your drinks down, or go home with creepy dudes.

Jeremy Renner plays Jeffrey Dahmer, who was also known as one of the most notorious serial killers of all-time. He killed over 17 men and boys, after he usually manipulated them into sex, drugs, and drinking, but also was able to get away with it for a pretty long time. Here’s a glimpse into his life, or at least his later-life that some may or may not find all that settling.

No matter who you, chances are that you have heard of Jeffrey Dahmer. Yeah, that dude was very messed up and going into this movie, that’s exactly what I was expecting. Sadly, I just got a really good glimpse of how freakin’ creepy Renner can be. You know, when he isn’t around, defusing bombs and such.

David Jacobson hasn’t done much since this movie hit the indie-theaters, which is a shame because the guy gives us a nice glimpse into the life of a guy that I’m sure none of really wanted to see for ourselves anyway, but yet, couldn’t keep away from neither. Why that is that we always want to see more and more about these sick, sadistic killers lives is beyond me. But then again, I’m the one who’s wondering and I’m also the one who not only watched the movie, but is reviewing it as well. So, screw me, I guess. Anyway, back to the review I just mentioned.

Jacobson does a pretty good job at keeping his direction very low-key, and never going anywhere near to over-exposing his subject. This isn’t your normal type of slasher movie where we see people constantly being hacked up into little pieces and then the killer eating them with ketchup on top, it’s more subdued in the way it tells the story, as if it most likely happened. I liked that approach and I like Jacobson’s very low-budget look that made it seem like this could be happening in any place, town, or city. There could even be people like this, who live right next door to you without you ever knowing. It was a nice way to touch on a subject like this and that’s honestly what I thought I was going to get, but that’s the exact problem with this flick: it never goes that extra mile.

How could you say "no" to a charmer like that?

How could you say “no I will not let you drug and rape me” to face like that?

When I say “extra mile”, I mean that this flick could have easily gone into extra depth about this infamous figure and showed us what really made him tick, but it never does. It does show us things that happened in his past that irked him and kind of set him to madness, but we never get inside of his head or see things the way he sees them. We get a couple of clear-cut examples as to when and how he went totally ballistic, but never anything to where I could say “oh, I see why he does this as a chore/hobby of his.” Now, I’m not saying that there should be or ever is any excuse to murder people, let alone 17 boys and adults, and there wasn’t any here at all, it just needed to give me something that I could hold onto when I was watching a person like Dahmer up on-screen. Jacobson seems to get the story, but not the subject if you know what I mean.

But other than not doing much with its subject, the film also suffers from being somewhat, dare I say it: boring. A couple of murders happen here and there, and we get a pretty crazy montage of Dahmer doing his dirty stuff with his boys in a midnight gay club, but other than that, nothing else really all that exciting happens. The movie just sort of meanders around from to scene to scene without any real genuine suspense or thrill behind it. Instead, we’re just sort of watching a guy be weird and plan to do some even weirder things. I didn’t go into this expecting a slasher along the lines of Halloween or Scream, but I just wanted something more to keep me glued. I guess I’m just a little brat because I have probably mentioned the word “more” about 10 times already in this review. Actually, if you have seen this movie, there’s something for memorable about that word “more” that comes into play in this movie. I don’t want to give it away but if you watch the movie, then you’ll understand. Until then, stay in the mysterious dark of not knowing.

"First, we smoke. Then, you die. Cool?"

“First, we smoke. Then, you die. Cool?”

This whole review that I’ve done so far may make it seem like I didn’t like this movie, but I actually didn’t mind it. That’s mostly thanks to the one guy who saved it all for me and really kept me going for this whole movie: Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer. Renner has been a guy on my watch for the longest time and I definitely think he’s going to be the next best thing for Hollywood when the time comes around. However, it’s these roles in lesser-known movies that he does is what really gets my hopes up for him higher than ever before. Renner is absolutely amazing as Dahmer, because he plays it subtle, without over-reaching his grasps into how psychotic he can make this guy seem to be. He just is, plain and simple. Just looking at this guy from afar, would have you guessing right away that he’s crazy as shit, which he is but Renner gives him this very charming act that works not only the people in this movie, but us, the audience as well. He seems like you average, every day dude that just so happens to be one of the craziest mothaeffa’s around and Renner plays that to the brim, showing barely any emotions the whole time, but still being able to release a cold chill about him that settles in throughout the whole movie, even when it seems like everything is calm and collective. It isn’t, and just by watching Renner’s performance, you can tell that this guy has got presence whether or not he’s saying or even doing anything. He just needs to be there, on-the-screen, to really keep your pulse beating. Great performance from Renner and it’s honestly a role that should have gotten him way bigger, way back when. Thankfully, he’s on the top of the food-chain now, and it doesn’t seem like he’s coming down. Thank the movie heavens for that.

Consensus: Dahmer is one of those movies that makes you feel like it’s really going to get deep down inside the mind of a serial-killer, especially one as notorious as Jeffrey Dahmer, but it never hits that peak. It just sits there, acts a little weird, and lets Jeremy Renner take over the show. It’s not as bad to watch because Renner is so good, but there could have been more than just a weird guy, who did bad things.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

He knows the drill.

Weaken the body, kill the person, get rid of the evidence. He knows the drill….

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The Lords of Salem (2013)

If you live in Salem, most likely weird shit will begin to happen.

Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a vulnerable radio DJ that spends her time working, keeping busy, and staying off the sauce. Everything is fine for her until she receives some weird recording from this band called “The Lords”, and begins to feel nauseous and strange every time she hears it. So does a local historian (Bruce Davidson), who not only tries to find Heidi and tell her of the danger that may await her, but also try to figure out just who these “Lords” really are. He lives in Salem, where this is all happening, so it might just have something to do with the past? Oh no!

Rob Zombie is a weird dude, but he does seem to love the horror genre. In a day and age where almost everybody seems to be giving up on it, there’s Zombie right there, to breath some everlasting love and light into it, even if it doesn’t always work for the dude. However, after he finally ditched the whole Halloween re-boot series (thank the high heavens), it seems like the guy has a chance to make a movie that comes from his mind, his soul, and his fingertips. That’s sort of the big problem there.

It isn’t that Zombie’s ambitions aren’t worth recommending, it’s just that they don’t work. Rather than chasing down a story where a bunch of people kill, sweat, and do dirty shit, all to the tuneage of Southern-rock, Zombie keeps his pace slow and melodic in a way, giving us a chance to focus more on characters, rather than the nutty stuff that’s about to happen to them. That’s why the first 30 minutes of this flick really worked for me; it was all character-development. Granted, it wasn’t anything memorable or special that I haven’t seen done a hundred times before in movies (especially horror ones), but it showed that Zombie could chill out when he felt the need be and could actually tell a story without diving into overly-dramatic theatrics.

Oh no, it totally makes sense....

Oh no, it totally makes sense….

Even when Zombie does dive into these said “overly-dramatic theatrics”, they surprisingly do work and feel freaky. Not scary, but freaky in the way that the inner-Catholic in me was a bit shocked by how purely-evil a movie could be and act. Not sure if Zombie actually does worship the devil in his spare-time, but if so: I wouldn’t be all that surprised with all of the devil-loving in this movie. Like I said about the first 30 minutes up top, not only does the character-development work, but so does the freaky stuff. After this though, things get a bit shaky. Actually, who am I kidding!?! They get really, freakin’ shaky.

One of Zombie’s biggest problems is that he does well when he wants to be funny, he just doesn’t transition well into full-out horror. Instead, most of the creepy shit like a baby being licked by witches, evil dead babies doing stuff (I honestly have no idea what the hell they were doing), and witches chanting and praising in the name of Satan, don’t really seem scary, as much as they just seem goofy. It seemed like Zombie was trying to harken back to the good old days of horror, by throwing in elements of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, but instead, got something that reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut. Not exactly the type of movie I like to be thinking about when I putting up my “Top 10 for Horror Movies”, but that’s where this movie seems to go towards and it’s a wonder just what the image of where this story could go, actually was in Zombie’s head.

Was he trying to say anything about drug-addiction? Because as far-fetched as that may seem, there is plenty of references to that. For instance, Heidi is a former drug-addict trying to get over her old sensibilities and develop new, improved ones, yet, still finds her way of coming back to them. And that’s all thanks to that vinyl-record she listens to from that weird band, which may be another metaphor for the drugs in her life; past, present, and future. As the recording continues to play more and more, her old life of drugs and partying comes back, and it’s only a matter of time until it spirals out of control and her old friends need to come back into her life and help her. Maybe, just maybe am I diving into this a bit too much? Damn straight I probably am! But still, at least I’m trying to give some amount of credit to Zombie, because it doesn’t seem like any of this material (his, as a matter of fact) goes any further than Satan, dead babies, and witches. Oh, and some rock ‘n roll as well. Some.

If there was anything in this movie that was worth remembering or really blowing me away, it was Sheri Moon’s performance as Heidi. In the past, I’ve never really been too fond of Moon’s acting, as I felt like Zombie has always had the chance to just shoe-horn her in, anyway that he could, but here, she feels as if she belongs. She isn’t her to just get nakey (although she does and it’s awesome); she isn’t her to just act all weird and crazy (quite the contrary, actually); and she isn’t here just to allow her hubby, Zombie, to throw whatever it is he can at her. She’s actually here to act and acting is what she does well by giving Heidi the right amount of charm and sympathy, that makes us care for her more and more as the flick continues to enroll into some odd shite. Moon is obviously down for whatever comes her way, but the human-aspect of her character is probably what worked best for me, and it was interesting to see where her character went, how she got there, and when she was ever going to get out of it. By the way, I’m talking about her drug-addiction. In case you couldn’t tell.

At least Rob Zombie has been able to catch a pic of Bigfoot. I think.

At least Rob Zombie has been able to catch a pic of Bigfoot. I think.

Moon keeps the movie somewhat grounded in a real-sense of reality, whereas everybody else seems to just be losing their essence of cool. Bruce Davison was a big, old welcome-back as the scholar that’s interested in Heidi’s past and record she just received  and shows why the guy has this likable sense of dignity to him, that never really waters down over time. It’s been awhile sine I’ve seen this dude do anything, let alone, anything good, so it was a nice, blast-from-the-past to have. Horror-queens Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, all play the three witches as they ham it up furiously where they bitch, gnaw, and cackle their way through any scene they show up. Does it always work? Not really. More or less of it seems to be them trying really hard to be like the old days, but it’s entertaining enough to watch them try and remember what it used to be like, when they were young, fun, and blissful. And there’s probably a hundred-more cameos, side performances, and such by a bunch of other peoples that I forgot to mention but once you see them, you’ll recognize them.

Consensus: Zombie may have a clear-eye for ambition with The Lords of Salem, and while some of it does work and freak you out a bit, some of it may also have you laughing as if any of this is supposed to be taken seriously, or with a grain of salt. It’s neither: it’s REALLY serious.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Take the treats. Or die!"

“Take the treats. Or die!”

The Big Wedding (2013)

Now I know why I’m single, but steady. Ladies?

Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes) and Missy O’Connor (Amanda Seyfried) are getting married. There seems to be no problem with two, young lovers wanting to get hitched, except for the fact that Alejandro’s family is anything but functional. His dad (Robert De Niro) and mom (Diane Keaton) have been divorced for over 20 years, while he lives with (Susan Sarandon); his sister (Katherine Heigl) pukes at the sight of kids; and his bro (Topher Grace) has yet to settle down and lose that V-card of his. Oh, and if that didn’t suck already, his “real mom” is flying up for the wedding but is extremely catholic so Alejandro has to make sure that his real mom and dad act as if they are still married. Hilarious hi-jinx ensue, as you could imagine.

Since it is ripely considered “wedding season”, it’s more than obvious that Hollywood would take advantage of this time and start popping-out all of the wacky and nutty wedding movies, that were meant for those older-peeps who don’t care much for weddings, or those single peeps who are lonely and in need of some reassurance that they will find that special someone and have a beautiful like this one day. Maybe. I’m in the latter and I still feel no reassurance. Nor do I really need it. I’m flying solo forever, baby!

Going into this movie, I knew it was going to be terrible but here’s the thing about me: I like weddings, I like movies about weddings, and I like to watch a dysfunctional family act like asses around one another. I don’t know what it is about me but the idea of being around a bunch of family members that are as fucked-up as mine, really puts a smile to my face and a pen in my hand so that I can finally get to writing that note for Santa’s wish-list of a better life (it will happen one day). But this movie just isn’t what I wanted. Not at all.

Robin's totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

Robin’s totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

As usual, movies like these try so damn hard to be funny, that they almost sprain themselves on the way down. This is one of those movies, but it isn’t as painful as I may make it sound. Granted, it is a pretty bad movie that isn’t really funny and totally has problems with it’s editing (more on that ish later), but it can be pleasureful if you are really, really lonely. And I mean: REALLY LONELY. Like, not a single member of your family is alive to remember your face or who you are. You may have an Uncle, Aunt, or Grandfather that may be going a tad crazy and lose sight of whether or not you’re the grandson or the dog, and that counts. But seriously, this movie is meant for those people who can’t enjoy and celebrate a wedding with friends or family. The only way you can is by watching actors and actresses (aka, really good-looking people), act as if they are all family, love each other, but also love to fight even more. Yep, THAT LONELY.

Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s not. That’s usually either hit-or-miss depending on the type of person. But what no person can deny is that this movie is terribly-filmed and edited. Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I remember this flick was supposed to come out around some time last year, because the trailer hit, and so did the poster, but no release date. But considering it was so early, everybody assumed it was going to come out in 2012. Whether or not it’s all true, doesn’t matter because this flick has definitely caught some fire and wind in the editing-room. Woo-wee!

The problem with this movie and it’s editing is that it feels as if somebody didn’t quite know what movie they wanted to make. So, instead of keeping the comedy and drama elements splish-splashed together for evenness, they just go straight for the comedy, all in a row, without any drama or anything. I wouldn’t have minded that so much if it was funny; but it wasn’t. By the end, the problems start to become even more apparent once people start revealing stuff that would change one person’s life in a heartbeat, but somehow has no effect whatsoever on that person. I don’t want to drop down to spoiler-territory, but it’s really random, stupid, and odd how kosher this flick seems to be with certain things like adoption and not knowing who your real parents are. Not saying adoption is weird, but something about this movie makes it seem weird. Oh, who the hell! Just watch it if you want to see what I mean!

If there is any saving grace to this movie, anywhere at all: it’s the cast. After turning out an Oscar-nominated role in Silver Linings Playbook, you’d automatically assume that it meant Bobby De Niro was with a new agent and back in full-force. But I was so, so, so, so, so wrong. De Niro isn’t bad here, it’s just that his character of being a womanizing-perv doesn’t quite work for the guy as well as it might have about a decade ago. Now, it’s just over-played, stupid, and a bit creepy considering all this dude wants to do is bang someone or something. Diane Keaton plays his estranged ex-wife, and is fine for what she needs to do but is simply phoning it in as if she just wants the lovin’ from Warren Beatty or Woody Allen back. No matter who she chooses to have back, she’s going to get some lovin’.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

As for the kiddies, they are all fine, but feel as if they are just phoning it in like most supporting-acts in rom-coms do. Topher Grace is still trying to make us forget about Eric Forman and it’s still not working; Katherine Heigl is still trying to make us forget that she bitched-out Judd Apatow (aka, her best role EVER), and once again, it’s still not working; Amanda Seyfried has barely any scenes to herself, but when she does, it’s just blank the whole time; and Ben Barnes is charming and does what he can with that Spanish-tongue of his, but still can’t over-come the fact that he’s just there, stuck in the middle of all of this havoc. Poor guy. Get a new manager.

The only peeps in this cast who really seem ready to play are Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon. Williams seems like he’s having fun playing the same role he basically played in that god-awful movie where he played a priest where two younglings were getting married. Not going to call it by it’s name, and just leave it at that. Susan Sarandon is probably the best out of the bunch because of the way she plays her character, and the way they make her character. Since Bebe, the character she plays, swung-around with De Niro when he was still married to Keaton, you would think that she’d be perceived as a bottomless whore that can’t get a man her own, so she goes for one that’s already got dibs called on. You would think, but the movie actually makes a smart-decision in not taking that low road and giving her more to be sympathetic about and show us why she isn’t such a bad lady. In ways, she was even a better mommy than Keaton’s character was. But that’s bad because the Catholic Church thinks divorce is evil and breaths fire and brimstone. Okay, I’m done attacking anything right now. Let’s just get this thing over with.

Consensus: For anybody who wants to get away from their porno-infested computer screens for an hour or two, The Big Wedding may be the right fit for them, but for the other people that are married, in a relationship, or just don’t really care to waste their time in general; then it won’t fit. At all.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

And Diane be like, "Oh lawwddd!"

And Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

Mud (2013)

His name is Mud.

Matthew McConaughey is Mud, a fugitive drifter hiding on a small island in the Mississippi River. He’s on the run and living peacefully all by his lonesome, that is until he is found out by two, young boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland). They don’t cause him much trouble as they seem to be more lost in wonder about this dude and eventually assist him in evading capture and reuniting with his beloved girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon).

So far, for writer/director Jeff Nichols; life has been pretty good. Not only did his first flick (Shotgun Stories) have “the artsie crowd” jumping in their tight jeans, but his second one (Take Shelter) got his name out to a bigger audience that one more over, just by the sure-fire of Michael Shannon being the man. But we all know that when something is too good to be true, it usually is and that’s what I felt like going into this movie. It wasn’t that I doubted Nichols’ skills as a writer or director, it just seemed like such an obvious and predictable story where boys will be boys, and we’ll leave it at that. That’s what I thought, but what I got was so different.

Sorry for ever doubting ya in the first place, Jeffrey.

Movies that feature kids at the fore-front really have to win me over with more than just showing them being funny and insightful by cursing. They have to give me something more, and that’s exactly what this flick did. Instead of reaching for the conventions, and giving me a story that I’ve seen done a hundred times over, Nichols takes that story, and loosens-up it’s hinges a bit. It sort of like Nichols knew the type of genre-movie he was making, and decided to give it a little taste of his own. Not as dirty as I may make it sound, but it sure is fun and entertaining to watch.

"Howdy ya'll!"

“Howdy ya’ll!”

Fun and entertaining in the way that the movie starts off quick and continues to go that way as well. There are moments when the flick decides to get real heavy on us and teach us some lessens, but not anything that really hit us in the face like a fish. Nichols keeps every character and their moments grounded in reality where we see these people who for the types of people they are. Each one, in one way or another, has a relationship with somebody else that you’d never knew about before, but the film brings up and shows you how that developed over time. It’s so interesting to see what you can do with character-development, just through simple and lean conversations. Some of it’s dramatic, some of it’s subtle, and some of it’s obvious, but most of all: it was interesting to see and made me care more for each of these characters as the stakes got higher and the tension began to build.

And once that tension does blow off, it does it in a way that isn’t everything you’d expect from a movie like this. Without jumping down the throats of all of you fine people with spoilers out the wahzoo, I’ll just keep it real simple in the way that the flick does end with some shooting and whatnot, but not like you’d expect. It happens for a reason and not just because Nichols got bored and needed to light up some fire works. Once again, it’s another way of showing how certain people use violence to their advantage and don’t seem to care about the after-effects. Just what needs to happen, and how it can be pulled off. Now, where have I heard that before!?!?

But it is meant to be said that by the end of the movie, things did start to get a tad bit conventional. Almost too much, dare I say it. It isn’t that I didn’t hate the flick for ending the way it did, but going to where I could sort of tell everything that was going to happen, and for what sole reason it was as well. Nichols did everything right leading up to the end, but the actual end itself is a tad of a bummer, for the sake that you know where it’s going to go. Again, I don’t wholly mind when a film goes that way, but it did sort of feel like a cheat, coming from Mr. Jeff Nichols here. He had me going though. He really did.

Though, I can’t be too hard on Nichols, because the guy has assembled a fine cast of characters here and that is definitely meant to be praised more than discouraged. Matthew McConaughey has been on a role as of late, and it doesn’t seem to show any chances of slowing down, by any means. His role as Mud is great for him to play because he gets the chance to, once again, tool around with the idea that we don’t know everything about this guy, what he’s done in his past, why he’s doing it, and if everything he’s saying is all truthful or a tall-tale. The whole time I kept wondering what was up with this guy, and by the end: I still didn’t quite know. But that’s the whole beauty about McConaughey’s performance in how he is able to mess with us, even long after the movie. We get general ideas about the guy where we see he’s a slick, cool, and kind fellow that does things for the people he loves, but a bit too harshly? Maybe? The answers to those questions are left for you and you alone to decide. Get going!

"Please tell me you brought the fucking weed?!?!?"

“Please tell me you brought the fucking weed?!?!?”

Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play the two boys that find Mud on the island, and remind me of two kids that were picked right out of a Stephen King novel. They curse, spit, swallow, and cause havoc like all kids usually do, but there’s more of a sweetness to them that makes you want to hang out with them, as well as wish the best for them through this wild adventure. Especially Sheridan, who won me over two years ago in The Tree of Life and showed me some real promise as the next, young actor to watch. The kid’s story-line may be a bit too packed for it’s own good, but the kid kept his head above water and that’s more than enough I can say about certain kid actors out there.

After her most recent 15 minutes of fame in the slammer, Reese Witherspoon finds a way to re-group herself from driving and puts her rump down in the acting chair, like she should because she’s good at it when she isn’t choosing shit scripts. That’s a very rare thing for her, but let’s just soak up the moment now, shall we? What’s good about Witherspoon here is that she uses her beauty to her advantage in the way that she never gives you everything you need to know about her, only what you think you need to know. She walks a very fine-line in being both easy to trust, but also a tad mysterious in her ways, and it’s a fine-line that Reese can walk (at least when she’s sober that is!!). I’m really glad that Reese picked up a role like this because it reminded me why the gal was so lovely and so talented in the first place. I mean, hello! She does have an Oscar!

Nichols’ buddy from his past two movies, Michael Shannon is here as an uncle of one of the youngsters and is good, even if he isn’t in it all that much. Actually, the role is so small that it seems like he just showed up for one day of filming, cleared-out his schedule, and went right back to being Zod and reading sorority sister letters. The one who really steals the spot-light away from them all is Sam Shepard who shows them that he is still the bad-ass he once was, even after all of these years. Nice to know that guy’s still around and can do shit and do it right.

Consensus: Mud takes a slight-detour into convention by the end, but it’s a trip that’s worth taking regardless because of the amazing performances, the heartfelt script, and characters that are worth watching because you care for them and feel as if you know them.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Does "staying in character" excuse drinking and driving?

Does “staying in character” excuse drinking and driving?

Pain & Gain (2013)

Steroids will kill you. But also will guns, lies, sex, drugs, murder, and leading a whole life of crime.

Three dimwitted body-builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie) make a living teaching other people how to put their body’s into shape. But they’ve had enough of it and want more out of life like money, fame, and drugs. You know, the American Dream. They decide to reach for this goal by kidnapping and extorting money from a very rich and powerful man (Tony Shalhoub). It sort of works, but as time goes on and their ego’s and utter stupidity seem to get in the way of things, they lose their way to figuring out just how the hell to keep their heads up and out of jail.

Oh yeah, and it’s all based on a true story. Don’t believe me, then seriously; go check this out and come back. See what I mean? Real shit.

The fact that this is all apparently happened, was directed by Michael Bay, and considered to be a passion project of his, really has me scratching my head still, even to this very sceond where I’m typing. However, being the “esteemed” critic that I am, I knew I had to be open to seeing something that Bay actually had been wanting to do for awhile and I think I stand with everybody else when I say that it’s time we saw something new from this guy. At least, I think so anyway. I hope I’m not alone.

I wonder if they need help with their luggage.

It’s Miami, in the 90’s. So chill, fashion police.

I knew something was “up” with this movie once it began. It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t interesting or that I wasn’t wondering what this was all going to be about, it was that something didn’t feel right. The movie begins with Marky Mark doing sit-ups on a ceiling  then sees a bunch of cop cars, yells out “fuck”, and begins to run away, all to a narration that’s supposed to be funny, but isn’t. That’s how the whole movie actually plays out, in fact. Most moments are supposed to be done for laughs in the way that we point and chuckle at these bumbling fools trying to pull off robbery, but it doesn’t work. Instead, it seems like the movie is trying too hard to be funny, and failing at it so miserably so. It gets better, but very slightly.

The problem with this movie isn’t that it isn’t really funny, because once the first hour comes and goes, it begins to find it’s funny-footing, but it’s just “off” in ways that’s hard to explain. This a true story, about people that did bad stuff, tried to get away with it, and came close to doing so as well, so why the hell should all of this shit be played-up for laughs? I get that Bay wanted to have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek approach with this story and get all goofy on us, but he’s not the type of director that can make the transitions from drama to comedy seamless. You notice when the movie is trying too hard to be funny and too hard to be serious, and it just ends up coming out like a weird mixture of eggs and chocolate. Never tried that combo before, but something tells me it doesn’t mix well.

That’s not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining to watch, because it is, it just doesn’t feel like anybody can make up their right minds as to what type of film they want to make. The screenwriters wanted a dramedy; Bay wanted a buddy comedy, with a bunch of grit; the actors wanted a loosey-goosey comedy; and Marky Mark just wants to show the ladies that he’s still got the looks. Everybody is playing at their own pace, with their own rules, and their own ways of getting shit done. It honestly isn’t as bad as I may make that sound; it really isn’t. It’s actually interesting to see, considering you never know where it’s going to go next, in terms of story and tone. And even though not all of it fits right in the way you’d expect, it’s still fun for that aspect alone.

Other than problems with tone and pace, Bay still seems to be having fun here and I was glad. When this movie wants to be wild and crazy; it’s a blast of fun. You never know where it’s going to go, where it’s going to end up, and what these crazy mofos are going to try next. Well, that is unless you don’t already know the story beforehand. If you do, then you’re sort of left out a bit of all of the fun, but not fully. If you like watching a movie, not having a darndest clue what the people involved are going to show you next; then this may be the trip for you. It has the humor; it has the action; it has the performances; and it has the fun-feel to it, but you still can never seem to get past the fact that almost everybody involved with this movie was on some sort of coke or something. More strange, than it is crazy, but still interesting to watch. I’m not sure if I’m selling this movie well at all, but don’t be worried because it is a good movie; just a very odd one at that.

But if you really want to see something insane: then, just watch these performances. Seriously, every cast member seems like they are either high off of their asses, or having the time of their lives. Sometimes, even both at the same time. Marky Mark is as fun and electric as he has ever been as Daniel Lugo, “the mastermind” (use that term very loosely) behind the whole wheeling and dealing operation. Wahlberg’s manic energy really plays well with this character because it allows him to be a nut-job, just about the whole time. He’s a guy that likes to poke fun at himself, even when he is doing curls for the girls with 50 lb.’s in each hand. It’s hard for a guy to be sexy, charming, and self-knowingly goofy at the same time, but Wahlberg pulls it off perfectly, as usual.

Then, there’s Dwayne Johnson as his fellow-partner, Paul Doyle. If anybody seems to be having any bit of fun in this movie: it’s The Rock (whoops!). Rocky has always been one of these guys that’s been wanting to break free for the longest time and it’s just so great to see him do it now, do it loud, and best of all: do it proud. Doyle’s character is a funny one because he’s constantly on either side of the fence. He’s a holy man that’s been sober for awhile and believes in the higher-power, yet, is all caught up in these deadly-shenanigans that he can’t make up his mind as to whether or not he wants to partake in it or not. But at other times, the character totally loses his idea of sensibility and is just balls to the walls from there on. That’s where Johnson really exceeds well, and kept me laughing my ass off, even when the movie didn’t seem to be working with any funny material whatsoever. Just watching him act like an ass and make fun of himself as well, was funny enough to give me joy and laughter. Sort of like Christmas Day, but instead of presents; it’s just some roided-out freak who likes to make goofy faces. Goofy faces that worked, so I guess I can’t talk too much shite.

Monk's rich and not putting up with anybody's shit.

Monk’s rich and not putting up with anybody’s shit.

Even though he isn’t advertised all that much as partaking in the crimes, Anthony Mackie is also here for the wild ride and is good for what he has to do to keep up with these two. Not only can he flex-up when need be, but he can also joke around about his look and style as well, which is always needed. However, it’s abundantly clear that he does not have as much material to work with, like Dwayne and Marky Mark do. That still doesn’t mean that he isn’t funny or entertaining to watch; because he is. It’s just that the guy’s jokes are more obvious and more about him being black than anything else. Hopefully, Captain America 2 will start getting him some finer-roles like he deserves.

Other actors that show up in this seem to be having fun, even if they are as nutso as you can get. Tony Shalhoub plays the mean and cruel rich guy that these body-builders decide to target and is good because he always stays funny, without ever drawing out the sympathy card. We don’t like his character and we don’t really care for him, which was sort of the point. That’s why it’s so fun to see Shalhoub just take a role like this, and revel in the unsympathetic-nature of it. Ed Harris also shows up as the detective that helps him out and is good, but it’s Ed Harris. What else is there left to say? But trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from and they are all just as wacky as the leads. And I also have to give credit to Michael Bay for giving Rebel Wilson a chance to be funny again, even if she lost all of my respect after last Sunday. Lord, I still feel the pain from that.

Consensus: Most of Pain & Gain is meant to be seen, just for the sake of bragging-rights and pure experience. But with that said, it is still fun for what you see with it’s random bits of comedy, drama, crime, and action, all rolled into one piece of wild popcorn fare. Also, it’s a Michael Bay film with no robots. So just be happy dammit!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

ROCK BOTTOM!!! ROCK BOTTOM!!

ROCK BOTTOM!!! ROCK BOTTOM!!

The Rock (1996)

Well, at least he didn’t apologize for this movie.

General Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris) feels as if he has been wronged by the country that he served for so damn long and decides to prove his dissatisfaction. How? Well, he rounds up a group of fellow troops who feel the same, get them into Alcatraz, take it over, hold hostages, threaten to use a bomb on the whole city of San Francisco, and keep a countdown of when the shit goes boom. There to save the day is explosions and chemicals expert Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), but he has a special guest with him, retired agent John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery). Mason is the only man who knows his way in and out of Alcatraz, and uses the government’s help to his advantage. Bastard.

We all know Michael Bay. Love him, hate him, adore him, disagree with him. No matter what, we all know a Michael Bay movie when we see one. Explosions, skinny-clad women, macho-posing, bad one-liners, and a whole shit load of action. Nothing more, nothing less. Good, now you know what you’re getting yourself into, let’s get this ride going.

Everybody considers this to be Bay’s best and even if that isn’t true (I’m still a fan of the first Transformers, don’t ask me why), I can still see why people have thought so, even up until today. It’s one of those movies that has such a solid premise, that it’s almost hard to live down the bad-assery. First of all, you got Alcatraz as the setting and any time you have your action and craziness occurring there; you can’t blow it. Secondly, the cast is pretty top-notch with a bunch of dudes that may not have been the biggest and the best box-office names at the time, but still showed you that they could beat some beef when they had to. And no, not that type either.

What he has in his hand right there could destroy everything on this planet. Yerp, we're boned.

What he has in his hand right there could destroy everything on this planet. Yerp, we’re boned.

And lastly, and probably the most important: it’s just fun. It doesn’t matter how much detail I get into this flick, all that matters is that this movie is all the fun and excitement that it should be and that’s it. You got the usual car-chases, the explosions, the gun-battles, the bombs, and even a Mexican stand-off in case anybody thought that not everything was possible. In Bay’s world, anything is possible and he’ll show you too, just with enough craziness and nuttiness to go along on the side. If you can’t handle it, then you shouldn’t have even bothered giving it a look in the first place. You can say that about most directors, but Bay is the prime-example where you have to know if his name is attached or not. Sounds crazy, I know. But there are people out there that hate him THAT much. Poor guy. Just needs a hug. Maybe Megan Fox will lend a hand?

Does that mean it is anywhere near the type of film you want to see to tease your brain and make you think? Absolutely, positively not! Then again, with the name “Michael Bay” attached, you couldn’t and probably shouldn’t expect anything more. That said, this movie is pretty stupid and some situations did make me laugh, albeit the unintentional ones. One of the goofiest gags throughout this movie is how the countdowns always seem to change drastically. At one point, we are stuck watching as the movie reads “9 hours till detonation”. That’s fine. Seemed reasonable and it seemed like time did pass on. Then, out of nowhere, about five minutes later, the movie reads “52 minutes till detonation”. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! What the hell happened to the pass 8 hours and 8 minutes? Did they just suddenly go by as soon as the people closed their eyes? Once again, maybe I was thinking a bit more than the movie, but that’s just a personal, random nitpick from yours truly. Once again, don’t think too much of it. I didn’t, and I had a great time.

Most of that good time is courtesy of the fine sets of bad-asses that Bay was able to assemble in almost every role, short to large. Sean Connery has always been known as one of the biggest and best bad-asses of our generation, and he totally proves that as John Mason. Some will laugh their asses off once they initially see the ged-up Connery’s decking, but after awhile, you get by it all once he gets a shave, a shower, and ready for action. After this hits, then it’s all feet-to-the-floor with him and the charm never stops. Even when Connery isn’t beating the shite out of somebody, he’s always finding a way to burst-out some snappy line that either he made up himself, or it was written for him so beautifully. There’s this whole subplot about him and his daughter that’s touched on a tad bit much, but who cares! It’s Sean Connery, in a movie, playing a bad-ass. Pipe down and enjoy!

Then, on the other end of the spectrum: there’s Nic Cage. If any of you out there know and love Nic Cage, the way that I know and love Nic Cage, then this is going to be one hell of an entertainment-ride for you. What’s so funny about Cage here is that since his character is such a dweeb-a-tron that doesn’t really know how to move in hand-to-hand combat and is as nerdy as you can get, then that means Cage gets to play around with that aspect, the way we all know Nic Cage loves to do. It’s hilarious to see him act like a total and complete nut, and even though there isn’t much else underneath this guy other than the fact that he’s get a preggo girly-gal at home and a pretty suit car, we still love the hell out of the guy. Then again, if you aren’t a fan of Nic Cage; you’re most likely going to hate every second he speaks. Yep, it’s like THAT.

Hes angry, in case you couldn't tell.

Hes angry, in case you couldn’t tell.

Last, but certainly not least is Ed Harris as the army general who calls this whole thing on and tries to go through with it. Harris is another actor that can be a nut when he chooses to be, and this role is no different. At first, you automatically think that he’s just an idiotic dick that has no real reasoning for doing the things he’s about to do, and you pretty much write him up as a unsympathetic dude right from the get-go. But, as time goes on and people start to piss him off more and more, you see a conscience come out of this guy and it’s believable. Well, at least as believable as you can get in a Michael Bay movie. But that’s still enough credit to Ed Harris who can almost do no wrong. That’s not just in my book, but a lot of others’ as well.

The rest of the cast is filled with a bunch of character actors that you have seen a hundred, million times before but just have never been able to match the name with the face. David Morse, Tony Todd, and Bokeem Woodbine play some of Harris’ fellow soldiers that help him out and do whatever they can to go through with their plan; whereas Michael Biehn and William Forsythe are among the ones that try their hardest to help out Connery and Cage. Whether or not it’s actually successful, I’ll leave to you. But, there’s plenty more where this came from and it’s always fun to play the old-fashioned, “name game” every once and awhile. Even if it is, once again: a Michael Bay movie. Okay, now I’m starting to get serious about that hug, dammit!

Consensus: Everything you’d want in a fast-paced, fun action film, is exactly in The Rock. You got guns, bullets, blood, cheese, bombs, explosives, corny one-liners, and a rare but fun Cage and Connery team-up, just to make sure you have as much enjoyment as you can, without having your brain intact.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Look how much fun they're having!!

Look how much fun they’re having!!

Shotgun Stories (2007)

Come on, it’s family. Just get along with one another so Christmas can be a whole lot better.

Three close brothers, Son (Michael Shannon), Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs) hear the news of their estranged fathers death and decide to go to the funeral, and basically talk a whole bunch of shit on him. Predictably, this causes a lot of ruckus and anger with their step-brothers, which makes things a whole lot more tense for everybody involved.

Two years ago, a little film named Take Shelter, took everybody by surprise and showed us the type of talents that lied within writer/director Jeff Nichols. But, for anybody who was a big-time film nerd and had been keeping this guy on their radar, would know that 4 yours prior, he had another little smash-hit of his with a film that seems to go hand-in-hand with his second one. It’s pretty neat to see what directors debuted with as they are sometimes terribly bad and you can see why they’re called “directorial debuts”, and other times; they have you realize just how damn good these guys really are behind-the-camera. This, is one of those latter cases.

What I liked so much about this flick was how the film had me interested right from the start. Of course it has a slow and deliberate pace that may bother some, but for me, I was intrigued right from the beginning. Right off the bat, I payed attention to every single little thing somebody said because it made me understand all of these characters, what they do, who they are, and what’s their significance in this story we have here. For the first 15 minutes or so, nothing really exciting happens other than just a bunch of people going around and shootin’ the shit with one another, but it’s all very interesting and had me set from the get-go, believe it or not.

"Darn tootin', Billy Ray!"

“Darn tootin’, Billy Ray!”

A lot of that has to go to not only the direction of Nichols, but his writing as well as it seems like he has that pitch-tone perfect ear for natural dialogue that just doesn’t feel like “movie talk”; it feels like real people talking. But it’s not all about the talking here, because once those first 15 minutes go out of the way, something then changes in the film and there is all of a sudden this time and place where things get very intense, very surprising, and very emotionally-charged. I can’t go into this flick any more without giving certain plot-points away but what I will say is that the places this film takes and goes really do work and will actually surprise you by how dark it is and just by how much it makes you feel. It catches you off-guard, and becomes more than just a movie about a bunch of hicks talking, drinkin’ blue ribbons, and listening to Allman Brothers.

Of course, as you could probably tell, this flick pits one gang of brothers, against the other gang and that may come off as a very obvious and conventional piece of story-telling, but the way Nichols handles it is anything but. Instead of making us realize who’s right and who’s wrong in the situation these guys find themselves in, Nichols shows how both sides of the equation are both kind of dicks and don’t really use their head when it comes to making decisions. They just use the idea of revenge and it gets them all wrapped-up and hell bent out of shape, until one dumb thing happens after another, and then everything just spirals out of control until there’s nothing left to gain revenge about or for. It’s just a bunch of sad and lonely dudes who can’t help but feel the need like they need to sucker somebody next. Nichols shows this in the most perfect way possible and it’s true sign of what this guy can do with a rather-conventional plot, and still make it as insightful and surprising as any other story.

Now, where I do think that Nichols messed himself up a bit in was how a lot of this material is a bit too subtle for it’s own good. Everything in this flick is pretty much understood from start-to-finish with barely any moments of confusion whatsoever, but there’s just way too many scenes and snap-shots of people standing around, drinking, sitting, hangin’ out, and staring into space without really uttering any words. I get that this gives us the essence of what real life is exactly like, but it never seems to go anywhere and could have maybe benefited from some more talking or just a total cut of all those scenes in general. Then again, I can’t really say that there are really any unnecessary scenes in this film at all, so maybe the cut wouldn’t have done it any good.

Hence the title.

Hence the title.

Most people will probably be surprised to see how there is absolutely no familiar faces in this film whatsoever, that is, unless you’re not going to count the man, the myth, the legend, aka Michael Shannon in the lead role as Son. No seriously, his name is Son. I guess big daddy couldn’t find time in his day for originality. Anyway, back to the man, the myth, the legend: Michael Shannon. As most of us know by now, Shannon is the master at playing it subtle but can bring out the scariest and most painful reactions from anybody, just by a twitch of his crazy-eyes. The guy looks like a loon, but there’s something very genuine and comforting about him that makes us stand behind his character as the more reasonable brother of the three. There’s something about Shannon that has us love this character right from the start, even though there is a huge pound of mystery surrounding him throughout the whole story, we still like him and trust him to do the right thing in the end. We hear some strange things come up into conversation about him from other characters and whatnot, but never anything to the point of where we feel like he’s a complete psycho. He’s just a dude that just so happens to have done some bad shite in his life. Haven’t we all?

There’s a whole slew of other characters in this film that do some great jobs, and I was surprised since I haven’t seen any of these people, show up in anything else. That surprises me too, considering just about everybody does an excellent job with everything they’re given. Except, there are a couple of side performances here and there that show up and seem a bit poorly-acted depending on who’s delivering the lines and all that. But like the scenes of people staring-out into the fields, it didn’t get to my head too much when the dialogue was as natural and interesting as it was here.

Consensus: It may follow a conventional plot line, but Shotgun Stories is anything but that in terms of everything else. The writing and direction from Nichols is superb without ever being showy, and the somewhat unknown cast all do excellent jobs with their roles, that seem to add on extra layers to a story that could have easily been played off as your run-of-the-mill, revenge story taking place in rural Arkansas.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Michael Shannon pulling off the thinking man.

Michael Shannon pulling off the thinking man.

The Hustler (1961)

I really got to work on my pool skills.

“Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman) is a man that knows how to play his game of pool, win, and while he’s at it; hustle some peeps in the long-run. However, his shenanigans eventually start to catch up with him once he decides to get involved with a lady of his (Piper Laurie). But it only gets worse once his desire to prove himself the best player in the country is by beating legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats” (Jackie Gleason).

“Cool” is a word that fits plenty of films, but not as well as it fits this one. In fact, I never quite thought that a sports movie about pool would actually be considered “cool”, but there’s just something about those old school billiard lounges, filled with smoke, brewskies, and jazz music that are just able to get you in the mood for some cue-balling. Oh, and some gambling too. Can’t ever forget about that fun activity.

Actually, I wouldn’t even consider this a sports film, but more of a character-study that gives us a character, a dilemma, and a reasoning, and uses the game of pool as a background. Most movies of this nature have been using this idea for centuries, but this flick shows it in a different light that isn’t all hurrah hurrah about it’s sport, or the people partaking in it. That’s right, no Kurt Russell speeches here. Cue the tears.

This film is surprisingly very dark but it never lost me and it was pretty intriguing to see where this film went with Felson. We get to see him through all of the thick and thin where we see him at his highest, as well as his lowest. We also get a chance to see him for his flaws, as well as the aspects that make him so likable and charming, upon first-sight. Felson could also serve as the protagonist for this story, but he’s not an underdog, there’s no valiant loser, no witty old-timer that is getting the young buck for his next big match, and there is no training-montage let alone, any scenes of training whatsoever. This is what separates this sort of movie from all of the other sports movie and it’s a risky move that director Robert Rossen takes with this material, but makes it work no matter what.

Aw yeah! Strike that pose, Paul!

Aw yeah! Strike that pose, Paul!

But no matter how dark this film may actually be, there is still a certain type of coolness about it that just lingers underneath everything else. There’s all of these countless themes about greed, addiction, love, hustling, and the fear of being lonely, that could get any sports-junkie on the suicide watch list, but do more than you think. It adds a certain brooding sense of feel and style, but also enhances the mood in which you feel like the way these games of pool are set-up and played, are definitely not the type of ones you just decide to play around with, while you and your bud are drinking before the big fight. Nope, there’s more to it than that, and I have to say that it’s a bold move that I can’t see many other sports movies taking nowadays. That is, unless they didn’t want to earn any money or fans with the popular, movie-going crowd. Because honestly, let’s think about it: which person wants to see a sports movie, only to find out that it’s a whole two hour flick dedicated to one person crying, and swallowing in his own misery? Maybe this guy over here, but sure as hell not the type of people I know who want to see movies like these. Hence why it was made in 1961. A much simpler time where people had standards. Sort of.

Paul Newman is known as being cool in almost everything he does, and “Fast Eddie” Felson is the perfect personification of that. Newman brings so much cool wit and charm to this character that in almost every shot, you can just feel them both oozing out of every line he speaks. Whether he’s doing it with his eyes, his lips, or his physical-stature, the guy’s always got something to say and whether or not the other person across from him is going to like it, is wholly on their asses. The character of “Fast Eddie” isn’t a particularly likable one, considering the guy always acts like his shit doesn’t stink when he wins two games in-a-row, but Newman keeps him grounded and always worth a cheer. You never know where this dude’s story is going to lead into next, but Newman keeps you guessing and wondering just how he pulls off these acts of desperation, but still seeming to be “cool”, underneath it.

Then, on the total and complete opposite side of him is Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats. Fats rains supreme as a totally different character than Felson, for the sole-fact he is just the intimidating guy you do not want to fuck with if you see him across the bar. But yet, Felson loves to do that and does just that, many ‘a times. Fats is a character that reminded of one of those old-school, big guy mob types that you can just feel the tension of. The only difference here is that this guy isn’t part of the mob (or at least so I think), he’s just regular, old-school pool shooter that just so happens to be one of the best in the country and Gleason plays this up so perfectly. Fats isn’t really in the film that much but whenever he is, it’s easily some of the best parts of this whole flick and his presence is always there throughout the whole film.  No matter where “Fast Eddie” goes with his game, with his money, with his dame, and with his high-life; Fats will always be there ready to play again.

"Come on, kid. You got it all fucking wrong."

“Come on, kid. You got it all fucking wrong.”

But I can’t just talk about these two without talking another two that absolutely knock their roles out of the park as well. George C. Scott has probably never been as dirty or greedy as he is here as Burt Gordon, one of the main guys that takes Felson under his wing, but strictly for money purposes. Scott is so damn detestable but you can’t take your eyes off of him throughout the whole movie because you know he’s going to screw Felson over, one way or another, and it’s going to hurt big time. Piper Laurie is also amazing as Felson’s love interest, Sarah, but be warned; she isn’t your normal romantic love interest all of these sports movies have. This chick has problems, BIG, BIG problems, actually. Sarah is a very interesting character because she just seems like one of these chicks that is always so drunk all of the time, that it’s easy to underestimate her, but after awhile you realize that she knows what’s up with everything that Felson is doing and what could possibly happen to him. Laurie is great with this character and makes her watchable the whole damn time, even if the ride between her and Felson isn’t always enjoyable, nor is it all that believable once you see how they act with one another, once they get drunk, wild, and rich. Bad combination right there, no matter who you are.

Being that this is an older film and a lot of the people in it talk all hip, sly, and witty, in the way that they probably thought was hip, sly, and witty back in 1961; some of it does feel dated. Not all of it, but some. Some performances go a bit over-board and I couldn’t help but feel like a lot of these dude’s who’s reactions are filmed, weren’t just because they were talented actors, but because they were the only actors around to take part of filming at the time. It’s been almost 40 years and one sequel later, so maybe my main-beef is all but idiotic, but it’s just little problems like that, that usually get to me. Don’t know why, it’s just the way I am. Go home if you don’t like it.

Consensus: The Hustler isn’t your quintessential sports movie that’s all about the happy cheers, beers, and winning championships, but more about a loner of a dude that makes money a cheap, but sly way, and gets caught-up doing so. And sometimes, in more ways than one.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hustler3

“If I beat him now, it’s still breakfast at Mickey D’s. Hmm…..”

Special (2005)

If you were a superhero that had a budget to go by, wouldn’t you be a bit sad too?

Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is having problems with his emotions, his self-esteem, and the way he acts. Therefore, he begins to take these new pills for a scientific experiment in hopes that they will improve his life-style, but his way-of-thinking as well. However, thinks start to go weird for Les as he starts to realize that maybe there’s more to these pills than he initially expected.

Superhero films, no matter who the superhero is or what the superpower may be, are usually always fun and exciting to watch. Even the shittiest-superhero movies are at least entertaining to watch, especially around the Summer time when nobody gives a shit about what they see, but just want to get away from the hot sun, and chill out in a beautifully, air-conditioned movie theater. But what happens when it isn’t the Summa, Summa, Summatime anymo, and you expect some quality to your movies, let alone ones that involve superheroes? Also, what about those little superhero films, that are just waiting to get loved and noticed by everybody? What happens to them? Well, they get put on Netflix Instant streaming and watched by d-bags like me. Hey, may not sound like much but it’s sure as hell better than nothing.

Writing/directing-team Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore obviously have an intriguing story on their hands and start it off pretty well by showing us just how a person like Les would respond to the type of superpowers he ends up receiving with the consumption of these mysterious pills. Most people would have no idea what the hell is going on, while others would probably think of this as their time to shine, go out there, do good for the rest of the world, fight crime, and try their hardest to save others, from whatever danger may be lurking around the corner for them. This is obviously the road that Les goes down and for the most part, it’s pretty entertaining because you don’t know where this story is going to end up and you don’t exactly know what Les is going to do next. I liked that unpredictable-nature of this story but sadly, it went away real, real soon.

Fuck you, David Blaine. This shit is real!

Fuck you, David Blaine. This shit is real!

With a micro-budget like the one that have at their disposal here, Haberman and Passmore are able to do some lively and innovative things with the plot and the special-effects, but the plot itself suffers from that considering it’s tone is all over the place. At first, it starts off as a comedy where this lovable goof goes out trying to be a superhero and fight evil, but then it turns right into a dark drama that seems to do the same things over and over again. This wouldn’t have bothered me so much because I feel like this certain type of story needed a dark side to it, but the film gets very, very dark and almost a little too depressing for my liking. But it didn’t really feel like it had any reason to be that way in the first place. Yeah, this dude Les is a guy that’s easily picked on and made a fool of, but it’s never to the point of where I felt as if he’s going to go and jump-off of a bridge for that reason, nor did I feel like he was the type of dude that needed a new-direction in his life, as severe or life-changing as this. He’s just a little sad guy: that’s all. That’s why I had no clue why this flick continued to shove down our throats how sad and self-wallowing his life is.

Even at a lean, but not-so mean 82 minutes, the film does seem like it drags in certain parts which sucked even worse, mostly because I was totally on-board for this flick right from the start. There were some moments in this film that really touched me (like when Les and that girl from the market actually have a conversation), but they are only sprinkled throughout, as if they were the only parts of heart this flick had to offer, and the writers/directors decided to throw them in when they found it was necessary. Also, I know that the film was made with such a small budget that they couldn’t do as much as maybe Joss Whedon or Christopher Nolan has been able to do in the past, but I still feel like there could have been more action and violence to convey the sense of reality that Les found himself out of so much. It also would have been more exciting than just watching Les run away every time something bad would happen, because that’s all that he ever did.

I'm assuming this is supposed to be all a metaphor for Viagra? I assume.

I’m assuming this is supposed to be all a metaphor for Viagra? I assume.

The only real reason why I have to give this film any sort of recommendation is because of Michael Rapaport’s awesome lead performance as Les Franken. Rapaport has always been that one guy who stands-out in big ensembles like Cop Land or True Romance, but he’s never really been given his shot to just shine and strut his own stuff. Thankfully, he is given that shot here and nails it by making you feel something for this schlub of a guy. There’s a lot of goofy things going on with Les but you never once feel like he’s going to hurt anybody on-purpose or do it to anybody that doesn’t deserve it already. He’s just a regular guy that’s finally getting tired of putting up with all of the shit he suffers on a regular-basis from all of the people around him. Great performance from Rapaport and I honestly think that if the script and direction knew what to do with him here, he would have gotten noticed more and hopefully be moving his way up the ranks more and more. Also, be on the lookout for a very young Josh Peck as a nerdy stoner. Probably a better performance here, than the one he had in that shit-pile known as Red Dawn. Just saying.

Consensus: Special is nothing all that special (gedd it?) because of its constantly-shifting tone and micro-budget that keeps it away from doing anything miraculous, but at the center of it all, still has a great and dedicated rare lead performance from Michael Rapaport, that is worth seeing if you’ve always liked this guy in the random shite he shows up in.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Do cuts and bruises really look that convenient? You know, REAL ones?

Do cuts and bruises really look that convenient? You know, REAL ones?

To the Wonder (2013)

Nice to know that Big Ben can still have the ladies come crawling to him.

Neil (Ben Affleck) travels to France and meets with a woman named Marina (Olga Kurylenko). They instantly connect, fall in love, and plan what their future may just look like, if they decide to take the next step. They actually do decide to take said next step and finds out that it’s a bit harder than they thought, so therefore, Marina moves back to France. This leaves Neil all alone, until he meets up with an old sweetheart of his (Rahcel McAdams) and relives the young lust he once had. However, Marina’s not gone like Neil suspects. Oh, and Javier Bardem is a priest that’s begging to lose his faith, slowly but surely. Can’t forget about that charming Spaniard.

Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a total and complete devotee to the Church of Malick, I still stand by the fact that I am a fan of his movies, and consider them (as most people), some of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen in my life. Granted, I don’t go to museums all that often, but with a career that spans over 30 years and only consists of six movies; the guy’s made a name for himself and a name I get very hyped-up for, whenever I see in print. Because let’s think about it: a newly-released Terrence Malick movie isn’t just a regular, everyday movie-going experience that you can catch at your own leisure, it’s a freakin’ event! This rarely ever happens and it’s time to just let it all soak in, and enjoy until he decides to take another twenty-year break. Don’t you dare, Terry. Don’t you even.

No matter what may be going on here with the story (and trust me, I’ll get on top of that in a jiffy), the visuals are always as gorgeous and jaw-dropping as you can get. I love how Malick starts the film off with the beauty and aura of France, and then ends it all in the rusty and fucked-up place that is known as, Oklahoma. Malick is still able to draw natural beauty from these landscapes and give Oklahoma some key opportunities for post cards, but the way that he is able to convey the emotion of a dying land that seems to be dissolving beneath everybody’s feet, and combine that with the story itself really took me for a surprise. It may sound crazy because I know Malick can do stuff like this and totally slap me silly, but he really found a way to make this flick always worth watching, no matter what other type of junk was going on here. So, needless to say, this is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big-screen if not at the movies, then just a big-screen in your house. Either way, see it with a large-lens, volume-up, and the lights dimmed-down. Let the Malick-spell come over ya.

Ben's thoughts:"Totally banged that chick.....

Ben’s thoughts: “Totally banged that chick…..

Now, despite all of my oogling and boogling about the beauty of this film, this is one of the key instances where Malick goes on a little too far with his view. I’ve always noticed when Malick has gotten a bit too into his own shit in recent time, but it’s never gotten to me so bad because of everything else that’s been able to distract me. However, there isn’t all that much to distract me other than beautiful visuals, and to be honest: that damn aspect can only go so far! Eventually, my simple-mind is going to need a compelling story, with interesting characters, and smart messages about the world we live in or something along those lines. I can tell that Malick knows what a simple-mind wants and at least tries to make some of that magic happen, but doesn’t go deep enough. Let me explain….

The problem with this movie is that the story doesn’t do much to bring us in. Yes, it’s an easy story about two people who fall in love, decide that they want to be together, but then realize that there’s more at stake than just love: there’s life! But an easy story don’t mean jack shit, unless you have a way of making us connect to the story and the characters that inhabit. That’s the biggest problem Malick runs into here. Seeing as this is Malick’s movie, and everybody plays by his rules and his ways, everybody in the movie seems to sort of be second-nature to what the man can show just by using a camera. Once again, all fine and all considering the visuals are as naturally-beautiful as they come, but they only go so far.

The characters don’t get enough attention payed to them, but even when they do; they don’t seem to really use it well. That’s no insult against the talented-actors either, that’s just a problem with the script. The movie paints these characters as walking caricatures of what it should be like for people to be in love, to be sad, to feel conflicted, to feel angry, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t really seem to get any deeper than that, and even though there are a couple of key scenes that may change your opinion on what I just said; they don’t do much for the final-product.

The subplot with Javier Bardem as the Spanish priest that’s losing his faith is the one instance where you might change your mind for the sole reason that it has no reason to be here. I mean yes, Bardem is great in it and definitely makes all of his screen-time worth it, mostly because it’s all dedicated to him just walking around, looking sad, and chatting around with random peeps (most of which seem to be non-actors), but he serves no purpose to the story. Everything here is about the love and the feelings that go with it, and then he shows up to start babbling on about God and keeping your faith and whatnot, and it seems random. That, and also just another excuse for Malick to throw in another one of his “God references” that he loves to use so very, very much.

After awhile, all of the same stuff that we have seen done one hundred times before in Malick’s other flicks, and also within the first ten minutes of this movie, becomes an annoyance. It’s still beautiful to gaze at, but the story goes into places that don’t seem reasonable or even worth the watch. We see a bunch of people just mope-around, look as if they are sad about something, or in heavy-thought, a little bit too much. Instead of emotion so damn much, I just wish that one of these characters would actually stand and speak-up for once. But instead, they just all stood there, touching their faces and arms, as the sun rose behind them. That right there, is a scene that’s repeated many, many times throughout this movie so if that’s not your type of thing: good luck. For me, it wasn’t total hatred, but it didn’t make me happy either. I’m just a simple dude, man!

...and that one too."

…and that one too.”

The fact that most of this movie is all in narration, means that it takes away from the actors on-screen. Well, all of them except for one gal. That’s right, Olga Kurylenko is surprisingly the best out of this whole cast. Her character, Marina, is annoying as she’s always craving and needing attention, whenever she’s not prancing and dancing around like five year old, but her performance is exceptional. Kurylenko really captures that fully-free spirit that this character needed to have to work and rather than making her just one, Manic Pixie Dream cliche after another, she keeps it going and gives us depth, heart, and emotion to her. Kurylenko has never really done much to surprise the hell out of me in the past (not much of a track-record to begin with), but she really showed me some promise here and let’s hope that it continues to go on and on, until Malick decides to cast her again.

The other two in this cast, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, really are just here for window-dressing. For the latter, that doesn’t matter since her character and subplot seems so superfluous  it’s almost hilarious. But, as for the former, that’s a bit ridiculous considering that the movie is supposed to revolve around him and whatever the hell he does with his weenie. Affleck has about five or six lines where he actually gets to sit-up and speak for himself, but it’s not enough considering we don’t give a shit for the guy and we never find out why the hell him and Marina are having such a problem being together. Of course Marina wants to venture out into the world, but what the hell is bugging him so much? It’s rarely ever explained and by the end of it; I just didn’t really see the use in them being together, so much so that I just wished a plot-twist would come around the corner and Bardem and Kurylenko would be boning out of nowhere. Hey, Malick has never been one for conventionality so I wouldn’t throw that idea totally out the window.

Consensus: Terrence Malick always has a knack for capturing the natural and inner beauty of this land that we call Earth, which is surely evident in To the Wonder the whole run-time, but can only do so much to satisfy one’s needs when a weak story, irrational characters, and random transitions between characters and character’s stories, begin to plague what could have been a very emotional and compelling experience, courtesy of the master of filming grass.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Oh yeah, and definitely that one too. Holla!"

“Oh yeah, and definitely that one too. Holla!”

The Company You Keep (2013)

People get old. Even hippies.

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is living the life that most men of his age should. He has a job, he has a kid, he has responsibility, and he seems to have no problems. That all turns inside-out once a fellow acquaintance of his (Susan Sarandon) turns herself over to the police for a crime she and others committed almost 30 years ago. Grant may or may not have been apart of it, but before he can even turn himself clean, young and reckless journalist (Shia LaBeouf) decides that it’s his time to shine and accidentally “outs” Grant as a former member of an underground movement that had something to do with the death of a bank-teller, those fateful 30 years ago.

This reminds me of one of those thrillers that should have been made, and probably would have made more sense in the 70’s. Due to the fact that a lot of this movie has to do with some hippie-talk, paranoia, and discussions of “the man”, it only seems right that a certain generation that had everything to do with those themes, would be the perfect time for a story like this to take place. However, that’s not where Redford decides to take it and instead, shows that everybody gets old, age-wise, but their beliefs still stay the same. That’s right, we’re most likely going to be stuck with hipsters for the rest of our lives. Hip, hip…..

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at with this movie is that it seems like the aging (and it’s showing) Robert Redford likes to direct movies and better yet; likes to direct movies about something political. Obviously Lions for Lambs was a crack-pot of ideas, thoughts, and themes that he loved to shout at everybody, as if they didn’t already think war killed people, but hey, that’s all fine and dandy once you get underneath it all. This movie is probably less concerned with politics, and more about actually being a thriller, that has a lot of people speaking in code, talking about the past, and running-away from the policia. In that aspect of the film: ehh, it’s okay. But to be honest, going into a movie like this, with the cast he has assembled (seriously, just look at it!!), and knowing that it’s coming from the grips of Redford, you can’t expect greatness. Just expect a good time that is a perfect time-killer, and leave it at that.

"Hello? 911? Yes, I'm serious. I'M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK."

“Hello? 911? Yes, I’m serious. I’M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK.”

However, that’s not to say that all is forgiven in the end. Nope, there are still a bunch of problems with this flick and that’s the fact that most of this just is not all that interesting. There are about three story-lines going on here at once, with one being the most interesting, the other starting off strong and then running it’s course, and then the last one ending up on being “ridiculous”. The most interesting story-line of the whole movie is definitely LaBeouf’s journalist character as he leaves his conscience on the side, for the hopes that he will make it big and get his story on the front of the paper. This was not only the most interesting because of where it went (in and out of the newsroom), but because LaBeouf is so good in it.

I’ve always stood-up for LaBeouf in most movies that he’s done in the past and even though I will admit, the guy surely isn’t lovable and probably isn’t all that easy to work with, I still have to say that he’s very good when it comes to putting himself into a role, and making it work. This is that role where he totally surprised me and from what I read: others as well. LaBeouf is perfectly-cast because he uses that cocky, brash-attitude of his that we see used so many times whether it be actually in a movie or on the streets, and show how it can affect one person when they work and when they aren’t working. I’ll admit that the ending for this character felt a little bit half-hearted with it’s attempt to give him a heart and soul (journalists have none), but LaBeouf keeps his head above water and makes this his movie. But when the movie moves away from him, then it gets bad. Not too bad, but bad nonetheless.

Redford is still a good actor and has that wit and charm that makes him a likable guy to watch on-screen, but he’s pushing 76, which means the guy’s getting old. Also, that means that it’s getting a bit harder and harder to believe that a guy of his age and his build, could really last a whole flick where he’s out-running the cops, Bourne-style. Out-smart them? Sure, I could believe that. But running away from them every chance he gets? Eh, there’s only so much I can and will believe in. That whole aspect where he’s on the run starts off interesting, but loses steam as quickly as Redford does when he’s running those laps (heyyo!), but it’s not the worst story-line in the whole movie.

Out of the three, the worst story-line I’d have to say was the one where every single person that Redford’s character in this movie talked to, talked about the old days and never seemed to get a grip with reality and realize that they aren’t young, whippersnappers anymore. Every person that he reconnects with, either has grown-up, or totally stayed in the same motto of life where the man got them down and they did everything for a valuable reason. Whether or not Redford actually believes in this hippie bullshit is totally beyond me, but I can only hope not, considering it’s so preachy, so stupid, and just so annoying to hear, especially coming out of the mouths of such old folks. Not saying that old people don’t have these same opinions or beliefs or anything, just saying that it’s a bit hard to believe in.

Jew-fro and all, the kids got it made.

Jew-fro and all, the kid’s got it made.

Having a ensemble cast like this, however, may spice things up a bit to the point of where it’s not so bad to listen to these characters speak their “government speech” anymore. Peeps such as Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, and Sam Elliot show up to do their thang, but so do some ladies like Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Julie Christie. Everybody in this movie is good with what they do, no doubt about it, and it’s not like they were needed for anything else other than a couple of scenes to do on the weekend, just to help out their old pal, Robbie (I hope that’s what his friends call him). For that matter, it’s fun and exciting to watch, especially since you know that there is always another welcome face, just right around the corner waiting to be spotted. Nice to know that Robbie also still has some pull with stars nowadays, as well.

Consensus: It may not always work, and is downright ridiculous at times, The Company You Keep is still an entertaining movie that has the well-acted ensemble to back it up, as well as a story that takes a couple of twists and turns you don’t really see coming, regardless of how how much you can or cannot take it in and believe it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oblivion (2013)

Tom Cruise may not be able to dunk a basketball, but he can save the world, right?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a lone soldier who lives in the clouds above a post-apocalyptic Earth after a war made the surface uninhabitable. He lives a steady life where all he does is repair drones, in hopes that they will stop any hostile aliens from taking over and destroying the world that Harper now knows and has come to terms with. But things take a turn for the worse once he encounters a crashed space pod with a mysterious woman survivor (Olga Kurylenko), who makes him question everything he knows.

You can’t help but feel pity for most of the sci-fi movies that come out nowadays. It seems as if they aren’t taking something from a piece of sci-fi literature that they read as a big-glassed, tike, they are taking something from another form of media, whether it be intentional or unintentional. That’s what makes so many sci-fi movies hard to follow along with and get wrapped up into because nine times out of ten: it’s been done before. That was my exact problem with Oblivion: been there, done that, 1,ooo times over.

The fact that this movie isn’t anything to scream about in the writing-department is in no way a hit against director Joseph Kosinski. If anything, it’s Kosinski who saves this movie with his inspired-vision and dedication to making every single scene pop-out at you, as if you’ve never seen anything like it, although you have. That’s where this film gets you, but that’s where Kosinski keeps his feet moving and at a steady-pace too. While the film looks beautiful and never seems to look at all fake (IMAX is pretty glorious), the story’s beginning is what really got me because it wasn’t what I was expecting from seeing the trailers, advertisements, and even the numerous posters.

"Neo...uhm..I...mean: Jack."

“Neo…uhm..I…mean..Jack.”

Rather than making this a movie about Tom Cruise, going around, and shooting the hell out of aliens/unknowns that inhabit his dying-land, it’s more about the pace and the mood. It sets you into this cold, dark world where everything is beginning to die down and sooner than you know it; the Earth will be nothing more but it’s own worst enemy. By that, I mean that it will eventually dissolve into nothing. That’s the sad, but true reality that these two characters, Jack and Victoria, are left with and to see them come to terms with that made me feel as if I was watching a different movie than I was promised. Yes, there is Tom Cruise; there is CGI; there are robots; and yes, there are some weird creatures on Earth, but is this a drama I see? I thought so. That is, until I realized that I spoke a little too soon.

The first instance I knew where this movie had a problem was when it’s first batch of twists and turns came, and I had no idea what to think of them except for, “unoriginal.” That’s all it seemed like and without delving into spoiler-territory, the places this movie goes with it’s plot shenanigans don’t really add to anything, except more and more predictability. Once Jack gets to see these warrior humans, he finds out more about himself, his species, and what he was put on this Earth to really do, but none of it seems to make any sense, yet, have us care in the least bit.

I mean, I could go on and on about how none of this plot really seemed to make a lick of sense, but I don’t care too much about that. The story made fine enough sense to where I wasn’t scratching my head too much and to where I wasn’t looking around to see if anybody else was, neither. It was fine the way it was, but I just didn’t have any feeling with it at all. And that word, “feeling”, is exactly what this flick was building on. It tried to go into spots where we were supposed to feel compelled and hit back in our seats, but those moments never came. The movie just sort of went through the motions, gave us sci-fi movie convention after convention, and went on it’s way, like we expected it to from the trailers, advertisements, and posters.

See, the beginning really screwed the rest of this movie up because it makes you feel like you’re in for a somber-look at a dystopian future. But once it gets going, the movie dives into more action-y elements that are fun to watch, but feature no human-connection involved. When I see an action scene go down, I want to feel raw and terrifying emotion as if I was right there, cheering these characters on for fighting the good fight and hoping that they come out alive. However, that movie didn’t have that. It had alright-looking action scenes, but with nothing underneath it. All flair, but no substance. And that would have been fine, if the flair really kept itself going but after awhile; I stopped caring and just wanted more with my story. Now is that too much to ask?

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

But no matter how shitty the script can be (and definitely is), you got to give some credit to Tom Cruise for at least taking a step by deciding to take this material and make it his. Love him, or hate him, Cruise is a bonafide movie star, and an action one, at that. Cruise is good here as Jack because he gives him a lot of charm and likability that makes us feel like he’s one of those guys that knows it all, what to do, and how to do it, yet, is also just like us in where he doesn’t believe everything around him is really happening, and has the nice-enough soul to realize what’s right and what’s wrong. Of course the guy hits some holes on the way, but Cruise keeps him grounded in reality, where a film doesn’t seem to want that.

Playing the two gal pals of his this time around are Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, who are both good with what they are asked on to do, but nothing more than that. Some scenes where they have to be more than the “romantic love-interest” are fine, but they aren’t called on to do many of those scenes, so it’s rather useless, really. What was really useless in a movie like this is not only having Morgan Freeman in a supporting role, but even going so far as to advertise him like he’s a big part of your movie, when in reality: the dude only gets about 15 minutes or so of screen-time. Yes, THAT Morgan Freeman! Don’t let me fool you into thinking Morgan isn’t good with what he’s called on to do here, because he is; but it just feels like a waste of a big name, for a role that serves no real purpose other than to be the bearer of good news (or bad, depending on the type of person you are). The rest of the cast isn’t really all that filled with many people, but that doesn’t matter because this isn’t the type of film that’s too concerned with that. They just want to show you shiny, futuristic thingy-majigs, blow up and blow other shit up in the process. Then again, it is a sci-fi movie so what else could you expect? But seriously, don’t answer that. Or else we’ll have another four paragraphs to go.

Consensus: Kosinski’s direction is beautiful and always a sight to gaze at, but the rest of Oblivion can’t sustain his look, and drops beneath his feet with a weak screenplay, no emotional connection to anything that’s happening, and a bucket-list of cliches and conventions I think I speak for everyone when I say; we are tired of seeing used, over and over again in sci-fi flicks.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I told you, shit is really fucked-up out there."

“I told you, shit is really fucked up out there.”

Classic movie scenes change your life forever

Classic movie scenes change your life forever

Have you ever stopped to think about just how classic movie scenes really do change your life forever?
This may be for the better – but it’s usually for the worse. But then we homo-sapiens do love to be scared in the name of entertainment. So let me illustrate; tell me, really, have you ever been able to swim in deep sea water that you can’t see underneath and been relaxed in doing so since you first saw Jaws?
You see what I mean? So whether we really want them to be or not, many classic movie scenes are indelibly etched into our memories forever.
And perhaps this is something we really need to think about before we go to see any new movies? After all, we may emerge from the movie theater completely changed people. After all, have you ever been able to push through a clearing in the woods or a forest without hearing the first few twangy notes of “ Dueling Banjos” since you first saw Deliverance? If so, good for you – but for many of us, the very understandable fear lives on!
Or how about the bursting of alien from John Hurt’s stomach? If you ever have a severe belly ache, it’s difficult to get that particular compulsive thought out of your head. And who can ever forget the screeching music from that scene in Psycho when taking a shower behind a curtain?
The bad list goes on and on – far longer than the good stuff. But there are some nicer moments. So for example, how many of us could really walk across a New York subway grating and not think about Marilyn Monroe’s dress blowing upwards from The Seven Year Itch?
The fact is that classic scenes fundamentally affect our lives forever more once they’re etched into our memories – whether we like it or not. So maybe you should think twice before you go and see Fast and Furious 6, because you’ll never be able to drive down a remote canyon highway again without thinking you’re going to get a wire rope across our windshield.

Kill List (2012)

Just don’t kill people. End of story.

Two British pals, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley), meet-up and decided that they both need something to do, need some money, and need to get their hands a bit dirty because they can’t handle being away from guns, weapons, and violence for too long. They decide to take a couple off odd-jobs going around and killing certain people, but some of it gets skewered as time goes along. There’s certain complications and confusions that come to base and that’s when all hell breaks loose, for both their personal and professional lives.

It may be hard to say this without most of you already having done the task of seeing this by now, but if you haven’t seen the movie, just know this: know absolutely nothing about this movie going in. For the rest of this review, I’m going to try and be as damnably vague and strange as possible, but just remember that it’s all for you peeps out there. You should all be grateful you have a nice guy like me, writing the movie reviews that I do.

What makes this movie so different and so original in it’s way, is that it isn’t exactly what you expect it to be. Is it a thriller about two dudes going around a hacking-off people? Sort of. Is it a human-drama about two guys who have problems in their life, and need to get by them all, simply by taking hit-man jobs? Sort of. Is it a horror movie that has something weird under-lining everything else? Once again, I say sort of. It’s one of those movies that isn’t one thing, and instead, plays it’s wild-card and just goes all over the boat, but in a good way, mind you.

Whatever you do, never get stuck in dimly-lit tunnels.

Whatever you do, never get stuck in dimly-lit tunnels.

Writer/director Bean Wheatley seems like a very skilled dude in terms of how good he is at actually being able to make all of these changes and combinations of genre’s and moods. First of all, the mood throughout the whole film is consistent. And even dare I say it, probably the most consistent thing about it. You never know exactly what the fuck is going with these characters, their issues, and what exactly is bringing them to do the bad and terrible shit that they do decide to do, but you know it’s something eerie. You know there’s a bolt or two loose in one of their heads, and wondering when the next person is going to snap and let it all out, is what will really keep you on-edge.

But it’s not even just the characters that really get you freaked-out by how strange they can be; it’s just the whole story itself. As soon as you find out that something is awry with their plans and that these guys can’t get their blood-money right away, you automatically know that not everything is what it seems. Even the people that these characters meet and have conversations with on a daily-basis aren’t the type of people you think or believe in that you can trust. You know that there’s something “up” about them, and therefore, you’re further and further left in the dust of what’s actually going on, what these characters are thinking right now at the certain moment, and most importantly, what the hell is going to happen next.

The idea that you have no clue in your right mind of what’s going to happen next, how, when, and where, is the type of steam this movie continues to build-on. As that mysteries continues, you’re idea of suspense gets more and more hyped-up and once that ending comes, you have no idea what to make of the story you just saw. Once again, I’m going to go into this next part with as much vagueness as I can, but just be warned: I may set-off a couple of fire alarms. Just be ready.

By the time the ending hits, I honestly had no idea what the fuck just happened. I sat, I thought, I read the paper, I checked my e-mail, watch some YouTube videos, and then decided to write this review. I though to myself, “What the hell does all of this strange shit mean, and exactly why has it happened to these characters?” I continued to think and I just gave up and realized that it was just one way for Wheatley to mess with us even more. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t in any way, shape, or form, think what happens in the end is a pigment of one of these dude’s imaginations, but something didn’t feel right to yours truly.

Now THAT'S a true friendship.

Now THAT’S a true friendship.

Was it scary? Hell yeah! Was it shocking? You bet your ass! Will I ever forget it again? SADLY, no. The fact that the ending is freaky and fucks with your mind more than the rest of the film preceding it, is a credit to Wheatley’s direction and the way he is able to set everything up. However, something just didn’t touch me in the right way where I felt like this was the way the story needed to end. It’s a slightly-bit too over-the-top, too crazy, and a bit too ridiculous. There’s a couple of hints and clues as to why this ending would seem the least-bit plausible, but once I got thinking about it and actually realized what I just saw; the lines didn’t connect. By all means, give it a look yourself and come up with your own conclusions, but just don’t expect it to all make sense. Especially after the first time. Or even maybe after the second, and maybe the third. But after that, you may come up to your own ideas, and also may have to call a psychiatrist.

Thankfully, though, the characters are at least well-written and more than well-acted to make up for these slight, but noticeable hiccups in the story. Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley are both good as the two best-friends who hang out and kill people for money and sometimes fun, but it’s strange because their characters are so different in many ways. Maskell’s is a total fire-ball that needs to be acting violent in one way or another, and even though he obviously loves his wife and kid, he still can’t help to be mad and angry at them for one thing, and then another, and then another, and then another. Whereas Smiley’s character is all cool, calm, collective, and very funny in the way that he just goes about life with a smile on his face and without an ounce of worry in the world. Both of them do get into fights, and heck, even brawls every once in awhile as well, but they still love each other and at the center of all this insane and crazy shite going on; they are still there to talk, to hang-out, and appreciate each other’s company as much as they beat the shit out of each other, too.

Consensus: Kill List is one of those movies that is weird, strange, mysterious, and always chilling in the way it’s plot moves and how everything happens, but something doesn’t quite feel right by the end where all of a sudden shit goes crazy, without much reason or rhyme. Still jaw-dropping to watch, but you may be scratching your head a bit too much after it’s all said and done.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry, just watch it and you'll get it. Maybe.

Don’t worry, just watch it and you’ll get it. Maybe.

If you guys could also check out the extra page I have up top, that would be extra cool beans. Thanks!

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Those psycho-hillbillies with knives in their shoes, yeah don’t worry; they’re just serial killers on the run.

After their ranch gets raided by the police, Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon) and Baby’s father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) escape and decide what better way to feel as if they have fought the law and that they won; then going around, and killing more people than they did before! However, it’s only a real matter of time until the law catches up with them, and eventually tries to win. But these three aren’t going down without a fight or a murder, that’s for damn sure!

Rob Zombie definitely has a lot going for him in terms of what he uses with his sick, twisted-mind that so many people thought was just good for yelling, “Draaagullaaaaaaa!“, but the guy wanted to prove us wrong and ended-up making his directorial-debut with House of a 1000 Corpses. Even though it’s been awhile since the last time I saw that movie, I do remember fondly being a tad scared but also thinking that it was pretty stupid, overall. That’s why the idea of a sequel to a movie I didn’t really care for in the first place, let alone a horror movie I didn’t care for, was not something on the top of my list to see. Somehow though, Zombie not only proved me, but everybody else wrong as well. Maybe people do like to see other human-beings mutilated and murdered on-screen. My mistake.

"Happy birthday, Johnny! Now, let's go sign you up for that psychiatrist."

“Happy birthday, Johnny! Now, let’s go sign you up for that psychiatrist.”

If Zombie does anything right here, it’s that nails the look and feel of this movie with a really cool, ultra-retro 70’s-vibe that plays throughout the whole run-time. You can just taste the sweat; you can just smell the dirt; and most of all, you can imagine you yourself being in a wrong place, at the wrong time, and not having any clue what to do, especially when these bag of psychos walk through the front door. That’s something that Zombie does well here, and that’s getting us right in the mood right from the start with a bunch of dark, but ironic scenes of murder, mutilation, torture, and psychological and physical-games that aren’t right for everybody to play. Trust me on that. Zombie may be a crazy/scary lead-singer of a metal band (a pretty bad-ass metal band, I have to say), but the guy has a fine taste in classic-rock and mixes a lot of choice-tunes from the likes of Allman Brothers Band, Muddy Waters, and the best usage of all, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don’t want to give away where, why, and how the song finds it’s way into the movie, but once it kicks in; you have to trust me that you’re going to be stunned. I was and it may be awhile until I hear that song the same ever again.

However, this is a horror movie no matter how much funny, zany things Zombie throws in to lighten-up the mood and it’s not a typical horror movie where your shorts will be scared off. It’s more like one of those horror films that has a bunch of freaky people, that do bad, violent things to innocent people, but plays more on the unpredictable-factor of the whole story rather than the actual torturing of those said, innocent people. This idea for a horror movie is a lot different than what we are used to seeing in horror movies nowadays like Saw or Hostel, where everything is all about the torture, the pain, and exploitation of people being torn to shreds, as we all sit and watch with our popcorn in our laps and our extra-large sodas by our sides. This one is more about putting you on the edge of your seat and have you wondering just what the hell is going to happen next and in that regard, it does it’s job very nicely. Or should I say, Mr. Zombie does his job very nicely.

Mind you, I didn’t watch this movie in it’s infamous Unrated version and that kind of makes me curious just how freakin’ dirty and disgusting it may have been because with this rated-R version, Zombie over-stepped a shit-load of MPAA rules that was sure to make those old-timers keel-over in their fine, leather chairs. To an extent, all of the blood, guts, action, violence, bushes, boobs, asses, and murders all work in making this flick one hell of a ride from Zombie’s mind. But it can only go on so far until it becomes a bit repetitive. Let me just state this: I get that a horror film has to feature a bunch of crazy killers on the road, torturing people and not leaving anybody for granted, but after the third scene of human-torture, it got to a point of where I sort of had enough already. I mean I wasn’t tired of it because I couldn’t handle the sight of somebody getting emotionally and physically ‘effed with, but more of the fact that I just didn’t care for it much. After the hour-mark hits it’s, things just begin to feel like Zombie was pulling something out of his bag of tricks that he kept on using, mostly because it pleased the same damn people in the theater. Move on with the story, give me some plot, and most of all, show me more than just a bunch of acts of unneeded torture.

"There's a creek up ahead? Wanna get a wash? Nope? Okay, let's go kill. some d-bags in a 2-star motel."

“There’s a creek up ahead? Wanna get a wash? Nope? Okay, let’s go kill some d-bags staying in a 2-star motel.”

Then, something strange happened. I guess Zombie heard my complaints (I wish) and decided, “Hey, maybe it is time for a little bit of a story to get thrown in here!” Well, the story that I had in my-mind, was definitely a lot more entertaining and thought-provoking than the one Zombie had on-display. See, the first flick had these three pieces of shit look exactly like that: pieces of shit. They were essentially, a bunch of villains that you could only get in a sick, sadistic horror-movie straight from the mind of Rob Zombie and there was nothing else to it than that. Somehow though, Zombie got the bright idea in his ass and decided that maybe it was time to make these three pieces of shit, seem like they have souls, make it seem like they have lives that are worth living, make them seem like, well, dare I say it: human-beings. Well, sort of. Zombie tries to make us care for these characters that don’t do a single, good thing throughout the whole hour and fifty minute time-limit and because of the fact that they are able to tell witty jokes when they are about to off somebody is why we’re supposed to care for them? I don’t think so, and to be honest, I wasn’t buying it. They are pieces of shite that I wanted to see dead regardless of what they tried to make us think otherwise. Instead of standing behind their backs, the whole time I was cheering for the police officers, for the poor, defenseless people they tortured and messed-with, and even Zombie himself to actually grow a pair and not let these characters get all sentimental and have us care for them.

Even though their characters aren’t worth loving, the performances from the trio of leads may have you think otherwise. Sid Haig is a riot as Captain Spaulding and is weird, sick, twisted, and a bit believable as the old man of the group that seems to know the most, seems to have the most sense, and even seems to be the only one who doesn’t kill people right away. Bill Moseley is also good as Otis and has some funny-lines here and there that have us shocked by his character, but I felt like something was missing to really have this guy play with your mind and play with the conventions of the usual, horror-film bad-guy. He sort of just acts like a dick and does bad things, but there isn’t anything else more to him than that. Wish I eventually got that and didn’t just sit around and see him torture the hell out of people. Then again, it’s a horror movie so I can’t go too crazy asking for much. We all know why Sheri Moon Zombie is in this flick as Lady, (other than the fact that she is freakin’ smoking hot) and it’s kind of a sad reason too, because the girl kind of blows. She tries way too hard to be this witty, weird girl that can stand-up on her own, but also doesn’t take shit from anybody else, either. I didn’t really care for her, feel fear from her, and instead, just thought she was trying a bit too hard, just like her hubby who was sitting behind her probably slapping her as the whole way through. And holy hell, I do not blame him!

Consensus: The Devil’s Rejects definitely shows an improvement over House of a 1000 Corpses with a cool and fun direction from Rob Zombie that makes the guy seem like he has his head on the right shoulder this time around, but yet, it is a horror movie that feels a bit repetitive and doesn’t have us give a single-lick about our three leads, no matter how hard it tries to manipulate us into feeling that way.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Come on, law!! You got this!

Come on, law!! You got this!

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

I think big brother Ben may be a whole lot nicer now.

Sheriff Deputy Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) has a bunch of problems. Woman problems. Law enforcement problems. An ever-growing pile of murder victims in his West Texas jurisdiction. However, he gets so caught-up with one of his victims, that it throws him a curve to the point of where he’s getting closer and closer to being found out. It’s only a matter of time until he loses total control.

Serial killer movies are hard to do. Sometimes, they can be lovable right from the start (American Psycho). While other times, they can totally miss their mark and be something you’d much rather not waste your time in watching (Mr. Brooks). This falls somewhere in between.

This is a film directed by Michael Winterbottom, a guy who seems all over the place when it comes to his films with comedic picks like 24 Hour Party People, to soft-core porno flicks like 9 Songs, and then to dark drama’s like A Might Heart. Basically, this guy has no real genre and that’s pretty neat. He doesn’t have any real sense of distinctive style or look, but he brings a lot of zealous-energy to everything he chooses, it’s almost too hard to talk bad about anything that he does. But that’s also why I liked this movie because he brings something atmospheric and moody to it all. He definitely has the perfect feel for the dark, hot American West because he shows it in such a noir style that really pulls you in from the start. There is a story to be told here, but this is more all about one dark, sinister trip into the mind of a psycho where everything starts off bad, goes to worse, gets better, and then just gets even more worse than before. Great job from Winterbottom, as he definitely makes up for the movie’s big faults.

"Oh, honey. It's been such a long and vigorous day. Let's go murdering!"

“Oh, honey. It’s been such a long and vigorous day. Let’s go murdering!”

Those big faults I’m talking about, lie within the story here. The story actually starts off pretty strong because you feel like you know where it’s going to go and build-up from there, but the problem is that the story isn’t as interesting as you may have mapped it out in your head. Some parts are cool and interesting once we see inside the mind of our closet killer, but whenever that doesn’t happen, the film focuses on how Lou tries to hide away from all of the accusations that are being thrown at him and curiosities he can smell off of everybody he’s around. This isn’t nearly as interesting as the stuff that goes on inside of his head and instead of being thrilling and unpredictable, the actual mystery tale is just there to provide a story for our lead.

Now, to my real problem with this film. In case you haven’t already heard about this flick: this flick is really, really fucked up. Without getting into any spoiler area, two disturbing acts of violence happen to two main characters here and the one thing that really got me here was that the camera never once pans away from it. In today’s world of movie violence, most stuff doesn’t phase me or even get to me because 9 times out of 10; it’s usually just shock value, done for the sake of shock value. That’s never worked on me and probably never will but the violence here feels real and needed to enhance the story, as if it almost pertains to the story and the way this guy feels and thinks. However, I think that’s my biggest problem with this flick.

I can’t really say that I hold anything against this film for showing me some violence that was disturbing, but I can say that it definitely made me think differently about it all because those were the only things left in my mind about this film. It’s some hard stuff to swallow, and as good as the rest of the film may be, I couldn’t help but keep on bringing my mind back to those violent scenes. It’s not like it doesn’t fix well with everything else, it just stuck in my mind more than all else happening. Still, have to give Winterbottom the benefit of the doubt for not panning away once during these scenes and making us actually see the brutality of these grim scenes. On the other hand, I think it also got to me after awhile and may have been more memorable than the actual flick itself. Good for some movies; not good for this.

The 50's needed Jessica Alba.

The 50’s needed more Jessica Alba.

Actually, he second most memorable aspect of this flick would probably have to go to Casey Affleck and his amazing performance as Lou Ford. It’s obvious, right from the start, that Lou has some pretty fucked up ideas in his head but somehow, Affleck is able to make that sexy and interesting through it all. Affleck doesn’t really look like the kind of dude you could put in the role of a closeted maniac, but I think that’s why he works so well here because he’s able to be subtle about his emotions and feelings throughout the movie, but also totally show how vicious he can be when he has to turn on the “crazy meter”. Affleck has never been that actor that people have been feeling the total and complete need to see in movies, but here, he demands your undivided attention and devotion, even when his character is just sitting there, thinking of who to hack-up next. Lou Ford is a great character to watch and makes the film a whole lot better, mainly because of Affleck’s kick-ass performance. He surely has come a long way since being “Big Ben’s little bro”.

Also, I was surprised to see Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson in some pretty down-and-dirty roles that I usually wouldn’t see myself watching them in. But what was even more of a surprise was how good they actually were. They both play Ford’s main ladies and each show a different side to his love, and both work very well. Been awhile since the last time I’ve seen them actually do something worth recommending so I have to give them some love and kudos right here and now. Oh, and there’s a pretty gnarly Bill Pullman cameo here as well. Can’t ever forget about that dude.

Consensus: With a dark and grimly style to make everything moodier and strong performances from the cast, mainly a terrifying Affleck, The Killer Inside Me feels like it has all the right ingredients for a dark and sinister trip in the head of a maniac, but it’s over-shadowed by two appalling scenes of violence and the story doesn’t really grab you, unless its focusing on Affleck’s character.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Them ten-gallon cowboy hats: never get out-dated.

Surprised ten-gallon hats like that could even fit through the door.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Rocky Balboa’s only real competition: a woman!

In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time. That all changes when Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym, but also walks into his life. Maggie wants to box, but Frankie ain’t about teaching girls to box since it’s considered a joke around the league and his buds that have respected him forever. However, Frankie sees something in her and realizes that maybe there’s more than just a woman underneath it all; there may even be a true fighter. And I’m not just talking about in the ring either, folks.

You have to really give it to Mr. Clint Eastwood; the guy just never stops. Most 82 year olds out there, wake up at 7 a.m., have a nice piece of toast for breakfast, watch golf, sit on the porch, read the paper, talk about the good old days with whoever’s present (sometimes nobody), watch the news, go to sleep at 9, and do the same thing all over again the next day after that and so on and so forth. However, that’s not how Eastwood rolls, nor is it how he likes to spend his latter-years, and even though the guy has had some stinkers in the past, you still have to see that this guy has some real talent left in him and he shows no signs of stopping.

What I liked most about Eastwood’s direction here is that he takes your ordinary story about a trailer-trash girl who has high hopes of one day being the next big thing for boxing, and turns that cliché into something heartfelt and real. No matter what form of advertisement you saw of this film, everybody had it being planned-out as the “female Rocky“, but that really couldn’t be any further from the truth. You feel like all of these character’s motivations are understood, realistic, and best off all, believable to where you can hold everything closer to heart. It’s also a sure thing of beauty to see the relationship between Frankie and Maggie build over time, almost to where he becomes a father-figure for her and she becomes a daughter-figure for him. It all sounds so predictable, mushy, and ham-fisted but it’s surprisingly not, which is mostly because of how much of this rings true to not only these characters minds, but also their souls. You can tell that each and every character starts to wear their hearts on the sleeve by the end, and for that: I think I decided to join along in the heart-wearing festivities.

"Hit the fucking thing! Harder!"

“Hit that fucking thing! Harder!”

I haven’t gotten choked-up at a film in quite some time, so by the end, when I started to tear up just a bit, not only did it make me feel good but it also made me realize how great of a director Eastwood can be if he just plays it light and assured. So many films from Eastwood, especially lately, have all been about him trying too hard to get in the way of the story and because of that, he makes some big mistakes in the process. Some of which, actually cause him to lose control of his whole movie, then that’s where he leaves his actors to pick up the pieces. That is different here as you can tell that Eastwood is not all about getting pigeonholed into another genre flick; instead, he’s more about telling the story from his heart and that’s evident through this compelling, but always-subtle direction.

Even though this film did work for me so well in so many ways, there were other problems I had with this flick that made me take away from my final grade. One of the main elements of this film that bothered me was Maggie’s, trailer-trash family that was so one-dimensional that every time they were on-screen, I couldn’t help but laugh, which was something I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to do in the first place. I get it, they’re a bad bunch of siblings that only care for themselves rather than the down-and-out daughter that’s doing everything she can for them, but every time they showed up (which was usually the most emotional scenes out of the whole film) I couldn’t help but think that the only way to get rid of these stereotypical characters in a good way was to have Eastwood take out a .44 Magnum and blow ’em all away. Obviously, he didn’t feel like doing that this time around but it would have been the best solution to getting rid of these characters and their annoying ways of speaking and acting. Seriously, what a bunch of grateful asses.

Another big element of this film that I couldn’t take in for certain was the champion boxer Maggie ends up facing. Not only is this chick as one-dimensional as Maggie’s familia, but she is also unbelievably ruthless and cruel, to the point of where I don’t really think she would even be allowed to fight in the ring again, let alone, hold the crown for a big bout. Both of these elements may not mean much now, but in hindsight, when they are placed in some real, dramatic scenes, you can’t help but feel like you’re being cheated just a teeny, weeny bit. Hey, I didn’t say Clint was always perfect.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, this guy is pretty stellar (no surprise there) as the notoriously cranky boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn. Eastwood starts the role off with his usual grumpy, old fart character that we usually see him pull-off so well, but by the end, he starts to reveal some dramatic-layers within his acting that I didn’t even know really existed and even though I did, I still haven’t had the privilege to see them in awhile. Of course, we’ve all seen Eastwood pull out some of his dramatic chops every once and awhile, but not as much as we see here and it’s something of total beauty to see because you feel for his old man, mostly cause you know that this guy is a good man. He’s an old fart that yells, cranks, and pisses on everybody, but he’s still a person none the less and should be treated as one for that. Throughout the whole movie, you can tell that he is trying to forgive himself for all of the time he has spent away from his daughter and more on in the ring, but you realize that Maggie is the one last hope of forgiveness for him and for that, you root him on as much as you do for Maggie.

"When you get in there, fuck her shit up."

“When you get in there, mess her shit up.”

And as for Maggie, the gal that’s playing her, Hilary Swank, gives yet again, another top-notch performance of hers as the trailer-trash boxer, but this time; with more layers to a character that could have easily been deemed as “conventional”, “obvious”, and “not worth spending more than 2 hours of your time with”. Maggie is a character that annoyed me at first, considering she seemed like she was just too damn happy and optimistic to be in the boxing atmosphere, to be training, to be getting into shape, and to be trying to make a living off of punching the hell out of people in the face, therefore, made her too much for me at first. But then I thought to myself: who cares!?!? Give me more! Well, that’s what I got and I have to give a lot of credit to Swank for pulling this role off perfectly because not only do we see her for the bad-ass that she can be whenever she’s in the ring, but we also see her as a very sad, lonely, and hopeless little girl that just can’t make right with her family, or her life. Pretty sad stuff, but Swank makes it hopeful with her performance and it was a good choice for Best Actress that year.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention already, but Morgan Freeman is here as Eddie, the washed-up boxer who works/lives at Frankie’s gym. Freeman narrates this movie, and of course, it’s as classy and stylish as ever, but his voice is only used to enhance the story-telling, his performance is a whole, ‘nother thing completely  Freeman is always a solid actor and always gives it his all no matter what the shit-pile may be, but his performance as Eddie is as rich and emotionally-powerful as it’s gotten for him, recently at least. Eddie is a bit of a smarty-pants that may not have the best past for a human-being, ever, but he still is somebody that you love and feel for just because you know that underneath it all, this guy is hurting from the life that he could have had in the ring and for some reason; just never did. Freeman has this one, special scene where he talks about his last match and it’s not only a great scene, but one of the best in Freeman’s career. Underneath all of that narrating he does, it’s still nice to see him pull his acting-chops out every once and awhile and amaze us, as we all know he can do. These three are amazing and keep this film grounded in emotional honesty, and brilliance.

Consensus: This may look like your normal, predictable sports drama that we have all come to know, see, and sometimes love/hate from this genre, but Million Dollar Baby is different than that category most movies get sucked into. With a steady and sturdy direction from Eastwood, characters to care for, emotional-truths behind people we want to hear speak, and a trio of solid performances, it’s better than those types of movies and one that you won’t soon forget, long after you’ve seen it for all that it is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Didn't know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Didn’t know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Margot at the Wedding (2007)

Don’t ever invite the one person that may stop the marriage, to your actual wedding.

A mother named Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son named Claude (Zane Pais) live together and are constantly angry at the things around them. They go to visit a relative (Jennifer Jason Leigh) over the weekend, for that person’s wedding but the problem is that the soon-to-be husband (Jack Black) of that husband, isn’t exactly Mr. Charming. But in Margot’s eyes: almost no one is.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem like the right kind of guy for me. His films are filled with characters that are so damn unlikable, that you would much rather shoot them than be in the same family as them, and the dialogue has that natural feel to it, but also gets very weird and quirky for no reason at all. He always seems to base his movies in reality, but a type of reality that is pessimistic, miserable, and downright uneven. Maybe that’s how life is, but for me; it doesn’t seem so. That’s why Baumbach never seems to deliver the goods and this flick is no different.

The biggest problem I hit with this flick was that barely anybody here drew me in, nor did they even have me compelled by what they were going to do next with their lives. Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about them. Sounds harsh but the film is just dedicated to each one of these characters either constantly fighting with one another, acting strange just for the sake of it, saying how they really feel at random and sometimes, unnecessary moments, and getting into arguments where it gets so heated, they’re about to kill each other the next second. I mean I know family can be a bitch at times, but never as bad as they are displayed here. Almost every single scene that goes by, nobody ever seems to enjoy each other’s company and it never changes. Whether or not Baumbach meant for us to share the same misery these characters were feeling, is totally beyond me.

Only sign of happiness throughout this whole hour and a half.

Only sign of happiness throughout this whole hour and a half.

I mean, I get it. Not everybody in the world we live in is going to be as sweet as pumpkin pie but this film takes that a little too far to where it’s just an annoyance. Watching people practically beat the ever, loving shit out of the other in a verbal, and sometimes physical war. What makes it even worse is that this film is one hell of a sloppy piece-of-work because Baumbach never seems to be able to make a cohesive story here, and resorts to just snipping together random, short shots of these characters either reacting with each other, or just standing there looking mad/angry/sad. It’s cool what Baumbach can handle his characters without ever having any real plot to work with, but he doesn’t succeed at that here and I think it’s mainly because he trusted too much in his writing to win everybody over. Qurkiness can only go so far, and it went a bit far for our man, Noah, here.

This was even more of a shame to see in this flick is because of the movie that came before this, The Squid and the Whale. It’s probably my favorite Baumbach flick and shows that the guy can handle quirkiness, but also throw in some real, honest emotions to-spare where we feel for the characters involved, no matter how self-centered or despicable they may be. It seems as if Baumbach tried to do some of that here, but it doesn’t have as much steam as that indie-gem had. The characters from that movie were pretty damn unlikeable, but at least they had some sort of sympathetic side to them, deep-down inside. You had to look far for it, but when you found it all out, it worked wonders for the flick and it seemed like Baumbach tried to do the same thing here, just without any likeable-traits whatsoever. I can’t lie, there were some parts of this film that had me interested and made me laugh, but they were also very few and far my dear. Very few and far.

Yeah, not buying it.

Yeah, not buying it.

Even though the characters and story-line sort of blow, the cast still owns and show exactly why they deserve roles like these, no matter how detestable they can be. Nicole Kidman is great as the confused, bitchy, and often terrible mother that can’t seem to get her head around whatever it is that she wants in life. Kidman has always been a powerhouse in every performance she’s given, but she’s allowed to play a more mean character than we usually see from her and I think she handles it well. Since every scene consists of her bitching everybody-out that’s around her at that time, it’s not very hard to see exactly why a gal like this would own at playing such a evil mother. Yes, she even bitches out her own son. Damn woman!

Jennifer Jason Leigh always has had a knack for coming off as very sunny, bright-eyed, and likable and her role as Pauline really worked for her in that aspect. The fact that she’s so happy with life and her sister is such a huge bitch, really seemed strange to me, but then again, I guess that’s what happens in life. Life can take you down different paths of life, and I guess that’s what this flick was trying to show us with these two sissies that just so happen to be blood-related, but yet have completely, different out-looks on life. Still don’t know how a hot momma like Leigh ended-up with Jack Black, but hey, that’s what movies are made for, right? Speaking of the one and the only, Jack Black, he’s actually very good as Malcolm, Pauline’s soon-to-be-husband and brings a lot of that comedic-timing to this movie (that is so rightfully needed) and also has some nice dramatic touches as well. Malcolm is probably the most realistic and chill character of the whole film, and it’s never fully explained why the hell Margot hated him so much to begin with. He was the only guy in this film that made me want to continue watching and actually give it more of a shot than it deserved. Never thought I’d say this about any movie, but Jack Black was the best part of it. God, now that I think about it: this movie really must have sucked.

Consensus: Noah Baumbach at least deserves some sort of credit for making a story for Margot at the Wedding, solely out of random snippets of character emotions and happenings, but that’s not much when you consider how loathsome and mean these characters can be, without any sense of love or kindness in their hearts.

3 / 10 = Indie Crapola!!

Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.

Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.

Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Makes me ponder if all of those Jim Morrison death-tales are true. Hitchin’ a ride to France! See ya soon.

Rodriguez is an artist’s name none of you common-folk may know (hell, I don’t even know), but if you go to South Africa, they’ll tell you everything about him. However, everything except where he is, who he is, and just if he’s alive or not. This is a documentary where we not only talk about his past, where he came from, what he did, and why he has remained so obscure over the years, but whether or not this guy is able to be found or not. Just watch and see the results for yourself.

I’m a huge music fan, but I never, ever knew who the hell Rodriguez was. Before I started crying, opening-up my Spotify account, and start listening to all of that person’s albums, from beginning-to-end to know what all of the fuss was about, I was relieved to find out that I wasn’t alone considering he sold about six copies of his first album in America. However, on the other side of the planet in South Africa, that’s a totally different story. Not only is the man referred to as a legend there, but the guy was banned from regular radio-play as his promiscuous lyrics were apparently too much for the South African-government that was also going through Apartheid as well. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the simple fact that the guy made millions and millions off of this record, but yet, has no idea of it whatsoever. That’s where this story really kicks in and we get to discover just where this man is, who he is, and why he walked away from it all.

The guitar's totally weighing him down.

Totally weighing him down.

Right off the bat, you can really tell that these filmmakers not only respect their subject, but idolize him as well. So much is made about him before they even get to the tracking-shite, as we hear about famed-stories of him playing music, getting noticed, recording, doing concerts, supposedly killing himself and getting away from it all. This is all interesting as it made me feel as if I was really hearing about one guy in particular, or just some legend that everybody loved and made some pretty awesome music (song is still in my head). After awhile, I did realize that this was just one person in particular that these peeps were all talking about, but the ride didn’t just end there.

The next part of this documentary was tracking the guy and it put me on a real roller-coaster not knowing if they were ever going to find him and if they were, what type of mental state would he be in. It was cool to see all of these interviews where certain people would talk about where they think he is, why they think it, and how others can search for him themselves, which interested me because they find him just through looking at one of his lyrics where he actually mentions an area in Detroit. Now, I never thought that they would go this far, but apparently they really wanted to and thought it was worth it all! Can’t say I argue with it all that much after seeing the movie, but still, something is still lingering in my mind about it.

Okay now, before I jump into all of the wrong and terrible stuff about this movie, let me just keep on going with the goodies. The subject of Rodriguez because not only is he one of those obscure artists that has his own following, but because as time continues on and the adventure builds up and up, we get to understand learn more about this dude and what is so significant about him and his life of music. We hear so many people throw air up the dude’s ass, but we never fully understand it or hear it for that matter. Then, we go to South Africa where we see this guy’s legend take ahold and give hope to a bunch of people that needed it. It was cool to see that music could still keep people alive and well, even in the days of the Apartheid.

Just the whole idea that there was this one musical-icon that so many people loved and cherished, would all of a sudden, get up, and decide to leave it one day and never be found really surprises the hell out of me. It seems that in today’s day and age that staying completely out of the lime-light and being able to get away with it, is almost a ludicrous-idea, but the man was able to get away with it and from what I think now; probably still is. Just so cool to see where this movie goes, how it goes to where it does, and where it ends up. However, that’s the problem: where it ends up.

Everything that leads up to the initial meet-up with Rodriguez is awesome because the director and producers seem to love the hell out of Rodriguez so much, that they want to treat his real-life story with tender, love, care, and respect without offending him or anyone in the process. However, that’s the exact problem: they care TOO much about the guy. Once they finally get a chance to speak with Rodriguez, see what he’s been up to, and find out why he left the music world in the first place, the interview is so worthless and dry that I honestly had no idea if I was watching warm-ups or the actual interview itself.

At age 70, he still has dreams of making it big one day. That's after he gets more than $5 from the subway passengers.

At age 70, he still has dreams of making it big one day. That’s after he gets more than $5 from the subway passengers.

For instance, once Rodriguez is told that he was a huge star in South Africa and how he feels about that, he just simply replies, “Uhmmm…well…I…uhmm…don’t know what to say to that.” Okay, that’s fine, it’s what he wants to say but that is all apparently fine with these creator’s heads. They think that’s a suitable answer and it will suffice. For any person who has ever watched a good documentary, you always know that the key to a good documentary about an interesting subject is being able to get all answers out of that person as much as possible. This interview here seemed to be all about heavy-petting and high-fiving all of the way.

Hey, I’m glad that these guys finally got to meet their hero and had a chance to chat about the dude’s life, but don’t hype it up for me so much to the point of where I’m getting the willies in my chair as to whether or not this guy’s going to be getting gnawed-on by some rottweilers  or if he’s going to be same old hippie he once was before. It’s nice to know that the guy is still pleasant and happy in his latter-days, but it seems like there should have just been more with the interview with the man and more about him in general. Instead, most is just left on the cutting-room floor where we may be able to see it one day in the DVD-extras. Maybe. I don’t know if I’m going to go that serious looking for this.

Consensus: Searching for Sugar Man has exactly all of the right ingredients for a great documentary: interesting subject, mystery, suspense, and great look, feel, and sound. But it’s also missing the mist important ingredient of all that would have made it a “great” documentary, instead of just a “good” one: the hard-hitting questions we all wanted to hear answered, for better or worse.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Hey, it's me, Rodriguez. Remember me?"

Just cooled down from breaking that chair behind him.

42 (2013)

Thanks to Jackie, white men all around the world can now make excuses for missing their shot at the big-time.

Whenever you see a professional sports team on the television, most of the players are African Americans. Yeah, some whites here and there, but mainly African Americans, but it never, ever used to be like that. However, thankfully, one man had to knock that barrier down and that one man’s name was Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Without him, we wouldn’t have blacks and whites playing aside each other in such sports as basketball, football, baseball, and so on and so forth, but it was harder than expected. That’s why Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) comes in to make sure that Jackie is above the people who criticize him and not stooping to their racist ways. Cause when in doubt: one must always listen to the guidance of Han Solo. Always.

Jackie Robinson’s story is an amazing and inspiring, but best of all; it’s all true. For so long now, we hear stories of these famous legends that have seemingly changed the world we live in, and yet, we always hear some stories about them whether they be a bit of a scandal or negative in anyway. That’s why it’s so nice and somewhat refreshing to get a story on a person that stayed true to himself on, and off the field. Not saying that Robinson was a saint-like person 24/7, but given what we know about him through books, interviews, and videos; the man was a wonderful that broke down color barriers for us all.

It’s such a wonderful person and story, that it’s honestly a real wonder to myself as to why it’s taken Hollywood so long to jump on this man’s story, and give him the biopic treatment. I mean, there was some B-movie in where he starred as himself, but from what I know so far: no movie has been made about Jackie’s life. That’s where writer/director Brian Helgeland comes and changes that all up. Not like Jackie changed the world of sports, but you see what I mean.

Is he a player on the Dodgers or a roadie for the Blue Man Group? Still can't tell.

Is he a player on the Dodgers or a roadie for the Blue Man Group? Still can’t tell.

What I liked most about Helgeland’s approach was that the guy focuses on Jackie, his life, and the way he plays baseball, but doesn’t allow it to get too corny to the point of where it’s almost insincere. Most sports movies that have to do with a figure in a certain sport that changed the way it was played or viewed as, usually get their image skewered in a way that makes them look as if they were the second-coming of Christ, with little to no flaws, and an incapability of saying/doing the wrong thing. However, this movie does not paint Jackie as that. From all that we know, the guy was a great person but he had problems coming to terms with the way the world treated him; he was constantly freaking out when people booed the hell out of him for being black; and he never got to share those heartfelt-experiences with his teammates, like they all did with one another. Nope, the guy was sort of a loner and seemed to be really upset by the way the world was looking at him, but he never really let it get to him fully.

That’s why I thought it was great to see this movie not just paint him as a person, but a kind and believable one at that. A lot of reviewers have been getting on this movie for not going any deeper into the psyche of Jackie Robinson and not exploring what really made him human, but I think that’s not the point of this movie. Granted, I would have liked to see some more development of Jackie, his home life with his gal-pal, and his troubled-times on the road, but those are all minor nit-picks in the grander scheme of things. The way that the movie handled Jackie’s story was a respectable one, but also a very honest one in where it shows us what this man had to go through in order to break down those barriers, and in the end: makes you see his legend even more.

So, with all of that said: is it an inspirational movie? Maybe the movie isn’t as inspirational as the true-life story is, but yeah, it still works. You feel for Jackie whenever he gets knocked-down and continues to get back up for more where you see him struggle by not being able to say a lick to anybody around him. For that alone, you really get behind the man but once he starts rackin’ up the points for his team and he really begins to turn on the skills; then it just gets better. After all of this, it becomes not only an entertaining baseball movie that has a great time with all of the hits, the runs, and the steals (in baseball terms at least), but a movie that takes it’s subject seriously and doesn’t feel the need to drop a bunch of gooey-tasting syrup down our throats. Some moments are like, but not all. And for that, I have to give Helgeland a crap-load of kudos for telling the story the way it was meant to be told, and not getting lost in the mix of conventionality. That could have easily happened, too. But thank the movie heavens that it didn’t.

Another smart-decision that Helgeland made as director was by actually casting an unrecognizable person as Jackie Robinson. And an even smarter-decision on his part, was getting a guy that actually pull the roll off perfectly. Chadwick Boseman is the name, ladies and gentleman, and it’s a name you should remember for awhile because he’s so great here, that it’s hard to imagine anybody else playing this role, without anybody in the crowd being able to get past the fact that it’s somebody we all recognize and can put our finger on immediately. Nope, not Boseman and what a find this guy truly was. Not only does he have the skills to make it seem like Jackie was a really nice guy at heart, but also have the chops to show us how much it really did take him to hold-back and not go all nutso on every a-hole around him. Just the look in his eyes would get me, and that’s the sign of a talented-actor at work. Maybe I’m selling him a bit too much here, but for me, I feel as if this guy’s going to get more and more roles as time goes on. And if not, oh well. Then he’ll just have to join the line of “promising, young black actors that never quite made it”. Right behind Rob Brown, of course.

"Go out, and get 'em Rock...erhh....I mean Jackie!!"

“Go out, and get ’em Rock…erhh….I mean Jackie!!”

Then, you go right-off the field and into the manager’s office where you find Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, in the type of role that you’d never, ever expect him to play, but he pulls off stunningly. Seriously, I thought that this was going to be one of those roles where an aging-star takes to stretch out his skills, but instead comes off like he’s trying too hard to make it seem like you don’t notice him, when we all do but that’s not this performance at all. If anything, this is probably Ford’s best role in a decade (yes, even better than this), because it finally seems like the guy is having the time of his life for once in awhile. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Ford actually take a role such as this, and just make it his own, but not without hiding himself underneath the character to where we can’t get past the fact that it’s “Indy in a bunch of make-up and a fat-suit”. Instead, we see Branch Rickey in his duck-like cackle, his huge eyebrows, and his business-like way of negotiating things. His story may seem a bit “dickish” considering his character is all about getting a black player on the team for money, but after awhile, we see more about this person that may surprise you. Not just because this person actually seems to have a heart and soul, but because it’s so surprising to see that Ford can still pull-off dramatic scenes that make you come close to crying. I didn’t shed a tear at all throughout this movie, but I came pretty damn close at one point and that’s all thanks to Ford.

The rest of the cast is pretty damn good too, even if they don’t have as much screen-time as Boseman and Ford. Lucas Black is great as Pee Wee Reese, one of the only Dodgers players that seemed to have a soul; Christopher Meloni seems like a perfect-fit as the strong, but understandable GM, Leo Durocher; John C. McGinley is awesome to see on the big-screen once again playing the Dodgers’ play-by-play commentator Red Barber, nailing every line and wit the man had to offer; and also be on the look-out for a relatively nice supporting performance from Ryan Merriman as Dixie Walker, one of the last players on the Dodgers who couldn’t get used to Jackie’s stay on the team. Name not ringing a bell, okay then, see if you recognize this. Oh, how time flies by.

Consensus: 42 isn’t the definitive-movie about Jackie Robinson’s life on, and off the field, but it’s still supported well by a perfectly-casted group of stars, a script that shows us the harsh realities of the man’s life, while also the bright spots of it as well, and also throw some inspiration at us. Not a home run by any means, but at least a ground rule double.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Christmas Card-worthy.

Christmas Card-worthy.